The factory takeover at Republic has captured the imaginations and energy of anti-capitalists all over. I wrote earlier about avoiding illusions and projecting motives onto the workers. Now that the occupation itself is over we are all free to provide our over-analyses and project our desires onto the vague "movement" this may or may not inspire. I'll let others with closer links speak to the results for the workers themselves; what I'm interested here is anarchist response and possibility.
A common failing among anti-capitalist analysis is the impulse to call for self-management of the Republic factory, and the fetishization of re-occupation & production generally as revolutionary strategy. Is self-management good for workers, and is self-management good for revolution? The answer to both questions is -- well, kinda, sorta, maybe.
One report from Republic workers I've heard is that they were wary about taking over and running the factory themselves, not because they don't think they're capable, but instead that the window market is terrible right now, and it would likely be extremely costly and risky for them. Getting their checks was just a better financial decision, and financial ruin is not much of a sustainable revolutionary strategy. A program of self-management here stifles the possibility for more enriching aims -- like, say, workers demanding two to ten times the money they are legally owed, fencing factory machinery, or turning the building itself into a collective home for workers who could no longer pay their mortgages.
If the Republic action is indicative of a form worker resistance could take during this crisis, how does it speak to our desire for anarchy? When anarchists are uninvolved in the intimate planning and execution of worker actions, what points of commonality can be found with the workers and how can anarchists engage with and support these struggles without abandoning their principles?
A discussion over the weekend demanded anarchists not only fight "against" the establishment but "for" something. It is vital anarchists reject this demand, inasmuch as it is a call to develop a positive program for struggle or a blueprint (or even, I daresay, a rough outline) for an alternative society. It is an understandable impulse, but in the same way self-management transforms from a weapon into a limitation, so too does a political program go from a guide to a chain. Political programs are for Leftists -- social planners who want to impose their version of justice onto others. Anarchists desire free societies, decentralized and autonomous communities deciding for themselves as appropriate for their situations. Freedom has no program.
It is from this aspect that anarchists can find commonality with rebellious workers like those holding Republic Windows. The particulars of their action are irrelevant -- what is especially inspiring is the spirit of autonomy and the rejection of capitalist law and logic. Leftists call for the workers to re-start production, to strike and make demands, to fight for a return to normalcy; anarchists should encourage only autonomous decision making (free of the political hacks and boundaries) and offer whispers of radical possibilities.
Anarchist participation was limited not because of an extremist political ideology but the lack of personal relationships with those engaged in struggle. While anarchists waited for guidance and requests from the workers, the workers had no knowledge of the skills and resources anarchists supporters might be able to contribute.
Unconditional anarchist support for workers struggles does not mean a lack of critical analysis -- now that the occupation has ended, anarchists should learn from the action and use it to shape our direction as we move ahead. The quick action of politicians, union officials and others shaped the form of the demands that were made. How should anarchists apply efforts in situations when they are clearly on the outside, and bureaucrats' grip keep it that way?
In the wake of the resolution of the dispute, a fund has been created to attempt to revive the factory operations. Some earlier reports spoke of trying to find new management for the company. It remains to be seen to what extent the fund would create a worker- or union-managed factory, or whether it would be used to find new masters. And either way, the resolution itself re-affirms capitalist power and the workers must again submit themselves to the rule of the global economy. What worthwhile contributions can anarchists make so that this scenario does not continue to play itself out?
If this action really is going to be an example for laborers around the U.S. and elsewhere, what are the best ways to contribute to the spread of its momentum? Is workplace-occupation to become just another issue on the plate of issues for anarcho-activists? Is renewed effort on traditional worker organizing vital to spread resistance to the economy, or are there others ways that will create initiative and space for mass criminality and autonomy that carry the same threat to the capitalist order as a factory occupation would?