Archives for category: education

From Garage Collective: As the centennial of the First World draws near, more and more celebrations (yes, I have heard that word used) are beginning to rear their head. Under the snappy banner of WW100, events, projects, and cultural heritage institutions are revisiting the First World War—some to shed new light (such as tweets from the diary of farm labourer during the war), and some to propagate dated myths. It will be an interesting 4 years in terms of the narratives being told, and while there has already been the inclusion of the ‘dissident’ perspective in the form of a TV One movie, I am not holding my breath when it comes to discussions of the causes of the First World War (or its end for that matter, in the form of workers refusing to fight any further). At the NDF Conference I attended last year WW1 projects were talked about as ‘honoring those who had died for freedom’, as if the imperialist line sold to the public in 1914 was alive and well.

However there is one website that I’ve been trawling for interesting analysis, and that is noglory.org. No Glory in War is an UK initiative based on an open letter calling for the centennial to promote international co-operation. The website has a range of articles, videos and other resources and is well worth your time.

My own work on the IWW and anarchism in Aotearoa has flirted the edges of the First World War home front, and talks I gave last year were much more focused on this radical syndicalist opposition. It is an aspect of research I’d love to continue in the future (time permitting), especially the aftermath during the 1920s (the OBU, railway strikes, the homeboat strike, deportation, censorship etc). Although the conscientious objector is being re-framed in the public eye, I think it is also important to acknowledge the worker radicals, absentee ‘defaulters’ and army mutineers who fought their own kind of class war. And this war did not start in 1914, or end in 1918. Again, I doubt that the neat four year package we are about to consume will do this counter-narrative any justice. So pick your site of struggle and step into it—the record will be better off for it.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 19 Tory Street, Wellington.

Local, national, and international speakers! Books, books and more books! A week of anarchist fun, make your plans now! More information coming soon!

If you are interested in booking a table or organising  an event please get in touch, wellingtonanarchistbookfair at gmail dot com.

The website is here: http://wellingtonanarchistbookfair.com/

Meaningful work: an appeal to the young

An article by Scott Nappalos about meaning in choosing employment, from Libcom.org.

From the time I was a child, I was told to follow my dreams and do something I truly loved. Granted I rarely met an adult who was passionate about their work, but they seemed sincere in their desire for others to take that path. The advice of course usually had a piece of bitterness attached to it. As I came of age, the terrain didn’t look pretty. Most of my personal passions were deserts for employment. Nor did I really know anyone who was living the dream, so to speak, at work. My path began from leaving that advice behind.

Society is littered with talk of meaningful work. The creative class, jobs that means something, doing something with one’s life, work that matters, helping people; we’re inundated with phrases, words, and images that describe our poverty and the future that we are supposed to aspire to.

It’s actually worse for people who commit themselves to making radical change in society. A confluence of pressures pushes down on them year after year through family wondering when they will grow up, friends perpetually moving on to something better, and a gnawing sense of wasted potential. Why bother with the endless meetings, the mindless work, and for what?

Unless you’re born into a situation where work is unnecessary, nearly everyone experiences the modern workplace. Service work in particular serves as a stark reminder of reality and alternatives. The unending drudgery of task after task slinging fatty coffee that literally poisons people’s health, selling useless items created on the backs of abused workers elsewhere, cardboard boxes rolling down the line that just keep coming and coming, forcing a smile when we are cursed at or harassed; Nearly everyone has been forced to participate in the bitterness of having our time stolen. It’s perhaps harder to bare for those who know the widest extent of the misery of humanity and understand how preventable it all is.

The sense of meaninglessness in jobs is a strong current in society. Tv shows, films, music, and other forms of pop culture repeat the comedy, frustration, and depression of spending one’s time on tasks that seem pointless. This isn’t to say that people’s jobs don’t make a difference. Many things we do keep society running and contributes to the social good. The meaninglessness of work in today’s society arises out of the reflection of workers that their time is not really benefiting the people they serve or advancing them as people. As a healthcare worker I can see both sides of this. Obviously healthcare is crucial for societies. At the same time any hospital worker can recognize how it is that the healthcare system not only harms people, but also in general contributes to people staying sick. Meaning is something deeper than just keeping the gears moving and helping our fellow human beings. Meaning is about where we are headed and who we are. This is where youth get squeezed and falter.

Modern capitalism with its base of debt makes everything seem possible. The compulsion to put food on the table is softened by easy credit. We can go back to school, live on credit cards, travel to cheap places, and find means to delay work enough to get by. Young people accumulate useless degrees and insane debts while deferring the future and often slipping into the delusions of jobs that simply do not exist. Choosing what to do with our lives takes on the characteristic of other more banal decisions. We are shopping for an ethical product. Validation stands at the core of this, and plays off the fear of a wasted life, idle efforts, and ending up trapped chasing false ideals. What to tell worried parents who watched their child squander what chances they had for material success? It is better to say that one is employed fighting poverty, educating the youth, or some other remix of Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or perhaps Bono.

The problem is that there is no escape. Professors spend decades moving town to town as itinerant adjuncts teaching the most bland classes, writing mechanical essays in desperation to stay published, and constantly struggling for something more stable. Even at it’s best, University life leaves less time for liberatory thought and action than the part time service worker. Union organizers spend seventy or eighty hour weeks at the service of hostile bureaucracies, and too often find themselves in the position of pimping the Democratic party and selling backroom deals with management to disillusioned workers. NGO staff share the same fate, bending to the will of the funders and forced to represent the interests of the powerful under false flags of social change. Self-employment and cooperatives turn activist efforts into business efforts, and consume more time than any capitalist could ever demand from a job. Good people find themselves lost there, tired of all the worn appearances that hide a rotten structure, yearning to escape too their work and get back to something more authentic.

We need to question and even condemn the pressure on youth to find meaningful work. As long as we live in capitalism, its deep wells will poison all the streams flowing into our cities. With capitalist work, even the most holy pursuit will end up in mindlessness, subservience to stupid management, and in fighting the current trying to make some good out of a hostile situation that constantly tries to undo our efforts. This isn’t to say that some don’t enjoy their jobs. Some do. Yet on the balance, the vast majority can’t find employment that will engage them, and those who do generally must sacrifice the rest of their lives for the privilege. The real question to be raised isn’t whether you should enjoy your job or not, but whether you should dedicate your life to work. Or better, what is the relation of living to working?

This logic should be turned on its head. It’s not what we’re employed doing that should define, validate, or give meaning to our lives; it’s our life itself that does. How much brighter does the future look to liberate oneself from the oppressive concept of boundless sacrifice to meaningful jobs? Why shouldn’t youth seek to maximize their lives against this work? There are other roads open to us. We can work, as we must, but can struggle to find the most time for ourselves and our causes. Better we write, protest, organize, and gather in our workplaces on time off, than to cement that relationship into employment or worse into our identities.

Our lives are defined by what we do, not who writes our paychecks. A political life is an attempt to regain a meaningful life. It is a task for all of society, and not monopolized by a special class employed as professional politicians, bureaucrats, and humanitarians. Meaning is not at work, but in the beauty of daily living, in struggling for a better world, and whatever path your desires take you towards. Our joy is not found in simply imposing our will onto the world, but in the happiness that can only be found in fighting for a more just and beautiful world around us. Dedicating oneself to the struggles of others changes you. Within, we must fight to constantly overcome ourselves against the current, a process that can be deeply enriching. The commitment and work of liberation makes all of society our classroom, our workplaces gymnasiums, and our neighborhoods galleries.

Sacco and Vanzetti remind us of the infinite potential and beauty of life even from within the walls of prison. The two Italian anarchist immigrants dedicated their lives to the causes of their class working as a cobbler and a fish peddler respectively. Their sacrifices were more than just in their professions, as they were framed for murder and executed by the state of Massachusetts. The writings of the pair from prison are inspiring not only for their perseverance and insights, but for their joy. Sacco wrote to his son Dante his final letter before his execution, sitting down as we do, to find words for the path life carries us down. Facing his own death and the life of his son in front of him, he wrote

“Don’t cry Dante, because many tears have been wasted, as your mother’s have been wasted for seven years, and never did any good. So, Son, instead of crying, be strong, so as to be able to comfort your mother, and when you want to distract your mother from the discouraging soulness, I will tell you what I used to do. To take her for a long walk in the quiet country, gathering wild flowers her and there, resting under the shade of trees, between the harmony of the vivid stream and the gentle tranquility of the mothernature, and I am sure that she will enjoy this very much, as you surely would be happy for it. But remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don’t you use all for yourself only, but down yourself just one step, at your side and help the weak ones that cry for help, help the prosecuted and the victim, because that are your better friends; they are the comrades that fight and fall as your father and Bartolo fought and fell yesterday for the conquest of the joy of freedom for all and the poor workers. In this struggle of life you will find more love and you will be loved.”[1]

In spite of all the sadness that surrounds us and plagues this world. Our daily lives can be the work of love. We do not need titles, positions, or to be taken into service to achieve this work. We only need the commitment to set ourselves to the betterment of all and to dive head in to the struggle against power. Against the monotony and pervasive depression we see, Vanzetti offers this:

“I am convinced that human history has not yet begun; that we find ourselves in the last period of the prehistoric. I see with the eyes of my soul how the sky is suffused with the rays of the new millennium.”[2]

Beyond the horizon of today lie potentials for humanity freed from the artificial constraints of society twisted by the contours of power and wealth. We do not need to imagine paradises, utopias, or that any political movement can solve all of humanity’s problems to see how much more is possible. This is the task of youth today, to constantly push further in practice and expose the expanding vista of human potential.

[1] Sacco, Nicola. 8/18/1927. Letter to Dante Sacco. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/SaccoV/sacltrchar.html

[2] Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The Story of a Proletarian Life. http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bartolomeo-vanzetti-the-story-of-a-proletarian-life

About a month back, just after the proposed changes to the ERA were announced, an emergency rally was held at Cathedral Square. This was called by a local Unite organiser and was reasonably well attended despite the short notice. Approximately 50 people were present ranging from union officials, delegates, rank and file, community activists and other concerned members of the public.

An organising meeting was called for the Monday after, which was again, well attended with about 40-50 people present. This meeting was well facilitated by the Unite organiser and everyone present were involved in discussions and decision making. The layout of the room was a large circle which enabled everyone to face each other and participate. The only negatives were a rant by an EPMU official, who went on about how much work he’d done to get the first rally organised and how if it wasn’t for him it would have been a complete failure. There was also murmurings by an official of the SFWU about support for Labour.

Another organising meeting was called for the following Monday and a decision was made to hold a protest rally on Sunday 8th on the corner of High St and Hereford, outside KFC. After this meeting members of Beyond Resistance and the Workers Party had some conversations about concerns that the union officials and the CTU would use this fight back as an opportunity to campaign for Labour. Also that the CTU would want to control any fight back. It was decided that members of Beyond Resistance would attend the next Workers Party meeting to organise as an anti-capitalist presence within the fight back.

So the next Monday two members of Beyond Resistance attended a Workers Party meeting, which was before the fight back organising meeting. It was decided to use the ‘Workers rights campaign’ [loose coalition of anti-capitalist groups formed after the 90 day bill was first announced by Wayne Mapp (ya bill is crap)] as a vehicle to organise from an anti-capitalist perspective. It was also decided that Beyond Resistance and Workers Party would organise a public meeting with four speakers, to present an anti-capitalist analyisis and discussion.

Then the organising meeting. It had been pre planned by union officials. The layout of the room was different, a panel of union officials facing everyone else as an audience. Everyone was told of the plan for the protest rally by the EPMU official and then a guest Australian union official/labour party candidate spoke about a campaign waged in Australia by unions and sections of the wider society against industrial law changes, that in his words, helped bring down the Howard Government. He also talked about the need for the ‘bottom up'(grassroots) to work with the ‘top down'(union bureaucracy, Labour Party). The bottom up for donkey work and the top down for finances and direction/decisions. There was no real opportunity for input by those present and it appeared as though the decisions about the protest had already been made. The next meeting was called  a ‘more dui less Hui’ working bee to make banners and placards.

The protest rally on Sunday 8th was reasonably well attended with about 100 people present. There was about 10 minutes of speakers, then union officials attempted to rap it all up and go home. At this point members of Beyond Resistance put the question to the assembly of 100 or so. Do people want to march? There was an overwelming ‘yes’ and so a march through parts of town proceeded. People joined the march on route and militant chants were hollered by the marching mass, ‘This is Class War — Smash the Anti-Worker Laws’ being a favourite. Flyers were handed out about the Public meeting organised for the following week.

The public meeting was well attended with speakers from Unite, Workers Party, Beyond Resistance and an advocate who dealt with workplace greviences. There was about 50 present and after informative talks by the four speakers some great discussions followed. Plans have been made for the CTU 21st rally where an anti-capitalist bloc will lead a march after the rally, taking people on a tour of organisations offices who support of the Governments proposed changes to the ERA i.e. business community and politians. Information flyers will also be handed out as will flyers advertising a film for the following Saturday, where the Workers Party and Beyond Resistance will be screening the Australian film ‘Rocking the Foundations’ (about the BLF in Sydney in the 70’s). Another thing that came out of this meeting was a need for on-going activities, from educational events to protests and industrial action. Regular meetings are planned for the future.

What has also occured is that the organising by the CTU/union officials has divided itself from all others interested in organising around a fight back against the ERA changes. The CTU has shut out any others from participating in their organising in Christchurch and it is rumoured that meetings have been taking place between union officials and the Labour Party. It is possible that the Unite organisers have also not been privy to the CTU’s formal meetings here, however this has not been confirmed.

What is clear is that from the first emergency rally and meeting until now a split has occurred between the local CTU affiliated union officials, and everyone else who have wished to attend meetingsand be involved in organising a fight back against the Governments proposed changes to the ERA.

The battle continues…

Ready to print PDF flyer on the proposed changes to the ERA and what we can do to fight them. Double-sided A4 with space for your own contact/website details.

Dowload it here: http://zinelibrary.info/90-day-fire-will-changes-employment-law-what-we-can-do-fight-them-nz

Thanks to AWSM for the text. Design by Jared Davidson.

Please print and distribute widely!