Mass revolutionary organisations during periods of class retreat?

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Mark.
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Jan 3 2008 23:51
Mike Harman wrote:
So if the CNT is managing not to take on any of the functions of a "union" that me and John. have outlined, do you think that might have something to do with why it's comparatively very small? According to this thread, it has around 6,000 members compared to the CGT's 60,000, with Soledad Obrera and others hovering at 1,000 members between them. Now 6,000 is a lot compared to any UK group (or the IWW internationally for that matter), but it's less than 1% of it's 1919 membership and 1/10th of it's main rival. That same thread also suggests that up until very recently, it's had very little workplace presence since the split with the CGT (so on what basis 'a union'?), and is facing internal contradictions as a new layer of activists try to regain some of that. As well as all this, it's apparently shut out of most workplaces with works councils due to non-participation (not so much of an issue if you don't claim to be a union in the first place). So to experience significant growth without a corresponding change in the class struggle, do you think it has many options which wouldn't require acting more like 'a union' and those contradictions coming to the fore?

The bit I've highlighted in bold probably needs some qualification. It seems quite common in Spain for disputes to be dealt with by workplace assemblies rather than individual unions or the works councils. I'm not sure exactly how widespread this is but the TMB bus drivers strike in Barcelona is one example. The shipyards at Puerto Real (where the CNT has a longstanding minority presence) would be another. In situations like this the CNT can have more influence than its size might suggest - it isn't necessarily shut out - but it might not make much practical difference whether the CNT is considered as a workplace based political organisation or a union. An organisation that didn't call itself a union - whether anarchist, councilist, left communist or whatever could play a similar role - though I'm not aware of any significant groups acting along these lines in Spain. It's a situation where an "outside and against" position towards the unions might be quite viable. Actually I can see parallels between the CNT's attitudes towards rival unions and councilist/left communist positions on unions in general. Still I suspect this kind of situation will usually depend on having an organised and confident workplace in the first place - and in Spain that means there will probably be various unions and a works council present. Union membership in Spain is actually quite low and it leaves the question of what to do in non-union workplaces. The CNT deals with this by organising as a union - with some limited success - which in turn depends on being fairly open about who it will allow to join.

nastyned
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Jan 4 2008 00:16
Devrim wrote:
So you don't know their position, and you don't care enough to find out, but you are totally happy to repeat what you think may be their position, and accuse someone from another organisation of 'being economical with the truth' when they state the position of their organisation.

That's cool. wink

Devrim

I know what one of their members/supporters wrote on this forum regarding union membership and I don't really care enough about what left communists do or don't do to chase it up. Will that do?

Mark.
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Jan 4 2008 00:37
Beltov wrote:
JH wrote:
I'd be interested to see any analysis of the existing independent unions in Spain, anarcho-syndicalist (CNT, CGT, Solidaridad Obrera) or not (Coordinadora, SAT, CSI, CO.BAS etc). Links in Spanish would do as well.

I've had a look on our Spanish site and the articles on recent struggles are collected together here:
http://es.internationalism.org/taxonomy/term/216

Some of these may refer to 'existing independent unions' but my espagnol isn't very good. I'll ask our comrades in Spain if they have anything specific. I did see something on the SEAT dispute...

I did find an article on the 'co-ordinations' in France during 1988. It's not on the English site yet, but should be later tonight. It also refers to the Spanish coordinadoras in a footnote, and the COBAS in Italy, which I'm pretty sure we've written about elsewhere.
Francia: Coordinadoras, vanguardia del sabotaje de las luchas
(France: Co-ordinations in the vanguard of sabotaging the struggles)
http://es.internationalism.org/rint56/coordinadoras.htm

I did find the BM Blob pamphlet on the Coordinadoras in Spain in the 1980s but it is very long. I'll try to skim through it quickly. Has it been discussed on the Libcom forums? I've had a quick look but can't find anything...

Beltov - thanks for the links. The article on SEAT is interesting and mentions the CGT in passing. The article on France mentions the Coordinadora in Spain while criticising some fairly dubious French initiatives. I find it hard to judge the validity of the ICC's analysis of the CGT and the Coordinadora from this but to be fair that wasn't the main point of these articles. I can't remember seeing any discussion about the Coordinadora on libcom.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 4 2008 02:14
Devrim wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
On the other hand i think your presenting things in quite a simplistic light, for example would your turkish communist group ban members from being part of mainstream unions or anarchist groups in the same vein as the ICC effectively does, in extension to that would that then involve having to take a position on whther each individual local single issue campaign was acceptale or unacceptable and so on down the garden path of secthood.

Unions, no. Neither does the ICC.

Eh i'm a bit confused by your wording. Are your members also members of mainstream unions or are they not?

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Anarchist groups, of course. How can somebody be in two political organisations with different politics?

Soome people do, for the purposes of contacts and networking or so they can be paying dues to two organisations like AF and Solfed etc. Realistically one of them your going to have to be only a paper member of. Its not something i'd bother doing personally but its hardly the end of the world is it.

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We don't get involved in 'single issue campaigns'. It isn't the way we work.

Oh get real, that sounds all very nice when written in fairy tale communist land but in reality its a load of horse shite, When a bypass gets laid through your house, they knock down your local bus station or build a big fat nuclear power plant down te road from you whats your response going to be? Or to use another example what would your response to the poll tax have been, surely you would have organised non-payment campaigns no? And wouldn't a non-payment campaign be a single issue campaign?

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Devrim
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Jan 4 2008 06:48
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Eh i'm a bit confused by your wording. Are your members also members of mainstream unions or are they not?

They can be. It isn't banned.

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cantdocartwheels wrote:
Anarchist groups, of course. How can somebody be in two political organisations with different politics?

Soome people do, for the purposes of contacts and networking or so they can be paying dues to two organisations like AF and Solfed etc. Realistically one of them your going to have to be only a paper member of. Its not something i'd bother doing personally but its hardly the end of the world is it.

Yes, I think this stems more from the confusion within anarchism than anything else. What I think leads to it is though the organisations appear to have political differences actually they don't. Some people in SolFed, for example, don't take all that stuff about 'revolutionary unionism' that seriously.

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We don't get involved in 'single issue campaigns'. It isn't the way we work.

Oh get real, that sounds all very nice when written in fairy tale communist land but in reality its a load of horse shite, When a bypass gets laid through your house, they knock down your local bus station or build a big fat nuclear power plant down te road from you whats your response going to be? Or to use another example what would your response to the poll tax have been, surely you would have organised non-payment campaigns no? And wouldn't a non-payment campaign be a single issue campaign?

I think that the poll tax is somewhat different. I can't see any of the other things happening to me. wink We wouldn't get involved in them.

Devrim

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Steven.
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Jan 4 2008 10:11
martinh wrote:
John. wrote:
think this is labouring under a misconception. Unions negotiate on behalf of their members with no accountability.

Well, in that case, anarcho-syndicalist unions aren't unions by this definition and hopefully never will be.

Yes, that is something that has come up here. However, most self-proclaimed anarcho-syndicalist unions do. This discussion was in response to the "revolutionaries" who want things like the IWW to be "real" unions.

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Look different tendencies within anarcho-syndicalism aside the basic sticking point in this discussion is not revol or me calling our politics anarcho-syndicalist just to disagre with catch and John. its the retarded use of the word union that see's a union only as a functioning in terms of, like trades and business unions catch, selling labour to and compromising with the bosses.

No Boul, like I've told revol before, the sticking point is some anarchists want their revolutionary group to become a real union - like a business/trade union. Revol has been arguing against me saying that his type of a-s group would be a "union" and wouldn't be bad. I broadly agree, so have been using the distinction capital U Union since then.

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WHy would the CNT not 'sell' itself as a union John., it is afterall an anarcho-syndicalist union - that does not mean it should enter works councils or abandon its promotion of decision making through workers assemblies - but it is still a union. The main sticking point here is in a too narrow definition of union that yez have painted yourselves into.

I've explained the main sticking point already. I do think that them letting in just anyone is problematic though.

Mike Harman wrote:
So if the CNT is managing not to take on any of the functions of a "union" that me and John. have outlined, do you think that might have something to do with why it's comparatively very small? According to this thread, it has around 6,000 members compared to the CGT's 60,000, with Soledad Obrera and others hovering at 1,000 members between them. Now 6,000 is a lot compared to any UK group (or the IWW internationally for that matter), but it's less than 1% of it's 1919 membership and 1/10th of it's main rival. That same thread also suggests that up until very recently, it's had very little workplace presence since the split with the CGT (so on what basis 'a union'?)

Well this is the issue; they say it's a union because it's ideally based on industrial networks. I don't think it's a "union" in an ultra-left sense, I don't have many problems with the CNT generally.

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it's apparently shut out of most workplaces with works councils due to non-participation (not so much of an issue if you don't claim to be a union in the first place).

Yeah, this isn't a bad thing.

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So to experience significant growth without a corresponding change in the class struggle, do you think it has many options which wouldn't require acting more like 'a union' and those contradictions coming to the fore?

Well, if it wanted to grow fast, then yes, but the CNT wouldn't want to grow fast and compromise its principles. They booted the "pragmatists," the CGT, ages ago to maintain them, which they should get credit for. They could grow through propaganda efforts and through people involved in struggle with them seeing the assemblies/direct action model being successful, or becoming anarchists.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 4 2008 10:18
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We don't get involved in 'single issue campaigns'. It isn't the way we work.

Oh get real, that sounds all very nice when written in fairy tale communist land but in reality its a load of horse shite, When a bypass gets laid through your house, they knock down your local bus station or build a big fat nuclear power plant down te road from you whats your response going to be? Or to use another example what would your response to the poll tax have been, surely you would have organised non-payment campaigns no? And wouldn't a non-payment campaign be a single issue campaign?

I think that the poll tax is somewhat different. I can't see any of the other things happening to me. wink We wouldn't get involved in them.

Devrim

Don't really see how the poll tax campaign is qualatively different, if their cancelling several bus routes meaning you have to get up half an hour earlier for work its as much a blow to your social wage as it is to pay x% extra in tax even if the poll tax is a heavier direct financial burden. Either way if you organise a protest against the bus station being closd or hand out leaflets about not payng the poll tax and do some sort of non-payment pledge then these are both ''single issue campaigns'' surely.
You wouldn't camaign against a bypass being built trough your house!? Thats mental, What about your housing being sold off to property developers? Serious like how would you oppose it? I don't think its a question you can just dodge as a communist, i mean my nan lives in what used to be the old church owned dockers housing in southwark and thats being sold off to property developers with long term tenants being slowly forced out as they get rid of the protected status of the rent. How should she oppose such a move?

Correct me if i'm wrong but this all seems a bit absurdly workerist to me, i almost have this mental image of you guys spending all your time calling for council staff to go on strike during the poll tax like the swappies did. tongue

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2008 10:37
John. wrote:
Well, if it wanted to grow fast, then yes, but the CNT wouldn't want to grow fast and compromise its principles. They booted the "pragmatists," the CGT, ages ago to maintain them, which they should get credit for.

Well yes they should, but it's obvious that it's also a reason why they're small now, and won't be able to organise the majority of workers or a create a big international union federation etc. like they still say they want to. revol still appears to be trying to argue that you can have your cake and eat it too. I think the CNT isn't doing this - it's sacrificing size to maintain some principles, and doesn't appear to be functioning as a union (i.e. in those big strikes it appears to act as a minority political organisation - I'll have to read that Puerto Real article). I'm sure it has people in it who'd like it to - and hopefully they'll keep getting chucked out.

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2008 10:38

cantdo: strikes are often only about wages. Are they single issue campaigns too?

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2008 11:07

I don't think rent strikes, fare strikes, mass non-payment of tax and other such activity are 'single issue campaigns' in the sense it's commonly used though. I doubt Devrim does either. So the original question was wrong - otherwise everything becomes a 'single issue campaign', including strikes, and it has no meaning (a bit like every collection of workers being called a 'union'). I'll be interested to see why Devrim wouldn't do anything about his flat being demolished though.

This has reminded me that youtube killed that Narita riots video sad

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 4 2008 11:23
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdo: strikes are often only about wages. Are they single issue campaigns too?

To the extent that a campaign in a workplace is a campaign over a single issue then you could effectively say its a ''single issue campaign'' in the same way that a campiagn against the selling off of social housing is a ''single issue campaign''. The point is that these things have the potential to cease to become ''single issue campaigns'' because they pit you against the interests or perhaps to put it better the logic of capital, because experience of collective action gives people a view of a better way of doing things and because other more class concious workers can help people join the dots with agit prop.
Devrim is saying he doesn't take part in these sort of ''single issue campaigns'' outisde the workplace, to the extent that he wouldn't take part in a group of people organised together to stop a bypass running through his neighbourhood and indeed thorugh his own house; which is, in my opinion, totally workerist and a little bit odd.

Rent strikes and fare strikes could happen simultaneously i guess but generally they are going to be the result of people putting out agit prop in a organised fashion or having regular meetings both of which require organisational structure. Whether you want to call thse groups ''single issue campiagns'' is neither here nor there since its a matter of semantics, the fact is they are likely to start off as a campaign created in order to win a concession on a single issue, its pretty absurd to suggest otherwise.

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Steven.
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Jan 4 2008 11:29
Mike Harman wrote:
John. wrote:
Well, if it wanted to grow fast, then yes, but the CNT wouldn't want to grow fast and compromise its principles. They booted the "pragmatists," the CGT, ages ago to maintain them, which they should get credit for.

Well yes they should, but it's obvious that it's also a reason why they're small now, and won't be able to organise the majority of workers or a create a big international union federation etc. like they still say they want to. revol still appears to be trying to argue that you can have your cake and eat it too. I think the CNT isn't doing this - it's sacrificing size to maintain some principles, and doesn't appear to be functioning as a union (i.e. in those big strikes it appears to act as a minority political organisation - I'll have to read that Puerto Real article).

Yeah read it, it's good, the way they act is pretty much what you'd want.
I don't think revol would think the CNT could be that much bigger right now and maintain its principles.

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I'm sure it has people in it who'd like it to - and hopefully they'll keep getting chucked out.

They'd probably just join CGT.

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2008 11:32
cantdocartwheels wrote:
To the extent that a campaign in a workplace is a campaign over a single issue then you could effectively say its a ''single issue campaign'' in the same way that a campiagn against the selling off of social housing is a ''single issue campaign''.

So when someone doesn't pay their TV license is that a "single issue campaign" as well? I think you've just rendered the term completely meaningless, well done.

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Jan 4 2008 11:37
Mike Harman wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
To the extent that a campaign in a workplace is a campaign over a single issue then you could effectively say its a ''single issue campaign'' in the same way that a campiagn against the selling off of social housing is a ''single issue campaign''.

So when someone doesn't pay their TV license is that a "single issue campaign" as well? I think you've just rendered the term completely meaningless, well done.

No because theres no-one putting forward agit prop saying ''don't pay your tv license because of x and z'', obviously whe it comes to issues like social housing the chances of hundreds of people all spontaneously stopping paying rent en masse are pretty much nil. Also for things like council housing stock transfer ballots you would have a camagn group putting out info about the ballot you wouldn't just hope evryone else in your area votes the right way simultaneously would you.

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2008 12:07

An organised attempt to take collective action over something that effects you directly doesn't automatically mean "single issue campaign". I associate that with campaigns designed to change government policy - whether via lobbying or 'direct action', rather than fighting it's material effects directly. If someone organises a mutiny in Iraq, is that a 'single issue campaign' too? Now sometimes these things can overlap a bit, same as strikes over wages can overlap with campaigns to 'keep the NHS public' or whatever but it doesn't make them interchangeable. So again, I think you're stretching the definition to the point of meaninglessness. Look at the wikipedia article. To me, that's what it means.

Spikymike
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Jan 5 2008 15:12

Tend to agree with the last point by Catch but a discussion of 'class struggle outside the workplace' and 'the revolutionary potential of that' might be better on a separate thread??

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Devrim
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Jan 7 2008 07:03
cantdocartwheels wrote:
You wouldn't camaign against a bypass being built trough your house!? Thats mental, What about your housing being sold off to property developers? Serious like how would you oppose it? I don't think its a question you can just dodge as a communist, i mean my nan lives in what used to be the old church owned dockers housing in southwark and thats being sold off to property developers with long term tenants being slowly forced out as they get rid of the protected status of the rent. How should she oppose such a move?
Catch wrote:
I'll be interested to see why Devrim wouldn't do anything about his flat being demolished though.

As there seems to be some interest in this I will try to explain. I agree with Spikeymike that the general issue should be on another thread, but on the issue of my house there are a few points.

First the practical one, we own the house. If they built a by-pass through here we would be paid more than it is worth in the compulsory purchase order. It would be a bit of a hassle, but financially worth it for us.

Secondly, I can see that in the UK there could be class struggle over housing. Here in Turkey, I think that that is much less likely over established housing though possible over squatting, more likely in İstanbul than Ankara.

Finally, we seem to be operating on a completely different wavelength. For us we do not make political decisions based upon my flat, or what I feel, but on what the organisation thinks is neccesary.

Devrim

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Jan 7 2008 10:07
Devrim wrote:
If they built a by-pass through here we would be paid more than it is worth in the compulsory purchase order.

"Period of class retreat" indeed.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
my nan lives in what used to be the old church owned dockers housing in southwark and thats being sold off to property developers with long term tenants being slowly forced out as they get rid of the protected status of the rent. How should she oppose such a move?

On what grounds could the move be opposed? That we should be “kind” to your nan as a matter of social policy?

Mike Harman
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Jan 7 2008 10:31
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First the practical one, we own the house. If they built a by-pass through here we would be paid more than it is worth in the compulsory purchase order. It would be a bit of a hassle, but financially worth it for us.

Well sometimes people don't want the hassle of moving, and often in the UK CPOs work out less than selling on the open market, but fair enough.

Quote:
Secondly, I can see that in the UK there could be class struggle over housing. Here in Turkey, I think that that is much less likely over established housing though possible over squatting, more likely in İstanbul than Ankara.

Again that seems sane. I think you would've got less of a hysterical reaction from cantdo if you'd said that in the first place though.

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Finally, we seem to be operating on a completely different wavelength. For us we do not make political decisions based upon my flat, or what I feel, but on what the organisation thinks is neccesary.

Well, if I had some issue at my work, and my organisation didn't think it was necessary to get involved as an organisation, it wouldn't stop me pursuing it. Same as when I had issues with my landlord. In many cases there'd be very little the group could do anyway, but it'd still be worth me fighting something individually (or alongside people not in my group who had the same material circumstances). For example they might change the legislation on CPOs and you'd get half your house's value instead - surely you'd put up a fight, doesn't mean it has to involve EKS.

Of course I think what you're doing is referring to the way some groups run around 'having solidarity' with any random issue that comes up whether it's got any practical effect or long-term strategy behind it or not. I agree on that, but I wouldn't <em>not</em defend my own material interests against attacks because my organisation didn't think it was a priority (in fact I'd question their priorities if they suggested I stopped doing that in favour of some . Considering you repeatedly say on here that you think people should first and foremost be defending their immediate material interests this seems a bit of an odd way to look at things.

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Jan 7 2008 10:48
Mike Harman wrote:
Well sometimes people don't want the hassle of moving

People make sacrifices to the corporate whole. If the rest of society fancies a nice big road through your house, then failure to comply is essentially nationalism.

Mike Harman wrote:
people should first and foremost be defending their immediate material interests

Well, a lot more people want to live in fashionable Southwark than there are homes there. When it comes to social policy pitches such as whether you allocate places based on highest bidder, oldest bidder, familial relationship to the bidder or whatever, it begs the question what the point of an organisation is other than to run a campaign-style PR exercise along the lines of, say, the Brent Spar decommissioning or “defending” the NBS.

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Steven.
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Jan 7 2008 11:26

If people want to continue along this line of discussion, please stop here and start a new thread