Autonomy and Solidarity get busy

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Neighbourhoods: deptford

Hello anarchist fellow travellers,

Yet more news from the busy hub of Autonomy & Solidarity, the student anarchist group which right now is more active than the brain cells of a moderately intelligent Design student (just kidding...I know Design's a real degree and lots of hard work, honest).

This week, we have so much for you I recommend you go take a tea and/or toilet break around about point (iv). OK? I'll remind you when we get there.




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CONTENTS:

(i) A&S pancake stall
(ii) LCAP cleaners' rights demonstrations in the City
(iii) Libertarian bloc on National Demonstration for Free Education
(iv) A&S film night: Blue Collar
(v) Communiqué on the recent occupation
(vi) Brand new A&S blog
(vii) Next A&S meeting


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(i) First up, this Tuesday, A&S will be challenging the stereotype of anarchists as violent harbingers of chaos by donning chef hats for Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday. Unconvinced? Come along to the Main Building outside Loafer's cafe to try our produce. We're gonna have some pancakes for sale, as well as vegan and vegetarian pizzas, caramelised onion focaccia and even some spicy bean and cheese burritos a la mexicana, amongst other stuff. It's way cheaper than that Loafer's shite some of you buy while posing with books and Guardian copies you'll never read! And it's all for a good cause, that being a group of longhaul truckers in the USA who found themselves fired for joining a union. More info on that struggle here: http://www.iww.org/en/node/4565 or come and chat to us from 12 noon tomorrow!


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(ii) Also tomorrow is yet another demonstration against the all too common practice of bosses firing people for attempting to improve their situation at work, but this time in the very beating heart of international commerce that is the square mile of the City of London:

Once upon a time, a group of predominantly South American cleaners who sweep up all the mess and junk left behind by city boys in the plush offices of Lime Street successfully organised with each other and managed to get a pay increase which took them up to the London living wage (£7.45/hour...not much if you're supporting a family). However, when their employer (MITIE Cleaning and Support Services) changed their shift times to all-nighters without so much as consulting them, they were understandably angry, yet continued working and restricted their protests to emailing management. Instead of offering to negotiate shift times, MITIE promptly fired 5 workers, who just so happened to be 5 of the more vocal and active workers in the campaign for a living wage.

These sackings are an illegal attack on workers' attempts to improve their situation in their workplace. Companies like MITIE are unfortunately only one of many in London who use migrant workers because they know they'll be less informed of their rights and less confident in defending them. It is also umpteenth time that an employer has used a subsequent issue to dismiss workers as revenge for successful union campaigns; persecuting workers for daring - in true, unconfrontational Oliver Twist style - to ask for some more.

Fortunately, the fired workers at MITIE are - like a growing number of migrant cleaners - confident and vocal, and consequently have organised a series of noisy demonstrations outside their former workplace, with plans to continue until they get their jobs back. This week there's two, on Tuesday 24th and Thursday 26th, meeting 12.45pm at the McDonalds at Liverpool St station.

A delegation (or at least one of us) will be leaving from Goldsmiths on Tuesday just after 12 noon. Meet outside RHB or call 07986343733.


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(iii) And if Tuesday weren't enough, Wednesday is also a busy day for A&S. Another day, another demo...jeeeeesus. This one though is explicitly a student demonstration, being, as it is, for free education. Lots of people are expected, and A&S have charged ourselves with the business of organising the libertarian bloc. Here's the full text of the callout:

"UNITED LIBERTARIAN BLOCK FEB 25

UNIVERSITY TO REFINERY - DIRECT ACTION WINS

* SCRAP ALL FEES - FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL
* A LIVING GRANT FOR EVERY STUDENT
* EDUCATION NOT PROFIT

The libertarian bloc supports these aims wholeheartedly. We believe that now more than ever the barrier between ‘students’ and ‘workers’ is visibly false: we support ourselves by working dead end jobs all summer, bar work in the evenings, working on our weekends, waiting to enter the marketplace with little chance of a graduate job and thousands of pounds of debt. We are workers now and we’ll be workers when we graduate.

Demanding greater funding for education doesn’t mean we have revised our feelings towards a) capitalism or b) the state. Capitalism is a war of all against all, where one person’s success can only come at the cost of another person’s loss. The role of the state is to prevent the losers from remonstrating with the successful. Making a demand of either is pointless unless we recognise we never gain anything as a class without backing this up with action. So we add

*DIRECT ACTION GETS THE GOODS – look to the 27 university occupations that have swept the nation

*CAPITALISM NOT WELCOME ANYWHERE – not just in education

*KEEP ORGANISING OUTSIDE OF THE STATE – it isn’t neutral, we need to build and maintain our own structures, for the resistance today and democratic control tomorrow

We welcome everyone who recognises that capitalism is a daily crisis and that action must be taken

MEET UP 12PM CORNER OF THORNHAUGH ST AND RUSSELL SQUARE
LOOK FOR THE RED N BLACK FLAGS"

Also, a group will be leaving Goldsmiths to head up to this. Meet at 11am Wednesday, outside RHB.


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*BREAK TIME: PUT THE KETTLE ON, GO TO THE TOILET, HAVE A CIGARETTE OR YOUR HABITUAL INTOXICANT OF CHOICE...*

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(iv) Oh man...enough demos for a while, let's get back onto some explicitly Goldsmiths stuff. This Thursday (26th) is the second instalment of our moderately successful film nights. This time we're showing the frankly awesome "Blue Collar":

The 1978 comedy drama BLUE COLLAR — featuring the late, great RICHARD PRYOR in a rare serious role, alongside the ever-brilliant method acting of HARVEY KEITEL — depicts three workers a car factory, who, due to dire financial straits, family worries and general laddishness, suddenly find themselves robbing their trade union headquarters. This however, is a strictly amateur-hour heist, and they are soon trapped inside a web of coercion, seduction and murder. This blackly humourous story — set in the iconic engine room of the American Dream - is both sharp and insightful, balancing a thriller plot with laugh out loud moments, as well as a poignant social commentary about corruption, labour relations and the lure of power.

 

THIS THURSDAY (26TH), RHB 356 (2nd floor of Main Building)

from 5.30pm, film starts at 6pm.

 

Same deal as last time; there'll be food and drinks available for the early birds and yes this time we've checked and we definitely have a copy of the movie, before anyone makes that joke.

 

 

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(v) Continuing with explicitly Goldsmiths news, last week we promised a comprehensive A&S slant on the now notorious 48 hour occupation of Deptford Town Hall a couple of weeks ago, and we've bashed our heads together until we felt like blood brothers trying to write something which neatly summarised our feelings, warts and all, on the occupation. And here is our latest communiqué (man I love that word), a sort of postmortem on the occupation:

 

"AUTONOMY & SOLIDARITY ON THE OCCUPATION

From Wednesday February 11th to Friday February 13th, 2009, Deptford Town Hall became the site of a new kind of student politics at Goldsmiths: a kind that favours collective action and direct democracy over pointless petitions and popularity contests. After a mere 29 hours of occupation of the Hall’s marble stairwells and neoclassical chamber halls, Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team had caved in and granted four full scholarships a year for 10 years to students from areas of political strife and humanitarian crisis. This leaflet is an attempt to evaluate the occupation and its successes and failures.

For A&S, the occupation was a victory for the sort of direct action and democratic methods that characterise genuine social change, rather than for Palestinian nationalism or hand-wringing liberalism. We see the Palestinian ‘cause’ as reinforcing the existing authoritarian, capitalist structures in the Middle East, which as anarchists we also reject. For us, it is the act of occupying in itself that is revolutionary. This was borne out by the staggering change of perspective that all the occupiers underwent, with ideas and actions that had previously seemed ‘radical’ being (democratically) voted through by larger and larger majorities as time went on; and by Thursday evening, we were debating the different paths to social change and the makeup of a fair society.

Decisions were made by a meeting of all the occupiers, with anyone welcome to contribute and add to the agenda. A chair was elected every time in order to track the order of speakers (who have to raise their hands) and ensure that the meeting is faithful to its agenda. Where there was disagreement, decisions were made by majority votes. Unfortunately, the chair was not rotated sufficiently from one meeting to the next, and sometimes chairpeople (and some of the more vocal individuals) were tempted to speak out of turn, replying to points directly instead of waiting their turn like everyone else. This risked turning meetings from open discussions leading to democratic decisions into question and answer sessions with the ‘better-informed’ individuals on predetermined courses of action.

The pitfalls of ignoring democratic processes were clearly demonstrated in the last meeting of the occupiers, which ended in a vote to accept management’s terms (seen here: http://goldsmithsoccupation.blogspot.com). The delegation, which communicated with management, emerged convinced of our victory, and their enthusiasm clouded the judgement of the general meeting to discuss the offer. We were explicit in our demands (which were two full scholarships for students from Al-Quds Open University), we allowed our excitement to cede them certain vagaries in the agreement (which actually only undertakes to give two scholarships to students from any Palestinian university). It may seem like a nominal difference, but we had voted down earlier offers over similar details, and the group was resolute that the scholarships should be for Al-Quds students. Other discrepancies were clear in the agreement’s imprecise language, which offers College loopholes with which to undermine the scholarship programme.

The ‘socials’ that were held each night also highlighted the different notions of ‘solidarity’ that existed within the occupation. Some were accused devaluing the cause and lessening the impact of the occupation by wanting to open up the space, while others believed that offering music, food and discussion were the best way to involve the wider student body. A&S took the position that solidarity is a material, definable act (like occupying a building) and not sitting around thinking how terrible it must be to live in Gaza. We believe the demands of this occupation were legitimate because they encouraged solidarity with people (the prospective Palestinian students) and not ideologies (Hamas, Palestinian nationalism).

To win what appears to be a concrete victory in just 29 hours is a clear vindication of direct action. Moreover, the general feeling at the conclusion of the occupation was that direct action had proved itself so effective that our demands were seen as too timid, and that our action had been too brief.

Through the smokescreen of student politics and bureaucratic wrangling, some of us caught a glimpse of an emancipatory form of participation: But why settle for a glimpse?

Your favourite student anarchist group,

Autonomy & Solidarity"


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(vi) Briefly, as we finally come towards the end of this seemingly interminable update, we've set up a blog to keep a record of our communiqués and announcements and also for some more indepth analysis. The above is for mass consumption by all student fashionistas, whereas the blog should - over time - become a more refined sort of anarcho Bloomsbury Group. Here's hoping anyway. For now, it's a bit quiet but the link is here: http://autonomyandsolidarity.blogspot.com .


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(vii) Finally (woah!), we've left the best till last: NEXT AUTONOMY & SOLIDARITY MEETING IS TUESDAY TONIGHT AT 6PM IN RHB221A (1st floor of Main Building).

All welcome!

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Thanks very much for reading, we won't waste any more of your precious time.

Your favourite student anarchist group,

Autonomy & Solidarity

 

Email Contact email: http://autonomyandsolidarity.blogspot.com .