Mass revolutionary organisations during periods of class retreat?

199 posts / 0 new
Last post
Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Dec 29 2007 12:57
revol68 wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
So basically the anarcho-syndicalist union

What anarcho-syndicalist union? Who talked about an anarcho-syndicalist union? How you could read this discussion, when both me and John. have argued specifically against setting up any kind of union, and then make this crass underlying assumption is beyond me.

yes in the short term talk of any type of union is silly but in the long term I see no reason why there wouldn't or couldn't be anarcho syndicalist unions, aiming to act as a pole of attraction for militant workers and pushing struggles in militant directions.

Of course if you insist in viewing anarcho syndicalist unions as 'Unions' with a capital U who mediate workers struggle then go ahead have a battle with semantics, thankfully when the ASF and AF were koncking out our stuff we quickly realised that for all intents and purposes a AS union and a workplace resistance group/network were essentially the same thing.

This isn't semantic, revol, these discussions began because many people in the IWW want it to be a real "Union" which does negotiate and sign contracts with management ("mediate workers struggle"). This is what pretty much everyone understands by the term "union" - in particular here the "revolutionary unionists" of the IWW who we were arguing with.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 12:58
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
So basically the anarcho-syndicalist union

What anarcho-syndicalist union? Who talked about an anarcho-syndicalist union? How you could read this discussion, when both me and John. have argued specifically against setting up any kind of union, and then make this crass underlying assumption is beyond me.

oh for goodness sake,ok we;ll call it the-anarchist-mass-political-organisation-that-defends-its-members-in-the-workplace, its hardly a fucking crass underlying assumption for me to make to argue that such an organisation could be likely to be an anarcho-syndicalist union, given that i'm in solfed for my sins, thats what i'm going to call a hypothetical mass revolutionary organisation that is defendng its members in a workplace, but very well if you prefer i'll call it ''the big communist love in'' if that makes you happier. tongue
Anyway i don't see what your whinging about here, the revolutionary tradition here is pretty mucb irrelevent, the point of refernce is any mass political organisation that has communism as its aims defnding its membership in the workplace.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 29 2007 13:11
John. wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
So basically the anarcho-syndicalist union

What anarcho-syndicalist union? Who talked about an anarcho-syndicalist union? How you could read this discussion, when both me and John. have argued specifically against setting up any kind of union, and then make this crass underlying assumption is beyond me.

cantdo's using it for his hypothetical example we're discussing.

Well my whole problem with these discussions is they get filled with stupid hypotheticals about "if we had a mass revolutionary union in the UK" - rather than basing themselves on any past experience or our current circumstances. Cantdo, you can have your hypothetical anarcho-syndicalist union when you've given a concrete example of mass revolutionary (as opposed to 'pro-revolutionary') organisations outside periods of mass struggle - we've only asked half a dozen times now.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 13:58

double post

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 13:58
John. wrote:
Quote:

So basically the anarcho-syndicalist union collectively organises the production of propaganda calling for a public assembly of all the workers in the workplace

It doesn't have to just be producing propaganda. That seems like a weird thing to say, which doesn't have much relevance to most real workplace disputes. I mean if this were a real example, a worker is suspended from work, people in the group go round the workplace letting people know and call an stop-work meeting to discuss it and decide what to do. In the meeting people in the group say "let's march on the boss and say re-instate them or we won't return to work." then workers who agree with them go do it.

Well ''leadership in ideas'' is perhaps a better term but if the assembly doesn't get what it wants and has to conduct a series of strikes or whatever, then you'd imagine they'd want to be producing leaflets for other workplaces or strike bulletins and so forth. as a communist in a mass political organisation i'd want to eb talking about my politics in this material, not simply the 'bread and butter issues'' , hence why i said you wouldn't want to dissolve yourself into apolitical trade unionism. The point i'm makin is that creating this line between the political and economic organisation doesn't solve your problems, the political organisation still has influence over the assembly, looking at the FAI or the control of soviets in russia 1917, having this definitiveloy non-economic political organisation doesn't exactly prevent co-option does it.
And as a more random question what if the workplace assembly agrees to some dodgy shit the political organisation doesn't like, say like firing x number of workers instead of y, what should the revolutionary union do then? Thing is i'm not entirely dsiagreeing with you, i just think your over simplyfying things too much, as if you just have a workplace assembly and suddenly you don't have to worry about being a mass political organisation any more, also i think what your descrbing is exactly what an anarcho-syndiclaist unions should do and in fact pretty much what the CNT does do, so i don't really see why the thought of a mass political organisation s such a bogie man for you guys?

Quote:
You ever had a workplace meeting cantdo?

Na i haven't all ny jobs are generally a little bit too lumpen and i don't work in the public sector, most of the little of whats happened where i've worked has been pretty much spontaneous.

Quote:
Where have I ever said that? FFS taking one example I gave, then saying I claim no one can do anything without workers assemblies roll eyes

You gave an example in a hypothetical situation with a mass revolutionary "union." By the time that would've occured things like workers assemblies would be more commonplace. As a more general example, it's not for you revolutionary group to be the one defending workers somewhere, that should be the task of as many workers there as possible, regardless of their political views. These can be gathered, as I have done at my work, by something as simple as walking round the office calling people to discuss something.

Well obviously members of an anarcho-synidclaist union generally woldn't do anything without talking to co-workers on a shift, unless for some obscure reason it was impractical to do so. Again i don't really get which anarchists you are referring to who wouldn't try to call ''assemblies'' to use your loose definition of the word.
I mean solfed do; to quote the workplace strategy

Quote:
Decisions should be made collectively. This means they are made by mass meetings, not by officials in union offices. These mass meetings include all those in the workplace, regardless of union membership.

Its pretty basic stuff, point is whther the political group is a small network of militants like we are ost likely to have in britian, a big communist love in or an anacho syndcalist union, you are still going to face the same questions in tems of how to prevent yourself diluting your politics or becoming an undemocratic group of politicos. These are organisational problems that don't have one simple unitary answer.

Quote:
No one has done that you muppet. We've said that it will only happen at times of mass struggle though.

What so now its gone from ''revolutionary'' periods, to periods of ''open class conlict'' to periods of ''mass struggle'', fair enough but the point i was making was that seeing mass orgaisations simply as a response to mass struggle is inccorect because mass struggle is just as much a product of mass organisation. Its not like you have no mass organisations then woosh a struggle comes along and they fall from the sky, organisations are built and federated slowly over periods of time. Taking the IWW of 1905 as an example, that started off as a smaller organisation formed by the federation of a range of other organisations, it was formed by former struggles and its members and sympathisers went on to create struggle by salting workplaces and organising where they worked and so on. In short the IWW created mass struggle just as much as mass struggle created them.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 14:11
Mike Harman wrote:
John. wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
So basically the anarcho-syndicalist union

What anarcho-syndicalist union? Who talked about an anarcho-syndicalist union? How you could read this discussion, when both me and John. have argued specifically against setting up any kind of union, and then make this crass underlying assumption is beyond me.

cantdo's using it for his hypothetical example we're discussing.

Well my whole problem with these discussions is they get filled with stupid hypotheticals about "if we had a mass revolutionary union in the UK" - rather than basing themselves on any past experience or our current circumstances

well given that the title of this thread is mass political organisations during periods of class retreat i don't really see what the problem with discussing a hypothetical anarchosyndiclaist union, if you want to discuss what we need to do under current cricumstances the great go for it, i didn't thnk that was the point of the thread though

Quote:
Cantdo, you can have your hypothetical anarcho-syndicalist union when you've given a concrete example of mass revolutionary (as opposed to 'pro-revolutionary') organisations outside periods of mass struggle - we've only asked half a dozen times now.

Im sure i've told you more than half a dozen times that personally i think the distinction your drawing between revolutionary and ''pro-revolutionary'' organisations is an over simplified and false one. Ive also told you more than half a dozen times that i think workers organisations create struggle.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 29 2007 14:19
revol68 wrote:
John. wrote:
This isn't semantic, revol, these discussions began because many people in the IWW want it to be a real "Union" which does negotiate and sign contracts with management ("mediate workers struggle"). This is what pretty much everyone understands by the term "union" - in particular here the "revolutionary unionists" of the IWW who we were arguing with.

Yep.

Quote:
If the IWW negoiated no strike clauses under the label of a workplace resistance network it wouldn't make any better

No it wouldn't, but it'd also be considerably less likely. Given that 1. workplace resistance networks aren't legal entities capable of signing contracts with employers, the IWW is 2. Such a group that explicitly rejected "Unionism" would hopefully not allow complete fuckwits to join who wanted to turn it into a 'real union' - certainly I'd be arguing for such a stance within any such organisation.

Quote:
likewise if they get involved in struggles arguing for and organising direct action, strike committees and workers assemblies and resisting attempts at recuperation and mediation and did it under the name of Unionism, i'd still support it.

I'd support the activity, but I'd still argue against it being done under the name of Unionism - because I think conflating politically organised groups and 'unions' (of any kind) leads to confusion.

Now before you pull out your "small organisations can be just as bad as big ones" - well that's patently obvious. However, just because nothing is immune to fuckups, reformism, betrayals or whatever doesn't mean you can't take precautionary measures - such as having sound minimum basis of agreement etc. Otherwise it's like walking around without ever having had a vaccination with open wounds left to fester.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2007 14:37

My views on this issue are more or less in line with those of Catch and John I think, but Revol, after much arguing isn't perhaps as far from these views as might perhaps appear?

We seem to all agree that there is potential for pro revolutionary workplace networks which would inevitably, in current circumstances, be pretty small, but that in different circumstances might grow significantly and would surely act in a practical way to try and influence struggles and not be merely duplicates of the political organisations that already exist, putting out purely communist propaganda?

It then comes down surely to what level of political agreement is necessary for such groups to function effectively?

Some anarchists currently believe that the IWW offers an opportunity, at a fairly low level of political agreement, to work as such a network. Unfortunately the IWW has a load of other historical baggage and is for other people, some anarchists amongst them, something more than a simple network of pro revolutionaries. These latter people want it to be a real union, competing on those terms with other trade unions, and in the process confuse the politics. The end result is that whilst the IWW is clearly political it is not pro revolutionary.

As to the the Sol Fed, their attempt to require a higher level of political agreement for their workpace networks amounts only to a fairly sectarian requirment to agree 100% with their particular political line.

Thus we have, in Britain anyway, two networks doing some useful work, but either too narrowly or too widely defined in poltical terms plus some more ad hoc networking through Lib Com etc.

Still if Catch/John and me are right an upsurge in the level of struggle may well see these networks shaken up and re-formed or passed over by something new??

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2007 14:46

I see there is more on this theme in the IWW thread in the 'Organise' section so my posting above has maybe been oveertaken?

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 14:47

I was under the impression this was a more abstract thread split from the iww one

Quote:
As to the the Sol Fed, their attempt to require a higher level of political agreement for their workpace networks amounts only to a fairly sectarian requirment to agree 100% with their particular political line.

What exactly do you mean by ''particular political line''? Not sure what your referring to here.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2007 14:55

Well 'build the union - build the revolution' of course!!

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 29 2007 15:43
Spikymike wrote:
Well 'build the union - build the revolution' of course!!

so basically you don't agree with the idea of promoting anarcho-synidicalist unions and because you don't agree with them then it makes solfed sectarian? .. or are you saying that you think solfed are sectarian for having industrial networks consisiting of solfed members?? confused

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Dec 29 2007 17:21
Dundee_United wrote:
Quote:
If the IWW isn't about fomenting revolution and it isn't about the one big union...

then what the fuck is it about?

Building a union that will advance the class struggle and put us in the position of making steps towards a new international labour convergence.

booeyschewy wrote:
i think it is about fomenting revolution, I just think the history of syndicalism casts doubt on whether it will succeed if left to its own devices. I think it can be both pro-revolutionary and realize its own inadequacy in that. maybe.

What its about to me is a workers' organization built (or in the process of building) on libertarian principles that gives us the space to develop tactics and consciousness around workplace struggle that we wouldn't otherwise be able to do within existing hierarchical organizations or as unorganized spontaneous groups.

but that's just me, i bet a lot of people disagree with parts of that

I have no idea what either of you are saying.

booeyschewy
Offline
Joined: 18-10-06
Dec 29 2007 18:55

thug, i'll try it again:

-is a libertarian mass organization useful (for some or other purpose): yes
-will it bring about revolution: probably not
-will it repress revolution (if its all we got): probably

For these reasons I see the need both for social movements with a libertarian form, and specific organizations. In the present context I see the need for really three sorts of organizations: mass organizations (which are mostly wack right now), organizations that network militants on a shared strategy to build libertarian praxis, and specific organization based on cohesive politics for the development of ideas, fighting authoritarianism in the activities we engage in, and increasing the effectiveness of libertarians in their activity.

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Dec 29 2007 19:12
booeyschewy wrote:
thug, i'll try it again:

-is a libertarian mass organization useful (for some or other purpose): yes
-will it bring about revolution: probably not
-will it repress revolution (if its all we got): probably

For these reasons I see the need both for social movements with a libertarian form, and specific organizations. In the present context I see the need for really three sorts of organizations: mass organizations (which are mostly wack right now), organizations that network militants on a shared strategy to build libertarian praxis, and specific organization based on cohesive politics for the development of ideas, fighting authoritarianism in the activities we engage in, and increasing the effectiveness of libertarians in their activity.

Ok. That seems different than what Dundee is saying so I'll stick with you. wink

Mass organizations are 'wack' because they are populated by lots of people with lots of different perspectives. OK. However, thats the point of them.

I'm assuming the IWW is representative of this second level. However, the IWW is trying to be both this network of militants and a mass organization. Pick one cause it can't be both.

The third is the anarchist specific organization. Thus platformist/especifist groups. Yes?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 29 2007 20:37
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Spikymike wrote:
Well 'build the union - build the revolution' of course!!

so basically you don't agree with the idea of promoting anarcho-synidicalist unions and because you don't agree with them then it makes solfed sectarian? .. or are you saying that you think solfed are sectarian for having industrial networks consisiting of solfed members?? confused

Well I quoted some relevant bits from solfed here. It's quite clear, if you believe what solfed says about itself, that they want all workers organised into anarcho-syndicalist unions, and more, that they think this a prerequisite to revolution. Well I'm not an anarcho-syndicalist, and I don't think they're a prerequisite - so I'm unable to join. However, I know for a fact, that at least a few members of solfed pretty much agree with me on this point but joined solfed anyway - so they have an end-goal that excludes many people who'd be interested in a 'network of militants', and at the same time have people involved who think the end-goal is at best unlikely anyway. More wrong-headed, than sectarian, imo.

Beltov
Offline
Joined: 10-05-05
Dec 29 2007 21:45

Hi,

I agree with most of the points in Catch's introduction, essentially that the class struggle is a response to the deepening of the wider economic/political crisis of capitalism, but that communists - organised around a shared platform or program - can have an influence on events, can be an active factor in the course of the class struggle. As Devrim has clearly pointed out (and I think most people agree with) communists must reject a voluntarist approach, where the class struggle is a product of the pure will of a minority, and instead accept that the struggle is a response to the wider objective conditions that class finds itself in.

Indeed, several recent posts have raised the question significance of 1905, and Catch quoted Severin's question in the introduction to this thread

Mike Harman wrote:
severin wrote:
What exactly are these mythical 'revolutionary times'? Are they the times when working class people happen to be blessed with the same arcane knowledge, the same theoretical understanding as the 'revolutionaries'?

If you look at any of the major insurrections - there was also some very rapid self-education that went along alongside them and because of them.

So yes, it's vital to take a historical approach to the question of organisation because the character of the period in which the class is struggling has a profound influence upon the possibilities. There a 'revolutionary' times, 'counter-revolutionary' times and periods in between. Can we agree on this?

If we take the period before 1905 the workers' movement was made up of several types of organisations:
- Co-operatives to provide mutual aid
- Trade unions to prepare strikes in advance (strike funds) but also as 'schools of communism'
- Mass socialist political parties such as the SPD in Germany to fight for wider representation within parliament

The field of action of these organisations was largely the gradual struggle for immediate reforms - both economic and political - because it was possible for capitalism to grant them due to its youthful vigour, expansion and growth. The objective conditions for revolution were still relatively immature, but developing. Thus the organisations created by the class could have a permanent character. The struggle for reforms and 'minumum program' took precedence over the 'maximum program'

I think that the anarcho-syndicalist view is essentially still stuck within this 19th century framework: that workers can gradually build up the structures of a new society (industrial unions) within the hulk of the old, thus preparing the revolution in advance.

The early decades of the 1900s saw a number of developments,
- The general tendency of the state to absorb 'civil society' thus taking on the functions once carried out by the co-operatives
- Another expression of this tendency was the gradual recuperation and integration of the unions into the state, thus the trade unions lost their original function and were no longer organs of the class
- The betrayal of the socialist parties at the start of the first world war due to the gangrene of reformism. With the development of state capitalism the executive became more important than parliament, thus the struggle for 'democracy' and political reforms became a dead-end.
- Capitalism began to lose its vigour and capacity for expansion. It was encountering greater economic difficulties and the heightening of tensions between nation states, which lead to the First World War. Capitalism thus found it increasingly difficult to grant lasting reforms.

This obviously had implications for the class struggle. The mass strikes of 1905 and the revolutionary wave from 1917-23 pointed to the changing face of the class struggle:
- The workers replaced the trade unions with general assemblies and workers councils, that tended to unite both economic and political functions, and were more clearly oriented to the siezure of power
- These organs were products of the struggles themselves and thus temporary and ephemeral
- Class struggles had a more spontaneous character because the workers were no longer facing individual factory owners but huge concerns and the state itself. It was much harder to prepare and plan strikes in advance on such an extended scale.
- The political parties lost their mass character, became less concerned with the minimum programme and became more 'minoritiarian'. The KAPD and Bolsheviks are clear examples of this tendency.

Does this make any sense so far?

This is where the title of this thread becomes relevant I think. Is it possible to have mass revolutionary organisations in a period of retreat? We have to be clear what we mean. I agree with Mikus here. What is a mass revolutionary organisation? I agree its important to make the distinction between the organisations created by workers to unite, control and extend their struggles during the struggles (GAs, workers' councils) and the organisations revolutionaries create to re-group themselves. Then we can move forward to deal with the three periods outlined above:
1) Counter-revolutionary times (eg. 1930s). Class is defeated ideologically (enrolled behind the banners of the bourgeoisie - anti-fascism, defence of USSR) and very low levels of class struggle, despite deep economic crisis and unemployment. Revolutionaries re-grouped in tiny fractions but carrying out vital role of theoretical clarification and drawing a balance sheet of previous struggles (Russian, Italian and German/Dutch communist lefts).
2) Pre-revolutionary times (1968 to present). Class overcomes the defeat and returns to struggle due to the blows of the deepening ecomonic crisis. Some struggles breaking out of the control of the unions with development of GAs, strike committees, but ephemeral. Waves of struggles provoking greater interest in communist positions and the history of the workers' movement, resulting in the appearance of new proletarian groups, discussion forums and growth of those revolutionary organisations already in existence (eg. ICC, IBRP). Communists participate in the struggles of the class but also carry out vital tasks of theoretical development and regroupment of new forces.
3) Revolutionary times (based on experience of 1903-20). Development of the crisis to such a pitch that truly mass strikes take place organised by workers councils, which tend to extend internationally and take on a permanent character, creating situations of dual power leading to insurrections. Power held by the workers councils and bourgeois state is destroyed. The ranks of proletarian groups and organisations swell with new militants and after intense period of debate and clarification form the world communist party. Class party has no pretensions to be a mass party, nor to hold and wield power itself, but to maintain its autonomy from the transitional state and work within the territorial and workers councils.

So catch, it might help if you clarified what you mean by a period of retreat. I can see them happening in all three of the times above:
1) A counter-revolution could itself be a whole period of retreat.
2) There can be periods of retreat in a pre-revolutionary phase too. The defeat of the miners' strike and the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 created deep feelings of demoralisation and confusion within the class and its politicised minorities, but these are not 'mortal blows', their effects are temporary.
3) There can also be periods of retreat in a revolutionary wave too. For example the soviet bastion in Russia had to wait for the revolution in Germany to develop through 1918-19. Unfortunately it wasn't successful.

So, to summarise and pose a few questions:
1) Are we agreed that 1905 meant something, that it indicated a change in period where the conditions under which the class struggled had fundamentally changed?
2) That a historic approach based on the real history and lessons of the workers' movement can provide a good compass for the future?
3) That anarcho-syndicalist methods and demands of a 'minumum programme' type have been superceded?

Apologies for the length of the post. I've been away for a while on other duties so might be a bit rusty, but good to be back.

B.

PS. Obligatory links:
The Proletarian Struggle Under Decadence (Doh! mentioned the 'D' word...)
http://en.internationalism.org/ir/023_proletariat_under_decadence.html

Report on the function of the revolutionary organisation
http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR029_function.htm

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Dec 29 2007 23:01
Mike Harman wrote:
It's quite clear, if you believe what solfed says about itself, that they want all workers organised into anarcho-syndicalist unions, and more, that they think this a prerequisite to revolution. Well I'm not an anarcho-syndicalist, and I don't think they're a prerequisite - so I'm unable to join. However, I know for a fact, that at least a few members of solfed pretty much agree with me on this point but joined solfed anyway - so they have an end-goal that excludes many people who'd be interested in a 'network of militants', and at the same time have people involved who think the end-goal is at best unlikely anyway. More wrong-headed, than sectarian, imo.

Speaking with my SolFed hat on, if that's the way you're reading it it's badly put. If anything that's an idealised version of classical revolutionary syndicalism. I think we all know that there is not likely to be a majority of workers, let alone all, would sign up to a revolutionary union, even in times of heightened class struggle.

What we are advocating falls outside so much of British political culture (and indeed anglophone political culture) that it is difficult to get across that we don't just mean a red and black-bannered version of the T&G. And while the agreement for joining any such union would be looser than joining SolFed, it's not going to be a simple "let anyone in" approach. FWIW the same is true of unions like the RMT, who don't let in people with fascist views.

IMO a union is a group of workers organised together who attempt to organise on economic (and sometimes political) grounds. It doesn't have to be recognised by the boss or state, nor does it have to be particularly big.

AFAIK the only existing industrial network we have (education) will work with others, though clearly you can't expect it to subordinate itself to a vague "we must all work together" feeling that has nothing concrete attached.

Regards,

Martin

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 30 2007 01:55
martinh wrote:
Speaking with my SolFed hat on, if that's the way you're reading it it's badly put. If anything that's an idealised version of classical revolutionary syndicalism. I think we all know that there is not likely to be a majority of workers, let alone all, would sign up to a revolutionary union, even in times of heightened class struggle.

So you're another one who disagrees with this then?

soifed constitution wrote:
That society can only be achieved by working class organisations based on the same principles - revolutionary unions [...] Revolutionary unionism is based on the class war and holds that all workers must unite in industrial unions [....] Direct action is best expressed through the general strike which must, from the point of view of revolutionary unionism, be the prelude to the social revolution.

Because I don't see any other way to read it to be honest.

Quote:
IMO a union is a group of workers organised together who attempt to organise on economic (and sometimes political) grounds. It doesn't have to be recognised by the boss or state, nor does it have to be particularly big.

Well unions are that, but they are also other things - like organisations that send goons armed with wooden clubs to break strikes, or send ministers into governments (with the added bonus of fighting on behalf of the government against peasant insurrections cf. Mexico), or signing no-strike contracts. Again, I don't think this is a semantic argument - it's one that's both got a long and complex history, and one which actually affects the way that pro-revolutionaries involve themselves in workplace organising here and now.

Quote:
AFAIK the only existing industrial network we have (education) will work with others, though clearly you can't expect it to subordinate itself to a vague "we must all work together" feeling that has nothing concrete attached.

Well you know I'm no fan of "we must all work together" but to me there's a disconnect between your industrial networks being made up of solfed members - which would require agreement with your constitution, although I get the idea that's a bit shaky in some quarters wink and "while the agreement for joining any such union would be looser than joining SolFed, it's not going to be a simple "let anyone in" approach."

Actually it's not clear whether you (you solfed, although if you Martinh differs, that's fine too) see solfed dissolving into such an organisation if it ever arose, or maintaining your own organisation distinct from it.

As with the rest of this thread - I think it mixes up two forms of organisation. You have a politically organised group (solfed) that has a very specific political line ('build the revolution = build the union' as SpikeyMike put it) - tighter on paper than in practice from what I can see (and in your case I think this is a good thing in that as individuals those of you I've had contact with are a lot more interesting than the cardboard cutouts of idealised classical revolutionary syndicalism your constitution suggests ).

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 30 2007 09:53

Except quite a few people have first hand experience of 'unions', a large number of them are currently members as well - and for everyone I know via both politics and not, that experience has been negative. Not "beaten up with clubs, fighting against zapata" negative, but still.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 30 2007 13:01

Extremely interesting discussion and one that is very productive, and of great relevance given the developing upsurge of international struggles. Agree with much of what Catch has argued. I want to add to what Beltov has said and to contribute to the most recent posts on the unions. The following quote is from the 1975 introduction to our pamphlet Trade Unions Against the Working Class and toches upon many of the points raised about the unions

Quote:
The strengthening of the unions has enabled the bourgeoisie to bring the working class more or less back into line for the present. The struggles of the late sixties and early seventies took the form of a spontaneous eruption, which above all demonstrated the power and combativity of the proletariat. But the seriousness of the situation is now very much more apparent: the strength of the bourgeoisie and the implications of a direct confrontation with the unions and the rest of the state apparatus make workers unwilling to embark on a new series of struggles. However, the lull in the class struggle has in no way involved the defeat of the proletariat, and for this reason it can only be temporary. The inevitable worsening of the crisis creates a growing build-up of class tension that can only lead to a new eruption, more extensive than before.

Meanwhile the bourgeoisie is using the temporary lull in class struggle to prepare its defences against the proletariat. Both its repressive forces (such as the police and the army) and its forces of mystification are being strengthened. In particular the unions’ success in containing class struggle has further emphasised their growing importance to the bourgeoisie. In almost every country this has resulted in closer co-operation between unions and government. In Britain, Len Murray, President of the TUC said recently that “…all in all (British) trade unionists have gained more from the government in the last two-and-a-half years than from any other government” (The Times, September 9, 1976). For workers this period has meant rapidly declining real wages and growing unemployment. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the absolute opposition between the interests of the unions, and those of the working class.

For the proletariat, the lesson of class struggle is clear: spontaneous struggle outside the unions is not enough - it can only form a particular, temporary phase in the development of the class struggle. In the future workers will be forced to struggle directly against the unions; and the development of this struggle will have to go hand in hand with a growing understanding within the working class of the true nature of trade unions

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Dec 30 2007 23:18

Catch,

soifed constitution wrote:
That society can only be achieved by working class organisations based on the same principles - revolutionary unions [...] Revolutionary unionism is based on the class war and holds that all workers must unite in industrial unions [....] Direct action is best expressed through the general strike which must, from the point of view of revolutionary unionism, be the prelude to the social revolution.

We can hold all we like that "all workers must unite in industrial unions", but can you not see a bit of rhetoric for what it is? It isn't going to happen. The bit before the first part you've quoted (and which it refers to) says:

soifed constitution wrote:
we want a society based on workers' self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and libertarian communism.

So, stripped down to its barest, we are saying that we think revolutionary unions are working class organisations based on workers' self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and libertarian communism. If we didn't think along those lines, we'd probably contradict our own point xii. wink

soifed constitution wrote:
xii) It is only through the economic and revolutionary organisations of the working class that it will be possible to bring about our liberation, and to generate the necessary creative energy for the reorganisation of society on the basis of libertarian communism.

While I think there are potentially issues with the term "general strike", as in some instances it has a meaning that is uniquely a political one (as in the historic references to the "social general strike" from anarchosyndicalists and it's disparagement by the ICC who prefer the term mass strike) I take this to be the more straightforward explanation that for any revolution to succeed, strikes will need to be generalised.

Sure, the language in our constitution could be tidied up. I'm not sure that we'd particularly gain anything from it, apart from a long session of navel gazing and internal focus that is not what we need at the moment. Personally I think this would only be worth it if there were major changes we wanted to make, or they were clearly out of step with our practice.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 30 2007 23:46
Quote:
We can hold all we like that "all workers must unite in industrial unions", but can you not see a bit of rhetoric for what it is? It isn't going to happen.

I agree it isn't going to happen, so I still wonder why agreeing with that statement is a prerequisite to joining solfed.

Quote:
So, stripped down to its barest, we are saying that we think revolutionary unions are working class organisations based on workers' self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and libertarian communism. If we didn't think along those lines, we'd probably contradict our own point xii.

OK well I don't think they are - because 1. to the extent that an organisation functions as a union it won't be revolutionary 2. current and past examples of revolutionary unions have shown themselves not to be so at all.

Quote:
While I think there are potentially issues with the term "general strike", as in some instances it has a meaning that is uniquely a political one (as in the historic references to the "social general strike" from anarchosyndicalists and it's disparagement by the ICC who prefer the term mass strike) I take this to be the more straightforward explanation that for any revolution to succeed, strikes will need to be generalised.

Well although I think the ICC get overexcited whenever they see "general strike" used by anyone, in this case it looks to me a lot like "social general strike" - i.e. one called by the revolutionary union of all workers as the final blah blah blah.

Quote:
Sure, the language in our constitution could be tidied up. I'm not sure that we'd particularly gain anything from it, apart from a long session of navel gazing and internal focus that is not what we need at the moment. Personally I think this would only be worth it if there were major changes we wanted to make, or they were clearly out of step with our practice.

Well, when I first discovered the UK anarchist scene in about 2001, solfed's presentation of itself (of which this is quite a major part) put me right off. Only slightly less than the AF's, but still.

I think it also leads to situations where you have (recently ex-) members saying rubbish like this:

Quote:
we are moving towards a time when we will be able to be a mass union and take on all the tasks which that demands.
thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Dec 31 2007 03:46
revol68 wrote:
also catch your complaints about SolFeds constitution just read like those of an autistic Spock, it's quite obvious that it's mostly rhetorical flourish.

Revol68 wrote:
Platformists blah blah blah...
thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Dec 31 2007 03:55
revol68 wrote:
Sorry is my problem with various Platformists based on some over zealous rhetoric? I don't think s, it's based on their actual politics, unless of course demanding the nationalisation of Irelands energy was simply a metaphor for something else, or their public backing of Des Derwin was simply a romantic symbolic gesture.

Saying this I do think the Sol Fed's prop and constitution needs worked on, it does read like a simplistic paint by numbers guide.

I distinctly recall some crap from you about aims and principles. It was one of the times you made sense rather than just blather. Aims and principles and by-laws and constitutions and such should accurately reflect the politics and goals of an organization. If I want to read poetry I'll go read a poet.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 31 2007 08:43
revol68 wrote:
1. What is functioning as a union?

Negotiating the price of labour, representing all workers to management - you know, that sort of thing.

Quote:
Why is it not possible for workers to form a political and economic group that fights for gains in the here and now whilst maintaining a revolutionary outlook, rejecting recuperation and mediation.

It's quite possible to fight for gains in the here and now whilst maintaining a revolutionary outlook, however I don't think either anarcho- revolutionary- industrial- or any other variety of unionism is an appropriate form for this to take. When wobblies talk about 'solidarity unionism' that seems like a desperate attempt to keep the word 'union' on something which isn't.

Unless you're going to go the way of the Trots and try to say that any grouping of workers is a union - in the same way they argue that any organised group is a 'party' and any kind of society is a 'state'.

Quote:
What if MWR had grown and decided to call itself a union without changing it's way of operating?

What if the sea boiled? There'd be a lot of cooked fish. Anyway they'd just be wrong, imo. Anyway, I think in the '90s, they'd have been the target of a massive organising campaign by hordes of Posis and Dukes once the groundwork had been done. A structure that doesn't attempt to replace the existing unions might possibly have helped to resist some of the effects of that - rather than a simple bidding war.

Funnywump wrote:
Of course, as we learned more about trade unions and spent time with them, we saw other reasons why this wasn’t a desirable route for our struggle. But the ‘What’s wrong with the unions’ approach misses the key point. For economic reasons the trade unions are not interested in organising low-skilled high-turnover workplaces (they used to call McDonald’s “the black hole” of organising) and the question of trade unions is of limited relevance to workers in many casualised industries.

This may change - we had contact with the radical wing of the labour establishment (not in the UK but in several countries abroad) and there are people who are committed, idealistic and imaginative. They bought us drinks. They were very interested in what we were doing and keen to learn new tactics for organising in workplaces that excluded them.

Quote:
What if a network of workers refer to themselves as a union in the most basic sense (that is a combination of workers). Seems to me your mistaking the role of the major existing 'Unions' with the term 'union'.

Perhaps you'd like to show me where this is actually happening somewhere? Where ther'es a 'union' that in no way resembles a 'Union', or are you just throwing around hypotheticals now? What if they called themselves a 'party' or a 'congregation'? Anyway, we're not talking about a random group of workers, we're talking about solfed and the IWW, most of whom should know better.

Quote:
2. Don't you think the CNT was ever a revolutionary union?

Yes. Doesn't mean I don't think it had inherent flaws which led to it's capitulation.

Quote:
Quote:
afterall all the ministers were members of the FAI?

If you could show me one post, ever, where I've said something favourable about the FAI, that'd be great. Thanks.

Quote:
Christ even your much loved workers councils have passed reformist shit and been recuperated, your communes and neighbourhood assemblies too.

Oh shit I never realised, excuse me while I grieve roll eyes

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 31 2007 08:45
revol68 wrote:
also catch your complaints about SolFeds constitution just read like those of an autistic Spock, it's quite obvious that it's mostly rhetorical flourish.

seriously what's your next trick deconstructing romantic poetry?

revol68 later wrote:
Saying this I do think the Sol Fed's prop and constitution needs worked on, it does read like a simplistic paint by numbers guide.

You're just arguing for arguments sake now aren't you. You wee contrarian you.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 31 2007 08:55
revol68 wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
I distinctly recall some crap from you about aims and principles. It was one of the times you made sense rather than just blather. Aims and principles and by-laws and constitutions and such should accurately reflect the politics and goals of an organization. If I want to read poetry I'll go read a poet.

yeah I agree but the only thing one could hold against the Sol Feds thing about all workers being in revolutionary industrial unions is extremely wishful thinking, it isn't like it's some qualititive political issue it's just a matter of exuberant quantities. Rather like the symbolism of the general strike, it isn't so much that it's how things will actually happen but rather it is a rhetorical device for reinforcing the power of the working class, how it is us who produce the world.

So which is it? Poetry and metaphor or paint by numbers? Fuck me but I don't think aims and principles should require textual reconstruction in order to have any semblance with reality. Especially not when you have people who join and take them literally, do I need to quote WeTheYouth again?

Either way, I'll expect you to remain silent next time Dundee's mates tries to put his ravings down to rhetorical flourish.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 31 2007 09:50

Situ groups don't normally do that in a document that starts with:

Quote:
1a) Conditions of affiliation

Affiliation to the Solidarity Federation is conditional on agreement to abide by the Aims, Principles and Constitution,

Anyway, like I said when I brought it up, with a couple of exceptions, solfed members (who post on here at least) are considerably better than it suggests.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Dec 31 2007 13:45
revol68 wrote:
No when Wobblies talk about solidarity unionism it seems to me an attempt to return to the basic ethos of revolutionary syndicalism and direct action against a tide of recuperation and mediation that has eaten away at workers self organisation.

Afterall the wobblies called themselves a union back in their direct action hay day, likewise the CNT called itself a union whilst rejecting mediation and recuperation for quite a few decades (obviously with a few internal fightsas one would expect of any mass organisation).

And when did this tide of recuperation and mediation start? When revolutionary syndicalists, in their hundreds of thousands, joined the government and fought against Zapata in Mexico, less then ten years after the IWW was formed a few clicks north? Or how about the revolutionary and industrially organised (although not classically syndicalist, but nor is the IWW according to x39...) in Russia between 1917-18 - when they called off strikes, were incorporated into the state, became disciplinary organs etc. etc. Or the parliamentary factions in the IWW? Do I need to continue? There's not some pure form of organisation that can be returned to - whether revolutionary unions, soviets or whatever else.

Quote:
organic products of workers struggles, of the coming together of groups of militant workers as they seek to link up their struggles

Well who would argue against this? But you and me both know that this has happened both under the banner of revolutionary unionism, and outside and against unions in general, more the latter since 1939, and including in situations where revolutionary unions were present, and more than willing to take such formulations under their wing.

Quote:
now whether they call themselves unions or not, is of little concern to me really,

And again when I'm specifically talking about political groups - like the IWW and solfed - you claim I'm shitting on 'organic products of workers struggles' that happen to use terminology I disagree with. I mentioned this before and you're continuing to do exactly the same thing.

Quote:
I'm not particularly bothered by the semantics of it but I think it's wakerish to narrow the definition down

Well I think it's wankerish to try to narrow the definition of mass assemblies, co-ordinating committees and the rest to 'revolutionary unionism'. I guess others will have to decide who's the biggest wanker.

Quote:
and that along with that there is a proud history of revolutionary and anarcho syndicalism in other countries.

And not so proud of course.

Quote:
As to the fact such revolutionary unions are either miniscule or non existant today, well so what? Revolutionary Workers councils aren't exactly falling out of the skies and where these spontaneous organs of struggle do arise one of the greatest weaknesses they have is the lack of an organised tendency/legacy of self organisation that even a relatively small revolutionary/anarcho syndicalist unionism might provide.

And some of the process of recuperation is when they become revolutionary unions - on that other thread the Coordinara in Spain is on the works councils for example.

Quote:
What would these inherent flaws be and what form of organisation is immune to them? Because to my knowledge we aren't living in communism right now so every past group, tendency or ideology has obviously not suceeded, fucked up or been recuperated, perhaps then we should just fuck the whole revolutionary idea/project out of the bath tub? Communes, syndicates, unions, councils, soviets, political organisations, mass assemblies, chuck them all out to fuck?

Well the specific forms which revolutionary organisations have taken - yes I don't see we'll be seeing them in the same form again. Obviously each has common characteristics with the others, that we can recognise and hope to see again, but I don't think we'll see 'soviets' or 'anarcho-syndicalist unions' again no. All were historically specific, all had weaknesses (and strenghts of course), none are blueprints - as you say yourself. Similarly, I think 'anarcho-syndicalism', 'revolutionary unionism' - and yes 'council communism', 'left communism' and the rest are best considered historically - since when they're an actual living force that's any good, it's usually when they've broken with the past rather than trying to resurrect it or continue legacies.