IWW or IWA?

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playinghob's picture
playinghob
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Jun 6 2007 13:12
IWW or IWA?

Probably done to death before but am relatively new to libcom.

Revolutionary Unionism or Anarcho Syndicalism?

Anarchists are to be found in both. Why. Explain yourselves please.

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Jun 6 2007 13:37

For many people it must be a case of whats going on where they live. I came across active sections of the the organisations i joined where i live.

The IWW recruited me, the IWA didn't.

I don't think they are in conflict with each other anyway.

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Jun 6 2007 13:46

Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays: IWA
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: IWW
And on Sundays, I'm a left communist.

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Jun 6 2007 14:53

I've found the majority of IWW members I've happen'ed across in the UK describe themselves as anarchists but when questioned closely couldn't clearly give an answer as to why IWW and not IWA. Founding members such as Eugene Debs, Joe Hill, William 'Big Bill' Hayward and Daniel De Leon certainly weren't anarchists, although Big Bill was inspired by the Haymarket Martyrs (anarchists) but had his ashes placed in the Kremlin alongside John Reed and Lenin (I think some of his ashes were later returned to Chicago?).

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Jun 6 2007 15:22

Following on from above: Working closely with comrades from Leeds circa 1979. The entire Leeds Anarchist Group provided the bulk of the IWW membership in the city. With the forming of DAM (AS) they switched. At the same time the existing IWA affiliate was the SWF, based mainly in Manchester, also joined the DAM. However, the IWW at the time had little to do with the SWF.

One thought is that the IWW encompasses a wider membership base which includes non-anarchists ie those who prefer to be ka socialists and in some cases Marxists. (De Leon was a Marxist). Maybe a truely Libertarian Communist organisation?? Whereas the IWA is exclusively Anarchist. Is it?

I look forward to answers on IWW or IWA and why anarchists are in both.

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Jun 6 2007 15:53

IWA was never intended to be for anarchists only, and if you look at its Aims and Principles, it describes itself as "revolutionary syndicalist" not "anarcho-syndicalist". Today, most of its sections recruit on a political, rather than economical basis, but even here, it is not a question of anarchist vs. Marxist. Some of the more "ideologically pure" sections such as the French CNT-AIT, or the Russian KRAS, are influenced by council communism as well as classical anarcho-syndicalism, and accepts council communists as members.

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Jun 6 2007 18:26

Anyways it doesn't really matter who founded what 100 years ago.

No one in the IWW that I know of is influenced by DeLeon.

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Jun 6 2007 19:58

Well, I dont view it as IWW vs. IWA I view it as what is the best vehicle for libertarian communist class struggle in the region and that means looking outside of IWW and IWA when needed.

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Jun 6 2007 21:41

x357997: I tend to agree with you, but asked the question out of pure curiosity if other people had different motives or deeper theoretical reasons. Personally I will work with any class-struggle-libertarian-left grouping which promotes libertarian communism, class-struggle, workers self-management and independent working class organisation. Thanks

lem
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Jun 6 2007 21:46

i went to a solfed meeting once and was never invited back. i think it is because i suggested that i might be intersted in some kind of activism. make of that what you will; myself i don't know i quite like the wobblies here but can't see how it could have any use except as a way towards political stunts/activism/etc. what i mean is i just don't see how swelling numbers of wobblies/etc., even if it did happen, could achieve anything. humf/meh/etc.

thanks.

rata
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Jun 6 2007 21:54
playinghob wrote:
Personally I will work with any class-struggle-libertarian-left grouping which promotes libertarian communism, class-struggle, workers self-management and independent working class organisation. Thanks

So where is your dilemma than? IWW is not promoting libertarian communism, is it?

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Jun 6 2007 22:16

You may laugh at this, but I once had the notion that the choice of organisation was a bit of a fashion/image statement as I couldnt get a straight answer as to why one or the other. The IWW being the image of the checked shirted rebel worker in a hard hat , whilst the IWA somehow had a more romantic image associated with the CNT. And it was down to where one saw oneself in the grand scheme of working class culture.

Being a little controversial here, could whats the easier option to 'sell' to the workers be a factor; playing devils advocate, and touching one's toe onto the dangerous path of old 'only capable of a TU mentality' bit, is a syndicalist arguement a softer option than say an autonomist or councilist one?

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Jun 6 2007 22:21
rata wrote:
playinghob wrote:
Personally I will work with any class-struggle-libertarian-left grouping which promotes libertarian communism, class-struggle, workers self-management and independent working class organisation. Thanks

So where is your dilemma than? IWW is not promoting libertarian communism, is it?

It promotes workers self activity, direct democracy and abolition of the wage system...sounds like libertarian communism to me.

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Jun 6 2007 22:31

Rata: missed your post, busy writing last thoughts. I aint got a dilema. Just curious why anarchists - who by definition would generally class themselves as advocates of libertarian communism- decide to join both organisations. What makes them choose either or

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Jun 6 2007 22:36
playinghob wrote:
Rata: missed your post, busy writing last thoughts. I aint got a dilema. Just curious why anarchists - who by definition would generally class themselves as advocates of libertarian communism- decide to join both organisations. What makes them choose either or

Quixotic Syndrome?

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Jun 6 2007 23:32
playinghob wrote:
Rata: missed your post, busy writing last thoughts. I aint got a dilema. Just curious why anarchists - who by definition would generally class themselves as advocates of libertarian communism- decide to join both organisations. What makes them choose either or

This is only an issue in Britain. Even there I think it would be best to work with whichever one is most active around you.

Sectarianism (the idea that your specific organization is more important than the class generally) is a problem. There should be more unity between the IWW and the IWA, unless some major difference arises. It is idiotic to promote small cliquish differences by deciding which one to join based on whether you like Haywood or Durruti better.

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Jun 6 2007 23:59

I joined the IWW because I met people from it and they were doing good work that I wanted to be part of. I don't know much about the IWA. Do they operate in the US? I think some people in the UK are members of both but I could be wrong.

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Jun 7 2007 00:38

The IWA does not have a section in the US or Canada.

Anyways the original post is wrong insofar as it poses the question as though someone would simply join the organization which they like better theoretically.

syndicalist
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Jun 7 2007 02:07

BTW, it's not an "either/or" proposition. I think the question sets up a an un-needed dicotomy.

The IWA had a US presence from the late 1970s-2000 (of which founding WSA members were consistantly a part of). Workers Solidarity Alliance is the former IWA US section---purged by the IWA at the Granada 2000 Congress.

That said WSA welcomes all US syndicalists who might want to build a specifically anarcho-syndicalist organization. (regardless of whether one belongs or not to the IWW, a reformist union, a community or social movment). WSA would like to be able to provide a space for syndicalists to come together for discussion and action.

Dundee_United
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Jun 7 2007 13:51

I'm not an anarcho-syndicalist or a syndicalist. I am an IWW member though.

I think building a powerful anti-partnership union which aims to be democratic and recognises the working class for what it is is pretty important really. The IWW appears to be the only halfway viable vehicle for achieving this in the UK at the moment, even though it is still patheticly small in size (only 300 or so).

I probably wouldn't join an IWA group however as that international seems doggedly ultra-leftist and it's notable that big and important anarcho-syndicalist groups like the SAC or the CGT, who appear to take more practical positions on organisational questions, are not affiliated, and probably wouldn't be allowed to be. As for class-struggle, independent and/or break-away unions, well they would definitely have a hard time joining it.

I would join the WSA though, if I lived in an area of the USA they were active in, as they seem to be theoretically sound and actually appear to achieve real reforms, even if as a leftist platformist I have my differences with them politically on a number of questions.

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Jun 7 2007 14:44
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You really don't have a fucking clue, do you?

No flaming in this forum. I was nice. You're supposed to be a moderator! What you mean is that you don't agree with me because *insert why you think I'm wrong*.

Dundee_United
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Jun 7 2007 14:58

I don't believe unions are revolutionary however. Capitalism can only collapse when workers councils and soviets are being formed and the working class seizes the means of production and begins the re-organisation of distribution. On this point the left communists are correct. The trouble is that the only practical way to get there is through building the confidence and power of the class and winning reform after reform to demonstrate our power, and weaken control over commerce, industry and government by the ruling class. Doing that however means being active in reformist struggles with a programme for such political involvement. It is not as simple as building up large anarcho-syndicalist groups, which, except under special circumstances, (eg where unions are banned or controlled by the government) are likely at best to be catalysts for wider social struggles which can be powerful enough to be used to win a number of concessions and reforms, and shake the wider labour movement. Such organisations can never be surrogates for political groups and parties which fulfill a distinct and necessary role, in helping strategically to build the confidence and power of the class. Unions on their own, and anarcho-syndicalist ones are no different except in the way in which they are organised internally, are educators which can help us build dual power on the job. A powerful political organisation is necessary to go beyond that.

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Jun 7 2007 16:49

Removed comment.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Jun 7 2007 17:05
OliverTwister wrote:
The IWA does not have a section in the US or Canada.

What about those elusive Duluth people that seem to cause all sorts of problems? Didn't they get the franchise name after the divorce?

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Jun 7 2007 17:35
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good to see Dundee is as thick as ever.

Another substantive argument.

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Jun 7 2007 18:20
rata wrote:
IWW is not promoting libertarian communism, is it?

"It promotes workers self activity, direct democracy and abolition of the wage system...sounds like libertarian communism to me."

X357997 answered your question nicely.

As on the I07 thread, I find it a bit disappointing that people have to pit the two against each other, but would point out that only Europeans from specific a/s unions have went along with this and promoted their own individual organisations.

During railway (OK, rail-road) strikes in the 1920s, Wobblies were charged of attempting to take over transportation and overthrow the US government. They replied quite naturally that they were more than capable and willing to take the industries but could find absolutely no use in government. I like that but it’s not anything unique in their history. As an anarchist, I know it’s no coincidence that we’ve been amongst many of the most active militants in the union - fom Lucy Parsons, Carlo Tresca, even Ricardo Flores Magon and so on. It was clear to them that the ideas behind it all were no distraction or neutral means to reform but were the building towards industrial democracy: which is direct workers’ control; which is the same thing that we mean by anarchy.

Many IWWs have been and are anarcho-syndicalists, and it’s as much part of their politics – not a half-measure, or the next best thing to an explicitly anarchist economic organisation. The IWW is libertarian, but it’s open to people of differing political perspectives as long as they accept the conditions for joining and taking a part, or as I’d put; as long as they act like libertarians. I think in the UK we’ve got more chance of growing and pushing for root change if we talk and act in basic class terms, rather than appealing to another level of ideological acceptance. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have specific anarchist groups too and that we’re not moving in the same direction.

If SolFed was to prove me wrong, I’d be more than happy.

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Jun 7 2007 18:30
Dundee United wrote:
Such organisations can never be surrogates for political groups and parties which fulfill a distinct and necessary role, in helping strategically to build the confidence and power of the class.

What role and what better strength and confidence can you get outside of being militantly organised on and out of the job? Why is politics somehow not a part of that?

Dundee United wrote:
Capitalism can only collapse when workers councils and soviets are being formed and the working class seizes the means of production and begins the re-organisation of distribution. On this point the left communists are correct.

And differ from anarcho-syndicalists...?! wink

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Jun 7 2007 18:38

SRB asks:

Quote:
What about those elusive Duluth people that seem to cause all sorts of problems? Didn't they get the franchise name after the divorce?

No. The "franchise" was in the name of the WSA. When WSA members fought back against the Duluth group's takeover attempt, they decided to withdraw from the fight. They sent a letter to the IWA secretariat "disaffiliating" from the IWA. They are not recognized by the IWA as the U.S. section.

Spikymike
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Jun 7 2007 20:40

Voline - If anyone doesn't know the difference between left communists and anarchist syndicalists on the union issue by now its amazing - try some of the earlier Threads on the Union Issue itself.

As to the IWW today (in Britain at least), I don't think there is any real coherant understanding by their membership of what they are able to be in reality, which for the most part, is at best a 'minority tendency' ,either within existing unions or operating independently in the workplace. The same goes for the smaller IWA organisations like the Solidarity Federation.

To the extent that either of these become actual operating unions in contention for members with the other unions, they tend to act in the same way and with the same limitations and in turn need thjeir own 'minority tendencies' This is because of the nature of modern capitalism rather than any bad faith on their part, which is where left communists and other 'anti-union' pro revolutionary politics comes in.

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Jun 7 2007 20:57

Right so why doesn't the CNT operate that way?

I agree with you about the forms capitalism makes 'unions' adopt, but I think a lot of anarcho-syndicalists would...

Spikymike
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Jun 7 2007 21:05

Well I am no expert on the CNT, but it seems historically at least that it, and other IWA Union sections, has been fighting a losing battle with its more 'reformist' breakaways precisely because of its intransigance. I am not entirely convinced that the CNT itself is not subject to the same tendencies however - they are only tendencies.