My Problem With The "Towards A Union Of Organizers" leaflet

Submitted by RedHughs on June 18, 2012

I think just about everyone here likes the basic idea of raising hell even in situations, maybe especially in situations, where an ordinary union apparatus isn't going to be applicable.

And even leaving aside the question of whether wants to use the label "union" or not, I have a basic problem with this piece of this text.
[quote=Towards A Union Of Organizers]
In all of these examples practiced organizing skills can help to understand and empower your fellow workers. Doing so will also make you capable of better supporting other workers’ struggles and give you experience to be able to offer others practical advice.

As such, you should get down to an organizer training to gain the skills and framework you need to begin setting and meeting workplace goals. From there, it’s useful to find yourself an organizing buddy: perhaps a delegate, another worker in your industry, a co-worker or all three to set a regular schedule for talking about work, setting goals, and making change happen.[/quote]

I have a problem with the kind of bureaucratic tone but especially with the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving. What are these? Public speaking? Putting together mailing lists?

This whole thing has an Alynskiite tone to it - it carries an assumption there is some special "organizer" quality that is the factor getting militant action going.

Even more, the organizations that have spread through "training organizers" were the various semi-state-supported organizations such the CIO and ACORN. And sure, this pamphlet is talking about training the workers themselves to be organizers rather than a cadre of some sort - but it seems like some similar training process is envisioned to be the "active agent".

Especially given how marginal any radical group today might be, it seems just implausible for such a group to present itself as the group that will inculcate the skills to others.

A simple alternative is to put one's organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other together and develop strategy together (and the article does mention a "workplace buddy" but this is still in the "organizer" framework).

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 19, 2012

Not really sure what the objection is. I don't think anyone thinks the OT101 is some sort of magic bullet, but it is very helpful because it collects actual workplace experience into a format in which you can learn and adapt.

I think the more trainings the better.

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 19, 2012

So Juan, do you know what the skills mentioned by this leaflet are? The leaflet itself doesn't make this very clear.

You're saying the term "training" doesn't make you even a small bit nervous? I usually associate with the word dogs and corporations.

I mean, "the more trainings the better" sounds painfully close to "the meetings the better".

Sorry, if you don't get what I'm saying but I wasn't aiming to be precious or obscure. TL;DR; the language and form of the leaflet sound super bureaucratic whatever it might overtly have been advocating.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 19, 2012

I've read that leaflet and i really liked it.

RedHughs

I have a problem with the kind of bureaucratic tone but especially with the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving. What are these?

i think its more how to avoid completely botching a first attempt at organising.... i've done the Solidarity Federation training, which is a modified version of the IWW 101, and i found it simplified a lot of things i'd been wondering about. The short of it is how to build a group ('workplace committee') that meets and takes action against management.

Sure, organising skills will come naturally to an organisation if its membership density is primarily existing workplace militants (like how all the original syndicalist unions emerged), but if mostly composed of politicos who want to become workplace militants (like how most syndicalist groups are today), then its going to need an organisational push...

There are a lot of young communists joining groups, who come with alright politics, but little idea of how to organise beyond writing leaflets (ie. 3/4 of the Hull SF group before we attended the training).

Its a shame if you're just magically expect these people to go into a workplace and "do class struggle" without any suggested template of how to approach this.

can i just say i very much agree with:
Juan Conatz

the more trainings the better.

lettersjournal

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lettersjournal on June 19, 2012

Has anyone giving these trainings participated in, much less organized, a strike involving more than 100 workers that lasted more than 1 week?

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 19, 2012

:wall:

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 19, 2012

Its a shame if you're just magically expect these people to go into a workplace and "do class struggle" without any suggested template of how to approach this.

It's more like I'm doubtful a 'template' would be enough.

Edit: But anyway, could you even give a hint what your spiffy template is like? And what coming into a workplace with this template is like? I mean, isn't that the question you've waiting to hear? "How do we organize, let me tell you about the magic!" Yes, tell us the magic...

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 19, 2012

I would say that if you're interested go attend one. I'm not going to lay out too much of the specifics of the IWW organizer training on the internet. I would also recommend other Wobs and/or SolFeders not be baited by the hostile tone here and do so either. Harrison gets into what it is mostly. How to build a committee, which involves gathering contacts, identifying informal leaders, 1-on-1s, social and workplace mapping interspersed with roleplays and involving parts about taking action, going public, etc etc.

Also...its a template, not a blueprint. Its main purpose is to help prevent common mistakes people make when wanting to organize their workplace and point them in a better direction. It's not perfect by any means, but its a collection of things learned by active organizers in the union for the last 10-15 years and is meant to be altered, built on and changed as we grow in size and experience.

As far as lettersjournal comment goes, not sure. Although I don't think there's been an IWW strike of that magnitude since the 70s. Also not sure who or what established that as the benchmark of success. Most trainers have had workplace organizing experience though, whether that's forming a committee, marching on the boss, work disruptions, small walkouts, election or solidarity unionist campaigns.

EDIT: The pamphlet 'Weakening the Dam' and the Workers Power column are good representations of some the perspective of the OT, btw.

EDITEDIT: Also, I've always though that the 'Direct Unionist' discussion paper, while obviously not completely reflective of the OT, takes it to its logical extent.

Hieronymous

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 19, 2012

lettersjournal

Has anyone giving these trainings participated in, much less organized, a strike involving more than 100 workers that lasted more than 1 week?

This is a perfect example of being passive-aggressive.

I've probably been fired from more jobs than lettersjournal has ever had. Only one of those had more than 100 employees (because it was in the public sector; my department, at a remote site, had only had 6 though). That's the whole point of understanding how the working class has been decomposed and recomposed. Just skim through the data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see how capital, in places like the U.S., has decentralized and spatially dispersed production -- often in a completely fragmentary way along global supply chains. The sweatshops of Dickensian England have returned, but have spread to slums stretching this form of precarious, unstable subcontracted work across the whole planet.

Lettersjournal, your fantasy of the vertically-integrated Fordist factory is a half century out of date. The 40,000 autoworkers at FIAT'S Mirafiori plant in Turin (in 1968) is a distant memory. Get your head out of your detective novels and books of fascist poets and just look outside. See the Costco, Target or Wal-Mart? Even those big box palaces of consumption hum along efficiently with less than 100 employees in the whole facility. Sure, the whole Foxconn complex in Shenzhen has 475,000 workers, but that's China and they sure as fuck have been striking and rioting (when they're not, tragically, committing suicide en masse).

Yet you seem content to bury your head in the sand and just snicker as they lower your own wage, take away whatever meager benefits you might have, and shackle, torture, and deport your undocumented fellow workers. You're starting to sound more and more like one of those ol' fashioned "good" Germans.

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 19, 2012

I would say that if you're interested go attend one. I'm not going to lay out too much of the specifics of the IWW organizer training on the internet. I would also recommend other Wobs and/or SolFeders not be baited by the hostile tone here and do so either.

I don't get it. A hostile tone is sufficient that you're not going to layout any specifics?

Why?

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 19, 2012

If what you're asking is for me to lay out specifics of the training the IWW gives for workplace organizers, I'm going to say no, regardless of your tone. If you don't understand why we don't get into the specifics of our organizer training problem to people who aren't attending them or on a public, Googleable forum...I'm not really sure what to say.

The comment on tone was merely a suggestion to other Wobblies or SolFeders not to have a hostile tone provoke them into laying specifics of the OT, which is not a smart thing to do.

My previous post, I stated broadly what it includes, as well as linking to some thing written by people (almost all of which are trainers, I think) that, in my opinion, reflects what the Organizer Training 101 is like and the perspective it comes from. If what you see interested you, then I would suggest attending one when you have the chance or getting in contact with the Organizing Department to see when the next one is in your area.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 19, 2012

Hieronymous

lettersjournal

Has anyone giving these trainings participated in, much less organized, a strike involving more than 100 workers that lasted more than 1 week?

This is a perfect example of being passive-aggressive.

I've probably been fired from more jobs than lettersjournal has ever had. Only one of those had more than 100 employees (because it was in the public sector; my department only had 6 though). That's the whole point of understanding how the working class has been decomposed and recomposed. Just skim through the data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see how capital, in places like the U.S., has decentralized and spatially dispersed production -- often in a completely fragmentary way along global supply chains. The sweatshops of Dickensian England have returned, but have spread to slums stretching this form of precarious, unstable subcontracted work across the whole planet.

Lettersjournal, your fantasy of the vertically-integrated Fordist factory is a half century out of date. Get your head out of your detective novels and books of fascist poets and just look outside. See the Costco, Target or Wal-Mart? Even those big box palaces of consumption hum along efficiently with less than 100 employees in the whole complex. Sure, the whole Foxconn complex in Shenzhen has 475,000 workers, but that's China and they sure as fuck have been striking and rioting (when they're not, tragically, committing suicide en masse).

Yet you seem content to bury your head in the sand and just snicker as they lower your own wage, take away whatever meager benefits you might have, and shackle, torture, and deport your undocumented fellow workers. You're starting to sound more and more like one of those ol' fashioned "good" Germans.

great post, cheers.

OliverTwister

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on June 19, 2012

I think Hughs is right to be skeptical. I think that Alinsky-ite "cadre organizerism" is a pit the IWW could eventually fall into (though I don't see it as the most immediate danger). There's certainly enough hegemonic models to copy from, both in the Change to Win-type unions and the leftist groups a la ISO or Solidarity. No coincidence that there's a lot of crossover between union staff and leftist cadre...

I also think the language used in the pamphlet can be a bit off-putting along some of the same lines, so I understand Hughs' skepticism.

However, I think the OT, while not perfect, is very useful and is helping the IWW to undergo an interesting transformation. It isn't about leftist things like writing a leaflet or giving a speech, but about understanding workplace dynamics (or vocalizing the understandings we already have), and also about common pitfalls (like relying on lawyers or the election process).

Spreading these skills around helps to even the playing field within the organization, and perhaps more importantly, I think it makes full-time organizers unnecessary. Currently many of the people that I know of who are most active in the union were first involved through workplace organizing after doing the OT and have direct experience of raising hell at work, rather than just having one or another ideological affinity with the historic IWW (though they often do have that too). I think this is an interesting phenomenon to keep an eye on...

I was going to add something for lettersjournal but decided it wasn't worth it.

hpwombat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by hpwombat on June 19, 2012

Wikipedia: List of Largest Central Ohio Employers

I think it is correct to challenge the old views of hundreds, if not thousands of workers striking as a possibility that might be beyond our capability to organize. This both challenges and agrees with lettersjournal. The specialization of the global economy has shifted a great deal. The U.S.A. has moved much of its manufacturing outside its borders and brought in migrant workers for lower end jobs, creating the feeling that others are taking American jobs.

The truth of the matter is America is changing how work is to be done and its social order is poorly adjusting to the economy. The smart community may be the future of Euro-America and Western Europe. However, the education U.S.A. would need to create such a community is being devalued, opening space for migrant educated workers to enter the country rather than relying on a raising of working and poor to the more educated social castes. This may be more cost effective in the long run, especially with population growth through breeding on the decline while immigration presenting real population growth for U.S.A.

Smart communities need even smaller numbers of employees and a deeper specialization than is present today. This isn't to say U.S.A. is ignoring the poor and working, as such communities need to be built and connected. Columbus is a leading force in this in the Midwest with much of its job sector concentrated on education and finance. Its location is ideal for warehousing, acting as a substation, connecting the East Coast with the midwest. Columbus has continued to become an ever more powerful force in the American economy because of this existing role and its effect can be seen through the political machinations which place Ohio in the center of American politics.

I'm not really certain what this might mean to the future of our efforts, but I figured I'd post this for consideration. I would've continued this thought, but have been interrupted. Have a good day.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 19, 2012

Letters is a tool and while Red may be touching at what could be a useful critique if approached correctly, this whole thread sort of has me confused.

I've given the (SF version of) OT101 more times than I can count and we've never viewed it as tool to build a cadre of organisers. Rather, we've realised (as Harrison has already alluded to) that most of us under 35 are part of a lost generation of the working class. Most of us have never worked in an organised workplace, participated in a strike, or had contact with successful workplace militants who can pass on lessons or teach us the ropes of successful organising.

In this situation, we need a means to pass on basic, nuts and bolts organising tactics. That's where the OT comes in. Sure, not all of them are going to be totally applicable in your workplace depending on the situation. The training sort of has steps and, more likely than not, most of us are only going to reach some of those lower steps in the short-to-mid term. Considering (again echoing Harrison) that many of are (or started out as) politicos who want to be organisers, the temptation is to organise politically: convince co-workers of the necessity of the class struggle and then convince them to organise. I mean, that's what I first did until I attended and OT and that was ass-backwards.

Further, I think another great advantage of the OT is that it provides us with a practical activity we can offer our workmates as they get interested in organising/confronting the boss. Far from building cadre, it's a tool that bridges the organiser/organisee gap. In the trade unions it's salts or stewards or reps who are entitled to go on the trainings. In our organisations, the goal is to get every member and every member's workmates out to the training. That's an entirely different dynamic.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 19, 2012

I don't want to get into the weeds or the specifics of this. I've not been to any of the training, so I gots no direct experiance with them.

Perhaps there's just an ideological dislike of folks trying to do things in an organized and formal manner, dunno.

Information/experiance sharing shouldn't even be questioned. Man, most of what I've learned has been by the seat of my pants. And, g-dam, those pants got worn out pretty quickly.

The IWW says it's a union. And the role of that sort of thing is to make sure you don't always become known as the union of the first fired. Smart and informed workers is a good thing. No? Yes?

lettersjournal

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lettersjournal on June 19, 2012

The last two places I worked had over 100 employees. I don't think it's that rare.

I posed my question because from other threads on this forum, it seemed clear that with the exception of a few people (like Devrim), the vast majority of people who post here have very little (or no) experience with industrial struggles. It seems odd that people with very little or no experience with industrial struggles would teach classes about how to do industrial struggles.

For example, Chili Sauce says:

Most of us have never worked in an organised workplace, participated in a strike, or had contact with successful workplace militants who can pass on lessons or teach us the ropes of successful organising.

But then also says that they have given trainings.

If the people giving the trainings have no experience with this stuff, what are the trainings based on? In the last decade, the IWW has signed as many no-strike contracts as it has organized strikes, so I don't know why it would set itself up as a class struggle educator.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 19, 2012

God, you're full of shit. The IWW has been critiqued like a motherfucker for those no-strike clauses on libcom and the strongest and most developed critiques have come from the same libcom Wobblies involved in setting up the organizer training program.

Not that I feel the need to justify myself to your trolling ass, but it might help if you read my post in context. Many is not all and, guess what, since the training here's what I've not done:

convince co-workers of the necessity of the class struggle and then convince them to organise. I mean, that's what I first did until I attended and OT and that was ass-backwards.

The logical corollary to that is that I've done some successful workplace organising since then. If your pedantic contrary self is interested, I talk a lot about it on this thread.

Oh, and I participated in a strike of 2 million workers (the trade union shortcomings associated with that particular strike non-withstanding).

I've also organised workmates from the same non-striking union as myself not to cross picket lines in our workplace. I fought a high-level disciplinary because of that and won, so fuck you.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 19, 2012

And, besides, what we want is organising models that fit with our politics. I've gotten trained up with my trade union from trade unionists with tonnes of strike experience. Doesn't mean I want to struggle in the same way they did.

Given what I said earlier about lost generation, of course we're starting from an incredibly low point. That doesn't meant that those of us with limited experiences have nothing to offer.

Tool.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 19, 2012

I've also organised workmates from the same non-striking union as myself not to cross picket lines in our workplace.

In direct defiance of my union, might I add.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 19, 2012

Coms, I suspose the barb trading feels good. Not constructive, but feels good.

I hear the trepidation side expressed by the critics. And I'd be dishonest if I didn't periodically feel this way and made snarky remarks to myself about this.

BUT....BUT...I really think this is key:

Chilli Sauce

Given what I said earlier about lost generation, of course we're starting from an incredibly low point. That doesn't meant that those of us with limited experiences have nothing to offer.

And I am sure that anyone attending the seesions with experiance would set 'em right on stuff. It's hard to believe that eveyone attending the seesions is either a drone or a complete novice.

Additionally, there is no doubt that bad information sharing will lead to bad decisions that would lead to a re-evaluation of the information.

I remember years ago how all the sure hands of the 1930s older generation would say "organize"---then you'd try organize and they say you're not doing it right....and when you questioned what's right, they'd say some stuff about militancy,pie cards, direct action and yad-de-ya-de da. Nothing concrete. So we learned the hard way. Trial and error. Good learning experiance and it's really the main way to go. But, you know, it would have been pretty good to have folks togteher to go over stuff, share stuff, shoot the shit and collectively review basic things. While I will never be a cheer leader or always agree with some of the folks form, style or attitude.... all power to 'em for trying!

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 19, 2012

really fast, on line too long now.

RH wrote:

I have a problem with the kind of bureaucratic tone but especially with the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving. What are these? Public speaking? Putting together mailing lists?

Actually, I've met plentuy of folks who had no clue wht they were doing and were like the worst bumble bees
at what they did.

There is an "art" of public speaking. Some of it is technical, some confidenxce. Being in a room full of "peers" and having them go hard at you in a make believe address or raising a resolution at a meeting dominated by trade union hacks is a hellava lot better then going at it cold feet...."trust me" I got ripped to shreds the first few times I tried it in a retformist union meeting. Point being, you toghen up a bit, you have a bit of an expectation, you learn some of the parameters of certain "dos and don'ts".

Unless someone jumps out of the ready-made militant organizers box, skills are learned and honed. Yes, there are some being who have the organic talents and instincts. Not everyone does. And, it's always good to sharpen and stregthen those skills and to try and collectively pass them along.

OK, done.

Hieronymous

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 19, 2012

lettersjournal

The last two places I worked had over 100 employees. I don't think it's that rare.

I posed my question because from other threads on this forum, it seemed clear that with the exception of a few people (like Devrim), the vast majority of people who post here have very little (or no) experience with industrial struggles. It seems odd that people with very little or no experience with industrial struggles would teach classes about how to do industrial struggles.

It seems like you go out of your way to flagrantly be disingenouous. I've rarely seen a post of yours on libcom that wasn't passive-aggressive or in bad faith. It's like your passivist nihilist dogma preaches for all of us to turn the other check and just accept austerity because, well, that's "what communists do." Or some other garbage that sounds more like what my boss says or a verbatim parroting of Thatcher's TINA (there is no alternative).

Disingenous point of lettersjournal #1:

lettersjournal

The last two places I worked had over 100 employees. I don't think it's that rare.

This is just fucking stupid. The new Fresh & Easy in my neighborhood seems to have more security guards that checkers, neither of which is very many. The UFCW Safeway has 5 times as many workers at any given time. The new subcontracting system means that in retail the delivery people often stock shelves. At least they do all down the supply chain for retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, where third party logistics firms (3PLs) even contract with the temp and employment agencies that provide the workers. So there can be 3 or 4 layers that insulate parent companies, like Wal-Mart, from the actual employees performing the work. This is the new normal, not fucking Fordist workplaces with 100 or more workers.

Disingenous point of lettersjournal #2:

lettersjournal

In the last decade, the IWW has signed as many no-strike contracts as it has organized strikes, so I don't know why it would set itself up as a class struggle educator.

This is simply a lie. I know of only 2 shops that the IWW has organized with no-strike clauses in their contract. If I'm wrong, prove it!

Disingenous point of lettersjournal #3:

lettersjournal

I posed my question because from other threads on this forum, it seemed clear that with the exception of a few people (like Devrim), the vast majority of people who post here have very little (or no) experience with industrial struggles.

This is just fucking stupid. It's another passive-aggressive post, where you feign ignorance, pretending like you don't know how to read. Most of the people I've met face-to-face from libcom have years, if not decades of experience in industrial struggles. I've been cast into these battles from the first job I had. If you don't accept your natural inclincations to fight the boss, you're either sick or too self-absorbed internviewing yourself or being stupified in awe of your own intestines.

And yes, I have attended an IWW Organizers Training. It was mostly excellent, not for the content, which was well-intended and had many very good organizing ideas (and some that need improvement), but for the mere fact that several dozen militant -- or wannbe militant -- workers sat down in the same room and shared experiences. In my session, there were some people older than me and I learned many great lessons about the 1980 Hotel Strike in San Francisco, how that morphed into the failed Restaurant Strike, and how this older militant had much wisdom to share from his experience then -- including some violent altercations that successful prevented scabs from crossing picket lines.

I had just been on strike a couple years before, in an industry that has never (until faily recently, but just a shop or two in all of the U.S.) been officially organized (in the NLRB sense) and for that reason we had less obstacles in launching a strike on model of the IWW of its heyday. As in an attempt to totally stop production indefinitely. Which we succeeded at doing for over a week. Of a staff of 11, 7 struck, 2 honored the picket line and 2 scabbed. Management brought in a couple scabs, but after we threatened them the first day they didn't come back; in addition a Wobbly got hired as a scab and fucked things up from the inside on the second day and after that they stopped hiring replacements. It was a school and over 90% of the 175 students also honored the picket line, totally shutting the school.

We lost the strike, but today the pay is $5 an hour more than before the strike (from around $20 to $25 today, which I can verify by linking to recent craigslist ads). In the Organizer Training, I was able to share my experience and received feedback from some local comrades who joined our picket line in solidarity.

Although I firmly believe in the need to take back the strike weapon, having personally seen its effectiveness, in the Organizer Training others had many wonderful stories about other ways people have fought their boss, many of which led to small gains.

People who have been in the IWW for a long time should pipe in to show that the Organizer Training came out of the experiences of shopfloor militants.

To paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg, we only learn how to fight by fighting. The first step is to learn from struggles that have come before, so as not to repeat their mistakes. At the Organizer Training, I learned many of those from others more experienced than myself, as well as sharing my own stories of the many failures and few successes I've been part of in fighting the class war.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 19, 2012

Good post H. On this:

I know of only 2 shops that the IWW has organized with no-strike clauses in their contract.

I actually think it's higher than two. I remember the numbers coming out when the no-strike shit hit the fan a couple years back. However, where our self-interviewing friend is wrong is that the IWW has undoubtedly had more strikes in the past ten years than it has no-strike clauses.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 19, 2012

syndicalist pretty much says everything I was gonna say.

lettersjournal isn't really worth responding to, but since this is a publicly viewable forum in which various people read what we write I suppose its worth saying some stuff.

The IWW OT is various organizing experiences from the last 10-15 years or so rolled into a two day training. It has been altered and edited as experience has grown. Very little of the workforce has been in large industrial struggles nor is that the only form of class struggle, which you very well know and only said to get a rise out of people (which worked so looks like you win!).

As our experience grows and if it gets into large industrial struggles, I imagine that kind of stuff would be incorporated into the OT101 or something similar as one of the great things that we've developed in recent past is a way to make sure we pass down knowledge, experience and information in a way that's useful to those who do not have it.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 20, 2012

I mean, there is the OT102 which deals with more organised workplaces and I imagine we'd build in a 103 if it gets to the points that the IWW is regularly leading hundreds strong strikes.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 20, 2012

a few points:

1) the whole 'its bureaucratic' thing is strange - the OT is a template / a suggested approach. if you don't like the approach, you are allowed to use your own, you won't get crucified...

2) don't bother engaging with latterdayjourno. Just out of sectarian fun can someone link me to their self-interview?

3) syndicalist

There is an "art" of public speaking. Some of it is technical, some confidence. Being in a room full of "peers" and having them go hard at you in a make believe address or raising a resolution at a meeting dominated by trade union hacks is a hellava lot better then going at it cold feet...."trust me" I got ripped to shreds the first few times I tried it in a retformist union meeting. Point being, you toghen up a bit, you have a bit of an expectation, you learn some of the parameters of certain "dos and don'ts".

definitely.... although this isn't public speaking: when i had a dispute with my landlord, i found i was ace at being firm and demanding in emails, but kind of crumbled in face-to-face or phone calls. the more practice the better...

EdmontonWobbly

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EdmontonWobbly on June 20, 2012

Has anyone giving these trainings participated in, much less organized, a strike involving more than 100 workers that lasted more than 1 week?

I helped rewrite some parts of the trainings and some new material for the more advanced one. I was on strike/lockout with 50,000 postal workers in Canada last year for three weeks.

Any more cheap leftist point scoring or are we going to actually build the struggle now?

OliverTwister

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on June 20, 2012

I'm glad lettersjournal brought up contracts.

All of them, AFAIK, whether with no-strike clauses or not, come from shops that were "organized" before we began using the training. At that point, for lack of a better idea of what organizing meant, the IWW often copied the business unions, but on the cheap and with internal democracy. A volunteer member played the role of a union staffer, came in and "helped" the workers to file for an election and, in the few cases where they won, to negotiate a contract.

I haven't heard of any new contracts that have been signed since we began with the OT. There have been a few organizing campaigns where that was the goal, but at the initiative of the workers who were organizing themselves, rather than because some outside organizer told them to.

This is, I think, a huge change and one that speaks a lot to the OT.

John E Jacobsen

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by John E Jacobsen on June 20, 2012

RedHughs

I have a problem with the kind of bureaucratic tone but especially with the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving. What are these? Public speaking? Putting together mailing lists?

This whole thing has an Alynskiite tone to it - it carries an assumption there is some special "organizer" quality that is the factor getting militant action going.

Especially given how marginal any radical group today might be, it seems just implausible for such a group to present itself as the group that will inculcate the skills to others.

A simple alternative is to put one's organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other together and develop strategy together (and the article does mention a "workplace buddy" but this is still in the "organizer" framework).

Ok, I'll take a stab at this.

To begin with, there is such a thing as magical organizing skills. If you and I are "putting our organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other," are we doing it by leafletting our co-workers at work, or are we having one-on-one meetings with our co-workers outside of work? Thats right, we're beginning the process of growing that organization by having those initial meetings outside of work, because we can't start that organization if we both get fired. Thats an organizing skill.

Also, I don't think anyone giving these trainings is stupid enough to believe there is only one possible list of skills that we know or could anticipate, or worse, that they and they alone possess it. Sorry you got that from the "tone" of the piece, I'm confident it wasn't meant to be communicated at all.

hpwombat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by hpwombat on June 20, 2012

Well, just to continued on my vein of thought on the U.S.A. economy. Recent news about the rise of Asian immigration passing Hispanic immigration and the education level being college educated seems to show the U.S.A. to be already in motion to change its economic structure in the manner I speculated may occur. Relying on an educated job base through immigration while slowly taking money out of government subsidized education seems to be the direction.

This might not necessarily mean the smart community to be the exact future of the economy, but it does point to the economy no longer relying on the slow growth of the native born population for its economic growth. What this means for the future of union organizing might be a continued retreat of unions, especially in government worker unions as was seen in Wisconsin and also in Ohio.

Not sure how far these measure went on this round of attempted austerity, but I don't see this as a dead direction of politics. I see it as a beginning of a more active reaction aiming for further cuts while continuing its move to an immigrant-supported economy to compete with other nations.

It might serve anarchists to perhaps be more explicitly international in our interventions and challenge immigrants to participate in anti-authoritarian activities while also challenging a perhaps growing xenophobia from the native-born population. The small business base, the working poor base and the bureaucratic corporate base populations seem to be steadily changing and have been for some time in this direction.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 20, 2012

RedH, prolly a question which might've not been asked earlier, but I didn't.

Asked in a most repcectfully and comradely manner:
What's your vision of this? How does that play out in practice?

RedH:

A simple alternative is to put one's organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other together and develop strategy together (and the article does mention a "workplace buddy" but this is still in the "organizer" framework).

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 21, 2012

OK,

Let me back-up and say that I intended to comment on the leaflet itself rather than other things. I have no knowledge of what actual Organizer Trainings involve and so I couldn't offer any criticism of those (Hieronymous, who I respect considerably, and others certainly make them sound like fine things). If I let enthusiasm about critiquing the language of the leaflet spill over into criticizing "OT", apologies.

Further, I wouldn't dismiss the usefulness of learning skills. At the same time, it seems to me that any "organizing" process of modern labor is pretty much in its infancy and so a group today would do best to say it has some useful skills rather than the useful skills.

So let me just suggest that a term like "skill-share" might be a bit better than "training". Maybe it's just me that has some revulsion to words that sound too similar to corporate speak but what I imagine is that the most rebellious workers also have some resistance to being "trained".

John E Jacobsen

Also, I don't think anyone giving these trainings is stupid enough to believe there is only one possible list of skills that we know or could anticipate, or worse, that they and they alone possess it. Sorry you got that from the "tone" of the piece, I'm confident it wasn't meant to be communicated at all.

Sure, I suppose I'd suggest some note to this effect to be in the leaflet itself.

[quote=Towards A Union Of Organizers]
You’re a retail worker in a relatively small shop that is mostly composed of a group of conservative Christian workers, mostly white, male and anti-union. They have strong ties to management and many of them are actually related to the manager. There is a significantly smaller group made up of low-income black workers, some white male nerds, a queer worker and two bad-ass women workers: one white, one Latina. These workers all suffer harassment, and are at least curious if not open to the ideas of working class solidarity and struggle you’ve discussed with them. If you’re not organizing you can’t effectively respond to this harassment, or might do so in a way that makes things worse. Moreover, intentionally building and struggling with coworkers opens the possibility of transforming the culture of harassment at work.[/quote]

The leaflet uses the terms "social mapping" earlier so I suppose you've a given detail of "organizing". But the paragraph doesn't say how the organizing could work. If you wanted to get people to believe that they could benefit from this OT, you could describe in detail some plausible scenario for winning by using some skills that OT intends to teach.

Especially "If you’re not organizing you can’t effectively respond to this harassment..." seems a bit absolutist. "If you've learned these skills, you may be able to respond more effectively" might an alternative wording.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 21, 2012

RedHughs

So let me just suggest that a term like "skill-share" might be a bit better than "training".

skill-share sounds fucking wank! if i heard that word i'd expect yet another poorly thought through educational attempt by one bloke with a squat and an internet connection.

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 22, 2012

Harrison

RedHughs

So let me just suggest that a term like "skill-share" might be a bit better than "training".

skill-share sounds fucking wank! if i heard that word i'd expect yet another poorly thought through educational attempt by one bloke with a squat and an internet connection.

Yeah whatever,

The point is you folks should use some word or combination of words that implies "we share skills with you" rather than "we inject our ideas into you".

Hieronymous

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 22, 2012

I agree with Red and Oliver about the theoretical and practical deadend of Alinskyism, which seems to be a cancer on social movements today. And I should know: I got radicalized in the mid-1980s in a statewide (in California) Alinskyite canvassing organization that was one of several front groups to an inner core, called "Access to Justice Foundation," that had roots in a long reformist lineage. That pedigree had more recent influences from college campus-based Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), but went back further to leaders who had worked with Cesar Chavez in the UFW, as well as with his mentor Fred Ross in the Community Services Organization before that, and many of the founders of the group I was in had also been in SDS, one person had even taken part in drafting the Port Huron Statement. So it had long roots in the reformist American Left.

The main activities for the promotion of the organizations campaigns were:

1.) canvassing

2.) public speaking

3.) pandering to the bourgeois media

4.) elections

Canvassing developed contacts, who were entered into a database and used for direct mail and phonebank-based fundraising. I ended up working for the latter part the of enterprise when they bought an early just-past-the-prototype-stage robo-dialing computer system for a workplace with an unbearable pace set by a computer. In a strange coincidence with the Mechanization & Modernization Agreement (1960) on the waterfront, we were represented by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

Saul Alinsky gained his reputation during the Great Depression, organizing with the CIO. The latter was created by reformists and conservatives (John L. Lewis, Adolph Germer, Sidney Hillman, pro-FDR Communists, et al.) to take away the strike weapon, channel class antagonisms into mediation by the state, and put an end to the class war tactics, based on self-activity of the class, in addition to suppressing working class culture best demonstrated in the U.S. by the "Chicago Idea," which was a continuum that ran though the Haymarket Martyrs to the I.W.W. At worst, CIO leaders from the Communist Party steered the activity of unions to support the foreign policy needs of the Soviet Union.

I've talked to countless other comrades who got radicalized, like I did, in rejecting the tame pro-capitalist reformism of these groups. We ALL agree: Alinskyite groups control members like a cult, constantly creating in-group activities to insulate cadre from outside influences -- like thinking for themselves. They're dialectical bookends with Leninist groups, which use many of the same techniques, but who practice revolutionary reformism rather than gradualist reformism. Alinskyites tend to believe in the promise of the American system, demanding that it live up to its contentless promises of bullshit like "justice,""equality," "direct democracy" and "jobs-for-all." And like Leninism and activistism, it has a religious dogma where missionaries -- or messiahs -- bring consciousness to the non-converted from the outside.

That all said, I did learn many lifelong skills that have come in handy for radical agitation. Things like emphasis (pre-call center work I did) on face-to-face organizing, interpersonal communication skills (including non-threatening body language, etc) and public speaking. For the latter we even had a "speakers bureau" where we practiced speaking and critiqued each other. I really learned a great deal. But we also did trainings, where I felt like a seal in the circus. This crap was lifted straight from B.F. Skinner's work on behaviorism. It made me feel like if I pleased my trainer, they would throw me a fish as a reward. This reached its worst with role plays, where in contrived situations we learned how to tell the trainer what they wanted to hear and really didn't improve our skills.

And having done lots of wage labor as a teacher, I know the utility of role plays. Yet I still rarely do them because they seem too artificial, at least for my teaching style. Other forms of communication and conversation can build the same skills. This would be my main criticism of the IWW's Organizer Training: too much of the role play scenarios seemed pro forma and weren't put in context of the kind of work people were actually doing. But like I said, the greatest strength was simply getting a large group in a room comparing notes about work conditions. This is extremely useful for any kind of class-based activity. The Organizer Training I went to was like a support group for people suffering the same affliction, like a "grief group" for those losing loved ones, because we found out our work situations were equally fucked. I discovered more workers, like myself, were misclassified as "independent contractors" so the boss can avoid paying into Social Security, unemployment and everything else that accrues and that I might need to draw on some day. With no employer pay-in, should I lose one of these jobs, there's no unemployment insurance to collect with this scam. From my experience, it means that whatever my rate of pay is, I have to subtract 20% from my wage because I'll have to pay income and other taxes out-of-pocket. It's a racket that's becoming more and more common. It was extremely useful for those of us at the training to hear that others suffer this rip-off too. And it was a way to start strategizing ways to fight back.

I'll finish by saying that we're at the bottom of the trough in regards to class struggle. I feel incredibly fortunate that comrades I'm close to had strike experience that informed my practice when I was part of a strike. I also have been blessed in knowing old timers who had vast class war experience going back to heady days of the 1930s. But without the wisdom of others to draw on, we have to start from where we're at. Which can be at a pretty low level. That's why Joe Burn's book Reviving the Strike was the most important book I read last year. That, along with Staughton Lynd's Labor Law for the Rank-and-Filer are indispensable for anyone fighting their boss. In addition I'd advise anyone to learn about working class history, as well as to inform themselves about changes to capitalist production -- especially its tendency towards precarious work stretched across the globe -- and the massive changes in working class composition with the advent of neoliberalism.

doam

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by doam on June 22, 2012

I am always intrigued to see the down and up votes. I do not understand exactly what they mean. Is it a popularity thing or a way of saying something like "I didn't want to see that" or "I disagree strongly but can't explain why"?

It was just funny to see Red write

The point is you folks should use some word or combination of words that implies "we share skills with you" rather than "we inject our ideas into you".

and then see that it get anonymously voted down twice. Do these anonymous voters want the language to be "we inject our ideas into you" or is it just a form of public shaming?

[Let my own down votes begin!]

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 22, 2012

voting is for agree / disagree.

for me one of the main strategies of syndicalism is to inject certain methods of action (ie. methods that run counter to bureaucratic unionism) into the class. so i guess i'm in disagreement with Red there.

By the way, i read the 'Towards a Union of Organisers' text as promoting not the development of internal cadres functioning inside the IWW, but instead aiming to promote the development of the organising skills of as many IWW members as possible and aim to reduce the distinction within IWW shops of 'organiser' and the 'organised' - ie. wanting everyone to move toward becoming an organiser (and therefore better facilitate the democratic processes inside the union), hence the point of accessible training programs.

In my opinion, thats a pretty worthy strategy for the syndicalist tradition, and for this reason i think the criticisms of 'training' being somehow an authoritarian practice are well-meaning but misdirected.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 22, 2012

Harrison

By the way, i read the 'Towards a Union of Organisers' text as promoting not the development of internal cadres functioning inside the IWW, but instead aiming to promote the development of the organising skills of as many IWW members as possible and aim to reduce the distinction within IWW shops of 'organiser' and the 'organised' - ie. wanting everyone to move toward becoming an organiser (and therefore better facilitate the democratic processes inside the union), hence the point of accessible training programs.

Yeah pretty much. As I understand it, the piece was sort of thought of within the context of someone (not the writer) who is in the IWW and works in the public sector. During the state shutdown in MN last year, this person had no way to contact their coworkers because he hadn't done even any pleminary organizing, and it hurt, because there was a large vacuum that their union were only filling with incredibly tame rallies.

As far as the objections on language...I can see that, but I personally don't really care about things like that very much. If it uses Alinsky-type language, oh well. What it does is much different. But 'skill-share'? :eek: :bb:

Hieronymous

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 22, 2012

[deleted]

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 22, 2012

Juan Conatz

As far as the objections on language...I can see that, but I personally don't really care about things like that very much. If it uses Alinsky-type language, oh well. What it does is much different.

Uh, is not communication one of the main things that these trainings aim to teach? If you are telling someone you're going to teach them about how to communicate, shouldn't you be demonstrating that by choosing your language well?

I assume communication would mean communicating with the right people in the right way. Some people might like "super organizer" language that sounds kind of bureaucratic and triumphalist but these might not be the people we'd want to reach.

Sure maybe, the word "skill-share" is lame. But I'm from California and I'm not the one selling my communications ability.

doam

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by doam on June 22, 2012

Harrison

voting is for agree / disagree.

I cannot believe that this is true. If that were the case why do people up/down vote questions? Further, I don't think anyone really believes that they believe the language should be "we inject our ideas in you".

It may seem off topic but the fact that most activity on this thread has been anonymous voting (238 votes versus 39 comments at the time I am writing) it seems important to figure out what they are for.

Also, the discussion through out the thread emphasizes speaking:

Hieronymous

I have attended an IWW Organizers Training. It was mostly excellent, not for the content, which was well-intended and had many very good organizing ideas (and some that need improvement), but for the mere fact that several dozen militant -- or wannbe militant -- workers sat down in the same room and shared experiences.

Harrison

although this isn't public speaking: when i had a dispute with my landlord, i found i was ace at being firm and demanding in emails, but kind of crumbled in face-to-face or phone calls. the more practice the better.

Hieronymous

That all said, I did learn many lifelong skills that have come in handy for radical agitation. Things like emphasis (pre-call center work I did) on face-to-face organizing, interpersonal communication skills (including non-threatening body language, etc) and public speaking. For the latter we even had a "speakers bureau" where we practiced speaking and critiqued each other. I really learned a great deal.

Basically I'm saying that up and down votes are more passive-aggressive and disingenuous and anti-human than any question lettersjournal, or anyone, asks and that for a thread where participants emphasize the importance of communication and trainings it seems rather silly.

Hieronymous

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 22, 2012

doam

Basically I'm saying that up and down votes are more passive-aggressive and disingenuous and anti-human than any question lettersjournal, or anyone, asks and that for a thread where participants emphasize the importance of communication and trainings it seems rather silly.

In a previous post, Doam wrote:

doam

I am always intrigued to see the down and up votes. I do not understand exactly what they mean. Is it a popularity thing or a way of saying something like "I didn't want to see that" or "I disagree strongly but can't explain why"?

[Let my own down votes begin!]

Play the ball, not the scoreboard. Don't be a hypocrite and ask for "down" votes, then when you get them complain that it's not fair. Who's the fucking nihilist here?

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 22, 2012

RedHughs

Uh, is not communication one of the main things that these trainings aim to teach? If you are telling someone you're going to teach them about how to communicate, shouldn't you be demonstrating that by choosing your language well?

I assume communication would mean communicating with the right people in the right way. Some people might like "super organizer" language that sounds kind of bureaucratic and triumphalist but these might not be the people we'd want to reach.

Sure maybe, the word "skill-share" is lame. But I'm from California and I'm not the one selling my communications ability.

I understand your critique, I just don't agree. Your objections seem more based on left cynicism or that some of the language used has also been used by organizations whose politics/methods we disagree with that see Alinksy as an influence/inspiration. Fair enough (this is what you are indicating. I haven't read Alinsky or been involved in those groups so I don't know).

The stuff around anticapitalism, direct action, etc is probably a bigger hang-up for people than anything. I think your objections are probably more going to come from people already on the far left, which shouldn't neccesarily be considered into the equation when the IWW does what it does or come from folks that are deeply cynical, in which if language is someone's biggest hangup, then they're not really interested in workplace organizing in the first place.

Guess I'm not really understanding your critique. Is it by using this language that you are personally suspicious of that it will implicitly promote something different? Just seems like nitpicking, with all due respect, comrade.

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 22, 2012

If you want to discuss voting up and down do it on another thread. Next comment I'm just going to delete.

doam

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by doam on June 22, 2012

Fall Back

If you want to discuss voting up and down do it on another thread. Next comment I'm just going to delete.

Agreed, it should be in another thread.
I was just particularly struck by it in this one because of the contrast between what the commenters were saying and the underlying current of involvement, but it is suitable for another place.

A contribution more pertinent to the discussion:

I, along with Juan Conatz, am confused by your concerns Red Hughs. In the opening post you wrote
Red Hughs

I have a problem with the kind of bureaucratic tone but especially with the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving.

and then more recently
Red Hughs

At the same time, it seems to me that any "organizing" process of modern labor is pretty much in its infancy and so a group today would do best to say it has some useful skills rather than the useful skills.
....
Maybe it's just me that has some revulsion to words that sound too similar to corporate speak but what I imagine is that the most rebellious workers also have some resistance to being "trained".

The second part seems to be what other's have focused on the most but I am not clear what the first one means exactly. How would a group 'do best' to say it has some instead of all? Is the best about numbers joining or attending a particular thing or about what is most honest?

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 22, 2012

Hieronymous wrote: “the greatest strength was simply getting a large group in a room comparing notes about work conditions. This is extremely useful for any kind of class-based activity”

This seems to be the crux of the matter and I have no doubt that many comrades who have been to these sessions have drawn a lot of confidence from this strength, which they are then able to take back to their workplaces. So what is the actual source of Red’s feeling of unease, which is one I share, despite the positive aspects of the sessions?

For those raised in the tradition of left communism, so to speak, the ‘training’ idea and the ‘organiser’ idea both seem connected to the notion of ‘organising the class’, a notion which both social democracy and anarcho-syndicalism shared to some extent. The first saw the active agent as the mass party, the second as the ‘revolutionary union’. But both began from the notion of building a mass organisation as the pre-existing vehicle for the mass struggle – a notion that I would argue was transcended by the experience of the mass strike and the formation of the workers’ councils, which gave concrete shape and meaning to the concept of the ‘self-organisation’ of the class

I have no doubt that many of the actual workplace practices of comrades who call themselves anarcho-syndicalists, and perhaps the most important ones, don’t have this substitutionist dimension, and are clearly aimed at advancing the self-organisation of the class. Nevertheless I think there will still be some basic contradictions as long as those comrades have the idea of building a union of some kind. And certainly those who start from an explicitly anti-union perspective will be uneasy about the way this contradiction can express itself in practice.

This is partly connected to the relationship between the ‘trainers’ and the actual trade unions. On the one hand, the work they are doing with the formation of workers’ committees in the workplace looks very positive and from what I can see these committees are independent of the official unions. But at the same time this independence is weakened when the comrades of Solfed or the IWW take on shop steward roles and actively recruit people to the trade union. It can thus appear that a key part of the organiser training involves learning how to ‘use’ the union machinery for the workers’ benefit. Correct me if I’m wrong.

To get back to the quote at the beginning. The vital thing we can all agree on is the necessity to bring people together, both in the workplace and across workplaces, to share experiences of struggle and discuss how to take it forward. It seems that the workplace committees are open formations, not tied to particular political or syndicalist groups. Would it not therefore be a step forward if the task of “getting a large group in a room comparing notes about work conditions” was organised by the coming together of different workers’ committees themselves, and not by this or that political/syndicalist organisation, even if the latter would certainly be present inside them?

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 22, 2012

In reply to RedHughs:

I think its just that since organiser training programs are relatively new, some comrades are a bit suspicious of them. The European syndicalist unions don't have them - most (actual functioning) IWA unions rely on an informal mentoring system, while (i think) "Red and Black Coordination" unions rely on traditional rep training structures borrowed from the mainstream unions. (at least thats what L&S wanted within the UK IWW)

i wouldn't call the language 'super-bureaucratic', i'd say its attempting to present the efforts of the union professionally in a way that can impress people outside the obsessive libertarian milieu, which i think it can.

i know people who pay for trainings if they are trying to get into certain jobs, and i'm pretty sure the content of those isn't entirely gospel - the point is the content has been developed from experience by people who are heavily involved in the activity in question, far more so that the people receiving the training, so therefore its allowed to be confident in its content.

the acid test is: would i feel comfortable inviting a non-political workmate or friend to a sleek professionally presented and well thought out training program that rivals the presentation of a capitalist firm or business union? yeah absolutely.

would i really see the point in inviting the same person to a 'suggestions for organising' washout that wasn't confident enough in its own content to throw all its weight behind attempting to persuade the attendee to adopt its methods? fuck no!

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 22, 2012

Alf

To get back to the quote at the beginning. The vital thing we can all agree on is the necessity to bring people together, both in the workplace and across workplaces, to share experiences of struggle and discuss how to take it forward. It seems that the workplace committees are open formations, not tied to particular political or syndicalist groups. Would it not therefore be a step forward if the task of “getting a large group in a room comparing notes about work conditions” was organised by the coming together of different workers’ committees themselves, and not by this or that political/syndicalist organisation, even if the latter would certainly be present inside them?

I think that was a really interesting post Alf, but could i persuade you to start a new thread for it? I'd like to talk about it more, its just i think the discussion would be a bit chaotic on this thread.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 22, 2012

Harrison: which bits do you think fit better in a different thread: just the part you quote, or the whole of it? I can see a separate thread for the question of workplace committees, but even then, I tried to raise the issue in the context of the training sessions. Can you explain a bit more?

NUO

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by NUO on June 22, 2012

Hello everybody-
I'm a staff organizer with a skilled trades local in NYC and also part of the National Union of Organizers. I saw the thread heading "towards a union of organizers" and got all excited and signed up for this group. I only now realize it is about making every member an organizer, but the discussion is helpful since that's what I'm trying to do in my job as an organizer for a staunchly service model local.

I've had contact with the Wobblies before, as well as lots of other Labor organizations and I still think the mainstream labor movement would be more effective if it embraced the IWW organizing model. Also, I had been banging my head against the wall and spinning my wheels as a well intentioned but relatively unskilled shop steward with the IAM before I got some grass roots workplace organizing training somewhere else shortly before I left that job. I can only imagine what we might accomplished had I and/or some fellow shop members been given some basic skills training and I would say overall I found the pamphlet discussed here helpful. I plan on checking that site regularly in the future.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to find out more about NUO or might have some helpful info, drop a line to [email protected]. We started as a Union of project organizers working for an entity called Prewitt Organizing Fund (more recently operating as TruCorps). All our original members were fired for union activity as are all newer staff that are determined to be associated with NUO. Our employer does a lot of work for SEIU and was recently involved with the AFGE/TSA campaign.

I think I've said enough for 1 post, but I just wanted to throw out 1 more thought. If you are a staff organizer for another union reading this, what do you think of IWW being the union of any and all people employed as full time organizers?

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 22, 2012

"National Union of Organizers" is a union of staff union reps?

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 22, 2012

Regarding NUO's post above.

Keep in mind that many paid union organizers are employees of unions but not represented by any unions and often suffer fates similar other low-wage, precarious workers - lack of benefits and firings for political or union activity.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 23, 2012

Alf, i've started writing a response to the bits i wanted to reply (the bits about workplace committees interlinking)

I have to leave my computer now, but i will post the reply up as a different thread when i've written it

hpwombat

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by hpwombat on June 23, 2012

I'm interested in workplace committees that aren't aiming for intermediate goals, but rather for raising the potential of subversion and how that can be presented in an appealing way. Currently most workplace organizing is done in a manner that suggests raising wages or benefits in the workplace, rather than in more forceful goals. What could organizing the class look like in this context or are intermediate goals necessary to establish this?

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 23, 2012

i split the thread:
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/workplace-committees-how-they-interlink-23062012

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 23, 2012

You mean can we start committees for FULL COMMUNISM right now without doing any groundwork? ;)

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 23, 2012

Juan Conatz

You mean can we start committees for FULL COMMUNISM right now without doing any groundwork? ;)

No just wait until 2068 and in the mean time write pithy books in intellectual french!

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 23, 2012

ALF

To get back to the quote at the beginning. The vital thing we can all agree on is the necessity to bring people together, both in the workplace and across workplaces, to share experiences of struggle and discuss how to take it forward. It seems that the workplace committees are open formations, not tied to particular political or syndicalist groups. Would it not therefore be a step forward if the task of “getting a large group in a room comparing notes about work conditions” was organised by the coming together of different workers’ committees themselves, and not by this or that political/syndicalist organisation, even if the latter would certainly be present inside them?

Harrison

the acid test is: would i feel comfortable inviting a non-political workmate or friend to a sleek professionally presented and well thought out training program that rivals the presentation of a capitalist firm or business union? yeah absolutely.

would i really see the point in inviting the same person to a 'suggestions for organising' washout that wasn't confident enough in its own content to throw all its weight behind attempting to persuade the attendee to adopt its methods? fuck no!

I've highlighted some text to illustrate the difference in approaches. Clearly I'm more sympathetic to ALF's approach.

And Harrison, do you ever feel a little embarrassed making sneering, snide comments? If your approach is the kind of thing you believe people should be trained in, it seems rather counter-productive.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 23, 2012

RedHughs

And Harrison, do you ever feel a little embarrassed making sneering, snide comments?

Sorry didn't realise i'd offended? I only sneer at minor things, i think i've dealt with peoples actual arguments in a comradely way

Shorty

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Shorty on June 24, 2012

Harrison

In reply to RedHughs:

I think its just that since organiser training programs are relatively new, some comrades are a bit suspicious of them. The European syndicalist unions don't have them - most (actual functioning) IWA unions rely on an informal mentoring system, while (i think) "Red and Black Coordination" unions rely on traditional rep training structures borrowed from the mainstream unions. (at least thats what L&S wanted within the UK IWW)

Hmmm, this is interesting, I wonder if it's coming from (amongst others) SAC. I'll have to ask some friends but I didn't think it was of a rep training structure as opposed to organiser training from the way they briefly described it.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 24, 2012

i assumed the general gist of those unions was to copy todays social-democratic unions but make them more militant and democratic and with an affiliation to some form of libertarian program

i'm also probably making assumptions though - you'd be better off getting first hand information

i know within the SAC there was a concerted effort by the vast majority of the union to move further from those traditional structures (hence the firing of a load of ombudsmen) toward a more lean structure with a more horizontal spread of knowledge / skill.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 24, 2012

Shorty

Harrison

In reply to RedHughs:

I think its just that since organiser training programs are relatively new, some comrades are a bit suspicious of them. The European syndicalist unions don't have them - most (actual functioning) IWA unions rely on an informal mentoring system, while (i think) "Red and Black Coordination" unions rely on traditional rep training structures borrowed from the mainstream unions. (at least thats what L&S wanted within the UK IWW)

Hmmm, this is interesting, I wonder if it's coming from (amongst others) SAC. I'll have to ask some friends but I didn't think it was of a rep training structure as opposed to organiser training from the way they briefly described it.

Interesting. Someone here in the US recently asked me about this traiing bit, whether the CNT did such.
I didn't think so. I believe this is very new and very much something originating from the IWW.

Years ago, when WSA in the IWA, no, there was no such training or any training what-so-ever.

That said, IWA affiliatres would do internal educationals, conferences and so forth. As I recall, some of these were on varous aspects of practican stuff and also libertarian theory. Those IWA functioning unions usually carried on those activities on their own, rather then it being Conferedation-wide.

The SAC has long time held various industrial and membership conferences dealing with a variety of issues: from labor law, to finances, to social and other issues.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 24, 2012

I skimmed this thread rapidly, apologies if I cover ground others went over.

RedHughs

bureaucratic tone

meaning what? and, for example...? Also I think that this is probably in the eye of the beholder. Like, I read "bureaucratic tone" and thought "this guy's being a jerk to score points" but after reading further I think you're being sincere and don't mean it that way. Probly the same thing is going on in that piece.

RedHughs

the idea there is something like magical "organizing skills" that will get everything moving. What are these?

Where does the piece suggest these are magic or that they solve everything? As for the skills involved, it refers to the stuff covered in very cursory fashion in one of the IWW's two day organizer trainings and see for yourself. (SolFed does something similar and their trianing's based on the IWW training.) And the piece is directed at an audience of IWW members who already knows what the piece means for the most part. I get that if you're not in that audience then it may not make much sense, but that's just sort of what happens when you're not part of the intended audience of a piece. If you really want to know what's in the training it's easy to attend one. It's not easy to summarize two days of participatory activity on the internet in a way that really conveys much at all of the content.

RedHughs

This whole thing has an Alynskiite tone to it - it carries an assumption there is some special "organizer" quality that is the factor getting militant action going. Even more, the organizations that have spread through "training organizers" were the various semi-state-supported organizations such the CIO and ACORN.

So... since some organizations who do trainings suck, therefore trainings suck? Nah. No more than the fact that these organizations have names, therefore nothing should have a name, or since these organizations have members who breathe therefore communists shouldn't breathe... You're putting an awful lot of weight on a word - training - given that you don't actually know what the IWW's organizer training program consists of. (because if you did then you wouldn't have been like "what is this piece referring to, in terms of skills?")

RedHughs

Especially given how marginal any radical group today might be, it seems just implausible for such a group to present itself as the group that will inculcate the skills to others.

I agree, but what bit made you think it says that? I don't think the piece does that - I think it says "we are one group that can do some of this" but I could be wrong.

RedHughs

A simple alternative is to put one's organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other together and develop strategy together (and the article does mention a "workplace buddy" but this is still in the "organizer" framework).

I don't think "the organizer framework" means much here, again given that you don't know what the content of the IWW trainings is. Beyond that, the fact is that some people know how to do some things that others don't, or know how to do some stuff better. That doesn't mean that some people should giver orders while others follow, but it's just a fact that there are differences of skill sometimes. We can admit that and try to move toward where everyone knows how to do as much as everyone else, by spreading around skills and skill development, or we can ignore it and have these differences become a problem. The IWW's training program is about the former. Some people took the lessons learned over years of IWW organizing, wrote them down and work on how to convey them as effectively and in as participatory a fashion as possible. A lot of those lessons were learned by making mistakes. The training is about as good (and as flawed) as the quality of organizing the IWW has done. The training is also continually being refined and changed, in line with the continuing experience of the organization. It's effective to a limited extent in helping people do workplace activity and it's also democratizing because it works against informal hierarchies. It's a very useful and important tool within the current IWW's toolkit, and it's far from perfect. People who want to attend should do so, people who don't, cool, don't, no skin off anyone else's back either way.

lettersjournal

Has anyone giving these trainings participated in, much less organized, a strike involving more than 100 workers that lasted more than 1 week?

This sounds to me like a loaded and largely irrelevant question, but the answer is yes actually. Among other things several people involved in developing and giving the training were very active in a 2 1/2 week strike of 3000 people in Minnesota several years ago. This is one of the biggest strikes in the US (strikes of more than 1000 people are quite rare at this point in US history, you don't have to take my word for it, go look at the web site of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). More recently several people involved in making, remaking, and facilitating the trainings were involved in a series of walkouts that built toward a strike then lockout of 50,000 people in Canada. And in that case, they found parts of the training very useful in conducting and spreading and improving workers organizing as part of the strike. And loads of people involved have been part of job actions including work stoppages at workplaces that are much smaller. I don't know the statistics about how many workers are at what sized places of employment in the US today and I don't think it's relevant here, but those who do should do the research to find out before being like "y'all work in small shops! nyah!"

Edit: I was being a dick. Sorry for doing so. I edited to cut out at least some of that as it accomplishes nothing.

RedHughs

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on June 25, 2012

Nate, you're raising points that I answered earlier. Look at where I quoted the leaflet itself.

And sure, tone is something each person needs to make a judgment about. So is communicating well. That doesn't mean there aren't poor tones and poor communication strategies. Obviously, you folks believe that people should train to improve their communication strategies so I don't think one can dismiss worries about the tone of a leaflet just because "tone is in the eye of the beholder".

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 25, 2012

RedHughs

Obviously, you folks believe that people should train to improve their communication strategies so I don't think one can dismiss worries about the tone of a leaflet.

Surely this is unrelated? The communication bit of the training relates to face-to-face communication skills with workmates, not how to write leaflets for groupings like Recomposition, writing specifically as revolutionaries, for revolutionaries?

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 25, 2012

Red, sorry for being redundant in the thread.

RedHughs

tone is something each person needs to make a judgment about. So is communicating well. That doesn't mean there aren't poor tones and poor communication strategies. Obviously, you folks believe that people should train to improve their communication strategies so I don't think one can dismiss worries about the tone of a leaflet just because "tone is in the eye of the beholder".

Yeah, we kind of can. I mean, obviously I agree, there are better and worse ways to communicate. But the best way to communicate varies with the people one is trying to communicate with. I'm not saying that article was perfect but you're simply not its intended audience, like I said. I don't mean to be rude but what's happening here is that some basically anonymous communists on a communist web site dislike the word "training." So, what I'm learning here is that the way the IWW presents our organizing training program fails the "do all anonymous communists on the internet like the name?" test. Fair enough. That's not a big concern for me. I mean, I genuinely do care what communists on the internet think, that's why I read libcom, and I really do see where you're coming from here. But I feel like it's already been explained to you that the practice in teh trainings doesn't mean what you seemed to think it meant based on your interpretation of the word 'training'. So mostly now you're like just giving unsolicited advice on how the IWW names its activities and it's not advice that I think we should take up.

Because in terms of communicating with other people offline and all, I'm seriously having trouble thinking of a time when it's ever been a problem ever, except in situations like this (individual radicals on the internet). I've brought several co-workers to the training and people I know but don't work with and suggested it to many more. I think people who have a hang-up about the idea of being trained are much more rare than people who don't. Generally the invitation to a training isn't like a random "hey nice to meet you come to a training," it's in the context of a relationship and in the context of working with people (or at least chatting) about problems at work. Most people are like "that sounds great, I'd love to get better at all this stuff." I've asked loads of people to come to the training and I've honestly never once had some be like "training? that word is offputting. It sounds... I mean, it sounds like indoctrination, or like you think I don't already know everything and that I'm not already a ninja at stuff relevant to doing stuff at work. Why don't you call it 'we all put our heads together' or something?" Except via unsolicited electronic communication from people who aren't involved in the organization and seem at least partially skeptical about what we're trying to do anyway. I'm genuinely not trying to be rude here, just saying that this is seriously the only kind of situation where I've personally ever had this kind of thing come up. As such, I don't feel like we should do anything different in terms of calling the training a training.

Edit:
RedHughs

I quoted the leaflet itself[/url].

I know you quoted the article. But, here, check this out.

A simple alternative is to put one's organization forward as a group of similar workers who can support each other together and develop strategy together

That's a good suggestion, except for your bureaucratic tone, more importantly, though, the term strategy has a militaristic overtone that some people find offputting, so I would prefer that we say "develop ideas together about to do."

I'm not serious, course. Strategy doesn't bother me and I don't actually think your tone is bureaucratic. I don't actually know what you mean by "bureaucratic tone", because you didn't say what you meant. And the fact that I quoted you does not mean I've shown that your tone is bureaucratic. Likewise the fact that you quote the article doesn't mean you've explained why you think it sounds a certain way.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 26, 2012

Oh, I should of said something before, but I thought maybe people use the word 'leaflet' different than I do. That piece was not a 'leaflet' as in something that was printed and handed out to people is that's the meaning people meant by the word. It's a blogpost.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 28, 2012

RedH

So let me just suggest that a term like "skill-share" might be a bit better than "training". Maybe it's just me that has some revulsion to words that sound too similar to corporate speak but what I imagine is that the most rebellious workers also have some resistance to being "trained".

I'm sorry, but this whole paragraphs reeks of activism (the same activism the OT tries to overcome). Skill-sharing is hippy nonsense. Training is what normal people do when they want to learn a new skill. Sometimes bosses force us to learn new things, too, but that doesn't somehow fundamentally alter the meaning of the term training.

The "most rebellious" workers aren't really our target audience. And even if the term training does initially put them off (I've never seen this happen and can't imagine it being so), it should only take about a 30 second conversation to change that.

Seems like pretty pointless semantics to me, tbh.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 28, 2012

Harrison

RedHughs

Obviously, you folks believe that people should train to improve their communication strategies so I don't think one can dismiss worries about the tone of a leaflet.

Surely this is unrelated? The communication bit of the training relates to face-to-face communication skills with workmates, not how to write leaflets for groupings like Recomposition, writing specifically as revolutionaries, for revolutionaries?

This is key and I think largely deals with a lot of Red's concerns.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 28, 2012

Alf (I think)

But at the same time this independence is weakened when the comrades of Solfed or the IWW take on shop steward roles and actively recruit people to the trade union. It can thus appear that a key part of the organiser training involves learning how to ‘use’ the union machinery for the workers’ benefit. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Where did you get this perception?

RE: IWA and training. The best compliment I ever got on the training was from a long-term CNT member who told me “I wish the CNT had this”.

Also, I apologize about the barrage of posts. I've been away from the internet for a while.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 28, 2012

hippy nonsense.

All hail Hippies! I was a hippie growing up! One of my first contacts with a real live anarchist was in the Yippies!
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_International_Party]

Long live the proletarian hippie wing!

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 28, 2012

"Where did you get this perception?"

From the fact that, as I understand it, a lot of Solfed/IWW comrades take on shop steward roles....or is my perception wrong?

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 28, 2012

I don't know about SolFed or UK-IWW. It happens in the IWW in N America but rarely in the US. If union density was higher it'd probly happen more often. Total union density in the US is about 12% and in the private sector it's like 6%, and the rates are much lower for younger workers and most people in the IWW are relatively young. (Also wanted to say that while I'm skeptical of use of the institutions of trade union official positions etc as a strategy I do think people can make tactical use of it to good effect some of the time, within serious limits.)

Android

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Android on June 28, 2012

Nate

I'm skeptical of use of the institutions of trade union official positions etc as a strategy I do think people can make tactical use of it to good effect some of the time, within serious limits.)

There is a difference I think between anarchist / communist political groups and the US IWW. Maybe I am wrong but my impression is that in the latter there is competing strategic perspectives, whereas in the former there is some degree of homogeneity on strategy. I don't really wish to open up the discussion triggered by Juan's blog post on formalised political groups.

In general, an agreed strategy should have a conditioning effect of the tactics chosen in a particular circumstances faced by comrades in day-to-day stuff.

My impression is the same as Alf's that some members of SolFed and the IWW do take on official positions and not just as a temporary tactical thing.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 28, 2012

In the IWW in the US when it comes to engaging with other unions, stuff like become a steward etc, there's basically just a range of practices with little discussion so I think it makes the organization sound much more well developed than it is to say it's "competing strategies." I don't like that but I don't think it's a big deal because like I said it's relatively rare because union density is so low. Without turning this conversation into that other one, the US political groups and their members have much more developed views and discussions on this compared to the IWW but I don't think there's much agreement, I think it's more a matter of competing strategies, to some extent between groups and to some extent among the membership of the larger groups (ie some of the larger groups disagree somewhat internally on these issues).

I realize this bit of the conversation, what Alf said and so on, is really more about the UK stuff on this, SolFed and IWW. I'd love to hear more on that - both the theoretical positions and the practices - and not just SolFed and IWW but also AFed and any other groups that are relevant.

Also: I don't mean this at all disrespectfully (and I apologize if I'm getting any of this wrong) but I believe that two posters on libcom are both AF members and do official roles in their unions, despite the AF's line on unions. No criticism intended of those people or of the AF, I just say this because I think it it's worth discussing both organizations' line and their members' actual practice.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 28, 2012

Alf

"Where did you get this perception?"

From the fact that, as I understand it, a lot of Solfed/IWW comrades take on shop steward roles....or is my perception wrong?

I don't think I'd say a lot, but a decent-ish number, I guess. What irks me, though, is that you're on libcom enough to know damn well it's something we do tactically. When we do take on the steward role it with full knowledge of the limits of trade unionism and we always push to overcome union boundaries in the workplace. Not to mention that there's been a ton of discussion of the OT program here libcom and it's always made clear that the committee model is independent of the any trade union. In fact, here's a massive thread you've participated in that addresses these exact issues.

What irks me further is that you haven't actually answered my question. Where have you come to the perception that "a key part of the organiser training involves learning how to ‘use’ the union machinery for the workers’ benefit"?

Just saying a lot of SFers are shop stewards is not an explanation, especially given the aforementioned references to the relationship between proposed SF workplace committees and the OT.

Android

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Android on June 28, 2012

Chilli Sauce

What irks me, though, is that you're on libcom enough to know damn well it's something we do tactically. When we do take on the steward role it with full knowledge of the limits of trade unionism and we always push to overcome union boundaries in the workplace. Not to mention that there's been a ton of discussion of the OT program here libcom and it's always made clear that the committee model is independent of the any trade union

A point SolFed users on here have emphasised in previous discussions is that people shouldn't take libcom.org SolFeders as representative of the group as a whole. SolFed's strategy is something that has been agreed by the whole group and it has been mentioned that there will be a pamphlet appearing soon to flesh out the theoretical and practical dimensions of it. While it maybe obvious to you and other SolFeders on here that taking union positions is something you've have a critical standpoint toward and view it as a tactical thing, my perception is that throughout the group that is not the case. I could be wrong, but that is my perception. And I do think this has consequences, practically over the long run, the contradiction between a strategy that is aimed at independent workplace committees and members who take on union positions for an extended period of time, has to be squared.

And to be honest, the thing about the limits of trade unionism is what the more sophisticated of the lefties would say when pushed on such issues.

Nate

Also: I don't mean this at all disrespectfully (and I apologize if I'm getting any of this wrong) but I believe that two posters on libcom are both AF members and do official roles in their unions, despite the AF's line on unions. No criticism intended of those people or of the AF, I just say this because I think it it's worth discussing both organizations' line and their members' actual practice.

I know Steven has posted in the past about his experience as a union convenor (?) and has said something to the effect that his experience has confirmed the critique of taking on such roles for a political end, but that he enjoys the representative aspect of defending work colleagues. Correct me if that is misrepresentating him. I think the difference between SolFed and AF is that the former has a nationally agreed strategy it is pursuing, whilst the latter has a strategy on paper, 'On the Frontline', but it doesn't have a co-ordinated practice as its members deal with such things on an ad-hoc basis. Which by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing, although it can be.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 29, 2012

I agree with Android's post regarding taking union positions. The point I made was that the use of this tactic gives the impression that at least a part of the training involves ways of applying this tactic - and I can only see this as a tactic of using the union machinery. There's obviously a political difference here but that's not a problem. I don't think it would be a barrier to working together. In my own very limited experience with workplace groups, back in the 80s I started a group at my college with a resources worker who was the NALGO steward.

Joseph Kay

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on June 29, 2012

How on earth do you jump from 'some members of SF are shop stewards' to 'SF is actively training people to use the trade union machinery contrary to its stated strategy and repeated statements to the contrary from people directly involved'?

A member of the ICC plays piano, therefore the ICC is training people to capture the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The Internet demands an explanation for this imagined bourgeois deviation! :P

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 29, 2012

If you "get the impression" we are lying about our strategy and politics on the basis of a tiny fraction of the organisation taking steward positions for tactics reasons, then it says more about you than SF tbh.

Taking steward positions isn't part of our strategy. Our strategy is pretty clear, unambiguous and publicly available.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 29, 2012

Calm down, when did I say you were lying? To me the tactic of standing for election as a shop steward is a tactic of using the union machinery at the bottom level. I haven't pretended to know how much this tactic forms part of the organiser training. I have simply given you reasons why I (and maybe others)feel uneasy about the training, and said you can correct me if my impressions are wrong.

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 29, 2012

I have no interest in correcting your impressions that you have made up in your head tbh.

Anyone who thinks a tiny number of SF members feel they get a benefit from steward positions sullies the training program isn't the kind person we're interested in. We've made it clear repeatedly that it's not part of our strategy. That you insist on asserting that some members taking this position *must* mean our training programme is based on seizing the unions demonstrates nothing but the wretched idealism of the ICC.

Of course, your only interest here in to denounce SF are impure. I think it'd be a bad sign if you were convinced of the validity of the programme tbh. I honestly don't believe you have any interest in organising on a class basis. Left communism reduced to a sterile hobby.

Android

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Android on June 29, 2012

Fall Back

If you "get the impression" we are lying about our strategy and politics on the basis of a tiny fraction of the organisation taking steward positions for tactics reasons, then it says more about you than SF tbh.

Taking steward positions isn't part of our strategy. Our strategy is pretty clear, unambiguous and publicly available.

No one said that you or anyone else was lying. I don't see what such a baseless accusation contributes to the discussion.

I mentioned in my previous post that I await the forthcoming pamphlet before forming any sort of view on SolFed's strategy. I was simply raising in this thread how organising autonomously from trade unionism relates to some members taking on union positions. I am still interested how this relates to the overall strategy and approach.

Of course, your only interest here in to denounce SF are impure. I think it'd be a bad sign if you were convinced of the validity of the programme tbh. I honestly don't believe you have any interest in organising on a class basis. Left communism reduced to a sterile hobby.

I have no interest in denouncing SolFed. Actually, quite the opposite I have encouraged a close friend who is a member of the Commune to get involved with SolFed since he is starting work. In general, from what I understand of SolFed's strategy it seems like a positive development, organising on a class basis etc. Even f I have reservations about how this will filter through into practice. But I see no reason why this should be an antagonistic debate, that is no my intention and I have been measured in my posts so as to avoid it happening.

Finally, the idea that left communists on here are not interesting in organising on a class basis just isn't true. Most of them have interesting experiences, in my opinion, from past struggles and struggle groups. I will leave it at that for now as I am bit rushed because I am in the middle of moving out of my flat.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 29, 2012

Android

While it maybe obvious to you and other SolFeders on here that taking union positions is something you've have a critical standpoint toward and view it as a tactical thing, my perception is that throughout the group that is not the case. I could be wrong, but that is my perception.

As a SolFed member thats been in three different locals within the last 6 months, pretty much everyone i've talked to in SolFed understands the limitations of taking union positions and in the internal culture of the organisation it is not something thats encouraged (although people can take it on if they feel its tactically useful in their workplaces)

The disintegration of our forerunner the DAM pretty much laid the basis for the culture inside SF of not having a strategy of taking shop steward roles, and its kind of the strategic base upon which the organisation was founded in 1994 - I really wouldn't call it specific to the SolFedders that use libcom.
http://libcom.org/library/winning-class-war-anarcho-syndicalist-strategy

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 29, 2012

Just quickly, the hostile response was entirely directed at Alf. I think you're wrong, obviously, but you're wrong in good faith. As do several other left communist posters.

Alf, like the rest of the ICC is (ironically) entirely parasitic and have nothing of value to offer, just dead, sterile "communism" learned by rote. He has no interest in changing the world whatsoever, nor even in understanding or critiquing it. Just an unending quest to fit the world into preconceived boxes. Idealism in it's purest form.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 29, 2012

Alf

To me the tactic of standing for election as a shop steward is a tactic of using the union machinery at the bottom level. I haven't pretended to know how much this tactic forms part of the organiser training. I have simply given you reasons why I (and maybe others)feel uneasy about the training, and said you can correct me if my impressions are wrong.

... the person who has given the majority of SF's trainings implements a workplace committee in a workplace with a recognised trade union, whilst specifically remaining outside the steward role, and this is mentioned when they give the training.

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 29, 2012

Sorry to digress, what does this mean?

The disintegration of our forerunner the DAM pretty much laid the basis for the culture inside SF of not having a strategy of taking shop steward roles, and its kind of the strategic base upon which the organisation was founded in 1994 - I really wouldn't call it specific to the SolFedders that use libcom.
http://libcom.org/library/winning-class-war-anarcho-syndicalist-strategy

Edit: Harrison, do mean that DAM just disintegrated as in falling apart/running out of steam? Or that its politics disintegrated and Solfed arsoe out of a reorganization?

BTW, when "Winning the Class War" came out, it was a pretty widely circulated and discussed document in the english spaeking and amongst english speaking anarcho-syndicalists. Still a decent enough pamphlet today.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 29, 2012

Just quickly, the hostile response was entirely directed at Alf. I think you're wrong, obviously, but you're wrong in good faith. As do several other left communist posters.

Alf, like the rest of the ICC is (ironically) entirely parasitic and have nothing of value to offer, just dead, sterile "communism" learned by rote. He has no interest in changing the world whatsoever, nor even in understanding or critiquing it. Just an unending quest to fit the world into preconceived boxes. Idealism in it's purest form.

Fall Back: I think your critique was of left communism in general and not just the ICC, but I think it's a good thing that you have clarified your view of the ICC's activity on these boards. I should ask whether this is the general view of the libcom collective.

On the other hand, I am a teacher employed at a sixth form college and over the years have made some attempt to develop a class practice among my fellow workers. I have written a great deal about this on these boards, especially the more recent experience with the 'open discussion forum', although the majority of what I have posted about this has met with no response. Some of these activities have also involved working with Solfed comrades, or certainly discussing with them about practical work, such as Choccy in the period of the education workers group, and more recently with Can't do. I am not interested in denouncing Solfed, but in serious debate and if possible common work

So here's the question: would you accept me onto one of your training sessions? Perhaps it is the only way of arriving at a mutual understanding of the issues raised on this thread.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 29, 2012

syndicalist:

I can't claim to know everything about the pamphlet (i wasn't born at the time it was released!), but i'll try to explain what i know:

from what i remember reading written by other ex-DAM members, i think it was a political failure within the group (an attempt to unfold into a syndicalist union that went badly wrong) that led to loads of people leaving - the remaining people who wanted to learn from it and change strategy dissolved DAM and formed SolFed (and moved away from the strategy of rank and file opposition within the TUC unions*)

* different from trotskyist rank and filism, DAMs wasn't aiming to seize the leadership of the union, rather get breakaway branches etc to form into an anarcho-syndicalist union. SolFeds approach was that an a-s union has to be built from the ground up

I may need correcting...

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 29, 2012

Fall Back: I think your critique was of left communism in general and not just the ICC

It was aimed at you, your organisation and your particular style of argumentation. Not against left communism in general, since there are several left communists (both on here and elsewhere) who are able to discuss without this method.

but I think it's a good thing that you have clarified your view of the ICC's activity on these boards. I should ask whether this is the general view of the libcom collective.

Personal capacity. You can tell this because I wasn't posting with with libcom account, nor was I posting in capacity as an admin, but rather as a member of SF.

So here's the question: would you accept me onto one of your training sessions? Perhaps it is the only way of arriving at a mutual understanding of the issues raised on this thread.

That would be down to the trainer/hosting local. Personally, I can't see either us or you getting anything out of it.

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 29, 2012

Also, the NA IWW organizer training says nothing about becoming stewards or reps in mainstream unions, although there are plenty of dual carders that are stewards.

Anything higher than steward starts getting into constitutional stuff

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 29, 2012

A point SolFed users on here have emphasised in previous discussions is that people shouldn't take libcom.org SolFeders as representative of the group as a whole. SolFed's strategy is something that has been agreed by the whole group and it has been mentioned that there will be a pamphlet appearing soon to flesh out the theoretical and practical dimensions of it. While it maybe obvious to you and other SolFeders on here that taking union positions is something you've have a critical standpoint toward and view it as a tactical thing, my perception is that throughout the group that is not the case. I could be wrong, but that is my perception. And I do think this has consequences, practically over the long run, the contradiction between a strategy that is aimed at independent workplace committees and members who take on union positions for an extended period of time, has to be squared.

And to be honest, the thing about the limits of trade unionism is what the more sophisticated of the lefties would say when pushed on such issues.

This is nonsense. We're not talking about SFers getting into flame wars and this being taken as representative of the organisation. Rather, we're talking about SF strategy as laid out in our strategy documents and the organiser training program.

So when Alf said (paraphrasing) that the SF training program is about teaching members to use the "union machinery" and we say--based on our strategy documents and the program itself--that that's not true, you can't come back and say "Well, my perception says this, man..." What a load of crock.

Now, where you're correct is that there is a contradiction in being a union rep and revolutionary and SF is very aware of this. However, unlike the left communists, we're interested in strategy as informed by practice. This entails a structural critique of the trade unions (far deeper than what leftists--who are inherently tied to trade unionism--will say "when pushed". :roll: Admin: no flaming). This may lead some members, in some situations, to take on shop steward roles. But that's never the end game in itself and the overriding goal is always to supersede the trade union structure.

Alf, this may come across harsh, but has there been any practical outcome of your campus discussion groups? Because the impression I get about the ICC politics is that it involves trying to get people to express the right line--mainly the counter-revolutionary nature of the trade unions. SF takes a different approach based on engaging people in struggle over material issues and then using that to open up the space to have deeper political conversations.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 29, 2012

OK, perhaps the impression you get of what I do at work is no more accurate than my view of what you do in your training sessions?

I would have thought from all the posts I have done about what i do at work that you would be hard pressed to argue that it "involves trying to get people to express the right line--mainly the counter-revolutionary nature of the trade unions".

Devrim

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Devrim on June 29, 2012

Harrison

from what i remember reading written by other ex-DAM members, i think it was a political failure within the group (an attempt to unfold into a syndicalist union that went badly wrong) that led to loads of people leaving - the remaining people who wanted to learn from it and change strategy dissolved DAM and formed SolFed (and moved away from the strategy of rank and file opposition within the TUC unions*)

I may need correcting...

I left when they took the decision to 'turn themselves into a union', so I am not sure about exactly what went on internally, but it seems a fairly reasonable summery as I remember it all.

Devrim

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 29, 2012

[quote=Harrison:
from what i remember reading written by other ex-DAM members, i think it was a political failure within the group (an attempt to unfold into a syndicalist union that went badly wrong) that led to loads of people leaving - the remaining people who wanted to learn from it and change strategy dissolved DAM and formed SolFed (and moved away from the strategy of rank and file opposition within the TUC unions*)

It'd be interesting to hear from someone active at the time inside DAM. I thought that some of the struggles were over how to find the proper balance between doin purely A/S stuff and social anarchist stuff.

The pamphlet help to spark some debates globally
and, in some measure, laid some of the seeds at getting A/S to think about organizing a certain way.
the whole question of "industrial networks" and the formation of same was, in part, a product of the process of reorienting 1990s A/S..... From a personal experiance, I can say that the pamphlet was discussed and some of it we tried act upon in the WSA (short lived industrial networks).

Personally, I always liked the DAM comrades. or neally all the ones I met in those years.

What I think needs to be contextualized is that most IWA comrades in the industrialized west (inc. all european counteis sans spain-cnt, france-cnt & italy-usi)worked inside the reformist unions. Up until prolly the late 1990s this was mainly how it was.
A/S "rank & filism" was not a new or strange phenom.
And on your side of the pond, the old SWF (pre-DAM)
carried the lion share of the National Rank & File Movement.

The decade of 2000s is when there have been noticeable shifts away from this. In part because deinstrialization has brought private sector unionism to new lows, most younger folks don't work the old jobs and many barely work at all. Very much a sea change in things. But the basic principles of working class self-organization, of A/S trying to infuse militant, radical and revolutionary principles and perspectives change little. Perhaps the format and forms, but not the concept of the ideal. Ah, another conversation.

Alf

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on June 30, 2012

Alf, this may come across harsh, but has there been any practical outcome of your campus discussion groups?

Not sure what you would count as a practical outcome. My experience with this kind of thing is that it is quite loose and informal, and goes through ups and downs, so what practical use it can be depends on the circumstances to some extent. At the moment the forum is kind of dormant - partly because it's been exam time and some of the more politically aware students are focusing on their A levels, partly because Miles and myself have not really succeeded in getting others to take on the 'organising' work. Also, I am more or less retired now and only work very part time.

The forum has served as a medium of discussion among staff and students, both about more general questions and about more immediate ones connected to the 2010 students' struggle and the recent public sector strikes. Four moments stand out in my memory: a discussion about conspiracy theories, which are very prevalent among the students, especially the African Christians and the Asian Muslims; a big meeting about Israel/Palestine, which was successful and well attended precisely because one or two students took on most of the organising tasks; a meeting with the group that called itself the 'left wing student assembly' about the public sector strike, which was both general ('is a one day strike the way to push back the government?', etc, and practical: where shall we meet tomorrow to go on the demo, etc.

The forum has also served as a medium for discussion - and, I would say, organising -among staff about to go on strike action. This is mainly because there is no common forum for workers from different unions to come together. The clearest example of this was on the eve of the strike last June (I think - there have been so many) when about 40 members of staff, from different unions or none, used the forum to hold a meeting where it was decided that no one there would cross the picket line even though officially only the NUT (and maybe the UCU, although it only has a member or two there)was on strike. I think that's practical.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on June 29, 2012

Devrim

I left when they took the decision to 'turn themselves into a union', so I am not sure about exactly what went on internally, but it seems a fairly reasonable summery as I remember it all.

thanks, i think it might have been from one of your old libcom posts that i got that information !

syndicalist

And on your side of the pond, the old SWF (pre-DAM)
carried the lion share of the National Rank & File Movement.

We're actually currently waiting for the SF archives commission to sort out digitising the SWF archives (which will make an interesting read)

syndicalist

The decade of 2000s is when there have been noticeable shifts away from this. In part because deinstrialization has brought private sector unionism to new lows, most younger folks don't work the old jobs and many barely work at all. Very much a sea change in things. But the basic principles of working class self-organization, of A/S trying to infuse militant, radical and revolutionary principles and perspectives change little. Perhaps the format and forms, but not the concept of the ideal. Ah, another conversation.

agreed - what i think is so interesting though is how the 2008 crash and its aftershock has swept away the creeping attempts within the libertarian left to pronounce the 'death of class' found in some of the post-autonomists etc. and as soon as crisis emerges, class struggle re-emerges and suddenly communist organisations across the world receive a new lease of life as mass class struggle becomes a valid concept again

Devrim

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Devrim on June 29, 2012

Chilli Sauce

The "most rebellious" workers aren't really our target audience. And even if the term training does initially put them off (I've never seen this happen and can't imagine it being so), it should only take about a 30 second conversation to change that.

I can imagine that the term 'training' would put some people off.

Personally I would be interested to try it, but I can imagine others of my age and social background who would be put off by terms like 'traning', 'workshop', 'role plays' etc.

To me (and try to remember that it has been a few decades since I lived in the UK) it sounds like US style management speak. I can remember things like them trying to bring 'teams' and 'team leaders into my Post Office.

Things my have changed since then, and it might be quite common to refer to things like this now, but reading the blurb on your site, I do find it quite in that style and offputting.

Devrim

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 29, 2012

I've been meaning to say, some of my co-workers finds words like "communism" and "decadence of capitalism" offputting. To a lot of people it just sounds like old-fashioned authoritarian socialism. Oh and the 'libertarian' part of libertarian communism makes people think of Ron Paul. Maybe those words could be scrapped too.

Devrim

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Devrim on June 29, 2012

Nate

Oh and the 'libertarian' part of libertarian communism makes people think of Ron Paul.

I don't even know who you are talking about

I've been meaning to say, some of my co-workers finds words like "communism"...offputting.

.

Yes, I am sure they do. There is a difference though in that the words I quoted above have all been used in the reasonably recent past as part of an ideological attack upon the working class.

Whether people still react to them lie that within the working class in the UK as I said I have no idea. I have probably spent less than a month there in the past two decades. They might be quite commonly used there now. I can imagine it putting people off though.

Devrim

jojo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jojo on June 30, 2012

Nate

I've been meaning to say, some of my co-workers finds words like "communism" and "decadence of capitalism" offputting. To a lot of people it just sounds like old-fashioned authoritarian socialism. Oh and the 'libertarian' part of libertarian communism makes people think of Ron Paul. Maybe those words could be scrapped too.

If you do away with the 'libertarian' bit of libertarian communism, you end up with 'communism' which as Nate says some workers find off-putting. But some workers find words like unemployment, cut-backs, austerity, wage-freeze, redundancy and so on, offputting too. I should think nowadays that even the authoritarian word "capitalism" is starting to sound a bit off putting to many. Of course the thing about good old fashioned communism is that it's the only solution available to decomposing capitalism, and the sooner our co-workers - be they employed, on benefits, pensioners or students - realize this (its decay is after all now visible for all to see) the sooner we can take steps to get rid of it. It isn't a question of scrapping words, it's a question of thinking about what they mean, and relating them to the increasingly unbearable conditions of existence we all find ourselves in. Wouldn't Ron Paul agree?

Oh, and the one word you can scrap is the 'authoritarian' you wrongly attached to socialism.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 30, 2012

@nate do you really think left communists talk about communism at work? or do they relate to people on a class basis?

i think the words we use are all based on context. if someplace you can use the dictatorship of the proletariat and the revolutionary party to mean a council system of democracy and revolutionary minorities i guess sure go ahead. i am partial though to...ANARKY!!!!!

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 30, 2012

Sabotage my point was that "a few of us find some words like training offputting" is a little weird given that our milieu is awash with terms that (at least where I live) are way, way more offputting and confusing, like communism etc. And as I thought was made clear in the thread the actual practice, the term 'training' refers to isn't anything anyone here really seems to have a problem with (systematic attempt to transmit collective experience and bring people up to speed so they can avoid some of the more predictable mistakes and participate more fully as equals in the organization). Unlike ideas like communism and revolution and so on, ideas which at least some working class people object to not because of terminology but because of real political differences that have to be hashed out.

klas batalo

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on June 30, 2012

I feel that.

Android

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Android on June 30, 2012

Chilli Sauce

This is nonsense. We're not talking about SFers getting into flame wars and this being taken as representative of the organisation. Rather, we're talking about SF strategy as laid out in our strategy documents and the organiser training program.

So when Alf said (paraphrasing) that the SF training program is about teaching members to use the "union machinery" and we say--based on our strategy documents and the program itself--that that's not true, you can't come back and say "Well, my perception says this, man..." What a load of crock.

Maybe I have been unclear but this is not my point at all. I accept that SolFed as a group has an agreed strategy (would be weird if I didn't!) which is in an early stages of implementation etc. My point is essentially this:

Juan Conatz

Also, the NA IWW organizer training says nothing about becoming stewards or reps in mainstream unions, although there are plenty of dual carders that are stewards.

This has been my point that the strategy does not seem to address this and leaves it to individuals. In my opinion, groups should view their members activity at a workplace level (as in other areas) in a collective manner (most political groups do this on paper (literally!) and SolFed being the most comprehensive class-based approach, in practice I can think of in English speaking world), not micro-managing members activity, but having a common orientation and framework for discussing and developing a response to issues that arise in day-to-day activity.

Not to address this in the strategy seems odd since it is a long standing issue for activity at a workplace level, Since there is various dynamics, processes and pressures that comrades experience to take on union positions. Even though it seems to me that is not on the level that it was in the 1970s due to changes in capitalism (causualisation etc), it is still a substantial pressure, from both above and below, for someone active in a workplace. Just for the record in case it arises in the course of this discussion - I have very little experience of workplace activity due to being in my early 20s and having a disability which greatly limits my employment chances, so I'm definitely at the bottom of the class struggle league table!

Finally, I don't really an issue per se with the word 'training' which might be different for people with more experience of 'training' at work or of a union variety. And since I have not been on SolFed's organiser training, my understanding of it is limited, based on what I have gleaned from reading discussions on various threads and on their website.

Nate

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on June 30, 2012

Android

Juan Conatz

Also, the NA IWW organizer training says nothing about becoming stewards or reps in mainstream unions, although there are plenty of dual carders that are stewards.

This has been my point that the strategy does not seem to address this and leaves it to individuals. In my opinion, groups should view their members activity at a workplace level (as in other areas) in a collective manner (...) Not to address this in the strategy seems odd since it is a long standing issue for activity at a workplace level, Since there is various dynamics, processes and pressures that comrades experience to take on union positions.

None of that seems to really apply to SolFed. For the IWW in the US, I agree with you that the organization should be clearer on this but I also think it really doesn't matter very much in any real way. (It's worth pointing out that the IWW's constitution says "Branches may allow IWW members to become officers of trade or craft unions as long as these exceptions are reported to the General Administration and no IWW member receives significant pay (more than dues rebate and expenses) as a result of being an officer or official in a union that does not call for abolition of the wage system." So there is a constitutional limit on involvement in other unions.)

This issue about stewarding hasn't been an issue with any real practical significance for the IWW in the US, though. Here's why. The actually existing IWW operating in the actually existing contemporary economy, has by far its most active membership of people who are under 40 and work in the private sector. And really it's probly people in their 20s who make up most of the active membership, and a lot of them are working part-time jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011 in the US

Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (37.0 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.9 percent). (...) the union membership rate was highest among workers 55 to 64 years old (15.7 percent). The lowest union membership rate occurred among those ages 16 to 24 (4.4 percent). (...) Full-time workers were about twice as likely as part-time workers to be union members, 13.1 percent compared with 6.4 percent.

So the numbers of the US working class who are actually in unions are small. And the numbers are a tiny handful among the demographics the IWW is actually active among in the US. So it's pretty much irrelevant for the time being. The IWW tends to mostly not bother to make policy unless something has been an issue for the organization. Because of the reality of unionization rates in the US it hasn't really been a serious issue here. And so, no real policy.

I will also say that the hegemonic/common sense view among members is one of being skeptical of the business unions. That could be deeper and there could be better analysis for it. But all of the above is why it's not in the training program and why it's irrelevant to most of what the IWW's doing. Oh yeah, also, the heart of the training program is about building a workplace grouping that takes action together outside of institutional mechanisms - it's an organization building thing centered on direct action. That doesn't get into union officialdom etc but it's very clear to participants that things like union elections, filing grievances, etc, don't fit into the vision of workplace action and organization we're talking about in our training. I realize that that's not clear in our literature that's available in the internet. That failure to reflect the actual practice of the organization is a flaw of that literature but it's not a serious organizational flaw in my opinion because the IWW doesn't expect online literature to do much work, the organization mostly operates via direct interpersonal contact - especially when it comes to things like getting people to attend trainings.

There's been some talk that the IWW dual carders should figure out what they think is the best approach to issues of stewarding etc. There's not aggreement on that among the small numbers of IWW dual carders. That's not a pressing issue for the organization as a whole and since I'm not a dual carder I don't have very strong feelings about it. All of that said, I think what the IWW/CUPW dual carders are doing is very exciting and has a lot to say about how IWW members should relate to stuff like being a steward etc. (I can find a link if you want more detail, there's been several articles about this on Recomposition.)

Iskra

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Iskra on June 30, 2012

I have to say that I've always liked SolFed, especially their Brighton group and stuff they produced (like that pamphlet Anarcho-Syndicalism in 21st Century) and especially when I used to be a member of Network of Anarcho-Syndicalists (MASA) from Croatia... I've even met few Brighton comrades in Spain on IWA's conference. Saying all that I have to say that so far some of you have acted really stupid in this thread, because you are attacking Alf only on personal level, which is not really nice, especially because a lot of people do that in every thread he appears. Also, I'm really disappointed that nobody really tried to answer his points. I'm for from "love & unity" hippie bollocks, but when you have political discussion you should be able to answer with arguments instead of personal attacks.

I'm personally really interested in hearing argumentation for having members who are shop stewards, because when I was a member of MASA we were pretty much against taking part in "Yellow unions". For me personally it's quite weird to attack "yellow", official unions, and in the same time have some members in there, because when you write a critique of them most of the time people are criticising bureaucracy for suppressing workers independent actions and then you have members who have same positions of power within union.

That reminded me of a case when Italian platformists manage to get their member being head of one union due to their entryist politics... And I don't wanna be misunderstood, I don't have anything against working with union rank-and-file, quite contrary, but taking part in bureaucratic machine is something quite different.

Also, I've read that it isn't SolFed's strategy to have shop stewards in unions, which is good, but you still have them... why? Maybe some shop stewards could answer that question?

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 30, 2012

Kontrrazvedka

Also, I've read that it isn't SolFed's strategy to have shop stewards in unions, which is good, but you still have them... why? Maybe some shop stewards could answer that question?

The strategy also doesn't say "don't be a shop steward". If it did, then there'd be a contradiction. Just because a tiny handful of SF members do something doesn't mean it's part of our strategy, or in contradiction if it's not in there. The strategy isn't an exhaustive guide for what all members would do in all circumstances.

Honestly, the whole "how can you be a steward if you are opposed to trade unions" just rings so false. It's a bit like when Louise Mensch (Conservative MP media star) attacked Occupy LSX for drinking Starbucks - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3252FSW7OC4

Just as buying coffee from a multinational chain doesn't negate a critique of capital, taking on shop floor positions doesn't negate criticism of trade unionism.

It's not to say there's no possible problems with being a steward that *could* arise - eg, depending on how you do it you could make co-workers rely on the union rather than themselves, you could get drawn into tedious procedural work etc., but it's not necessarily the case. Anyone who thinks being a steward means you can't argue against the union or refuse to implent any bullshit you might get passed down from above (what are they going to do, threaten to murder your family?) is at best deluded.

Iskra

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Iskra on June 30, 2012

I've never said that SolFed has a strategy: "don't have a shop stewards", but I was saying that you don't have official strategy on that topic and that it depends on individual cases.

So, I'd still like to hear what are good things that come out of that... maybe backed up with some experience which is not problem to post on public forum...

I think it's kind of silly to compare union bureaucrat with Starstruck coffee. I doubt that consumerism and position in a managing/disciplining working class are the same things. This is vulgarisation of role of unions in capitalism.

Also, this line:Anyone who thinks being a steward means you can't argue against the union or refuse to implent any bullshit you might get passed down from above (what are they going to do, threaten to murder your family?) is at best deluded. have reminded me of my recent polemic with one social-democrat who argued for creation of Croatian SYRIZA, so that he can go to parliament to promote anti-parliamnetarism and direct democracy. Of course that shop stewards do not have to pass down all decisions which come from the top (and I personally know a lot of "radical" shop stewards and union representatives), but what does shop steward do during "happy times"? Also, does anarcho-syndicalist critique of "yellow unions" or "revisionists" (like CGT, SAC etc.) include that shop steward or he is exempt? Is critique based on individual steward and his good will and political ideology or on operative position withing capitalist system?

I mean, with all due respect, isn't it quite better to organise workers outside of institutions of capitalist control?

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on June 30, 2012

edit - you know what, fuck this, post deleted.

When someone thinks organising on a class basis means discussion meetings on conspiracy theories and Palestine, just engaging with them means they win.

Iskra

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Iskra on July 1, 2012

Fall Back

None of the benefits I got from being a steward are going to do communism alone, or build class power, but they all make doing it easier, with no negative consequences. If I wanted, there's stuff I could get that would make things easier, but I think would become problematic (facility time, more resources and finances eg.) that I avoid. If the advantages I could accrue were reduced, or the role started to become problematic, I'd just fuck it off - as I said, it's a tactical decision, and if it ceases to be tactical to hold the position, an SF member would just walk away - or as would be the case in many workplaces, just not take it in the first place.

Thank you for sharing your experience with me (us), I appreciate it really a lot, even I don't have to agree with you in making conclusions.

Also, I'd like use this space to share some of my own experiences and thoughts. Now, you know that I'm quite younger than you, so I'm still student and I'm in a no position of being union member... During my time in MASA, which is once again an anarcho-syndicalist organisation from Croatia (just to remind other people), a lot of comrades and me have established certain connections with working class. Now, I wasn't always happy with certain ways of doing that, which is one of reasons why I'm not part of that group anymore. But, talking about "good ones" I can say that our approach was always to go outside of institutions of capitalism. Results were good, especially if you take that we were (and still are, no matter where we are now) inexperienced, young and small and weak as an organisation. We made connections with workers, get them interested in our literature etc. For example, I've left MASA but I still maintained certain connections. Last month I made an interview with workers from one "self-managed" factory about their struggle... we also had discussion about unions, communism and stuff. It was interesting. Workers here despise unions. Unions have a history of fucking up workers and workers know that, but still when they are in deep shit they turn to unions, even they know that unions are shit. So, this is little bit a rant (cause it's late here and I'm trying to say as much as I can), but my point is that it would be really backwards from me being a shop steward. Why? Because, instead of calling workers for independent class struggle and organising out side of union... A lot of stuff you mentioned as positive is of technical nature. I know it's hard to provide certain stuff if you don't have structure and funds that unions have, but nobody said that trying to work in non-revolutionary situation is easy...

Of course they aren't the same, but the point is, that saying one can't be opposed to something just because they use it is a worthless argument. It's no better when applied to unions than when it's applied to jobs/consumer goods/bank accounts/state benefits etc.

There's is big difference in living in capitalist system (where you need to buy food, work, pay bills etc.) and reproducing it's ideology and myths. As I said, I have nothing against working with union rank-and-file, but I find a bit problematic in being in a position of power within a union. I don't find your compartment valid at all. Tbh, it's like when Croatian social-democrat tried to diss anarchism with "you can't be an anarchist because you eat in McDonald's" stuff. Let's move from it...

The analogy might work if I was trying to change the union from the inside, which I'm not. Or maybe if getting elected to parliament was something you could just walk into, which it isn't. It's a minor part of my day to day activity, that I can fuck off at any point - utterly unlike leftist parliamentarianism

My point was never that being a shop steward is only thing you do or that you are trying to change union. My point was that shop steward is a function just like MP is, but of course, not of same power.

Saying this, it brings up one question: could you do the same stuff you do if you were just an ordinary union member?

I have no idea what "happy times" are tbh. When does the class struggle go on pause? If you mean when we're not on strike or directly in dispute,

Yeah, I mean that it's a time when you are not directly involved in anything (as an union, not you as an individual or a member of SolFed). After all it's not like unions take big part in class struggle or that they are fighting it every day...

pretty much the same I'd do if I wasn't a steward/did before I was one - argue for collective responses the workplace grievances and working across union boundaries, and pointing out the problems with unions to co-workers.

So, you could do that and not to be shop steward?

My criticism of trade unions is based on a materialist analysis their structural role in capitalist society. It's not based on painting them into an idealist box marked "baddies".

I'm not marking anybody as "bad" or "good". My criticism of union is based on a fact that every time workers are trying to do anything union leaders, shop stewards and whole crew are trying to control the struggle and keep it calm. It goes for even radical struggles, such are happening right now in Croatia. Relaying on materialist analysis it's quite obvious what are these people trying to do.

Your position on the other hand is relaying on single shop steward. Now, if it wasn't you on that position (or any other SolFed member) and if it was some cunt from some bourgeois party you know what would outcome be... So, can we relay only on individual? In a case that workers have person like you - they are lucky, but you are an individual and it's a question how long can you go against current. For example, workers I've mention were all kicked out of union when they did that. Did they wanted to participate in union anymore? No. They realised problems of union. Were they idealists? Not at all.

I'm no more going to dismiss "shop stewards" as a homogenous mass as I am union members as a whole.

I'm also not pointing my finger on individuals, but on structures of capitalist society. They are not some empty shells which you can fill with flowers... they are meant to exist for certain reason. Full control.

Such a view does no one any good.

With all due respect, I hear that every day for every position I take against certain capitalist institution... but not from the crew anyone would like to be associated...

As I alluded to earlier, it has little more role in upholding capital than me having a job does.

Can you brake strike if you are working as for example carrier in liquor factory warehouse? I don't think so, but shop stewards and union representatives brake strikes all the time. I'm not saying that you'll personally do that, especially because I find you as a comrade, but someone could... it's quite easy to happen... I mean wasn't there some kind of an attack on English anarchist because he was a scab, cause that's was only thing he could do to keep a job he really needed? Also, there's big harm of spreading myths that institutions of capitalist control could work in workers way if there are right people on them.

If it somehow made arguing against the union more difficult, or 'strengthened the union's hold' over workers, there might be a point, but it doesn't - if anything, I've found having a steward position has made arguing against unions far easier, since it's not just dismissed by my co-workers as pissing from the outside.

This is an argument in a line of "you gotta do that to be serious"... I mean, can't you earn respect from workers with your "regular SolFed" activity? You can.

Yes, that's why I'm a communist. But, I'm also not an idealist, and don't base my political strategy on what I'd like things to be.

Neither do I. I just don't believe that participating in bourgeois institutions will lead me where I wanna be. Agitating for independent workers organising will, even it's hard... but you know what 50 Cent said... develop class consciousness, or die trying ;)

At present, I reckon I get a (minor) benefit from being a steward, so I'll be one. So long as it doesn't hamper my principles or get in the way of my organising, there's no reason not to. If things change, and it does, I'll stop. Pretty much, the same assessment I make with everything in my political life.

Ok.

What it comes down to tho, is for you, Alf, Android, others is to make the case what harm is caused by taking steward roles. And not just the idealist trash you've spouted so far, or examples of problems that *could* arise - actual, solid material reasons where taking a steward role *must always* causes harm.

I believe I answered on this stuff. If you need more examples I can write you about struggles in Croatia and experience... just let me know ;)

Iskra

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Iskra on July 1, 2012

Fall Back

edit - you know what, fuck this, post deleted.

I've still answered you. I hope you don't mind.

When someone thinks organising on a class basis means discussion meetings on conspiracy theories and Palestine, just engaging with them means they win.

I don't know what do you think with this? You're just dissing ICC? I'm not a member of ICC. Neither is Android.

So, if you wanna continue attacking ICC feel free if you like it (I personally dislike it and I believe that discussion would be better without that), but still you can answer to us.

Harrison

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on July 12, 2012

The internet mental strikes back:

http://insipidities.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/combination-of-loose-and-strict_23.html

Some highlights:
"the anti-theoretical fetish for 'solidarity'"
"As one of Solidarity federation's thrusting sales’ reps has it" (referring to me)
"The self-deceiving anarcho-syndicalist fanatic is therefore indistinguishable from any other ideologically motivated bully"

"The long term object of the syndicalists is an idealistic ‘union of organisers’ where everybody is organising each other. "
Oh no not Idealism! Please come and save me with lots of esoteric rambling and denunciations!

Here is such a spectacular case of completely missing the point, that i had to post a paragraph:

lettersjournal (in all likeliness)

The reduction of class struggle to easily consumed massified ideological commodities has always drawn communist critique of syndicalism. One of the IWW militants describes the experience of training in his own words:
syndicalist

Being in a room full of "peers" and having them go hard at you in a make believe address or raising a resolution at a meeting dominated by trade union hacks is a hellava lot better then going at it cold feet...."trust me" I got ripped to shreds the first few times I tried it in a reformist union meeting. Point being, you toughen up a bit, you have a bit of an expectation, you learn some of the parameters of certain "dos and don'ts".

The production of militants is integrated into the reproduction of variable capital, over which the militant, under certain circumstances, is factored in to becomes its capitalist. The militant is produced within the group by a rite of challenge or ‘ripping’ which desensitises or ‘toughens’ him. It is a self-initiated process which converts his humanity into an ideological role integrated into the general process of the reproduction of variable capital. Externally, his function is to return all critique of capitalist relations to questions of the management of production (rendered invisible as it is directed towards need).

Fall Back

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on July 12, 2012

insipidities

"TIME CUBE 4ce"

In 1884, meridian time personnel met

in Washington to change Earth time.

First words said was that only 1 day

could be used on Earth to not change

the 1 day bible. So they applied the 1

day and ignored the other 3 days.

The bible time was wrong then and it

proved wrong today. This a major lie

has so much evil feed from it's wrong.

No man on Earth has no belly-button,

it proves every believer on Earth a liar.

Children will be blessed for

Killing Of Educated Adults

Who Ignore 4 Simultaneous

Days Same Earth Rotation.

Practicing Evil ONEness -

Upon Earth Of Quadrants.

Evil Adult Crime VS Youth.

Supports Lie Of Integration.

1 Educated Are Most Dumb.

Not 1 Human Except Dead 1.

Man Is Paired, 2 Half 4 Self.

1 of God Is Only 1/4 Of God.

Bible A Lie & Word Is Lies.

Navel Connects 4 Corner 4s.

God Is Born Of A Mother –

She Left Belly B. Signature.

Every Priest Has Ma Sign

But Lies To Honor Queers.

Belly B. Proves 4 Corners.

Your dirty lying teachers

use only the midnight to

midnight 1 day (ignoring

3 other days) Time to not

foul (already wrong) bible

time. Lie that corrupts earth

you educated stupid fools.

GoBelly-Button Logic Works.

When Do Teenagers Die?

Adults Eat Teenagers Alive,

No Record Of Their Death.

Father Son Image, Not Gods.

Every Man Born Of Woman.

Belly-Button Is the Signature

Of Your Personal Creator -

I Believe Her Name Mama.

Pastor Told His Flock That

God Created All Of Them -

Truth Was That They All had

Mama Made Belly Buttons,

Church Was Full Of Liars.

Earth Has 4 Days In Same 24 Hrs., 1 Day God Was Wrong.

Einstein Was ONEist Brain.

Try My Belly-Button Logic.

No God Knows About 4 Days, It Is Evil To Ignore 4 Days,

Does Your Teacher Know ?

Fraudulent ONEness of religious

academia has retarded your opposite

rationale brain to a half brain slave.

YOU IGNORE 3 OF 4 DAYS -

FORCE 4 DAYS ON EARTH,

THEY ALREADY EXIST.

4 HORSEMEN HAVE 4 DAYS

IN ONLY 1 EARTH ROTATION.

4 ANGLES STOOD ON 4 CORNERS.

4 CORNERS ROTATE TO 16 CORNERS

WHICH EQUAL TO 4 CORNER DAYS.

TEACHERS ARE EVIL LIARS - THE

ONEness OF GOD IS STILLness DEATH.
YOU WERE ONEness RETARD ON THE
EARTH OPPOSITES ALL YOUR LIFE.
LOVE OF GOD IS HATE OF CHILDREN.
SUPPORT TIMECUBE OR BE CURSED.

EARTH HAS 4 CORNER

SIMULTANEOUS 4-DAY

TIME CUBE

WITHIN SINGLE ROTATION.

4 CORNER DAYS PROVES 1

DAY 1 GOD IS TAUGHT EVIL.

IGNORANCE OF TIMECUBE4

SIMPLE MATH IS RETARDATION

AND EVIL EDUCATION DAMNATION.

CUBELESS AMERICANS DESERVE -

AND SHALL BE EXTERMINATED.

http://www.timecube.com/

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on July 12, 2012

TEACHERS ARE EVIL LIARS

Exactly.

Chilli Sauce

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on July 12, 2012

I know no one actually reads this shit, but what a mental bastard:

Organiser training is presented as a proffessionalisation of workplace opposition but actually functions as an initiation rite in the self-production of militants. It is designed to instil a sense of regimental allegiance in the cadre, to establish an on-message consistency and to develop the proffessional resonance of the brand (one black and red flag for every employee).

...This is only feasible where internal discipline and regulated communication is imposed around its sacred core: nobody questions the organisation, ever.

...It is imbued with the logic of the commodity form. It argues for the development of a red and black commodity that will appeal to consumerist conventions

:roll: :roll: :roll:

Juan Conatz

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on July 12, 2012

lol great stuff!

syndicalist

12 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on July 12, 2012

...It is imbued with the logic of the commodity form. It argues for the development of a red and black commodity that will appeal to consumerist conventions

reformist syndicalism with all it's red & black flags and no content would fall squarely here...seriously.

Authored on
June 18, 2012