The Black Rose Centre is a new social centre project at 268 Verdon Street, established by the Sheffield Social Centre Collective. Like Social Centres in other towns this is an anti-capitalist space for people to get together to discuss ideas and take action for social change. It is also a space to share skills and food, run events and watch films in a non-commercial setting. This social centre is run without leaders (non-hierarchically) with a “safer spaces” policy that rejects racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of oppression. The Black Rose Centre is an alcohol and drug free space. We aim to make this space a practical example of what we can achieve when we work together.
If you have any ideas of events you would like to run in the space that fit with the principles of the project (or would like to get involved) please come along to our next general meeting – these happen every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.
What will be happening at The Black Rose Centre?
-Public meetings and discussion groups
-Bitfixit café, offering computer maintenance and free wi-fi
-Drop-in clinics for people having problems at work
-A radical library
The centre will be open until 10:30 in the evening.
Sheffield Social Centre | Website
Demonstrate outside the Bulgarian Embassy in solidarity with Jock Palfreeman the young Australian man who was set up by the Bulgarian police and criminal justice system after he stepped in to stop an attack on a young Roma in December 2007. Jock Palfreeman was sentenced in December 2007 to 20 years in Bulgaria's notorious Sofia Central Prison.
Meet 11am, Thursday 15th March 2012 at:
186-188 Queen's Gate,
Free Jock - Support site for Jock Palfreeman
One Night in Sofia - Australian documentary explaining the background, trial and imprisonment of Jock Palfreeman.
Forensics expert discusses Jocks' case - Interview with Professor Dave Barclay, forensics expert.
Anarchist Federation flyer for N30 - Symbolic Protest or Fight to Win?
Download flyer: http://www.afed.org.uk/pdfs/N30_2011_flyer_afed.pdf
SYMBOLIC PROTEST OR FIGHT TO WIN?
30th November 2011 is undoubtedly the most widespread strike action for years. With 24 public sector unions all striking on the same day, it is very welcome to see unions finally taking concerted action in this way.
However, it's also worth remembering that it will require much more than one day strikes to be sure of a real victory and today’s action will definitely need to be built on. But whether the trade unions are capable of doing this, especially given the weak, legalistic tactics unions are so entrenched in, is doubtful.
But aren’t the unions’ tactics already having an effect?
True, there has been some movement from the government and employers in response to positive strike ballots but this is just conciliatory noises, a ploy to make the unions look inflexible while obscuring the fact that the government and employers are actually offering us nothing. The trade unions long ago surrendered to anti-union legislation and other oppressive employment laws and have got so used to doing everything ‘through the proper legal channels’ that they are now incapable of properly fighting to win.
But it makes no sense to do everything to the letter of the law because these laws were enacted specifically to hamstring effective industrial action.
If we want to be sure of a real victory, then we’ll need to:
- Intensify strike action in spite of the anti-trade union laws and the reluctance of union high-ups to engage in action beyond anything purely symbolic
- Spread the dispute – it’s essential that we take our struggle beyond the single issue of pensions. The way the unions have mobilised makes it seem as though it is indeed our pensions that are the central concern. This is far from the truth. The point is to show that workers reject the idea that we all have to make ‘sacrifices’ and to do so in solidarity with the whole working class, including unwaged people and service users. We cannot unite with the rest of the working class on the basis of a one-day strike over public sector pensions.
- Unite with other workers – that means broadening our aims to include private sector workers over a range of issues other than pensions.
- Go wildcat - in recent years, a number of disputes have by-passed trade union bureaucrats and we have seen a rise in forms of direct action that defy the unions’ reluctance to defy the law. From wildcat strikes to*workplace occupations, from blockades to technically unlawful secondary action, we have seen workers’ refusal to submit being expressed in ways that the state and the employers have not been able to stifle.
- Establish local strike committees between workers from different unions and workplaces - controlled from below rather than by union bureaucrats above.
- Link up with activists in the UnCut and Occupy movements. It is 12 years since the famous N30 demonstration against the G-20 in Seattle. Since then, the global ‘anti-capitalist’ movement has pushed for fundamental social change. Such newer, international forms of protest should increasingly embrace workers’ interests explicitly too.
What we in the Anarchist Federation are talking about is not only winning this particular dispute but also building an effective, militant and autonomous workers' movement that will set us up for future battles and future victories.
Meanwhile, the best way to guarantee any degree of success over pensions, privatisation, attacks on services, attacks on any section of the working class, is to make this strike as strong and effective as we can, to widen the issues and spread the dispute to other sectors.
So let's get to it and fight to win!
THE ANARCHIST FEDERATION
See you on the 30th!
This is a response to the authors of the leaflet distributed at the "Sex work and Anarchism" workshop at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2011 (the original leaflet it attached below). The leaflet was written and distributed by people who were in no way connected to the organising of the workshop. It did not clarify on the leaflet who the authors were or from what organisation they were from and merely said "London Anarchist Bookfair 2011" under the title. As it was handed to people coming into the room my comrade asked the woman handing it to her who had written it and the woman responded "We did." This response was at best vague and at worst misleading. Most people handed the leaflet assumed it was written by the organisers and consequently it skewed the discussion until we were able to clear this up. I am a sex worker and was part of organising this workshop. The content of this leaflet concerns me and I would like to respond to some of what is written in it. I'm writing this purely in an individual capacity.
In my response I'm going to attempt to counter individually each argument which is used in the leaflet to undermine the collective organising of sex workers. My point overall is that critiques of sex work in no way amount to a justification to attack sex workers self-organisation as ideas about how things ideally should be do not amount to a rejection of attempts to deal with the way things actually are.
The title of the leaflet "Prostitution is not compatible with Anarchism" hints at a confusion between an anarchist response to the present conditions and a vision of what an anarchist society will look like, which becomes more explicit upon a further reading of the leaflet. Our appeal for an anarchist analysis of sex work, an anarchist mode of organising around sex worker issues, and the support of other anarchists when organising around these issues, in no way implies that sex work is in any way compatible with an anarchist-communist society. While most anarchists would consider the abolition of all work to be an eventual aim, we need to struggle within the system we have now to move forward and to improve our conditions in such a way that lays the foundation for this change. An anarchist analysis of the the problems in the sex industry and what problems in our society it feeds into, in no way precludes this.
The authors set up a straw man in the first paragraph. They attribute to us the claim that it is sex workers supposed choice to sell sex which justifies our concern for sex workers safety, ability to earn money, and persecution by the state.
However, workers safety is important in and of itself. Sex workers are in no better a position to choose not to work than anyone else and many workers, including many sex workers, have had little choice in what job they have to do to survive. Though there are some people who may claim that sex workers have chosen this particular line of work, this obviously does not apply to all of us and even those who chose this job over others are merely choosing which form their exploitation is going to take. The authors claim that 90% of sex workers want to exit, and cite a reference that refers specifically to a 1998 study of San Francisco street prostitutes and is not in any way comprehensive. Even if we were to accept this statistic as generally applicable, it still changes nothing. As someone who has only ever worked in low-paid, unrewarding, service industry jobs, I am fairly confident that anyone asking my colleagues whether they would rather have been doing something else, would be looking at at least that percentage. However the need of workers to organise collectively to better their material conditions is one anarchists should support irrespective of whether the work is chosen or not. Workers who would rather be doing a different job are not in less need of better conditions.
The authors contrast sex workers unions with "workers unions (that) are necessary for essential production". However, it is not for the sake of the work, or whatever commodities that we happen to be producing at a given moment, that workers should organise. If we are organising for the benefit of the production process, then we're missing the point. We organise for ourselves. The work we are directed to perform is relevant mainly for tactical reasons – striking workers in 'essential' industries use this to their advantage, whilst managers try and use it to theirs. Whether or not the industry we work in is essential or in any way beneficial to us does not make our material interests as workers any less important. The leaflet begins by rightly criticising the liberal notion of choice when it comes to the work that we are coerced by capitalism into doing, yet the same notion is implicit in the authors expectation that workers should just choose to work in an essential industry to deserve our support in fighting to improve out conditions – a frequent argument trotted out by neoliberal ideologists when low paid or otherwise particularly badly treated workers seek to use collective action to improve their immediate conditions.
One argument the authors make is that sex is freely available even under capitalism and that therefore the act of paying for sex is not about sex. People pay for many things which they could find for free even within capitalism. They pay for a number of reasons, for example the convenience, or for the the ability to be more specific about the product they are after. While this may be generally problematic, and in the case of buying sex, arguably even more problematic, it does not mean that it is not about sex, even if other factors are present. The authors also claim that because sex is available for free that it is not a commodity. Sex is a commodity when it is being paid for, and it is not a commodity when it is free. Nothing is inherently a commodity. Rather it is commodified. As depressing as it is, under capitalism nothing is spared commodification. Exactly how disturbing it is when a certain thing is commodified depends on what that thing is and how we relate to it, as a society and as individuals.
The authors criticise those anarchists who fetishise the exchange of money for sex. The idea that there is something liberating or empowering about sex work is lacking in an analysis of the nature of work and is possibly a reaction against the stigma associated with sex work. This results in the sex worker being constructed by some as a subversive queer identity. As with most attempts to counter stigma by embracing the stigmatised behaviour as an identity, countering shame with pride, we become trapped by the structures that oppress us. Attempts to legitimise sex worker activism by insisting that sex work will continue to exist in a post-revolutionary society are neither promoting a desirable outcome nor one which is in any way a pre-requisite for support in the here and now. However the authors attack on these ideas doesn't uphold their conclusions. Were the anarchist movement not to be infested with identity politics we could still reject the notion that we should be ashamed and we would still expect support from our comrades. The false dichotomy between "sex work is good and so sex workers should be supported in their struggle" and "sex work is bad and so sex workers should not be supported in their struggle" ignores the actual material needs of sex workers in and of themselves.
Attempts to abolish sex work before any other work is as naive as the war on drugs but with the additional logistical problem that it involves a commodity which can be produced at any time by anyone. Given that society is organised the way it is, with a large group of dispossessed wage workers, with poverty and unemployment, and with the gendered division of humanity and all that entails, its no surprise that some workers, overwhelmingly women, end up selling their capacity to perform sex work. While everything is infected and distorted by capitalism, an analysis of how sex is affected by this does not invalidate the need for sex workers to struggle to improve their conditions. We should be able to rely on our comrades support in this as solidarity between workers is a vital part of the struggle against capitalism.
Prostitution is Not Compatible with Anarchism LONDON ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR 2011
The concept of women’s ‘choice’ to sell sex is constructed in line with neo-liberal and free-market thinking; the same school of thinking that purports that workers have real ‘choices’ and control over their work. It suggests that women chose to sell sex and we should therefore focus on issues to do with “sex workers’s “ safety, ability to earn money, and persecution by the state. Whilst women’s safety and women’s rights are paramount, the argument for state regulated brothels and unionisation is reformist at best, naive and regressive at worst. Even the proposal for “collective brothels’ ignores the gendered nature of prostitution, and its function in supporting male domination.
An anarchist response should demand the eradication of all exploitative practices and not suggest they can be made safer or better.
Anarchism comes from a Greek word meaning “freedom from domination”. It is premised on “the essential decency of human beings”; a desire for individual freedom and intolerance of domination (Woodcock). It calls for radical and revolutionary social change, not reformism. Underpinning beliefs include:
Opposed to domination and all hierarchies, including gender hierarchy (Goldman) No state apparatus is needed. (Kropotkin) Social justice is part of our human nature. (Godwin) Social change will occur through collective action. (Bakunin) Those with power will surrender it for the common good. (Godwin) Mutual aid and reciprocity results in an exchange between equals. (Proudhon) Humans can be sovereign individuals who participate in voluntary association (ie not for payment). (Kropotkin) Women’s emancipation must come from themselves “First be asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second by refusing the right to anyone over her body”. (Goldman)
Questions from an Anarchist Perspective
1. The question: Why do men believe they have a right to buy sex?
Analysis: Gender is a power-based hierarchy and prostitution is one manifestation of that power inequality. The overwhelming purchasers of sex (from women or from men) are men. The entitlement for men to purchase sex is dependent on their privileged hierarchical position and the subordinate position of women. Women from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are overrepresented in the sex industry.
Solutions: Men should be encouraged to relinquish their hierarchical power, not supported in maintaining it. 2. The question: Why do men pay for sex?
Analysis: Prostitution is “a financial transaction for sex”. Sex is freely available, even in the current capitalist system! Consensual sex can be negotiated between any adults with no financial exchange necessary. Therefore the act of paying for sex serves another purpose: it allows the man to assert power and control over that which he has purchased. The assertion of power and control by the man, and the domination of the woman are part of the transaction. It is not about sex.
Solutions: Men who buy sex should be challenged on their abuse of power and control over women.
3. Question: Are unions or collectives of “sex workers” the answer?
Analysis: The majority of women sell sex primarily because of lack of alternatives. 90% of women involved in prostitution want to exit, but have limited choices (Farley, 1998). When people are exploited, we support them, not the exploiters. Workers unions are necessary for essential production: sex is not a commodity - it is freely available to everyone. Unions or even collectives of people selling sex to men ignore the issue that the act of purchasing sex is problematic within an Anarchist analysis. Normalising power imbalances and inequalities does not make them reduce or disappear; they are only reinforced.
Solutions: People should have equitable choices in how they live their lives. The majority of women in prostitution to do not have a range of equitable choices. Men who purchase sex do have choices. Anarchists should challenge the status quo of gendered power hierarchies by questioning men’s right to purchase sex, rather than supporting ways that makes [sic] it easier for men to exert power and control over women, and thereby alienating themselves from human nature.
Other radical ideas
If women have limited choices, men aren’t doing them a favour by paring them for sex: just give them the money. People who think that prostitution is a service for socially isolated men should offer to have free sex with these men. People who think prostitution is the same as any other manual work, but better paid, should try to earn a living wage from it on the Romford Road. (The majority of women are not working as “highly paid escorts”). Those who fetichise [sic] the exchange of sex for money are not Anarchists... or radical in any way, but promote human beings [sic] alienation from each other.
An afterthought on feminism
Feminism brought the notion of “the personal is political” into consciousness. The requirement from a feminist analysis to examine interpersonal interactions as either supporting or challenging gender hierarchy results in the same conclusions: the act of men purchasing sex makes them complicit in the subordination of women as a group.
Below is a Q&A written by consensus by a group of Anarchists at Dale Farm, October 2011.
A self written, consensus piece by anarchists at Dale farm, attempting to
correct the lies propagated by elements of bourgeoisie media and in
response to the state repression being faced.
Q. So you describe yourself as an anarchist, what do you mean by that?
We believe in a society based on mutual aid, social responsibility and
basic human solidarity. We feel that people should be free to live as they
wish (where that doesn’t infringe on other people’s freedoms) and there
should not be systems of control that restrict or dictate how we live our
lives. The democracy we have is a farce, we would like to build a free and
equal society where people give to their abilities and receive to their
needs. Anarchists see a distinction between the rich ruling class and the
ordinary working class, and seek to build a society based on working class
solidarity without the inequality between race, sex or creed that this
Q. Are all supporters at Dale Farm anarchists?
A lot of people here would not call themselves an anarchist, however what
brings us together is a shared belief that travellers are at the receiving
end of oppression, discrimination, violence, and racism and that this is
manifested in the ethnic cleansing at Dale Farm.
We recognise the principle of autonomy, and this means we are willing to
work with people who come from different ideological perspectives as long
as we are centred around a common aim. There is a shared strength between
Q. How does being in Dale Farm fit in with anarchist ideas?
Anarchism is about fighting the struggles of the oppressed against the
oppressors (in this case the struggle of travellers against the state);
Dale Farm is a flash point in the class struggle and the battle against
state racism. Whilst the religious and political beliefs of the community
here are not necessarily in keeping with all anarchist thought, residents
have been incredibly receptive to our politics and interested in our
Q. How is the eviction ethnic cleansing?
Ethnic cleansing is the act of eradicating a particular ethnic group from
a nation or area. The case of Dale Farm, which will make it impossible for
a certain ethnic community to live in a specific area is a localised
example; whilst the broader discrimination and criminalisation of
travellers (via the eradication of the right to park up on the roadside)
is indicative of the national picture. There is a discrimination against
travellers in government policy, travellers have settled because the right
to travel freely was taken away; now they attack settled travellers in
their homes. 90% of traveller planning applications are refused compared
to only 20% of the settled community. This criminalises travellers and
destroys their cultural norms and we see this situation as a continuation
of a broader attack against travelling communities. The process that has
been going on for the last 10 years at Dale Farm is a key part of this
cleansing - the diggers will demolish homes, but the government is
demolishing culture through a process of forced assimilation to societal
Q. There has been a lot in the media about anarchists ‘hijacking’ or
‘taking over’ the Dale Farm protest, what is your response to these
To begin with, we don’t see this as a protest because protest is merely
stating our disagreement with something; we see it as a resistance because
we intend to put a stop to the eviction of Dale Farm and stand up to state
violence against travellers everywhere. We are here in solidarity.
Everything we’ve done here we’ve been asked to do, we’ve been invited by
residents to support them in their resistance of the eviction and they
continue to direct our actions and decisions, and call on more support. We
came here to show solidarity through a shared struggle. Many of us now
also consider the residents here as personal friends, we feel welcome
among the travellers and are happy that they are letting us be a part of
this autonomous community.
Q. The media has painted a picture that some activists have taken
leadership roles? Is this true, and if not, how do you make decisions?
Decisions are made collectively on an equal basis. We take responsibility
for ourselves and are decentralised and autonomous, however all our
actions are accountable to the collective community through the process of
consensus decision making. People are given an equal opportunity to raise
their thoughts and we have open meetings to involve everyone in decision
However this space is not isolated from the problems of wider society and
issues such as patriarchy, class privilege, and dominance do come up . We
struggle against these inequalities and hierarchies in our actions, but
aim to recognise and deconstruct them where they occur. There is a
dialectal process constantly going on, and we try to resolve issues by
allowing conflicts of interest to play out. We deliberately don’t create
positions which could result in hierarchy, but organise jobs openly and
encourage participation in an attempt to combat invisible hierarchies.
Q. Why are you here, what makes an anarchist want to support Dale Farm
The struggle at Dale Farm is about anti-racism, homelessness, class
struggle and the freedom to live your life as you choose. As anarchists we
see these struggles as fundamental to personal and societal liberation and
as a step in the direction of social revolution. With the growing
political agenda in England of forced evictions motivated by class and
race, we are fighting that whole agenda when we are fighting the eviction
of Dale Farm; we do this to show solidarity with other members of the
working class and in order to fight the actions of the state, which we see
Q. If you don’t believe in planning law, what do you believe in? How do
you choose what social rules you follow?
It is not about what is legal or illegal…it is about what is just and
unjust. The law is made by the ruling class and serves the purpose of
preserving the unjust status quo. We haven’t had a say in the creation or
upholding of planning laws, and consequently don’t feel obliged to abide
by them; if people are expected to obey the law, they must have the right
to directly create it. The political institutions and laws (such as the
Enclosures Act) in this country are based on injustices and inequalities
that existed prior to the movement to democracy; as such we feel it is our
duty to fight them. We follow social rules that are created by the
communities they directly affect.
Q. What about the concerns of other local residents?
The representation of local residents has been warped and manipulated by
mainstream media. Many local residents do not have a problem with the
residents of Dale Farm and live in peace with them. There are some local
capitalists that feel they can make money from Travellers and support
them, and there are some who discriminate against them, for example pubs
refusing to serve the Travellers. We see this as a part of the
institutionalised racism that exists against Travellers, and feel that
they (Travellers) are exploited in a variety of ways by the capitalist
system. Proportionally the views of more well-off residents have emerged
in media and this has often involved property interests, for example local
resident Len Gridley has voiced his concern over property value and this
has received a huge amount of coverage. We don’t want anyone to lose their
homes but we don’t see property value as important as a home to live in.
The Crays Hill residents should also be allowed to have their homes, but
it is wrong to suggest that the two communities cannot live side by side.
There are Crays Hill residents who support Dale Farm but feel they cannot
say it to their neighbours for fear of being ostracised.
Q. Why do you think there is prejudice and hostility against Travellers?
One of the main reasons Travellers are oppressed is that they do not fit
into the current capitalist wheel and face demonisation by the media and
the state as a result, this is disturbingly similar to stigmatism faced by
Jews in the past and Muslims and asylum seekers today. There are deeper
questions to be asked here about the function of racism within capitalism
and the rise of fascist ideology at times of economic crisis. Jews and
Travellers traditionally move around, therefore modern nation state
capitalism doesn’t have a place for them. Institutionalised racism happens
because travellers aren’t as ‘useful’ to capitalism in the same way as the
settled working class. Travellers had a place in capitalist Europe but
don’t have that anymore and for this reason they are at the receiving end
of policies of ethnic cleansing. British capitalism has exploited
travellers where it has wanted to (Gypsy wedding/circuses/festivals) and
this is the same with other migrant populations – used when needed, then
discriminated and ultimately eradicated.
Q. What difficulties have you faced being at Dale Farm?
It is impossible to escape the hierarchies that are endemic in society;
the Dale Farm resistance is not isolated from the problems of patriarchy
and white privilege. There are people from many countries here and English
language speaking privilege has been a problem but we do our best to
recognise and confront these. The challenge of communicating specific
jargons of the legal process, media trends and local activism has also
been apparent, but we are working well on this. As well as travellers we
have been treated badly by media and police through smear stories,
increased police presence (such as helicopters), and more greatly the fear
of constantly living under the threat of personal physical harm in an
eviction situation. We are currently at the forefront of state violence,
intimidation and repression, but being at the brunt of this state and
corporate repression just makes us want to fight it more.
Institutionalised racism has been difficult to witness– taxis not wanting
to drive here, shops and pubs not allowing Travellers in. There have been
many emotional difficulties, such as a 12 year old boy asking for us to
build a lock on in their home because their mother and sister are so
scared, as well as witnessing the residents’ reactions to court verdicts
and eviction hoax.
Q. What about the bailiffs, are they not just doing their job?
It feels bad to have to fight other working class people; we recognise
that they are being badly abused by the state and their profiteering
bosses at Constant & Co who are putting them in this position. As such we
put out an open offer to the bailiffs to join us in the struggle against
the bosses; we would show solidarity to them in their struggle against
their bosses as we show solidarity to Dale Farm, but if they choose to be
the oppressors then we will fight them as class traitors. We acknowledge
that the severe unemployment probably results in people who would not
normally want to be bailiffs becoming bailiffs, but we also acknowledge
that their role is directed at punishing working class people and
minorities and this is not acceptable. Further, there is understanding
amongst us all that some of Constant & Co’s bailiffs are migrant workers
and we see this as another example of capitalist subjugation pitching one
ethnic minority against another in order to break class unity; the British
government has the privilege to exploit minorities as it always has
through a process of colonialism, divide and conquer.
Q. With the government’s current policies towards Travellers, evictions
will become more regular, how will anarchists respond to this?
Governments over the past few years have been drawing up increasingly
fascist anti-Traveller laws, whipping up and taking advantage of ethnic
and class-based prejudice. Anarchists must respond by standing strong in
solidarity with travellers as they have done here at Dale Farm. Networks
of people committed to anti racism, class unity, and eviction resistance
will be required to help prevent the continuation of the ethnic cleansing
process. It is hard to say exactly what the response will be on a broad
basis, but it is likely that the Dale Farm resistance will set the tone
for Traveller solidarity in the UK. We hope to make a statement here that
resistance and solidarity are our greatest weapons against state
violence, and to show the world the power of struggle.
Page 9 of 19