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

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 13 2011 18:21
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Unlike Chili Sauce, I found George's post unreadable, sorry. Is that how you describe your ideas to interested people...? confused

I didn't understand Vanilla's contribution either, which tendency/type of org does he consider himself a part of?

I was only commenting on Venn Diagrams generally!

As for Vanilla, I believe this is where he's coming from:

http://www.p-crac.blogspot.com/

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 13 2011 21:03
georgestapleton wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
Organisational dualism = a 'mass' workers organisation organised on economic lines (typically a trade union), and a separate political organisation (typically a party, but also a 'specific' anarchist organisation).

Political-economic organisation = organisation with political principles which organises economic struggles, e.g. the CNT.

'Unitary organisation' = a term from left/council communist theory apparently included here to muddy the waters (meaning an organisation which, on the eve of revolution, unites the working class behind a revolutionary programme, e.g. the historic AAUD-E, or workers councils themselves)..

These are all 'the same' in the way the AF is 'the same' as the labour party and promoting 100% trade union membership is 'the same' as organising a mass meeting of all workers regardless of union membership.

VENN DIAGRAMS!!!!

Sorry but using your definitions, these things are not exactly the same thing but are largely subsets of each other.

A unitary organisation is an "organisation with political principles which organises economic struggles". And a separate organisational dualist political organisation is also an "organisation with political principles which organises economic struggles". I've drawn the "separate political organisation" as including things which are not "organisation[s] with political principles which organises economic struggles" because you can of course have "separate political organisation" which organise around 'political' issues that are not simply 'economic'. (To be honest I think class struggle as a social struggle, not an economic one, nor a political one, nor an economic/political one, so I don't see this distinction as useful.) Examples of none economic struggle would be i don't know occupying a jobcentre in opposition to legislative changes.

For what its worth, I think SolFed have been doing great stuff over the last few years so I'm not having a go at what you are doing. Rather, I'm having a go at this "political/economic organisation" idea.

The way I see it is that there is the social class, and subsections of that social class that have common 'political beliefs'*. They can and do organise together to advance their common beliefs.

People organising together on the basis of shared beliefs can take many forms. It can be like the ICC, the Adam Smith institute, the US Democrats, SolFed, Aufheben, The Economist etc. etc. The question is what is most appropriate to what you are trying to do, general transhistorical rules about how people with shared politics should organise don't exist. Lessons do, the correct organisational form doesn't.

*There is an obvious difference here between a political belief (i.e. a belief about the distribution and organisation of power and violence in society) and the economic/political distinction which rests on the separation of the 'political sphere' (the state) from the 'economic sphere' (the market); a separation that only exists in its developed form in bourgeois society.

You can take the comrade out of L&S but... tongue

vanilla.ice.baby
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Dec 13 2011 21:10
nastyned wrote:
I've found some of the posts here very interesting, and I'll try and type up my thoughts tomorrow.

I not sure who VIB is having a go though so I don't know if I should be getting offended or nodding in agreement. ;)

I'm not having a go at anyone per se - just those anarchos in general who seem to be embarrassed to admit they want to recruit to their org.

Caiman del Barrio wrote:

I didn't understand Vanilla's contribution either, which tendency/type of org does he consider himself a part of?

I don't see why it was confusing, I'm a class struggle anarchist of the platformist variety who is a member of Tyneside Solidarity.

nastyned
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Dec 13 2011 21:27

I like the Venn diagrams, better than the discrete categories, and I thought some good points were made.

As I've only ever worked in places where I was the only anarchist talk of anarchist union branches seem to me wishful thinking really. So I was pleased to see Harrison's post as it seems a lot more realistic.

Dare I say it though I did think it looked more like how members of a political organisation, not an organisation that would like to become a union, would act. Is the Solfed plan to become more like a union as it grows? I got that impression from some of the replies.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 13 2011 21:29

We are a "revolutionary union initiative" as per our last conference.... But we do have a very specific conception of what a union is, which I think comes through in a lot of those posts you referenced.

nastyned
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Dec 14 2011 10:19

Yes, I saw that. But I'm sure the DAM had a similar position so I'm trying to work out exactly what it means. I think the DAM intended to loosen the politics a bit as they became more union-like, and it looks like some, but not all, in the Solfed think this way.

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Dec 14 2011 10:59
nastyned wrote:
As I've only ever worked in places where I was the only anarchist talk of anarchist union branches seem to me wishful thinking really. So I was pleased to see Harrison's post as it seems a lot more realistic.

So I think this is definitely true of the current situation, but at the risk of sounding like a ballbag, anarchist union branches are probably about as wishful as, for instance, a libertarian communist society organised according to "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" smile

So yeah, it's def the situation now and it's def the situation that a lot of people will find themselves in for the near future.. but I suppose that's what a strategy is, you look at your situation now and think about short-, medium- and long-term goals..

When you say anarchist union branches, I'm not sure what you're imagining (also, especially given the current situation, it's prob best to talk about 'workplace' rather than 'union' branches).. so say, an anarchist union covering all workers in a workplace, yeah, probably wishful thinking.. but a group of anarchists that all work in the same place, meeting to discuss tactics, strategy etc not so wishful.. now when a 'workplace branch' becomes a 'union branch' is a difficult question (which I think is ongoing in SF, as well as my own head), but if a 'workplace branch' is not unimaginable then I'd say that neither is a 'union branch'..

nastyned wrote:
But I'm sure the DAM had a similar position so I'm trying to work out exactly what it means. I think the DAM intended to loosen the politics a bit as they became more union-like, and it looks like some, but not all, in the Solfed think this way.

Honestly, I don't know too much about the history of DAM (I wasn't there and have only read bits and pieces) but I think SF is more in line with the DAM of 'Winning the Class War' rather than before it..

It seemed to me (and I'm happy to be corrected here) that DAM had a really broad mix from rank and filists to anarcho-syndicalists and it seems there wasn't a cohesive view on the unions until WtCW came out.

I'd say SF is basically trying to build on WtCW, so obviously we're against recruiting to represent, we're against the unions for structural reasons and believe in mass assemblies. In terms of what our union would look like, well, it's like what I and other SFers said above (about adherence to the principles of struggle rather than the ideological belief in a communist society).. could you point out where there's been disagreement?

That said, I also think that a bit of disagreement within an organisation is healthy.. if one SF branch was really strict on membership and one was really quite loose I wouldn't think either needed to be punished for it (depending on circumstance obviously! No nazis!).. I'd just support one or neither way of doing things in my own local.

nastyned
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Dec 14 2011 12:50

Thanks Ed, that's very helpful. If the Solfed is in line with 'winning the class war' i think that answers all my questions.

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Dec 14 2011 13:13
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Unlike Chili Sauce, I found George's post unreadable, sorry. Is that how you describe your ideas to interested people...? confused

(MORE VENN DIAGRAMS)

I don't understand the question. I think it depends on the idea and the person interested. I don't communicate in only one register. I sound different if I am telling my grand-aunt I like my tea with milk and no sugar to when I talk with marxists about value form theory.

In terms of the post being unreadable. Sorry about that. I was using JK's definitions throughout because what I was saying was that the definitions he used don't make the distinction he was saying they do. The result is kind of senseless because its an ugly way of making a point, but also because the result just doesn't make sense.

So what I think JK was trying to say was that SolFed, a Workers Council and NEFAC are all different types of organisations.

This makes sense.

But what doesn't make sense is how JK says they are different. He says they are different because

SolFed = "Political-economic organisation = organisation with political principles which organises economic struggles, e.g. the CNT"

NEFAC = "Organisational dualism = a 'mass' workers organisation organised on economic lines (typically a trade union), and a separate political organisation (typically a party, but also a 'specific' anarchist organisation)."

Workers Council = " 'Unitary organisation' = a term from left/council communist theory apparently included here to muddy the waters (meaning an organisation which, on the eve of revolution, unites the working class behind a revolutionary programme, e.g. the historic AAUD-E, or workers councils themselves)."

But by these definitions the SolFed, a Workers Council and NEFAC are not different types of organisations.

The definition of the type of organisation SolFed is is so broad as to include Workers Councils and NEFAC largely as more specific versions of it.

Now this isn't necessarily a problem. But if you think you are saying one thing and are saying another it probably means that the definitions you are using are not as clear as you think they are.

As I said, I think SolFed is doing great work and I'd say its the best political group in London today. But the way SolFeders think about SolFed in my mind is totally off. And this does have some negative consequences.

See for example the endless debate in SolFed about whether or not non-SolFed members should be able to join SolFed's industrial networks. Or the lack of clarity and contradictory statements on this thread and in offline discussions I've had about whether or not you can/should join SolFed if you are not an anarchist but just agree with SolFed's practice. Or the argument I remember reading in Direct Action a few years back saying that groups like HSG and LCAP were good but what is really needed are political-economic organisations.

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Dec 14 2011 13:33

tbh, george, i'm really confused by all these diagrams. of course, you're entirely at liberty to use whatever categories you want, but saying "the ICC, the Adam Smith institute, the US Democrats, SolFed, Aufheben, The Economist etc. etc" are all basically the same on a discussion about libertarian communist organisation and strategy seems to be like going onto a vintage car forum and saying "horses, bicycles, bentleys, pogo sticks etc etc" are all modes of transport. It's true, but in a way which seems at best banal or at worst sophistry.

I think it's entirely obvious that the CNT is both a union and organised according to anarchist principles with anarchist aims. i.e. it combines the economic functions of a union with anarchist political philosophy. That's completely at odds with those who think unions should emphatically not be in any way anarchist, but rather should be as broad as possible uniting workers on an economic basis while anarchists organise themselves into specific political organisations.

Now what i don't get is why people would insist a dual organisationist and anarcho-syndicalist approach are the same. Different groups pursue different strategies. Wouldn't it make more sense to articulate those rather than trying to conflate everything into some fuzzy universal form that encompasses any group of people with any shared purpose? I mean, if the ICC (a tiny left communist pseudo-party) is the same kind of organisation as say, the Economist (a large capitalist firm/division), then it suggests your chosen categories are so abstract they can't tell us anything useful. I mean yeah, they're 'groups of people with shared aims', but then wine and dogshit are 'groups of molecules with shared properties'. I can't see how anything constructive can come of such a discussion of organisational forms at such a high level of abstraction and divorced from all practical and political content.

nastyned
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Dec 14 2011 14:27

Well I understand what he's saying. Though I think there should be a CNT circle with a smaller FAI circle inside it! wink

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Dec 14 2011 15:47

Ok, but my point is that your categorical distinctions don't make sense. And discussion of categorical distinctions is boring so to that I'm guilty. But just because something is boring doesn't mean it is obvious. (I'm banal in the sense of boring, but maybe not banal in the sense of obvious.)

And I'm not saying that we should conflate everything into something "fuzzy universal form". Rather we should distinguish levels of fuzziness. So if someone asks me to distinguish three types of dogs and I say "That one is a labrador, that one is a poodle and that one is a dog" then its perfectly legitimate for the person to reply "But they are all dogs, so you haven't actually said distinguishes the third one". And that's kind like what my complaint is. You are not actually saying what distinguishes SolFed.

So yeah this is boring. But I have no idea how you got from what I said that I think we shouldn't make distinctions and instead conflate everything into something "fuzzy universal form".

Being accused of conflating things into fuzzy universal forms in a discussion of what 'political-economic' means is kind of funny though. I get the motive behind 'political-economic' though. It works a bit like "There are some groups that are economic (ex unions) and some that are political (ex political parties and NEFAC). We think that you need to be both, hence political-economic". But this is a bit like you can get beyond the categories of up and down with a better category of up-down. Fuzzy and universal.

You might reply that this is just playing with words. What you actually mean is more concrete. There is on the one hand economic class organisations and on the other organisations that have political perspectives and we should have both. Economic class organisation with political perspectives. But depending on how you interpret this there are three problems.

Firstly most economic class organisations already have political perspectives. (They might not be held by all the members but then again see the discussion on this thread about whether SolFed members need to hold libertarian communist beliefs.) And many political organisation organise economically (see Lutte Ouvrier for one prominent example).

Secondly, the idea of economic class organisation with political perspectives is problematic politically. Here I think you will agree with me. The idea of political-economic groups in the sense of political unions doesn't deal with the problem of working class self-organisation being divided between political and economic spheres. The problem is that the working class exists as a social class, not as a political group or as an economic 'factor of production'. And if working class self organisation remains restrained within either political or economic forms then it fails to take a form reflective of the class - i.e. as a social power. So the aim is not to politicise unions but rather to go beyond 'merely economic' struggle to social struggle. That is I should not fight as 'george the spark producer in spark factory 15' but as part of my class. We are trying to develop a struggle over how society works not over the distribution of surplus within isolated enterprises. Thats obviously not to say the latter can't be part of the former. So what we the working class needs is not 'political-economic' organisation in the sense of political unions. Rather the working class needs social organisation - the working class needs to organise inside and outside the workplace to take control over society. Now here I don't think such organisation can exist as AN organisation but still the point remains. We advocate class struggle not to get more surplus in the enterprise, and not to take control over the state but to change society. It is a social struggle not a workplace struggle. As I said, I think you agree with this, but its worth putting on the table.

Thirdly, if we understand working class organisation as occurring across society not just the workplace (i.e. the working class is a social class not just as an economic class), then the political-economic notion could be trying to get at something else. It could be trying to say that the class organisation should be political or should be political-social. But here we fall into the problems I mentioned above about dogs! Organising according to a set of shared political beliefs is a form of class organisation. The category of political organisation is a subset of the category of class organisation. Of all three this problem is probably the biggest.

Which problem applies depends on what is meant by 'economic'. By economic do you mean class or do you mean workplace? If it is class then the third problem applies. If you mean workplace then the second problem applies.

Also to add two final things.

1. I think your above post is willfully misrepresenting me. For example, you know I don't think and didn't say ""the ICC, the Adam Smith institute, the US Democrats, SolFed, Aufheben, The Economist etc. etc" are all basically the same". So leave out the straw men.

2. My contributions to this discussion might be boring but ocelot's are pretty interesting. I don't want to assume ocelot agrees with me, but I think I agree with him. The trouble is that while ocelot might be right, I don't think SolFeders are going to 'get' his point because of a conceptual problem. Hence me making boring conceptual points "divorced from all practical and political content."