Is co-operation between IWW and ASF possible at a local level?

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Lugius's picture
Lugius
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Jun 19 2014 02:58
Is co-operation between IWW and ASF possible at a local level?

I'm taking a quote from the thread about the 1989 IWW convention decision to affiliate to the IWA.

Ablokeimet wrote:

Quote:
My observation was not meant to imply that there are no political differences. I recognise that there are definite differences in politics between the IWW in Australia and the ASF. The problem is that the personal conflicts between key members of these organisations are a huge barrier to tackling the political differences. If the personal conflicts didn't exist (or at least were vastly less), it would be possible to start working through the political issues to discover whether they were resolvable.

What is meant by a key member? Someone more important than others? Everyone is important but no-one is neccessary.

Personal conflicts will always occur. Personal conflicts are not the problem, the problem is how to deal with them in a way that doesn't wreck the joint. If your union decides to go on strike and maintain a picketline, personal considerations don't come into it. A union is a combination of workers to advance their mutual interests. There is a perjorative term for individuals who put their personal interests above those of their union or their class.

While it is true that there are individual members of the IWW who dislike individual members of the ASF, it is equally true that there are others that get on very well, regularly socialising together.

Ablokeimet, you seem to be arguing that everyone must love everyone before co-operation that is mutually beneficial can be possible. If so, I can't agree. Afterall, such amity is not a requirement for workers to act together to advance their own interests.

The ASF Melbourne first sought an expanded co-operation at a local level with the Melbourne IWW in 1997. The reply from the then Secretary of the Melbourne IWW directed ASF-M to the IWW Regional Oganising Committee in NSW.

In 2008, the ASF organinsed solidarity actions outside Starbucks not only in support of a CNT member who had been sacked for trying to organise a union, but also in support of an IWW member in America who had been sacked for doing the same thing.

During 2012, when the ASF was engaged in a campaign to restore lost wages, there was not only some valuable support from the IWW in America and Canada, but in Perth and Sydney as well.

It seems to me that where the two unions exist in the same town, it is mutually beneficial to co-operate together when either is engaged in industrial disputation.

In October 2013, ASF-M issued a mandate to the Secretary to communicate directly with the Secretary of the Melbourne IWW with a view to entering into discussions that may develop a 'Memorandum of Understanding' with regard to mutual support in the event of industrial disputes.

I would have thought that this would be possible regardless of any personal conflict between one or two members.

akai
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Jun 19 2014 16:38

I find there to be a few international general truths. Don't know if they apply here or not, but I find that:

1. A lot of the time that people claim there are "personal issues" this actually means that there are political issues that somebody does not personally see as an issue themselves, so they say it is personal.

2. If there is a concrete issue and there can be enough mutual respect to concentrate on the concrete issue, you do not have to love the other organization, but just recognize a mutual benefit to acting together.

3. If there are highly authoritarian people, control freaks or ones that break mutual agreements, organizations might try to avoid each other, even if they have mutual issues. Just less hassle that way, especially if there isn't too much real benefit from working together.

Unfortunately have seen many instances of the last one, ranging from things like not allowing others to the microphone, organizing press conferences before the action and not inviting the others, showing up with different demands or even stopping the demo when something happens and letting people get picked up by the police. Sorry, this is off-topic from the original post, but sometimes people act like real shits and its up to their organizations to take responsibility for this, apologize and take steps to go further.

My above experiences of course have nothing to do with the comrades in Australia, but I am sure that whatever was happening, the main thing is to discuss and take responsibility.

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OliverTwister
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Jun 20 2014 02:28

I'm with Lugius. Presumably any of us want for there to be a revolutionary union in Australia. Let's say that in the short term we'd be satisfied with an organization of about 1000, present in all of the major cities, and with significant presence in industries. How do we move from two organizations of two or three dozen members to that?

That's the key, and complicated question. Are there any "political differences"? Are they actually shared by the members, or are they constructions of a few old-timers?

Most importantly, if we want a united organization of revolutionary unions on a worldwide scale, would the division of a handful of people in one (or two, or three) countries into two competing sects justify a permanent separation?

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Lugius
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Jun 20 2014 07:16

Thank you, Oliver. Putting aside the ramifications that a 'fusing together' of IWA/IWW in America, it will probably remain an issue in places where both unions have a significant presence. It think it would be fair to say that is currently Britain and Australia. I wonder what level of co-operation there is in Britain?

In the absence of any movement at the macro level, I can see no good reason that there shouldn't be co-operation at a local level.

akai wrote:

Quote:
1. A lot of the time that people claim there are "personal issues" this actually means that there are political issues that somebody does not personally see as an issue themselves, so they say it is personal.

2. If there is a concrete issue and there can be enough mutual respect to concentrate on the concrete issue, you do not have to love the other organization, but just recognize a mutual benefit to acting together.

3. If there are highly authoritarian people, control freaks or ones that break mutual agreements, organizations might try to avoid each other, even if they have mutual issues. Just less hassle that way, especially if there isn't too much real benefit from working together.

This certainly resonates with my experience.

akai
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Jun 20 2014 08:37

Oliver, I object to your terminology and think your idea is not based in the reality of practice. You talk about "handfuls of people" and "competing sects". (Nota bene, that term being used politically, usually against anarchists.) There are real practical differences between different organizations which mean that they are divided, but this is not limited to "handfuls of people" because it applies also to quite large organizations.

Anyway, cooperation is one thing but there is no project for any united organization of "revolutionary" unions, which seems to be the fantasy of some in the IWW who would llike to join reformist unions and anti-reformist ones.

Ablokeimet
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Jun 20 2014 11:35
Lugius wrote:
I'm taking a quote from the thread about the 1989 IWW convention decision to affiliate to the IWA.

Ablokeimet wrote:

Quote:
My observation was not meant to imply that there are no political differences. I recognise that there are definite differences in politics between the IWW in Australia and the ASF. The problem is that the personal conflicts between key members of these organisations are a huge barrier to tackling the political differences. If the personal conflicts didn't exist (or at least were vastly less), it would be possible to start working through the political issues to discover whether they were resolvable.

What is meant by a key member? Someone more important than others? Everyone is important but no-one is neccessary.

The CNT used to use the term "influential militant". Some people, through a combination of intelligence, experience and/or force of personality, have a greater role in shaping an organisation than others. They have been responsible, for good or ill, for holding an organisation together and/or holding it to its principles and/or running it into the ground and/or rewriting its principles in response to events. Being an influential militant is not necessarily a problem, as long as the influence is not extreme and rests on the consent of the rest of the membership.

In the ASF, Lugius himself is a key person. If he had fallen under a tram (say 24-25 years ago), the ASF would most probably be a very different organisation from what it is today. I'm not in a position to say whether it would be larger, or even whether it would exist at all today. I am confident, however, that what we see today would not be there if not for him.

And in the IWW, I think Lugius could guess the individuals I have in mind. I won't name them, since I haven't spotted them on Libcom and thus can't give them a good pseudonym. They've been around about as long as Lugius. If it wasn't for them, I believe the Melbourne IWW, too, would be a very different organisation.

Lugius wrote:
Personal conflicts will always occur. Personal conflicts are not the problem, the problem is how to deal with them in a way that doesn't wreck the joint. If your union decides to go on strike and maintain a picketline, personal considerations don't come into it. A union is a combination of workers to advance their mutual interests.

Agreed.

Lugius wrote:
There is a perjorative term for individuals who put their personal interests above those of their union or their class.

There are a number of different ways for individuals to put their personal interests above those of their union or their class. A number of different terms exist for those actions, grouping them together in ways that have seemed relevant to those expressing themselves in English on the topic.

Lugius wrote:
While it is true that there are individual members of the IWW who dislike individual members of the ASF, it is equally true that there are others that get on very well, regularly socialising together.

If the conflict is between key individuals in the two groups, however, good relations between others don't necessarily solve the issue.

Lugius wrote:
Ablokeimet, you seem to be arguing that everyone must love everyone before co-operation that is mutually beneficial can be possible. If so, I can't agree. Afterall, such amity is not a requirement for workers to act together to advance their own interests.

No, I'm not arguing for that level of goodwill. I do think, however, that in small groups interpersonal issues assume a heightened importance. I have extensive personal experience on that point, derived from groups other than the Melbourne IWW & Melbourne ASF. As the groups grow, interpersonal issues decline, particularly if they practice federalism with any degree of intelligence.

Lugius wrote:
The ASF Melbourne first sought an expanded co-operation at a local level with the Melbourne IWW in 1997. The reply from the then Secretary of the Melbourne IWW directed ASF-M to the IWW Regional Oganising Committee in NSW.

In 2008, the ASF organinsed solidarity actions outside Starbucks not only in support of a CNT member who had been sacked for trying to organise a union, but also in support of an IWW member in America who had been sacked for doing the same thing.

During 2012, when the ASF was engaged in a campaign to restore lost wages, there was not only some valuable support from the IWW in America and Canada, but in Perth and Sydney as well.

Good.

Lugius wrote:
It seems to me that where the two unions exist in the same town, it is mutually beneficial to co-operate together when either is engaged in industrial disputation.

In October 2013, ASF-M issued a mandate to the Secretary to communicate directly with the Secretary of the Melbourne IWW with a view to entering into discussions that may develop a 'Memorandum of Understanding' with regard to mutual support in the event of industrial disputes.

I would have thought that this would be possible regardless of any personal conflict between one or two members.

Yes, there should be co-operation between the organisations at the local level. And it should be possible despite the personal conflicts to which I have alluded. Will it happen? I won't hold my breath.