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Wednesday 4th February 2009 – 7:00pm
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
We would like to bring together anybody in Oxford who wants to find an alternative to capitlism, without recourse to authoritarianism, whether communist or otherwise. It is just an attempt to gather like-minded people to discuss possibilities and hopefully coordinate action – working together being the only way to work towards any real change.
LCAP was formed in Autumn 2007. We were inspired by reports of an organisation based in Canada, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and a film about an OCAP campaign called Raise the Rates. We began to discuss the use that a similar organisation could have in London: one which was organised to show solidarity with individuals and families affected by the regressive and hostile attitude of government and employers to poor and working class people.
We set out to identify areas in which we could start to take ‘direct action casework’ with the help of members who work as professional advisors. We settled on the practice of ‘gatekeeping’ at homeless persons units – that is, denying homelessness applications to families and individuals in need. We begun outreach in Hackney, well known for prodigious ‘gatekeeping’. Two quick wins showed us that the model had potential.
LCAP was formed as a different sort of organisation from others in Britain. We are not a political party or organisation, and we are not a single issue campaign. We are neither an advice agency, nor a lobby group. We are devoted to supporting the solidarity and activity of disadvantaged people who want to do something to right the wrongs they suffer. We do not take action for people, we take action with them. Sometimes, we are them.
Apart from OCAP there are several similar organisations in various parts of the globe which work on the same basic assumptions. These include Seattle Solidarity Network, Portland Coalition Against Poverty, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Vancouver Anti-Poverty Committee, the Solidarity Collective in Paris, and Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia. We are in contact with some of these organisations.
Through work at the homeless persons unit, LCAP met residents at the Alexandra Court hostel in Hackney, who were disatisfied with the unsafe, unhealthy and expensive conditions in which they were forced to live, through no fault of their own. Residents decided to demonstrate, and LCAP marched with them to Hackney Town Hall. An LCAP member has made a short film about the campaign. Many of the residents’ demands were met: some repairs were made, cleaning was slightly improved, a security door was added, and a few families were moved into better housing. Residents are still organising with LCAP to improve conditions at Alexandra Court, and we have made contact with residents at other hostels.
Wins like this seem small. In fact, they are small, and insufficient, and temporary. But if any broader change is to take place it must be based on the confidence of ordinary people to organise effective action for themselves, confrontational when necessary, to challenge oppressive and unfair institutions. Frequently, it is also the only way to achieve any improvement in immediate conditions.
In late 2008, we adopted a working group structure, allowing us to work on multiple issues at once. We had already been active in supporting striking cleaners on the London underground; and had become involved in the job centre through residents at Alexandra Court. So these were the natural additions to temporary accomodation and homelessnes as objects for our campaigning.
LCAP is still predominantly based in East London, but we hope in time to be active through groups based in other areas of the city. LCAP is still young, but has proven to be an effective organisation for winning change through solidarity and direct action. If you’d like to get involved, get in touch. Fight to win!
Also see Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Paths Through Utopias is the 4th experiment of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination. The Lab is a shifting network, gathering artists, activists and others merging resistance and creativity, culture and politics, art and life. It was founded in 2004 by 3 people with various yet convergent backgrounds: James, John and Isa.
For Paths Through Utopias, John and Isa will be on the road, whilst James will stay at home, ensuring that the website that he himself set up works so that we can keep in touch.
“Utopia is on the horizon: When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps, and it is ten steps further away. What is Utopia for? It is for this, for walking.”
Solidarity Federation (SolFed) was formed in March 1994. It is a federation of groups and individuals across England, Scotland & Wales. Everyone involved is helping to build a non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian solidarity movement. The basic foundation used for doing this is the Local group.
Down the Local
People are getting together to form Locals – SolFed groups. Locals put solidarity into practice. In time, each Local will have a premises as a base for solidarity action in the local community. Locals are organising or getting involved in local campaigns across a wide range of issues – both in the community and in workplaces. Issues are wide-ranging: defending our natural and local environment and health; opposing racism, sexism and homophobia; in fact, anything which defends or contributes to our mutual quality of life. It is all part and parcel of building a solidarity movement.
Apart from being the name of the SolFed magazine, Direct Action is the tool which Locals use in all their work. At a basic level, this can be simply the spreading of information through leaflets, local bulletins and public meetings to raise awareness and involvement locally.
However, Direct Action is not limited to spreading information. It means a physical presence in defending and promoting a better quality of life. Fundamental to Direct Action is the fact that we can only rely on ourselves to achieve our goals. While we reserve the right to take opportunities to fight for improvements to our quality of life now, the solidarity movement must always remain independent from those we are demanding from. Solidarity Federation will accept neither leadership, charity, nor guidance from government or business – instead, we must couple our principle of solidarity with the practice of self-reliance.
Solidarity Federation members who work in the same work sector have formed Networks. Their purpose is to promote solidarity amongst workers. Networks also use Direct Action to fight for better pay and conditions, forming a basis for a completely new labour movement, nothing like the Trade Unions, which are weakened by having to abide by ridiculous laws, and by hierarchical power structures and self-interested paid officials. The fundamentally different nature of Networks fits their fundamentally different aim.
As Locals and Networks grow, they practise community and workers’ self-management. Eventually, industries will be run by producers and consumers. In other words, by workers (in Networks) and people in the wider community (Locals), who want the goods and services they provide.
And this is no flight of fancy or text-book dream. As the solidarity movement grows in members and influence, so does the scope for action. Both the Locals and Networks have already established a reputation and are showing real results in membership and effectiveness.
Capitalism is international, so we need to be organised globally to oppose it and build a viable alternative. Nationalism and patriotism lead to pointless and false divisions, used as tools to fuel economic and bloody wars. Solidarity Federation opposes these in favour of a movement built on global solidarity.
Solidarity Federation is the British section of the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers’ Association (IWA). This gives it essential international solidarity and experience from much larger sections, such as the CNT (Spain) and USI (Italy). Founded in 1922, the IWA has a long history of solidarity in action; by the 2nd World War, over five million people worldwide were affiliated. A combination of war, fascism, and soviet ‘communism’ all but destroyed the movement, but after the Spanish CNT re-emerged in the late 70s, the IWA had a new lease of life. Today, there are sections ranging from a few dozen to thousands of members, and growth is rapid. At the 21st IWA Congress in Granada, Spain, in December 2000, three new groups were welcomed into the IWA, to add to the seven new sections welcomed at the Congress four before.
A global solidarity movement can only gather strength as many more people who share the same aims get involved. Contacting Solidarity Federation offers the possibility of contributing to this growing momentum.
It is not like joining a club, union or political party – rather, it is an opportunity to channel your efforts for change and, at the same time, benefit yourself from the experience.