Supporting workers' co-ops?

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Mar 13 2007 18:10

Devrim and Leo are raising a serious point which can’t be squashed by cheap sarcasm. How many strikes have been lost because trade unions told workers that the road to victory involved holding out for as long as possible while other sectors were asked for financial support to keep the strike going? The miners’ strike was the classic example, as Devrim points out. The whole strategy of the NUM was to keep the miners focussed on getting the last pits shut down (‘first we’ll close all the pits, including Nottinghamshire, then we’ll get other workers to join the struggle’) while spinning all kinds of yarns about how the bosses were about to crack because coal reserves were about to run out. It was a real confirmation of the bankruptcy of trade unionist methods.

These tactics meant something in the 19th century, when employers were largely individual capitalists whose business would be ruined by a long strike, but they are positively suicidal in a period when the bosses are united in huge corporations, employers’ organisations, and the state apparatus.

In this situation, extension of the struggle, breaking out of isolation and crossing trade and union borders is a vital necessity, even for winning the most immediate demands. The recent struggles against the CPE in France showed that it is possible to get the bourgeoisie to step back if it fears that it is going to be faced with a rapidly spreading movement in the class.

This is not a discussion about ‘demanding the revolution right now’; it is about communists putting forward methods for the immediate struggle that really do strengthen the self-confidence of the working class and that ultimately lead in the direction of revolution instead of staying trapped in the deadening mentality of trade unionism. And again, it’s not about whether we should as individuals or groups of workers give money to strikers, but about the way trade unions use the collection box as a substitute for effective solidarity.

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Mar 13 2007 18:20

Alf, are you stuck on fucking auto or something?

Where did anybody suggest that solidarity in the form of donations is an adequate substitute for solidarity strikes or similar actions?

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Mar 13 2007 18:25

I said that the trade unions do this all the time, which is not quite the same thing

petey
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Mar 13 2007 18:25
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In this situation, extension of the struggle, breaking out of isolation and crossing trade and union borders is a vital necessity

absolutely. it's what i thought might happen in the 2005 TWU 100 strike, but it didn't.
in the meantime, i'd need a meal, and rent money.

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Mar 13 2007 18:51
Alf wrote:
I said that the trade unions do this all the time, which is not quite the same thing

What does that have to do with anything? Is anybody on this thread a trade unionist? Has anybody defended the unions as institutions?

You're criticising a practice that nobody has advocated, what's the point in that?

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Mar 13 2007 19:19
madashell wrote:
Is there some reason you're being this dishonest?

I don't think Leo was being in any way dishonest. In fact I see more dishonesty in the people who have quoted out of context, and offerd little but sarcastic remarks.

madashell wrote:
What does that have to do with anything? Is anybody on this thread a trade unionist? Has anybody defended the unions as institutions?

However, there have been times when the unions have argued against solidarity action, and advocated people merely giving financial 'solidarity'.

Devrim wrote:
At Wapping the tactics of the unions were to argue for a boycott of the N.I. newspapers, and mass picketing of the plant, at Warrington, and Orgreave as a tragedy, and then at Wapping as a farce. The unions actually argued against workers not only taking solidarity action but also taking action in their own interests. The line was something like "we can only afford one dispute. If everyone were on strike, how could we pay the strike pay". However, all of the papers were imposing the same new conditions as the one that had led N.I. to strike on their workers at time. I remember being taken to a mass meeting at the observer by N.I. strikers where they argued that the Observer should strike, and the FoC argued that we can't strike as we need to support you. As a final illustration of this policy when militant NI workers tried to go down to Fleet Street on Mayday with some victims of police violence in order to picket the papers out. They were physically stopped by members of the SOGAT 82 London District Council, and their supporters.

I think that there is a serious point here. It is about how we orientate ourselves to strikes. Of course we are not arguing that people shouldn't give money to strikers. Even Leo who seems to be taking the brunt of the ridicule and sarcasm on this thread said as much:

Leo Uilleann wrote:
Trying to organize strikes in the places they work in order to spread the struggle seems like a much more efficient way to contribute for communists than sending money.

Leo Uilleann wrote:
I am of course not against sending money to strikers on principle

The nature of our interventions in struggles must be political. Some anarchists have a problem with this as they see it as vanguardist, or something. I think that our limited resources are best spent arguing how struggles can be won. I said as much earlier:

Devrim wrote:
At Wapping, I regularly gave money to the people producing 'Picket', but this was to support that groups political activity, better than giving it to the unions to print more of those boycott stickers.

Many anarchists see this kind of approach as 'Leninist', or telling people what to do. They end up ignoring the political issues which are at the heart of the struggle, and concentrating on solidarity.

Devrim

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Mar 13 2007 19:38

Also during the gate gourmet strike did anyone here actually go around there own workplace openly argueing for solidarity action? If you did give me an example where you did because i'd be very happy to hear about it ...
Now obviously the TUC's standoff approach combined with the t&g's active sabotage of that strike helped fuck the workers over, but at the same time its not like many unions or industrial networks had the capacity to carry out solidarity strikes at all, hence theres no point waffling about solidarity strikes being the only pure form of struggle when you don't have the organisational capacity to carry them out. So cheap sarcasm it may be, but quite frankly its better than sitting there with some piss poor formalist ''interpretation'' of marx pretending that you can currently organise a solidarity strike like some uber-militant weirdo. It just makes you sound as bad as the really whacky ultra-orthodox trot sects whose respnse to any problem whether its the threat of nuclear war or the poll tax is to monotonously intone 'general strike' as if that word means anything at all without an approach based squarely on the terrain of everyday life.

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Mar 13 2007 20:32

But didn't Gate Gourmet show, in fact, exactly the point that Devrim, Leo, and Alf have been making?

Rather than giving financial and moral support, the baggage handlers, etc. went on strike themselves. Small scale, perhaps, and certainly made easier given the proximity of the workers involved but in principle exactly what Devrim etc. have been calling for.

I think donations to striking workers are on about the same level as making donations to feed starving Africans. Although the motivations spring from a basic human solidarity, in practice they achieve little more than salving our consciences. Until capitalism is destroyed there will always be starving Africans and charitable giving does nothing to challenge capitalism.

In terms of strikes, the call for these donations represents a failure of the working class to extend its struggle beyond a certain point. When the limits of a strike have been reached, it is suicidal for workers to carry on with it - a conscious, strategic retreat in recognition of defeat is worth a billion long, drawn out strikes supported by donations. Strikes like the Liverpool Dockworkers Strike, etc. were reduced to absolute farces (workers on still on "strike" despite the fact they had been made redundant years ago??) that served not only to demoralise those involved but made the very notion of going on strike look utterly ridiculous.

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Mar 13 2007 21:44

hey comrades the reality, it went that way ---->

while your politics, its there:
<------------------

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Mar 13 2007 22:02

Where any money donated to strikers goes is an important question. Take a situation where a workplace branch strikes against the desires of union bosses - and so strike pay is being witheld by the union. Then depending on whose hands it is put into, donations may be going straight to the miserly union bureaucrats or may be staying within reach of the strikers, albeit likely mediated by shop stewards.

On the question of the basra oil union, when the Vortex occupiers publicised their benefit for this union (and manc. solfed advertised a meeting - with a speaker from this union?), I followed the link provided to see whose hands the money would be going into...

The oil union said their policy in Iraq is "Preventing the union movement from being politicized or becoming a hostage in the hands of parties so that it will not be used for their party interests." But on a wider regional level they are quite eager to take sides;

GUOE oil union wrote:
Communique from the GUOE

We and all peaceful and free people of the world have been following with great attention the American and Zionist aggression against Lebanon for more than two weeks now. This is despite the sadness and pain that this compounds in our hearts as a result of the total destruction and the killing of innocent people, and the displacement and dispossession that our brothers in Lebanon are exposed to in these days. At the same time, we are proud of the wonderful steadfastness and resilience of the Lebanese people and the Islamic resistance confronting the Zionist barbaric aggression - achieving more and more victories against the Zionist occupation forces.

The most painful to the heart is the degrading positions adopted by Arab countries which have affirmed to all that they are agents of America and Israel.

This is in contradiction to the Iraqi people who forgot their injuries and killing due to the terrorist operations affecting them in addition to the occupation forces, so much so that they got out into the streets and demonstrated in solidarity with their brothers in Lebanon and collected contributions to support them .

We in the General Union of Oil Employees are painfully following this brutal aggression. We announce our protest against these criminal and barbaric actions that Zionist aggression has perpetrated against our brothers in Lebanon and at the same time we appeal to all the honorable and free people of the world to demonstrate and protest about what is happening to Lebanon. We also urge our people in Basra to help their brothers in Lebanon and support the brave Islamic resistance there.

We denounce the coward and degrading positions adopted by some Arab countries and we declare our solidarity with the Lebanese people and Islamic resistance and we are proudly greeting them and God with you.

http://www.basraoilunion.org/

One can't realistically reconcile such politics with any radical anarchist/communist viewpoint. If the funds raised are going to the union leader authors of the above statement then the fundraisers fall into a 3rd worldism, suspending criticism of distant struggles that wouldn't be tolerated at home. I suspect some of the people involved in fundraising wouldn't give money to a UK leftist group with those views, or want to host speakers from them. Recent oil workers strikes have won some impressive victories under extremely adverse and repressive conditions in Iraq. But as the union leaders' goals seem to be only to function as representatives pimping the price of labour within the context of a nationalist/pro-islamist/pan-arabic geo-politics, then that obviously still needs to be denounced - and those wanting to support oil workers' struggles have to find ways of doing so that don't reinforce reactionary politics.

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Mar 13 2007 22:27
Demogorgon303 wrote:
But didn't Gate Gourmet show, in fact, exactly the point that Devrim, Leo, and Alf have been making?

Rather than giving financial and moral support, the baggage handlers, etc. went on strike themselves. Small scale, perhaps, and certainly made easier given the proximity of the workers involved but in principle exactly what Devrim etc. have been calling for.

I think donations to striking workers are on about the same level as making donations to feed starving Africans. Although the motivations spring from a basic human solidarity, in practice they achieve little more than salving our consciences. Until capitalism is destroyed there will always be starving Africans and charitable giving does nothing to challenge capitalism.

In terms of strikes, the call for these donations represents a failure of the working class to extend its struggle beyond a certain point. When the limits of a strike have been reached, it is suicidal for workers to carry on with it - a conscious, strategic retreat in recognition of defeat is worth a billion long, drawn out strikes supported by donations. Strikes like the Liverpool Dockworkers Strike, etc. were reduced to absolute farces (workers on still on "strike" despite the fact they had been made redundant years ago??) that served not only to demoralise those involved but made the very notion of going on strike look utterly ridiculous.

so as i suspected, the answer is that in your workplace you didn't go around openly argueing for an immediate solidarity strike during the gate gourmet dispute

what a surprise.. roll eyes

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Mar 13 2007 22:40
Ret Marut wrote:
One can't realistically reconcile such politics with any radical anarchist/communist viewpoint. If the funds raised are going to the union leader authors of the above statement then the fundraisers fall into a 3rd worldism, suspending criticism of distant struggles that wouldn't be tolerated at home. blah blah ooh look i'm just soooo internationalist blah

Except thats just utter bullshit since most of us would quite happily donate money or goods to a union strike fund in the Uk when its neccesary despite the fact that all the official unions tend to support the labour party financially through their political funds and through the various tiers of the union bureaucracy.

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Mar 13 2007 22:46

one correction about the solfed speaking event: the speaker is not from the union it self but she has worked for the union when living in Iraq, and is now part of a UK based solidarity group.

The Iraqi oil workers union is still illegal union, so there is no bank accounts or membership fees. The money collected in UK goes mainly for specific projects or for ferrying trade unionists from Iraq to speaking tours and such like.

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Mar 13 2007 23:42

Well, cantdo - if you'd read the whole of my post before descending into dismissive sarcasm you'd have seen that at the beginning I commented on the difference between donations going to central union bureaucrats or to local branches, or even possibly bypassing officialdom altogether. Particularly re. the example I used, where a union is witholding strike pay, only an idiot would then make a donation for strikers without knowing if they would get any benefit from it. (And can't you just disagree without being a dick about it?) So speak for yourself when you say 'most' of us would happily donate to a UK union strike fund. Particular circumstances would determine that for me. As it should for support for Iraqi workers. It's got nothing to do with posing as 'sooo internationalist' - it has a general relevance in the context of the relationship between strikers and unions - one you seem to gloss over.

Sarcasm doesn't get rid of the absence of an adequate response by you. There's obviously an important difference between getting donations directly to workers and giving them to bureaucrats - the conduct and control of the strike is influenced by who controls funds. The union bosses realise that, even if you don't. And are you saying the politics of unions are completely irrelevant? So you might also do a benefit for Unison, the police union - or a strike of the BNP's new union?

I take your point, JDMF, about the speaker - did you learn anything more about the dodgy politics of the union leadership?

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Mar 14 2007 00:09
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Also during the gate gourmet strike did anyone here actually go around there own workplace openly argueing for solidarity action?

Obviously we are not going to be able to develop solidarity action in every sector with every strike.

Quote:
So cheap sarcasm it may be, but quite frankly its better than sitting there with some piss poor formalist ''interpretation'' of marx pretending that you can currently organise a solidarity strike like some uber-militant weirdo. It just makes you sound as bad as the really whacky ultra-orthodox trot sects whose respnse to any problem whether its the threat of nuclear war or the poll tax is to monotonously intone 'general strike' as if that word means anything at all without an approach based squarely on the terrain of everyday life.

But I didn't argue it as an abstract slogan. I started from the position we are in:

Devrim wrote:
On the most basic level, the things for workers to do were to organise for miners to come to their work , and speak at mass meetings. Yes that would have involved collections of money, but I don't see anything wrong with that as I pointed out above. Also in areas near the coalfields it was important to send delegations from workplaces to support miners' picket lines.

I do think though that in the Miners' strike and the N.I. strike solidarity action was possible.

Just for the record, I was involved in organising a solidarity strike once in support of nurses.

Ret Marut wrote:
Where any money donated to strikers goes is an important question. Take a situation where a workplace branch strikes against the desires of union bosses - and so strike pay is being witheld by the union. Then depending on whose hands it is put into, donations may be going straight to the miserly union bureaucrats or may be staying within reach of the strikers, albeit likely mediated by shop stewards.

As I said before:

Devrim wrote:
The longest strike action that I have ever been involved in was for three, and a half weeks. I didn't receive any strike pay from the union (surprise, surprise), nor from anywhere else. It was tough. Most workers are only one pay packet away from disaster. I borrowed money from my friends. Fortunately, I was single at the time. It must have been a lot worse for people who were married with kids.

When you give money to people, who are you giving it too? I know for a fact that people collected money for striking postal workers in that strike. I never heard of any postman who received any though.

Devrim

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Mar 14 2007 08:40
Ret Marut wrote:
Well, cantdo - if you'd read the whole of my post before descending into dismissive sarcasm you'd have seen that at the beginning I commented on the difference between donations going to central union bureaucrats or to local branches, or even possibly bypassing officialdom altogether. Particularly re. the example I used, where a union is witholding strike pay, only an idiot would then make a donation for strikers without knowing if they would get any benefit from it. (And can't you just disagree without being a dick about it?) So speak for yourself when you say 'most' of us would happily donate to a UK union strike fund. Particular circumstances would determine that for me. As it should for support for Iraqi workers. It's got nothing to do with posing as 'sooo internationalist' - it has a general relevance in the context of the relationship between strikers and unions - one you seem to gloss over.

Sarcasm doesn't get rid of the absence of an adequate response by you. There's obviously an important difference between getting donations directly to workers and giving them to bureaucrats - the conduct and control of the strike is influenced by who controls funds. The union bosses realise that, even if you don't. And are you saying the politics of unions are completely irrelevant? So you might also do a benefit for Unison, the police union - or a strike of the BNP's new union?

I take your point, JDMF, about the speaker - did you learn anything more about the dodgy politics of the union leadership?

Ok ok i probably shouldn't have been sarcastic about it, i just got annoyed by leo's comments about feeding people and the rest of the icc's autopilot responses. Anyways surely what you are saying here is just reiterating the painfully obvious. You give money to a strike fund, if that strike fund is withdrawn by the union leadership or frozen by the government then you find ways of giving money direct to the union. Chances are doing a benefit gig for basra oil union would be far more effective in terms of the way it is publicising the use of workplace organisation in iraq rather than in terms of the actual money you can raise, as is plainly the case with the manchester speaking tour. We all know this, and if any literature was put out it would probably say this so whats your point?

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Mar 14 2007 08:42
cantdocartwheels wrote:
so as i suspected, the answer is that in your workplace you didn't go around openly argueing for an immediate solidarity strike during the gate gourmet dispute

what a surprise..

No, I didn't. One individual raising that slogan in a work place over a hundred miles away is not going to achieve anything in the current situation, especially in an office of Daily Mail readers. I take great care to try not to be seen as a the communist version of the office born-again-christian, trying to convert everyone. I'm not a martyr.

Having said that, I defended the local posties when they went on strike and were being slagged off and said we should be out there with them, because they're just getting the same shit we are. This fell on largely deaf ears but it shut up the offending idiot and revealed some surprising levels of support from another person in the office. But the workers in our place aren't even ready to go on strike for themselves, let alone in support of another sector.

By reducing this to a question of how each person conducts themselves in the workplace (how many times have you condemned the imperialist adventure in Iraq this week?) you're ignoring the real question: how can workers express solidarity with each other?

The argument from the "realists" seems to be that because solidarity strikes are impossible, we should collect donations to at least do something. This seems no different to the Trotskyist logic that says that because revolution is impossible we ought to vote Labour to get (or keep) the Tories out.

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Mar 14 2007 08:44
Devrim wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Also during the gate gourmet strike did anyone here actually go around there own workplace openly argueing for solidarity action?

Obviously we are not going to be able to develop solidarity action in every sector with every strike.

Exactly, so what do you suggest the majority of workers who are not in that sector and are not in real terms able to organise a solidarity action do with themselves?

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Mar 14 2007 09:01
Demogorgon303 wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
so as i suspected, the answer is that in your workplace you didn't go around openly argueing for an immediate solidarity strike during the gate gourmet dispute

what a surprise..

No, I didn't. One individual raising that slogan in a work place over a hundred miles away is not going to achieve anything in the current situation, especially in an office of Daily Mail readers. I take great care to try not to be seen as a the communist version of the office born-again-christian, trying to convert everyone. I'm not a martyr.

Having said that, I defended the local posties when they went on strike and were being slagged off and said we should be out there with them, because they're just getting the same shit we are. This fell on largely deaf ears but it shut up the offending idiot and revealed some surprising levels of support from another person in the office. But the workers in our place aren't even ready to go on strike for themselves, let alone in support of another sector.

By reducing this to a question of how each person conducts themselves in the workplace (how many times have you condemned the imperialist adventure in Iraq this week?) you're ignoring the real question: how can workers express solidarity with each other?

The argument from the "realists" seems to be that because solidarity strikes are impossible, we should collect donations to at least do something. This seems no different to the Trotskyist logic that says that because revolution is impossible we ought to vote Labour to get (or keep) the Tories out.

yes because giving money to a union strike fund is exactly the same as calling for a vote for the labour party roll eyes

i suppose you think sending moeny to mercadona recently was a reactionary thing for us realists to have done yeah? oh and in this scenario i take realist to be a great complement

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Mar 14 2007 09:16
Demogorgon303 wrote:
The argument from the "realists" seems to be that because solidarity strikes are impossible, we should collect donations to at least do something. This seems no different to the Trotskyist logic that says that because revolution is impossible we ought to vote Labour to get (or keep) the Tories out.

If donating money to a strike fund or directly to striking workers will make the strike more effective, and there's no immediately possible, more effective means of expressing solidarity, then we should do it. That's not the same as advocating one set of bosses over another because one is "better" and you know it.

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Mar 14 2007 09:22

Why is it either or? Left commie logic seems to be that you can either do a solidarity strike or collect solidarity funds, we will strike if we can, but if you find yourself like Demogorgon303 did as a lone communist class warrior surrounded by weak and unwilling workers who dont want to strike, why not use collecting solidarity funds as a means of raising discussion and making it concrete?

And maybe it should be remembered that the original question was even more ridiculous: if your have some mags which needs to be printed on paper, and there is an active struggle/occupation going on where the workers rely on selling the paper for their income, then why not buy the fucking paper from them.

Ret Marut wrote:
I take your point, JDMF, about the speaker - did you learn anything more about the dodgy politics of the union leadership?

of course! Learned loads - also about the dodgy politics of Iraqi working class, of the islamic traditions and views on work, capitalism, and the strong ties the union has to the community which prevents scabbing (as you would at the same time scab against your community, imam and what not), about oils significance for the wealth of the whole nation and so on.

Also learned about the volatile situation, how anything that is done needs to be done with the approval of different armed factions, and how brave the union is to organise as a class rather than as a sectarian faction in a country where everything is split along political and religious lines. It is also good to hear about involvement of women in the union.

So if you were thinking that you are going to be bursting some rose tinted bubble with your revelations, i think you need to go back to the drawing board grin

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Mar 14 2007 10:42
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Devrim wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Also during the gate gourmet strike did anyone here actually go around there own workplace openly argueing for solidarity action?

Obviously we are not going to be able to develop solidarity action in every sector with every strike.

Exactly, so what do you suggest the majority of workers who are not in that sector and are not in real terms able to organise a solidarity action do with themselves?

If you read through my post, I did continue with that:

Devrim wrote:
On the most basic level, the things for workers to do were to organise for miners to come to their work , and speak at mass meetings. Yes that would have involved collections of money, but I don't see anything wrong with that as I pointed out above. Also in areas near the coalfields it was important to send delegations from workplaces to support miners' picket lines.

I think in this thread people have quoted Leo out of context, and seized upon a bad analogy from Demogorgon303 instead of addressing the central points which to me are:
1) The money does not often get to the workers,
2)On occasion it has been used as an argument against solidarity action (see my point about Wapping, and
3)It is often an abdication of a political role.

There are points in favour of collecting money. JDMF's is a strong one:

JDMF wrote:
why not use collecting solidarity funds as a means of raising discussion and making it concrete?

The point about the CNT and the Mercadona strikers is interesting:

cantdocartwheels wrote:
i suppose you think sending moeny to mercadona recently was a reactionary thing for us realists to have done yeah? oh and in this scenario i take realist to be a great complement

No, I don't think that it was a reactionary thing to do. However, at any one time there must be hundreds of strikes going on in one place in the world, or another. I don't think that a small strike in one branch of a supermarket is a particularly significant one. Obviously it is important to the CNT as they see that winning a well publicised victory would be good for them. I think that the anarchists are giving money to this strike as a way to support the CNT. We can not give money to every strike, so why choose this one? I don't have a problem with this, and if I were an anarchosyndicalist, I would do it too.

Finally:

JDMF wrote:
And maybe it should be remembered that the original question was even more ridiculous: if your have some mags which needs to be printed on paper, and there is an active struggle/occupation going on where the workers rely on selling the paper for their income, then why not buy the fucking paper from them.

As I said in the first post, I don't know any details about these events. Your post though seemed to imply that we should support worker co-ops against other capitalist firms:

JDMF wrote:
If workers would take over a factory somewhere and would start running it without bosses, even if this takes place in a capitalist framework i would hope folk would support it, like we did during that russian paper factory occupation by buying paper from them. I guess some people would complain that the paper is not rose scented or have some other essential qualities, but at least could remain supportive of the idea.

I don't see any reason why communists should support different capitalist business just because thay have different management structures.

Devrim

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Mar 14 2007 11:31
cantdocartwheels wrote:
yes because giving money to a union strike fund is exactly the same as calling for a vote for the labour party

madashell wrote:
If donating money to a strike fund or directly to striking workers will make the strike more effective, and there's no immediately possible, more effective means of expressing solidarity, then we should do it. That's not the same as advocating one set of bosses over another because one is "better" and you know it.

Actually, yes it is. The unions are the tools of the bosses and their role is to imprison workers as much as possible. As Devrim has already pointed out, such money rarely gets to the workers and on the rare occasions unions do give strike pay it is in order to promote long, drawn-out strikes that serve to deliver an absolutely crushing blow to the class, which is what happened in the examples mentioned earlier (Liverpool, Miners Strikes, etc.).

What did prolonging these strikes achieve for the working class? Nothing. And worse than that, it reinforced what were already crushing defeats to an even greater level. All the money poured into these strikes ultimately contributed to retarding the struggle of the working class. In today's epoch, the only effective means for working class solidarity is to spread the strike. Is this always possible? Of course not! Any more than going on strike in the first place is always possible but it doesn't negate the fact that this is the only effective course of action.

So the question then becomes what can you do when spreading the strike is not possible. On the political level you can support or join political organisations that attempt to spread the class consciousness necessary to take the struggle to a higher level in an organised and collective way. At an individual level, you can do your best to generate discussion with your fellow co-workers - but this depends very much on the circumstances of your workplace and is not always possible. You can also contribute to setting up a discussion circle, as some of us are trying to do in my local area.

Trying to rebuild the culture of working class political discussion that has been systematically crushed by the bourgeoisie in the past few decades is worth much more than chucking coins in a bucket for a strike fund, even if you did have a spare million to give away.

JDMF wrote:
but if you find yourself like Demogorgon303 did as a lone communist class warrior surrounded by weak and unwilling workers who dont want to strike, why not use collecting solidarity funds as a means of raising discussion and making it concrete?

Supporting the spread of a strike - or even just saying you back a strike is radical enough to generate discussion in the workplace today. At the moment, however, despite small signs of change the vast majority of workers see other peoples' strikes as their problem and would be no more willing to donate to a strike fund than to launch a solidarity strike. As class struggle intensifies and workers begin to see that other workers problems are their problems, the question becomes how can they express this effectively? Giving money, whatever the best intentions, is still a way of avoiding giving real solidarity. By giving money, you are shunting the responsbility for struggle onto another sector of workers when, in fact, the struggle is the responsibility of all workers. As such, it represents a hesitancy and lack of confidence within the working class.
It is impossible for any sector to win anything on its own. The only time that we win anything is through mass struggles such as the French movement last year.

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Mar 14 2007 12:27
Cantdo wrote:
You give money to a strike fund, if that strike fund is withdrawn by the union leadership or frozen by the government then you find ways of giving money direct to the union.

No - if possible, you find ways of getting it directly to the workers. There is a difference.

Cantdo wrote:
Chances are doing a benefit gig for basra oil union would be far more effective in terms of the way it is publicising the use of workplace organisation in iraq rather than in terms of the actual money you can raise, as is plainly the case with the manchester speaking tour. We all know this, and if any literature was put out it would probably say this so whats your point?

Well excuse me for thinking that a benefit gig is designed to raise money for a beneficial cause. Did the literature mention or criticise the islamism and nationalism of the union? The sarcasm from Cantdo and patronising attitude of JDMF sound a little defensive to me. It does sound like 3rd worldism when anarchists respond in such a way to criticisms of the nationalist/islamist/pan-arabic politics of an organisation they are promoting/raising money for. So is this an anarchist unionist variety of 3rd worldism? - if someone is trying to organise a union under adverse repressive conditions they'll get uncritical support. If they're organising politically as e.g. stalinists and/or nationalists they won't - but if the stalinists and/or nationalists are organising unions they qualify?

I appreciate people are trying to help oil workers, but this seems to be equated with helping a union with dodgy politics. Of course, JDMF, workers often share those dodgy politics, it may be that the workers are solid behind the leadership - that doesn't justify giving aid to a union leadership with reactionary politics and refraining from criticism. If aid is given directly to striking workers it is more likely to directly benefit them, at least that's the best hope you can have of doing so. In doing so you can also make a point to the workers about your own politics and the necessity of workers controlling their own struggles rather than leaving it to union, religious or state bosses. I appreciate it may be difficult to do, but that's no reason to pretend the possible distinction between workers and leaders with wider political and career agendas doesn't exist.

One thing that prompted me to bring this up is earlier uncritical attitudes - a Nepalese union was claimed to be somewhat radical by some syndicalists - but look at their website and their politics are crap. Similarly, Bangladeshi garment workers union BGWF has been touted as an anarcho-syndicalist union (whether by syndicalists I don't know, but certainly by leftists) and it is not. It explicitly and publicly seeks only a role of negotiating the price of labour within a thriving national capitalist economy run by 'responsible' bosses. It's political goals are totally capitalist - it operates in extreme desperate conditions and is involved in fierce struggles, but that's no reason to suspend criticism of the stated goals of the union leadership; goals which surely already inform to some degree their practice.

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Mar 14 2007 12:29
Demogorgon303 wrote:
.
It is impossible for any sector to win anything on its own. The only time that we win anything is through mass struggles such as the French movement last year.

what nonsense, the postie wildcat strike in ireland last year showed how ridiculous this sort of rhetoric is. nto to mention a lot of other succesful actions which are far too many to list. Class struggle is not a history of epic actions, class struggle is the constant small defeats and victories of everday life. Using the CPE as your sole model of reference is more than a little suspect in my opinion, granted it was extremely inspirational and had a lot of spontaneity but its hardly like its the be all and end all of things.

soz dev, will come back and argue with you this evening, out of time innit

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Mar 14 2007 13:10

Was the postie wildcat a long, drawn out affair calling for donations? No, it was a rapidly spreading strike that lasted three weeks tops and functioned by pulling in different sectors (albeit within the post office) as far I recall. There was a demonstration in which many workers from other sectors did attend though. (It was also when workers began to join the CPE demos that the government caved in.)

Contrast this, for example, with what happened in Exeter last year where, despite breaking out in a spontaneous way, the posties ended up imprisoned in the sorting office and the dynamic was lost.

It was the dynamic of the strike (rapid spread, etc.) that frightened bosses rather than the scale of it in itself. It is this question of the dynamic of strikes (which have changed considerably in the past few years incidentally) that is the "model" that we need to follow here. All these strikes from the posties, Gate Gourmet, CPE, Vigo, etc. contain the same trajectory towards a mass struggle even if their capacity to realise that is determined by the immediate circumstances.

Calling for donations, as I mentioned above, effectively short-circuits the ability of a strike to spread in this fashion as it stems fundamentally from the position that this or that struggle is still someone else's concern, however sympathetic we might be.

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Mar 14 2007 15:49

A couple points, I'm not too versed in some of the historical strikes.
Gate Gourmet: was it a victory and if so was it the pickets, the solidarity wildcats or the bad publicity that won it? iirc it was pressure from BA that led to the 'resolution' and that was largely due to the solidarity strike. Sending money can help but sending it to a union, I took cash down to the GG picket but the shop steward I was speaking to said to bring a cheque for the union so I ended up not donating. IT's not about massive things but some things can make picketing easier. Like food or hot drinks (both of which were supplied by the local temple irc).
The French government gave up the CPE not because workers were joining the struggle (if anything the anti-CPE struggle was losing steam) but because they were at pretty much the last point at which they could still salvage the academic year. They were faced with either cancelling the academic year, which would lead to massive protests by students or with forcing teachers to work the entire summer (unlikely even at massive cost). CPE was fantastic I don't want to put it down in any way, but inspiring as it was it was purely defensive and it stopped at the point where it could have been said to represent a real victory. (the government was also aware of this, if they'd given the concession earlier when there was still some breathing space then they'd have faced continuing protests.)

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Mar 14 2007 16:03

Yeah, there was some interesting stuff happening with the CPE, but the campaigners fucked themselves up a bit by failing to push for the abolition of the CNE while they were at it, which would have proven to other workers that they weren't just a bunch of middle class kids fighting to maintain their own privileges.

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Mar 14 2007 17:10
madashell wrote:
the campaigners fucked themselves up a bit by failing to push for the abolition of the CNE while they were at it, which would have proven to other workers that they weren't just a bunch of middle class kids fighting to maintain their own privileges.

I don't see how the second bit relates to the first bit. Why would changing the rules on small business too prove they weren't middle class? Do middle class people only work for medium or big companies? :?

Cantdo - it's good you dropped the sarcasm, I think you were missing some of their points. I immediately disagreed with... either Demorgogon or Leo who immediately said that giving to strike funds is lifestylist and anyone with disposable income is middle class (here most workers have disposable incomes). But Dev seemed to save them again, and Ret. Mostly I wouldn't give to "strike funds" because there aren't strike funds, it's just giving money to union bureaucrats.

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Mar 14 2007 18:37
John. wrote:
Mostly I wouldn't give to "strike funds" because there aren't strike funds, it's just giving money to union bureaucrats.

I don't know about anywhere but the U.S. but here unions have to account for amounts donated to strikes and how and to who they were dispersed down to the penny.