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What is to be Done?

As a group, we spent a long time discussing the article about the history of ARK, and our involvement in it. It’s an important article for us because it explains where we are coming from, and the basis of our perspectives. There was some concern that whilst it gave a detailed history of what we had done, it had very little to say about the future, and where we were actually going. You can’t fit everything into one article though, and this one was approaching the length of a short novel as it was. 

Perhaps, it’s necessary though to try to clarify some of our thoughts about how to move forward. The clearest things are our thoughts around what we shouldn’t do. There are obvious reasons for this. The mistakes that we made are very clear to us. To identify where we went wrong is easier than planning out a new course. 

There’s nothing strange about this. Ideas that change society don’t come from the thoughts of clever men rather from the practice of the working class. That the working class is weak and disoriented at this time is very clear. It’s also quite clear that there have been real changes in the structure of capitalism worldwide. Over the past half a century, we have gone from a situation where most people worked with their hands to the one today where many people sit at home on their computer doing home office. Although the ‘mass worker’ of the past is not dead, there are many new forms of work, and we have to recognise and work around this. 

When looking at the history of the workers’ movement, we can see that in the times of Marx, the left didn’t really have an understanding of how workers could exercise their power, and ultimately control society. It wasn’t the ideas of some ‘great thinkers’ that showed the way forward, but the self activity of the working class itself. The mass strike, and workers councils first seen in Holland in 1904, and in Russia in 1905, showed the news methods of workers’ struggle, and ultimately how workers could organise society. It was left wing theorists who had to run to catch up with what workers were doing. 

We will start then with what we know not to do. One of the most important things that the experience of ARK shows us is that you can’t build mass revolutionary organisations of workers in times when the level of class struggle is low. If the majority of workers are not revolutionary, then a mass organisation of workers can not be revolutionary. It will instead reflect what it’s members think. If workers are passive putting them in an organisation won’t change that. One of the mistakes of ARK was thinking that it could build an organisation of militant workers when workers weren’t militant. The idea was to attract workers to the organisation and hope that they would just come to class politics after they had joined. To compound this mistake, many people in ARK played down the class politics in order to attract more people to the organisation. The results were predictable are are well described in the proceeding article. 

What sort of organisation are we now advocating, and trying to develop then? Perhaps the most important point to make clear is that it is a political organisation, and not an economic one. Joining the organisation is based upon a commitment to political ideas, not merely being a worker. It’s an organisation based upon the ideas of class politics. It doesn’t try to recruit as many people as possible, but rather to work with people who agree with us on these politics. It aims to build not a mass organisation of workers, but rather a political minority within the working class. 

Instead of building formal structures to represent workers, it aims to intervene within the struggles of workers as they happen. In doing this it will put forward it’s political positions, which are based around self organisation, class power, and worker autonomy. 

As workers themselves evolve new methods of struggling we aim to be there to take part in them, to add our perspectives, but also to learn from what workers are doing themselves. One of the functions of this group is to try to draw lessons from these struggles and to open a discussion about them with other workers involved in their own struggles. This is why we are publishing pieces on discussions we held between some SBMS members and militant Czech nurses, and why we will soon be running an interview with nurses in bulgaria who took strike action and won. 

The task ahead is hard. There aren’t any easy answers. The class struggle however weak at the moment will not go away though, and when workers are struggling we will be there showing solidarity, trying to add our perspectives, and to learn from the workers involved in these struggles. We aim to build a discussion between militant workers on how to struggle, and how to win, and to draw these lessons and take part in apply them in further struggles. 

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