Developing Workers Autonomy: An Anarchist Look At Flying Squads
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Developing Workers' Autonomy: An Anarchist Look At Flying Squads
by Jeff Shantz, Punching Out Collective (NEFAC-Toronto)
Recently much interest and discussion has been generated by the emergence of union flying squads in Ontario. Flying squads -- rapid response networks of workers that can be mobilized for strike support, demonstrations, direct action and working class defense of immigrants, poor people, and unemployed workers -- present a potentially significant development in revitalizing organized labor activism and rank-and-file militancy.
Here are organizations with rank-and-file participation working to build solidarity across unions and locals and alongside community groups, engaging in direct action while striving to democratize their own unions. No wonder then that the re-appearance of flying squads in Ontario, in a context of halting resistance to a vicious neoliberal attack, notably among some sectors of the labor movement, has been cause for much excitement.
Militant anti-capitalists of various stripes, recognizing the crucial roles played by workers within production relations, have viewed the flying squads as important in the development of workers' organization against capitalist authority and discipline. Anarchists, maintaining the necessity of working class self-organization and autonomy from bureaucratic structures, have been encouraged by the possible emergence of active networks of rank-and-file workers bringing collective resources to defend broad working class interests.
At the same time the struggles over the make up and control or direction of flying squads has reflected struggles between rank-and-file members and union bureaucracies more generally. Most accounts have been so caught up in the excitement generated by the emergence of the flying squads that they have not addressed critically the obstacles and difficulties faced by flying squads as they attempt to build on a truly rank-and-file basis. Similarly, these hopeful accounts fail to take stock of the current, diminished, status of the flying squad movement in Ontario, substituting promise for reality.
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