What makes a revolutionary union revolutionary?

Red and black and that

A discussion document (2/2) I wrote a few months back, which may be of interest in light of the 'Direct Unionism' debate.

What makes a revolutionary union revolutionary? or in other words, what is the content of the 'political' in a political-economic organisation?

Academic historian Marcel van der Linden says this, which i think can be used to think about an answer:

In practice there seem to be at least three analytical levels which quite often are not, or not sufficiently, distinguished. In the first place, we could distinguish the ideological level, at which one thinks about the movement in a general, political-philosophical way At issue here are questions such as: what is the world really like? What is unjust, bad, etc.? Who are our enemies and friends? What social changes are possible, and how can they be accomplished? Secondly, we could distinguish the organisational level: how is the trade union structured (for example subscriptions, strike funds) and how does it behave in daily practice, when labour confiicts occur, towards employers and the state? Thirdly, there is the shopfloor level: are the workers who are members militant and strike prone? What forms of action do they favour? A source of confusion is that these three levels sometimes point in the same direction, but often do not. Everyone can agree that an organisation which ideologically defends anarchosyndicalism, organisationally possesses a federative structure without a strike fund, and on the shopfloor is extremely militant and strike prone, can be defined as revolutionary syndicalist. But things become more difficult when a movement does not correspond to the ideal type at all three levels. Then where should we draw the boundary?

At the moment, joining SolFed operates almost entirely on the ideological level - i.e. most people come to SolFed of their own accord because they have similar ideas and like the sound of what we're saying. We don't have much of an 'organisational level' beyond the industrial strategy and an aversion to works councils and the like, but this is mostly hypothetical as we've been more of a propaganda organisation than one that organises struggles. The organiser training we've been rolling out over the past 12 months could be seen as trying to develop both the organisational and shop floor levels - both developing how we engage in struggles and giving SolFed members the skills and confidence to act in a militant way in their own workplaces. But it's still early days for those.

The CNT-E is almost the exact reverse - all the emphasis is on the organisational level ('the three NOs' of works councils/union elections, liberados and state funds) and the shopfloor level (militancy and a will to fight). I would say that although they say "your political ideas are not important" there is an implicit ideology behind the organisational and shopfloor aspects, and they're open that this is anarchism. CNTistas need to act consistently with this ideology, even if they don't identify with it.

I think the less a union makes its ideological element explicit, the more it creates a void to be filled by either entryist political organisations or well-meaning but problematic 'ideological leadership' by groups like the FAI. Personally i think the ideological element should be explicit, but not exclusionary in terms of identity politics (i.e. whether you identify as anarcho-syndicalist is not the issue, but whether you share principles and goals). As a comrade put it in internal discussions:

We should not think of anarcho-syndicalism as a faith - we should think of anarcho-syndicalism as a practice (to be more precise: as the practice of militant workers organising in a manner based on the principles set out in our constitution, and it matters very little what label individual workers apply to their politics).

Of course a revolutionary union is not just a vehicle for everyday struggle but for social transformation, and if it is democratic/member-controlled then its members need to share that goal as well as the corresponding methods. This matters because often the bosses really are as skint as they claim, and unless you have some kind of revolutionary perspective they open the books and you're forced to accept the logic of cutbacks, and can at best seek a partnership role in softening their effects on workers (like most TUC unions are doing at the moment).

This leaves two related issues: education and the relationship between a (proto) revolutionary union and militant workers breaking with social democracy but not necessarily revolutionary. Rocker has argued that class struggle serves as a "practical education in social philosophy". This is essentially correct, but this education isn't automatic or homogenous. Different workers may draw different conclusions from the same struggle. Early syndicalism (CGT, IWW) developed under conditions of harsh repression, which made it easy for agitators to educate the idea that "the working class and the employing class have nothing in common". Today's bosses are often smarter, and seek to use methods of class collaboration to blur class lines and divide and rule workers between militants who preach conflict and moderates who seek co-operation.

Revolutionaries are made not born, but it's an open question how much political development should take place inside a revolutionary union. Set the bar too low and the union, democratically run, will fill with non-revolutionary workers, and it would be no surprise if they signed no strike deals, or joined works councils, or pursued other methods rejected by revolutionary unionists - potentially compromising the union as a whole, or at least creating tensions and splits. But set the bar to high, and the development may never even take place, as workers feel rebuffed from joining an exclusive club and percieve the revolutionary union as elitist - instead driven into the arms of less discerning trade unionists, or less democratic leninist-controlled formations eager for foot soldiers (who need not worry what their members think, since they don't have much say).

So this question of education is bound up with the necessity for a healthy periphery around individual members or branches of a revolutionary union, organising stuff together atn work or outside it, and on the basis of this joint work broaching some of the ideological rationale behind our methods; that direct action is the bridge between everyday struggles and social transformation, and if you also desire the latter then both you and the union benefit from you joining (the inverse also being true - if you don't share this goal, it's better to not join but work together wherever you can). So far, membership has been considered on an individual basis. This is all well and good, but what about groups of workers breaking away from mainstream unions, or approaching a (proto) revolutionary union?

Something like this happened with the London cleaners, who ended up working with the IWW after breaking from Unite. This is no problem for the UK IWW since they want to be a militant rank-and-file union rather than a revolutionary one, and seem to have little criticism of mainstream trade unionist methods compared to many of their stateside counterparts. But if a revolutionary union initiative gets off the ground and starts having some successes, it will likely be approached by such break-away groups, or want to actively approach them. Saying people can join on an individual basis is likely to be taken as a rebuffal, foreclosing any future working relationship and thus the chances of a development in a revolutionary direction. But let the branch join on mass, and you're not operating as a revolutionary union anymore but just a militant one (with all the problems that such branches may well do all sorts of things that revolutionary unionists would oppose).

Of course, it is workers right to do things revolutionary unionists oppose! But imho they shouldn't be doing them as members of a revolutionary union. So is there some middle ground between 'fuck off you're not revolutionary enough' and 'omgz workerz join us nao pls!'? It shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility that there's some kind of formal relationship of mutual support short of membership, that allows a (proto) revolutionary union formation to work with break-away militant formations while both retain their autonomy. It would seem to me that such practical solidarity expressed regardless of membership would be the best conditions for workers to come to share revolutionary practices - e.g. favouring direct action over mediation in principle rather than out of the necessity many small militant unions face.

This is basically a restatement of the idea that an organisation-as-thing exists to do organisation-as-process, and membership is not a precondition of that. But building practical relationships of solidarity with non-members seems like the best way in a medium-long term for them to respect and come to share revolutionary practices, and thus in the long run to swell the ranks of a revolutionary union. Pulling all such people into the organisation-as-thing as a precondition of organisation-as-process from day one may well lead to faster growth, but it would be building something different, lacking the three elements of a revolutionary union, and therefore risking lacking them all as it bureuacratises and goes the way of all the other unions that don't explicitly reject capitalism in both theory and daily practice.

Comments

Steven.
May 20 2011 11:28

I will have a read of these when I get a chance. Just a quick note that I have removed the tag" workplace groups" from always articles as the tag is for articles about actually existing groups in workplaces, rather than discussions about the nature of such groups

klas batalo
May 21 2011 02:18

where's that knot logo come from. it is awesome.

Joseph Kay
May 21 2011 06:40

It was one of the proposed new SolFed logos, but it got voted down hard. Feel free to expropriate!

klas batalo
May 21 2011 07:21

i almost got a tattoo like that.

RedAndBlack
Jul 25 2012 11:46
Quote:
It shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility that there's some kind of formal relationship of mutual support short of membership, that allows a (proto) revolutionary union formation to work with break-away militant formations while both retain their autonomy.

to me this just seems to be going over the ground of the relationship of the vanguard to mass organisations and the organisational dualism expressed by Bakunin et al. These are, of course, valid questions in contemporary terms, but anarchist communists have theorised on this subject a great deal and it might be useful to bring those ideas and perspectives into the debate.

Collective Action reproduce the following texts which might be useful:

http://www.anarkismo.net/article/21843

http://www.anarkismo.net/article/14067

orkhis
Jul 25 2012 19:58

Interesting blog.

I think the problem is the divide between activists and those who don't even know what an activist is. You have a bunch of workers who are pissed off, one of them sees a Solfed/CNT/IWW flyer and they send off an e-mail. What happens then?

You're asking a hell of a lot of individual organisers. They have to get worker buy-in to methods, organisational form and a critique of capitalism and the state! That's one thing in 1930s Spain, it's another thing entirely in Spain, the UK or the US in 2012.

Rocker is of course right when he says that class struggle and strikes are educational. Yes they are, and they create a space for conversation and debate that rarely exists in other circumstances. Revolutionary unions can surely make this easier with good prop, but there's no substitute for examples and wins. How organisations with low memberships and all the hurdles in place in the modern capitalist state achieve this is open to question. How do we do it?

RedAndBlack
Jul 26 2012 11:04
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
RedAndBlack wrote:
to me this just seems to be going over the ground of the relationship of the vanguard to mass organisations and the organisational dualism expressed by Bakunin et al.

Not sure where you got that impression, the bit you've quoted was very specific in addressing how a revolutionary union initiative works with breakaway groups of militant workers from reformist unions - a great contemporary example being the IWW and the cleaners branch which is mentioned in the article above.

but in a schematic sense what you are describing is working out both practically and theoretically the relationship between communist militants (a vangaurd, in this case an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist union) and a mass of militant but not necessarily communist workers. The question still ultimately comes down to consciousness, the role of minorities and what leading role they intend to play.

Fall Back
Jul 26 2012 22:50

Bizarre spat unpublished.

Please don't waste everyones time with weird trolling, and don't rise to it.

nastyned
Jul 26 2012 23:22

I was quite serious in the points I made in the post you've deleted so I would appreciate it if they were restored. .

RedAndBlack
Jul 27 2012 23:27
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
RedAndBlack wrote:
but in a schematic sense what you are describing is working out both practically and theoretically the relationship between communist militants (a vangaurd, in this case an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist union) and a mass of militant but not necessarily communist workers. The question still ultimately comes down to consciousness, the role of minorities and what leading role they intend to play.

I wouldn't describe an anarcho-syndicalist union as a vanguard as it's a form we explicitly reject, but I can see where you're coming from. It's probably worth noting that you've assumed that there is a mass of militant workers and the anarcho-syndicalist union is smaller, in my relatively short experience we've not been contacted by a group of workers bigger than ourselves asking for our support.

There is considerable political baggage when using the term "vangaurd" so it's probably not very helpful in that respect. I use the term broadly to describe organisations who have ideas in advance of those of the class. I assume you would more or less characterise Solfed in this way?

The point you raise about scale is important and how this collapse of "mass organisations" effects our orientations and strategies as revolutionaries is a highly pertinent issue.

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
We're not trying to play a leading role, we're trying to build up working class power to the point where the class as a whole can taken a leading role and bring about complete social transformation.

But surely this plays itself out as a "leading role" in some sense? Solfed believes it has at least a broad method of social struggle that is a better or more preferable (or more correct) means of creating that working class power. You argue that these methods are better than sectoral trade unionism or electoralism, for example. So in this sense you do want them to be "leading", i.e. present themselves as a more favourable course of action to the majority of workers. Granted this does not mean that you necessarily want Solfed to be a leading organisation (in a practical sense), but there are different dynamics to leadership.

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
It seems that most anarcho-communists who reject anarcho-syndicalism see the division as there being a need for a minority anarchist organisation (or party) who then takes part in mass syndicalist organisations (or unions, solidarity networks) who try to ensure they either ideologically or practically control the syndicalist organisations, there's probably an argument that both L&S, the AF and yourselves are trying to do this in the IWW at the moment but with differing degrees of success. I'd also argue that the same form of division exists with groups like SeaSol or MASH.

While that strategy sounds pretty close to Leninism, it also doesn't even work on an anarchist basis. As the article above argues, mass syndicalist organisations are vulnerable to co-option by reformists and the split between militant workers and ideological leadership that model creates within those organisations is also fundamentally problematic. We're seeing reformists control the IWW in the UK but I'm not sure anarchists winning it would be any better, as the CNT & FAI in 1936 showed.

And what of the Solfed members in IWW? wink

On a serious note tho...

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
anarcho-communists who reject anarcho-syndicalism see the division as there being a need for a minority anarchist organisation (or party) who then takes part in mass syndicalist organisations (or unions, solidarity networks) who try to ensure they either ideologically or practically control the syndicalist organisations,

This is not a fair representation of our position (I can't speak for the other organisations). The relationship of anarchist communists to "mass" organisations ("mass" is less an indication of scale but an indication of the broader spectrum of ideas compared to the strict criteria of a specific anarchist organisation) cannot be characterised as instrumental or "Leninist" in the way you describe. For starters there is no presumption of the infallibility of "anarchist leadership" as your post seems to assume. Rather the point is that the SAO (specific anarchist organisation) acts as a line of ideological continuity, a space of withdrawal in the instance
that mass organisations are co-opted/repressed/collapsed.

Spain is a good example to point to in this case in the sense that the collaborationist line of the CNT wreaked huge damage on the IWA. It was only really saved by sections deciding to act in an undemocratic fashion - ignoring the mass line of the CNT and defending essential anarcho-syndicalist positions (in effect acting as SAOs). This is covered in Damier's critical history of the subject. No anarchist communist would defend the position that "anarchist leadership" makes syndicalist unions immune from reformism. That anarchists happen to have a vested interest in the success of syndicalist initiatives and that anarchist communists may propagate "leading ideas" in this instance, and hence become very practically central to these unions, is a far more credible account of the situation.

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
As the article above argues, mass syndicalist organisations are vulnerable to co-option by reformists and the split between militant workers and ideological leadership that model creates within those organisations is also fundamentally problematic.

do you not believe that this tendency is active in any organisation with fairly open criteria for membership? i.e. why is this not an issue for Solfed?

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
What anarcho-syndicalists try to do is create an organisation that is both democratic and revolutionary, the battle over revolutionary ideas and methods is not fought within our own mass syndicalist organisations, it is fought within the wider working class.

I agree that revolutionary ideas are developed within and through the course of struggle (and corroborated within our tradition via our historical experience) but I don't think that's really a unique idea. The first part of your statement I may take issue with depending on your meaning. If you mean that organisation must be "democratic" in the sense that they should be organised without hierarchy, openly and with accountability to the membership then I'd agree. If you mean "democratic" in an ideological sense then I believe that this is the main point with which I would take issue with syndicalism.

Revolutionary ideas aren't "democratic" within a capitalist society, they will inevitably be only held by a minority of workers and organisers. Setting up an organisation on anarchist principles that is formally open to the class inevitably leads to a position where either that organisation has to accept a minority position (because the majority of workers wont join until a heightened period of struggle), drifts into reformism (becomes influenced by the majority of workers who do not hold revolutionary positions) or practically enforces that ideological leadership (Leninism) or perhaps a combination of all these tendencies. In this sense the ideological struggles of class society will inevitably reflect on the battle of ideas that exist within "our own mass syndicalist organisations".

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Over the past few years in the UK we've seen anarcho-communists putting lots of time and effort into struggles within a basically tiny syndicalist organisation while anarcho-syndicalists have been nearly completely focussed on the wider working class.

I'm not sure I really understand this statement. CA is a pretty young organisation so I don't think a lot of this really applies to us. On a personal level the IWW presents to me a tool to organise my own workplace, a practical forum for organisers in my locale within a broader ideological spectrum as well as a means of reflecting on opportunities and lessons for organising. BIRA isn't perfect and I wouldn't want to be drawn to any definitive conclusions, but for me, where I am and for what I do it makes sense. The lessons I draw from it also help inform the discussions I have with other communists asking similar questions concerning tactics for intervention, mobilisation and how this relates to current class composition. I don't see how starting an organising drive in my workplace with the Wobs is any lesser act than conducting a picket outside a Holland and Barrett, for example. In fact in terms of the idea of "trying to build up working class power to the point where the class as a whole can taken a leading role and bring about complete social transformation" militants building vehicles of class combativity at the point of production/reproduction - the workplace - is surely a useful strategy?

syndicalist
Jul 28 2012 14:16
Quote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:

What anarcho-syndicalists try to do is create an organisation that is both democratic and revolutionary, the battle over revolutionary ideas and methods is not fought within our own mass syndicalist organisations, it is fought within the wider working class.

Hmmmm ... As an anarcho-syndicalist, I agree with what we try and create.

But I would say that the battle over revolutionary ideas do occur within syndicalist and even anarcho-syndicalist organizations. Now, the battles may not be fought over, say, the words of Bakunin or Rocker or the Smith Brothers (Marx & Engles) They may be fought over proper tactics and immediate visions and the like. The splits within the French and Spanish CNT's being perfect examples. The need to promote direct unionism and other stuff in thr IWW is an other example.

EDIT: I heartedly agree with this:

Quote:
As a comrade put it in internal discussions:

We should not think of anarcho-syndicalism as a faith - we should think of anarcho-syndicalism as a practice (to be more precise: as the practice of militant workers organising in a manner based on the principles set out in our constitution, and it matters very little what label individual workers apply to their politics).

When we set out to organize the WSA some 28 years ago, we conciously chose not to use certain buzz words. But to create the essense of what the Solfed member wrote above. I would also suspect that within the anarcho-syndicalist, revolutionary syndicalist and direct unionist tendencies, many would feel the same: It is the militant, libertarian practice and coallation of folks around that practice and towards the goals set forth which matter, not the terms .... which we can always try and tease out in our educational work groucho

syndicalist
Jul 28 2012 13:56

Sorry for the piece meal comments.

Quote:
problematic 'ideological leadership' by groups like the FAI.

I think this is sorta a dual edge sword.

Some 76 years ago we saw the FAI fail in its "ideological duty", so to speak. Some 33 years ago (1979) the FAI carried forth it's "ideological duty" in advancing and fighting for what has become the tres nos (three nos).

Harrison
Jul 28 2012 19:33
RedAndBlack wrote:
Rather the point is that the SAO (specific anarchist organisation) acts as a line of ideological continuity, a space of withdrawal in the instance
that mass organisations are co-opted/repressed/collapsed.

This still isn't different from rolling out a strategy of intervention into a mass organisation (aka entryism). In reality, co-option/repression/collapsing is not a sudden event, but more a process that occurs over time*. You would still have to act in instrumental ways in order to push through this resistance to co-option etc. ... i don't think everyone would suddenly flock to the anarchist organisation and be won over and it all ends happily.

Now its fine if one were to admit that one would have to act in instrumental ways, but its the mental somersaults that propose it possible to achieve pronounced social influence upon mass organisations without this.

*with the possible exception of repression, in which case it is bizarre to suppose that an anarchist organisation could survive where other organisations could not ..... look at how basically all anarchist organisations were disbanded in the face of fascism in europe, in order to protect the lives of their membership so that they could fight on in the maquis etc.

RedAndBlack
Jul 29 2012 09:08
Harrison wrote:
RedAndBlack wrote:
Rather the point is that the SAO (specific anarchist organisation) acts as a line of ideological continuity, a space of withdrawal in the instance
that mass organisations are co-opted/repressed/collapsed.

This still isn't different from rolling out a strategy of intervention into a mass organisation (aka entryism).

So if agitation occurs in the context of an already existing organisation it automatically becomes "entryism"? This doesn't make any sense to me, particularly because this is the kind of activity that your organisation must carry out on a regular basis (especially in the context of workers who are members of trade unions).

I'd also make an (important) distinction between entryism and social insertion. Entyrism is a Trotskyist strategy where members will "enter" another organisation to win it over, usually via conquering positions of influence (traditionally in the leadership), and steering it in the direction they want. Social insertion is about arguing for anarchist communist tactics and ideas in the context of winning a "leadership of ideas", i.e. so these present the most sensible course of action for workers. It is not about winning practical leadership but persuading others of the necessity of anarchist methods and the power of working class self-organisation. In this sense it is more about content and form, e.g. arguing that executive decisions in a national organisation should be controlled by branches. Only in this way do anarchist ideas become practical and meaningful ideas for social struggle*.

*I'm not saying that these processes have to exclusively occur within the context of intervention within existing organisations (it's just this is the method when that occurs).

Harrison wrote:
In reality, co-option/repression/collapsing is not a sudden event, but more a process that occurs over time*. You would still have to act in instrumental ways in order to push through this resistance to co-option etc. ... i don't think everyone would suddenly flock to the anarchist organisation and be won over and it all ends happily.

Now its fine if one were to admit that one would have to act in instrumental ways, but its the mental somersaults that propose it possible to achieve pronounced social influence upon mass organisations without this.

If you read through the above section you quoted my argument is not that anarchist organisations can act in especially instrumental ways in these instances. In fact I was arguing against this interpretation (implicit within Jim's post and argued by JK as well). The point I was making is that the existence of a seperate SAO allows a line of continuity outside of the ebb and flow of wider organisations of social struggle. Of course anarchists should aim to push against instances of co-option and reformism, and their ideas makes them better placed to do this, but I definitely do not hold the position that they are "immune" from this process. Rather a strictly ideological organisation, not operating on the level of the construction of class power is not subject to the same mediations as one that is. An example that the FARJ put forward in their position paper is the experience of anarchism in Brazil where the collapse of "anarchist unionism" (due to the repression or co-option of anarchist unions) meant almost the complete loss of anarchist as a tradition within that country. The SAO has a critical role to play in that instance re-gathering anarchist forces, drawing lessons and theorising new points of agitation and organisation on the basis of the new composition of the class.

The section is here - http://anarkismo.net/article/21909

Harrison wrote:
*with the possible exception of repression, in which case it is bizarre to suppose that an anarchist organisation could survive where other organisations could not ..... look at how basically all anarchist organisations were disbanded in the face of fascism in europe, in order to protect the lives of their membership so that they could fight on in the maquis etc.

This seems quite a strange claim to make given the number of anarchist organisations that have chosen to operate secretly or go underground during these periods. Syndicalism collapsed with the rise of fascism but that was precisely because it was no longer possible to hold mass organisations of this type in that period. In that context a closed ideological anarchist organisation operating clandestinely could (and did, e.g in Bulgaria, Spain, Cuba, Ukraine, Russia and Germany amongst others) act as a critical line of continuity to the next resurgence of mass working class struggle.

Harrison
Jul 29 2012 12:47

apologies if i don't engage with every point in that last reply, its quite comprehensive, thanks for taking the time to fully reply to my points.

i think the 'line of ideological continuity' is a red herring. i think its a beautiful idea, but in reality organisations experience membership turnover, different generations of activists who group around different tendencies etc. all of which tendencies will claim true historical inheritance of their predecessors and claim to be the ones bearing the torch as it were, whilst holding modifications of those ideas.

Quote:
I'd also make an (important) distinction between entryism and social insertion. Entyrism is a Trotskyist strategy where members will "enter" another organisation to win it over, usually via conquering positions of influence (traditionally in the leadership), and steering it in the direction they want. Social insertion is about arguing for anarchist communist tactics and ideas in the context of winning a "leadership of ideas", i.e. so these present the most sensible course of action for workers. It is not about winning practical leadership but persuading others of the necessity of anarchist methods and the power of working class self-organisation. In this sense it is more about content and form, e.g. arguing that executive decisions in a national organisation should be controlled by branches. Only in this way do anarchist ideas become practical and meaningful ideas for social struggle*.

sure, but these still remain ideas. what would the SAO propose instead? there must necessarily be some kind of escalation strategy after 'argue for anarchist communist ideas/methods of organisation' or would it just remain a permanent rank and file opposition inside the social democratic unions?

would it try to seize the executive by a rank and file caucus (as per trotskyism) ... to be fair maybe this would be with the strategy of immediately devolving power to branch level, although i still wouldn't view this as a doable strategy.

would it be promoting a breakaway (as per IWW Cleaners, or DAM's old rank and filism strategy),

or would it be seeking organising outside the trade union into a revolutionary union / federative of worker committees?

...... i might have heavily derailed.

Awesome Dude
Jul 29 2012 22:18
Joseph Kay wrote:
Something like this happened with the <a href="http://libcom.org/library/latin-american-workers-unite-heroes-pariahs">London cleaners</a>, who ended up working with the IWW after breaking from Unite. This is no problem for the UK IWW since they want to be a militant rank-and-file union rather than a revolutionary one, and seem to have little criticism of mainstream trade unionist methods compared to many of their stateside counterparts.

Rather odd assertion. There is nothing collectively produced by BIRA-IWW that explicitly states it wants to "be a militant rank-and-file union rather than a revolutionary one". Criticism of Trade Union practices should be pratical rather than radical sounding political positions and statements. On this measure BIRA-IWW's recent actions indicate a clear difference in methodology and ambition from mainstream trade unions:

UNISON Actively Undermining IWW Living Wage Campaign at St George's

UNISON did not win us the London Living Wage

Joseph Kay wrote:
But if a revolutionary union initiative gets off the ground and starts having some successes, it will likely be approached by such break-away groups, or want to actively approach them.

That's kind of the problem JK. Sol-Fed has recently seen some healthy growth from the student demos. There's also been a lot of work put into organiser training courses. Has any of this activity translated into increased activity in Sol-Feds Industrial Networks which are vital to the development of a revolutionary union initiative? Some wobblies like myself are actually usuing material producedby ex Solf-Fed members (of the DAM). They had a good stab at building a Dispatch Workers Industrial Union some 22 years ago...has there been any progress with projects like that since then from Sol-Fed?

Awesome Dude
Jul 30 2012 22:06
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Awesome Dude wrote:
There is nothing collectively produced by BIRA-IWW that explicitly states it wants to "be a militant rank-and-file union rather than a revolutionary one".

http://www.certoffice.org/CertificationOfficer/media/DocumentLibrary/PDF/790T_2010.pdf

Sock horror and all that. Funny that the documents from the certification office states one of the organisations aim is to uphold the [North American] Constituion which explicitly states, in it's preamble, the organisations aim of abolishing wage labour...may be the bourgeois staff at the certification office had left their brains at home when they rubber stamped the application of an organisation full of revolutionists!

The US IWW is registared with the US governments department of labour. Please remind me why Sol-Fed, a revolutionary union initiative, has been so enthusiastic in promoting and implementing a 'refromist' organisations training programme as a key part of it's strategy to build it's all important workplace industrial networks?

lzbl
Jul 30 2012 22:42

wall

Jim (and other SFers), you know that Awesome Dude is not debating you in good faith. All you need to do is look at his posting history to see that. We have better things to do with our time than get involved in a circular argument with someone who gets off on trolling us. Let's try not to rise to the bait, eh?

lzbl
Jul 30 2012 22:43

(PS: Tommy Ascaso, stop scrapping)

Awesome Dude
Jul 30 2012 23:11
lzbl wrote:
wall

Jim (and other SFers), you know that Awesome Dude is not debating you in good faith. All you need to do is look at his posting history to see that. We have better things to do with our time than get involved in a circular argument with someone who gets off on trolling us. Let's try not to rise to the bait, eh?

Complete bollox

Awesome Dude
Jul 30 2012 23:13
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Awesome Dude, you know full well that the IWW in the UK is dominated and controlled by a reformist tendency, I'm not prepared to continue engaging with you while you pretend otherwise. That is unless you consider holding meetings in parliament to be direct action, or banning red and black flags to be advocating revolutionary ideas, or letting full time organisers from reformist unions join to be self-organisation etc.

If you mean L&S then sorry to inform you that many of their main actors in the IWW have either left that organisation or are on leave. The BIRA IWW is not what it was a year or two ago. Militant workers struggles have changed the nature of the beast!

lzbl
Jul 30 2012 23:22
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I will do my best to stop scrapping, but I do enjoy discussing anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism with RedAndBlack and find it very helpful in clarifying my own ideas.

Yeah, sorry I didn't mean stop having any conversations at all, just stop responding to trolls.

plasmatelly
Jul 31 2012 18:37

There's some good points made on this thread - interesting stuff, even if I disagree with some of it.
I'll chance my hand on a couple of the issues discussed...
The IWW discussion raging at the moment about the direction they're heading (I use "they" as though they work collectively - which nationally they most certainly do not) seems to be almost moribund. My thoughts are - and they certainly pre-date the flag banning saga - is that IWW members identifying themselves as anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists can only remain members through as sense of loyalty, habit or a lack of understanding of the organisation they joined. Their isn't anyone out there who can credibly claim that the IWW will try and regain some of the grass roots nature of organising and decision-making that attracted the anarchists. It is quickly looking like a collection of franchises populated by people without a coherent thread of political cohesion, that will very soon lose all vestiges of "revolutionary" and "grass roots" - and that's a tragedy, but, it's time to wise up. If you joined an apolitical organisation that will openly moderate in order to recruit rather than persuade, then don't be surprised if in 3 years time you find yourself being sold insurance and complaining about the wages of the full timers.

I think JK's post is as about as sharp a piece of analysis as it gets. I'm always frustrated by the lack of a major economic breakthrough with SF - but as our political successes have been more regular, it can only be time. The most important thing is that SF is a work in progress and not prepared to claim to have the answers or the specially trained leaders to rely on to represent us. Having that careful balance of politics is key imo.

syndicalist
Jul 31 2012 19:40

Sorry, point of info:

Quote:
The IWW discussion raging at the moment about the direction they're heading (I use "they" as though they work collectively - which nationally they most certainly do not) seems to be almost moribund.

I gather you must mean in England, yes?

plasmatelly
Jul 31 2012 20:48

Yes, sorry Syndicalist - I should have made a differentiation.

Harrison
Jul 31 2012 22:08

EDIT (plasma replied before me)

syndicalist
Jul 31 2012 22:55
plasmatelly wrote:
Yes, sorry Syndicalist - I should have made a differentiation.

Thanks, I sorta figured that from the way it read....but...

Awesome Dude
Aug 1 2012 16:26
plasmatelly wrote:
I think JK's post is as about as sharp a piece of analysis as it gets. I'm always frustrated by the lack of a major economic breakthrough with SF - but as our political successes have been more regular, it can only be time. The most important thing is that SF is a work in progress and not prepared to claim to have the answers or the specially trained leaders to rely on to represent us.

In all seriousness plasmatelly, name calling and petty organisational loyalties aside, do you think there will be a break through with sol-fed industrial networks/workplace strategy in the foreseeable future? This nothing to do with being a "Troll", cause as most regular long term users of libcom know, this is a topic of discussion that's generated a lot of hot air over the past few years.

plasmatelly wrote:
Having that careful balance of politics is key imo.

There are many problems with IWW-BIRA and the last year has been both demanding and exhilarating process and ,as you would expect when organising 'non politicised' workers new to militant struggle with emerging class consciousness, there will be incalculable risks and unforeseen twists and turns...but then these are lessons that can only be learned in the course of the living class struggle. But I argue what is also just as important as "having that careful balance of politics" is the ability to test your ideas in actual class struggles...and that is precisely where IWW-BIRA has excelled in the past year.

Though I am closer to the ideas and practises of council marxist tendency ( Otto Ruhle/Paul Mattick variety), I've strongly argued with anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist orientated wobblie comrades not to simply rely on a set of "eternal truths" and resort to moralising dogmatic polemics when politically and organisationally challenged by those not within their tradition (or wrapping themselves in their warm, safe a familiar red'n'black blanket!). Prove your ideas to be correct with concrete examples which involve organising and fighting with the class...not nice sounding political speeches and theories!

plasmatelly
Aug 1 2012 19:46

Awesome Dude Not sure if anyone's resorted to name calling yet - it's certainly not on my list of things to do with regards to the IWW, have I missed something?

Quote:
There are many problems with IWW-BIRA and the last year has been both demanding and exhilarating process and ,as you would expect when organising 'non politicised' workers new to militant struggle with emerging class consciousness, there will be incalculable risks and unforeseen twists and turns...

No one would disagree with this, so much so that it's tricky to gauge someone's definition of a twist and a turn. If you don't share the same organisational praxis as anarchists, though I suspect you do believe that everyone learns from hands-on experience - then we'll never break bread over this. My short - though not to sound unfriendly - response to what you've said is this: I'm an anarcho-syndicalist and as that I believe that decisions should be made at the base, collectively, without representatives of any kind, without having to sit round board room tables with the bosses in Works Councils. I believe that there is no place for full-timers in revolutionary unions, or for any form of representation at all. And organising should have politics and a direction. Now, lets put this as simple as possible - if someone describes themselves as an anarchist, then they too should believe, however sketchy, in these not-so-difficult to understand values. Belonging to a workplace union that doesn't organise on these lines isn't crime of the century - indeed, good luck to you - but, this isn't how anarchists organise.
You may, as someone who possibly rejects these values or the usefulness of this style of organising, want to question these ideas - but please; lets not turn this into anything more than than that. If you reject how anarchists organise, then fair enough; but I'm not interested in reformist, representative forms of organising. I'm happy to support the workers you may represent - but not as a lackey to help build another reformist union.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 2 2012 16:33

AD, I think this talk of the networks is a bit of a red herring. As we've discussed before, they're a work in progress, but this doesn't mean we don't have real successes in SF initiated struggles or that we don't have individuals who organise successfully as /anarchists/ in the workplace. Again, I think because the IWW places much more emphasis on membership and struggles occurring under the IWW banner, you incorrectly apply the same logic to SF.