Ditching the Fear

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Ditching the Fear
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Lastly, we can say that fear amongst workers was and is a common feeling. When we see the footage of militant struggles in Italy, it is easy to forget how these same workers, up until recently, were overridden by fear: of being deported; of making trouble lest they lose their jobs; of jeopardising their meagre incomes with a family to support… In the film, many workers talk about this palpable sense of fear to try and change their situation collectively for the better. Many of our workmates in the warehouses in west-London talk similarly, especially the women (who seem to be able to admit it more). With poor English and limited reference points of large-scale, local victories, this fear is used as a reason to not embark on collective action. In Italy, this was overcome because of a number of reasons, which cannot be discounted from happening elsewhere: news of victories in other warehouses spread amongst workers and gave people a sense that something could be won; external supporters showed that even as a minority, it was possible for some action to be taken; conversations inside warehouses that had been happening for a year or two became the basis for 'spontaneous' action.

This is from an article on libcom called "Ditching the Fear....." written by Angry Workers World who in 2015 went to Italy and participated in strikes there and in disputes in similar work circumstances in warehouses in England where workers from abroad, India and the Middle East mainly, were being savagely exploited to the point almost of having their blood sucked dry by exploiters eager for even the last penny. Angry Workers World also made a film about all this. 

But what caught my attention was the reference to "fear" - a very potent force - and then the triumphant final sentence after fear is conquered and "conversations inside warehouses that had been happening for a year or two became the basis for 'spontaneous' action."

 The end of this sentence is remarkable. Conversations that had been rumbling on for a year or two suddenly transform into and produce "spontaneous" action.  This is impressive, for is it not surely an example - not so much of spontaneity, for the workers had been discussing and suffering together a long time - but of the slow and subterranean development of consciousness suddenly emerging into the light of day and taking the form of class action? This is the apparent spontaneity of workers attaining their conscious  autonomy and doing something about it.   What a shocker for the bosses?   The nauseating waves of worker repression and suffering are here transformed into the more positive and fruitful form of class action and response even though of an initially limited type, for the action was mainly defensive.  

This is class consciousness being developed via thought and discussion out of fear and despair. This subterranean and initially uninown development among a group of workers whose only thing in common was being a massively exploited workforce in foreign lands - they had no shared language - and who had been chased to hell and back seemed to emerge "spontaneously" say the authors of this piece.  But of course it didn't really.  Some serious thinking had been going on regarding the impossible situation these workers were in; ideas were exchanged; feelings discussed and the fear of making things worse was gradually faced and challenged.

The fear and yes terror of the power of capital over mere workers was somehow admitted at last, seen for what it was - vicious exploitation - faced up to and challenged.  The prison, the factory, office and warehouse were at last identified for what they are -  capitalist gaol houses - and so plans could now be considered for getting free. 

Fear is an effective repressive. Fear of the damaging results of the work process itself: long hours, physical debility and depression. Fear of being dismissed by the boss as being useless, no good or a trouble maker.  Fear of having no work at all. Fear of the unknown power of the bourgeoisie and the discipline they have over us. They can pick us off one by one, group by group, as camp commanders in nazi concentration camps could pick off pick off and shoot at random unfortunate targets of their derision just for  sport and the fun of it. 

But together, as a class, with a deliberate consciousness of what we are and the power we have as workers over capitalism - for without our submissive cooperation it ceases to function at all - we can fight back and win. We must overcome our fear. 


Do I need to apologise for my post above? For isnt it just an example of what the ICC has called "simplistic optimism" or, even worse, what the ICC has referred to as "false optimism"? I hope it's the former not the latter.  

What is the ICC's position today?   Does it still think the working class, especially in the heart of Europe, remains undefeated though languishing in the quagmire of decomposition?  Does It still think that despite the vicious and now visible onset of environmental degradation and climate change courtesy of the bourgeoisie, that it still isn't too late and the planet could yet be saved following a proletarian revolution? Does it still think that the proletariat, atomised and currently bewildered by the continuing disarray and collapse into encroaching barbarism of the capitalist system, and trying to hang on as indoctrinated subservient petty bourgeois citizens, could still make a last and final effort for emancipation through class war?  Why do I hold on to the idea that what the ICC thinks still makes a difference? 

I am both excited and happy as well as sad and depressed all at the same time regarding this historical moment, when everything seems on the point of collapse,  so much so that I've got to shut up now and not go crazy!  

But solidarity with struggling immigrants wherever they are and resisting the capitalist class. As workers, we are all  immigrants are we not, and have no country. Just a world to win! 

about so-called optimism

About optimism.  I don't think the working class suffers from optimism. Optimism is a bourgeois concept born out of their obsession with gambling, the markets, the stock exchanges etc. The bourgeois is optimistic about backing a winner which'll make his fortune. They believe and trust in luck and the throw of the dice. George Eliot the novelist was fully aware of this and opens her novel Daniel Deronda in a gambling casino. The whole book is about bourgeois folk taking a gamble and trying to make a quick buck. Some are lucky some are not. Nobody comes across as happy and contented.  

The working class isn't like this and doesn't have optimistic yearnings, nor serious trust in Lady Luck.  Workers aren't gamblers.  Instead  the working class has confidence and hope. Or not, as the case may be.  It relies solely on itself.  So, rather than optimism, be this weak, simplistic  strong or false, as it is for the bourgeois, the working class has its consciousness and marxist history to rely on and point the way.

 The Marxist world view does away with the need for both optimism and pessimism and brings forward instead the serious critical appraisal and judgement of bourgeois life, it's ups and downs, it's unpredictability, it's optimistic yearnings all out of control, and points us in the direction of a wholly rational society where optimism will be outmoded and unnecessary.