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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance #10 - Direct Action Gets The Goods

Date Fri, 23 Dec 2005 21:18:22 +0200

From the black block havin' a go, to the clown army tickling cops
and putting flowers in their hair, from marches to smashing
McDonalds, gluing locks to throwing bricks and even it seems going
to rock concerts"“ all of these activities have had the term direct
action applied to them incorrectly.
Direct action is being confused with actions that are probably best
regarded as symbolic and more often than not ineffective. A lot of the
confusion is down to media reports of anything they regard as outside
the parameters of acceptable protest as direct action, but a significant
amount of it is down to the desire on the part of many activists to do
'direct action'. This leads to claims by those involved that
actions, such as the recent Making Poverty History event on
Derry's walls, are 'direct action' "“ such events may
sometimes be worthy and may raise awareness but direct action they
certainly aren't. Many activists regard summit protests, such as
those held in Gleneagles against the G8 meeting, as direct action "“
but such protests, even if they are successful in shutting down a
summit remain as symbolic as the summits they are protesting [see
Class Struggle Versus Summit Protests pg. 8].
Direct action has also become a by-word for violence, to the extent
that much of the anti-war and anti-globalisation movement talk
specifically of NVDA "“ Non Violent Direct Action. That's not
to say people engaged in direct action shouldn't defend
themselves or that violence is never acceptable, simply that this view
of direct action is partial and misrepresentative.
So what is direct action? Put simply it:

"¦refers to action undertaken directly between two individuals or
groups, without the interference of a third party. Specifically to
Anarcho-Syndicalists (and other libertarian communists) this means:
The rejection of participation in parliamentary or statist politics and
the adoption of tactics and strategies which place responsibility for
action firmly in the hands of the workers themselves.
(Anarcho-Syndicalist FAQ,

Cliched though it may sound direct action really is about empowering
ourselves and breaking the dependency on others to do things for us.
Rather than pleading, through official intermediaries, with our bosses
or electing politicians to sort it:

Fundamental to direct action is the reality that we can only rely on
ourselves to achieve our goals (SolFed, About Solidarity Federation).

Direct Action in Our Workplaces

Direct action can be applied in as many different areas as there are
forms of direct action. Of course for libertarian communists the main
areas of application are in our workplaces and communities. In their
leaflet A Workers Guide to Direct Action the Industrial Workers of the
World (IWW) sets out what they mean by direct action in a workplace

Direct action is any form of guerrilla warfare that cripples the bosses
ability to make a profit and makes him/her cave into the workers
demands. The best known form of direct action is the strike, in which
workers simply walk off their jobs and refuse to produce profits for the
boss until they get what they want.

Strike action is at times more limited than this implies, particularly
given the constraints of Trade Union bureaucracies, the impact and
fear of anti-union legislation and a prevalent ideology of social
Wildcat strikes, "unofficial"? strikes, where this stranglehold is
removed have become increasingly used by workers in recent years
and such action certainly returns some of the impact to the strike
In June up to 300 postal workers took immediate wildcat action due to
the suspension of 30 of their fellow workers. The action took place at
the Tomb Street sorting depot following workers refusal to accept
un-agreed working practices, and the action taken ensured the dispute
was resolved within two days. Compare that to the debilitating and
drawn out process that accompanies the balloting process for official
industrial action and there can be little doubt that a short sharp shock
is often a better option.
However if a wildcat drags on large amounts of financial solidarity are
needed to support the strikers, even in the case of official action the
bosses ability to sit out a strike for longer than many of us could
survive of strike pay (if our 'leadership', who are still after all
drawing their fat salaries from our membership dues, deign to provide
us with any) means that other methods of direct action may be more
appropriate and effective.
In my own experience, several years ago as a result of mounting
grievances, fellow railway workers decided to inform the company that
they were unavailable to work an upcoming bank holiday.
Management panicked "“ one manager was sent by car towards
Bangor getting out along the way in order to board a train worked by
one of the workers' shop stewards. Faced with the prospect of
having next to no trains running and with no time to do anything
about it a meeting between workers representatives and management
was set up immediately. The upshot of this was the addressing of
many of the workers grievances and a small but significant
improvement in working conditions. And no one lost out on overtime
for working the bank holiday either, due to the swift resolution of the
dispute. In this case it was enough to threaten wildcat action in order
to get results.
There are other methods of direct action available in the workplace,
Rudolf Ro

From the Pages of Working Class Resistance, magazine of


Organise Ireland <organiseireland@yahoo.ie>
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