IWW report on the political situation in Wisconsin

Report of the situation Wisconsin from the secretary of the Madison Industrial Workers of the World branch with which we do not necessarily agree but reproduce here for reference.

Submitted by Plumber on April 27, 2011

Vamp of the electoral party and a strategic counter program
A report on the political situation in Wisconsin

Many confrontations start with positions and with each action these positions become clarified. When Scott Walker proposed the Budget Repair Bill the position of the Democratic Party and most union leaders was to make concessions. However, Scott Walker and other republicans were not willing to compromise on any of the collective bargaining provisions. As that become clear, hundreds of thousands rallied to the State Capital in a working class upsurge not seen in 30 years. The union leadership was caught by surprise as the working class organized itself. Then the recall started with a simple program of recalling the Republicans and voting in the Democrats. This opportunistic move was highly predictable but not altogether coordinated at first. What was coordinated was how the Democratic Party positioned itself to have the supporting AFL-CIO unions assist in phone banking, canvassing, and literature drops. Union members played a crucial role in dues money, donated time, and political contributions. I saw hundreds of union members pass through the Madison Labor Temple to do phone banking for the Democrats. I saw money pour into the hands of the party apparatus and not give anything back to the people that worked so hard for them. Not one Democrat has made a solid statement pledging to combat any of this legislation, which leads me to believe that spending any time trying to put any Democrat into office is a complete waste of time. Instead of pushing the struggle deeper, they siphoned people off to knock on doors and get them to sign petitions for recalls. Through the unions they took people off the streets and orientated them to work for the party. Organized labor has always been the piggy bank for the Democrats and now it looked as if they were also the ones doing all the grunt work with little or no return. Both parties have now raised millions of dollars in only a short amount of time. The actions of the Democratic Party, and most ALF-CIO leadership have clarified their positions through their actions. Had this time, money, and effort been spent on anything but a recall, we would be living in a different political atmosphere.

The International Socialist Organization continues to work on campus; popular groups exist that dabble in election efforts but also do actions beyond that, and the IWW maintains its position of a non-electoral response and direct action. The IWW’s position was and still is that only a general strike can stop this legislation and strengthen the labor movement. The IWW does not represent any workplaces in Wisconsin, which is a serious problem when calling a general strike. Despite not having any work contracts in the state of Wisconsin, the IWW and its ideas were taken seriously.

We held several organizer trainings and forums with high attendance. One of the major events was with the Immigrant Workers Union, Student Labor Action Coalition, Mecha, and Centro Hispano. About 150 people attended the Madison Labor Temple to discuss the possibilities of a worker-student-black-brown-white general strike. This event gave us a glimpse of what a coalition would look like. It also gave us exposure and therefore legitimacy in our own eyes that we had in fact garnered support for our ideas. Everyone involved in that event did a fantastic job, as it was well planned and executed. Our in-ability to construct and therefore maneuver a general strike coalition became apparent. We were new to this upsurge and lacked a shared program that would have guided us through the nuts and bolts of this operation.

Possibilities and Moments

I am a firm believer that the current working-class upsurge in this country is just the beginning. We may see it dissipate and resurge but the contradictions in capitalism are catching up with this empire. The recession hit hard many parts of the country and nation-wide austerity is on the rise. All of this does not necessarily form objective conditions for the resurgence of working class activity. What is unique about this situation is the rise of a right-wing movement that has explicit aims at greatly reducing worker and student rights. As the contradictions in capitalism become greater so does the authoritarian nature of the employing class. Through employer associations, labor-management councils, and local government, the drive to gut or destroy the remaining unions is apparent. Surprisingly, the union leadership has become accomplices to their own destruction. Over time they have become the instruments of repression and implicit tools of the ruling class. The resulting situation puts workers into a position where their options are restricted to repressing others or themselves. This class struggle scenario is not confined to the workplace but permeates society.

One of the major advantages that the IWW has is its ability to organize workplaces and make solid gains. This is our point of legitimacy and how we garner support from the wider working class. The economic aspect of workplace organizing is central to our focus because it is the heart of capitalism. We need to concentrate on workplace organizing and continue to develop organizers and build funds to support our activities. With successful organizing drives come new prospects for the IWW. Organizing is a priority that will bring new workers into the organization and move us towards a racially heterogeneous union.

Struggle also happens outside of the workplace and I believe that if the IWW positions itself correctly with a solid program for the working-class, it can play a leading role in future social movements. However, in order for the IWW to play a leading role, the membership may want to examine new strategies and goals that are rising out of the Wisconsin struggle.

During the Wisconsin demonstrations the fragmentation of the libertarian movement (and therefore the groups that surround it) posed a serious problem for co-ordination and cooperation. Had the mid-west and national groups been grouped into a federation, they could have organized along side the IWW and held a solid block of workers, students, and unemployed, nationally.
In Wisconsin, we missed the opportunity to canvass the wider community. People are more likely to listen if they understand that you are a person who wants to hear what they have to say, rather than just sign a petition. Instead of directing the community on what to do, they could have informed the volunteers on how to implement their struggles into a Libertarian response to this situation. This act would have been to counter the Democratic Party’s effect on this social movement and build for a general strike. At the time, canvassing was not proposed nor did we have the resources to organize such an intensive campaign. I think people felt dis-empowered by just signing a petition but at the same time also felt like their voices mattered for once.

Without building tactical unity and accountability into our organizational structures this type of political situation will reproduce itself. It is my opinion that acquiring talented members and keeping them in any capacity depends on the continuity of the organization. I think it would benefit the IWW and class struggle libertarians to implement a sophisticated program based on Dual Power.

"Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without.” - Rudolf Rocker

Integrating New Theories

For all the wage increases we have negotiated it has never bought us any political rights. Gaining and keeping political and economic rights depend on building solidarity and challenging illegitimate power structures. One way for us to challenge these structures is through Dual Power. Dual power is competitive with the dominant system that it seeks to eventually replace. Dual power can advance social changes that are ongoing rather than postponed to a revolutionary moment. This gives legitimacy to the organization and helps people point to a concrete social structure in which the group operates. An example of this would be the Black Panther’s program, e.g. Free Breakfast for Children. In fact, the work of Fred Hampton exemplified Dual Power strategy and action. The Black Panthers could not have afforded to not have tactical unity at the core of their principles. They could not have succeeded as they did with the free breakfast program and free medical centers had their membership been unaccountable towards one another. Tactical Unity means that the members of an organization should struggle together as an organized force rather than as individuals. Once the membership has agreed on a strategy and a project, members should work towards ensuring its success and concentrating in a common direction. We need to look at what other groups in the past have done with Dual Power and reformulate them into libertarian vehicles for social change. I believe that Class Struggle Dual Power has the most potential for building a new society out of the shell of the old.

Another component is Social Insertion. One of the greatest defeats for the libertarian movement during the middle part of the 20th-century was its gradual separation from the labor movement. The unfortunate consequences are that we have seen a rise in individualist bourgeois tendencies masquerading as the libertarian revolutionary movement. The past 40 years have shown us the fruits of these tendencies, a lack of credibility in many revolutionary situations.

Social insertion seeks to reverse this trend and win the battle for the leadership of ideas among the anti-capitalist movement. Social insertion is described as being rooted in Bakunin’s insistence on social activism in the workplace, community, and popular struggles. This juxtaposes the electoral party by complementing Dual Power and tactical unity. Social insertion is in contrast to Entrism because it sees social movements as having a right to exist. This means that social movements are not to be subordinated for the explicit purposes of a controlling group. However, members should be arguing for libertarian politics inside these groups and the base organization should be supporting those members in their work. Those working in these groups have a duty to fight opportunistic elements that seek to subordinate popular movements to party apparatuses. The Libertarian movement is not immune from Entrism and I suggest that accountability mechanisms be put into place to prevent deleterious situations arising in a locality. These mechanisms should allow for a democratic procedure for dealing with Entrist groups or individuals, police infiltrators, or members who are not fulfilling their voluntary commitments. With this understanding we have the ability to form alliances and work with a variety of groups.

After researching how the Libertarian Movement can regain its credibility within the international community, I’d like to put forward a key component to maintaining organizational knowledge and accountability, the Apprenticeship. The apprenticeship would move us back into organizing a more organic social system and solve the problem of transmitting knowledge from one member to another. Every organization has its own needs but the overall program is fairly common. A new member would be asked to put in a certain number of hours on a project or asked to read a certain number of books from a selected reading list. It would be important to incorporate the organization’s procedures and constitution. Having the apprentice work with a more experienced member or run a project of his or her own could be incorporated. Each individual has talents and the organization could tailor each apprenticeship to their needs. This could be looked at as an up-dated and adapted version of what the Ferrer Schools offered. This version of the apprenticeship would stand in stark comparison to the top-down organizations that seek to use the apprentice as free labor or use the program to create two tiered members.

The most important part of an apprenticeship is making sure both parties are accountable. This means if the organization asks the apprentice to work on a project, then it will provide all the material and financial support to complete the task. With that support the apprentice would have an obligation to finish the project that she or he voluntarily accepted. The exact duration does not need to be long or very intensive but it does need to serve the organization and the individual.
Balancing the needs of society with the needs of the individual is the cornerstone of the Libertarian movement. Systematic training based on mutual aid and solidarity is the pathway to a culture that is in contrast with the state. With the apprenticeship system we can construct an organic movement ready to transfer its knowledge to the younger generation and build Dual Power!

I would like to thank everyone who put their time and energy into this movement and for those who are still working hard in the struggle. This document is one person’s opinions and does not represent any group’s official statement. I do not wish to divide any organization due to this report and only seek to reinvigorate the Libertarian movement.

After speaking with people from across the United States it became apparent that these theories and proposals needed to be fleshed out. It was then suggested that a 2-day moderated forum commence over the summer in Madison, Wisconsin. I am asking that if you find this report valuable, please pass a motion in your organization to send members to Madison. By filling out the form below you will insure these proposals move forward.

I invited the reader to explore some of the articles and texts that helped guide this report

Especifismo Reader, Anarchist organization and praxis – Adam Weaver & various others

The American Labor Movement: A New beginning – Sam Dolgoff

Anarchism and Ecology, A Historical Relationship – Graham Purchase

A Look At Leninism - Ron Taber

Cuban Anarchism – Frank Fernandez

Problems Of Entrism - http://www.marxist.net/openturn/historic/index.html

Class War on the home front: Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation http://libcom.org/library/apcf-class-war-home-front

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Chapter 295

Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter 106

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