The only thing christmas shopping does is prove how little I actually know about/ have in common with my family…
sinawalicaveman asked: Do you think the move, in Britain certainly, away from an industrial unionised workforce to an office based "service sector" has weakened the power of the worker to effect change. It's seems the mindset is the further away from the factory floor the less working class you are. Does this lessen the power of the unions/ syndicalist ideas, or is a revision of old ideas more in need? Cheers
I think there are a variety of reasons why the working class is weak in terms of workplace struggles, but we still have the power, it’s just that our traditional methods of exercising it have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by capital and are not fit for purpose. The potential to harm employers and sabotage business is huge in the service sector – for example, in Glasgow call centres are massive, they are the classic ‘service sector’ job that working class people without degrees get (I was one) – the companies I worked for would have lost hundreds of thousand per day if we’d have staged an effective strike, and we had access to computer systems that we could have sabotaged beautifully if we’d have had the guile and the inclination…but we didn’t. There certainly wouldn’t have been any steps taken in that direction by our union (which I actually regret joining, in hindsight)
I knew our union rep, he was a good bloke, but when they shut down our call centre and sacked 200 of us at once, he was the only one who wasn’t management that knew it was coming. It felt like he was complicit, and at the end of the day, he was. If he’d have let his fellow workmates know they were about to be sacked it’d have compromised the union’s position in all of the other offices, so he had to keep quiet. The people I worked with were all up for being in a union, the trouble was that the only option open to them was a bullshit, traitor union.
The way I see it, it’s not that helpful to look at it as if it’s service sector, casual, stratified jobs that are the problem, as if these conditions preclude effective struggle in themselves. If that’s the case we may as well give up now. These kind of jobs are going nowhere, this is our terrain of struggle and we don’t get another option. The problem is the fact that the traditional trade union model, the only one widely understood and accepted by working class people, is completely ineffective under these circumstances. They can’t organise these workers effectively, and in the most part they don’t even try – capital won. But there’s a flip side to all of the measures capital has taken to defeat the old labour movement, different terrain means different weaknesses for them too.
Yes, job security is a thing of the past, but then so is company loyalty. The workforce is casual, part time, precarious, with a high staff turnover, which does hamper traditional union organising, yes – but on the other hand their workforce is much harder to keep track of and keep tabs on, you don’t know who you’re taking on or what crazy ideas they might have, everyone is disgruntled and not fully invested in the job. Management used to know their workforce well, in times of strife they could go directly to the ‘usual suspects’. They don’t know us anymore. I reckon that while things like strikes are harder, other forms of direct action like sabotage can be harder to predict, prevent and detect with a high turnover, casual workforce. We need to be thinking of more creative and devious ways to fuck with them and build militancy… This is why I think syndicalist tactics which are unencumbered by bureaucracy and reliant on the creative input and knowledge of workers themselves are essential for the new forms of struggle we need to engage in, but that’s probably another question and I’ve gone on long enough as it is.