As more and more of the population are subsumed to precarious and casualized work positions new forms of organizations are arising to reverse the one sided class oppression of tenants and employers. Such groups are solidarity networks. The tactic of Solidarity Networks is “flying pickets”. Contrary to the classical picket line a flying picket includes workers who don’t belong to the particular workplace or industry in negotiation, students and the unemployed. In workplaces where the workforce is small or weak, a flying picket can lend its numbers and mass to a picketline. In times of high unemployment and underemployment Capitalism renders a pool of idle labor which can be dedicated to the formation of such Flying Pickets – viz. “Capitalism creates its own Gravedigger”.
We got a chance to talk to Brandon of the Portland based Solidarity network, who have expanded their horizons to anti – eviction and tenants’ rights work. No doubt there is a new avenue of Class Struggle arising at home, and this Network is taking the forefront of that struggle. GET INVOLVED!
PSN: Portland Solidarity Network is a network of volunteers that are dedicated to supporting people in their struggles against the powerful, including but not limited to landlords and employers. We have a participatory model when it comes to getting things done. Decision-making is done in a directly democratic fashion, meaning one vote, one person and majority rules.
AWG:Where does the idea of a Solidarity Network come from?
PSN: The Solidarity network model has popped up in the vacuum of labor organizing today. Most people don’t have unions to represent them as tenants or as workers and when they do they’re often times, clunky, bureaucratic and work for the bosses. Solidarity networks have popped up to fill the solidarity vacuum. It was something that was needed, much like how early labor unions started people saw or rather felt the extreme inequality that is going on and reacted by organizing themselves into networks that can take a stand and fight against the people that take advantage and oppress us every day.
AWG:In a few words, why is it important to express Solidarity outside the Point of the Production, in other places of Oppression?
PSN:If we only focus our struggle at the point of production we are not only alienating a group of people, but we’re also dismissing the places outside production where our oppressors are vulnerable.
AWG:What struggles are the network currently engaged in?
PSN: Right now we are fighting against the Portland Housing Authority, also known as Home Forward. We’re trying to stop the eviction of Gary and Julie Frost. Gary and Julie spoke out against the discrimination they were receiving because of their disabilities. They also have been involved in helping other residents fight discrimination at Home Foreword. This has led Home Forward to take retaliatory actions against them.
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AWG: What sort of tactics/methods are typically utilized by the network?
PSN: Portland Solidarity Network uses direct action, meaning we don’t use the courts in our fights for we find that usually the rich and the powerful are the ones who have the advantage in that arena. We instead use tactics of public shaming such as pickets, posters, and crashing public events. We also try to disrupt business to make giving in to our demands easier than dealing with our actions.
AWG:In what way does the Network contribute towards a different world that puts the liveliness of people before profits? Does it at all?
PSN:We fight for each other. This is where any society that puts the “liveliness of people before profits” has to start. I’d like to think that someday Solidarity Networks will be large enough to be used as a weapon for revolution. We could eventually take on the organizing of workplaces and communities in a directly democratic fashion; I’m hoping that this will evolve into a synthesis of community and workplace syndicalism. This is fundamental to creating that society you talk about. Solidarity Networks are about people power, we help out each other when we’re in trouble. This is the basis for any society that puts people first above anything else.
AWG:Finally, where do you hope the organization will go and how can people get involved?
PSN: In the long term I would like to look at solidarity networks as something that everyone is involved in. It doesn’t take much to come out to an action once a month. In the short term hope that our organization can become a little bit more diverse we’ve been having issues with Portland Solidarity Network becoming very much dominated by white men. This isn’t a good and we know that.
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