Instead of derailing the thread --

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Nate
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May 15 2011 19:15
Instead of derailing the thread --

I like this other thread quite a bit - http://libcom.org/blog/response-direct-unionism-discussion-paper-part-1-2-15052011 - and I don;t want to derail it so I'm posting this here instead. In that thread the idea of the One Big Union and the IWW came up. A friend and I have a couple three articles in Workers Power about this coming out over the summer. We cut one article from the series, though, that had stuff dealing really directly with the points raised in that thread linked to above. That stuff is excerpted below. We hope to eventually do more with this particular stuff, so comments that help us expand would be helpful. I'd also like to expand this at some point by looking in depth at some of the old-timey IWW writings, as I'm pretty sure the different stuff this talks about was all present in old IWW writings too -- that is, I don't think the term "One Big Union" meant just one thing.

About the IWW, the One Big Union, and the working class there are
“a few possible scenarios:
1. The IWW grows to become the One Big Union that all members of the working class are members of. This kicks off major social upheaval.
2. The IWW grows to become One Big Union in the sense that it is very large and includes a whole lot of workers, and this creates major social upheaval.
3. The IWW grows to become One Union Which Is Very Big, including a whole lot of workers. Other groups wage important fights as well. The IWW and other groups cooperate and have good relationships. This combination is One Big Union, metaphorically speaking, and makes for major social upheaval.

In all of these scenarios the One Big Union means overcoming divisions among workers by being based on class and opposition to the class system. (… ) we can see different versions of the idea of One Big Union in each of these scenarios. In the first scenario the IWW literally becomes the One Big Union for all workers. In the second scenario the IWW becomes One Big Union that's really big but we're not literally all the workers. In the third scenario, One Big Union means a few different things. For one thing, it's a metaphor for the working class as a whole - that is, for millions of workers around the world, acting together in solidarity - in action against capitalism and for a better world. That's not an organization, really. In this scenario the idea of One Big Union is also a metaphor for how the IWW should act within the class, when the working class is fighting back. We should act in a way that is open to those other fights, trying to both support our fellow workers in their struggles and building our own struggles where we are -- acting in a way that both builds organization and fights the capitalists. (...)

[The option I prefer we think about is] the third one. The class can have more than one organization working on aspects of its interests as far as I’m concerned. Given the divisions in our class it’s good to have multiple types of organization (such as unions of waged workers, committees of unemployed people, tenants' organizations, etc), and multiple organizations of each type. In my view the IWW will be one working class organization among many who make an important contribution (…) One Big Union is both an organization -- the IWW -- and a metaphor for various groups of workers acting together in a revolutionary situation. In my view, IWW members often go wrong about this in two common ways. They either over-emphasize the IWW as an organization and underemphasize the class as a whole, or they overemphasize the class and underemphasize the IWW as an organization. If we overemphasize the IWW, we think that all we need to do is build the IWW to fight bosses. That leads us to neglect educating workers about capitalism and the role of the IWW within the struggles of the rest of the class. Our consciousness stops at the bounds of the IWW (or worse, at the bounds of our workplace or branch). If we overemphasize the class, we look to other struggles constantly and don't do enough to build up the IWW and our struggles.”

Reading this over I suppose in way this is suggesting that in the scenario we prefer people in the IWW think about we're really saying there are two big unions and an important relationship between them, the one big union which is a metaphor for the unified (politically recomposed!) working class and the other big union which is the IWW operating in relation to the rest of the class in a positive way (or perhaps three, where the third is the relationship between the two... maybe we'll call this pamphlet "three big unions" to piss off or at least confuse some of our friends)