Announcing the Anarcho-syndicalist Initiative

A statement by U.S.-based Workers Solidarity Alliance about a new project called Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative.

Submitted by ideas and action on March 16, 2016

The increasingly precarious conditions facing the North American working class, along with a rising tide of distrust and disgust with both our political and economic systems, demands that revolutionary organizations such as Workers Solidarity Alliance take immediate action to address these issues.

To this end, WSA has committed to launching the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative to Create a Revolutionary Union Movement (ASI for short), a project which seeks to unite North American anarcho-syndicalists and focus our strength and resources toward building a working class movement capable of defeating the capitalists and establishing libertarian socialism in North America.

We seek to organize groups of anarcho-syndicalists who are, or will become, active in community and workplace struggles. Organizing activity will include building and/or participating in solidarity networks, grassroots workers centers, rank and file groups within business unions, industrial networks, independent unions and workplace committees capable of forming the basis for union-type organizations.

The essential unit of the ASI project will be the Local Group, which will then be organized into Regional Federations, and finally united in an overall Federation of North American Anarcho-Syndicalists.

Local groups will engage in activity both in the community and in the workplace, addressing issues of housing, anti-racism and the environmental disasters created by rapacious neo-liberalism.

The Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative is an effort that is long overdue. Building a revolutionary union movement will take time and commitment, but we cannot delay our efforts. We must move forward with energy and resolve. Each day that we delay can be measured in environmental destruction and the destroyed lives of working people.

The first step in this process will be building the local and regional groups. If you feel you are ready to commit to this historic effort, email your name and information (where you live, what you do, etc) to:
[email protected]

Dues are $28 a year and agreement with the basic principles of Workers Solidarity Alliance is required for membership. The Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative is a project of Workers Solidarity Alliance. WSA information at: http://workersolidarity.org/

Our time is NOW.

Comments

akai

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on March 16, 2016

Good luck. Only one comment is that things that are called "anarchosyndicalist" this or that in their name tend to appear more ideological than practical and you say you will organize anarchosyndicalists, not workers, which reinforces that. l really think such an initiative in the US is needed, but personally l think you've made a mistake with that. However, l guess if this is just a first phase name of a program for gathering people before you move ahead, could be OK.

whirlwind

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by whirlwind on March 16, 2016

akai:

Only one comment is that things that are called "anarchosyndicalist" this or that in their name tend to appear more ideological than practical and you say you will organize anarchosyndicalists, not workers, which reinforces that.

I second that.

WithDefiance

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by WithDefiance on March 22, 2016

What is the choice for a federalist structure and not a confederalist one. I've noticed that within the anarchist-movement these terms are often interchanged while they are truly something different and personally I think confederalism is the way since it guarantees local autonomy in opposition to federalism, which has a tendency towards centralism.

Good luck with the initiative. I think its important to be ambitious, its what often lacks when I hear people talk about our ideas, which are pretty good actually :) I am also interested in your response to the questions posed here above. I think its a valuable remark they make you might want to consider.

sohn_jalston_raul

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sohn_jalston_raul on March 24, 2016

I'm surprised there's no mention of the IWW anywhere in this article or on your FAQ, considering that they've already been doing exactly what you intend to start doing since 1905, without having to mention "anarcho-syndicalism" anywhere in their name or constitution.

It's good to have multiple parallel organizations working in solidarity towards the same goals, however your article gives the impression that you think you're the first and only organization in North America that are doing this. How do you differ from the IWW and how do you relate? Your FAQ only compares you to the AFL-CIO and has some mentions of the CNT (I didn't have time to read the whole FAQ, I just scanned over it quickly).

Pyrrha

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Pyrrha on March 24, 2016

sohn_jalston_raul

I'm surprised there's no mention of the IWW anywhere in this article or on your FAQ, considering that they've already been doing exactly what you intend to start doing since 1905, without having to mention "anarcho-syndicalism" anywhere in their name or constitution.

It's good to have multiple parallel organizations working in solidarity towards the same goals, however your article gives the impression that you think you're the first and only organization in North America that are doing this. How do you differ from the IWW and how do you relate? Your FAQ only compares you to the AFL-CIO and has some mentions of the CNT (I didn't have time to read the whole FAQ, I just scanned over it quickly).

I thought the IWW not anarcho-syndicalist

sohn_jalston_raul

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sohn_jalston_raul on March 24, 2016

The IWW isn't explicitly anarchist, but most IWW members tend to be anarchists. It formed in 1905, before radical leftists really started to identify as "anarchists" in North America.

Either way, it certainly performs the role that the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative intends to perform, so I'm surprised by the lack of any sort of mention.

Juan Conatz

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on March 24, 2016

I believe that FAQ has existed for some time, and is for WSA, which has been around for 30-35 years, not this specific project of WSA.

Chilli Sauce

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on March 24, 2016

Good luck with the initiative. I think its important to be ambitious, its what often lacks when I hear people talk about our ideas

Really? Cause I've got to be honest, I think what the anarchist movement lacks in practicalities they more then make up for in ambition. And that's not a slight against this project, but I've seen some pretty serious delusions of grandeur when it comes to how anarchist groups view their scope.

Regarding that IWW, let's not make it a pissing contest, but I do think it's legitimate to ask why the WSA - who, as far as I know, have always had a pretty big membership crossover with the WSA? - chose this moment to initiate a movement to create a revolutionary union?

(Anyway, hope none of that comes across snarky. I wish the best of luck to the project, I'm just speaking as someone who's scaled back my organizational commitments in general, in part because of the way I think a lot of anarchist organizations approach mass movement building.)

sohn_jalston_raul

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sohn_jalston_raul on March 24, 2016

let's not make it a pissing contest

Yes, good point, I'm sorry if I came across like that

syndicalist

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on March 24, 2016

Juan Conatz

I believe that FAQ has existed for some time, and is for WSA, which has been around for 30-35 years

The WSA was organized in November 1984.

The FAQ on http://workersolidarity.org is a hodge podge of various things written over the years. I do not believe it has been updated since the early 2000s.

syndicalistcat

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on March 24, 2016

The current version of the WSA FAQ was probably put together around 2006. There is some discussion in WSA at present about updating it.

I was not in on creating this ASI statement, but I believe the aim is to re-build WSA local groups or organizing committees so as to be able to do more effective organizing. WSA went through a period from 2002 to 2011 of being more of a general social anarchist group and then lost a lot of members in 2011 to 2014. Since then the group has decided to focus on its original anarcho-syndicalist orientation, which in practice means a focus on organizing and educational activities, especially workplace organizing but possibly things like solidarity networks. But for that organizing groups are needed. Hence the regroupment proposal.

The IWW is not mentioned specifically tho I think WSA would consider it an example of the self-managed unionism WSA advocates. It's just that WSA does not hold that the IWW is the only alternative. This is not a proposal for WSA itself to be a union but is a proposal for anarcho-syndicalists to get together to build organizing committees and work in grassroots groups to develop the kind of libertarian unionism we advocate for.

At any rate, that's my interpretation.

akai

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on March 25, 2016

l actually hope, syndicalistcat, that you are not right because after being around so many years, l was hoping that WSA actually is trying to organize itself as a union. Let's put it this way: there are obviously possibilities to do this but the first thing that needs to happen is that people have to decide that this is a goal for the next couple of years, not think that you need some more decades to accomplish that.

Anyway, l am supportive of anarchosyndicalists doing stuff and think it's high time that they had an organization dedicated to this which would develop libertarian unionism. So good luck on this.

syndicalistcat

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on March 28, 2016

well I think the long-term aim is to organize a libertarian union federation but that is going to be a long term project.

klas batalo

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on March 28, 2016

@akai

the short term is to recruit willing anarcho-syndicalists to form local groups / organizing committees as part of this initiative, but as the later part of the announcement alludes the hope is that in the long term a confluence stemming from such an initiative and relationship building with similar libertarian workers organizations could lead to an actual revolutionary union organized around libertarian, federalist, anarcho-syndicalist lines.

klas batalo

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on March 28, 2016

The Anarcho-Syndicalism Initiative
“Building the Organizing Committee”

The ASI is a project to build the organizing committee for an anarcho-syndicalist union movement. This movement will be part of a larger revolutionary union movement in North America. This movement will include unions based both in the workplace and in the community, wherever people require fighting formations to advance and defend their interests.

We seek to build a working class movement of the employed, the unemployed, the self-employed, students, home workers, the disabled, retirees; all of the members of the working class.

We see a movement capable of winning demands on the shop floor and in the streets, wherever the fight for an egalitarian society requires.

We see an organized movement for the central purpose of defeating the capitalist system and creating libertarian socialism.

The first step is to build strong and active local groups of anarcho-syndicalists. The groups will be able to work with community organizations, distribute ASI information, and engage in organizing activity.

The ASI is a project of Workers Solidarity Alliance. Dues are $28 per year and include membership in WSA and participation in the ASI project. Membership information is available at www.workersolidarity.org

akai

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on March 28, 2016

OK, in any case, good luck. Would be interested in talking about how it is going some months in. l hope actually that people can get away from the idea that people need a very long time to make a union and that people could consider another time frame around this. But l think that the first part is to build local groups, move away from individual membership patterns. l see that building local groups is the first step for you, so good luck.

boozemonarchy

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on March 29, 2016

sohn_jalston_raul

I'm surprised there's no mention of the IWW anywhere in this article or on your FAQ, considering that they've already been doing exactly what you intend to start doing since 1905, without having to mention "anarcho-syndicalism" anywhere in their name or constitution.

It's good to have multiple parallel organizations working in solidarity towards the same goals, however your article gives the impression that you think you're the first and only organization in North America that are doing this. How do you differ from the IWW and how do you relate? Your FAQ only compares you to the AFL-CIO and has some mentions of the CNT (I didn't have time to read the whole FAQ, I just scanned over it quickly).

Respectfully, there are many threads containing the precise debate you are attempting to engage in and I notice that you are a very new user. The perrenial nature of that shitstorm is the reason WSAers have not fallen over themselves to engage in it.
http://libcom.org/forums/history/wsa-iww-iwa-affiliation-29082012
http://libcom.org/forums/north-america/iww-iwa-what-their-relation-16082012

To be brief, and trying to hold back snark -

You are making a very strong read of this short statement and its lack of mention of the IWW. Not only does WSA think the IWW exists, we've recently worked together on a successful international solidarity campaign and several members are wobs (including me) who are active in their respective GMBs. I think maybe you should ask yourself why your heckles raised at the thought of a specific anarcho-syndicalist org existing along side the IWW - you come off as an organizational chauvinist. We are simply trying to promote this effort of the WSA - not pander to anti-IWW sentiment or even present ourselves as some 'alternative' rather than a different kind of project.

How do we differ? We are specifically anarcho-syndicalist and advocate a revolutionary class unionism (that includes workplace unions, poor people's movements, workers centers, etc.) and a libertarian socialism, we are not a union (in present function or in relation to the labor legal system). We relate to the IWW with solidarity and envision that continuing on into the future.

boozemonarchy

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on March 29, 2016

Chilli Sauce

Regarding that IWW, let's not make it a pissing contest, but I do think it's legitimate to ask why the WSA - who, as far as I know, have always had a pretty big membership crossover with the WSA? - chose this moment to initiate a movement to create a revolutionary union?

Shit happened a few years ago, we've hit a period of growth and reformation as an organization of local groups and this is the direction the ship is turning - not much else to tell really. There was nothing particularly special about this moment and I guess I don't understand your meaning. Is/has something important happened recently that isn't just regular sucky reality?

Chilli Sauce

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on March 30, 2016

boozemonarchy

Chilli Sauce

Regarding that IWW, let's not make it a pissing contest, but I do think it's legitimate to ask why the WSA - who, as far as I know, have always had a pretty big membership crossover with the WSA? - chose this moment to initiate a movement to create a revolutionary union?

Shit happened a few years ago, we've hit a period of growth and reformation as an organization of local groups and this is the direction the ship is turning - not much else to tell really. There was nothing particularly special about this moment and I guess I don't understand your meaning. Is/has something important happened recently that isn't just regular sucky reality?

Like I said, it's not a criticism. It's just a pretty big undertaking and I thought maybe there'd been an influx of members from a certain industry or maybe the WSA thought current social movements might lend themselves to radical union building in the cities where the organization is most active.

To be honest, I've become a bit wary of organizing where a small group of militants/radicals from different workplaces call themselves a union and try to build up from there. I've slightly come to the conclusion that radical union-building will only happen when already-organized groups of workers radicalize and come together to form something new. But that's a tactical difference - if this works out for the WSA, I would love to be proven wrong!

syndicalist

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on March 30, 2016

The contact email address has a typo
in the word secretary

boozemonarchy

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on March 30, 2016

Chilli Sauce

Like I said, it's not a criticism. It's just a pretty big undertaking and I thought maybe there'd been an influx of members from a certain industry or maybe the WSA thought current social movements might lend themselves to radical union building in the cities where the organization is most active.

To be honest, I've become a bit wary of organizing where a small group of militants/radicals from different workplaces call themselves a union and try to build up from there. I've slightly come to the conclusion that radical union-building will only happen when already-organized groups of workers radicalize and come together to form something new. But that's a tactical difference - if this works out for the WSA, I would love to be proven wrong!

I hear ya Chilli - Also thank you, and others on this thread, for the encouragement. Also, criticism is welcome, we are trying to learn and grow here.

I would say that this:

I've become a bit wary of organizing where a small group of militants/radicals from different workplaces call themselves a union and try to build up from there.

is understandable and represents basically my entire (and current) experience with the IWW - it is a difficult road to travel. I'm not convinced it is unworkable but then again, organizing an independent union without a revolutionary foundation and then fighting against reformist tendencies after radicalizing struggles convince most of the membership sounds like a misery.

FWIW, when we had a WSA local in Missoula - a few years before this project, we had it in our mind to try to organize a kind of geographically based union of service sector workers into a type of council that would function as a shopfloor organ in someplaces and perform a solnet type function elsewhere (always aiming for strong shopfloor org). We were initiating the project as WSA members but envisioned it getting out of our hands and moving into something like you say here:

I've slightly come to the conclusion that radical union-building will only happen when already-organized groups of workers radicalize and come together to form something new. But that's a tactical difference - if this works out for the WSA, I would love to be proven wrong!

The WSA is not currently offering a prescription to this issue (though we list the types of organizations that we think are fruitful) and ASI is more experimental,- we've got to find what works. Personally, I think a good way forward is building fighting independent unions whose revolutionary commitment is forged in the struggle (post-facto) - this is not counterpoised to the ASI, as we envision such projects as included in the first steps in building a broader and more diverse working-class libertarian movement (which is the prescription of the ASI, as in, we think this is needed). Additionally, union initiatives that begin as explicitly revolutionary and libertarian socialist are encouraged as well.

boozemonarchy

8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on March 30, 2016

WithDefiance

What is the choice for a federalist structure and not a confederalist one. I've noticed that within the anarchist-movement these terms are often interchanged while they are truly something different and personally I think confederalism is the way since it guarantees local autonomy in opposition to federalism, which has a tendency towards centralism.

Good luck with the initiative. I think its important to be ambitious, its what often lacks when I hear people talk about our ideas, which are pretty good actually :) I am also interested in your response to the questions posed here above. I think its a valuable remark they make you might want to consider.

Thank you for the encouragement - could you educate me on the difference (federalist vs confederalist) in the context of anarchism specifically. Like, what would this mean for an organization of a few locals and majority of scattered members (trying to organize where they're at).

I'm not up on this - I will point members to your forthcoming post though, FWIW.

Lugius

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Lugius on March 30, 2016

You may find that 'confederal' is common to Latin languages and 'federal' is how it is rendered in English. Essentially, there is no difference in meaning or practice.

OliverTwister

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on March 31, 2016

Lugius

You may find that 'confederal' is common to Latin languages and 'federal' is how it is rendered in English. Essentially, there is no difference in meaning or practice.

I disagree. Latin use seems to see a confederation as a group of federations. Eg the CNT which. as a confederation, is a group of regional federations.

In English, on the other hand, the terms are close to meaningless.

syndicalist

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on March 31, 2016

I'm not sure I understand the discussion
concerning federalism and confederalism.

syndicalistcat

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on April 2, 2016

A federation of organizations that are also structured as federations can be called a federation. this discussion is so pedantic & sectarian as to be ridiculous.

eugene

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by eugene on April 2, 2016

Also theory aside, the simple fact is that in the US, it's best to stay away from any words that start with confed(whatever) when describing our revolutionary objectives.
Totally different I know, but it's a thing. Also, when people are seeing what it is that I'm about, I would prefer on google's instant search, if it wasn't the stars and bars that popped up first.

akai

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on April 2, 2016

l didn't want to get into it, but what the hell.

There can be a source of confusion for people who do not have the same political background as most people writing here because, if we talk about government, there is actually a difference between a federation and confederation. So anybody coming across this difference in say, a dictionary, is actually able to become confused.

Looking at the poster's comment, l see that he is referring to these terms with their statist connotations - which obviously have nothing to do with how anarchists mean it.

Of course, how federations look is not a matter of consensus amongst anarchists - but this doesn't depend on how people call them. lt depends on attitudes towards centralism or towards completely autonomy - neither opposite being my preferred vision.

syndicalist

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on April 3, 2016

But I'm still not sure what this had to do with the announcement?
Unless my pea-brain is missing something

Juan Conatz

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on April 3, 2016

"The essential unit of the ASI project will be the Local Group, which will then be organized into Regional Federations, and finally united in an overall Federation of North American Anarcho-Syndicalists."

syndicalist

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on April 3, 2016

Juan Conatz

"The essential unit of the ASI project will be the Local Group, which will then be organized into Regional Federations, and finally united in an overall Federation of North American Anarcho-Syndicalists."

Ah, I see the original call is still up, with the revised
Call reposted.

WithDefiance

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by WithDefiance on April 11, 2016

Hey Akai, I partly agree with you. There is still a quiet difference on how a federation or a confederation works in terms of autonomy of the individual members (individual people and/or groups). I think putting this aside as irrelevant and 'pandemic & sectarian' (Syndicalistcat) is ridiculous itself and makes any open discussion or exchange impossible.

It is true that most anarchist federations have worked in practice as a confederation. But in my opinion its better to be clear than confusing. I think it has little to do with theory and everything with practice. Because from my experience, it clarifies the way an organization functions.

- The top of the platform decides and the rest have to follow (federation)
- Or the top comes to an agreement, and the lower levels of the structure can abide if they agree but keep a sense of autonomy (confederation).

Federations are more based on uniformity, confederation more on affinity and mutual cooperation (if felt necessary). I think this difference goes not only for states but just as well for organizations, and can be quiet crucial in libertarian organizing. And I agree it has everything to do with the practical, its about how we function.

syndicalist

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on April 19, 2016

The comrades updated the ASI information. I don't see anyone positing it, so, here you go:

http://ideasandaction.info/2016/04/anarcho-syndicalist-initiative-membership-individuals-existing-groups/

https://www.facebook.com/workersolidarityalliance/

syndicalist

7 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 21, 2016

Just passing this along as no active member has.....

The Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative – Build a Revolutionary Union Movement
clock

Anarchism is the goal, syndicalism is the method. Anarcho-syndicalism is more than just a different kind of unionism. It is a revolutionary movement for the elimination of the capitalist system of social relations. We seek to replace the system of corruption, inequality and greed with a system of true egalitarianism, where no one has the ability to dominate another.

Anarcho-syndicalist methods are not limited to workplace organizing. The same syndicalist structure that promotes member controlled workplace organizations can be applied to other organizations in the community. What we build today will prefigure the free society of tomorrow.

We are building a revolutionary union movement. Organizing is underway in several areas. Membership is open to individuals and existing groups. Join us! Our time is NOW!

Contact: [email protected]

Posted on June 15, 2016

http://ideasandaction.info/2016/06/anarcho-syndicalist-initiative-build-revolutionary-union-movement/