Project X

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Skraeling
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Mar 20 2010 07:51
Project X
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We have a problem. Australia currently has the lowest rate of strikes and industrial action in history. The Fair Work legislation, and previously the WorkChoices legislation, limits the legality of industrial action to a complicated system of “protected” action, where workers must vote in favour of industrial action, which can only be carried out during a limited bargaining period. Any industrial action taken outside of these strict laws can lead to union organisers and workers copping massive fines.

At the same time, there is clearly a need for industrial action. Australians work the longest hours of any OECD country. This work increasingly includes more and more unpaid overtime. The instances of deaths and major injuries on building sites has sky rocketed since the ABCC was introduced. The system of individualised work agre ements and the simplification of Awards mean that our work rights are continually being eroded.

Industrial action leads to better pay and conditions. It's no coincidence that Australia has a strong history of industrial action, and has also traditionally enjoyed some of the best pay and working conditions in the world.

This is where Project X comes in.

Project X is a new rank-and-file workers network that can do what unions can't or won't do. It's an independent network aimed at lending solidarity to workers’ led industrial campaigns and challenge management when workers are under attack. The purpose of Project X is to support fellow workers to fight for decent wages and working conditions. As workers from different industries and unions, Project X workers can operate without the same fear of employer harassment in a particular dispute.

And by communicating with fellow unionists and other members of the general public, Project X can help win industrial struggles by generating effective community solidarity and support.

Project X aims to make contact with other enthusiastic, like-minded workers who are or wish to be engaged in industrial action and support others who are in the thick of it. From this we would like to see the growth of strong, active, grassroots trade unionism. We also wish to assist people in other areas to develop their own networks.

Project X has no ties to any political party, group or ideology. We are not interested in seeking office within trade unions or engaging in political lobbying or parliamentary activity.

--> To learn more or get involved with Project X, come along to the meeting at 2pm, this Sunday, 28th Feb at Jura Books. Or email swsn@gmx.com

anyone know more? is it just a group of anarchists attempting to get out of the australian anarchist ghetto or are more than two or three actual 'rank and file' workers actually involved? is this similar to Union Solidarity?

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Anarchia
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Mar 20 2010 10:15

there's a little about it at http://libcom.org/forums/oceania/call-out-direct-action-against-draconian-abcc-04032010

Skraeling
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Mar 20 2010 23:45

thanks, didnt see that at first, interesting to see old contacts from Treason involved. (hi Shamass!)

would be interesting to know more though. eg. does the project involve union bureaucrats? how are they going to maintain independence from unions,(if that is what they mean by independence)? a lot of support networks get used by unions.

in NZ there were some discussions about setting up a sort of similar network, but they were led by union bureaucrats. i think it would be a good idea to set up something like project X in NZ as we face similar laws and conditions, but maybe a little more open to going beyond rank and filism.

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Anarchia
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Mar 21 2010 05:33
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a lot of support networks get used by unions.

Yeah, that's obv a concern - from talking to someone last year who was semi-involved with Union Solidarity, that was a major issue they had.

But anyway, hopefully someone from the other side of the Tasman will be able to respond soon, rather than us two talking amongst ourselves. I agree that its a potentially very interesting idea, and something worth exploring over here, but you probably already know that wink

Caiman del Barrio
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Mar 22 2010 01:36

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shamass
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Mar 25 2010 00:31
Quote:
interesting to see old contacts from Treason involved. (hi Shamass!)
would be interesting to know more though. eg. does the project involve union bureaucrats? how are they going to maintain independence from unions,(if that is what they mean by independence)? a lot of support networks get used by unions.

Hey Skraeling & Asher.

I think you raise some interesting questions re: the WSN project. I am probably not the best person to defend it as I have many reservations about it. My involvment is driven by my need to talk and be active with other commies and activists in my local area. I have written quite a lot of criticism of the WSN project on our e-list, particularly what I consider the workerist pro-unionist flavour of the project. Nontheless I think it is good to be involved insofar as I can actually have these arguments in a comradely fashion.

To answer some of your questions. There are no union bureacrats that I know of involved in the project, and we don't want any involved. The question of independence is interesting, as I know those that are most committed to the project are also committed to its independence. However I agree with your concerns, and think that not enough consideration has been given to how the network could potentially be used by union bureacrats. I think this is of particular concern, considering many of those involved in the network believe that unions are essentially working class organisations *against* capital.

I hope that the experience of the WSN will help to clarify some of these questions practically.

Anthony

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flaneur
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Mar 25 2010 15:40
Caiman del Barrio wrote:

Cock. I came on this thread just to post that.

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Anarchia
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Mar 29 2010 00:23

Just read elsewhere that the name has been changed to Workers Solidarity Network. That's definitely an improvement.

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@ndy
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Mar 29 2010 06:27

Why do you h8 str8-edge Asher? And why is teh Left silent about this?

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Bilan
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Mar 30 2010 11:50

I get occasional emails from Jura about it, but I don't know; has anything been happening or is this the same as the previous endeavours to create a syndicalist/communist-anarchist group?

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LeftResistance
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Jun 30 2010 07:36

The WSN has been pretty involved in the Canberra Bus Drivers strikes, and there are regular meetings in Sydney. There was a first meeting in Melbourne a while back, but I haven't seen or talked to anyone to know how it went. In two weeks we are going to have a first meeting to try and get it started in Newcastle also.

Jared
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Jun 30 2010 23:10

We are trying to get something similar happening in our region in NZ, so any advice and ongoing contact would be really valuable I reckon. Feel free to PM me or to check out our text here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/beyond-representation-tactics-building-culture-resistance-aotearoa-28062010

Jared
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Jun 30 2010 23:11

PS I didn't mind the name 'Project X', sometimes I get the feeling something different to 'workers this' or 'workers that' would be less alienating (not to water down the politics of course, just to be wary of politico language).

bootsy
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Jun 30 2010 23:46
Jared wrote:
We are trying to get something similar happening in our region in NZ, so any advice and ongoing contact would be really valuable I reckon. Feel free to PM me or to check out our text here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/beyond-representation-tactics-building-culture-resistance-aotearoa-28062010

Jared, as far as I can tell the WSN is similar to the BR proposal only in that both are networks of militant workers. But the WSN does not agitate for mass assemblies, instead I thought its aim was to provide support pickets to workplaces where strike action is not a viable option. Am I right about that?

Jared
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Jul 1 2010 01:24
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Jared, as far as I can tell the WSN is similar to the BR proposal only in that both are networks of militant workers. But the WSN does not agitate for mass assemblies, instead I thought its aim was to provide support pickets to workplaces where strike action is not a viable option.

Hey Olly, I'd see what we are proposing as pretty similar. I mean, did you read our article? Our aim is industrial action, strike support and solidarity as well, but just not limited to that (ie the workplace). And having assemblies as a means to create this solidarity shouldn't mean our proposal is at odds with an Australian counterpart. It seems you're either trying to pick at minute differences, or we having made it clear enough through discussion what we propose?

It would be really good to hear what you (and other AWSM peeps) think about our proposal.

Jared
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Jul 1 2010 01:44
Quote:
Project X is a new rank-and-file workers network that can do what unions can't or won't do. It's an independent network aimed at lending solidarity to workers’ led industrial campaigns and challenge management when workers are under attack. The purpose of Project X is to support fellow workers to fight for decent wages and working conditions. As workers from different industries and unions, Project X workers can operate without the same fear of employer harassment in a particular dispute.

And by communicating with fellow unionists and other members of the general public, Project X can help win industrial struggles by generating effective community solidarity and support.

Project X aims to make contact with other enthusiastic, like-minded workers who are or wish to be engaged in industrial action and support others who are in the thick of it. From this we would like to see the growth of strong, active, grassroots trade unionism.

From our text:

Quote:
Revisiting successful aspects of the anarcho-syndicalist tradition and its tactics of revolutionary struggle (within and outside of the workplace) is something that could potentially move beyond representation and build the culture of resistance described above. By coming together in one network based on direct action, solidarity and the ideas of anarchism, we could offer a very real alternative to both reformist action and the capitalist system itself. It could do what the current unions can’t or won’t do.

And

Quote:
Instead, the role of those of us in a network would be to put forward explicitly anarchist ideas and call for open assemblies in our workplace or community struggles. We would argue for direct control of these struggles by the mass assembly itself (not by any union or representative, including our own network). This means wherever we are based we should try to get together with our workmates and neighbours to collectively discuss our problems, regardless of whether they are in the network or not. Anyone who is affected by a particular issue should be included and involved, regardless of their union membership, place of employment, gender, race or age. The key is the self-activity of all of those concerned, to widen the fight and encourage a state of permanent dialogue.

By promoting direct action and solidarity, putting across anarchist ideas and offering practical examples of those ideas in practice, we would hopefully start to build a culture of resistance. This is vastly different to the current representative unions or community boards, whose unaccountable officials take it on themselves to control the fight and steer it along an acceptable path. By practicing and promoting mass meetings in times of struggle, we plant the seeds of ongoing, relevant forms of resistance which empower all of those effected — not just network members, but those who aren’t members of the network and who may never want to be.

A network could also offer important solidarity to those who are isolated (such as sub-contractors, temps, causal workers, the unemployed and those at home) and help build a sense of community. It could act as an important source of skill sharing and education — doing all the useful things the current unions do (acting as source of advice, sharing knowledge on labour law, foster solidarity etc) while critiquing their legalist and bureaucratic frameworks. Advice on employment law, community law, bullying at work, health and safety, WINZ and benefit changes — these are all important needs that a network could meet.

However it’s not our job as anarchists to resolve the problems of capitalism, but to keep alive the differences between the exploited and the exploiter, to build a culture of resistance. Our skill sharing and advice must be geared towards this vision. While we should offer practical support we can’t lose sight of our anarchist critique of the current system and our ultimate aim of social revolution: the network is not a help line that simply privileges outsider expertise, but is a fighting organization aimed at empowering those in need and encouraging radical self-activity.

The main difference I can see (and I may be wrong) is that we've skipped over the term 'rank and file' as this still represents an orientation towards existing unions, whereas we are trying to move beyond that.

bootsy
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Jul 2 2010 22:37
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Our aim is industrial action, strike support and solidarity as well, but just not limited to that (ie the workplace). And having assemblies as a means to create this solidarity shouldn't mean our proposal is at odds with an Australian counterpart. It seems you're either trying to pick at minute differences, or we having made it clear enough through discussion what we propose?

Well I'm not involved with the WSN so I'm kind of hesitant to continue this without someone more knowledgeable than myself commenting. However:

Quote:
the role of those of us in a network would be to put forward explicitly anarchist ideas and call for open assemblies in our workplace or community struggles. We would argue for direct control of these struggles by the mass assembly itself (not by any union or representative, including our own network).

This is quite a specific tactic, and as far as I'm aware the WSN does not agitate for mass assemblies to control struggles. Perhaps you think I'm being pedantic, but it does seem to be an important difference between the WSN and the networks proposed by BR? Like I said they are similar in that both are networks of militant workers, but beyond that the tactics do seem to clearly be different.

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happychaos
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Jul 4 2010 07:04

Hi everyone,

When this union b’crat was in Syndey for May day I held a talk at Jura with some Workers Solidarity Network activists. I discussed worker organising in Aotearoa and Anarchists involvement in it. I later joined them on the May Day rally. It was a small group of committed anarchists who are also union delegates and union members.

The project seems to be in its infancy. It was interesting to hear what they want to set up and what they were trying to do. My understanding was that they were very open to any ideas and want to build something practical with clear anarchist organising methods and long term goals. '

My suggestion is that if you are an anarchist who is interested in organising something and you’re in Sydney, then go along, take your ideas and participate.

Organising

I want to make a general comment on this forum post. I'm probably unfairly targetting this particular post and should be posting in the general discussion forum. Apologies.

There are always arguments for not doing things, but there is no argument for not doing anything.

All these discussions about strategy and hang ups on what words people use are a waste of time. Mostly people are talking about long-term strategy, or at best intermediate term strategies. While we spend all this time talking long term strategy on LibCom, workers are busy not caring about what words we use because they’re worrying about or enjoying their lives.

What we need to focus on is the basics – that’s what grassroots organising is all about.

If a group isn’t calling for workers assemblies, maybe it’s not because they’re reformist, but because it’s a stupid thing to call for! If you don’t have the organisational strength why call for something that might fail and be demoralising. Or more importantly – what’s the point in calling for an assembly if you’ve got no workers to come in the first place!

If you can’t get anarchists together for a meeting, why do you think a bunch of workers we probably don’t know will come to a mass assembly? (They’ll probably ask why your inviting them to listen to a principal and sing the national anthem.)

Even if workers think mass assemblies are a good idea, it’s not simply going to happen because it’s a good idea. Workers KNOW a pay rise is a good idea, but they don’t just get one by thinking it. Workers don’t necessarily organise because they know its a good idea either.

Why is that? How to we help make it happen? How do we help make it happen based on anarchist and libertarian principles? How do we show its possible without simply telling them? How do we build up the relationships and respect required to get something done? Those are the questions we need to answer. We've got to get back to basics. We worry about union strategies more than the unions do. I'm interested in workers organising, not worrying about what a union may or may not do about a group we may or may not create.

Yours bcratically,
SimonO

Jared
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Jul 4 2010 09:58
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If a group isn’t calling for workers assemblies, maybe it’s not because they’re reformist, but because it’s a stupid thing to call for! If you don’t have the organisational strength why call for something that might fail and be demoralising. Or more importantly – what’s the point in calling for an assembly if you’ve got no workers to come in the first place!

I think what this illustrates is the fact that unions simply don't encourage this kind of approach in the first place. No wonder on the job meetings/assemblies seem foreign: union structure doesn't encourage them. The fact that you feel that calling for such a ting is stupid and would fail strengthens our argument very nicely. We need to generate that kind of culture, rather than simply slag it off as being stupid.

Quote:
Even if workers think mass assemblies are a good idea, it’s not simply going to happen because it’s a good idea. Workers KNOW a pay rise is a good idea, but they don’t just get one by thinking it. Workers don’t necessarily organise because they know its a good idea either.

Right, so how to put these good ideas into practice should be a priority, while fighting for the things you mention above. That's why we see value in the approach we've outlined.

Quote:
If you can’t get anarchists together for a meeting, why do you think a bunch of workers we probably don’t know will come to a mass assembly?

Actually, we do get anarchist to our meetings in Christchurch confused And secondly, you seem to be coming at it from a union official perspective (workers WE don't know coming to OUR meetings that WE call etc etc). However I'd like to think the tactics we employ are a natural extension of how we talk with our co-workers already, just more connected and organised. So it's not a case of coming into a workplace, calling for a meeting and signing them up, but to struggle where we as members of the network are based, on the ground floor, on the everyday stuff.

Quote:
I'm interested in workers organising

Um I think that's the whole point of our document...

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happychaos
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Jul 4 2010 12:44

Hi Jared,

Firstly, I respect your dedication to the worker’s struggle. You’ve been discussing key issues that others haven’t been raising online in Aotearoa and admire you passion.

Perhaps I wasn’t being clear enough in my response.

In a nutshell, what I was trying to say is that people talk too much and there isn’t enough action. wink

I'm not saying that what people are saying isn't important, but that if that is all that we do, then we are wasting our time. If we don’t put our ideas into practice, see what works, make mistakes and learn from them, and share of all of this, then we are wasting out time. This is missing from LibCom and these posts.

In response to your post:

Quote:
Quote:
If a group isn’t calling for workers assemblies, maybe it’s not because they’re reformist, but because it’s a stupid thing to call for! If you don’t have the organisational strength why call for something that might fail and be demoralising. Or more importantly – what’s the point in calling for an assembly if you’ve got no workers to come in the first place!

I think what this illustrates is the fact that unions simply don't encourage this kind of approach in the first place. No wonder on the job meetings/assemblies seem foreign: union structure doesn't encourage them. The fact that you feel that calling for such a ting is stupid and would fail strengthens our argument very nicely. We need to generate that kind of culture, rather than simply slag it off as being stupid.

What is foreign is your beleif that union's don't have job meetings/assemblies. Where did you ever get this idea? Even reformist unions aim for work assemblies. They don't always want to involve non-union members, true (and nearly always its the union members who don't want to involve them.)

If you read my post closer, you'll see I didn’t say workers assemblies were stupid. You can't just walk into a workplace - your own, or someone elses - and simply call for a workers assembly. There's work to be done to prepare for one so it's succesful and a positive experience. What I'm interested in is reading about these steps - they are missing from everyone's posts. How do you get your coworkers interested, how do you prepare them for the inevitable backlash from the boss etc. These are the key issues for grassroots organising: the basics.

What I'm really interested in is examples of how you've tried all of these things in your own workplace and organising work. Without a union there are other obstacles that we need to overcome. For example, without a liberal lawyer on your side and the publicity a union can pull, how can workers without a union combat the inevitable response from the boss once he figures out whats going on. (This isn't a justification for unions, I'm just saying that a non-union strategy is going to have to think about this, how to work around it and be succesful.)

Quote:
Quote:
Even if workers think mass assemblies are a good idea, it’s not simply going to happen because it’s a good idea. Workers KNOW a pay rise is a good idea, but they don’t just get one by thinking it. Workers don’t necessarily organise because they know its a good idea either.

Right, so how to put these good ideas into practice should be a priority, while fighting for the things you mention above. That's why we see value in the approach we've outlined.

Yes. Ok. So have you put it into practice. Share the examples of how it workers or didn't work so we can build on it in other workplaces.

Quote:
Quote:
If you can’t get anarchists together for a meeting, why do you think a bunch of workers we probably don’t know will come to a mass assembly?

Actually, we do get anarchist to our meetings in Christchurch And secondly, you seem to be coming at it from a union official perspective (workers WE don't know coming to OUR meetings that WE call etc etc). However I'd like to think the tactics we employ are a natural extension of how we talk with our co-workers already, just more connected and organised. So it's not a case of coming into a workplace, calling for a meeting and signing them up, but to struggle where we as members of the network are based, on the ground floor, on the everyday stuff.

The first part was a joke about the masses not coming to our meetings. I certainly wasn't trying to diss the good work you've been doing down in Christchurch.

Going into other peoples workplaces isn't just a union thing. As activists surely we want to help other workers organise themselves? It doesn't matter if we are an outside union organiser or an outside activist, workers in a site we’re helping to organise still aren't our co-workers.

When unions go into other workplaces they're not simply trying to "sign people up". The more members you have in a union the more power you've got. If you've got a non-union shop paying less than a union shop that reduces workers power.

Quote:
Quote:
I'm interested in workers organising

Um I think that's the whole point of our document...

I’ve seen it. It’s great. Read it a couple of times. How has it been put into practice? If it's hasn't been put into practice yet, what's the plan.

You've posted a number of good posts online generally argueing the same important points. The fact is that we tend to try and reformulate our ideas as best as we can in the beleif it'll get more people involved if only its written more convincingly. The truth is that most people aren't simply convinced by ideas or have the faith in ideas working. They are convinced by the proof (or a vision of their possibility) that putting the ideas into practice can actually get results.

Simon

Jared
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Jul 4 2010 19:19

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your comment. Heading off to work but I'll try and reply soon tongue

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happychaos
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Jul 4 2010 21:03

BTW - don't actually tell me what's been happening at your work as this is the interwebs! Was a rhetorical question.