The London Anarchist Federation would like to make a statement of solidarity with sex workers. This comes following conversations at the Anarchist Bookfair with sex worker comrades who had felt let down by the level of solidarity they had received from other anarchists. We hope this statement will be a first step towards improving that situation, to encourage further acts of solidarity and relationship building from anarchists towards sex workers’ struggle.
Sex workers are workers. They are members of the working class. As class struggle anarchists, we stand in solidarity with all workers against their domination under capitalism. The call for sex workers to be seen as workers is echoed by global and local sex worker organisations such as the Global Network of Sexwork Projects and English Collective of Prostitutes.
As revolutionaries, we aim towards a world free from capitalism and the necessity to undertake work. At the same time, we must support workers in their struggle against their material conditions in the here and now. There will be no revolution without the building of networks of solidarity between the most oppressed in our society. We support sex workers in their resistance against poor working conditions, whilst also struggling for a world in which none of us will be coerced to sell our labour in order to survive.
We support the call of these organisations for sex work to be decriminalised. This involves the removal of sex work-specific laws and for it to be treated as any other work. This is distinct from both legalisation and the ‘Nordic model’ of client criminalisation. The latter both expand the state’s role in worker’s lives, and increase the marginalisation of those already most oppressed.
Decriminalisation also increases sex workers’ power to collectively self-organise, and makes it safer to be open about their work if they wish. Many people in the sex industry experience physical and psychological violence, such as rape and trafficking. Many will want to leave. Decriminalisation, by improving workers’ rights, makes it easier to find safety through working collectively, to report abuse, and to find support should they wish to leave.
Whilst we do not extend our support to bourgeois organisations such as Amnesty International – which are so often used as tools of imperialism – we nonetheless agree with their broad conclusion that decriminalisation improves sex workers’ rights and working conditions.
None of these models are perfect solutions, as attested by sex worker organisations themselves. But as anarchists we agree that there will be no emancipation for sex workers by increasing the state’s ability to harass, detain and deport them.
We would encourage other anarchists and anarchist organisations to make similar statements in support of sex workers, and to make efforts to build links with sex worker organisations to enable us to work together more effectively in future.
London Anarchist Federation