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The growing fight for our community services

On March 4 over 15,000 union members rallied across NSW in a National Day of Action against privatisation. A broad cross-section of union members turned out, and it was significant that the rally was held during the daytime on a weekday - meaning that some workers walked off the job for it.

Part of the rally, the Save Our Local Community Services campaign organised by the Australian Services Union, is intended to fight back against the State and Federal government's restructuring of community services.

Alongside $271 million worth of budget cuts, the government has introduced competitive tendering which has turned the community sector into a marketplace. Funding which was won through historical political gains of the community - grassroots women's, housing, disability movements, has effectively evaporated as not for profit organisations are forced to win the funding back through entrepreneurial means.

What we've been seeing is large generalised services, usually Christian charities, win the funding at the expense of diverse local services. In this respect, the reforms have also served to bureaucratise the sector as organisations can no longer respond to diverse community needs, but instead have to bid for pre-packaged government endorsed services developed with no consultation. These services do not fund advocacy - one of the main functions of community organisations, which have historically developed and influenced policy from a grassroots community level. Organisations are now afraid to 'bite the hand that feeds', a real fear which has silenced several groups from publicly speaking out against the restructure.

Hundreds of services are being cut, local community organisations are shutting down, and jobs are being lost. Many organisations don't know what will happen after 30th June when the last of their secured funding will end. The government is also inviting for-profits such as Transfield into the sector to compete for government funding and then make money off the most vulnerable in our communities.

As well as mainstream unions, a number of grassroots activist groups have been organising to take up this fight, and the connected struggle against the NSW Government’s “Going Home Staying Home” policies. For example, Save Our Women’s Services and No Shelter have been very active. These groups have independently organised a number of actions and a campaign which succeeded in saving some women’s services from closure last year. Before the government's ‘reforms' there were around 100 women's services run by women's organisations, now there are just 20. These groups are continuing the fight.

The ASU campaign demands no funding cuts, an end to competitive tendering, five year funding contracts, and no to for-profits in the sector. Thus far the campaign has focused on influencing the actions of government through rallies and candidate pledges. Although direct or industrial action seems some way away, union density in the community sector is growing and democratic workplace structures beginning to form.

The fight to protect and expand our community services is vital to our capacity to survive and struggle. Everyone should be getting involved in some way, because without these services life will get harder for all of us, and organising to fight back will become even more difficult. So get involved with one of these activist groups, or your union, or find out what your local community service is doing and how you can support it!

Four short book reviews

Decolonizing Anarchism, Maia Rammath

This is a brilliant book, a part of a series of books out of a collaboration between the Institute for Anarchist Studies and AK Press, which leads to critical research and a vehicle for published outcomes. This is especially important in that it brings to western - especially Anglo - anarchists the basic idea that other forms and approaches to anarchism abound on this planet. There are other recent books that focus on this, such as Michael Schmidt's Cartegraphy of Revolutionary Anarchism, and James Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed (both stimulating reads), but Rammath focuses on the South Asian (mainly Indian) region. She also focuses on important people and movements that are rarely or never mentioned in Euro/US based studies, their thoughts, strategies, highs and lows. Hard to find a fault.

The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich & a.h.s. boy

Social Anarchism is one of the best contemporary journals that critically analyses anarchist thoughts and practice, both historical and largely on current matters. The book 'The Best of....' puts together articles from the journal in sensible and understandable themes, and begins with a good history of the journal itself. Some themes and topics are: theory, education, current practices, anarchafeminism, 'new anarchism', violence, consensus and democracy. Quite enjoyable and thought provoking, however there should have been a thorough proof reading done before its publication.

The Tyranny of Theory: A contribution to the anarchist critique of Marxism, Ronald Tabor

Quite simply, Tabor does a demolition job on Marxism. The core of his analysis is the theme of authoritarianism that he demonstrates pervades not only the theories of Marx and Engles, but also their practice. The main benefit of the book is that it brings into play a lot of recent thought and covers virtually all aspects of the theory and practice of Marxism, including both the originators and the followers up to today. In essence, Tabor doesn't add anything essential that has not been covered by Bakunin and Kropotkin, however departs from those anarchists by pulling apart Marx's analysis of capitalism at its core. Pretty academic in approach, but that's the terrain that's being analysed.

Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism, by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt

This book hit me in the face with so many challenges that it took a bit to get to grips with its fundamental thesis: that anarchism began in September 1869, with Bakunin in particular, and generally with anarchists in the First International. Thus they say that Proudhon, Godwin and Stirner, are not anarchists becuse they were not a part of a revolutionary working class movement. Great argument, but seems historicaly determinist in that the implication is that anarchism is not possible without industrialisation and the urbanisation that accompanied it. Others have made similar arguments, such as the early Bookchin and Morris, but they also accept that anarchism is not only a product of history, but of human action, namely, the fight for freedoms and against authoritarianisms that has occured throughout humanity's existence, and continues today.


10,000 new anarchist leaflets

Every year at stalls, actions and in Jura, we give out thousands of our 'introduction to anarchism' leaflet. As part of a conversation, we find it a useful tool for introducing people to anarchist ideas. So this year we decided to rewrite, redesign and reprint the leaflet in bulk. The new version is a colourful one-page introduction to anarchist ideas and Jura, aimed at people who are interested but haven't had much contact with anarchism. Photos in the leaflet of Palmar Grasp and Corpus thanks to ZK Photo. Other images come from the Jura poster archive.

Can you help us give them to people? Do you know a local place which would be willing to have a few? Would you give one to a friend? Email us and we'll post you one (or one hundred!) or drop in to the shop and grab a stack. You can also download the pdf.