Further comments on organisation

Further comments on organisation

Delayed comments on comments on our previous text on organisation...

Further comments on 'organisation'

First of all, we think that the following comments don't merit an extra post, but we were not quick enough to reply while the original article and peoples' comments were still on the main page.

http://libcom.org/blog/workers’-organisations-–-general-thoughts-debate-30072014

*** General aim of our text

The main question we raised in the text was about how the form of capitalist production determines the form and scope of workers' struggles - or rather the dynamic relation between both. We claimed the question of revolution and the possibility of anarchism/communism relates closely to the objective conditions (how does the working class live and produce in capitalism) and the subjective experiences (what kind of social power do workers develop in struggles, how do they overcome the given boundaries of division of labour, are they able to re-organise social production/distribution as part of their movement)

The comments on our text in general did not relate to this question, but rather focussed on a single question, e.g. whether trade unions are restricted to the legal sphere or whether they (sometimes) break the law. We will try to reply to this particular question, but first want to re-emphasise the necessity to focus on the larger question: where do we see 'revolutionary tendencies' and how do our political and organisational proposals reflect this in practice?

If we want to raise the question of a social alternative to capitalism then we have to deal with two related (and hardly new) questions:

a) In the current crisis we see the contradiction between impoverishment and highly developed social productivity (how many workers are necessary to supply the world with food, garments, iphones) becoming much more blatant - there is an abundance of 'means of production' (abandoned factories, second-hand computers) and 'labour' (under/unemployed), but profit production and crisis means that despite these productive potentials for a life without drudgery people are getting poorer. This is not mainly a contradiction between those who have jobs and those who don't, but part of the production process itself: while they squeeze us out more, spend more on machinery to surround us, our working day (particularly as a household!) does not shorten, our life does not get better. While we can say that this contradiction is the main objective condition for a social alternative, the question of how the working class can overcome it is contested.

b) The related contradiction to the one above is the one between, on the one hand, the emergence of a global working class - the actual subject of 'social productivity' - during the last twenty years (globalisation of production, mass migration, industrial boom in China and India, emergence of global means of communication in workers hands etc.), while on the other hand, with the advent of the crisis, we see an increase in nationalism, regionalism etc. On a global scale conditions become more similar (between proletarians in China and US etc.), while regionally divisions are deepening. In recent movements proletarians 'took the streets and squares' (Arab Spring etc.), but as a mere mass of people opposing the state the movement could not go beyond the 'political arena' (the question of a different form of production/distribution was marginal) - while at the same time struggles and strikes in the sphere of social production and circulation remained largely isolated in their respective 'economic' spheres. While the global working class is getting more skilled over all, we still fight as victims of austerity.

The two contradictions above seem to confirm traditional left/Leninist concepts: workers are limited to their respective economic spheres (national labour markets, run-down or booming companies) and it needs a political force, which puts the question of a social alternative on the agenda (through political demands, through programs). This political perspective (workers as a segmented mass) then - consciously of not - keeps workers in their position of victims of powerful bosses and the repressive state, last but not least in order to justify the existence of its own political agenda and organisation.

Revolutionary syndicalism, such as (main sections of) the early IWW, opposed this perspective of the necessity of a political party, saying that in the struggle against the (individual) bosses, workers will be able to politically generalise their struggle against capital and state based on the solidarity between workers united in a revolutionary union and with the aim of self-management. In hindsight we can see that the IWW was weakened less by state repression (the official reason stated by revolutionary syndicalists) but by not being able to fully understand the political nature of the production process and its changes. What does that mean? Their political program of "struggle towards self-management" was undermined as soon as capitalist production became more spread out beyond company levels and when the large scale introduction of assembly line work questioned the individual skills of workers. The IWW was fascinated by Fordist production, they tried to analyse and understand it, but mainly saw it less as a political attack, but as a more or less neutral technological advancement, which workers should still run in "self-management". They still saw themselves as "the workers organisation", rather than asking how the actual basis for workers organisation - the production process itself - had changed fundamentally and therefore required new organisational efforts. This was the demise of syndicalism and from then on we either saw its marginalisation or move towards establishment - by accepting the framework of the respective state (labour) laws.

In the text we wanted to explain why we think that revolutionaries should re-focus their activities and start from what workers are already doing on a world scale, how they are already connected across company or national borders by the production process (supply chains etc.); how it is them who constantly have to deal with the fact that capital has to divide them for political reasons (subcontracts etc.), but at the same time depends on workers cooperation across these set boundaries. The main challenge will be to discover the social links that connect the working class in areas of development (either regions or bigger industries, urban concentrations) with those in marginalised sectors (which includes the domestic sphere). We said that the moments of discovery of the productive and global character of the working class are the struggles themselves - once workers in struggle refer to other workers who they otherwise depend on in order to work ('the collective worker' - see further below).

We hoped that the debate would focus on this question: how do we have to organise ourselves and how do we politically and practically engage with concrete struggles - and where do we see the connection between them and a fundamental social transformation? We now try to respond briefly to particular points raised in the comments.

*** As a side-note: Commonalities and differences

As a side-note at this point: Kevin S. said in his comment that our text reminded him much of other "left-communist and anarcho-syndicalist writings of late". We would dispute this, and not because we think that our thoughts are particularly original - they are not! Further below we try to say a bit more about our problems with anarcho-syndicalism - and our differences with left-communist positions (or rather practice) like the ICC should be quite obvious. This would leave bohemian-insurrectionist positions of the communisation tendency, e.g. positions of Endnotes or TC. We agree that there are some superficial similarities, e.g. the criticism of leftist efforts to explain the decline of cycles of class struggles by 'lack of the right program/consciousness' or the rejection of 'communism as a (post-transitional) policy'. But if we get to the heart of things we find that their rejection of a connection between a) how the workers produce capitalism (as a global, multi-skilled, both over-worked and under-employed class) and b) how based on this relation of production workers are not only able to fight against capital and state, but are also potentially able to produce a different society means that we actually have little in common.

Instead of going deeper into abstractions in order to clarify the differences, just taking a brief look at their interpretation of global supply-chains and logistics is sufficient to illustrate the point. Standing as a blockading Occupy activist in front of the cranes in the port of Oakland, California, the scope of global capitalist cooperation seems oppressive. "As an interface between production and consumption, between the US and its overseas trading partners, between hundreds of thousands of workers and the various forms of circulating capital they engage, the quieted machinery of the port quickly became an emblem for the complex totality of capitalist production it seemed both to eclipse and to reveal." Instead of trying to understand the global cooperation of workers within this 'gigantic machine', instead of analysing its internal contradictions and workers (limited) conflicts within - in short - instead of demystifying the 'capital fetish' the bohemian writers do the opposite:

a) they take capital at face value:

"Since the 1980s, business writers have touted the value of “lean” and “flexible” production models, in which suppliers maintain the capacity to expand and contract production, as well as change the types of commodities produced, by relying on a network of subcontractors, temporary workers, and mutable organisational structures, adaptations that require precise control over the flow of goods and information between units."

"But logistics is more than the extension of the world market in space and the acceleration of commodital flows: it is the active power to coordinate and choreograph, the power to conjoin and split flows; to speed up and slow down; to change the type of commodity produced and its origin and destination point; and, finally, to collect and distribute knowledge about the production, movement and sale of commodities as they stream across the grid."

"In this account, influenced by Fernand Braudel’s description of the origins of capitalism, and its revision by world-systems theory, capital is nothing so much as the commander of flows, breaking and conjoining various currents in order to create a vast irrigation and drainage of social power. Logistics turns solids into liquids — or at its extreme, into electrical fields — taking the movement of discrete elements and treating them as if they were oil in a pipeline, flowing continuously at precisely adjustable pressures."

b) they ignore the workers and focus on technology

"The digital and telecommunication technology of contemporary grammatisation is the final stage of this process, such that our memories and cognitive faculties now exist in the data cloud, as it were, part of a distributed technological prosthesis without which we are effectively incapable of orienting ourselves or functioning. In this largely persuasive account, which thankfully cuts against the optimistic readings of information technology as a progressive socialisation of “general intellect”, we are dispossessed not just of the means of production but the means of thought and feeling as well."

"Another problem, though, is that administration at such a scale [global supply-chains] introduces a sublime dimension to the concept of “planning”; these scales and magnitudes are radically beyond human cognitive capacities. The level of an impersonal “administration of things” and the level of a “free association of producers” are not so much in contradiction as separated by a vast abyss."

c) in despair and ignorance leave the sphere of socialised labour 'to capital'

"The whole is the false, in this case, not so much because it can’t be adequately represented or because any attempt at such representation does violence to its internal contradictions, but because all such global representations belie the fact that the whole can never be possessed as such. The totality of the logistics system belongs to capital. It is a view from everywhere (or nowhere), a view from space, that only capital as totalising, distributed process can inhabit. Only capital can fight us in every place at once, because capital is not in any sense a force with which we contend, but the very territory on which that contention takes place. Or rather, it is a force, but a field force, something which suffuses rather than opposes. Unlike capital, we fight in particular locations and moments — here, there, now, then."

d) and consequently despite their metropolitan existence and theory they end up in imagineries of local DIY revolution with a communist horizon as wide as your backyard

"Our prospects are such that, instead of propagandising for forms of workplace action that are unlikely to succeed or generalise, we might better accept our new strategic horizon and work, instead, to disseminate information about how interventions in this sphere might become more effective, what their limits are, and how such limits could be overcome."

"This would be a process of inventory, taking stock of things we encounter in our immediate environs, that does not imagine mastery from the standpoint of the global totality, but rather a process of bricolage from the standpoint of partisan fractions who know they will have to fight from particular, embattled locations, and win their battles successively rather than all at once."

(from: http://endnotes.org.uk/en/jasper-bernes-logistics-counterlogistics-and-the-communist-prospect)

We are sorry for the rather polemical tone but we find that there is a stark mismatch between a high degree of ignorance towards the inner-workings of global industries and logistics - and a half-hearted philosophical excuse for why they don't even have to bother trying to understand - and a certain arrogance of the 'theoreticians' towards workers when the communisation disciples maintain that the main shortcoming of past waves of class struggle was the attempt of workers to 'affirm themselves as workers'. Lacking the 'collective worker' as reference point, it is no surprise that finally, despite all radical insurrectionism, their theory is conservative, of small-scale exodus, which in the end boils down to becoming the barbary end of the two alternatives. Even on the most minute level: having worked in both transport offices and the connected warehouses helped us to question the capital fetish 'of the slick and flawless organiser of circulation' pretty easily. A suggestion perhaps to our communisation friends.

We don't proclaim the 'self-management of global supply-chains', the authors are right when they say that these mainly connect different wage regions, rather than actually increasing social productivity. But we maintain the importance of workers in global industries, their exchange and skills, for the prospect of a global uprising. This is no novelty, the sea or dock workers, the railway proletarians and telegraph operators, the migrant workers (who also only traversed different wage regions!) and fed-up proletarian soldiers were decisive for the inner connection of global revolutionary waves as early as in 1918. To disregard the importance of workers in a much more integrated global industry and supply chain for a revolutionary process today and to merely focus on 'external blockades' of the 'magic circulation process' is tragic. And if we talk about 'producing communism' as being something more than scrambling together (and killing each other over) things we find in our immediate 'environs', then the collective skills of logistics and transport workers will still play a significant role, even on an integrated world-scale: to dissolve the material basis of uneven development (re-distribute manufacturing capacities), to even out geographical disadvantages and to dissolve the division between town and countryside will require a fair bit of logistical effort!

*** The unions and the law

Here we refer to the points made by Kevin S., Fingers Malone and Oliver Twister. First of all, we don't want to boast with a proletarian CV or something, but we want to maintain that our criticism of trade unions does not stem from arm-chair ultra leftism ("theoretical groups"), and only partly from an 'historical perspective' (although if you look back on the Polish experience - very pressing/forming for some of us - the tragic role of trade unions in restructuring and political re-establishment over the last 30 years is a very dark shadow), but mainly from our (as wider part of the wildcat collective and Faridabad Majdoor Samachar - a collective in Delhi) experiences of working and organising in construction, railway and automobile industries and as - sometimes more, sometimes less active - participants in various struggles (e.g. wildcat strike at General Motors in Germany, Gate Gourmet in Germany, Visteon occupation in the UK, Maruti Suzuki struggle in Delhi).

There certainly are many examples of particular trade union struggles breaking the law - and we can say that the union leadership mainly accepts this in situations where the very existence of the trade union organisation is put into question by restructuring. The examples given by the comrades confirm this (miners' dispute, long-shore men strike etc.). But in general we think that it's only partly about the question of 'breaking the law' - more about the general character of trade unions. Again, in most places where we worked we were union members and actively looking for 'branch meetings' as places where workers would meet, even if it is under the official structure (we will continue doing this and would not discourage anyone from doing so). For example the railway in Germany is highly organised (over 80 per cent), but the union was not that kind of place of exchange - this does not seem to be an exception. What is this supposed to say? The social places to meet have to be rebuilt anyway, so should we still try to do this within the trade union framework?

Obviously, we could keep on making voluntaristic assumptions that official trade unions could be different if only the rank-and-file would push the boundaries more: if they would question internal hierarchy of representation (in most cases laid out by the law); if they would question that trade unions largely only represent permanent workers; that they are confined to a professional or sectorial basis; that they operate mainly within a national-framework, and so on. We would think that this would be a tedious task and we think that it would lead to a waste of energy and disillusionment on the side of co-workers - or ignore the fact that in defensive situations trade unions mainly represent the hope of workers to defend their standards by contracts and by protecting them in the competition regarding other workers (an understandable hope, but in the long run hopeless). In this situation trade unions are reduced to organisations which praise 'good work' for 'fair pay' - rather than being organisations of struggles for all workers.

We are not interested in keeping on bashing or blaming trade union structures/leadership for the limitations of workers' struggles, we leave that to the Trots - we think it is more fruitful to analyse where the actual weaknesses of workers' struggles produce the seeming strength of the 'trade union leadership' to 'betray'. We tried to do that in a quite detailed manner in our exchange with workers during the Maruti Suzuki struggle in Delhi - it would be good to discuss the question of organisation against the background of such concrete experiences. in this struggle in particular we found that the aim of fighting for a 'union' (somewhat like a slogan) definitely was something that brought workers of different categories together, while at the same time the formal establishment of the 'union' divided and isolated workers more than the struggle itself.

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-950/
http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-951/
http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-961/#fn6

*** The collective worker

We agree, the focal point of the 'collective worker' can easily turn into a mystical figure as well. When we are in struggle and ask the question of how to find 'solidarity', we think that the first question we can ask is: who is directly related to us, because their work is necessary for us being able to work - and can we turn this mutual dependence which is created by capital around into the basis for struggle organisation. Often workers think that they have to address the media or the consumers or the general public in order to 'get solidarity'. We would encourage seeing e.g. how our conditions and struggles relate to workers in the companies which supply us with parts or services; how the conditions 'at home', where we reproduce our labour power, is affected etc. But also, how do out-of-job workers in our environment, who capital puts us in competition with (and who potentially replace us in case of a lost struggle) relate to what we are doing?

Here we have to ask the question: obviously, workers nowadays cooperate across national borders and there is cooperation e.g. between industries and university science departments - but to what extent is this cooperation palpable, an actual daily experience? To give an example, comrades of ours worked in fashion warehouses in Germany and UK and they were supplied by workers in garment factories in India, where we actually knew people through the local workers newspaper (FMS). To what extent can this link become the basis for practical exchange and struggle? For us this is not only a practical question, but a major political one: how can workers actually discover that 'they produce the world and that they can change it'? This touches also upon the issue of 'militant reformism' raised by Nate. The wildcat quote below might seem purist: there is no 'political program' necessary once workers actually overcome the division of labour. Obviously it requires 'political arguments' to encourage us to get interested in conditions of workers we have only mediated relationships with (e.g. workers at suppliers in other countries), but the relation between 'solidarity with/for others' and a 'self-interested' 'long-term strengthening of our own position by linking up' is not based on 'external' political values.

"Once we assume that the path towards liberation proceeds through the 'turning around' of productive cooperation (in other words, in the process of turning the enforced and atomised cooperation within the social production process into a weapon of organisation), then the question of power and the question of revolutionary subjectivity are closely related: From a class position there is no (revolutionary counter-) power without content. Collectivity is the substance of counter-power and it is its content. We don't have to teach workers from the outside for which goal they are supposed to use their power. They only have this power once they develop a collective subjectivity which breaks with the individualistic and privatistic subjectivity of each class member - if they break the political atomisation within productive cooperation. In this process workers understand that the social character of labour developed by capital cannot exist independently from them and that they create this social character on a daily level through their cooperation."
(from: https://libcom.org/blog/invitation-workers-inquiry-logistics-warehouse-london-04092013)

*** The capitalist state

Nate mentions the question of how the capitalist state figures in all this. This is an awkward question. Sometimes it seems naive to think that under modern capitalist conditions workers can fight the state and its politics mainly as workers in struggle, because the state itself is a major capitalist. This view opposes leftist views that workers have something to gain as citizens, e.g. through parliamentary participation. But then the state is not only a capitalist, but also a warmonger and an organ of repression. Maybe we have to question, e.g. the position of the IWW during the First World War, which was largely: we continue fighting and going on strike and this will affect the state's ability to wage war - rather than politically denouncing the war. This abstention from the 'political arena' was not only due to fear of repression. In current times (new war in Iraq, Ukraine etc.) we probably need an organised internationalist camp which clearly denounces nationalism - but this will remain toothless if we don't manage to undermine workers' current experiences of capital using international labour markets and global supply-chains to increase competition amongst them. Or on a more daily level, of course we have to denounce the current state politics of austerity, e.g. when new benefit laws for EU migrants forces our co-workers to accept the shitty conditions at work, because they will have more trouble to get unemployment benefit. The state in this sense is actively present on the shop-floor - and this is also the main place to fight it.

*** The question of todays revolutionary syndicalism

We agree with our anarcho-syndicalist comrades that there is a need for 'organisation and propaganda'; but we think that the organisational efforts and propaganda should rather relate to the fragile existence and experiences of a global working class within the global system of production, migration, communication than to or for one's own external organisation. Let's not create illusions that workers' can be powerful (in terms of emancipation) as members of organisations - even if they are called unions. They are only powerful in their collectivity as social producers AND if they coordinate actions beyond their immediate sphere of this daily collectivity (work- and other places) - which requires organisation. Some people might find this a pedantic play with words, but each perspective actually translates into quite different practical and political efforts.

Our main concern/disagreement with anarcho/revolutionary-syndicalism, related to the short-comings of analysing the concrete changes of production to find new forms of organisation and revolutionary perspectives, is the tendency to develop 'organisational interests' separate from the interests of the working class. This is not because of a bureaucratic apparatus or hunger for power, but because of the well-meaning view that one's own organisation should strengthen and attract other workers. There is a tendency to 'proclaim victories' in order to bring more workers into the organisation. In order to make this point clearer we want to present some general and concrete examples.

Nate mentions the Solfed book "Fighting for ourselves". We appreciate the effort to write a comprehensive historical book which relates experiences of the past to organisational proposals for today. At the same time we can see that 'Fighting for ourselves' is largely depicting the history of political tendencies within the working class movement (anarchism vs. Marxism-Leninism), rather than the history of how workers fought and developed organisations under specific historical circumstances - and were undermined by capitalist development (the chapters on 1968 and post-war UK are more insightful in that regard). The following passage is quite telling: while the authors are aware of the fact that to explain shortcomings of historical struggles by assuming a lack of political consciousness would finally reduce the outcome of class struggle to the battle between different political currents, they finally present not an internal criticism of the historical movement of 1968 (objective conditions, subjective limitations), but resort to conclusions not much different from traditional Marxist-Leninist conceptions:

"This is not to say everything would have been fine in the winter of discontent, France 1968 and the Hot Autumn 1969 if there had been well established anarcho- syndicalist unions. The point is that there were not, and there could not have been, since World War II had all but destroyed the independent organisations of the working class, and the social democratic settlement had limited the space for their re-emergence. But in all three cases, a lack of an organised revolutionary perspective on the shop floor was one of the factors preventing these struggles pushing beyond the limits of capitalism. Compare them with Spain, where decades of revolutionary agitation meant workers and peasants knew what to do immediately when the chance presented itself for expropriation and a push towards libertarian communism."
(from: https://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-struggle-solidarity-federation)

So much for historical explanations, which in the end we don't find satisfying in order to understand the potentials and pit-falls for struggles today. On a more concrete level we experience that anarcho/revolutionary syndicalist organisations and their focus on their own organisations often bars the way for an open debate about limitations of struggles and of our own organisational efforts. With the following examples we don't want to bad-mouth the efforts of our comrades, but they are part of an explanation for why we decided to work with comrades of Solfed or the IWW, rather than joining their organisations.

* we found that some of their 'work-place' organising strategies are rather schematic and sometimes problematic, e.g. when they say that as part of 'work-place mapping' we should look out for 'leader workers', without questioning much that 'leader workers' are often leaders because of community-internal hierarchies, gender hierarchies etc. Here, work-place organising is seen as a 'tool' towards some 'success', rather than a political process in itself. It would definitely be important to bring 'young' workers together with workers from previous generations of struggle. This would not happen spontaneously, this requires organisation.

* related to this is the focus on particular struggles and campaigns which become a kind of competing place between different organisations, e.g. during the cleaners dispute at London universities. We went along to various meetings and actions, but not to 'internal strategy meetings'; from our maybe rather external position as supporters it is difficult to understand why there seems to be a certain repetition in the struggles: the IWW or IWGB tries to (or tries to help to) establish a more or less official recognition of certain workers as representatives, management reacts with victimisations and the following actions mainly relate to this victimisation; we don't know whether there were discussions of how to circumvent this dynamic, but if so, these debates were handled as 'organisation internal issues';

* during one of the meetings we asked some of the cleaning comrades and their organisers to what extent they think the campaign (tres cosas) depends a) on the fact that they have major backing of 'activist organisations', b) on the fact that they happen on highly public terrain (prestigious university campuses) where management can be more easily blamed morally for not paying their workers well. We asked these questions in order to understand to what extent the experiences of this struggle are applicable e.g. to more isolated cleaners in small food-processing units in the outskirts of the city. We found the reply "with a proper organisation you can achieve everything" slightly disingenuous, because the specific conditions were ignored, also in order to credit the organisation with the success - this gets into the way of an open debate about potentials and limitations of workers' self-activity

* again related, the political motivations for the split between IWW and IWGB were officially handled as a formal matter ('faction union'); there was little open debate about political differences (libertarian dominated vs. ex-Leninists), which we don't find very honest; this again, may be in order to keep the face as 'One Big Union', which does not need a particular political position

* we met various IWW comrades during visits in different towns and we asked them whether there is an active debate on a national level of organisation about 'general tendencies' of struggles or even an attempt to draw some type of general conclusion from various local experiences (how does the crisis impact on a local level, what are workers doing, what have we tried) - and most comrades said that this is not really happening; we have witnessed similar things in other bigger organisations: the national meetings are mainly about 'running and promoting' the organisation, much less about a political debate of workers' experiences; we are not aware of efforts like 're-composition', which try to overcome this tendency

* with the focus on conflicts that 'a small organisation can win' smaller disputes (small in regards to the general development within the working class) are sometimes inflated (also due to media savvy activists); this does not harm the rest of the working class, but the political debate about what is the general condition of the class, what are the main potentials and limitations of struggles gets a little side-lined by these 'campaigns'

* we are only on the fringes of Solfed, but we guess it would be fruitful for the wider class struggle milieu if the internal debate about 'should we present ourselves as a union' would be out in the open; there are obviously different political positions within the organisation (some tending towards more formal recognition as a trade union), but the debate happens mainly behind closed doors

* similarly, (individual) criticisms towards our decision to collectively move to West-London and to get jobs in warehouses were formulated only internally although we addressed the organisation directly (here again, on an individual level we had many good discussions and got good support from others); this criticism could be helpful (they said something about 'salting'?!); we don't want to blame anyone, we just think that with too much focus on 'the organisation' these types of closed- rank situations are pre-programmed

What instead? An organised effort of collectives in international coordination which demonstrate that practical support and a ruthless criticism of the limitations of the struggles of our class can - and have to - go hand in hand. Nothing is easier, nothing more difficult…

For us there are two main issues (amongst many smaller ones) where we feel urgent need for further debate:

a) how to develop a visible international anti-statist position which can intervene in the current scenario of war and which is at the same time connected to the sphere of actual struggles (a big one!)
b) what kind of organisational forms do we see and can we imagine which connect the experience of 'workers as collective producers' to the, as prevalent, experience of proletarians in more isolated (rural, domestic, 'informal) conditions

To repeat to our comrades in the UK, we will meet face-to-face in Liverpool end of September, if you are interested in the debate - we will send out a proper invite/reader shortly - please get in touch:

angryworkersworld@gmail.com

Posted By

AngryWorkersWorld
Aug 15 2014 21:19

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  • What instead? An organised effort of collectives in international coordination which demonstrate that practical support and a ruthless criticism of the limitations of the struggles of our class can - and have to - go hand in hand...

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Comments

Nate
Aug 16 2014 07:40

hi comrades, much to think about here, I need to mull it over more, and thanks for the response to my questions. For now, one minor historical quibble - "the position of the IWW during the First World War, which was largely: we continue fighting and going on strike and this will affect the state's ability to wage war - rather than politically denouncing the war. This abstention from the 'political arena' was not only due to fear of repression." The IWW did denounce the war officially and it organized workers in industries producing war supplies, which led to increased repression including the murder of IWW members.

arminius
Aug 16 2014 15:10

Nate-

I've always thought that was the IWW WW1 position, but do you have an actual statement/resolution on it?

klas batalo
Aug 19 2014 14:31

sources would be good because left communists and autonomist marxists always like to throw that at the IWW that it didn't take political action against the war

Nate
Aug 26 2014 02:35

this is a 1916 IWW statement on the 1st world war -
http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/bisbee/docs/053.html

which includes mention that IWW members were expelled if they joined the military. I'm not saying it was adequate or the IWW's response to the war was ideal or whatever, just saying the IWW responded to the war beyond "organize on the job."

Chilli Sauce
Aug 26 2014 09:36
Quote:
when they say that as part of 'work-place mapping' we should look out for 'leader workers', without questioning much that 'leader workers' are often leaders because of community-internal hierarchies, gender hierarchies etc.

Yeah, so this just isn't true. Having been heavily involved in rolling out the SF training program (although, really, it's 90% the US IWW "OT 101"), I'm aware that the social leaders section causes a lot of confusion. But to say that the section on social leaders happens "happen without much questioning" is just hogwash. In fact, the section on "problems with social leaders" and how to deal with them is actually longer than the section on bringing in social leaders to your campaign.

And, if anything, it's only pointing out dynamics that are already at play. Ignoring the role of social leaders in the workplace - be it positive or negative - doesn't mean that those dynamics go away. Better to deal with them head-on.

I was involved in supporting the Ritzy workers here in London. I got chatting with one of their activists and they said that part of the reason the strike wasn't very strong amongst the kitchen staff was because one of the longer-serving, respected cooks had taken mgmt's side and brought over a number of their co-workers. The point being: social leaders have real-world consequences.

I get that talk of "leaders" can make people uncomfortable. And I'm not averse to criticism of the training, but criticise what's actually there. It doesn't do anyone any favors to misrepresent how the training defines social leaders or pretend that it ignores the problems that they can bring.

fingers malone
Aug 28 2014 07:40

They actually said "without questioning much that 'leader workers' are often leaders because of community-internal hierarchies, gender hierarchies etc." which I think is accurate.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 28 2014 08:57

So this probably isn't the best place to get into a big discussion of this, but the bit on social leaders tends to focus on the negative behaviours often found in social leaders.

I think we can safely assume that sexism and racism (passive and otherwise) are going to be found in all workplaces and not just in social leaders*. The training focuses on counteracting how those behaviours - whether based on patriarchy or just having a big ego - play out in a practical way while trying to make sure your committee is reflective of the demographics of the workplace and building up the organizing and leadership qualities of everyone involved.

*Which is not to say that we should ignore "internal-community and gender hierarchies" in our organising, only that the training works on the assumptions that people change through struggle, i.e. that we're not going to be able to make a political argument to convince people to give up their privilege. Rather, in the short-term, we have to organize in such a way as to limit the negative affects of those hierarchies and, hopefully, empower oppressed people to challenge those hierarchies both inside and outside workplace organisations.

Spikymike
Aug 28 2014 10:22

As an aside, it struck me that the UNITE unions setting up of their community union structure in the UK, aimed at bridging the gap between the employed, unemployed, pensioners, wageless carers etc was a recent attempt by a traditional union to adapt to one aspect of the changing nature of the capitalist economy but primarily as a means of it's own institutional survival (despite the genuine efforts of many of it's volunteers -anarchists amongst them) and so still preserving all the other outcomes of it's economic and political divisiveness and in no way escaping the critque of the unions outlined here by the AWW as an adequate organisational form for the development of class struggle.

Spikymike
Aug 28 2014 12:34

And one other 'aside'. Whilst there is perhaps some validity in the particular criticism of communisation theory as elaborated by TC and Endnotes this is less applicable I think to the more recent adoption of a version of such theory by the group Internationalist Perspective as they have evolved beyond traditional Left Communism and in terms also of their stress on the reality and potential of 'the collective worker', though their treatment of this and their own role in relation to it might still be considered less than practical from AWW's point of view?

borzoj
Aug 28 2014 17:41

On the leader workers section of the SolFed organiser training, I attended the full day training least twice, once done by IWW trainer and another time by SolFed trainer. This was more than two years ago and things may have changed since and they may depend on who leads the training. In both trainings I attended there were questions from trainees regarding the social leaders part. I don't remember 'the section on "problems with social leaders" and how to deal with them' and definitely not a section like that longer than the one about bringing social leaders into the campaign.

SolFed is an organisation heavily dominated by white men. When people outside SolFed make critiques of SolFed activity on the grounds that it doesn't address 'community-internal hierarchies, gender hierarchies' the response from SolFed should not be "this just isn't true", "confusion", "hogwash". Especially that the critique is factually accurate. As a SolFed member I am frankly ashamed that a response like that was written by someone who was 'heavily involved in rolling out the SF training program'.

Also, in my experience in SolFed we at least once got into serious trouble by ignoring in our practice the issues AWW comrades make about our training. This is an issue that is problematic in our practice and our training and we should not pretend otherwise.

fingers malone
Aug 28 2014 18:14
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Rather, in the short-term, we have to organize in such a way as to limit the negative affects of those hierarchies and, hopefully, empower oppressed people to challenge those hierarchies both inside and outside workplace organisations.

I would agree with this focus on the practical rather than the theoretical but I've attended a few trainings too and this kind of practical help with challenging the effects of those hierarchies was exactly what I felt I really needed help with and didn't get. So that's why I think the criticism from AWW is accurate.

The people who are saying that the training doesn't address these issues well are mostly people with a lot of personal experience of those issues, don't you think that might possibly mean that we've got a point?

Chilli Sauce
Aug 28 2014 18:31

Well, let's put the question a different way:

Is the advice the training offers for dealing with behaviours and attitudes in social leaders inadequate, full stop? Or is it only inadequate in relation to social leaders within particular communities or in relation to gender roles? And, if so, how would having a discussion around the fact that these hierarchies exist improve the advice offered by the training?

Because what I worry is that people want the training to address question we we don't have answers for. So, like SF has had the mandate to do a Stuff Your Sexist Boss and Stuff Your Sexist Comrade for years now and, as far as I know, work has basically stalled. So I don't think this is just a problem with the training. And precisely because the training is designed to be overwhelmingly practical, I'm wary of critiques that ignore the practical advice offered in the training and advocate adding more discussion.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 28 2014 18:34
Quote:
I don't remember 'the section on "problems with social leaders"

I mean, it is an entire page in the SF trainee guide. As far as I'm aware, it's been in there since the training was rolled out.

fingers malone
Aug 28 2014 19:10
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Well, let's put the question a different way:

Is the advice the training offers for dealing with behaviours and attitudes in social leaders inadequate, full stop? Or is it only inadequate in relation to social leaders within particular communities or in relation to gender roles?

Ok I think the advice the training offers for dealing with behaviours and attitude in social leaders is inadequate in various ways, but just going on personal experience, I've had particularly difficult situations with it in relation to gender roles.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
And precisely because the training is designed to be overwhelmingly practical, I'm wary of critiques that ignore the practical advice offered in the training and advocate adding more discussion.

I definitely want it to be practical, I don't want to discuss it in a theoretical way, I'm saying that I needed more practical help with real life workplace issues relating to these matters.

fingers malone
Aug 28 2014 19:11
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
I don't remember 'the section on "problems with social leaders"

I mean, it is an entire page in the SF trainee guide. As far as I'm aware, it's been in there since the training was rolled out.

Ok I've dug out my old copy and got it in front of me, it's a small paragraph and it doesn't deal with these specific issues or help you if there are serious power imbalances involved.

fingers malone
Aug 28 2014 19:22
Chilli Sauce wrote:
And precisely because the training is designed to be overwhelmingly practical, I'm wary of critiques that ignore the practical advice offered in the training and advocate adding more discussion.

I'm not ignoring the practical advice offered, I've listened to it carefully and I'm engaging with it and critiquing it based on direct workplace experience with the issues. It says on our website that we want people to do that.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 29 2014 08:36

Malone,

That's all fair enough and it's all always crappy to hear that people are having workplace problems like that.

In general - this is not directed at anyone in particular - some of the critiques I've heard of the training revolve around really thorny issues (or even specific problems), that I'm not sure SF, organisationally, has the experience to develop curriculum around. In other cases, the issues raised extend beyond an intro training that's designed to give people the most basic of organising skills.

So, to draw an example similar to what the AWW has laid out, I can think of one or two times that SF had to deal with the problems of prejudices within immigrant communities. I don't think we did a particularly great job with it. And precisely because we don't have any successful experience in that area, I don't think it is the kind of thing that can or should be included in the training. If we want SF to pool our collective wisdom on those matters, that's fine, I'm just not sure adding a discussion into an already jam-packed introductory training is the best way to do that.

That said, if folks feel the advice offered in dealing with social leaders is inadequate in relation to gender hierarchies, that's a problem. The premise is that the advice, by focusing on concrete behaviours, should help organisers cope with problems in social leaders - regardless of whether those social leaders exist as a result of gender hierarchies or within friendship groups. It extends all the way up excluding people from your organising that are overly disruptive.

If women feel the strategies suggested aren't applicable to them, well, then those strategies need to be reevaluated based on the knowledge and experience available to SF. I don't know if that's what you're saying, Malone, but if it is, that still strikes me as a very different critique to what the AWW have offered above.

AngryWorkersWorld
Aug 29 2014 08:58

Dear comrades,

just a few comments…

a) IWW and war

Nate, we wrote the critical line about the IWW during the WWI period not in order to denounce the IWW in particular, but to raise the question which concerns not only revolutionary syndicalism or council communists, but also ourselves: how do immediate experiences of exploitation or oppression, e.g. as worker in war industries or as proletarian soldiers, relate to an organised political position, e.g. against the war. We feel much political closeness with our older contemporary council communist friends when they say that workers should struggle as workers and proletarians/proletarian soldiers and not enter the plane of political mobilisations, e.g. anti-war campaigns, which is a playing field of different bourgeois factions. If you read our paper on organisation you will find this position ("Workers struggling as workers undermine any (war, fascist, religious) political regime") reflected. We just asked ourselves whether this is enough and how we should relate to the sometimes pretty wide gap between shop-floor reality and 'historic communist/revolutionary positions' about big political events. Our spontaneous answer usually is to participate in 'political movements' (against nuclear power, war, whatever) and to find and support its proletarian potential and to trace connections between movement and daily exploitation. But that's a quite general and often abstract answer. Again, the quotes below are not meant as evidence of the 'shortcomings' of the IWW as such, but to demonstrate the tension within the communist movement about this question.

"Unlike the AFL, the IWW never endorsed the war or participated in mobilizing the proletariat for the slaughter. But neither did it take up an active opposition to the war. Unlike the socialists, it never even adopted a resolution denouncing the war. Instead, antiwar pamphlets like The Deadly Parallel were withdrawn from circulation. IWW soapbox speakers stopped agitating against war. Representing the views of a majority of the General Executive Board, Haywood regarded the war as a distraction from the class struggle and the more important work of building the union and feared that active opposition to the war would open the IWW up to repression.
Solidarity editor Ben Williams lashed out at what he termed “meaningless” anti-war gestures. “In the case of war,” wrote Williams, “we want the One Big Union (…) to come out of the conflict stronger and with more industrial control than previously. Why should we sacrifice working class interests for the sake of a few noisy and impotent parades or antiwar demonstrations? Let us rather get on with the job of organizing the working class to take over the industries, war or no war, and stop all future capitalist aggression that leads to war and other forms of barbarism.”"

(from: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125-iww)

b) workers' leaders

We agree with Chilli Sauce: 'leaders', racism, sexism exists on the shop-floor, we can't ignore this and people mainly change in struggle, not through political arguments. We just think that a lot of the 'organising' people think that they can instrumentalise 'existing leader-ship' within the working class and may be give it a more emancipatory direction. We find this problematic, not only because 'leader-ship' is often intertwined with other social hierarchies or because 'leaders' often have their position because individual workers think that they can get little advantages by being close to them (sometimes because these leaders have a certain position in the company etc.). For the sake of struggle, its effectiveness and its ability 'to change our relations to each other' we are also weary of the 'charismatic, well-spoken, active' leadership, even if it is not built on racist hierarchies or material privileges. Any 'politically conscious' active 'potential' workers' leader should be able to understand that the stronger the collective process, which includes less eloquent and charismatic workers, the stronger the struggle itself. We have to question leadership, it only makes sense for outside campaigns or for politics of 'quick successes' (which mostly end up being undermined fairly quickly due to lack of collective under-belly). We haven't read the Solfed training program text, we just took part in discussions and work-shops on organising. If there are more thoughts on a) how to understand 'leadership' on the shop-floor and b) how to defuse and collectivise it in struggle, that would be interesting. The link below is to a (self-)critical assessment written up by our friends and comrades from Faridabad/India concerning 'workers leaders', based on decades of experiences in local struggles.
(http://ns210054.ovh.net/library/self-activity-wage-workers-kamunist-kranti)

c) On UNITE community union

Just a quick reply to Spikymike - we have little first-hand experiences with this UNITE effort, and whether it bridges the gap between employed and unemployed, but for us it looks more like the union apparatus trying to get a foot in the big pie of community NGO/organisations and their influence on wider local politics. We quote from our own text, a report about working as care taker in Tower Hamlets, London:

"The East End is also the first location where 'community' trade unionism meets with the political and business class in order to manage urban deprivation. We limit ourselves to quote from their press statement announcing the opening of the UNITE community centre in May 2013:
"A new community centre in [the East End] – to help people in one of the most deprived areas of the UK with employment and welfare issues – is the first of a number of such centres that will be rolled out by Unite, the country’s largest union. Unite has opened the centre with support from Tower Hamlets council and a capital grant from Barclays to fund a state of the art learning suite. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, executive mayor Lutfur Rahman and group employee relations director for Barclays Dominic Johnson will be at the opening ceremony. The centre will offer various educational courses, such as IT skills and offer assistance to find employment, from creating a CV to interview preparation. Centre staff will also advise on the growing number of welfare and benefit issues in London’s second most deprived borough. Len McCluskey said: "As part of a drive by Unite to empower communities, the new centre will help people take charge of their lives and have a greater say in their futures on issues such as work, education and health." Lutfur Rahman said: “I am delighted to be working closely with Len McCluskey, Unite and Barclays bank in making this community centre a reality. Job creation is one of my top priorities and this centre is going to play an important role in helping people find work. Dominic Johnson said: “It is important that Barclays plays a broader role in the communities in which we live and work, […] , such as supporting projects like this and our existing educational and employment support programmes such as LifeSkills and Barclays Spaces for Sports.” - End of quote. As a side remark: It is not just ironic, but part of the plan that after public English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses were cut in the East End after a long struggle of teachers and students (with little support from the main unions), community centres such as the UNITE one now offer English classes on a much more casualised employment basis - UNITE actually offering 'free' online courses.

(from: https://libcom.org/blog/community-champions-other-crack-report-after-working-caretaker-east-london-housing-estate-2)

Chilli Sauce
Aug 29 2014 09:02

Well, that'd definitely a more meaty critique and I'll try to respond in more depth later.

Just on this bit:

Quote:
We haven't read the Solfed training program text, we just took part in discussions and work-shops on organising.

Should I read that to understand that y'all (or at least some of y'all) have been to the SF organiser training?

Awesome Dude
Aug 29 2014 18:06

Interesting text. Will briefly respond to one or two points and hopefully develop a more substantial reply later.

AngryWorkersWorld wrote:
* we found that some of their 'work-place' organising strategies are rather schematic and sometimes problematic, e.g. when they say that as part of 'work-place mapping' we should look out for 'leader workers', without questioning much that 'leader workers' are often leaders because of community-internal hierarchies, gender hierarchies etc. Here, work-place organising is seen as a 'tool' towards some 'success', rather than a political process in itself. It would definitely be important to bring 'young' workers together with workers from previous generations of struggle. This would not happen spontaneously, this requires organisation.

Our experience, London IWW, of self-organising and helping others to organise has lead some of us to the understanding of how 'leader workers', who usually occupy the lowest managerial positions mostly as supervisors or the most experienced and 'loyal' worker, are actually integral to how management implements it's strategy of disrupting any movement towards collective organisation. We didnt arrive at this perspective by schematically pursuing 'work-place' organising strategies, rather by mucking in and experimenting with new scenarios as we went along. There should be a mechanism that informs our educationals about our everyday experience of struggle. So for example the committee responsible for the 101 organiser training programme would regularly take into account the accumulative experience of workers on the shop floor and feed it into the programme. IMO the section on workplace mapping would be completely reworked taking into account the fact modern management techniques, heavily reliant on union busting consultants, intensely monitor workers socialising in the workplace and outside of it (think facebook and down the pub drinking with your supervisor mate after work) and use other 'priviledged' workers as the means of directly disrupting the organic collective organising process.

AngryWorkersWorld wrote:
* related to this is the focus on particular struggles and campaigns which become a kind of competing place between different organisations, e.g. during the cleaners dispute at London universities. We went along to various meetings and actions, but not to 'internal strategy meetings'; from our maybe rather external position as supporters it is difficult to understand why there seems to be a certain repetition in the struggles: the IWW or IWGB tries to (or tries to help to) establish a more or less official recognition of certain workers as representatives, management reacts with victimisations and the following actions mainly relate to this victimisation; we don't know whether there were discussions of how to circumvent this dynamic, but if so, these debates were handled as 'organisation internal issues';

London IWW has had very little to do with actively organising the cleaners dispute at London universities. That would be the IWGB: http://iwgb.org.uk/

The IWGB organising strategy described by angryworkersworld is one developed when they were still part of London IWW and most of the organising activity was still at an infantile and experiment phase. I don't know what's happened since then and how they now organise.

AngryWorkersWorld wrote:
* during one of the meetings we asked some of the cleaning comrades and their organisers to what extent they think the campaign (tres cosas) depends a) on the fact that they have major backing of 'activist organisations', b) on the fact that they happen on highly public terrain (prestigious university campuses) where management can be more easily blamed morally for not paying their workers well. We asked these questions in order to understand to what extent the experiences of this struggle are applicable e.g. to more isolated cleaners in small food-processing units in the outskirts of the city. We found the reply "with a proper organisation you can achieve everything" slightly disingenuous, because the specific conditions were ignored, also in order to credit the organisation with the success - this gets into the way of an open debate about potentials and limitations of workers' self-activity

The vast majority of the organising campaigns by the IWGB has been based on highly public terrain involving employers with prestigious reputations. It's my opinion that the methods they have developed would not be effective if appiled to more isolated cleaners in small food-processing units in the outskirts of the city. This is evidenced by the fact that despite years of fighting and winning very impressive gains for it's largely Latin American cleaning membership, IWGB organising methods have failed to effectively materialise on the same scale in other industries with migrant workers experiencing the same precarity as it's membership.

AngryWorkersWorld wrote:
* again related, the political motivations for the split between IWW and IWGB were officially handled as a formal matter ('faction union'); there was little open debate about political differences (libertarian dominated vs. ex-Leninists), which we don't find very honest; this again, may be in order to keep the face as 'One Big Union', which does not need a particular political position

The reasons for the 'split' were complex and can't simply boil down to political differences (libertarian dominated vs. ex-Leninists). Whilst still a member of London IWW the ex IWGB General Secretary Chris Ford was happy to work closely with "anarchist" members of the now defunct political group Liberty and Solidarity. The comrade, who I suspect is the main author of this Angry Workers of the World article, was a participant in The Commune with Chris Ford. I suggest he has a better appreciation of his political positioning and manoeuvres than the rest of us in London IWW. We were completely puzzled by some of the things we have/were accused of (not) doing.

Having said that I don't think London IWW, at that time 2 or 3 years ago, was in a position materially or organisationally support some of the more ambitious and very exciting experimental projects that were being pioneered and driven forward by Chris Ford and IWGB's current General Secretary Alberto Durango. They needed to build a new organisation with higher levels of 'substitutional' activism than the IWW with it's (libertarian) DIY philosophy could possibly have supplied. They left, build their new union, with the help of substitutional' activism from university students who emerged from their struggles a few years ago, a trot organisation AWL, RMT assistant secretary Steve Hedley, parliamentarian John Macdonnell MP and the rest is history.

AngryWorkersWorld wrote:
* we met various IWW comrades during visits in different towns and we asked them whether there is an active debate on a national level of organisation about 'general tendencies' of struggles or even an attempt to draw some type of general conclusion from various local experiences (how does the crisis impact on a local level, what are workers doing, what have we tried) - and most comrades said that this is not really happening; we have witnessed similar things in other bigger organisations: the national meetings are mainly about 'running and promoting' the organisation, much less about a political debate of workers' experiences; we are not aware of efforts like 're-composition', which try to overcome this tendency

The IWW in the British Isles will be holding an organising summit sometime in November and I'm sure that will be a good time to discuss what's been mentioned above. Also recognising that too much time was devoted to discussing the 'running' of the organisation we adopted a new structure that I hope will see us focus more of our struggles as workers and discussion around it.

Nate
Aug 30 2014 20:19

hey comrades,

"the IWW never (...) [took up] an active opposition to the war. Unlike the socialists, it never even adopted a resolution denouncing the war.
(from: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125-iww)

That's just false. I quoted the resolution the IWW published above or at least I linked to it. Among other things, they would expel members who served in the military. So the IWW did take up active opposition to the war and did denounce it in a resolution (not that resolutions stop wars). And as I said the IWW organized in war industries in opposition to the war, and faced very severe repression in response. I don't think this has any contemporary relevance really (I only brought it up because it was in your post in the first place), I just don't think people should say false stuff. Especially not smart principled people like yourselves. For whatever it's worth I apologize if this soudns harsh, no harsh tone intended here, I'm just typing in a hurry.

One other thing, unrelated to this, I mentioned something about SolFed's book and I think I wasn't clear. I can't remember if you said you've read that book or not, I apologize for my poor memory, I just moved to a new house and am very worn out. What jumped out at me as a similar point was the vision of revolution or almost-revolution that I took you to be laying out, and that the last chapter of that book lays out. I think this vision is also pretty similar to that in the communization milieu. I know you have big differences with SolFed and with the communization milieu, I think your reply focused on those differences, which is fine. What I was trying to say though is that I think there's a similar understanding of revolution/revolutionary situations developing among people with different backgrounds in our corner of the far left. I wonder if you likewise see this is a point of similarity between yourselves, SolFed, and the communizers (not to dismiss or overlook the differences, including probably differences in how you all see a revolutionary situation arising).

Chilli Sauce
Sep 1 2014 10:02

[long post alert/]

Alright, so, I want to get back to this question of leadership and what it means. Like I said, though, I do wish I knew if y'all had attended the training. I ask partially because you're using different terminology. We say "social leaders", and not "workplace leaders" which might sound like a pedantic point, but it still sort of leaves me questioning.

Anyway, I think we need to define what we mean by leadership, because it seems to me that your critique of is one "leadership" and that gender or race aspects are secondary to that.

The training stresses a number of things:

(1) No managers of any sort are to be involved in the committee. Ever.
(2) The goal is, as we say in the training, "to make everyone a social leader".

I do think you raise some worthwhile points. So, for example,

Quote:
If there are more thoughts on a) how to understand 'leadership' on the shop-floor and b) how to defuse and collectivise it in struggle, that would be interesting.

I can try to respond to (a), namely that the training assumes people naturally come together based on everything from outside interests to the departments they work in. In any of those social groups, there are people that are going to be looked to by their co-workers if things heat up at work. These people could be looked to for any number of reasons. But when it comes to workplace issues, the training assumes most people who are assigned a social leadership role are done so by virtue of experience or length of service.

As for (b), the idea is that once you have a functioning committee, everyone is given a task at each meeting so as to build up the confidence and skills of all involved. But, you're right, I don't actually think it's an area where we have a ton of experience. If y'all wanted to share your experiences of this process (both positive and negative), it'd be something that could be worthwhile to feed back into the training.

The next point I think worth understanding is even if a social leadership model of organising is rejected, that section of the training deals with dynamics that will inevitably come into play at some point.

Social leadership happens within all organisations - anarchist ones included. I think it's inevitable and not inherently a problem. And I'd actually take that a step further. So, for example, if one's workplace organising is effective, chances are you're going to become a social leader by default.

Y'all have been active in some organising, right? Presumably you want to reach a point where co-workers feel comfortable expressing their problems to you and asking for advice? The training would say that makes you a social leader. Obviously the goal of any decent organiser is to continually pass on the skills of organising to others. However, anyone who has that skillset is going to be respected and looked to on those matters. What better definition of a leader?

happychaos
Sep 2 2014 12:17

Sorry this is a shameless practical plug because there's clearly other mapping geeks posting here.

If you are a mapping obsessives I'm keen to swap ideas and trade secrets. The great thing about mapping, is if you do it right you can share you map with someone on the other side of the world and you should be able to come up with the same organising strategy. (I do this in union training and it's always illuminating and fun.)

If you aren't already familiar with Netdraw, I suggest you download it, input your mapping data and get it to visualise your relationship network. It's cool and gets you a gazillion organising punk points.

Couple of tips with netdraw so it looks good:

1. Use Spring Embedded layout to get the best graphic (Layout > Graph - Theoretical Layout > Spring Embedded)
2. Don't give nodes/workers more than four ties. No one is really that influential. Having no more than four forces you to prioritise relationships to give you proper hierarchies of influence. (Workers tend to just put relationships with each person they are friends with, with is more useful as a grouping function, rather than identifying who has the most influence in that group.)
3. When doing union ranking make sure you use an [b]even number of ranks.[/b] This stops you having a middle "neutral" rank which is really unhelpful. It's better to force people to choose between Passive Union Member and Passive Non-Member for example.
4. Keep generic "workplace leader" identifiers seperate from the union ranking. You can have an anti-union leader who isn't a workplace leader (good!) just like you can have a union leader who isn't a workplace leader (not so good!).

HC

klas batalo
Sep 2 2014 22:34

hmm thanks for that...makes me think of how not useful the "intermediate" level stuff can be at times.