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London Solidarity Network?

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Individuals active in IOPS, Anti-Capitalist Initiative, Occupy London and other organisations held their third cross-movement assembly this year entitled "Becoming a Catalyst for a Radical Social Movement in 2013," on 19 March at SOAS.

The assembly was well attended by a broad range of people from organisations and also many independent individuals wishing to find out about, and become engaged in, struggles with social movements. Our conversation focused on community engagement, local assemblies, media and direct action. Initially, participants involved in various campaigns including Save Layton Marshes, the Connaught House eviction protest, the Friern Barnet Library and others reported back on their experiences of these campaigns.

Then, together, we explored the lessons learned, possible strengths and weaknesses of different campaigns, their potential, and how they fit into the wider revolutionary struggle. Crucially, we explored the importance of beginning campaigns early, when there is still time to sway decisions – rather than constantly trying to firefight.

The people's assembly model for organising and decision making was discussed. Most participants felt that the people's assembly model could help to facilitate new forms of social relations and organising. But, it was also pointed out that assemblies may not always be appropriate, for example when working in communities with already established processes of their own. Here, some thought, perhaps introducing participatory / horizontal processes gradually into already existing community forums may be a more conducive way of engaging practically and effectively in grassroots struggles without fetishizing certain methods of coming to decisions.

This led to participants questioning what practical outcomes could emerge from the “Becoming Catalysts” assemblies space.

After several proposals and much deliberation, we reached strong agreement that the "Becoming Catalysts" assemblies had the potential to bring different groups together, share information and organise support for local action. So, one concrete outcome of the assemblies could be to work towards building a "Solidarity Network" in London.

Consensus was reached on the idea of building a "Solidarity Network" in London together with a wide group of groups, organisations and individuals.

We also decided that the next assembly would focus on the practicalities of how we could make this happen.

We’re excited about the prospect of having a “Solidarity Network” in London so that we can more effectively support grassroots struggles and connect autonomous struggles in solidarity with each other.

If you’re excited too, we hope you will join us at the next Becoming Catalysts assembly to be held on Thursday 25 April from 7pm at SOAS (room to be confirmed)!

You can invite others to join on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/555861661103470/558222884200681/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity

Or on IOPS: http://www.iopsociety.org/events/solidarity-network#429

Information about previous assemblies can be found here: http://socialmovement2013.wordpress.com/

Discussion 9 Comments

  • Tim Cornelis 13th Apr 2013

    Great to hear. I made a brief post about solidarity networks, you can take the SeaSol example to heart, they wrote a text about their experience:

    • Preeti Kaur 14th Apr 2013

      Thanks for the link Tim and the SeaSol example is really interesting though I agree with Steve that we might be going for something broader. The documents they've put out are really very helpful! And, your blog also.
      We'll provide a report back after the 25 April assembly!

  • Steve Why 14th Apr 2013

    Hi Tim - I had already read you post about the Seasol example - and I think their own guide to Solidarity Networks has numerous and wonderful tactical examples that show serious experience in their work. http://libcom.org/library/you-say-you-want-build-solidarity-network

    However, Solidarity Networks under that name, but also in history under all sorts of names are common. Seasol focusses on individual solidarity, tenants or individual workers in minuscule workplaces, etc. That is good.

    I think the London solnet should embrace this and the Seasol experience, but also widen our approach to all sorts of campaigns and causes when at heights of their struggles; we should support wildcat strikes by workers (especially when against their union 'leaders' and other non-unionised workplaces, such as precarious shop, bar and hospitality workers. We should become a generalised anti-capitalist support network dealing with multi-struggles, one which seeks to build up at local community networks across London. London is over 10 times the size of Seattle.

    If you haven't seen it, here is a discussion doc. I've produced for the 25th April meeting at SOAS, 'Becoming Catalysts...' meeting to discuss the founding of a London Solidarity Network.

    regards - Steve

    Towards establishing a Solidarity Network in London

    Discussion doc for the next ‘Becoming Catalysts ...’ meeting on 25th April, 7pm, SOAS (room to be announced) - Steve Why

    ON 19th March 2013 at SOAS, the ‘Becoming Catalysts for a Radical Social Movement’ (IOPS, Occupy London, Anti-Capitalist Initiative, various anarchists and others) held their third cross-movement assembly this year. These assemblies have been between about 30 and 70 strong. The bulk of participants would describe themselves as revolutionaries of one sort or another.

    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the setting-up of borough-wide Local Assemblies. After report backs of various struggles across London we finally realised such Assemblies would be largely premature as the current level of social and class struggles had not yet been reached for this to work across London. This will eventually happen, but now is neither the time nor place for this to flourish – a process is required that naturally flows with the quantity and quality of struggles. In Greece today, things of course are very different.

    As such, it was enthusiastically and unanimously agreed that our next meeting at SOAS on April ??? would discuss the establishment of a London-wide Solidarity Network focussing on supporting existing struggles. Invites to this meeting will be spread to many other current struggles, activists and existing campaigns. A formal invite has gone out, but as the proposer of this strategy there are several positive dynamics in building such a Solidarity Network that I missed out on because of time limitations.

    So I would like to present several points here to include for the discussion in April.

    1 – The Network should meet monthly at a minimum, be libertarian and anti-hierarchical in structure and method.

    2 – The meetings would be a focal point bringing together many of those interested in solidarity with struggles against the broad range of oppressions, and in linking these struggles. This would be a centre for developing resources, skills, experience, etc.

    3 – The meetings would also be a focal point for delegations from a whole variety of struggles against capitalism to come and be given the floor, where the core Network activists will be able to help organise solidarity, give suggestions, fully respecting the autonomy of those delegations and struggles. Individuals in need would be welcome as no struggle is too small for us to take on.

    4 – Network meetings should set up volunteer open working groups that include experienced members to support specific struggles. Obviously sometimes the whole Network would at times want to focus direct action on certain struggles. Work groups practically supporting specific struggles report back to the monthly meetings.

    5 – Further, there will be an inward flow of those enjoying their specific struggle and our solidarity who will want to stay around and build the Network with us. As such we should develop methods and techniques of struggle that are fun, creative and effective direct action.

    6 – Where there is organic growth of struggles in any area, we should always be ready to help turn local areas or boroughs into their own integrated yet independent Solidarity Networks (or whatever name locals choose) so that we develop networks of skilled, experienced comrades in various areas of London. This is what we mean by ‘becoming catalysts’, the development of revolutionary catalysts, as opposed to ‘leaders’.

    7 – Where whole communities and workplaces and other social struggles flare-up, only then should we encourage the establishment of strong Local Assemblies or Community Councils – because in reality, these are dual-power bodies challenging local government in various arenas. There is a deep world-wide history and rich experience of this process.

    8 – We should build an international solidarity aspect to our work: twinning with Athens perhaps?

    This cross fertilisation and overall step-by-step process of rapid-deep social learning is crucial to developing the skills, experience and the conscious practice of all involved. The Network could also set up a working group on human/worker development which researches into the most modern radical learning processes, versatile informal learning methods, etc.

    Different comrades will want to work in areas they feel passionate about. Personally, within a Solidarity Network I would specialise in backing workers struggles, especially those of shop, bar and service workers in various shopping centres, high streets, malls.

    These are the places where the consumer side of the working class also congregate – a potential melting-pot of mass struggles. Here is what I term the unseen and unrecognised new proletariat of today; non-unionised, precarious, part-time and abused workers; lots of women and immigrants laden with specific additional oppressions. Each geographical centre can be visualised as one workplace with similar pay, conditions and struggles. Further, such struggles are direct, without the mediation (betrayal) of official union ‘leaders’ subject to the anti-union laws, protecting their inflated salaries, etc. It is the current focus of Croydon Solidarity Federation of which I’m a member.

    We should also support the establishment of Solidarity Networks nationally in all towns and cities. The Anarchist Federation (of which I am a member too) is building Solidarity Networks, especially in Scotland . And there are different types of solidarity networks in different place according to the size of town/city and level of class and social struggle. Let’s try and make London a good example of how this process can be developed in practice. end

    • Tim Cornelis 14th Apr 2013

      "I think the London solnet should embrace this and the Seasol experience, but also widen our approach to all sorts of campaigns and causes when at heights of their struggles; we should support wildcat strikes by workers (especially when against their union 'leaders' and other non-unionised workplaces, such as precarious shop, bar and hospitality workers. We should become a generalised anti-capitalist support network dealing with multi-struggles, one which seeks to build up at local community networks across London. London is over 10 times the size of Seattle."

      I agree. The 'work area' of SeaSol is limited in scope. But given that 'individual solidarity' emphasises immediate self-interest that is clear, it is a good means of building an organisation with a support base. From this it could move on to take on larger struggles, as you say. Such 'individual solidarity' does not preclude larger struggles, and ought to include it. It is indeed better to broaden the scope of struggles an organisation is involved with.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 14th Apr 2013

    All this sounds great Preeti and Steve, and is exactly the kind of grassroots catalytic activity that IOPS should be primarily involved in on a local level, IMO. Please keep us all posted on developments.

  • Steve Why 21st Apr 2013

    Hiya all - I've just written up a short doc, A5, to be handed out at this Thursday's meeting, providing some notes as to practical proposals. I actually think London could be setting a template, a cell like method of activity for replication, by which IOPS groups internationally could relate to their local or city wider forces for a human world, beyond ourselves.

    I would really appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improvement before printing it off on Thursday before the meeting.

    BTW - please get to the meeting early as it looks like being huge - such is the interest in it. Just check the FB link from Preeti above. Here is the first draft of my practical suggestions:

    BECOMING CATALYSTS ... Assembly #4 – 25th April ’13, SOAS – notes by steve why


    Remember, in today’s climate this is going to have to be a rapid learning process for all.

    We need some BASIC PRINCIPLES. Suggestions:

    a – We are libertarian, grassroots and anti-hierarchy in structure, practice and in method. We are fundamentally about community and workplace self-organisation. We network struggles across London and build links with other similar bodies.

    b – We are about solidarity action with communities and workers defending themselves, and also aiming at a radically more human society against capitalism. Others, who are still very welcome here, may want to campaign for electoral politics or electing left trade unionists – but we focus on maximum unity in direct-action and do not welcome such divisions.

    c ... other suggestions ...

    Suggested WORK-TEAMS that need to be built and developed:

    Volunteer, open work-teams need developing, which report back to the Network monthly meetings. The Teams supporting specific struggles will be in constant flux – and can call on the whole Network at any time. So besides admin and finance, I suggest:

    1 – A team supporting individual/worker struggles (here we can learn from Seasol*).

    2 – A team supporting the development of local/borough Networks responding to local struggles/flare-ups, working bottom-up but also using the whole London Network at certain key times (we can learn from Radical London here).

    3 – Teams on ongoing campaigns; against the arms trade, housing, workfare, environmental, wildcat rank& file struggles, other workers’ struggles, women’s liberation, anti-racist, sexual freedom, precarious non-unionised struggles, international solidarity, etc.

    4 – Comms Team; dealing with communications and media. We need websites, leaflets, posters, flags, banners, badges for the Network or helping out groups in struggle. So IT, web, writing, printing, design and art skills needed – but also others who want to learn such skills.

    5 ... other work-team suggestions ...

  • simon thorpe 18th May 2013

    This is a great project. Is there another meeting in the pipeline? The blog is starting to gather dust :(

  • Preeti Kaur 30th May 2013

    Hi Simon! It is beginning to gather dust! I'm glad you think it's a good project. It would be great to have you on board and helping out with the design, build and work of the Network! :-) Here is a link to the Facebook page where we (the 'admins' of the project) will post more information about the next assembly, as soon as we come to a decision! Hopefully we will have a decision in the next 2 days! https://www.facebook.com/events/137280706462762/141829229341243/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity
    Apologies for my slow response.
    Hope to see you at this assembly / an interim IOPS London meeting soon!
    Best wishes,