The Impulse to resist…and transform society.

Welcome to Impulse, the blog of the Philly Metro Workers Solidarity Alliance. Inspired by the libertarian socialist paper of the same name from 1970s/1980s Milwaukee, we cover regional labor organizing, critical geography, radical social science and the arts. The views of Impulse do not necessarily reflect those of the Workers Solidarity Alliance.

Philly Metro WSA is a local organization of activists rooted in the libertarian socialist tradition. We work to build a movement grounded in self-management (autogestion), anti-racism, anti-sexism, LGBTQ liberation, ecology and syndicalism (unionism). We believe in the power and intelligence of ordinary working people and their right to control their own lives and fulfill their own potential.

Writers and artists, if you are interested in contributing to Impulse, please write to phillywsa AT gmail DOT com.

Workers Prepare for May Day! 

By PMW, April 24 2023

On a beautiful spring day in rural Indiana, Hannah, her husband Sal, and their small child, are at a small, but spacious Middle Eastern cafe. The taste of fresh baklava and cinnamon tea, and the sounds of soothing music, make this place something special, an oasis of peace for them. Outside, all around them, is an otherwise very homogeneous conservative community. 

As Sal plays with their child, drawing on the placemats, Hannah is at her laptop on a zoom call, right beside a window bright with sunlight. 

A neighbor stops in for coffee to go, and waves to them. But like most in their community, their neighbor has little idea what Hannah is up to, and might be quite surprised to find out. 

The truth is that Hannah and Sal are working class anarchists. And the zoom she’s on is the Labor Committee of the Workers Solidarity Alliance, the oldest continuous, anarchist, national group in the US. It was founded in 1984. 

Working on labor related news articles Is Hannah’s passion. When she’s not at home caring for her child or doing online work, she often hops cafes with her laptop, where she researches and writes. She texts with Sal, at his full time factory job, and she runs ideas by him about her current thoughts on labor issues and the possibilities of future revolution. When she reaches their favorite cafe, she sits by the great window, and returns to her research.  She tries to keep up on the current work of the International Workers’ Association, (IWA-AIT), founded a hundred years ago, and through their work, learns about current solidarity campaigns and how to support them. 

But today, being there with her family is especially nice, and her family gets to see her doing democratic decision-making with her fellow workers. 

The political tradition of WSA is ‘Anarchist-Syndicalism,’ where the long term goal is idealistic—that is, to build labor unions that not only fight for workers’ rights, but that can also transform capitalist society into a classless society, run by workers’ direct democracy. 

Their friend Pete  often says this way of thinking is “Ambitious, but noble,” when he gives talks about Syndicalism. He’s very aware that their goals can sound visionary. 

The six or so anarchists on the zoom call are located all over the country. Clarissa is in upstate NY, Rebecca in NC, Danielle and Sachi are in Philadelphia, Pete in Ca, and Melissa is calling in from NYC but is on and off the call due to work. And  Ben in Wyoming hops in for a moment. Together  they constitute a loose subcommittee of a committee, working on an upcoming May Day event, held online in less than a week. 

This will be the second year the Workers Solidarity Alliance has had such a May Day gathering online. 

Hannah is on mute, attending to some quick family life at the cafe. Another round of tasty food is ordered, and she enthusiastically  looks at her son’s drawings on the place mat. 

Then, it’s back to the meeting, and off mute, with the beautiful cafe music in the background. She gives a report on scheduling for the May Day event. The group’s musician, Martin Traphangan in NJ, has confirmed, and is doing a sound check with them tonight. He has a new song with a chomsky quote and  mood creating sounds for his guitar to feel its way around. 

Clarissa , who was asked to read her poem about sex workers’ rights, is practicing reciting it. Like last year, the program will open with a May Day speech…famously only one minute long! 

A few WSA families have small children, and last year, the day before the online event, they had a small May Day for the children with a craft, a song and a story, all age appropriate themes of Worker rights.  The kids particularly loved it when Clarissa sang a song to them. The parents on the zoom call smile remembering this, & they confirm to the group that yes, they are planning the same thing on Sunday the day before May Day, an afternoon craft, song, and story.

Clarissas driving passion has always been how to better group process.. With decades of activist facilitation behind her, she’s often thought about how our group process is inseparable from our political values. This has been a major contribution she has brought to WSA work since 2016. She’s worked hard to help new WSA members get the practice and hands on skills to facilitate meetings, to rotate the roles. 

As an aside in the meeting, Pete mentions that they are working on an interview with her, all about group process and syndicalism. Folks on the meeting express interest. 

“In order to have a society where workers manage themselves collectively, we need all of our best group process skills. To have a culture that values all voices and all people equally in decision-making, we need to practice ways of working together that don’t reproduce oppression. Deliberation takes practice!”  

Danielle shares with the group some information she’s pulled together about sex work as a labor issue, and efforts to support sex workers banding together in solidarity. The subcommittee was inspired by Clarissa’s poem, and decide that Sex Work and Labor should be the theme this year. 

“Anyone who works deserves the protection of their workplace” Danielle explains, “just because the government  doesn’t  like sex workers doesn’t make a whole section of people, some of whom you probably know , doesn’t mean that their industry doesn’t put them at risk or doesn’t pay them fair wages. There are some people  who can’t afford to charge the going rates or excessive celebrity rates. Everyone deserves to be able to pay their bills, it  doesn’t matter what sector of labor they’re in.”

Danielle makes reference to the early beginning of May Day, and points out how, from this legacy, standing with Sex Workers is crucial for May Day. 

In NYC, Melissa is logging in, visiting the May Day committee.  Rebecca in North Carolina was just going over some resources about the history of the Haymarket affair, the 19th century beginnings of the workers’ May Day. On the zoom she asks Melissa, “Wait…weren’t you actually AT the Forest Home Cemetery? Did you see the Haymarket Martyrs monument?”

Back in the early 90s,  Melissa, Sachi, and their friend Bob, traveled to Chicago for an activist conference, and while there, made a special trip to the cemetery to see the grave of Emma Goldman, famous anarchist and feminist.

Melissa recounts how the day they made their pilgrimage, the weather was freezing. Finding Emma Goldman’s grave was an inspiring experience, but they also found the monument to the Haymarket martyrs, dedicated in 1892.  They actually didn’t know where it was located before they got there!

The monument stands in honor of the men who were  executed by the state in the wake of the Haymarket affair, where a bomb that killed and injured people was thrown into a crowd protesting for labor rights. Seven of the dead were police, four were civilians, and dozens of people were injured. Without evidence, 8 anarchists were scapegoated—rounded up and convicted of conspiracy; of the eight, 7 were sentenced to death, and one was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Of the seven who received death sentences, 2 had their sentences commuted to life in prison, one committed suicide in jail  before his scheduled execution, and four were killed by the state.  At the front of the monument stands a powerful female figure of Justice over the body of a fallen worker. Melissa reads aloud the inscription they read that day:  “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.”

Melissa describes the powerful effect of this day on her, how remembering it bolsters her conviction to continue to work for labor justice. She references the information that Danielle shared  as regards supporting sex workers’ right to organize, how right this is for May Day. 

Rebecca is an anarchist geographer of the group. As she’s on the zoom, she’s on her  break from her workday at a local farm. Her boots are caked with mud and her hands are tired from pulling weeds. She files through her backpack for some papers to show the group from the previous May Day event.

 While the committee works out the details of the May Day meeting, she’s already thinking about the event after: what archive will all this go to? What will future historians of anarchism find in the story of how they decided things together? 

As the meeting wraps up, she shows the group some highlights she has from the previous year, and leaves them with a document that has at the top last year’s  “One Minute” speech by Melissa, and a short speech from their Paterson NJ comrade Greg, remembering the events of the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913. 

“See you next week on May Day!” Hannah says to the group and they say their goodbyes. Hannah closes her laptop, and her family gets ready to head home for dinner. 

She has copies of last year’s May Day speech and Greg’s Silk Strike speech, which accidentally fall on the sidewalk outside as the family leaves, opening the possibility that the workers who find them will pick them up, and be inspired. 

This May Day, Online Event

Monday, May 1st, at 8:30 EST

Second Annual May Day Event, short and sweet! 

You are warmly invited to attend! This May Day gathering is put together by the Labor Committee of WSA (Anarchist-Syndicalist, Friends with IWA)

This Jitsi link will get you in the meeting (contact us if you have trouble getting in): 


Contact us at:


(we will check during the meeting) 

A short program:

  • Song: “May Day (Education)” — by Martin Traphagen
  • Annual One-Minute May Day Speech
  • Sex Work and Labor Rights Intro
  • Poem: “Vodka & Cocoa Puffs” — by Clarissa Rogers
  • Relaxed report backs from May Day Events and Issues

Happy May Day Comrades!!! 

Trans March

By Danielle K

“We deserve to grow old!”  The chant rang out on darkened Center City Philadelphia streets. The 12th annual Philly Trans March, sponsored by long-running activist group Act Up, was held on March 31st, 2023, the Trans Day of Visibility. 

This year the march felt dire, with 492 anti-trans bills being introduced across 47 states by the conservative right. There is a pointed attack in this country on the trans community, holding them up as a unifying lightning rod for fear-mongering, in order to gain votes from christian fundamentalists.  While this country has never been a safe place for transgender people, the ire of the right is focused directly on them now. 

The march began with calls for place and for Indigenous members of the crowd to step forward and lead the march and start the chants. A handful of impassioned speakers came up to the podium to address the audience, one of whom was Zack, a 17 year old student who queried, “Am I now a banned topic? Is my sibling not allowed to bring me up in school?,” referring to bills like the “don’t say gay law” being passed in Florida. There were calls to criticize the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movement across corporate America, as well as derision expressed toward companies that are eager to advertise during Pride marches to collect rainbow dollars, but who won’t hire transgender folks who aren’t performing gender to perfection. 

The march was robustly attended with an estimate of roughly 500 trans people and trans allies. The crowd marched down Market Street from City Hall, eventually looping around to Broad Street. Along the way, fellow Philadelphians hung out of windows and doorways showing support and waving flags. A woman with her hand to her chest as she stood in her doorway called to the passing marchers, “I love you, be careful;” a young man ran up, offering a box of pizza; cars honked; and most drivers smiled in support to chants of “Drag is not a crime!” 

As the march made its way back to City Hall it stopped at the Union League, a hotbed of the city’s wealthiest Republicans, who were holding a formal event. The crowd yelled a hearty chorus of “Fuck you” to the smug, affluent party-goers dressed in suits and formal gowns.  A particularly flippant gentleman in a blue suit came to the crest of the double-terminated stone stairs and flashed the Nixon double peace sign, seeming to delight in the anger of the protesters.

Philadelphia is the self-proclaimed city of “Fuck around and find out,” and the energy of the Philly Trans March this year said that Philly’s queers are very ready to help everyone find out what happens when you threaten our trans community.



Wednesday, MAY 31, 7 PM EST 



This reading group is a project of the Labor Committee of Workers Solidarity Alliance — all are welcome. Our goal is to help make this difficult book as accessible as possible in a relaxed environment. 

If you’d like to stay in the loop, send us an email:


At the first meeting we will start at the inspiring end, Chapter 9. Please come regardless if you have done the reading. Here is a link to an audio version of Chapter 9:

Some questions we might include:

  • What does Mutual Aid mean to us today as Anarchist-Syndicalists?  
  • What was the geographic and biological/evolutionary science of Kropotkin’s time? 
  • How does Kropotkin’s ethical and political values connect to his scientific worldview? 
  • How does this book relate to the tradition of Anarchist Geography? 


Our comrade Clarissa proposed this reading group, after a conversation with a fellow activist about Mutual Aid being a revolutionary act. 

“My response was to really ask myself, well, what is mutual aid, really? And is it always as revolutionary as we make it out to be?” 

She realized she’d never read Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. Since this book has had a far reaching impact on the anarchist and Syndicalist movements, reading the book and the history of its influence would be a good project for us. 

She proposed this reading group could be a kind of small focus group on the question of what Mutual Aid is, and what our anarchist and syndicalist literature means when we use the word Mutual Aid. And further, how do our Revolutionary Syndicalist commitments relate to  science in our own time?

Especially now, in a time of pandemic, we are more likely to use the word Mutual Aid in our propaganda, as a uniquely anarchist  contribution to overcoming the catastrophe.

This could be a perfect time for us to make this re-examination, to ask ourselves some harder questions of when, and under what conditions can Mutual Aid be revolutionary?

The A-Space: Anarchism and Community Outreach

An interview with Clarissa Rogers

by Sachio Ko-yin

Since 1991, the A Space in West Philly has served as an anti-authoritarian and community meeting place in a storefront along Baltimore Avenue. On January 5th, 2023, the A-Space Collective announced, “it is with some sadness we are sharing, that the A-Space, as we’ve known it, is closing.”

In honor of this sad and historic occasion, we are sharing an interview we did with comrade Clarissa Rogers back in 2015, about the A-Space and its role in the local community. The original intro and interview follows.

I’ve met with Clarissa Rogers a number of times to discuss anarchist theory. Our conversations have focused on anarchism and community-based organizing, and how to reach outword to the public. A common topic has also been radical “subculture,” which in contrast community-based infrastructure, can tend to be insular and self-referential.

I met with her again in August 2015, to ask more specifically about her work with the A-Space, an anarchist community space in West Philadelphia. We also talked about her recent award and the public reading of her essay “Measuring Distance,” as models of anarchism, community outreach, and a springboard for further ideas.

Sachio- Clarissa, I’m glad you could meet today!

Clarissa- I’m excited about this!

Sachio- Could you explain what the A-Space is, just the basics, so we have some context for the questions?

Clarissa- Basically it’s a small storefront space that functions as an anarchist center, for cultural and political events.1

It’s part of a land trust called The Life Center Association, and that land trust consists of about seven or eight buildings and a garden in West Philadelphia. It was started by Movement for a New Society.2

The A-Space is part of a building called the 4722 Association. That building has two apartments: the organization Books Through Bars, and the A-Space. The A-Space is operated by a collective, and has a rotating delegate that participates in the governance of the 4722 Association. A delegate from the 4722 Association participates in the governance of the Life Center Association, so it’s a bit like a confederation structure, and even a bit like libertarian municipalism.

S- How did you get involved in the A-Space?

CR- I moved to Philadelphia from Vermont in 1998, not long after the big Jericho ’98 political prisoner march in DC. After I was here a while, Scott Lamson, who was active in Books Through Bars, The Wooden Shoe, the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), and the A-Space, invited me to join the A-Space collective. We were in ABC together doing political prisoner support. He knew I was interested in event planning, free schools, and anarchist theory, so he thought I would make a good addition to the collective. I was really excited and honored to be invited in. I think joining the A-Space Collective was the first thing that truly made Philly seem like home.

S- How many years have you been involved?

C- I think I joined in 1999 and left just recently in 2015, so around 15 years. After being in the collective for about 3 years or so I became the point person for the calendar (I liked to call myself “Clarissa of the calendar”). Then I volunteered to do outreach to bring events to the space, so eventually we named my role “event coordinator.”

S- Since we’re trying to get at the question of anarchism and community outreach, could you describe your own personal vision for what the A-Space is about? And how it presents itself and interacts with the community?

CR- The A-Space has had a lot of evolutions. It stated as a place for anarchists moving into the neighborhood to meet neighbors. Some of the folks who started it hoped that people living in the neighborhood would come in and have coffee with their new neighbors. I’m not sure that was completely successful. So from there it became a very vibrant center for the anarchist community. Having that kind of space is important, and we continued trying to fulfill that role. But we also looked at other ways we could introduce folks outside of our specific community to our politics, if they were interested. We tried to use the privilege of having a space to benefit other radical communities—to treat the space as a commons. Many different kinds of groups use A-Space as a meeting space, and we tried to do lots of arts and cultural events. So while still having specific anticapitalist events, we tried to also have many kinds of community events so that people could use the space and see how our politics function in a concrete way. To me, it was always more important to be an anarchist space rather than an anarchist’s space,

S- That’s a good distinction!

CR- Yes, it’s an important distinction to me. At times we’ve even had non-anarchists in our collective—we had a Maoist member for a while. The idea is that the space is run by anarchist principles: consensus-based decision-making, working to eradicate forms of oppression, free association, etc. So whatever your politics, you have to agree to use anarchist principles to organize the space, and actually, we had no trouble with that. People who didn’t identify as anarchists often put a ton of energy into the space.

We had a brochure with a short definition of anarchism3 that we always tried to make available for people. But most importantly, we invited in anyone who shared our politics about making the world a better place—like getting rid of forms of oppression, capitalism, and war. If people were on board, we invited them in to share the space. Feeling that is important that if we have a privilege—and public space is really a privilege—to share it, as long as those groups would agree to operate according to our principles. Each group would agree to ether clean the space on a rotating basis, contribute money to the space, or otherwise share the work of maintaining the space. In that way, we got to introduce a lot of people to what anarchism is and how it works on a practical level.

We brought in speakers and events to teach about our politics, but we also featured many speakers and events that would teach us about other leftist traditions. One of our big supporters is Khalid Abdur-rasheed, one of the founders of the New Afrikan Liberation Front. He’s done several talks about Radical Black politics and political prisoner support, which as a white anarchist, are things I wanted to learn more about, and wanted my community to learn about. It’s been a great privilege to have a space where that kind of learning could happen.

S- Over the years, I assume you’ve had a range of responses from the public. Walking in, I imagine some people said, “Oh, my god! Anarchists!” and some people walking in and being curious said, “What is this about?”

CR- Yeah, it’s interesting… mostly the responses haven’t been as dramatic as you would think. There would always be people coming in off the street with questions, but I feel like a lot of times it’s people who are oppressed and are dealing with a lot of stuff, and they just kind of take it at face value. And then, we’ve had different engagements with other radicals, like socialists. The people attracted to using the space are usually open to anarchist ideas, so we tend to get more democratic socialists rather than authoritarian socialists. And we definitely have people come in who are skeptical and have questions. People who say, “Well, that can never work.” But I feel demonstrating that it can work on a small scale helps. So instead of being polemical and arguing with people—I mean, that can definitely be fun and cathartic for some people—we recognize that polemics is not the only choice. We also have the choice of just saying, “Let me show you how we’ve been successfully operating since 1991.”

S- Are there any examples of A-Space programs or projects you can point to as good examples of inviting community involvement?

CR- Yes. First, of course, I’m going to go on a typical Clarissa tangent. I studied anarchism a lot with my friend Andrew Dinkelaker, he introduced me to his parents and the anarchist work they did. His mother, Pat Dinkelaker, taught me the term ‘liminocentric” that means ‘empty at the center” (I won’t go off here, on the longer tangent, but it relates to physicist David Bohm’s work about structure, which has greatly influenced my organizing work) and I see the A Space as liminocentric. Because it was usually not the role of the collective to generate events. For most of its history, the collective’s mission was to maintain the space and host and facilitate events. There were shifts and changes in that over time. There were times we invited people in more formally, but I say all that to say—we tried to be open to folks interested in doing events related to collective liberation, even if they didn’t share our political identity.

But back to your question, I have an example of one explicitly anarchist project, and one explicitly not-anarchist project that to me, really represented the A-Space ideals.

And the explicitly not-anarchist project is that we were home to Family & Community United’s (FCU) after-school program. FCU was a New Afrikan organization that did community organizing, especially around prison issues. They ran an after-school program for kids who have loved ones in prison, but they only had a space to meet in three days a week. Two days a week the group leaders were on the road with the kids, in libraries and other public spaces. We had the privilege of space, so we invited them in. FCU was not an anarchist organization, but they were able to experience anarchism as a lived practice.

An explicitly anarchist program was our open mic series that ran on and off for around a decade. It had several incarnations. It started out being called Poems Not Prisons, and was organized by the Philly Anarchist Black Cross to raise awareness of and money for US political prisoners. It started out as a place for folks to share poetry and to share information about their political work; as it evolved, a lot of folks came and performed music too. At different times, it was sponsored by different organizations.

A few years ago we brought it back as a project of the A-Space, without an organizational sponsor. We named it MOSAIC—Movement of Oppressed Sectors Working in Concert, in honor of Russell Maroon Shoatz, who wrote an essay on organizing with that name. Maroon is a US political prisoner who is from West Philadelphia. With MOSAIC we tried to live out Maroon’s vision of bringing all sorts of people from different oppressed sectors to come together to share art, culture and politics.

As MOSAIC evolved, it was organized by local anarchists, some students from CAPA (The Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts) and folks from Institute for Community Justice’s creative writing program (a writing program for folks who have been incarcerated). So the formally incarcerated folks, the group of teens, and members of the anarchist community, all worked together to make the event. Folks from many different ages, ethnicities, and sexual identities shared their work, feedback, and support with each other. People really felt that it was a safe space where they could come and be authentically who they are, and to me there’s nothing more radical than that. That is my vision of what anarchism is.

S- A number of us loved reading your essay, “Measuring Distance.”

CR- Oh, thank you!

S- And we read that it won an award in your home town?

CR- Yeah. I’m really from Rochester, NY but Cape Vincent, NY is my adopted home town—it’s where my mother lives and I spend a lot of time there. Jefferson County Community College, in Watertown, the nearest city, has an annual creative writing contest. I entered my essay, “Measuring Distance” in the creative nonfiction category, and I was very honored to win first prize. I got to go to Watertown and read it at JCC. Students were offered extra credit if they attended the performances and wrote a response paper. So there were these working class, mainly white students, not exposed to a lot of radical ideas, who came and heard me read about being an anarchist!

They wrote responses papers for their teachers, then the contest organizers sent me a packet of positive feedback from the students on my work. Several of them picked “Measuring Distance” as their favorite work. It was really moving to see students engaging with some of those ideas for the first time.

S- So in a way, this is a remarkable example of anarchism getting exposure to the general public, far outside of radical subculture.

CR- Yes! JCC has a week-long celebration of literature each year4 that ends with the awards ceremony for the contest. I stood there and read the piece to community college students, teachers, staff, and members of the local literary community. I don’t know if there were any activists there at all. It’s a narrative story of a personal journey, but in it I reference a lot of radical ideas. I reference Home Depot using old growth forest; why I often chose not to eat at McDonald’s or shop at the mall. It wasn’t to label those things as wrong, or judge people who do them, but to present why they are problematic and why some people choose not to do them. I got to introduce a lot of ideas that were probably outside of the box for that community, talking about anarchism, veganism and a lot of ideas I just don’t always hear communities in Northern, NY talking about in public spaces. And I feel I got to do that in a way that was not threatening, so instead of pushing buttons or provoking debate, it was an invitation so that people could just…walk with me in my journey.

S- It was life sharing.

CR- Yes.

S- This is powerful. These are great examples of what we’ve been talking about!

I guess my last question for you is, how does this all relates to the ideal of the social revolution? Does a community involvement model imply an evolutionary vs. a revolutionary approach to anarchism?

CR- I think the first thing I’d say, when as an elder I was welcoming new members into the A-Space, was “Hey, we don’t think the revolution is going to happen inside the A-Space.” Something really important to me was making the maintenance of the space as low stress as possible, and as supportive as possible, because what makes an anarchist space really interesting is that the collective members are doing lots of different kinds of work that they can bring to the space. And I never wanted people to feel like they had to prioritize the space over those other projects. Because the revolution is going to happen in the outside world, not inside the A-Space. But I think having a space where different kinds of radicals can come together and think about ideas—that IS revolutionary. And when Maroon started writing about MOSAIC and why oppressed sectors have to work in concert, his analysis (which I agree with), is that oppression is so intense right now that there’s probably no one group that can overcome it alone. That this is a time when it will take many sectors working together to make the revolution.

So back to anarchism. A lot of the specific traditions, philosophy, and practice of anarchism we talk about comes from a european background. Across the world and throughout history there are lots of cultures and groups that have operated on what we, as anarchists, might call anarchist principles. But many of these cultures and groups don’t themselves identify as anarchist. So it’s my belief that we can share and teach what anarchism means to us, why we’re passionate about it, and why we think its revolutionary, but that probably not everyone will become an anarchist. And personally, I’m really okay with that, because to me anarchism means respecting the autonomy of others.

What I think is important about spaces like A-Space is that they demonstrate what anarchism is, and how it works. I don’t think we can unite with other revolutionaries if they just think we’re stinky or dress funny, [laughing] or maybe are interesting—I don’t think that’s enough to build bonds of trust.

When we have a privilege like a space, we can open it up to support other revolutionary work, support other revolutionary events, and be very clear that this is who we are, and this is what we believe. We can identify points of unity, and build trust from there, especially if we’re in the neighborhood doing this work constantly, year after year.

And that doesn’t mean not making mistakes… I’ve made an infinite number of mistakes, and we’re all going to keep making mistakes. But it means being accountable for those mistakes, getting feedback on what our mistakes are without getting defensive, and then working to change, to do it better.

And the A-Space history of mistakes is actually one of the most exciting parts of the work to me. We’ve made a lot of mistakes with the space. Because of them, the space has not felt safe to many people. Many people have not felt welcomed there. We’ve replicated the oppression that happens in other parts of our world. For a long time, we had a reputation as a racist space. We’ve also gotten feedback about not working hard enough to be safe space for trans folks, or for queer folks. We’ve had a lot of events dominated by sexism. The space is not fully accessible. It’s hard to make it family-friendly.

So we’ve had a lot of wonderful opportunities to learn and grow. We listened to that feedback from collective members and the wider community, thought about it, and changed our practices and policies. And I feel like over the years we got to turn some of that around by making sure that when folks are in the space, that they own the space, they make decisions about their own events, and we support the work that they are doing.

And I guess I believe that building trust is revolutionary.

1. From brochure: The A-Space, established in 1991 is an anarchist community space located at 4722 Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. It is operated by an all-volunteer anarchist collective that shares chores, rotates responsibilities, and make decisions by consensus. The A-Space is home to Philadelphia groups such as Books Through Bars, and Philly NORML. It is also used for lectures, meetings, performances, art showings, films, benefits, as well as cultural, educational, and other events that bring people together.

2. From brochure: The building is part the The Life Center Association (LCA), a land trust that owns several buildings in West Philadelphia. Instead of paying rent to a landlord each month, the people living in these houses pay money toward a common pool that is available for the upkeep of the houses. A representative from each building makes up the board, which meets monthly to discuss any needed building repairs and community issues.

3. Definition of anarchism from the A-Space Brochure:

Anarchists believe that decision-making power should rest not with the state, the market, or religious institutions. Instead, they believe people must come together in communities & in the workplace to make decisions about their own lives.

Instead of decisions about governance, community life & the economy being made by corporations, government bodies, or those with the power and privilege to seize authority, anarchism relies on directly democratic processes to make decisions. Forms of direct democracy allow each individual to have input regarding decisions that affect their life. In direct democracy, research is done thoroughly & the wisdom of those with experience is sought eagerly, but all decision-makers have equal amounts of power. Often, decisions are made by consensus.

A consensus process is a directly democratic form of decision making which optimizes participation. In a consensus process a group Jo to create a decision acceptable to everyone. Instead of resting on an “either/or” paradigm, consensus decisions celebrate human creativity by struggling for solutions that can be agreed on by all the participating parties. Consensus is used to protect the rights & freedoms of the individual as well as supporting the cohesiveness & strength of the community.

Anarchists believe in community and sharing. In anarchism benefits and responsibilities are shared equally, and tasks are rotated. People with special skills and talents are encouraged to develop them for the good of the group. No skill, position, gender, ethnicity, job or religion has more power or status than any other.

As an economic system, anarchism is based on a moral, not market economy. Its underpinnings are of reciprocity, communalism, free association, and mutual aid. People take turns, share freely, pool resources and make their own decisions about their own labor and resources. At the core of anarchism is an analysis of domination. Anarchism attempts to eradicate all forms of domination, such as capitalism, sexism, racism & homophobia, believing that all people must have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

4. http://www.sunyjefferson.edu/news-events/publications/north-country-writers-festival/measuring-distance-diane-v-rogers

Report from the St Imier Conference

By Hanna Waldman  

Hosted by Solidaridad Obrera, a group with friends’ status with the IWA, based in Chile, September 17.

This report was submitted to Workers’ Solidarity Alliance’s September 29 International Committee meeting. The Link to the Youtube recording is at the end. 

Conversatorio Internacional: “150 años del Congreso Anarquista de Saint Imier”

Facilitating is Nanda, from Revista Libertaria. She introduces the conference by explaining that there are representatives from several different organizations, in different parts of the world, who have come together to remember a very important moment in history—the Congress of Saint Imier, on its 150th anniversary. She says that they have come together to discuss the historical background of the Congress, and how this can be brought to the present.

There are four presentations ahead, and the first is that of Erick Benítez, a comrade representing the Anarchist Federation of Mexico. He is discussing the antecedents of the Saint Imier Congress. Erick begins:

Two days ago, the 150th anniversary of the Congress of Saint Imier was celebrated, where the definitive rupture between Marxists and anarchists occurred in the 19th century. It’s not possible to understand the Congress without understanding the circumstances that led to it. We will have to look back to a few years before the Congress so that we can establish its antecedents.

Perhaps the most important protagonist of the Congress, in ideological terms, is Mikhail Bakunin. By the time of the Congress, he was quite experienced in terms of his

ideology and had faced imprisonment in Siberia for his actions in line with that ideology. At this time, we see the beginning of a confrontation with the Marxists, first because of the question raised by Bakunin regarding the abolition of inheritance, and also because of other conflicts that had existed since the foundation of the First International in 1864. It will not be a secret to anyone that Proudhonians were the founders of the AIT (in 1864, not referring to the current IWA). Despite being present almost from the beginning, Karl Marx was not its founder. Marx did draft some things for dissemination, but the meeting minutes remain from 1864 to 1869, showing what really happened. Concepts such as reciprocity, mutualism, federalism, and other such foundations of Proudhonian extraction from the French anarchists were of great importance.

Marx, at that time a member of the General Council of London, began a low-intensity struggle against Bakunin and the anarchists. In Marx’s correspondence, he complains that, “the fat man Bakunin is behind all this. It is evident, if this damned Russian really plans to put himself at the head of the labor movement, that we must prevent him from doing damage.”

Marx’s fear was founded. Until then, the preponderance of united anarchist activists— the “damage” to which Marx was referring—was the increasingly growing anarchist influence within the International in Spain. Despite making Engels the delegate for Spain, it was the anarchists, led by Giuseppe Fanelli, that made the Spanish labor movement strong and organized. But, as it was outside Marxist influence, they considered it damaging.

Regarding the Franco-Prussian War (in which Germany tried to impose itself on France in a monarchist movement), Marx wrote the following to Engels in July 1870: “the French need a beating. If the Prussians win, the concentration of State Power will be useful for the concentration of the German working class.” We also see a fairly large

trace of German nationalism in Marx, which fully justified Bakunin’s criticism of him for wanting a strong state like the one Bismarck had built.

Then, when the Paris Commune came together in March of the following year—that is, a few months after the Franco-Prussian War—Marx does react to the uprising with joy. But it must be taken into account that, just a few months before, he applauded the monarchist invasion of France even more so. While the first clashes were taking place at the Paris Commune, Marx was dedicating himself to insulting the communards. Once the Commune triumphs and achieves the recognition of everyone, Marx rushed off to write his book The Civil War in France, a truly discordant piece in Marx’s oeuvre, which shows the chameleon nature of his ideologies and sentiments.

At the end of 1871, the hostility of the General Council of London against the anarchists had not ceased. Federalism and the destruction of the State were the main points that the Marxists disagreed with when the Paris Commune was established in 1871–aspects which Marx wrote about critically in his eponymous book.

The dictatorship of Marx, Engels, and company within the General Council of London was already overwhelming. They were resorting to the censorship of correspondence, direct attacks on anarchists, and manipulation of agreements to maintain control of the labor movement.

In his book The Militant Proletariat, Anselmo Lorenzo has left us a description of that sad meeting of Marx’s lackeys after one such conference. Marx and company dedicated themselves to a series of slanders against the anarchists.

During the Congress of the Hague, the venue was chosen by the London General Council for an express purpose—so that Bakunin could not attend due to warrants for his arrest. The Congress of The Hague was Marx and Engels’ declaration of war against the anarchists. Even the International itself made a summary judgment against the anarchist alliance at the congress, forgetting its true purpose.

Indeed, one of the agreements of the congress and its fictitious majority was to send the General Council of London to the United States, to where the headquarters of the International was being relocated. Marx and Engels extended the power of the council by suspending entire federations if they didn’t submit to their dictates.

There was hardly anything constructive in the congress. All coordination of revolutionary forces was forgotten, the reports were barely touched on, there were no positive plenary sessions for the workers’ movement, nor plans for such at all. All this was brushed aside to make way for the execution of the Marxists’ plans, outlined in advance, to suppress the anarchists and expel Mikhail Bakunin and James Guillaume.

The anarchists, however, would respond to this Marxist attack on the international labor movement. They would declare the Hague Conference illegitimate and meet in Switzerland at the Congress of Saint Imier, which the following speakers will tell you about. In general terms, that was the panorama that existed before the Saint Imier Congress.

Nanda returns to thank Erick, and express appreciation for the large amount of effort it

must have taken to collect all that background information which will give us a solid foundation for the presentations to come.

She then introduces Pedro Peumo, representing Solidaridad Obrera in Chile, who will speak about the resolutions of the Saint-Imier Congress and the birth of anarchism.

Pedro begins by briefly explaining the difference between the Saint Imier Congress and the Saint Imier International (the latter being the workers’ organization founded during the Congress, after the split from the AIT, which lasted until 1877 when it was succeeded by the International Working People’s Association). He also gives his own interpretation of the conflict between the authoritarian and anarchist factions of the International, a dictatorship of the proletariat versus more grassroots communes—the conquest of political power versus the destruction of political power. The antagonism between the two grew to a fever pitch by 1872, the conflict became unsustainable, and the inevitable rupture occurred.

Eight days after the Hague Conference, the Saint Imier Congress took place on Sunday and Monday, the 15th and 16th of September 1872, in the town hall of Saint Imier, in the Francophone Jura Bernois district in the Canton of Bern, western Switzerland. Delegates who attended the Congress include: James Guillaume and Adhémar Schwitzguébel from Switzerland; Carlo Cafiero, Errico Malatesta, Giuseppe Fanelli, Andrea Costa from Italy; Rafael Farga i Pellicer and Tomás González Morago from Spain, and the French refugees Charles Alerini, Gustave Lefrançais, Jean-Louis Pindy, and of course, Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin attended as a delegate of the Italians.

Together with the international congress, a regional congress was held, in which they established many of the agreements that would later be embodied in the general congress of Saint Imier.

Practically all the participants in the Saint Imier Congress were anarchists or revolutionary socialists and federalists, and many of them played important roles in the development of the revolutionary socialist movement after the Congress. However, there were quite a few differences between them, as well.

In general, they adopted a federalist structure for this new International. It was thought of as an authentic and legitimate continuation of the First International, carrying on the work that had been done since 1864. One of the main agreements reached was the decree that there would be full autonomy for each of the sections. This was the first time that established textually within the international, that “no one has the right to deprive the federations and autonomous sections of their right to decide for themselves and follow the line of political conduct that they deem best.” They also said that the aspirations of the proletariat cannot have any other purpose than the establishment of an economic organization and federation which is absolutely free, founded on the basis of equality for all, absolutely independent of any political government.

So what did they do? They turned around the resolutions of the Congress of The Hague, instead stating that it has to be absolutely independent of any political government—that the destruction of all political power is the first duty of the proletariat.

The fifteen delegates who attended Saint Imier approved a total of four resolutions in the Congress.

The first resolution was to expressly reject all the agreements of the Hague Congress,

including the expulsion of Bakunin.

The second resolution agreed on this pact of friendship, solidarity, and mutual defense between free federations, which in practice materialized as a confederation of international self-defense against the centralist and authoritarian ambitions of the Marxists.

The third resolution had to do with the nature the political action, as a commitment of solidarity through revolutionary action outside all political power.

The fourth resolution spoke about the Bakuninist theses on economic collectivism.

So in this first Congress of Saint Imier, we find at least two principles of what international anarchism is going to become: the first is that anarchists organize themselves without their participation in politics and parliaments, what is called anti- parliamentarianism. This was the first principle that united and brought together anarchists at the international level. We define ourselves as anarchists by saying that we are going to be anti-parliamentary, we are going to work to destroy all bastions of political power. The second was the principle that had to do with Bakuninist collectivism. These two ideas emerge from this first congress of Saint Imier in 1872. The congress in question did more than save the continuity of the internationalist movement and rescue it from the clutches of the authoritarian politicians that surrounded Marx; it even inaugurated the friendly coexistence of the movement of different tendencies within the same organization to establish the foundations of solid mutual respect for all shades of opinion and tactics.

The resolutions of the Congress received statements of support from the Italian and Spanish federations, Jurassic federation, and some of the English-speaking American federations of the international. Most of the french federations also approved it. In the Netherlands, three of the four Dutch federations approved.

The English federation resented Marx’s attempts to keep it under his control, but “rejected” the decisions of the Saint Imier Congress, The Hague Congress, and the so- called General Council of New York, while also tacitly giving support to the International. In a Congress of the Belgian federation in December of 1872, the delegates also repudiated the Congress of the Hague, supporting instead the “defenders of pure anarchist revolutionary ideas, enemies of all authoritarian centralization and indomitable supporters of autonomy.”

Some will have already realized, however, that on the one hand, there is a resolution that tells us that there is an incontrovertible right of the federations and autonomous sections of the international “to decide for themselves and follow the line of political behavior that they consider best.” In this, one could understand that there is also the possibility that each of the sections participate in politics through political parties. On the other hand, there is another part of the resolutions that tells us emphatically that the destruction of all political power is the first duty of the proletariat. This contradiction between one part of the resolutions that tells us that each one of the sections can organize itself however it wants and pursue whichever tactics it wants, but on the other hand there is one that limits that way of carrying out the tactic that is not to participate in politics.

Sections can organize themselves in the way they want, can establish the structures that they want, with total autonomy—but the principle that unites us is that we must destroy political power. It allows absolute freedom and develops federalism for the first time, in an absolutely open, transparent and libertarian way. At the same time, it establishes a

principle that identifies us as anarchists: anti-parliamentarianism.

The congresses that followed later kept saying the same thing, except for in 1877, when Kropotkin came into the picture. Together with Malatesta and Reclus, Kropotkin changed this principle of collectivism that had been there since the first and the idea of libertarian communism began to predominate. Then, as a result of the Congresses of the Saint Imier International, the principles of anti-parliamentary federalism, of the absolute freedom of each of the sections, and libertarian communism were established. These three principles are established for the first time in the organization, constituting the birth of anarchism at the international level.

Nanda returns to thank Pedro for presenting us with a lot of background information that listeners can take note of and continue investigating at their leisure. She then introduces Vadim Damier, speaking from Russia as a representative of KRAS, to speak about Kropotkin and the Saint Imier International. Vadim begins:

Peter Kropotkin established contacts with the anti-authoritarian International even before the Congress of Saint Imier, during his trip to Europe in the spring of 1872. Interested in the work of the First International, he met with representatives of its various Belgian syndicalist, Bakuninist, and Marxist currents. He was arrested in 1874, but he managed to escape from Russia in the summer of 1876 and reach Great Britain.

From there, he began to renew old contacts. He wrote to James Guillaume, who began sending materials. In the end of February 1877, he arrived in Switzerland, planning to live and work there.

During the following years, until his expulsion by the Swiss government in 1881, he left the alpine country only for a short time for revolutionary matters. It was in Switzerland, in 1878, where he married a young Russian student, Sofia Ananyeva Rabinovich, who became his life partner to the end. The Swiss years of were the epoch of continuous independent anarchist revolutionary work. It was during this period that anarchism as we would come to know it in the following decades and century, was established.

In the summer of 1877 he edited a newspaper, where he published editorial articles criticizing social democracy and parliamentarianism, proclaiming the constructive ideas of an anarchist alternative. He supported the idea of propaganda of the deed, but interpreted it not as a tactic of assassination attempts and conspiracy, but as the organization of a kind of exemplary uprisings, during which it would be possible to start organizing the ideal anarchist society.

At the same time, he helped organize an anarchist movement among the German- speaking workers of Switzerland and, in August of 1877, was one of the main initiators of the creation of the French federation of the International of Saint Imier. The constitutive assembly of this French federation was held in Kropotkin’s apartment in September of the same year. He moved to Paris in the spring of 1878, actively helping to restore the French movement after the defeat of the Paris commune. He then returned to Switzerland, but soon went to Spain, where he tried to reconcile the rival anarchist factions of the International in in Barcelona and Madrid. In August, he returned to Switzerland and participated in the Jura Federation’s congress in Freiburg. There, he gave an important speech on the anarchist program, with a proposal to intensify agitation with the goal of a free commune, which should become both an organ of insurrection via propaganda of the deed, and the basis of a future free society.

After Freiburg, Kropotkin moved to Geneva, where he finally approached the Geneva branch of the Jura federation, which was at a critical juncture in its reorganization. This was an historical moment in which the movement begins to experience an internal crisis. Together with Paul Brousse, he edited and published La Révolté—the avant- garde newspaper which had become the organ of the federation and indeed of world anarchism until it was banned by th e Swiss authorities. Kropotkin became perhaps the most prominent figure and authority of the Federation. He had to assume the entire burden of organization and propaganda tasks, and he managed brilliantly with this work.

La Révolté became a truly innovative publication in the pages of which comrades formulated and analyzed the main theoretical and tactical questions of the anarchist movement. The articles by Kropotkin have not lost their relevance to anarchist theory to this day. At the same time, he continued to speak at meetings of workers, traveling throughout the country of Switzerland on almost continuous propaganda tour.

The Chaux-de-Fonds Congress, in 1880, was a truly magnificent moment for Kropotkin. He delivered a speech in which he consciously and clearly demonstrated the differences between anarchist/libertarian socialism and democratic/moderate/reformist socialism.

Kropotkin could rightly be considered the main theoretician of the international anarchist movement, the activity of which concerned European governments more and more as time went on. Even to the authorities of Switzerland, he was seen less as a prince, and more as a rebel. His activities aimed at restoring the collapsed international caused particular dissatisfaction. He consistently defended the ideas that later formed the basis of the trade union movement. He insisted that the preparation of the working masses for the revolution was only possible through the economic struggle against the capitalists and landowners, for the immediate interests of the workers—not through the

actions of small clandestine groups, individual attacks, or political struggle for power. He proposed to restore the international as a world union of trade unions—of workers’ unions—within which would operate a more determined union of anarchist militants (such as the Bakuninist alliance). He defended this idea at the social revolutionary congress in London in July of 1881. The congress proclaimed the re-establishment of the international, but this decision turned out to be a formality. In the following years, the anarchist movement was increasingly dominated by tendencies towards disorganization and dispersion.

Nanda introduces Laure Akai, a ZSP colleague from Poland, who will speak about the end of the federalist International to its reformation. Laure says:

Although it seems that the organizations adhering to the federalist ideologies had common positions, in 1874, you could already see different positions within the federation.

For example, regarding the real role of parliamentarianism, with some delegates thinking a more social democratic vision and others more interested and in the popular revolts (like the Italians) or in propaganda (of the fact). There were differences between the organizations and there was no consensus on what had to be done. Many members of the AIT (again, not the current one) felt more inclined to cooperate with social democratic elements. Many people from the AIT believed that all anti-capitalist or socialist workers should be brought together. In the Bern Congress, two years later in 1876, some others fought concretely for the reunification of the anarchists with all the other socialists, including the Marxists and regardless of their tactics.

The following year such a project of bringing together all socialists was taken up by the world socialist congress in 1877. It can be said that many people resigned due to their hopes of reunification. Many of the former members participated in that congress with ideas that were already different, and in a space of a few years many people and organizations had changed their positions—especially towards social democratic or even Marxist positions.

On the other hand, there was a massive defection from the AIT when they thought that another organization would be formed.

The revolutionized anarchists and syndicalists kept trying to form something else, and the first serious attempt was in 1881. A congress was held in London, and they formed an organization called the Black International. What is interesting is that this organization—this federation—did not have significance at the international level, but it gained importance in the United States. We all know the names of the Haymarket Martyrs, and other people who were active in this federation. In terms of size, however, it was perhaps 5,000 people at its peak. So it was not a very broad federation, but it was important and after the Haymarket situation, it fell apart for 20 years.

There was no serious attempt to form anything for quite some time, but in 1907 there was an anarchist conference in London. It was not a syndicalist conference, but the delegates discussed syndicalism as a tactic. An anarchist international office was founded, and in this office there were two very important people for the foundation of the current situation.

They wanted to make propaganda towards the founding of something new. Then, in

1913, they organized a trade union congress in London. There were many problems.

The first problem was that the French were in another international, a social democratic federation, and they did not want the anarchists to form something new because they did not want competition. Because of this, there were delegates who did not support forming a federation. So there was no consensus, and instead of forming a new movement, they began to publish a bulletin. But soon it was 1914, and WW1 broke out.

The war was a catastrophe for trade unionists, because on the one hand it again showed ideological differences between the organizations that held interventionist ideas, and those that did not.

It was also very difficult to carry out any activity during the war.

And then after a few years it was the Russian Revolution, and this was also a problem for the foundation of a new movement as well. The Bolsheviks had a project to unite all the socialist workers in a red international under the party’s control. Some thought that there was no point in making a desperate organization at that time. Some Russian anarchists indicated that they were organizing and working hard, but they were brutally repressed by the Bolsheviks. Many of them were arrested, tortured, murdered. Some members of the future IWA were aware of this, while others were not.

But when the red international held its congress in 1921, the delegates who had previously been more in favor of working with the Bolsheviks decided that they could not be in this red international, and finally decided to form the current IWA-AIT and this year is the centenary of the foundation of that international, which was founded in December 1922.

Nanda returns to thank Laure for her presentation, and gives the floor back to Erick, who wishes to add some more information. Erick says:

When comrade Pedro talks about the resolutions of the Saint Imier Congress, it is important to add that most of the sections of the international were not even aware of the Congress in The Hague. The unions in London, which at that time were beyond a million members, did not even know Karl Marx, despite the fact that he had spoken on behalf of these unions. They joined the proposals of the Saint Imier Congress, not because they were all anarchists, but because there were unions that shared the idea of autonomy of the sections, even as pertains to the level of ideological questions. That is, as long as they were independent and respectful of the autonomy of the federalism of the other sections, it was even possible for them to have ideas outside of anarchism, and have those ideas be respected.

Marx and Engels, who tried to liquidate this autonomy, this federalism, this freedom of action within the international…when there are people who say that what happened in Russia, [the authoritarianism which occurred in the wake of] in the Russian revolution has nothing to do with Karl Marx..well, they are blatantly lying.

Because there is a fairly clear antecedent in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels of the aspiration to centralism, even before taking political power within the international. Since its inception, Marxism is centralist and tries to attack autonomy and federalism from the beginning.

Another thing that I found very interesting about Vadim’s presentation—he was very right when saying this is the concept of propaganda due to the fact that it is one of those who give it its name, referring to a series of events, organizations, acts, uprisings or even facts that could promote the ideas of anarchism already on the field of practice.

It did not refer to those attacks of which the tabloid press takes great advantage to exploit against anarchism, events that happened because the anarchists were forced to act in that way to defend themselves—not because it was an aspiration of the anarchists to act violently, but because they were attacked, harassed, imprisoned, murdered in the streets. Violence is not necessarily propaganda in and of itself.

Nanda announces the beginning of a brief Q&A session, as viewers have asked the following three questions:

1. Today the democratic paradigm appears hegemonic, so workers act as citizens and vote every few years. In what way does anarchism currently participate in social struggles without falling into asking for solutions from the state and thus legitimizing it?

2. What would be the reflection that you make regarding the present of anarchism, in thinking about the past?

3. What role has the platformist tendency played in the IWA?

Pedro spoke first, saying: Unfortunately, the International of Saint Imier declined towards social democracy mainly because the governments were opened at that time, from the 1870s. For example, in the United Kingdom, laws were created in favor of legal trade unionism. That began to happen throughout Europe, the legalization of unions to bring them within the structure of the state as institutions—part of the gear of the proletarian meat-grinding machine—and also the political parties were growing with workers’ militancy.

As Laure described, this caused large masses of workers who were to go over to social democracy. This is a phenomenon that did not occur so much in Latin America, because in Latin America this sort of thing always occurs with a time lag. So for us, the Congress of Saint Imier was very important. There are many who said that it was impossible that things like railways and other public works could be developed through workers’ organizations, and that it was necessary to maintain a certain state—that was a discussion that took place within the San Imier international. They allowed it to develop in a completely anarchist way. The reason this

International is interesting is because it built all the characteristics that would later be repeated in anarchist organizations throughout the world—including ours,in 1922. So, although it was a first attempt that failed, the postulates that remained allowed, for example, in Latin America to develop the workers’ organizations at the beginning of the 1900s that collected all that remained, thanks to those who were part of the Saint Imier International, who condensed and collected these ideas.

In Latin America, for example, from 1900 onward there was an explosion of labor

organizations that knew these European texts. Revolutionaries began arriving who already had experience from the Saint Imier International, or at least knew of it and what happened there. So it was possible to put together a large number of workers’ organizations prior to 1922, because of that knowledge and experience.

When it comes to the tendency of elements within radical movements to transition toward social democracy, this is a story that has repeated over and over, and is still relevant to us today. So it’s important to know this story.

Pedro adds: Social democracy was one of the things responsible for the catastrophe that occurred in the 20th Century. Social democracy bears much of the responsibility for Hitler coming to power, due to its lukewarm measures, as does the communist party for trying to sabotage all kinds of independent action. If we take into account these serious events that happened in the context of the 20th century, the lesson of the Congress of Saint Imier is that you cannot have alliances in a concrete way with people or with organizations that aspire to the conquest of political power. I measure as one of the decisive moments of the Congress of San Imier, the resolution that says that the destruction—not the conquest—of political power is the first duty of the proletariat. It does not seem to me that we can base all the actions, attitudes, organizations, or thoughts that we may have for the present on what happened 150 years ago. But today, as 150 years ago, political power is not conquered. It is not reformed. One cannot attempt to beautify it. Rather, it must be destroyed. That idea has to be the backbone, so to speak, of our actions.

And finally, Vadim says: Two things are important for participation in current social movements. The first is to propagate and defend the sovereignty of the general assemblies of the workers in struggle. The second is to defend the independence of the workers in struggle against all the institutions of the state and all parties in the social democracy. That is our legacy of anarchism from the past and our duties for the

present time.

Nanda closes the presentation by thanking the colleagues who participated, as well as the listeners in the audience, and those who asked question, and stating her hopes to meet again in a space where we can share experiences and other important things that are part of the history of anarchism.

link to the Youtube recording of the Conference –

Two WSA Pieces in Anticipation of the IWA History Conference, Łódź, Poland


IWA, And Local Connections 

By Pete M Reclus

I’m an example of an activist who joined WSA, in large part, because of WSA’s relationship to IWA. I’m very excited about the upcoming IWA History Conference this Saturday and Sunday (October First and Second) In Łódź, Poland, and I’m glad that WSA’s International Committee is organized organizing a WSA “Watch Party” for us; I think the group experience will be an inspiring and bonding event. 

I’m volunteering to be one of the WSA members who’ll schedule my sleep to watch in real time, although that will be the middle of the night for US time zones. Then, we’ll have a Watch Party later on, where we all get to watch the recorded livestream of the presentations. 

My thoughts about the Conference, and IWA’s Centenary, are that this feels like an historic moment. Of all the tendencies in Anarchism, the IWA—representing the Anarchist-Syndicalist tradition—stands out to us as the oldest continuous anarchist international, having been founded in 1923. It is inspiring to be part of the celebrations as IWA turns one hundred years old! 

In WSA, one of our ongoing conversations is about how local pro-IWA activists can plug into IWA work, and how we can build relationships with other pro-IWA folks, both locally and around the world. I think as a group, our bearing witness to the IWA’s one hundredth birthday will be a major impetus toward moving forward on this goal. 

History can be a great organizing tool. I know that my co-workers have not been familiar with the IWA, but I’ve been sharing what I know with them. The response has been one of interest, because these co-workers are interested in working class history in general.

In activism, information about current IWA work has helped give a strong sense of global connection on the local level. Again, not that these activist friends are ready to join, but they are genuinely interested as they read. Some for the history of labor, and seeing one of the most visionary traditions in labor union work. Others are some who were first introduced to Leninism, and became disillusioned by the reality of red party dictatorships. They can find, in IWA history, a radical alternative to the Comintern and red bureaucratic class society, as well as a living tradition that is truly “communist”—not just in name, but in group-process and economics, which for us are inseparable. 

Others, who are new to ideas of anti-capitalism, can find in IWA history such personalities as Rudolf Rocker and Augustin Souchy, and just out of interest in their great lives, can begin to feel the tradition that we inherit, and relate to the things we are writing about today. 

After our WSA Watch Party, we plan to write out reflections on witnessing the Conference. These writings will go into to the hands of our interested co-workers and fellow activists. We hope that it will inspire engagement in the IWA’s future work.

Anarchist Łódź and Our Histories

by Hanna Waldman

Among my most cherished possessions is a box of old photographs, many from before WW2. For someone whose ancestors are Polish and Jewish immigrants, pre-war photographs are quite precious indeed. Among them is a photo of my great-great-grandparents, standing outside their home in Poland, sometime in the early 1930s. 

I never met them, of course. Their son—my great-grandfather—was approaching 90 years old when I was born. Growing up, I heard tales of his youth in exile, his family having run afoul of the Tsarist regime for some unknown reason. My great-grandfather was quite fond of tall tales, so nobody looked into the situation much further.

It wasn’t until adulthood that I read more about the history of Łódź, his hometown. I was shocked to find my great-great-grandparents’ names on a list of people arrested in association with a militant anarchist group.

The Łódź they knew was part of the Russian Empire, and many of the city’s workers toiled in Russian-owned factories. Workers faced sixteen-hour workdays, poor wages, no pensions or insurance, punitive lockouts, and other such egregious violations of their rights. 

By the spring of 1905, the city had seen a series of large-scale strikes and demonstrations, which had been put down violently by Russian police and military. The workers and students were demanding an eight-hour workday, support for sick and injured workers, and an end to oppressive Russification policies. On the 18th of June, Russian police opened fire on one such demonstration, killing ten workers and injuring many more. The workers’ funerals, attended by more than 50,000 mourners, broke out into spontaneous demonstrations. Most of the protesters were not affiliated with any revolutionary political group, instead acting on what Stanisław Pestkowski referred to as “proletarian instinct.”

Over the following night, in what would become known as the Łódź Uprising, citizens put up over a hundred barricades to prevent the Russian police from entering their streets. Nine Russian military regiments—three on horseback—were brought in to pacify the rebellion. Two days later, at least 160 residents of Łódź were dead, the last barricades had come down, and martial law was declared in the area.

This event was part of the Polish Revolutions of 1905 to 1907, the largest people’s movement in Polish history until the late 1970s. Far from a total defeat, some of the rebels’ demands were met, including a reversal of Russification in the Polish education system. It also resulted in increased political consciousness of the working class, invigorating the movement for years to come.

Despite the extreme risk to those involved, actions in and around Łódź continued until the outbreak of the First World War. A strike involving 500 factories (just about every factory in the city) and over 65,000 workers closed out the year 1906. Revolutionary anarchists drove much of the action, including assassinating corrupt factory owners and Russian military police.

When the Łódź Uprising broke out, my great-great-grandparents were twenty-five year old newlyweds, employed in local factories. I don’t know exactly how they were involved in the drama that unfolded, or when they first became involved. They were arrested in February of 1914, in association with an anarchist group that had been reported on in international newspapers for its subversive activities. They were, as I understand it, lucky to avoid execution, but were sent to separate locations for exile. After being freed, they and their children moved to Radom (75 miles southeast of Łódź). Not long after the May Coup in 1926, which saw the overthrow of a democratically-elected government by Jósef Piłsudski’s authoritarian Sanacja faction, they emigrated to Toronto, Canada, close to a residence Emma Goldman is known to have used. Their eldest son—my great-grandfather—his wife, and their younger children followed in 1938. Almost no one in the family who remained in Poland survived the war, and several of their children and older grandchildren sacrificed their lives in resistance of the country’s occupation. My grandmother, who almost stayed behind in Poland, was taken in by her father’s parents, whom she credited with her survival of the war.

If my grandmother was aware of her beloved grandparents’ past as revolutionaries, she never said so. But the values they raised her with were passed on to me. They continue to be passed along to my young son, who will also know the personal history that accompanies these values.

The history my son will learn in school is the history of the wealthy, powerful, white, and male. It’s the history of “great” men, ignoring the unpleasant facts that they purported to own human beings as chattel or committed terrible atrocities. It is not our history. Ours is the history of the factory worker and farmer, the rebel and revolutionary, the self-taught intellectual and the illiterate worker struggling to survive blow after blow from the mighty fist of inequality and oppression. Our history is the fight against imperialism, the fight for a fair wage and a free press, the fight to speak our own languages, live on our own land, and choose our own path. That history can be painful, and it can be difficult to find, but it’s the history that’s ours. It can be found in our own stories, and in the IWA itself.

The world can look pretty bleak, these days. The pandemic still lingers in our communities. Far-right ideologies are on the rise, having made big strides in the Italian election just last week. The authoritarian government of Russia is, once again, brutally invading a neighboring country, causing civilian suffering on both sides. Income inequality is higher than it was in France before the Revolution, and many people are worried about how they’ll afford to heat their homes this winter. Climate crisis and threats of nuclear war threaten to send us careening toward the brink of annihilation. I could spend all day listing the things that keep me—and maybe you, too—up at night. No one can be blamed for feeling a twinge of despair when considering the future.

But if we look back at history, even just our own working-class families, we see stories of survival and endurance through the darkest of times. We, as humans and as anarchists, are not defeated by the current situation. Łódź, too, was not truly defeated in 1906. Despite Soviet attempts to erase their anarchist past, they are today, courtesy of IWA affiliate group Związek Syndykalistów Polski, the proud hosts of the IWA’s Centenary celebration. 

And if we keep fighting for justice and equality regardless of the odds, perhaps our great-great-grandchildren will be celebrating the IWA’s 200th anniversary someday, remembering us. Let’s inspire them, shall we?

Roe Overturned! Working Class Bodies Under Threat -July 2ed and 3ed

Join Philly WSA for a discussion of Abortion Rights from a Labor Perspective. 

Presented by Alexandra, Clarissa and Danielle 

Saturday, July 2, 8:30 pm EST, Jitsi meeting link:



Sunday, July 3, 8:30 pm EST, Jitsi meeting link:


Schedule : 

Saturday, July 2,   8: 30 pm EST

Brief History of Choice 

Labor Unions and Why Abortion Access is a Labor Issue 

Sex Worker Activism 

Black Health and Activism 

Discussion and Support 

Saturday, July 3  8 30 EST 

Red States 

Polish Activism 

Queer Access 

What Now and Solid Answers 

Discussion and Support 

WSA May Day Gatherings

By Hanna Waldman

This May Day was certainly a reason to celebrate for members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance working to rebuild their organization after the pandemic. It was a day to connect with new friends, to reconnect with old ones, and to try new things. All of that was accomplished with this year’s May Day events, held via videoconference.

On the afternoon of April 30th, the WSA held its first ever event for families and children. The children in attendance were preschool-aged, and this was reflected in the planned activities. After a cheery greeting, Clarissa (Albany) sang “Alice the Camel,” a classic nursery rhyme song, with the children. Next, Hanna (Indiana) read them the short book A is for Activist by Indonesian activist and author Innosanto Nagara. Finally, the children participated in a craft project, thought up by Sachio and Danielle (Philadelphia), pasting pictures of working people onto a globe,  celebrating the workers of the world united–May Day’s true purpose. The children greatly enjoyed the event, expressing delight at making new friends.

The following evening, May 1st, was the highly-anticipated main event, attended by people from all over the United States and Canada. It was opened by Melissa (New York City), who read a very brief speech, reminding attendees of the hope and potential of labor movements past, and a vision of bringing that potential into the future. Next, Sachio (Philadelphia) performed the folk song “Banks of Marble,” accompanied by Hanna (Indiana) on piano.

Clarissa (Albany) recited a very poignant, moving poem—a remembrance of absent comrades, an expression of the purpose behind the fight for racial justice, and a reminder that while May Day is a day of celebration, there is still much work to be done.

Following this introduction, the event opened to lively discussion. Hanna and Sachio reported on the children’s event the day prior. Many attendees hadn’t gone to May Day marches this year, as the pandemic raged on in their areas. This event gave them the opportunity to hear about May Day happenings in other parts of the continent.

Lucien-Charles (Quebec) discussed events in Quebec, including a family-friendly IWW event, and other events that involved clashes with police. He said that he was searching for ideas about what to do in his own neighbourhood, especially pertaining specifically to anarcho-syndicalism—a sentiment the other attendees affirmed.

Lucien-Charles explained that anarchists are in the minority in his area, and that “most of the leftists in his area are Trotskyist or social democrats.” Others chimed in with their own anecdotes and comments regarding the larger presence of other leftist groups in their local areas. Piper (New Jersey) discussed how, in some areas, the Democratic Socialists of America are the only representatives of the left, causing people whose views might differ— such as anarchists— to join them by default. Sachio mentioned that the DSA used to have a libertarian socialist  caucus for this reason, and that WSA members participated in that caucus. Adam (Chicago) suggested using DSA connections to meet local leftists, both as allies and as potential WSA members.

Lucien-Charles mentioned the unfortunate closure of Black Cat Press, an anarchist publisher in in Edmonton, AB, after fifty years of operation. The discussion then moved on to favorite anarchist reading materials, which attendees were eager to share with each other.

At this point, the forty-minute time limit for Zoom meetings had nearly been reached. Lucien-Charles suggested an alternative, free platform so that future meetings could be longer. The discourse was so engaging and enjoyable that several attendees continued it on this other platform after the event came to a close.

Greg (New Jersey) said, “We’ll keep listening for how different IWA sections are celebrating May Day,” and offered to find out more about what other groups did, so those ideas can be incorporated into next year’s event.

“This is an experiment,” Sachio said of the event. “We’d love to do more events like this in the future… if the pandemic is over next year, we could do some really cool stuff.”

A spirit of eagerly looking forward pervaded the evening. Attendance was double what the organizers had expected, and enthusiasm was high. It brought WSA members together and renewed their enthusiasm for the fight ahead.

May Day Labor and International!

(Labor and International is a section for report backs for Impulse)

1 From the Branch 

2 From the Workforce 



May Day Greetings from Philly-Metro WSA! 

Happy May Day to our comrades and fellow activists! 

This morning we look forward to joining El Paro and Philly We rise to march in Center City, Philadelphia for the human rights of immigrants, and for a May Day Zoom event in the evening. As we get ready, just a few short thoughts for this morning. 

As organizers, it’s easy to get lost in the work, trying to understand and support local strike campaigns, opposing war, as well as recognizing the pandemic’s horrific toll on the working class and oppressed communities. It’s easy to lose sight of our history, and the future we want.

May Day is a day of resistance. It is also a day to reconnect with comrades from the past. Each year as we march, our phones are a flurry of May Day greetings from across the country, comrades we organized with years ago. By participating in May Day events, we also open the door to new connections in the present, so we can work together for the future.

May Day always carries with it a chance to reflect on our own history as working people. We remember an anarchist pilgrimage to Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery in the early 90’s, to the grave of Emma Goldman. When we were there we also saw the memorial to the Haymarket Martyrs. In NJ we visited the Batto House Labor Museum, and we marched in the May Day parade in Paterson, with banners celebrating the Silk Mill Strike of 1913. 

So much of May Day rekindles in us the past. May Day invites us to an earlier history, when workers felt the creative potential of their strikes and direct actions. This was before the labor moment made a devil’s bargain with capitalism and the state. 

In these early days of labor history, our fight for day to day rights was connected to our potential as working people to usher in the end of class society, social oppression and exploitation, and to create a world of freedom. On this May 1, we seek to rekindle this vision.

Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group

Last October, Philly Metro WSA launched its new reading group called Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group. The first meetings have been helpful and inspiring, averaging about 9 people attending or doing the reading. Below is the original outreach flyer- 

“Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group is a project of The Philly Metro Branch of WSA.

We come from traditions of Anarcha-Feminism, Intersectional Feminism, and Anarchist-Syndicalism. In order to bring Anarchist-Syndicalist Theory and organizing up-to date, it’s  necessary to re-examine our syndicalist history in light of feminist values. 

Our reading group will start with some classic Anarcha-Feminist texts, 

To Destroy all Domination (an introduction to Anarcha-Feminism) 

The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman aka Joreen, and The Tyranny of Tyranny by Cathy Levine 

The Free Women of Spain  by Martha A. Ackelsberg 

After this we’ll arrange for a gathering for free discussion and next steps. 

While this is a local reading group, anyone interested in Anarcha-Sydncalism or impacted by capitalism, patriarchy, racism, or queer-phobia, you are welcome to participate. Contact us!  

Why Anarcha? 

You might ask why we say AnarchA and Not AnarchO? This goes back to early Anarcha-Feminism of the 1970s, when activists realized it felt strange to talk about AnarchO-Feminism with the male form of AnarchO, (as with Anarcho-Communism, Anarcho-Syndicalism) and that this use of language was equivalent to using ‘Mankind’ as a synonym for ‘Humanity’. It was more comfortable to use the feminine form of AnarchA, or the gender neutral compound AnarchIST-Feminist. 

The truth is that in the wider anarchist movement, there’s a negative stereotype of syndicalism as dominated by grumpy white men. The fact that using the feminist form of AnarchA-Sydicalist seems refreshing and new, even now in 2021, is further evidence that it’s time explore our Anarchist-Syndicalism in light of Feminism.”

Syndicalism and The Cooperative Commonwealth! (How we shall bring about the Revolution) 

  Last year, two WSA comrades banded together, texting during work hours to start reading the great forgotten classic of early French Anarcho-Syndicalism. Syndicalism and the Co-Operative Commonwealth of 1913 was written by Emile Pouget and Emile Pataud, with its introduction by Tom Mann and preface by Peter Kropotkin. The two comrades started out looking at two proceeding Victorian socialist Utopias, William Morris’s News From Nowhere of 1890, and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards of 1888. They also looked over the context of The Co-Operative Commonwealth, the Syndicalist movement at that time, where Anarchists were an influential minority of the wider and eclectic syndicalist movement. Beginning to finally read the novel has been inspiring!

2 From The Workforce- 

Inspiring campaign  

As part of learning about recent janitors’ campaigns,  we’ve been learning about the Twin City Janitors, SEIU Justice for Janitors, and reading about the 2016 campaign victories. The majority surpassed winning $15 dollars an hour and more sick days, better health care and reduced lifting of heavy loads. It was a victory that took big steps toward fighting structural racial disparities in Minneapolis.

In the SEIU account of  the campaign, we read a quote from janitor Lucia Guaman, “My supervisor once told me, when I brought up our increasing workload, to ‘vacuum with one hand, mop with the other and dust with your mouth.’ No one deserves this treatment.” 

Workforce Allies

We’ve started to look at different allies’ trainings for workplaces, especially workshops and resources developed by organized labor. In the workforce, the role of allies becoming aware of institutional oppressions will look very different from situations for white, middle-class office workers. Many ally trainings we find are developed for allies in white-collar professions. 

By exploring what resources are available to blue-collar workplaces, we can create a report back to share. Capitalism divides us by racism, sexism and queer-phobia. But these ally trainings have potential for helping us overcome major divisions as working people.


When in March Lucien-Charles Tronchet-Ridel met with Philly-Metro WSA to discuss the Climate Strike (See Impulse article ‘Climate Strike’), members of the branch expressed interest in learning how, as local organizers, we can support IWA-AIT work in the future. For example, how can we, on a local level, plug into support for the IWA Climate Committee’s work, and the upcoming Centennial celebrations. Over all, how can a local workers’ organization connect and build relationships with local organizers of other IWA Friends and Sections? 

We will start trying to use google translate more, to keep up on the literature of other Friends and Sections. While Google translate is not perfect, it can get us started in the right direction.

One pamphlet we want to read soon has recently been translated into English, “How We Coped with Problems at Work. Conflicts of Priama Akcia Union (Slovakian section of IWA)  in 2015-2019,” which they released as part of the International Week Against Unpaid wages, dealing primarily with labor conflicts in the Hospitality Sector. We’re excited to read it.