Fragmented thoughts on political organization

Some rough thoughts on political organization, mostly based on my experience with groups in North America and conversations with some current and former members.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

1) Contemporary political organization in the United States in large part came out of the post-Seattle 1999 resurgence of anarchism and the subsequent disagreements with primitivists, post-leftists, counter-institution types, and insurrectionaries.

2)So for a long while (and to a certain extent today), the purpose and main appeal if political organization was in part because of defining themselves against other anarchists. This is no longer an acceptable purpose.

3)Political organization has a tendency to take the types of conversations that should be happening in the wider class and instead places them primarily in closed groups between a very small amount of people. This is encouraged by advocating that a strict separation of the political and the economic must be maintained. However, it assumes that existing economic organizations are not already political and it is rarely gives an adequate explanation on how this differs from Lenin's 'trade union consciousness', which anarchists and libertarian communists have always rejected.

4)There has yet to be a serious and comprehensive assessment of the political organization experience since Seattle '99. This includes successes/failures as well as current and now defunct groups.

5)Despite their rejection of building anarchist or radical left mass organizations 'from scratch', the strategy of social insertion (a type of boring-from-within) doesn't seem to take into account the hundreds, if not thousands of leftist groups who have entered mass organizations in order to radicalize them1 .

6)The issue of formal VS informal as some sort of flagship identifier is nearly a false dichotomy, with some political organizations mostly being a listserv you pay dues to be on that occasionally sends out short statements of solidarity. Dwelling on whether something is 'formal' or 'informal' doesn't take into account if the something is worth doing at all.

7)Despite talk of 'theoretical and tactical unity', the actual projects members are involved in as a main activity includes the internal functions of the political organization itself, mainstream unions, the IWW, solidarity networks, Occupy, what amounts to internal reading groups, workers centers, co-operative projects, Food Not Bombs, etc. or...an extremely wide range for a relatively small group of people.

8)Branching off the lack of assessment on the experience of contemporary political organization, there is no formalized resource for passing down skills and knowledge. There are no trainings or documents that help members do the activity the groups say they exist for, nor any effort to make sure members get to trainings or have resources that do exist in other groups.

9)As there is no formalized way to pass down skills and knowledge, there is a huge gulf between older, more established individuals (mostly in major metro areas) and newer, younger and less established people (many in smaller cities, towns and isolated rural areas).

10)Often dominating the dialogue, agenda and concentration of the political organizations are those who speak mainly of theory and 'internal education'. The need for developing organizing skills and experience is secondary. This begs the question of what is a political organization VS what is a reading and discussion group.

  • 1I consider bringing up the fact that many of them attempted to seize executive positions solely is side-stepping the question, as not all groups did this, nor did they always fail to create a complimentary militant base. Also, none of the political organizations I'm speaking of reject taking formal leadership or staff positions in mass organizations, and some of their members, in fact, do hold such positions.

Comments

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 15, 2012

Let me first say that I am very sympathetic to your critique and that my local group has been trying to think about this question a bit and also incorporate the question of not separating the political and economic for a while. Lately we've organized into internal fronts like the FARJ do, and have more working group style meetings/discussions as part of our business meetings about/around the mass or intermediate level work we are engaged in. This is of course on top of of also having such discussions and working on struggles in mass and intermediate level organizations. This could yes seem like duplication of effort, but at least at this time our militants are generally the most effected and involved in the organizing we do. I'm still not sure if this makes sense, but has reframed quite easily and switched what we do on the regular, other than analysis, reading groups, and training.

Training is one thing you touched on which my organization has slowly but surely over the last few years started to actually prioritize. Anyone who for whatever reason we have not recruited through direct involvement in struggles, but because of sympathy we have been attempting to make sure they go to as many organizing trainings as possible. This has included everything from the IWW OT 101s, to sharing training experiences of the salt programs of U-H, to more traditional community organizing, a supporting member of ours has developed the below trainings for instance, which have been given at conferences:

http://activism2organizing.org/
http://popularassembly.tumblr.com/post/23067046038/share-this-flier-with-your-friends

This is also a video from a training series in our region we've made sure we've sent our militants and contacts to. Ashanti also recently gave a similar talk this past summer in my city, at our local social center, with the comrade who developed the above trainings also participating in presenting.

http://archive.org/details/WeveGotThePowerCommunityOrganizingTrainingSeriesSession1

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 15, 2012

Political organization has a tendency to take the types of conversations that should be happening in the wider class and instead places them primarily in closed groups between a very small amount of people.

According to the theory of the political-economic organization, the bodies for the class are supposed to be open committees and assemblies outside of the political-economic organization. So are not political-economic revolutionary minorities having such conversations internally also a very small amount of people? If they are having those discussions in open committees and assemblies, are not those separate (self)organizations that the political-economic group (or it's members) would be having such discussions in, very much like "platformists" or "especifists"...maybe I'm just dense, so excuse me, but I have really not been convinced for sometime that political-economic organizations also engage in dual organizationalism, or boring from within. SolFed doesn't say don't participate in your trade union, they say spread anarcho-syndicalist style organizing methods within and beyond it's structure. How is this any different?

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 15, 2012

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/759/

The recent essays from above might be also interesting for this discussion. Here are some quotes:

The steps towards a workers’ organisation are based on political assumptions – one of them being that the classical distinction in ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party struggle’, in ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, has become a stumbling block.

Class Composition and Periodisation

Although historical periodisation contains a certain danger of becoming schematic we can state that, e.g. the cycle of transformation from agricultural labour and small peasantry to urban and industrial work corresponded to formation of ‘communist parties’ as bridge organisations [2], the early stage of skilled industrial manufacturing work gave birth to ‘councilist’ and ‘revolutionary syndicalist’ workers’ organisations, and the period of large-scale ‘Fordist’ industries, which were more integrated into general society brought forth organisational forms of ‘mass workers’, such as general assemblies and wider political coordinations with a quite different ‘communist vision’ from earlier perspectives of ‘self-management’.

Relate to / Create Factory Collectives

Prime objective of any workers’ organisation should be the development of collectives (or the establishing of relations to existing collectives) within workplaces, which are able to act. At the current stage of class struggle the question of the relation between ‘shop-floor’ activities and wider ‘political’ coordination seems to be a question of either – or. Without wider struggles workers’ collectives within factories don’t ‘find’ other group of workers outside. For the same reason ‘political groups’ remain small and can chose either to act on the ‘general terrain’ (going from struggle to struggle, publishing general newspapers) or concentrate on building work-place based activities. One reaction to this dilemma is that once we come across active groups of workers, due to lack of time and energy (and may be reflection) we propose quick solutions, such as setting up of company unions – instead of engaging in a common process of analysis as a precondition for more fruitful collective steps. At this point we can only refer to the historic experience of ‘factory activity’ in Faridabad during the 1980s and 1990s as reference for deeper debate.

http://libcom.org/library/self-activity-wage-workers-kamunist-kranti

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 15, 2012

SO I guess my last question is it really that big of a deal if there are some workplace based groups that dabble in a little bit of territorial organizing like SolFed, and that there are territorial groups that dabble in a little workplace organizing like AFed? My gut instinct is either to not care and just accept that multiple groups will try out different things, or think that maybe we should build groups that do multi-issue organizing. But I also get a sense that logic is supposed to tell me, (and I think this is what you are grasping at Juan) that groups should be single issue, or pick limited issues to organize around. IDK where I stand yet, but I think it is generally up in the air.

Another thing some get tense about calls by platformist for union mass organizations to be open to all workers or apolitical, (malatesta vs monatte if you will)...but how is solfed's or IWW's early SWU campaign call for more open worker committees or assemblies not the same thing? Is it because they are more informal?

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 15, 2012

But I also get a sense that logic is supposed to tell me, (and I think this is what you are grasping at Juan) that groups should be single issue, or pick limited issues to organize around.

I don't want to speak for Juan, but the impression I get is that he thinks groups should have a defined strategy as opposed to "issues" which they campaign/organize around.

That said, in another thread someone said that 'strategy is more often about what a group chooses not to do' and I think that's a really a really important point.

Personally, I'm in favor of a division of labor in the anarchist movement. We should have an anarchist organization for workplace activity and another for anti-fascism. Of course this doesn't mean there won't be overlap and all organizations should bridge the political and the economic, but a defined sphere of activity and an agreed strategy for each group seems like the way forward.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 15, 2012

hmm interesting, never really thought about doing a division of labor for the anarchist movement, so essentially a workplace network does this, ara/antifa for that, etc thanks for your thoughts chilli!

i think i also never thought about doing a division of labor for the anarchist movement, cause the US anarchist movement already does do that. there are a million little single issue organizations.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

I'm just gonna concentrate most of my comments here, although I see on Facebook its generated some discussion.

First off, the reason they're fragmented thoughts is because, well...they're fragmented thoughts. If they were more than that, this would have been something far more extensive. Right now I'm not sure if I'm against formal political organization period or have issues with how they were/are. Certainly I have some sympathies with some anti-political organization sentiments, but I'm not totally convinced. Really, it can be summed up as 'They're not for me right now, but they are also not something I'm going to argue against as a position.1

Sabotage, I'm having trouble really understanding what you're saying in the comments above. I'm assuming you've read something about 'the theory of the political-economic organization' that either I haven't or forgot, so not really sure how to respond to your second comment. Thanks for the link to Gurgaon Workers News, though, will have to check that out. Your other comment is also a bit confusing to me, as I'm not sure what you mean by 'territorial organizing' (never seen this term).

The last part of that comment though, is what you're asking basically what the difference is between platformism and the SolFed/CNT/'direct unionist'/network of militants? If so, that's a thought provoking question, and I'd have to think about it some.

  • 1Except in relation to the IWW. I don't think Wobblies joining political organizations helps the IWW, but actually hurts us, so I would and have argued against IWW people starting or joining political organizations. I think that's a separate conversation though.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

On to some Facebook comments

I like this mostly. It seems to me that participating in mass work is essential and that as we move towards more of a movement period, good ideas rise to the top (like we saw with the IWW in Madison) and that means that small groups of organized people can have increasingly large impacts. I also think separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of any radical strains isn't a bad idea though it is annoying as hell to have to deal with many anarchists, marxists, etc. That said, I'm all down for people to build the IWW, i.e., a mass org from scratch and would be fine with other types of mass formations being built up, though the IWW is also to some extent a 'political' group within existing unions, the movement as a whole, etc. I also think mentoring is the most direct form of passing on knowledge and experience and that this is only really relevant in relation to real organizing work as you point out. I think the need for formations is for serious people to get serious to better build shit. This is also why we need the IWW and for the IWW to get serious, and this is helped by groups based on affinity or otherwise, as we can see with projects like Recomposition, etc. Finally, I think connecting people who share a lot of ways of thinking across different movements is useful as we are going to start having things pop off when movements see each other as pieces of the same struggle and find practical ways for that to happen. More on this later, these are my scattered thoughts : )

Actually, I'm glad you mentioned the IWW in Madison, because this was kind of a situation which rearranged my politics a bit and made me question the need for political organization. But the crossover of people formerly or currently members of political orgs. makes the distinction a little difficult. For example, the only reason I was able to get there and contribute was because 2 members of First of May Anarchist Alliance and 1 former WSAer (all Wobs, too) gave me money to get there. Me knowing these folks is because of my former membership in WSA and WRC. Me knowing what to do in the things I did there that were good were probably directly influenced by being in those groups, too. Also, at the time, I was hitting up a certain NEFAC member about labor stats and info that would help us. So remembering that makes thinking about political org. not so cut and dry, imo.

As far as the IWW be helped by groups with shared affinity, etc. I'm not sure if you mean political orgs. in this, but I think more often than not, such groups haven't really benefited us. I wish they did. In fact, I'd like to see more from people in CSAC1 on why they're in the IWW. Same with some of the independent socialists or Trotskyists in the union. I'm sure they all receive some amount of shit from other people in their tendency about being in the union, how do they justify it? What is their response? I'd actually be curious about that.

I think there's a lot less unity needed when things are primarily study groups and announcement listservs, and I think if people acknowledged what things actually are, there would be a lot less yelling at each other. A lot of times it feels like it's mostly a social circle of (primarily white) dudes trying to hype themselves up, and I know we talk a lot about having a better composition...but people join orgs that are relevant to their lives, and I don't think a social network of primarily 20-40something white dudes who like arguing with each other is particularly relevant to people outside that circle. I think the challenge is to get everyone actually working on common projects (because certainly there are parts of these groups that do do common projects, it's just not the case the majority of the time) and to make the foundation of being in an organization common work and common tasks, rather than agreeing on a loose set of common principles and being in the same social circle.

I agree with this quite a bit and was what I was trying to get at with the part about informal VS formal.

I particularly like the point on social insertion. As you mention, this has been a left strategy, albiet with a different orientation (ie vanguardist), for quite some time. What also gets left out of the discussion on this point is that there are few mass organizations in the US, as compared to latin america where this concept originated. What options do folks in smaller cities or rural areas with few if any mass orgs to plug into?

and

^i think that really is the question we've failed to grapple with. the apparent task of especifistas in the US isn't so much to insert into mass movements but to catalyze them into existence (and how to do that w/o just spawning front groups). idk that anybody's really figured that out yet, and certainly the IWW and solnets seem to move us in that direction. but i think one of the most exiting things is the way that Take Back the Land/Occupy our Homes has just skyrocketed in terms of activity. and it's predominantly anarchist-types tho it's intentionally broad enough to become a mass force. idk that those orgs will themselves become mass, but they may well lead to the rise of mass forces like neighborhood assemblies and tenants' syndicates.

On the first part about 'social insertion'...this is one thing I've really had a problem with platformism is some aspects being anti-anarcho syndicalist and being forces that while officially say that the union form will never be revolutionary, in the end, their practice is making mainstream unions more 'democratic and militant'. It seems that the aim is just to create apolitical syndicalist breakaways of mainstream unions. I don't see how this is less realistic than building the IWW or another formation up and in fact I don't think really takes on tough questions that we in the IWW have had to face (recently I might add), such as issues of mass affiliation and trade unionism with red flags, etc.

The question about getting involved in a mass org. VS building...that's probably the most unaddressed aspect of the rise of political org. in North America. I don't what to make it seem overblown, what we're talking about here is basically 200-300 people, if that, but including defunct groups, former members and influence that punches about their weight, we start talking about far more than that. But that question has never been answered. Its one we wrestled with in WRC and never got much help with from other groups. I remember even starting a thread on Anarchist Black Cat (now defunct) and most people didn't know or had discouraging answers and I sort of came to the conclusion that building more mass forms of struggle was more important and that the political org. was more needed down the road...and this was when I was in 2 of those groups.

  • 1Class Struggle Anarchist Conference - a conference put on by most of the dual organizationalist anarchist groups in the U.S.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

Personally, I'm not quite ready to give up altogether on political organization. I do agree with pretty much everything said in the piece and here in the comments. [The] comments immediately above [about the 'question we've failed to grapple with...the apparent task of especifistas in the US'] strike me as particularly relevant: that nobody knows what to really do, and that's a hard fucking thing to deal with and even admit. The various projects mentioined above are steps in the right direction. Hashing out what makes sense in your area, realm of activity, etc, are tough questions. And yeah, there could be more an honest acknowledgement about that among us. Organizing in non-metropoles and where an organized left presence is scattered or non-existent is also supremely difficult.

Agreed. I think a bigger amount of honesty is needed, but there is a hesitancy, which is understandable as no one wants to question what they or others have put blood, sweat and tears into. But this lack of honesty on issues like this I think is a reason groups go defunct, the lack of follow through between groups and the confusion on what exactly to do.

i think the biggest thing since apparently these concerns have been a big issue for many people in our groups, is that if you have concerns share them. you have political responsibility to not just talk about this shit on facebook and engage your current organizations especially the less developed and newer people, otherwise i see lots of people quitting, being elitist, and not sharing their ideas, working with people. i'm not making a critique of recomp people btw, i'm more talking about my experience in CS... and i wasn't around for the folks getting fed up with WSA, i fucking joined cause i thought the recomp people were in it in fact. but yeah i think we should just have the conversations about this stuff and move on instead of like getting mad that most of the movement is 2 years behind the rest of us theory nerds.

On bringing it up within the groups...I guess that's fair. I think parts of this had been brought up within the groups some us former members were in at the time. Some of it wasn't. Other stuff, I know MAS and Scott Nappalos have written about. It seems maybe you're interpreting an attack on the CSAC groups with my piece, I'm sorry you feel that way. I tried to be constructive, maybe it didn't come across that way as much as I wanted it to. But it wasn't my intention for this to be some sort of sniping attack. Oh, also, here's something I wrote in response to leaving the WSA a while ago. Looking back at it, I'd probably write it differently, and some of it you might not exactly know what I'm talking about, but it mostly reflects my position as far as 'changing from within' goes:

In the past, you've suggested or questioned those who've envisioned different things for the CSAC milieu to stay and push for them. And to a certain extent, I agree. And I hope those who share my outlook who have the time and energy do exactly that. However, I don't have that time and energy, and I can see how others don't either. I feel like my time and energy pushing for what I want is better spent in the IWW, which in my opinion, is less inward focused and has more tangible results when it succeeds. I am exclusively interested in workplace organizing and helping others gain the tools and experience doing workplace organizing. Anything that distracts from that, whether it's poorly thought out ideas on housing/community organizing, solidarity networks or fighting for a reorganization of political organizations that aren't focused on workplace organizing is not really my thing, right now.

I still enjoy engaging people in the political organizations and wish I could make it to CSAC4, which I appreciate receiving an invitation to attend despite me not being in any of those groups anymore, but right now, my activity would be hampered by involvement in one of the political organizations, not enhanced.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

What about how the objective conditions we operate under in advanced capitalist economies? How does that impact the type of organizations that are possible in the current context? Is it even possible for a far-left organization to be more than a tiny sect under these conditions and consciousness? Is it even possible to break with the dominant mediation of the trade unions in a substantial movement? Is there an alternative?

Not really sure what you mean by 'objective conditions we operate in advanced capitalist economies'. That has to be unpacked quite a bit, man haha.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 15, 2012

In some ways, what Nate Hawthorne jokingly refers to as 'liquidationism' is probably a vague, but partially accurate description of what I'm for right now. Not sure if that's actually a term that means anything or has been used by people before though.

Basically, I kind of think we should dissolve formal political organizations and concentrate on working in bigger groups such as the IWW or mass organizations while maintaining informal networks and producing publications/blogs/writing. Right now, it's more important to gain organizing skills and experience, while building up combative economic organs/formations of the class. I'm not convinced that formal political organization can accomplish or even assist with this. Later, at a certain point, if there's a need, then those things can be formed.

This is all pretty vague to me though and I'm unsure about it. Like was mentioned, these are fragmented, incomplete thoughts and sometimes contradictory.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 16, 2012

I'm not really sure I get what folks are saying here.
Mainly because anarcho-syndcalist propaganda groups of my day were/are essentially "dual organizationalist".
Certainly in the "advanced" capitalist countries.And this has colored my thinking ever since.

The idea has always been to theoretically grouping militants with similiar ideas in the same organization who are theoretically engaged in mass work. And to produce publcations, etc. that would help advance the general ideals.

"Mass work" included such things as being in the IWW, the reformist unions, community stuff, defence of reproductive clinics and so forth. Theoretcially folks are to share experiances, seek help where needed and discuss things they may not be able to discuss in their mass work.... Doesn't always work out this way, but, I suspect this is th basis for how it should.

Honesty is also based around relaistic expecations, not wihs lists of what folks expect, but may not materially exist at a given moment.

I will take exception to this, because it's just not accurate: " i wasn't around for the folks getting fed up with WSA"...... unless you know something we don't, it was always said to us in the WSA folks were leaving to concentrate on "local stuff" or the IWW.

That said, eveything is a two way street. You can't be fed up with something which may not have existed or were working towards. I suppose it's hard to be both rebuilding and satisfying expecations at the same time. But peoples own politics and focus transition
and everyone has the right to transition and move forward, backwards or sidewise as they choose.

Agreed. I think a bigger amount of honesty is needed, but there is a hesitancy, which is understandable as no one wants to question what they or others have put blood, sweat and tears into. But this lack of honesty on issues like this I think is a reason groups go defunct, the lack of follow through between groups and the confusion on what exactly to do.

I think that the question of capacity, the eveness of capacity and realistic expectations often color things.
Most people are not "honest" in that assesment. I mean, to the extent that everyone wants stuff to already be advanced, in place and ready to go and it's not always there.

In terms of overall assesments, I don't think people ask the question as to what they do best. Or ask themselves what have they done wrong.

In terms of the WSA, perhaps being the pettre dish of the movement was not so good or helpful. We wanted to provide an outlet to build a national class struggle organization that incorportaed the best of some
of the various traditions then held our younger comrades. With too many people in motion, tyring to figure out their own politics, styles, methodology during a period of fast regrowth maybe didn't work out so well. Perhaps sometimes you try and it doesn't work.
Does it mean that opening up the organization to folks was not offered in good faith,certainly not.

Sometimes folks have expectations of "you" and you of "them" and sometimes they just to even up.
It takes alot of resposnsibilty for making sure that the growth has some evenness, that people are willing to put their foot to the grindstone and so forth. Sometimes folks are tied down with other stuff ("mass work" alone) and feel that those in the political organization have to shoulder the burden of group rebuiliding alone. Don't always work. And it son't always work that way.

After near 40 years of "doing" this stuff, my greatest disappointment is that too many people got way too much to say, but much work falls on the same shoulders, with everyone else basically not picking up their share. Then folks criticize that stuff ain't happening to their liking cause the few people doing it ain't doing it right, to their liking or fast enough. No matter what organization you may belong to,it's all the same. I dunno, work hard at what you believe in, stick it out, tough it out and don't loose faith in the ideal. Everything else is just stuff you got to wipe off your shoes from time to time.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on June 16, 2012

i think some of the problem is do to the very longstanding problem of very thin numbers. I would really like to see centers for popular education, outwardly oriented, like the Ateneo tradition in Spain and South America. but that would be a major local project. We'd presumably want to be able to do organizer trainings, public discussions of revolutionary history, and other things related to both formation of militants and building organizing skills.

There are other kinds of organizing projects it would be very important to be able to do, such as to work on building a particular union in some workplace/industry locally, or building a tenant union. But it would take sufficient number of people who are agreed on a project, for a project of this sort to get off the ground.

My experience has been that it has been very difficult to get even a few libertarian socialist militants together, who are dependable, and often people are in very different situations. So, in this general situation you inevitably will tend to have organizations that will often be more like networks in practice.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 16, 2012

Juan Conatz

[my views] can be summed up as 'They're not for me right now, but they are also not something I'm going to argue against as a position. (...) Except in relation to the IWW. I don't think Wobblies joining political organizations helps the IWW, but actually hurts us, so I would and have argued against IWW people starting or joining political organizations. I think that's a separate conversation though.

This is exactly where I'm at. Plus wanting to have (and enjoying having) informal personal contact and friendly relationships with some likeminded radicals including people in the various political groups.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 16, 2012

Nate

Juan Conatz

[my views] can be summed up as 'They're not for me right now, but they are also not something I'm going to argue against as a position. (...) Except in relation to the IWW. I don't think Wobblies joining political organizations helps the IWW, but actually hurts us, so I would and have argued against IWW people starting or joining political organizations. I think that's a separate conversation though.

This is exactly where I'm at. Plus wanting to have (and enjoying having) informal personal contact and friendly relationships with some likeminded radicals including people in the various political groups.

I know the FAI was basically like a rank and file anarchy caucus of the CNT, but I just haven't ever thought that way in relation to the IWW and anarchist political orgs in the USA. Sure I've heard some people make comparisons, but I think it is misguided, and I've had some stern close words for comrades who've brought up such notions.

If IWW or a group like SolFed are political workplace ("economic") organizations, why couldn't their also be such groups for other sectors. I think the main issue is that current political groups are seen as being too expansive, and not focused enough. This is why I think having specific strategies for different fronts of struggle is important. Not if each of those should be divided into separate orgs or not, IDK.

Oh on that note territorial vs workplace groups is leftcom jargon. There have been some recent pieces by ICT and ICC using such language.

lou.rinaldi

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lou.rinaldi on June 16, 2012

Hey Juan --

First I want to say thanks for writing this, because I think it is important to reflect on organization, where it is at, and why we get frustrated with it. A lot of this resonates with me, even as a current member of a libertarian communist org and of the IWW (which you say is bad for the IWW, a statement I strongly disagree with). The issues of political education and internal development really lag in the CSAC milieu, from my experience, but like Sabotage has said, it is something being moved forward with. In Common Struggle, specifically, I think it's being moved forward on at a good pace.

I guess one thing I wanted to speak to in particular was that you said platformist groups often have radical posture ("the union can never be revolutionary") and then end up in the position of attempting to reform the union to be better, more militant, and more democratic. However, I wouldn't argue against this per se, because we have to evaluate where we are at.

First, in some areas building independent organization won't always be possible. Even though I tend to have the mentality of "push forward!" a lot of the time, I have to admit that it is sometimes worth it to work within reformist structures, especially the more militant reformist structures. For young radicals in particular, I think it can be a learning experience (I say this because it was for me -- being invovled with nonprofits around solidarity work, then solidarity with a union more directly, and then an abortive attempt at salting for a AFL-CIO union).

Something I hear repeated often is that we should just be good ol' union boys and build a relationship and sense of trust with people. We should, but we should be careful. Creating relationships with various organizers and activists can pay off at a later time. But there is always the danger of getting played -- and sometimes we will. Another instance of, especially for younger comrades, I say good. Learn from that mistake and learn how to organize better.

I would rather have people get pushed around and mess up in a reformist organization than the IWW. I think being disillusioned with the mainstream unions is a good thing -- but we need to know how to bring people back into the fold and get them excited about the IWW.

I've got a lot of thoughts on this but I've got to run for now. Hope this all makes sense.

A. Weaver

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by A. Weaver on June 16, 2012

I'm reposting some edited comments from FB: Good deal of useful content in this and even though this sort of presses my buttons for various reasons I think it gives some valuable points to evaluate previous pitfalls and what needs to be strengthened. But I know that the degree of truth in this piece is read by many as a criticism of the larger project of political organization but if that's what people are taking away from this then I'd call that criticizing the seed for not being a flower. I'd also point out that good number of the points (and some new ones in similar veins) could easily have applied to the IWW a decade ago (and having joined the IWW in 1998 I can speak to that). Scott Napolas took my point that basically the IWW was only so long ago 'a seed' and only through a great deal of hard work by solid militants over time as well as many missteps and fumbles along the way did it become the burgeoning flower that we see today.

From Scott:

"The bigger questions are what we need to build, and how a functional revolutionary movement could arise[?] The IWW was a largely non-organizing sect before many of us hunkered down and built a new practice that hadn't really been tried in north america in a long time. That's a model in a way. What would that look like for political organization? I don't see real differences there. ... in the end if we have these insights about the political/economic divide, the need for coherent trainings & experience in mass work, etc., we need to build that alternative. The other option is the present culture of individualistic self-study, near-term uncoordinate mass work, and hemorrhaging militants to even worse organizations which personally i saw in the IWW. We lost solid folks to bad social democratic groups, leninists, and wack anarchist groups not because we didn't have a solid mass base, but because the most advanced failed to engage people at a political level and offer a coherent alternative. Political organization won't come out of a box and solve this stuff, and whatever organizations we build are only as good as the people & the political context."

One point that I'd contest though is #5 "social insertion as boring-within." While I think that a good deal of folks who claimed inspiration from the platform in the US (wrongly IMO) took up a position of or something close to 'bore-from-within' based on their interpretation of the Platform, Especifismo has never been presented as advocating this and I think that's a misread. If you look at the article I wrote on especifismo a number of years ago that played a large role in introducing it to North America, the example it gives for social insertion is one of political militants building a long term relationship with folks in an industry and helping them build an organization from scratch:

From "Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America"

"Through several years of work, the FAG has built a strong relationship with urban trash collectors, called catadores. Members of the FAG have supported them in forming their own national organization which is working to mobilize trash collectors around their interests nationally and to raise money toward building a collectively operated recycling operation."

Further, reading the interviews where the Latin American especifists actually talk about their work, with the exception of working with rank and file of the MST, most example of organizing that they talk about are work that they've developed, such as neighborhood committees and popular education projects. Or in the case of Chile, what seems to be the largest anarchist effort is the intermediate type student/anarchist organization the FEL, which is active within the larger students movement.

In my mind (and I feel that I've always tried to represent this position generally as the primary task of political militants), the US generally does not have real popular/social movements and what does exist are often super deformed by NGOism and top down business unionism that offer no or little terrain for revolutionaries to build a real praxis; therefore the main tasks is to help birth these and build these movements. Now a lot of shit has popped off in the last year or two that's changing that, but the tasks are largely the same-- how to take these momentary bursts and make them into something more long term, systemic and organized? And especially because I believe in the importance of the workplace a site of struggle, how do we channel this into the workplace and build working class power as opposed to just diffuse opposition/protest movements? And another key task is how to build solid and developed militants that are long term committed to the work and ideas?

R. Spourgitis

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on June 16, 2012

Being one of those fbook posters, still in favor of political orgs. but thinking Juan has brought to the fore issues overdue in discussion for us.

I first want to say what the political organization has offered me, where I see its benefits still. The ability to engage with others on a higher level of political and practical understanding is rewarding in terms of personal development, and more importantly, in strategizing about how to take action. This doesn't happen in synthesist forms, and informal ones are too closed in my view. Sure, informality and friendship-based nature of political orgs. are always there - but they are in mass orgs. too. We aren't robots, we don't remove our humanity and interpersonal shit when we walk into the meeting. All our human failings follow us as well. People are right to point out that building up the trust, confidence and skills to act effectively are in many ways where we are. Does this let people off the hook for lack of follow through? Certainly not, but we need supportive engagement to get there. Besides that, we need active campaigns and projects on the ground, which realistically are going to come from both within and outside of our milieu. And that's for the better.

Like sabotage, I don't see it as an either/or. I think those of us who see the value in trying to build, or maintaining, our national/regional/local political organizations can still do that. Do that, and have productive effective relationships with those who choose not to. Also, with those on the broader left we choose to work with, either through political affinity as in some of the new-school "libertarian marxists" or for short-term practical efficacy. It's all about trying out what works.

Something I haven't said on facebook, because I don't use a pseudonym and am uncomfortable with its public/private nature, is my personal relationship to the IWW. I have never been in a branch, so I really don't understand what is at issue over political organization involvement vs. solely IWW work, basically not going to comment there. I will say that being in an area which has struggled to maintain more than 5 active wobblies at any given point, and this spread out over 3-4 cities in a roughly 100 mile radius of the midwest, it doesn't really offer me much, personally. 5 years ago, being less developed politically, I was involved at a time when two different area wobs had two equally abortive attempts at a workplace drive.

When the more recent wobbly group popped up this past year, partly inspired by the events of Madison, I think anyway. There was some hope for more. Two are "dual-carders" in trades unions an hour east of me. Two others of us work at same place, in an industry with a highly diffuse workforce (1-2 employees on shift in 70 different sites), we also had a third (who quit the job, no doubt for the stagnant wage, shitty hours and nature of the work). A few of us have been to the organizer training - a very valuable resource, no doubt. Our abilities/efforts to agitate in the workplace are hampered by several things, but my point in all this rambling is that a realistic workplace organizing campaign doesn't really seem to be on the horizon. We meet once-a-month, bullshit about work and politics, pay our dues, maybe have some beers after. That's pretty much it.

I wouldn't say I've gotten shit for being in IWW (I forget if Juan says this here, or on fbook or both - it's all jumbled up now, :)), if anything there is almost a mystique attached to it, like it's the extra-down class struggle club to be in. Part of that might be our location, and the way we come together from different places for the IWW meet up, part is surely the nature of keeping shit on the d-l when you're talking organizing efforts. But it's definitely something I try to dispel where I can. I am usually describing it in fairly limited terms as a radical anti-capitalist labor union that does a lot of good stuff in industries the rest of the unions won't touch, at least for those who don't know.

Good discussion all around. Lots to think on.

R. Spourgitis

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on June 16, 2012

A. Weaver

In my mind (and I feel that I've always tried to represent this position generally as the primary task of political militants), the US generally does not have real popular/social movements and what does exist are often super deformed by NGOism and top down business unionism that offer no or little terrain for revolutionaries to build a real praxis; therefore the main tasks is to help birth these and build these movements. Now a lot of shit has popped off in the last year or two that's changing that, but the tasks are largely the same-- how to take these momentary bursts and make them into something more long term, systemic and organized? And especially because I believe in the importance of the workplace a site of struggle, how do we channel this into the workplace and build working class power as opposed to just diffuse opposition/protest movements? And another key task is how to build solid and developed militants that are long term committed to the work and ideas?

I would add to A. Weaver's last point that yes, all that has popped off and we need to build off it, but all that activity and events has tested our meddle, and we find less organizations than before. Tensions, contradictions and difficulties in ideology and praxis have been revealed which seemingly were previously masked in the period of much lower activity. I don't know, that's what my take-away has been of late.

dohball

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dohball on June 16, 2012

Well the link to ashanti's talk made my saturday night!
really energising!

post wall of housework in readiness to face my wall of admin with a clear desk...except i only managed to tackle the kitchen..yep thats this sat night..

I think we can use it in our project...so much appreciated link.

(i think it would have been even better to get 2 folks to film it though and edited the footage ( not loads of work if you can find someone who can use even a basic editing programme) or set up a tripod/improv tripod - you can do that even if yr filming of a mobile & that really can make all the difference etc. etc. even just little things when it comes to shooting yr footage can make all the difference to its quality. I just say this because it was such a compelling talk it feels like it deserves a really good record of it; a bit better and it could have been used as a public screening. But the one that's there still does the job + its good it was filmed at all.So cheers to the project that pulled it together.)

I want to follow this conversation but i am struggling to make sense of some of it... it would help if folks could say what the letter acroynms stand for. Anyway..

Juan said

Basically, I kind of think we should dissolve formal political organizations and concentrate on working in bigger groups such as the IWW or mass organizations while maintaining informal networks and producing publications/blogs/writing. Right now, it's more important to gain organizing skills and experience, while building up combative economic organs/formations of the class. I'm not convinced that formal political organization can accomplish or even assist with this. Later, at a certain point, if there's a need, then those things can be formed.

what do y'all mean by formal political organisations.. do you mean like the the anarchist federation & solfed?

Do you think that we can only help/stimulate the growth of active radical self-organisation on a massive scale by aiming to form large organisations (like the IWW aims to be) or do you think there is a role for groups that don't aim to attract lots of members?

I think one of the key questions for any group large or small is whether it is both genuinely empowering for the people involved in it at the same time as espousing anarchistic (my often prefered word for revolutionary/radical/non-vanguardist/liberatarian communist/one that respects that people need to make their own decisions together etc.)ideas.

feels like such a massive conversation to have online

dohball

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dohball on June 16, 2012

do you mean whether to organise/initiate your own groups and campaigns/movements or whether to join already existing ones and try and change them from within?

i think its best to start your own but aim to co-operate and learn from whoever else is there... that's clearer and enables you to say more passionate and in control of what you think is best to do next.
trying to 'bore away' sounds too tiring and a bit disrespectful - better to be try to be honest about what you really want & hope the excitement catches on.

dohball

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dohball on June 17, 2012

well i guess that just added to the fragmentation. sorry - shouldn't post so late at night. may try to get back to this later

boozemonarchy

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on June 17, 2012

Hi Juan,

I wanted to hear you expand on #3 some.

Basically I would agree that Political org. has that tendency to make a smaller circle for those conversations. But the way I see it, the same thing happens in all sorts of organizing. From informal groups in ones workplace, to informal groups in the IWW, this same effect can be seen.

As soon as one creates that informal group that is willing to engage in such conversation, it sort of becomes a closed circle yea know?

Could you respond to your own critique by describing where those conversations ought be taking place?

About the bottom part of #3, I can't really comment, cause I don't know the reference material. ;-)

3)Political organization has a tendency to take the types of conversations that should be happening in the wider class and instead places them primarily in closed groups between a very small amount of people. This is encouraged by advocating that a strict separation of the political and the economic must be maintained. However, it assumes that existing economic organizations are not already political and it is rarely gives an adequate explanation on how this differs from Lenin's 'trade union consciousness', which anarchists and libertarian communists have always rejected.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

Nate

Juan Conatz

[my views] can be summed up as 'They're not for me right now, but they are also not something I'm going to argue against as a position. (...) Except in relation to the IWW. I don't think Wobblies joining political organizations helps the IWW, but actually hurts us, so I would and have argued against IWW people starting or joining political organizations. I think that's a separate conversation though.

This is exactly where I'm at. Plus wanting to have (and enjoying having) informal personal contact and friendly relationships with some likeminded radicals including people in the various political groups.

The problem is, this is painted as an either or scenario.

Why don't the IWW liquidate and enter mass movements, retain thier locals as informal political revolutionary unionist groupings and expand from there?

While I not not serious, this is really the mirror image of what is being proposed for those anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists who wish to engage and organize on a couple of track basis.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 17, 2012

No, it's not. I'm not saying y'all dissolve. I don't have much in the way of serious opinions about what y'all do. I'm not a member and don't get a vote and more importantly I really don't have ideas about what I think would be best for y'all to do. The political organization milieu didn't offer me stuff that I wanted and needed, other than friendships which I'm glad I made. So for what I'm after, the organizations aren't it. For other people, the organizations are a good idea for them to meet needs they have.

What I do have clear views on is that IWW members who want to build the IWW often make the mistake of thinking that joining or forming a political organization will help them do that. I'd like to see that mistake stop happening. I also think that often IWW people join or start political organizations for other reasons than wanting to build the IWW. I wish them well and wish them success in those efforts, but more often than not they come at the expense of the IWW. I'd like to see the IWW figure out how to meet as many of those people's needs as possible because those needs are pushing/pulling them into other groups and somewhat out of the IWW. There are limits to that, though - like if someone wants to do anti-police brutality or anti-sexual assault work (etc), both of which are really important, another group is going to be a better choice because the IWW's not going to be very suited for that except in the very short term. So people who want to do other organizing that doesn't make sense in the IWW should go do that work with another group and we shouldn't sweat that. But people who want to reflect on organizing together etc, we can do that in the IWW and should, rather than having political organizations be the place where those happen.

None of this is against people currently in political organizations or saying those groups are useless or worthless. It's saying that for the limited goals of building the IWW, they're generally not an asset. That's not the only thing that matters and it's not something everyone should care about. But a few of us who do care about it and like I said we tend to make a mistake in thinking that joining other groups helps build the IWW.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

"What I do have clear views on is that IWW members who want to build the IWW often make the mistake of thinking that joining or forming a political organization will help them do that. I'd like to see that mistake stop happening. I also think that often IWW people join or start political organizations for other reasons than wanting to build the IWW."

If eveything is IWW-centric, yes, this would prolly be true to the extent that the IWW is not a political organization and a political organization isn't a union. Each have something particular to offeer and each provide a space for different discussions, or should at least.

While, for example, an anarcho-syndicalist may have a certain focus in the IWW, for the most part that is shop and campaign oriented. With "leaving politics at the door" as the main "political" approach of the IWW that, IMHO, has always left a space open for a dual organizational approach. that said, it may not be locally applicable everywhere.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 17, 2012

We're kind of going over ground we've been over before so I'm gonna bow out after this. Earlier you said I was making this an either/or scenario. It is, but not for everyone. It is for people who are, as you put it, IWW-centric, I didn't say everything is IWW-centric. I'm IWW-centric. That's what I'm into. People who share that priority should, in my opinion, do stuff along the lines of what I said. People with other priorities should do whatever makes sense to them. I haven't here made any argument about how everyone should have the same priorities on this as well. I have not said and do not think that everyone should be IWW-centric. I'm personally not particularly interested in having a discussion about why people should or shouldn't prioritize the IWW as those discussions are pretty much never interesting or productive in my experience.

I'm not saying people should want to build the IWW or should not want political organizations. It's just true that some people do want to build the IWW. Those people should do so, and they are generally mistaken if they think that forming or joining political organizations is a good way to do so. That's all I'm saying. People who want to do other things should do those things, and political organizations may well be a good way to meet those other priorities. I don't have a strong opinion or clear ideas on that either way.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

By the same token, Nate, I'm not particularly interested in debating whether political organizations are good, bad or indifferent.You say they're not for IWW purposes, and maybe there's a truism from a perspective of prioritizing
IWW work.

I suppose I just don't accept the writing off of dual organizalism as being particularly constructive. But everyone is entitled their perspectives and views. That's really my point. To each their own and we'd avoid the same circular conversations that happen.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 17, 2012

Then we agree, Syndicalist, because I'm not talking about political organizations in general. I don't personally want to be in one. Juan expressed very well why he doesn't, and I think the same. As he put it:
Juan Conatz

'[political organization are] not for me right now, but they are also not something I'm going to argue against as a position. (...) Except in relation to the IWW. I don't think Wobblies joining political organizations helps the IWW

And if people in the IWW think joining or starting political groups helps the IWW, fair enough. I think they're wrong, but they're free to believe that and to act on their beliefs. The best way to resolve that disagreement would be in practice, for those people to make some plans to build the IWW up through their activity in their other groups, and see what happens after while and report back.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

I agree...that folks should do what they think is right for themselves ..... but this continued and historical sorta one-up-organizationalhip has always been a turn off....and continues to be.

Yes, of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. But I don't think being a member of a political organization and of the IWW are contradictory,in conflict with each other or diminshes from the work they do in either organization.

Recomposition very much acts like a political organiozation in the sense you all agree on a certain set of political ideas, but see the primary focus of your mass work is the IWW. The promotion of a revolutionary document (Direct Uniionism) was the concsious effort of ideologically in tune folks.
This was a formal and concious effort by folks who may be somewhat loose in their organizational formality, but act in concernt and in a formal way within the mass organization. Very similiar to what, I would think, folks in, say, anarcho-syndicalist dial organizational organizations may try and do.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 17, 2012

informal groups in iww

see that's just it, i don't see how informal networks/groups like recomposition are not effectively doing what juan critiques. sure i am sure locally many members are trying to have political discussion and development internal to iww. but essentially a group like recomposition certainly has an informal ad-hoc influence on the discourse in a dual organizational way.

---

On another note Nate I think there is a difference between critique of political organization, and saying everyone should be in political-economic organization, or that political-economic organization is what revolutionary organization is in our time, like Juan is saying...

...and it not fitting personal needs or desires.

So while I understand you are just an IWW guy, and that you think political orgs didn't help you understand how to be a better IWW organizer, or was useful for political analysis, and that you think political discussion should happen in the union (I very much agree with this, we need more political development in the IWW so people can really take "you are the union" and solidarity unionism to heart) that is not what Juan was saying. Juan is making an argument, or at least fragmented critique against the usefulness and existence of an actual practice in political organizations. He basically says political organizations are just meetings, and reading groups, and that they "don't do organizing" and when they do it is entryist/Leninist instead of seen as spreading anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist lines, methods, and struggles like SolFed do... even though the same critique could be made of GMBs, and that shop committees/branches are the bodies that do the organizing. I agree with Scott and Adam W on this, that the same problem has existed in IWW.

Regarding people thinking political orgs are a place for reflection in replacement of IWW reflection, or that political orgs will help people do their mass organizing better. I think it is a mixed bag. I haven't encountered many who thought political orgs will provide them training or the analysis needed for mass work, though there is a trend of militants who do mass work sharing their skills at least in CS/LCF. Maybe it was different out in the Midwest, perhaps folks were thinking that is something or the role of the political org is to have discussions about what you are doing in your mass work. I'll admit those of us in my local political org do have such discussions, but we also have discussions in our IWW branch. So really it is just sorta double tracked? And I don't really think to the expense of the mass organizing, we prioritize both.

---

Regarding my own needs I think the networking, discussion, learning from other militants in political organization, from their other organizing, etc is complimentary to my organizing practice in the work I choose to focus on. I can see others feeling like they don't have the time to double track, and that is fine. I will say though that before I was in political orgs I was way less developed, plugged in, or involved with anyone on the national scale in class struggle/libertarian/syndicalist politics, and it really is a benefit. I would have never become acquainted with people who for instance have pushed direct unionism. Unfortunately the IWW is very good at atomizing people, and making it especially hard to not find out how to connect on the national scale. It took me 3 years to ever get an OT training, and find out how to get on email lists or talk to anyone on the national scale. I only learned this by working with serious organizers from political org connections.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

I agree...that folks should do what they think is right for themselves ..... but this continued and historical sorta one-up-organizationalhip has always been a turn off....and continues to be.

Yes, of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. But I don't think being a member of a political organization and of the IWW are contradictory,in conflict with each other or diminshes from the work they do in either organization.

Recomposition very much acts like a political organiozation in the sense you all agree on a certain set of political ideas, but see the primary focus of your mass work is the IWW. The promotion of a revolutionary document (Direct Uniionism) was the concsious effort of ideologically in tune folks.
This was a formal and concious effort by folks who may be somewhat loose in their organizational formality, but act in concernt and in a formal way within the mass organization. Very similiar to what, I would think, folks in, say, anarcho-syndicalist dial organizational organizations may try and do.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 17, 2012

I think broadening informal groups or writing collectives into the definition of formal political organization not only goes against the spirit of why the latter exist in the first place, but is actually just a way to include people who disagree with you into your own perspective. I think its dishonest and is just an attempt to disarm people who are against formal political organization by basically saying 'But you're just like us!'.

Also, I can see that sabotage is really seeking out an anti-political org. argument in this, and is referencing bits of past conversations and filling in the blanks with assumptions (some of them safe to make, tbh). However, I haven't really made that argument. I don't think what I wrote is that argument. If I wanted to make that argument, this piece would look a lot different.

Looking over this again, almost all of the points come out of discussions me and another Wild Rose Collective had while I was still in 2 political organizations. This really seems like stuff I needed to get off my chest publicly, based on those conversations, as well as from other ones formerly or currently in those groups. The comments have also helped clarify what I think, although its still jumbled. Obviously, from some of what is said...some of my issues, which are rooted as far back as 2010 are still issues in 2012 among people still in those groups. I know that some of yall have picked up on anti-political organization sentiments I have, mostly because of past discussions, but honestly what I wrote could be used to justify reapproachment OR "liquidationism", and the response from some of the people I would consider'super-platformists' on Facebook seems to back this up.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

"Dishonest", no, the function is very similiar. I'm not saying it's identical, but has many of the aspects of concerted and formal action.

Anyway, I'm not a platformist, so I can't argue from that point of view.

But if you feel that I'm politically dishonest, well, I wish you well.

EDIT: Juan, people can disagree with how they, as individuals, see things. Different views and disagreements over those views are simply that, disagreement and differences. If you wish to think that these different view points are somewhat dishonest, it changes the tenor & tone of the discussion...and implies something else.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 17, 2012

Really, a different conversation, but I see it as an argument that's based on assumptions of me being against dual organizationalism all of the time (which I'm not and have never stated anywhere, as far as I can recall) and then using examples such as informal groups and writing collectives as types of dual organization with the end goal of muddying the differences between them and formal political organization, which can then be utilized to prove my (vague and pretty much unstated, btw) position contradictory or wrong.

If that's not what you and sabotage are getting at, then forget it, but I've come across this argument before and that's the angle there.

I think defining informal groups as 'dual organization' stretches the definition of that to almost meaningless. Then, every time 2 or more people talk to each other about doing anything together then it becomes similar to a political organization.

As far as writing collectives go, sure they could be dual organization if that's the terminology you prefer, but there's still a vast amount of difference between that and formal political organization and its pretty clear to me they are not the same thing at all.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 17, 2012

Juan, I was just editing my comment, then saw above.

What I am saying is that how some things function, not what they are called are similiar. I'm not saying they're identical. Nor am I saying 2 people writing something is the same as formal organization. I did give an example of what I see as a similiar effort, one with more then 2 people involved and one with clear goals based on a similiar perspective unity.
So, the function is the same as what folks in formal organizations aim to do as well. That's all.

Anyway, you have your views, I have mine and I'll shake your hand, wish you well and just move on.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 17, 2012

I think defining informal groups as 'dual organization' stretches the definition of that to almost meaningless.

I accept that is your opinion, but there are many self-described "informal" affinity groups that operate in a "dual organizational" manner.

Also there are groups and then there are abstract theoretical levels. For me a bunch of revolutionary individuals collaborating on some writing and similar practices within the IWW are acting as an active minority whether they are formally a political group or a writing collective. The difference is that obviously one is more ambitious than the other, and I am not accusing the Recomp Crew of being a revolutionary organization, but it certainly is a collection of very active revolutionary militants.

Uncontrollable

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Uncontrollable on June 17, 2012

Juan Conatz

we should dissolve formal political organizations and concentrate on working in bigger groups such as the IWW or mass organizations while maintaining informal networks and producing publications/blogs/writing.

Juan Conatz

my experience in this milieu is that these groups are more like informal networks

The WSA was like an informal network so you quit to form an informal network?

dohball

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dohball on June 17, 2012

still a bit at sea here, a sea of unfamiliar language...what do you mean by political organisations exactly - is the IWW not a political organisation ? - could folks define what they mean a bit more...i haven't heard these words used to make these distinctions before..well whatever the distinctions are exactly..

i do agree that it is important - despite & because of the life affirming inevitability of peoples diverse responses to the fuck-up that is capitalism etc.- to try and think through and hone organising strategies. to acknowledge the need to focus and what it takes to sustain efforts.

but if you hope that people will focus all their life energy that they have for trying to create political change through one channel then that channel is going to have to offer a richness of experience. i mean that if the focus is on workplace organising as in the IWW then, especially long term it has to feed peoples needs for empowerment, intellectual stimulation, some form of success every so often, community, solidarity, friendship, chance to explore their creativity. most people are not prepared to submit to an experience of political organising that is too much comprised of grind. then there can be the danger of a few feeling they carry too much, power imbalances etc. - maybe familiar dynamics in many collective groupings, (in the west at any rate - not meant to be some pan statement about human collectivity per se.)

and of course as everyone has agreed there are many concerns, many urgent concerns apart from workplace struggle that need addressed.

so all the things that help to create and sustain collectivity in a deeply fractured culture need to be brought to bear. these are more practical and spiritual and concrete in nature and easier for me to grasp hold of and talk about. these are the kind of things that need to be discussed and passed along and not lost. to be held in common without pretense of expertise. i have to say i have never been keen on the language of training but that's for another post or conversation sometime i guess. the discussion of how to generate different kinds of pratical learning that are integrated into ongoing practical organising and struggle is one it could be good to have on this thread, i think.
libcom is like a free library so even making concrete resources like this is an example..

what sustains individuals can be quite particular to them and of that time in their life. even if one approach is genuinely more desirable any suggestion of what is best organisationally can't be proscribed across the lived complexities of peoples lives. although of course an intelligent and responsible discussion about strategy can influence the decisions that people take about where to place their energies and possible consequences for the wellbeing of a project etc.

dohball

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dohball on June 17, 2012

syndicalistcat wrote

I would really like to see centers for popular education, outwardly oriented, like the Ateneo tradition in Spain and South America.

if you could say more about what they are & how they work that would be interesting..

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 18, 2012

Uncontrollable

The WSA was like an informal network so you quit to form an informal network?

That's not what I said nor what I did, but I wouldn't see that as contradictory, in any case.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 18, 2012

dohball

still a bit at sea here, a sea of unfamiliar language...what do you mean by political organisations exactly - is the IWW not a political organisation ? - could folks define what they mean a bit more...i haven't heard these words used to make these distinctions before..well whatever the distinctions are exactly.

I mean the platformist, 'specifist', dual organizationalist formal political organizations in the U.S. such as Workers Solidarity Alliance, Common Struggle (formerly the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists), Miami Autonomy & Solidarity, etc, basically the groups around the A New World In Our Hearts network and 'reapproachment/regroupment' effort that has the aim of working together more closely with the possibility of uniting into 1 or more larger anarchist political organizations.

So formal organizations in which struggle does not directly happen through its own organs, unlike say, anarcho-syndicalist unions, solidarity networks, anti-cut groups, the IWW, etc.1

  • 1And yes, I realize in some situations anarcho-syndicalist unions or the IWW may operate in a 'dual-card' manner, in which it looks more like a political organization, but this not the entire point of them, unlike most political orgs.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 18, 2012

dual organizational theory comes actually from luigi fabbri...fdca is really inspired with it, and a few years back a bunch of people in the us milieu read that stuff.

in which struggle does not directly happen through its own organs

i guess my objection to this, is that this is not always the case. and some organizations have had struggle happen through them. and it is unclear if the struggle happens through a group like solfed, or through the worker committees. in the case of the iww, yes it usually happen through an iww committee, not independent worker committees.

for instance in a recent campaign in my city two common struggle members who are also iww members have been engaged in a campaign. there is a shit load of overlap between each org. but if they wanted they could recruit through a different label. four star members could all get jobs at the same place over the next month, and would they cease to be a political group?

i have some thoughts coming soon on this, how this way of thinking about revolutionary organization needs to be surpassed.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

syndicalist

one-up-organizationalhip (...)
Recomposition very much acts like a political organiozation

In a rush, want to reply while this is on my mind, not trying to be curt/rude. I think you're reading stuff in that's not here re: one-ups-manship, at least if you're referring to me. My position is "the groups aren't for me and they don't build the IWW". That's all. Not trying be like "what I'm doing is better.' Two, Recomp is a publication, that's all. I guess the editorial group is also a verrrry informal and disorganized affinity group who agrees on a lot and have know each other and worked together a long time, and sometimes collaborate on projects (but more like 2-3 of us doing something together, basically never all of us). The difference between all that and a formal political group is so obvious to me that I have a hard time articulating anything about it. If Recomp is as much a political org as the orgs Juan's talking about then I think that's more a criticism of the existing groups than it is Recomp actually being a political org. That sounds harsher typed out than I mean it, at the moment. I don't know how to make that point in a way that doesn't sound harsh. I'll get back later and read the rest of the discussion.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 18, 2012

i guess what my point i've been making this entire time is the IWW is more AAUD-E and SolFed is more KAUD.

:mrt:

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 18, 2012

Well, yeah, you might have an objection to that. Sure. But listing off highly specific or hypothetical situations that do not reflect neither the vast majority of practice nor the publicly stated organizational documents of the groups...I'm not really sure how that changes how I defined it. If you have a better way to define it, go ahead, I'm game, but I thought that was a fairly noncontroversial way to define it.

I mean, one of the things I've always seen stressed by syndicalist and syndicalistcat is that 'The WSA is not a union'. That might be actually stated somewhere in Where We Stand or somewhere else possibly. And the examples given are working through the AFL-CIO unions, IWW or starting independent unions, which is a seperate thing and pretty much the whole point of the political group: to formely gather militants into an organization to come to some sort of broad or specific agreement on stuff and then work through organizations that are not direct channels of the political group itself. If you think platformism, especifismo, dual organizationalism is something different than this, then please explain, because this seems like the working definition for most people that identify with these labels.

i have some thoughts coming soon on this, how this way of thinking about revolutionary organization needs to be surpassed.

For sure you should. I'd defintly read and comment on that.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 18, 2012

hey juan...

a lot of this could just be because i am hella heretical to the tradition?

yeah i guess my examples were rather specific/hypothetical.

also i think you are right about WSA getting framed that way. i think less so with a group like CS and in it's past more NEFAC, because people were not afraid to do things as the political group. i also think in WSA some people are starting to ask if the strict separation makes any sense. i have also come to the conclusion basically that it doesn't make sense in the current period.

i think the question i am playing around with in my head is do we want unitary political-economic organizations like the AAUD or the traditional IWW, which seek to nominally contain all struggle within them, or do we want unitary political-economic organizations like KAUD or SolFed that want to encourage the self-organization of the class. now I know nate has written some good things on OBUism, and well I think that it is true that the IWW didn't always mean ORGANIZE ALL TEH WORKERZ! but I do think there are possibly some different orientations there that seem to not resolve the debate between mono vs dual organizational model.

i just want to say i really appreciate everything you've put out here juan, it's gotten me to a lot of thinking, even if it agitated me a bunch at first.

*edit* also it makes me wonder about a lot of the leninist/bordigist/left com groups that do workplace organizing but via the party/political organization.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 18, 2012

Juan Conatz:

I mean, one of the things I've always seen stressed by syndicalist and syndicalistcat is that 'The WSA is not a union'. That might be actually stated somewhere in Where We Stand or somewhere else possibly. And the examples given are working through the AFL-CIO unions, IWW or starting independent unions, which is a seperate thing and pretty much the whole point of the political group: to formely gather militants into an organization to come to some sort of broad or specific agreement on stuff and then work through organizations that are not direct channels of the political group itself. If you think platformism, especifismo, dual organizationalism is something different than this, then please explain, because this seems like the working definition for most people that identify with these labels.

As I've said over the years, WSA came to our dual organizationalist approach in a manner that was organic to our practice, not based on what has become, I suspect, associated with the other ideas. Most anarcho-syndicalist "propaganda groups" (including the forerunners of the Solfed) had similiar outlooks and approaches.

Now, if you want to be really nuanced about it, while the WSA has never claimed to be a union, unlike most especifists and platformists, the WSA has been supportive of building a revolutionary workers' movement that included unions that were not part of the mainstream. And for most of the WSA histroy, almost half (and at time more than half) of our membership have been in the IWW. And would it have made sense for some 30 comrades scattered across 3000 miles in 1984 to declare themseves a Union? Anyway, there were only handfuls of people working in the same industries and within those industries mainstream unions were heavily represented to boot. Point really being, is we have always had our own specific approach which we have felt reflected both our politics and realities.

I mean, Juan, we can broad brush all we want, but there are nuances and specifities that certainly allow for our own political trajectory and nuances.

Speaking of braod brush strokes, this part is sorta news to me:

Saboatge: i also think in WSA some people are starting to ask if the strict separation makes any sense. i have also come to the conclusion basically that it doesn't make sense in the current period.

While WSA has never declared itself a union, the question of possibly doing certain "mass work" (other then unions) in the WSA name or not has never been rejected. There's nothing stopping anyone from doing, say, Solnet or community work as a WSA local project.
[EDITED out additional comments. There were a few internal WSA emails on this on another topic, which just dawned on me.]

To the UK folks, respectfully, we have a hard time understanding some of your phrases as well. -:)

"Mass work" is an old US left term, that seems to have made its way into our own lexicon. Basically, it means folks working in teants organizations, unions and other non-affiliated (to the anarchist organization)
bodies of comunity folks, workers, etc.

A good example of mass work might be two fold. For many, many years UK syndicalists worked inside the trade unions, given the haevy unionization of the workers. Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF) members were both union members and members of an anarcho-syndicalist propaganda group. They engaged in what WSA
has always considered "mass work".

Additionally, the Syndicalist Workers Federation
helped to initiate and was a main mover of the "National Rank & File Movement". While it mainly turned out to be a grouping of rank and file workers affilaited to non-leninist socialist organizations,
the SWF goal was to engage on a "mass" basis the most radical worker elements to agitate for a new workers' movement. The SWF members mainly operated (from what I can tell) in an open fashion (as SWF and union affiliated members), they did so not strictly limited to the SWF, but through other non-affiliated initiative and organizations as well.

Nate, I'll be happy to have a conversation in a comradely and respectful manner when you have the time. I guess my point being, if a group functions in a manner that is in concert with some goals(in the case of Recomp, as I see it from the far outside)--writing and advocating a tendency for "direct unionism",the looseness of how you all interact is less important,in this instance. The fact that a group has organized to carry out specific agitation and orientation indicates some level of formality and some level of organized goals.

I neither offer this as a criticism of the work of Recomp., nor a failure of any existing dual organizationalist groups. I see it as a group of folks who have common beliefs and orientation in an organization which is their primary focus and long term goals/perspectives, which others outside the specific circle (loose or not) are not part of. I think the real key here is not that folks have not loosely or not come together to write a leaflet or two. From afar, it seems like folks have come together to agitate and organize around a specific set of ideas as articluated in a document with the aim of organizing around that specific document for a long period. A bit different, to me, then loosely getting together with firends to write an article or leaflet.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

Recomp must look way more organized than we actually are. The direct unionism stuff was written before recomp, most of it was done be a solfed member though the N Americans ended working on recomp later. We disagreed the whole time writing that and now disagree about various parts of it afterward and don't share a single perspective on it. We only put it up online a year or two after it was written because it was like "well, this thing's not what we'd do if we wrote it now, but it'd be nice if people read it since we spent a lot of time on it." That was done in a pretty haphazard fashion and to be totally frank I'm not convinced that everyone in the recomp editorial group had actually read the thing before a few of us slapped it online. (I haven't asked.)

I don't think we're really doing all that much to act in a concerted way. I wish we were a lot more than we are, frankly. We're a web site edited by IWW members that's trying to address an audience that's mostly IWW members. We're still figuring out how to do that, and I don't know if we agree all that much on this, we've not talked a lot about it and we don't have much at all in the way of a plan. We run stuff we think is interesting and write stuff we're interested in. That's about the size of it in my opinion, and I personally wish we were more organized on the distribution side to try to up readership among IWW members. Beyond that, we are all IWW members and we do stuff other than the web site. That other stuff has very little to with any of us as recomp and a lot to do with us being part of larger networks and social circles within the IWW. When people in the recomp editorial group *do* work on projects together other than the web site, it's infrequent and it's usually just a couple of us along with other IWW members. When that goes on the coordination happens in the grouping with the other IWW members rather than privately among the recomp editors. Because recomp isn't an organization other than a web site and some informal relationships.

Also for whatever it's worth the recomp editors disagree a lot on formal political organizations - Adam Weaver and Scott Nappalos are both part of CSAC organizations and I think are pretty keen on regroupment. I haven't talked much with them about it because I'm not a member and am not keen and we end up getting annoyed with each other when we have disagreements on this. I've actually been arguing all night by text message with Adam, in an argument sparked by Juan's article, where I'm like "wobs forming political orgs is a mistake!" and he's like "no YOU'RE wrong!" and so on. ;) From internet discussions I think the rest of us are pretty much all on the same page on that but I'm not 100% sure. In any case, this is an area where we disagree really strongly within the recomp editorial group in terms of our vision for the IWW. Which is fine, because we're not a political organization and don't need to agree on this. This level of disagreement is something we probably have in common with some of the CSAC organizations - there's a huge diversity of opinion in the milieu in my experience.

I get the sense that Sabotage and you are maybe being like "well if it's such a problem with the CSAC organizations then why is it not a problem with Recomp?" as a response to Juan. If I misunderstand then I apologize. If I get you right, my feeling is that it's one thing for a free publication to have these qualities and it's something different for a formal political organization to have them. I think that in many respects the similarity between Recomp and the CSAC groups is much more a matter of the groups not being particularly organized or formal than it's a matter of Recomp being a political organization.

I will say, the Recomp editors *do* have a lot that we share in terms of vision of the IWW. I don't think this is much of a unique vision on our part, if at all. If anything I see us, specifically as recomp, as trying to push conversations where IWW members reflect together and elaborate further on stuff that's largely common sense or hegemonic in the organization. (Or at least it's hegemonic in the twin cities and in edmonton, as far as I can tell, which is where most of recomp's editors live.) To the degree that we have a clear vision for recomp, which is a pretty low degree in my opinion and I think I probly spend the most time on it, the vision is that we want to help build a political-intellectual culture or milieu mostly aimed at IWW members. I think that's appropriate for a publication/an editorial group.

One piece of that project of building up the IWW and related milieu, the intellectual culture specifically, is writing but in my opinion a much bigger piece, certainly for me personnally, is working to develop new writers. We're also relatively friendly people so we end up getting into conversations with people who aren't IWW or aren't as IWW-centered as I am (and not everyone in recomp is as IWW centered as I am, unfortunately, which I think speaks to the point about us being a web site rather than an organization). And I'm like a broken record when I get into a conversation - "that's interesting, write an article about that!" (Phinneas gripes about.) I tend to push people to publish stuff in the Industrial Worker more than Recomp whenever possible. All of which is a long-winded way to say that I think you must be squinting if we look like a political organization... ;)

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

dohball

if you hope that people will focus all their life energy that they have for trying to create political change through one channel then that channel is going to have to offer a richness of experience. i mean that if the focus is on workplace organising as in the IWW then, especially long term it has to feed peoples needs for empowerment, intellectual stimulation, some form of success every so often, community, solidarity, friendship, chance to explore their creativity. most people are not prepared to submit to an experience of political organising that is too much comprised of grind.

I wouldn't say I want people to make the IWW their main channel for change but I think this gets at an important point. I take you to be saying people needs lots of things. I think people form or join multiple organizations at least in part because they have multiple needs. I'm for trying to make fight organizations - I would call them mass organizations, I also like the term political-economic organizations - into things satisfy as many of people's needs as possible. That is in tension with my wanting the IWW to be focused on workplace activity, though. I would like the IWW's overall focus to be workplace organizing but for there to be a rich internal intellectual and cultural life to support that and meet people's other needs as much as possible. That is: people leave the organization or they join another group when they reach the ceiling within the IWW in terms of how many of their needs can be met inside the IWW. I think that there will always be a limit for some people, so that some people will always bump into that ceiling and so go elsewhere. That's fine. I think that currently we could raise that ceiling higher than it is. I think people going elsewhere encourages not raising that ceiling. In our efforts with recomposition I see us as trying to raise that ceiling a bit. And I think that some of this is probably not unique to the IWW. I think that for a lot of organizations the ceiling just can't be raised very high but for some organizations the ceiling could be raised higher. I'd be very interested to hear from people involved in the Seattle Solidarity Network about their experiences, if any of them are reading this, I know some SeaSolers are in political organizations and some are not, and I know at least some of the time SeaSol has done some internal reading groups etc.

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on June 18, 2012

I think some of the discussion on this thread is at too high a level of abstraction to be useful. I mean, if you're discussing organisational forms at a level where autonomous shop committees and trade unions, political organisations and unions, and and a few people informally blogging and formal political organisation are all the same, then it's not going to really shed light on anything. The only possible conclusion is 'everything is the same as everything else.'

If SF is 'dual organisational' for seeking to organise autonomous shop committees and mass meetings then the word loses all meaning, since it specifically refers to the practice of a specific political organisation active within a union on the basis any union "always reflects the ideologies of a range of political groupings, notably of those most intensively at work within its ranks." If trying to 'anarchise'/reclaim unions is the same as organising for autonomous shop floor activity independent of them, then specific political organistions are the same as the Labour Party. After all, both are active within another body (social movements/parliament). Which is what I mean by it not being possible to say anything meaningful at this level of abstraction.

As to the difference between 'specific political' and 'political-economic' organsiations. I'll leave SF out of it as we're in the very early stages of moving towards the latter. But if the differences between the CNT and the WSM (as exemplars of anarcho-syndicalism and platformism respectively) aren't entirely self-evident I don't know where to start! (The CNT also operates through wider assemblies, which I guess makes it 'the same' as the ICC :P ).

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on June 18, 2012

Nate

I also like the term political-economic organizations

Also just on this, I think maybe people are expecting too much from the term. It's not really the answer to anything, it's a basic category and a point of departure. If someone says they favour political organisation, that's the start of the conversation not the conclusion (what's your programme? structure? sphere of activity? strategy?). Likewise with political-economic organisation. The term basically emerges in opposition to the Marxist tendency to separate 'economic' trade unionism from the political party, as well as the various anarchist currents which reproduce this separation in different ways (in much the same way as anarcho-syndicalism is neither simply anarchism nor simply syndicalism).

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on June 18, 2012

Last post in a row, promise. To try and be more constructive here, I'd say not just the organisational form, but the culture and day-to-day content required for organising is quite different to that of intervention. That's not to pass judgement; I know some in the CNT felt they were too slow to react to 15-M because the CNT's monthly assembly structure and organisational culture is set up for long term organising and not reacting to and intervening in social movements. So while I'm arguing for prioritising organising I'm not dismissing a potential role for specific political organisations set up to 'insert' into social movements (though I'm not sure if such movements exist in the UK right now).

Here's a couple of slightly speculative/provocative thoughts:

- the role of formal political organisation is being squeezed by technology. i.e. pre-internet someone like me would have to join a formal, dues-paying political organisation (or at least IRL reading group) to have more theoretical discussions, today I can just use forums like this, or facebook, or twitter, or e-lists etc (which also means there's more tendencies and influences interacting from a wider geographical area). Likewise, in the past I'd have needed the resources of an organisation to get my ideas out there (paper/magazine), whereas today I can do it myself (blog - ok, libcom blogs aren't just me but requires a collective, but I could set up a wordpress/twitter if libcom didn't exist).

- mass organisations do not exist, at least in the sense ascribed by dual organisational theory. mass membership organisations exist (e.g. trade unions), and mass non-membership movements exist (various). But a trade union is, in the workplace, at most a minority of activists meeting (often socialists/anarchists), except during disputes when they'll often organise mass meetings. There is no 'mass' to win around most of the time (often, even the activists don't meet regularly). Outside of big disputes a union is normally a network of activists (and may not be a very effective network if the key node is a conservative branch). I think once this dynamic is recognised, the idea of functioning as a union and not just a propaganda group makes a lot more sense: if we're going to do the legwork of organising, why not try and do it on our own terms? Again, the result is a squeeze on the role for specifically political organisation as historically conceived.

s.nappalos

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by s.nappalos on June 18, 2012

Syndicalist has raised some important points that I think were probably missed. There is a destructive tendency, which I myself have been prone to, to try and avoid conflict through withholding criticisms either because it's seen as being too difficult or not worth your time. It's good Juan chose to write this to open that discussion, but I saw that in syndicalist's posts and I think he's right to note it, call it out, and try to get folks to reflect on it. It does a double disservice to the movement by both sewing bad blood & not giving others the chance to learn from debate. I'd say it's part of a broader problem of people not knowing how to have productive disagreements. A comrade of mine once told me that a lesson he learned in 40 years in the struggle was "not to let short term political differences harden into long term divisions". Having an inability to debate and a lack of openness will certainly help that.

As someone involved in recomposition I do think it's a political organization de facto though not in name. There are differences between how something like recomposition functions and say WSA, but the differences are about scope, details, and practice rather than form. I do think the critiques are weak because they're a slippery slope. Why shouldn't recomposition dissolve into the IWW? If we think that grouping politically outside the IWW to do certain work won't help the IWW, why isn't that wrong in that case? I do also think the same logic would be applied to dissolving the IWW into business unions. I don't support that, so I think it's strange to see that logic & people not make the connection. Syndicalist's points about organizational one-up-manship probably has a kernel of truth for that reason. There's really no reason to see any exceptions there except if you think your group is really great. I think Juan's critiques have truth, though failing to locate that truth in a larger objective situation, but apply across the board.

The big hole I see in this discussion is that encourages agnosticism on crucial questions. Rather than addressing holes in our practice, the move is just to step away and hope that struggle & mass work will work it out. Sometimes that happens, but in my experience in the long run we get worn down by the winds blowing the other direction. Speaking personally, I developed politically in the portland iww which still in my mind was probably the high point of the IWW in recent decades with ~300 members, organizing in more than 6 industries, etc at the time when I cut my teeth. My mentors & the layer of leadership around me (some of which were workers recruited off the shopfloor) are mostly gone. Some of the folks entered into the NGO world & business unions. Some joined the machinery of the democratic party, various soft social democrats, or leninist groups. The ones who have stayed have largely ignored their own political development because they lacked a space for collective weighing of ideas. In otherwords, some leadership who failed to develop or participate in a political space limited themselves and didn't move forward. I'm not saying everyone will be like that, but it's a problem. Recomposition in some sense is an answer to that, but it makes problematic the above ideas since the logic is that you need to group with likeminded comrades to engage in political thinking and coordinated activity outside of your mass work.

More seriously though much of the leadership of that era left the IWW altogether in order to do political work. It wasn't because they thought that it would make the IWW better, but because they didn't think that there were answers to questions they ran up against inside the IWW. I think they may be wrong there. But even so the process is important & a reason why I think agnosticism will lead to a slow bloodletting of militants. Especially in groups like the IWW that try to maintain the political/economic division between "leave politics at the door" and unite in the economic field under a revolutionary banner (as opposed to anarchosyndicalism). There are larger and more specific problems that arise that people will want to work on with people who share their perspective. Much of that can be done in broad circles with all walks of life. Some of it can't. The alternative to grouping with political folks is individualistic study. If we don't offer alternatives, other people will. Likewise if we don't collectively develop ourselves, we will be objectively limited.

I do think political organization will make people better at IWW work. There's good and bad political organization, and the problem is that I don't see people raising the objective situations that push bad political organization. There's also strategic and theoretical errors that lead to bad political organization. The answer to me isn't to ignore these issues, but to build better political organization. There's also an objective situation that pushes activists into the iww who don't want to organize. We don't say that the iww is a waste of time because the WTO made environmentalists & various activists want to fly a labor flag over their single issue work. The question to me is how we can take the best of what is and what could be and contribute to building this movement. We need to not just deal with only our very narrow immediate needs and problems, but also try to anticipate and plan for what we may need in the future. I'm skeptical about an attempt to be stageist about it, and only focus on certain work with informality at the level of ideas. In reality people develop all their faculties and thinking in tandem, and if you don't develop or offer solutions to those needs, they will go in different directions and find them elsewhere.

fingers malone

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on June 18, 2012

please use his user name, Juan Conatz.

Admins, please could you delete his name out?

Admin: done.

Thanks.
S. nappalos, sorry that sounded rude. Didn't mean it to.

A. Weaver

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by A. Weaver on June 18, 2012

Small point here on the definition and role of Recomp. I think Nate is right when he says this point here:

the editorial group is also a verrrry informal and disorganized affinity group who agrees on a lot and have know each other and worked together a long time, and sometimes collaborate on projects (but more like 2-3 of us doing something together, basically never all of us).

In my mind Recomp is an 'organization of tendency' in that we have a fairly high unity in praxis around the IWW and this is what brought us together. But as Nate outlined we don't have what I'd call 'political unity'. I'd say we have a mid level unity in that we're class struggle anarchists and in the same ball park with many things, but obviously not on the question of political organization.

But I would argue (as I have in the past in personal conversations with Nate and others) that the role that Recomp plays within the IWW reflects many of the needs that political organization seeks to address.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 18, 2012

Many years ago, while employed in the then heavily unionized needle trades industry, the relationship between building a "mass" organization and our role as anarcho-syndicalists was clearly on the plate. I share this more out of an historical perspective of how some of our ideas and practices developed seperate and distinct from the other traditions cited elsewhere.

While I prolly have moved somewhat from some of the nuances of things, I would say this is still about accurate from my point of view. Of course conditions have changed, with less folks being in organized shops and conditions to organize independents.

Long term work, I would suggest, ultimately requires "formal" organization.

"Mass organization vs. ideological organization

It is the LWG’s [Libertarian Workers Group] hope that we can develop or initiate and organization
that would be open to all militant workers who seek to develop
policies and tactics that suit their needs and aspirations. It is from
this perspective we’ve initiated the Needle Trades Workers Action
Committee. The role of NTWAC should be defined as an informal body
that—in the opening stages—seeks to discuss the various problems
within our shops and locals. From there we would like to see NTWAC
help to coordinate and develop actions and a program that will meet
the needs of the rank and file. It is also important that the NTWAC
remain independent of the leadership of the union. For the present we
see NTWAC as part of a movement to revitalize the militant traditions
and build towards a position of strength to fight the bosses and the
union to act as a pressure group within the various locals. We don’t
view NTWAC as an electoral caucus or even as a caucus at all. We hope
to be an action committee, one that raises the most proposals and
fights in the interests of the ranks. Being an open and non-sectarian
committee, the choice to run a slate for any of a number of official
positions will be determined in an open and democratic way. However,
as anarcho-syndicalists, we are critical of such a position.

If other libertarians are engaged in this type of activity, it is
important to distinguish this type of activity between an ideological
organization and a mass organization The LWG views NTWAC (or any
other committee we initiate) as a mass democratic body, one, as I
noted before, that is open to all. Within NTWAC, there will be various
viewpoints on the union and politics and the nature of the struggle.
Different people have distinct concepts of what NTWAC should be.
Therefore, various tendencies will develop. This fact of diversity of
point of view, and the discussions that will ensue, is healthy, and
should be encouraged. Naturally, we intend to discuss our ideas and
put forth our own militant platform within the context of these
discussions. Thus, we aren’t vanguardist because we refuse to impose a
pre-determined line that NTWAC must follow. Instead, our politics will
be accepted or rejected on their own merits.”

“The ‘ideological organization’, in this case, would be our own
‘fraction’ within the mass organization. This fraction would attempt
to help develop the mass organization in its form and perspectives
along anarcho-syndicalist lines. We will have our own positions and
will argue for them. In this way we will also hope to recruit people
into our tendency and, hopefully, into the LWG. The LWG is an
ideological organization because it is a group with a specific
ideology – one that is composed soley of those who agree with
anarcho-syndicalism and are prepared to work towards those goals."

ideas & action Summer 1982
http://ideasandaction.info/2009/10/discussion-anarchist-shop-experiences/

I guess my final comment on this, is the period in which Juan was part of political organizations were periods of either rebuilding, of being new and fresh, with lots of inexperianced hands at work. Few of the organizations had any political or mass maturity, in the sense of having a stable membership that was engaged in sustained, long term activities. Whereas, for example, the IWW was in a period of growth with many experianced hands, generally stable structures and a whole host of lots of younger members with a generally singular focus.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

s.nappalos

Why shouldn't recomposition dissolve into the IWW? If we think that grouping politically outside the IWW to do certain work won't help the IWW, why isn't that wrong in that case?

I'd support that dissolution, actually. I think a lot of the tensions within the editorial group are between on one end of the spectrum (the left, of course!) dissolution into the IWW and on the other moving increasingly toward formalization as a political organization. Personally I think the fact that the recomp editorial group doesn't agree on whether or not we're a political organization (at least three of us think we're not) is a good argument against thinking we are. But then that really just amounts to be saying "I think I'm right, because I'm right." It also may be that there's no single best answer across the board here - maybe I'm wrong that political organizations hurt the IWW across the board. They would in my branch. They have in similar branches. In other spots, maybe it doesn't work that way. I'm not opposed to organizational dualism in all cases. I just think that organizational dualism is wrong in some cases. Like in my branch of the IWW, and like in trying to build the IWW international/general administration. And again there's nothing wrong with that, not everyone has to want to build the IWW. The main arguments people make in favor of political organization and regroupment are not 'it will help the IWW', and that is a good thing, those arguments are about other goals. I happen to not personally want to work on those goals, as I said, but that doesn't mean no one should or that they're useless.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

On second thought... - I'm still unconvinced that recomp's a political organization. I mean, if we are, then what have the last several years of polemic/snark between pro-organizational/platformist and anti-organizational/insurrectionist anarchists been about? I think the use of the word 'organization' here is so broad as to be almost meaningless.

All of that aside, I also think "is it or is it not?" is likely to be unproductive and will at most result in clarity about a word or at worse descend into nothing more than semantics without resolving anything. I also think most people won't and shouldn't care about a handful of people running a web site but maybe for the sake of discussion it will be useful. Anyway, let's say for the sake of argument that recomp really is a political organization. In that case, the conversation is reframed away from political organizations vs something-else-which-is-not-political organization. It's reframed instead toward practices within political organization. Maybe that will be a more productive direction for the conversation, toward best practices within organizations. I think Juan's piece is mostly a set of points about things that he thinks are disfunctional within actually existing organizations. Do we agree on that, or not? And what are some steps forward that people think should happen? Regroupment is one issue that people fall on all sides of (for, against, indifferent).

From this perspective, this very expansive use of the word organization, there's a huge wide diversity of practices in 'organizations'. Some groups have dues, some don't, some groups have meeting and conference calls, some don't, some groups write and publish a lot, etc etc. Treating recomp as a political organization for the sake of argument, using this expansive definition of 'organization' then I'll drop my 'political organizations are bad for the IWW' thing. Instead, from this expansive use of the term, I think more IWW members forming 'political organizations' with qualities like recomp could be a good thing as long as it didn't take away time from organizing and otherwise participating in the IWW. I certainly would like to see greater participation in recomp within the IWW - strictly in the sense of more people writing stuff and more people reading and discussing stuff and more people proposing stuff for recomp to publish. I think more IWW members forming or joining political organizations like the WSA, MAS, etc would be bad for the IWW.

Maybe it'd be useful to spell out some of the differences between recomp and MAS and Amanecer and NEFAC and the WSA and Wild Rose? (I pick those groups because the editorial group are all current or past members of those groups.) Off the top of my head, recomp compared to NEFAC and WSA (the groups I was part of). What recomp doesn't have that those groups had when I was a member:
dues, open 'membership', any 'membership' expectations/requirements at all in terms of participation and doing work, a political statement/aims and principles, a set decision-making procedure, a treasury, conference calls or meetings (I think 3-4 of us had drinks like 2-3 years ago?), an internal education agenda.

What recomp has that NEFAC and WSA did not have when I was member: a focus that's mostly on doing work within the IWW (we do some other stuff mostly because we don't agree on how much emphasis to place on IWW stuff, also in part because we're curious open-minded folk and friendly and open to building more relationships - that's a quality that's not unique to recomp, WSA is like that too, not trying to score points and say we're smarter or nicer), a focus on writing and publishing, a high volume of publishing, a high volume of writing per 'member' (though this is uneven, some of us write a lot, others don't), all of us have attended IWW organizer training and done a lot of work in the IWW so we share some relationships in the organization and a common vocabulary to like almost 100% degree, something of an emphasis on mentoring new writers and cultivating new writers (I do this the most, some others do), very little if any common projects that 'members' work on other than the web site (and really, participation in making the web site happen and distributing content is super uneven, which is fine but worth saying). When 'members' do carry out work together other than the web site it's in the context of larger projects that they're part of and where decisions and conversations happen in that larger project. (Examples; an organizer reflection session that Juan helped organize, which was him and other people, and a few of us on the editorial group glanced at the list of question, or like in the CUPW work, where Phinneas and Rachel are part of a larger group of CUPW folk and the role of recomp is to give some feedback on their writing and beg/bully them into writing more, and to publish their writing, or like Juan working on the Industrial Worker and the Twin Cities IWW's newsletter, or like me trying to get more people to write for or co-write pieces for the IW and a reading group on materials on political economy that Juan and I are are slowly trying to put together with other TC-IWW members).

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 18, 2012

i guess this is about levels of abstraction really...

i mean scott's analysis of the revolutionary, intermediate, and popular levels of organization could lend itself to this.

in that analysis the levels are pertinent whether a group is a formal organization or not. so where as wsa might be a formal revolutionary organization, certainly recomposition is somewhere on the revolutionary to intermediate level spectrum.

i think informality and formality is dialectical, or like the yin and yang of organization. so it doesn't really matter to me if something is a small writing group or a formal political org, if both seem to be on the same level to me.

anyway i think this makes it clear i don't care about the last decade's debates between informalists and pro-formalists, i think they are dumb, especially when one prefers one over the other.

and so like Joseph Kay said he thinks there is a huge difference between WSM's practice and CNT's but not all supposed platformists have the exact practice. it seems pretty reductionist of me to have to reduce anarcho-syndicalism to the CNT, and platformism to WSM. again i guess that gets us into more abstraction, or complexity (or reality mind you). but there is nothing stopping WSA for instance doing solnet style work or workplace stuff as their locals if folks wanted, i think folks are imposing assumptions from the past upon the potentialities of the present.

also it might not be useful to do this, but I think some context around this is that for instance Gayge Operaista seems in their latest article to be saying that all revolutionary organization/organizing today is political-economic, i.e. social.

i'm inclined to wanting to jump on that bandwagon, though i still haven't made up my mind, totally. but i guess i just see there is a problem with saying platformists can only be like leninists or trots who want to bore from within/reform existing unions...there are plenty of examples from NEFAC's history of using forms of autonomous self-organization/direct actionist methods of workplace organizing a la SolFed, or workpace resistance groups...which seems to destroy that stereotype. so i guess that is a whole other level of abstraction then...to insist continually that platformism can only mean everything we don't like...

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 18, 2012

i guess my point is lets say the IWW is not in an area but there is the potentiality of a workplace organizing campaign, but there is a WSA local. it'd make no sense to not organize as the WSA in that situation. right now the internal discussion in WSA that has lead to such thoughts is a WSA member and a few other radical workers at their workplace are thinking of organizing more. there is no IWW there, and if you are going to start from scratch might as well organize as WSA, than starting it as something more apolitical, especially if the workers are already pretty much a radical core. and if they don't want to join, well sure have it be an autonomous committee like solfeders say.

all of this is what tends towards me wanting to agree with gayge that revolutionary organization in our time is political-economic. iww happens to just focus mostly on workplace, and haphazardly on random community organizing/activism. that is i see the IWW more useful as a political-economic network of militants i.e. revolutionary organization than as a purely apolitical economic defense org i.e. union.

other revolutionary organizations could have other "economic" and "political" focuses just like the IWW. if WSA tomorrow started focusing primarily on tenant organizing would that make it a revolutionary tenants union instead, even though it might have other focuses like queer organizing?

OliverTwister

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on June 18, 2012

This is a great entry by Juan and a good discussion so far. I've been lurking with the intention of writing a substantial reply, but for now I just want to jump in and disagree with Nate for ceding ground on the discourse of 'political organizations'.

What I mean is, 'political' and 'economic' organizations don't have a completely objective existence. Their existence is at least partially brought about by the use of the terms. I don't want to get too post-modernist here (I haven't read the relevant texts anyways) so I'll leave it at that. What this means, though, is fhat the use of these terms is an ideological decision (in the most neutral sense possible) that should be defended or discussed as such.

These terms don't just describe the world around us, they help to shape that world. In my opinion they reinforce the division of labor between mental and physical work in capitalist society. Furthermore I think 'political organization' is a really confusing term, as it implies that there are some 'non-political' organizations. I've never heard of any...

I'd be curious sometime to hear someone try to say whether the First International was a 'political' or an 'economic' organization. I know some platformists, especially around Fontenis, tried to claim continuity with Bakunin's secret Alliance of Social Democracy, but I will assume that that most platformists don't until I hear otherwise.

The point I want to make is that the IWMA was not a 'political'organization, nor was it 'economic', and it managed to do OK. The first I'm aware of peoplemaking a big deal out of classifying 'political' and 'economic' organizations was at the 1st congress of the 2nd International, when all of the unions that rejected supporting political action were excluded. Fromnthe start this separation has actively shaped the movements that it was supposed to describe. Incidentally, it has almost always been the 'economic' organizations who are supposed to support the policies of the 'political' organization, which does all the thinking.

I'll stop rambling just to say that, from what I understand of Recomposition, it seems really inaccurate to call.it a 'political organization', and feels a bit like people want to push a round peg into a square hole.

s.nappalos

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by s.nappalos on June 18, 2012

Again I worry there's no real material analysis here. Political organization and different forms of workplace groups don't grow and have their trajectory come about simply because of people's ideas about them. They develop, grow, and die in a social context of struggle. The reality is many of the same pressures of trying to work in low periods of struggle in advanced capitalist societies make building combative anarchosyndicalist organizations difficult if possible at all at the same time. It facilitates activism, hobbyism, and reproduces problematic dynamics in all grouplets, which most mass groups are anyway at this time. The answer to me is not to be agnostic on any of this stuff, but try to formulate answers, plant seeds, and work where we are.

Restating just the facts of problems doesn't give us insights into the real issues they arise out of. I just don't see thinking and solutions being offered to the problems that arise even in workplace organizing. I don't see how people will avoid the problems that already have come up in the IWW alone with hostile political forces poaching, playing destructive roles, and changing the politics of the organization. The history of the CGT, CNT, and FORA alone should at least make us question what alternative we would offer (let alone the IWW's problems with the SLP, SP, and CP).

I don't have faith that simply organizing will work it out (anarchosyndicalism is better than IWW-ism in that way). I also think that informal and individualistic study will reproduce lots of the problematic dynamics of capitalism within our workplace organizations. There is also a natural process where likeminded people come together around shared perspectives in the course of their work together. I fail to see good reason for those people not to work together, not to develop and move their perspective in a principled way, and that that wouldn't help things.

s.nappalos

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by s.nappalos on June 18, 2012

One more thing, on recomposition. I think sabotage helped the discussion. There's critiques being leveled here against political organizations & the political level itself. The two aren't inherently connected. Some groups call themselves political organizations but function like OCAP or IWW branches. Likewise some groups claim to be mass groups, but function like political organizations & every permutation in between.

I disagree with Nate that the division is that some people think recomp should dissolve vs become a political org. I don't remember any time when we seriously discussed dissolving. I've changed my views on it, but don't think it should formalize more. But all those issues are side matters, because recomposition itself problematizes the whole liquidation issue.

A group of IWW anarchist communists at a certain point of working together with one and another decided to launch a project to deepen debates, discussions, and push things in our circles. There was a debate about whether to only do this in the IWW or to appeal to broader worker formations. This project was done outside the IWW, as an independent group, and with the politics and perspectives represented by the group. Because we did that and it wasn't just a project of the iww, we had both the freedom to represent our perspective & a broader dialogue than people only interested in IWW stuff. In fact I think our readership is less IWW than not, but it ended up being a real success in terms of engaging workers, getting lots of contributions, readership, moving conversations, etc.

Those were conversations that weren't happening in our work, and politically likeminded people built things together & consequently made an impact. That's maybe not a political organization (We can argue that), but informal doesn't really capture it & it's definately political work independent from the mass organization. I think pretty universally we can say recomp has been a success, so I think it's awkward to argue against engaging in that kind of work (whatever organizational or structural format it occurs in).

On the informality, I can't really avoid getting into trouble talking about that so I'll limit it, but I think it's disingenuous to claim recomp is except when looking only at narrow features.

In general when I think of political work, I would look at grouping around ideology and strategy, coordination of mass work, production and development of theory, recruitment and development of militants, intervening alongside and against other political forces, etc. Any group that does all those things.... it doesn't matter to me if it has bylaws, a constitution, or points of unity.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 18, 2012

Scott, I'm gonna think more about this. I'm open to saying that all of this is about different things that occur within what your piece calls "the political level." (For people who don't know what I'm referring to, look at this piece that Scott wrote - http://libcom.org/library/defining-practice-intermediate-level-organization-struggle.) I don't think anyone here is saying "we reject that kind of work entirely." I think everyone here agrees on the importance of doing with at the political level, in general and within the IWW. There remain huge differences within that. Like Juan said earlier, he thought his post could be an argument for regroupment or for liquidation. Likewise I think the stuff we agree on - "do political work in the IWW" could be an argument for a range of practices. That means then that this is a conversation about better and worse practices within the political level. I think that's a fair way to understand Juan's article. In that case, maybe that's a good place to take the discussion next. I also think a piece of this, the recomp and IWW specific part, is about how to best do work at the political level within the IWW. I almost feel like this is a problem of translating between languages. I'm like "IWW members should not form political organizations, at most they should do stuff like recomp does." Others are like "that's included in political organization." I don't agree but I don't think there's much use in fighting over the terms. For the purposes of this discussion I'll speak the vocabulary of some of the folk of the discussion. So that "do stuff like recomp does" and "do stuff like the CSAC groups and regroupment" are both "political organization." Okay. But then I need another term. Because even accepting the terms here, these are two different ways to do "political organization", or to do work at the political level. To put it another way, I think that what I want to see happen in the next few years and what you want to see happen are different. Saying "both of us want stuff to happen that involves political work" is fine, but that vocabulary has to be able to allow room to disagree about the specifics of how to do political work. Like I tried to say I think moving toward those specifics would be good here.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 18, 2012

I won't really comment much now, because I am enjoying the refinement of views and so forth.

I just want to be clear about something. I was not suggesting that Recomp is a political organization as folks seem to be defining them. Or as those of us in dual organizational organziations define them.
My limited outside observation suggested to me that
within the IWW they may very well have been carrying out the same function as a political tendency or group. And the regular advertisement in the pages of the "Industrial Worker" would give one an impression
that they are reaching out to bring folks into their
effort.

Nate, thanks for the clarification on the time line of "direct unionism" document.

Ultimately we may agree to disagree on things, yet, I would hope, that we end this conversation with an understanding that nothing is perfect. That sincere
and honest militants may have different areas of focus
and methods and means. And, our respective goals are to build revolutionary movements all marching towards the same goal of the, thus far, illusive new world.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on June 19, 2012

There's a hell of a lot going on in this conversation and very little of it has anything to do with the original article. I think Juan hits the nail on the head though.

The problem with "political" organisations (for the record I want the IWW to be more political not less) is they tend to treat ideological questions as vacuum packed and in a separate category from concrete practice in a mass organisation. So for example the fact that the same crowd developed the OTC program, wrote Direct Unionism, and publishes Recomposition says more about our political commitments and how we build our political practice. A training program is political practice and political activity.

Honestly the best analogue I see Recomposition to is the way Pannekoek described the role of council communist groups in the 20's and 30's. Small informal groups of writers that share analysis and are primarily involved in the councils movement- not building their parties. I think that is where Recomposition is (or should be different) our goal isn't to build recomposition up it should be to build the movements we are a part of up. I'm generally anti recruitment to recomp, generally against a more refined line than we have, and generally in favour of us prioritising good analysis and high level discussion.

Not to put words in the authors mouth but I think he also outlines what some political groups could be doing to be more effective. In fact I would go so far as to say these practices don't apply to the UCL in Quebec or to Common Cause in Ontario, this is more of an American thing than Canadian thing. The UCL and Common Cause have some concentration in actual struggles (OCAP, CLASSE, IWW etc).

But this gets to the most important point. Common Cause and the UCL aren't successful in my opinion because of the presence of strong political organisations, these organisations are successful because they are a part of groups that are doing organising. I kind of take this as evidence that the health of our movement is determined by how effective we are at practicing our politics, not reciting them.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 19, 2012

Whether folks transcend on to other things, it would have been nice for those who left to have been mentors and so forth for the newbies they "left behind", so to speak. It's a pity that the things some of you are now doing, could not have been attempted when you were part of political organizations. Well, like I said previously,sometimes it's hard to rebuild, build commonalities of practice and have folks in transition all at the same time.

Actually, I think the broad range of the topic and discussion has been useful if for one reason. It has clarified some of the views and perspectives that some of the former members of political organizations did not articulate when they were part of those organizations.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on June 20, 2012

You know sometimes you have to go through an experience to know what you think of it first. Maybe these ideas couldn't have been expressed because the experiences that led to the ideas hadn't happened yet and there wasn't enough time to think about what happened. I for one did my best to try and be involved in my political organisation but found at every turn success was not measured by the success of the mass work but rather by the success of the political organisation. I think a lot of political groups are like this.

It also would have been nice in my engagement with political groups to not see any time the IWW is brought up a chorus of "we don't just support the IWW we support other unions too", followed by a bunch of internal debate about the merit of our project and whether it could be done just under the banner of the political group and various business unions. Neither categories offered any training, formal mentorship to us, or real political development beyond reading lists. It was reciting politics not practicing it. Unionism in political groups involved working as a conventional steward in a conventional union and talking about Anarcho Syndicalism. The business unions were the field and the political groups were the game players.

Again I can't help but notice that the biggest misgivings some folks in political organisations have is that we didn't do more to build the political groupings even in the process of leaving them. That's strange. We create these groups to further our struggles, when those groups offer little to advance those struggles we leave them. You can't go around upset that folks didn't do more to build your group when people don't join to build your group, they join to share resources and develop shared projects. That didn't happen, I re-evaluated my priorities and decided political groups had little to offer that wasn't being done, or couldn't be done by a small blog collective and the IWW. None of this was done maliciously or with the intent of hurting anyone's feelings, no one involved was fake or dishonest and there is no reason for anyone to hold a grudge. Honestly even this post feels like a strange breakup letter but it doesn't have to I feel no ill will towards anyone but neither do I regret mine or anyone else's actions.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 20, 2012

Well Edmonton, it was a breakup of sorts and their were some broken hearts, particularly coming out of the positive Minneapolis conference in 2010.

I think WSA was always very clear about itself and rebuilding limitations. And I think our Unionism position had always been very clear (folks supporeted the IWW and other forms of workplace organization).

I begrudge no one for transitioning to where they feel best suited and comfortable. But I also think, as they say, there are two side to each coin.

I wish you luck, stand in solidarity as needed and only good and bright things to come for all of us.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 23, 2012

EdmontonWobbly

Honestly the best analogue I see Recomposition to is the way Pannekoek described the role of council communist groups in the 20's and 30's. Small informal groups of writers that share analysis and are primarily involved in the councils movement- not building their parties.

Where does he describe/say this? I haven't read much of him.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 25, 2012

syndicalist

Whether folks transcend on to other things, it would have been nice for those who left to have been mentors and so forth for the newbies they "left behind", so to speak.

I don't mean this in a competitive kind of way and I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but since you're like "it'd be nice if..." I'm gonna state a bit of my own modest contributions... I've continued to mentor newer folk and if anything done it more so after leaving. Primarily in terms of pushing folk to write stuff and put ideas out there via the IW, Recomp, and I&A (and for what it's worth I regularly tell people to submit something to some place other than Recomp because Recomp has a relatively small readership, and we do reprints, so someone else running a piece first then us re-running it = more total readers, the point is much more to get readers for good/thoughtful writing than it is to build Recomp as a thing. Even more than writing, though, for me personally, the point is writers - building up individuals' confidence and habits of writing so there's more of it. I'd like stuff to eventually coalesce into more of a milieu like EdmontonWobbly said though I don't yet have a clear idea what that looks like. Anyway...)

So yeah I think I've worked with like a dozen folk, people from at least four different CSAC groups plus some IWWs, people not in groups, and people in the little marxist website groups, at least on a one-off basis. And some folk I work with more often/in an ongoing way. And I'm kind of like a broken record in terms of pushing people to put stuff out there ("that's really interesting, write about that!"), though a lot of people are like "yeah, well, fine, but I don't wanna", the number of people I ask to write is more than the ones who do.

I'm probly the one who makes the biggest deal out of writing out of the people in the Recomp circles, it's either me or Juan, but I know I'm not the only person who makes a point of working with people in terms of mentorship/pushing people to develop themselves. Like in stuff like organizing skills/training and such, working with some people across the various CSAC groups, etc. So to some extent at least some of this kind of mentorship can and does happen outside political organization.

Edit:
And at least some of the time, individuals in the CSAC groups still benefit from this kind of thing, at least a little. Just as much as if I had stayed in.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 25, 2012

so weeks ago i said i'd have my own fragments of sorts well here they are basically, (my mind is much clearer about these now even if i don't have proof to back these claims up):

1) revolutionary organization in our times isn't just political or economic, it is social (i.e. political-economic), and must be concerned with social struggles that will lead to social revolution. this means there does not exist any basis for a divide between the political or economic struggles, and such organizations and movements can focus on both. this doesn't mean that the party is the class or the class is the party. but more that the mono/dual organizational question has been superseded. revolutionaries should not be afraid to act autonomously but they do not hesitate to also work within struggles with others.

2) revolutionary organizations when they are nuclei or are in periods of low struggle must choose and should chose strategic areas of struggle to focus on and figure out an appropriate division of labor to focus on these. as struggles pick up/more members are gained more struggles can be networked/coordinated in total. ideally eventually being the embryo of whole revolutionary movements.

3) revolutionary organization should seek to be territorial in scope. that is open, city wide organizations that are concerned with linking struggles from all sectors whether in the hood or in the workplace. organizations that aim in struggles to unite the whole of society into community/workers assemblies/committees/councils (class wide structures open to all members of society not just specific revolutionary organizations).

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on June 27, 2012

To begin with, I want to backup one thing Syndicalist said about how WSA came to a "dual organizational" point of view from practical experience. In my case this shaped by my experience in the '70s building an actual grassroots union from scratch, the Student Academic Employees Union at UCLA. This was initiated in 1970 by a handful of Marxist grad students close to the International Socialists who had been involved in strike support for the local Teamsters during the 1970 national wildcat truckers strike. They decided they should organize "around our own exploitation."

When I went to the first organizing meeting there were about 40 people present. For about the first five years the organization existed as a kind of "minority union" of about 50 to 75 teaching assistants. Its major growth came during an anti-layoffs struggle in 1976-77, when the union grew to 350 members which included 75 to 95 percent of student employees in the language, humanities and social science departments. and conducted a successful one-week strike -- first TAs strike in the history of the University of California. During the strike members of my department carried out an occupation of the Chancellor's office.

A demand in the strike was that the university not close down the tutoring services for undergrads which were mainly used by working class students, especially students of color. Due to this demand, the minority student orgs on campus organized a thousand people in a demo in support of the strike. Our union took the view that we should not be like AFL unions that narrowly focus only concerns of their own members. In this case we were striking in defense of our students.

The union had no right to union elections, but proceeded in the "solidarity union" approach, building the union through grassroots action. There were no paid officers or staff and the union executive was the shop stewards council, with stewards elected from assembly-based department orgs. Although union functioned like the IWW, there's no way the libertarian socialists in it could have suggested IWW affiliation because the Marxists would have disagreed. There were several libertarian socialists in my department and the creation of an assembly based organization there was due to our initiative. we called a meeting that 23 of the 24 TAs attended and they approved a bylaws that we had prepared in advance.

The union was based on a "militant minority" that included people from a variety of Leftist groups and points of view. They supported the grassroots radical character of the union, but there would be no way we could have gotten them to buy into an organization defined by some specifically anarchist or revolutionary line. This doesn't mean the union wasn't "political" -- it was.

Over the years when I advocated for a project of building a grassroots independent union, I'm thinking back to my experience with the SAEU because it seemed to me that proved that, in favorable circumstances, this is possible. And possible to do so outside the IWW. But my stating this obvious fact in WSA apparently offended E.W. as we see in this comment:

It also would have been nice in my engagement with political groups to not see any time the IWW is brought up a chorus of "we don't just support the IWW we support other unions too", followed by a bunch of internal debate about the merit of our project and whether it could be done just under the banner of the political group and various business unions.

Well, I believe that a mass revolutionary union movement in the future in the USA is a possibility but i think t is highly unlikely that this is going to happen by recruitment to the IWW. Hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, are needed to have a movement that can transform the society. I don't think we know or could know how such a future mass movement will come to be. On the other hand, we inevitably work at present to develop projects that are feasible in various contexts. I don't say people shouldn't be organizing thru the IWW. I'm not saying this can't be an important contribution, laying the groundwork, for a future mass revolutionary movement. but past experience of labor upsurges in the USA suggest there are always new organizations that emerge, and new groups of people who go into motion.

Moreover, when Marxist groups talk about the distinction between the economic and the political, this becomes a way they justify accepting a lack of radical political vision for a mass organization such as union, because they conceive of "politics" as the function of some political party. I fundamentally disagree with that. On the contrary, because i see the mass movement organizations as the means to social transformation, their political development is essential, and I'd take the view that we should advocate within them to go as far in the direction of being the kind of mass organization we want them to be as is feasible at present, given the current mindset of the working people involved in it.

I also think I don't agree with S.N.'s "intermediate" level idea. Take Teamsters for a Democratic Union as an example. I think MAS would give this as an example of an intermediate level org. But I see it as a kind of mass organization. When I was still living in Wisconsin in the late '70s, TDU had succeeded in organizing virtually all the 5,000 carhaulers in the USA -- people who take new cars to dealers in multi-level rigs. This was their Carhaulers Council. They were so successful in this organizing that became possible for the CC to carry out a job action on its own. In fact this lead to a split in the main Leftist group in TDU back then, International Socialists. A minority in IS believed that on certain contract demands to get them CC should just go ahead an organize a strike, without waiting for Teamster union approval...acting in effect as a dual union. The majority in IS however convinced them to wait for local union prez approval, since the presidents had made rhetorical noises in support of a strike. But the presidents stabbed them in the back, so it was a mistake not to have used CC to carry out the strike. This lead to the Workers Power group splitting off from IS, they were the people who wanted CC to act like a dual union. Around that time i interviewed a number of TDU members in Wisconsin. None of them were leftists. TDU was in fact a kind of military minority mass organization, in principle no different than a "minority union" in a workplace without union contracts. TDU has functioned over the years as a militant minority dominated by several Leninist orgs, who have a boring from within perspective, and thus TDU has followed its "going for power" (in the union apparatus) line but if libertarian socialists had been dominant, say, it could have pursued a different tack.

As to what E.W. finds lacking in the U.S. organized anarchist groups he puts this way:

Not to put words in the authors mouth but I think he also outlines what some political groups could be doing to be more effective. In fact I would go so far as to say these practices don't apply to the UCL in Quebec or to Common Cause in Ontario, this is more of an American thing than Canadian thing. The UCL and Common Cause have some concentration in actual struggles (OCAP, CLASSE, IWW etc).

sure enough, the USA isn't Quebec, nor is it Spain either. Earlier on in this thread I pointed to the problem of lack of numbers, and how this leads to sketchy orgs that often don't have enough people in a particular locale to start projects or they have people scattered in a variety of different situations, making it hard to develop common projects or common work in an existing project or mass organization. This is a very long-standing problem. I agree that it is crucial for a viable local libertarian socialist organization to find areas where they, or sections of their members, can work together in some common area, in actual organizing projects & mass organizations. but we can't simply snap our fingers and bring this into being out of nowhere. so E.W.'s comment is arbitrary.

My own ideal of the local chapter would be for it to have various common projects, or areas of focus. I've also advocated for building centers of popular education where organizer trainings, workshops/discussions on revolutionary history, etc can take place. This is an example of a project that a revolutionary libertarian group could do itself, if it had the numbers.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 2, 2012

Heh, alright 'cat, I think your points here are actually pretty good and in good faith. Unfortunately they aren't the first time I've heard them, and in fact they are exactly the rant I heard every time anyone mentioned anything to do with the IWW. Can you imagine the effect that has on someone who joined a political group because they thought that group had something to offer their political work?

If you say, "we support lots of unions including the IWW" once it sounds like a good, solid political perspective. If you say it three times it sounds like you are a bit uneasy about the IWW but genuinely want to work with folks in the IWW, and if you say it every time the IWW is brought up it sounds like you are being passive aggressive and don't actually agree with the project your fellow WSA members are working on.

I would go so far as to say that there was probably a small amount of hope that we would ditch the IWW in favour of independent unions and the WSA but that I'll be upfront that I'm reading between the lines here but when you repeat that line ad nauseum that's the impression given and it's not on me for taking it the wrong way.

So sure, I get it, you want to work with lots of unions not just the IWW, I got it the first time you said it. But when we see an independent group of workers in the W.S.A.and try and make the case for them linking up inside the IWW and that canned speach you just gave is aired on the list you are actually interfering in the organisational work of a 'mass' organisation that joined a political group to build itself.If that isn't the roll of the WSA, to build the politics and practice of the groups people join from what is the point?

In other words your cookie cutter political line forged in a struggle from four decades ago was an impediment to organising and networking by currently active shop floor militants. Again the political and ideological criteria trumps the real practical expression of the class struggle in mass organisations by people working on them now.

It's not different when the marxists do it because your political line is different, it's the same activity and is something prior to any other level of ideological activity because it is itself an ideological position. Ad hoc justification based on tradition, or abstract political lines doesn't really mean much if you are doing the same thing you're going to get the same results, even if your reason for doing the same thing is actually different.

My own ideal of the local chapter would be for it to have various common projects, or areas of focus. I've also advocated for building centers of popular education where organizer trainings, workshops/discussions on revolutionary history, etc can take place. This is an example of a project that a revolutionary libertarian group could do itself, if it had the numbers.

I have to admit the phrase "my own ideal local chapter" is half the problem with political organisations right now. You can't base politics on your local ideal chapter because you'll only ever have the chapter you have. You won't have the numbers to do it because you keep trying to shoe horn what you have into what you want, that's what happened to me and that's why I quit the WSA. Not sure if I wanted to say it, but apparently a few people really wanted to hear it.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 2, 2012

Heh, alright 'cat, I think your points here are actually pretty good and in good faith. Unfortunately they aren't the first time I've heard them, and in fact they are exactly the rant I heard every time anyone mentioned anything to do with the IWW

well, that's quite false. and I don't believe you. I think you'd be offended if i mentioned it once. Your gross over-estimate of the number of times I mentioned this suggests exactly this conclusion. WSA emerged from a group who had left the Anarchist Communist Fed because of the obsession of Bekken's group with the IWW as the only road. Plus people forced out of the IWW. So, that helped shape our outlook.

nor do you ever really address the question of numbers. Now it's true that numbers will come from engagement in practice with others, and that requires others to work with. But there are many different possible ways that can take place.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 2, 2012

syndicalistcat

Heh, alright 'cat, I think your points here are actually pretty good and in good faith. Unfortunately they aren't the first time I've heard them, and in fact they are exactly the rant I heard every time anyone mentioned anything to do with the IWW

well, that's quite false. and I don't believe you. I think you'd be offended if i mentioned it once. Your gross over-estimate of the number of times I mentioned this suggests exactly this conclusion.

Good point. The problem here is that EdWob is too easily offended. That's definitely the most plausible story. I mean, because you've never been a bit tone-deaf in your interactions with people in your organization or in the CSAC milieu in such a way that slightly annoyed anyone. So clearly that can't have ever happened with regard to how you and others talk about the IWW. And I'm totally sure that this is the first time in the WSA's 25+ years anyone has ever suggested such a thing, right...?

Seriously the recurring "the IWW isn't the only thing we're into we also are for...." often when someone mentioned the IWW is a big part of why I quit the WSA. I frankly never really cared if other people in the WSA joined the IWW or not, I had no intention of recruiting to the IWW joining, the IWW was something I was personally committed to. But in general if someone's like "hey there's this thing I'm doing that's part of an effort I'm excited about and committed to" and someone else is like "I don't share your excitement and commitment to that effort, but please, go on" it is kinda offputting. And more so every time it's repeated. And it got really predictable what would happen if anyone mentioned their work in the IWW, as part talking about what they were up to lately. Some other WSA members would bring up their reservations about the IWW or about how there were into stuff other than the IWW too would. It got old. I thought I tried to raise this as a concern but definitely not very effectively. (Then again I don't remember the organization ever having a constructive conversation about any members' problematic behavior ever while I was involved.) So after a while I actively decided to try and avoid talking about anything IWW related in the WSA. That didn't work and the fights continued. That's not the only reason I quit but it was a big part of it.

It's also kind of ironic that this disagreement happens now, in a thread about problems in actually existing political organizations, and your response is basically "no, that problem about tensions around the IWW does not take place, you are wrong that there is any such problem."

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 2, 2012

Nate, You describe people mentioning that the WSA envisions a variety of possible worker organizing paths as "problematic behavior" but why? It's as if people are to be blamed for stating WSA's line. Whether it's "problematic behavior" or not is something that you haven't argued for.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 2, 2012

I have a question for the Recomposition crew, especially Nate, Juan, EdmontonWobbly...

From what I can tell a lot of this general adaptation of the "political-economic" framework of a revolutionary union is that it does politics as well as struggle around economic exploitation of it's members. That it has not only the benefits of a political organization generally but it also "does shit"...

It is obvious to me that at least a 1/3rd of the wobblies are actually engaged in organizing and struggle, but I don't really see much in the way of political education/training/work going on. There is of course the OT 101, but that is mostly training around workplace struggle and not much around politics. I say this as someone who has taken the training three times and read most of the trainer's documents...

So my question is how do Recomposition people explain the lack of building a political education program and training to do political work as the organization? I'm not saying as non-workplace stuff or electoral work, but generally bringing about a political approach and developing a collective political outlook as a revolutionary union? Does Recomposition see itself working towards such aims?

I ask this not to be provocative, but because what I see is mostly an informal tight political milieu around the IWW and not really a direct engagement towards political education or developing the politics of the union, and I am wondering if there is anything in the mission of Recomposition towards such ends since you say this is what the IWW allows us to do, compared to political organizations.

I don't really think this type of political work is only proper for political organizations, and I do think it could occur in networks of militants like the IWW or other mass organizations, but if that was to happen in the IWW I think it would pretty much require folks who believe in an anarcho-syndicalist/councilist "direct unionist" tendency within the union actively coordinating towards such ends internally?

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 2, 2012

Historically speaking, WSA tried to find a balance between the three major forms that anarchists have done workplace organizaing around.Those who supported the IWW over one form and those who supported independents form or work in the trade unions another form, but that obviously was not satisfying for some.
In the main, most WSA prolly didn't care which form works, as long as something was working.

I think the the tensions in an organization where some support one form of shopwork over another will always be there. Unless you have a monolithic position on things. Which some do and that's ok.

From what I recall, the real tensions began over the idea of mandating WSA members attend IWW trainings. And between two members over organizing: one supporting the IWW and one supporting workers centers. And that debate didn't even happen inside WSA, but, rather on ABC.

This strikes me and I am trying to find some or any discussion of this on the internal WSA list:

"when we see an independent group of workers in the W.S.A.and try and make the case for them linking up inside the IWW and that canned speach you just gave is aired on the list you are actually interfering in the organisational work of a 'mass' organisation that joined a political group to build itself.If that isn't the roll of the WSA"

"Canned speech" aside, I don't recall this sort of thing happening. I'll be the first to admit memory loss on some stuff, but this would stick out as smething that would've warrented lots of debate and discussion.

Speaking of the "canned speech", I prolly must've give it a million times as the Secretary dusring this period. And it was usually when folks went at it with each other. Like i said, in an organization that has several different approaches to workplace stuff, trying to mediate and keep the balance isn't always easy. And sometimes you just have to repeat the same thing and tell folks to respect differing points of view.

I guess my only feeling is that whenever IWW comrades sought out help, WSA came through. I find it ironic that it was mostly the non-IWW members who offered the motions on solidarity emails and donations.

R. Spourgitis

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on July 2, 2012

Since this pot is still getting stirred, I'll throw in again. :)

EdmontonWobbly

Not to put words in the authors mouth but I think he also outlines what some political groups could be doing to be more effective. In fact I would go so far as to say these practices don't apply to the UCL in Quebec or to Common Cause in Ontario, this is more of an American thing than Canadian thing. The UCL and Common Cause have some concentration in actual struggles (OCAP, CLASSE, IWW etc).

But this gets to the most important point. Common Cause and the UCL aren't successful in my opinion because of the presence of strong political organisations, these organisations are successful because they are a part of groups that are doing organising. I kind of take this as evidence that the health of our movement is determined by how effective we are at practicing our politics, not reciting them.

I have to take some exception to this. Where there has been actual struggles present, I think that a lot of CSAC groups and members are involved in them. Obviously this differs tremendously between various regions and locales, but the implication that a lot of us just sit on our hands I don't think is very fair. Occupy is one example where I know around here and for many of the other groups a ton of time and effort was spent actively within them and, for what its worth, May 1 general strike / day of action came right out of this (this campaign also revealed some weaknesses, but not my point here).

Even where "big" struggles have been not very present, you find many of those groups, or often at the very least its members, involved in building solidarity networks, workers centers, reproductive justice work, anti-racist work, etc; to say nothing of course of the extensive overlap between IWW and various political organization's membership.

I do think the OP has good points for critiquing aspects of the processes within our organizations, but I'm not interested in a IWW vs. political organizations debate because I think it's ultimately a false binary. There's quite a various gradation between who is doing what, who's prioritizing what. Granted, I was never in WSA nor do I know who said what however many years ago. But I do think that building any struggle seriously is going to involve all manner of organizations, informal and formal, revolutionary unions and (at least the membership of) non-revolutionary ones, publications, blogs and conferences. Hell, I think the more of them the better!

We should be honest about our shortcomings and failures, which has been a benefit to this discussion, but we can also look at the contextual relationship that any number of these groups, political orgs and IWW branches alike, that affect the potential and efficacy of the work chosen. Or, you work with what you've got, and sometimes that really isn't much.

I also think this piece from Gayge Operaista is a great one for a non-dogmatic, and dynamic view of this question.

http://libcom.org/library/dialectic-exploitation-repression-forms-self-organization-avoidance-vulgar-workerism

Abbey Volcano

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Abbey Volcano on July 3, 2012

syndicalist

From what I recall, the real tensions began over the idea of mandating WSA members attend IWW trainings.

I don't recall this happening-- could someone perhaps remind me of what that was all about?

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 3, 2012

Abbey Volcano

syndicalist

From what I recall, the real tensions began over the idea of mandating WSA members attend IWW trainings.

I don't recall this happening-- could someone perhaps remind me of what that was all about?

I know Nate and Mike went at this. And I also said that it shouldn't be mandatory, but WSA members should be encoraged to attend. Now, maybe this was on one of our internal lists, maybe on ABC, I can't recall. What I do recall is that this came up.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 3, 2012

sabotage

how do Recomposition people explain the lack of building a political education program and training to do political work as the organization?

No one's really done it. I mean, there's been informal stuff quite a bit at the branch level and sometimes cross-branches like the League of Revolutionary Black Worekrs event a few year back, and publications, but nothing systematic. This is not solely because of political organizations but a contributing factor is that when a lot of people have wanted to do politics beyond the degree it's currently done in the IWw they've basically left the organization - either completely, or they've gone elsewhere for most of the politics. I think in a lot of ways that's exactly what organizational dualism as practiced in the CSAC milieu encourages, which is part of what I'm on about when I tried to say that that sort of organizational dualism is bad for the IWW. But you're right, this doesn't happen enough and ought to.

sabotage

Does Recomposition see itself working towards such aims?

That's what I'd like us to do and that's how I see what some of us are doing. We don't have much in the way of worked out opinions - we're a group of friends who run a web site and collaborate on writing and stuff. Some of us aren't interested in being part of political organizations and are pretty IWW focused (and we wish the rest of the people in the editorial group were too) and some of us are very interest in being part of political organizations and while active in the IWW are less solely IWW focused (and wish the others were the same). So I don't think we agree on this. We should discuss it...! I'd like to hear what others think.

Oh yeah, also, I'm not married to Recomp as a vehicle for this. For instance I edited the Weakening the Dam pamphlet and wrote some of it and me and some other people from my branch worked on getting our branch to put it out as a pamphlet and trying to distribute it around the union. Likewise Adam and me and some other friends around the union organized the LRBW event. That's not really anyhting to do with Recomp. If anything I'd say I'm committed to this project/goal - doing political work in the IWW and pushing discussion in the IWW about how the IWW does political work - and I'm politically interested in Recomp to the extent that it's useful for that goal. (I'm also just generally interested in Recomp for social/interpersonal reasons, because I like the people involved and the people I interact with as a result of working on it, but that's not really politically driven for me, it's more just that I like it. The political part for me is what I said above. And thanks for asking, Sabotage, it's clarifying for me to talk about this.)

sabotage

not really a direct engagement towards political education or developing the politics of the union

I don't know how many people are thinking or talking about this. My views on all this are pretty new to me. It's been a few years since I quit the WSA but I've got a small kid and I work a lot and I've been sort of following random intellectual threads that I've written about more than I've had a plan, so part of why I've not done more on this is lack of vision/clarity, lack of a plan, lack of time, lack of energy, and lack of many collaborators. This is definitely the direction I'd like to move in personally and I wish everyone in Recomp agreed. Currently there's disagreements on political organization etc and some people are less active because of organizing and life commitments, but we all like each other and it's nice to collaborate and communicate. I wish we more all on the same page but short of everyone else adopting better views - ie, my views :) - I would prefer to keep working with the current group of friends because it's fun and intellectually productive (our arguments are often annoying but I always feel like I come away from them smarter).

sabotage

if that [kind of political agreement] was to happen in the IWW I think it would pretty much require folks who believe in an anarcho-syndicalist/councilist "direct unionist" tendency within the union actively coordinating towards such ends internally?

I don't mean this rhetorically but why is that? Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see the need for unity around those points for the kind of political work I'm talking about to happen. To put it another way - I think the IWW needs some internal institution building to increase its ability to have a collective intellectual life on its own terms and through its own internal structures. Once that exists then I think different informal groupings might put out views on any number of things that could be called the specific political line of any grouping - big picture social vision, visions of revolution, core values like anarchism and feminism, issues of strategy and analysis like in the direct unionism piece and the nature of labor law and understanding the current crisis, and short term policy and practice issues of the sort that come up regularly around the annual convention etc. Personally I think building the institutional capacity (the organizational context necessary for a collective intellectual life or for meaningful internal discussion and education) is more pressing than any the particulars of line. I also think that the IWW I want to see would do political work on an ongoing basis aside from those disagreements or others, and I think that capacity could and should be built up. To a limited extent this is what happened around the IWW involvement in Madison.

syndicalist

Abbey Volcano

syndicalist

From what I recall, the real tensions began over the idea of mandating WSA members attend IWW trainings.

I don't recall this happening-- could someone perhaps remind me of what that was all about?

I know Nate and Mike went at this. And I also said that it shouldn't be mandatory, but WSA members should be encoraged to attend.

I know I said it and I'd be shocked if I'm the only one. I think I said something like "many people in the IWW and out of it have found it really helpful for stuff and you don't have to join." It wasn't intended as an attempt at recruiting (least of all an attempt at recruiting Mike) or in any way an attempt to shop the IWW to people. At the time that I made the suggestion I had not yet given up on trying to build the WSA. My thought was that if people attended the training it would help them do better at whatever their organizing projects were and the WSA as a whole would benefit. (I know SolFed's adapted the curriculum and found it productive and Erik is currently putting on versions of the training for groups across Europe who are finding it exciting. That's not motivated by building the IWW but rather at sharing skills and experience with comrades and encouraging them to pick up the ball and run with it.)

syndicalistcat

Nate, You describe people mentioning that the WSA envisions a variety of possible worker organizing paths as "problematic behavior" but why? It's as if people are to be blamed for stating WSA's line. Whether it's "problematic behavior" or not is something that you haven't argued for.

I have made an argument, actually, but you've managed to both mischaracterize it and claim the argument wasn't made. I said something to the effect of "people committed to the IWW would discuss there work and other WSA members would rush to describe their reservations about the IWW" and stated that this was offputting. If you like I could demonstrate how this is offputting. Tell me about the housing stuff you've been doing and that you're excited about it and I'll tell you about how I don't particularly see the point, then we'll do that a few more times in sequence, and you'll get it. That's honestly kind of impressive. I never had and do not have a problem that the WSA envisions multiple directions for worker organizing. This issue here is not pluralism. The issue here is how some of y'all responded to others of us when we talked about our particular interests.

Seriously, being frank here, I feel like I'm not saying much more than a detailed version of "yo sometimes the way some of you talk is kind of offputting emotionally to other people in your group and the circles around your group, and here's an example" and I feel like you're responding with either disputing the point like "nuh uh no way, nothing about how any of us talk is offputting" or else disbelief like "really? that's weird because no one else has ever said anything about any of us carrying ourselves in a way that is at all offputting."

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 3, 2012

R. Spourgìtis

building any struggle seriously is going to involve all manner of organizations, informal and formal, revolutionary unions and (at least the membership of) non-revolutionary ones, publications, blogs and conferences. Hell, I think the more of them the better!

I totally agree. Like an ecosystem, so to speak. But not everyone in that ecosystem has to do everything or be part of everything. So for me I'm against organizational dualism being elevated to principle to be followed by all but I'm for organizational dualism when it makes sense in context.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 3, 2012

Nate, basically, all of this stuff you guys are putting out now, was never part of any internal discussions and so forth. And when you left WSA, you said, I ain't answering questions.

Edit: I mean you talk like every WSA member talked to you guys in a certain manner. I think like maybe two people (out of 50 plus) just really didn't care much for the IWW. I dunno, just seems a bit blown out. Like I said, even those who disagreed threw their support and money behind IWW campaigns;towards the Food Workers travel fund and so forth.

Anyway, if this is really how you feel, fine. A bit late, but fine.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 3, 2012

syndicalist

Nate, basically, all of this stuff you guys are putting out now, was never part of any internal discussions and so forth. And when you left WSA, you said, I ain't answering questions.

Anyway, if this is really how you feel, fine. A bit late, but fine.

Nah. I wrote you a long email about this and you said "thanks" and that's about it. I probly could have been clearer earlier on about these reservations but some people in the organization were jerks and that wasn't conducive to being super forthright about concerns. And from what I gather from gossip from current members I' not convinced that that's changed much. But yeah, okay, I'll own half of it: I should have voiced my concerns sooner. Fair play. And the other half is that you people should have noticed the problems before people started quitting over them. Given that this is still in part a conversation about being skeptical about at least some of the groups in the CSAC milieu, I think this confirms some of the over all points in Juan's piece.

Edit: I didn't get into it more detail in my resignation letter because I knew there was no way I was going to stay and so I didn't see the point in getting into an argument with any of you about it (I'm not sure what the point is not, actually...) and I really didn't want to encourage anyone else to quit. I wanted my resignation to be minimally disruptive, and I knew that several other members were unhappy. I don't know if they stayed members later or not, I don't ask (I know everyone of the recomp editors eventually quit but I know some of them stayed members a long while after).

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 3, 2012

Nah. I wrote you a long email about this and you said "thanks" and that's about

OK, after I wrote you and some others off list as to why you left. And this was many months later.

The bottom line is, really, the stuff coming out here is hindsight stuff, which is ok.

"Jerks".... I think all orgs got 'em. I see the IWW hasn't quite gotton rid of that factor either. But we all just try and control stuff the best we can, you know?

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 3, 2012

Nate: And the other half is that you people should have noticed the problems before people started quitting over them

FWIW, I think we tried to. And, TBH, when we all left the TC conference, everyine said they were "stoked" about doing stuff together. When in the TC, we could have collectively addressed issues. You know, it's a two way street when it comes to owning and dealing with stuff. And I know how many on and off list hours I spent with all of you folks trying to move things along, trying to make things run smoother and trying to keep all the multipule egos in tact. Well, it goes with the territory. Ya win some, get fooled sometimes and loose sometimes. Just another day in the rradical workers movement, ya kow?

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 3, 2012

nate:

I said something to the effect of "people committed to the IWW would discuss there work and other WSA members would rush to describe their reservations about the IWW"

I think i was always supportive of the organizing the IWW was doing. I'm referring to things like Jimmy Johns, SWU, and other projects. I don't think i ever suggested people should not be doing that or not doing it through the IWW. so i don't know what you're talking about.

In regard to the organizer training suggestion, I think that was a good idea.

Moreover, it seems that E.W.'s complaint was rather different, as we see here:

when we see an independent group of workers in the W.S.A.and try and make the case for them linking up inside the IWW and that canned speach you just gave is aired on the list you are actually interfering in the organisational work of a 'mass' organisation that joined a political group to build itself.If that isn't the roll of the WSA

the "we" here I take it refers to E.W. & his IWW buds. this statement *could* be interpreted as saying that he & his buds were engaged in an entryist maneuver to recruit people from the WSA to help them with some political project inside the IWW. what he seems to be objecting to is that those who re-iterated the WSA's pluralist position were "interferring" with this entryist project of getting as many people in WSA to support his project as possible. If this interpretation is correct, then it seems to me that E.W.'s project here was not respectful of the spirit of the position of WSA as reflected in Where We Stand. in other words, note that he's not talking about interferring with some IWW organizing project apart from WSA but a project of people from IWW to recruit from within WSA.

E.W. continues:

In other words your cookie cutter political line forged in a struggle from four decades ago was an impediment to organising and networking by currently active shop floor militants

but E.W. is assuming, falsely, that i would rest my case for a pluralistic perspective solely on my participation in SAEU 40 years ago. On the contrary, I would refer to plenty of contemporary organizing to indicate a variety of different possible directions -- workers centers, seattle solidarity network, union breakaways (like NUHW), and so on -- and I'd include the IWW in that list.

I had argued that having a distinct political organization doesn't imply agreement with the traditional Marxist tendency to push everything political into the party and capitulate to apoliticism in unions. but he responds:

It's not different when the marxists do it because your political line is different, it's the same activity and is something prior to any other level of ideological activity because it is itself an ideological position.

but his conclusion doesn't follow. just because i allow that there could be multiple unions comrades might be involved in, A and B, it doesn't follow that they couldn't advocate for political unionism in each. from the fact that i didn't support a project of recruiting everybody in WSA into the IWW, why does that show I think political development of the IWW is not worthy or something I'd not support?

I'm sorry I'm being distracted...my cat just brought a lizard here. I have to take care of this...

i'm back. i just wanted to add that it's fine with me if Nate, E.W. and others wanted to go their own way. things sort themselves out and I have no problem with that. i'm not interested in being prosecutorial towards E.W. or anyone.

Kittenization

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Kittenization on July 3, 2012

So for me I'm against organizational dualism being elevated to principle to be followed by all but I'm for organizational dualism when it makes sense in context.

I like this and have been arguing this point for a long time now. I hate it when an organizational form gets twisted into a panacea or formula that has to be followed in order for us to bring about the pretty complicated and difficult changes we want to bring about (to the extent that we agree on those things to be changed - and lord knows we don't have a ton of agreement about that). It's something that's turned me off of hardline dual org folks as well as hardline positions around other organizational forms (i.e. informal groups, IWW, Solnets, etc.).

In my experience, I've found locals of political organizations doing some pretty dope stuff and some stuff that doesn't excite me at all. The same can be said of informal groups, the IWW, and any number of other organizational forms. This has also been my experience with different organizational forms in the context of ongoing organizing I've personally been involved with, though I haven't had any experience with the IWW (other than sending in dues fifteen years ago and never getting a red card!).

I'm glad this conversation is happening, though. As a member, I think "pluralism" is often more a posture than a practice in WSA, at least around certain positions. I remember when I joined being lectured why ideas I liked were "incompatible" with social anarchism and the like. We could definitely have less conversations in those sorts of polarizing ways and benefit a lot from it. I can see where Nate is coming from here, particularly since those ideas were also feeding into the things I was organizing around at the time.

I have a load of other thoughts about this stuff, but probably won't ever have time to write them out. But I'd love to talk it over with some of ya'll who have my number! =)

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 3, 2012

@nate it's not about line but about folks who think the iww is enough i.e. it is political-economic, don't really seem to be promoting a strategy of developing collective political education and training within the union. maybe you wouldn't call that a grouping of tendency, just like maybe we shouldn't call recomposition a political organization, but i do think folks who have such ideas and are arguing that political work can be done by such an organization i would hope would be coordinating towards those ends. i'd love to help and further discuss with any recomposition or other folks who think that is needed in the union, and my organizer friend has a workshop on thinking about this in mass organizations called "towards an organizing worldview" here is a brief synopsis of it:

This workshop illuminates the ways our overall vision of change connects to our "world view" (ideology) and how right-wing ideology creates obstacles in our day to day organizing. How do we counter the influence of oppressive ideologies in our day-to-day work? How can we intentionally recognize these dynamics in ways that improve our work rather than isolate us? By openly these dynamics from an organizing point of view we can grapple with ways to incorporate ideology into our organizing without falling into traps that result in our views resonating only with other committed radicals.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 3, 2012

@cat & @edmontonwobbly and others...

i think part of this which is hard for us to grasp is i think there might be a mix of perceptions on what the role of a revolutionary organization should be.

i don't think E.W. was arguing/practicing entryism.

what he was saying was that he thought a group like the wsa was supposed to help himself and others as mass militants do their work better, to be able to caucus and network with other revolutionary level militants that could help them better coordinate and organize with the iww or other mass organizations.

i've also seen nate say this before, that they joined the wsa or they felt they saw others join the wsa because people thought it would help them do political work within the iww, when just doing political work within the iww is what will help doing political work within the iww. instead nate has repeatedly stated he feels instead it drives people to do political work outside or at least disconected from direct involvement in the iww or other mass organizing.

personally i think you can do political work outside and inside the iww, one could focus more or less on one or the other of those options. but i currently am a member of a political organization, i do a little bit of outside political work and what could be called activism outside of the iww, but the main amount of my activity and organizing is in the iww, and has been since i joined. i really don't think being in a political organization has affected my ability at all to do that work, but perhaps that is because i never entered under the presumptions that political orgs were the cure all for political issues in the iww. i would say i have gotten other organizing experience through participation in political orgs that has benefited me generally as an organizer. i've also built connections and relationships with some of the most committed iww members by finding out they were or were around such political organizations.

i just think of it all as extra. what most matters in the long run is the mass struggle of the proletariat. i'll join whatever group or form i find beneficial towards those ends.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 3, 2012

I decided to reply in such a way to get back to the OP.

Juan Conatz

1) Contemporary political organization in the United States in large part came out of the post-Seattle 1999 resurgence of anarchism and the subsequent disagreements with primitivists, post-leftists, counter-institution types, and insurrectionaries.

I guess the "NEFAC clones" and assorted other pro-organizational anarchist groups did. But WSA and NEFAC's lineage sort of precede this. I know that before NEFAC many of those involved were either in the Northeast Anarchist Front or the Atlantic Anarchist Circle, and before that in or around Love and Rage. The debates between red vs green anarchy, etc really did seem more like natural debates started in a chaotic way than any planned or outright reaction of certain groups of anarchists.

2)So for a long while (and to a certain extent today), the purpose and main appeal if political organization was in part because of defining themselves against other anarchists. This is no longer an acceptable purpose.

Of course this is not acceptable. I don't think we should relate this way to the "non-organized" anarchist movement or the rest of the Left. I'm not saying we have to work with everybody but there is a principled way to work with others, and we should seek alliances that make sense. My main issue with this though is it is a very nice stereotyped narrative that I feel really obscures the point.

3)Political organization has a tendency to take the types of conversations that should be happening in the wider class and instead places them primarily in closed groups between a very small amount of people. This is encouraged by advocating that a strict separation of the political and the economic must be maintained. However, it assumes that existing economic organizations are not already political and it is rarely gives an adequate explanation on how this differs from Lenin's 'trade union consciousness', which anarchists and libertarian communists have always rejected.

Really? I think this is really schematic and abstract description of a more complicated actual practice. I don't know any organized anarchists who say that mass organizations and class organizations should be non-political or apolitical. I do know of some that say they should be open to the whole class. I also know that many understand that at least some political limits should be put on that, perhaps like plz no fascists. I think most anarchists in contemporary political organizations believe very strongly that the working class must liberate itself and not be lead by any minority. That doesn't mean that minorities within the class still can't be influential towards such ends. And in fact isn't that even what in someways minority unionism is about, or in point out that many "mass" organizations are in fact "minority" on the day to day basis.

4)There has yet to be a serious and comprehensive assessment of the political organization experience since Seattle '99. This includes successes/failures as well as current and now defunct groups.

Sure this could be done. But I really don't know who could do it authoritatively. Not saying it isn't worth doing, but I am sure there are many opinions.

5)Despite their rejection of building anarchist or radical left mass organizations 'from scratch', the strategy of social insertion (a type of boring-from-within) doesn't seem to take into account the hundreds, if not thousands of leftist groups who have entered mass organizations in order to radicalize them. I consider bringing up the fact that many of them attempted to seize executive positions solely is side-stepping the question, as not all groups did this, nor did they always fail to create a complimentary militant base. Also, none of the political organizations I'm speaking of reject taking formal leadership or staff positions in mass organizations, and some of their members, in fact, do hold such positions.

Really this sort of claim needs the naming of names and back up really. I know of a few stewards. A lot of those folks have been Wobblies too. Also it seems really still in the spirit of trying to label such organizations Leninist. It's like saying dual unionism is Leninist. It is trying to imply that social insertion is a form of entryism, and that really misunderstands the concept IMHO.

For an accurate example of social insertion one only has to look towards the Occupy Movement, and how after 20+ years since the fall of the Soviet Union, the default methods of organizing if not standard ideology on the Left is basically anarchist or close to wanting to be so, i.e. most Communists and Socialists try to pretend to be "from below" these days.

6)The issue of formal VS informal as some sort of flagship identifier is nearly a false dichotomy, with some political organizations mostly being a listserv you pay dues to be on that occasionally sends out short statements of solidarity. Dwelling on whether something is 'formal' or 'informal' doesn't take into account if the something is worth doing at all.

I addressed this earlier, but I'd agree. Really both types of practices are sort of a yin and yang. No matter what you label the organization you are going to have elements of both.

7)Despite talk of 'theoretical and tactical unity', the actual projects members are involved in as a main activity includes the internal functions of the political organization itself, mainstream unions, the IWW, solidarity networks, Occupy, what amounts to internal reading groups, workers centers, co-operative projects, Food Not Bombs, etc. or...an extremely wide range for a relatively small group of people.

This really doesn't touch on the theoretical unity aspect. I think most organizations in the last few years have recognized that we have a large degree of tactical flexibility, and instead have tried to work towards framing our organizing within more internal work on building a strategic framework for what we do. I feel in the next few years people will be starting to see more about that. Personally I think it is good that members are involved in such a wide variety of projects.

8)Branching off the lack of assessment on the experience of contemporary political organization, there is no formalized resource for passing down skills and knowledge. There are no trainings or documents that help members do the activity the groups say they exist for, nor any effort to make sure members get to trainings or have resources that do exist in other groups.

I think I have addressed this elsewhere. But in some organizations these trainings do exist. I do agree though that they should be promoted and more widely spread through out the movement. Decentralization works, and that is why more young anarchists are gonna reprint and distro zines and organizing guides they find on zinelibrary.info or libcom.org than they are gonna if well CSAC groups or the IWW for that matter don't publish our thoughts and methodologies for organizing. I don't see what the big issue would be with doing so. The rest of the left publishes such books, though they do often cost an arm and a leg. We should pirate all of their books and publish our materials for free also. That would be in the true spirit of self-organization.

9)As there is no formalized way to pass down skills and knowledge, there is a huge gulf between older, more established individuals (mostly in major metro areas) and newer, younger and less established people (many in smaller cities, towns and isolated rural areas).

This is really an issue of development and yes I think it is an issue, but it isn't as if again this is not an issue that effects the IWW as well. I might have said this elsewhere but for 3 years (from 2007 to 2010) I didn't get any training in the IWW and I almost left. In fact I only learned about the training because I was a member of a political organization by that point (late 2010). To me it seems like no coincidence that this period 2007-2012 has been when the libertarian left has decided to get a bit more serious about education and training. This same period being when the CSAC groups started that network and started to share with each other about their organizing and starting to try to reflect on where we are going.

10)Often dominating the dialogue, agenda and concentration of the political organizations are those who speak mainly of theory and 'internal education'. The need for developing organizing skills and experience is secondary. This begs the question of what is a political organization VS what is a reading and discussion group.

All I can say is I've seen tendencies towards both though I think in my time the last 2 years in political orgs I've seen a shift more towards the latter of taking seriously the need to have revolutionary organizers also be capable mass organizers.

R. Spourgitis

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on July 3, 2012

The latest position on the political organization from Nate, Juan and EW...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAYL5H46QnQ

MAN!! You can't build the class struggle through reading groups and failed social insertion strategies!

;)

Abbey Volcano

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Abbey Volcano on July 3, 2012

Kittenization

I'm glad this conversation is happening, though. As a member, I think "pluralism" is often more a posture than a practice in WSA, at least around certain positions. I remember when I joined being lectured why ideas I liked were "incompatible" with social anarchism and the like. We could definitely have less conversations in those sorts of polarizing ways and benefit a lot from it. I can see where Nate is coming from here, particularly since those ideas were also feeding into the things I was organizing around at the time.

Yeah, this happened to me, too. Practically quit in the first few weeks over it.

Anyway, I can't believe I just read syndicalistcat all but accuse Edmonton Wobbly "and his buds" of entryism. I think I'll go back to sleep now.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 3, 2012

I can't believe I just read syndicalistcat all but accuse Edmonton Wobbly "and his buds" of entryism

i never thought that when he was a member of WSA. i'm just taking the passage i quoted at face value. i said it COULD be interpreted that way. but I don't profess to be a mind-reader. maybe E.W. expressed himself in a misleading way. as i said i don't want to be accusatory, but am here responding to criticisms directed at me. I think it would be more helpful to avoid personalizing things and talk about the politics, but others seem to want to personalize.

Uncontrollable

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Uncontrollable on July 3, 2012

[quote=Kittenization]

I remember when I joined being lectured why ideas I liked were "incompatible" with social anarchism and the like.

What were those ideas?

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 3, 2012

syndicalistcat

I can't believe I just read syndicalistcat all but accuse Edmonton Wobbly "and his buds" of entryism

i never thought that when he was a member of WSA. i'm just taking the passage i quoted at face value. i said it COULD be interpreted that way. but I don't profess to be a mind-reader. maybe E.W. expressed himself in a misleading way. as i said i don't want to be accusatory, but am here responding to criticisms directed at me. I think it would be more helpful to avoid personalizing things and talk about the politics, but others seem to want to personalize.

Again i think you misread this Cat and not that it can be interpreted that way. this is what EW said:

when we see an independent group of workers in the W.S.A. i.e. folks who have no union but seem interested in doing workplace stuff and try and make the case for them linking up inside the IWW and that canned speech you just gave is aired on the list you are actually interfering in the organisational work of members of a 'mass' organisation that joined a political group to build itself. If that isn't the role of the WSA

i can see how this can still come off a little weird. but if these people entered the WSA thinking it could help them build the IWW and that is what political groups were getting sold to them as, groups that can help you strategize on how to better do your mass work and build your mass work. i can see why EW and others would have thought that was the role, that they thought was slated for the WSA and why they thought suggesting folks perhaps consider joining the IWW or going to it's trainings might be a good idea, especially if they were already unaffiliated.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 3, 2012

Is there actually any ambiguity on this point? Are political groups that don't see themselves as vanguardist there for anything other than advancing mass libertarian formations?

I mean would someone who joined the CNT stand accused of "entryism" into the FAI if they felt that certain practices in the FAI were holding them back?

I would think anything other than that, is in fact, vanguardism.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 3, 2012

Is there actually any ambiguity on this point? Are political groups that don't see themselves as vanguardist there for anything other than advancing mass libertarian formations?

Right, advancing mass libertarian formations is the goal. I agree with that. But it's not clear how WSA not committing itself to the IWW as the one and only route for workplace organizational development hinders that.

they thought suggesting folks perhaps consider joining the IWW or going to it's trainings might be a good idea, especially if they were already unaffiliated.

as i said, i agreed with the idea of people attending the organizer trainings. a constant theme of mine has been the need for the libertarian left to develop popular education infrastructure and the organizer trainings are maybe the only current example of this.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 3, 2012

Oof loads more here than I can get into. For now just in reply to Sabotage -

sabotage

folks who think the iww is enough i.e. it is political-economic

Just to make sure... people who find their goals being met through political organizations (or simply enjoy being in them) should stay in them. I do think some of the things that some people currently get out of their political organizations could be done in the IWW if we built the internal institutions necessary for that. I think that a lot people are always going to want more than the IWW can provide and some of those people are going to find that joining/starting a political organization's the right move for them. They should do what's right for them, but shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that in doing so they're building/improving the IWW. So I'm not really trying to say the "the IWW is enough" (organizationally speaking) for anyone other than me (and Juan and EdWob who have said they're on the same page). Again just so we're clear about this. This is different from me saying "no one should ever be an organizational dualist", it's just saying "not everyone should always be an organizational dualist."

sabotage

don't really seem to be promoting a strategy of developing collective political education and training within the union

I think we are and I thought I listed some examples of this. Some other examples include the resolutions currently up for consideration and which will be up for debate at the next convention, some of the sessions of the Workpeople's College happening right now, and the discussions on gender and race at the past organizing summits. So some of this kind of thing already happens. I just wish there was more of it and it was more explicitly planned. And as I said I think there aren't enough people doing this and there's not a lot of clarity about what it would look like. And as I tried to say I think that doing this kind of work within the IWW requires building some of the context or institutional channels (or simply the interpersonal relationships) required to make this happen - kind of like how a canal has to be dug before it can be filled with water.

sabotage

maybe you wouldn't call that a grouping of tendency, just like maybe we shouldn't call recomposition a political organization, but i do think folks who have such ideas and are arguing that political work can be done by such an organization i would hope would be coordinating towards those ends

I would just call it "a group of IWW members" or perhaps "a committee." I think there are some channels for this kind of work in the IWW right now - the Industrial Worker, the GOB, the email lists, and the various gatherings the organization holds - but there should be more, and like I said I think there's some relationship building that has to be done. Which is time consuming in an organization of the IWW's size. I know we're small in the grand scheme of things but I think just my branch and the Edmonton branch total to almost the size of all the CSAC groups and I think there are more IWW branches than there are members in most of the CSAC groups. That's not meant as a knock at anyone just saying that it's going to be a slow process.

I'm definitely up for discussing this stuff further though in terms of how to improve the IWW, and I'd prefer to move that discussion as quickly as possible into one that happens in and through IWW channels (again like the GOB and the IW and email lists, branch to branch communication/resolutions, etc). That's probly stuff to do elsewhere rather than on this thread though.

Edit: To bring it back toward the original post a bit and the theme of how in some instances organizational dualism isn't always best in the short term - I think part of why this kind of work hasn't been advanced further in the IWW is that a lot of times when people have started to want to do this kind of thing they've either quit the IWW or formed/joined another group and made the other group the place where they do this kind of work instead of doing it in the IWW. That's definitely what I did and I know loads of other people who have as well. I think that kind of division - where the political organization does the political stuff and the economic organization/mass organization does the economic stuff - is encouraged by organizational dualism at least as I understand. Again I'm not saying that this is always a bad move. It could very well be the best move for the individuals who make the move, or be best for the group they start/join, and in some cases it may also be the best move for the economic organization/mass organization. And it might be good for some of those and bad for others (I've seen people leave the IWW in ways that hurts the IWW but is good for them personally, and I've seen people stay in the IWW at personal costs to themselves where they really should scale back their involvement for their own good.) But yeah anyway I think at least some of the time part of why there's not been more and better political work in and by the IWW has been because of some people doing organizational dualism.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 3, 2012

I think we are and I thought I listed some examples of this. Some other examples include the resolutions currently up for consideration and which will be up for debate at the next convention, some of the sessions of the Workpeople's College happening right now, and the discussions on gender and race at the past organizing summits.

I'm glad to hear about trends in this direction, such as the discussions about race & gender. Altho I've not been a member -- except for going to some San Francisco branch meetings for awhile in the '80s -- my impression has been inadequate political development in the IWW & fear of political discussion. I remember IWW members in the '80s opposing such discussion under the theme of "keeping politics out of the union" -- as if the IWW should follow the traditional AFL apoliticism. I have had some more recent discussions with IWW members (other than WSA or CSAC dual carders I mean) that did suggest getting past that earlier mentality.

But I still run into the old mentality sometimes. When I mentioned to a female IWW member the fact that the CGT in Spain has elected Women's Secretaries on all their regional committees & national committee, and periodic conferences of women members, which develop campaigns such as for free abortion on demand or against violence against women, she responded by getting defensive and saying that the elected women's secretaries "didn't mean anything." But in fact it does mean something. It's a formal expression of that syndicalist union's commitment to address the situation of working class women. The CGT also has social action secretaries for liaison with other social movement organizations they work with such as housing and ecology groups, and to work on campaigns related to issues outside the workplace. It seems to me these things are an expression of how the Spanish form of syndicalism is a political-economic unionism, and not apolitical. CNT also has social action secretaries as well.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 3, 2012

don't really seem to be promoting a strategy of developing collective political education and training within the union

Our branch was really kickstarted by a council communist reading group. We also are doing a workshop series that goes a bit deeper into the political context of direct unionism, like tonight we have a panel talk from organisers in the public sector talking about organising against austerity, one from a group of librarians and archivists we work with, another with a student group we work closely with and another with a postal worker. The next talk is about developing a deeper analysis of capitalism and is pretty much a theory workshop.

Having said that I actually do think the emphasis should be on developing front lines organising skills and this -is- actually way more important than being theoretically correct and -is- in fact theoretical. We work really hard in our branch at including as much feminist and anti racist content into our on the job trainings as possible in order to develop this analysis in our members through organising.

I'm definitely up for discussing this stuff further though in terms of how to improve the IWW, and I'd prefer to move that discussion as quickly as possible into one that happens in and through IWW channels (again like the GOB and the IW and email lists, branch to branch communication/resolutions, etc). That's probly stuff to do elsewhere rather than on this thread though.

I think I'm on the same page as Nate, I think we want to see more of this in the IWW though I also think this opens the door to too much of an orientation towards the activist left if it isn't grounded in organising people outside the social scene we tend to see ourselves marginalised in. After all the point of good organising isn't to sign up every kid who devours a zine it's to recruit people who are upset about the abuse of power they have been subjected to and to politicise them.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 3, 2012

Nate

This is different from me saying "no one should ever be an organizational dualist", it's just saying "not everyone should always be an organizational dualist."

I just wish there was more of it and it was more explicitly planned.

I think there's some relationship building that has to be done.

I'd prefer to move that discussion as quickly as possible into one that happens in and through IWW channels (again like the GOB and the IW and email lists, branch to branch communication/resolutions, etc).

I dig it, and agree with all of this.

Nate

I think that kind of division - where the political organization does the political stuff and the economic organization/mass organization does the economic stuff - is encouraged by organizational dualism at least as I understand.

I really don't agree with this schematic. Maybe it is in the theory of FdCA or some more classic platformist group somewhere, but it is not how I see shit play out on the daily in USA groups. At least in Boston and Providence where I've had most of my experience, I've never seen the organizers that developed me or any of us say that mass organizations should only do apolitical economic stuff. If anything I've seen this more from the Wobblies out here over the years, sort of like Tom says where the tendency towards wanting to only focus on the workplace or being a real union gets you people who refuse to be in solidarity with other working people's struggles like around transit, or housing, saying shit at the most extreme like "WE ARE A UNION, NOT A GOD DAMN POLITICAL ORGANIZATION!"

I think the IWW very much should focus on an organizing approach to involvement in other social movements, like EW says perhaps through social action and support committees like we see in Spain. I mean anyone who doesn't recognize we need community support and involvement is kidding themselves, even Unite-Here and SEIU are all about building these community campaigns. But there is a definite tension in the IWW still to only do workplace stuff, and that is why I'd like to do broader political education based in the organization like Nate says above.

Edit: Also I think if you only are doing political stuff in the specific organization and you are not also doing political stuff in mass organizations, I think you are doing it wrong.

Kittenization

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Kittenization on July 4, 2012

[quote=Uncontrollable]Kittenization

I remember when I joined being lectured why ideas I liked were "incompatible" with social anarchism and the like.

What were those ideas?

Criticisms of identity politics that came out of queer politics and sexuality and gender.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 4, 2012

At least in Boston and Providence where I've had most of my experience, I've never seen the organizers that developed me or any of us say that mass organizations should only do apolitical economic stuff.

I don't think the argument is that anyone is consciously advocating this position, I think the argument is that this is in effect what happens. I've certainly seen this in the IWW with folks from political organisations. Here's three examples:

Liberty and Solidarity definitely wanted to push the IWW in a more conventional unionist direction, trying to tone down the revolutionary tone, de-emphasising direct action in favour of representation etc. They generally pursued a more legalistic strategy and tried as a block to push the IWW in the UK in that direction.

Also look at the arguments coming out of certain long standing folks from Common Struggle with regards to the IWW and it's status as a union. I mean we had an NLRB staff person in Common Struggle argue that the IWW should pursue more of a contractual strategy, move more towards building certifications and contract negotiations and try to be less of a revolutionary organisation. This has a pretty long history too, going back to NEFAC, with folks from several unions going into staff positions and holding the same opinions on the IWW.

Hell even some folks in MAS, who I otherwise agree with on a lot of points, have argued that the IWW should ditch the preamble because that sort of revolutionary language is a barrier to organising apolitical workers.

It may not be intentional but the argument is in effect that the mass organisation should fit the ideal type of what a mass organisation should look like. Again instead of the categories of analysis used as explanatory models for what exists they are used as a yard stick to judge organisations as ideal specimens of their 'type'.

I think the IWW very much should focus on an organizing approach to involvement in other social movements, like EW says perhaps through social action and support committees like we see in Spain.

Our IWW branch has what's called a 'solidarity committee', it has an officer that acts as secretary and a small budget. They coordinate attendance at rallies (anything from the pride parade to first nations solidarity, to feminist events around town), they also coordinate picket support too.

Honestly though there is also something to be said for having some focus and making priorities. I do think that building the IWW as a militant workplace formation should be the priority. You can't give meaningful solidarity without building a constituency first and that means sometimes people are too busy meeting with workers, developing organising skills and helping people plan actions on the job to attend every rally in town.

If there has been anything that's been destructive to long term organising in our town it has been the band wagon tendency to jump from issue to issue without ever building anything lasting. The most effective organising is usually pretty unglamorous for a really long time.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 4, 2012

I mean we had an NLRB staff person in Common Struggle argue that the IWW should pursue more of a contractual strategy, move more towards building certifications and contract negotiations and try to be less of a revolutionary organisation. This has a pretty long history too, going back to NEFAC, with folks from several unions going into staff positions and holding the same opinions on the IWW.

Just think I should point out this person is now a supporter, and that most of those other people left the organization many years ago, and became not only union staff, but some have become christians, statists, etc. But it is hardly a unified position our organization has taken and was always a minority of folks who were interested in this route. People can look at our (yes fairly old) workplace position paper on where we stand on such issues, in many respects it is as pluralist as the WSA, but takes a bit of a harder stance on the integration of unions into the state/left of capital.

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 4, 2012

Okay, sure but it still leaves the position from MAS and Liberty and Solidarity though within the IWW. These are also pretty recent examples, all of these folks have moved on sure but we're talking about the last twelve years here, not forty.

Also just to be clear I'm not saying this has a lot to do with the expressed political sympathies of members or the written positions of organisations, I'm saying an arrangement where you have one group doing political work (theory) and another group doing mass work (practice) tends to favour a certain way of thinking about these problems- regardless of what they say they are doing.

I mean look at a lot of the examples that folks who express sympathy for political organisations are using in this thread. They are historical examples, there are theoretical examples and examples from other countries and places. These are important to study and understand but I see a lot less examples from people's currently existing mass work, partly because running a political organisation takes a lot of time and commitment, both of those are resources you have to split between two groups. So you do have a real choice to make, you either work on political work, you work on mass work or you do both and have no life and probably crash and burn.

Another example is heavy involvement in the Unite-Here salt program. Now I may be off base because unions vary a lot but I'm skeptical that you have much room for organising against "the integration of unions into the state/left of capital" as essentially foot soldiers without a lot of real decision making power over negotiations or campaign strategy. This is easier to swallow when the political organisation, that doesn't have a policy of recruiting pissed off workers from the floor, is where most of the talk about strategy and ideology happens. If it isn't happening in the political organisation again this brings up the question of what is the point of the organisation?

There would actually be a lot more room for political agitation if you got jobs in the Hotels themselves, as members you can say what you like to officials and speak up in meetings but if you enter in as staff you have very little power over the direction of the union (and frankly you shouldn't, you're staff).

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 4, 2012

I'm reluctant to chime back in here as I'm pretty ignorant of the US context and there's obviously some hurt feelings too, so these comments are intended more generally as I can't comment on the specifics above.

EdmontonWobbly

Also just to be clear I'm not saying this has a lot to do with the expressed political sympathies of members or the written positions of organisations, I'm saying an arrangement where you have one group doing political work (theory) and another group doing mass work (practice) tends to favour a certain way of thinking about these problems- regardless of what they say they are doing.

I think the 'unintended consequences' thing is an interesting one. In a general sense, it highlights the danger of dreaming up 'ideal type' organisational forms detached from actually doing them (personally I've become more reluctant to engage in these kind of discussions on libcom without explicit reference to practice), because things can go against your expectations in practice and force you to revise the theory.

I think the point about separating theory (political org) and practice (union) is also important. Maybe it doesn't have to be so, but there seems like a strong tendency for this separation to operate as a hierarchy between directors and directed. Which brings me to the historical examples ( ;) ). Part of the AAUD-E/Rulhe split with the AUUD/KAPD was over this relation (the separation of the explicit politics from the point of production), effectively merging the party into the union.

The opposite problem happened with the FAI within the CNT. They formed not so much to change the CNT but keep it the way it was against a growing reformist tendency. This was successful, but the price was creating an internal division between a political leadership and the rank-and-file (even while the former were mandated, recallable) which turned disastrous after July '36 when the leadership was co-opted against the militant sections of the rank-and-file (e.g. the May Days).

I think something like L&S is the opposite - there the explicit goal is to depoliticise the union and do politics as a specific organisation (presumably vying with other political organisations/tendencies for control of the union exec, 'ruthlessly smashing' opponents and so on). So it's not so much unintended consequences as the explicit aim. Nobody on this thread seems to subscribe to that kind of political/economic division of labour, i.e. 'no politics in the union' is interpreted as no big-P party Politics as opposed to developing theory, discussing issues of oppression, self-education with regard to understandings of capitalism and communism etc. This reminds me of Pepe Gomez' comments (a CNT militant in the Puerto Real shipyard disputes in the 80s):

Pepe Gomez

There are two points inherited from a marxist perspective. First of all, marxism separates the political and the economic to try and promote the idea of economic unions, unions that deal purely and simply with economic issues, whereas the political issues are tackled by the political party. Secondly, we are left with the need to struggle against the whole culture that has been built up around delegating activities, around delegating power to others. Anarcho-syndicalism is trying to oppose these negative legacies of marxism, so that people are actually re-educated in order to destroy this culture of dependency and to build up a new kind of culture that is based on activity and action for people, by themselves.

Which then leaves the question of whether formal political organisation of a non-party type is the best vehicle to develop this, or whether informal editorial type groupings made up of union members a la Recomp are more appropriate. Tbh that's a practical question more than a theoretical one. In theory a political org could join the IWW (or indeed the CNT) in order to develop its internal political culture and act in a co-ordinated way to build up the institutions to support political self-education and ongoing theoretical development. But this might also backfire in practice e.g. by drawing the most 'political' militants out of the union to do their theoretical discussions elsewhere (i.e. in meetings of the political org).

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 4, 2012

Joseph, what's a good starter on that German and Spanish history stuff? I don't know anything about any of it. I keep meaning to learn but I'm intimidated by the amount of material there is.

I also want to add, earlier in this conversation some folk were like "you have these criticisms of other groups but isn't recomposition pretty similar?" and thinking about it now I think there are tendencies or stuff that push-and-pull in that direction. To where recomp could end up having a similar issue of being detached from the IWW and (and this is the real concern) having the effect of encouraging that kind of detachment. I'm open to that and I think those of us in the recomp editorial group should be frank and self-critical about that (at least those of us who are more pro- the IWW as a self-sufficient/unitary political-economic organization).

EdmontonWobbly

running a political organisation takes a lot of time and commitment, both of those are resources you have to split between two groups. So you do have a real choice to make, you either work on political work, you work on mass work or you do both and have no life and probably crash and burn.

^ This. And there's also... like an identity issue and an issue of people's individual trajectories, or like what's the center of gravity socially and interpersonally. What I mean is, if someone goes to an awesome anarchist event involving talking anarchism with anarchists, it's likely to make the person want to go to more things that involve talking anarchism with anarchists. (And that's part of the point of anarchist political organizations, right? I don't mean that flippantly - anarchist organizations are about gathering anarchists together based on their shared values and analysis in order to deepen their grasp of those values and to build anarchist-to-anarchist relationships.) Similar dynamics play out if someone goes to an awesome IWW event involving talking IWW with IWW members. So it's an issue of where people go for what kind of awesome experience, and what kind of awesome experiences they try to create for what constituency.

As the IWW continues to grow in numbers and in quality I'd like to see as much as possible of the awesome experiences that members have be ones that happen within the IWW and which make them want to be more involved in the IWW. I think this is more likely to happen through IWW events that are about building the IWW than through things involving people who gather around some other common thing (being anarchists) and involving a mix of IWW members, non-members who are interested and supportive non-members, and non-members who are indifferent or skeptical.

I'm sort of repeating myself but I think we should orient toward building the capacity of IWW members to think collectively via internal organizational units of the IWW, whether formal or informal. I think this is already underway sort of organically in the organization but it could be a lot better. So that the places where people go for considering political issues - whether small-scale and short term like issues of policy or how to do better organizing, or more large scale like analysis of capitalism, or really fundamental like issues of core social values and vision of social revolution - are places that are 1) within the IWW 2) made up of IWW members 3) conducted in relation to the IWW's current working existence and practical concerns and 4) conducted as much as possible in vocabularies open to all IWW members. It also means, more simply, IWW members spending time building institutions of the IWW. It's fine and good if IWW members build institutions of other organizations, but it doesn't help the IWW.

And like I've suggested here I think this stuff is somewhat in tension with building up the political organizations. I don't want to be rude but I think if we drew a map and stuck in grey pins for the most dynamic IWW branches and blue pins for the most dynamic political organizations we wouldn't see many spots with both gray and blue pins. And where we did I think we'd find the overlap in people and activity between the two would be pretty rare.

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 4, 2012

Nate

Joseph, what's a good starter on that German and Spanish history stuff? I don't know anything about any of it. I keep meaning to learn but I'm intimidated by the amount of material there is.

tbh, I'm not sure there's good introductory texts. i've spent much of the past 2 years or so wading through loads of disparate stuff trying to get my head around it (i.e. most texts are from a pretty clear ideological positions, so you have to read several to triangulate in on what's consensus, what's disputed, etc). best thing is probably the forthcoming SF pamphlet, which summarises a lot of the above and has further reading recommendations. I'm not saying that to blow our own trumpet, part of the reason we felt the need to write a long pamphlet was that loads of this history is otherwise obscure and intimidating, so it can serve as a summary/point of entry. We'll send Recomp a review copy as soon as the final edits are done.

syndicalistcat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on July 5, 2012

I mean look at a lot of the examples that folks who express sympathy for political organisations are using in this thread. They are historical examples, there are theoretical examples and examples from other countries and places. These are important to study and understand but I see a lot less examples from people's currently existing mass work, partly because running a political organisation takes a lot of time and commitment,

well, if this is a reference to me, I really spend little time "running a political organization" apart from going to a monthly meeting. I've not had any responsible position for years. From 2000 to 2010 all my efforts were in the local housing movement. And i've been retired since 2007. I do spend time reading about labor struggles & history and doing interviews, including worker interviews. But by implication, then, older comrades who are retired have nothing of value worth listening to, nor do writers who study labor history & do interviews but are not themselves engaged in shopfloor organizing. Better toss out all of Staughton Lynd's works.

But, hey, the entire libertarian milieu in North America is ageist.

EDIT: I think part of the point of a political group is that it can bring together people who are involved in a variety of areas of struggle, to share perspectives. For example, workplace & tenant struggles or tenant organizing. Also, it can, in principle, bring together people across generations, if it lasts that long. And there is the whole issue of what to do in regard to the sectors where existing business unions are entrenched. So, is a single mass organization going to exist throughout all the areas of struggle?

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

EdmontonWobbly

Okay, sure but it still leaves the position from MAS and Liberty and Solidarity though within the IWW.

Liberty and Solidarity is not a North American group so I don't see how this relates to Juan's piece. Also they seem to even water down what they are as a revolutionary organization to saying they are socialist/syndicalist, and they are starting a new Monattist network the IRSN, but again I don't see how this relates.

MAS as far as I am aware has a few members who believe you won't have revolutionary mass organizations until a revolutionary period (sorry if that is a gross oversimplification from the folks I've heard this from, I am sure Scott Nappalos could tune in about that). I know however that Scott doesn't think this is necessarily so, so it is hardly a position.

EdmontonWobbly

Another example is heavy involvement in the Unite-Here salt program.

This is just really baseless. It is not like we have any strategy of "heavy involvement" in Unite-Here. Also seriously in WSA and CS there has been barely under a handful of folks out of around 80-90 people total that have done salting with U-H or flirted with it. I did try to become a salt but left pretty early on when the staff guy who knew I was an anarchist basically called me an ultra-leftist for posting the piece from libcom.org on unions (O.o) Also everything I learned about the union and how it operated for me didn't give me a sense that they really believed in self-management of the workers committee, nevermind workers autonomy. I could get into my critique more at some other point, but basically it amounts to agreeing to what you laid out after this sentance quoted above.

EdmontonWobbly

There would actually be a lot more room for political agitation if you got jobs in the Hotels themselves, as members you can say what you like to officials and speak up in meetings but if you enter in as staff you have very little power over the direction of the union (and frankly you shouldn't, you're staff).

Just so you know this is what you actually do as a salt for Unite-Here get a job as a normal worker. The union doesn't even give you the perk of giving you a card for being their bird dog. So there is the possibility per se to go against the grain and have "more room for political agitation" but the union is most likely going to do everything in it's power to isolate you if you do, and I've seen this happen to salts who go against the line, or try different methods.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

what's a good starter on that German and Spanish history stuff? I don't know anything about any of it. I keep meaning to learn but I'm intimidated by the amount of material there is.

For histories of the German Communist Left:
libcom.org/files/dutchleft.pdf
http://libcom.org/library/communist-left-germany-1918-1921
http://libcom.org/history/councilist-movement-germany-1914-1935-history-aaud-e-tendency-grupo-de-comunistas-de-con
http://libcom.org/library/origins-movement-workers-councils

This piece might also be interesting considering the current discussion:
http://libcom.org/library/question-neoplatformism-critiques-mystifications-solutions-roi-ferreiro

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

Joseph Kay

I think the 'unintended consequences' thing is an interesting one. In a general sense, it highlights the danger of dreaming up 'ideal type' organisational forms detached from actually doing them (personally I've become more reluctant to engage in these kind of discussions on libcom without explicit reference to practice), because things can go against your expectations in practice and force you to revise the theory.

Right on. I think this really gets to the issue. I feel like this whole thread has been generally two sides of folks with a little bit in between. Some folks saying "how do you explain then, how my mass organization is involved in political struggle?" and then others saying "how do you explain them, how my specific organization is involved in mass struggles?"

I guess in the end run I just think the case hasn't been made that SolFed and the IWW have a more workerist orientation, or that political-economic organization basically amounts to political-workplace organization with community solidarity on the side. As I outlined earlier in the thread, sure that is fine if that is people's thing, but I think any type of revolutionary minority organization can be "political-economic" in this period, and preferably would coordinate across many different sectors as they are increasingly able, not just one i.e. the whole community not just the workplace. Yea certainly you would need some sort of division of labor, but I don't know if it is useful to divide separately and make new organizations for each sector or just do it internally? I guess I am agnostic/leaning towards doing it internally.

Nate

I also want to add, earlier in this conversation some folk were like "you have these criticisms of other groups but isn't recomposition pretty similar?" and thinking about it now I think there are tendencies or stuff that push-and-pull in that direction. To where recomp could end up having a similar issue of being detached from the IWW and (and this is the real concern) having the effect of encouraging that kind of detachment. I'm open to that and I think those of us in the recomp editorial group should be frank and self-critical about that (at least those of us who are more pro- the IWW as a self-sufficient/unitary political-economic organization).

Yeah, this is pretty much all I was getting to when originally bringing this up.

Nate

So that the places where people go for considering political issues - whether small-scale and short term like issues of policy or how to do better organizing, or more large scale like analysis of capitalism, or really fundamental like issues of core social values and vision of social revolution - are places that are 1) within the IWW 2) made up of IWW members 3) conducted in relation to the IWW's current working existence and practical concerns and 4) conducted as much as possible in vocabularies open to all IWW members.

I dig this as far as the IWW goes, but perhaps I am far too ultra-left in my end analysis, and I do think organizations like the IWW will eventually face limits if even mildly successful on a larger scale and will need to be superseded. This goes back to my statement earlier that the IWW is more like the AAUD. Here is a quote from some Origins of the Movement for Workers Councils in Germany:

With the change of name [referring to KAUD], there was a change of conception. Up till then, council communism had only taken note of the 'organised class'. Both the AAUD and the AAUD-E had believed from the beginning that it would be they who would organise the working class, that millions would rally to them. It was an idea close to that of revolutionary syndicalism, which looked forward to seeing all the workers join their unions, then the working class would be an 'organised class'.

This analysis from the GIKH is that the AAUD/AAUD-E idea of unitary political-economic organization was pretty much along the lines of "One Big Unionism" for the whole working class. I think this is something in practice that we really have to think about especially when all new members are still given the One Big Union pamphlet, and many new people we are bringing into the union can end up taking it literally.

Edit: Also in looking towards the AAUD and AAUD-E I think you can just look at their program to see how if some IWW and SolFed folks are looking towards them how they were pretty specifically workerist:

http://libcom.org/history/program-aaud

The mission of the AAUD is to carry out the revolution in the workplace. It takes the political and economic education of the workers seriously.

So my continued question is what do folks think about organization outside the workplace? Is the answer that we should have workplace focused revolutionary organizations and separate community focused revolutionary organizations? Alas Recomposition's subtitle has been "Towards a New Workerism" so perhaps this really is folks' deal?

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

PS: I don't know if I said this earlier or not but I really really look forward to the new SolFed pamphlet, I hope it clears up a lot.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 5, 2012

sabotage

what do folks think about organization outside the workplace? Is the answer that we should have workplace focused revolutionary organizations and separate community focused revolutionary organizations?

yes, in my opinion.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

hey thanks for the clarification on the second part. quite helpful.

again i guess i'm just sorta agnostic about that/think we'll have to agree to disagree.

(sort of randomly) i think interesting to point out is that CS allows for territorial organizations or workplace ones:

4.1 The basic unit of the organization is the Local Union, which consists of three or more members in a given area or workplace.

it is a bit of a hang over from when we had collectives, but sort of interesting now that i think about it. theoretically this sorta models how there are gmbs and shop branches.
...

yeah probs a non sequitur, like fuck those people, but i guess it is very easy for people who don't really know what is going on with recomp, or who don't know you all personally probably especially because of some of that "no politics in the union" sentiment that is still sometimes around, but also the idk if it really was useful pointing that out, but generally more i agree that there could be a tendency towards that, and it seems you should follow through with what you think would be a better direction.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 5, 2012

No prob, and htanks for the refs to that german stuff. On the workplace vs community stuff, I'm not against all attempts to combine stuff in all contexts. Seasol seems like it does a good job of combining tenant and workplace stuff, for instance. I'm for people doing whatever works for them and I'm for experimentation. I could imagine in some places that there could be great organizations built uniting teachers and parents and students around fighting school closures, or bus riders and bus drivers, or tenants and building service personnel being in the same group.

I just meant that I'm against the IWW getting into much beyond workplace organizing because of what I think the IWW is suited for and what I want it to grow into. I think there are lots of worthwhile important projects that the IWW is not very well suited to. Like anti-police brutality work, and stuff around immigration, and around sexual assault - there are aspects of that stuff that the IWW could address but aspects of that work is going to be stuff the IWW is ill-suited for and so people who want to make that their main emphasis should make some other organization their main work. I'm for there being lots of organizations working on various kinds of things and combining things in various ways that make sense of the group doing the work.

Uncle Aunty

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Uncle Aunty on July 5, 2012

EdmontonWobbly

Having said that I actually do think the emphasis should be on developing front lines organising skills and this -is- actually way more important than being theoretically correct and -is- in fact theoretical. We work really hard in our branch at including as much feminist and anti racist content into our on the job trainings as possible in order to develop this analysis in our members through organising.

Would you mind sharing how you include antiracist and feminist content into your trainings? I am an organizer with SeaSol and would like to see how we could effectively and practically include this into our work... without getting lost in the whole activist left sceney stuff that you mention later. Also you mentioned your branch has a solidarity committee?

I don't know if you would want to send me a PM or reply in this thread, but I am eager to learn more about all this.

Thanks!

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on July 5, 2012

Hey Aunty it's not some secret and it doesn't involve anything that is beyond using the OT 101 and a bit of common sense. We make sure we highlight examples of jobs and issues on those jobs that go deeper than just wages benefit questions, like harassment from co-workers etc. Also use examples from jobs that are not strictly male professions (we have some teachers so we farm them for examples).

We also are very cognizant of who we get to present, generally aiming for parity in the trainings and as much diversity as possible when we do panel talks. We also cover human rights legislation in our legal section, though like most of our legal stuff we skim it and try and push people towards dealing with stuff by organising on the floor.

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 5, 2012

Sabotage

Edit: Also in looking towards the AAUD and AAUD-E I think you can just look at their program to see how if some IWW and SolFed folks are looking towards them how they were pretty specifically workerist:

Can I just put this one to bed. Everyone keeps saying this, but SF's recent development is emphatically not based on the AAUD for a series of reasons (I know some of the Recomp folks are more councillist-influenced so I'm speaking for myself here):

1) None of us knew much about them until recently, and only looked into them because people kept making the comparison.
2) If anything it's the other way around; Ruhle admired the IWW and was denounced by Bordiga as a syndicalist deviator.
3) The AAUD were indeed very crudely workerist ('the proletarian is only a worker in the factory, outside he is petit-bourgeois' etc). SF rejects this and sees housing struggles, feminist struggles etc as every bit as part of the class struggle as workplace stuff (albeit our strategies here are less developed as we have less experience, and the strategy is meant to condense best practice).
4) The AAUD eschewed partial struggles and organised solely for workers councils/expropriation. We're talking about using small winnable struggles to build confidence, momentum and movement through direct action.
5) The AAUD was a temporary formation in a revolutionary period which dwindled/dissolved to a tiny grouplet soon after. We're doing this in very unrevolutionary times and see it as vital preparation for any future upsurge as well as of material benefit to our own members (e.g. fighting wage/deposit theft) now.

So imho the AAUD are hugely over-rated. I mean it's an interesting period of history and all and worth studying etc, but what SF (and IWW afaics) is saying/doing would be closer to the FAUD. Of course conditions in the UK or US today are very different to WWI/Weimar Germany so it's not about plucking blueprints from history but developing appropriate contemporary practice. That's a process of trial and error, which is ongoing and the theory develops from and in turn informs that practice.

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 5, 2012

sabotage

As I outlined earlier in the thread, sure that is fine if that is people's thing, but I think any type of revolutionary minority organization can be "political-economic" in this period

The reason we use the terminology (which is drawn from the Puerto Real pamphlet on the CNT and a now ex-member's contributions to the internal debates) is because it captures an important shift in orientation. I've been in SF for 5 or 6 years, and in that time we've moved from being a political propaganda group to a nascent revolutionary union. We've doubled in size (from tiny to two times tiny), but it's not really about size. We've consciously stopped doing a whole load of 'political' activity and deprioritised other stuff, whilst started doing a whole different set of activities which never made sense from a political/propaganda pov. I appreciate this is much more visible to those of us involved than across the Atlantic, but the change is really obvious to us, and it's principally one of orientation and activity rather than size (supported by training, structural reorganisations, strategy discussions etc). We're closer to an anarchist SolNet than a specific org imho.

sabotage

PS: I don't know if I said this earlier or not but I really really look forward to the new SolFed pamphlet, I hope it clears up a lot.

There's a third of a chapter on council communism just to put some of this to bed! But yeah, we've written it to both sum up the SF consensus that emerged from strategy debates and provide a point of departure for discussions. I'm sure it will raise as many questions as answers, but hopefully it will help move both the discussion and organisational practices along.

fingers malone

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on July 5, 2012

Joseph Kay

3) The AAUD were indeed very crudely workerist ('the proletarian is only a worker in the factory, outside he is petit-bourgeois' etc). SF rejects this and sees housing struggles, feminist struggles etc as every bit as part of the class struggle as workplace stuff (albeit our strategies here are less developed as we have less experience, and the strategy is meant to condense best practice).

There's a spectrum of views on that within the organisation but for me the recent developments bringing in housing and stuff have been really positive, and it's been good for members to start bringing those problems up.

I'd never heard of the AAUD until now!

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 5, 2012

(just to be clear about whats personal opinion; the basis for me saying 'SF rejects this' is the national conference decisions on 'stuff your landlord', community strategy and creating the women's officer post, as well as some of the recent practical survivor support. but yeah individual members will put different emphasis on different activities)

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

Hey Joseph!

Thanks for all of that! It was quite helpful. Actually it helped remind me that the unionen were inspired by IWW (I mean it existed before they existed, duh!)

But it is great to see that SolFed in practice is really branching out beyond just workplace stuff, and to hear that essentially it is more like a specifically anarchist SolNet. That is definitely a direction I've been really mulling over for a long time, and that I think would be really awesome. WSA is actually pretty open to that type of focus potentially, some locals already so such work, others have been trying to set up SolNets, generally our locals could easily change to be such formations.

This gets at what I wanted to say to Nate:

I can see why you and EW would want to focus on workplace stuff right now because it is what we are well equipped for and generally more good at, but considering the IWW is a revolutionary organization (right?) I think we should eventually branch out more like we see SolFed doing here up above. I mean at the very least you could have a community organization like the IWW that took Father Hagerty's Wheel and adopted it for different sectors of community organizing. I just don't really think the IWW is useful as being "just a union" Mouvement Communiste in Unions and Political Struggle make a good argument that the IWW was "the shit" and superseded the divide between political and economic, that it was neither party or union. But I think we have to recognize today that the working class is not just workers as such and we should broaden out. SolFed seems interested in doing this, IWW less so.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 5, 2012

I agree with that recognition. But that recognition can be put into practice in any number of ways. I'm skeptical that any organization can take on all aspects of life under capitalism in any real way that's not really reactive or ineffectual. just off the top of my head, stuff in my family in my life in the past ten years, some people in the extended family have been hassled by the cops, arrested, paralyzed permanently in a car crash and scrambled to get a working wheelchair, imprisoned, deported, fired, had to go into long term institutional health care, laid off, retrained for other work, struggled to overcome addiction and legacies of trauma, and split from abusive partners. (That's not an exhaustive list and we've really had it pretty good compared to other people we know, let alone compared to people in much worse off strata of the US working class, let alone the global working class - our lives are relatively stable, and our problems can be overcome (or at least managed enough to make them livable) through informal self-help within the family and people's networks of friends.)

All of those are pressing political issues with incredibly serious personal ramifications. All of them are the class struggle, if we understand class struggle in a comprehensive way. So if you really mean what it sounds like you mean - that an organization could or should try to take on all of the class struggle and the working class's experiences under capitalism - that means being able to deal with all of this stuff in a practical way. And being able to deal with so much more, because there's way more to the class struggle than my short list of familial bad luck here, and a lot of it is stuff that's much more heinous. The idea that a single organization, and one that organizes, can address each of these issues in a meaningful way (and in a way that's doing active organizing rather than just reactively dealing with individual situations) for groups of people above the single or low double digits strikes me as realllly overly ambitious. I find it much more believable that there would be a diversity of radical working class organizations and that that set of organizations would address all the problems of the class. Hell, I find it unlikely that a single organization could adequately address the issues that exist just in the waged workplace - I don't think there could or should be One Big Union in the sense of one single membership organization that all waged workers belong to and which tries to solve all the problems of life under waged labor, and as you say, waged labor is just one part of working class life.

So --

sabotage

considering the IWW is a revolutionary organization (right?) I think we should eventually branch out more like we see SolFed doing here up above.

I don't think being revolutionary means 'aspiring to address all aspects of working class life in a practical way through organizing'. I don't think a group that addresses more of working class life must be more revolutionary, or vice versa. I think there are tasks of organizations and tasks of the class. The working class must address the totality of working class life when the class becomes revolutionary. But that doesn't mean it's possible for every formal organizational expression of the class to do so.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on July 5, 2012

@Nate

I am not saying that we should have the One Big Organization... hardly, I was arguing against that earlier...i am increasingly sympathetic to your sorta monist/pluralist idea...I am just saying that today such organizations (or at least the revolutionaries in them) should be able to recognize that they need to fight for these other things too, and connect their struggles with others. That the set of such organizations should find ways to work together and unite as much as possible.

This still leaves me wondering about groups though that put out their perspectives in magazines and/or are discussion/reading groups (to get back to the OP.) Whether these are informal like Recomposition or formal like some of the CSAC groups, what do we see as their role? Do we see a role for these? I see these as groups that regroup militants from mass struggles that want to analyze and share inquiries, etc this is why I think even if Recomposition isn't that formal it better fits what Scott Nappalos would call the revolutionary level, or whatever Juan, EW, and you were looking for from the WSA.

Juan Conatz

we should dissolve formal political organizations and concentrate on working in bigger groups such as the IWW or mass organizations while maintaining informal networks and producing publications/blogs/writing.

Juan Conatz

my experience in this milieu is that these groups are more like informal networks

Edit: I don't highlight this stuff to say Juan is a hypocrite or whatever, but to point out there could be value to such networks?

For instance even though they were in separate countries the GIKH and the KAUD worked very closely, publishing each other's materials. One was more a specifically communist workers organization, the other a loose federation of discussion/publishing circles. But both had the same end goals basically.

This thread by JK also sorta gets at this:
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/role-anarcho-syndicalist-organisation-role-anarchist-federation-24092009

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on July 5, 2012

sabotage

organizations (or at least the revolutionaries in them) should be able to recognize that they need to fight for these other things too, and connect their struggles with others. That the set of such organizations should find ways to work together and unite as much as possible.

Totally. Some of the time this will mean a one-off fight that's not in line with a group's over all aims and stuff (in terms of areas of the working class's grievances/social injustices that the group emphasizes). Some of the time this will mean changing a group's over all aims (again in terms of the injustices it focuses on) or starting a group that works on some different or broader set of stuff. And some of the time it will involve a sort of organizational hand-off, like "hey comrade we'll do what we can here but we also want to help you find a group of people best suited for dealing with this." I don't think there's a single best approach for all times, places, and organizations, and people should do what makes the most sense in whatever setting their in. Even though I do think that the best approach most of the time in most places for the IWW is to do mostly just waged workplace stuff.

And I agree completely w/ the rest of your comment. :)

Juan Conatz

11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on August 3, 2012

I should probably just let this thread die, but I have to say...being at Work People's College and not having access to the internet, and then coming back to see how the conversation developed...I'm a little annoyed. I know I brought this on by writing this, but some of this conversation shouldn't have happened on a public forum. In the future let's avoid, but so and so said this, etc. discussion as much as possible. Its narrow in that only really the people involved are going to care, and with limited use, as the other people not involved who care is going to be based on the appeal of gossip and drama.

One of the reasons I wrote this (and yes I recognize its sort of a low quality writing) is 'yo i don't think formal anarchist political organizations should have a monopoly on "if you're serious" you should agree with us' statements and perspectives, not, 'hey people that used to be in formal anarchist political organizations and those who still are, let's have you hash out very specific interactions with each other publicly'.

syndicalist

11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on August 6, 2012

Juan: some of this conversation shouldn't have happened on a public forum. In the future let's avoid, but so and so said this, etc. discussion as much as possible. Its narrow in that only really the people involved are going to care,

In spite of everything, that discussion was needed. It didn';t happen elsewhere and wasn't going to happen if not in some sort of forum (be it public or private).

I don't think anyone's mind have been changed, but those involved in past relationships and events may have gotten some new insights into others thinking (at the times involved) and feelings. So, there was some value in having had aspects of the conversation.

syndicalist

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on February 18, 2016

In some personal ways, I really regret re-reading this thread. But needed to as I am trying to continue to gather notes on WSA history.