ASI-MUR: Anarchosyndicalist union?

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Devrim's picture
Devrim
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May 16 2007 08:35
ASI-MUR: Anarchosyndicalist union?

I met Rata, IWA International secretary, a few weeks ago, and he talked about their organisation in Serbia. He insisted upon describing it as a union although it has less than 100 members. It seems to me that some of the anarchosyndicalists have very different conception than I do about what a union actually is. When I pointed out that this organisation couldn't possibly be a union, his response was to ask how many workers you needed to make a union, and then say that x militant workers were more of a union than thousands of passive workers.

There seems to be a tendency in Eastern Europe for small anarchosyndicalist groups wanting to register themselves as trade unions. Leaving our view on the unions aside, I would argue that class organs can only be created out of struggle, not by mere volunteerism.

I know that SolFed does not see itself as a union. To me this seems to be based on a correct analysis of material conditions. The position of the Eastern European anarchosyndicalists to me on the other hand seems to be direct opposed to reality.

I would like to hear what the anarchosyndicalists think about this.

Devrim

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May 16 2007 08:46
revol68 wrote:
depends how they organise, do they have any sort of workplace structure or presence.

I mean if 50 of them are in the one workplace then maybe fair enough but if their only organised presence is totally outside and based on nothing more than political agreement then sounds very stupid and pretty much like substitutionist shite.

No, they don't have three people, or more in any one work place.

Actually, they probably don't have two people in the same workplace. The number three just came up in the conversation.

Devrim

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May 16 2007 09:07

Though to be honest, if it's calling itself a "union" but intends to act like a network for a militant minority, organised industrially, then I think that is a good thing, and avoids the contradictions of more apolitical anarcho-syndicalism. But then I don't think that's what rata actually wants because he's not a FORAist is he? (I seem to remember him disagreeing with magidd...)

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May 16 2007 09:18
revol68 wrote:
i'm not getting into this again with you but militancy in a workplace doesn't necessarily mean being a politico and vice versa.

aw really? i never tought a dat

roll eyes

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May 17 2007 01:10
Devrim wrote:
I would argue that class organs can only be created out of struggle, not by mere volunteerism.

Please distinguish between the two. How does struggle begin? Is it purely as a reaction to changed economic circumstances beyond our control (i.e. is the working class essentially passive?) I tire of left comms constantly accusing everyone and everything of voluntarism (the implication being presumably that we should wait for things to magically occur by themselves).

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May 17 2007 08:04
888 wrote:
Devrim wrote:
I would argue that class organs can only be created out of struggle, not by mere volunteerism.

Please distinguish between the two. How does struggle begin? Is it purely as a reaction to changed economic circumstances beyond our control (i.e. is the working class essentially passive?) I tire of left comms constantly accusing everyone and everything of voluntarism (the implication being presumably that we should wait for things to magically occur by themselves).

Of course political minorities are a part of the working class, and have a role to play in struggles. The organs of the class struggle (for us mass assemblies, strike committes, and workers' councils, for the anarchosyndicalists unions) are forged through the class struggle.I think though that you must recognise though that when less than 100 politicals (and the figure I heard wasa fair bit less than 100. Considering how much he went on about the student struggles, I would presume their are a lot of students among the number too) declare themselves to be a syndicalist union, it is a bit of a farce. That in my opinion is 'voluntarism', thinking that small groups of militants can create the mass organs of the simply by willing them to be.

Quote:
Though to be honest, if it's calling itself a "union" but intends to act like a network for a militant minority, organised industrially, then I think that is a good thing, and avoids the contradictions of more apolitical anarcho-syndicalism. But then I don't think that's what rata actually wants because he's not a FORAist is he? (I seem to remember him disagreeing with magidd...)

I think your right here, John. I understand what Magidd says a lot more.

Devrim

asn
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May 17 2007 12:07

The chief problem with Rata's group and other groups fantasy of being unions is that this orietation precludes the climate in their groups necessary for strategic development and debate/research leading to the adoption of long term serious programs of work in industrial sectors of strategic importance which would generate the large scale direct action and workers self organisation which would help turn the tide against the employer offensive and lead to the birth of genuine mass syndicalist unions.
For Rata's group it already is "the union" and expands as an end in itself - unrelated to actual mass syndicalist union organising. No doubt it will also get up to every leftist campaign and dabbling with single issues and identity politics as other leftist groups which will no doubt result in recruiting "union members" amongst such groups as students. However such an approach is not all that different from many groups which use the "syndicalist label" today, but lack the "union" pretentions.
mark

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May 17 2007 12:55
Devrim wrote:
I met Rata, IWA International secretary, a few weeks ago, and he talked about their organisation in Serbia. He insisted upon describing it as a union although it has less than 100 members. It seems to me that some of the anarchosyndicalists have very different conception than I do about what a union actually is. When I pointed out that this organisation couldn't possibly be a union, his response was to ask how many workers you needed to make a union, and then say that x militant workers were more of a union than thousands of passive workers.

There seems to be a tendency in Eastern Europe for small anarchosyndicalist groups wanting to register themselves as trade unions. Leaving our view on the unions aside, I would argue that class organs can only be created out of struggle, not by mere volunteerism.

I know that SolFed does not see itself as a union. To me this seems to be based on a correct analysis of material conditions. The position of the Eastern European anarchosyndicalists to me on the other hand seems to be direct opposed to reality.

I would like to hear what the anarchosyndicalists think about this.

Devrim

Yes interesting discussions we had Devrim. The situation is the following: our Belgrade local group, our largest one, has two unions in it - Education union (which is larger, mainly consisted by students, and has more than 3 people on several workplaces), and a Various union, where everybody from other industries join. Other local groups don't have unions and operate as Various unions - no students there wink.

One of the main problematic points with your position is that you have a fetish of numbers, in which you consider unions to be inherently above some imaginary number (you never wanted to give me that number, which you consider would define a union), and not by what an organized group of people are doing. So, by your definition, largest Serbian "union", of 2 million members would be considered a union, even if they hadn't pulled any union activities for last 17 years now, while our two Belgrade unions, which are together counting around 30 people, and which did several union actions, such as a fight against the managment of the mine in a mining city close to Belgrade, fighting bosses in several restaurants, which ended up with our members getting their stolen money back, or organizing huge student protests against tuition fees, and were involved in many other - not to be a union. What we are discussing here is your image of what the union is; basically semantics.

Basics of anarcho-syndicalism is interprofesional solidarity, thus voluntary acceptance of our comrades, who are working in different industries, from primary to third sector, to engage in struggle of our members in different working places. That engagement in struggles is what is defining ourselves as a union. We had a stage, between 2000 and 2002 in which we acted as a network of anarcho-syndicalist orientated individuals, but what we did after that is to formulate ourself as a union, by accepting the fact that we have enough people in certain industries to be able to create a union. I really don't know any other data, apart from activities of an organization, that could be used in measuring if one organization is what it claims to be or not. And I think that our activities are describing an organization that we think anarcho-syndicalist unions should look like.

Devrim wrote:
I think though that you must recognise though that when less than 100 politicals declare themselves to be a syndicalist union, it is a bit of a farce.

Sorry, but not all of our members are "politicals" in the sence you are thinking of. We have people who do not consider themselves anarchists, we have some religious people etc. inside. And they are all very good comrades. And the reason why we have them is that we are not a network of anarchist, but a union who accepts every worker who is wiling to work by the statutes.

We are a small union, I will give you that. We are small and we are engaging in various struggles, with an intention of growing. And we are growing. But we are living in a small country (less than 8 milion people), and the revolutionary movement in the world is generally really small. You don't think Luxemburg could have any unions, do you? I mean, how big can those get? Deffiently not big enough to fit your idea of how big the union has to be.

This discussion seams to me as a disccusion that could be started about if IBRP is really "international", having only sections in 4 or 5 countries or not. But I don't really see the point in that...

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May 17 2007 14:06
rata wrote:
Sorry, but not all of our members are "politicals" in the sence you are thinking of. We have people who do not consider themselves anarchists, we have some religious people etc. inside. And they are all very good comrades. And the reason why we have them is that we are not a network of anarchist, but a union who accepts every worker who is wiling to work by the statutes.

Gosh, don't let the KRAS read this, it will break their FORAist heart! I can already here the paper rustle for the next kick-'em-out motion wink

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May 18 2007 14:02

If the ASI thinks they can organize unions based on anarcho-syndicalist principles and libertarian forms of organization, why not? If the basis is there for them to make this attempt---and I don't know enough about Srrbia to make a really informed opinion--they should make the effort. If they succed, all the better. If they fail, lessons will be learned.

I wold be interested to learn more about the question of ASI trade union registration
with the labor ministry (or whatever the actual name is). I'm more interested in the mechanics of this, sorta why and how.

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May 18 2007 16:50

I created a topic about that a while back, with no replies.

Basically, do the ASI expect to be 'representing' workers, which will necessitate registration with the government?

If not, why register?

WeTheYouth
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May 18 2007 20:40

i think ASI's approach is right, if they can serve the function of a union however small the membership they only deserve our support and trust that they know how to deal with the specific conditions of which they are faced.

For solfed, i think it would be premature to declare ourselves as a union, i think the building up of industrial networks and an activist base is the first task for SF.

rata
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May 18 2007 23:14
OliverTwister wrote:
I created a topic about that a while back, with no replies.

Basically, do the ASI expect to be 'representing' workers, which will necessitate registration with the government?

If not, why register?

Haven't seen the topic, sorry.

We are in fact waging, now tree years long war with State of Serbia, about recognizing our status. We were rejected several times with an explanation that our registration as a union is not possible because "your organization is fighting to destroy the State". Quite a good one! Still, our Statutes is in full accordance with the law, and our program documents don't disqualify us from being a registered union under any present Serbian laws. But what we are facing is a problem of "lack of State" in Serbia, or if you want, lack of following of the laws by the State institutions. Of course, the State can never fully implement it's own laws, but in Serbia we have a case where State is not capable, or forced, to perform any of the cover-up activities for the primary role of keeping of the monopoly on the property for the small minority of people. Court cases are lasting for years, and bureaucratic procedure is a permanent problem. We are in a process of applying yet again in following period, and if we are rejected once again, we will initiate protests and call for international solidarity in fight for our recognition by Serbian State. The good thing living in a country whose government "wants to join Europe" is that it is quite sensitive to the demonstrations in front of it's embassies in the "western world".

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May 19 2007 00:53

that was my question.

I mean if there are only ~50 of you do you really expect to represent any workers in state courts soon?

I don't know the Serbian laws but in the US registration is necessary if you are a "bargaining agent." Currently the IWW registers with the government, which in my opinion makes us reliant on state procedures.

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May 19 2007 05:42
OliverTwister wrote:
(...) Currently the IWW registers with the government, which in my opinion makes us reliant on state procedures.

Yes, but if you apply for a passport, you a reliant on state procedures as well. I think registering or not is mainly a tactical question. As far as I know even the Spanish CNT has some sort of registration. Over here in Germany the situation is different. You do not need any registration to form a union. You just have to be strong enough to perform a successfull nation-wide strike. What this exactly means is not defined anyhere, so it is up to the courts to decide it in every single case. Most rececently a yellow christian metall-workers union has been forbidden to call themselves a union, because with their alleged 250.000 members they were not strong enough. So the question is quite simple, either you are one of the monopolist trade unions belonging to the DGB or you are not a union. Or you are one unless you start irritating the DGB who will then denounce you to the courts that will...

Mike Harman
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May 19 2007 07:31
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Yes, but if you apply for a passport, you a reliant on state procedures as well.

Yes, but I'm not a revolutionary union. Does the IWW need a passport?

rata
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May 19 2007 10:33
OliverTwister wrote:
that was my question.

I mean if there are only ~50 of you do you really expect to represent any workers in state courts soon?

I don't know the Serbian laws but in the US registration is necessary if you are a "bargaining agent." Currently the IWW registers with the government, which in my opinion makes us reliant on state procedures.

We are more than 50, thank you for asking wink

In fact we had several cases in which our members needed legal representation in courts, but since we are not registered, all we could do was to help them make it an individual law suit. So, that is one of the main reasons. Other reasons are also pretty banal, but pressing. As our organization started holding it's ground in last 3-4 years, we have grown, in many different ways. One of those is that now our publishing/research Center for Libertarian Studies is producing such an amount of materials (books, pamphlets, CD's) that there is a serious money involved in distributing it (ok, I know that it's probably petty cash for you westerners, but for us it means that we have a steady income of money, apart from the fees, which is enabling many of our activities). Presently our materials can be bought in only half of Belgrade bookshops, and 1/10th of Serbia's bookshops - the reason for this is that only those bookshops were ready to work "on black" and pay us the money in cash. Others demanded to get an organization account to be able to pay us for our sold books and to enable our publications to be sold on newsstands. That is pointing to another thing - we are not capable of creating bank accounts for our unions different bodes, including the unions accounts. That mean that money circulation is limited to those who are ready to skip the bank system, and that is making many problems for us, including the fact that you have individuals having the union money on their individual bank accounts. Which is unacceptable.

So the reasons to register - court cases against the bosses and propaganda and money circulation.

Caiman del Barrio
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May 19 2007 11:29

Do you need to be a union to open an organisational account? eek

rata
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May 19 2007 11:39
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Do you need to be a union to open an organisational account? eek

In Serbia you need to be a "legal body", eg. union, ngo, company, etc. to be able to open organisational account.

asn
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May 19 2007 12:05

some points:
interprofessional solidarity is only one part of what unions should be about - the most important aspect of such organisations is workers join them for economic/class struggle reasons - in contrast to say for ideological reasons - the various ACTU affiliates in australia don't do much about improving workers conditions/wages - they mainly engage in "smoke and mirrors" exercises to assist the bosses to destroy conditions - but they are still would be seen as "unions" and workers join them with some ideas that they might help out re problems with the boss/class struggle issues
- so syndicalist unions have workers joining for economic reasons but focus on "direct action" to improve conditions as part of workers control directed activity - given the strong position of the bosses today and the increased state powers particularly on the federal level with the Howard Govt's Workplace Relations Act , low morale amongst many workers - its critical to focus on strategic sectors of industry re syndicalist long range organising - workers there would have the economic strength to break through the tightening restrictions to take industrial action and raise the morale of workers in less strategic sectors and so energise opposition movements and orient them on syndicalist lines in these sectors which could lead to the emergence of mass syndicalist unions - replacing the exsiting ACTU affiliates.
- This getting registered with the govt by definition has nothing to do with the building of syndicalist union movements (but a lot of confusion about it and a lack of recognition for the need of strategic organising) in australia if your "union" or "bargaining agent" were "registered" under the federal industrial relations act you would face massive fines for direct action if "found" illgel and assuming the Rudd Labor Party gets elected federally - they seem to want to outlaw virtually all "industrial action" and holding rallies etc. See Rudolph Rockers "Anarcho-syndicalism" for a discussion of anarcho-syndicalist concepts
mark

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May 19 2007 17:20

I think that revolutionary unions should register with the state and organize parliamentary workers to make sure that they are not harassed.

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May 25 2007 08:16
Rata wrote:
One of the main problematic points with your position is that you have a fetish of numbers, in which you consider unions to be inherently above some imaginary number (you never wanted to give me that number, which you consider would define a union), and not by what an organized group of people are doing.

No Rata, I don't have a fetish about numbers. It is you who keeps claiming this, and demanding numbers. I look at the role of unions. I don't think that an organisation of your size can play this role. To me, and I suspect many others, this is blatantly obvious.

Rata wrote:
So, by your definition, largest Serbian "union", of 2 million members would be considered a union, even if they hadn't pulled any union activities for last 17 years now, while our two Belgrade unions, which are together counting around 30 people, and which did several union actions, such as a fight against the managment of the mine in a mining city close to Belgrade, fighting bosses in several restaurants, which ended up with our members getting their stolen money back, or organizing huge student protests against tuition fees, and were involved in many other - not to be a union. What we are discussing here is your image of what the union is; basically semantics.

You can call it semantics if you like, but I think that it is you who is rewriting the definition of the word union. What you refer to a "union" must organise union activity every day. I don't know enough about your actions to comment on them.

Rata wrote:
The situation is the following: our Belgrade local group, our largest one, has two unions in it - Education union (which is larger, mainly consisted by students, and has more than 3 people on several workplaces), and a Various union, where everybody from other industries join. Other local groups don't have unions and operate as Various unions - no students there

So you have more than three students in one university.

Rata wrote:
Sorry, but not all of our members are "politicals" in the sence you are thinking of. We have people who do not consider themselves anarchists, we have some religious people etc. inside. And they are all very good comrades. And the reason why we have them is that we are not a network of anarchist, but a union who accepts every worker who is wiling to work by the statute

Well at least you haven't gone as far as the Scottish IWW, and started admitting the bosses.

Devrim

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May 25 2007 09:41
Devrim wrote:
I don't know enough about your actions to comment on them.

I think this is what is the main problem. Even if you now claim that union activity is what is defining the union, not the numbers, you admit not to have informations on our actions, and thus the only other "argument" that you used to question our existence as a union is the fact that we have less than 100 members (your initial post).

I don't know what do you mean by "organizing union activity every day", but our union does maintain daily activity. Just two days ago I was taken into police to be questioned about our work on the railroads, where the general strike is going to happen soon, and in one of the largest Serbian building firms, for 4 days now you have a building site of 400 workers in strike, whose meetings are being addressed, daily, by the manager, who is threatening with firing anybody who joins ASI. Our workers are working illegally there now. This is happening parallel with bureaucrats from two largest union centrals "Savez Samostalnih Sindikata Sindikata" (state controlled) and "Nezavisnost" (CIA controlled), on the building site, as well as the heads of their branches, making calls, daily, threatening with fighting us by any means. By my standards that constitute daily union work. You might disagree but you will be in large minority on that issue.

I'm not going to be around for next few weeks, so sorry if I answer late...

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May 25 2007 09:54
rata wrote:
Devrim wrote:
I don't know enough about your actions to comment on them.

I think this is what is the main problem. Even if you now claim that union activity is what is defining the union, not the numbers, you admit not to have informations on our actions, and thus the only other "argument" that you used to question our existence as a union is the fact that we have less than 100 members (your initial post).

I reckon he would probably consider activity which defined a union to be negotiating agreements on wages and conditions with employers...

rata
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May 25 2007 10:50
John. wrote:
I reckon he would probably consider activity which defined a union to be negotiating agreements on wages and conditions with employers...

Well, strike is one of anarchosyndicalist methods of negotiating agreements on wages and conditions with employers.

The thing is that anarchosyndicalist unions are making a problem for left commie critique of unions, and I guess that is what is bothering Devrim. =;>

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May 25 2007 10:55
rata wrote:
John. wrote:
I reckon he would probably consider activity which defined a union to be negotiating agreements on wages and conditions with employers...

Well, strike is one of anarchosyndicalist methods of negotiating agreements on wages and conditions with employers.

The thing is that anarchosyndicalist unions are making a problem for left commie critique of unions, and I guess that is what is bothering Devrim. =;>

I think some left communist criticisms of anarcho-syndicalist unions are invalid because most a-s "unions" don't fit the left com (or most people's) definition of "union." I think the main problem is that it seems a lot of anarcho-syndicalists in these "unions" do want them to become more like standard unions (i.e. not a militant minority but a politicall diverse majority of workers)

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May 25 2007 12:31
John. wrote:
I think some left communist criticisms of anarcho-syndicalist unions are invalid because most a-s "unions" don't fit the left com (or most people's) definition of "union.

I think that John's point is important here that it is not only the left communists who define unions like that. That is what unions are. Now if anarchosyndicalists are trying to redefine the word, I don't have a problem with that. I don't want to bring everything down to a question of semantics.

Rata wrote:
The thing is that anarchosyndicalist unions are making a problem for left commie critique of unions, and I guess that is what is bothering Devrim.

We don't make a fetish of the word 'union'. We are against what the unions are. Actually, I have quite a lot of time for the FORA conception of 'unions'. It is not the word that I would use to describe them, but that doesn't bother me.

John. wrote:
I think the main problem is that it seems a lot of anarcho-syndicalists in these "unions" do want them to become more like standard unions (i.e. not a militant minority but a politicall diverse majority of workers)

I think that the problem lies here. I don't believe that mass anarchosyndicalist unions will ever be built again. I think that the period has changed. I don't think that all anarchosyndicalists have recognised this though a minority seem to have done so.

Devrim

streathamite
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May 25 2007 12:48

so given all this, how do we draw a distinction between a 'political party' and a '(trades) union'? confused

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May 28 2007 18:51

Political parties are parasites on the body of the proletariat.

Mike Harman
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May 28 2007 19:53

So are trade unions some kind of fungal infection then?

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May 29 2007 17:36

If they aren't anarcho-syndicalist unions, there's a staff infection.