Putting class back on the agenda

Putting class back on the agenda

Working class pride is having time out on the naughty step, as anarchists have squabbled in recent years to redefine the essential character of their movement. Plasmatelly takes a look at how diverse groups of radical workers can throw up contrary notions of cultural assimilation.

How posh is your comrade?

Following the collapse of Class War and it's schtick of over-egging the prole pudding, class seems to have slided somewhat as a rallying cry for the downtrodden employed.

Rather than analyse what Class War brought to the table in the way of productive and useful politics to advance our corner, let's focus briefly on the one issue they concentrated on, white working class identity.

Once upon a time, when CW was a force, the paper was sold widely where I live in Newcastle - even in newsagents - and they only had to produce a pull-out poster and with some leg work you could spot them in people's windows. Newcastle had been royally shagged for decades and class hatred was something that didn't need whipping up, just re-directed and organised (something CW could never do with any useful effect). CW seemed on the brink of something big, though no one could define what that may be. A friend who was around then commented that "you could sense when Class War was hitting the big time as almost in a weekend, every crustie in town swopped their dreadlocks for a skinhead and shell suit." They didn't need to pronounce their working class identity, they were the real thing right enough, but such was the peer pressure; hippies and punks were bourgeois (not that they'd use that word, rather it'd be a vitriolic accusation of being middle class, or some such rot). Nobody knew what the plan quite was, but by god they weren't going to be mistaken as middle class. It was like waiting for the second coming of the Khmer Rouge.

But for all the front and talk, CW still hid away the odd slummer; those whose working class credentials were a tad flakey, shall we say, by house standards. Tyneside Class War would hold bingo and quiz nights, organised by (as time has shown us) well off social climbers with phd's. Those rocking up - and these were very well attended - would take the medicine; under no circumstances was there talk of irony - this (crap entertainment you could get anywhere if you were working class) was the future. My parents must have thought me mad - declaring myself an anarchist and taking up bingo. "Well, if you like bingo so much, you can take your Nana.."

And despite all the self promotion, the stunts, the bullshit, even the air of possibility, Class War was nothing but a political organisation that had no connection to the economic. Putting class back on the table with no sense of organised labour could only fuel a cultural model and a bad pastiche at that. With regards to class, at best, all they could acheive was to control the appearance of the organisation. A cultural stereotype of the working class upstart and anarchist.

Of course, there's nothing essentially wrong in being who you are. We can't choose our parents. But for all the huffing and puffing that CW did about class, it didn't stop the upwardly mobile taking hold of the reigns of, at least, the Tyneside branch. Should that make a difference? Well actually I think it does.

The political separated from the economic

Class War organised - if this is the correct usage of the word - on a political level only. It sought to organise working class people outside the workplace. The contradiction between the stereotype of the working class people it tried to appeal to and the membership who joined was only that on a cultural level. For all the hissy fits about what defines true working class identity, CW flew in the face of the reality that white working class people are massively culturally diverse. Trying to pin us down is impossible except perhaps by what we do for a living. CW may have had the best intentions in banging the class drum, but without the economic - that is, organising on workplace lines - CW could only work with a stereotype of us proles. Everything else was simply middle class.

You ain't no different to me

On a personal level, being a SolFed member at this early stage in our history, throws up those contradictions that CW refused to tackle. If I stand next to another member of SolFed who I don't happen to work with and discuss cultural interests it may be that we are as polar opposites. She may be a well versed educationalist, former private school pupil, a lover of the arts, of music, of good manners and decorum. I'm not. I'm a bit of a twat. But one thing unites us beyond our politics, is that of our economic class. We are employees, we do not own the means of production, we have only collective power. And despite possibly coming from a more affluent family, there has to be some acceptance and trust that that person is genuine, but in just the same way that she is atypical within the working class, tolerance is a two way street.

So, even though I may have a working relationship, even friendship, with that other member of SolFed - there could be some understood revulsion or amusement about who each other is - neither one is essentially wanting to antagonise, though both parties wishing the other a bit more like themselves.

I could imagine something like the situation that CW found itself in happening to any purely political organisation which is class driven; constantly redefining what is culturally acceptable, trying to homogenise the membership and of course the possibility of the most capable, confident and dynamic taking leading roles. Of course CW had a kind of reverse snobbery borne from a well founded mistrust and dislike of the rise of the radical middle class (largely because they can only really thrive in non-economic organisations). Personally, I'm not likely to see them at work, they tend not to work on the buildings having had the good sense to stick in at school. (I wish I had).

Putting class back on the agenda

Obviously SolFed isn't CW; it doesn't dabble in stereotypes and no one to my knowledge is planning cultural assimilation. And most importantly, it doesn't need to. Not just in SolFed - and this piece isn't meant to be about SolFed - but all workers who are organised in their workplaces have an instant advantage over those that collect on a purely political level - they understand their own collective working class identity. They understand their own language and culture, they live on the same economic plain. As much as I respect that fellow member SolFed member (who doesn't exist, by the way), our own personal working class identities have the potential to contradict and be misunderstood, we belong to different worlds.

As we move towards unions, defining ourselves as working class should be easier to understand. There should be less need to strike a balance; the meeting place is the union, the membership your workmates. The rules of conversation and behaviour are better understood. Being explicitly working class shouldn't be about defining our own culture so narrowly, it's about seeking commonality and better tolerance and, most of all, solidarity around working class identity. And, until we are organised in our own workplace unions with workmates from backgrounds we know and understand, we should always remember the tale of the track-suited hippies from Newcastle before we start imposing our own mores on those that share the same politics as ourselves.

Comments

Steven.
Sep 24 2013 18:44

Good blog!

This is something I have thought about quite a lot. Historically, the differences between Class War, ACF (now AF) and DAM (now Solfed) seem to have been more cultural/friendship based on political.

One guy from Doncaster, telling me a few years ago why in the 80s he joined Class War, said "I didn't have a job, so I couldn't join DAM; I didn't have a jumper so I couldn't join ACF; so I joined Class War".

It certainly does seem that political organisations (including ones which are attempting to be political-economic) do seem to end up attracting the same kind of people who are currently in it. For example, when we started the Anarchist Youth Network, we were predominantly "alternative" kids (also predominantly culturally middle class), and so as we expanded most of the other people who joined were also the same kind of people.

But it's good to try to move beyond this. Although I think it's important to bear these kind of cultural factors in mind, to make sure that organisations don't start to get dominated by more middle class types, which does seem to happen for whatever reason (be it more confidence in public speaking, or assuming a leadership role, or having less responsibility in terms of being a carer or family wage-earner etc)

On a personal note, two of my siblings were raised with the same accent as me (i.e. non-Cockney, middle class) but when they got to about 11 they changed it and started to speak with Cockney accents to fit in with their friendship groups at school. Now they are both builders. I guess the point of this anecdote is that this kind of "class" as it is commonly referred to in the UK isn't really economic class at all (although of course there is a broad correlation between it and income/social status), but is a much narrower and more fluid set of cultural groups.

Noah Fence
Sep 24 2013 19:28

Aaaaagghhh! So much of this is what I was trying to say when I first started posting on Libcom but lacked the understanding and skill required to put my point across. The result was me basically being called a class apologist. Of course, I also got the obligatory ancap accusation hurled at me!
Anyhow, great post and amusing in spots which is always a winner.

Spikymike
Sep 26 2013 11:07

Well you might say that in it's time and place Class War were adept at applying 'affective political strategies' !

Either way 'plasmatelly' presents a rather one dimensional (if admitedly recogniseable and amusing) picture of the class war federation at it's height perhaps reflecting only their experience in Tyneside. As someone very critical of many aspects of Class War's politics whilst a member of both the UK Wildcat and Subversion groups we were still able to work together with their comrades in Manchester and elsewhere from time to time. As with many political groups their usefulness was time limited but they provided a vehicle through which at least some of their members were able to evolve politically and move on.

This piece does come across as a rather flimsy attempt, on the back of a critique of some of Class War's more obvious deficiencies, to defend the SolFed's 'anarcho-syndicalist' strategy against any specific anarchist/communist political organisation.

Class certainly cannot be defined in simply cultural terms but then neither is it a purely workplace matter (let alone a 'union' one). Equally an anarchist and communist politics needs to critically address cultural issues.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 26 2013 19:47
Quote:
This piece does come across as a rather flimsy attempt, on the back of a critique of some of Class War's more obvious deficiencies, to defend the SolFed's 'anarcho-syndicalist' strategy against any specific anarchist/communist political organisation.

Really? Cause I'm not sure it does at all.

I mean, it does quite clearly state that "this piece isn't meant to be about SolFed". Rather, it seems far more to be about (a) someone's experience in CW back in the day and (b) an attempt to evaluate the importance or overcoming cultural identities in workplaces and within organisations.*

I've actually had this hurled at me once or twice (although, to be fair, it wasn't from you Spiky), but everything that every SF member writes isn't some secret attack on other 'competing' anarchist tendencies.

*I should actually note here, btw, that I don't think SF has done a great job of overcoming the cultural ghetto - although certainly it's a lot better than other anarchist organisations I've been a member of in the past.

Devrim
Sep 27 2013 13:56
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
This piece does come across as a rather flimsy attempt, on the back of a critique of some of Class War's more obvious deficiencies, to defend the SolFed's 'anarcho-syndicalist' strategy against any specific anarchist/communist political organisation.

Really? Cause I'm not sure it does at all.

I mean, it does quite clearly state that "this piece isn't meant to be about SolFed".

It seems to me to be about SolFed. Personally, I am still a bit bemused by this idea that SolFed is not a political organisation, but instead a political-economic organisation, and beyond this being a slogan I don't really see any difference at all in what they are today (not where they see themselves as going but actually are today), and a 'political organisation'.

Steven. wrote:
One guy from Doncaster, telling me a few years ago why in the 80s he joined Class War, said "I didn't have a job, so I couldn't join DAM; I didn't have a jumper so I couldn't join ACF; so I joined Class War".

I don't get this, Steven.

Devrim

no1
Sep 27 2013 15:19

Really good read, and it's good to see a new blogger!

Devrim wrote:
Personally, I am still a bit bemused by this idea that SolFed is not a political organisation, but instead a political-economic organisation, and beyond this being a slogan I don't really see any difference at all in what they are today (not where they see themselves as going but actually are today), and a 'political organisation'.

I'm not sure how much it matters whether or not SolFed calls itself a political-economic organisation (hardly the most captivating of slogans), but I do think our approach is different from political organisations, esp. in the way we see our relationship to the working class. It's described pretty well in the last chapter of Fighting For Ourselves:

FFO wrote:
The typical vanguardist position is that consciousness precedes action. This is, after all, why the vanguard party, bearer of ‘revolutionary consciousnesses,’ must lead the working class. This attitude is explicit in Leninist Marxism but implicit in many other political organisations, even when they seek only to be ‘the leadership of ideas.’ For anarcho-syndicalists, it is the other way around. Workers may not all share our goals of overthrowing capitalism and the state, but we’re not asking them to sign up to that as a precondition of organising. We’re simply asking them to take direct action with us in their own interests. If, in this process, anarcho-syndicalism begins to make more sense to them, then the union gains another member. It should be explained that this is not any old union, concerned only with bread and butter issues, but a revolutionary one also pursuing radical social transformation. This isn’t a question of identifying as an anarcho-syndicalist, but rather of identifying with our methods and goals, whatever your preferred political label (or lack of). It doesn’t do us any good to be recruiting workers who don’t share our aims and methods, nor does it do workers any good to be joining a union whose aims and methods they don’t share. But we should not be afraid to actively recruit through activity either, as this is the only way to expand beyond the existing pool of politicised militants. Revolutionary union activity can expand the pool.
Devrim
Sep 27 2013 15:29
no1 wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Personally, I am still a bit bemused by this idea that SolFed is not a political organisation, but instead a political-economic organisation, and beyond this being a slogan I don't really see any difference at all in what they are today (not where they see themselves as going but actually are today), and a 'political organisation'.

I'm not sure how much it matters whether or not SolFed calls itself a political-economic organisation (hardly the most captivating of slogans), but I do think our approach is different from political organisations, esp. in the way we see our relationship to the working class. It's described pretty well in the last chapter of Fighting For Ourselves:

I have read this publication, and to be honest I don't think the idea that action precedes consciousness is anywhere near as particular to anarchosyndicalism as you think. It is actually quite common amongst various Marxists.

However much you may talk about unions the fact remains that SolFed is not a union, and in my opinion has no chance of becoming one in the short to medium term future. What then are you left with? In my view a political organisation with industrial networks. I think that any political organisation that sees itself as socialist and has some sort of orientation to the working class would have industrial networks of some sort once it reached a certain size. SolFed today certainly has less of them than it did when I was a member of DAM in the late 80s. So why is it so different.

Devrim

plasmatelly
Sep 27 2013 17:06

Thanks for the kind comments folks!

Spikey- this isn't an attempt at defending SolFeds anarcho-syndicalist strategy, I thought the absence of text would have served as testimony enough. But thanks for mentioning Subversion again; I was just thinking of how, if I had a different set of values and believed that class struggle should solely comprise of producing left communist critiques of everything everyone else does, then I could have joined Subversion too and been its sixth member. Imagine that! Any more members on 6 and you're in danger of participating in class struggle and therefore being critiqued by other left communists. Danger zone! eek

plasmatelly
Sep 27 2013 22:09

Devrim - I'm struggling to believe you genuinely don't see any difference between a purely political organisation and what SolFed is trying to develop - a political-economic collection of unions.
For those new to these ideas, it is important not to blur the difference. People in Britain are used to the separation of the political from the economic - they join unions for apolitical reasons, and join parties where the class system is played out in miniature. For someone who is ex-DAM, I'm struggling to see what your beef is. There's no one in SolFed who is under any illusions; we know where we are - we're small and there's miles ahead to go before we have anything where we have anything that is like a publicly recognisable union under our belt. I'm a bit bemused it has to be spelled out tbh.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 27 2013 22:23
Quote:
However much you may talk about unions the fact remains that SolFed is not a union, and in my opinion has no chance of becoming one in the short to medium term future. What then are you left with? In my view a political organisation with industrial networks. I think that any political organisation that sees itself as socialist and has some sort of orientation to the working class would have industrial networks of some sort once it reached a certain size.

I think the difference is that SF seeks to have a fundamental orientation towards the workplace (which is not to distract from the community strategy). That's quite different from most other socialists organisation who, at best, have a dual focus on the workplace and politics - meaning the capture or exercise of state power - and see them, again, at best, as related spheres of activity.

I mean, SF quite clearly states - in another not so catchy slogan - that it's an anarcho-syndicalist union initiative. TBF, the SF industrial networks aren't actually thriving, but we have reached a point where groups of workers come to us looking for practical support. The economic is there even if it's not nearly as developed as we'd obviously like it to be.

I also want to point out here, that's it's non-SFers who have turned this into a thread about SF.

Joseph Kay
Sep 27 2013 23:28

Isn't the point of the blog to make a distinction between two ways of 'doing class politics', one based on culture/identity and the other on economic position/relations? Class War and SF just seem like illustrations, from the author's experience, of that point. I.e. Class War seemed to project a particular image of working clarse identity, while SF is pretty diverse culturally (e.g. DAM veterans who've done mostly manual work and university educated 20-somethings working office jobs/call centres don't necessarily share much identity/culture wise). I think you could make the same argument abstractly without the examples, or using different examples, and it would still be valid point.

Devrim
Sep 28 2013 11:30
plasmatelly wrote:
Devrim - I'm struggling to believe you genuinely don't see any difference between a purely political organisation and what SolFed is trying to develop - a political-economic collection of unions.

I am not talking about the organisation that you 'are trying to develop'. I am talking about the organisation you have now. Maoists could talking about setting up a red army and a liberated zone in Epping forrest. Would you judge them on what they did, or what they dreamed about? I think that SolFed today is obviously a political organisation whatever you want to call it, and I don't see that changing at all, certainly not in the short to medium term.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
I think the difference is that SF seeks to have a fundamental orientation towards the workplace (which is not to distract from the community strategy). That's quite different from most other socialists organisation who, at best, have a dual focus on the workplace and politics - meaning the capture or exercise of state power - and see them, again, at best, as related spheres of activity.

Again, I don't see SolFed as being any different from this. Are you saying that you don't have a focus on politics however you want to define it.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
I mean, SF quite clearly states - in another not so catchy slogan - that it's an anarcho-syndicalist union initiative. TBF, the SF industrial networks aren't actually thriving,

Which I take to mean you just have one that actually functions, and that you are a political organisation in reality.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
but we have reached a point where groups of workers come to us looking for practical support.

I think this happens to lots of political left-wing organisations.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
I also want to point out here, that's it's non-SFers who have turned this into a thread about SF.

But it was what the article was about.

Devrim

Joseph Kay
Sep 28 2013 11:55
Devrim wrote:
But it was what the article was about.

Well, I beg to differ...

Joseph Kay wrote:
Isn't the point of the blog to make a distinction between two ways of 'doing class politics', one based on culture/identity and the other on economic position/relations? (snip)

I still don't see what's so complicated about the distinction between a political organisation and a union (even a tiny, not very effective one). If you approach any of the trot groups in my work/area with a workplace problem, they're going to tell you to join a trade union (and become a rep, build the branch, and in a few years maybe take over the branch... sorry what was your grievance?). I've heard that first hand - i.e. this is how actually-existing political organisations operate (they do the politics, if you've got a workplace grievance they tell you to join a trade union).

If workers approach SF with a workplace problem, they get organising advice, training, and material support to organise in their workplace, regardless of trade union presence (they don't really exist outside of the public sector and big private sector workplaces). Again, this is actually happening, not some speculative future. Sure, SF's hardly storming the winter palace, and by its very nature 80% of this stuff isn't very visible or glamorous, but it doesn't seem a difficult distinction to make.

To try and bring this back on topic, that kind of activity would be impossible if SF took a cultural/identity approach to class, because workers come in all sorts, even within a workplace there's can be a big range of demographics. I mean the Class War stereotype relates to a long-gone class composition, but even if you updated the stereotype (underemployed graduate in a call centre or whatever), you'd still run into the same problems of class-as-identity politics. Or as the OP put it...

plasmatelly wrote:
She may be a well versed educationalist, former private school pupil, a lover of the arts, of music, of good manners and decorum. I'm not. I'm a bit of a twat. But one thing unites us beyond our politics, is that of our economic class.
Devrim
Sep 28 2013 12:15
Joseph Kay wrote:
I still don't see what's so complicated about the distinction between a political organisation and a union (even a tiny, not very effective one).

But SolFed is not a tiny not very effective union, but a political organisation.

Joseph Kay wrote:
If you approach any of the trot groups in my work/area with a workplace problem, they're going to tell you to join a trade union (and become a rep, build the branch, and in a few years maybe take over the branch... sorry what was your grievance?). I've heard that first hand - i.e. this is how actually-existing political organisations operate (they do the politics, if you've got a workplace grievance they tell you to join a trade union).
SolFed industrial strategy wrote:
In a workplace with a recognised TUC union, an SF member would typically join the union but promote an anarcho-syndicalist strategy. This would involve organising workplace assemblies to make collective decisions on workplace issues. However, workers will still be likely to hold union cards here to avoid splits in the workplace between union members and non-union members. Members would also seek to build collective direct action beyond union structures, organise with other militants independently of the union and seek to build an organised anarcho-syndicalist presence on the shop floor.
In a non-unionised workplace, SF members should attempt to organise collectively with workmates, and form committees of militant workers. The medium term aim should be to build from this into an SF workplace branch. If the mood in the workplacce moves towards unionisation with a recognised TUC union, members would typically join the union whilst continuing to argue for the importance of collective decision-making and direct action and pursuing the strategy for unionised workplaces. However, members would not silence their criticisms of trade unions.

And SolFed tells people to join the union too. Yes, there are provisos about independent organising, but I have seen more radical Trotskyists do that too.

Joseph Kay wrote:
To try and bring this back on topic, that kind of activity would be impossible if SF took a cultural/identity approach to class, because workers come in all sorts, even within a workplace there's can be a big range of demographics. I mean the Class War stereotype relates to a long-gone class composition, but even if you updated the stereotype (underemployed graduate in a call centre or whatever), you'd still run into the same problems of class-as-identity politics.

But I think that the whole 'class as cultural identity' thing was quite unique to Class War. Nobody is proposing repeating what Class War did, and criticisng Class War is a bit like shooting fish in barrels, even more so now that they don't exist any more and can't defend themselves.

Devrim

Joseph Kay
Sep 28 2013 12:39
Devrim wrote:
But SolFed is not a tiny not very effective union, but a political organisation.

If in doubt, reassert your position, eh?

Devrim wrote:
And SolFed tells people to join the union too. Yes, there are provisos about independent organising, but I have seen more radical Trotskyists do that too.

I'm glad you know what we do better than I do!

Generally SF doesn't tell people to join existing unions unless they're already the main vehicle (generally SF members would join, but there's no general policy to promote membership). Most of the workers who've approached us - that i'm aware of - are in non-union workplaces. Recent stuff in unionised workplaces has also involved organising independently, bringing together workers from different trade unions (and none) etc.

I don't really get your point. Trotskyists could do this. They could abandon party politics, restructure their organisation on federalist lines, abandon their orientation to the trade union bureaucracy, and instead plough all their resources into organising with their co-workers directly, based on mass meetings and direct action. Then they'd be the same as SolFed (give or take).

It's not really about what this or that individual does. I'm sure there's Trots who are much close to the SF strategy in practice, just as I'm sure you can find self-identified anarcho-syndicalists who are closer to Trots in practice. The point is one of organisational infrastructure, role, capacity, resources etc. Political orgs - actually existing ones - aren't set up to do union work. They'd usually be the first to say it.

Anyway, doing another round of 'but you're not a union!' is one of the more pointless recurring libcom motifs. I think the blog makes a more general and important point about the problems with treating class politics as an identity politics. That's broader than Class War (*gasp*, you'll even find SF members doing it). Class War exemplified that kind of thing but it comes up quite often (e.g. as a convenient way to dismiss women and black people as middle class if they complain about sexism/racism).

Chilli Sauce
Sep 28 2013 16:07
Quote:
Again, I don't see SolFed as being any different from this. Are you saying that you don't have a focus on politics however you want to define it.

Yeah, we have a focus and politics and a focus on the workplace - hence, the political-economic organisation.

Of course, means are pretty important, too. The part of my post you didn't highlight - "the capture and exercise of state power" - clearly does not form part of SF's politics. Even when we do more "political" campaigns - think workfare - the focus is on direct action and linking up the workplace with wider political and economic issues.

Quote:
But SolFed is not a tiny not very effective union, but a political organisation.

Well, I guess it depends on how you define union (I have an idea, let's do that go-round again wall ), but when I've had problems at work, I've had far, far more support from SF than my trade union.

And, I've given a lot of the SF workplace trainings. I can't tell you how many times people have told me that the training has been far more effective at helping them organise in the workplace than anything they've ever gotten from their TUC union.

Quote:
And SolFed tells people to join the union too.

"Would typically join" is hardly "tells", Devrim.

FWIW, through my local, I've been helping to give some advice to a group of workers who are the middle of an organisation/unionisation drive and I've desperately trying to reduce their expectations of the union. Instead, I've been trying to get them to develop an independent workplace presence alongside their union drive (without much success, I should add)

TBF, I'm really quite confused how you could take that away from the industrial strategy without a conscious effort to misunderstand the document.

Android
Sep 28 2013 16:08

I think there is a quite a lot of talking past each other in this discussion. For instance, the points JK and Devrim make are quite different and do not really engage each other. Devrim's point is quite general. Political organisations have and do, not always obviously, orient to workplace struggle/activity in their own way. Examples would be Lutte Ouvrière in France and early IS in the UK. As SolFed members make a point of the need to orient away from propagandistic, ideologically-centered activity etc. I do not think this involves equating political groups that do this and SolFed as seems to be the implication in JK post above. JK's point is more specific, i.e. what SolFed organising approach involves and how that demarcates them from groups that do not share that practice.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 28 2013 16:16

The thing is though, Android, those points would be fair enough had Devrim not specifically called out SF. I mean, he is the one quoting the SF constitution.

He might be trying to make general points (I don't know), but it's pretty tough to do that when, in his first post on the thread and contrary to the author of the blog, he claims that the piece "seems to me to be about SolFed" And, just for good measure, following it up with "personally, I am still a bit bemused by this idea that SolFed is not a political organisation."

BTW, plasma, i know it can be pretty frustrating when the discussion underneath your blog turns into a slogging match. Just say the word and I'll drop this.

Noah Fence
Sep 28 2013 16:40

This conversation is way out of my realm but the way I saw PTs blog, in simple terms, was that we should leave our prejudices at the door and work with people who's interests align with ours regardless of their educational or social background. As such I thought it was a good piece of writing.
Someone said it was oversimplified but for me, at least in this case, that is a big plus. Some of the stuff I've looked at in the library here, and this is not criticism, is just too complicated for my intellect and level of understanding and straight talk such as Plasma's blog is far more effective with the likes of me than other more intricate and technical writing.

plasmatelly
Sep 28 2013 18:43

Chilli wrote -

Quote:
BTW, plasma, i know it can be pretty frustrating when the discussion underneath your blog turns into a slogging match. Just say the word and I'll drop this.

It's okay; quite interesting tbh.

@Webby - cheers! I'm no theory boff either.

wojtek
Sep 28 2013 19:44

What does it matter whether Solfed currently defines itself as a 'political organisation' or a 'political-economic union initiative'? I'm more interested in what it does and how it goes about it.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 28 2013 20:02

Because that's not how left communism works, wojtek.

Cooked
Sep 28 2013 21:01

I'm more interested in those ACF jumpers! Intriguing mystery.

Spikymike
Sep 29 2013 19:10

plasma tellies are bigger than the rest but sometimes their definition lacks clarity!

I think SolFed does some useful work by the way even if I didn't like aspects of this particular blog.

Of course 'useful work' doesn't add up to an adequate communist critique.

plasmatelly
Sep 29 2013 19:51
Spikymike wrote:
plasma tellies are bigger than the rest but sometimes their definition lacks clarity!

I think SolFed does some useful work by the way even if I didn't like aspects of this particular blog.

Of course 'useful work' doesn't add up to an adequate communist critique.

Ah shucks! I thought I was going to score 50 points for spotting the phrase "..and a lack of perspective.." - maybe next time..

Spikey - just exactly how does SolFed fail in providing an adequate communist critique?
Can this be the missing key text that will have ordinary workers braying down the door? Will this missing text be enough to satiate Joe Public's rabid desire for dry as sticks communist musing?

Arbeiten
Sep 30 2013 00:05
Spikymike wrote:

Of course 'useful work' doesn't add up to an adequate communist critique.

aaaah yes, the mythical communist critique that will usher in revolutionary social change. wink

Apologies. I was being facetious.

I don't really get what Devrim's point is really, would this all disappear if we said something like 'yes, SF at current is still very small, but it orients itself toward a political-economic organization often engaging in small scale polical and economic struggles'.

Plasma, thanks for the blog. I think you have hit on some quite important issues. I have been implicitly aware of this for quite a while now.

Spikymike
Sep 30 2013 10:37

plasmatelly,

At least some of your members seem to show an interest in ''dry as sticks communist musings'' on this site beyond anything I have shown an interest in so lets drop such unwarranted sarcasm. My interest in this blog of yours was initially sparked by the overlap with the thread on 'affective politics' started by another member of SolFed, which comment got overlooked. The rest was simply my attempt to rebalance the comments you made about Class War. I have previously made friendly, if critical, comments on the most recent SolFed 'Fighting For Ourselves' booklet and have no need to repeat myself and have from time to time helped out with SolFed activities here. If you honestly think the previous Subversion or UK Wildcat group members did regard ''the class struggle as consisting solely of producing communist critiques'' then you are clearly misinformed. In terms of Solfed's new 'anarcho-syndicalist initiative' I accept that it has some logic in terms of focussing the energies of your small group on what you term 'political-economic' organising (arguments about the distinction between 'unions' and other forms of agitational workplace networks aside) but that still leaves a whole are of life up for both critique and organising, meaning that there is no one type or form of adequate organisation and certainly no one of the various small political groups, networks or publications in our milieu up to the various tasks required in opposition to capitalism.

rat
Sep 30 2013 13:43
plasmatelly wrote:
But thanks for mentioning Subversion again; I was just thinking of how, if I had a different set of values and believed that class struggle should solely comprise of producing left communist critiques...

Off the topic I guess, but the Subversion group weren't left communists were they? And for a very small group they at least had a bit of influence on discussions, debates and the political outlook of some class struggle anarchists in the UK. Plus they seemed to really irritate the leftists within the anarchist scene, which is always a good thing.

plasmatelly
Sep 30 2013 19:07

rat wrote -

Quote:
Off the topic I guess, but the Subversion group weren't left communists were they? And for a very small group they at least had a bit of influence on discussions

Subversion had the same outlook to left-communists in relation to organised workers and unions. And you're right, they did punch above their weight in relation to their minute size and their ability to influence at least 2 anarchist organisations whose coat-tails they hung upon, before eventually really pissing off a lot of people. Their influence, although fleeting, really didn't last (and I suspect some of that was due to a feeling of flattery from anarchist quarters) although Spikeymikes kept Subversion's anti-anarcho syndicalist flame alive, as ever.

Devrim
Oct 1 2013 09:35
wojtek wrote:
What does it matter whether Solfed currently defines itself as a 'political organisation' or a 'political-economic union initiative'? I'm more interested in what it does and how it goes about it.
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Because that's not how left communism works, wojtek.

The impression that I get, Wojtek, is that SolFed presents itself as something different from other political organisations and that this is emphasised by saying it's not a political organisation. It is something different, a political-economic organisation. I don't think that it is that different, and I commented on it. This is a discussion board after all.

I think it is sort of ironic that 'Chili Sauce' states that 'that is not how left communism works'. Unfortunately the experience that most people on here would have of left communism derives from the ICC, which has at times behaved pretty shockingly. The behaviour of SolFed members on here when responding to criticism reminds me, and others I have spoken to, of the ICC at its worst. The comments made by Plasmatelly to SpikeyMike on this thread exemplify this. It is not, however, a new thing.

Arbeiten wrote:
I don't really get what Devrim's point is really, would this all disappear if we said something like 'yes, SF at current is still very small, but it orients itself toward a political-economic organization often engaging in small scale polical and economic struggles'.

This is a fair comment, and I think is a fairer description. It is not as catchy obviously. Perhaps saying it occasionally though would remind people of where you actually are. Perhaps 'SolFed is 'for a political-economic organisation' would be more accurate than SolFed 'is a political-economic' organisation.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
He might be trying to make general points (I don't know), but it's pretty tough to do that when, in his first post on the thread and contrary to the author of the blog, he claims that the piece "seems to me to be about SolFed" And, just for good measure, following it up with "personally, I am still a bit bemused by this idea that SolFed is not a political organisation."

I am commenting about SolFed. I think that this is a reasonably fair thing to do as the blog is obviously about SolFed. It starts on the example of Class War then contrasts it to that of SolFEd. It mentions the word 'SolFed' seven times in the text. What else should I suppose it is about?

Chilli Sauce wrote:
The thing is though, Android, those points would be fair enough had Devrim not specifically called out SF. I mean, he is the one quoting the SF constitution.

Look at the language being used here, 'called SolFed out'. It sounds like I am challenging them to a fight, not merely commenting on a blog on the internet. It is really reminiscent of the way the ICC can behave.

Joseph K wrote:
don't really get your point. Trotskyists could do this. They could abandon party politics, restructure their organisation on federalist lines, abandon their orientation to the trade union bureaucracy, and instead plough all their resources into organising with their co-workers directly, based on mass meetings and direct action. Then they'd be the same as SolFed (give or take).

I think that your view of Trotskyist tactics is very coloured by the current main Trotskyist organisations in the UK, and the flotsam that they drag it their wake. Android pointed out that there are other Trotskyist approaches, and gave a past example from the UK, and an example from France. There are obviously more. Trotskyism isn't defined by the SWP, SPEW, and the ragtag group of tiny sects that follows them.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
Of course, means are pretty important, too. The part of my post you didn't highlight - "the capture and exercise of state power" - clearly does not form part of SF's politics.

I didn't mention it because I thought it was a piece of the worst sort of anarchist semantics, and I didn't want to pull you up on it, and thus divert the issue.

If you take Trotskyists at face value they advocate pretty much a similar sort of council system to that that most anarchists do nowadays.Yes the see a leading role of the party within it, but the vast majority of them see that the capitalist state has to be destroyed. Semantically arguments about what to call the form of workers power exercised in a post-revolutionary society can actually disguise pretty similar conceptions.

To me these sort of conceptions seem to imply the 'Lenin was an evil dictator who wanted from the start to install a dictatorship over the workers' school of anarchism. Now, in truth that is what Lenin and the Bolshevik party ended up doing, but I think it is the worst sort of anarchist nonsense (and I don't mean to suggest that all anarchists think this) to imply that this is because Lenin was a bad man.

I think that the danger of the Trotskyist parties is not that they will seize state power, but that as they do today, they will end up trying to shepherd back workers into the hands of the traditional organisations of the labour movement (I can remember being involved in a national wildcat strike, and having SWP members outside our office arguing that we had to get the union to call a national strike when everyone was already out, or another similar example is how they focused during the miners' strike on getting the TUC to 'get off its knees and call a general strike' to the detriment of independent activity to spread the strike). In other places it may be calling on workers to join in with national liberation struggles in stead of fighting for their own interests.

Tony Cliff may have seen himself at one point as a British Lenin, but I would imagine that if the leadership of the current Trotskyist parties have ulterior motives, they are more along the lines of maintaining an organisation that can keep paying them in their full-time posts, or at most for the CWI of being elected to parliment in some new founded workers' party rather than seizing state power over the working class.

I think your point was just anarchist semantics really.

Joseph Kay wrote:
Devrim wrote:
And SolFed tells people to join the union too. Yes, there are provisos about independent organising, but I have seen more radical Trotskyists do that too.

I'm glad you know what we do better than I do!

Generally SF doesn't tell people to join existing unions unless they're already the main vehicle (generally SF members would join, but there's no general policy to promote membership).

Chilli Sauce wrote:
"Would typically join" is hardly "tells", Devrim.

I don't, like some left communists, believe it is some sort of moral crime to join a union. That is not what I am criticisng you for. The point I was making was in reply to that is what the Trotskyists do, and we are different. Now, of course the main UK Trotskyist organisations today may only do that. My point was that it is not all that some Trotskyist organisations do, and that you tell them to do it too.

'Would typically join' is not equivalent to 'tell' as you say. It is more similar to 'would typically tell'. I presume that you do tell workers to do what you do yourself.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
when I've had problems at work, I've had far, far more support from SF than my trade union.

And, I've given a lot of the SF workplace trainings. I can't tell you how many times people have told me that the training has been far more effective at helping them organise in the workplace than anything they've ever gotten from their TUC union.

Don't you think that some Totskyists will have had the same experience with their organisations?

Quote:
Well, I guess it depends on how you define union (I have an idea, let's do that go-round again wall ),

People say it because it is so blatant true.

Devrim