A Call For Workplace Democracy

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By Corey Puckett

Last week, the Forge wrote an article calling for workers’ assemblies. ANVIL supports this motion. But the question is, when the workers assemble, what will they demand?

The long divided working class has to be brought together. Their long retreat into self-interest is the reason the economic crisis has spilled into the political theater and has allowed a reactionary victory. Workers need a vision for the future. The teacher losing collective bargaining rights, the corporate workers who cannot even conceive of having such rights, and the growing underclass that cannot even find employment—they all have in common a lack of control over their lives.

Democracy is what those in power fear, and so democracy should be our battle cry. Let’s build a movement, and let’s center it around democracy in the workplace. It is true that we need to democratize our entire society, but work is the issue that affects us all. We all must work, or we will starve. Advocating for workplace democracy is feasible, and it will allow us to build infrastructure to sustain our struggle into the future. We need to act now. Start building, writing, and advocating for worker ownership and self-management. We should push our organizations to make workplace democracy, worker self-management, and cooperative ownership a priority. Some organizations already are, and most organizations have members that advocate worker cooperatives, but we need to put a greater emphasis on it.

Everyone is looking for a uniting force, and this could be it. We do not need a centralized leadership, but to have a unifying message that is easy to sell and is complementary to all of our work would be a great help. We can build economic power and community wealth, so that we no longer have to rely on public officials who may not even acknowledge us. Representatives will either help us, or be left in our wake.

We can cross ideological boundaries, because even the most conservative Republicans can be on board if we pitch it correctly. I know this from experience. In casual conversations with conservatives and right-wing libertarians, I have brought up worker cooperatives. Each time I do, I get the same line: “That’s a great idea.” These are people that have been taught that unions are the enemy, and disapprove of most things we support reflexively. But they work in corporations, and so they know perfectly well what it feels like to have no power. We can work with them without compromising our principles. It will require some work on messaging, but it is worth trying. I do not find it hard to imagine a movement where diverse groups shout in unison “Democracy everywhere! Democracy in the workplace! Democracy through and through!”

ANVIL shares the Forge’s desire to build the future. Collective efforts such as the Forge are a sign that the future can become the present. People who were once separated are now together. They want to move, but they may not know which direction to go in. If you are reading this, you may be among them. So, I say to you, let’s start moving.

Corey Puckett is a member of ANVIL. ANVIL is an anarchist organization committed to anarchist education and cooperative advocacy and development. If you are interested in learning more or collaborating, please contact us through our email address: anvilknoxville@gmail.com.

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