Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Rank and file - Part 2

Self-organisation is at the heart of the rank and file movement. Many have observed how centralism of decisions for union actions has become ineffective in tackling issues which are localised and disconnected from the agenda set by major unionised action groups. Moreover, a capillary intervention on the territory has been at times ineffective due to the fact that union political coalitions at local level, do not find correspondence with the national agenda. This alienates such forces, which could be better employed to contain the capital offensive, albeit limited in scope.

It is easy for an inept leadership to alienate a local coalition and render such workers vulnerable to the attacks of senior management in universities. Collusion between the interests of the capital force represented by Vice-Chancellors and Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Deans and Associate Deans and the interests of the working class labour force at the base, can be hidden easily by centralised union leadership, backing the implementation of an agenda undersigned with the government in power in defence of the capital. Doing so, such leadership exercises economic power over the labour force alienating it from the basic rights guaranteed to university workers.

Collusion between the capital interests at the expense of academic freedom, work stability, mental health, natural justice, development and emancipation of the base of university workers should be eradicated at its start. Rank and file as self-organised group of action can effectively identify such collusion at local level and isolate individuals who undermine workers’ statutory rights, basic rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom and human rights, which are tenets of the university worker at the base.

Self-organised groups of action can counter-attack the violence manifest through the capital offensive at crucial moments in the lives of university workers. In such moments, the subjugation of free will of university workers – guaranteed by contract and the law – to capital interests, becomes evident. Such offensive can be contained locally because it is of a local nature, although some of its issues can have resonance at national level and similarities between workplaces.

It is at local level that the capital offensive can be contained. Localised actions can be called up urgently for all the issues which are not guaranteed at national level; mostly for protection of all the areas which are frequently infiltrated by deans/associate deans, reducing free will and agency of university workers. In some cases we can talk of methodical control of academic activity, in others of the reduction of freedom of speech. We have also assisted to activities of repression of dignified academics with further expulsion from the workplace. Many of these repressive actions should be correlated to the violent offensive in motion against free voices of academic expression.


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