Co-operatives, capitalism and the IWW

Blog entry critiquing a promotional graphic of the revolutionary union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) comparing a capitalist coffee shop with a co-operative one.

Author
Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

I have seen this picture (click on it to see an enlarged version) doing the rounds on Facebook recently, posted by various anarchists and IWW pages.

However, I felt I had to write some sort of response to it, as the politics it contains basically show up quite a profound misunderstanding of the capitalist system. Which unfortunately is very important for people and organisations, such as the IWW, who want to overthrow it.

So this isn't meant as negative criticism of the IWW, or the creator of the image, but is meant in a constructive way to assist us all with our understanding of capitalism and how we can (try to!) supersede it.

The picture compares an exploitative capitalist coffee shop, compared to a happy, egalitarian co-operative one.

Now, the actual problem with this picture depends on what it is meant to represent. So it depends on whether the picture on the left of the "barista co-operative" is meant to be a collective coffee shop in the present day, also in a capitalist system, or if it's meant to be a collective coffee shop of a future anarchist/communist society.

If the former, a co-operative coffee shop today, then the problem with it is that while there would be no external bosses, the co-operative members have to be both bosses and workers themselves.

Their coffee shop will still be existing within a capitalist marketplace, and so will still be subjected to competition and the whims of the market.

So while their boss may not cut Joe's hours, if market forces dictate it they will have to cut their own hours themselves.

Say, for example, a capitalist chain coffee shop we can call Coffeebucks opens down the road from their happy co-op. The co-op will have to compete with it in terms of prices if it is to attract customers.

Coffeebucks only pay minimum wage, with no sick pay, no pensions, no benefits etc. They are also a large chain, so they can use their purchasing power to drive down suppliers' prices to get cheaper coffee and food. So they sell their products much cheaper than the co-op.

Facing going out of business, the co-op members either internalise the capitalist boss, and cut their own wages, conditions or jobs,1 Or they go bust.

In a capitalist economy, we cannot extract ourselves from the market. We cannot self-manage capitalism in our own interests as it is automatically weighted against workers.2 The only way we can really live without exploitation and bosses is not by internalising them but by abolishing capitalism. Which brings me to the second option.

If the barista co-operative depicted is meant to be a co-operative in a postcapitalist society then the problem with it is different.

Firstly, after a revolution which abolishes wage labour (a fundamental principle of the IWW), who in their right minds would want to continue working in their crappy coffee shop?

Coffee shop work is one of the pointless jobs (which artist William Morris referred to as "useless toil", as opposed to "useful work" ) which in a communist society no one would have to do. Basically staff only have to be there to make sure customers actually pay for their coffee and panini.

Not to mention the fact that coffee shops mainly exist to quickly sell coffee and sandwiches to workers doing other pointless jobs in their breaks - a situation which should no longer be the case in a communist society. (That and of course that after the revolution everyone will have a Gaggia!)

Finally, the co-operative picture shows money (wages) being distributed equally to all the workers. The IWW aims for the abolition of wage labour. And if the idea is that after a revolution everyone will have to keep working and just all earn the same amount of money than actually this is not a socialist society at all but will actually be a form of dysfunctional capitalism.3

Another key problem I have with the graphic is that what was good historically about the IWW (and what is still good about elements in it today) is that it is about workers fighting together in their own interests, regardless of the dictates of capital. This idea seems absent from the image, which seems to propose setting up co-ops instead of fighting.

One minor issue is that I would disagree with the emphasis given to the point on unemployment being created by design to hold down the rate of inflation. While unemployment can hold inflation down, that is not why it was created. Mass unemployment exists to keep wages down. It is a weapon to use against workers who demand better wages or conditions, as there is a large pool of people who could take their place. Similarly, inflation can be used to attack workers' wages as well, where if employers grant wage rises they can claw back profits by increasing their prices further.

(As a disclaimer, this does seem like a disproportionately long article to write about a little image on Facebook, but for some reason I just felt compelled to write it. Procrastinating about getting on with more important tasks was probably a factor as well…)

Comments

Choccy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Choccy on February 18, 2012

I like the tone of this, comradely but critical, hopefully the IWW will respond to the constructive criticism. Of course this is standard criticism of co-operatives but since the IWW are chatting about this it's still very relevant.

no.25

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by no.25 on February 18, 2012

Good article, and LOL at socialist realism espressos.

Serge Forward

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Serge Forward on February 18, 2012

Personally, I'd have nothing against working in a 'workers cooperative' if it meant better conditions at work under capitalism and not being treated like shit every single day - though whether it does this long term is open to question. Similarly, I'd rather work for a boss who at least treats me like a human being rather than a boss who acts like a little Hitler and makes me miserable every day.

However, seeing cooperativism as anything other than a localised, immediate, temporary and partial solution at improving your working lifestyle is definitely a big mistake. And if cooperativism were taken as something more than a palliative measure to problems at work, then those involved would not only be on a hiding to nothing but would certainly place them at odds with the 'ablition of the wages system' bit in the preamble.

Meanwhile, what Steven says is 100% correct. And as Bob Miller once said, 'Smash hip capitalism!'

Edit: Hmm... looking at the image again, it does seem to imply that a 'barista cooperative' coffee house is not a 'capitalist coffee house' :eek:

Edit again: Wait a minute, unemployment doesn't exist by design as a check on the rate of inflation. That's just rubbish.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Ha, well I'm glad my MS paint skills are appreciated.

Also, I'm glad that the tone seems okay, because it can be difficult trying to offer constructive criticism.

Looking at the original image posted again, it has nearly 300 likes and over 200 shares in its original incarnation, so actually I think it probably was worth writing this.

As serge says, I also of course have no problem with people working in co-ops as such, especially if it does make your conditions slightly better. However setting up co-ops is not a revolutionary strategy or one which advances the interests of the working class as a whole, and as such isn't something we should promote. There are also dangers with it as described in the Mondragon example, in that workers at a capitalist enterprise facing pay cuts can take direct action such as strike action against it. But workers at a co-op cannot do this as they would just be striking against themselves.

bastarx

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bastarx on February 18, 2012

Why did the IWW even produce this stupid picture? They don't AFAIK seek to create workers coops and why they would think advertising them would get people to sign up is beyond me.

Serge, I think the bit about unemployment and inflation is half or maybe a quarter right. When things were going well in the neoliberal era state policy was that unemployment shouldn't be allowed to fall below 5% because that would lead to inflationary wage rises.

Australia with IIRC 5.2% unemployment right now is considered to have full employment. A big change from the post-WW2 boom when it was widely considered that unemployment above 2% was certain electoral death for the party in power.

Felix Frost

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Felix Frost on February 18, 2012

I think you are reading a lot of things into this graphic that isn't actually there. Nowhere in here is it claimed that coops aren't "subjected to competition and the whims of the market".

I don't know who made this, but I would assume that it was one of the existing IWW coffee shop coops, and that the graphic relates to this, and not to some utopian post-capitalist future.

Boydell

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Boydell on February 18, 2012

All valid points Steven, now if you can just incorporate that critique into an easy-to-digest poster that will draw people into reading it......ahhh....

My work has recently changed to being a workers coop, and i much prefer it. Thats a 'reality' for me.

I am a member of the IWW.

I don't see this as constructive criticism, i see this as nit-picking, with an air of 'holier than thou' point scoring.

Sorry, I'm sure you consciously have the best intentions and i respect other things that you have written on Libcom, but thats how i feel.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Felix Frost

I think you are reading a lot of things into this graphic that isn't actually there. Nowhere in here is it claimed that coops aren't "subjected to competition and the whims of the market".

I don't know who made this, but I would assume that it was one of the existing IWW coffee shop coops, and that the graphic relates to this, and not to some utopian post-capitalist future.

a guy called Richard Myers made it, but it was also posted up by things like the official London Wobblies Facebook page.

Okay, saying it is about existing IWW coffee shop co-ops (do these exist BTW? Are these like US radical cafes?), how does showing this relate to telling people to join the IWW? To turn their capitalist coffee shops into them? Or to quit and set up their own IWW co-op? Or what?

Nate

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on February 18, 2012

FWIW it's my understanding that this isn't any official image but rather was made by one IWW member, who put his name in the lower corner of the image. So, this is just one member's opinion in a personal capacity.I'm also just one member speaking in a personal capacity here. I wish he had made it clear that this was just his thing and all that, and nothing official. This is something that we're really bad on in the IWW. The positive side is that people can make whatever literature they want for their uses and it represents them as an IWW member - I could put out anything I wanted in my workplace etc - but there are some obvious downsides. I don't know what the fix is, unfortunately. Or rather there's probly no good formal/policy fix and maybe the best response is conversation to shape what people will and won't want to put out. I dunno.

That aside, I agree with you on all points Steven. The only other thing I'd add is that co-ops facing competition have one option other than slash wages etc, which is to go more niche market: make the co-op part of their brand and market themselves to people for whom that would be a selling point. That's a really minor detail and doesn't change any of the political points you make here, I just thought it was worth pointing out because there are some worker owned co-ops where I live that do this.

Oh yeah, I guess one other thing - in some cases this isn't an abstraction. Like, in the coffee industry, the idea that baristas at Coffeebucks will quit and open their own coffeeshop is really, really unlikely because of the combination of cost to enter the coffeeshop market and baristas low wages. For other markets, though, wages are higher and entry costs are lower (in the trades and in service-provision). Off the top of my head I know of three examples where individual IWW members have stopped working in a campaign and instead started a co-op. This has happened once with a bike messenger, a house cleaner, and someone in home construction/maintenance (that last one might have been someone who was organizing in a different industry then went into construction, it was like 6-7 years ago and I can't remember the details). I don't fault people deciding individually that they can make better pay and have better conditions this way, but it's frustrating to lose organizers this way and it's doubly frustrating if people act like their making some kind of positive political step by doing so.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Boydell

My work has recently changed to being a workers coop, and i much prefer it. Thats a 'reality' for me.

How did that change happen? Did you leave your previous job and get a new one at a co-op? Do you think this is something which is applicable to all workers?

And how about looking at work other than your own. For example, I work in the public sector in children's services. The government is encouraging workers in my sector to set up cooperatives to take over the services -to privatise public services and cut wages and conditions. Do you not think this means that cooperatives are not always a good thing?

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Thanks Nate, interesting points. On this one:

Nate

That aside, I agree with you on all points Steven. The only other thing I'd add is that co-ops facing competition have one option other than slash wages etc, which is to go more niche market: make the co-op part of their brand and market themselves to people for whom that would be a selling point. That's a really minor detail and doesn't change any of the political points you make here, I just thought it was worth pointing out because there are some worker owned co-ops where I live that do this.

yes, I agree with you. There is a market for "ethical" or even "radical" consumerism, but because this would mean higher prices it will always be a small niche and can never be generalisable for workers as a whole.

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 18, 2012

I think using this a a stick to beat the IWW is stupid, as it's just one image produced by one guy and put about a bit on social media. I dont think Steven's doing that, more using the image as a hook to hang an argument which many in the IWW probably agree with.

While I more or less agree with the criticisms of co-ops, I think there's a few points it's easy to miss. In no particular order:

- Agitational propaganda is basically about puncturing 'capitalist realism' by getting people to imagine things being different. This image does that using a visual representation of piles of cash for the boss vs equal distribution. Obviously taken literally that's not 'the abolition of the wage system', but agitationally it gets people to question the 'right' of private property, and could lead to questions like 'if all wages are equal, why do we need wages at all?' So while it's not 'politically correct', it lays down the gauntlet to represent communist ideas with simlar visual immediacy imho.

- As Nate's says, not all competition is on price. If coffeebucks is serve shit burnt coffee, a premium independent co-op with a nice vibe might have a viable niche to survive in. A lot of the same pressures apply, but competition doesn't have to be head-to-head on price with the corporate chains. The cash that would have gone on management could conceivably be banked as a hardship fund to soften the impact of downturns etc too, mitigating against wage cuts and/or redundancies. So it's not impossible in principle for some co-ops in some niche markets to improve conditions and job security. But it's not generalisable, or a strategy for escaping capitalism or anything.

- Finally, I'm not sure coffee making is necessarily unskilled. Doesn't mean coffee shops would be the same thing in communism, but insofar as there's a skill to it and it requires specialist machinery, there's likely to be public social spaces where said machinery resides which may well be self-managed by a collective of coffeephiles, even if it's not a straight up worker-customer division. Where else will the communist hipsters sit all day with their macs and (now ironic) tomes on communisation theory? :P

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Actually, I just remembered something related to this has, before, when the IWW posted a press release to our news section about the members of a worker co-operative joining the IWW en masse a little while ago: http://libcom.org/news/local-worker-owned-restaurant-joins-iww-10052011

Nate

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on February 18, 2012

revol68

Steven.

Thanks Nate, interesting points. On this one:

Nate

That aside, I agree with you on all points Steven. The only other thing I'd add is that co-ops facing competition have one option other than slash wages etc, which is to go more niche market: make the co-op part of their brand and market themselves to people for whom that would be a selling point. That's a really minor detail and doesn't change any of the political points you make here, I just thought it was worth pointing out because there are some worker owned co-ops where I live that do this.

yes, I agree with you. There is a market for "ethical" or even "radical" consumerism, but because this would mean higher prices it will always be a small niche and can never be generalisable for workers as a whole.

Yep and the fact is that successful marketing of this niche requires a deeper perpuation of the myth of self exploitation

Absolutely. And it works in a passive or diffuse way -- "we're different" as a general attitude in the workplace and as part of the message that the company sells to consumers -- but also in an active and direct way in some cases, when co-ops and associations of co-ops actively promote themselves and their ideology. These things are really shakey in the US as far as I know (this isn't a moment when co-ops are being promoted and isn't a moment conducive to new small companies, I think) so they're not a big deal, but I do know there have been federations of worker co-ops that tried to promote co-operativization (or whatever the word is). I'd prefer to shop at a co-op than a WalMart, like I'd rather buy fair trade than not, but the idea that it's a radical political thing... nah.

Edit: Gah, that was jumbled. What I mean is, I think that the social practice of co-op businesses encourage muddy ideas among workers and consumers. In addition, these companies and their associations sometimes actively promote a somewhat worked out ideology about co-ops which is another problem. This image fits with that, IMHO.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 18, 2012

Here is a parallel exchange on Facebook with Larry Gambone, who also shared the image:
me

Larry Gambone

Unfortunately, Steve Johns posting right below this one has no comments section - so this will serve as my comment. Does Steve think that we cannot have any improvement in our lives under capitalism until the Glorious Day? No one thinks coops are a panacea, they are an improvement over capitalism and improvements should never be sneered at. Furthermore far from being "stupid" this graphic opens people up to the idea of economic democracy, people who otherwise might not be open to abstract ideas about a perfect libertarian socialist utopia in the distant future. Sorry Steve but I find ultra leftism tiresome!

I'll say to you what I said to another IWW member in the comments under the article: I work in the public sector in children's services. The government is encouraging workers in my sector to set up cooperatives to take over the services -to privatise public services and cut wages and conditions.

You still think cooperatives are better than normal capitalist businesses? (You claim that co-operatives are better than "capitalism", but this is not a valid comparison. Cooperatives in a capitalist economy are still capitalist enterprises.)

I forgot to add (which I will do now) that in response to the comment about getting improvements under capitalism (although of course these aren't on the cards at the moment, we can't even adequately defend our current standard of living, let alone improve it) that I think we could potentially do that, but the way we should get it is by collectively fighting our employers with direct action, not by "getting on our bikes" and setting up co-ops.

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 18, 2012

revol68

I also don't see it as a stick to beat the IWW with

notrivia

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by notrivia on February 18, 2012

Got a good point about the fact coffee shops are useless junk (although caffeine junkies may disagree... lol) :).

However, the idea that a co-op can´t be sucessful whithin the current system regarding the competition with big business, may be revised.

In fact the all idea of a co-op (if it's meant to be sucessful), is that it should be fully integrated within the community (and members of the community should be part of the co-op), and therefore provide or facilitate the acquisition of goods and services which are sought after by the community.

I can tell you that around here there are some sucessfull agricultural co-ops (some not officially registered, because good communication is all people need) in which different farmers and costumers(substantial part of the local population and many non-locals) working together, are able to provide good quality produce at competitive prices against big supermarket chains.
I can tell you the people involved don't think twice about where they'll go to get the merchandise.

More over, in a co-op the idea is not to work according to fixed wages and working hours. Is a bit of blood, sweat but no tears because the hapiness come from the fact that people working together, have better chances to overcome or mitigate the enslavement of salaried work just for the sake of the salarie, regardless of life itself.

Actually, the proliferation of useful co-ops (food, energy related, etc) everywhere, would be an excellent way of attacking the current system by rendering it obsolete, simply by diverting people away from the crap they give, sell and impinge on us.

By the way, around here starbucks is generally considered crap and more expensive than our traditional coffee business. No way they'll get a foot hold soon, and the fact that drinking coffee is deep seated in social interaction which regularly happens in local pastry/coffee houses and restaurants, will eventually play an important role in delaying the invasion of that particular brand, at least.
Yeah, it's a bit of a community thing. :)

Nonetheless, a few things must be kept in perspective...
The success of a co-op or any other form of collective action resides largely in the hability of people being able to: overcome their differences, eliminate the pursue of individual power and profit out of their minds and get to work together towards common good.
Yes, that's hard for many!
I can tell you that I've seen some collective actions fail because some people with their selfisness of wanting to travel the world or some other personal craving (and using the results of collective hard work for fullfiling those personal dreams..) managed to blow up years of fruitful collective action.
With that, I'll finish citing something I've seen printed on a card board in some occupy movement somewhere:

"The strenght of the oppressor resides in the mind of the oppressed."

All the best

Nate

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on February 18, 2012

revol68

The IWW and it's relationships to co-ops goes beyond this one piece of agit prop produced by one member

True. But it's always been a minor thing. What's happened over the past few years is a sort of cycling through of people. There's pretty predictably a handful of IWW members who have some positive ideas about co-ops and who are actively trying to do something about those ideas - promote the ideology, start co-ops, etc - and who are trying to get the broader IWW onboard/involved officially or get more IWW members involved. That rarely goes very far. There's turnover a lot among the people (so most of the active pro- co-op people I can think of have lasted maybe 2 years in their active promotion of co-ops). At any given time there's more or less people doing this but people seem to keep coming back through to take on those roles. Over all these are a really, really tiny fraction of IWW members (and we're a tiny organization, so it's a tiny fraction of a tiny group). I tried to say this but I don't think I was clear, I think some of this speaks to both strengths and weaknesses of the IWW. Officially speaking the organization has a lot of openness for a range of ideas and it's usually constructive internally within the organization/the membership as it actually exists. On the flip side, it leads to stuff being put out that I find annoying and we're not doing enough informally to create constructive discussions and stuff where we educate each other collectively as members. I think the IWW part of all this is probly the least interesting, though.

The most interesting bits I think are along these lines -

revol68

discuss the relationship and tension between class struggle and things like collectives and co-ops, especially when one of our governments responses to people complaining about the austerity measures and unemployment is to tell them to set up their own services, that is "take the shit we give you and "self manage" it, you whinging rabble".

medwards

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by medwards on February 18, 2012

So, the IWW is a pretty organic organisation, and as already been mentioned this graphic was produced by someone becoming politically conscious but obviously he either hasn't grasped some of the "army of the unemployed" rhetoric or is outright ignoring it for the purpose of this graphic.

In the former case, well nobody is onboarded and expected to be super-solid politically (although I have taken to forcing new members to sit through a brief lecture on the IWW Preamble to the Constitution so that they at least start with common ground). And hell, going through the peer-guided learning that the union is very good at might produce interesting hybrid models of thought. The union doesn't really go in for ideological hegemony. You'll find in practice that if things like promoting co-op membership actively impacted organising drives then they would quickly be addressed. So critique this piece and the union all you want for individuals engaging in these sorts of behaviours, but its not like our fundamental behaviour changes. We just end up with this odd co-op section of the union, which, to be blunt, gives us some degree of flexibility if the assertions we make about co-ops as anti-capitalist institutions turn out wrong (I don't believe this by the way, I just remain prepared for multiple outcomes).

The latter case would probably be a post-Occupy thing in which I've seen many good political groups in North America (the IWW is in some ways the least bad in this regard) start producing rhetoric that is just cringe-worthy but probably very appealing to early naive participants of the movement. In this case, I see this graphic as part of a pattern of behaviour that I am very unhappy with, but its so widespread at this point that its not like we can really do anything about it.

EdmontonWobbly

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on February 18, 2012

I'm just guessing here but I bet a lot of those "shares" and "likes" on that graphic can be attributed to folks in the occupy movement and not just the IWW. Worker coops are huge inside occupy. There's a bit of controversy in the IWW with regards to our relationship to worker coops. There's some folks, like myself, who think they aren't something we should be very involved with while others feel they could be a source of member recruitment. How this builds us as a union I don't know but I try not to be a dick about this because a lot of folks are sincere. Also I really agree with Nate, a lot of bad politics is actually emotionally easier than organising - which is often very difficult. Things like worker coops are hard work but don't face the same amount of repression so I can understand why people make bad political decisions based on what are actually personal reasons, understanding this can go a long way to addressing how we turn this problem around.

Surtrsflame

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Surtrsflame on February 18, 2012

Richard Myers has a large number of graphics that he does for the IWW, and many of them are very good. I think that, while there are the problems with coffeehouse image that have been very well hashed out above, there is a definite strength to it in it's weakness. It's very effective propaganda towards lefty-liberals ('progressives' in US political terms) in getting them to look at simply the stupidity of bosses, and advantages of a parecon or mutualist economy. It's a lot easier to bring people from parecon to lib communism than straight from liberalism to libcommunism.

Cooked

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cooked on February 18, 2012

Steven.

who in their right minds would want to continue working in their crappy coffee shop?

Lot's of people would love to have a cafe with their friends. Just like an extended living room I presume. Obviously this is difficult under capitalism unless you have a trust fund to fall back on, and why the "crappy" bit.

Your later point about the Tory scheming and the threat of this affecting you is much more important imho.

People working for small businesses might not immediately relate to this though because often the manager is your biggest problem at work. Getting rid of the overhead spelled manager/owner would prolly improve many peoples life even if it doesn't bring you closer to the revolution.

Co-ops don't exist outside capitalism but you can at least have some say in how you are exploited which is an improvement for many. Workplace organizing isn't exactly killing capitalism atm either.

The arguments against co-ops are macro-scale which doesn't make them less important but amongst the compromises and less that ideal choices people have to make starting a co-op seems at worst harmless.

Juan Conatz

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 18, 2012

Yeah, as was said before, this dude makes his own graphics and slaps the IWW logo on it. This kind of usage is usually tolerated pretty widely unless it gets into making money. Like, a member of a certain anarchist political organization was doing one of those easy online deals where he sends them his designs or logos of other groups and they print out the tees on demand. The tees were on American Apparel, though, which has a history of union busting and sexual harassment of employees. We also had the same issue (t-shirts on AA) with one of the more well known radical book publishers. In the former case, the IWW intervened in an official capacity and in the latter, we intervened informally. That's really the only time when we deal with the use of our imagery and/or logo.

Co-ops have been accociated with working classmovements for a long time, although any fascination with them now in the States probably has more to do with the cooperative movement of the 1970s being one of the directions the white radical left splintered into. Here in the Minneapolis, which has quite a few co-ops rooted in this era, there were actually 'co-op' wars between those "who wanted personal liberation through the movement and those who wanted a working-class revolution". I think this broke down between hippie anarchists/liberals on one side and Maoists/Trots on the other. Someone wrote a book about this, actually.

Also, while the IWW's post-capitalist society has been historically vague, the term cooperative commonwealth is sometimes interpreted by some to be an economy of co-ops.

But yeah, I agree with Nate, there are some people who join the IWW to really push co-ops but they don't really get far. There are already cooperative associations that exist in any case, I'm not sure what they conceive the IWW can help with in that regard. I agree with EdmontonWobbly that people sometimes are drawn to them because its a relative easy to do.

That said, co-ops can be beneficial in many ways. In Madison, we met in one of Just Coffee's offices (not to mention I basically lived off their coffee...), printed all our pamphlets at Lakeside Press and made buttons, t-shirts had subcommittee meetings at Madison Infoshop. All three were IWW co-op 'job shops'.

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 18, 2012

Juan Conatz

That said, co-ops can be beneficial in many ways. In Madison, we met in one of Just Coffee's offices (not to mention I basically lived off their coffee...), printed all our pamphlets at Lakeside Press and made buttons, t-shirts had subcommittee meetings at Madison Infoshop. All three were IWW co-op 'job shops'.

I think this an important point. If the IWW (or indeed the wider class) succeeds in becoming an effective fighting body, then it's going to (a) need reliable movement infrastructure (meeting venues, social spaces, print facilities) and (b) going to have to face the prospect of blacklisted militants struggling to find work. Imho it's far preferable to have say, a cafe-bar run as a co-op 'job shop' than have it owned and operated by the IWW itself. that way you get the infrastructure and potential employment for blacklisted militants, without the contradictions of a union owning a business/employing people. In other words, just because co-ops per se aren't a strategy for getting rid of capitalism doesn't mean they can't play an important ancillary role in any anti-capitalist movement.

Caiman del Barrio

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on February 18, 2012

Nate

co-ops facing competition have one option other than slash wages etc, which is to go more niche market: make the co-op part of their brand and market themselves to people for whom that would be a selling point. That's a really minor detail and doesn't change any of the political points you make here, I just thought it was worth pointing out because there are some worker owned co-ops where I live that do this.

Where I live there's a self-styled 'revolutionary' cafe run by a self-styled 'revolutionary'. It's only been open a few months but it's already shrouded in loads of controversy. In short, I've heard so many rumours and contradictory information from talking to its workers and other gossipy types that I'm not sure what to believe.

For example, it's supposed to be a coop but he's still the boss and holds all the money (apparently the coop element is in that the staff draw up their own rota). I've also heard that it's been making mad losses and therefore attempted a number of schemes to drive up profits, one of which being bringing in volunteer/unpaid staff to undercut the paid employees. On top of this, I've heard whispers that the perilous financial situation within the place means that the threat of closure constantly hangs over the staff, which seems to work as a sort of emotional manipulation into accepting all the shit that happens to them.

Like I say, many of the details are hazy (not least cos the staff members I've spoken to don't appear to be too clear on what's happening themselves, neither what a coop really entails, etc), but it certainly doesn't sound like the more comfortable, more relaxed working environment that we're led to believe coops actually are. I mean, AFAIK, Starbucks, Pret, etc don't use unpaid staff y'know... ;)

Juan Conatz

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 18, 2012

Yeah, JK's right on the infastructure part. Co-ops actually would probably have to be utilized if the IWW grew. I mean, if the IWW got to 10,000 (which is the magic number that is often given as a realistic goal), there would be quite a few members who would be virtually blacklisted. Already, for some of the more visible members of the more visible campaigns, they are worried about future job prospects. I do think the larger question of what co-ops are and their limits is something that should eventually be brought up, both within the radical left in the States and the IWW specifically, but honestly there were/are other battles to be had. Fighting the 'Joe Hill Appreciation Society' syndrome in branches, combating stock activism in favor of workplace organizing and rooting out problematic old beards who have blocked progress where and are way more important issues that people (very thankfully) have put work into over the last 10 years.

Caiman del Barrio

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on February 18, 2012

Also, on a separate point:

Joseph Kay

- Agitational propaganda is basically about puncturing 'capitalist realism' by getting people to imagine things being different. This image does that using a visual representation of piles of cash for the boss vs equal distribution. Obviously taken literally that's not 'the abolition of the wage system', but agitationally it gets people to question the 'right' of private property, and could lead to questions like 'if all wages are equal, why do we need wages at all?' So while it's not 'politically correct', it lays down the gauntlet to represent communist ideas with simlar visual immediacy imho.

I don't think this achieves this very well at all IMO. It uses - unexplained - terms like "labour value", "capitalism", and some shit about inflation which even I'm not inclined to read (why put an extended footnote in a brief flyer?). On a further note, it's very text-heavy and looks rather amateurish.

I mean, just cos it's a picture which gets passed around on Facebook (*ahem* - oh sorry, I mean a 'meme' ;) ) doesn't necessarily make it any more adept at communicating a message in an accessible fashion. A well-written Facebook note on why (in this example) workers' coops represent a better deal for a Starbucks barista would have been much more accessible IMO. Apart from anything else, the designer's attempt to simplify and abridge the content has led to a lot of confusion as to its meaning and purpose no?

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 18, 2012

i saw it on my phone, didn't read the text and only looked at the pictures tbh. i imagine a lot of the people 'liking'/sharing it paid it about as much attention.

Juan Conatz

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 18, 2012

jasonnhk

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jasonnhk on February 19, 2012

Steven,

I definitely agree with the first part in that the logical consequences of what Marx termed the 'coercive laws of competition' ultimately make things like progressive companies, co-ops, etc. difficult to create, and almost impossible to maintain. As good as employers' intentions may be at the start of their respective enterprises, they're eventually forced to seek greater profits while at the same time suppressing wages as much as possible, which is more often than not the only way they can survive in a field full of competitors compelled to do the same.

In many cases, employers as individuals are found to be good people (at least in my experience, any way), many of whom give generously to charity, want to provide decent wages and benefits for their employees, etc. Nevertheless, the logic of the system forces the hand of employers to exploit labour as much as they can; and at the same time, labour is coerced into the position of working for a wage and fighting for gains that employers quickly counter in an endless battle punctuated by regular economic crises (these days better known as the 'business cycle').

And it's not simply that these types of businesses are inherently less efficient, competitive, profitable, etc., but that the logic of the system is overtly hostile to their fundamentally pro-worker design. They can certainly be successful, especially in more supportive economic environments (e.g., the MONDRAGON Corporation, Red and Black Cafe, etc.); but they can never truly thrive on a mass scale when the deck is so overwhelming stacked against them—a point Rosa Luxemborg stresses in chapter seven of her famous 1900 pamphlet, Reform or Revolution:

Co-operatives – especially co-operatives in the field of production constitute a hybrid form in the midst of capitalism. They can be described as small units of socialised production within capitalist exchange.

But in capitalist economy exchanges dominate production. As a result of competition, the complete domination of the process of production by the interests of capital – that is, pitiless exploitation – becomes a condition for the survival of each enterprise. The domination of capital over the process of production expresses itself in the following ways. Labour is intensified. The work day is lengthened or shortened, according to the situation of the market. And, depending on the requirements of the market, labour is either employed or thrown back into the street. In other words, use is made of all methods that enable an enterprise to stand up against its competitors in the market. The workers forming a co-operative in the field of production are thus faced with the contradictory necessity of governing themselves with the utmost absolutism. They are obliged to take toward themselves the role of capitalist entrepreneur – a contradiction that accounts for the usual failure of production co-operatives which either become pure capitalist enterprises or, if the workers’ interests continue to predominate, end by dissolving.

Bernstein has himself taken note of these facts. But it is evident that he has not understood them. For, together with Mrs. Potter-Webb, he explains the failure of production co-operatives in England by their lack of “discipline.” But what is so superficially and flatly called here “discipline” is nothing else than the natural absolutist regime of capitalism, which it is plain, the workers cannot successfully use against themselves.

Producers’ co-operatives can survive within capitalist economy only if they manage to suppress, by means of some detour, the capitalist controlled contradictions between the mode of production and the mode of exchange. And they can accomplish this only by removing themselves artificially from the influence of the laws of free competition. And they can succeed in doing the last only when they assure themselves beforehand of a constant circle of consumers, that is, when they assure themselves of a constant market.

It is the consumers’ co-operative that can offer this service to its brother in the field of production. Here – and not in Oppenheimer’s distinction between co-operatives that produce and co-operatives that sell – is the secret sought by Bernstein: the explanation for the invariable failure of producers’ co-operatives functioning independently and their survival when they are backed by consumers’ organisations.

If it is true that the possibilities of existence of producers’ co-operatives within capitalism are bound up with the possibilities of existence of consumers’ co-operatives, then the scope of the former is limited, in the most favourable of cases, to the small local market and to the manufacture of articles serving immediate needs, especially food products. Consumers’ and therefore producers’ co-operatives, are excluded from the most important branches of capital production – the textile, mining, metallurgical and petroleum industries, machine construction, locomotive and ship-building. For this reason alone (forgetting for the moment their hybrid character), co-operatives in the field of production cannot be seriously considered as the instrument of a general social transformation. The establishment of producers’ co-operatives on a wide scale would suppose, first of all, the suppression of the world market, the breaking up of the present world economy into small local spheres of production and exchange. The highly developed, wide-spread capitalism of our time is expected to fall back to the merchant economy of the Middle Ages.

Within the framework of present society, producers’ co-operatives are limited to the role of simple annexes to consumers’ co-operatives. It appears, therefore, that the latter must be the beginning of the proposed social change. But this way the expected reform of society by means of co-operatives ceases to be an offensive against capitalist production. That is, it ceases to be an attack against the principal bases of capitalist economy. It becomes, instead, a struggle against commercial capital, especially small and middle-sized commercial capital. It becomes an attack made on the twigs of the capitalist tree.

Things like worker-owned co-ops are great in theory, but they're not immune to the driving forces of, and the logic behind, the global capitalist system of production and exchange they find themselves in. In order for more neighborhood-centric, worker-friendly, and/or worker-owned businesses to sprout and flourish, a more socialized economic 'field' needs to replace the current undemocratic one in which we presently plant our seeds of enterprise.

As for the part about coffee shop work being one of the pointless jobs, however, I don't agree so much. I personally love coffee shops (working at them as well as hanging out at them), and I'd certainly continue work at one after a revolution which abolishes wage labour. Coffee shops provide a place for people to socialize and/or enjoy specially prepared drinks; and in my opinion, no job is useless if it provides a wanted product or service, and no job is toil if it gives you some kind of fulfillment and you enjoy doing it (and that goes doubly for things like expert coffee roasters who treat coffee like wine, such as Frank from Chazzano Coffee, which takes a fair amount of skill).

Those are some of my thoughts, at any rate.

honestkaos

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by honestkaos on February 19, 2012

Most Co-Ops are Ultraliberal enterprises that do absolutely nothing to further class consciousness, revolution unionism, organizing shops or anything that the IWW exists to do.

The majority of the Co-Ops that I'm aware of that are 'affiliated' with the IWW are hippy jerk off circles that eventually have to sell out or stagnate because they still have to compete and function in a capitalist economy.

I will be so glad when this cancer is cut out of this Union.

I am a Wobbly currently organizing, with other wobs, in my 800 person shop in Madison, WI.

Solid

honestkaos

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by honestkaos on February 19, 2012

Juan,

None of those shops are held accountable to union standards by anyone in the union either. They are a joke.

I shall be glad when they are reorganized or have their status as IWW shops removed.

solid

medwards

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by medwards on February 19, 2012

Juan Conatz

Co-ops actually would probably have to be utilized if the IWW grew.

And they already are today. The land which is hosting some pretty vital internal education events is co-op land. Not IWW, but stuff going way back (I think pre-70s stuff others have mentioned but honestly I haven't researched it).

These are the kinds of alliances which are hugely beneficial and I worry sometimes that the co-op critiques might get out of hand a poison a relationship which we all benefit from. I'm not saying don't be critical, but lets just be cool with one another.

Juan Conatz

there were/are other battles to be had. Fighting the 'Joe Hill Appreciation Society' syndrome in branches, combating stock activism in favor of workplace organizing and rooting out problematic old beards who have blocked progress where and are way more important issues that people (very thankfully) have put work into over the last 10 years.

This.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 19, 2012

Now, I wouldn't go as far as honestkaos here. I agree with the people who've said that co-ops can be useful infrastructure (and a steady source of income) for revolutionary organisations. But that is a different kettle of fish from being something to advertise to get people to join a revolutionary union, and of course different from an overarching revolutionary strategy.

Jason, that was a great post.

Now, onto the not particularly important but potentially quite fun topic of coffee shops under communism, there have been a couple of points made:
Cooked

Lot's of people would love to have a cafe with their friends. Just like an extended living room I presume.

Jasonhk

As for the part about coffee shop work being one of the pointless jobs, however, I don't agree so much. I personally love coffee shops (working at them as well as hanging out at them), and I'd certainly continue work at one after a revolution which abolishes wage labour. Coffee shops provide a place for people to socialize and/or enjoy specially prepared drinks; and in my opinion, no job is useless if it provides a wanted product or service, and no job is toil if it gives you some kind of fulfillment and you enjoy doing it (and that goes doubly for things like expert coffee roasters who treat coffee like wine, such as Frank from Chazzano Coffee, which takes a fair amount of skill).

Don't get me wrong, while I almost never go to coffee shops myself (I have a Gaggia at home, and I just can't bring myself to spend 15-20 min wages on a coffee), I do like good ones a lot. I wasn't saying that these places wouldn't exist. Indeed, I'm sure that a lot more of them would, as you suggest like extended living rooms near peoples homes and places of "work".

But what I do think is that coffee shop "work" would be abolished (as with all other work, but particularly so in this case). What I mean by this is that the principle function of coffee shop workers is to make sure customers pay for their food and coffee. This principle function will no longer exist. Actually making the coffee from the machines I would think would be a skill which coffee shop users would pick up themselves, with assistance from regular users, who might have some sort of rota of being in the place to help people, check stocks and make sure machinery wasn't broken.

Skilled tasks like selecting/roasting coffee could similarly be done by volunteer users. As you say, this is a skilled task but it is something which people enjoy doing, which would be its own reward.

Rats

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rats on February 19, 2012

"Not to mention the fact that coffee shops mainly exist to quickly sell coffee and sandwiches to workers doing other pointless jobs in their breaks - a situation which should no longer be the case in a communist society. (That and of course that after the revolution everyone will have a Gaggia!)"

FUCKING ACE! This plus the picture was pure class.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 19, 2012

Nate

FWIW it's my understanding that this isn't any official image but rather was made by one IWW member, who put his name in the lower corner of the image. So, this is just one member's opinion in a personal capacity.I'm also just one member speaking in a personal capacity here.

Felix Frost

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Felix Frost on February 19, 2012

Caiman del Barrio

Where I live there's a self-styled 'revolutionary' cafe run by a self-styled 'revolutionary'. It's only been open a few months but it's already shrouded in loads of controversy. In short, I've heard so many rumours and contradictory information from talking to its workers and other gossipy types that I'm not sure what to believe.

For example, it's supposed to be a coop but he's still the boss and holds all the money (apparently the coop element is in that the staff draw up their own rota). I've also heard that it's been making mad losses and therefore attempted a number of schemes to drive up profits, one of which being bringing in volunteer/unpaid staff to undercut the paid employees. On top of this, I've heard whispers that the perilous financial situation within the place means that the threat of closure constantly hangs over the staff, which seems to work as a sort of emotional manipulation into accepting all the shit that happens to them.

Like I say, many of the details are hazy (not least cos the staff members I've spoken to don't appear to be too clear on what's happening themselves, neither what a coop really entails, etc), but it certainly doesn't sound like the more comfortable, more relaxed working environment that we're led to believe coops actually are. I mean, AFAIK, Starbucks, Pret, etc don't use unpaid staff y'know... ;)

It sounds like they could need a union. Perhaps you should tell them about the IWW? ;-)

Awesome Dude

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Awesome Dude on February 19, 2012

revol68

Is the IWW not a union, or claims to be, a fighting one at that? What relevance do worker ran co-ops have to them then? They going to organise against themselves? Surely worker ran co-ops are at best irrelevant to the IWW? Or is it like the time they "organised" those clown SSP members up in the Scottish parliament ie they're happy to just be able to claim they've organised a workplace regardless of the content?

This a bit OTT revol. Having a few worker run co-ops is not in the same league as organising members of parliament. The SSP thing was a massive cock up, but not surprising given the reformist and opportunist tendencies in the organisation (a product of it's motto; "a union for all workers"?) . Though having said that there is a valid debate to be had about co-ops and their relationship to the IWW with its stated goal as the "abolition of wage labour". Through our organising efforts some of us have learned that traditional methods of organising some workers aren't appropriate. In some industries it's easier to collectively organise workers through co-ops. A good case being workers in the printing industry and sex workers. Both industries have workers who are isolated by the very nature of the work they do. Forming unionised workers co-ops is a good way for them to collectively organise to address issues which effect all workers in their industry. As more workers become isolated by new advances in technique (working at home through the Internet) workers will need to find new ways of organising to resist wider exploitation which still continues even if your not in a factory or office.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 19, 2012

Rats

"Not to mention the fact that coffee shops mainly exist to quickly sell coffee and sandwiches to workers doing other pointless jobs in their breaks - a situation which should no longer be the case in a communist society. (That and of course that after the revolution everyone will have a Gaggia!)"

FUCKING ACE! This plus the picture was pure class.

I like this poster.

Spikymike

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on February 19, 2012

The weakest defense of this piece of 'propaganda' was put forward in it's most blatant fashion by 'Surtrsflame', but also less crudely by others here, as a sort of 'transitional measure' to ween liberals and leftists, step by step from their open support of capitalism, via mutualism or parecom type proposals, and eventually on to the real thing ie libertarian communism. Funny this as it seems so reminisant of the elitist 'transitional demands' approach of those same liberal leftists which get such a hammering on other threads here!

jasonnhk

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jasonnhk on February 19, 2012

Steven.

But what I do think is that coffee shop "work" would be abolished (as with all other work, but particularly so in this case). What I mean by this is that the principle function of coffee shop workers is to make sure customers pay for their food and coffee. This principle function will no longer exist. Actually making the coffee from the machines I would think would be a skill which coffee shop users would pick up themselves, with assistance from regular users, who might have some sort of rota of being in the place to help people, check stocks and make sure machinery wasn't broken.

Skilled tasks like selecting/roasting coffee could similarly be done by volunteer users. As you say, this is a skilled task but it is something which people enjoy doing, which would be its own reward.

I see what you're saying. Interestingly enough, my approach has always been the opposite, i.e., to treat the making of coffee drinks as the principle function of being a barista, and the collection of money as a secondary (albeit structurally needed) function.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 19, 2012

jasonnhk

I see what you're saying. Interestingly enough, my approach has always been the opposite, i.e., to treat the making of coffee drinks as the principle function of being a barista, and the collection of money as a secondary (albeit structurally needed) function.

yeah, I would say that is the seed of communism which is already in our psyche! When I have worked in service jobs taking money from customers I would give out freebies when I could, particularly the ones who seemed nice or hot as well.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 19, 2012

Spikymike

The weakest defense of this piece of 'propaganda' was put forward in it's most blatant fashion by 'Surtrsflame', but also less crudely by others here, as a sort of 'transitional measure' to ween liberals and leftists, step by step from their open support of capitalism, via mutualism or parecom type proposals, and eventually on to the real thing ie libertarian communism. Funny this as it seems so reminisant of the elitist 'transitional demands' approach of those same liberal leftists which get such a hammering on other threads here!

Yeah, I think it's really problematic if we think people need to first become radicalised/politicised to engage in struggle--when in fact the opposite is (more) often true.

But, you know what, when I first became politicised that's what I thought to. My first workplace organising attempts were political: convince people of the necessity of the class struggle and then get them to join the IWW. I actually think Steven's original response is a pretty good method to combat this sort of thinking and getting newly radicalise individuals (Occupy types in particular) to develop a deeper understanding of class society and what struggle means.

I don't think the way to deal with this problem, btw, is byletting non-revolutionaries into a revolutionary organisation which, as someone pointed out, is a big problem of the OBU model of organising.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 19, 2012

Joseph Kay

I think this an important point. If the IWW (or indeed the wider class) succeeds in becoming an effective fighting body, then it's going to (a) need reliable movement infrastructure (meeting venues, social spaces, print facilities) and (b) going to have to face the prospect of blacklisted militants struggling to find work. Imho it's far preferable to have say, a cafe-bar run as a co-op 'job shop' than have it owned and operated by the IWW itself. that way you get the infrastructure and potential employment for blacklisted militants, without the contradictions of a union owning a business/employing people. In other words, just because co-ops per se aren't a strategy for getting rid of capitalism doesn't mean they can't play an important ancillary role in any anti-capitalist movement.

Good post.

Cooked

Workplace organizing isn't exactly killing capitalism atm either.

But the point is that it can, whereas co-ops can't. (Although as JK points out above, they may have a role to play in the class struggle movement).

I've only learned about this since moving to the UK, but England used to have a massive co-op movement (banks, funeral homes, supermarkets, barbers...I mean cradle-to-grave fucking huge) that came right from the labour movement. While it did some important thing like make unadulterated food available to the working class, you know what? It was recuperated right back into capitalism. Big style.

Oh, on the artist who created the graphic, he does do some really good shit. In fact, one of his illustrations is the background on my computer screen. 8-)

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 19, 2012

I designed the graphic, by request from Nick Stonecypher, a Wobbly in the "latte/sandwich" industry.

I appreciate all the feedback about the graphic. I find some if it far afield, but some is also very interesting and worthwhile.

Because there has been speculation about me as the designer, let me offer a little bio information. I am a former factory worker (33 years), and have been in one union or another for more than 40 years. At different times i have been a union organizer, deputy secretary, salt, steward, and officer. I am also an author, and a labor historian.

I first joined the IWW in 1988. I have researched and written scores of articles about IWW history (mostly prior to 1930), most of which are on Wikipedia.

In my capacity as union staff, i have talked to literally thousands of workers (union and non-union) about labor issues. That, more than anything else, informs my use of concepts and imagery in an effort to spread the ideas of revolutionary industrial unionism.

Many workers in the United States (at least) are so thoroughly socialized to accept capitalism that they cannot even imagine any alternative. Thus, when Joseph Kay says (above):

"Agitational propaganda is basically about puncturing 'capitalist realism' by getting people to imagine things being different. This image does that using a visual representation of piles of cash for the boss vs equal distribution. Obviously taken literally that's not 'the abolition of the wage system', but agitationally it gets people to question the 'right' of private property, and could lead to questions like 'if all wages are equal, why do we need wages at all?' "

...i would say that is precisely the way i view the graphic. It is an introduction to a concept, and should not be viewed as more than this.

The barista cooperative graphic is patterned after this graphic, which was also my design:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2621376607820&set=a.2187225674318.119830.1057325634&type=1&ref=nf

The graphic was designed specifically for Facebook, which puts some significant constraints on communication of ideas; specifically, visual imagery is the best mechanism by which to quickly catch someone's attention; and, one cannot include too much detail, otherwise the text will be much too small to read.

I'd like to offer some of the Wobbly ideas behind these images.

Bill Haywood was famous for simplifying Marxist concepts into notions that working people could more easily relate to. While designing the gold mining graphic, i had in mind Haywood's observation,

"If one man has a dollar he didn't work for, some other man worked for a dollar he didn't get."

Another favorite Wobbly expression is, "Fire Your Boss". Similar concept.

But let us go back a little further. The IWW was birthed in the crucible of the Colorado Labor Wars, in which the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) fought against capital in the Cripple Creek strike (and elsewhere). Both Emma Langdon and Benjamin Rastall have written about the WFM cooperative stores, which were opened as a defensive measure against the onslaught of the Mine Owners Association and the Colorado National Guard. Rastall wrote (in about 1907),

"The Federation has grown steadily since its organization. By 1903 its unions numbered 200, and its jurisdiction extended over the Rocky Mountains and far western states, and British Columbia. Five hospitals are owned by it, and several cooperative stores at various mining centers." [Rastall]

and,

"The merchants of the district having announced that they would allow no further credit during the strike, the unions organized cooperative stores in Cripple Creek, Victor, and Anaconda. Goods were sold to the miners from these stores at cost, for cash, or upon orders from the union." [Rastall]

source (linking to my own website here):

http://www.rebelgraphics.org/wfmhall/history.html

The cooperative stores were so vital to the strike effort that they were targeted:

"In June Major Ellison returned to Cripple Creek and on the 15th day of that month he was present when the mob took possession of the union store and wrecked and looted it. The major swears that he offered to give the names of the mob leaders and those who took property belonging to the union store to their homes to Sheriff Bell. Sheriff Bell said he would call for the information the next day, but the next day never came. Later, he visited the sheriff in his office and repeated his offer to furnish him with the names and sufficient evidence to convict, but Bell refused to receive the information." [Rocky Mountain News]

and,

"...the mine owners directed the wrecking of the union store on Bennett avenue... A. E. Carlton and Harry Watters [were accused of] not alone leading the mob, but with directing the deportation of the men employed in the store."

Now, someone will suggest that this was a union supported operation, and not a true cooperative store. But i submit that the WFM did have a history of forming cooperative mining operations, and neglected these primarily because of strikes and other conflicts with capital.

Let us go further. The historical IWW not only believed in cooperatives, but some in the IWW fully believed that these could exist under capitalism. From a Wikipedia article that i wrote about the IWW:

Industrial Workers of the World philosophy and tactics

"In one surprising episode of "philosophical warfare" during the strike, the IWW made an attempt to establish a workers' cooperative for striking miners at an abandoned mine. Two coal mine operators sought to demonstrate that such cooperatives were impossible, and they issued a challenge to the IWW to follow through at their facilities. However, they insisted that the IWW had to post a state-required safety bond within 24 hours, before it could reopen the mines. Since the IWW wasn't able to post the bond within the designated period, the experiment was not pursued."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Workers_of_the_World_philosophy_and_tactics#Colorado_coal_strike_.28a_case_study.29

I have shown, i believe, that historically, some cooperatives have played an essential role in the class war. On the subject of cooperatives sometimes distracting from, or diverting organizers from the class war, i concede that this is a concern.

But such discussion is appropriate to our comments about the image. If someone knows how to include such concepts into a single graphic design and still have it presentable and easy to read, then they are a much better graphic designer than i am.

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 19, 2012

Serge Forward commented:

...unemployment doesn't exist by design as a check on the rate of inflation. That's just rubbish.

Under capitalism, the rate of unemployment bears a direct relationship to the rate of inflation. In recent history the rate of unemployment has been routinely manipulated via interest rates. If you don't believe that, then i invite you to explain what you do believe.

Steven stated,

"One minor issue is that I would disagree with the emphasis given to the point on unemployment being created by design to hold down the rate of inflation. While unemployment can hold inflation down, that is not why it was created. Mass unemployment exists to keep wages down. It is a weapon to use against workers who demand better wages or conditions, as there is a large pool of people who could take their place."

You disagree with the emphasis. I acknowledge your point.

But note that there is a little more clarity about the unemployment/wage relationship in the original gold miners cooperative graphic:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2621376607820&set=a.2187225674318.119830.1057325634&type=1&ref=nf

The adapted barista cooperative graphic suffered from the simple problem that it was difficult to work in an unempoyed worker with the counter taking up so much visual space. And, i wanted a little variation in the messages. I still included a reference to NAIRU simply because i think workers should familiarize themselves with the concept.

Nate

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on February 19, 2012

I don't have this very worked out and it may be totally off topic (sorry if so) but I think there's something worth thinking about here in relation to the stuff in the discussion on 'territorialism' in this article - http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/longview-occupy-and-beyond-rank-and-file-and-the-89-unite-2/

What that made me think of in relation to this converastion is that I think that across types of organization/forms of struggle there's an upward move where we're gaining some ground (building the organizign committee, winning gains in a workplace; building a co-op, expanding the business and range of services it offers), then there's a plateau and some downward pressures set in. Holding ground in the face of those pressures requires transferring some of those pressures into the ground we're trying to hold. So unions have to govern and discipline their members. Co-ops have to compete and so introduce pressures on wages/hours, etc. This is vague but I think I want to say that this part of what it is to exist under capitalism and is a type of the social relationship of negotiation and compromise that's part of life under capitalism. That's not to say that all forms of this are equal, far from it. I think a key issue is how our organizations and institutions relate to those downward pressures. I can't remember where, maybe it's in his article on union shops, but I think Tom Wetzel somewhere argues that unions collecting dues by hand has the effect of makign unions shrink when the members become disengaged. (Something like that, Tom if you're reading I'm sorry if I've got it wrong.) That is, a certain kind of decay may be better than a certain kind of playing the role in governing ground in service of the capital relation. Even there, though, we're still comparing different kinds of negotiations and compromises.

Felix Frost

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Felix Frost on February 19, 2012

Chilli Sauce

I've only learned about this since moving to the UK, but England used to have a massive co-op movement (banks, funeral homes, supermarkets, barbers...I mean cradle-to-grave fucking huge) that came right from the labour movement. While it did some important thing like make unadulterated food available to the working class, you know what? It was recuperated right back into capitalism. Big style.

I don't know if that proves too much. All the organisational forms of the historical workers movement has been incorporated back into capitalism, whether this has been co-ops, unions or political organisations. I think this has more to do with the failure of the workers movement, than with the specific organisational forms.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 19, 2012

Hmmm...I think "political organisations" and "unions" are a bit too vague to be covered by that statement. Certainly parties and trade unions qualify, but the Anarchist Federation is not the same thing as the Labour Party, nor was the FORA the same thing as UNISON.

If we are talking about trade unions, political parties, and co-ops, I'd argue they are dead ends for the workers movement precisely because they are all institutions that have to internalise the functioning of capitalism to operate.

So they are failures of the workers movement because they're not revolutionary. And the workers movement will always ultimately fail if it's not revolutionary.

This is not say, of course, the legitimately revolutionary organisations can't be co-opted. They can, of course, but if you're building an organisation that seek to exist, compete, manage, or mediate within the logic of capital, or course you're going to fail.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 19, 2012

Felix Frost

Chilli Sauce

I've only learned about this since moving to the UK, but England used to have a massive co-op movement (banks, funeral homes, supermarkets, barbers...I mean cradle-to-grave fucking huge) that came right from the labour movement. While it did some important thing like make unadulterated food available to the working class, you know what? It was recuperated right back into capitalism. Big style.

I don't know if that proves too much. All the organisational forms of the historical workers movement has been incorporated back into capitalism, whether this has been co-ops, unions or political organisations. I think this has more to do with the failure of the workers movement, than with the specific organisational forms.

Felix, you are being too generous here. The reason that co-ops, trade unions, and political parties have been incorporated back into capitalism is that worker cooperatives, trade unions and political parties are not able to overthrow capitalism! So we need different forms of organisation if we're going to be successful

Serge Forward

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Serge Forward on February 20, 2012

Richard Myers

Serge Forward commented:

...unemployment doesn't exist by design as a check on the rate of inflation. That's just rubbish.

Under capitalism, the rate of unemployment bears a direct relationship to the rate of inflation. In recent history the rate of unemployment has been routinely manipulated via interest rates. If you don't believe that, then i invite you to explain what you do believe.

Yes, I explain very badly sometimes. I don't disagree that there's a link between the level of unemployment and the rate of inflation nor do I disagree that there's routine manipulation, it was just the whole 'unemployment by design to check inflation' view that I'm questioning and instead think the notion of 'industrial reserve army' is far more relevant.

Anyroad, you should know I'm a fan of coops and am actually a co-owner a 3000+ member coop myself. I just don't have any illusions in that organisation or coops in general being in any way anti-capitalist and don't think the IWW (yes, I am a member) should be promoting coops as alternatives to capitalism either.

And for certain others posting on this thread, you are indeed using this as a stick to beat the IWW with... but I'd expect no less.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 20, 2012

Revol, I think agree with the almost wholeheartedly. That said, knowing that this is a sensitive issue, it might be better to say that "what passes for American anarchism is really radical liberalism" instead of personalising it to "many so-called anarchists". Just my two cents.

On the space stuff, it's not only escape from the crown, but manifest destiny and the frontier existing as an escape valve for class struggle.

Plus, as someone pointed out on another thread recently, the US was formed when the society was predominated by the yeomanry. Those values of self-subsistence and a very specific conception of "liberty" don't transfer to capitalist (or even industrial) context at all are still held up as fundamental American traits on both the left and the right--hence the constant wanking over the constitution.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 20, 2012

a promotional graphic of the revolutionary union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) comparing a capitalist coffee shop with a co-operative one.

I think this quite disingenious tbh. Its one guy who done this not the IWW collectively.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 20, 2012

(As a disclaimer, this does seem like a disproportionately long article to write about a little image on Facebook, but for some reason I just felt compelled to write it. Procrastinating about getting on with more important tasks was probably a factor as well…)

Lolz perhaps having an axe to grind aswell eh. I wouldn't like someone to be taking what one member of solfed or what one member of afed made and say its what the actual organisations think.

Caiman del Barrio

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on February 20, 2012

gypsy

(As a disclaimer, this does seem like a disproportionately long article to write about a little image on Facebook, but for some reason I just felt compelled to write it. Procrastinating about getting on with more important tasks was probably a factor as well…)

Lolz perhaps having an axe to grind aswell eh. I wouldn't like someone to be taking what one member of solfed or what one member of afed made and say its what the actual organisations think.

Fair enough, but it does have the IWW logo on it and it is being shared/spread on Facebook (and was designed for that precise purpose). It's hardly disingenuous of people to responded to branded visual propaganda that's gone (or aims to go) 'memetic' (there's that word again) in such a way IMO.

Ed

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on February 20, 2012

gypsy

Lolz perhaps having an axe to grind aswell eh. I wouldn't like someone to be taking what one member of solfed or what one member of afed made and say its what the actual organisations think.

Hmm, I dunno, I think that's a bit unfair.. I mean, firstly, until someone said here, I thought this was an official piece of IWW prop (I hadn't noticed the name in the corner and even if I had I would've just assumed he drew it and the IWW literature dept approved it).. I think it's an easy mistake to make that this isn't official IWW prop (similarly, I don't the CNT lets individuals use their logo for personal propaganda)..

Secondly, I don't think it's right to say that it's just "one guy" in the IWW.. it obviously isn't (as Wobs have said). There is a tendency within the Wobs to push for co-ops as a strategy for social change (and not just the Wobs to be fair, co-ops are something that a lot of radicals believe will bring radical social change, but this particular example is something that came up in the Wobs).. just as there is a tendency for non-contractual direct action organising (and pro-contractual organising and probably other tendencies I don't know about and 'membership' of these tendencies is probably pretty fluid, people belonging to more than one, swapping etc)..

So yeah, related to this, I don't think this article should be seen as an attack on the IWW as there isn't a single, IWW-hive mind to attack. It should be seen as a criticism of one piece of prop by someone in the IWW supporting co-ops. As Wobs here have said, lots of people have gotten involved in/around the Wobblies coz of Occupy and they're new to all these arguments.

So rather than being 'anti-IWW', I think this can be used (and I imagine Steven intended it to be used this way, at least in part) by IWWers who want to have these discussions with other members of their organisation. And I actually think that if that can happen then it's a sign of a pretty healthy organisation..

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 20, 2012

I don't think it's right to say that it's just "one guy" in the IWW.. it obviously isn't (as Wobs have said). There is a tendency within the Wobs to push for co-ops as a strategy for social change (and not just the Wobs to be fair, co-ops are something that a lot of radicals believe will bring radical social change, but this particular example is something that came up in the Wobs).. just as there is a tendency for non-contractual direct action organising (and pro-contractual organising and probably other tendencies I don't know about and 'membership' of these tendencies is probably pretty fluid, people belonging to more than one, swapping etc)..

So yeah, related to this, I don't think this article should be seen as an attack on the IWW as there isn't a single, IWW-hive mind to attack. It should be seen as a criticism of one piece of prop by someone in the IWW supporting co-ops. As Wobs here have said, lots of people have gotten involved in/around the Wobblies coz of Occupy and they're new to all these arguments.

So rather than being 'anti-IWW', I think this can be used (and I imagine Steven intended it to be used this way, at least in part) by IWWers who want to have these discussions with other members of their organisation. And I actually think that if that can happen then it's a sign of a pretty healthy organisation..

Allow me to describe aspects of two different organizations that i have been involved with. At one extreme, i was teaching at a local community college, and also had a part time job doing some web programming. I had some graphic design experience, and decided to tinker with the school's logo. I developed several variations of the logo that i thought were more eye-catching than the existing versions. I showed these to my boss, who was aghast that i would dare to even consider the possibility that the logo could be improved upon. This organization (or at least this boss) thereby created a rather stifling environment, and i never again tried to volunteer any such contributions.

The Industrial Workers of the World, on the other hand, is much more trusting of the instincts of its contributors. This has always been the case; all those songs and cartoons that Joe Hill wrote or drew were not necessarily solicited by the union; they were, rather, largely volunteered, and their intrinsic worth was appreciated and respected. But Joe Hill wasn't the only such contributor, not by far. I have a collection of cartoons and drawings by scores of working class artists, many of whom are nameless, anonymous, or now forgotten. The quality varies; some look very "professional", some are amateurish in execution, but penetrating in message. All are worthwhile.

I have been creating literally thousands of posters, flyers, graphic images, poems, and histories for the Industrial Workers of the World, for a very long time. Some were for local use; others were adopted by various parts of the organization. I am extremely gratified at the acceptance and encouragement that i have received over the years from individual Wobs, and from those responsible for the IWW website. I have occasionally been invited to create a graphic or to write a book review. More often, i'm contributing in the same manner as those working class artists who anonymously came up with an idea, put it on paper, and months later, saw it reprinted in the GOB or the Industrial Worker.

Certainly, there are risks involved. About two decades ago, i got in trouble with the IWW for something that i created; it was a poster for a local event that some in the IWW might have embraced, but others might have seen as potentially controversial. What was my specific mistake? Not in creating the poster, nor in asserting support by the organization. I was questioned by one elected official because i stated in the poster that the event was endorsed by the "IWW", when in fact it had been endorsed by the "Denver Branch of the IWW". Adding four words to the poster satisfied all.

In brief, i would argue, the Industrial Workers of the World not only respects artistic contributions by class conscious working class individuals, but openly embraces same. It isn't just me; i am one in a very long line of contributors, over the entire history of the organization. I would likewise argue that this openness on the part of the IWW is more a strength than a liabilty.

One could quantify that argument in a number of ways, not the least of which is this: if i am a worker who recognizes that my contribution to the organization is appreciated, then i am much more likely to embrace that organization. With all of its shortcomings, i do embrace the IWW, and consider it worthy of my lifelong dedication. I have seen plenty of evidence that others share a similar dedication.

Now. On the question of coops. Steven himself has acknowledged that he could not tell whether the graphic depicted a barista coop under capitalism, or after the wage system had been abolished. This was a conscious design choice, i intentionally did not clarify that circumstance. Why? Because there is much more to the situation than one graphic image can convey.

I have friends who are actively trying to promote coops; one of these friends asked me to help with an introduction to some union folk just this past week.

I was not willing to expend more than a few minutes' effort to help with this particular request. I have a very specific reason for this: the individual views the coop effort as a means to escape capitalism, rather than to further the effort to abolish the wage system. My knowledge of this circumstance was a direct result of my asking specific questions about motivation. Indeed, she has asked me to become involved in her cooperative building, and i have declined precisely because i don't see the class consciousness that i believe is so necessary to the struggle.

So when there is a suggestion that Wobs see cooperatives as a way to avoid the class struggle, i strongly disagree, at least for my own part. The individual in question is interested in the IWW, but has not joined, and probably will not join. If she were to join, i would work with her much more closely in an effort to help her see the global picture. Absent that, my energy is more productively directed elsewhere.

Ed

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on February 20, 2012

Richard Meyers

In brief, i would argue, the Industrial Workers of the World not only respects artistic contributions by class conscious working class individuals, but openly embraces same. It isn't just me; i am one in a very long line of contributors, over the entire history of the organization. I would likewise argue that this openness on the part of the IWW is more a strength than a liabilty.

Yeah mate, no doubt this is true.. I think such openness is a strength as well (though in the past I think I wouldn't have). But part of the openness means discussion in good-faith rather than the assumption of people having an axe to grind (not saying this is what you're doing, or even that IWWers do it more than anyone else, I think its a common thing on the left - including libcom - but it has a negative effect)..

Anyway, enough from me..

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 20, 2012

The late Franklin Rosemont was one of the great chroniclers of the IWW. He has been called perhaps "the most productive scholar of labor and the left in the United States." [Wikipedia, from The Surreal Life of Franklin Rosemont by Paul Garon, David Roediger and Kate Khatib.] In a book review in the Industrial Worker, i quoted him on his view of the IWW's attitude about worker contributions. The last sentence here is the most relevant sentence, in my view. Perhaps not all will consider its import; i, on the other hand, consider it a vital key to understanding the IWW:

There are now two biographers of
Joe Hill whose work stands above the
rest. Franklin Rosemont’s “Joe Hill, the
IWW and the Making of a Revolutionary
Workingclass Counterculture” speaks
to the meaning of Hill’s life—Joe Hill as
folk hero and symbol of the downtrodden
rising in revolt. But Rosemont’s text isn’t
just about Joe Hill, it is a summation of
the entire Industrial Workers of the World
experience. Rosemont’s Chicago base
and his close association with Charles H.
Kerr Company frequently lend a sense of
“inside baseball,” allowing him to reveal
details of the IWW’s history found in no
other account. His broad grasp of Marxist
theory, as well as of the revolutionary
industrial unionism philosophy of the
Wobblies—what Rosemont describes as
an “anti-authoritarian Marxism”—lends
itself to comparison, with the IWW’s
“hobo philosophers” coming off rather
well. Rosemont observes, “Socialists, Communists,
and Trotskyists published papers
for workers—some of them admittedly of
high quality. The IWW, however, always
published workers’ papers: of and by as
well as for.”

http://www.iww.org/PDF/IndustrialWorker/IWSeptember2011.pdf

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 20, 2012

Although i've had a libcom account for years, i haven't often participated here. But i appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic.

I must say, i haven't considered that any in this thread have necessarily had an "axe to grind". I appreciate the politeness and participation of all. I think it has been an opportunity for all of us to learn a little something from each other.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 20, 2012

Richard Myers

Although i've had a libcom account for years, i haven't often participated here. But i appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic.

I must say, i haven't considered that any in this thread have necessarily had an "axe to grind". I appreciate the politeness and participation of all. I think it has been an opportunity for all of us to learn a little something from each other.

Aye maybe the axe to grind was abit harsh on Steven. But I think there is enough legitimate stuff to have a go at the IWW with rather than making out that this was an IWW position when it wasnt/ain't. Struck me as a rather disingenuous blog post although the debate about co-op's is more than welcome and good debate has came from it.

Surtrsflame

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Surtrsflame on February 20, 2012

Spikymike

The weakest defense of this piece of 'propaganda' was put forward in it's most blatant fashion by 'Surtrsflame', but also less crudely by others here, as a sort of 'transitional measure' to ween liberals and leftists, step by step from their open support of capitalism, via mutualism or parecom type proposals, and eventually on to the real thing ie libertarian communism. Funny this as it seems so reminisant of the elitist 'transitional demands' approach of those same liberal leftists which get such a hammering on other threads here!

I should have been more clear in what I mean. I'm referring to people who have already been politicized - and not necessarily through struggle. I'm also not referring to 'transitional demands', but transitional thought. I think as an effort towards revolution, mutualism or parecon is utterly pointless. However, in terms of talking to liberals, mutualism or parecon work very well because examples of it can exist within capitalism, and thus it can be used as 'working examples' to support our viewpoints. I do not think cooperatives, even so called "revolutionary" cooperatives are in any way useful as ends (i.e. cooperative capitalism). I do think they can be useful as a minor means to an end.

As an example, for xmas I got people bags of Just Coffee, a Madison based IWW job shop coop. Not because it's in any way revolutionary but because it challenges the cultural hegemony of capitalism and they make great coffee.

I hope that explained my point better.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 20, 2012

gypsy

Richard Myers

Although i've had a libcom account for years, i haven't often participated here. But i appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic.

I must say, i haven't considered that any in this thread have necessarily had an "axe to grind". I appreciate the politeness and participation of all. I think it has been an opportunity for all of us to learn a little something from each other.

Aye maybe the axe to grind was abit harsh on Steven. But I think there is enough legitimate stuff to have a go at the IWW with rather than making out that this was an IWW position when it wasnt/ain't. Struck me as a rather disingenuous blog post although the debate about co-op's is more than welcome and good debate has came from it.

I wasn't interested in "having a go at the IWW" I was interested in having this discussion about co-ops, which is one which needs to happen.

This was IWW propaganda, as has been said, it contains the IWW logo, and by their rules they allow individual members to produce official union propaganda themselves. And it is inaccurate to portray it as just the view of one member, as it was shared and liked by hundreds of people. Since writing this response, some people in the IWW have defended co-ops as a revolutionary strategy, as one person did here. Other people have on Facebook as well, including the likes of Larry Gambone who not only has gone on at length about the intrinsic socialist and anti-capitalist nature of workers co-ops (on which I'm sure he and David Cameron would disagree) but has also been extremely rude about it.

I think it's also out of order to claim that I have some sort of axe to grind with the IWW. Especially as up until Juan Conatz at least I have probably put more wobbly history online here than anyone else: http://libcom.org/tags/IWW

anyway, Richard, I appreciate your comments here and the constructive way you have engaged. I disagree with the practice of producing propaganda with some sort of "transitional demands", for the reasons that others have gone into above. And I'm glad I didn't come across as antagonistic.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 20, 2012

Surtrsflame

As an example, for xmas I got people bags of Just Coffee, a Madison based IWW job shop coop. Not because it's in any way revolutionary but because it challenges the cultural hegemony of capitalism and they make great coffee.

on a related note, a friend got me a pack of Zapatista coffee, which was a great gift, but the coffee is piss weak! I would have thought that coffee made by a guerrilla army would have been strong as hell. Sadly not. Although I imagine it's probably because it is mostly made for the US market, and their coffee in general is weak piss.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 20, 2012

Steven.

This was IWW propaganda,

I think it's also out of order to claim that I have some sort of axe to grind with the IWW. Especially as up until Juan Conatz at least I have probably put more wobbly history online here than anyone else: http://libcom.org/tags/IWW
.

I still don't think you can say that it is official IWW propaganda and I don't think you can go by facebook likes to say that it is a collective position from IWW folk. Apologies for saying you had an axe to grind, I was being a bit of a cock.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 20, 2012

That's problematic tho. I mean, we're in the scene and we might make the effort to determine what's been officially endorsed by the organisation (or some part of it) and what comes from individual members. But for general members of the public, if it has the IWW logo, folks are going to think it's official. So whether it is officially official or not, I think it's actually a moot point.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 20, 2012

Someone was telling me just this weekend, that Zapatista coffee beans themselves are actually quite good, it's just that they're roasted in Germany--which is apparently a country that just don't know how to roast beans. Supposedly some Italians did import the raw beans and roasted them Italian style and they're really good if done right.

All hearsay, tho.

gypsy

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gypsy on February 20, 2012

Chilli Sauce

So whether it is officially official or not, I think it's actually a moot point.

I don't know that means I could produce some shitey poster without anyone from my branch's say so or about a controversial topic and put the IWW logo on and then thats official?

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 20, 2012

Chilli Sauce

Someone was telling me just this weekend, that Zapatista coffee beans themselves are actually quite good, it's just that they're roasted in Germany--which is apparently a country that just don't know how to roast beans. Supposedly some Italians did import the raw beans and roasted them Italian style and they're really good if done right.

All hearsay, tho.

hmm doubtful, coffee in Germany is much better than the US.

Gypsy, back to the IWW, how official or not the prop is is pretty irrelevant - I guess the main issue is that those sorts of views on co-ops are widely held in the American radical scene, whether occupy, the IWW or anarchists as a whole. Revol goes into this quite well. I went to an anarchist meeting in New York of about 60 people not that long ago, and all of the discussion about strategy was around "building alternatives" to capitalism, in the form of housing/worker cooperatives and that sort of thing. It was profoundly depressing, and the only person there who was agreeing with me was Wayne Price, which was even more depressing.

fnbrill

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fnbrill on February 21, 2012

I was a "worker-owner" of one well known IWW kind-of-affliated-at-that-time coffee shop for 5 years. Some of my observations.

1) Collectives should be run/viewed as capitalist businesses. If you're going to work, you might as well work for good pay. In my experience - and Portland was once graced with 3 kind-of-IWW cafes - that they tend to pay crap. Many supposed "union shops" pay sub-minimum wages. Mine did OK: I think I was making $15/hr including tips.

2) Being a successful collective business doesn't mean that they can't be useful to the cause. It can be used for meetings, a place for blacklisted or new to town comrades make some cash, etc. But it does need to be successful to do so. But any sympathetic business can do this.

3) As for collective businesses being in the IWW, I could accept IF they view themselves a businesses and realize the union's fight is to maintain/raise industry standards because if they fall, their work standards will also fall in order to compete. Oh and they actually have to meet union standards. ie they need to fit in with what a union is about.

My primary concern is there is a repeating cycle of influx of collective businesses into the IWW without a clear critique of their place. I think this stems from a major weakness in the IWW's work, the educational work which has been dumbed down from a libertarian marxian critique (Abolish Wage Labor ala Value, Price and Profit that inspired the Preamble) to Capitalism=Bosses, Bosses=Bad.

And it's that lazy "anarcho"-social-democratic view of revolution - that getting rid of bosses is all you need to make the revolution - this is how collectives repeatedly enter the IWW and drag down it's real goals.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 21, 2012

gypsy

Chilli Sauce

So whether it is officially official or not, I think it's actually a moot point.

I don't know that means I could produce some shitey poster without anyone from my branch's say so or about a controversial topic and put the IWW logo on and then thats official?

No, but that it will be perceived as official by the majority of people who see it.

Awesome Dude

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Awesome Dude on February 21, 2012

Steven.

I guess the main issue is that those sorts of views on co-ops are widely held in the American radical scene, whether occupy, the IWW or anarchists as a whole. Revol goes into this quite well. I went to an anarchist meeting in New York of about 60 people not that long ago, and all of the discussion about strategy was around "building alternatives" to capitalism, in the form of housing/worker cooperatives and that sort of thing. It was profoundly depressing, and the only person there who was agreeing with me was Wayne Price, which was even more depressing.

Come on Steven. There is a strong "lifestyle" current in UK anarchism. The alternative lifestyle revolves around squatting (as a lifestyle), voluntary unemployment by intensionally avoiding the world of work (I don't blame them but that alienates them from the vast majority of proles who have to work for a pitance-not a good revolutionary strategy) and a host of other individualist issues and sensationalist causes that pay lip service to class struggle (one involved a group of anarchist anti-fascists giving Bob Crow security detail...all that for a Stalinist Trade Union beauro!!!).

Awesome Dude

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Awesome Dude on February 21, 2012

fnbrill

3) As for collective businesses being in the IWW, I could accept IF they view themselves a businesses and realize the union's fight is to maintain/raise industry standards because if they fall, their work standards will also fall in order to compete. Oh and they actually have to meet union standards. ie they need to fit in with what a union is about.

"Collective businesses" should not be in the IWW. The IWW should not make it its "business" to promote any enterprise that involves the exchange of labour power for wages as the basis for its existance (it would directly contravene its famous preamble to the constitution). IMO the IWW should only promote the efforts of unionised workers or job branches in workers co-ops (IMO mostly consisting of solidarity work to raise wages and conditions in industries they work in) and not the co-ops themselves.

fnbrill

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fnbrill on February 21, 2012

awesome: I basically agree, although I think doing so at this time would be too damaging. I think educational discussion is needed to build a new consensus.

fwiw: The collective I was part of took exactly that stance. we helped the IWW often, and some of us were members but we refused, even the members, to make the cafe a IWW shop.

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 21, 2012

I think a significant misunderstanding of the IWW is in evidence in this thread.

Understand that i am speaking as just one individual who has been within the orbit of the IWW for 25 years. But i've also researched the history of the IWW, and that also informs my comments here.

The IWW is a union of wage workers. To the IWW, abolishing the wage system is paramount. But that entails the end of bossism in all its forms. The two concepts are closely related in the IWW philosophy.

IWW members tend to embrace voluntary contributions, and deprecate officialdom in all of its aspects. Consider, the IWW abolished the office of president of the union within the first two years of its existence. To the extent possible, IWW members don't want union bosses any more than they want employer bosses. Members of the IWW are particularly suspicious of piecards in orthodox unions (and with good reason). But Wobblies are also ever cautious about their own leadership. One of the ideological questions that has arisen periodically within the IWW since its inception is the question of whether members who ascend to the lofty positions of general secretary or general executive board have too much power.

Do we, as members, sometimes go overboard on this? Absolutely. A split over such issues in 1925 nearly destroyed the union. But this is also the mechanism by which we assure ourselves of rank and file rule.

On the question of "official" IWW status for IWW graphics, posters, logos, etc...

In essence, Wobs tend to hate the idea of a vanguard of any sort. Thus, a leadership with a penchant to arbitrarily stamp one item as "official", and another as "fake", may be seen as drawing upon itself too much power. That is not to say that any given IWW administration cannot or will not do these things. Rather, to the extent that leaders make such arbitrary decisions as a part of their *official* duties, they will likely incur restiveness in the membership, who want them to instead focus on organizing the working class.

And tendency for rank and file control goes well beyond issues such as "official" status of anything. It goes to questions, for example, about the basic structure of the union; the extent to which the IWW administration in the U.S. speaks for IWW branches in other countries; and how elected leaders conduct themselves. The rank and file democratically control the IWW to an extent greater than any other organization i've ever been a part of.

If someone creates something in the name of the IWW that the IWW membership or leadership considers inappropriate, certainly the administration is likely to denounce it, and so they should. But up to that point, there is a broad range of tolerance within the IWW for differing viewpoints, and differing contributions from members. I submit, this is as it should be; the IWW seeks to be a union for all working folk, and it seeks to empower those working folk. The requirements for membership are not being a boss with the power to hire and fire, and basic agreement with the principles expressed in the Preamble.

So how does this work in practice where graphic images are concerned? Members freely share and offer feedback on what they like, and tend to ignore what they don't like. The official IWW website offers directories of images, both official and unofficial, typically categorized by source.

More importantly, how does this work in terms of local union organizations? The answer is fairly simple, i think -- there is significant local autonomy. Much more than in other organizations of which i have been a part.

Are there drawbacks to a basically horizontal, working class organization like the IWW? Sure. But there are also great strengths.

Let me offer two examples why i cherish the IWW's local autonomy over business unionism. I was a member of a business union for 33 years that had organized our factory workforce. In 2000, our factory was sold off to another company. The dues checkoff was screwed up between the two companies, and members, who had always had their dues deducted from their paychecks, ended up owing the union between twenty-five cents and five dollars each. With a total of about $2,000 owed, the union Local felt a squeeze between its members and the International, which required more than half of all dues collected. The Local began a series of ever more aggressive moves to collect those funds from its own membership. (Each company faulted the other, and neither would assist with this.) First, stewards sat in the cafeteria, and members were invited to go there and pay up. Later, stewards began visiting individual members and reminding them. Eventually, the union issued a letter to members that they would have the company fire the workers if they didn't pay their dues. Consider: some of these had been in their job for 25 years or more, and were under threat of dismissal for a quarter of a dollar owed. If members submitted to the final threat by driving to the union hall to pay their one time dues shortfall, they likely would spend more in gas than the union would collect.

As a union member on staff, i opposed this ultimatum, and what i predicted came to pass -- an angry rebellion of the membership. The dues fiasco undercut support for the union more than any other possible course of action that the Local might have taken.

Yet consider: the members were trapped. They were obligated because they belonged to a seemingly implacable, money-grubbing organization, and had no recourse. The prospect of a union telling a company to fire its own members over a dispute that was none of the members' faults created a tangible disgust for the organization that was supposed to be protecting members' jobs.

In contrast, the IWW tends to organize lower paid workers. The IWW is tolerant of people being out of work, and welcomes their contributions even if they're unable to make dues payments. In an orthodox union -- generally speaking -- someone who can't pay their dues cannot be a member, and cannot even attend meetings, no matter what they may have to contribute.

Second example: twenty-five years earlier in the history of that business union Local, we had decided that we wanted our own building, and we voted in a dues assessment to start a building fund. We eventually bought a nice building, which served our membership well. In 2002, our factory was under threat of being off-shored, and all of our jobs with it. We thought it would be worthwhile to sell our building in an effort to raise funds to defend our jobs. The international union stepped in and appropriated all of that money for its own coffers, in accordance with the small print in our union charter. Thus, our voluntary contribution to our own Local was confiscated at the time we needed it most. I cannot imagine the IWW ever doing such a thing to any group of its members. Why? Because the rank and file controls the union.

My take on this: business unions tend to be about the dues, the dollars. The IWW is about respecting workers. To me, that's quite a difference. And it is one reason i extend my loyalty to the IWW.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 21, 2012

In essence, Wobs tend to hate the idea of a vanguard of any sort.

I'm not sure the options you lay out are the only two. There's an option beyond the GEB/group of officials endorsing a graphic and allowing individuals to create their own graphics. A branch, IUB, or job shop can easily endorse an image at a standard business meeting. This way individuals still have that initiative, local groups have autonomy, but there's the democratic, horizontal consent on what gets the IWW label.

As for the rest of your post, I actually think it's a bit off topic. This thread isn't about trade unions v. the IWW, the nature of dues, or membership requirement. It's about the relationship radicals should take towards co-operatives and, based on the original graphic, how radical organisations create/endorse propaganda.

fnbrill

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fnbrill on February 22, 2012

Traditionally (pre-1960s) there was no "local autonomy" in the IWW. This conception grew out of an interpretation of a section of the IWW constitution which states workers can make their own choices in the workplace. When I first joined in the late 1970s branches/groups were required to place something along the lines of "this does not represent the IWW just some members" on material not published by the GEB. I actually would prefer to return to this because there has been some really bad ideas circulated under the name of the IWW.

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 22, 2012

Traditionally (pre-1960s) there was no "local autonomy" in the IWW.

Fnbrill, unless you can distinguish between the concepts of "local autonomy" and "decentralization" for me, this is simply not true. The question of centralization or decentralization in the IWW was in contention at least from 1905 to 1932. Brissenden wrote in 1919 that the question of decentralization was "perhaps the most fundamental [issue] ever given wide discussion by the I.W.W. membership." [Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 304]

Can the questions and division be taken too far? Absolutely! The 1924 downturn in membership occurred essentially for two reasons -- the split between centralizers and decentralizers, and members leaving the IWW to join the new Communist Party. The split resulted in dual branches, and dual union halls. Meanwhile, membership plummeted.

I actually would prefer to return to this because there has been some really bad ideas circulated under the name of the IWW.

One person from libcom has advocated pretty much the same on my Facebook wall. (Is that you?)

We should learn from the severe damage inflicted by the 1924 split. I am happy to embrace whatever decisions the membership of the IWW might make on this issue, if they choose to take it up.

Consider, however, that (1) you're advocating a step toward union orthodoxy, with power centralized in the union bureaucracy, and (2) such a restriction would fly in the face of IWW tradition at least since i first joined (1988), and may hamper and stifle individual outreach efforts on Facebook, and elsewhere.

I suggest, also, that since the impetus for such a move is apparently coming from the libcom community (as evidenced by this discussion), rather than from within the IWW itself (where i feel that my contributions have been universally appreciated prior to this blog post), that the IWW's organizations are a preferable place to source discussions of this sort. Nothing against libcom (i've had an account here for years), it is just not the IWW.

Juan Conatz

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 22, 2012

Richard, a number of us who have posted in this thread are IWW members heavily involved in the organization. With all due respect, it seems somewhat of a double standard that you feel you can make images that are interpreted as being official IWW material without any internal union discussion, but seem a bit annoyed that others aren't addressing the fact you do this through internal union structures.

I share fnbrill's reservations about people sometimes not being clear on personal VS official capacity. I don't think this is a question about union bureaucracy or 'centralization'. If I was to write a statement, sign it 'Twin Cities IWW' and distribute it, I would, very rightly, be scolded and possibly be disciplined by the union for it. Its out of line and undemocratic. However, I don't feel its neccesary for there to be some type of GEB approval just for someone to throw our logo on a design shared on Facebook. That's too much. The IWW is not, and will never be, a tight knight political organization, despite the desire of some to have everything they might not like go through some official approval process. It reminds me of the sometimes insane general assembly procedures of the Occupy movement, where it all of the sudden becomes a decision making body on every little thing individuals in the movement can do. No thank you.

This situation brings up the fact that we do an extremely poor job at design and incorporating people with these skills. In fact, there isn't any effort whatsoever for this, which means people will do it individually. It's inevitable.

I'd much rather have us incorporate and involve people with these skills in the unions official capacity while building consensus for good ideas and ways to express them.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 22, 2012

FWIW, SF has a yearly elected publicity commission made up of some (but not all) or our best graphic artists and writers who have an explicit and defined mandate to do publicity. Oftentimes, the prop they actually produce actually comes up through something that was first created (and endorsed) by a local or at the request of a local for a particular leaflet, poster etc.

Like I said, tho, take that for what it's worth.

Now, Juan, get some sleep!

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 22, 2012

Chilli Sauce

FWIW, SF has a yearly elected publicity commission made up of some (but not all) or our best graphic artists and writers who have an explicit and defined mandate to do publicity. Oftentimes, the prop they actually produce actually comes up through something that was first created (and endorsed) by a local or at the request of a local for a particular leaflet, poster etc.

Just to elaborate, the mandate of the Publicity Commission is to take the best propaganda produced by SF Locals and individuals and adapt it for national use (or if there's nothing, solicit/produce it). Locals are free to produce whatever they want so long as it doesn't contradict the A&Ps (so no party political material etc). Locals have the autonomy to decide what their process is, i.e. whether they trust people to produce whatever and deal with any problems later, or go through some collective approval process. In my Local we tend to go through the meeting to get a mandate to do something, but there's provision to propose propaganda on the e-list and if there's no veto in 48 hrs it's considered fine. Anything more urgent than 48hrs would be done by individuals without the SF logo/contacts.

I don't know if this is any help to Wobs. I definitely don't think this is 'centralism' or 'bureaucracy'; it's mandated delegates carrying out clearly defined mandates, and subject to recall if they fuck up (in practice, the potential for recall serves to make delegates responsive to criticism and to try and solicit consensus/maximum agreement). In SF's case, it was the publicity commission (currently Brighton) which produced the 'don't work' posters for J30 and N30 (though the design was originally by Thames Valley SF), and the 'don't cross picket lines' leaflets (originally written by North London SF). The publicity commission also project manages things like production of national pamphlets. I think it's worked ok so far. I don't know if a similar mandated body would be helpful in the IWW at all.

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 22, 2012

Juan Conatz, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Richard Myers

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Richard Myers on February 22, 2012

Chilli Sauce and Joseph Kay, thanks for the info.

Mr. Jolly

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on February 24, 2012

I agree pretty much with Stephens salvo. Seeing coops within business as being at the very least a distraction and at worst hipster capitalism. Coops in the service sector can never really compete with big chains, unless they are fetishised seen as a charity case, an ethical choice or a cool place to hang out. All of them relying of the fickleness of the consumer, they will always struggle to survive. It just becomes another option within the market rather than a stepping stone to some or some prefigurative activity. Which some anarchists see these kind of coops as some sort of proof of the possibility of a future society.

As for prefigurative activities, I'm involved in a volunteer run cinema, nobody gets a wage and everyone gives of their time freely, there is very much a blur between customer and producer, which alot of the time they are very much interchangeable. Thats for me is a better example (though not perfect) of a prefigurative situation, in the area of entertainment and culture (which I place the coffee house in) than yet another little social-entreupreneur enterprise. Its been going for years and its fucking successful.

Juan Conatz

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on July 28, 2012

http://libertarianleft.freeforums.org/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1462

theblackmeat

11 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by theblackmeat on August 4, 2012

To be fair, "the IWW" didn't produce this graphic, an IWW member did.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on August 6, 2012

wow, the calibre of discussion on that thread is abysmal. Is that typical for that forum?

"probably Marxists"... :roll:

klas batalo

10 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on October 12, 2012

Juan Conatz

I approve this message.

Anarcho

8 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Anarcho on February 6, 2015

This is precisely the kind of ultra-revolutionary purism we can do without...

The picture compares an exploitative capitalist coffee shop, compared to a happy, egalitarian co-operative one.

If you are going to present an understandable picture of a post-capitalist workplace then it will be something pretty much like a co-operative. This will be understandable to non-politicos and that is who we should be aiming for rather than just debating ourselves and "the left."

So I'm not too bothered that the IWW presented a picture which could be appealing to non-libertarians -- rather than grand politically correct comments about "self-managed capitalism" and such like.

If the former, a co-operative coffee shop today, then the problem with it is that while there would be no external bosses, the co-operative members have to be both bosses and workers themselves.

Wow, people will have to make decisions they don't necessarily would like in order to survive. That is going to happen in every economy (unless you postulate a Culture-like level of technology). Sure, market forces under capitalism and market socialism may make the co-operative decide to work longer/shorter hours -- but so may the wonderful decisions reached in communism.

Their coffee shop will still be existing within a capitalist marketplace, and so will still be subjected to competition and the whims of the market.

So while their boss may not cut Joe's hours, if market forces dictate it they will have to cut their own hours themselves.

Really? So why the hell are we supporting unions and strikes then if "market forces" dictate what the boss does? In short, "market forces" may "dictate" some action but the action itself will be different if a boss makes the decision or if the co-operative makes it. And if we can force the boss to change their decisions by direct action then the co-operative can act in different ways than the boss...

So less of the simplistic equations -- if what you suggest is true then we can all give up now for "market forces" means the boss has no alternative but to cut wages, hours, etc....

Coffeebucks only pay minimum wage, with no sick pay, no pensions, no benefits etc. They are also a large chain, so they can use their purchasing power to drive down suppliers' prices to get cheaper coffee and food. So they sell their products much cheaper than the co-op

Facing going out of business, the co-op members either internalise the capitalist boss, and cut their own wages, conditions or jobs,1 Or they go bust.

Or they can appeal to their customers to boycott Coffeebucks or help the Coffeebucks employees to organise and strike.

And, really, they will make exactly the same decision as if they had a boss? Really?

In a capitalist economy, we cannot extract ourselves from the market. We cannot self-manage capitalism in our own interests as it is automatically weighted against workers.

Capitalism is wage-labour -- no boss, no wage-labour, no capitalism. The notion of "self-managed capitalism" confuses the issue of market forces by inflicting upon it incorrect terminology.

The only way we can really live without exploitation and bosses is not by internalising them but by abolishing capitalism. Which brings me to the second option.

Creating co-operatives does not contradict working to abolish capitalism. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Firstly, after a revolution which abolishes wage labour (a fundamental principle of the IWW), who in their right minds would want to continue working in their crappy coffee shop

And everyone will be making their own coffee? And the workers in the coffee shop may decide, as well as providing coffee, they will do other things in the shop. The lack of imagination here is staggering.

Coffee shop work is one of the pointless jobs (which artist William Morris referred to as "useless toil", as opposed to "useful work" ) which in a communist society no one would have to do. Basically staff only have to be there to make sure customers actually pay for their coffee and panini.

So everyone will be going behind the counter, working the machines, etc.? Really? And what about ordering the coffee and other materials needed? Is that just going to happen? And what about maintaining the equipment? We can ignore all that...

Not to mention the fact that coffee shops mainly exist to quickly sell coffee and sandwiches to workers doing other pointless jobs in their breaks - a situation which should no longer be the case in a communist society. (That and of course that after the revolution everyone will have a Gaggia!)

And who is going to be doing the pointless job of making Gaggias? Oh, right, nobody -- so they won't need their fellows to provide them with food -- they will be making those themselves. Assuming people go to their pointless job producing bread and other materials....

Finally, the co-operative picture shows money (wages) being distributed equally to all the workers. The IWW aims for the abolition of wage labour. And if the idea is that after a revolution everyone will have to keep working and just all earn the same amount of money than actually this is not a socialist society at all but will actually be a form of dysfunctional capitalism.3

Wage-labour means selling your labour to a boss. This does not automatically mean the abolition of money or the wages-system. As for "earn the same amount of money", well, don't bosses, landlords and banks extra surplus-value from the workers? That would be ended so I would guess they had somewhat more money in their pockets.

Money existed before capitalism. So did markets. Don't be like the propertarians who naturalise capitalism and see it in every form of economy and society.

Another key problem I have with the graphic is that what was good historically about the IWW (and what is still good about elements in it today) is that it is about workers fighting together in their own interests, regardless of the dictates of capital. This idea seems absent from the image, which seems to propose setting up co-ops instead of fighting.

Not mutually exclusive and if that were the only graphic the IWW produced you may have a point but its not, so you don't.

One minor issue is that I would disagree with the emphasis given to the point on unemployment being created by design to hold down the rate of inflation. While unemployment can hold inflation down, that is not why it was created. Mass unemployment exists to keep wages down. It is a weapon to use against workers who demand better wages or conditions, as there is a large pool of people who could take their place. Similarly, inflation can be used to attack workers' wages as well, where if employers grant wage rises they can claw back profits by increasing their prices further.

If you read the minutes of, say, the Federal Reserve the rate of inflation is used as a proxy for the strength of the working class. If inflation rises, it generally means wages are increasing and workers are becoming stronger. Then interest rates are increased and unemployment rises and inflation falls... so inflation is code as it is rare for a ruling class to be brutally honest about what it is doing.

I've written on this kind of thing before -- please check my articles (http://anarchism.pageabode.com/cat/anarcho) and blog (http://anarchism.pageabode.com/blogs/anarcho)

So to sum up, I quite agree with you that market forces are a pressure which is an issue but that does not equate to "self-managed capitalism" and it lets the bosses completely off the hook (they use the excuse "market forces" to justify their actions and you have a co-operative making the same decisions as a boss would because of them).

Chilli Sauce

8 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on February 7, 2015

So why the hell are we supporting unions and strikes then if "market forces" dictate what the boss does? In short, "market forces" may "dictate" some action but the action itself will be different if a boss makes the decision or if the co-operative makes it.

So here's the crux of the matter: by forming co-operatives, workers experience market forces directly, unmediated by having a boss. They have to make decisions based on their position in the market.

When workers organise and strike, on the other hand, they are participating in the class struggle. By acting in concert, they can gain concessions from capital and the state, by inflicting our needs over the needs of the market. We don't have that sort of power as a co-op. And although co-ops can aid in that process, they are not any way close to a viable strategy in themselves.

Also:

grand politically correct comments about "self-managed capitalism"