Recomposition blog's done. Post mortem?

35 posts / 0 new
Last post
Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Apr 4 2017 04:47
Recomposition blog's done. Post mortem?

hey all, so the recomposition blog is done because of rest of life stuff for the people involved. I'd be interested if people have any thoughts on what the project accomplished and on the limits of the project. I'm not fishing for compliments, but like if any of the people involved try to do similar projects in the future or whatever, what would you recommend people try to do similarly or differently.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Apr 4 2017 05:16

I thought it was great and that it's crucial to make accessible the first-hand accounts of our militant working class sisters and brothers and their struggles. Sorry to see it go; it will be sorely missed.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Apr 5 2017 16:43

While I've not read a lot of what has been published, the stuff I've read has been well written.

In time, as you reflect back on the published works, you can take solace that a good effort was made to provide generally good, working class original writings.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Apr 7 2017 04:21

Are the authors going to do a post mortem?

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Apr 7 2017 11:54

Just want to say the series on sleep and work was brilliant - creative, accessible, well-written and easily relatable. Just the kind of writing I think we should be focusing on.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Apr 7 2017 20:41

It'd be neat you all published a "best of" booklet or something like that.

sabot's picture
sabot
Offline
Joined: 21-06-08
Apr 7 2017 23:34
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Just want to say the series on sleep and work was brilliant - creative, accessible, well-written and easily relatable. Just the kind of writing I think we should be focusing on.

2nd this.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Apr 10 2017 00:33
syndicalist wrote:
It'd be neat you all published a "best of" booklet or something like that.

That was basically the book we published called Lines of Work, a few years ago. grin

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Apr 11 2017 05:00
OliverTwister wrote:
Are the authors going to do a post mortem?

No one's planned a group one, I think for the same reasons of being busy and worn out that are why the blog's shut. I think probly everybody's mulling a bit over what the project did and didn't accomplish but I dunno for sure. I also feel like to some extent the people who did the blog aren't necessarily the best placed to be able to say what it did and didn't accomplish. Like personally I wonder if I'm too close to it to have perspective.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Apr 11 2017 21:33

"Pos-motems" are funny things. Sometime there are several, depending on how things end. The first and immediate which often times carries with it certain hurt, anger, ill will and so forth creeps in. Another more softens that, may add a bit ore objectivity when dealing with some of the more sensitive issues. And one which is perfect because things ended the way they should have. Of course, even the best "post-mortem" are subject to historical review years later.

If you set out to simply publish, you did that. Did you accomplish exactly what you set out to publish and use it in a manner you had hoped?

Was publishing aimed towards something else?

Did you expect greater and broader participation/ reception?

Did you achieve the initial and then on going goals you embarked on?

Did any (and Ive no clue) internal changes (or none) il political views create
publishing / collective or other problems or enhancements?

Were things done collectively? Or did those with the loudest pen more
often prevail?

The biggest problem is always assessing the strength, weakness, flaws and positives of
the participants. Sometimes that gets subjective when it should be political Or because of the
personal respect (be it current or former) subjectively get lost, even solid political subjective or changes in members lifestyles, political, group representation and the impact on the collective.

There are many things to look at. I've not worked on strictly a publication to have the sorta of insight one might have or seek to comment in detail, but have been part of publishing projects to at least have a flavor.

In the end, you look at the "product", you look at the personalities, you look at the "influence"
(or none), you look at goals, plus a million and one other things and you may pull together
a sense of the project. That said, every participant may have their own views and sometimes its harder to collectively come to some sort of complete consensus, particularly if things ended badly. Easier when they did not.

In the final analysis, only you folks know and can assess, right?

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Apr 16 2017 05:17

Thanks for that, I appreciate it, good to think about. Personally I rarely felt clear on the goals of the project. I don't know if the other people involved felt that way or not. For me, often I was working on a specific thing (I spent a year or two where I spent a lot of time working with people on getting them to write and working on their writing, that felt worthwhile on the basis of individuals, and I didn't have a clear idea about anything bigger picture). In terms of influence, I don't have a sense of that myself because I got pretty checked out because I had two kids and some other life stuff during the project which ate up most of my time so I checked out of a lot of left stuff.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Apr 12 2017 08:43

I really enjoyed the blog, I thought the writing was good and interesting and I remember the series on sleep which really spoke to me at the time. I didn't really think that there were any goals, it seemed lmike the blog was mainly about sharing working class stories and situations, but that is just my memory of it.
It's always a shame when something ends, I was wondering about why you had shut it down rather than just cutting down the amount of posts etc, but after a bit of thinking it does make sense. Hope you'll have a little time for something else in the future.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Sep 12 2017 13:13

I've been thinking about this a lot and need to write something, since it seems no one else is going to, but I think Recomp, while soliciting and circulated some good writing, was essentially a form of activism that pushed some bad organizational practices in the IWW and was sort of dishonest about how it conducted itself internally in the IWW. To be clear, I'm as guilty of everything I'm mentioning here as anyone else.

I'm glad the writing and publishing happened, but there was never any real discussion much less agreement on why we were doing it. The only other time I've been involved in any kind of leftist stuff where we just did things without really any reason why was activist protest stuff. So in my mind at this point, Recomp was as activist as summit hopping, confronting tiny, marginal neo-nazi groups or any of the other things we probably frowned upon.

Although probably not solely responsible, Recomp also pushed or encouraged what I now think was an unhealthy organizational practice. Basically that everyone and anyone should be involved in the international level structure and discussion of the union. It seems like everyone now has some big idea about what everyone else should be doing. People who can't even do the simple administrative work of turning in paperwork monthly have time to write biweekly position papers. Others who haven't paid dues since Obama's first term in office are deeply involved in the internal life of the organization because they still have the reputation as a big thinker or writer. Again, not solely responsible, but I think that Recomp encouraged the being involved in 'idea fights' to the point where it is rewarded over or at the same level as nuts and bolts work.

Lastly, while Recomp was primarily a group of IWW members who published a blog, it was also a closed political organization. We always downplayed our internal discussions and activities in relation to the IWW, but I think this was because we not only played up in our minds what a political organization is, but were also being a bit dishonest due to pride and not wanting to catch heat. We totally talked about internal IWW matters and even organized and coordinated efforts to stop things we didn't like from coming to fruition or to push things we agreed with. This set a bad precedent that has led to actual formal political organizations such as First of May Anarchist Alliance, or at least some members of it, to deny similar activities. There's nothing wrong with organizing and coordinating among people you agree with to push things in an organization. But there is something wrong with downplaying or denying it. I think we encouraged people and groups, by our example, to not be transparent or open about it.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 12 2017 21:26

Interesting stuff, it's good to be able to reflect and be critical about your own past activity. I'd only know too much about it but I certainly recall you guys joking amongst yourselves online, I don't recall where about how preposterous it was people referred to you as a "faction".

Internal IWW stuff aside, you guys wrote and commissioned some great stuff, so don't be down on yourself about that, that is really quite an achievement

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Sep 25 2017 05:44

I appreciate this Juan. At this point I'm not sure the writing mattered either. I liked it and am glad to have read it/encouraged others to write it. I don't know that it was in any way important. [shrug]

Juan Conatz wrote:
there was never any real discussion much less agreement on why we were doing it.

I agree with this entirely.

The project was initially just a blog to reprint stuff from the IW that a group of friends had written, that's what I first proposed. We did feel like we had a common outlook of some kind, we were all IWW members and initially all WSA members, but that common outlook wasn't defined and we weren't at all programmatic or whatever. The way I remember it, I was up late with insomnia one night and counted all the IW articles that people in this group of friends had written and it was a lot, and I emailed and was like 'how about if I put all these in one place?' and that's as far as the conversation about purposes went.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Recomp was as activist as summit hopping

I guess it depends what you mean by activist. I don't use the word 'activist' to mean 'aimly and poorly thought out.' I *would* say Recomp was just as poorly thought out as many activist projects that people involved with the blog thought little.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Recomp also pushed or encouraged (...) that everyone and anyone should be involved in the international level structure and discussion of the union.

I don't see this in the project. Maybe I forgot, or maybe those were posts I didn't read on the blog. I don't remember the blog ever running stuff that encouraged this. Maybe it is the case that some people involved in the blog did this. I'm not sure. I dunno. I agree with the rest of the criticisms you have about problems in the IWW. I'm open to the view that the Recomp blog, or some of the people involved in the blog acting together, had this negative effect but at the moment I can't connect the dots.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Recomp encouraged the being involved in 'idea fights' to the point where it is rewarded over or at the same level as nuts and bolts work.

Ah okay. I get it now. Someone, I forget who, maybe R from Wisconsin, once described the blog as part of 'a culture war within the IWW.' It wasn't planned that way - it wasn't planned, as you said above - but I think that's pretty accurate. Definitely was cultural politicking, so to speak. I think that's super limited in what good it can accomplish. I dunno if it had this negative effect or not, but I'm open to that. I'm going to think more about it.

I also have a hard time seeing this because my sense is that by the end Recomp was basically doing nothing but work stories. I'd personally gotten really bored of those. Like, I'm glad people write them, but I'd read enough of them that I wasn't excited about it anymore. I personally for a long time wanted the project to have more theoretical or explicitly political stuff in the mix and felt like the work story type content was too much of the mix. So I don't think of Recomp as doing as much 'idea fight' type activity as I wish it had done. I guess it's possible that Recomp put too much into 'idea fight' stuff while also not putting as much into it as I wish it had. Again I want to mull this over some more.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Recomp (...) was also a closed political organization. We always downplayed our internal discussions and activities in relation to the IWW, but I think this was because we not only played up in our minds what a political organization is, but were also being a bit dishonest due to pride and not wanting to catch heat. We totally talked about internal IWW matters and even organized and coordinated efforts to stop things we didn't like from coming to fruition or to push things we agreed with.

I don't see it that way. For one thing, Recomp had such a limited sense of/clarity about itself that I don't think the group knew what it wanted. I do think sometimes there'd be like an organizational emergency of some kind that every active member who paid attention to international stuff would be talking about, and then Recomp people (well, the ones who were active and paying attention) would start talking about that.

I guess I see Recomp as just the blog, even though the people who did the blog were sometimes part of another (or multiple other) affinity groups. I don't think the Recomp people are at all unique on any of this. When I was active I was involved in organizational efforts in the IWW around two sets of charges leading to expulsion, multiple referendum/convention/assembly items, and various informal coordination like helping people get trainings and stuff done. In a lot of those efforts someone who was on the Recomp editorial list was part of it (a lot of this was before Recomp started), and in all of those there were people who weren't on the Recomp editorial list. And, within the people on the Recomp editorial list, it was only ever a minority of them doing anything, either the blog or other IWW stuff. All of that's super imperfect but I don't think it's a political organization.

The way I see the IWW is really reliant on affinity groups and informality. That's true in terms of getting the ongoing work done in a lot of places, and in terms of the activities around convention etc. Recomp was always run by an affinity group - and really always a smaller core of the affinity group did the work, who that core was changed - and that affinity group overlapped with others. I think it had lots of limits, but I don't think the people involved did anything differently than anyone else who was plugged into the IWW and active organizationally.

I do think there is one difference, though, which is that the Recomp affinity group had a name and so fed the appearance of their being teams and cliques. I think that ended up being a problem.

I also think the Recomp affinity group ended up doing something I've complained about political groups doing, which is pulling conversations into private ones instead of having them through/in official/shared spaces in the IWW. If I had it to do over again Recomp would not have a blog and instead would be a committee that encouraged people to write for the IW, and maybe would be a 'we reprint stuff the IW ran 6 months ago and that's all' web site.

If I had to do over again I'd also split the 'affinity group of IWW members who have known each other' part from the 'people who do a blog together' part much more strongly. As you said, there were conversations about IWW stuff, of a kind that I had with lots of people not only people on the Recomp editorial list, and like lots of people now have on facebook in various ways. The group of us who were first involved when we/I started the blog had been having those kinds of conversations together for years. I think we were in the habit of having those conversations together, and it was like 'we're on this list together so let's talk about what we think is happening.' This goes to the lack of purpose you talked about. My impression was that whoever was doing the actual work of the blog would often get annoyed by those conversations (I know I did when I was the one coordinating the blog) especially when paired with the low involvement with the actual work of doing the blog. Monica introduced a list late in the project for only nuts and bolts stuff, I think that was too late because by then the project was on its last legs. It might have worked had it started that way from the beginning.

I'd be surprised if Recomp influenced anyone in M1. Maybe Recomp and M1 ended up acting similar in some way. I'll have to take your word on that, I'd become inactive by the time M1 was really doing much in the IWW, I think. That'd make sense to me though, given what I think is/was a kind of affinity group culture in the IWW and given that both groups consisted at least initially of people who had spent lots of (too much!) time in anarchist groups.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Sep 26 2017 16:08

Asked respectfully and strictly out of curiosity.

What's meant by this? Seemingly a criticism of sorts?

Quote:
Nate: "....given that both groups consisted at least initially of people who had spent lots of (too much!) time in anarchist groups."

kuro
Offline
Joined: 15-09-08
Sep 28 2017 13:32

Recomposition ruled..along with the twin cities push and the crew involved with that tendency it made reading IWW material relevant again. More class-struggle writing should start from peoples personal perspectives and the nuts and bolts of trying to actually do serious syndicalist organising. Really enjoyed everything you all put out and was distro'ing zine versions for a while. Please do a best of zine

redsdisease
Offline
Joined: 31-12-10
Sep 30 2017 20:44
kuro wrote:
Please do a best of zine

They went and did you one better: https://www.akpress.org/linesofwork.html

s.nappalos
Offline
Joined: 29-01-10
Oct 31 2017 16:44

I share a lot of the thoughts of Nate and Juan, but also some differences. Recomp lasted a long time, and actually had a rotating cast of people with a much smaller group of lifers like Nate and myself. The vibe and goals shifted along those years. Big picture I think Juan is right that the haziness led to bad practices, and bad practices were cultivated. There is more to the story though, which I can't remember if Juan was around for or not. For most of it's life recomp was one or two people who did all the work, got burned out, then someone else stepped up. The rest of us were on the sideline writing, soliciting, and debating/gossiping on an email list.

We did perpetually debate whether to formalize and become our own thing, or to keep it informal as Nate described. The project literally came about just from 4-5 friends sharing email threads and drafts, and that became something better but it was always a challenge to overcome. I would argue there was less a lack of objectives than there was unresolved disagreement about what we wanted to do, and likewise think Juan is wrong about wanting to do the daily work of the union. The baseline of recomposition for most of it's life was people who wanted the IWW to thrive and succeed at organizing, and had more loyalty to that than any other overarching political goals. For most of that history the bulk of people who were active in the project were doing that run of the mill non-politicized admin type work. There was debate about this in the sense of how much should we make the union a well oiled machine vs coordinate for some larger political goals. That was never resolved, and it actually changed across the years. In the beginning it was pretty IWW organizing and admin centric, then became more politicized in the middle, and near the end became more admin centric again in my opinion. There were also extended debates about whether it should focus on the iww, labor as a whole, the left, etc. Mostly the iww won out, but there was some vacillations along the way.

Given the long view I wouldn't say recomposition itself created some bad organizational practices, because most of the people involved never participated in that. But I do think that some of my comrades and myself picked up bad ones from the early years of solidarity unionism and perpetuated that in the mid 2000s, basically trying to avoid unproductive fights by using judo behind the scenes. Over the years I came to feel it's much better to be honest about our goals and opinions, and try have some space for open debate while still working together. I probably have felt this way as the IWW has never had a comradely culture where political differences were dealt with in an honest and mature fashion, and I feel sad and validated in how that has all played out lately. This actually was a debate at some point within recomposition, and I wonder if it wouldn't have helped had it been open given the prevalence of Machiavellian and diy secret agent type stuff going on. I think Juan is also right to see the connection between those behaviors and the current bizarre culture that has developed and of note a lot of that developed in the same city.

Fwiw I was always the outlier and argued for us having an independent non-iww centered approach, and for building a formal structure with the ability to recruit members, put out policies and debates, etc. Largely those are just because of my personality flaws as well as my critical support/distance from the iww and that I'm an anarchist communist before iww and always have been. I actually think that was a mistake in so far as that wasn't where we were at. We didn't have the capacity to pull that off, and we hobbled along not having the clarity or consensus on how to navigate those issues. I still believe that we need projects that organize workers with libertarian communist methods and goals at the center, and a recomposition like project could help that if there was the capacity and interest out there. I have kept essentially in good standing in the IWW for 15+ years over my own objections largely because of good arguments from recomposition folks, and have tried to help out on a local level where ever I've lived because I want to see it succeed. Recomposition's decline speaks to the limitations of that approach though as despite years of effort I see little political home for what we advocated and the IWW's internal life throughs a lot of the utility into doubt. I worry that in the broad libertarian milieu we are too scared to own our politics and create projects that reflect that, and the check comes due only much much later.

gram negative's picture
gram negative
Offline
Joined: 24-11-09
Oct 31 2017 23:30

As someone who was deeply impacted by Recomposition and Lines of Work, it is impressive to see some of the participants come here to offer sober and critical analysis of their past work - something which happens all too rarely, and the responses on here have been thought-provoking.

Quote:
I worry that in the broad libertarian milieu we are too scared to own our politics and create projects that reflect that, and the check comes due only much much later.

This is something that I have been grappling with for far too long.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Nov 1 2017 00:01

S. Nappalos, you struck a chord with me when you said that "in the broad libertarian milieu we are too scared to own our politics and create projects that reflect that". I can't really put in words, though. Could you please say a bit more about that?

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Nov 3 2017 22:58

Having met some and sorta worked with many of you, it's interesting to read your detailed reflections.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Aug 20 2018 17:13

Looks like some of the remnants of Recomposition who are still involved in the IWW started a new blog: http://organizing.work/

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 20 2018 18:36

That's a really cool domain name.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Aug 21 2018 13:36
Juan Conatz wrote:
Looks like some of the remnants of Recomposition who are still involved in the IWW started a new blog: http://organizing.work/

Makes sense, it reads like the former

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Aug 27 2018 02:50

Just on the new blog it is actually only one person running it and they are former Recompsition and came in much later in the Blog’s life. I am sure there will be lots of IWW contributors, I intend to run some pieces in it. The focus is also pretty much solely on organising with some non IWW content but aimed at wobs.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Aug 30 2018 12:58
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Just on the new blog it is actually only one person running it and they are former Recompsition and came in much later in the Blog’s life. I am sure there will be lots of IWW contributors, I intend to run some pieces in it. The focus is also pretty much solely on organising with some non IWW content but aimed at wobs.

Ah, I think I saw an earlier version of the blog where it seemed to indicate 3 of you were running it. It now says something different. And, no offense, I think you're selling Marianne a bit short. Recomp started in 2010 and ended in 2017. She joined in 2014, so she was around for about half the life of it.

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Aug 30 2018 14:12

Fair enough , my memory on these things is pretty bad. If what came out of Recomp was more blogs like this one I think it would be a good thing. One of my bigger regrets of the blog shutting down was not seeing more writing by guys like yourself and Scott out there. I also found the post Norton’s here really nice to read and agree the lack of a clear idea of what we were doing made for an interesting dynamic but it also basically made the project harder to continue. In a lot of ways the ground Recomp covered could have probably been a few different blogs.

Also on the culture of debate factions etc. I kind of see two kinds of groups in my experience. Ones with factions and ones without. The ones that don’t have that stuff ytend to have less debate and discussion and I just don’t know if I have seen a working model of a group that can have pretty serious debates about serious matters and not have hurt feelings (speaking as someone who does get a little sad sometimes when people inreally respect criticise me). As for formal political groups and caucuses my worry is the increased formality on what is otherwise a pretty natural dynamic leads to some bad stuff like people pretending to hold positions they don’t actually have and explicit appeals to the party like being substituted for critical engagement. So I do think there is a difference there.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Aug 30 2018 16:28

Thus far, the contents are interesting.

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Sep 11 2018 17:51

For what little it's worth here's my take on the recomp thing. I would now say that the people who ran recomp never really figured out how to act as a collective project, and never had a stable consensus about whether or not they really wanted to have the blog be collectively run. I think most of the time it was basically one person, with an email list that helped with some specific tasks like writing, sharing the posts, etc, with some turn over in who that one person was, and sometimes people were like 'cool this arrangement works well' and sometimes people were like 'this really should be more collectively run.' The upside to that is that the blog got a lot done for a pretty low/pretty efficient workload. I think one downside is that a lot of people think the people who did the blog were a lot more cohesive than they were, and that the cohesion that did exist was a lot more conscious than it was. Mostly the people who ran it were an affinity group that ran on interpersonal relationships. I remember Scott and I talked on the phone a couple times about trying to work out what we actually thought in common as a sort of statement of aims and principles. I remember feeling very strongly in favor of that and very strongly opposed to that at different times and can't remember why either way.

Anyway, part of this to say that the connection between recomp and the new blog is sort of like when someone plays drums on a punk band's final two records, the band breaks up amicably, then they start playing guitar in a new punk band. Everyone wishes everyone well and it's in a similar genre, but they're different projects - the new blog's about page basically says 'I hope the new blog does well at the things Recomp did, and I want to to be better than Recomp' - and the connections between them aren't particularly interesting or explanatory.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Sep 28 2018 12:11

Been following this new Organizing Work blog...it's essentially Recomposition but with less work stories. The majority of the contributions, as far as I can tell, are from people who were part of the Recomp editorial collective. Most of these pieces seem like they could have run in the Industrial Worker back in 2006-2011. Doesn't really do anything for me, but nothing wrong with that. I suppose even the solidarity unionists need an Anarcho-Syndicalist Review as a placeholder to repeat what they have been saying for years.