Review by BOB MYERS of Class Power on Zero-Hours, by Angry Workers of the World (387 pages, £9.00, distributed by PM Press).
Here is the opening paragraph of Class Power on Zero Hours:
In January 2014 we chose to move to a working class neighbourhood on the fringes of west London. We felt an urgent need to break out of the cosmopolitan bubble and root our politics in working class jobs and lives. We wanted to pay more than just lip service to the classic slogan, “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”. Over the next six years, comrades joined us and we worked in a dozen different warehouses and factories. We organised slowdowns on the shop floors, rocked up on bosses’ and landlords’ doors with our solidarity network, and banged our heads against brick walls as shop stewards in the bigger unions. We wrote up all our successes, as well as the dead-ends, in our publication, WorkersWildWest, which we gave out to 2000 local workers at warehouse gates at dawn. We tried to rebuild class power and create a small cell of a revolutionary organisation. This book documents our experiences. It is material for getting rooted. It is a call for an independent working class organisation.
I only met the authors of the book, members of a group called Angry Workers, a few weeks ago, instantly liked them – and so looked forward to it. When I read it, I found myself in a continual inner debate: “Is this right?…. no it can’t be. Wait a minute, maybe it is. …” and so on. And, having finished
the book, this is still how I feel. So I can only write this review with this debate going on in my head, and look forward to developing it with the Angry Workers, and hopefully with many other people.
Through my inner debate runs a clash of political backgrounds and of generations. I became active in the labour movement as a teenager, in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the 1968 uprisings in Paris and elsewhere. The Vietnam war was in full swing. I and many other people thought revolution was around the corner.
We nearly all joined one left wing political group or another but, though we didn’t see it at the time, all these groups were really sects – almost like religious sects – that all believed they and they alone were the “revolutionary vanguard”, the organisation that would lead the masses to victory. I joined the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), and my whole political education was based on the idea that we (the party) were the leaders, and the masses were the followers. The WRP fell apart in 1985 when its leader (guru) Gerry Healy was outed as a serial sexual abuser of young women in the party.
It has taken me and other ex members years to think our way out of the nonsense of us as the “revolutionary vanguard”, and find our way back to the idea Marx expressed in the quote above: “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”.
I felt we had made progress … and then along come these young people who not only worked that out long ago, but are trying to put this outlook into action.
I hope this review will encourage other people to read Class Power on Zero-Hours, and join the debate and possible activity/organisation arising from it.
The first part of the book, the bulk of it, is very detailed reports of what followed from the Angry Workers’ decision to move to Greenford and get jobs there. This is when my first bell rang: “Is this Read the rest of this entry »