Organise! re-adopt anarcho-syndicalism - amended Aims and Principles

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Yorkie Bar
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May 12 2010 02:04
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In what way is that anything like the anarcho syndicalist idea of a union and in what way do Pannekoek's criticisms differ from those made by anarcho syndicalists of mainstream unions?

So it appears you have virtually no knowlegde of both council commumism and anarcho syndicalism.

Sorry, since when is revolutionary syndicalism the same thing as anarcho syndicalism?

Deezer
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May 12 2010 02:13
BigLittleJ wrote:
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In what way is that anything like the anarcho syndicalist idea of a union and in what way do Pannekoek's criticisms differ from those made by anarcho syndicalists of mainstream unions?

So it appears you have virtually no knowlegde of both council commumism and anarcho syndicalism.

Sorry, since when is revolutionary syndicalism the same thing as anarcho syndicalism?

Not the same thing entirely as there are certainly different strains of revolutionary syndicalism but anarcho-syndicalism certainly is one of them and either way it is really your charicature of the revolutionary syndicalist criticism of unions that is the problem here. I'm pretty sure that pretty near all revolutionary syndicalists would argue that its not simply structure that is the problem with the trades, craft and general unions. Though they obviously all, including anarcho-syndicalists, argue that. Unfortunately there has also been a tendency among revolutionary syndicalists to confuse general unionism a la the ITGWU of Connolly and Larkin with syndicalism (again the giants/lions of Irish 'syndicalism' did us no favours on that score).

Yorkie Bar
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May 12 2010 02:24
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there are certainly different strains of revolutionary syndicalism but anarcho-syndicalism certainly is one of them

Right, because when I've heard that term it's been used to denote non-anarcho syndicalists: DeLeonists, the IWW, the early French syndicalists and so on. I think JK may have referred to this on another thread as 'simple syndicalism', and perhaps this is a better label.

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it is really your charicature of the revolutionary syndicalist criticism of unions that is the problem here. I'm pretty sure that pretty near all revolutionary syndicalists would argue that its not simply structure that is the problem with the trades, craft and general unions.

OK, but that's not an impression I've had in any discussion with simple syndicalists that I've been involved in, or any of the simple syndicalist literature I've read.

If there does exist a syndicalist critique of representation that is independent of anarchosyndicalism I'd be very interested to read it.

Yorkie Bar
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May 12 2010 02:35
revol68 wrote:
The IWW made all these criticisms laid out by Pannekeok.

Show me.

Deezer
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May 12 2010 02:56
BigLittleJ wrote:
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there are certainly different strains of revolutionary syndicalism but anarcho-syndicalism certainly is one of them

Right, because when I've heard that term it's been used to denote non-anarcho syndicalists: DeLeonists, the IWW, the early French syndicalists and so on. I think JK may have referred to this on another thread as 'simple syndicalism', and perhaps this is a better label.

Quote:
it is really your charicature of the revolutionary syndicalist criticism of unions that is the problem here. I'm pretty sure that pretty near all revolutionary syndicalists would argue that its not simply structure that is the problem with the trades, craft and general unions.

OK, but that's not an impression I've had in any discussion with simple syndicalists that I've been involved in, or any of the simple syndicalist literature I've read.

If there does exist a syndicalist critique of representation that is independent of anarchosyndicalism I'd be very interested to read it.

I wholeheartedly apologise for the IWAs Principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism first adopted in 1922. Apologies also that "simple syndicalist" really means "simple unionist" and is therefore pretty meaningless.

Also in the IWWs own words:

"What is the IWW?

It is a fighting labor union which believes that the interests of labor can be fully served only when working people are united as a class. It wants to see all on the same job united, all in the same industry in one union, all who work for wages in one big union.

The IWW differs sharply from the position of other unions that the problems of the working class can be solved by begging crumbs from employers or praying to politicians for favors. While it fights for better conditions today, the IWW insists that working people are entitled to everything they produce, instead of a meager share.

There will be insecurity and hunger among those who toil for as long as there is an employing class which benefits from low wages and evil working conditions. The IWW holds that there can be no solution to industrial warfare, no end to injustice and want, until the profit system itself is abolished.

In striving to unite labor as a class in one big union the IWW also seeks to build the structure of a new and better social order within the shell fo the old system which fails to provide for the needs of all."

Yorkie Bar
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May 12 2010 03:30
revol68 wrote:
The fuck I can be arsed searching through the IWW's historical documents but seriously those criticisms Pannekeok makes are pretty bog standard fare even for the most bog standard syndcalist.

I just spent about half an hour trawling through online archives of historical documents written by various wobblies, and I can't find any instances of them criticising representative unionism per se. If you can't be bothered to find any evidence to back up your own arguments, then you can ... well, tell me how ignorant I am and assert that you're right, I suppose.

Deezer wrote:
I wholeheartedly apologise for the IWAs Principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism first adopted in 1922. Apologies also that "simple syndicalist" really means "simple unionist" and is therefore pretty meaningless.

What exactly is the issue here? What I meant by revolutionary syndicalists or simple syndicalists are syndicalists who are not anarchists but who are revolutionaries. I think I have made this pretty clear. I think it is completely accurate to say that this current never really moved beyond the position I referred to above; that of criticising mainstream unions for being undemocratic and badly structured - not for their fundamental role in negotiating the sale of labour.

Deezer wrote:
Preamble

I'm familiar with the preamble to the IWW's constitution. However, it doesn't deal specifically with the question of representation. The parts which you have bolded establish the revolutionary credentials of the IWW very well; they do not establish that it had a worked out critique of the representation of workers by unions. Because they didn't.

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Joseph Kay
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May 12 2010 10:17

To weigh in here, I don't think it's worth denying there's long been a tendency of self-described revolutionary syndicalists to gave no critique of representative functions. In the pre-war CNT Durruti referred to 'simple syndicalists', Abel Paz called them 'straight unionists' who sought to emulate the French CGT by recruiting as many workers as possible. They sought to do that by doing a deal with the state to be recognised representatives. They still considered themselves revolutionaries, emulating the revolutionary syndicalism of the CGT.

Of course the CGT itself fell into that trap, similar issues were also behind the split between the FORA V and FORA IX, in Spain and France today the CGT-E and Vignoles respectively still consider themselves revolutionary but take on representative functions, most obviously through works councils. I would say the current leadership of the UK IWW are very much 'straight unionists' but as far as I'm aware they also consider themselves revolutionaries. So the tendency is real.

On the other hand, the best bits of the tradition, usually under an anacho-syndicalist banner have long held a critique of representative forms in favour of self-organisation. Rocker even traces the 'discovery' of workers councils to the libertarians in the first international at Basle in 1869 (the councillists were 40 years late wink). This isn't just theoretical, it has real practical implications as to how we organise day-to-day. The problem is many critics seem content to slag off the former tendency as if it dismisses anarcho-syndicalism (Dauvé for instance), (wilfully?) ignorant of the fact a critique had already been developed, which was all the stronger for being a practical critique wedded to real-world organising.

nastyned
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May 12 2010 12:10
Deezer wrote:
If ned wants to see something different, something he obviously sees as a 'retreat' into anarcho-syndicalism, thats up to ned. I clearly also disagree with biglittlej (though I agree with some of what he says in the post following this one). I won't lose much sleep other either. And of course hope that those two comrades don't either.

I was just asking a bleeding question.

I find all the fine words of manifestos and principles all well and good but in the case of Organise! I knew there was a lot of discussion about how this relates to actual practice when the organisation was being formed and I was interested to hear what had changed in practice with the all new As & Ps.

Deezer
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May 12 2010 17:30
nastyned wrote:
Deezer wrote:
If ned wants to see something different, something he obviously sees as a 'retreat' into anarcho-syndicalism, thats up to ned. I clearly also disagree with biglittlej (though I agree with some of what he says in the post following this one). I won't lose much sleep other either. And of course hope that those two comrades don't either.

I was just asking a bleeding question.

No you didn't "The later was agreed upon at the time, but the all new Organise! is obviously now going for the former" is a statement of what you have decided has been a change for Organise! that you presumed before getting an answer to your bleeding question. It also reads to me as a presupposition dripping with sarcasm.

nastyned wrote:
I find all the fine words of manifestos and principles all well and good but in the case of Organise! I knew there was a lot of discussion about how this relates to actual practice when the organisation was being formed and I was interested to hear what had changed in practice with the all new As & Ps.

Ok, now that your question no longer presupposes the answer (apart from your claim that the A&Ps are "all new", they aren't, they've been amended not redrawn from scratch) - I take it you are asking how this will effect practice in the future, and there was discussion of this. We are further developing what we mean by anarcho-syndicalism and how it can be applied, much of what is being developed is the result of practice and experience within the broader working class movement. We do want to move towards industrial organising but in a manner that does not lose sight of the necessity for our organisation and struggle to be broader than that industrial organising. We are looking at ways to get people trained in employment/industrial legislation outside of the ICTU structures. We will be 'targetting' a couple of areas in which we feel we can make some initial headway in building industrial organisation unhampered by an allergic reaction to the word 'union'. And that is a real problem in describing the type of organisation we are seeking to help create - I don't know if anyone else has tried this in practice but stating that you are building "workplace based resistance groups that will act as a hotbed of militancy" to most workers just makes you sound like a lunatic. Talking about building a revolutionary union controlled by its members that wants to ultimately get rid of the bosses and capitalism might seem strange to some people but it does not meet with with the same "fuck you are a mentalist" sort of dismissal.

Despite all the problems with Trades Unionism, General Unionism and Craft Unionism workers with experience of unions do to some extent identify them as being about coming together to act in solidarity with other workers in pursuit of your common interests as workers. At least thats my experience - even among those who have left Trades Unions with the best reasons in the world.

The rest of the organisation would not tend to see this as building a OBU type mass organisation of all workers. In this period what we are talking about will almost definately remain a minority union. And that is not a problem.

BLJ and JK while its no big problem - I'm afraid that translations from Spanish and French relating to 'simple syndicalism' mean next to nothing. Simple syndicalism is the same as saying simple trade unionism - particularly if we translate syndicalism as just meaning unionism. The problem is compounded insofaras in its English language usage the word syndicalism has usually been used to denote revolutionary varieties of unionism. My point is that anarcho-syndicalism is part of the revolutionary current that is revolutionary syndicalist. Saying that does not blind you to differences and of course anarcho-syndicalism has a better critique of problems with the representative role of other types of unions. It does not however follow that the IWW (or all its members) have been uncritical of this in the past, a lot of IWW criticisms of yellow unions have made the same points. That the current IWW, particularly in the UK, wants to downplay the problems with this in its, I believe doomed, bid to be a 'proper' union does not negate that.

My problem with BLJ's assertion is that he based it on a limited reading of council communism, not on any knowledge of revolutionary and/or anarcho-syndicalism. If you are going to make the initial claim I'm afraid that that is what needs to be backed up with evidence in the first place. And saying this does not deny the existance of the tendency towards taking on representative roles even by self professed revolutionary and anarcho syndicalists.

nastyned
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May 12 2010 18:25
Deezer wrote:
No you didn't "The later was agreed upon at the time, but the all new Organise! is obviously now going for the former" is a statement of what you have decided has been a change for Organise! that you presumed before getting an answer to your bleeding question. It also reads to me as a presupposition dripping with sarcasm.

You need to lighten up mate. I was not in any way being sarcastic. And I included some background info to my question so people would know what I was talking about.

I can remember having discussion with Al before the merger about 'the industrial question' and as Organise! is now officially anarcho-syndicalist I'm genuinely interested in what's changed.

I know this is libcom but not everyone is always point scoring.

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Devrim
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May 12 2010 19:39
Joseph Kay wrote:
Rocker even traces the 'discovery' of workers councils to the libertarians in the first international at Basle in 1869 (the councillists were 40 years late wink).

I remember you saying something like this before. I think that it misunderstands the whole process. Of course anyone can look back in the political history of their current and say that this was an expression, or a predecessor of that.

I think the thing about the idea of workers' councils is that it wasn't discovered by some anarchists in 1869, and it certainly wasn't discovered by Marx or Engels. Engels famously stated "Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat".

But it wasn't.

I don't think that the idea of the councils was one 'discovered' by any political trend, but was one 'invented' by workers themselves in their struggle, just after the turn of the last century, Russia 1905, maybe Amsterdam 1903. All left political currents can claim it for themselves, but it took all of them by surprise.

I look at it more as a part of the slow maturation of the working class as a class for itself.

Devrim

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Joseph Kay
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May 13 2010 01:12

Dev, clearly councils were created by the class in struggle. the point is anarchists were advocating something like them for a long time in opposition to statist strategies. thus it's disingenuous at best to turn round as if 1905/17 was somehow a revelation that rendered (anarcho-)syndicalism obsolete. from memory, the ICC article on syndicalism tends towards this position, when if you read rocker, maximov et al support for factory committees, soviets etc runs through it. I'm not claiming such organs as anarcho-syndicalist 'property', clearly they 'belong' to the class, but it's not as if some from a revolutionay unionist perspective have lacked a critique of representation or failed to support organs such as soviets.

Deezer, I'm aware of the tranation issues where 'syndicalist' in English implies Tom Mann, radical/democratic/grassroots unionism whereas 'sindicalista' in Spanish is simply 'unionist'. However the point stands that in the historical CNT there was a (minority) tendency that sought to normalise relations with the state and function as a representative union, and there was a tension within the CNT that ran through until it ruptured in the May Days of '37. Since WWII, those tendencies have tended t spin out into separate organisations, which is probably better for all concerned.

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May 13 2010 07:28
Joseph Kay wrote:
Dev, clearly councils were created by the class in struggle. the point is anarchists were advocating something like them for a long time in opposition to statist strategies. thus it's disingenuous at best to turn round as if 1905/17 was somehow a revelation that rendered (anarcho-)syndicalism obsolete. from memory, the ICC article on syndicalism tends towards this position, when if you read rocker, maximov et al support for factory committees, soviets etc runs through it. I'm not claiming such organs as anarcho-syndicalist 'property', clearly they 'belong' to the class, but it's not as if some from a revolutionay unionist perspective have lacked a critique of representation or failed to support organs such as soviets.

Yes, but then you could say that Marx and Engels were advocating 'something like them', but I still think that they generally took everybody by surprise.

I am not sure which ICC article you are talking about. Could you link to it, please?

Devrim

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May 13 2010 11:25

I'm away from home and on my phone so no... I thought there was one on syndicalism but it's possible I'm conflating the AF one with the ICC review of a leaflet we did saying organising mass meetings and support councls etc 'doesn't sound like a union'. The point I'm making is that most critics (and uncritical defenders) tend to lump the conflicting tendencies within broadly revolutionary syndicalism into a single entity, which is historically innacurate and theoretically unhelpful. The point about Rocker is not whether he was right, but that it demonstrates anarcho-syndicalists have long supported soviets etc, it's not just something dreamt up in Brighton in 2009 as has been suggested on some of the other threads.

Yorkie Bar
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May 13 2010 18:42
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My problem with BLJ's assertion is that he based it on a limited reading of council communism, not on any knowledge of revolutionary and/or anarcho-syndicalism. If you are going to make the initial claim I'm afraid that that is what needs to be backed up with evidence in the first place.

I don't see what you want me to do, I can't very well provide evidence of something that's not there. Shunting the burden of proof onto me just seems like schoolboy debating tactics, rather than an attempt to get at the truth of the matter.

And if you're saying that my view of revolutionary syndicalist thought is based solely on flicking through a few councilist diatribes, then you're completely wrong. It's based on my reading revolutionary syndicalist literature, my brief membership of a revolutionary syndicalist organisation a couple of years ago, and the discussions I was involved in at that time with revolutionary syndicalists, in Britain and the US.

Heck, I still feel much closer to revolutionary syndicalist than council communist politics in a lot of ways; the historical IWW, for example, at least took an organised part in workers' struggle - while the council communists claimed that this was reactionary and retreated into anti-organisational nonsense.

Yorkie Bar
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May 13 2010 19:29
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brilliant, you've now moved from making bullshit claims about revolutionary syndicalism to making stupid claims about council communists.

Well, is it wrong that the german council-communists rejected political organisation? I've always thought that was one of their defining political positions.

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the problem with your Pannekeok quote was that it wasn't a particularly deep criticism of representation and the role unions can play in mediating and so pacifying workers struggles,

I agree, but it does recognises mediation as the root of the problem. This represents a qualitative difference in thinking from that of the IWW, including that represented in it's historical publications.

As I said, I have no desire to defend Panekoek here, I'm simply pointing out the political differences between him and the revolutionary syndicalists. (As I understand them.)

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Felix Frost
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May 14 2010 00:55
BigLittleJ wrote:
Heck, I still feel much closer to revolutionary syndicalist than council communist politics in a lot of ways; the historical IWW, for example, at least took an organised part in workers' struggle - while the council communists claimed that this was reactionary and retreated into anti-organisational nonsense.

BigLittleJ is saying so many erroneous and questionable things on this thread that it's hard to know where to begin. First of all, the council communists did not consider the IWW to be reactionary, and very few of them retreated into anti-organisational nonsense. Here is what Pannekoek had to say about the IWW:

Pannekoek wrote:
Industrial unionism alone as a method of fighting the capitalist class is not sufficient to overthrow capitalist society and to conquer the world for the working class. It fights the capitalists as employers on the economic field of production, but it has not the means to overthrow their political stronghold, the state power. Nevertheless, the I.W.W. so far has been the most revolutionary organisation in America. More than any other it contributed to rouse class consciousness and insight, solidarity and unity in the working class, to turn its eyes toward communism, and to prepare its fighting power.

Another famous council communist, Paul Mattick, joined the IWW after moving to the US, and tried to influence the IWW in a more Marxist direction.

BigLittleJ wrote:
Well, is it wrong that the german council-communists rejected political organisation? I've always thought that was one of their defining political positions.

Well. yes, that would be wrong. While some councilist today hold this position, the original council communists did not. If they did, they wouldn't have set up political organisations such as the Communist Workers Union (Germany), the Group of International Communists (Holland), or the United Workers Party/Group of Council Communists (US). The last group was set up by Mattick and other council communists from the IWW.

What the council communists did reject was the old party form. Some of them (such as AAU-E) rejected specific political organisation and argued for unitary economic and political organisations. Others supported separate political and economic organisations. Anti-organisational councilism is a much newer phenomenon.

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Felix Frost
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May 14 2010 01:55
BigLittleJ wrote:
Well, Pannekoek seems to advance this criticism in the Theses On The Fight Of The Working Class Against Capitalism, in 1947:
Pannekoek wrote:
V. The strongest form of fight against the capitalist class is the strike. Strikes are necessary, ever again, against the capitalists’ tendency to increase their profits by lowering wages and increase the hours or the intensity of work.

The trade unions have been formed as instruments of organised resistance, bases on strong solidarity and mutual help. With the growth of big business capitalist power has increased enormously, so that only in special cases the workers are able to withstand the lowering of their working conditions. The Trade Unions grow into instruments of mediation between capitalists and workers; they make treaties with the employers which they try to enforce upon the often unwilling workers. The leaders aspire to become a recognised part of the power apparatus of capital and State dominating the working class; the Unions grow into instruments of monopolist capital, by means of which it dictates its terms to the workers.

I'd always kind of assumed that this represented more or less the majority view among council communists. Feel free to correct me, I've virtually no knowledge of them as a political current.

There is very little, if anything, in this quote that contemporary syndicalists or wobblies would disagree with, and you can find similar statements in IWW literature. I'll post some quotes for you later. Both the IWW and the syndicalist unions had conscious policies designed to avoid the tendency of unions to be integrated in capitalist society: relying on direct action by the workers themselves instead of depending on union mediators, refusing to sign contracts with employers, etc.

This is not to say that there wasn't any difference between council communists and the IWW and syndicalists. The former dismissed union activity altogether, and the council communist factory organisations were supposed to only prepare for the revolution and not get involved with organising workplace actions aimed at improving wages and working conditions.

From a text here on libcom:

Quote:
The KAPD militants were supposed to play a leading role in class struggles through the factory organizations, and thus direct the development of the industrial struggle towards communist perspectives. According to this conception, the members of the AAUD were not supposed to assume the leadership of struggles for factory reforms or wage increases, or of any struggle whatsoever that could not be steered in a communist direction. They were to express their solidarity with these struggles, but were not to accept their capitalist framework, thereby excluding themselves from playing a leading role in such struggles.
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May 14 2010 14:07

[quote=Felix FrostThis is not to say that there wasn't any difference between council communists and the IWW and syndicalists. The former dismissed union activity altogether, and the council communist factory organisations were supposed to only prepare for the revolution and not get involved with organising workplace actions aimed at improving wages and working conditions.

From a text here on libcom:

Quote:
The KAPD militants were supposed to play a leading role in class struggles through the factory organizations, and thus direct the development of the industrial struggle towards communist perspectives. According to this conception, the members of the AAUD were not supposed to assume the leadership of struggles for factory reforms or wage increases, or of any struggle whatsoever that could not be steered in a communist direction. They were to express their solidarity with these struggles, but were not to accept their capitalist framework, thereby excluding themselves from playing a leading role in such struggles.

Here is another text worth reading. I know this is off topic (and perhaps controversial), but what are the differences between Otto Rühle's council communism and Brighton Solidarity Federation's anarcho-syndicalism?

Yorkie Bar
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May 14 2010 18:29

So yeah, sorry, clearly what I said was wrong. Thanks for setting me straight. Just one thing though - Felix Frost wrote that-

Quote:
There is very little, if anything, in this quote that contemporary syndicalists or wobblies would disagree with, and you can find similar statements in IWW literature. I'll post some quotes for you later. Both the IWW and the syndicalist unions had conscious policies designed to avoid the tendency of unions to be integrated in capitalist society: relying on direct action by the workers themselves instead of depending on union mediators, refusing to sign contracts with employers, etc.

I'd be interested to read the quotes you're referring to, but although I'm by no means suggesting that the IWW et al. fit Pannekoek's description of trade unions, I just don't think they had the same kind of critique of representative unionism that was expressed by the German and Dutch councilists. All the IWW literature I have read simply repeats the line about the main problem with the craft and trade union movement being its internal organisation. That doesn't mean they *were* a representative union, it just means that they hadn't reached those theoretical conclusions.

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May 14 2010 18:55
blackrainbow wrote:
I know this is off topic (and perhaps controversial), but what are the differences between Otto Rühle's council communism and Brighton Solidarity Federation's anarcho-syndicalism?

i hadn't read that before, and it's actually pretty good. i think when people talk about 'council communism' and 'anarcho-syndicalism' even with the most honest intentions, they're necessarily aggregating different - sometimes opposing - tendencies. thats fine so long as nobody mistakes the shorthand simplification for the more complex reality. in this particular instance, i think Rühle's probably quite far from the aggregate 'councillist' position in openly advocating revolutionary unions, whereas revolutionary unions are of course central to any strand of anarcho-syndicalism. in terms of differences, the main one is Rühle advocates political-economic organisation 'in a revolutionary period' whereas anarcho-syndicalists advocate it all the time, the controversial claim of the S&S pamphlet (which we've moved on from somewhat) being that this may mean fully-fledged revolutionary unions are less permanent than more minoritarian networks. i'm not sure we should derail this thread further into another S&S discussion thoughm although i'm of course happy to debate the subject on an appropriate thread.

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May 14 2010 22:32
BigLittleJ wrote:
I'd be interested to read the quotes you're referring to, but although I'm by no means suggesting that the IWW et al. fit Pannekoek's description of trade unions, I just don't think they had the same kind of critique of representative unionism that was expressed by the German and Dutch councilists. All the IWW literature I have read simply repeats the line about the main problem with the craft and trade union movement being its internal organisation. That doesn't mean they *were* a representative union, it just means that they hadn't reached those theoretical conclusions.

I would agree that the council communist critique of unionism goes further than that of the IWW, but I don't think representation was the central issue here. I think the argument was more that workplace struggle over wages and working condition would nessesarily be of a reformist nature, as it takes place within a capitalist logic. Economic struggle therefore isn't enough, and to be revolutionary, the workers must bring the struggle over on the political plane by organising workers councils and directly challenge the power of the state.

As for the IWW, they did spend a lot of time critizising craft unions for splitting up the workers, but their main criticism was that the trade unions are working for a compromise between labour and capital, and are thereby aiding the capitalists in pacifying the working class by telling the workers that they have common interests with their employers. This is already in Preamble to the IWW Constitution:

Quote:
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

(...)

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

Here are some more quotes about trade unions taken from IWW pamphlets which can be found on this site:

Quote:
When the workers use direct action they depend upon themselves instead of depending upon go-betweens as they have been accustomed to do. In this sense, direct action means self-reliance. Heretofore, the workers have depended upon representatives to meet and bicker with employers. Direct action eliminates these labor leaders, by refusing to employ them.

-The I. W. W.: What It Is and What It Is Not (ca. 1928)

-

Quote:
170. Is it possible to change the A. F. of L. by boring from within?

About as possible as irrigating the Sahara desert with a garden hose. The A. F. of L. is capitalistic and cannot tolerate the spreading of working class ideas within its ranks. Those who preach boring from within capitalist unions are on a par with workers who pay for membership in a Chamber of Commerce to use it for the advancement of the proletarian interest. Craft unions, in our day, are not labor unions; they are gatherings of workers under the control of capitalist agents. They are not designed to further the labor interest but to restrain the laborers in the interest of capitalist property. As long as the working people regard them as well-intentioned but poorly constructed and ignorantly wielded working class weapons, attempts will be made to remodel and regenerate them. Only when they recognize them for the capitalist instruments that they are, will the workers cast them aside and fashion a weapon suitable to and capable of successfully furthering the working class end of a world-wide battle. An auger may bore a hole that will empty a tank, but a tank cannot be remodelled with an auger or a gimlet. It is impossible to change the A. F. of L. It is as impossible to change it as to change a timber wolf into a lap dog, or to make a house pet of a skunk.

171. If the A. F. of L. is not a labor organization, what is it?

It might be called a national association of labor brokers. In the first years of its existence there were some influences at work trying to mould it into a national economic body. For ten years these influences and others tending in the opposite direction were in conflict. The forces that made for an economic function were out-manouvered, and the A. F. of L. settled itself down to solicit political conventions and implore legislative bodies, while the international unions through all their branches undertook to obtain the control of jobs and to deal in labor power. The unions were prostituted from their job-regulating functions to instruments for the aggrandizement of the officialdom. For many years the official machines that have been built up have controlled these unions and used them as political levers and stepping stones to power and financial security for the official groups.

Any city craft union movement will bear out this contention. The building trades achieved great power at a time when the margin between journeymen and contractors was slight. Rival contractors vied with each other for the favor of men who stood high in union circles, and as a result vicious combinations with business and political connections were established. Slight advances to the rank and file had to be conceded, and the business agent or labor leader who fixed a deal whereby his union constituency benefitted even slightly won the devotion of the men. He became automatically a personage for politicians to connect up with and for business interests to deal with. One of the consequences was the establishment of a new, or go-between element in the union movement with their own peculiar interests to serve—neither capitalists nor workers — who shared with the capitalists and preyed upon the workers. They "called" and "settled" strikes as their interests dictated and when in their judgment situations were ripe.

Graft had become an institution in the name and under the auspices of unionism. So true is this, that, while real labor people deplore that graft, the grafters are seldom challenged or impeached; so great has their power become. This refers principally to local labor movements, but these had to depend upon national and Canadian connections. So, raised upon this basis, the international offices could only differ in the modification of the means employed. Where the business agents connected up with local politicians, the higher-up officials sat in with the Big Capitalists and national party riggers in the Civic Federation, and the whole craft union system was dominated by an influence foreign, alien and inimical to the working class interest. The so-called labor movement of the United States and Canada is a business institution for the purpose of controlling and guiding labor discontent into channels where it threatens least injury to the capitalist interest, which is only another way of saying that the least possible benefit is conferred. upon the workers.

172. Is it meant that the A. F. of L. is consciously so?

Just that. Any visitor to an A. F. of L. convention who is conversant with and interested in the welfare of the American workers is struck by the alertness of the international officers in suppressing or diverting expressions of rank and file opinion, which challenge their wisdom and sincerity, or the effectiveness of their organizations, This convention truly represents the dominant labor movement in America. The interests or opinions of the working members have no place in its deliberations. It were far more correctly termed an annual convention of American labor-brokers. These delegates, with the exception of a scattering few with little voting power, represent the controlling influence over organized American labor power. That is their special and particular business. Unity of the workers would destroy that business, and these well-fed, well-groomed, well-paid business men cannot tolerate any idea that would deprive them of their comfortable means of livelihood and relegate them to their old working places, even the memory of which they are reluctant to renew.

-Historical Catechism of American Unionism (1923).

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With the A. F. of L. and the C. I. O. in Existence, is the I. W. W. Needed as a Labor Organization?

In the first place, this question is wrong in implying that the A. F. of L. or the C. I. O. is a labor organization. The fact that the A. F. of L. or the C. I. O. is an organization composed of laborers does not make either of them a labor organization. A labor organization must be judged, not by its personnel, but its objectives. The German army under Hitler is an army of Germans, not for the Germans, but for the big industrialists and financiers of Germany who took over Hitler and made him all powerful. So, too, the A. F. of L., or the C. I. O. is an army of laborers, not for labor, but for capital. In the last analysis, the A. F. of L. or the C. I. O. is committed to the perpetuation of capitalism. It is so organized as to make that perpetuation possible.

-The I. W. W. in Theory and Practice, (5th Revised Edition, 1937).

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The craft form of union, with its principle of trade autonomy, and harmony of interest with the boss, has also been proven a failure. It has not furnished an effective weapon to the working class. True, it has been able to get for the skilled mechanics improved conditions, but due to the narrow structure of the craft organization, class interest has long since been lost sight of, and craft interest alone governs the actions of its membership. In the last analysis the craft union has only been able to get advantages for its membership at the expense of the great mass of the working class, by entering into a contract with the employing class to stand aloof from the balance of the working class in its struggles. They have become allies of the employers to keep in subjection the vast majority of the workers. The I. W. W. denies that the craft union movement is a labor movement. We deny that it can or will become a labor movement.

-The I. W. W.—Its History, Structure and Methods. By Vincent St. John (1917 edition)

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Trade unions invariably are pledged to the program of the "co-operation of the classes" and prate of the community and identity of interests between laborers and capitalists. The leaders are always talking of the "brotherhood of capital and labor."

Out of such dangerous teachings comes the justification and the annual feasts, the Civic Federation dinners at the Waldorf Astoria (New York City), where captains of industry, men like Andrew Carnegie, August Belmont and a host of other labor exploiters, whose opposition to the efforts and hopes of labor is well known and has been marked in historical instances, meet in jolly and sumptuous feast with Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, John Tobin of the Boot and Shoe Workers, John Golden of the United Textile Workers, and so on ad infinitum et nauseam.

They gather presumably to "discuss and help to solve the labor problems" but in fact to partake of the flesh pots they have stripped from labor, to pull the wool over the eyes of the wage workers so that the chains of wage labor may be linked ever more secure on the limbs of our class, that our hopes and ideals may be dragged in the mire and capitalists given assurance of a long day more of safe and contented slavery on the part of the wealth producers.

-Industrial Unionism: the Road to Freedom, by Joseph Ettor (1913)

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WHAT ARE THE TRADES UNIONS NOW?

The craft union movement, be it in England, the United States or in Australia, or the yellow unions of Germany, France, Austria, Italy and other countries, do not aim at all at the destruction of the causes for the discontent of the workers. There is no such an object even contemplated. In reality the trades unions strive to eliminate, if such be possible, the expressions of human discontent, such as strikes, lockouts, boycotts and sabotage! Remove the effects of manifest dissatisfaction. Stop strikes, boycotts, skirmishes by compulsory arbitration measures, like in Australia and Canada, by Civic Federation interference and the filling of places of revolting strikers by other union members, as it is done in the United States of America, establish harmony at any price by the joint-bargaining schemes. These are the shibboleths of trades union leaders!

Although starting out from different ends two apparently opposed movements meet at one angle to move around one center. The capitalists never sure that the uncontrollable actions of the factory workers would not overturn all their speculations and calculations are moved by self-interests to get agencies for the control of these forces into their service, and thus stability in the operations of their means of productions assured.

The trades union leaders, as agents of such interests, as advocates of the perpetuity of the capitalist system of production, fear that the aggressiveness of the workers may endanger their own safety and the stability of the position in which they are placed by their own cunning and the support of the reactionary, indifferent mass which the capitalist agencies train to be loyal to their own most obedient servants.

For these twofold reasons these harmonizers meet in one agreement, and the result of their agreement is the same! The trades union movement, rendered a reactionary, retarding element in social phenomena, assures safety to the capitalist interests that are wise to the game. Revolts, strikes and struggles, breaking out in spite of these combined interests, are turned into means to still more fortify the positions of the harmonizers, and strangle the active militant forces that are constantly struggling to unshackle the fetters which the working class allowed to be fastened on its limbs.

Industrial Unionism: The Hope of the Workers, by W. E. Trautmann (1913)

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
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Joined: 30-12-05
May 15 2010 00:43
Joseph Kay wrote:
in terms of differences, the main one is Rühle advocates political-economic organisation 'in a revolutionary period' whereas anarcho-syndicalists advocate it all the time, the controversial claim of the S&S pamphlet (which we've moved on from somewhat) being that this may mean fully-fledged revolutionary unions are less permanent than more minoritarian networks.

I can't speak for Brighton Solfed, but I would think that the main difference between Rühles ideas and anarcho-syndicalism would be that anarcho-syndicalism advocates unions that have the dual task of fighting day to day struggle over wages and working conditions as well as educating and preparing the workers for revolution. Rühles unions on the other hand, was only tasked with the latter, and would only be involved into the former when these struggles were initiated by other workers.

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From the recognition adduced under point 1, the AAUE likewise rejects on principle propaganda and agitation for partial strikes. Since the Union, however, is at present not yet in the position to influence the development of the situation in its direction, the circumstance automatically arises that Union comrades will be drawn into economic strikes with the trade union orientated workers.
Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Joined: 14-03-06
May 15 2010 12:23

Felix; yeah that's an important difference, and related to the permanent political-economic thing, i.e. anarcho-syndicalists engage in day-to-day struggles over a variety of issues and see revolutionary struggles as growing out of them. as you point out, councillists tend not to dirty themselves by demanding anything less than revolution, hence Ruhle seeing such struggles as supportable when done by others but not something to initiate. I think the difference is anarcho-syndicalists don't think there's anything inherently reformist about winning reforms so long as they are won with self-organised direct action, which strengthens the class and gives confidence for more ambitious demands.

knightrose
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Joined: 8-11-03
May 16 2010 10:41

Can someone from Organise please PM me? We want to meet up formally at the Dublin Bookfair with Organsie and discuss what these changes to your principles mean. I've already pm'ed Deezer, but got no reply.