Solidarity networks as anarcho-syndicalist unions ?

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Harrison
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Oct 2 2011 19:43
Solidarity networks as anarcho-syndicalist unions ?

Is it worth formalising solidarity networks as the 'community arm' of anarcho-syndicalist unions/groups? Or is this just fetishising an abstract concept of an organisation, when the waging of struggle is the more relevant issue.

SolFed took on the functions of a solidarity network when it carried out the Office Angels campaign, which i thought was really neat, and SeaSol is shares a lot of members (right?) with the IWW.

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plasmatelly
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Oct 2 2011 20:34

They're certainly flavour of the month - but I suspect many of the people involved are reluctant to be paid up members of anything (sadly a few of the people I've come across wouldn't join up). It always strikes me as odd as finding plenty people who will help out doing the work of anarcho-syndicalist activists and talk all the right talk, think enough similar things and even organise in the way @s community and rank and file groups organise BUT they join up? Like shite. I can only voice my own opinion here - but it'd be interesting to hear what other Solfed comrades have to say. I think working with these people is certainly a start and hopefully, with time, we can convince them that being a paid up member of a Solfed provides a more permanent and wider base on which to continue these encouraging networks.

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 2 2011 20:46

tbh i see it more the other way around. SolNets are the currently fashionable way to do things anarcho-syndicalist (and for that matter just plain syndicalist) unions have been doing for decades. i remember about 5 years ago South London SF were picketing a restaurant over a wage theft for example. that't not to deny tactical innovations and the like (i think SeaSol are great), but i'd imagine the founders of SeaSol (all Wobblies iirc) would agree with this; it's just working class direct action adapted to current conditions. i'm sure if they got to the point they could do more traditional union actions like rent strikes they'd jump at the chance too.

tastybrain
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Oct 2 2011 21:06
plasmatelly wrote:
They're certainly flavour of the month - but I suspect many of the people involved are reluctant to be paid up members of anything (sadly a few of the people I've come across wouldn't join up). It always strikes me as odd as finding plenty people who will help out doing the work of anarcho-syndicalist activists and talk all the right talk, think enough similar things and even organise in the way @s community and rank and file groups organise BUT they join up? Like shite. I can only voice my own opinion here - but it'd be interesting to hear what other Solfed comrades have to say. I think working with these people is certainly a start and hopefully, with time, we can convince them that being a paid up member of a Solfed provides a more permanent and wider base on which to continue these encouraging networks.

One of the whole points of the solidarity networks is that they can help workers when they aren't organized with anyone else in their workplace or building/neighborhood. I understand anarchosyndicalists advocate minority unionism but unless you can get a good core group going I don't think you could actually do anything. So if an individual worker is abused by his boss and has no real comrades in the workplace that's where the solidarity networks come in. I don't see why that type of worker would or should be a "paid up member" of SolFed or any other union since at best these organizations will do the same thing solidarity networks will do, but they will have to pay. If you are doing workplace organizing, it would be a good idea, but for individual greviences involving unorganized workers the solidarity networks seem like the best way.

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Ed
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Oct 3 2011 11:28

Deleted the other thread as discussion started here first..

MT
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Oct 3 2011 17:39

tastybrain, CNT is doing solidarity actions with individual workers even in the workplaces where there is very little chance to get unionized. plus SeaSol have a paid membership.

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klas batalo
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Oct 3 2011 18:12

honsetly in the USA right now i feel like solidarity networks are the closest thing to anarcho-syndicalist unions, or something like solfed. well that and the more direct unionist current within the IWW. it sort of frustrates me, because honestly i'd rather it just become an explicit anarcho-syndicalist thing. right now the solnet in my city is the only practical activity we have for both the IWW and the political organization i am a part of. but we then of course have like 3 meetings!!! i'd rather just be paying dues to one thing total instead.

if only the IWA let the WSA back in! tongue a lot of WSA folks are doing Solnets and that could become a more practical activity than just being a propaganda group.

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klas batalo
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Oct 3 2011 18:15
MT wrote:
tastybrain, CNT is doing solidarity actions with individual workers even in the workplaces where there is very little chance to get unionized. plus SeaSol have a paid membership.

yeah exactly. essentially our solidarity network is like a program of the local IWW and anarchists. we even have an office (which allows us hopefully to do some worker center type things that we are planning for the future) but it is frustrating not being able to get people to more sign up and take a red card, which would help with paying for making fliers, etc instead of having to scam them all the time.

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888
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Oct 3 2011 18:26
MT wrote:
tastybrain, CNT is doing solidarity actions with individual workers even in the workplaces where there is very little chance to get unionized. plus SeaSol have a paid membership.

Certainly various unions have been doing occasional campaigns against unpaid wages for a long time, I've seen reports about this in Montreal, Amsterdam and elsewhere.

SeaSol do not have a paying membership, the requirement for membership is participation at actions. There are various optional ways for people to donate though.

MT
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Oct 3 2011 18:38
Quote:
SeaSol do not have a paying membership, the requirement for membership is participation at actions. There are various optional ways for people to donate though.

they do have paid membership.

Quote:
Which remained problems the whole time?
Retaining the involvement of people who approached us for help has often been a problem. We always state that Seattle Solidarity Network isn't a charity or social work, it's a mutual support network, which means we expect that if we help you in your fight, you will help others in other fights. Often, people will stay involved and participate in a few actions other than their own for a month or two but then not be heard from again. However, some people who initially contacted us for support in their struggle have taken a more active role and joined the organising team, and many that don't do that keep participating for months after their fight has been won. With the introduction of membership, and a greater clarity about what being a part of SeaSol is, it looks like we're starting to keep people involved more. I expect that some people will always leave after their own fight is won - that shouldn't dishearten us.
http://libcom.org/library/seasol-interview
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klas batalo
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Oct 3 2011 18:46

I am pretty sure 888 gave that interview MT. Haha. Maybe we need more clarity?

MT
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Oct 3 2011 18:53

well, then it is up to him to confirm the facts... i think it is quite important info. we have already published it in Slovak:(

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888
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Oct 3 2011 18:59

Yes I wrote that interview. Where did you publish it in Slovak? I would like to see, thanks for translating it!

888 wrote:
With the introduction of membership,

I didn't say paid membership, that is the key point. There's no real need for paid membership because our costs are quite low. However a significant proportion of members have signed up for the optional $10/month donation via paypal...

MT
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Oct 3 2011 19:12

Slovak version was published here:
http://www.priamaakcia.sk/Organizovanie-sa-proti-sefom-a-majitelom-bytov-v-praxi---fungovanie-a-uspechy-SeaSol.html

ok, you are right, my bad, i understood it from the organizational perspective as naturally meaning "membership = paid dues" wink sorry. the translation in Slovak is correct as well.

there is a plan to publish also the pamphlet. it is already translated but needs some corrections and most probably also our critical view related to Slovak circumstances and Priama akcia approach preferring doing AS work in As organization not a separate group, but there was no real debate on this yet.

tastybrain
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Oct 3 2011 19:43

I think it would be great for more of a connection to form between anarchosyndicalist unions and the solnets. However, I think that the solnets have a potential to reach people who perhaps are suspicious of unions or wouldn't join a union because they don't want to pay dues or because they are employed precariously and wouldn't want to bother with workplace organization. Hopefully, since a lot of solnet people are also in the IWW they can facilitate workplace organizing with people in the network who are interested. I assume that would be happening anyway though. What formalizing the link achieve besides

Quote:
fetishising an abstract concept of an organisation, when the waging of struggle is the more relevant issue

?

Harrison
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Oct 3 2011 22:08

i guess there are two approaches
- where there is an established active SolNet, any local anarcho-syndicalist groups formally advising members to join it and work through that
- where there isn't, directly carry out SolNet-like work in the name of the anarcho-syndicalist group (is that what SolFed's community strategy is getting at?)

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Juan Conatz
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Oct 4 2011 00:09

Well, where most of the solidarity networks exist (the States), there is no anarcho-syndicalist union, so really this speculation is sort of misdirected. I defintly do not see solidarity networks as an ideal form or the basis of what an anarcho-syndicalist union should do, either, unless that's not what people are saying? I can see some of the stuff as a supplement, but as of right now, almost all solnet activity has been outside the workplace, after the fact of employment, often.

That said, I think solnets can be good things, because they gain organizing experience and confidence, something that is sorely lacking.

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plasmatelly
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Oct 4 2011 17:45

Some of my criticisms of the Sol Nets as opposed to an @s union is that they seem to work only once you've walked off the job or been sacked. The absence of a workplace union or branch - whether a legalised set-up or not - might provide that all important protection before having to rap in. As I've said, I reckon the Sol Nets are encouraging, but they're not the be all and end all. In fact, some could be accused of being almost apolitical, leaving out revolutionary politics. How they develop is something to look out for. I think some of the housing work has had better results.

rata
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Oct 4 2011 18:37
sabotage wrote:
if only the IWA let the WSA back in! tongue a lot of WSA folks are doing Solnets and that could become a more practical activity than just being a propaganda group.

I know you were joking, but just to make it clear. IWA never decided not to let WSA rejoin in new conditions, the problem was that WSA was demanding to be recognized as Section without applying for membership. There is still a valid IWA Congress decision that states that any organization in USA which want's to become IWA Section should apply.

blarg
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Oct 4 2011 18:43
sabotage wrote:
right now the solnet in my city is the only practical activity we have for both the IWW and the political organization i am a part of. but we then of course have like 3 meetings!!! i'd rather just be paying dues to one thing total instead.

But at some point once the capacity is built up, you'd like to be able to do solidarity network stuff, plus workplace/industry organizing, plus propaganda / political education work, all at the same time, right? If so, then to do all three of those things will require three different meetings, regardless of whether they're officially considered part of the same organization or not. And the same goes for dues: doing all three functions will take more money than just doing one, whether it's formally called one organization or whether it's three that are overlapping and informally interconnected (which is the way we've gone in Seattle so far).

My point is just that formally merging these things won't solve your problem of having too many meetings to attend and too much dues to pay. The only way to solve it is by having more solid people on board to share the work and expense.

plasmatelly wrote:
Some of my criticisms of the Sol Nets as opposed to an @s union is that they seem to work only once you've walked off the job or been sacked. The absence of a workplace union or branch - whether a legalised set-up or not - might provide that all important protection before having to rap in. As I've said, I reckon the Sol Nets are encouraging, but they're not the be all and end all. In fact, some could be accused of being almost apolitical, leaving out revolutionary politics. How they develop is something to look out for. I think some of the housing work has had better results.

Absolutely, solnets are not the be-all end-all. In addition to the usual solidarity network activities, we also need to be organizing workers by workplace/industry and spreading social revolutionary ideas. Ideally we should be building all three of those projects, and integrating the three as closely as possible (whether formally or informally), because they all complement each other. However, in cities where we (the active anarchosyndicalist types) are still fairly weak in numbers or experience/training, doing all three at once is generally too much to manage. Building a solnet provides a good starting point from which to build the capacity that can eventually be used to launch the other two projects.

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Khawaga
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Oct 4 2011 21:15

Just to echo blarg; it should be solnets and unions, not one or the other (though they could be the org). I think one of the good things about solnets is exactly it is organization for those outside of unions and have left the workplace.

syndicalist
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Oct 4 2011 23:24
rata wrote:
sabotage wrote:
if only the IWA let the WSA back in! tongue a lot of WSA folks are doing Solnets and that could become a more practical activity than just being a propaganda group.

I know you were joking, but just to make it clear. IWA never decided not to let WSA rejoin in new conditions, the problem was that WSA was demanding to be recognized as Section without applying for membership. There is still a valid IWA Congress decision that states that any organization in USA which want's to become IWA Section should apply.

And the WSA never left the IWA

Anyway, you don't have to be in the IWA to be an anarcho-syndicalist. Or to cooperate with IWA sections in a meaningful way.

Let'seave the WSA and the IWA out of this conversation. Let us just agree to disagree over this and stick to the point of the thread.

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John E Jacobsen
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Oct 5 2011 04:40
Quote:
Is it worth formalising solidarity networks as the 'community arm' of anarcho-syndicalist unions/groups? Or is this just fetishising an abstract concept of an organisation, when the waging of struggle is the more relevant issue.

I think solidarity networks and anarcho-syndicalist unions would complement each other well. I know for the IWW's part, in Seattle, there seems to have been an increase in activity because of SeaSol (although I don't go to IWW meetings, I've heard their new organizing support meetings are being attended fairly well, largely from SeaSol folks).

My impression has been that Solidarity Networks take less people initially to achieve their aims than the forming of a union, and so are better places to start for anarchists with small organizations. I think because solnets don't necessarily protect people while they're employed, it will occur to people that radical unions are still necessary.

Thats the opinion of the folks who are in both the IWW and Seasol, anyways.

Eventually, perhaps sooner than later, I think SeaSol will help provide a lot of leverage to help small shops form effective unions.

Although I initially thought it would be cool if SeaSol just became a section of the IWW, from my impression of where their relationship is headed, I'd be opposed to it now. Legally, SeaSol will be able to support the IWW in ways that the IWW could not support itself (secondary pickets are a big part of our pressure tactics), and also, like Blarg mentioned, putting them under the same banner wouldn't change the fact that you'd still need two separate and distinct organizations with their own meetings.

jacobian
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Oct 5 2011 13:00
tastybrain wrote:
I don't see why that type of worker would or should be a "paid up member" of SolFed or any other union since at best these organizations will do the same thing solidarity networks will do, but they will have to pay.

No resources means weakness. The traditional unions will continue to out-organise and be more relevant. The idea that we don't have to chip in anything to make things work is just stupid. Greenpeace and Amnesty both manage to get money from members. I don't see why solidarity networks shouldn't.

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Oct 5 2011 13:00

Thing is you have to work with what you have. We've been 'lucky' in the UK that the anarchist movement was so ineffectual and revolutionary unionism so non-existent that there's been a fairly blank canvas to sit down and discuss what kind of organisation we'd like to be, and to take steps in that direction. but if i was in parts of the US i'd most likely be in the IWW, or a SolNet, or both, because they're the closest thing to what i think we need.

historically, anarcho-syndicalism emerged from various sources - anarchist initiatives as well as unions radicalised to take on anarchism (the merger of the various groups into the CNT in 1910 for example). history can't repeat itself, since knowledge of it shapes how we act today. but just because things are done as separate organisations today doesn't mean they couldn't come together in future, or vice versa, different functions could be spun out into separate organisations if that made sense too. so while my preference is for anarcho-syndicalist unions which organise in the workplace and outside it as well as carrying out propaganda and self-education functions, it's not the end of the world if these things are happening through a different form.

edit: and just to add, there's plenty to learn off each other too. SolNets are flavour of the month, and rightly so insofar as they've been getting lots of wins. on the other hand, anarcho-syndicalist groups have managed to organise over the long term whilst avoiding integration into the state or management structures, which is one of the dangers successful SolNets may face down the road (the carrot alongside the stick of repression).

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Oct 5 2011 14:43
jacobian wrote:
No resources means weakness. The traditional unions will continue to out-organise and be more relevant. The idea that we don't have to chip in anything to make things work is just stupid. Greenpeace and Amnesty both manage to get money from members. I don't see why solidarity networks shouldn't.

We do! Our funding comes from people signing up to give $10 a month. It is mostly members, but also some of our friends, family and outside supporters.

I don't know about people's other experience in other cities, but for me, SeaSol is the best funded NON-non profit that I have been involved with. We don't have to pay out of pocket for printing, gas, or any other supplies, or rather we get reimbursed for all these things.

tastybrain
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Oct 5 2011 17:49
jacobian wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
I don't see why that type of worker would or should be a "paid up member" of SolFed or any other union since at best these organizations will do the same thing solidarity networks will do, but they will have to pay.

No resources means weakness. The traditional unions will continue to out-organise and be more relevant. The idea that we don't have to chip in anything to make things work is just stupid. Greenpeace and Amnesty both manage to get money from members. I don't see why solidarity networks shouldn't.

Ha. I wasn't saying we can do without resources. What I said is that SolNets can reach people who can't or won't pay dues to a union. Simple as that. Most laid-off retail/service industry workers don't want to join an anarchosyndicalist union. Have you considered many people might not have any interest in workplace organizing (at first) because turnover is so high and they don't want to put a lot of work into organizing a workplace that they might not be working in a year later or when all your fellow union members get different jobs. Like Juan said, there are no anarchosyndicalist unions in most parts of the US. The IWW has a few workplace branches here and there but often wobblies are just in the general membership and it's not an actual union; in this context it seems perfectly rational to do SolNets. It takes lots of people and contacts to start a real union branch; you can start a SolNet with 5 people, none of whom have to work in the same workplace. And I think the lessons of SolNets (organize as a class=get results) might prompt people to be more inclined to workplace organizing, but they might need that intermediate step.

blarg
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Oct 5 2011 18:21
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Why do they require different meetings?

There's just too much to get done. As it is, SeaSol meetings alone sometimes take two and a half hours, and that's keeping a tight agenda. If we tried to combine all our solidarity network and workplace/industry organizing stuff into one big meeting, it would go on until like 11pm every week, which would not be ok for most of our people. Also not everyone in SeaSol wants to or is qualified to do workplace/industry organizing.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 5 2011 20:04
tastybrain wrote:
What I said is that SolNets can reach people who can't or won't pay dues to a union. Simple as that. Most laid-off retail/service industry workers don't want to join an anarchosyndicalist union. Have you considered many people might not have any interest in workplace organizing (at first) because turnover is so high and they don't want to put a lot of work into organizing a workplace that they might not be working in a year later or when all your fellow union members get different jobs.

Excellent point which merits repetition.

I think the casualisation circle has yet to be squared unfortunately (although - to its credit - Libcommers are way ahead of the trad left, which basically asks casualised workers to shut up and wait for the public sector to save them, or photocopy some flyers, or sell a paper, or something). I think SNs are one potential way of partially overcoming the issue of organising in a casualised workplace, but even then, it relies on a lot of external support ('activism') and doesn't offer much protection against the victimisation culture (as in, the perception of potential victimisation).

What happened to the retailworker.org forums? I'm wondering about establishing online presences as a means of networking young, casualised workers...

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Oct 5 2011 20:48
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What happened to the retailworker.org forums?

They were a FUCKING TRAINWRECK.

The IWW jettisoned them as no one was moderating them and they were bastions of reaction and racism.

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klas batalo
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Oct 6 2011 01:56
rata wrote:
sabotage wrote:
if only the IWA let the WSA back in! tongue a lot of WSA folks are doing Solnets and that could become a more practical activity than just being a propaganda group.

I know you were joking, but just to make it clear. IWA never decided not to let WSA rejoin in new conditions, the problem was that WSA was demanding to be recognized as Section without applying for membership. There is still a valid IWA Congress decision that states that any organization in USA which want's to become IWA Section should apply.

i was joking, but also that is nice to know.

Quote:
But at some point once the capacity is built up, you'd like to be able to do solidarity network stuff, plus workplace/industry organizing, plus propaganda / political education work, all at the same time, right? If so, then to do all three of those things will require three different meetings, regardless of whether they're officially considered part of the same organization or not. And the same goes for dues: doing all three functions will take more money than just doing one, whether it's formally called one organization or whether it's three that are overlapping and informally interconnected (which is the way we've gone in Seattle so far).

My point is just that formally merging these things won't solve your problem of having too many meetings to attend and too much dues to pay. The only way to solve it is by having more solid people on board to share the work and expense.

good point.

Quote:
However, in cities where we (the active anarchosyndicalist types) are still fairly weak in numbers or experience/training, doing all three at once is generally too much to manage. Building a solnet provides a good starting point from which to build the capacity that can eventually be used to launch the other two projects.

and this is more about what i am talking about. i understand once going you'll need more meetings. fine. and we do act as if our solnet is a program/committee of the iww pretty much.

but i still want an answer to what is a small IWW branch of say a dozen people to do, if you can't get any organizing campaigns going? and doing solnet work? one of those meetings are going to seem rather useless. how did seattle IWW deal with this when they started SeaSol? did the IWW slow down its' operations until it could build up some militants?