New Rebel Worker Sept. - Oct. 2022

New Rebel Worker Vol.40 No.2 (231) Sept. Oct. 2022 Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network, Sydney, Australia

Submitted by asn on September 27, 2022

Rebel Worker Sept. - Oct. 2022
N.S.W. Health News P.2
N.S.W. Railway News P.3
Letters P. 6
Sydney Buses News P.7
Victorian Railway News P.10
Ukraine: Crisis & War Report P. 12
Britain Today P.14
Discussion of the Way Forward for Syndicalism in Australia, Today. P.15
1973 Newcastle Workers Control Conference & 1973 Ford Strike & Riot P.17
News & Notes P.19
Spain: Cabbies' News P.20



1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by asn on September 30, 2022

From Rebel Worker Vo1.40 No.2(231) Sept.-Oct. 2022 Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network

G'day Comrades,
I'm writing to say hello and ask a couple of questions, if that's ok, around the history of the ASN and where the ASN is currently situated in the context of other syndicalist groups in Sydney.
I've been interested in anarcho-syndicalism for a while, and read widely but always learning and changing my mind). When I was younger I have fond memories of picking up copies of the Rebel Worker at Gould's book store and reading it on the way home down King Street. Always respected and appreciated it.
I've always been hesitant getting involved with 'revolutionary' groups generally, because experience has taught me the people involved tend to not be terribly serious about actually organising workplaces or engaging in worker struggle beyond their own inward looking circles. I have no interest in the Trot scene for obvious reasons, and my dealings with Trots and similar groups have always left my blood boiling.
I'm a fully active member of my trade union, an elected delegate, and do what I can for workers in my industry and for the labour movement generally, but have wanted to find Sydney people motivated by anarcho-syndicalist modes of organising more generally. 
I don't have time for reading groups populated by university students either, although good on them.
I'm wondering if there are any anarcho-syndicalists about who are actually involved in some real workplace organising, or looking to build and organise? I understand there is the ASF-IWA (Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation – International Workers Association) , IWW (Industrial Workers of the World ) and Black Flag .... but to be blunt none of them seem to actually be organising work. I am not looking to spend time on a propaganda projects.
I would be interested in contributing to or helping to build a real anarcho-syndicalist union in Australia, as a viable form of organising for actual working people. Is there anything like this going on currently?
If not, thanks for the issues of Rebel Worker I read years ago -- they made a difference to me and my way of looking at the world.

Dear J.
In regard to your questions - there are other allegedly syndicalist groups in Sydney such as the IWW, but do not engage in syndicalist oriented activity to my knowledge. They are very much in the orbit of the corporate unions interwoven with tentacles of the ALP Octopus eg involved in the 'smoke and mirrors' performances by the corporate union bosses/ALP during enterprise bargaining and lockouts to facilitate management attacks and the neo liberal push, eg some of them were involved in the Hutchinson Ports dispute and the union bosses fake 'community picket line' see report in RW edition in 2015. Also they are involved in solidarity network type stuff. Helping small groups of workers in peripheral sectors. Effectively copying the corporate unions on a micro level. They occasionally do help workers out, but this IWW activity in no way threatens the corporate unions base of support and role in facilitating enterprise bargaining and the big sell outs and the neo- liberal push particularly privatisation. Also I have noticed on their social media - support for nefarious ALP/Corporate union stuff eg the 'Change the Rules' campaign of the ALP when Bill Shorten and former AWU union boss was their leader. It meant so called 'industry bargaining' and in reality more devastating in sell outs than 'enterprise bargaining' and would not involve campaigns of industrial action based on mass stop work meetings. It would be ultra bureaucratically run by the union bosses to let off steam, 'rallies' and involving back room dirty deals by the union bosses. (Albo's Federal ALP Govt. is pushing something similar.) Probably similar to the wave of industrial action 'set up to fail' by the ALP aligned union bosses in NSW recently in public transport, nurses, teachers. It's Sydney Local has recently adopted indigenous identity stuff into their name emphasising their leftist sect building orientation toward 'recruiting' students and middle class layers drawn into the leftist milieu and divorce from serious syndicalist industrial organising. They have also been promoting on their web site the disinformation of the union bosses of the RTBU (Rail Tram & Bus Union) regarding their current set up to fail enterprise bargain campaign in the NSW Railways. It in reality will deliver massive wage cuts in the context of spiralling inflation and a major step toward privatisation. Pointing to a continuing rightward shift of the Sydney IWW similar to many of the Trot groups.
In this way the IWW in Sydney and probably elsewhere is similar to the Trot groups eg Socialist Alliance/Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity. I believe this orientation of these Trot groups maybe explained in some cases by pay off's from ALP/union boss fronts. I don't think this is the case with the IWW. I believe they are "unconsciously" influenced by the Trot groups and a social base amongst middle class elements - workers with high levels of autonomy in their jobs/students from the left subculture and demoralised workers seeking a "pseudo church" and have a simplistic notion of how we tackle the problem of corporate unionism and establish mass syndicalist industrial unionism. I have noticed with them a disturbing "anti-intellectual" climate. Like a lack of interest in studying the history of international syndicalism and various historical precedents for the process leading to the emergence of mass syndicalist unionism. Such studies would assist them in developing a more realistic approach to building mass syndicalist unionism than the sect building fantasy of "join us" we are the nucleus of the new syndicalist union confederation and their aping on a micro level of the corporate unions. Interestingly in the early 20th century apart from the Chicago line "Direct Action" IWW there was a Detroit aligned (linked to the Socialist Labour Party) IWW. A bit similar to the above Sydney IWW re pseudo church attracting demoralised workers, but they did have a big focus on weekly socialist/Marxist study circles and churning out socialist tracts and distro at the Domain and various speakers corners. Interestingly with the big rise in international class struggle around the end of WWI and the Russian Revolution of 1917 - many moved from their 'sect' pseudo church ways to being an important force for 'workers control' associated with the "boards of control" movement in the meat industry union in Nth Qld and South Australia.

The ASF is very similar to the IWW "sect" phenomena as outlined above but very inactive - attracted to the romantic past of the IWA (like those in the IWW today are attracted to the IWW - Chicago line - romantic past and important role in the class struggle of the early 20th Century - but failing to grasp the complex factors which led to this role which are different from today in Australia). They in particular have an unwholesome interest in massaging the macro bureaucracy of the IWA and like the IWW have a grossly simplistic view on building mass syndicalism in Australia and fail to grasp the obstacles we face. In Melbourne the ASF is similar but much worse - influenced by the ways of the Stalinist Legacy like the Trot groups with a 'cult' guru resorting to duplicity and extreme "formalism" having unwholesome fun with the group's micro bureaucracy and of course lascivious massaging of the IWA macro one. See on web site archive section www.rebelworker,org review of pamphlet "Anarchism in Australia Today" and report on (now) ASF meeting in Sydney many years back “Two sides of the coin of class struggle”. It looks at this formalism problem. Also they have been involved in Melbourne many years back in the Domino workers campaign. Acting as a lobbyist and community picketing for these workers claim over back wages similar to the IWW in Sydney. Aping the corporate unions on a micro level but due to the Stalinist/Trot legacy giving the false impression in particular to overseas people and IWA sections that it had something to do with direct action/syndicalist activity.

In regard to the Black Flag group it is also in the sect spectrum heavily influenced by the Stalinist legacy, identity politics and the Trot groups and their ways. Needless to say mainly a student group and their orientation reflects the oppression mongering and guilt tripping of many of this layer. See “New org formed in Sydney” for a critique via google search. In this critique it was predicted that rather than this group and other similar so called anarchist communist groups which have mushroomed in Victoria, Sydney and Brisbane (this last one particularly informed by the nefarious ways of the Stalinist legacy to a childish school yard abusive extent) being a force for spreading anarchist communism they would be facilitating neoliberalism. According to Black Flag/Mutiny social media they have been drawn into the “Smoke and Mirrors” performance of the RTBU union bosses associated with their set up to fail Enterprise Bargain Agreement campaign in the NSW Railways. They have been helping peddle the union bosses and their stooges disinformation contributing on a micro level to facilitating the neo liberal agenda and employer offensive. (See NSW Railways News in RW Sept. - Oct. 2022.)

In regard to the ASN, its not in this 'sect" spectrum of the above groups, but a catalytic network. An informal grouping - the 'yeast' of the workers of movement to facilitate a syndicalist direction. Providing 'outside the job organisation' to assist 'on the job organisation'. The ASN is particularly focused on the transport front and very active there. Involved in innumerable campaigns for decades in the buses and railways. You would have been affected by ASN activity as it has played an important role in assisting militants defeat various privatisation pushes in the railways. This has led to major industrial action perhaps affecting you on your way to work eg in Dec. 1997 a large wildcat strike at Central Station involving station assistants and signals stopping trains in morning peak one day affecting hundreds of thousands. It was totally covered up by the corporate/fringe media. That action should be seen in the context of ASN activity for some years. In Sept. 1999, the ASN assisted militants to defeat a privatisation push in the railways. The corporate media of course never said anything about privatisation but it was about setting up the basis for carving up franchises. To out manoeuvre militants, the union bosses called a state wide 24 hours lightning rail strike affecting millions. Also in March 2004 Drivers for Affirmative Action in NSW railways direct action 'work to rule' for 4 days affecting possibly millions was intimately associated with ASN activity over the years. This action won bonuses for the drivers. The above actions were of course all in breach of enterprise bargaining and 'illegal" according to the union bosses. Since this time the ASN has been active in assisting militants in defeating other privatisation pushes in the NSW railways by out manoeuvring the union bosses and helping ignite wildcat action.
In the early 1990's at the dawn of enterprise bargaining, the ASN played a key role in the defeat of big attacks in EBA's in the public service – DSS (Dept. of Social Security) and now Centrelink through national oriented campaigns which had important flow on effects for EBA's in other Departments. (See review of 'Suff the Accord! Pay Up!' in RW Vol.39 No.1 (228) May – June 2021 on RW web site. )
The ASN was active in the 1990's assisting militants in manufacturing with a workplace paper for a couple of editions, similar in the postal industry in the 1980's for many editions, and in the NSW Fire Brigade in the 21st Century with a workplace paper and contributing to a blockade of NSW Parliament by fire trucks. The ASN to my knowledge is the only left group which has done anything of major impact on the industrial front since the 90's! It just goes to show how hopeless many leftist groups in Oz are and also the issue of the "rightward" shift of many Trot and other leftist groups since the 90's and being drawn into entanglement with the tentacles of the ALP octopus and the orbit of the Yellow Bosses' Corporate Unions.

A Realistic Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Australia, Today

The ASN perspective on establishing mass syndicalist industrial unionism - is about getting the strike wave movement going. One sector eg say rail taking direct action to inspire workers to take direct action in other sectors. (Some thing like that was in the early stages with Drivers for Affirmative Action - train guards were close to coming over to direct action. In France in late 1986 to early 1987 and December 1995, direct action in rail spread on a massive scale throughout the public sector associated with the emergence of grass roots co-ordinating committees). In this context you could get major splits from the corrupt corporate unions and transitional steps toward a syndicalist union confederation. This is a more realistic perspective than the fantasy of the IWW and ASF as the nucleus of such a confederation. Also in the case of the 1999 strike, it was part of a very bureaucratic manipulated strike wave at that time also affecting Sydney garbage workers and nurses, to influence an ALP conference and assist union boss machinations at it on the weekend There was also grass roots initiative and activity as well assisted by the ASN. In the current ultra bureaucratically run strike wave particularly focusing on NSW associated with the Ukraine War and spiralling inflation, the ASN has played a certain role in out manoeuvring the union bosses in the transport sector in getting it going. You just can't build an anarcho-syndicalist union in just one sector such as your industry. It must occur in the context of the above strike wave and expanding movement wiping out the base of corporate unionism. Otherwise such an initiative would face isolation and being crushed by the combined forces of the union bureaucracy, the State and employers. Such a scenario occurred with the NSW BLF (Builders Labourers Federation) in the mid 1970's. It was the closest we have come in recent years to an Anarcho-Syndicalist union. Despite formally bureaucratic structures it was very much run by the grass roots and resorted to direct action. (See RW review 'Green Bans, Red Union' in archive section of RW web site.) Syndicalist transport workers would also play a critical role in new syndicalist union organising in many industries. Launching strikes and blockades at busy times. Avoiding long drawn out union recognition struggles involving picketing which mostly end in disaster. (This is how the mass syndicalist Spanish CNT (National Confederation of Labour) in its heyday in the 20's and 30's organised the Barcelona catering industry. This became a major base of the CNT. )
Its important to make a study of various historical precedents to this strike wave phenomena – eg the Strike wave in Turin in 1943, strike wave in France in 1947, events of May 1968 in France etc. It will assist you to develop a better grasp of how we can build mass syndicalist unionism today and how to tackle various obstacles.