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May Day March 2019

The real May Day is 1st May. In many places 1st May is a public holiday. Not in NSW. Instead, May Day is celebrated on the 1st Sunday in May with a rally, march and "Family Fun Day" organised by Unions NSW. Jura members will be marching again this year, and the shop will be closed. See Upcoming events for more details.

Jura's Special Opening Hours!!!

Jura will be open all week from the 17th til the 23rd of December 2018, so come on in an stock up on some anarchism and check out our new titles!

Monday: 2:00-7:00PM
Tuesday: 2:00-7:00PM
Wednesday: 2:00-7:00PM
Thursday: 2:00-7:00PM
Friday: 2:00-7:00PM
Saturday: 12:00-5:00PM
Sunday: 12:00-5:00PM

 

 

Jura Special Opening Hours!!!

 

Jura will be open all week from the 17th til the 23rd of December, so come on in an stock up on some anarchism and check out our new titles!

 

Monday: 2:00-7:00PM
Tuesday: 2:00-7:00PM
Wednesday: 2:00-7:00PM
Thursday: 2:00-7:00PM
Friday: 2:00-7:00PM
Saturday: 12:00-5:00PM
Sunday: 12:00-5:00PM

Solidarity Unionism and Radical Alternatives to Arbitration.

August, 2017

By Ish and Bridget H.

As activists, we are no strangers to the union movement. However we shouldn’t view unionism as a homogenous or a-theoretical force. There are many, often competing, tendencies and tensions that affect the union movement today. One concept that receives little attention in Australia is that of Solidarity Unionism.

Unionism, in Australia, is often understood in terms of the system called Arbitration. Under Arbitration, unions seek to brand themselves as legitimate and representative institutions by negotiating with management and governments for workplace agreements (EBAs) and laws that will be recognised as valid by all parties. All the while supposedly neutral ‘arbitrators’ like the Fair Work Commission and courts monitor for fairness and decide what is legal and illegal. Those who break the rules face a range of criminal penalties. Whilst this is considered the norm, and has seen a significant decline in productivity lost to strike action, what have we given up because of an endless desire of legitimacy?

This system places the points of struggle far away from workplaces where workers have the most power. For example, bosses will often know that when they underpay their workers, only a federal court order can force them to repay stolen wages. They’ll calculate that the vast majority of the people they steal from wouldn’t have the resources to challenge them in the courts and even if someone does, the money they can potentially save is worth the risk. If a worker encourages others to go on strike over stolen wages, their boss can fire everyone who goes on strike or encourages others to do so.

Unions can only make demands during set periods of bargaining, and surrender nearly all forms of workplace power during the years in-between, limiting their power to actually enforce the workplace agreements they bargained for in the first place. Unions are forced to professionalise and become more like the institutions they are fighting against. Survival and growth depend on spreading increasingly high costs over large numbers of members, and the more workers that join the union, the more sustainable it can be.

Anything that costs money but doesn’t generate membership, such as education, campaigns for workers in other industries and social justice, has to be minimised. Spending on marketers, lawyers and lobbyists increase over time. Solidarity unionism is, by contrast, a simple idea. Workers power, and solidarity to each other, can be enough to challenge the power of the bosses directly and achieve immediate wins.

Solidarity unionism puts organising and empowerment of workers at the heart of a dynamic movement. Radically decentralised shop unions and community networks can negotiate directly with bosses, highlight injustices, execute direct actions and share information amongst everyone affected by an issue.

International Women's Day Rally and March 2018

International Women’s Day was celebrated in Sydney on Saturday 10th March 2018, with a rally and march, and members of Jura were there among the more than 2,000 participants (ABC News). The brightly-dressed Asian Women at Work troupe headed up the march from Hyde Park along Castlereagh Street to Belmore Park.

Since 1995 Asian Women at Work supports Asian migrant women workers in low paid and precarious employment across Sydney, including clothing outworkers, clothing factory workers, cleaners, restaurant workers, manufacturing workers, nail and beauty workers, aged care workers, and child care workers. Michelle Zhou from Asian Women at Work shared many stories of migrant women being exploited, including this one: "A group of migrant workers where I used to work are suffering from urinary tract infections, because they are not allowed to take regular toilet breaks."

Report and photos by Leanne.

Thorstein Veblen and the American Way of Life – a review, and some thoughts on Veblen

Jura is pleased to publish this article by John August. John reviews "Thorstein Veblen and the American Way of Life", which is published by Black Rose Books Canada, and is available at Jura. From time to time, Jura publishes articles on our blog by guest contributors. Please note that articles by guest contributors do not necessarily the position of the Jura Collective.


Thorstein Veblen and the American Way of Life – a review, and some thoughts on Veblen
By John August

I've long been a fan of Veblen, who had some very interesting things to say; I've also read "Mutual Aid" by Kropotkin, which had some intriguing biological ideas. So, when I saw this book by Louis Patsouras, I thought it would be interesting to get an anarchist perspective.

But what was so fascinating about Veblen, at least, his "Theory of the Leisure Class"? You can look at the ruling ( "Leisure" ) class and their abuses. But Veblen made a quite different attack. While the wealthy justified themselves through their supposed contribution, Veblen took a crack at what it meant to be wealthy.

Rather than being the "enterprising" people they claimed be, they were some sort of hybrid of the "upper class twit" out of the UK, together with the vain superficial elements of the French Royal Court. They were a bunch of inane, superficial, stupidly competitive idiots.

Veblen came up with "conspicuous consumption". The leisure class were consuming for show, not use, in competition with others who were doing the same. Rather than fist waving against the injustice, his analysis was anthropological, with a moderate amount of distance combined with a tone of wry amusement. Because it was not "fist waving", it had all the more impact.

He undermined other ideas about consumption. For example, the more you have of something, the less you want. But, if you're putting together a collection, or you're trying to show off, more is better. Having 10 prestige cars rather than just 9 makes a difference.

The leisure class made a show of distancing themselves from manual labour. Women were ornaments, and it was important that they consume for show, to make the husband worthy. Veblen called it "vicarious consumption". It was also important that women not do anything useful, which might be seen as work.

The effort in selling, not making, undermined the "productive economy". It's an echo of Galbraith, that the economy sells useless stuff people don't need in order to keep people employed. Of course, in the background, there is technological innovation we benefit from, but the "waste" is also clear.

Then there's "planned obsolescence". Things can fail early, prompting replacement. Further, you might replace something before it has stopped working, because the replacement is more "modern" ... or perhaps even, just "more trendy". In using something better, you've thrown the old one away. Have you really progressed that much?

Veblen undermined the idea commodities were useful and worthwhile. When something is only socially appreciated rather than "useful" - why was it so important to make it? The economy making "fairy floss", so to speak? So, the economy does not really provide "useful" goods. Given this underlying waste, there's a certain muddle headedness in trying to make the economy more "productive". You're not generating more happiness - just more stuff to be wasted.

Of course, even with this in the background, people live in poverty, and there's a concentration of wealth. Nevertheless this "underlying waste" does undermine efforts to "reform" the economy in pursuit of "greater productivity". I mean, did our society actually do something useful with the previously existing productivity?

Apart from these issues, Veblen also wrote about labour and other details of the economy. However, for whatever reason, Patsouras does not seem to give much attention to the ideas noted above, for me a significant and intriguing part of Veblen's perspective.

Society under Surveillance

I sent a letter about the following incident to the editor of Sydney Morning Herald. Of course they didn't publish it. 

 
At 9pm on Thursday 22 June at Bankstown station I was taken off the train to Liverpool by police. They searched my bag and me. Reason? They said a guard saw someone of my description put something down the front of my pants. 
They took away my backpack and an officer put it on a seat on the platform and looked inside. Meanwhile they took me up in the lift into a room on the station concourse. About six of them surrounded me, ready to jump on and subdue me at the first sign of resistance.  They asked whether I was wearing underwear, before making me undo my pants so that they could have a bit of a look.  (What the guard had probably seen on the train's surveillance camera was me putting something, my wallet or handkerchief perhaps, in my pocket, at the front of my pants.) 
 
They did a cursory rather than thorough search, suggesting that they didn't expect to actually find something, such as an illicit drug, weapon or explosive, but rather were carrying out routine harassment and humiliation. They were responding to a report rather than acting on their own initiative.  It was a quiet night. Not many people around.  They were probably bored.  In my hand I had a copy of The Match! - an anarchist journal from the US, that I'd been reading on the train. That issue happened to contain a letter to the editor from me critical of NSW Police!  I put it on the table so that I could undo my pants as they ordered. 
 
"What are you reading?" one cop asked. "A magazine," I replied, stating the bleeding obvious. They didn't look at it or pursue the line of questioning. 
 
"Where did you catch the train?" 
 
"Erskineville." 
 
"What were you doing there?" 
 
"I was browsing bookshops in Newtown." 
 
I answered their questions to begin with so as not to appear suspicious, as if I had something to hide.  But after a while I refused to answer any more.  Why should I submit to the harassment?  I'd done nothing wrong and didn't have to explain myself to them. They seemed to respect my right not to cooperate further.  One cop made a comment to the effect that they can't be too careful these days, with all the things that are going on. What was he alluding to there, I wonder?  Was I a terror suspect, a potential suicide bomber?  There was another remark, that I was 'unusual.'  Unusual?  Because I was someone of anglo appearance, in the ethnically diverse Bankstown area?  Because they don't usually 'profile' (harass) people like me?  When I've seen them harassing someone it's generally a young non-white person. 
 
At the end I was asked whether there was anything I wanted to say to the police.  Well yes, there were a few things, but I wasn't going to say them!  All I wanted was to get away from them and resume my journey home.  Another passenger on the platform, who must have seen what happened, asked whether I was going to take the matter further. 
 
I thought of the last time I lodged a complaint against police, of the officer smiling to himself as he wrote down details of long-lasting pain inflicted gratuitously on me during an arrest at a protest against John Howard in Darwin. Of course nothing came of the complaint.  I ended up taking some action of my own, naming and shaming publicly the officer concerned.
 
I was publicly harassed and humiliated for nothing.  What kind of totalitarian police state do we live in?  Am I supposed to feel grateful I wasn't bashed or shot dead? Police get paid generous salaries from taxpayers' dollars to waste their own time and other people's. 
Funnily enough, before boarding the train I'd noticed the sign at Erskineville station saying, 'If you see something, say something.'  There's a photo of someone talking to police.  To the guard who dobbed me in, I'd like to say, "Congratulations! You have made an impressive contribution to the government's Fear, Suspicion and Paranoia campaign." The government wants us all to feel threatened by shadowy (Islamist) terrorist organisations. 
 
It's a case of deja vu.  Up until 1990 it was the communist threat that we were told to fear, the Soviet Union and 'reds under the bed.'  The fear of 'the other' is always promoted - those who are not like 'we good people' and who want to do us harm.  Our good, strong government is supposed to be there to protect us and save us from evil. Though unfortunately we do have to sacrifice some of our liberties in return for the security provided. Whereas in reality the main threat to our freedom is the government itself, any government, and usually its business end, the police. 
 
(By the way, isn't it bizarre how they have that announcement on the trains advising that if you're feeling unwell, don't risk boarding the train?  The announcement claims that there are medical staff at stations waiting to treat your illness. Is there anyone that actually believes this obvious lie?  Many stations are not staffed at all most of the time.)
 
This incident caused me to reflect. The fact is that these days we're all being subjected to unprecedented surveillance.  Privacy is becoming an outmoded concept.  Just think of the trains for example.  The old trains have no cameras in them but the new ones have, I think, 8 cameras in each carriage.  That makes 64 on one train.  How does one guard monitor that many?  S/he could not possibly see all that is going on, and how good would the resolution and detail of an image be?  But that's probably not the point.  Increasingly, in this modern version of the panopticon - a prison in which many cells are simultaneously visible from a central vantage point - someone could be watching us at any time.  We don't know whether someone is seeing us at a particular time but we get used to acting at all times as if we are being watched.  
 
The all-seeing god of earlier times has been replaced by the ubiquitous surveillance cameras, in train stations, shopping precincts and other public areas.  We don't know who is watching us, whether images are being recorded and stored, and if so, for how long.  Who has access to all this footage?  We don't know. 
 
Add to this the vast amount of data being gathered from electronic communications.  Billions of people volunteer masses of personal information without knowing who has access to it and what it will be used for.  George Orwell would be horrified to see the nightmarish dystopia in his novel '1984' becoming the accepted reality.  How long before the surveillance cameras are in each room, including bedrooms and bathrooms, as we learn to welcome the benevolent gaze of Big Brother in every aspect of our lives?  Who could possibly object?  Only those with something to hide.  All decent citizens naturally want to see the end of the scourges of pedophilia and violence against women. 
 
We know that information is power but too often we continue to surrender it without a fight to bosses like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg who seem to aspire to divine status.  Yes, life is as always a struggle to survive, make ends meet and somehow preserve our sanity, but shouldn't we be trying to redress the power imbalance, or at least taking the time to stop and think where we're heading with this mass surveillance society, before it really is too late?  Just because Big Brother wears a smile and has a soothing voice doesn't mean he's our friend.  Ps. Do not put your bag on the seat. Doors closing. Please stand clear.  
 
 
 
 

Jura Books: Forty Years and Now

Robert P. Barbagallo wrote this piece as part of an oral history project he worked on as a student at the University of Sydney. It is based on a series of interviews with Jura Collective members.


 

This piece will tell the story of the Jura Books anarchist collective as it was told to me through a series of five interviews I had conducted throughout May 2017. Five different members, both present and past, told me about their personal arrival to Jura, what they had experienced along the way, as well as their views on the Australian anarchist movement and their interpretation of anarchist ideas in general.

***

Amongst the busy lunch time sprawl at a Sydney University café, between the noisy chatter of students crammed at tables, I spoke to PS about Jura Books. PS had been a member of Jura Books during the 70s through to the early to mid-80s, a time he describes as “effervescently” active—just like the noise around us. We had been speaking for an hour or so. The lunch time sprawl had dulled. We maybe spoke for too long. “My car’s about to be booked, if it hasn’t been booked already.” (I’m deeply sorry if it was) But before he left he told me:

“One of the great things about Jura over the years is that it has been an opportunity for people to learn about anarchism, to learn about how to organise autonomously and work together in a collaborative way with rules, but with rules that are collectively decided and that are changed when they don’t work. They are not just rules for the sake of rules. Where [there are] people form very different backgrounds and generations…Sid, whose now one of the ‘old guys’ was one of the ‘young guys’. LM started when she was at university as an undergraduate. I started when I was an undergrad, now I’m an ‘old guy’ there. People learned to work in an anarchist way which in our society is not—maybe now is more available in kind of networked organisations.—But it’s also a way where people give without expecting material returns. There’s something very attractive about that kind of volunteer work.”

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