Solidarity networks as anarcho-syndicalist unions ?

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Joined: 30-09-03
Dec 8 2011 22:38
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I think Caiman has beaten me to it, but SolFed has recently launched the London Education Workers Network. It's still getting of the ground, but all of us are very active both within our workplaces and in SolFed.

You can reach us here:

Would I be right in thinking that this is a Solfed members only thing?

Jim Clarke's picture
Jim Clarke
Joined: 30-04-06
Dec 8 2011 23:58


Nate's picture
Joined: 16-12-05
Dec 9 2011 02:09
John E Jacobsen wrote:
Clearly. Because SeaSol is gaining no expertise in how to conduct its fights, so that seasoned SeaSol organizers have no more idea how to proceed than do tenants involved for the first time.

What was the reasoning behind this statement?

I was being sarcastic. SeaSol has an impressive level of expertise built up over time. It simply is the case that seasoned SeaSolers know better how to conduct fights than most other people. That's part of why people come to SeaSol for help. If people knew how to do this stuff already they already would have.

John E Jacobsen wrote:
Who says that Nate's "core group" is going to make "more egalitarian and principled decisions" than joe shmoe from the auto shop down the street?

I am, obviously. And I'm not being facetious. People in a group who think they have the right value system and others don;t, those people will generally want decisions made in accord with their values. People are wrong sometimes. As you said, no guarantees. But in the little bit of contact I've had with maybe a half dozen SeaSolers, y'all are a high quality bunch of people. I have a hard time believing that you think your fellow SeaSoler are just of average commitment to principles like egalitarianism etc.

John E Jacobsen wrote:
SeaSol organizers have votes and voices too, and we're generally very careful about who we work with.

In any given fight, what's the ratio of SeaSol organizers and people whose fight it is directly? If SeaSolers outnumber folk then this is no issue - SeaSol will usually get vote results it can live with because it outnumbers folk. That's a sort of condition where formal democracy or not doesn't really matter in the same way. With larger numbers of folk in a fight it's another story. I'm curious what the numbers are like usually when SeaSol is putting stuff up for a vote. Can you say a bit about that please?

Several years ago in Chicago I touched off a rent strike in an apartment building undergoing illegal condo conversion by going door to door. There were I think two dozen tenants and me and another organizer. We would certainly have been outvoted on anything that was a controversial voting issue where we had minority opinions. We were relatively open and democratic, but in proceeding we knew the relevant law, the experience in running meetings and in doing one on ones with tenants, experience in running actions, and the willingness to put in the time to make and distribute flyers and do doorknocking. The tenants didn't have any of that. We didn't *control* the process but we had goals from the outset (from the initial doorknocks) and we mostly accomplished those goals. It wasn't a particularly democratic process until fairly late, as the tenants became more accustomed to running things and comfortable with doing so. (They deferred to us a lot as we started to hand over running it, by pushing folk to step up, and deferred to us less and less as it went on, largely because we made an effort to have them not defer to us.) Formally democratic procedure came much, much later and it never got all that democratic formally. Personally I think it worked better than things I've been part of that started with more formal democracy right away.

In my opinion in many cases there is real inequality in people's abilities to effectively run their own affairs/individuals' ability to effectively participate in a collective process. Formal equality doesn't fix that. I think participation in an effective activity can start to equalize this. That's part of why I think it's not always better in all cases to be more democratic. Democracy is as democracy does. And better democracy often comes after some preparation IMHO.

John E Jacobsen's picture
John E Jacobsen
Joined: 13-03-10
Dec 9 2011 09:02
In any given fight, what's the ratio of SeaSol organizers and people whose fight it is directly?

The ratio is roughly a few core organizers to the tenant/worker. There are exceptions, of course, but it seems like a typical fight has about 2 or 3 folks who are following it closely and making sure everything gets done. Obviosuly, the ratio has been very different for fights with a whole group of tenants.

I have a hard time believing that you think your fellow SeaSoler are just of average commitment to principles like egalitarianism etc.

No guarantees, Nate.

In my opinion in many cases there is real inequality in people's abilities to effectively run their own affairs/individuals' ability to effectively participate in a collective process. Formal equality doesn't fix that.

I think we're entirely of the same mind. The only difference is that I don't see coming into an organizing situation with preconceived plans and objectives as "undemocratic." The people we organize with are free to stop working with us whenever they want - as are we free to stop with them. When I or someone else says "here is the fight I want to start, and here are some of my ideas on how I would like to see it done," - that's entirely compatable with the idea of democracy, so long as we conceive democracy as something which is based on free association, and so long as we're not talking about ordering action without voting.

Joined: 10-03-09
Dec 9 2011 23:45
blarg wrote:
We have now decided, instead of continuing to hold separate Organizing Support Meetings, to simply integrate these organizing support elements within the regular monthly IWW meetings. That means we won't have time for quite as much of this stuff each month, but we felt this was ok since the amount of organizing support activity we've been doing has started to seem out of proportion to the amount of actual organizing we have going on...

Anyway the hope is, by combining the organizing-support stuff with the formal branch decision-making stuff, we'll have branch meetings that are worthwhile and of interest to more than just the hardened few who handle branch administration. And those who come mainly for the organizing-support stuff will feel more like they're really taking part in the organization.. SeaSol members who aren't (yet) IWW members will still be invited too; they just won't get a vote on branch business. We'll see how it goes...

To come back to this earlier part of the thread for a minute: we just had our first IWW branch meeting with this new format, and it was great. There was only time for one roughly 35-minute "organizing support" session, and that's probably all we'll ever manage, but it worked great and really made the meeting far more interesting and worthwhile for people. It also reinforced the sense that workplace organizing is the main thing the IWW is about, and helping each other to do it is the main purpose of having a city-wide all-industries general membership branch. So we're going to carry on doing it this way, with one 35-min organizing training, "hot seat" support, or conflict strategy/tactics session each month. I think it's a really positive (though small) step forward for the Seattle IWW.

Pennoid's picture
Joined: 18-02-12
Feb 5 2013 00:43

Hey, Tampa Wob here.

I was wondering, since this is from a few years ago, what the update is for everyone? I'm of the opinion that a solidarity network should most definitely be a project of the IWW or broader organization with revolutionary goals. This avoids anything like front groupyness. I know of no really great reasons for NOT doing this, unless the network has already been formed with non-members. Then it's disappointing, but not useless. As ya'll have noted they can still be great class rooms for struggle, though limited.

I think solnets can be great ways to get unemployed and new wobs, in general those who can't to in the shop organizing, to still participate in community struggle, and also build the I.W.W. and relationships with the local members of the class. In terms of legality, it can help us imagine ways to either get away with the illegal, or find loopholes. Either way, it can also provide opportunities for wider class based struggle in a locality (having done several successful solnet fights, as well as workplace campaigns, one could unify into a campaign for a county wage law, health law, etc. depending on laws in your area).

We've formed a solnet here in Tampa, and won our first fight (demand was to get bedbugs treated, they got treated, though landlord is an unimaginable racist, evil, condescending capitalist scum). However, the fight evolved over a long period where at first. There were so many problems, common to so many people, so we were pushing the idea of working to form a tenant-committee that could serve as the nucleus of a future Tenant's Union hopefully. While this still may be a possibility, one could imagine the difficulties (much like a hot-shop). The people who are fighting with us, aren't necessarily able to organize their neighbors, winning the fight doesn't automatically mean people are supportive in any substantive way, etc.

So, I guess what I'm getting at is:

Don't solnets lack direction? They're vaguely "apolitical" in some senses, aren't they?
Aren't they just a tactic, like a flying squad, though more general?
Have solnets that are more linked to the IWW been effective at developing "fighters" (people who come for solidarity) into wobs or organizers? Is this an appropriate metric?

Again I'm supportive, but I think they're pretty limited.....