Category Archives: 3) Activism in Action

Demonstrations of the essential activism form

France 1968 — Lessons for Transition

The following quote is a history of France in 1968. It provides valuable insight into how an economy run by multidisciplinary teams in alignment with the life sequence of value can come about. When this happens again in a big way, a development towards the goal of a Resource Based Economy will certainly be on the cards.

“Within a fortnight more than nine million workers were on strike. Every sector was involved; as one eye-witness reported: ‘On Wednesday the undertakers went on strike, now is not the time to die.’

A general strike inevitably poses the question of power … at the level of the factory, of society and of the state. The fact that French workers followed the students’ example and occupied their workplaces added a new dimension to the strike; the sacred right of property, and management’s right to manage, were under threat.

But the enormous power unleashed by a general strike also poses problems … If the whole working class stops work simultaneously it simply condemns itself to starvation. The general strike therefore necessarily raises the question of control; some production and services must continue, but workers must decide which ones and in what form.”

For the purposes of arriving at such decisions, the workers of many workplaces founded multidisciplinary teams in the form of strike committees. Such is the common solution in sizeable prolonged strikes. Unfortunately, however, most workplaces came to be controlled by union bureaucracies, who discouraged mass workers’ assemblies and sent workers home.

But many of these workers became activists who rapidly innovated other forms of multidisciplinary teams called action committees. These were based either on their locale or workplace. Students also set up their own groups and joint student-worker bodies. Through collective action, people took to the tasks of the day.

In what was a widespread break from upholding the money sequence of value, they arranged food provisions, transport, and other services for other striking workers, especially those whom occupied their workplaces. Focussing on the life sequence of value, and looking after one-another, they organised portions of the economy, without capitalist bosses, thereby becoming a real threat to capitalism.

Furthermore, they produced and distributed vast amounts of leaflets and fly-posters and organised street meetings, film screenings and photo exhibitions (for instance showing police repression). They thereby gained mass support and participation. The movement peaked at the city of Nantes where workers’ organisations effectively ran the city, rendering the police and the administration powerless.

The French workers created the embryo of a new society within the shell of the old. Such an event is a repeating feature of capitalism. But even with such promising beginnings, this movement derailed after achieving only reforms sich as pay-rises. Like all histories of workers’ rebellion, we must learn their lessons, we must remember so we may helpfully participate in the next rebellious upsurge and ensure its most thorough development.

Those who saw the potential of these events for sparking a mass and permanent change to society could have established a larger working body long before this mass rebellion, building from smaller workers’ rebellions. If such a party argued that workers should disobey, not just their employers but also their union bureaubracies, and run the factories themselves, the momentum could have sustained to a transformation more complete.

If this situation had progressed further along its this trajectory, the destination would have been a Resource Based Economy.

Forward Movement for updates

Quote source:
Revolutionary Rehearsals, Chapter 1 France 1968, by Ian Birchall (worth reading)


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Multidisciplinary Teamwork Against Apartheid

South Africa was once an apartheid state; blacks were seen as inferiors in law and harshly oppressed. Employees working at the docks of Australia’s seaports responded by organising their teamwork for the cause of opposing apartheid. In the processes of docking the ships and loading their goods, the workers of each subsequent role delayed their work by one day. It wasn’t a complete boycott of freight to and from South Africa, but a considerable slow down.

This amounted to significant financial loss for those transacting with the racist regime, thereby placing pressure on the South African government to repeal apartheid practice. It was one of a great many factors that ended South African apartheid. Nelson Mandela himself repeated significant thanks to Australia’s dock workers for their efforts.

These dock workers have taken many such initiatives, such as blocking the export of iron headed for army munitions factories, saving lives. It wasn’t easy, their bosses responded bitterly, sending police to remove the disobedient workers. But in unity there is strength, the workers’ non-violent resistance largely bet their bosses attempts to replace them. If the bosses would ever lose profits to ethics, we should celebrate it as a very rare event, against the historical norm.

Such inspiring examples will win hearts and minds to the fact that we need acts of civil disobedience in the workplace to make a better world. This history needs to be told, it needs to be repeated as it regularly does when workers organise themselves. A multidisciplinary team as isolated as this can’t create a Resource Based Economy on its own, but it demonstrates the social values and the method needed to construct one.

Forward Movement for updates

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