SSMP and full-time organising [was 'Troublemakers']

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Jul 24 2007 21:20

Lets make it clear that I do not believe unions are revolutionary, nor do I believe that working for unions is a revolutionary activity. Not saying Nate was including me in his post but its generic enough that I'd probably get blamed for such nonsensical ideas.

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Jul 24 2007 21:25

Duke I was thinking of Chuck, actually. I know you and him don't agree on this.

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Jul 24 2007 21:50
revol68 wrote:
well i've argued why i think it's something anarchists shouldn't be doing, and once you finally accepted it when I laid it out as simple as was necessary for you. From what I see you think that it's grand to be a full time organiser now because it's not really pushing up against a self organising working class and if it ever did then there would be time for people to jump off it. I don't accept that, I've laid out that it is self perpeuating, that it has it'sown dynamic that makes jumping off the proffessional organiser train not that simple and that thse full time union organisers will be the shock troops sent into fuck over any working class self organisation that might break out (and these things tend to happen suddenly!). The only way you have of justifying these union full time positions is on the basis of a lack of self organisation, that is the position is only made tenable by an apriori acceptance of our failure.

And I think you're a wackjob on this. An organization having resources in terms of skilled knowledgable people is still self-organization.

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Jul 24 2007 23:12

For my part, I'm not saying that American workers can't self-organize in the manner revol and Devrim propose, I'm simply saying that currently (for the most part) they...

a) don't have the ideological and historical tools/knowledge (any culture of organized working-class resistance is quickly dying off as we speak)

and

b) won't be bothered to do so as it is hard work carrying many risks that are greatly outweigh any immediate rewards.

My career plan as it stands now is to become a secondary school teacher, a field where--in my area--workers are legally barred from organizing or taking industrial action...so, by your logic, should I instead make a career in some sort of increasingly precarious and un-lucrative, traditional working-class field? Hell, I've gotta admit that being a full-time organizer seems promising (in the interim) because it offers excellent benefits, especially health insurance!

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Jul 25 2007 00:19
Antieverything wrote:
Hell, I've gotta admit that being a full-time organizer seems promising (in the interim) because it offers excellent benefits, especially health insurance!

Generally I take a stand on never encouraging people to become organizers. However, I don't have the same position on discouraging people from becoming organizers. If you want to do the work because its good for you rather than building a movement then I'd suggest you not waste the union members resources. Organizers cost hard dollars. Members pay for it. Members do that because its useful and important to them to have dedicated people building the union externally. They don't pay for it so someone can play union for 6 months or a year. No offence intended. Its just a serious waste of money to train and deploy people who have no intention at all of staying with it. I'm more than fine with people who try it and figure out it ain't for them, but thats different.

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Jul 25 2007 11:54
Quote:
My career plan as it stands now is to become a secondary school teacher, a field where--in my area--workers are legally barred from organizing or taking industrial action...so, by your logic, should I instead make a career in some sort of increasingly precarious and un-lucrative, traditional working-class field?

Teachers in Turkey are banned from taking industrial action. They still do it.
Devrim

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Jul 25 2007 18:46

Revol, I don't think "it's grand to be a full time organiser now," I don't care if people become full time organizers or not. I have reservations about the use of full time organizers (paid or unpaid) and paid organizers (full time or less than full time) within the IWW, but I'm not interested in discussing that right now.I don't think organizers have the relationship to self-organization of the working class that you do. I don't think "the professional organizer train" is an accurate phrase and it's not hard to "jump off" at all. Duke said in the other thread on this that where he works the average time someone works as an organizer is two years. Where I worked it was maybe a year and a half.

I think what you're doing is taking a valid and important criticism of a function of unions and invalidly extending it to one position within unions. I don't think you have evidence or sound arguments for this extension. I think you're doing this extension because you have good politics but lack of experience on this particular thing combined with unfortunately poor debating habits. Please show me the link to where I accepted your argument, because I don't remember doing that and I suspect you're interpreting a remark of mine differently than I intended it. Otherwise, I'm not responding to you when you comment on this issue anymore other than to correct things where you make claims I don't agree with about things I've said or think.

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Jul 25 2007 21:56
revol68 wrote:
And you still haven't dealt with what happens if self organisation does kick off in an important sector, when the business unions send in their lil hacks to drown it at birth, are all the lil baby anarchist parasites going to just quit their job from ideological commitment, or far more likely those who stay in the job will come round to the business union way of thinking ala thugarist and hendriks?

This is a false analogy. First what is a 'business union' way of doing things? Second, I've never been asked to do anything against the interest or popular support of the members. Third, I'm in no way to be compared with Chuck.

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Jul 25 2007 22:06
revol68 wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
revol68 wrote:
And you still haven't dealt with what happens if self organisation does kick off in an important sector, when the business unions send in their lil hacks to drown it at birth, are all the lil baby anarchist parasites going to just quit their job from ideological commitment, or far more likely those who stay in the job will come round to the business union way of thinking ala thugarist and hendriks?

This is a false analogy. First what is a 'business union' way of doing things? Second, I've never been asked to do anything against the interest or popular support of the members. Third, I'm in no way to be compared with Chuck.

you think workers should 'stay in the unions and fix them' to paraphrase what shit you said, I think workers will have to break from and fight against such unions. You've also said you'd support the raiding of any important sectors in which the IWW or some other base/syndicalist union ever took off. I think your thoughts on this don't contradict your job or the role of union organisers, i do however think you'd recognise the contradiction in your job if you were a wobbly or anarcho syndicalist.

Hmmm... that makes more sense. I definitely see the contradiction with any form of construction of revolutionary union models. I think they're inherently contradictory themselves which is why I reject anarcho-syndicalism and the apolitical syndicalism of the wobs.

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Jul 25 2007 23:12
revol68 wrote:
well yes you clearly don't see much worth in it, so I can see why you have the position on the unions you do, i disagree with you but i atleast see the consistency, I'm more concerned as to how revolutionary/anarcho syndicalists or infact anyone who wishes to see the development of workers organisations autonomous from the Unions can't see the contradiction of being full time union organisers.

Just to clarify, I'm not necessarily opposed to break away worker organizations, especially when there's a particularly high level of density and/or in a high threshold level of working class activity... but thats neither here nor there. On the contradiction you raise I tend to agree with you. It seems an either or position to me. Either you agree that mainstream unions are class organs and they are the place anarchist should be active in worker struggles or you don't. The WSA have a middle-ground position I agree with very much but they are clearly focused solely on the level of rank n file militancy and reject staff positions as anarchist activity (which I agree with in many ways). However, we clearly break on the singularly important issue of whether unions can or cannot be revolutionary class organs. I believe that unions cannot be revolutionary by their very nature and I include syndicalist unions in that analysis as well.

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Jul 25 2007 23:44
revol68 wrote:
I don't have a problem with people being Union members, it makes sense for legal protection and other reasons in most places, my issue is that anarchists shouldn't be taking full time positions in them, in that I agree with the WSA's approach indeed it's the position of Organise!, AF, Sol Fed and even the WSM as far as I'm aware.

I believe, but may be incorrect, that it is also the position of NEFAC. Personally, I hold that unions are class organs, syndicalist unions are deluded in thinking they can be revolutionary class organs (and thus act as a reactionary drain on working class struggle), but that revolutionary activity can happen within unions but thats limited exclusively to within the rank n file. Where you and I will no doubt disagree is whether staff positions necessarily limit worker self-activity and whether they are appropriate roles for militants.

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Jul 26 2007 00:06
revol68 wrote:
i never said you accepted my arguments rather I said you accepted that i had laid out my arguments and objections clearly but you seen things different

I misunderstood you. I stand corrected. Though I recall saying I disagreed with and wanted more evidence or argument for your views. If not, I intended to and I hereby do so now.

Quote:
the only pratical experiance you would accept as valid would be if I had been a union organiser

Nope. Union organizer, union member with some sort of contact with an organizer, worker in a shop that organized a union, any of those would be fine. I'd accept secondhand experience too, either of people you know or something you read about, though I would be less keen on that. You mentioned your dad and his opposition to 'fulltimers' before, that's as far as it got. On that note, the function and interests of the bureaucracy, I agree. I agree in rejecting unelected people with power over members. I'm actually opposed to a fair amount of elected people with power over members. With both, I like it less if they draw a paycheck but the paycheck's not the main issue, it's the power over.

Quote:
And you still haven't dealt with what happens if self organisation does kick off in an important sector, when the business unions send in their lil hacks to drown it at birth, are all the lil baby anarchist parasites going to just quit their job from ideological commitment, or far more likely those who stay in the job will come round to the business union way of thinking ala thugarist and hendriks?

I don't know what you mean here by self organization and the organizers being asked to stop it. I can imagine such scenarios I suppose. They seem unlikely to me. Anyone who did that should be expelled from a pro-revolutionary organization and barred from further membership. This same function could occur with unpaid organizers too, though it's not a big concern on my mind, and I don't think it's a guaranteed outcome. As for people quitting for ideological reasons, given the tremendously high turnover already, I think people quitting when asked to do something fucked up is as plausible as people doing something fucked up in order to keep the job. They're really pretty shit jobs at least at the lower levels. (The people with the most fucked up functions have the power to hire and fire, by the way, who I'm opposed to in all cases.)

I do think "it's okay to take such a job." That's about it for me. I don't think it's revolutionary and I don't advocate it. I just don't think it's on the same level as being a cop, which is basically what you're saying. That simply isn't what the job is, at least not in the US, which we've already been over. I do think people should organize in their own workplaces, that's the primary political practice I'm for. I'm not currently involved in that myself. The main stuff I do is spend a lot of time trying to help people who are organizing in their own workplaces, pretty much exclusively with the IWW. If someone who worked as an organizer for pay did the same kind of stuff in their off time that I do as a volunteer, I don't see what difference it would make.

I do think that, having politics like you and I have, it would be a contradiction to advocate for taking staff jobs as a political practice. If one treats it as just a job, though, I fail to see what the problem is. To me organizers who, in their off time, support a group of self organizing workers are like workers in another industry who support that group. The sticking point between us is the organizer-as-cop thing.

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Jul 26 2007 00:12
Nate wrote:
The people with the most fucked up functions have the power to hire and fire, by the way, who I'm opposed to in all cases.

I can. tongue

Despite your previous experience with the big green... whats your alternative here? You think no one should be able to fire union staff? Losers should just accumulate on the members payroll like suckerfish?

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Jul 26 2007 00:19

That's why you're so anti-IWW, cuz you're barred from membership! wink And rightly so.

Of course I don't think that. If anyone got money from the IWW do something and they just fucked around on the union's nickle I'd want their funds cut off and I'd be all for trying to bully them to pay it back.

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Jul 26 2007 00:40
revol68 wrote:
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If someone who worked as an organizer for pay did the same kind of stuff in their off time that I do as a volunteer, I don't see what difference it would make.

You don't see how it's different doing it as a job in the pay of the union bureacracy?

Once again I see you overlook the issues I raise, namely that it is these lowly union hacks who will be the frontline when the unions move to cut off any growth in working class self organisation. Your argument seems to be that that doesn't happen much now and sure if it does the jobs are so shit people will leave, I don't accept that, because a) it's a justification based on the failure/lack of self organisation, and certainly has the potential to become a self fufilling prohecy, b) your other justification is that the jobs are so bad people will eventually leave them, to my mind this might well happen but equally likely is that people come to terms with the job by internalising the logic of the Union ala Thugarist, either way your justification relies on people actually leaving the role.

Also if these jobs are so shit with high turnovers why the fuck would it be so hard for anarchists to reject them, i'd suggest it's because for all your claims these jobs are better than most other options and hence your claim that people just give them up are overplayed.

The jobs really do suck. My job blows so much I only agreed to do it for a limited time period. I pre-quit when I accepted the position. As for internalizing the logic of the union... I tend to agree with you but see it, of course, in a different light. The problem here is that unions are not politically or culturally uniform. So I almost agree with you 100% if we were talking about the IAM or the Carpenters here in the states, but completely disagree with you in terms of SEIU or even AFSCME. HERE is an interesting quirk. The staff for the most part would totally suppress workers if Willhelm ordered it because they have a near moaist leadership philosophy. Of course, it totally works for them so I don't know what to say there.

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Jul 26 2007 00:41
revol68 wrote:
Nate wrote:
That's why you're so anti-IWW, cuz you're barred from membership! wink And rightly so.

Of course I don't think that. If anyone got money from the IWW do something and they just fucked around on the union's nickle I'd want their funds cut off and I'd be all for trying to bully them to pay it back.

hence the problem of the IWW and unions in general having staff, afterall who represents those workers?

What workers? The staff? Staff aren't workers. Why should they be represented? Their bosses are members.

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Jul 26 2007 01:11
revol68 wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Nate wrote:
That's why you're so anti-IWW, cuz you're barred from membership! wink And rightly so.

Of course I don't think that. If anyone got money from the IWW do something and they just fucked around on the union's nickle I'd want their funds cut off and I'd be all for trying to bully them to pay it back.

hence the problem of the IWW and unions in general having staff, afterall who represents those workers?

What workers? The staff? Staff aren't workers. Why should they be represented? Their bosses are members.

Well exactly if they aren't workers then they can piss the fuck off from the class struggle, i like the troops i'll only support them when they are shooting their officiers.

Wakka wakka wakka.

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Jul 27 2007 01:40

Hey, duke, are you the guy who gives the 4-hour anti-staff union lectures in your office? "we all have the same interests here...SEIU is one big family...don't you trust your leaders?"

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Jul 27 2007 03:20
Antieverything wrote:
Hey, duke, are you the guy who gives the 4-hour anti-staff union lectures in your office? "we all have the same interests here...SEIU is one big family...don't you trust your leaders?"

I was a staff union steward back in the day. However, I don't think union staff are exploited or workers. Staff unions happen when the leadership treat the staff like workers to be exploited. Staff unions are a legitimate reaction to bad leadership. I'm the guy that tries to treat people like they're humans who are fighting to build a movement. Suck it. wink

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Jul 27 2007 04:47
revol68 wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
Staff unions happen when the leadership treat the staff like workers to be exploited. Staff unions are a legitimate reaction to bad leadership. I'm the guy that tries to treat people like they're humans who are fighting to build a movement.


Thugarist's inspiration!

Is that a british joke? Who is that?

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Jul 27 2007 09:48
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
If someone who worked as an organizer for pay did the same kind of stuff in their off time that I do as a volunteer, I don't see what difference it would make.

You don't see how it's different doing it as a job in the pay of the union bureacracy?

Once again I see you overlook the issues I raise, namely that it is these lowly union hacks who will be the frontline when the unions move to cut off any growth in working class self organisation.

Has this actually ever happened? You keep saying it, but when has it happened?

Any times it has ever happened in the UK?

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Jul 27 2007 09:51
thugarchist wrote:
revol68 wrote:

Thugarist's inspiration!

Is that a british joke? Who is that?

Rolf Harris, Australian cartoonist and singer.

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Jul 27 2007 09:56
Quote:
Has this actually ever happened? You keep saying it, but when has it happened?

Any times it has ever happened in the UK?

I have been personally told to go back to work by a full-time official when a pay dispute was called off without the union winning any concessions from management, and the workers in one of the largest offices in the region decided that they were going to stay out. He drove all the way from Leeds to do it as well. Bless.

In terms of him being a "lowly union hack", he was the most junior member of the full-time apparatus in my section of the then-CPSA.

Does that count?

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Jul 27 2007 10:01

.... plus he was a member of what was then Militant Labour, enabling me to foster two grudges in one incident. cool

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Jul 27 2007 10:26
the button wrote:
Quote:
Has this actually ever happened? You keep saying it, but when has it happened?

Any times it has ever happened in the UK?

I have been personally told to go back to work by a full-time official when a pay dispute was called off without the union winning any concessions from management, and the workers in one of the largest offices in the region decided that they were going to stay out. He drove all the way from Leeds to do it as well. Bless.

In terms of him being a "lowly union hack", he was the most junior member of the full-time apparatus in my section of the then-CPSA.

Does that count?

Yeah FTOs do that kind of stuff all the time - we're talking about organisers, and revol keeps saying they'll be used to undermine workers' organisation. I'm not aware of any times when this has actually occured though. (Especially as in the UK organisers are a very new thing, and not used much)

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Jul 27 2007 15:21
John. wrote:
the button wrote:
Quote:
Has this actually ever happened? You keep saying it, but when has it happened?

Any times it has ever happened in the UK?

I have been personally told to go back to work by a full-time official when a pay dispute was called off without the union winning any concessions from management, and the workers in one of the largest offices in the region decided that they were going to stay out. He drove all the way from Leeds to do it as well. Bless.

In terms of him being a "lowly union hack", he was the most junior member of the full-time apparatus in my section of the then-CPSA.

Does that count?

Yeah FTOs do that kind of stuff all the time - we're talking about organisers, and revol keeps saying they'll be used to undermine workers' organisation. I'm not aware of any times when this has actually occured though. (Especially as in the UK organisers are a very new thing, and not used much)

Its hard to answer if we're just talking about external organizers. They mostly just talk to unorganized workers. However, it would be rare to find an organizer who's been doing it more than a couple of years who hadn't also done some internal buildng work as well. So I'm not sure the distinction between organizer and other staff that Nate likes to make is useful. The question should simply be, "do staff oppose the will of the membership in favor of the will of the leadership." The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no, of course.

A simple example that Syndicalist likes to talk about is when the ufcw sent in staff to crush the P-9 stuff a couple of decades ago. It was pretty atrocious. A more complex example from my personal experience is when a whole bunch of members in a shop came out against my unions support of undocumented workers. Guess what? I totally opposed the will of the members on that, had no problem telling them and clearly supported the leadership of the IU's position. Sue me.

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Jul 27 2007 16:30
revol68 wrote:
unions raid each other all the time for membership

Isn't this forbidden in the UK(between TUC unions). It used to be.
Devrim

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Jul 27 2007 16:35
revol68 wrote:

John I'm sure there are exmaples through labour history of the business unions going out to raid sectors with growing militancy and self organisation, unions raid each other all the time for membership so why would they hold back from going after base unions, the iWW or whatever? it's obvious they would as Thugarist even say's himself. Now who do you think the unions send in to do such raiding? The big suited and booted executives or the little baby 'organisers'? It'll be the little soldier ants pissing on your barbeque, that seems blindingly obvious.

Oh. If we're talking about raids then it would clearly be the external organizers doing that. Not even a question. I'm not sure if that necessarily means they're opposing the will of the workers though. A raid only succeeds if the overwhelming majority of the workers hate the union they're in and want to change.

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Jul 27 2007 18:24
Quote:
Isn't this forbidden in the UK(between TUC unions). It used to be.
Devrim

That's the "Bridlington Agreement," which was reached between TUC-affiliated unions & had no standing in law.

The Thatcher administration (first term, IIRC), in effect nullified it by giving everyone the legal right to be a member of as many trade unions as they wanted.

This was used to great effect by a nutjob called Alan England (who worked for the Ministry of Defence in Harrogate). He stood for General Secretary of CPSA and GS of NUCPS in the early 90s, being members of both, and with the support of his own branch. He was also in the TGWU, and stood as a candidate for their National Executive in one of their "reserved seats" for black workers, despite being white himself.

There was great fun in CPSA over this, since he stood as an independant right-wing candidate, and split the right-wing vote of the National Moderate Group. His name was mysteriously Tippexed off his branch nomination form, and the election had to be re-run, at a cost of thousands of pounds to the union.

Happy days. smile

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Jul 30 2007 03:53
revol68 wrote:
you overlook the issues I raise, namely that it is these lowly union hacks who will be the frontline when the unions move to cut off any growth in working class self organisation.

Sorry Revol I thought I'd responded to that. I'm genuinely trying to not be a dick here. On organizers cutting off workers self-organization, I just can't imagine how this would work based on my experiences and the experiences of a lot of people I know who've done this work, here in the US. That's because I'm thinking of people who organize unorganized shops, which is all I know about. In case I haven't made it clear I'm totally opposed to all the stuff that others have named, officers saying "go back to work" during a successful walkout and so on. All of that is fucked. People who did that should be kicked out of any radical group.

The thing is I can't imagine that happening with the positions I have in mind as organizers, though. This might be a limit of my imagination or a limit of my experience. If so, I'd be happy to have my mind changed by convincing evidence. The thing is, you seem to say that this is something organizers will have to do no matter what whereas for me it's something I can't imagine organizers doing (at least not those without the power to hire and fire, who should be already excluded from membership in a radical group). You say 'unavoidable' and I say 'unimaginable', it's hard to get further in the conversation. It'd be really helpful to have a more fully fleshed out hypothetical or historical example.

Quote:
if these jobs are so shit with high turnovers why the fuck would it be so hard for anarchists to reject them, i'd suggest it's because for all your claims these jobs are better than most other options and hence your claim that people just give them up are overplayed.

I dunno dude. I'm not lying. The jobs suck. The hours are really, really long. The pay isn't very good particularly when counted hourly. The conditions often suck and the bosses are often jerks. That's why turnover is massive. That some people stick around despite that doesn't mean the jobs don't suck. I don't know what else to say beyond that. If you say "Nate you're lying" I can only say "no, really I'm not, honest." Also I don't know what you mean by the first part of this, where you say "if these jobs are so shit with high turnovers why the fuck would it be so hard for anarchists to reject them." Does this mean "if the jobs are so crap then banning people who have them will only ban a small group of people for a short time so what's the big problem about banning these people"? Or does this mean "tons of anarchists take these jobs, so they must be really good jobs!" If the first, I'd be open to discussing that but it doesn't seem in keeping with your insistence on principles. With the second, I don't think that's accurate. At least not for the US. There are a large handful of organizers around NEFAC, that's not indicative of anarchists in the US generally. I don't think there's a lot of anarchists who are or have been union organizers and I don't think anarchists stick around much, I'd bet anarchists have a lower life in those jobs than most other political views. Duke and others could speak more to this than I could, I'm not very connected to anarchist circles and I'm not an organizer anymore.

revol68 wrote:
hence the problem of the IWW and unions in general having staff, afterall who represents those workers?

I share these reservations though they're not at the forefront of my mind. That's because I'm willing to cut corners with people's lives to build the IWW if those people get money from the IWW to organize. I think that's basically what goes on with staff in most other unions too. I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth. It is a serious question in terms of principles though, particularly given that the people who get the money ought to be members and members who stay members after the pay for organizing goes away, and it's part of my unease about the idea of the IWW having paid organizing staff, even on a temp basis.

thugarchist wrote:
I don't think union staff are exploited or workers.

Duke, all staff like clerical and janitors and so on, or organizing staff? Presumably paid organizers for a union ought to produce more results for that union than they cost the union in pay, benefits, and the time of other staff and members' time. Right? Or no? If right, well, that's what exploitation is. Getting great results for labor than it cost to employ that labor. You just think that staff should recognize this and be okay with it, it's a form of exploitation you don't object to. My argument here actually fits I think with your argument that unions can't be revolutionary, which kind of bugs me.

On raiding, I'm not particularly concerned about that re: this thread. As the IWW gets bigger, other unions will try to do that. It'll be up to those workers to make that call. They'll make their decisions based on their own interests. If we've done our work well, the raid attempt will fail. If we didn't do our work well, it'll succeed and maybe those workers in those cases will be better off, unless they got lied to or something. If that happened then whoever did the lying is a scumbag who should be beat up and excluded from radical organizations etc, and the IWW will take those workers back once they figure out they've been had.