McDonald's Workers' Resistance - reflections

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Charlie
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Feb 26 2004 18:41
McDonald's Workers' Resistance - reflections

McDonald’s Workers’ Resistance was set up by a group of teenage workers at one restaurant in Scotland in 1999. In 2000 those workers decided they needed to communicate with other McDonald’s workers in the UK and around the world. An international network developed and by 2002 it was possible to organise a co-ordinated, international day of industrial action, see http://www.geocities.com/globaldayofaction . However, 2003 proved a disappointing year as many of the groups and individuals who had been involved in the network left or were fired from their jobs, organisational mistakes were made and the network struggled with dubiously sincere rival organisations.

At the time of writing only one person from the original group is still working for the golden arches, so as the network seeks to rebuild itself, those who have 'retired' have engaged in a period of analysis and reflection on our experiences with MWR, what went wrong and what lessons we can learn from this particular response to the problems (and opportunities) of organising casualised workplaces where no tradition of unionism exists. A revamped website is now online at http://mwr.org.uk . Additions to the site include, an extensive section on McDonald’s workers (very limited) rights at work ( http://mwr.org.uk/rights.htm ), a brand new forum for relevant news and discussion ( http://mwr.hyperboards.com ), attempts at practical and theoretical analysis ( http://mwr.org.uk/analysis.htm ), a brief history of MWR ( http://mwr.org.uk/about.htm ), a speech delivered to the Canadian Labour Congress last October ( http://mwr.org.uk/wayne.htm ), interviews ( http://mwr.org.uk/interviews.htm ), quotes ( http://mwr.org.uk/quotes.htm ) and more.

Our ambitions with this new site are firstly to ensure that the work that we have done over the last six years will not be wasted and that McDonald’s workers will have the resources necessary to continue and develop the tradition of resistance that has been established, and secondly to make available as much information of our experiences as possible, in the hope it might be of use to someone else attempting to establish resistance at their workplace. We are impatient for the development of a libertarian, combative, direct-action based workers movement and hope MWR has some small contribution to make in that regard. The struggle continues.

A massive thank you to everybody who has shown us solidarity over the years,

GMWR

woundedhobo
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Feb 26 2004 22:53

Don't feel down Charlie, You guys took on one of the most powerful, hard to organise corporations in the world, and you did so without getting caught up in the heavy bureaucracy of a formal union. A couple years I downloaded some of your flyers and placed them in the mens bathroom and on the trays at the Winfield, KS USA outlet. Onwards star green black red n black star

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Steven.
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Feb 27 2004 01:17

It's great work you guys have done over the years - I hope you write a pamphlet about your experiences like the short-lived Couriers' Union did, which was similar to MWR it seems.

If you need help publishing one drop me a PM smile

Good luck with your next projects, whatever they may be!

Charlie
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Feb 27 2004 12:26

Alright Wee Fuck, bout ye? I Wondered who the poncy council communist was... It's Spidey boy here and aye you still owe me forty bar. Alcho has scored himself a bar job out in some resort, Greece or somewhere (how d'you ken it wasnae junkie? Fair point). Anyways, I'm looking spidier than ever 'cos I got my nose broke last night... I'll no tell you where I was drinking (it would ruin any remaining proletarian credibility I might have) but let's just say it was a wee bit swankier than the Duke of York. Here, let's no pretend to be working clahrse- we've still got a round of golf to fit in some time. Did you hear bout me getting dumped for a Breton liberationist, Heinrich Himmler look alike who thinks the Blaggers had good politics? I tell you man, it's just another Falls tale. I'm coming to see yous soon.

On a more serious note, thanks to Steven and Woundedhobo for nice replies. Thanks for the offer of help publishing a pamphlet, I like the idea 'cos we actually read that pamphlet about the Couriers union some years ago and it helped us I think so the more information about this kind of stuff available the better. Course we'd have to write it first...

And Woundedhobo, cheers for trying to cheer us up! But if there's an element of despondency it's not just 'cos MWR hasn't continued the way we hoped. It's like, I don't understand how there's not an explosion in libertairan class struggle- the working class has been on the end of decades of attacks and the official labour movement is irrelevant to most workers and of limited value to the rest, so to me the conditions should be perfect for organising amongst our great mass of downtrodden non-unionised workers. The experience of MWR, if nothing else, suggests that it's not very difficult to get people interested, so why do ideas of libertarian class struggle have such a marginal influence in our workplaces?

And now that I'm no longer involved in MWR I don't really know what to do politically, 'cos I'm not very interested in the G8 or the ESF.

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Steven.
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Feb 27 2004 13:14
Charlie wrote:
On a more serious note, thanks to Steven and Woundedhobo for nice replies. Thanks for the offer of help publishing a pamphlet, I like the idea 'cos we actually read that pamphlet about the Couriers union some years ago and it helped us I think so the more information about this kind of stuff available the better. Course we'd have to write it first...

Right well get busy then!

Quote:
And now that I'm no longer involved in MWR I don't really know what to do politically, 'cos I'm not very interested in the G8 or the ESF.

See above grin wink

Hmm yeah it's a tricky one. I know on a personal level I want to get involved in long-lasting stuff, that I can actually get something out of. For me this means helping with enrager, Freedom newspaper and starting up a local solidarity group-thing... If I worked in a sector where there were some other anarchists/libertarians I'd probably try to link up with them - maybe through one of solfed's industrial networks or summat...

But good luck figuring something out!

brizzul
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Mar 13 2004 03:57
Charlie wrote:
It's like, I don't understand how there's not an explosion in libertairan class struggle- the working class has been on the end of decades of attacks and the official labour movement is irrelevant to most workers and of limited value to the rest, so to me the conditions should be perfect for organising amongst our great mass of downtrodden non-unionised workers.

There's a lot of head scratching going on about this. There are probably only a few hundred libertarian worker activists left in the country so it has to take time. It's not all bad news though, there is one anarchosyndicalist workplace organisation that has 350 members in one workshop in britain. I can't believe we are not singing this one to the rafters.

Charlie wrote:

The experience of MWR, if nothing else, suggests that it's not very difficult to get people interested, so why do ideas of libertarian class struggle have such a marginal influence in our workplaces?

And now that I'm no longer involved in MWR I don't really know what to do politically, 'cos I'm not very interested in the G8 or the ESF.

The established groups have no effective strategy so it's up to individuals to start individual initiatives. It's lonely out there and it's hard to find libertarian workers in your own area let alone the same workplace.

brizzul
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Mar 14 2004 02:08

I read this on your site and agree with just about everything in it. I'm going to print it off and take it to one of our meetings for discussion.

http://mwr.org.uk/syndicalists.htm

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Steven.
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Mar 14 2004 14:43
brizzul wrote:
There's a lot of head scratching going on about this. There are probably only a few hundred libertarian worker activists left in the country so it has to take time. It's not all bad news though, there is one anarchosyndicalist workplace organisation that has 350 members in one workshop in britain. I can't believe we are not singing this one to the rafters..

Er well actually it's not *anarcho*syndicalist, but it is rank+file, directly democratic - but it's not anti-capitalist AFAIK

But still it's a massive achievement!

brizzul
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Mar 15 2004 01:47
Quote:
Er well actually it's not *anarcho*syndicalist, but it is rank+file, directly democratic - but it's not anti-capitalist AFAIK

But still it's a massive achievement!

It depends where you stand really. We have to (internationally) make up our minds whether we want worker unions for all anarchosyndicalists or anarchosyndicalist unions for all workers. The jury is out on this one. Funnily enough the link above from MWR says this a lot better than I can in a single post.

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JoeMaguire
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Mar 16 2004 10:16
brizzul wrote:
We have to (internationally) make up our minds whether we want worker unions for all anarchosyndicalists or anarchosyndicalist unions for all workers.

I could be wrong but anarchosyndicalism is about unions for all workers as far as im aware confused

Steve
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Mar 16 2004 10:36
october_lost wrote:
brizzul wrote:
We have to (internationally) make up our minds whether we want worker unions for all anarchosyndicalists or anarchosyndicalist unions for all workers.

I could be wrong but anarchosyndicalism is about unions for all workers as far as im aware confused

It is. Its unions with anarchist principles run on anarchist lines with the express goal of struggling for an anarcho-communist society. Workers can join them on this basis. The confusion I think is when it comes to the smaller propaganda groups which are not yet unions (such as SolFed) which are specifically anarcho-syndicalist and are agitating for the eventual creation of such unions. This means these groups are not really open to non-anarcho-syndicalists. One of the problems with SolFed's predecessor (DAM) was that if was anarcho-syndicalist in name but contained many other strands from revolutionary syndicalists to platformists. As if became more specifically anarcho-syndicalist these elements left.

In anarcho-syndicalist unions many workers join because they are the most militant and democratic and the idea is they then are convinced through the practice of the union of the specific anarchist politics.

nastyned
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Mar 16 2004 20:45

I'm nost quite sure how this is meant to work confused .

Are you saying that at the moment membership of the SolFed is only open to anarcho-syndicalists (so revolutionary syndicalists and platformists are not welcome) but at some point you will form unions where all militant workers (including revolutionary syndicalists and platformists) will be welcome?

brizzul
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Mar 16 2004 23:10
nastyned wrote:
I'm nost quite sure how this is meant to work confused .

Are you saying that at the moment membership of the SolFed is only open to anarcho-syndicalists (so revolutionary syndicalists and platformists are not welcome) but at some point you will form unions where all militant workers (including revolutionary syndicalists and platformists) will be welcome?

It's open to all those who agree with it's aims and principles. So a little time spent discussing it with a local or reading DA is likely. It's up to the local nearest you to work out whether you understand them and probably what standard of understanding is required. It's obvious, though, that no one is born an A/S.

There is a trend internationally to demand that members fully conform to and understand revolutionary anarchist politics before they join as opposed to something learnt through solidarity. A/S must decide whether it becomes a highly rigorous, militant, minority anarchist union or a mass union whose aims and principles are anarchist but whose members may not be as political as its activists initially. This is a fairly difficult problem especially in britain.

I'm only guessing but it's likely rev syndicalists and platformists would be welcome in our local (and even people with only little political understanding, probably), we are made up of all sorts anyway.

Steve
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Mar 16 2004 23:42

SolFed is an anarchist organisation that advocates workers forming revolutionary unions based in the workplace and the community - anarcho-syndicalism. Platformists don't like this idea, why you'll have to ask them. It's highly unlikely that a platformist would join SolFed.

Revolutionary Syndicalists may not be anarchist or may also see a role for the revolutionary party or want a union who's aim is not libertarian communism. They would have difficulty with the specific anarchist goals and structure of SolFed.

If workers do begin to form anarcho-syndicalist unions then the SF would no longer need to exist. Then platformists, or other militant workers, could join the a/s unions if they wanted to or they could remain in reformist, social democratic TUC unions. They would simply have to ageree with the aims and principles of such a union. What has happened before is that they join the anarchist unions but still have remain in a outside anarchist organisation to argue for anarchism within the anarchist union. Don't ask me - again you'll have to ask them how that works.

The thing is if their were anarchist workplace unions in this country would anarchists remain in the reformist unions? How could they justify it?

ffaker
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Mar 17 2004 00:36

OK, can anyone explain the difference between anarcho-syndicalists and platformists, cos I thought they were the same thing. Are the AF and the Irish WSM platformists? Are there historical examples of platformists having any kind of success? Ta.

Can't we all just get along? confused

Steve
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Mar 17 2004 09:07

No they are definately not the same. Don't get me started on platformists! smile Really anarcho-syndicalists advocate organising in revolutionary unions, the platformists have a lot of criticisms of this approach. They base their approach on something called 'The Platform' written in 192? by some Russian anarchists which I see as an attempt to weld Bolshevik ideas to anarchism. (ducks).

I don't think the AF are platformists but I think the WSM are.

Platformists success. Err no.

Can't we get along. Sure. They are free to join any future revolutionary union in the UK. wink

nastyned
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Mar 17 2004 11:25

So, is it right to say the solfed is an anarchist propaganda group which aims to create unions based on anarchist principles (which you will have to agree to to join) and which are likely to be militant but minority unions.

As to the platform, the AF aren't platformists but it is one of our influences. The Irish Workers Solidarity Movement are platformists. And the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists in the USA say they're platformists too but don't seem to have the very tight politics of the WSM.

Platformists use the ideas laid down in the pamphlet generally known as 'The organisational platform of the libertarian communists' as the basis for how they organise. It was written around 1927 by a group of russian anarchist exiles in France (including Nestor Makhno and Ida Mett but Peter Arshinov is generally considered to have been the main author). The looked at how the anarchists had been defeated in the russian revolution and thought the chronic lack of organisation was one of the main problems.

I've never been that keen on the platform but the recent book 'Facing the Enemy' by Alexander Skirda has made me think there is more positive stuff to the platformist tradition. It's well worth reading and includes a more sympathetic translation of the platform than the one generally in circulation. The four main principles that the platform says anarchists organisations should aim for are:

Theoretical unity

Tactical unity

Collective responsibility

Federalism

I don't really have a problem with these.

One of the dubious bits though is the suggestion that anarchist organisations should have an executive committee, which doesn't seem to fit in with federal organisation and has lead to accusations of Bolshevik influence.

The platformist attitude to syndicalist unions is that anarchists should be an organised group within them. In practice platformist also try to form organised groups with social democratic unions, in the WSM's case with the aim of eventually turning them into anarcho-syndicalists unions (which i guess they would continue to be an organised group inside confused ). I think there's problems with this too but i'll leave it for now.

Steve
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Mar 17 2004 13:02
nastyned wrote:
So, is it right to say the solfed is an anarchist propaganda group which aims to create unions based on anarchist principles (which you will have to agree to to join) and which are likely to be militant but minority unions.

We are more optimistic and look to the time when the anarcho-syndicalist union is the main union confederation as the CNT were in Spain before the revolution. After all we want a revolution by the people not by a small minority grouping. smile

brizzul
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Mar 18 2004 22:27
Steve wrote:
We are more optimistic and look to the time when the anarcho-syndicalist union is the main union confederation as the CNT were in Spain before the revolution. After all we want a revolution by the people not by a small minority grouping. :)

There's still merit in the minority union, though, it keeps the theoretical and tactical unity that are not just important to platformists. The CNT is a minority in the shipyard strikes in Spain but is hitting way above it's weight by forming local assemblies that anyone can join. The CNT wins the argument even amongst reformist unionists because they have the best arguments *and* the open enough environment in which anarchosyndicalism can be heard (the assembly)

I'm mostly for mass anarchosyndicalist unions but the above tactic works as well.

Steve:

>The thing is if their were anarchist workplace unions in this country >would anarchists remain in the reformist unions? How could they justify >it?

If all their workmates are in the reformist union then yes they could justify it on the basis of solidarity.

Steve
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Mar 18 2004 23:15
brizzul wrote:
Steve wrote:
We are more optimistic and look to the time when the anarcho-syndicalist union is the main union confederation as the CNT were in Spain before the revolution. After all we want a revolution by the people not by a small minority grouping. :)

There's still merit in the minority union, though, it keeps the theoretical and tactical unity that are not just important to platformists. The CNT is a minority in the shipyard strikes in Spain but is hitting way above it's weight by forming local assemblies that anyone can join. The CNT wins the argument even amongst reformist unionists because they have the best arguments *and* the open enough environment in which anarchosyndicalism can be heard (the assembly)

I'm mostly for mass anarchosyndicalist unions but the above tactic works as well.

Steve:

>The thing is if their were anarchist workplace unions in this country >would anarchists remain in the reformist unions? How could they justify >it?

If all their workmates are in the reformist union then yes they could justify it on the basis of solidarity.

Surely we should be looking to a time when we are the majority union grouping. That's what I was talking about. If there was an anarcho-syndicalist union confederation in the UK alongside the TUC then I would be a member of it. Why would I stay in the T&G?

Of course this is way in the future, today the position is we haven't the strength to form our own unions so we have to agitate in our workplaces and inside the unions while not being restricted by them.