Anarcho-Syndicalism and Platformism -- do they go together?

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 17 2009 14:17
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
The other idea is simply about putting forward an anarchist position within a union, that is not the same thing as attempting to lead it.

you mean "to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas or, as it is sometimes expressed, to become a "leadership of ideas"?

vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
Nick Durie is one individual, his article on the L&S site is also irrelevant to this debate - it would not preclude a hypothetical organisation that adopted his pov in the current climate working within a hypothetically existing AS union, they would naturally change their pov to take note of changed conditions.

the point is Nick's approach is internally consistent and historically grounded. i think it's misguided (e.g. even promoting anarchist strategies within the trade unions i would argue is better pursued by industrial networks), but it is coherent. it's not just hypothetical a-s unions, even the relationship of political groups to something like SolFed with one or more industrial networks is unclear. i'm open to persuasion that they're compatible, but you have to make the case. Nick Durie makes a pretty good case why they're not.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 17 2009 14:35

Promoting the anarchist leadership of ideas within mass organisations is not unique to Anarkismo - certainly plenty of AFed members seem to believe it, even if it's not AFed policy (and I'm not sure it isn't).

It is hypothetical given that there are no AS unions, no prospect of them, in Britain

I certainly don't think there would be any reason for - or any point to a platformist or any other political group working within another political group like Solfed. I don't think anyone would claim that there was, and I'm kind of confused why you have brought that up.

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Dec 17 2009 14:47

but the AF don't have a strategy of joining TUC unions and trying to turn them into the CNT. of course any political group aspires to make its ideas the leading ones, the question is whether platformist practice is compatible with anarcho-syndicalism. Nick Durie makes a good case that they're mutually exclusive, you're simply dodging the question as 'hypothetical', when even if it is that's what the OP asked.

vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
It is hypothetical given that there are no AS unions, no prospect of them, in Britain

i think there's a reasonable prospect of multiple anarchist industrial networks in the next decade (i.e. political-economic, anarcho-syndicalist organsiations). given as SolFed (and apparently many in the AF) support this, the relationship between them and specific political organisations is not a hypothetical question - in fact both the AF and SolFed are currently discussing it.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 17 2009 15:02
Joseph Kay wrote:
but the AF don't have a strategy of joining TUC unions and trying to turn them into the CNT. of course any political group aspires to make its ideas the leading ones, the question is whether platformist practice is compatible with anarcho-syndicalism. Nick Durie makes a good case that they're mutually exclusive, you're simply dodging the question as 'hypothetical', when even if it is that's what the OP asked.

No, the WSM do not have a strategy of joining ICTU unions and trying to turn them into the CNT!

Nick Durie doesn't know what AS is! Going by that article anyway.

In my first post on this thread I said that there was a case for platformist groups working within AS unions, I stand by that. There is no case for a tiny platformist group working within a tiny AS propaganda group, and there never has been, it would be a complete waste of time.

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i think there's a reasonable prospect of multiple anarchist industrial networks in the next decade (i.e. political-economic, anarcho-syndicalist organsiations). given as SolFed (and apparently many in the AF) support this, the relationship between them and specific political organisations is not a hypothetical question - in fact both the AF and SolFed are currently discussing it.

Really? That sounds as bonkers as thinking there is any scope for a sizeable IWW tbh. The question is and will remain hypothetical until these networks exist and show promise outside of your imagination.

Imma gonna have images of you spending Christmas day sweating about how we need to build these networks now btw wink

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Dec 17 2009 15:18
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
In my first post on this thread I said that there was a case for platformist groups working within AS unions, I stand by that.

i agree with your first post...

vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
I think it would be perfectly possible to have an "anarcho-syndicalist" political group IE one that worked towards the formation of anarcho syndicalist unions that was itself organised according to platformist principles.

It would also be perfectly possible to have an anarcho-syndicalist union that had one or more political groups working within it that were organised along platformist lines.

...so long as you mean the platform in it's original sense - i think contemporary platformism in the Anarkismo current is somewhat distinct from that, taking the platform as simply an organisational point of departure. but yes in princple SolFed could organise itself according to theoretical and tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism in order to bring about anarcho-syndicalist unions. Personally i think principled strategic unity and federalism is a better basis for a group aiming at anarcho-syndicalist organising methods, but i take the possibility. the point was made most clearly by Jack:

Jack wrote:
Short answer - There isn't necesarily a conflict between anarcho-syndicalism and the platform as a document, but there is between anarcho-syndicalism and contemporary platformist practice.

i think when people say 'platformism', they tend to mean the Anarkismo/ABC current and not the historical document.

vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
Really? That sounds as bonkers as thinking there is any scope for a sizeable IWW tbh. The question is and will remain hypothetical until these networks exist and show promise outside of your imagination.

i made no reference to size. i don't think it's bonkers at all, it's a possibility. if all the existing anarchists who suport industrial networking simply got together and did it, then it would have happened. that would probably be about 200 people, so still pretty tiny and irrelevant, but since we're talking about organisational models, industrial networking is not the same as a platformist political group. is it likely? maybe not, but it's hardly spending Christmas day betting the IWW will be 15,000 strong in two years in time for the global socialist revolution.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 17 2009 15:38
Joseph Kay wrote:

i made no reference to size. i don't think it's bonkers at all, it's a possibility. if all the existing anarchists who suport industrial networking simply got together and did it, then it would have happened. that would probably be about 200 people, so still pretty tiny and irrelevant, but since we're talking about organisational models, industrial networking is not the same as a platformist political group. is it likely? maybe not, but it's hardly spending Christmas day betting the IWW will be 15,000 strong in two years in time for the global socialist revolution.

(I haven't bothered quoting the bits I agree with)

That's fair enough - but even if you had two hundred anarchists join Solfed industrial networks I couldn't see the point of a political group platformist or otherwise working within it as a political group. Seeing as Solfed is already a political group.

However if you had an actual functioning AS union even a relatively small in the scheme of things one, like the CNT then I think it may be appropriate, and certainly not contradictory to form political groups or for political groups that already exist to enter them and push for their ideas within them (as long as they do it openly and democratically of course).

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Dec 17 2009 15:44

which brings us back to whether we're talking about political groups organised according to the platform, or political groups in the Anarkismo/ABC tendency - two different meanings of 'platformism'. if the latter, i think it would be problematic since their politics are often more leftist than communist, particularly with regards to trade unions.

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Dec 17 2009 15:48
Joseph Kay wrote:
. if the latter, i think it would be problematic since their politics are often more leftist than communist, particularly with regards to trade unions.

I disagree, I also think that if there were actual functioning AS unions their positions would change anyway.

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Dec 17 2009 16:00

Reading through the wiki on Platformism...it states:

Quote:
The Platform has 4 key organizational features which distinguish it from the rest of the anarchist movement. They are:

* Tactical Unity - A common tactical line in the movement is of decisive importance for the existence of the organisation and the whole movement: it avoids the disastrous effect of several tactics opposing each other; it concentrates the forces of the movement; and gives them a common direction leading to a fixed objective.
* Theoretical Unity - "Theory represents the force which directs the activity of persons and organisations along a defined path towards a determined goal. Naturally it should be common to all the persons and organisations adhering to the General Union. All activity by the General Union, both overall and in its details, should be in perfect concord with the theoretical principles professed by the union."
* Collective Responsibility - "The practice of acting on one's personal responsibility should be decisively condemned and rejected in the ranks of the anarchist movement. The areas of revolutionary life, social and political, are above all profoundly collective by nature. Social revolutionary activity in these areas cannot be based on the personal responsibility of individual militants."
* Federalism - "Against centralism, anarchism has always professed and defended the principle of federalism, which reconciles the independence and initiative of individuals and the organisation with service to the common cause."

These things seem so broad... what anarchists disagree with these things? Regarding the first two parts...who wouldn't argue for an organization where you have to accept the core principles of that organization to be a member? Who wouldn't argue for an organization which has the 'same tactics?' Why do they support centralism in the sense of ideological unity, but not in organizational sense? Shouldn't these things be judged on how practical they are, not with any emphasis on 'principles.'

I don't know... seems like these principles are so broad (or obvious) that their use or practicality is limited. But the only Platformist group I'm aware of is the WSM, which don't appear much different from any liberal Trotskyist group (emphasis on abortion rights, gay rights, feminism & 'Reclaim the Night' bullshit, 'community policing' nonsense, supported the vote against joining the EU from memory, support for various national liberation movements, support for members joining unions and obtaining leadership positions, democratic liberal rhetoric).

What's the difference between the WSM and whatever Trotskyist group (and no, its not that the Trotskyists are aaaaauthoritarian, nor are their or your views on what happened 90 years ago in Russia relevant to the activities or political stances of your organization today.)

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Dec 17 2009 16:06
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I disagree, I also think that if there were actual functioning AS unions their positions would change anyway.

well we'll agree to disagree, but in my experience contemporary platformists are much less critical of the trade unions than anarcho-syndicalists, and rather prone to labelling such criticisms 'ultra-leftist', 'purist', 'revolution nowism' etc.

i don't doubt they would change their position on anarcho-syndicalism if there was a local CNT equivalent, because they fetishise 'mass organisations' and take an interest in leading (with ideas) anything that fits the bill. the point remains that since anarcho-syndicalism is already anarchist (contra the WSM's charge of 'a-politicism'), there's no need for a 'general union of anarchists' to attempt to influence it through 'social insertion.'

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 17 2009 16:08

I'll come back to you later - I'm off to tell some union members what to do wink

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Dec 17 2009 18:12
Joseph Kay wrote:
which brings us back to whether we're talking about political groups organised according to the platform, or political groups in the Anarkismo/ABC tendency - two different meanings of 'platformism'. ... .

If I may, this is pretty much a similiar observation of mine. I'm no expert here,in conversation with some folks (mainly here in north america), it seems to me that they tend to see the document more as a starting point then a blueprint. By which I mean a document which says
we're pro-organization & we're pro-class, as opposed to "crimethink" and "insurrectionist" anarchists of their (post-Seattle) generation. While the politics aren't quite the same or the traditions, it has a vauge similiarity to those of us (ok, in north america at least) who became anarcho-syndicalists in the 1970s. We were pro-organization, pro-class struggle and the IWA Aims & Principles foot the bill....also, to be a part of a cool tradition with members all around the wold wasn't too shabby either.

I have found it to be a mistake (in general) to wide paint folks. I think in some places the mode fits, in others not. My observation and interaction with some (in NA) in the broad platformist tradition (let's call it the "anarkismo" tradition) that many are not hostile to anarcho-syndicalism or fall into some of the issues raised elsewhere. I am broadly speaking here and based soley on observations, not a theoretical read of materials. But I think as those coming to anarchism in the post-Seattle generation mature, some their politics mature with them (as all of ours do).

Here in north america, I think it's plausable for anarcho-syndicalists to work with those in the anarkismo tradition on a principled basis. I also think we very much have to present anarcho-syndicalism to a generation whose exposure to it (in NA) has been nil.

In advancing the ideas of a class struggle anarchism, I am often times reminded of some things the late Sam Dolgoff preached to us about in person; later to be articulated his Notes for a discussion on the regeneration of the American labor movement Sam, as a "student" of Maximoff (Sam's words)
would not consider himself a platformist by any stretch of the imagination, but his words, rather the broad goals he espoused, can ring true on, shall we say, both sides of the coin (broad platformist and anarcho-syndicalist).

Sam wrote:

"The first step for the regeneration of the labor movement, is, as already noted, the formation of a revolutionary minority movement capable of promoting to an appreciable extent, the radicalization of the labor movement. Our weak, scattered forces, must be reconstituted on the basis of a clear theoretical and practical program of action responsive to the needs and aspirations of the new generation of rebels (my emphasis), upon whose shoulders will rest the burden of reshaping the labor movement."

We must not be impatient We must be prepared to work within the context of a long-range perspective which may take years of dedicated effort before visible progress will show that our struggles have not been in vain."

http://libcom.org/tags/sam-dolgoff

My continued take away is: get organized, develop an organization which inter-generational, is in it for the long haul and just keep pushing. Obviously there needs to be "theoretical" clarity as well as a workable program as well.

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Dec 17 2009 20:47
Joseph Kay wrote:
but when the FAI entered the CNT it wasn't anarcho-syndicalist, it was revolutionary syndicalist, much like the French CGT.

I don't think it's quite as simple as that... Many in the CNT would have said it was already anarchosyndicalist before 1927.

By the way, old discussion that contains some of the themes of this current one here: http://libcom.org/polls/do-you-accept-outline-anarchist-platform-1926

Quote:
These things seem so broad... what anarchists disagree with these things? Regarding the first two parts...who wouldn't argue for an organization where you have to accept the core principles of that organization to be a member? Who wouldn't argue for an organization which has the 'same tactics?' Why do they support centralism in the sense of ideological unity, but not in organizational sense? Shouldn't these things be judged on how practical they are, not with any emphasis on 'principles.'

I don't know... seems like these principles are so broad (or obvious) that their use or practicality is limited.

Sadly these things are controversial for some in the anarchist movement, which is why emphasising them is sometimes useful. What precisely do you mean by centralism in the organisational sense?

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Dec 17 2009 20:45

Devrim,

When you talked to people in Paris about the FAI being synthesist, I suspect they were talking about the FAF (ie the French Anarchist Federation as was, Francophone AF now I believe). Whenever anyone talked about the synthesis as opposed to the Platform, the FAF was always the example used, as most of the synthesis vs platform argument consists of straw men as neither side has many real living examples.

The FAI was certainly founded by a disparate group, but they were more motivated by things going on in Spain (and Portugal) than anything happening in France.

Regards,

Martin

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Dec 17 2009 21:57

Well, the Workers Solidarity Federation considered themselves as part of "the broad platformist tradition" as well as being "anarcho-syndicalists"

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Dec 17 2009 22:44

The Workers Solidarity Federation was a very small organisation and I was a founding member, it was an anarcho-syndicalist organisation. The platform was not introduced democratically and this was long after it was formed, at the conference which was attended by the active membership (only a handful of people, basically a quorum). The platform was introduced to its constitution and not even raised as an item for the conference. I noticed the platform was included and objected, in response I was told that if the platform was not included the person who added it would leave. I left in disgust. Following this, a couple of years later the ZACF was founded.

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Dec 17 2009 23:05
martinh wrote:
Devrim wrote:
My impression is based on a conversation over twenty years ago in a bar in Paris with some FA members.

When you talked to people in Paris about the FAI being synthesist, I suspect they were talking about the FAF (ie the French Anarchist Federation as was, Francophone AF now I believe). Whenever anyone talked about the synthesis as opposed to the Platform, the FAF was always the example used, as most of the synthesis vs platform argument consists of straw men as neither side has many real living examples.

No, they weren't. They were FA (Fédération Anarchiste) members, and were not talking about there own organisation but about the FAI. Now maybe they were trying to tie things into their own historic tradition, but I am certain they weren't talking about themselves.

Devrim

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Dec 17 2009 23:30

Devrim, I can see *why* this makes sense to you and understand you may have had a discussion a long time ago to support what you are saying but as far as I'm aware there is just no historical grounds to confirm that there is a connection between the FAI and the 'platform', 'synthesis' or the 'reply' - if I remember correctly the FAI was formed by anarcho-syndicalists to fill the need for (CNT members especially) to focus exclusively on anarchism as a central subject, no more no less. It also had to do with opposing the 'trientistas' who began to advocate use of parliamentarianism in parrallel to the direct action of the working class.

[ updated to identify my point more clearly ]

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Dec 17 2009 23:28

Joseph Kay hits the nail on the head:

'platformism'

"we're talking about political groups organised according to the platform, or political groups in the Anarkismo/ABC tendency...

...since their politics are often more leftist than communist, particularly with regards to trade unions."

Also with nationalist movements/ideologies.

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Dec 18 2009 08:33
AES wrote:
Devrim, I can see *why* this makes sense to you and understand you may have had a discussion a long time ago to support what you are saying but as far as I'm aware there is just no historical grounds to confirm that there is a connection between the FAI and the 'platform', 'synthesis' or the 'reply' -

I am not going to post on this issue any more, as I am not certain about it, and neither do I particularly care. It does seem to be very important to some, however. I do have one last point to add though. Why should I believe somebody who I don't know who says they are 'not aware' of it as opposed to people I did know who were aware of something.

I am totally prepared to say I was wrong as I think I made clear previously. I would just like to see some evidence rather than a lack than a lack of 'awareness'.

Devrim

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Dec 18 2009 08:35
yearzero wrote:
Joseph Kay hits the nail on the head:

'platformism'

"we're talking about political groups organised according to the platform, or political groups in the Anarkismo/ABC tendency...

...since their politics are often more leftist than communist, particularly with regards to trade unions."

Also with nationalist movements/ideologies.

Yearzero are you going to come back and respond to my questions on the Liberty and Solidarity thread or are you going to hide? Don't worry if you can't respond just say, I realise thinking about things doesn't come easy to everyone.

papaspace
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Dec 19 2009 01:12

Thank you for the answers, although I'm probably more confused right now than before..

Doesn't Alternative Libertaire identify with both platformism and anarcho-syndicalism?

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Dec 19 2009 01:27

Just curious, are you a member of an organisation? What is your motivation? What are your opinions?

Jason Cortez
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Dec 19 2009 02:33

They are obviously going to use this thread to attack the IWA laugh out loud

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Dec 19 2009 02:46

Maybe, maybe not.

You really should calm down and give people the benefit of the doubt

A comparitive of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Platformism is useful

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Dec 19 2009 08:18
Jack wrote:
However, despite all of this (and this may well be out of subconscious anarchist loyalty rather than serious political analysis!), I genuinely do think if there was a period of mass struggle, while the leadership would obviously side with the unions et al. against the working class, I reckon a far higher % of the membership when compared to Trot groups would break from this and side with the working class.

Yes, I think it is. All political groups would change immensely in a period of mass struggle. I think that the class composition of organisations would be at least as important factor as whether they were anarchist or Trotskyist when considering what percentage would break.

You seem pretty cynical about the 'leadership' though.

Devrim

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Dec 19 2009 16:45
Jack wrote:
Quote:
What's the difference between the WSM and whatever Trotskyist group (and no, its not that the Trotskyists are aaaaauthoritarian, nor are their or your views on what happened 90 years ago in Russia relevant to the activities or political stances of your organization today.)

In terms of their differences on key issues to Trotskyism, generally it would be:

-Their internal structure is a bizarre mix of far more democratic than Trotskyist groups, and also far less democratic - while lay members in the WSM would have a far greater ability to influence policy of the group as a whole when compared to a Trotskyist group, militants in the WSM can basically do what they want in the name of the group, without consulting the internally democratic structures of the group. I might be being naive here, but generally, 'respected militants' in Trotskyist groups wouldn't be able to just do what they want to without consulting anyone or any structure in the group like they frequently do in the WSM.

A minor point, but I think this may actually be naivety - one of the reasons why all other leftists hate the AWL so much is that last year their paper ran a (front-page?) piece by their elderly founder wondering whether a pre-emptive strike on Iran by Israel would be such a bad thing and concluding that it probably wouldn't be. I definitely don't think that was agreed group policy, and the reaction of all the AWLers I spoke to about it was something along the lines of "oh God the mad old bastard's done it again is there any way to make him shut up?" This incident might've been one of the factors that led to the Commune split, I'm not totally sure.

Jared
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Dec 22 2009 19:17

According to my (limited) experience with regard to organising, I would see Anarcho-syndicalism and Platformism as indicative of certain methods, rather than ideology per se — for example, both have a certain level of 'insertion' or 'leadership of ideas' but what makes them different is HOW and WHY that insertion is taking place. Most anarcho-syndicalists put forward strategies for building (or facilitating) self-management, dual power etc etc in the concrete form of assemblies, networks etc. I haven't really seen this undertaken or advocated in quite the same way by platformist-inspired groups (it's probably not true, but that's where I see the difference anyway).

From our group strategy:

Quote:
As anarchists, we are against representation and in favour of self-organisation in all arenas — political (government), economic (the workplace) and social (our own lives). Therefore, we view anarcho-syndicalism as the way of putting anarchist communism — or more specifically, our strategy — into practice, both in the workplace and the community. This will take the form of industrial networks and community assemblies.

It seems to me that for platformist groups, having the correct political line and propagating that line within a pre-existing union or community is enough; whereas anarcho-syndicalists would readily put that line into constructive practice via anarchist forms of workplace/community struggle regardless of if that 'mass movement' pre-existed, or whether the task was to help foster the birth of one (not that platformists don't, it's maybe just not as explicit).

Mind you, I could be totally wrong confused

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Dec 29 2009 00:19

I don't see why platformism should be inconsistent with anarcho-syndicalism. Workers Solidarity Alliance was formed as an anarcho-syndicalist group, and was the U.S. affiliate of the IWA for over 20 years. But we have always viewed WSA as a political or ideologically specific organization, not a union or proto-union. Moreover, we have a fairly worked out political statement that is the basis of affiliation. We were not formed as a federation of pre-existing groups, but as a unitary national organization based on a single platform which people join as members, and then form local chapters of that single national organization.

WSA is a social anarchist or libertarian socialist organization which advocates libertarian syndicalism but has other aspects to what we're for.

So WSA is dual organizational in seeing the need for both a revolutionary political organization and also mass organizations rooted in working class struggles. However, WSA does not define itself as platformist, tho we have some platformist members.

What we advocate for is self-managed mass organization, in workplace struggles but not only in workplaces, since class and mass struggle occurs outside the workplace also, as in tenant struggles, struggles of public transit riders, struggles of working class neighborhoods or communities of color against toxic pollution by industries such as oil refineries or incinerators. An advantage of being a political organization is that we can have broader areas of activism than only in workplaces.

This is also affected by WSA's intersectional analysis of class, that is, the working class, as we see it, is very heterogeneous, and has gender and nationality or racialized forms of oppression intersecting in the lives of sections of the working class, and these can't be ignored if class unity is to be developed.

Back when WSA was formed in the early '80s, there were workers in unions in the USA and we had more members who were in unions. During that period we favored development of some kind of rank and file resistance group independent of the union bureaucracy, to encourage self-activity independent of the union where feasible, to support favorable changes in local unions, where the local union was democratic and lively. Here in the USA it is not legal to have a second union in a workplace where a union is recognized legally or by management. There have been cases where the IWW has had groups in such workplaces and acted as a pressure group in the context of the union. This happened in the '30s in the Sailors Union of the Pacific (led to direct action campaign that got the SUP expelled from AFL), and currently for example in CWA at the telephone company in the Twin Cities.

We've always favored a two-pronged approach, both new independent self-managed unions, and rank and file resistance groups where AFL-CIO unions exist. Nowadays the focus is more on building self-managed solidarity unionism apart from AFL-CIO as these unions have radically shrunk.

But the independent union, tho controlled by its workers and more militant than the bureaucratic unions, might not be explicitly revolutionary at the present time.

What we want is a labor movement that is something like the CNT in the '30s, but that leaves open the question about how to get there. This presupposes a change in the activity and consciousness of the working class itself.

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Dec 29 2009 12:19
syndicalistcat wrote:
But we have always viewed WSA as a political or ideologically specific organization, not a union or proto-union. Moreover, we have a fairly worked out political statement that is the basis of affiliation. We were not formed as a federation of pre-existing groups, but as a unitary national organization based on a single platform which people join as members, and then form local chapters of that single national organization. (...) But the independent union, tho controlled by its workers and more militant than the bureaucratic unions, might not be explicitly revolutionary at the present time.

the pros and cons of this approach are neither here nor there on this thread, but what this doesn't demonstrate is a compatibility of platformism and anarcho-syndicalism. in fact the platformesque separation of political organisation (anarchist) and mass organisation (syndicalist) is antithetical to anarcho-syndicalism, which is fundamentally a fusion of anarchist politics and syndicalist methods into a political-economic organisation. fwiw what you describe sounds a lot more like the French anarchists with regard to the CGT in the late 19th century than anarch-syndicalism.