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Newcastle SolFed

Newcastle Solidarity Federation

Welcome to the page of Newcastle SolFed, the local group based in Newcastle. We also have members in North Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland. Most of our activity isn't publicised on these pages - much of which may deal with case work and so requires privacy. We hope to be able to give you an insight to the type of work we are engaged with. Please continue to Who We Are for more about our Local. 

Newcastle SolFed is a diverse group of workers, students and unemployed. We believe in self-organisation, direct action and making our own decisions -  this is why we formed our Local branch of SolFed.

Being a Local in Solidarity Federation means we are part of the International Workers Association, and as you can see by the news items we post, we are active in supporting international struggles as well as local. Some of our solidarity actions in and around Newcastle have seen people from other countries join in our pickets.

Please continue to What We Do for a better look at our activity.

Newcastle is a new Local within SolFed. Much of our work currently focuses on building new fighting unions as part the SolFed federation in the North East. 

We believe in direct action - we aren't professional legal advisors and we aren't a charity. People who have approached us know that they must play an active role in their own struggle - we are there to help, not to provide a free service. 

In our short existence, we have organised public meetings, pickets in support of workers in conflict, fought our own struggles and have given solid, practical advice to an increasing number of enquiries. We do not profess to have all the answers, we believe the best solutions can come from the workers themselves who are in conflict - this is the basis as to why we are different to other unions. We do not lead workplace struggles - even when our own members are in this situation. Given that SolFed uses direct action - action carried out and controlled by those in struggle, as opposed to using intermediaries and representatives - we believe the support we offer is more practical and democratic than that of reformist TUC unions. 

We aim to build enough members to create small, fighting unions based around our Local and are keen to meet with other workers who are interested in organising, as well as continuing social actions - community support and educational work. If you or anyone you know needs support and wants to play an active role in their own fight-back, whether working, studying or unemployed, then why not give us a call?

Q – What’s anarcho-syndicalism then?
Anarcho-syndicalism is a tendency within the wider workers movement that organises the class-struggle from the bottom up, asserting our interests through direct action, until we’re able to overturn capitalism. We reject ‘socialist’ workers’ parties that aim to take state power – history has shown that this approach will lead to brutal dictatorship. We also reject the bureaucratic trade unions who are unable to assert workers’ interests.

Instead of representation – a union or party acting on behalf of workers – we favour self-organisation – workers acting for themselves. Applying these anarchist ideas to the workers’ movement, we want to unite those workers who believe in direct action, solidarity and rank-and-file control into a revolutionary union. By organising this way, workers learn to act for themselves, exercising their power without being led by union officials or political vanguards, calling into question the way society is organised and prefiguring the world we want to create, without bosses or rulers: libertarian communism.

Q – Is anarcho-syndicalism all about unions then? I’m not a member of a union.
A – No, we think organising outside of the workplace is also important, it’s just that we have the most power in the workplace. In both the workplace and community our goal is not to recruit every worker into the union, but to organise mass meetings of all workers which decide what course of action to take. Members of an anarcho-syndicalist union would not seek to control these meetings but simply put forward their perspective and argue for our tactics and goals. A good example of this practice in action was the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist CNT in the Puerto Real shipyard disputes in the 1980s.

Q – Why do you go on about the working class? There is no working class, we are all middle class now.
The working class has nothing to do with flat caps and overalls. Nothing to do with regional accents and poor diction. It is a condition. The condition of all those who have nothing to sell but their labour power – the so-called ‘proletarian condition’. If you work a white-collar job, read the Guardian and enjoy nothing more than Marks & Spencers organic sundried tomatoes with freshly-baked foccaccia bread then you may be an insufferable liberal bore, but you’re still a worker. The middle class is a cultural condition, the proletrarian condition is a social one. When people say ‘we’re all middle class now’ they’re talking about culture and consumption habits – flatscreen TVs and organic focaccia bread. When we talk about the working class we are taking about the proletarian condition, the fact that those of us who don’t own a business or a significant property or share portfolio have no choice but to work for a wage, claim benefits or turn to crime in order to survive.

Q – Why should I worry – as long as I’m fine, it’s alright. In fact I’ve got enough to worry about, with kids, mortgage, etc.
A – Sounds like you do have things to worry about! As an individual you can do certain things, like trying to get a good job, try to get your kids in a decent school, get a capable GP etc. But what you can’t do as an individual is to change things. It’s only when we organise collectively can we achieve social change. If your boss decides to sack a lot of workers and make you work harder to make up; or if the council decide to make your kids’ school into an academy; or the government decides to privatise the NHS bit by bit – as an individual you can do nothing to stop these, but if we organise together we can fight for the things we need.

Q – Capitalism creates wealth – I don’t want to have a living standard like in North Korea, or Amazonian tribes.
A – Wealth is created by us workers, and we don’t need bosses or the state to do so. Capitalism just gets in the way really – much of the work we are forced do is socially completely useless, but even worse, under capitalism part of the wealth we create is taken away from us as profits. As libertarian communists we want to create a society where we have the same or higher living standards, but where we all have the power to decide how the wealth is created and used.

The way we see it, North Korea is a special form of capitalism, where the state is the only capitalist and the ruling elite profits from the wealth created by North Korean workers. To make things worse they have brutal dictatorship. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we mean by communism!

Amazonian tribes have a much better form of society than North Korea: no bosses, no cops, no prisons, they spend a couple of hours in the day hunting or growing crops then enjoy the rest of the day with their kids, or taking hallucinogenic drugs – that’s primitive communism. But you’re right, their standard of life isn’t to everybody’s taste. The internet and iPods are great, and it’s nice to be able to take medication when we get ill rather than die of diarrhea or the flu like Amazonian tribespeople.

Anarcho-syndicalism is not about returning to some primitive communism, but making many the benefits of modern society available to all without bosses, landlords and bureaucrats on our backs – libertarian communism.

Q – Revolution is violent. I don’t want my existence and the people I love to be destroyed in civil war.
None of us want civil war. The more well-supported a revolution is, the less violent it tends to be. The most successful revolutions in history have all been marked by significant mutinies with the armed forces and sometimes the police refusing to fight or even joining the revolution, and such anti-militarist agitation has long been a part of anarcho-syndicalism. The importance of wide and deep support for revolution is why we organise now for something that can seem so far away. The anarcho-syndicalist revolution in Spain in 1936 followed 70 years of organisation by anarchists and other working class militants.

We also fight to assert our needs because it’s the only way to defend our collective living standards, but we don’t kid ourselves the ruling class will concede without a fight. When picket lines are attacked by the police or bosses’ thugs, we think it is only right that workers should defend themselves appropriately. Likewise in a revolutionary situation, we think workers should defend occupied workplaces and the homes they have seized from landlords and speculators.

We should also not forget how violent the status quo is. Capitalism can only exist because the organised violence of the state that protects and extends it. The most obvious examples are the constant, pointless wars around the world where rulers send the ruled to kill one other. The ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are only the latest example, not to mention the bloody, intractable central African wars which have claimed millions of lives. But you also have to consider the millions of preventable deaths from poverty, hunger and disease, as well as the daily low-level violence of being bossed around at work or suffering the enforced poverty of unemployment.

Aren’t anarchists against organisation?
Not the sensible ones! If you want to get things done, a group can be more than the sum of its parts. If you want to to organise as equals whilst avoiding informal hierarchies based on charisma, knowledge and experience then you need formal organisation. In fact, if you’re willing to follow orders you don’t need to be organised, but anarchism – organising as equals without hierarchy – is organisation.

What is the black and red flag all about?
The flag originated in the 1930s in Spain where members of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (our Spanish sister-section in the International Workers’ Association – IWA) combined the red flag of the workers’ movement with the black flag of anarchism, mirroring the application of anarchist politics to the workers’ movement represented by anarcho-syndicalism. After it was made famous by the CNT in the Spanish Revolution of 1936, all sorts of other anarchists also adopted the flag but those are its origins.

SolFed Out in Force Against Union Busting Bank

SolFed have been out in force in response to a sacked union organiser from our sister union in Spain, the CNT. Pickets were held in Brighton, Bristol, Newcastle and Middlesborough (see below). Santander have outsourced thousands of jobs in Spain, making it easier to control employees working in oppressive conditions - union organisers are targetted by the notoriously crooked family cartel run bank.

Solidarity Federation Workplace Organiser Training in Newcastle

There will be a Solidarity Federation Workplace Organiser Training Day on Saturday, June14th in Newcastle. 
If you would like to attend, please email training[AT]solfed.org.uk

The Solidarity Federation workplace organiser training programme is designed to give workers the tools and confidence to organise in their workplaces, whether or not there's an existing union. Even if you've had training from another union, you may find the direct action based approach we adopt offers a fresh perspective.

Another Win For SolFed This Month!

Newcastle Local have just won a substantial unpaid wages pay claim with a glazing and building company, based in Monkseaton, Tyne and Wear.

HSBC targeted for Las Heras complicity

Today's international day of action called by FORA saw Newcastle Local picketing the city-centre branch of HSBC, who provide finincial services to YPF the state-owned Argentinian oil company, making them complicit in the repression & persecution of Las Heras workers.

The absence of an Argentine consulate proved no barrier to Tyneside workers joining with IWA-AIT comrades in demanding the freedom of all Las Heras workers and the end of state-sponsored attacks on those fighting for their rights.

Newcastle puts the 'Sol' in Solidarity!

A warm, sunny day in Newcastle seemed appropriate weather to turn the heat up on Santander & shine a light on their slave labour policies and Union repression. We were joined by two comrades from USI as our banner was unfurled outside the Northumberland Street branch.

There was lots of interest from workers on their lunch-break for whom solidarity with our CNT comrades in Spain needed little explanation. Most people on Tyneside have friends or family who have suffered from outsourced labour practices & our presence today was well recieved.

Newcastle SolFed in anti workfare demo, target Marks and Spencers

Newcastle SolFed were out again today highlighting the use of unpaid labout under the Governments controversial Workfare Scheme. High street chain Marks and Spencers was again targetted by Newcastle SolFed members and as ever there was a positive response from the public.

Four! It's the Magic Number!

16/8/13 

Newcastle SolFed found the magic picket attendence today as they continue putting the pressure on Poundland. Poundland are becoming notorious for using and abusing unemployed workers. Using the unemployed as free labour is not only a disgrace in itself, it threatens those in full time or part work jobs in the shop.

Newcastle SolFed hold anti-workfare picket outside Marks and Spencer's

As part of the week of action against the government workfare and affiliated schemes, Newcastle targeted upmarket retail chain, Marks and Spencer. M&S seek to profit to the tune of 1 million pounds using its own workfare scheme. While M&S attempt to put a worthy spin on its free labour, only a small percentage of people find work because of workfare. Not only is workfare an attack on unemployed workers but threaten the positions of those in work, potentially pitting worker against worker.

Calling all Freedom Lovers! A Benefit for Freedom Bookshop

Freedom, the 125 Year old anarchist bookshop was fire-bombed on February 1st.

Over 100 people came forward to carry out emergency repairs that saw the shop reopen 3 days later.
FREEDOM NEEDS OUR HELP AND SOLIDARITY!

Newcastle Solidarity Federation are proud to present a benefit knees-up at Pride Café! Please come along to show your support.

All proceeds will be given to Freedom Bookshop.

Full line up of bands and DJ's (and start time) TBA.

The Pickets Continue!

Managed to cram in another Poundland picket before the nationwide week of action against workfare and our CALLING ALL FREEDOM LOVERS! A benefit extravaganza for Freedom Bookshop event on the 23th!

Positive responses from those on the streets as always, many thanks to everyone who came down to help out. Watch out for a new banner - this one is getting rather tatty (poor old thing!)

Lets keep it up!

SolFed picket Poundland 15th December

A great turn out again to all that turned out for today's anti-workfare picket at the Clayton Street branch of Poundland - a big thank you and well done to all that took part. See you all next time!

Anyone wishing to help in SolFed's anti-workfare campaign should get in touch via the contact page (top left)

 

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SolFed Anti-Workfare Demos continue in Newcastle.

Newcastle SolFed continues its ongoing work against the Governments controversial Workfare Scheme. At the moment our focus is targeting one of its biggest beneficiaries, the Poundland chain of of high street stores. There was a large turnout for the demo, our numbers bolstered by local anarchist and anti cuts groups. As ever the support from the public was overwhelmingly sympathtic, with the anger toward the scheme palpable. Newcastle SolFed will continue organising against Workfare and anyone interested in getting involved please email us.

Newcastle SolFed distribute latest Catalyst

Over last year Newcastle SolFed members have been shifting thousands of the SolFeds national paper, Catalyst at metros, bus and train stations, as people head to or from work. Our regular street presence has been well received by passing commuters, with regulars stopping to chat. Newcastle will continue to build on their their high profile street pitches for 2013.

 

 

Workfare picket Poundland, Gateshead.

Friday 7th of September saw a picket of the Gateshead branch of Poundland, organised by Newcastle Solidarity Federation, against the governments highly controversial workfare scheme. Poundland seek to profit from the exploitation of what is essentially forced free labour.

Following the SolFed's successful campaign against Holland and Barretts involvement in workfare and joined by members of the Anarchist Federation and others, the demo saw massive levels of public support, with car horns being pipped and hundreds of leaflets handed out.

Newcastle SolFed (In formation) Poundland Workfare Picket, Poundland Gatehead.

Poundland has been targeted after it announced that it is re-launching its participation in the Workfare scheme following a recent High Court ruling in its favour. The campaign comes on the back of successful action by the Solidarity Federation and other groups and individuals against Holland and Barrett who were forced to pull out of the various schemes. We expect to keep up the same levels of pressure against Poundland in the coming weeks and months.

Newcastle Solfed will be picketing the Gateshead highstreet branch of Poundland.

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