Last year at the Anarchist Conference, there was general consensus that a proposal to do something big to mark 2012 was a good idea. No, not because of the Olympics, but because it’s the centenary of the Jewish tailor’s strike in London’s East End that was the high point of anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker’s influence in the UK.
As I thought about it, I looked into the period between 1910 and 1914, known as the Great Unrest, when syndicalism was a major force for change in the UK. I realised how ignored this part of the history of these islands (Ireland, at the time, still being part of the UK) has become.
I also realised that, to really build something special for 2012 and hopefully beyond, I needed to try and open this up beyond simply the anarchist movement. Syndicalism is a radical tactic, putting trade unions and their members first, that involved a variety of people from different political viewpoints. James Connolly, for example, founded the Irish Labour Party – Ireland’s third biggest party today – in 1912 while he was a major international force in the syndicalist movement.
As a result, I put together a project proposal with a number of key suggestions about things we could do to revive syndicalist ideas (and hopefully action) and build towards 2012 and beyond:
- Publish a one-off edition of the Industrial Syndicalist newspaper to coincide with its centenary in July 2010
- Re-establish the Industrial Syndicalist Education League (ISEL) in advance of the centenary of its original establishment in December 2010.
- Mark major dates from the 1910-14 period with public events.
I sent around the proposal to a number of syndicalist groups and attended a meeting of the North London branch of the Solidarity Federation – the local section of the international anarcho-syndicalist International Workers Association (IWA). There it was suggested that I pull together a meeting to discuss taking this stuff forward.
So here it is – the evening of 20 May in Holloway Resource Centre. It’s open to anyone interested in getting involved in the project.
Read the entire proposal:
Campaign to bring syndicalism back into the mainstream of the trade union movement (Microsoft Word document, 2 pages)
Update: The meeting has now happened and we’ve created a mailing list for the project, join us if you’re interested.