(Labor and International is a section for report backs for Impulse)
1 From the Branch
2 From the Workforce
1 FROM THE BRANCH
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!
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-
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.”
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.