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(en) "Pathways For Building A Revolutionary Media In Australia, Today"

From Jura Books <a-infos-@chaos.apana.org.au>
Date Sat, 31 May 2003 09:50:49 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Pathways for Building A Revolutionary Media in Australia, Today"
>From Rebel Worker, Vol.22 No.2 (181) May-June 2003, Paper of the
Anarcho-Syndicalist Network, PO Box 92 Broadway 2007, NSW, Australia.
Subscriptions: $25 pa (Aus.) airmail and $12 pa in Australia.
In commencing this article I will make certain obvious observations about
how nefarious and dangerous is the corporate/state controlled media both
print and electronic. Its role in generating pro-war fever involving the
whipping up of ultra nationalism and anti-terrorism hysteria in the USA,
Australia and elsewhere associated with the 11/9 events and the recent Iraq
War is fairly notorious. It also blackouts and slanders anti-capitalist
perspective's/actions with some few exceptions such as a large article
about "Workers' Control" in an Australian Daily paper some months ago
and a BBC series broadcast on the ABC, some years ago on the "Spanish
Revolution 1936-39 " which included a program on "Workers Control".

A "Weakly" Alternative Anti-Corporate Media

In contrast to the corporate and state controlled media, which is so
predominant in Australia, there is little opposition media in terms of mass
circulation publications. Existing publications and their web sites are
connected with mostly with various Left sects. The largest is Green
Left Weekly, connected with the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) which
publishes approx. 2000-3000 copies. These publications seem mainly oriented
toward party building and the preservation of micro bureaucracies of these
parties. They focus on every issue under the sun and such exotic issues as
identity politics for party recruitment with little involvement by workers
and focus on workers' on the job struggles and issues. They in no way
provide a framework for analysis and debate necessary for the development
of revolutionary strategies to achieve the overthrow of the capitalist
mode of production and the establishment of workers' control of industries.
Instead these leftist publications relay various party dogmas, myths, over
generalisations particularly involving crucial role of elitist "vanguard"
An increasing focus of these publications which graphically highlights
their lack of any workers' control/revolutionary orientation is their focus
on supporting/coverage of the "Socialist Alliance" project a sort of
alliance of various Leninist groups to establish another old style social
democratic party, its electoral campaigns and associated antics. Despite
the obvious shift of global capitalism toward neo-liberalism, manifested
with moves to abolish the welfare state, privatisation pushes and ever more
savage attacks on workers' jobs/conditions. A crucial factor which would
make impossible the implementation of many traditional social democratic
party reforms.
Other media which has a critical anti-corporate focus is the web based
indymedia. It mainly focuses on anti-Globalist/Anti-War spectacles and has
little focus relevant to the workers' control project.
Community radio stations particularly in the larger cities do have token
radical programs which have a small audience, consisting mainly of
students, unemployed and marginal elements. The workers' control project
doesn't have much of a focus. However, in the case of the community radio
station 3CR in Melbourne, a program in the late 1980's which did have a
major focus on work place issues which was compered by
anarcho-syndicalists, was closed down by the union hierarchy which controls
the station. However, leaving unmolested a show focusing on
squatting/unemployed activity compered by some who adopt the anarchist label.

"The Anarcho-Syndicalist Alternative"

An exception to all this is are anarcho-syndicalist publications currently
published in Australia.
I will now give a brief definition of anarcho-syndicalism. It's a workplace
strategy to build an alternative union movement based on ultra democratic
principles of regular workers' assemblies, limited tenure of office for
elected officials/delegates, strict mandates for elected delegates, direct
action on the job action controlled by workers, industrial unionism and an
orientation toward workers' control of industry/community control of
These anarcho-syndicalist papers include Rebel Worker, paper of the
Anarcho-Syndicalist Network which has a current print run of 770 and has
been distributed nationally on a regular basis for over 20 years. It
provides an important forum for analysis from an anarcho-syndicalist
perspective a framework for debate/discussion for anarcho-syndicalists and
the means for developing strategy. Its opposed to the left subculture and
its folkways and dogmas.
Another paper is Sparks, anarcho-syndicalist transport workers' paper. Its
been published regularly since 1990, and has a print run of some thousands
and is distributed amongst public transport workers mainly in Sydney, but
also some country centres and in other states such as Victoria. It's active
in fighting privatisation and various on the job issues. Most importantly
its helping build an anarcho-syndicalist influenced rank and file movement
in transport industries.
There are other publications in Australia which identify with the
syndicalist tradition. However, they are more like sect papers. They have
little if any industrial news by workers and have no impact in the class
struggle. They lack any orientation toward scientific processes of
debate/discussion, analysis and the development of a sophisticated
strategy. Like the "upfront" Leninist group papers, they are opportunist
focusing on single issues, anti-globalisation spectacles, etc popular in
the leftist/radical student milieu and focus on recruitment/party building
as an end in itself.
What can be done about this corporate media dominance with its nefarious
agendas and the generally pitiful opposition to it with a few notable and
important exceptions?

In the Rapids of the Deluging Employer Offensive

The problem as I see it is the need to combat a number of interlinked
phenomena. The ever intensifying employer offensive, bureaucratic unionism
which assists this offensive, and the "Left Subculture" a miscellany of
"folkways", superstitions, myths, legends and dogmas grossly over
simplistic over generalisations and associated exotic "codes of behaviour"
which entangles, most of the anti-capitalist movement and its "pseudo
tribes". There are three vital keys to tackling this phenomena. The
building of a network of syndicalist oriented grass roots papers in
industry, a wide ranging discussion process to transform the
anti-capitalist movement into a federation of catalysts for workers self
organisation a sort of "yeast" which helps the dough of the grass roots
labour movement to rise, and the establishment of "organising centres".
In looking at the phenomena of militant work place papers, its interesting
to compare the situation in the current era of the employer offensive since
the early 1980's, with the 1950's which also experienced considerable
employer/state attacks globally associated with the McCarthy Era and the
Cold War.
In Australia in the 1950 's, in sharp contrast to today, where are few
workplace papers, with Sparks being a rare exception to the rule, there was
a wide proliferation of workplace papers, put out by rank and file movements.

The Militant Workplace Paper Heritage

In the 1950's the Communist Party (CPA) played a critical role in
launching these publications creating nuclei of militant workers, who were
usually Communist Party members and helping with the production of the
groups' journals. Despite the use of the CPA hierarchy of these
publications/movements for Stalinist agendas in the unions. These
publications provided a means of news/information exchange for workers and
a means of mobilising on the job for the class struggle.
In certain cases, such as the NSW building industry and the NSW Branch of
the Builders' Labourers Federation, the movement which the CPA helped get
started establishing an initial nucleus of militants and helping publish
its journal the "Hoist" , during the late 1960's and early 1970's took a
syndicalist direction. It was characterised by pursuing workers' control
actions, sabotage and syndicalist policies of decision making by workers'
assemblies and limited tenure of office for union officials. In the AMWU
(Metal Workers Union) in the 1970's, CPA members particularly associated
with the Left Tendency and various anarcho-syndicalists set up the Sydney
and Melbourne Link journals. Local branches of the AMWU and certain
officials such as Laurie Carmichael supported the Links and their activity.
This activity particularly focused on providing an information exchange and
spreading knowledge of workers control, particularly in the case of the
Melbourne Link.
Today, we have hardly any of this outside the job
organisation/infrastructure which the CPA in its heyday provided with
certain Stalinist deformities. The re-launching of a range of workplace
papers is necessary to assist workers on the job mobilisation/direct action
and the formation by different approaches of eventually anarcho-syndicalist
industrial unions. Such movements would be critical to countering the
employer offensive, particularly in strategic industries, such as
transport, in terms of spreading widespread direct action and generalising
morale. On important way this direct action could spread on a massive scale
and lead to the crystallising of a mass syndicalist union confederation is
via strike waves such as the public sector strikes in France in Dec.
1986/Jan. 1987 and Dec. 1995, focusing on the railways.
A key feature of such a syndicalist union centre would be a mass
distributed syndicalist media, comprised of newspapers/journals, branching
out to radio, TV and the internet. Such a union movement would be able to
finance full time staff, train journalists/editors, have a vast network of
worker correspondents and a mass readership. Complementing a vast range
of well circulated workplace papers. Without this new union movement, there
can be no challenge to the corporate stranglehold on the Media and the
ever deepening and intensifying employer offensive. Such papers as "Green
Left Weekly" are likely to be trapped in a "Left Sub cultural" niche, and
never reach mass circulation.

"Anti-Capitalist Discussion Process"

A wide ranging discussion process within the anti-capitalist milieu would
greatly assist the development of the necessary outside the job
organisation to facilitate the growth of a network of syndicalist workplace
papers. An important initiative to commence this process has been the "Red
& Black Forums" . They began in 1996 with two conferences one on the
"Spanish Revolution of 1936-39" and the other on "Unions". A subsequent
conference was held in 2001 on "Anti-Capitalist Currents" and a further one
will be held later this year over the Labor Day weekend in early October on
"Workers Control". Through the scientific and rational process which would
reign in these forums it would be possible transform much of the left
subculture into catalysts for workers self organisation. It would be
possible to put up to hard hitting criticism and dissolve the various
dogmas which provide ideological glue to bind the grass roots and
peripheries of these sects to their micro bureaucracies. Consequently, more
of the outside the job organisation could be established to assist the
emergence of a network of workplace papers. As many from these left sects
do have useful skills writing/desk top publishing/public speaking, etc and
through stimulating their historical/political economy research and the
development of workplace experience, they could acquire deep insights into
revolutionary strategy and be motivated to pursue the long range work
necessary to assist the launching and maintaining of syndicalist workplace
papers. Unfortunately so far, the Red & Black Forums have not been
regularly held so as to build up a momentum, eventually reaching the stage
whereby thousands would be drawn into the process and becoming a
nationwide movement.

"The Organising Centre Project"

The "Organising Centre for Radical Workplace Democracy" which is being
established at Jura Books in Sydney will give a big boost to launching a
range workplace rank and file papers As it will be equipped with a range
of facilities - photocopying, printing, computers, meeting room etc which
would be an invaluable resource for these efforts. Such centres need to be
replicated in other cities and interstate.
In conclusion, the establishment of a revolutionary mass media won't be a
simple process of smallish left sub cultural papers getting bigger, but a
much more complex process occurring on different planes. Critical to this
process is the short circuiting of the disorganising impact of the various
vicious pincers of the employer offensive on workers self organisation and
the launching of direct action. The building of extensive outside the job
organisation is vital to this project.

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