It also means working in campaigns - over the last few years these have included the anti-water charges campaign, abortion and divorce rights campaigns, strike support groups, defending the rights of women, of Travellers, of immigrants, of students, of the unemployed, and many more - both because these goals are important in their own right and because, in fighting issues like these, we get to show how our ideas can work in practice. We have had some successes, but we are a small organisation, and can be dwarfed by the problems facing us. Which is where you come in.
For every campaign we work on, there is another we just didn't have the resources to tackle (and probably another we were too small to have heard about). Every success we have is tempered by the knowledge that, had we been bigger, we could have made even more of an impact. Every defeat could have been averted, or made less disastrous, if there were more of us. Our publications are good, but could be much better with the input of new voices, and our small size means that our ideas only reach a small number of people. Perhaps most importantly, we need a constant injection of fresh voices in our debates, of new perspectives and new attitudes, to stop our politics from drying up and becoming lifeless.
The Workers Solidarity Movement is unlike most other political organisations. As anarchists, we reject the division into leaders and led, into order-givers and order-takers, that typifies capitalist society, and is the norm even in other revolutionary groups. All members of the WSM are equal. We all have equal say in every decision of the organisation from producing papers and leaflets to deciding the basic policy of the organisation.
Of course, some members have more experience in certain areas than others, and in the beginning it can seem as if everyone knows more about practically everything than you do. This is perfectly understandable, but is a problem if it means that new members don't feel that they know enough to take part in discussions, and so their voices aren't heard. This is an even bigger problem when it concerns decisions about the central direction and organisation of the group - it is very easy for an informal elite to arise, who everyone else agrees with because they think they don't know enough to disagree with more 'learned heads'. So, before you join, its important that you know what the WSM is essentially about, and have some experience of how we operate, so that, when you join, you will be confident of your place in the WSM.
We encourage you to read the short pamphlet 'Anarchism and Ireland'. You can get this pamphlet from any WSM member. If you find you are in broad agreement with it and you are willing to work alongside us in some of the activities mentioned above then you should join.
The first step is to attend our branch meetings of the WSM. Of course, how many meetings you can attend depends on how far you live from a branch, work and other commitments, but the importance of branch meetings should be emphasised. While our public meetings are an opportunity to learn about the politics of the WSM, branch meetings are a chance to see these politics in action. Agendas are decided by the people attending and the chairing of the meeting is rotated - branch meetings are conducted as an example of anarchist democracy, so attending - and participating in - meetings, you learn a lot about what we mean by anarchism.
The decisions we take at meetings often lead to action. Over the years, the WSM has been in dozens of campaigns, action groups and protests (on issues from Travellers rights to the water charges). Sometimes individuals within the WSM work on issues in a personal capacity as well, but when the WSM as a whole decides to work on an issue every member is expected to take part. Again, obviously, different members have different commitments, greater or smaller distances to travel etc., but everyone is expected to play their part in putting our politics into action.
As well as attending meetings we also ask people to read a few pamphlets and documents so they can appreciate the background to our politics, and the theory that lies behind our decisions. It's good to start with a general introduction to anarchism, like the 'ABC of Anarchism' by Berkman or Guerin's 'Anarchism' (all the books/pamphlets mentioned here can be bought or borrowed from the branch secretary or other WSM member). Either of these give a good overview, answer some of the most common questions, and fill in the basic ideas. Then (in no particular order) we ask you to read 'Ireland and British Imperialism', 'Why the bosses system can't sort it out', and 'The Spanish Civil War - Anarchism in Action'.
The revolution in Spain is one of the most important areas of anarchist history, and this pamphlet goes through some of the successes (and there are many) and failures of the anarchist movement there. 'Why the bosses system...' is an article with a good basic anarchist critique of capitalism, while the national question is obviously immensely important to any anarchist living in Ireland (or Britain). Finally we also ask you to read Position Papers of the WSM, which are specifically about this organisation. They contain the most basic statements about the WSM, what we believe and how we organise. These are our core principles, what differentiate us, not just from other socialists, but also from some anarchists.
This can seem like a lot to go through, but it is important. The WSM is not like other political groups. We believe that the end is determined by the means. We want to build a free and equal society, and so we believe that we must organise as free and equal individuals. If you like what we're doing, and want to play a part, talk to the branch secretary, or any other member, about becoming a member of the WSM or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org