Short texts taken from the International Workers Association. Read the full bulletin here
Anarchosyndicalism and Community Organizing – Tenants Organizations, Direct Action and Mutual Aid
While anarchosyndicalism is an idea that focuses around the organization of workers in the workplace, it is also clear that society needs to be self-organized on many levels to work towards the kind of transformation we desire, towards a libertarian, self-managed society. Throughout its history, anarchosyndicalist organizations have engaged in a myriad of social activities and organizing – from organizing literacy programs to selfmanaged communities. There have also been times when local class struggles, such as rent strikes, etc., have overlapped with the broader social movement of workers. In recent years, some of the Sections of the International Workers’ Association have also become involved in tenant organization.
In terms of the most recent years, the first of the Sections to engage in this activity to any extent was the ZSP. Some of its members became involved with organizing tenants and the organization and ZSP have shared premises every since. The main idea for the ZSP activists is to spread self-organization and mutual aid, encourage direct action and class confrontation – and of course to gain wins for poor and working class people against exploiting landlords and property developers and against the city’s anti-social housing policies and plans for gentrification.
Since them, they have managed to bring the problems of tenants to the forefront of public attention and helped to expose the corruption of city officials, lawyers, courts and businesspeople in the housing privatization scandal, which grew into the greatest affair in the history of Poland since the transformation. Many working class and poor people have got involved in helping each other and in protesting the problems, increasing their selfenpowerment. Many evictions have been blocked or otherwise prevented and hundreds of people have a roof over their head, thanks to the continued action of the tenants activists.
All the while, members of ZSP have tried to promote more libertarian solutions to public housing, based on self-management of the tenants, rather than management by the bureaucrats. There has also been some overlap of activity and support for actions.
The actions of the tenants have also hit many city officials quite hard, ending in numerous dismissals. Over the years it has become quite obvious to many that people need to take direct control over such matters instead of leaving it up to non-accountable processes, approved by elected or appointed representatives, acting in their name but completely against their interests.
The next organization that started to become involved in tenants matters was SolFed. They’ve published some brochures to help tenants understand their rights and set up times when they can drop in and get advice. In Brighton, a Housing Union was established. As the comrades describe the union, it is “made up of private sector tenants, council tenants, and those with mortgages, coming together to improve our lives in the here and now by finding ways to fight exploitation in the housing sector.” The union seeks to bring tenants together to take direct action. In the private rental sector, they would like tenants who share the same agency to come together to put pressure on the agencies to drop their fees.
The comrades know that direct action in housing works. Over the past year, they have organized successful actions, forcing agencies to return deposits, fees, and to make repairs.
Another Section which just recently started working with tenants is ASI from Serbia. [You can see an article about this and about a recent action following this article.] They just started the Collective Tenant Defense, an organization much needed in their local conditions. So far they have organized a number of actions against evictions and have got into some serious confrontations with the police.
All of these initiatives are quite good examples of how anarchosyndicalists try to organize on a broader basis, to spread methods of direct action and address the abuses of capitalism and the state against working people who are struggling for their basic living conditons in a world where they are just treated like a way of earning money.
Due to evictions becoming a more ubiquitous occurrence in the daily life of the working class in Serbia, ASI’s actions, throughout the past few months, have mainly been centered around organizing against this brutal form of capitalist repression. To this end, ASI has founded the Collective Tenant Defense initiative which functions to mobilize and organize working class solidarity against the looming threat of proletarian families being thrown out in the street.
ASI has through Collective Tenant Defense organized successfully against the evictions of the Khawatmi family, the collective housing of the workers of Trudbenik, a company destroyed through capitalist privatization, as well as against the especially brutal eviction attempt against Julijana Terek, an artist working with children. Throughout these anti-eviction campaigns the police response has only gotten more violent and perfidious. Despite our initial successes, both the Khawatmi family and Ms. Terek have been evicted at later dates. The eviction of Ms. Terek in particular stands out for the shameless tactics used by the officials of the bourgeois state. Namely, after a standoff during which the police beat those attempting to prevent the eviction, the eviction was called off and rescheduled in three days. Without any regard for even their own legality, the police and the enforcement officers showed up the next day in the early hours of the morning, cut the door down, and threw Ms. Terek out of the house in a matter of minutes.
Description of one of the actions
On June 2, at 7 o’clock the children’s cultural centre Living Room of the Elves was thrown out in the street. On 3rd October 2016 we gathered for the first time to defend this institution, home and workplace, a small shed in which, for more than 25 years, Julijana Terek and her son, student of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, have been living. For years at this place Julijana has organised numerous humanitarian events and theatre plays for children with special needs and those without parental care. Not caring that they are leaving a family without a home and a workplace, and children without a cultural institution, debt collectors, thieves that rob the poorest under state’s permit and police protection, came that morning to throw the Terek family out on the street. By action of solidarity of gathered people — Julijana’s neighbours, friends, and activists — collectors were driven away and the eviction was prevented.
However, this did not prevent the criminals who want to build a gym, a coffee shop, or a gambling house at the location to continue with their criminal activity. The Municipality scheduled the next eviction attempt for 1st June this year. The entrance to the Living Room was unlawfully encircled by tens of fascists in blue, servants and followers of capital, a few hours before the scheduled time. After more than five hours of police brutality, beatings, and arrests, solidarity and doughty struggle of gathered people once more prevented the eviction. Before they left, the collectors announced the next attempt for Monday, 5th June.
Disregarding their own word, and in contradiction to state’s own laws, this morning at 7 o’clock the scum broke the lock on the entrance to the Living Room of the Elves and with police assistance threw an unprotected family from their beds onto the street! Once again collectors proved that, just like the police, they work exclusively in the interest of politicians and capital. By breaking laws when it suits them they stomp on the poor not showing even a whit of humanity!
This must not discourage us! The struggle must continue! Pressure on the working class will grow day by day. Every one of us can be thrown out on the street if that is in the interest of capitalists. Therefore we must continue to organise and help each other in situations like these! We need to continue the fight for the Living Room of the Elves and to help Julijana and her son. We will continue to inform you on these activities via our Facebook page. However, they are not the only ones who need our solidarity. Already for next week is scheduled the second eviction attempt of Khawatmi family, on whose case we already reported. Also in this case we need to gather in large numbers and show the criminals that we will not allow these things!