Anarcho-syndicalist organization?

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syndicalist
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Apr 20 2013 22:38
Anarcho-syndicalist organization?

I'm curious how different US anarcho-syndicalists (and those closest to anarcho-syndicalism) see their activities and roles today. That is, what sort of organization(s) and what sort of organizational relevancy foot their bill? Or what sort of explicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization would they like to see?

What would an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization mean and do? That is, an organization of like minded militants/activists/organizers coming together around general anarcho-syndicalist principles
to issue topical and other libertarian literature and help develop and enhance their work in a variety of worker, social and community struggles.

What would it look like? How would it function? Given the diversity of activist efforts here in the US/Canada, can an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization be more like a "propaganda" organization? A union? A combo of propaganda and union-like functions? Something else? Or must its sole and defining role be something else?

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klas batalo
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Apr 21 2013 05:59

Currently I am interested in developing more this general current i.e. anarcho-syndicalism or on the other side of the debate my influences from council communism which both favor political-economic revolutionary organization.

Because of the various initiatives whether they be unions independent or revolutionary, solidarity networks, political organizations as well as blogs/reviews I think the best way forward for developing this current would be through practical rapprochement via some sort of non-sectarian network for exchange of experiences, ideas, etc but one rooted by militants involved in struggle or sharing insights about struggles they were involved in years ago, or helping develop the capacity for folks to do so. So preferally people with experience for now I think would be more useful.

I think the propaganda functions today are better served by the established publishing houses, though certainly blogging and social media allow for a lot more easier syndication that should be made use of. More developing and showing solidarity between individuals work in various initiatives, whether solidarity networks, student syndicalism, transit/tenants unionism, or traditional workplace organizing would be more interesting. I think such a network could serve as a real pole for regrouping militants around those ideas and building a base for anarcho-syndicalist methods and ideas (content) within various initiatives, etc.

This is a lot of speculation though. Anyone have other thoughts?

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Apr 21 2013 18:06

I'm most interested in building militant unions regionally at the moment and working towards something similar to the IWW's founding, a hearty helping of decently sized unions that apparently had developed a radical character associating into a new, radical union. I think we need to have this experience again, fresh.

I think the political org. should mostly group, train and support militants in the building of these unions / bodies of struggle. Also it should do popular education only in as much as there is demand from people radicalised in the struggles that are the fruit of its primary purpose. Internal ed is ok, I just question if its a great use of resources to preach to the choir about politics when it could be work shopping some organizing plan. I think bureaucratically, we should cut the anarchy-syndicalist org way way down. Essentially run trainings, collect and disperse dues monies where needed. Congresses should be big organizer trainings and skill sharing events.

Welp, I've gone nutty now.

Also, I agree with pretty much all of what Klas lined out.

s.nappalos
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Apr 22 2013 01:13

I think there's a lot of work anarchosyndicalists can do and different roles we can play here today in the US. Ultimately I do believe in the need for anarchosyndicalist organizations (that work on workplace and community issues), though that would have to reflect real work amongst the working class that could reflect such a minority organization. To be concrete, in hospitals an anarchist workers organization would have things it could contribute as a minority force. Right now that'd be tough, but we should be building towards it.

I'm an IWW, and in the IWW there's a lot anarchosyndicalists can do to make the IWW better at what it does. We should be contributing to making the organization more active, better organized, and building an anarchosyndicalist practice inside.

Today's there's a number of anarchosyndicalist inspired projects in the US like the IWW, Solnets, revolutionary housing initiatives, transit unions, etc. A network of militants grouped around an anarchosyndicalist practice could help us think through concrete problems in our organizing that we can't solve on our own easily, and help us strategize making our projects more in line with our politics. Anything that could unite people working in different groups they're loyal too, and increase what we're doing and capable of would be a big step forward.

There is a role for developing the thinking around anarchism and anarchosyndicalist as well. Political and popular education do come up when you work with people, and the problem today is that everyone is expected to work everything out alone in isolation, reading online, etc. A project that seeks to support and deepen the understanding and practice of anarchist militants could have a lot of power, especially if it tried to move away from traditional left internal cultures, rhetoric, and means of transmissions. An anarchism that tries to ground itself in today's problems, social relationships, and communication could bring a lot to the table to move forward work that isn't just about bread and butter, but also revolution. Political organization is the harder question in terms of how you bring that together in a way that is functional and grows healthy relationships.

Internationally, we should be building more person-to-person relationships and finding ways to share and support the struggles of others trying out stuff that we are.

redsdisease
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Apr 24 2013 08:12

Edit: Just caught that I wrote a response to a different thread.

akai
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Apr 22 2013 08:30

Hi, hope you don't mind if I comment here, not being in the US. It is all interesting to read, but I think that this idea is problematic and has been a problematic one in the development of movements in the US:

I think the political org. should mostly group, train and support militants in the building of these unions / bodies of struggle.

This thinking means what: that the union or body of struggle cannot be "political". I think that this very separates anarchosyndicalism from unions, which is sort of nonsense. I mean, this has been the american context of the IWW and anarchosyndicalism in the US: to have a union which is not anarchosyndicalist and then have some anarchosyndicalist org outside it which is not a union but making "propaganda". I just think this formula has been very bad for the development of anarchosyndicalism in the US, although good for the development of the IWW.

And here I think that a lot of anarchosyndicalists are their own worst enemies, because somehow they convince themselves that workers will not join a specifically anarchosyndicalist organization. Well, the US is a right-wing place and it is a challenge, but a lot less right-wing than where I live. And we see that people like our organization. But it all depends if being "political" for you means being political on paper or in action. I think if you apply your politics to real activity, you can openly go for anarchosyndicalism and I suppose that if people were willing to join the IWW, they really would have been willing to join an anarchosyndicalist organization doing the same type of activity also, but one has never been on offer. The only specific anarchosyndicalism on offer has been propaganda groups.

s.nappalos
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Apr 22 2013 13:28

akai, i agree with the spirit of what you say, but want to flip it a little. I mean i don't think the issue with the iww is that american workers aren't ready for anarchosyndicalism. The issue is more to me that the iww is an active network of anarchists and others who have a lot of experience in practice of doing workplace work from that perspective. It's a political situation that wouldn't be solved simply by proclaiming a new organization. I mean if a few of us got together and create a new a/s union amongst the minority of conscious a/s iwws, the likelihood is it would be a minority of the a/s people in the iww anyway. You would be in a position of actively competing against other iww locals in some cities with other anarchists doing good work in those cities, losing all the resources and work built up in the iww, and having to start doing that likely with the most ideological folks rather than the best people on the ground.

In theory I'm not opposed to that. I do think we'd be better off with an a/s union, and think revolutionary syndicalism has inherent limitations. But I can't really follow the logic of why it would be better to split with a tiny group of people rather than working to improve the iww.

I agree with the critique of the limitations of a/s propaganda groups. There is work to be done furthering anarchist analysis, education, etc., in general but not necessarily as a means to build up a/s organization. In real terms to build up such a project, I think we're better off with a network of a/s militants building the politics in practice across the different a/s inspired projects.

syndicalist
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Mar 21 2014 23:15

-

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Apr 22 2013 13:53

Akai,

I don't really think my comment proclaimed that our union organizing / building should be a-political. I suppose I can see why you may of got that impression as I said we should build unions that develop a radical character over time. To explain this I would say that just because you have radicalism on paper (which I'm fine with starting out with) doesn't necessarily mean its practice will be consistent with those aims. Using the unions that went on to form the IWW as an example; The Western Fed. of Miners is a sort of good example of what I'm on about. They adopted explicit revolutionary aims in 1901, pre-dating IWW by a few years.

So yea, saying that the political org now should be focused on gathering militants to build these sorts labor orgs does not equal a proclamation we should be building a-political unions. . .

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Apr 22 2013 14:09

s.nappolos

Totally agree the problem is not fixed with proclaiming a new org, nor is it fixed by removing the ideological @'s from the IWW to build something else.

My question is,

What about folks not affiliated with the IWW engaging in revolutionary union building, why are they in competition with the IWW? What about solidarity?

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Apr 22 2013 15:32

I'm a bit confused; I am able to understand what a 'revolutionary union' is as opposed to a 'traditional reformist union', but what is an 'anarcho-syndicalist union'? Is it a union established by anarcho-syndicalists themselves and with an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist platform and membership requirement?

s.nappalos
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Apr 22 2013 15:35

If you are trying to build revolutionary unions, awesome. I was more implying if you existing a/s militants setting up unions in the same cities with the same people as IWW i don't think that would be an advance if it didn't lead to additional work that wasn't happening at least in the short run.

syndicalist
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Apr 22 2013 16:07
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
I'm a bit confused; I am able to understand what a 'revolutionary union' is as opposed to a 'traditional reformist union', but what is an 'anarcho-syndicalist union'? Is it a union established by anarcho-syndicalists themselves and with an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist platform and membership requirement?

One could say the later is accurate. Well, to the extent that the members need to be in agreement with the basis, forms and actions of the union's statute's and agreed upon convention/congress agreements. Don't always mean that each and every member has declared themselves for libertarian communism/socialism or has a mature understanding of all the political and ideological in's/out's, but abides by the union's stated role and purpose. Of course, the internal education within the union is to help spread the ideal and sharpen members understanding of a/s and a whole host of other matters.

For explicitly A/S within the IWA concept see: http://libcom.org/library/basic-anarcho-syndicalism
For implicitly A/S-type ideas within the IWW concept see: http://libcom.org/library/direct-unionism-discussion-paper-09052011

For a discussion of the different forms of unionism, please start a different thread groucho

akai
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Apr 22 2013 19:58

Hey, I understand what you are saying - just throwing out the thought.

But can you explain something (because from the way it is worded it is not clear for me): are you saying there are some anarchists in the US involved in revolutionary union building who are not in the IWW? Or that if there were, they wouldn't necessarily be in competition with IWW?

I just am not aware of the revolutionary union building going on, only of propaganda. If there is something, please inform me because I haven't heard of it yet.

Thanks for the clarification.

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Apr 22 2013 21:23

Yea you bet, sorry for being unclear.

There is a micro, local based group that has as its focus work along those lines. Such work is entirely nascent and there are no solid details that you probably wanna know. Let me know if you want PMed what details there are, you seem interested in hearing about it.

I can only really speak to my personal feelings on this, but no, I don't really feel such a project is in competition with the IWW. I'm still confused why that word is being brought up, like really, are all the SolNets that take on workplace fights edging in on IWW territory too? I haven't heard that attitude within or without the IWW.

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Apr 23 2013 00:46

I agree with bozemananarchy that if A-S revolutionary unions or groups started up in other cities or sectors most likely it wouldn't be seen as competition. For instance let's say the IWW was doing food and retail but an A-S group started doing taxi driver organizing. Also there are plenty of examples of the trade unions thinking that the IWW doing organizing in the building trades or hospitality or healthcare would be "dividing the class" which I think is bullshit and we do see the IWW still continue to do that work anyway, so I get bozemananarchy lots of twinkle fingers of what should stop an A-S organization from doing that?

Regarding SolNets I have the impression that SeaSol has started to talk about doing internal workplace organizing and that this has actually caused a bit of a rift at least with some Seattle IWW members. Disagreements over approach but also over like "jurisdiction" ... I think S. Nappalos' point though is unfortunate duplication of effort, for things like development of militants, training, other resources, etc... less things like jurisdiction / creeping on some other groups turf.

Now in someways I think the IWW is cool cause it is open enough that left communists, council communists, autonomous marxists can sometimes be found in it... but so can trots, and other authoritarians even though it is mostly an organization of underdeveloped anarcho-syndicalists (this is no dig at those with more experience, IMHO I've just experienced more "anarcho-syndicalists" who are just Chomsky radical liberals who don't have much historical understanding of the current, or commitment to the practice other than being a good card carrying member of the IWW).

s.nappalos
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Apr 23 2013 01:41

Yeah I wasn't implying there has to be a competition or anything. I was just saying if someone was proposing to split iww locals based on anarchosyndicalism that wouldn't make any sense in practice. Like Klas said.

akai
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Apr 23 2013 06:21

Well, the thing about "competition" is a pain in the ass. We have trouble with the mainstream unions. Like this weekend when we put up information about an organizing attempt we were doing, we had reaction within 10 minutes and it was basically the same logic as this "dividing the class" shit, because they think they represent all workers, when in fact they are shit and lots of workers know it. Of course, where possible, it is better to avoid conflict with ones which you could work together with.

About the IWW, it shouldn't think about acting that way, since it tries to set itself up in places with existing anarchosyndicalist unions. I think a good example is in Germany, where there is a heavily Marxist IWW group. It's really small compared to FAU and sort of not necessary (since anybody can join FAU) but there is no problem with it and each does it thing.

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Apr 23 2013 13:54

Klas and S.nappalos,

About unfortunate duplication of effort. I think folks will have wildly different understandings of the IWW depending on what GMB they come from and what they made of that activity. If the Two Rivers GMB was still alive today, what we're up to would not amount to any duplication of effort at all save perhaps what was a pretty good OT101.

S.nappalos; I hear that comrade, I've never understood the argument to anarchize the IWW or split it. I have this attitude even after my TRGMB experience, which was dominated by loud Trot men. If anything, it made me think the IWW should consider dropping GMB's as a thing, forever. I feel that way mainly because of that specific experience and seeing it all play out like it did. Now I know a lot of good things have come from GMB's as infrastructure and so on, but it really seems that GMB's often act as end goal (at least de facto) for some wobs in their respective towns. I guess I'm just saying, I'd rather IU's occupy the place that GMB's do so that more energy is tossed that way. My issue with the GMB thing goes back all the way to when the wobs first started doing them as a way to maintain a salient org. during really tough times. I think that in itself is a solid reason to move past that, its defeatist and minimally productive towards the IWW's historic ends. With the gains that the IWW has made recently, its great to see the setting of a new course. I believe a founding conference of an IU just happened?

FWIW, I'm not anti-IWW at all.

And also, just to be crystal clear. The group I'm in are not IWW, and I'm the only former wob. There is no established IWW in this town, just some scattered members and a delegate down the road 200 miles.

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Apr 23 2013 18:04

Yes IOC meetings are 100% more useful towards organizing than a GMB meeting any day. I would rather introduce a new worker I organize with to one, than a GMB meeting.

GMBs before Occupy filled I feel sometimes the space as regroupment pole for all class struggle type labor leftists who couldn't find a party or other political group to join. For instance mine has often had loner Trots.

s.nappalos
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Apr 23 2013 19:49

Akai- I wasn't implying I support the panleftist idea of dissolving into single organizations or things like that. Maybe I should rephrase it; in cities with active existing locals of the iww, anarchists leaving those locals to build to parallel ones in those particular places wouldn't move us forward. I actually do think anarchist unions are steps forward compared to apolitical syndicalist unions or the politicized pro-liberal/capitalist unions. But in practice how to do that is messy and there's not an easy way to do that.

On IUs- I was in portland when we had essentially only IUBs and an industrial district council of IUBs. There's problems there too in that you often end up taking the best organizers and making them replicate administrative roles (secretaries and treasurers) and making fairly arbitrary divisions between militants that could collaborate. Stuff like that would make more sense in a time when there was more open conflicts, layers of militants, etc. Today I think GMBs serve roles and we do better with organizing focused committees that don't try to act like branches. Now in MN I think I know what you're talking about and those folks were a problem. The issue is just that in a time of low levels of struggle isolated individuals can take projects and try to make them their petty activist fiefdoms. At the same time there's a limited life expectancy of those trot experiments. For the time being there's not much incentive for them to do it (though the better we get, the more opportunist elements we attract), and their way of functioning makes it hard for them to suceed in the IWW. i do support building organizations that aren't vulnerable to pointless political frustrations like that, but in the short term its less of a problem than it could be.

I used to blame the structure, but today it seems more like a political question. The CNT for example has mixed locals of community & workplace stuff and then separate workplace structures. The FORA has resistance socities and then separate workplace structures too. To me, we need to define ourselves by our activity and political content, and have structures reflect. Right now I think in the US we won't find ourselves with functioning structures more than groupings like seasol, iww gmbs, workers centers, etc. Even in the large unions here typically there aren't any real functioning shopfloor organizations. It's less a reflection of orientation than of the objective context and the subjectivity of workers here.

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Apr 23 2013 20:15
Quote:
I used to blame the structure, but today it seems more like a political question. The CNT for example has mixed locals of community & workplace stuff and then separate workplace structures. The FORA has resistance socities and then separate workplace structures too. To me, we need to define ourselves by our activity and political content, and have structures reflect. Right now I think in the US we won't find ourselves with functioning structures more than groupings like seasol, iww gmbs, workers centers, etc. Even in the large unions here typically there aren't any real functioning shopfloor organizations. It's less a reflection of orientation than of the objective context and the subjectivity of workers here.

Sorry, I'm pretty dense. Can you re-phrase this or something, it seems an important point.

I did understand this though;

Quote:
To me, we need to define ourselves by our activity and political content, and have structures reflect.

and can say this is actually my whole MO at the moment.

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Apr 23 2013 20:27
Quote:
GMBs before Occupy...

I was hoping you could expand on this Klas?

It's been years since I was in the IWW, but I'm sort of surprised that's there are still these GMB/IUB debates going on. It seems like it's a debate over structure, when I think strategy is where the real debate should be. Anyway, I think s.n covers this all pretty well in post 21.

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Apr 23 2013 20:45

Hmm. . .

I'm not aware if that debate is still going on. I'm just kind of winging on it a couple of years post my involvement.

From what I can see the GMB is a widespread way of organizing in the IWW and I think, after all this time, that it is reflecting strategy to a certain extent, the 'staying alive' strategy to be historically specific. I question if that is a good way of framing our activity in any kind of organization.

redsdisease
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Apr 24 2013 00:44

I'm curious what folks who are posting on this thread think would actually be gained by starting a specifically anarcho-syndicalist group beyond closer adherence to anarcho-syndicalism as an ideology. I think the history of syndicalism shows that just because a group claims adherence to anarcho-syndicalism does not mean that they are particularly revolutionary. Unless there was some major crisis in the IWW, it seems to me that any split from the IWW would be more likely to pull away a small number of ideologues while leaving behind the vast majority of solid organizers regardless of their politics, essentially creating an organization that wouldn't have anything to offer besides polemic (and even that may or may not be better politically than what you can already find within the IWW, I don't have a whole lot of faith in the politics of most US anarcho-syndicalists, IWW or otherwise).

I don't see the IWW as perfect or anything, I just don't think a specifically anarcho-syndicalist organization would be perfect either and I don't understand what it would be able to offer that the IWW or currently existing specific anarchist organizations couldn't beyond being closer to individuals preferred specific ideology.

syndicalist
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Apr 24 2013 01:28

Right quick......basically this:

redsdisease wrote:
...starting a specifically anarcho-syndicalist group beyond closer adherence to anarcho-syndicalism as an ideology. .

Add: With a practice allowing for concerted work inside and outside the IWW, Solnets and social movements.

My long time dream has been to work towards the practice of shopfloor forms of unionism in comrades workplaces. But not intended to be a labor union, but a formation of anarcho-syndicalist militants, which would promote the development of anarcho-syndicalist activity, such as direct workers action and self-managed forms of worker struggle. One that would be flexible enough to be responsive to different levels of activities and different shopfloor and community focuses.

syndicalist
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Apr 24 2013 01:11

DP

redsdisease
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Apr 24 2013 01:24
syndicalist wrote:
Add: and practice, both within and outside of the IWW.

Do you mind expanding on this a bit when you have a minute? Specifically how this might offer something different than what is found within the IWW or the already existing anarchist organizations (one of which I believe you are a long time member of).

To be clear, I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of there being a specific anarcho-syndicalist organization in the US, I just don't really understand what it would be able to offer that didn't already exist here (beyond the ideology thing, which I just don't find all that convincing).

syndicalist
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Apr 24 2013 02:10

I'll come back to your legit questions Red. Pressed for time and want to write something of "value".
In large measure, I'd like to get back to basics. And as I'm no longer active, on the shopfloor or in any real organizing fashion, I'd like to contribute what little I can in areas where I have personal interest and experience.

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Apr 24 2013 06:00
Quote:
I'm curious what folks who are posting on this thread think would actually be gained by starting a specifically anarcho-syndicalist group beyond closer adherence to anarcho-syndicalism as an ideology.

I think its worthwhile to explore different modes of organizing within and without orgs like the IWW. So, I guess whats is to be gained is what can't be seen at present. I should of been clear that my initial response to the OP was really just what an anarcho-syndicalist influenced (amongst other influences) person thought about the more general role of political organization.

Quote:

I think the history of syndicalism shows that just because a group claims adherence to anarcho-syndicalism does not mean that they are particularly revolutionary. Unless there was some major crisis in the IWW, it seems to me that any split from the IWW would be more likely to pull away a small number of ideologues while leaving behind the vast majority of solid organizers regardless of their politics, essentially creating an organization that wouldn't have anything to offer besides polemic (and even that may or may not be better politically than what you can already find within the IWW, I don't have a whole lot of faith in the politics of most US anarcho-syndicalists, IWW or otherwise).

Absolutely agree with the first bit though that argument could be tossed back at the IWW by simply supplanting anarcho-syndicalsim with radically tinged industrial unionism or whatever it is the IWW is ideologically. I haven't really heard anyone arguing splitting the IWW ideologically on the thread. Not something I'd want anything to do with. However, I think your being kind of ridiculous extrapolating what such an org would have to offer in end and justifying it with some weird "lack of faith" in peoples politics. I think that is all kind of an open book at this point.

Quote:
I don't see the IWW as perfect or anything, I just don't think a specifically anarcho-syndicalist organization would be perfect either and I don't understand what it would be able to offer that the IWW or currently existing specific anarchist organizations couldn't beyond being closer to individuals preferred specific ideology.

I think your really oversimplifying things here with your suggestion that the MO is moving things closer to a specific ideology. To me, its not the end game nor even part of the process. I'm in a small class struggle anarchist political org. The goal is mass-movement building. It seems folks are positive about letting our practice heavily influence our form. I guess this experience is what "it" has to offer. . .

redsdisease
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Apr 24 2013 09:20
bozemananarchy wrote:
Absolutely agree with the first bit though that argument could be tossed back at the IWW by simply supplanting anarcho-syndicalism with radically tinged industrial unionism or whatever it is the IWW is ideologically.

I mean, yeah. My main point was just that "anarcho-syndicalism" is a form that doesn't really have a whole lot of content in of itself.

Quote:
I haven't really heard anyone arguing splitting the IWW ideologically on the thread. Not something I'd want anything to do with. However, I think your being kind of ridiculous extrapolating what such an org would have to offer in end and justifying it with some weird "lack of faith" in peoples politics. I think that is all kind of an open book at this point.

To be honest, I think what happened is that I read this thread somewhat sloppily a couple days ago and then built an argument in my head that was never really explicitly made. It seemed to me like a good chunk of this thread, with all the discussion of duplication of effort, was implicitly about a conceptual new, anarcho-syndicalist union. I believed that since the majority of US anarcho-syndicalists are in the IWW, starting such an organization with more than a handful of people would mean drawing a relatively substantial number of people away from the IWW which I think would be effectively a split from the IWW. But it seems that perhaps nobody was actually advocating that after all.

Quote:
I think your really oversimplifying things here with your suggestion that the MO is moving things closer to a specific ideology.

From the OP:

Quote:
what sort of explicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization would they like to see?

maybe ideology is the wrong word to use, perhaps form is better? I just don't see how starting an explicitly A-S organization over what currently exists would actually solve any problems that we (US communists and anarchists) have.

Either way, my main question, and the only one that I really feel might be worth discussing from my post is: what value do those who do favor an explicitly A-S organization (at least a few people have said this on this thread) feel that the A-S form would provide that isn't provided by current groups and organizations.