Organising the resistance in our communities and at work.
In an era of social and economic uncertainty, as the impact of the COVID19 pandemic combines with the increasing and unnecessarily punitive measures of a ruthless Tory regime, the feeling of many people in the Liverpool City Region is one of fear, isolation, and helplessness.
These feelings have been intensified by the situation surrounding the handling of the vigil for Sarah Everard by the Met Police, where women were violently restrained and apprehended while executing their (still legal) right to peaceful assembly.
As the Government pushes through the Police, Courts, and Crime Bill, which aims to “strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public”, one can only conclude that we are abruptly arriving at a significant period in our history. A period that will see working class communities deterred from organising and the labour movement’s right to protest pushed back.
In a system of capital designed to benefit a small minority who control the wealth, Karl Marx succinctly highlighted the importance of organising workers:
“…you organized workers, not because of some mythical nobility, but because workers have real power. Workers are the nexus of the means of production. When they take action everyone is affected. If workers exert political power, anything is possible”.
As Marx’s words lead us to conclude, solidarity and industrial action, have historically been the cornerstones from which positive change has been built.
There have been countless examples of this. From the first Factories Act in the 19th century, demanded by the mill workers and which saw the conditions of factory workers improved, to today’s struggles against the practice of “fire and rehire”, it is clear that without the organisation of workers the world of work would be a much worse place.
Similarly, from the Black Liberation movement in the US in the 60s and 70s, to the struggles of the LGBTQ and feminist movements, to the rent strikes of the 1970s and the Anti Poll tax Unions in the early ‘90s, community-based action has held back the right wing tide and made society a better place.
Liverpool has a storied history in this respect. As a city that was somewhat subjected to the wrath of the Tory state not so long ago, without organising and without action things would have taken a very different turn.
Thatcherite neoliberal ideology saw the city plummet into social and economic chaos. Triggered by the complete of lack of opportunity and the tangible contempt of the state towards the lives of those who were underrepresented, the Toxteth riots broke out in 1981.
Immediately, the need to rebuild was underway. Community organising and community led initiatives such as the Liverpool 8 Law Centre and Steve Biko Housing, which were founded 1982, aimed to tackle difficulties people faced in accessing legal representation and housing in L8.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Toxteth riots and one may suggest it also marks 40 years since the city as a whole reared its head against an Establishment which still to this day holds it in contempt. Four decades seems like a long time, yet here we find ourselves in more chaos as a result of the government’s handling of the pandemic. And again, it has been our community leaders and organisers who have led the charge against the damage caused.
Organisations such as The Florrie, New Beginnings, and The L6 Centre, have been able to provide community led food support to the most vulnerable in our city in the face of a government that offered unsustainable and unsuitable sustenance for a short period.
Rentier capitalism, with no support for renters, has demanded that people are still required to pay rent to landlords in the wake of having lost their jobs. This has caused untold misery for many in the city; precarious tenancies, despite the eviction ban, have seen private landlords pile pressure onto tenants.
Community union ACORN has been at the forefront of organising against this manifestation of landlordism in Liverpool. They have provided physical and legal support and advice for tenants, enabling many people to be able to sustain a safe and humane tenancy in the pandemic.
Although a very bumpy ‘roadmap’ has been set out to direct us out of the pandemic and back into some form of normality, there are still concerns surrounding schools, safe returns to work, employment, and jobs. Austerity will continue to be the political choice of the government; with the austerity weapon of choice being local authorities, and the meagre pay rise offered to our NHS workers being the latest demonstration of how little those outside of the elite are valued.
While the government continues to pour unimaginable numbers of £billions down the throats of the Tory party’s friends and donors, Labour councils will be the agents of the new wave of austerity, delivering further devastating spending cuts and inflation busting council tax hikes. As Beacon has written , cutting our way out of this crisis is economically illiterate. https://beaconliverpool.co.uk/nocutsliverpool/
Given that we find ourselves in socio-economic precarity, it has never been more important to engage, organise, and mobilise locally. Organising can be a difficult task, given complex issues such as engagement and time and a dominant system that is designed to propagate individualism.
There is an active social and solidarity economy in Liverpool and there is a solid base of campaigning community organisations to build upon. However, just as Chico Mendes famously said “Ecology without class struggle is gardening”, community organising without politics is reduced to tea and biscuits.
Community organising, in the form of building social solidarity, mutual aid and community action, can be grown through increasing participation and through financial donations to support the growth of these vital community structures.
The role of Trade Unions as an organising vessel and workers’ voice will also become more important than ever. We have seen the recent debacle over ‘fire and rehire’ of the British Gas workers and the unjust proposition of Liverpool University cutting 47 jobs.
The fight is clearly very much in the here and now. The passing of the reprehensible “Spy Cops” legislation, shamefully without Labour opposition, and the introduction of the Police, Courts, and Crime Bill suggests the Tory Party and the Establishment recognise this.
The realisation of the severity of what is at stake in Liverpool is of utmost and urgent importance. Organising within our communities and within our workplaces is the only way to provide the line of defence needed to ensure we can protect what we still have and rebuild our way out of this latest crisis.
“Philosophy cannot realise itself without transcending the proletariat. The proletariat cannot transcend itself without realising philosophy”- Karl Marx
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