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(en) Workers Solidarity #77 Mutual Aid

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 23 Sep 2003 07:51:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Mutual Aid is the fuel an anarchist society will run on. It is also
what keeps capitalist society going in spite of all the hardship,
greed, and exploitation that exists. Like all good ideas it's simple
to understand. In order to get by in a tough world, it's necessary to
get a bit of help from others. And as well as receiving help you
also give it, not simply because it's nice to be nice, but because
you know that sometime in the future you'll need a bit of it

The culture of solidarity took a battering during the Thatcherite
'80s and booming '90s. An onslaught of right-wing propaganda and
the attacks on workers' collective action (e.g. the 1990 Industrial
Relations Act) combined to give the impression that you could get
ahead by focussing on yourself and your career. This has resulted
in both collective action and workers organising in unions dropping
off dramatically.

We constantly hear that competition is good and efficient, so
much so that you'd be forgiven for thinking that there is no
alternative to selfishness and Mary Harney. But the world would
be a horrible place if everything was based on competition where
the loser got to starve or to die from not being able to afford
proper medical care.

Right-wingers point to nature and the Darwinian survival of the
fittest and proclaim that there is no place for decency in the real
world: what matters is who can win out.

Anarchists turn this argument around. Mutual aid is a vital factor
in determining who is the fittest. For we cannot possibly survive
on our own. We are physically far weaker than many other
animals and nature itself would have us beaten in no time. But by
combining with others and using a bit of intelligence we can
outsmart potential predators and make use of nature rather than
be overwhelmed by it.

And so it is with bosses. On a one-to-one basis they too have
greater resources available to them, and it is only by pooling our
strength and showing solidarity that workers can resist. This can
lead to mutual aid developing out of struggle. A strike is simply
workers acting together, rather than going it alone and cutting
individual deals with the boss.

Workers who are involved in a protracted strike often seek
sympathy strikes from workers in different industries. Such
secondary action makes a big difference in the amount of pressure
put on the bosses. Unfortunately such actions are becoming rarer
due in part to the strangling of struggle by the trade union
bureaucracy as well as to the change in wider attitudes as
outlined above.

However, though weakened, the sense of mutual aid persists. For
example the current bin tax campaign will be won or lost
depending on the degree of mutual aid given by people. At the time
of writing, campaigners in Fingal have engaged in blockades of
Bin Trucks because of the Council's policy of non-collection. This
in itself is an example as they are showing solidarity with all of
those who have refused to pay the double tax.

They have done really good work so far, but it is possible if they
remain out on their own that the pressure will not be enough to
cause the Council to back down. The head honchos at the Council
- like all bosses - know full well that the best method to defeat
people is to divide and conquer. They will implement
non-collection first in certain areas where they expect little
resistance hoping that no reaction will take place. This way they
will isolate the other areas and eventually wear them down.

However, if people in the other Council districts could start
blockading trucks, irrespective of whether non-collection has
started in their own areas, this would crank up the pressure a lot
and hopefully force them to back down.

Such actions are good in themselves and have the added bonus of
indicating the future of the anarchist society: people acting for
themselves in solidarity with others. The alternative is to have
leaders permanently screwing us over.

James O'Brian

Much more on the Bin Tax

Thinking about Anarchism

This page is from the print version of the
Irish Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.

Print out the PDF file of this issue

Print out the PDF file of the most recent issue

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