How do we Fight Back?

By Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM)

Entry 15129


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism How do we Fight Back?

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(1984 - 2021)

The Workers Solidarity Movement was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1984 following discussions by a number of local anarchist groups on the need for a national anarchist organization. At that time with unemployment and inequality on the rise, there seemed every reason to argue for anarchism and for a revolutionary change in Irish society. This has not changed. Like most socialists we share a fundamental belief that capitalism is the problem. We believe that as a system it must be ended, that the wealth of society should be commonly owned and that its resources should be used to serve the needs of humanity as a whole and not those of a small greedy minority. But, just as importantly, we see this struggle against capitalism as also being a struggle for freedom. We believe that socialism and freedom must go together, that we cannot have one without the other. Anarchism has always stood for individual freedom. But it also stands for democracy. We believe in democratizing... (From:

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How do we Fight Back?

Over the Summer unemployment reached an all time high. It would have seemed fair enough to expect some kind of militant response to this by the unemployed organizations in Ireland but in fact very little happened. In this article we look at why these organizations are so unable to mobilize unemployed people, either to demand work or to fight for improved social welfare. We go on to look at how unemployment can be fought and what exactly should we be fighting for.

In Ireland most unemployed groups are affiliates of the Irish National Organization of the Unemployed. It is a sizable organization with offices in Dublin (Funded by S.I.P.T.U.) and 67 affiliates. On paper all this is very impressive but most unemployed people are probably unaware of the existence of the I.N.O.U. and the only contact they have with their local unemployed center is when they need advice or a C.V. typed.


The first thing to be said about these local groups is that the vast majority see politics in general as irrelevant. They put their energy into providing advice for the unemployed or trying to create jobs in their community. In a survey carried out by the I.N.O.U. only an average of 20% of activities could fall into any sort of campaigning activity. What they are about is the provision of services for unemployed people in their areas rather than seeking to mobilize these people in the fight for socially useful, well paid jobs.

Obviously the services carried out by these centers like C.V. typing and the provision of welfare advice are necessary to the unemployed. The question however is why should these be provided on a voluntary basis by unemployed organizations relying on non-government sources for 51% of their funding. Why should the workers in these centers either be receiving no wages or being paid as a F.A.S. scheme worker.

Such services are needed by the unemployed but we should fight for complete state funding of them. In addition we should be fighting for the workers in these centers to be made permanent and paid at proper union rates rather then accepting SES schemes. It is also a nonsense that unions like S.I.P.T.U. which pay their top bureaucrats £60,000 a year should use S.E.S. schemes to run these centers. This seriously undermines their opposition to such schemes.


In practice the I.N.O.U. and its affiliates does not campaign seriously against unemployment or for better conditions for the unemployed. In the Autumn of 1991 a special conference of the I.N.O.U. on the P.E.S.P. decided to use it as a basis for progress rather then rejecting it outright. Yet the plan contained almost no concrete provisions on unemployment except for a few new schemes to provide cheap labor for the bosses and victimize the long term unemployed.

The approach to the limited amount of campaigning carried out is one of lobbying government departments and producing reports on various aspects of unemployment. No attempt is made to inform, consult or mobilize the vast numbers of unemployed besides the occasional token picket to back up a lobby of government ministers. The I.N.O.U. no longer tries to become an organization of the unemployed. Rather it is a group that lobbies on behalf of the unemployed.

Part of the reason for the inaction of the I.N.O.U. and local groups is funding. The same survey showed that the majority of groups received financial support from government and religious bodies or various voluntary trusts. This funding also comes with a price, the funding body always has a veto (official or unofficial) over the activities of the group. In an I.N.O.U. survey almost 50% of unemployed groups admitted that they had been “ by the restrictions placed on them by funders”.


There is considerable funding supplied by the ICTU to some unemployed groups (ICTU centers) but the strings of this funding are held by the union bureaucrats. In the campaign to get the I.N.O.U. to partially accept the P.E.S.P. the I.C.T.U. unemployment centers were unofficialy told that if the I.N.O.U. rejected the PESP they would not exist the following year. This meant the I.N.O.U. was forced to go against the anti-PESP sentiments of the unemployed as expressed in a survey just before the special conference carried out by the Portobello, Thurles and Portlaoise unemployed action groups.

Another problem with the unemployed groups is the lack of contact between these groups and the rank and file of the trade unions. There are very strong links between the union bureaucracy and the I.N.O.U. itself as well as some centers. But as the example above demonstrates these are used by the bureaucracy to buy off unemployed opposition to the PESP. At the time of the ‘Trade Unionists & Unemployed Against the Program’ campaign only one unemployed group out of the 67 was involved (individuals from a couple of other groups were also involved). Some groups do have links with local trades councils but with the demise of trades council radicalism these links are token rather then real.

The fact that these factors severely limit the ability of the unemployed organsiations to fight unemployment is fairly clear. There were no unemployed groups involved in the Gateaux fight against job losses. This was the biggest fight in recent years by workers against job losses. The I.N.O.U.‘s, acceptance of the P.E.S.P. despite the fact that it did not meet their modest criterion on job creation is yet another example. The unemployed movement is silent not so much because it wants to be but because it has to be. It is dependent on government funding to the hilt and a gentle squeeze will bring it running into line.


So how do we go about building a real, fighting unemployed campaign. The first thing to realize is that this will be a very difficult process. It is important to realize the problems any unemployed organization will face. Workers who are unemployed tend initially not get involved in unemployed action groups as they do not expect to be on the dole for very long. By the time those who are long term unemployed recognize this they will be demoralized and isolated by the experience of being a year or more on the dole.

The key part of fighting unemployment will be forging real links with the trade union rank and file. Unemployed and workers need to fight for full membership rights for the unemployed in unions, with unemployed sections in branches. Some unions like the A.T.G.W.U. already have unemployed members but these schemes are restricted.

There is also a place for a national organization of the unemployed but one that is very different from the I.N.O.U. The urgent need is to mobilize large numbers of the unemployed in a fight for socially useful work at union pay rates and conditions. For such an organsiation funding will always be a difficulty as neither the state or the union bureaucracy will provide the necessary resources. A fight within the unions at a rank and file level will have to be won in order to obtain ‘no-strings’ funding.


Whether or not the I.N.O.U. can be transformed into such an organization is a matter for debate. It is clear that this would involve making the government take over the direct funding of the services it and it’s affiliates provides. It would have to rid itself of the layer of professional ‘unemployed’ and poverty pimps that now dominate it. At the current time a very small percentage of I.N.O.U. affiliates would favor this transformation.

Unemployment is a problem fundamental to the workings of the system. The government will not be persuaded to create jobs by endless lobbies and reports showing this is a good idea. Under capitalism unemployment is necessary to the bosses. For this reason there is a clear line between the needs of the bosses and the need of the workers. Those who try to fight unemployment by saying it is in the interests of the bosses to do so are pissing into the wind.

We must fight unemployment by making the bosses preserve and create jobs whether or not it is in their interest to do so. This means fighting all job losses through strikes and occupations. It means fighting for the state to create jobs by providing the services working people need. This means building houses, hospitals and schools. It means employing more teachers, bus drivers and nurses. We should fight against the expansion of S.E.S. type schemes and for those working on schemes to be employed at trade union rates and conditions.

The bosses will tell us they cannot afford to do this, and the country cannot afford it. Our answer to this should be simple, if your system cannot satisfy even our most basic need then it is time it went.

(Source: Retrieved on 9th October 2021 from

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February 16, 2022; 2:13:52 AM (America/Los_Angeles)
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