Anarcho-syndicalist organization?

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boozemonarchy's picture
boozemonarchy
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Apr 24 2013 14:00
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To be honest, I think what happened is that I read this thread somewhat sloppily a couple days ago and then built an argument in my head that was never really explicitly made. It seemed to me like a good chunk of this thread, with all the discussion of duplication of effort, was implicitly about a conceptual new, anarcho-syndicalist union. I believed that since the majority of US anarcho-syndicalists are in the IWW, starting such an organization with more than a handful of people would mean drawing a relatively substantial number of people away from the IWW which I think would be effectively a split from the IWW. But it seems that perhaps nobody was actually advocating that after all..

I don't really think there has been much research on the anarchist population. I think conjured statistics are kind of a shakey foundation to build an argument on. Counting loud mouths on the internet isn't going to give a clear picture of the situation.

Again, completely uninterested in pooling together the a-s minded folks and launching an a-s org for the sake of having an a-s org. I don't really think concentrating all the ideological a-s folk in a national political org is a way to go about building an a-s or other revolutionary union. I think your right, no one was really advocating that. On the flip, concentrating all the folks who are warm to radical industrial unionism in an org that acts like a political org someplaces and a union in others hasn't seemed like the hot ticket either.

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Either way, my main question, and the only one that I really feel might be worth discussing from my post is: what value do those who do favor an explicitly A-S organization (at least a few people have said this on this thread) feel that the A-S form would provide that isn't provided by current groups and organizations.

Well, like you said, US anarchism has its problems. Some with choose to stay in the IWW/@-orgs and get them to do better. Others will choose to start indy projects to experiment with form. I get the strong feeling that your presenting things like, "IWW/@-orgs exist and activity outside them needs justified or your just a splitter. . ." Maybe I'm wrong.

That said, I will bow out of answering your question as I touched on my own reasons earlier, and your asking the specific A-S supporters.

akai
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Apr 24 2013 14:14

Hi. I sort of creeped into the discussion here and I suppose it was me that suggested that there is a value to having an explicitly A-S organization. I see the benefits as the following: 1. being a way to radicalize workers movements and to bring the analysis of the role of the state together with anticapitalism, and to highlight the latter 2. to bring forward the idea of anarchosyndicalist organization (methods and goals) so that anarchist ideas are brought into a more practical focus for a wider group of people than now, which is difficult if specific anarchist groups seem to be in space with their issues, but on the more bread-and-butter issues, anarchist hide in some broader coalitions. I think that both would do the american movement a load of good.

I don't agree with your point that anarchosyndicalism does not have content. When I look at well-functioning and developed organizations, I see that they have very deep social content - certainly with much wider social involvement and implication than most anything else. Although admittedly people are far behind on this in some parts of the world, including N. America.

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klas batalo
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Apr 25 2013 07:09
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I haven't really heard anyone arguing splitting the IWW ideologically on the thread. Not something I'd want anything to do with. However, I think your being kind of ridiculous extrapolating what such an org would have to offer in end and justifying it with some weird "lack of faith" in peoples politics.

Exactly! People are talking about developing further an anarcho-syndicalist/communist practice within the IWW and outside of it, not splitting from it, but building an overall current. This gets to this:

Quote:
My main point was just that "anarcho-syndicalism" is a form that doesn't really have a whole lot of content in of itself.

Actually form and content are related. Most anarcho-syndicalists are also communists, and so have something to bring to the table more than just industrial democracy and the cooperative commonwealth, i.e. direct self-managed struggle without intermediaries and a clear vision of libertarian communism. Most IWW self-described anarcho-syndicalists are underdeveloped politically IMHO and are sorta a mix of Chomskyites/CNT history nerd LARPers. Also anarcho-syndicalist ideology and actual practice don't often overlap. The fact remains that the FWs actually engaged in organizing in the IWW is rather small. Again this leads to something that I think needs more questioning in relation to this:

Quote:
I believed that since the majority of US anarcho-syndicalists are in the IWW, starting such an organization with more than a handful of people would mean drawing a relatively substantial number of people away from the IWW which I think would be effectively a split from the IWW.

It is not about drawing people away from their mass work, but about developing their practice and the political content. What does it mean that most US anarcho-syndicalists are in the IWW, if they are not actively developing an anarcho-syndicalist practice but just a democratic industrial unionism with an outdated vision of a cooperative commonwealth? Where is the critique of the State? Where is the critique of representational politics (other than a minority within the anarcho-syndicalists/ultra-left of the IWW)? Where is the practice outside of the workplace?

Anarcho-syndicalists had historically much more to say about the world and methods of struggle. I want to challenge people who say they are anarcho-syndicalists to actually act and put forward that type of practice and arguments in a practical way within spaces like the IWW, new independent or A-S union initiatives, solnets, student/youth, tenant, transit, prison organizing, etc.

SO... I guess I would say I am actually for the development of anarcho-syndicalist / communist revolutionary unionist practice, and if not necessarily an organization per se in the traditional sense of the term, at least a network of militants that puts forward such methods of struggle and vision. I also think it is very practical to advocate this to my comrades and FWs in currently existing political organizations and mass work. I think experimenting in ways that can cross all the boundaries in practical sharing of experiences, solidarity, and mass work is a worth while project.

This comes from someone who has spent most of their last few years as a loyal member actively trying to build up regroupment of anarchist political organizations and revolutionary workplace organizing in the IWW.

Quote:
My long time dream has been to work towards the practice of shopfloor forms of unionism in comrades workplaces. But not intended to be a labor union, but a formation of anarcho-syndicalist militants, which would promote the development of anarcho-syndicalist activity, such as direct workers action and self-managed forms of worker struggle. One that would be flexible enough to be responsive to different levels of activities and different shopfloor and community focuses.

THIS! ... it means moving beyond a propaganda grouping with a pluralist guiding framework for individual intervention by militants towards a project of collective struggle. One that can agitate, educate, and organize on its own and within broader bodies, superseding the mono/dual organizationalist dichotomy.

syndicalist
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Apr 25 2013 15:08

Sorry, what's LARP?

akai
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Apr 25 2013 15:24

Food for thought: what has been the historical experience of anarchosyndicalists inside the IWW in terms of moving it towards anarchosyndicalist organization and politics?

My guess is that if they couldn't manage it was anarchosyndicalism was very big in the world, there could be a problem with doing it in general due to the structure.

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Navee
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Apr 25 2013 15:57

I was always fond of anarcho-syndicalism and used to declare myself an a-s for a long time, especially because of the firm insistence on economic-political organizations. But the problem is in the situation where the "political" aspect is often sacrificed for the benefit of "economic" and "mass movement building" ones. What worth is a "movement" if it is a populist or conservative one and shows no potential for developing a revolutionary political perspective? Is this in line with the social-democratic principle "the movement is everything and the goal is nothing"? It was said that "we should avoid conflicts with the organizations we can work with", but right after it was previously noted that the IWW pretends to represent the workers (the same as every union). "Let`s improve the IWW", right? But why don`t we start improving all other trade-unions? There is a reason why we are not reforming unions. Capitalism has developed precise framework within which unions can function to its benefit, and within which they are exactly that - trade unions. They`re unreformable. Wouldn`t an attempt of reforming unions be more an opportunist line of entrysm, than of a-s?

As I see it, I`m supporting akai`s position here: a-s organizations must find a way to act while preserving their a-s positions. For start, I would propose being more critical of the fetishism of mass character of organizations in such a way which wouldn`t lead to sectarianism. Because such fetish keeps the a-s blind to real mass movements (e.g. occupy, indignados, street assemblies etc.) where I think it can find its main purpose - contesting the bourgeois ideology and leftist mystification and supporting the evolution of class consciousness. I wouldn`t say that we have opened a question of double-efforts, but of lost efforts. I`m not saying that the organising and solidarity networks the a-s are proposing (and achieving in limited moments) are a bad thing, but that in such a way we are just making the every-day life just a bit more comfortable, while, on other hand, the little of solidarity we do achieve is being destroyed by the dominant ideology and capitalist mode of production on an every-day basis. On the other hand, we see the existing mass movements where the workers` are more and more struggling to find the means for breaking with the every-day life of capitalism, opposed to making it more comfortable, which is the same thing we want to achieve as anarchists and communists. I believe that everyone here, myself included, agrees that these movements are of much greater overall significance then anything we`ve ever done. Thus, it would be efforts lost if a minority of revolutionaries would concentrate on trying to reproduce such movements from scratch when they constantly arise in a spontaneous (now this is a word many people are allergic to, but I only mean to explain it as a complex process) manner. Also, the only way anything we do will gain on significance is if we concentrate on such movements, that is, to be a part of the concrete expression of the class. The final battles will not be won under the banner of this or that organization, but under the 'banner' of the proletariat.

A-s should hold to its economic-political principle, but should also try keeping it such, that is, not splitting it into an economic and a political one. Which also means that the loose criteria for membership should be excluded. It was said here that there should be no political criteria for membership, but that people should educate themselves inside the organization. But, who will educate them? The a-s organization is not some kind of abstract magic which turns people into a-s, it, as well as its politics and ideology, is made of people which are organized in it and the ideas they bring in. If there is no political criteria, what keeps it from gradually becoming leftist, populist, or just an ordinary trade-union with rough rhetoric?

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klas batalo
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Apr 25 2013 17:25
akai wrote:
Food for thought: what has been the historical experience of anarchosyndicalists inside the IWW in terms of moving it towards anarchosyndicalist organization and politics?

My guess is that if they couldn't manage it was anarchosyndicalism was very big in the world, there could be a problem with doing it in general due to the structure.

I think that is all very much an open question. My agitation towards self-described anarcho-syndicalists in the IWW is what are you doing that actually is anarcho-syndicalist? I've met a lot of self-described anarchists in the United States that think it just means being an anarchist who joins unions or organizes in the labor movement, which is a very shallow thing. I mean it is a good newbie reaction probably to the prevalence of utter shittier politics in the US, but once these comrades develop further I want to hear some substance to back it up. To some degree this might be a self-critique. When I joined the IWW in 2007 all my anarchist friends I were meeting were saying they were anarcho-syndicalists. For this I think it meant they were anarchists and in the IWW. That's about it. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to actually understand what anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist-communism really is.

Also I agree totally with Navee. I think good work will not just replicate economic union work but is also about developing political content in struggles. Also I think criteria are extremely important.

Also what do folks think about this piece in relation to the discussion:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/#fn8

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888
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Apr 25 2013 21:44
akai wrote:
think if you apply your politics to real activity, you can openly go for anarchosyndicalism and I suppose that if people were willing to join the IWW, they really would have been willing to join an anarchosyndicalist organization doing the same type of activity also, but one has never been on offer.

Exactly!

syndicalist
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Apr 26 2013 13:48

Just a quick thanks for all the interesting and thoughtful comments. Some of which I may come back to.

Recognizing that I'm not the most articulate person, I may not have accurately put my thoughts down properly.

Basically, basically I was thinking out loud. Over the past year or so, I've been thinking about anarcho-syndicalism in the US context. And as folks have talked about regroupment of existing
political organizations, I have wondered about what role and place those with a specific anarcho-syndicalist perspective might have or where it fits in, if at all or marginally. Additionally, there's been some sporadic and off list emails, discussions about anarcho-syndicalism. More food for thought. And, like I said previously, as time marches on, how can I best use my own limited time, focus, past experiences and perspectives wisely?

Basically, the question sort was "What would ones dream a/s organization" be? Of course that opens the door to some of the other points/issues/perspectives folks have raised here.

One thing I will say, as diversity of activities and efforts by a/s have varied and will vary,
there will generally need to be a flexible ability to deal with it. Unless, of course, some feel there is only one route to go. I've never been convinced of a singular approach, but this may have more to do with my own experiences then anything else. And, I suppose, we are all shaped by direct experiences. Being off the shopfloor and off the in-the-streets movement for many years now, I am loath to proscribe to others what I myself an unable to do. But will share observations, experiences, thoughts when I can.

In my reflection process I recall a few years back a couple of Libcom threads on a parallel topic on this topic in 2007. Some of the questions from then are still the same (in my mind) as they are today. Here's the links to those earlier conversations:

Quote:
N. American Anarcho-syndicalism today
NOTE: I posted this here: http://libcom.org/forums/anarcho-syndicalism-101/the-relevancy-of-anarch... (at bottom) and perhaps it might well belong on this subject topic.
I'm curious how different anarcho-syndicalists (and those close to anarcho-syndicalism) see their activities and roles today. That is, what sort of organization and what sort of organizational relevancy foots their bill?

In the US and Canadian context, what would an expplicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization mean and do? Given the diversity of activist efforts here in the US/Canada, can an anarcho-syndicalist organization be more like a "especifico" organization? That is, an organization of like minded activists coming together to issue libertarian literature and help develop and enhance their work in a variety of worker, social and community struggles. Or must its sole and defining role be something else or something else?

[New thread started here:] http://libcom.org/forums/organise/n-american-anarcho-syndicalism-today

Anyway, got to get back to work. Big thanks to all those who share thoughts. And good luck in all of your practical activities.

EDIT: Links to previous discussions are more for historical reasons then anything else.

s.nappalos
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Apr 26 2013 16:06

Lots of good points. I've been a longtime supporter of the IWA, but personally have had trouble figuring out how build something like that in the North American context. Lately things I've seen with the conservative potential of the left in moments of struggle have brought me back to rethink some of the basics of organizing, and has been leading me to think we need something like an IWA affiliate in the US (along the lines klas laid out). The devil is in the details and I'm weighing things out, but thank others for their thoughts that are helpful here. Just want to second akai and klas' thoughts on anarchosyndicalist organization's potential additions. I'll only add a couple things to supplement their more general points.

I actually do think that a separate anarchosyndicalist organization of struggle would be useful concretely for our work today because:
-the rise of militant reformism backed by radicals in the US
-the plurality of anarchosyndicalist inspired projects
-the lack of resources and direction for anarchosyndicalists that tends to make people go in bad directions over time

-There are anarchosyndicalist inspired projects that are separate and grappling with similar issues that could work together. For instance seasol folks have discussed their difficulty integrating their ideas into their work. Anarchosyndicalists in the IWW as well. There could be a space to experiment, work that out, etc., as anarchosyndicalists. Here I think seasol has a pretty radical approach in trying to address the breadth of working class experience inside and outside the workplace. We should be building anarchosyndicalist organizations that take on the different facets of working class experience like housing, transit, workplace, schools, etc., and can build militants flexibly out of that. I do think workplace struggle is important and that's my main work, but think there's a need to have dialogue across those.

-The rise of militant reformism in the US (seiu-led housing, fight for 15, our walmart) has shown the potential for recuperation and radicals playing conservative roles in struggle. Many of my friends are now openly talking about how ideas are concretely relevant in simple fights, and not just in the big picture. For instance, in my work with taxi drivers I found that pro-electoral sentiments were so strong they would destroy their own victories out of ideological commitment to becoming a legislative force. Some in the IWW have moved to doing ideological work on the shopfloor in struggles (not lecturing, but making our politics concrete). I know seasol is the same. We could be better at it, put our heads together, and do so as a/s since it's tough to do that in groups where there are good sections completely opposed to what we want to do.

-Speaking from experience in the IWW, many come into organizing from anarchism. Many militants have political desires that they have trouble engaging in reformist and neutral syndicalist projects. The usual outcome for this stuff is either to move to apolitical reformist organizing or towards bad politicized activism. An anarchosyndicalist project can help give people tools to stay a revolutionary in their work. In some ways the recomp blog has done some small steps in this direction (as well as others).

Bozeman- on post #22. Sorry if that was dense. I used to think that we could overcome the marginality of anarchist organizing through structural and positional changes. Now I see that the objective situation combined with the ideology most people have play a stronger role in determining what's possible for us to do. Leftist often think if we tinker with tossing elements of our ideas over board we'll attract more workers, which I've found with experience not to be the case. I really don't see any functioning mass organizations in our time period and not because people aren't doing work well. In many ways I see our role as developing people, engaging in fights, and preparing for when the conditions change and the direction of struggle becomes more open (like somewhat happened in occupy, though extremely limited). Part of this is rethinking what success and failure are, and another to rethink the role of ideas and our own activity so that we don't reproduce generations of militants that will be trying to steer workers back into reformists acting militantly during ruptures because they see militancy and hope it will be inherently radical. Hope that's slightly more clear sad

s.nappalos
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Apr 26 2013 16:08

Sorry just to clarify, but building a US - IWA thing I mean an organization or network doing organizing in workplaces and neighborhoods rather than pro-IWA political organizations. That's a separate discussion, and I do have respect for those attempts although I have different opinions on specific political groups.

syndicalist
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Apr 27 2013 04:09

having never been anything but primarily an anarcho-syndicalist (ok, aside from a longhair), I'm always open to having conversations with others who are or considering anarcho-syndicalism.

syndicalist
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Apr 27 2013 19:00
syndicalist wrote:
having never been anything but primarily an anarcho-syndicalist (ok, aside from a longhair), I'm always open to having conversations with others who are or considering anarcho-syndicalism.

why would some vote "down" something like this? i mean, really. having conversations don't always mean agreement.

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Apr 30 2013 04:07
s.nappalos wrote:

Bozeman- on post #22. Sorry if that was dense. I used to think that we could overcome the marginality of anarchist organizing through structural and positional changes. Now I see that the objective situation combined with the ideology most people have play a stronger role in determining what's possible for us to do. Leftist often think if we tinker with tossing elements of our ideas over board we'll attract more workers, which I've found with experience not to be the case. I really don't see any functioning mass organizations in our time period and not because people aren't doing work well. In many ways I see our role as developing people, engaging in fights, and preparing for when the conditions change and the direction of struggle becomes more open (like somewhat happened in occupy, though extremely limited). Part of this is rethinking what success and failure are, and another to rethink the role of ideas and our own activity so that we don't reproduce generations of militants that will be trying to steer workers back into reformists acting militantly during ruptures because they see militancy and hope it will be inherently radical. Hope that's slightly more clear :(

Thanks nappalos, this does clarify things. I'm in agreement with all this, in particular the whole need to avoid steering into militant reform militancy. I actually see that as becoming more of a problem of late.

It makes me wonder where we do need to be aiming or preparing when struggle does become more open?

akai
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Apr 30 2013 07:53

A question to N. American anarchosyndicalists. I am curious. As we can see, some strains of alternative syndicalism are highly tied to the state. N. Americans, in my personal opinion, have tended to be clueless about this, since you do not have a strongly developed social democracy. So some part of the anarchist movement relates quite neutrally to social democracy and I suppose it is because it has not seen some people in real power. The question becomes more intellectual and people say things like "well, we are all leftists". Of course this is just some part.

How do N. American anarchosyndicalists envision this question when it comes to cooperation with European movements? Since European anarchosyndicalists tend to stay quite clearly away from the alternative unions created by the social democrats and participating in party and class collaboration. (In the worst case scenarios, unions used to create a political base for parties, financial manipulation of funds of the workers, party and state subsidies, etc.)

I am in particular interested in opinions if anybody is in IWW.

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May 1 2013 00:09

It is even worse in Australia as there is effectively only one union inextricably enmeshed with one political party. I refer to the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Labor Party. All registered unions in Australia are affiliated to the ACTU. Any attempt to break away is mercilessly crushed. The most recent historical examples being the Australian and International Pilots Association in 1989 and the Shearers and Rural Workers' Union in 1994.

The AIPA broke away from the ACTU as a result of a lack of support for their campaign for wage increases and safe operating guarantees. This campaign involved the biggest pilots strike in Australian history. The ALP government ordered the RAAF to use Hercules transport aircraft to fly domestic passengers between Sydney and Melbourne - the most heavily trafficated route. The strike was lost and the AIPA returned to the ACTU.

The SRWU was formed in 1994 by disaffected members of the Australian Workers Union to pursue a claim for penalty rates on weekends (among other things). The AWU sided with the National Farmers Federation against the shearers. The SRWU remains small but independant from the ACTU.

Previous to the 1996 election of the Howard Liberal government only registered unions could run cases in the arbitration commission (since replaced by Fair Work Australia) and registration was impossible without ACTU affiliation. Registered unions in Australia must have their elections run by the Australian Electoral Commission, a statutory authority of the Federal government.

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May 2 2013 05:28
akai wrote:
A question to N. American anarchosyndicalists. I am curious. As we can see, some strains of alternative syndicalism are highly tied to the state. N. Americans, in my personal opinion, have tended to be clueless about this, since you do not have a strongly developed social democracy. So some part of the anarchist movement relates quite neutrally to social democracy and I suppose it is because it has not seen some people in real power. The question becomes more intellectual and people say things like "well, we are all leftists". Of course this is just some part.

How do N. American anarchosyndicalists envision this question when it comes to cooperation with European movements? Since European anarchosyndicalists tend to stay quite clearly away from the alternative unions created by the social democrats and participating in party and class collaboration. (In the worst case scenarios, unions used to create a political base for parties, financial manipulation of funds of the workers, party and state subsidies, etc.)

I am in particular interested in opinions if anybody is in IWW.

What a loaded set of leading questions.

akai
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May 2 2013 11:01

Why? These are very basic questions actually.

If somebody is talking about anarchosyndicalist organizations, they have to discuss their positions towards other, different forms of syndicalism, ranging from the most mainstream unions, to the liberal reformist and social democratic ones. Because, supposedly you will have to explain to people why you are different than those unions and why people should join your organization. If you want to be a functioning union of any kind (as opposed to a propaganda group), you have to be able to explain this to workers.

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May 2 2013 12:24

Yes, a fair and reasonable point. I don't see how the questions are either loaded or leading. As a sidebar, I'm interested to know more about the relationship between the Democrats and the AFL-CIO.

akai
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May 2 2013 13:02

Oh, that's a big topic. Maybe it should be on another thread. (Today I was actually thinking about writing some short critical article about the foundings of the AFL and how their politics and strategies differed from the IWPA - I'll send it around when finished.)

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klas batalo
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May 2 2013 19:31
akai wrote:
Why? These are very basic questions actually.

If somebody is talking about anarchosyndicalist organizations, they have to discuss their positions towards other, different forms of syndicalism, ranging from the most mainstream unions, to the liberal reformist and social democratic ones. Because, supposedly you will have to explain to people why you are different than those unions and why people should join your organization. If you want to be a functioning union of any kind (as opposed to a propaganda group), you have to be able to explain this to workers.

I agree. I was just talking to FWs in the IWW in Boston and we were discussing how the IWW often in both recruitment and in the OT101 doesn't often make the case enough for why someone should join and organize for the IWW compared to who knows UE or these new militant reformist things we are seeing from SEIU, Unite-Here, workers centers like ROC United, etc.

Is it because we have revolutionary industrial unionism? Are we syndicalist? Is it cause we are grassroots and democratic? We are more militant? Is it the One Big Union and Cooperative Commonwealth? Do we have a better organizing/salting program?

This is not a dig at the IWW, I'm a proud member, but these are the types of things an anarcho-syndicalist organization, and really any organization has to ask of themselves and explain to others.

syndicalist
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May 3 2013 01:05

I'm at best a marginal IWW member. So I really don't want to spend too much time on an IWW discussion here.

Briefly, crazy to think about splitting the IWW. That would be most unproductive.

One of the reasons why we set up the WSA in 1984 was to be able to have an organization that could be explicit about its politics and not have to be a/s baited in the IWW like we were (strange as it sounds). But that was many years ago.

It's also impractical to think the IWW will follow any different sort of international course then it is now on.

The IWW will always be a multi-tendency IWW as it has been since 1905. Prolly the best thing that committed anarcho-syndicalists in the IWW can do is engage and push "the" perspective. Some of the better stuff along those lines has been the "Direct Unionist" stuff (always a hat-tip).
And if folks can build their Branch in a manner, fashion and way based on a/s concepts and
ideas, that's a good thing. And if footloose comrades can help build the nacent Food & Resturant Workers Union along libertarian and syndicalist lines, that's a good thing too.

I know not of these Chomsky a/s types Klaus talks about, but Chomsky did write a decent intro to Rocker's re-released "London Years" book. And that's what he does, write.

Akai wrote:

Quote:
A question to N. American anarchosyndicalists. I am curious. As we can see, some strains of alternative syndicalism are highly tied to the state. N. Americans, in my personal opinion, have tended to be clueless about this, since you do not have a strongly developed social democracy. So some part of the anarchist movement relates quite neutrally to social democracy and I suppose it is because it has not seen some people in real power. The question becomes more intellectual and people say things like "well, we are all leftists". Of course this is just some part.

I'd take this in a somewhat different direction...back home. I think there's some relevancy to the questions in so far as many of the newer struggles of low wage workers are being waged by what is being termed "alternative labor". And large and key swathes of this alternative labor is being recouped and backed by mainstream trade unions...often with a left veneer. So, I think, it's prolly a better and more constructive discussion for north american a/s to have a discussion of this matter/problem. Then it is to discuss the international affairs of a multi-tendencied and international oriented IWW as Akai originally raises.

s.nappalos
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May 3 2013 02:29

Social democracy- I think it is a problem that the US is unfamiliar with militant forms of reformism in particular. Institutionalized reformism is a different beast as well, but I think in high points of struggle large sections of the left will likely go running into the arms of militant reformists, something which our actions could prevent or encourage. To an extent we've been able to push things forward in certain moments, like with the general strike stuff, but that's one area where anarchosyndicalism has a lot to offer. There isn't a clear discourse or practice distinguishing militant forms of social democracy from revolutionary anarchist struggle though. In the past few years (the crisis...) sections of the anarchist movement have been discussing this, doing experiments in our organizing, etc., to figure out what makes our work say anarchist communist specifically in practice.

Ingersoll
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May 3 2013 16:43
akai wrote:
If somebody is talking about anarchosyndicalist organizations, they have to discuss their positions towards other, different forms of syndicalism, ranging from the most mainstream unions, to the liberal reformist and social democratic ones.

Shouldn't we, if we are explaining anarchosyndicalism, talk about yellow unions as such instead? I don't think "liberal reformist" and "social democratic" (whatever that means) ones are differing by their relation to the state. By giving the importance to some specific union "strategy", I would say, we are being dragged into engagement with politics. If explaining yellow unions, one shouldn't deal with how much they are instrumentalized by some concrete party or politics, but should start from the fact they are integrated into the state and that this is a consequence of their character as yellow unions, not their current 'line'.

* Of course, I don't have anything against discussions on AFL-CIO etc. but the way it is presented - as something that is relevant for (and especially for) anarchosyndicalists and agitators today.

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Chilli Sauce
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May 3 2013 21:35

The thing is though, outside of mass experience with the trade unions, lots of folks (and in this case, with reference to the IWW in particular) do see some of the trade unions, like UE or the ILWU, as 'fighting unions'. On top of this is the fact that militant trade unionism has reappeared on the scene--fast food worker strikes in NYC and Chicago, Wal-Mart workers strikes, and subcontractored warehouse workers strikes. They're even employing the sorts of minority unionism and recognition strikes that many in the IWW have advocated for years.

Then there's the fact that certain elements of the state are trying smash what little remains of the co-option of trade unions into the management structures of capital and the state. And that struggles against that--a la Wisconsin--have had a radicalizing effect on the discourse, if not the consciousness of participants.

So, in that context, yeah, of course these are important differentiations and conversations worth having.

Ingersoll
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May 8 2013 08:24

I'm not sure which "folks" you mean, but if you (If I understood you correctly) meant IWW supporters I don't see how this - that many people in IWW see UE/ILWU as "fighting unions" - changes anything. There are many militant workers that are members of these or many other unions but doesn't mean anything by itself - if we try to "use" this for agitation we again must deal with everything yellow unions bring with their existance - sectoral and union divisions, leaders and inability to act unofficially.

And just to be clear, I didn't say there are conversations "not worth having" - I was talking about the way these yellow unions are presented (as they have some substantial differences between themselves, while being unable to grasp their essence).

Quote:
Then there's the fact that certain elements of the state are trying smash what little remains of the co-option of trade unions into the management structures of capital and the state. And that struggles against that--a la Wisconsin--have had a radicalizing effect on the discourse, if not the consciousness of participants.

I'm not sure I know what you mean. Can you post some link, or elaborate on these struggles?

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Chilli Sauce
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May 8 2013 08:10

I guess what I had i mind was the push--in some northern states incidentally--to abolish what limited protections trade unions have historically been granted as part the social democratic class compromise coming out of the New Deal, the Great Depression, and the post-war social settlement.

I think Wisconsin is the classic example--a successful attempt to basically strip public sector unions of any of things like dues checkoff that have been so instrumental in turning them into service organizations. You can see how certain elements of the ruling class, in this day in age, no longer view trade unions as part of the necessary machinery to control class conflict.

Does that make sense?

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boozemonarchy
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May 8 2013 12:49

Yup, Chili, and thats exactly what it was. I think a lot of participants viewed it as a more general attack on "the right to organize", though if that is a reality or not I'm not so sure.

But yea, the important part here is the ruling class is happy to show its cards. Even though the big unions have been forged into excellent tools for controlling class conflict, they have reached the end of their usefulness in that regard. I think this speaks to the necessity of leaving them (that is, if your moving into them to organize resistance or some such, not if you just happen to be union) wholesale and trying to build a new collective understanding of syndicalism and let the big old unions collect dust. We really need like a dozen, "See, now that is unionism" moments.

syndicalist
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May 10 2013 02:58

Just a US observation.

From an A/S perspective, without a strategy and long term commitment
to organize.it's hard to go up against or around unions who have
money to spend and full time staff at work doing this stuff...or folks
close to the union salting....this is why some mainstream trade unions
are able to recoup some of the "minority unionism" stuff now (warehouse, fast
food, etc).

This opens up a number of questions. But as I am no longer active on a daily basis,
I'm loath to give advice and tell others what to do. But if I was young, footloose
and committed to shopfloor work, I'd prolly try and get together with IWW folks in the
FRWU and try and devise a way to engage in meaningful concentration. A target company/ies
in a few cities. Same in logistics industry.

But I think the nature of the original posting has prolly played itself out. Thanks for the participation.

EDIT: Hat-tip to the Jimmy Johns Workers and Starbucks Workers Unions for their pioneering work and struggles in the food industry.

syndicalist
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May 29 2013 23:29

Some of us have initiated a North American Anarchist Workers listserv.

Quote:
The Anarchist Workers listserv is open to militants involved in worker and
labor struggles across North America. We are active as rank and file
members of the IWW, trade unions, workers centers, and other
worker-oriented projects and campaigns.

We have come together to create a space to learn from and share our
experiences in various struggles, promote our perspectives, coordinate
our efforts, where possible and practical, and contribute to building a
revolutionary workers movement.

This will be a Moderated list.

The aim of this list shall be to foster comradely and constructive
discussion. Difference of opinions shall be expressed in a principled manner.

There will be No flaming.

Those who engage in flaming or bad behavior shall be asked to refrain from
same. Should this not cease, further action, including suspension or banning
could be in order.

PM me or Klas for further information.