the crisis and reproductive services: housing, community and family

a workshop at From meltdown to upheaval, LARC, 62 Fieldgate St on 11th September

Governments worldwide push their citizens to contribute more and more to society. Productivity rises but the state provides less and less in return. Welfare, previously introduced by the state to help the quality of labour power in order to help the development of the means of production, has been increasingly turned into a private business. Social rights are still officially enshrined, but their fulfilment depends more and more on individual circumstances and limits of local budgets.

In order to decrease the costs of our reproduction as workers, we will have to ‘earn’ the benefits of the social rights in the near future. The trend towards individual ‘responsibility’ rules.

So how can we preserve the last remaining crumbs of an irresponsible life? How to get more? How do we collectively try to break the many agreements we were forced to sign in the past? How do we stop sharing ever more of the burden of our physical and mental reproduction? How to make capital pay the bills? How to bring the local community struggles and the work place struggles together?

We invite people with experience of struggles in the reproduction arena – housing, health care, social and community care, family and welfare, to join our work group and bring your issues and questions on board.

We suggest a few preliminary questions:

• Differences in campaigns if run by left activists (from social centres or unions…), local ‘concerned citizens’ or by affected service users. In what sense are their goals different and where are the comparisons? Do we see a ‘coming together’ during struggles? Strong and weak points of each of these different starting points (social centre, trades council or residents/service user group)

• Can we organise caring/communal relationships which will not be subject to commodification? If yes, how to avoid self-isolation? At what point do we ‘let the system off the hook’ by taking on extra hours of reproductive labour – women taking on more care of children and old people for no money, as state provision shuts down, and therefore helping pushing down the cost of reproduction – and where can we find a starting point for radical practice and self organisation of working class communities that can form a basis for struggle?

• How do we move from local defensive networks (albeit self-organised, local, built by working class people) to radical confrontational networks?

In contrast to the clear lines of boss and workers, in ‘local politics’ we often find ourselves in campaigns alongside councillors, religious representatives, managers of local services, local newspaper hacks, defenders of the status quo and fans of liberal democracy. To what extent is compromise expedient for getting demands met; and at what point do we cut off from those who are actually in a different class position by merit of e.g. controlling spaces such as church halls or children’s centres or holding a position of enforcing government policies at a local level.

• How do ‘divisions’ play out? Can we distinguish between these divisions? E.g. the identities imposed by the state (faith, migration status, individual position in the web of welfare/care, tenancy) versus those imposed by the ‘economy’ (agency/contract, debtor, skilled/unskilled, etc) and what are implications of different types of divisions?

• Can we really stop the cuts without fighting against broader restructuring of the state? Does restructuring provide us with a visible link between the reproductive and productive work struggles?

• How does the restructuring affect gender relations? The tendencies of greater gender division, as women take on an even greater burden? The possibility for radical women-led struggles? The possibility of the changes leading to challenging the classic gender roles.

Cuts affecting the reproductive sphere predominantly end up affecting women – as carers in the home (practically and emotionally), as paid workers in the reproductive sphere. Women tend to network in this sphere, e.g. tenants associations, parents school committees, Alzheimer’s support groups, friends of local parks etc. At what point do these networks cease to function as a cog in the wheel of the capitalist system due to e.g. cuts that make their activities impossible, and what happens next?

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