The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Histories of Direct Action

HISTORY OF ‘AUTO-REDUCTION’ with Pagliacci Rossi 

Friday 20th January, 7 pm  @ MayDay Rooms

The current cost-of-living crisis has incentivised a number of strikes in workplaces and sectors all across the country. However, the sphere of production isn’t the only place where a revitalisation of struggle is emerging. Struggles in the sphere of circulation, from energy bill refusal to mass shoplifting, have re-emerged as proletarian responses to our ongoing crises. From Marius Jacob’s ‘night workers’ to the ‘proletarian shopping’ of 1970s Italy, from the Poll Tax federations to student rent strikes, there is a historical precedent for this activity that must be explored and analysed if we wish to push these contemporary struggles further. Join workerist study group Pagliacci Rossi, and guests, as we dip into the history of ‘auto-reduction’, and discuss what role struggles in the sphere of circulation have to play in our current conjuncture. Throughout the evening, we will be assisted by a number of intriguing artefacts from the MayDay Rooms archives.


Wednesday 22nd February, 6:30 pm 

With the recent unprecedented wave of strike action, we want to bring out and collectively scan material from “The Winter of Discontent” period. We think this material can invigorate some of the demands and conversations taking place amongst present generations of trade unionists. Expect Big Flame newspapers, trade union pamphlets, Ford factory bulletins and more!

The cost of living crisis has accelerated and reignited many of the industrial disputes happening around the country. A great number of walk-outs of unionized personnel – from nurses and civil servants to bus drivers, rail workers, and university staff – is directly challenging the austerity measures imposed by the government in recent months. Because of the massive scale of the current mobilisations, they are often compared to the wave of strikes that happened in Britain between November 1978 and February 1979, dubbed “The Winter of Discontent”. Massive industrial actions led by lorry drivers, gravediggers, factory workers, and waste collectors, organised during one of the harshest winters of the 20th century, brought partial victories to the strikers after almost 4 months of struggle. Despite the complicated legacy of the “Winter of Discontent”, it is still one of the best examples of a display of workers’ power that seriously challenged the organisation and structure of society.

FROM FARE DODGING TO MASS MOBILISATION: The Cost Of Living Meets Transport Struggles Downtown / with 56A Infoshop

Saturday 25th February, 7pm

Join us for the second event on everyday direct actions against the perpetual crisis of the cost of living. Alongside Chris Jones of 56A Infoshop, we will be looking at small and large manifestations around public transport, with a specific focus on the London-based Fare Dodgers Liberation Front and the legacy of the Brazilian Movimento Passe Livre. 

How did a movement for cheaper bus fares turn into a massive uprising in 2013? How did the Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement) organised itself and move from demanding cheaper fares to instituting a popular movement for free public transport? How did it try to insist on maintaining its own autonomy as a movement and how did its class composition change as the struggle intensified? 20 years before, and in contrast to Brazil, we’ll look at how the small London-based Fare Dodgers Liberation Front (FDLF) burst into transport struggles with a funny but radical take on high fares and the refusal to pay. FDLF knew they would not build a wide and popular movement but they gave it a go nevertheless. We will look at their own reflections and self-criticisms by engaging with archival materials produced and diffused by the FDLF.

With multiple bus and train strikes ongoing, we can also ask – what can we do as commuters to generalise these fights toward wider practical actions against ever-increasing poverty and precarity? What can be the relevance of public transportation-centered campaigns to struggles happening in the spheres of circulation and production?

Bring your own stories and ideas of transport struggles, be that as a commuter, passenger, fare dodger or transport worker!

Proletarian Shopping: The Cost Of Living Meets Popular Expropriation

Friday 30th June, 7pm

Due to unforseen circumstances we had to postpone this event, but now we are BACK!

Join us for another session at Mayday Rooms on everyday direct actions as processes of survival. This month we’ll be looking together at small everyday proletarian actions like shoplifting to wider political expropriations bringing free food to the community as a direct counter to the cost of living crisis.

Some examples we will look at in print and on short film are The Forty Thieves women’s shoplifting gangs from South London in the 50’s to armed political militants in 80s Chile hoisting meat trucks to Spanish trade unionists taking essential items from supermarkets and giving to poor families in 2012. Also we’ll think about ‘Can shoplifting be activism?’ and mention the teenage girls who participate in “Liftblr,” an online community of shoplifters who swap tips and share pictures of their hauls on Tumblr! Lastly, some time for todays German activists ‘The Price is Hot’ taking food from supermarkets and giving it away as well as running popular assemblies and demos in the streets.

What links these long histories is the moment where the glass shopfronts of supermarkets or the secure insides of commercial delivery trucks or freight trains become magically open as people break the illusions of private property and take back items useful for all? What are the messy everyday politics of individualised actions of shoplifting and larger collective expropriations of useful and useless stuff?

Come and enjoy a wholesome evening of radical examples of global proletarian shopping and bring your own favourite stories and tales too. Print material, short films and discussions. Come on down!

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