Tag Archives: solidarity

Join a Trade Union

One of the methods Molly Scott Cato suggests you can use to resist fascism, is joining a trade union. It is certainly a good way of resisting exploitation, upholding workers’ rights and connecting with something bigger than yourself. For many of us it’s also not an option. If you’re in the gig economy, working handfuls of hours here and there wherever you can get work, there is no union to protect you. This is no doubt why such work is on the rise. If you’re in the illegal side of the economy as a trafficked person or illegal immigrant, you are unprotected and likely to be massively exploited – sometimes in ways that will kill you.

As an author, and someone working in the comics industry, I have no union to join. I joined The Society of Authors because it’s the next best thing – they offer legal advice and they lobby on behalf of writers.

In the arts, there is always someone who will do it for less, or do it for free. You’re paid for the finished product (if you are paid at all) and not for your time, so the scope for even making the minimum wage often isn’t that good. There are always people trying to break into the industry who are persuaded that working for free, for exposure, for the portfolio, for a shot at a paying gig next time, is worth it. And why would anyone pay for what they can just take?

Online, our work is pirated and given away, or even sold by others who never pay a penny to the original creator. New laws against piracy look to be more for the big corporations, not for the indie creators. We may be hurt by the ‘protections’ coming in. If we can’t afford to sue, we have little scope to protect our work, and we can’t get a fair share of the worth, often.

More than anything else, what creative people need (I think) is solidarity from other working people. That means recognition that we are also working people, doing work that is just as real as anyone else’s and for which we deserve to be paid. We need other working people to stop telling us to do it for love, or that it’s just a hobby, or that them giving away our work is somehow doing us a favour, or that we should be grateful to the people who pirate our books to read them because at least someone is reading them.

This goes further than creative industries, too. Our economy depends on unpaid work – usually domestic, but also volunteers in other spheres. There are no unions for carers, for child raisers, for people who provide the domestic underpinnings that give others the freedom to get educated and to pursue careers. There are no unions for the grandparents who take on the childcare. No one is lobbying government on their behalf. This work is essential and without it many other things would be unfeasible. If you are interested in worker’s rights, it is important to include the people whose work is often both invisible and unpaid.

Don’t marginalise people who are not working, either. There is no trade union to join if you are out of work. There is also no trade union to join if you are too ill to work, or if keeping yourself functioning is such a big job that it doesn’t allow you the time and energy to be economically active. Being chronically ill is incredibly hard work.

Join a trade union if you can. Whether you can or not, stand in solidarity with workers who are vulnerable, marginalised and exploited. Don’t see migrants – even the illegal immigrants as your enemy – question the people who use and abuse them. Question the poverty that has driven them to migrate, and ask who caused it. Don’t see underpaid work as ‘fun’ or a calling and assume that makes it ok somehow. Don’t ignore the work of people who are not paid for what they do. We’re all workers. Poverty and desperation make people more vulnerable to fascist politics. A climate of exploitation makes us all more vulnerable. Solidarity and mutual respect are essential.


Not so quiet revolution

Last weekend, the British Labour party voted a passably left wing chap to be their new leader. This is pretty revolutionary, because for a long time now, the right wing media have been telling this country that only the right wing people are electable and only the right wing approach to economics is viable and acceptable. We’ve been painfully short of alternative stories. Yet in spite of the media barrage, Jeremy Corbyn is in.

It looks like his first challenge is going to be to sort out a party in which there are people who have no idea what the world ‘Labour’ might pertain to. We know this because a bunch of them just abstained from an important vote on worker’s rights. The majority of us either work for a living, or are, due to circumstances beyond our control, unable to do so (age being one of those factors). And yet we’ve been persuaded, and the political elite have persuaded themselves, that the right way to run a country is to squeeze the majority for the benefit of the few.

There are a lot of us. We the people who do not have our own jets, cannot afford to buy the time of politicians, do not have a media empire to put forth our views. We are the majority. To the tune of about 99%. What the right wing has cunningly done is set us up against each other, encouraging those who are working to hate those who are not working, those who have some to be afraid of those who have less. We of the 99% have more in common than not, and although we suffer to varying degrees in this system, most of us are not benefiting from it much. It’s difficult to see how this works when your daily news feed preaches a very different story.

I’m not a Labour supporter, but I like Jeremy Corbyn. I like him because he talks of solidarity, of working together and taking care of each other. He uses words like ‘decency’ and clearly knows what those words mean. He talks about people, shared humanity, common need. Rather than encouraging people to be afraid of each other, his words are about encouraging people to help each other. Culturally, this is a whole other thing.

I’m tired of the politics of fear. I’m tired of this constant flow of propaganda that tells us to cling tightly to what we have while looking around nervously in case someone wants to take it from us. It should be a matter of shame to have an excess when others are suffering. We need to stop obsessing about who ‘deserves’ help because this is designed to reinforce the idea that most people who are in trouble don’t deserve help. We need to look at who needs help, and then help them. We have the resources, we need the political will. Now at least we have a different set of stories in the mix and some political will. It’s a start.

I very much doubt I’ll be voting Labour any time soon, because I’m a committed member of the Green Party. What I will be doing though, is taking every opportunity to stand up for a different kind of world. Hope not hate. Help not resentment. Solidarity. Compassion. Working together to make things better for all of us. I believe we can do a good deal better than we are at the moment. I believe there are better ways of living, and after Jeremy Corbyn’s win at the weekend, I am cheered to realise that there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who feel much the same way. Their party politics are neither here nor there. What matters is the culture shift, changing the political agenda, and challenging the toxic right wing stories of fear and institutionalised mean-spiritedness that we have at the moment.