Anarchists in australia

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jason
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Feb 13 2007 01:03

I just don't get this. When I was with the Brissie wobs years ago we would've wet ourselves over the prospect of a shop floor organising like that. Gregg, do you still talk to those people? Is there any future roll for the IWW do you think?

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Bubbles
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Feb 13 2007 04:17

Sounds like Ausie IWW needs a fucking wake up call. They seem to have shit pollicy. The IWW is doing some house cleaning, hopefully Ausie IWW will clean their house. PM me and I'll see what I can do as far as getting them to shape up.

anna x
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Feb 13 2007 08:26
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I just don't get this. When I was with the Brissie wobs years ago we would've wet ourselves over the prospect of a shop floor organising like that.

Gotta say that I was pretty gutted. Here I was, keen as, with a bunch of young easily exploitable workers with a ready made campaign... Before this, I had been sacked 4 times by the same manager for standing up for workers who had lost their voice but refused to leave each time. It was pretty hairy for a while and the mainstream union I had been with were fucking hopeless so that's what led me to the wobblies. In the second instance with my friends workplace, there was a huge chance of easy victory as the workplace was very high profile, so a tiny bit of direct pressure would've sorted it out and give the wobblies some instant profile. It turned out that the little bit of bullshit I put out at the workplace about things being put in place to respond to any dramas worked and management pulled their head in.

Quote:
do you still talk to those people?

At the warehouse I still have one contact but management got rid of all the people not deemed to be "team players" i.e. arse lickers. The rest of the people there are the ones who when I was trying to organise, gave me the old "I just wanna come here, do my work, and go home" crap. As for my friends workplace, I have actually applied for a job there and will be making quite a ruckus if I don't get a sniff at it. It's fucked when you know too much...grin

Quote:
Is there any future roll for the IWW do you think?

In brisbane? yeah I do actually. For historical and resource reasons alone. In the little workplace organising I have attempted, I found that radical slogans and propaganda work. I also firmly believe that solidarity that workers can see also gives them strength, so a union that is not industry specific but has members that will mobilise in solidarity will give courage to workers who may not ordinarily have that courage. I think that groups like the starbucks union are achieving good things for their workers. They started small but it has spread fairly rapidly. people may not think that it is strategically relevant but those people interact with a fucking lot of people throughout their work day and for my mind, that's a lot of seeds being planted. gregg:rbstar:

anna x
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Feb 13 2007 08:39
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Sounds like Ausie IWW needs a fucking wake up call. They seem to have shit pollicy. The IWW is doing some house cleaning, hopefully Ausie IWW will clean their house. PM me and I'll see what I can do as far as getting them to shape up.

Without hanging too much crap on people I don't know, the IWW website in Australia doesn't seem to be a hive of activity. Despite my experiences outlined in posts above I do check their site from time to time and feel frustrated each time. In my humble opinion if the numbers are not big in Australia then the wobblies should dump their site and just stay active(?) and alive through the international site in some form (there's nothing worse than following a link to a dead/inactive/ or tired site). That would do two things - (a)give people in Australia who are seeking out the IWW for the first time a sense of international solidarity and (b) not make Australian wobs seem as though they are no more than a social club. gregg :rbstar:

mikeX342055
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Feb 14 2007 01:10

G'day. As Aussie ROC sec/treas thought I had better hop into this one. Gregg I do not know what happened with your organising venture but I will try and find out. I would like more details please as this sort of thing must not happen again.

Suffice to say it must be at least a couple of years ago or I am sure that I would have know about it well and truely. I do point out though that with about fifty members spread over a continent the amount of practical support that we could give an organising venture such as yours would be pretty limited - seems to me that what we had to offer should have been offered but it would not have been much. Essentially you would have had to believe that the IWW tactics and the solidarity you could develop in the workplace would be enough to carry you through. Otherwise you would have had serious risk of putting the workers there in the poo. Not saying that you should not have gone ahead - there is risk in all things - but it should have been a reasonable risk. That said as far as I am concerned it should have been up to you as the person on the ground to estimate the chances. But there is nothing much we could have helped you with that you couldn't do yourself anyway.

Any person who is a member of the working class - by what s/he does to gain his or her crust not what ideas they have or what feelings motivate their heartstrings - has a right to join the IWW and no one has a right to stop them unless they can show really good reason - such as previous expulsion for scabbing or the like. Once joined every member should be an organiser and unless they reveal themselves as a bloody menace no-one should stop them. Quite the reverse.
I am talking of things in general now - I have said I know nothing about your case.

The way you feel I would suggest that you, and Jason also, renew their membership. We can work something out if the backlog of dues unpaid is a problem. Contact me at entropy4@gmail.com or the ROC, PO Box 1866, Albany, 6330. and we can talk about it anyway.

The way I see it the IWW has a lot of potential in this country but there is no doubt that it is going through a rough patch at the moment. People get exhausted and there is stacis before the next lot step forward for one thing. This is a thing that happens with all smallish groups periodically and the way out of it is to stop being a small group. If all the ex-members and supporters linked up it would be a good start. If they all linked up and became active participants it would be even better. Not saying they might or might not have good reason for becoming ex-members. Just asking are they really happy with the thought of the IWW dieing again in Austral's sunny clime.

As to the need for a shake up that may well be but it would be better to say that what we need more is people with a passion and prepared to do things. Organising, pushing the ideas, contributing to the unions running. Either way it would not be difficult to achieve. Nominations for the ROC elections are coming up soon (April). Every paid up member is able to put their name forward. Last elections only two of the three positions were filled, one of those was by write in and the other (myself) only because no other succer seemed interested at the time. The road to a shake up seems pretty open if anyone wants to take it.

Any member can also get access to put material onto the website - again if you think you can make improvement here I urge you to join and contribute.

mike

mikeX342055
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Feb 14 2007 05:40

Gregg
I am having real trouble finding anyone who remembers the events you refer to. When did this happen – about? Can you remember whom you talked to in the ROC?
‘till the bosses go generous
mike

anna x
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Feb 14 2007 05:59

Hey Mike, it would have to be at least two years ago now regarding the warehouse issue and I attempted to make contact I think about 1 1/2 years ago regarding my friends' workplace. I wish I had kept emails... As I think I mentioned earlier, i do think that there is a role for the wobblies in australia but I am at a bit of a loss as to why there is not more happening or people getting involved. Is the trend away from unionism in general affecting the wobs in australia too? While i wasn't a memeber of the brisbane mob, i wonder why they folded? Is this a common occurance. As for the support available, at the time I was well prepared for a "baffle them with bullshit" campaign. Solidarity, gregg.

asn
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Feb 14 2007 10:22

"Hence my PM to you now. Thanks. I don't know what other peoples' experiences have been with the IWW in australia but for me it's been disappointing on two separate occassions. The first was when I had minimum 9 but possibly 13 workers at a warehouse I was working at lined up to join. I made contact about setting up a branch or some such thing in brisbane as there didn't seem to be anything IWW wise happening around here and we needed some solidarity and resources immediately. I got a reply that we couldn't basically because we had to be members for 12 months in order to build trust with the ROC. A lot of good that was going to do in our dealings with increasingly aggressive management who were successfully dividing and thus conquering this workforce of agency workers. "

- let's assume -the red cards etc got fired off and you were allowed to join the IWW at that time -
how would they help your group assuming took some industrial action which was considered "illegal" by the Industrial relations court and you were all facing massive individual fines? This is a problem workers in workplaces which lack massive industrial action would face - in contrast to say train drivers in Sydney in early 2004 (Drivers for Affirmative Action Group) which took illegal action in a "work to rule" style campaign - nothing happened to them and they were bought off large bonuses.
mark

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Bubbles
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Feb 14 2007 11:20
asn wrote:
"Hence my PM to you now. Thanks. I don't know what other peoples' experiences have been with the IWW in australia but for me it's been disappointing on two separate occassions. The first was when I had minimum 9 but possibly 13 workers at a warehouse I was working at lined up to join. I made contact about setting up a branch or some such thing in brisbane as there didn't seem to be anything IWW wise happening around here and we needed some solidarity and resources immediately. I got a reply that we couldn't basically because we had to be members for 12 months in order to build trust with the ROC. A lot of good that was going to do in our dealings with increasingly aggressive management who were successfully dividing and thus conquering this workforce of agency workers. "

- let's assume -the red cards etc got fired off and you were allowed to join the IWW at that time -
how would they help your group assuming took some industrial action which was considered "illegal" by the Industrial relations court and you were all facing massive individual fines? This is a problem workers in workplaces which lack massive industrial action would face - in contrast to say train drivers in Sydney in early 2004 (Drivers for Affirmative Action Group) which took illegal action in a "work to rule" style campaign - nothing happened to them and they were bought off large bonuses.
mark

First off, Its a shame to see you attacking us like this, cromade.

I support and I'm sure most of the ausie wobs support your stratagey concerning taking advantage of the transportation system and using it to gain working class power.

In a shop like the one we where talking about that was organized over 2 years ago, they probably would /not/ have had to go on strike. We arnt talking about shutting down or impedeing the transportation system, shutting down the country, etc. Just some workers who organized and where looking to affiliate.

I'm Sure FW Mike would be able to talk more about this aswell as some clarification from gregg on the situation.

It doesnt seem like they where going to shake up the country and make some epic campaign, I'm sure getting them all organized solid, building a shop committee, creating a list of demands, forming a negociation committee and possibly getting some more experianced wobs (if needed) to do some trainings, intros, etc. down might even have been possible. I'm sure a threat of action, picket, public campaign, community support, etc would have helped.

It's a shame to see fellow syndicalists that could be working together and feeding off each other too help build each others campaigns and stratagies attacking each other like two differant socialist trotskyist groups saying they have a better revolutionary vangaurd etc.

Hopefully all of the IWA affiliates/sections and those more close to its politics can work closely together with the IWW and all of its affiliates/sections as we see in most parts of the world.

mikeX342055
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Feb 14 2007 11:40

Na - we keep going. Just that when you are small you go through cycles. Also we were leaving too much work too few members and comes a time - after a decade or so say - when they start to think they might like a life of their own or they run up against personal problems or any one of a lot of things

Don't want to come all self righteous or anything but it would have been better if you had got membership earlier, if you believed in our aims and methods, rather than wait until the crises situation was at hand. Or even when you were doing the preliminary work. We need people to help the union through the quiet times as well as going out and organising when the situation is dire. Note the "as well as". That is not “instead of”. Otherwise some times we are not there when needed because we were not supported when not. In unity is strength.

To reiterate a couple of points before we go on: – 1) if someone told you that you had to wait twelve months before you could do anything in this union they were talking through their arse end. Everybody is equal here and it does not matter if you been in it five days or fifty years. Just so long as you are up to date with the dues. 2) It is the ROC that has to have the members confidence not the other way about. 3) Every working person has a right to claim membership of the IWW unless they have done something that puts them beyond the pale (ie scabbing).

Don't know what happened to the Brisbane group to be honest. I have heard that it was overly dependent on one rather dynamic person but have never got told the story in more than outline - not even that really. Maybe Jason could fill us in?

Anyway what can I say? It is not the way things are supposed to go. Perfection, it seems, has eluded us once again and I am sorry we were not there for you. Still if you do support us you should get involved and help make sure it does not happen to the next poor bastard. Your needing us when you did shows that there is a necessity for us out there. No union can be better than its members and we have not got enough. That is the core problem behind all the others. Personally I would like to see us a bit stronger before we get into serious organising just to give us a base to generate support from when the crunch comes but these things can never be made to order.

asn
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Feb 14 2007 11:52

I'm certainly not making any personal "attack".
I'm just making a legitimate critical point on the issue of industrial strategy - re the enormous obstacles facing the "organising" of marginal workplaces in the australian context today - via the iww or some such body - and the importance of "strategic" long term organising - the point I raised is perhaps "inconvenient" but in today's situation - its a very likely possibility and has to be taken into account. Currently in western australia - a group of cfmeu members are facing massive individual fines for "illegal" industrial action and the union hierarchy are of course doing nothing to organise the hard hitting industrial action to get them off the hook, according to the latest info i've heard
mark

mikeX342055
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Feb 14 2007 12:47

Combination of bloody mindedness, low cunning, scrupulous attention to the letter if not (deffinitely not) the spirit of the legislation, community involvement and plain old withdrawal of industrial efficiency and illegality I would have thought - but I am no expert - just a book keeper. Power is with the membership only as you would remember - I think? Seems to me that this new legislation leaves us just a tad better off than the Tolpuddle Martyrs. At every stage intelligence and no risk taking with those who don't know the risks or can't afford it. Every situation is different. Society is chaotic not deterministic so feedback loops can generate effects well beyond the energy it takes to set them up.
Just my opinion not necessarily any connection to the organisation and in any case I've had a few.
mike

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Feb 15 2007 05:55
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Don't know what happened to the Brisbane group to be honest. I have heard that it was overly dependent on one rather dynamic person but have never got told the story in more than outline - not even that really. Maybe Jason could fill us in?

Gladly. The Brisbane wobblies came together in 2000 (I think) and seemed to me to stem from a bunch of Brisbane anarchists coming together and wanting to do something. The same group was more or less involved in setting up an infoshop down stairs from 4zzz community radio. Iirc there was about ten of us, all from different industries. This was the key problem, the IWW purports to be a union but unless it is organised on a shop floor it is reduced to a political organisation. Now there's nothing wrong with political organisations, but when you say you're one thing and then do another I think creates theoretical contradictions. So we were just left doing leftist activist stuff and getting disillusioned. I think this led into arguments that were less than productive, sometimes vitriolic, and ultimately off putting to new members. At some stage I just drifted away. I can't ever remember making a conscious decision to leave, I just stpped going to meetings.

I'm not sure how the Australian IWW is to avoid being an activist political group whilst its small, and why people on the job would be want to organise with an activist group. So how do you go from small to big? What things do people do whilst it is small? What function would me and Gregg play up here if we were hypothetically to join?

asn
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Feb 15 2007 12:09

Gladly. The Brisbane wobblies came together in 2000 (I think) and seemed to me to stem from a bunch of Brisbane anarchists coming together and wanting to do something. The same group was more or less involved in setting up an infoshop down stairs from 4zzz community radio. Iirc there was about ten of us, all from different industries. This was the key problem, the IWW purports to be a union but unless it is organised on a shop floor it is reduced to a political organisation. Now there's nothing wrong with political organisations, but when you say you're one thing and then do another I think creates theoretical contradictions. So we were just left doing leftist activist stuff and getting disillusioned. I think this led into arguments that were less than productive, sometimes vitriolic, and ultimately off putting to new members. At some stage I just drifted away. I can't ever remember making a conscious decision to leave, I just stpped going to meetings.

- if look at the early IWW Australia- the Chicago alinged one -the only place it was organised as a separate union was in "broken hill" as australia in contrast to other countries at that time was highly unionised- it's major orientation was exerting "syndicalist" influence in the existing bureaucratic unions particularly in strategic areas in those days transport, ship building/repair,mining, auto , etc. What attracted your group to the iww? - its glamorous history? - had members of your group made a serious study of international and australian syndicalist movement? If not, why not?
Did any of you consider this study could be important in gaining insights into strategy and the associated line of practical work?
mark

mikeX342055
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Feb 15 2007 14:12

Jason, Mark, thank you for that.
I think that you are wrong though Jason, in suggesting that we become a political group if we are not able to organise on the factory floor or whatever. ("The female members should be rooted on the factory floor" Leon Trotsky advising adherents of the Forth International upon the position of women in the party source Kenneth Gee - "Comrade Roberts: Recollections of a Trotskyite")We become an educational, agitational irritant. Working in "two card" situations where we join the major union as well as keeping our red cards we push the things that need to be pushed - solidarity, workers autonomy, internationalism, rank and file militancy, anti-militarism and the idea of scientific organisation and One Big Union. Put in the right way, and in the right language (because I happen to believe that it is the IWW way of putting things with its irony and irreverence and humour and its using the language of the proletariat that is our real advantage over most other tendencies)I believe that this can have its influence.

It is not political. It might be non-political or it might be anti-political but political it is not. If we assume that we are at rock bottom now (not totally accurate but not far off). I believe that society is chaotic not deterministic and that the important thing is to be like a fighter and be flexible and ready to respond to our opponents thrusts and use his own strength against him rather than having a cast iron strategy that will inevitable have to be changed as the situation develops. However, as you ask, here are some stages I would like to see us go through:
1 - putting out ideas so that we win a larger section of workers to their essential logic – like the original Direct Action we should combine a blunt militant position, debate and education with lashings of humour
2 – attempting to form geographically based General Members Branches (GMB's)in the capital cities of all the states both for further propaganda and to provide mutual aid and support to members and other rebels. Being a member of the IWW is to be seen as combining exalted moral position, self-interest and (hopefully) a rollicking good time. Every member is regarded as important and is encouraged to develop him/herself to the fullest potential within the union; to exercise his/her autonomy and self-reliance as a true rebel.
3 – increase the circulation of our paper(s), pamphlets, and leaflets. Increase our internet and other media presence.
4 – start small scale organising in our own right especially of the more marginalised workers – an increasing section of the whole as Howard’s IR laws work their magic - based upon the support group we have now created
5– encourage the formation of “One Big Union” discussion and action groups within other unions and further GMB's in regional towns
Then if all goes well and we cope with the state’s repression and the boss’s discrimination and the media’s lies
6 – ratcheting up all the above until all hell breaks loose (quantity becomes quality) i.e. larger scale organisation, defection and reorganisation of some unions into the IWW, dual power situations in workplaces and geographic areas etc
7 – industrial co-operative commonwealth established – train starts pulling in to glory station, Big Rock Candy Mountain seen on horizon, the way of the Lord is made ready, and our might will be invincible, and the government of people will be replaced by the administration of things, and the way of the Lord will be made ready and we can leave behind prehistory and start real history at last and the ship will come in and empire shall be no more and the lion and wolf shall cease and the workers will rise up and with our flaming justice sword will put an end to millenarianism once and for all.

OK – in principle I am against blueprints as I am against principles but that is the sort or thing I would like to see starting from here and heading towards there.
Mark I think you are wrong about the history. In Broken Hill we did not so much organise separately as the AMA came to recognise and value the IWW card (tended to use our members as shock troops to push things through in fac) We organised separrately in Bolder/Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) which was disastrous as we became a threat before we could defend ourselves or our members. A dual card system was then introduced with much more satisfactory results. We also, if I have read my ancient history organised shearers and a few other groups.
Why Mark do you dismiss “our glamorous history”? We came nearer to creating a proletarian culture and organisation than ever before or since. Only the Great War and its resultant xenophobia stopped us and it pretty well stopped every other syndicalist current as well. Even the fact that you call it “our glamorous history” reveals that we had captured a poetry of revolt and assertion, the loss of which was the saddest thing that ever happened to the working class on this continent.
mike

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jason
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Feb 16 2007 02:17
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What attracted your group to the iww? - its glamorous history?

It wasn't really my group. I came late to the scene having just moved up from the sunny Gold Coast. I chose the IWW primarily coz the brisbane group was the most visible. I was in my early 20s and not real picky. I would of joined ASF or ASN if a group was based close to my neighbourhood in those days. Now I plan to do a little more thinking before I act.

Quote:
had members of your group made a serious study of international and australian syndicalist movement? If not, why not?
Did any of you consider this study could be important in gaining insights into strategy and the associated line of practical work?

No, I was young -can't speak for others, and no. I already admitted that it was an ill thought out, badly theorised group. Stop rubbing it in. wink

What does membership of the ASN entail? Leaving aside critiques of the IWW in the past, do you see a current role for the IWW in complimenting the ASN's approach.

mikeX342055
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Feb 16 2007 09:21

Better than me mate - I started out in the Communist Party, was seen carrying around Viet-Cong flags and reading the thoughts of Chairman Mao. I cringe at the thought and am deeply ashamed when I hear about conditions for workers in Nam and China - where these days they seem to be sacrificing dissidents for body parts. But practice finds its theory I suppose. I find solace in the things I opposed and embarrassment in the things I supported. But shit if you sit around trying to work things out totally before you do anything you could be there forever.

asn
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Feb 16 2007 11:34

Why Mark do you dismiss “our glamorous history”? We came nearer to creating a proletarian culture and organisation than ever before or since. Only the Great War and its resultant xenophobia stopped us and it pretty well stopped every other syndicalist current as well. Even the fact that you call it “our glamorous history” reveals that we had captured a poetry of revolt and assertion, the loss of which was the saddest thing that ever happened to the working class on this continent.
mike

- I'm not dismissing it - I'm just looking at why many middle class elements/students and those of the leftist milieu would be attracted to the IWW today who have little experience of the class struggle and often adhere to an "activist unwisdom" informed by leninist/stalinist practices and legacy- elements which would contribute to the IWW developing sect like features -
anti-intellectual orientation and aimless activism (which Jason implied similar to the various leninist groups) and not the strategic organising it should be doing.
- a study of the iww's history is very valuable - I consider such a study is very important
- in regard to asn affiliation - it would involve being involved in practical work - in brisbane - work toward developing a QLD edition of sparks - distributing copies in tranport with an eye to acquiring contributers for a Qld edition - public transport in Brisbane hasn't been privatised yet - so the terraine is more favourable/less harsh for on the job activity/organisation than say in other states like vic or wa or sa - its via such work that militant workers would get involved with you - in sydney they often approach us to get involved - we don't often need to approach them (also you wouldn't have the exotic antics and political correctness of left subculturals to alienate them also)
- and distributing copies of RW - industrial news contributions are most welcome along with relevant book reviews and theoretical pieces - we in NSW could help out re giving talks on sydnicalist themes and our activity -"organisation" would develop around this pratical work

- re the role of the iww - in the early days in regard to the chicago aligned iww- a core of veteran militant workers which were active in the socialist movement of the time (prior to the rise of leninism/communist parties) played a critical role - contributed to the success of its agitation in sectors of industry which counted - however, - due to the ease of joining - the iww was heavily infiltrated by forces of the state which contributed to its repression in 1917 and afterwards - those looking for a sect to join - joined the detroit aligned iww
- re the role of the iww today in australia - the problem is that many drawn to it like in much of the anti-capitalist milieu are those middle class elements and students drawn from student politics/anti-globalist movement/lower rungs of the union bureaucracy taking with them a lot of stalinist baggage/support of identity politics bourgeois ideology - they would form a significant slice of the membership - making it difficult to escape from sect tendencies - "iww formal organisational structures" and associated attendance at meetings - being to them an end in itself - an excuse for social occasions and hatching of "activist" opportunism schemes rather than the pursuit of strategic organising - for a discussion of this phenomena which I have observed in regard to the sydney iww see Peter Siegl's report on the Workers Control Conference in 2003 in the Archive in our web page www.rebelworker.org - he refers to the above phenomena as SAPL's (Self Proclaimed Leftists) - only very few militant workers attended this conference though well advertised - we certainly had some illusions and naivety!

- So I'm concerned about these sect tendencies which the iww today would find it difficult to escape -particularly in today's situation of a low level of class struggle
- also like in the early days - its openness is also an open door to state forces infiltration and will obviously create a problem re security re strategic and on-the-job organising
- so the current iww and asn are operating on different planes - all the limited energy and personnel should be focusing on this strategic and precision organising - we can't afford wastage of these forces/resources on pointless abstract propaganda -and peripheral areas which don't make strategic sense and aimless activism - we also need serious study of syndicalism and revolutionary history and the widest possible research - not just focusing on approved "texts" and encouragement of an "anti-intellectual "chapel like" climate.
- if not we'all be swept into disaster via a greatly accelerated neoliberal/employer offensive - this strategic organising will also have the effect also of slowing down this offensive allowing on the job organisation to have a chance to develop with of course massive outside assistance
mark

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Feb 18 2007 03:10

One last question for Mark.

Quote:
distributing copies in tranport with an eye to acquiring contributers for a Qld edition

How do I distribute copies in transport without waiving a paper under their nose like some Trot? I don't know any transport workers. I could leave copies on trains and buses all round Brissie and hope they fall into the right hands?

Thanks for discussion guys. Me and my mate Gregg are trying to organise ourselves a little up here. In the short term we hope to maintain a web site. I guess we'll be in contact with both IWW and ASN about providing links to you guys and carrrying your literature, etc. We'll get in touch with more concrete propositions in the future.

I hope both you guys stick around these forums a bit.

asn
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Feb 18 2007 10:41

How do I distribute copies in transport without waiving a paper under their nose like some Trot? I don't know any transport workers. I could leave copies on trains and buses all round Brissie and hope they fall into the right hands?

- show them a copy (its totally different to the papers trot groups put out - its got content by transport workers in NSW- of potential interest to them) mention to the driver on the bus it has news about sydney/nsw buses -its free - invite them to take a copy - when you next distribute - and they see its of interest to them - they may be willing to take bulk copies to the depot - or you may be able to leave at depots discretely
-take copies to booking offices and control rooms on railway stations, do as above mention it has nsw/sydney rail news,see where a lot of rail workers hangout - offer them copies as above or just leave stacks in meal, standby rooms etc - you would need to locate them
- when you get some regular readers in different sectors - move to approaching them for news - prepare articles which they check (initially for a brisbane/qld section of the paper)- also we will refer any contacts to you -it would be wise to set up your own webpage or email address for qld to make contact with mobile number
- in this process a break through could be made with some militant group making contact - they would have a lot of info and depending on the situation may be willing to distro on the job
-This is particularly important - approach other "okay" groups in qld/brisbane - they may know someone or have contacts interested who work in transport re the project of starting up a qld edition - such contacts would be very important as they would likely be key militants with much experience and contacts in interesting places- they may already know or have heard about the paper-and hopefully distribute copies
- find out when shifts start at the wharves - do as above when wharfies come to work
- copies can be sent to you for free , advise quantity - or download from webpage and if you have access to printing facilities - print copies off
- I know "breaking the ice" in the pioneering days is not easy - but the pioneering work is the first
mark

asn
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Feb 18 2007 11:18

- a further idea would be handing copies out to rtbu, mua, twu members at anti-work choices rallies
- also an important aspect of putting out a qld section and eventual qld edition of the paper would be getting regular feedback - getting criticism from those in the trenches - so you find out what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right -and having an impact in the real world of the class struggle - which the paper of the left sect - has no such contact ensuring its alientation from most workers.
mark

mikeX342055
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Feb 20 2007 08:58

I would like to think aloud about Marks words that the IWW suffered persecution and infiltration because of its "ease of joining"

Well its a long time since I have read about the various wobbly suppression activities of the state. From my memory though and later experience I think Mark is wrong. Basically the criminal convictions gained against the IWW leadership in Australia 1916/17 came from planted evidence and police verbals. I seem to remember that an IWW member (rather fringe) did give evidence for the prosecution but this was because the cops had something on him and he crumpled not because he had been planted years ago or anything like that.

In Fremantle they made another attempt to frame a member for arson but fortunately for the fellow woker concerned he had a cast iron alibi for the time he was being set up for. Here the prime witness was not an IWW member but a cartier who worked in adjoining offices to the Fremantle Local.

This sort of matches up with what I have gathered from my own ASIO files from the early seventies. From reading Mark's worries one imagines a shadowy M calling 007 into the study. "007 I would like you to infiltrate the IWW. Like to get into the ASN of course but, damn it! they have a more selective recruitment system so we'll have to disrupt the Wobs." In the early seventies in Perth the Communist Party had been infiltrated in its most closed and Stalinist period and someone was reporting my arival within days of me turning up to my first meeting.

What is more interesting, however, is what happened with the "new left". By putting a number of filters on the reports (the reporter/s tended to stay in Perth even though I moved around with other comrades type of thing) I have pretty well narrowed the personality of the mole down to two people and it might well have been both.

No security personnel was employed to directly infiltrate. Instead what they did was to interview their contacts at regular intervals. All that they were told was separated out into individual facts and filed away under names and categories.

One of the possible scabs was a cops son who got into trouble with the law. The other was an long time communist with remnant Catholic overtones who started hanging out with the new crowd. I am fairly sure that both of them were gay in a time when it was not only persecuted but illegal. One sees I think the pattern. People also go to ASIO and such like and volunteer to help for a bit of excitement. But mainly I suspect ASIO sees someone vulnerable and tries to heavy them in various ways (in the national interest) and once they start it is very hard to stop.

Over and above that they did things like stake out the premises of the group they are watching and photograph and later identify everyone who goes in and out during a 24 hour period. Also it looks like bugging and wire tapping. All the things that we half dismissed as paranoia and laughed about at the time.

Now I was a seventeen-year-old kid, incredibly wet behind the ears, in a state that was a total back-block as far as revolutionary thought goes. Yet in three years I managed to accumulate some five hundred pages in my files. And ASIO was very poorly funded then compared to the boosts it has gained in recent years. So in a way we have to take Marks concerns about infiltration very seriously.

However I do not see where that singles out the IWW as a particular target. Closed groups have never been especially difficult for state security to get into. Often they end up practically running them.

The IWW is of course totally open in its doings. People can infiltrate us all they want, we will try and find them useful work to do. They won't find out anything that they could not from our papers and publications.

Individual groups of members may, from time to time, have schemes of their own of course and hopefully they keep these schemes to fellow workers they know and trust. I certainly am not interested in knowing.

I have not had much information to give me thought that "agents provocateurs" - people who suggest radical illegal actions in order to lure their victims into actions where they can be arrested or the movement discredited - have ever been very active in Australia though doubtless there were some and will be again. For one thing it is practically guaranteed to bring still more funds to the agencies uncovering the "threat" - bit like applying for grants.

Seems to me taht if we are trying to organise a power shift to the working class then that class must be allowed to join and participate. Sure we will get people with cookie ideas and bad intentions but the alternative is to leaving it up to some self appointed revolutionary elite.

mike

asn
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Feb 20 2007 11:28

-
"Seems to me taht if we are trying to organise a power shift to the working class then that class must be allowed to join and participate. Sure we will get people with cookie ideas and bad intentions but the alternative is to leaving it up to some self appointed revolutionary elite.

- but the problem today - is that the anticapitalist milieux in places like australia and its groupings such as the iww "which is so open" is attracted by substantial (given the size of its locals)numbers of precisely such "elitists" -coming from the studentpolitics, comfortable middle class backgrounds, academia and union bureaucracy milieus lacking much day to day experience of the class struggle and dazzled by the "antiglobalist" elitest protest spectacles, as I have observed re the sydney iww - taking along with them stalinist/leninist baggage and having very much a manipulative/vanguardist orientation - this activist "unwisedom" I have mentioned - the legacy of many decades of stalinist predominance to the left of the ALP- and due to the problem of scale of organisation -contributing to wharping groups like the iww into having strong sect tendencies
- an "inescapable problem "in the context of the current raging employer offensive in all its ramifications
- and the point is to slow down and counter the employer offensive - the kind of self organising which is needed assisted via the outside-the job-organisation I have outlined - short ciruiting to an extent the effects of the speed ups, increased workplace surveillance, networks of bosses stooges etc
- has to be conducted by existing activists of a non-elitist syndicalist orientation - there are few of these of a high calibre eg reliability etc from my experience and limited resources - which should not be wasted in the sect enterprise - which according to jason's experience leads to demoralisation/frustration for those genuinely committed to the revolutionary project - workers control directed activity.
mark

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jason
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Feb 21 2007 06:56

Mark, I like ASN's focus on transport and I'll do what I can to help distribute Sparks and Rebel Worker , but I also think you may be being a little too harsh on the IWW. I do agree with the thrust of your critique but also have hope that the IWW will get itself on its feet in the near future. Unlike the ASN, which is a network of strategists and transport militants, the IWW is for everyday people who want a union they can control. When it actually starts performing this function, hopefully the middle-class leftists will start to drop off. I think the ground is ripe for an en masse split with the bureaucratic unions. Its the IWW going from A (a small propaganda group) to B (a functioning union) that needs to be their focus. I actually see the roles of the ASN and the IWW as complimentary. Surely when transport workers start making the hard yards up the middle, you'd prefer wobs in the other sectors, rather than, say, the LHMWU running off of youse?

So yeah, syndicalists with the time should be supporting ASN, but if there's a workplace that needs its own union, hopefully they could make use of the IWW.

mikeX342055
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Feb 22 2007 00:52

Well a lot has been said and I enjoy the debate but ...
1 - The IWW is not going to grow out of its ghetto if all the workers who are sympathetic to its aims and means wait around till it gets out of its ghetto before joining. It is now that we need your help not when all the problems have been sorted out.
2 - the IWW is not an anarchist organisation as such although a fair number of anarchists such as myself see it as very compatible with their outlook. (And by the way there have always been a good number of anarchists in the Australian IWW in spite of what historian Verity Burgmann says) We are an organisation of working people period. That is all the background you need to join the union.

We have some people who come from a very Marxist outlook and they are welcome to their position, and I enjoy getting some of the insights that come from their studies of the great man, but I can't say that I have come across anyone pushing a Leninist line. To many competing venues for them to try and build the party in I suppose. (Thank the fish.)

Still I must object to the idea that anyone who has gone to university or joined a leftist group is permanently a lost cause to the proletariat. Tertiary education is far from rare these days and it certainly does not elevate its recipients into the exalted realms of ruling class privilege.

Knowledge is something that is the result of the labours of generations of men and women who struggled to win it from an uncaring universe. It, like so many other things, is the natural right of every person living on their planet today and it is totally natural that someone should try and get some of it if s/he can. I used to think it ironic that Trotskyists should recruit university students and try and get them into the factories while anarchist recruited (not quite the right word but you know what I mean)workers and if you didn't watch them closely they would be going off to Uni to get their B.A.'s. But it is natural enough - anarchism and such opens so many doors to people, especially those who came from backgrounds where ideas did not play a major part. Also in these debased times it is often those with a keen desire to learn that find us anyway.

Also it is natural enough that when someone starts an interest in left wing involvement that they get quickly absorbed by one of the functioning groups in the area they live. Or that they join one in desperation because it is the only scene in town and it seems better to do something - even if it does not square totally with their real aims - than to sit down in ideological purity and do nothing which often seems to only other real choice. These people may well pick up Lemingist overtones before they find us. Best thing I think is to treat their ideas with respect and show them other ways of looking at the problem. Either they will see the error of their ways or move on to some group more amenable to their outlook or we will see the error of our ways and learn from their experience. I have enough confidence in the basic correctness and rationality of my position to think that generally the former will out - although on specifics sometimes I change.

I also find in Mark's position an implied suggestion that people engaging in various types of one issue campaigns - green issues, peace issues, human rights, refugees and the rest - are also somewhat tainted. (Please excuse if this is not intended.) To me this is an absolutely suicidal position for a movement such as ours. All these issues, properly looked at, are at their roots class issues. It is quite correct that people should try to mitigate these things through other organisations and voluntary associations - the more such the better. All these groups do have a disproportionate middle class component and this is to be regretted (not that middle class people get motivated to try to save the environment and stuff but that working class people are not involved in enough numbers to swamp this influence – it is us who are going to suffer!). As capitalism continues on its destructive path all the drivers to these movements are going to get dramatically worse. Trust me on that one.

I also enjoy Sparks. Wish that some of the people involved were trying to build I. U. 530 (Motor Transport Workers Industrial Union) within the IWW. Respect their decision not to and wish them well of course.

As a matter of interest Mark why did you pick transport as the industry to make your strategic push in? As against mining or media and communications for example?

mikeX342055
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Feb 22 2007 00:57

P.S. Have just been trying to get together a pamphlet, "Fanning Discontent's Flames: Australian Wobbly Poetry, Scurrilous Doggerel and Song: 1914 - 2007" Anyone on this list like a copy please let me know.(entropy4@gmail.com)
mike

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@ndy
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Feb 22 2007 09:34

As I understand it, you don't need to consider yrself to be an anarchist to join either the ASF, ASN or the IWW. All you really need is to give informed consent, and agree to abide by the respective org's aims, principles and statutes. Further, one's class may be understood as referring both to one's background and to one's current socio-economic status. Essentially, if you're dependent on the income you generate from the sale of yr labour to survive, yr a worker; whether you've received a tertiary or university education is irrelevant.

Re Mark's fetish for workers outside of the transport industry 'organising' workers within it: it's simply the outcome of his tortured, bankrupt analysis; the great majority of which is pure gibberish.

mikeX342055
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Feb 22 2007 10:59

Yep. Don't know about the other groups. Don't know about Mark. To join the IWW we ask that a person give an undertaking that s/he is worker and not an employer or a cop. If we find out that a person lied about this we would kick them out. As you say by "worker" we include all members of the class - directly employed by capitalist or state, unemployed, student or engaged in housework and child care at home. One class - one union. We also ask them to undertake that they will study our ideas and methods or something to this effect. In theory all sorts of fuzzy situations could be imagined - in practice it is almost always pretty straightforward.

asn
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Feb 22 2007 12:08

1 - The IWW is not going to grow out of its ghetto if all the workers who are sympathetic to its aims and means wait around till it gets out of its ghetto before joining. It is now that we need your help not when all the problems have been sorted out.
- It's all that simple is it! come on mike! - what about the objective realities of today - such issues as the progress of the employer offensive - intense speedups, longer shifts, low morale discouraging workers getting involved in anticapitalist groupings -the iww or any other group - unless the long range serious work has been done in their workplaces which the iww and leftist sects don't do
- and the iww in australia engages in activity which the average worker would see as connected to a leftist sect which they don't have much time for in the form of abstract propaganda - one example is some stickers with wobblie style slogans put up in the railways by the iww in early 2004 during the drivers for affirmative action campaign- some feed back they got - was that they were seen as some leftist sect.
- in contrast stickers put out by sparks based on contacts suggestions for slogans related to their actual concerns- have been very well received by many pt workers - they have overwhelming got behind them and put them up in various parts of the public transport system where sparks gets around - based on actual observations and contact feedback
- the thinking behind the sparks stickers was it as a form of concrete propaganda - workers using it to raise their own morale, fighting the bosses, stimulating their own self activity - not as an outside leftist group intervening in the situation for absrtact propaganda and recruiting purposes.
- re the " nefarious left subcultural element" contributing to the sect like tendency in the iww - based on my observations - they aren't very much interested in ideas - they don't read very widely - however they have picked up an "activist unwisdom" via student politics/union bureaucracy antics etc - influenced by the leninist/stalinist legacies - stacking meetings, psychological manipulation, wild slandering of others, hostility to processes of debate etc
- added to that as I have mentioned they come often from a comfortable middle class background and have an extreme adherence emotionally to the irrationalities of identity politics and you have some hopeless cases
- A good example of this sort of thing - is the below comments of andy in this discussion - imagine if a significant slice of an iww local's membership came out with this sort of stuff - to say the least an anti- intellectual climate would be encouraged:
"Re Mark's fetish for workers outside of the transport industry 'organising' workers within it: it's simply the outcome of his tortured, bankrupt analysis; the great majority of which is pure gibberish" - Thank you Andy!

- re jason's points - the problem in the current situation is that "everyday people" are certainly not joining the iww - a lot come from the leftist milieux a significant segment are of the hopeless case variety I've described above - which can't be "straightened out" based on my observations - they are just going through a so called "radical phase" before they get up to some really nefarious stuff in the capitalist setup
- I don't discount in the context of a major turn in the tide against the employer offensive - major waves of direct action on the job/industry- the iww could be transformed by a large influx of militant workers, it would then play an important role - or more likely they could set up new self managed workers organisations or major splits from existing unions
- I'm just talking about the current difficult situation - and the need to prioritise strategic organising to get the on-the-job organisation going in strategic sectors - for such a workers upsurge to occur
- taking account of limited forces/resources and the difficult slog it will be - also we have to get something "intanglible" but of fundamental importance going - a scientific climate within the syndicalist and anti-capitalist milieux -I don't see this thing coming from a leftist sect or the catholic church
- re mike's point re tainted single issue movements - look what the largest mobilisations of the "peace movement" in australia's history - the million or so who marched against the iraq invasion in 2003 "achieved"- the USA and its allies went on to invade Iraq - but major industrial distruption in strategic sectors which would severely hurt the "captains of industry" I'm confident would discourage such imperialist adventures and make such adventures extremely difficult- Mike, who is a good syndicalist - I think knows that - but due to consumption of a bottle of vodka - he forgot to mention it. To get such distruption going of course would be greatly contributed by long range strategic organising which the ASN advocates.
- re the importance of transport organising see "Anarcho-Syndicalism: Catalyst for Workers Self Organisation" in the archive section of our web page www.rebelworker.org -
I've mentioned this before so why not read it, if you want to know our views? - also such factors as public transport being more favourable for outside the job organisation involvement - eg distribution of publications - due to its transport nature its possible to get a publication widely distributed by a smallish network - and with difficult situations for on-the-job organisation - outside-the-job organisation can circumvent these diffult situations - ie individually handing copies of the paper to workers - in other strategic sectors - this sort of thing would be too difficult -
also the ASN is based in inner parts of major cities on the eastern sea board in Australia, in sectors such as building and construction -there is a lot of blacklisting - made very effective by the temporary nature of work sites -
- there are a whole range of practical and strategic considerations - also the asn had acquired via various means members and contacts in the public transport segment of transport eg via the distro of the melb sparks etc.
mark

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@ndy
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Feb 22 2007 15:00

"A good example of this sort of thing - is the below comments of andy in this discussion - imagine if a significant slice of an iww local's membership came out with this sort of stuff - to say the least an anti-intellectual climate would be encouraged."

That doesn't make much sense to me (the IWW? 'Anti-intellectualism'? Huh?). When I write 'gibberish', I ref to the tone, structure and content of yr writing: it's a dog's breakfast.

On the subject of discussion: I wrote that yr strategy -- ie, the ASN's strategy -- is to focus on 'organising' workers in key industries, transport being the most crucial.

You do not work in the industry.

The contemporary, "What's happening?" 'Sparks' is produced and distributed by the ASN. The original, Melbourne-based 'Sparks' (1986 -- app. 1990/1/2) was produced by the 'Public Transport Workers' Association' (PTWA), a small group of workers actually employed IN the industry. This is a crucial difference: one which helps explain why there were occupations in 1990, and also why efforts since -- by those outside the industry -- have in contrast generated very few returns...

More later.