Anarcho-syndicalists in Britain - SF or IWW?

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Anonymous
May 10 2011 17:56
Anarcho-syndicalists in Britain - SF or IWW?

This has been an underlying discussion on here for a while and threads keep getting derailed with people trying to talk about it. So I thought it would be a good idea for us to have a proper thread and try and have a decent discussion about it. To start things off I don't see the problem in there being two different syndicalist organisations in Britain, but I don't think the IWW is anarcho-syndicalist and can't see any reason why an active anarcho-syndicalist in Britain today would choose to be in the IWW over SolFed.

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May 10 2011 19:17

A good number are dual carding, which i think is fair enough.

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May 10 2011 19:35

I think a greater co-operation will emerge once it's realised that, while there are superficial similarities between the two groups, they are actually quite different in their aims and tactics.

I think the two groups could actually compliment each other very well if there were locals/branches in the same area. The IWW can perform a lot of 'legal' union functions in workplaces, which SolFed can't, and SolFed can likewise engage in a lot of activities that would get the IWW's funds sequestered.

Though I do think an open discussion between the two groups would be a very good thing. If only so that each side knows exactly where the other one stands.

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May 10 2011 21:53

Diddo the comments above, but to be a sectarian bastard, I think part of the problem is that the UK IWW doesn't seem to have a super coherent strategy. Lots of A/Sers join it, there's a lot of young activist types (who often not very active in their own workplaces), and the leadership seems to take a very legalist approach based on state registration and individual representation with and end goal of collective representation. It also seems that this latter approach is complimented by a belief that as struggle picks up, breakaway TUC unions will join the IWW--as have been seen with the London cleaners, although I'm not sure if any active workplace struggles have come out of that, and a group of Posties as well.

So while I think SF has a tight politics and a definite strategy (while being aware of our shortcomings in, for example, our industrial networks), it's seems like IWW members often have very different ideas about what the IWW is and how it should function. I think what has been suggested (IWW do the legal stuff, we do the extra legal stuff) is the way forward, but the perhaps the IWW should clarify for themselves and us if that's the approach they want to take.

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May 11 2011 03:21

As someone out in the far flung provinces who has to take every chance they get, I'm putting time and effort into rebuilding our IWW branch. But I would prefer to see SolFed turn into a proper anarcho-syndicalist union which I could join up to like the CNT or something. That's a long way away I know, but I think the IWA has more to offer than the IWW, which, as far as I can tell, in its overall revolutionary strategy is nearly a century out of date, and has become too apolitical (or maybe it always was?). A possibility is that SolFed acts as a 1930s AIT to BIROC's CNT, but that's probably far too contrived a goal to work towards.

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May 11 2011 06:09

The problem is that there exists a clause within the IWW which can be used to prohibit co-operation between them and any other group. So bridging the divide is much more troubling than people are initially suggesting. And this as been used more than once to prevent a good working relationship by SF and IWW.

Quote:
Whereas, the primary object of the Industrial Workers of the World is
to unite the workers on the industrial battlefield; and
Whereas, Organization in any sense implies discipline through the
subordination of parts to the whole and of the individual member to the
body of which he or she is a part; therefore be it
Resolved, That to the end of promoting industrial unity and of
securing necessary discipline within the organization, the IWW refuses all
alliances, direct and indirect, with existing political parties or anti-
political sects, and disclaims responsibility for any individual opinion or
act which may be at variance with the purposes herein expressed.
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May 11 2011 07:03

Yeah, but then what is BIROC doing in the "Red and Black Coordination"?

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May 11 2011 07:36

I think the IWW could easily choose to say IWA sections are unions/proto-unions/union initiatives rather than 'anti-political sects', so I think that clause will only come into play if there's bad faith on the Wobbly part. L&Sers aside, whose views on anarcho-syndicalism are well known, I don't see why that should be the case.

no1
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May 11 2011 08:41

IWW and SolFed complimenting each other:
"IWW, you have a great song book! and such a fascinating early 20th century history, we really like it a lot."
"Thanks SolFed, you're too kind. We're quite jealous of your Spanish sister section making a revolution in the 30s."
etc.

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May 11 2011 12:44

There's 3 wobs in Liverpool SF. I joined the IWW before I came across SF as I felt I needed to be in a union as things were getting shitty at work but I didn't want to join a TUC union. I don't think the IWW in the UK can realistically call itself a revolutionary union. Meanwhile SF is becoming an increasingly dynamic organisation that doesn't dilute its revolutionary principles for the sake of recruiting new members. I hope the two organisations can work together in solidarity but the most pressing task imho is helping SF to take on the functions of an anarcho-syndicalist union.

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May 11 2011 13:35
thegonzokid wrote:
There's 3 wobs in Liverpool SF. I joined the IWW before I came across SF as I felt I needed to be in a union as things were getting shitty at work but I didn't want to join a TUC union. I don't think the IWW in the UK can realistically call itself a revolutionary union. Meanwhile SF is becoming an increasingly dynamic organisation that doesn't dilute its revolutionary principles for the sake of recruiting new members. I hope the two organisations can work together in solidarity but the most pressing task imho is helping SF to take on the functions of an anarcho-syndicalist union.

I think maybe some anarchists want to be in a functioning anarcho-synd revoluntionary union NOW, but get annoyed that SF isnt there yet/dont why understand why it is not yet, and so join IWW thinking that it is already a syndicalist revolutionary union. Now i dont think IWW is even syndicalist, but either way, I think both organisations have a long way to go before others start to view them as unions. Lots of people bang on about it not being a numbers game, but when it comes to unions, i think yes, it does, because we need enough of a mass to start to have some omph.

I hope more IWW posters contribute to this tho, as it seems mostly SF so far.

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May 11 2011 15:06

I think for me the decision to join the IWW was a practical rather than an ideological one - i either knew or had heard of the people who set up the IWW branch, whereas i only got to know the SolFed folks later.

We're both doing the do, get on well i think, join together for training and campaigns (e.g. Office Angels), have talked about further cooperation.

On the ideological front, i don't know much about SF strategy but agree that IWW is quite loosely organised at the moment, and think that is a good thing. We feel we have a good amount of autonomy as a branch to pursue an agenda that we think will 'get the goods', and if that didn't fit precisely with the BIRA stated aims then we wouldn't assume it was a problem, as long as it didn't put anyone else in the shit.

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The IWW can perform a lot of 'legal' union functions in workplaces, which SolFed can't, and SolFed can likewise engage in a lot of activities that would get the IWW's funds sequestered.

As a branch we definitely see ourselves as more than a group doing legal union functions. There is a strong element of what we refer to as "working class agitation" in terms of involvement in other non-workplace campaigns.

It's just some things we do as individuals (or a group of mates) who happen to all be in the IWW, and some things we do in the name of the IWW. I don't think we need SolFed to provide a separate service, just as they don't need us to carry out legal functions for them.

I don't know whether that's representative of the IWW as a whole, but that's how it is in Bristol (i think - would be interesting to hear whether Brizzle SF agree!)

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May 11 2011 19:26
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
[I] can't see any reason why an active anarcho-syndicalist in Britain today would choose to be in the IWW over SolFed.

I'm not in the IWW or SolFed but surely the term 'anarcho-syndicalist' covers an awful lot and someone that describes themselves as an anarcho-syndicalist could still have big political difference with the SolFed (or should that be political-economic differences wink )

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May 11 2011 20:57

Pesonally i think more talking face to face rather than online would probably be the best way forward for the two organisations in terms of co-operation.

I'm a solfed member, but speaking personally, i think their are currently weaknesses in both groups. That said both have met with a fair amount of success recently and the outlooks pretty bright for anarcho-syndicalism at the moment.

Just to reiterate as others have said both the IWW and Solfed are dual card orgs, so theres nowt wrong with being in said organisations and mainstream union. Likewise you can be a member of all of both of them, and the AF, a local anarchist group or publishing collective or whatever local campaign floats your boat.

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May 12 2011 08:25

Neither SolFed or IWW BIRA are unions let alone pro-revolutionary unions and by that I mean 'mass' political-economic self organisation (early 20th century CNT and AAUD-E). In reality both organisations are minority political networks of militants. SolFed has a 'coherent' strategy because ultimately SolFeds industrial networks (central to the implementation of one of its priorities) need to have a common bases in order to develop into unified IWA anarcho-syndicalist unions (that's why membership of its industrial networks is closed off to those who don't accept SolFeds A&Ps including AF members despite both orgs being politically identical, i.e. anarchist communist philosophy).

IWW BIRA is not an anarcho-syndicalist union because its not an anarchist organisation. Nor is it a union (mass Trade Union Congress business union) at the moment because it doesn't organise recognised shop floors (legal or forced 'recogntion' through bitter struggle without recourse to legal means) but acts as a solidarity network for duel carding workplace militants in the same industries. Even if it did organise recognised shop floors it would not be on a large enough bases to attain the status most business union have. This is because TUC unions have and IMO always will have a virtual workplace organising monopoly due to their structural importance to capital and the state as brokers of organised labour power. Despite the fantasies of a few self described IWW BIRA platformists, IMHO, IWW BIRA and SolFed for the foreseeable future are doomed to remain minority networks of pro-revolutionary militants who actively seek to organise in the economic sphere. Only with the break out of open class warfare with a significant class conscious working class movement will there be potential for 'mass' political-economic self organisation.

The problem the IWW has as a whole is to formulate a relatively coherent and practical strategy for militant workers whilst staying out of the mine field of ideological debates of revolutionists (unlike North America, Britain has a nasty counter-productive tradition of never ending sectarian far left-wing political wars).Thus the IWW is 'non' political as opposed to political (anarchist groups; AF/SolFed) or a-political (TUC business unions...though it can be hotly contested because of their historic links to a bourgeois parliamentary organisation: the Labour party). The conscious pro-revolutionary militant rank & file minority also has to try and steer the organisation away from the ideological reformism of 'pragmatic' opportunistic political sects. I think this is where 'worker struggle' political agitation (a lot of which happened last year with Latin American cleaners) and education (the political economy variety) become invaluable and have always been in the IWWs traditions despite the attempts of 'pragmatic' opportunistic political sects to kill it off by citing the 'non' political nature of the organisation and instead confuse it with a-political (which is rank hypocrisy due to their persistent attempts to drive their party line from the commanding heights of the organisation; usually as officers in IWW BIRA).

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May 12 2011 09:20

i think the 'mass' question is a bit of a red herring. a typical TUC union has a mass membership, but meetings are normally attended by a tiny minority of activists, outside of big disputes etc. in principle, you can achieve the same thing with a small organisation that seeks to organise through mass meetings (/shop committees/assemblies/whatever).* it's not principally a quantitative question, but a qualitative one.

on the distinction between 'non political' and 'apolitical', i'm not sure i follow the point. surely there's no point outside "ideological debates"; if you want to abolish the wage system and live in harmony with the earth, you're taking an ideological stance. if you don't, or downplay that, how is it different to being apolitical? maybe this is a terminological issue, or i'm just missing your point.

* iirc this was something the old IWW did well, with wandering agitators organising big strikes whether or not the workers were Wobblies

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May 12 2011 10:36
Joseph Kay wrote:
i think the 'mass' question is a bit of a red herring. a typical TUC union has a mass membership, but meetings are normally attended by a tiny minority of activists, outside of big disputes etc. in principle, you can achieve the same thing with a small organisation that seeks to organise through mass meetings (/shop committees/assemblies/whatever).* it's not principally a quantitative question, but a qualitative one.

In principal yes. But where, outsides of periods of heightened class conflict, has it been observed as a phenomena capable of challenging capital and defending workers gains on a consistent daily bases?

Joseph Kay wrote:
on the distinction between 'non political' and 'apolitical', i'm not sure i follow the point. surely there's no point outside "ideological debates"; if you want to abolish the wage system and live in harmony with the earth, you're taking an ideological stance. if you don't, or downplay that, how is it different to being apolitical? maybe this is a terminological issue, or i'm just missing your point.

This is more about the rank & file control of politics (home brew politics as Abahlali baseMjondolo puts it) and refusing to be 'lead' by a well organised ideologically armed minority. It has nothing to do with taking political action:

Quote:
While the AFL's Mitchell and Gompers nurtured their alliance with the Democrats, the IWW changed its Constitution in 1908 to prohibit just such alliances. The 1908 Constitution states, "to the end of promoting industrial unity and of securing necessary discipline within the organisation, the I. W. W. refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with existing political parties or anti-political sects..." This language is essentially unchanged in the 2011 IWW Constitution.

The prohibition on alliances with "anti-political sects" is noteworthy. According to Verity Burgmann and others, the Chicago IWW was "non-political" rather than "anti-political". And J.R. Conlin believes the deletion of a political clause from the Preamble in 1908 is only half the story; in 1911 the IWW rejected an amendment to the Preamble that referred to "the futility of political action". In other words, the ban on political involvement only went so far (presumably, banning any political or anti-political alliances in the name of the union), and the balance of the IWW's membership saw nothing to be gained by outright hostility toward political action.

Joseph Kay wrote:
iirc this was something the old IWW did well, with wandering agitators organising big strikes whether or not the workers were Wobblies

This was during a period in world history of mass working class movements and thus class consciousness higher than it is today.

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May 12 2011 12:46
blackrainbow wrote:
In principal yes. But where, outsides of periods of heightened class conflict, has it been observed as a phenomena capable of challenging capital and defending workers gains on a consistent daily bases?

well, where has anyone defended gains on a daily basis without widespread willingness to fight, or the credible threat to do so? TUC members have been taking year-on-year pay cuts for a decade or so. there is no shortcut here, no organisational form can compensate for a lack of class cohesion and militancy, so this is a bit of a red herring. a union with 100% density but no willingness to fight isn't going to defend shit. and of course, unions often form an obstacle to even everyday defence of gains, denying permission to strike even after ballots etc. There was even a hint of this in the IWW Showroom Cinema thing, when it was reported some in the IWW advised to put the brakes on to avoid getting the union into legal trouble. I'm not tarring the whole IWW with that brush, but the question then becomes, if no organisational forms can substitute for militancy, which can best aid its development without being obstacles to its realisation?

blackrainbow wrote:
This is more about the rank & file control of politics (home brew politics as Abahlali baseMjondolo puts it) and refusing to be 'lead' by a well organised ideologically armed minority. It has nothing to do with taking political action:

i think there's some terminological problems here; in the early 20th century workers movement 'political action' referred to voting/electoralism or other state-oriented politics. in that sense, all forms of syndicalism are opposed to 'political action'. i think the terminological confusion here is that i think the older use of 'political action' is too narrow - e.g. the principles of revolutionary unionism are obviously political despite being anti-state - but even if you defined politics as state-orientation, there'd still be a difference between a 'non-political'/'neutral syndicalist' organisation and an 'anti-poltical'/anarcho-syndicalist one. bleugh, jargon overload.

as i understand it, 'neutral syndicalism' like the old CGT (and IWW?) took no position on political action except that it was not the business of the union. anarcho-syndicalism explicitly opposes it. in itself, that's a minor thing, but i think there's a corollary point: outright opposition to 'political action' means that 'political' objectives fall into the domain of union action/direct action, whereas neutrality on the question leaves open a division between the unions handling the economic matters and some party handling the political issues.

but if the union is pursuing political issues (i.e. it explicitly rejects party politics and sees direct action as the way to change laws etc), then its membership is likely to be made of workers who share those goals. i think this is the difference between the current BIRA and SolFed approaches. I think there's two ways of reading the IWW premble. a strong reading suggests members of the union have an explicitly anti-capitalist political perspective, which isn't much different to SolFed (except we add anti-state too). a softer reading is that the preamble is an end goal members share, so people can agree with it in the sense of 'sure it would be nice if we abolished the wage system and lived in harmony with the earth'. i think if you recruit to the IWW on the basis of the strong reading then we're doing something similar - but that may well preclude things like the latin american cleaners joining en masse, since it's unlikely they're all anti-capitalists. if you go with the latter approach it's something different, building a militant, rank-and-file controlled (industrial) trade union but on an apolitical basis, imho.

basically i think there's a tension between being 'for all workers' and wanting to 'abolish the wage system'. one way to resolve that is the network of miltiants/revolutionary unionist approach, where an explicitly anti-capitalist union organises through committees/mass meetings/assemblies etc. the other is the L&S approach of purging the political content so as to build the broadest possible rank-and-file union. i can't see any other internally consistent way to square that circle, although if i'm posing a false dichotomy please point out how! as it is, from an outsider's perspective, it doesn't seem like BIRA as a whole is committed to either path, but acts differently in different places.

blackrainbow wrote:
This was during a period in world history of mass working class movements and thus class consciousness higher than it is today.

i think it's a mistake to look at it a macro, world-historical level. we don't organise at that level, we organise in very specific micro-contexts, our workplaces, even departments or teams within a workplace. at the macro level, we're obviously pretty powerless to change the broader social context of militancy, class consciousness etc. but at the micro level even individual militants can have a lot of influence. with a bit of luck, a single individual can get a whole workplace organised; even better they get it self-organising so it isn't reliant on one person. the Starbucks and Jimmy Johns unions have been making ground on this basis, organising collective action where previously there were only disparate individual grievances. i think if it's done right, this process is also one of education: the best propaganda for class struggle is fighting the boss. as i understand it, that's the 'Educate' in the famous Wobbly slogan.

so on a micro level it's possible to raise the levels of class consciousness and collective struggle in your immediate vicinity. successes may then act as a pole of attraction for other individual militants, who you can train up to do the same thing and so on... now of course there's all sorts of external factors and limits on this process. the 'education' of struggle can also work the other way; if everyone gets fired they may 'learn' it's best to steer clear of the commie agitators etc. but my point is we shouldn't prostrate ourselves before overbearing objective conditions; in our own workplaces etc we're part of those conditions and can influence them. and there's always grievances to organise around, because capitalism is shit. "men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing" etc.

posi
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May 12 2011 14:04
blackrainbow wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
i think the 'mass' question is a bit of a red herring. a typical TUC union has a mass membership, but meetings are normally attended by a tiny minority of activists, outside of big disputes etc. in principle, you can achieve the same thing with a small organisation that seeks to organise through mass meetings (/shop committees/assemblies/whatever).* it's not principally a quantitative question, but a qualitative one.

In principal yes. But where, outsides of periods of heightened class conflict, has it been observed as a phenomena capable of challenging capital and defending workers gains on a consistent daily bases?

France.

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May 12 2011 14:54

Posi, it's a bit tautological though. If workers successfully defend their conditions in such a way, that's evidence of 'a period of heightened class conflict'. So it's kinda circular imho.

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May 12 2011 19:43
Joseph Kay wrote:
Posi, it's a bit tautological though. If workers successfully defend their conditions in such a way, that's evidence of 'a period of heightened class conflict'. So it's kinda circular imho.

Lol i love insights like the above.

But getting back to the debate at hand -

Do those in IWW even identify as anarcho-syndicalists? Can you help me out here Blackrainbow?

I get the impression most UK woblies identify primarily as anarchists, who are attempting to also be syndicalists. I dont know how many AF members are still in IWW after the initial drive to join, but i think maybe its similar to the issue that many AFers dont understand the differences between SF and themselves, so joined the IWW instead. They like anarcho-syndicalism because of CNT history etc but dont agree with SolFed enough to join it, so we are in a position where the majority of anarchists in the UK (AF or not) identify as just anarchists and not anarcho-syndicalists? That make any sense?

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May 12 2011 20:44

No to me.

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May 12 2011 21:20
Bluedog wrote:
Do those in IWW even identify as anarcho-syndicalists?

Yes. There are some who are closer to the IWAs political outlook but prefere to be in something thats closer to a 'union' for a variety of reasons.

Bluedog wrote:
I get the impression most UK woblies identify primarily as anarchists, who are attempting to also be syndicalists.

The UK anarchist 'scene' is where most of the rather impressive growth came from between 2005 till about early last year. The impression I got from a lot of self identified anarcho-syndicalists was that they felt SolFed was not moving quickly enough away from being a largely propagandist organisation, in which case they might as well join the AF instead with the IWW doing the 'workplace' stuff. But recently there has been some growth from radicalised non-anarchist sources (socialist fellow travellers and students) and radicalised workers without a political background (cleaners and posties).

Bluedog wrote:
I dont know how many AF members are still in IWW after the initial drive to join, but i think maybe its similar to the issue that many AFers dont understand the differences between SF and themselves, so joined the IWW instead. They like anarcho-syndicalism because of CNT history etc but dont agree with SolFed enough to join it, so we are in a position where the majority of anarchists in the UK (AF or not) identify as just anarchists and not anarcho-syndicalists? That make any sense?

Personally I dont think this is true. I think the AF is clear about what it wants from its industrial strategy (workplace resistance groups) and its view of unions (AF aims&principals no.7). The hang ups with SolFed are largely to do with semantics around whether AF workplace resistance groups have the same function as SolFed revolutionary unions. And if both organisations agree its just a language thing I fail to see why AF members cant join SolFeds industrial networks and vice versa with AFs workplace resistance groups. IMO this should have happened years ago and has only picked up because of AF feeling pressure from Liberty & Solidaritys recent meteoric rise in the national anarchist market and SolFed feeling similar pressure from the growth of the IWW. Though I'm sure both organisations would bitterly disagree with my analysis. wink

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May 12 2011 21:35
Quote:
I get the impression most UK woblies identify primarily as anarchists, who are attempting to also be syndicalists. I dont know how many AF members are still in IWW after the initial drive to join, but i think maybe its similar to the issue that many AFers dont understand the differences between SF and themselves, so joined the IWW instead. They like anarcho-syndicalism because of CNT history etc but dont agree with SolFed enough to join it, so we are in a position where the majority of anarchists in the UK (AF or not) identify as just anarchists and not anarcho-syndicalists?

I think this is actually quite interesting Bluedog. Why would someone identify as an anarchist, but also attempt to be a syndicalist? Why not just become ad anarcho-syndicalist? Unless you're saying these are anarchist who, economically, are more attracted to the broader base syndicalism seeks to recruit.* That can only make sense, to me, if one believes that anarcho-syndicalists only believe in organizing with other anarcho-syndicalists, which is not the case historically or in SF. Why do you think many IWW's "don't agree with SF enough to join it"? What don't they agree with/not understand about the organization?

Are you in the IWW Bluedog?

*And I stress recruit here. SF is glad to work with non A/Sers in the workplace and in campaigns--and have a strategy to do so--we just believe our political-economic organization should be anarcho-syndicalist.

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May 12 2011 21:44
Quote:
There are some who are closer to the IWAs political outlook but prefere to be in something thats closer to a 'union' for a variety of reasons

How is the IWW closer to a "union"? Perhaps it's closer to a trade union (registered with the state, for example), but in terms of active workplace organizations with the capability to lead struggle in their own name, in real terms, there's very little difference. (Not to slag off the impressive things both organization have done/do.)

Quote:
IMO this should have happened years ago and has only picked up because of AF feeling pressure from Liberty & Solidaritys recent meteoric rise in the national anarchist market and SolFed feeling similar pressure from the growth of the IWW.

BR, I like you and you know that, but this is fucking mental. First, just how "meteoric" has L&S's recent growth been? Gimme some numbers.

As to SF feeling pressured by the IWW...mate, we've just had a lot of things come together that have put us in a much better organizational position this past year--the general uptick in struggle, lots of media attention, a plush fucking website, and a conscious organizational decision to become a workplace-based organization and a consensus for what sort of revolutionary union we'd like to become. Oh, and a training program (which, might I add, was first offered to the UK IWW). So don't flatter yourself.

Final point about growth: because the IWW seeks to function as a trade union (individual and collective representation), "growth" and membership numbers are far more important to you. We're about quality, not quantity, and are concerned, first and foremost, with making sure our members have the practical skills to organize with their non-radical workmates about real workplace issues.

As I've pointed out before, this dynamic (the impetus to recruit in the name of the IWW to reach a critical mass v. seeking to bring about self-organized struggle) is exactly why BIROC/BIRA members have to go through "workplace rep" trainings before they get workplace organizer trainings. It's two different strategies. We aim to grown through struggle, the IWW wants to grow and then lead stuggles in its name. So don't judge us by your standards (and I mean that in the most comradely way possible).

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May 12 2011 21:51

eek laugh out loud roll eyes

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May 12 2011 21:52
Chilli Sauce wrote:
BR, I like you and you know that, but this is fucking mental. First, just how "meteoric" has L&S's recent growth been? Gimme some numbers.

As to SF feeling pressured by the IWW...mate, we've just had a lot of things come together that have put us in a much better organizational position this past year--the general uptick in struggle, lots of media attention, a plush fucking website, and a conscious organizational decision to become a workplace-based organization and a consensus for what sort of revolutionary union we'd like to become. Oh, and a training program (which, might I add, was first offered to the UK IWW). So don't flatter yourself.

You need to relax Chilli...I think you're getting too worked up over internet forums. I think a good ice cold beer and herbal session should do it... know what I mean maaan? wink

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May 13 2011 08:32

There is are actully some interesting discussions to be had here so could people try not to make this thread degenerate.

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May 13 2011 09:19
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I think this is actually quite interesting Bluedog. Why would someone identify as an anarchist, but also attempt to be a syndicalist? Why not just become ad anarcho-syndicalist?

There's two positions like this really. The 'Malatestan' view is that any union-type organisation will become a victim of it's own success, attracting workers who don't share it's original goals, and also being forced to compromise with bosses as part of it's daily functioning. Therefore anarchists should not wish unions to be anarchist, but should be active within them as organised anarchists pointing out the limits of said gains under capitalism and pushing beyond the union form. There's a similar council communist inspired view e.g. the KAPD/AAUD relationship.

The second perspective is a bit more Machiavellian, and would be the stuff advocated by Dundee_United/L&S. This isn't so much about doubts over the revolutionary potential of unions (revolution is barely mentioned), but a strict separation of an economic based union from political organisations on the grounds that political principles are sectarian, divide the working class, and don't engender themselves to SMART objectives, blueskies thinking and a managerial ethos (probably wink ). Although this view has less pedigree than the Malatestan/councillist type one, imho it's worth taking seriously as it's the kinda wannabe realpolitik pursued by many Marxist groups, and it's an example how separating economic and political organisations isn't an innocent process, but tends to create a hierarchy of political leadership / mass base.

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Joseph Kay
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May 13 2011 09:27

For my part I think Malatesta's view needs to be taken seriously, but is not inevitable. I mean even off the back of some pretty low-level activity SolFed has been attracting new members. If we pulled off something high profile and sexy that effect would likely increase. What are the chances all those people already share a broad anarcho-syndicalist perspective? I'd say they decline over time as atm we're picking people up who're already politicised for the most part. I think as long as we stress we're not just a (wannabe) union but a revolutionary organisation that believes x, y and z (i.e. a revolutionary union initiative), stress we're happy to organise with non-members and you only need join if you share our aims and methods, and have some good induction and an ongoing culture of political discussion alongside the practical organising, then we can avoid the Malatestan scenario. But it's not something to be dismissed out of hand.

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Nate
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May 14 2011 01:53
Joseph Kay wrote:
The 'Malatestan' view is that any union-type organisation will become a victim of it's own success, attracting workers who don't share it's original goals, and also being forced to compromise with bosses as part of it's daily functioning. Therefore anarchists should not wish unions to be anarchist, but should be active within them as organised anarchists pointing out the limits of said gains under capitalism and pushing beyond the union form. There's a similar council communist inspired view e.g. the KAPD/AAUD relationship.

I've not seriously read the Malatestan or councilist writings on this and would love recommendations of where to find them please. I take up a version of this argument that I've run into (not sure how successfully) in this document -
http://zinelibrary.info/mottoes-and-watchwords which I'd love feedback on. (hope I'm not derailing)