Workers Solidarity Movement position paper

Campaigns


1. In the long term a successful revolution will depend on large numbers of people with the confidence and skills to make decisions and carry them through. As anarchists we want these skills to be learnt not just by our members but by as wide a layer of activists as possible. To-days campaigns, action groups etc provide many of these skills.

2. Our involvement in campaigns or with other left groups will always have at its centre the construction of a working class movement, independent of all organisations and capable of seeding a future revolution. The success of any future revolution will depend on the creation of such a movement, not on the size/influence of any particular organisation.

3. As an anarchist organisation involvement in campaign work will play an important part in the activities of the organisation and of all of our members. It is not possible to build an organisation or its ideas without constantly having to test these ideas against existing reality. Ideas incapable of interesting those struggling against capitalism to-day are unlikely to interest them at some indeterminate point in the future.

4. This involvement means we will be constantly exposed to other left organisations and their ideas. It also means we will be in constant contact with a layer of unaligned activists some of which at least will have well worked out ideas of their own. This contact will expose and force us to face up to any weakness in our ideas.

5. Campaigns are also a way new members gain the skills they need to be active in politics. Most campaigns are also a political education in themselves, as activists acquire first hand experience of liberals, bureaucrats, the law etc etc.

6. Within a campaign we should be seeking to convince those in and around it of our politics, both with regard to the campaign and in the general sense. The accepted formula for parts of the existing left is to do this by constantly putting their pet issue on the agenda and insisting on it being discussed for as long as possible. The purpose of this is to pinpoint likly recruits so commonly these pet issues are of little relevance to the workings of the campaign but highly controversial. Obviously we should never use such methods, our interventions at meetings should be based around matters of real importance. Much of our more general political work should be done through paper selling and talking to people after meetings and demonstrations over a drink.

7. The reality of working within any moderately sized campaign is that we will have to work alongside members of other left groups. We have no problem with working with anybody in a particular campaign. However it is important to realise that this is not a common attitude on the left, many left organisations have very bad relations with each other and unofficially at least will never work alongside each other.

8. It is not unusual in campaigns for this to translate into constant sniping throughout meetings. Some groups systemise this by entering campaigns almost purely to expose some rival tendency. This may win them a recruit but it is disastrous for that immediate campaign. It also results in the long run in activists rejecting the far-left as a bunch of sectarian nit-pickers with no real interest in contributing to anything other than their own organisation.

9. This is the atmosphere we have to operate in so it is important that we do not accept the existing methods and practises of the left as inevitable. Indeed the general approach and attitude of the left to campaigns is rooted in the Leninist philosophy of the party coming first. As anarchists we should have a visibly different approach and attitude to campaigns.

10. We understand that for a revolution to avoid degeneration the running of the new society must be in the hands of the working class and not of some party or coalition of parties. Within campaigns we should try and make sure those involved are getting the maximum in experience in making and carrying out decisions. This means the campaign must be democratic (see below). It also means giving people the skills to carry out decisions. We should encourage less experienced people to play a part in writing leaflets, etc. In practise this will often mean helping people by working alongside them on something.

11. We should be serious about winning whatever the campaign is fighting for. Sometimes it may be that you know something is unlikely to be won in the short term, in this case we should be trying to win over as many people as possible to the issue. This means we should put what work we are capable of into the campaign. Our workload should not be judged on how much effort other left groups are putting in.

12. Campaigns should be democratic. All decisions should me made so that everyone involved has an input either directly if the campaign is small or through a system of mandatable and recallable delegates. In practise many campaigns originate as fronts around an important issue. In this situation the fight for campaign democracy may take some time. It is important that in fighting for it we do not create the impression that it is our "pet issue".

13. We should involve any contact's we have in campaigns. This improves the contact between us and them, allows them to see us in action (and Vice Versa) and importantly enlarges the general pool of activists. It also means the person involved picks up at least some of the experience and confidence that will help them to play an active role in politics. Campaign meetings will be advertised in any relevant publication we produce and we will attempt to mobilise contacts for marches etc.

14. We do wish to recruit activists from campaigns, this is something we should be quite open about. We also wish to give all those involved a better idea of what anarchism is about.

15. After involvement in a campaign we shall produce a history of what happened. The first form of this will be for our internal bulletin and will be used as the basis for a branch discussion. Where possible this will then be edited into a form suitable for publication.

16. In general we will work in any campaign that is fighting for something we think would be a step forward. We will work alongside anyone to achieve this. We will not however hide our politics in order to get into or stay in any campaign. In practise we will prioritise particular campaigns as with our limited number we can not play a part in everything that arises.

17. All members will be expected to be involved in a campaign where one is available. There is never a stage where you are too inexperienced to be involved or where you are so experienced that you can learn nothing. Obviously the level of commitment an individual can give to a campaign will be determined by the personal circumstances and their other political commitments. Where possible members should have a choice as to what campaigns they would like to be involved with. An interest or identification with a particular campaign or issue ensures the person will be a lot more effective in that campaign.

18. Within any campaign we will argue the tactics we think are needed to win it. We will argue what the long term perspective of those fighting on the issue should be by arguing for what is needed rather than what is possible. The purpose of such an exercise is to convince the activists and make sure they understand the full implications of the position, not to generate paper motions we can boast of in our publications.

19. The left has an unfortunate tendency to set up front campaigns. A front campaign is one set up so that a particular group has control over it. They pull in activists interested in the issue so that the left group can recruit them but once the "owning" group thinks there are richer pickings elsewhere get closed down. This may well pick up a few recruits for the organisation involved but its effect on the movement in general is disastrous. It leaves activists demoralised and with a picture of the left as a manipulating wasters. This may be all very well for Leninists where the party comes first but for us such an outcome is a disaster. We will therefore never set up front organisations.

20. Where resources permit the WSM will produce a campaign news bulletin which will include articles outlining our position, a brief history of what has occured since the previous issue and other useful articles. Its purpose will be to inform activists of the progress of the campaign, serve as a record of events, get across our position and provide an additional method of getting anarchists involved. It will also encourage those involved with any one campaign /issue to get involved in the others we are supporting at the time.

21. That a co-ordinator be elected when we are involved in specific campaigns (e.g. a strike support group, 'Justice for Abu-Jamal', service charges). This person will be responsible for collecting information about the issues involved, informing the WSM of same, preparing reports for the IB, and the co-ordination of our activity within the campaign.

This paper is out of date - see the new WSM site for the more recent version