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

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Jason Cortez
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Dec 29 2009 12:44
Syndicalistcat wrote:
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.

And which anarcho-syndicalist groups think over wise? And even explicit workplace unions like BLF were able to go beyond this.

Jared
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Dec 30 2009 07:13
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Syndicalistcat wrote: What we
Syndicalistcat wrote:
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.
And which anarcho-syndicalist groups think over wise? And even explicit workplace unions like BLF were able to go beyond this.

I agree — I've never understood anarcho-syndicalism to be focused only on the workplace. You mention the CNT, who were super successful in broadening the concept of a 'general strike' to a strike which would include a mass movement of the wider community. Just re-read Black Flame, which has a great chapter on these issues (which is off topic to the thread, but worth reading).

bootsy
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Dec 30 2009 07:29
syndicalistcat wrote:
WSA does not define itself as platformist, tho we have some platformist members.

I don't understand how you could have 'platformist members' in an anarcho-syndicalist organization? Platformism is an organizing tactic, not an ideology. Its neither here nor there whether some of your members like platformism, the point is whether a group can be organized along both platformist and anarcho-syndicalist lines. Atleast that's how I understood the question.

asn
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Dec 30 2009 10:10

Quote:

Syndicalistcat wrote: What we
Syndicalistcat wrote:
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.

- of course mass syndicalist unions like the spanish CNT in its heyday in the 20's 30's supported various community movements -residents groups waging a mass rent strike in 1931 in Barcelona see "Nick Riders article on the topic in For Anarchism by David Goodway" - but they had hundreds of thousands of members in strategic industries - you don't!! - you're just a tiny little group (as other such groupings in the anglo world) - this fact points to the importance of focusing your very limited personnel and resources on strategic organising in industry not aping other leftist groups - running around like headless chickens and tailending whatever struggle is going on (for what such approach could look like see revelvant articles in the archive section of our web site www.rebelworker.org eg "anarcho-syndicalist strategy for Australia today" and "anarcho-sydicalism catalyst for workers self organisation") and marginalising yourselves completely with your pandering to the exotic left subculture to secure "recruits" via support for identity politics.

And which anarcho-syndicalist groups think over wise? And even explicit workplace unions like BLF were able to go beyond this.
- you are talking a-historical rubbish! - it was only after the blf won the important margins dispute did they move toward helping out various community groups and resident groups - it only occured after several decades of organsing - and associated with a more grass roots friendly group being elected to the executive of the union and also the boom in the building industryin the 60's 70's etc . The communist party played useful role in bringing various militants together and assisting their workplace activity helping with the publishing of the journal of the BLF activists "the hoist" (see green bans/red union by the V & M Burgman (ignore the academic identity politics rubbish in it) and Rocking the Right by Paul True) - I suggest you focus a bit on there "terrible hard yards" of these years of the 50's and 60's involving grass roots organising in the BLF and the NSW building industry and how on the job and outside the job activists worked together in this long range serious industrial work which could form a useful model for the work of contemporay sydicalist groups

Jason Cortez
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Dec 30 2009 12:11

well I was tempted to mention you as an example of an anarcho-syndicalist who didn't see beyond the workplace unless you have tens of thousands of members, but that would have been flippant. As to a-historical rubbish, what I intended through my sentence was that even trade unions often go beyond the workplace and the BLF was a good example that came to mind. Strangely enough I wasn't attempting to recount how they came to develop beyond the workplace in that sentence, so you can come down off your high horse.

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 31 2009 06:42
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the pros and cons of this approach [of WSA] 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.

Well, I think this is a sectarian reply. I don't see why anarcho-syndicalism has to be defined that way. I think there is as much legitimacy in the way WSA understands anarcho-syndicalism as your way.

Labor movements historically evolved into anarcho-syndicalism, as with the example of the French CGT. A large-scale mass worker movement that endorses libertarian socialism as its aim is unlikely to happen til the working class in a particular country, or at least a sizeable part of it, has developed revolutionary consciousness, that is, developed from a class in itself into a class for itself. This is a protracted process. And in a country like the USA it is very far away from happening. So at present there would be no possibility of anarcho-syndicalism in this country on the basis of your formulaic view.

But tendencies in this direction can and do occur, such as worker organizations that are directly rank and file controlled, rejecting an orientation towards "partnership" with the bosses, etc. There is thus a point to an organization with an explicit libertarian socialist political perspective, endorsing anarcho-syndicalism as a revolutionary strategy, even in a context where a mass explicitly libertarian socialist revolutionary union would not be feasible.

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the point is whether a group can be organized along both platformist and anarcho-syndicalist lines. Atleast that's how I understood the question.

Well, fine, but how would a platformist organization act differently than WSA for example? it's presumably not just that they use the word "platformist" and we don't. There are some political groups in the USA who consider themselves to be platformist (and sign on to the Anarkismo statement, which WSA has not endorsed, tho some members agree with it). WSA has had extensive discussions with them (as in the Class Struggle Anarchist Conferences the past two years). And it's hard to see where there are differences. Maybe we put more emphasis on the role of the mass social movement organizations (workplace and non) and they on the specific organization but even there I've not had that idea verified by what people say in the conferences. Everybody seems roughly in agreement in the focus on mass organization. These conferences haven't yet fully explored all aspects of theory and have focused more on practical areas of active engagement. But I'm still unclear where the disagreement would be.

WSA is the only working class oriented libertarian socialist political group in the USA older than 10 years, most groups have existed for less than 5 years, and maybe a difference between the movement here versus Europe is that things are more fluid here in terms of how people address these things.

asn
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Dec 31 2009 10:58

well I was tempted to mention you as an example of an anarcho-syndicalist who didn't see beyond the workplace unless you have tens of thousands of members, but that would have been flippant
- you of course see my position via the prism of the left subculture - ridiculous notions of tiny groups some how acquiring massive memberships - I see mass syndicalist unions developing via a series of transitional phases determined by the workers themselves who overwhelming would not be "members" of our group or your group - our role is to assist these processes, particularly in extremely difficult but important sectors and you can't do that if you are aping the leftist sects and get swept up in all manner of campaigns in different spheres (legitimising it to the naive and credulous and industrially inexperienced with the tachy construction of a caricature of the development of syndicalist unionism) - you can't engage in the necessary long range serious work which is required -it will be the workers themselves who will be supporting say resident action groups as in the case of the BLF -and in the case of the BLF - these more advanced actions occurred after success on the purely industrial "bread and butter front" which the "margins dispute" was about and the associated raised morale and self confidence had been obtained - this an historical fact not just "something I see" - the BLF experience throws important light on the role syndicalist groups should play and the context in which these advanced actions will develope involving a syndicalist union - the NSW BLF moved away in many ways from trade unionism toward syndicalism - eg direct action and ultra democratic features at the time of the "margins dispute" and even more advanced actions later on

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 31 2009 13:24
syndicalistcat wrote:
Well, I think this is a sectarian reply.

comrade, i have literally no idea how you've arrived at this conclusion. i was specificially not commenting on the pros and cons of each approach, merely pointing out they are mutually exclusive. that in no way precludes fraternal co-operation, good relations between organisations etc.

syndicalistcat wrote:
I think there is as much legitimacy in the way WSA understands anarcho-syndicalism as your way.

well with respect, this is the kind of 'i'm ok, you're ok' fuzziness i'm taking issue with. 'legitimacy' is a matter of argument, drawing on historical evidence and theoretical/logical reasoning (which to be fair, you offer in the remainder of your post). we disagree. that's fine. it's not sectarianism. the point is to argue your position, not simply assert that everyone's view is equally valid.

syndicalistcat wrote:
Labor movements historically evolved into anarcho-syndicalism, as with the example of the French CGT (...) There is thus a point to an organization with an explicit libertarian socialist political perspective, endorsing anarcho-syndicalism as a revolutionary strategy, even in a context where a mass explicitly libertarian socialist revolutionary union would not be feasible.

well that's a perfectly valid strategy. i'm not addressing the pros and cons of it nor attacking the WSA. however, i think it's a platformist strategy - have a specifically political libertarian socialist organisation which enters mass organisations and attempts to win them to libertarian socialism.

if you define anarcho-syndicalism as the successful end point of this process, then of course they're compatible. however i'd argue it's not a very good definition of anarcho-syndicalism - not least because the anarcho-syndicalist political-economic model is every bit as applicable to small groups as it is to mass unions, e.g. see here.

so i think there's two approaches here; a specific political organisation entering mass organisations to win them to its politics (platformism), and the building of political-economic groups for industrial/community/workplace organising (anarcho-syndicalism). without any comment on their relative merits, i think those are mutually exclusive strategies.

as to my opinion, there's certainly pros and cons in favour of each approach. personally i favour the latter strategy, whilst acknowledging it's relative difficulty compared to the platformist one i think it's more likely in the long term to lead to success. the CGT is actually a good example of this. imho it's idealism to think a specifically political organisation can change the functioning of an organisation through persuasion when it's in fact determined by its organising model and social role, e.g. despite being dominated by anarchists in the early 20th century, the CGT supported WWI and fairly quickly bureaucratised into a pretty standard trade union confederation.

now this is a strategic judgement. i might be right, i might be wrong, and we can discuss that. the point i was making above is simply that you can't coherently pursue both strategies at once, hence my argument that platformism and anarcho-syndicalism are incompatible. i do accept you could have an anarcho-syndicalist propaganda group organised according to the platform, although 'platformism' does mean more today than simply the document, with practices of 'social insertion' and so on.

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 31 2009 18:47
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so i think there's two approaches here; a specific political organisation entering mass organisations to win them to its politics (platformism), and the building of political-economic groups for industrial/community/workplace organising (anarcho-syndicalism). without any comment on their relative merits, i think those are mutually exclusive strategies.

It would be better, then, to refer to two conceptions of anarcho-syndicaliism: dual organizational and non-dual organizational. if a non-dual politico-economic organization has an explicit revolutionary -- anarcho-syndicalist -- line, then in the absence of an already revolutionary working class it will be condemned to isolation. It fails to address the question of how class formation takes place. I believe that this view came to be popular among anarcho-syndicalists only relatively recently.

dual organizationalism can be cited in the long history of class struggle anarchism, from the Bakuninist Alliance to the role of the Unione Anarchica in the USI or the role of the FAI in the CNT. The CNT developed out of the Workers Solidarity Federation in Catalonia which was initially neutral between anarchism and Marxism. The CNT was formed out of it after the anarchists had become dominant in it.

when the leadership of USI followed Mussolini into a pro-war position in Italy in 1915, UA mobilized among the membership and tossed out the entire national leadership at the next congress of USI.

another example is the role of the Turin Libertarian Group in the development of the radical shop stewards movement in Turin after WW1. In that project they were working in an alliance with syndicalist Marxists of the Socialist Party.

"entering" a mass organization is also not the language we use. It's a question of respecting the organic character and autonomy of the mass organization, and being a voice for self-management and militancy within that organization, keeping that in mind. our current emphasis is on developing new self-managed worker organizations. this includes such things as the activity of some of our members in Starbucks Workers Union, or in the relatively rank and file controlled UE, or in working in workers centers, or helping to form them. (We currently have a joint project with another libertarian socialist group to form a grassroots workers center in Michigan.) in such cases it's a question of helping to build self-managed mass organizations. This is our orientation. The way we understand anarcho-syndicalism is that it is a strategy for working class self-liberation based on the development of self-managing mass social organizations (labor organizations and other kinds).

There is also a distinction between a propaganda group and a group of rank and file activists and organizers. The latter is our aim even if the former has often been our reality.

what was sectarian in your reply was in denying the name "anarcho-syndicalism" to our viewpoint and in labeling us "platformist" even tho we don't call ourselves "platformist." those moves are sectarian behavior on your part.

You are probably aware that WSA and its predecessor groups were affiliates of the IWA for over 20 years. We were so because of our commitment to anarcho-syndicalism.

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Dec 31 2009 21:18
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of course mass syndicalist unions like the spanish CNT in its heyday in the 20's 30's supported various community movements -residents groups waging a mass rent strike in 1931 in Barcelona see "Nick Riders article on the topic in For Anarchism by David Goodway" - but they had hundreds of thousands of members in strategic industries - you don't!! - you're just a tiny little group (as other such groupings in the anglo world) - this fact points to the importance of focusing your very limited personnel and resources on strategic organising in industry not aping other leftist groups - running around like headless chickens and tailending whatever struggle is going on (for what such approach could look like see revelvant articles in the archive section of our web site www.rebelworker.org eg "anarcho-syndicalist strategy for Australia today" and "anarcho-sydicalism catalyst for workers self organisation") and marginalising yourselves completely with your pandering to the exotic left subculture to secure "recruits" via support for identity politics.

this is the kind of sectarian, off the wall commentary that is part of the reason I haven't been bothering to post to libcom much anymore. your "no flaming" rule is mere window dressing with no meaning. this ass probably knows virtually nil about our group, its members, our activities, or conditions in the USA.

asn
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Jan 1 2010 06:52

this ass probably knows virtually nil about our group, its members, our activities, or conditions in the USA.
I'm fairly familar with your activities and similar groupings - in the anglo world - I read all your publications - various internet discussions etc for many, many years- I'm just criticising a concept of syndicalist activity and its practical ramifications which was presented in your manifesto - its one which happens to be nearly hegemonic in the anglo world these days and needs to be countered

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Jan 1 2010 22:09

you read "all our publications". and what "publications" might that be? right there you are conceding you know nothing of WSA. WSA hasn't had a regular publication since 1997, and is only now re-launching our magazine as a webzine.

and what "manifesto" are you talking about? The revised version of "Where We Stand"? And how can you infer "marginalising yourselves completely with your pandering to the exotic left subculture to secure "recruits" via support for identity politics" from our Where We Stand statement? Or is this your peculiar way of objecting to our statements about gender inequality and opposition to homophobia and opposition to racism? If so, this would suggest to me it is you who are out of touch...at least with the working class and its conditions here in USA.

And if social struggles of groups of working class people occur in areas outside the workplace, why should our only focus be on organizing in workplaces? And why do you assume we don't do organizing in workplaces?

asn
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Jan 2 2010 09:38

And if social struggles of groups of working class people occur in areas outside the workplace, why should our only focus be on organizing in workplaces? And why do you assume we don't do organizing in workplaces?
- I have not suggested that you are not doing organising in workplaces - given your very limited resources and personal and the harshness of the industrial conditions today which also affects other such groupings in the anglo world - such groupings need to focus on the industrial front and not just anywhere but in areas of importance re creating the preconditions for transitional steps towards mass syndicalist unionism -you can't do this if you are being diverted into all manner campaigns - establishing militant networks and rebuilding them following management/union hierarchy attacks, maintaining workpace publications, creating a more "grass roots" friendly situations in unions, etc in very hostile conditions - requires this focused approach
- the role of syndicalist groups is not have all manner of wild pretensions of how they want to perfect dimensions of bourgeois society and solve "all manner of oppressions" and going along with the divisiveness and irrationalities of "identities" - if you doing that you would attract the leftist fringe and those elements such as students, academics, middle class elements and workers with a high level of autonomy in their work, and get mixed up in all manner of political correctness displays and navel gazing - which would give a terrible impression to militant workers - syndicalist groups need to have a very "focused" approach as outlined above and via that key militants will be attracted and drawn into your orbit and influence in important sectors acquired and the capacity for big actions to be taken- this has been the case in our work - we help them in the practicalities of the class struggle on consistent basis via the above work and they see it as relevant to them

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Jan 2 2010 19:00
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the role of syndicalist groups is not have all manner of wild pretensions of how they want to perfect dimensions of bourgeois society and solve "all manner of oppressions" and going along with the divisiveness and irrationalities of "identities" - if you doing that you would attract the leftist fringe and those elements such as students, academics, middle class elements and workers with a high level of autonomy in their work, and get mixed up in all manner of political correctness displays and navel gazing - which would give a terrible impression to militant workers

the working class in the USA is very heterogeneous. we can't address the actual situation if we ignore racism and sexism. in California urban areas most of the working class is not "white". Most low-wage workers in the USA are women. when we address the various non-class oppressions, we are looking at them as they intersect class, that is, we're talking about working class women, working class people of color. maybe you're assuming "militant workers" are white guys. many of the more militant workers in USA in recent times have been Latino/a immigrants, just to take an example. immigrant rights is of importance to them.

Jason Cortez
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Jan 3 2010 21:22
asn wrote:
resident action groups as in the case of the BLF -and in the case of the BLF - these more advanced actions occurred after success on the purely industrial "bread and butter front" which the "margins dispute" was about and the associated raised morale and self confidence had been obtained

Couldn't agreed more, but then if you weren't looking through the prism of 'the dead end of workeristitasism' (see we can all play at name calling) you would not project your strawman onto me.

asn wrote:
- you of course see my position via the prism of the left subculture - ridiculous notions of tiny groups some how acquiring massive memberships

So when have I ever proposed anything reassembling this?

asn wrote:
our role is to assist these processes, particularly in extremely difficult but important sectors and you can't do that if you are aping the leftist sects and get swept up in all manner of campaigns in different spheres

i am not sure what "all manner of campaigns" is supposed to mean, but this mantra of yours that "focusing your very limited personnel and resources on strategic organising in industry not aping other leftist groups - running around like headless chickens and tailending whatever struggle is going on" often means in our everyday immediate concrete struggles outside the workplace little more than defeatism, dressed up in the rhetoric of 'first we build the workers industrial strength'. For example had we argued that only the workers who were impletementing the 'Poll Tax' would be able to stop it (as many did). We would never had a mass movement capable of the abolishment of the poll tax (a partial victory that reflected the real class forces. a class comprise) also locally if parents and supporters had just relied on the workers involved, in preventing their community school closing, it would now be closed.
But hey, you carry on with your hectoring and dogmatic approach, seeing the reflections of your strawmen in everyone else......blah..blah...bait...bait...blah.. etc..etc grin hand wall roll eyes black bloc groucho

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 3 2010 21:58
syndicalistcat wrote:
what was sectarian in your reply was in denying the name "anarcho-syndicalism" to our viewpoint and in labeling us "platformist" even tho we don't call ourselves "platformist." those moves are sectarian behavior on your part.

i'm attempting to use language in a rigorous way, not denigrate anything you're doing as an organisation which as far as i'm aware is the probably the closest north american group to my politics. i'll elaborate further below...

syndicalistcat wrote:
There is also a distinction between a propaganda group and a group of rank and file activists and organizers. The latter is our aim even if the former has often been our reality.

much the same can be said of SolFed.

syndicalistcat wrote:
"entering" a mass organization is also not the language we use. It's a question of respecting the organic character and autonomy of the mass organization, and being a voice for self-management and militancy within that organization, keeping that in mind. our current emphasis is on developing new self-managed worker organizations. this includes such things as the activity of some of our members in Starbucks Workers Union, or in the relatively rank and file controlled UE, or in working in workers centers, or helping to form them. (We currently have a joint project with another libertarian socialist group to form a grassroots workers center in Michigan.) in such cases it's a question of helping to build self-managed mass organizations. This is our orientation. The way we understand anarcho-syndicalism is that it is a strategy for working class self-liberation based on the development of self-managing mass social organizations (labor organizations and other kinds).

ok, i accept you may not use platformist terminology, but the dual organisational strategy you're putting forward of a specific political organisation seeking to influence a mass (economic) organisation is pretty close to platformism. that's not in itself a criticism. you're right that historically anarcho-syndicalism was a product of anarchists participating in and coming to dominate syndicalist organisations. however i disagree that anarcho-syndicalism equals "self-managing mass social organizations". various tendencies advocate such organisations, there's nothing specifically anarcho- about them, and straightforward syndicalist organisations such as the old IWW or CGT would fit that bill.

as i've said (and linked to the FAU/AGA pamphlet as an example), i don't think anarcho-syndicalist organisation is synonymous with mass organisation; i think anarcho-syndicalist principles (of political-economic organisation) can be applied on a small scale, and i favour a strategy of doing so rather than trying to build mass economic organisations and then politicising them. i reiterate that it is not sectarian to disagree over this.

syndicalist
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Jan 4 2010 01:51

Been away from the internet for a few days and am interested in this discussion. Can my WSA comrade sidestep the obvious baiting from ASN. Can ASN stop make wide and open statements that are not helpful to the dicsussion. If therete situations, fine, I'm cool with that. If there are specific points on concrete matters to be made, cool, let's get on with that.

For what it's worth (prolly not even a spit in a spit-toon), now should be a time where anarcho-syndicalists should have open discussions about where we are at in 2010. Perhaps by having some open and rigious conversations we might be able to break down some barriers and get beyond false impressions or perceptions.

I actually think the framing of the conversation (the orginial question) sets the discussion up in a manner that may not be conducive to a conversation which Cat and Joesph may have started down the road on. And, for the record, if the conversation is simply based on two historical documents, well, they are not compatable. However, is the role of an anarcho-syndicalist propaganda much different (in practice) then an libertarian ( or anarchist-communist) political group? To a certain extent, I think, this is actually a conversation worth having.

PS: I'm gonna go over the "Notes" pamphlet again http://libcom.org/library/notes-class-struggle-small-group-workplace-organising because some of what is discussed, comrades (here in the US) carry out through workers centers, something we consider essential to our "mass work" practice.

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Jan 4 2010 06:21

joseph:

Quote:
however i disagree that anarcho-syndicalism equals "self-managing mass social organizations". various tendencies advocate such organisations, there's nothing specifically anarcho- about them, and straightforward syndicalist organisations such as the old IWW or CGT would fit that bill.

I wouldn't say that is the whole of the strategy. ultimately the labor movement, or a dominant part of it, must come to have libertaraian socialist aims or it won't be able to act as a force of class liberation. but I don't think at present it is a feasible strategy towards that end to try to form tiny ideological "unions" with a pre-cooked politics, and then try to recruit workers to it.

I think this fails to seriously examine how the process of class formation is likely to occur.

I also don't think it is purely a question of the propagandistic activities of the specific organization that are the main additional element to worker militiancy, as platformists sometimes talk as if they believe, "winning the battle of ideas" and all that. I think there are other aspects, like the influence of the activists who are voices for opposing "partnership", for selfmanagement of struggles, against the system, but within a genuine mass organization/mass struggle context.

I also think that popular education is an important element that anarchists often lose sight of. This means various kinds of venues thru which people acquire the skills needed to effectively participate in self-managing orgs and struggles, learn how to theorize their experience, acquire various kinds of leadership skills...public speaking and others.

Because class formation is a gradual and protracted process of development within the working class, I think that the character of mass organizations & struggles are likely to change over time, and that we have to envision a kind of practice that allows for this, and for evolution of the labor movement. And this goes against the assumption we start out by trying to create a shell of a future class movement that doesn't yet exist, but one defined in highly ideological revolutionary terms. In the USA this approach just won't fly, and this was what led us in WSA to develop a different conception of how to advance anarcho-syndicalism.

In the USA we would not be able to create a genuine mass organization by defining it as "anarchist" or "anarcho-syndicalist." But we can develop worker organizations where the members are in control, and which pursue an independent course, and reject partnership, and stay independent of the AFL-CIO labor bureaucracy. In some cases this might be a union, in other cases it might be a resistance group in a workplace represented by one of the AFL unions, or in other cases it might be a workers center.

Having an organization that people control is part of the process of how people learn they can run things, and do have the ability to develop some collective power to change things. It's part of the process of building class consciousness.

asn
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Jan 4 2010 10:03

We would never had a mass movement capable of the abolishment of the poll tax (a partial victory that reflected the real class forces. a class comprise) also locally if parents and supporters had just relied on the workers involved, in preventing their community school closing, it would now be closed.
- and as a result you get distracted from the industrial front on which syndicalist groups should be focusing - unable to help build and maintain networks in sectors of strategic importance leading to the transitional steps leading to mass syndicalist unionism, in the current hostile climate on the job - would requiring considerable outside the job asistance - and you get to your current situation of getting virtually nowhere on the industrial front in the UK and elsewhere - you can't rebuild if setbacks occur and in the reality of the class struggle of course that can happen - and has happened re Transport Worker network some while back and other cases - rather than the sectlet arguing for this or that - the role of syndicalists should be to be to create frameworks where discussion and debate on the job can occur -via workplace papers, regular workers' assessmblies re courses of action - a very difficult job these days and of course to encourage rational processes and avoiding manipulation and reliance on personal loyalities to make decisions - but I understand quite a few of you - those who attended the plenary session of the London Anarchist conference last year and got swept up in some stalinesque mad antics wouldn't be too good at this - symptomatic of left sect land inhabitants
- the statements I have made are fairly sweeping - questioning everything you are doing - exactly the questions you don't want but must have - if we are to see the emergence of mass syndicalist unionism

MT
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Jan 4 2010 10:28

there is QUOTE tab above the column you write your post in. Please use it asn, I am lost in your posts an don't know when you site and when you reply.

Btw, I see that you sharply propose industrial tactics. What does your group do in practice and what strategy it utilizes?

Jason Cortez
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Jan 4 2010 11:51

asn-great, I love this approach, which in effect means don't engage in the class struggle outside the workplace until we have a revolutionary mass workers movement in key industries. Because that distracts from building this movement, because class issue for workers stop at the factory gates. I can just see you now, when asked by a fellow worker for advice and support on an issue like say housing, saving a local park, opposing police racism etc-'sorry mate, at this present time in the class struggle, that would constitute a distraction from the building of a movement capable of abolishing the current social system'. you really have a completely class reductionist approach and totally misunderstand the reality of the formation of social movements. Just keep throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as long as you don't have to get your hands dirty. Keeping yourself pure and untainted by the real lived experience of our class, with your dogma of a 'scientific ' revolutionary unionism restricted to the workplace-until a mass anarcho-syndicalist movement is formed.

asn
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Jan 5 2010 11:00
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asn-great, I love this approach, which in effect means don't engage in the class struggle outside the workplace until we have a revolutionary mass workers movement in key industries.
= in terms of the tiny core of absolutely reliable militants which exist in the smallish groupings in the Anglo world today they would have to severely husband their limited resources and energies - people have their limitations particularly in regard to the long range serious work I'm proposing - there would be a much wider periphery who would have limited but useful involvement eg regularly distroing publications etc and can't be entrusted with large scale serious work - so no doubt they would be involved in various things I guess- you would be looking at many hundreds and possibly thousands in the uk situation involved in this periphery . Via this work (leading to the transitional steps toward mass syndicalist unionism and the slowing down of the pace of the employer offensive) it would be able to turn the tide in the class struggle and curb workers experience of constant defeats and successful management attacks.
In terms of "unions" I just accept the traditional syndicalist conception - based in the workplace which most people would accept. This fostering of the grass roots movement in the BLF by "unconcious" syndicalist activists focusing re "on the job issues" led eventually in the late 60's early 1970's to assisting community groups which is well known. Today in NSW this type of action by the Building Union is definitely not happening.

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Btw, I see that you sharply propose industrial tactics. What does your group do in practice and what strategy it utilizes?

see on the archive section of our website www.rebelworker.org - relevant articles "Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Australia Today" "Anarcho-Syndicalism: Catalyst for Workers Self Organisation" and in RW Sept-Oct 2009 Vol.28 No.3 (204) Sept-Oct 2009 "The Anarcho-Syndicalist Approach to Counter the Instensified Employer Offensive & Economic Crisis" also on our web site

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 5 2010 14:14
syndicalistcat wrote:
I don't think at present it is a feasible strategy towards that end to try to form tiny ideological "unions" with a pre-cooked politics, and then try to recruit workers to it.

I think this fails to seriously examine how the process of class formation is likely to occur.

well me neither. i'm certainly not expecting to build a mass union piecemeal. but that isn't the objective. the purpose is to best organise in the present as a minority of revolutionary workers. all sorts of things could happen between now and a period of intense class conflict akin to 1930s Spain, a small group could grow, apolitical groups could radicalise, radical branches could break away from mainstream trade unions, new groups could form. probably all of these things. they may even confederate into a CNT-esque organisation. or not. but the operative question is how best to organise now.

i think the difference here is between self-managed unionism in the syndicalist mould and revolutionary unionism in the anarcho-syndicalist mould. the difference here is more than simply ideological, it's the difference between a practice of self-management and a communist practice. apolitical/purely economic unions by definition have no problem with capitalism. they have no reason not to accept the place capitalism offers to unions in the labour-mediating apparatus (even if they are founded by anarchists, internal democracy will overturn their positions). this role imposes certain limitations on what the union can and can't do, and thus shapes the ideas which tend to become dominant. imho it's idealism to think it's simply the wrong ideas prevailing in such unions as the role the union plays is important in shaping the horizons of possibility and the dominant ideas (i accept the platformist position is more guilty of this than you, as you're giving more thought to the way ideas develop in struggle).

furthermore as DAM put it:

DAM wrote:
The unions in this country accepted the legitimacy of the existence of social classes. They did not want to put an end to an exploitative social system but to get the best for workers within it, which, in practice, means collaborating with the bosses and the capitalist system. The class collaboration of the unions has led them to become more and more a part of the system. It now means that they not only fail to defend workers' interests but often go firmly against them. Their priority if getting 'recognition' at any price (recognition from the bosses, of course, not the workers). Getting back to the good old days of beer and sandwiches at Number 10 is what they are interested in, not fighting the class struggle.

All the time we hear workers and left-wingers accusing the trade union leaders of selling out and being bureaucratic. This is, of course, true, but we view this as inevitable in organisations that aim to collaborate with capitalism rather than to destroy it. (...) The main aim of any union is to maintain its power within as part of the wider trade union movement and also to exert pressure and maintain influence on the state, management and society as a whole. They seek to do this in various ways, one of the most important being maintaining as high a membership as possible.

thus an apolitical/purely economic/non-revolutionary perspective goes hand in hand with a certain organising model based on mass recruitment and representation of labour power as labour power. this can never be revolutionary, however self-managed it is (although the experience of bureacratisation may lead to radical breakaways, certainly).

by contrast, i would argue the anarcho-syndicalist approach is one based on an explicitly revolutionary perspective. that shapes the way we organise. we don't particularly seek the recognition of the bosses, nor seek to represent labour power - rather encourage the self-organisation of workers as human beings with concrete needs both in the workplace and beyond it. of course, having an explicitly revolutionary perspective does limit the membership of such an organsiation. however this is not inherently problematic (and self-managed unions are likewise limited by the state of the class struggle) since the strategy of such unions is not based on mass recruitment in order to be recognised by the bosses, but on mass meetings, assemblies and workers' councils, the bodies through which the mass of workers struggle and are potentially radicalised by the experience (perhaps then joining the anarcho-union to further the struggle).

so the upshot of this is that i see the priority being the formation of a 'libertarian workers association' capable of encouraging/organising mass meetings at which it argues for direct action (iwouldn't call it a union until it had organised numerous direct actions). i don't think it would need to be a mass organisation to do this, and even an organisation of hundreds could begin to play this role in particular workplaces and sectors where members were clustered. by contrast you seem to be advocating trying to encourage self-managed independent unionism (perhaps the IWW, perhaps other things). as i say, the latter approach is syndicalism, i just don't see what's anarcho- about it. i'm not having a go at you, i'm just trying to be rigorous in my terminology. i mean pretty much every british trade union in the 19th century started out pretty self-managed, and pretty much every one bureaucratised. perhaps the problem was a lack of an organised libertarian socialist presence, but i would suggest it was more material than that, rooted in the role played by non-revolutionary unions themselves. i certainly wouldn't label early trade unionism 'anarcho-syndicalist' even though it was often self-managed.

in any event, even if my terminology is faulty, you can see that the two strategies are largely incompatible? i'm labelling one anarcho-syndicalism and the other platformism (or 'anarchists doing syndicalism' if you like), and therefore answering the OP in the negative. if you define the latter as anarcho-syndicalism, clearly you're going to answer the OP in the positive. (fwiw i don't necessarily reject dual organisation, but i have a very different view of it to traditional ones, seeing it as caucuses/particular interest groups within a wider movement/organisation rather than a poltical grouping trying to keep a mass economic organisation on the true path).

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syndicalistcat
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Jan 6 2010 02:43

we advocate self-managed solidarity unionism. this means various things. it means that the members manage the union. this is "anarcho" because that means :"without bosses or rulers". solidarity unionism refers to an approach that has several features. it means the reliance on worker self-activity as the basis of how gains are won...trying to build shopfloor muscle through numbers and collective actions. it also means reaching out to others, other groups of workers, other kinds of organizations (such as in community), to develop links of solidarity, to try to broaden the struggle as much as possible into a class fight, and this means also dealing with, addressing, the need to oppose sexism and racism, addressing that is the specific problems of various groups within the working class.

but it does not mean that the a narrow programmatically defined organization, one committed to a revolutionary libertarian communist agenda, is the mass organization. that's confusing a party fraction with a mass worker organization. I think this is a kind of purist or ultraleft mistake.

EDIT:

Quote:
(fwiw i don't necessarily reject dual organisation, but i have a very different view of it to traditional ones, seeing it as caucuses/particular interest groups within a wider movement/organisation rather than a poltical grouping trying to keep a mass economic organisation on the true path).

Okay. I think we are in agreement here, maybe, if we're talking about a situation where, say, there is a conventional AFL-CIO type union, a bureaucratic business union, in a workplace. In that situation we'd want there to be a wider rank and file organization, not simply the members of the specific organization there. Call this a "resistance group", "rank and file group", "action committee", "base union", whatever. In USA it can't be legally called a "union" due to the labor law. but in practice, for example, sometimes IWW groups have existed as resistance groups inside such trade union organized workplaces here....I know of one now in the telecom sector. But I'm not sure that I'd say this group is going to have "communist" politics or the kind of programmatic unity characteristic of a specific organization, tho we would want it to have a politics of no class collaboration, no partnership, an anti-capitalist politics.

I think that having the revolutionary politics be the responsibility of a separate political organization makes it less likely that the poliitics will be forgotten or watered down in the interests of trying to function like a union.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 6 2010 16:15
syndicalistcat wrote:
but it does not mean that the a narrow programmatically defined organization, one committed to a revolutionary libertarian communist agenda, is the mass organization. that's confusing a party fraction with a mass worker organization. I think this is a kind of purist or ultraleft mistake.

lucky i'm not advocating that then wink

for two reasons; firstly because i'm arguing the mass organisations (in the sense of unitary organisations) are likely to be assemblies/mass meetings through to workers councils depending on the extent of the struggle (the anarcho-syndicalist union may or may not have a 'mass' membership in numerical terms, depending on circumstances). secondly, because i don't think an anarcho-syndicalist union should have a programatic politics but rather a principled one - including a commitment to anarchism (i.e. libertarian communism) as this explicitly revolutionary perspective informs how it organises, as i explained above. but it wouldn't have a program, position papers etc.

syndicalistcat wrote:
we advocate self-managed solidarity unionism. this means various things. it means that the members manage the union. this is "anarcho" because that means :"without bosses or rulers". solidarity unionism refers to an approach that has several features. it means the reliance on worker self-activity as the basis of how gains are won...trying to build shopfloor muscle through numbers and collective actions. it also means reaching out to others, other groups of workers, other kinds of organizations (such as in community), to develop links of solidarity, to try to broaden the struggle as much as possible into a class fight, and this means also dealing with, addressing, the need to oppose sexism and racism, addressing that is the specific problems of various groups within the working class.

how does that differ from common-or-garden syndicalism? or even rank-and-file trade unionism? i think reducing anarcho-syndicalism to union democracy loses precisely what is unique about it, i.e. an explicitly revolutionary perspective aiming at libertarian communism and organising accordingly (e.g. rejecting participation in state mediating structures to represent labour power and so on).

syndicalistcat wrote:
I think that having the revolutionary politics be the responsibility of a separate political organization makes it less likely that the poliitics will be forgotten or watered down in the interests of trying to function like a union.

a) so we're not even talking about revolutionary unionism here, just democratic unionism? and b) i'm not sure this holds - the CNT ministers were also FAIistas. their compromise reflected material circumstances and wasn't tempered by specific political organisation.

i think the central issue here is what is meant by 'function as a union'. the DAM quote above outlines my thoughts quite nicely - revolutionary or anarcho- unions aren't just unions with ideology, the ideology effects how they organise on a fundamental day-to-day level - whether as mediators/representatives of labour power sucked into class collaboration or agents for the abolition of class society. the latter is not merely a self-managed version of the former.

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Jan 6 2010 16:54
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the ideology effects how they organise on a fundamental day-to-day level - whether as mediators/representatives of labour power sucked into class collaboration or agents for the abolition of class society. the latter is not merely a self-managed version of the former.

Nor did I say that it was. you're running a strawman argument. self-managed solidarity unionism isn't just "democratic unionism". "democratic" only refers to structures such as election of representatives. doesn't say what actual role members have or what it's stance toward employers is.

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(e.g. rejecting participation in state mediating structures to represent labour power and so on).

We don't have that here in the USA so it's irrelevant.

To even define the aim as "libertarian communism" is programmatic.

Anarcho-syndicalism has to do with developing a form of worker unionism that runs on the basis of worker involvement, direct worker collective activity, rather than the union being a service agency where the focus is on what the bureaucracy is doing. It has to do with broadening the solidarity and developing the struggle to break out of narrow sectoralism, so that the larger role of the dominating classes is brought into question. These sorts of things are necessary to the development of class political consciousness.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 6 2010 16:59

right, so if that's the case how does anarcho-syndicalism differ from common-or-garden syndicalism?

nastyned
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Jan 6 2010 18:49
Joseph Kay wrote:
the CNT ministers were also FAIistas.

I've seen this stated quite a few times on libcom but I don't think it's factually correct. It's a while since I read up on Spain but I'm sure it was the case that two of the four CNT ministers were also in the FAI.

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AES
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Jan 6 2010 21:15

Joan Peiró was Minister of Industry, and Ángel Pestaña were involved with the Syndicalist Party which existed as a current of moderate response to oppose to FAI.

CNT-AIT-FAI members were Juan García Oliver Minister of Justice under Francisco Largo Caballero, Diego Abad de Santillán Minister of the Economy for the Generalitat of Catalonia, and Federica Montseny was Minister of Health and Social Policy

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Jan 7 2010 00:43
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right, so if that's the case how does anarcho-syndicalism differ from common-or-garden syndicalism?

Not sure what you mean by "garden variety syndicalism." Syndicalism in English, as distinguished from Latin languages, refers to the view that mass worker organizations can play a revolutionary role, as for example the IWW's revolutionary unionism. Anarcho-syndicalism I believe emphasizes more the importance of direct democracy and assemblies perhaps.

But maybe you're asking how anarcho-syndicalism differs from unionism in general. I think it's not only the emphasis on direct worker self-activity and control thru things like assemblies, but of course also that a self-managed mass unionism is to be a means to class self-liberation through the seizure of the means of production and in general through the construction of a libertarian socialist society. So the aim, then, should be the development of this revolutionary tendency to be the dominant tendency in the labor movement. What's needed is a labor movement that has a libertarian socialist aim as well as methods of action appropriate to that aim. But what you and I are discussing is how this change in the working class is to come about, that is, how it comes to develop that kind of labor movement.