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Little confused as to the nature of this group

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madashell
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Apr 9 2006 15:51
Little confused as to the nature of this group

I've seen JDMF's welcome post, where he says:

Quote:
Education Workers Network, EWN, is for workers and students by workers and students. It is part of Solidarity Federation, but the activities are of course open to anyone. You don't have to join EWN/SolFed to take part but if you want to "formally" join EWN, you would do so by joining your neares SolFed local.

But what does it mean to "formally" join? Can non-SolFed members go to EWN meetings for example? Can they participate in the decision making process of this group?

I seem to be getting different answers from different people and would really appreciate hearing one way or the other from an EWN member.

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JDMF
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Apr 9 2006 19:46
madashell wrote:

But what does it mean to "formally" join? Can non-SolFed members go to EWN meetings for example? Can they participate in the decision making process of this group?

I seem to be getting different answers from different people and would really appreciate hearing one way or the other from an EWN member.

aye mate, join the confused crew wink Basically here's the lowdown:

networks are part of SolFed, all members of SolFed are encouraged to set uyp networks with other members working in the same industry. There has been talk of health worker network and so on, but education was of course a natural choice for one because of the numbers involved (small, but enough for a base).

Since these are and have always been part of SolFed ripping them out would of course require a process of proposals and discussions. Setting up the EWN was started so late in the game that there were no concrete discussions at the last conference about it being anything else than the regular bread and butter SolFed industrial network.

So, back to why i wrote about "formally" joining: just trying to be honest and avoid confusions. Last thing me and many other EWN comms would like to happen is people taking part and then later along the line learning how it really works formally.

Now in practise I can see all the decisions being made by the participants of the network, SolFed member or not. But then if there is some constitutional change, or radical change in the industrial strategy it would probably need to go through the due process i described above. So it would be unfair to try to hide this fact.

So one is of course welcome to the meetings, they are not behind closed doors.

Then again: EWN is openly anarcho syndicalist group. I guess no one would like to join it if they didn't agree with the basic red n black star politics? EWN is not a network with vague politics and "broad church" attitude. If one would like to get involved they would probably already agree with most of the basic principles.

does that kind of answer your question mate?

Mike Harman
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Apr 9 2006 20:22

JDMF, when you say 'openly anarcho-syndicalist' group what does that mean in practice? Is the EWN supposed to be an embryonic anarcho-syndicalist union? Do you (you personally or SolFed) see this as possible in the next few years?

I ask because when both I and Knightrose, who work in education and wouldn't consider ourselves anarcho-syndicalists of any stripe expressed interest before, the response was er, inconsistent. I wouldn't describe us as 'vague' or 'broad church' though.

I don't see myself joining a SolFed local any time soon - I don't have time to join yet another group for a start and can't go to meetings for any groups I'm involved with atm. However, I'm very interested in discussing issues that affect education workers and possibly contributing articles to a news sheet or website.

The only possible model I see working for this would be a relatively loose network of people exchanging information and putting out publications - anything aspiring to be more at the present time is pretty much doomed. I'd personally like to see an organisation that is tied to neither SolFed nor the AF, but which could meet minimum conditions of involvement for people in both organisations.

A first step for a network, for me at least, would be a serious analysis of the current situation. This would include looking at the following (off the top of my head, and mainly 11-18):

City Academies

Foundation schools

Connexions

Education Maintenance Allowance

Asset stripping (sell-offs of all kinds)

Business intervention in education (sponsorship, literacy programmes, new-style work experience, vocational qualifications, co-options to governing bodies, privatisation of LEAs and support services)

Pay awards - both teaching and support staff

NUT/NASWUT/UNISON and other unions.

Qualifications, assessement, monitoring, discipline and OFSTED.

Looking at how these affect both staff and students/pupils and intersect with the rest of society (other agencies, central government, parents, local economy etc.) and possible responses/defenses to them.

I don't see that being "openly anarcho-syndicalist" makes a lot of difference with those issues in terms of trying to understand what they are and the motives and potentialities within their implementation. Similarly such a network may well provide advice or practical support to individuals involved when specific things occur (like restructuring, or special measures, or more 'personal' issues at work), but again tying it into a specific ideology or organisational model I don't think aids that necessarily and might prove a barrier to interesting people getting involved.

gentle revolutionary
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Apr 9 2006 21:14

I agree with Knightrose and Catch here. Why not have an open SOLFED/AF/IWW/Class War/? industrial network, instead of spreading ourselves thin? The IWW, for instance, has loads of people in the health sector, I'm quite optimistic cooperation primarily with SolFed, but also other groups and interested individuals might bear some fruit. I'm even more sure our groups have little choice than to work together if we want to have a chance at any real influence.

circle A red n black star red star

Steve
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Apr 9 2006 21:47

That was tried. It called itself the Anarchist Workers Network. It failed.

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Apr 9 2006 21:50
Catch wrote:
I don't see myself joining a SolFed local any time soon - I don't have time to join yet another group for a start and can't go to meetings for any groups I'm involved with atm. However, I'm very interested in discussing issues that affect education workers and possibly contributing articles to a news sheet or website.

good points mate. Some comments and questions:

what do you think being a member of SolFed is about? Ok, now we are tiny, so we can channel all activities via local meetings, but that would be a bottleneck very quickly if things would grow a bit. The way i see it, you find the area you want to work in and focus on that. For me it is education and EWN, and i too dont really have a lot of time for extra meetings and have to prioritise. So it is a perfectly valid SolFed membership to be focusing on ones industrial network and not be active in their local.

Second point is about the broad church etc thing which gentle revolutionary also brought up. You can't have it both ways: if there is no difference in how these groups work, then why do we have all these different groups grin (another big topic to discuss, and i am actually with knightrose etc who think that the divisions are not that significant).

And to have it as a broad based thing which would only have in common perhaps being left libertarian why would one need a new "group" for it? What would that achieve which we can't achieve via libcom?

anyways, i would not like to be the only one from EWN to argue the case here, especially since we do not have a lot of agreed positions apart from SolFeds general positions smile

Mike Harman
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Apr 10 2006 00:32
JDMF wrote:
So it is a perfectly valid SolFed membership to be focusing on ones industrial network and not be active in their local.

That sounds fair enough, although incompatible with "if you want to "formally" join EWN, you would do so by joining your neares SolFed local." - why join if not to get involved?

Quote:

Second point is about the broad church etc thing which gentle revolutionary also brought up. You can't have it both ways: if there is no difference in how these groups work, then why do we have all these different groups grin

I'm not 'broad church' at all - you know me well enough by now I think, certainly although I'd like to see the feds working closer together, I don't think unity projects are worth the time and effort - if people want to work together they will.

Quote:

And to have it as a broad based thing which would only have in common perhaps being left libertarian why would one need a new "group" for it? What would that achieve which we can't achieve via libcom?

Well I'd be interested in somewhere where I can discuss workplace issues with people in a similar situations, and with more experience than me, without being concerned about who reads it. That could potentially happen on here though. I don't see any point in setting up groups for the sake of it (which is why I'm about concerned that the AF and SolFed are going to have two seperate groups focusing on the same thing).

For me, any group is only as useful as it's effect on my day-to-day interactions at work, or in terms of understanding what's going on elsewhere. In that sense, a decent pool of people to ask advice from would be handy, and a well produced well written publication that I could distribute without feeling like a plum wouldn't hurt either.

There's more education workers at my work than there is in the combined memberships of AF and SolFed, I think we should really be looking at where things are now, then working from there.

gentle revolutionary
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Apr 10 2006 01:34
JDMF wrote:
Catch wrote:

Second point is about the broad church etc thing which gentle revolutionary also brought up. You can't have it both ways: if there is no difference in how these groups work, then why do we have all these different groups grin (another big topic to discuss, and i am actually with knightrose etc who think that the divisions are not that significant).

Well screw everything if people can't pull off an industrial network without fighting over some tiny dogma... How do we expect to do anything in the real world if we can't work with other libertarians?? The revolutionary masses won't simply choose between the three or four nearly identical anarchist programmes, and then follow the ideology of that group.

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Apr 10 2006 01:43
Steve wrote:
That was tried. It called itself the Anarchist Workers Network. It failed.

Could say the same for a workers revolution, but we keep on trying don't we bud. wink

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Apr 10 2006 06:53
Catch wrote:

That sounds fair enough, although incompatible with "if you want to "formally" join EWN, you would do so by joining your neares SolFed local." - why join if not to get involved?

do you have a suggestion for a better wording? Nyances often fail on me (english not the first language and all). I just wanted to make it clear what the situation is.

Quote:
I'm not 'broad church' at all - you know me well enough by now I think, certainly although I'd like to see the feds working closer together, I don't think unity projects are worth the time and effort - if people want to work together they will.

agreed.

Quote:

I don't see any point in setting up groups for the sake of it (which is why I'm about concerned that the AF and SolFed are going to have two seperate groups focusing on the same thing).

EWN is not setting up a new group. Think about SolFed, what is the first thing that springs to mind? Usually for anarchists it is the SolFeds industrial side. SolFed is known as the class struggle anarchist group with more focus on workplace issues (rightly or wrongly, but that seems to be the reputation).

What I am trying to say is that EWN is not a new group - it is part and parcel of what SolFed is about. This is why the arguments about why try to set up a "sectarian group", or why try to "go alone" miss the point totally: industrial issues are one of the core functions of SolFed, and if SolFed is so tiny that setting up a network in one industry is not possible, then thats just the way it is. Now in education that is not the case and one has naturally been set up for it.

Now for AF's network: that i can see as a "separate group" and i believe that is how they are wording it. When EWN works with that network, it is like SolFed members joining in the fun rather than "two networks trying to co-operate".

Catch, you are welcome to join the EWN mailing list though if you want to (so it is not a public forum for all to see), it is heavily biased towards HE at the moment, but hopefully will diversify in the future.

Quote:
There's more education workers at my work than there is in the combined memberships of AF and SolFed, I think we should really be looking at where things are now, then working from there.

there are more education workers at my workplace than in a small city mate wink

hopefully this also answered gentle revolutionarys question?

knightrose
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Apr 10 2006 07:41

I understand your reluctance to get involved in something like the AWG again. It struck me that it was yet another ill-thought out to get anarchists to network around their workplaces, with no really well thought out strategy or raison'd'etre. It follows in a long line of similar efforts, going back to the Libertarian Industrial Networks of the 70s, which did nothing at all. I really hope I'm not putting my foot in it again saying all that,but that's my observations.

I am sure that effective co-ordination in the workplace is possible. But that would need to be because we wanted it to happen and that there was sufficient evidence of struggle going on to keep interest high.

My problem with any network, as I've intimated often enough, is that I wouldn't get involved in anything unless I was able to fully participate on an equal footing with everyone else involved.

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Jacques Roux
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Apr 10 2006 11:05

Sorry - can someone briefly clarify in what way SF EWN is different from AF EWN is? I've read this read, but i cant make any sense out of it!

Steve
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Apr 10 2006 11:22

To be a member of the SF EWN you have to be a member of SF. This is to do with accountability, the specific anarcho-syndicalist objectives and to prevent a drift to reformist rank & fileism. It is based on the SolFed industrial strategy. This has always been the case.

The AF EWN, is I believe, open to any workers in education. I’ve no idea what strategy it is based on.

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Apr 10 2006 11:26

hey, an analogy which might clarify things:

if there is SolFed group in a city and then AF sets up a group there as well, would people be equally shouting about sectarianism and small mindedness? Didn't think so.

Now the same happens in an industrial sector, and suddenly it is a totally different case, and everybody should be in the same group.

Why is local campaigning and industrial work so different?

Industrial networks, like i stated earlier, are what SolFed are (partly) about and EWN is not about "setting up a new group".

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Jacques Roux
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Apr 10 2006 11:40

Cheers for the clarification steve.

Quote:

if there is SolFed group in a city and then AF sets up a group there as well, would people be equally shouting about sectarianism and small mindedness? Didn't think so.

I would! I find the whole AF/sf divide totally bizarre. I dont think its sectarian or small minded, i just think its totally inefficient and a waste of resources.

TBH tho i can see the SF point here more than the AF, (just posting in the SF forums because this is where it came up). If the SF already have this set out, wtf is AF just creating a mirror image of it?

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JoeMaguire
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Apr 10 2006 11:58

I think the EWN should be open to anyone sympathetic to its aims and structures (or at least should try to in the future), the problem is that the AF have highly vocal members who havent moved beyond the stage of attacking our methods of organisation.

And to now hear that the AF are creating a similar network is nothing short of ridiculous, its worse than the rubbish the trots come out with. I mean does nobody want to address differences anymore?

knightrose
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Apr 10 2006 12:09

So, what are AF members who work in education to do?

We've agreed to co-operate with Solfed on the Stuff the Boss Campaign. I'll be at the meeting at the Basement tomorrow, with another AFer. We invited Solfed members to both our Manchester conferences (2004 and 2005) - we even invited one comrade to open the discussion for us on industrial organisation - which he did, and we were grateful for and if you ask him, he wasn't subjected to attacks on Solfed's methods of organisation. All he got was thanks.

This whole fucking debate started because of a misunderstanding on the original discussion on Education Workers. I thought it was about an open grouping, offered my support, but put my cards on the table. And got shot down in flames. Solfed and AF in Manchester get on pretty well. Why can't we when it comes to industrial work?

I'm not trying to open up old wounds. So I'll make this my last post on this thread. I'll talk to JDMF in person and try and clarify things face to face - which is usually a better thing to do than argue on these threads.

But finally, I'll finish with saying I got confused about platformism and syndicalism and made some assertions which weren't correct. In the process I muddles up the two. For that, I'm sorry.

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Apr 10 2006 12:41

This could all be solved if we'd just merge you know.

Seriously, it's not like there is any unbridgable gulf between the politics/practice of SolFed and the politics/practice of the AF, is there?

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Apr 10 2006 12:47
JDMF wrote:
hey, an analogy which might clarify things:

if there is SolFed group in a city and then AF sets up a group there as well, would people be equally shouting about sectarianism and small mindedness? Didn't think so.

Better analogy, say a local AF group decided to work against a rise in bus fares and set up a group to combat it and then said that while anybody was welcome to participate in their campaign against the rise, only AF members could fully participate in meetings and play a role in the decision making process?

Though I do think it's always better to have a local anarchist group instead of all the feds having their own little treehouses. It's just silly.

Just to put this all in context, the AF's idea for an education network came out of a looooong discussion on industrial strategy where it was agreed that the tactic of having industrial networks was a good one. If SolFed didn't bar non-members from fully participating in their own networks, there'd be no need to set up a network which is open to all.

Steve
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Apr 10 2006 13:02
madashell wrote:
Better analogy, say a local AF group decided to work against a rise in bus fares and set up a group to combat it and then said that while anybody was welcome to participate in their campaign against the rise, only AF members could fully participate in meetings and play a role in the decision making process?

That's not a better analogy at all. A campaign against bus fares is a single issue campaign. The SF industrial strategy is integral to the aims of the SF and is clearly based on the idea to set up an anarcho-syndicalist alternative to reformist unions. If proposes a way to organise industrially and hopes to attract militant workers on that clear basis. If it were open to all, including those who are opposed to the creation of anarcho-syndicalist unions, then it would quickly lose its focus. The AWN failed precisely because it had no focus.

There is no reason why SF & AF members cannot work together they just won’t be in the same organisation, as they are now.

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madashell
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Apr 10 2006 13:12
Steve wrote:
madashell wrote:
Better analogy, say a local AF group decided to work against a rise in bus fares and set up a group to combat it and then said that while anybody was welcome to participate in their campaign against the rise, only AF members could fully participate in meetings and play a role in the decision making process?

That's not a better analogy at all. A campaign against bus fares is a single issue campaign. The SF industrial strategy is integral to the aims of the SF and is clearly based on the idea to set up an anarcho-syndicalist alternative to reformist unions. If proposes a way to organise industrially and hopes to attract militant workers on that clear basis. If it were open to all, including those who are opposed to the creation of anarcho-syndicalist unions, then it would quickly lose its focus. The AWN failed precisely because it had no focus.

There is no reason why SF & AF members cannot work together they just won’t be in the same organisation, as they are now.

So you see industrial networks as an alternative to reformist unions? In which case, doesn't it make sense to have one network per workplace? You know, so we can work together and coordinate effectively instead of having seperate meetings with seperate discussions and seperate decisions.

I just don't see the point of having two separate groups at all. What does the AF do that members of SolFed object to? Or vice versa?

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Jacques Roux
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Apr 10 2006 13:53
madashell wrote:

I just don't see the point of having two separate groups at all. What does the AF do that members of SolFed object to? Or vice versa?

I've seen this asked many many times, but never a decent answer!

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Apr 10 2006 13:59
madashell wrote:
If SolFed didn't bar non-members from fully participating in their own networks, there'd be no need to set up a network which is open to all.

it wouldn't be "theirs" if it was open to all. wink

So basically you are maintaining that you do not understand or appreciate the basic political nature of what SolFed stands for?

hey, if AF and SolFed can merge anyway, then again there is not issue - there would only be one network again grin But then wombles would be unhappy because their clown army cant join EWN. After they have been accepted in, the trots in IWW would be most upset for being left out grin

Anyways, rkn, madashell etc, i agree, no really relevant reasons exist for AF and SolFed being separate groups except perhaps their international affiliations and some detailed positions on issues which are not relevant today anyway. But like knightrose said, in manchester AF folks and SolFed work together all the time and will continue to do so.

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madashell
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Apr 10 2006 14:22
JDMF wrote:
madashell wrote:
If SolFed didn't bar non-members from fully participating in their own networks, there'd be no need to set up a network which is open to all.

it wouldn't be "theirs" if it was open to all. wink

So basically you are maintaining that you do not understand or appreciate the basic political nature of what SolFed stands for?

hey, if AF and SolFed can merge anyway, then again there is not issue - there would only be one network again grin But then wombles would be unhappy because their clown army cant join EWN. After they have been accepted in, the trots in IWW would be most upset for being left out grin

I don't see why any of those people should be prevented in taking part in a network of workers, as long as they were workers.

What's the point of organising as workers if we're going to divide ourselves along ideological lines?

Steve
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Apr 10 2006 14:39
madashell wrote:
What's the point of organising as workers if we're going to divide ourselves along ideological lines?

I think the fundamental difference between the SF & AF approach is summed up in that statement.

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Apr 10 2006 14:44
madashell wrote:

I don't see why any of those people should be prevented in taking part in a network of workers, as long as they were workers.

this boils down to what these networks are for. Just my personal opinion the network is like a local anarchist group. It takes the political, historical and analytical positions it has and applies that to the local conditions, in this case an industry.

What you are talking is a rannk and file group. And it has been stated numerous times that EWN is not a rank and file group.

I think often anarchists start thinking too big and end up doing fuck all. We know we are tiny, but we have a network to build on. Lets see what happens...

Quote:

What's the point of organising as workers if we're going to divide ourselves along ideological lines?

Could say the same against IWW.

No doubt this issue will be discussed over the coming months within SolFed as well, so this is all good. Lets see where this takes us...

meanwhile i wish the best to both initiatives! red n black star

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madashell
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Apr 10 2006 15:04
JDMF wrote:
madashell wrote:

I don't see why any of those people should be prevented in taking part in a network of workers, as long as they were workers.

this boils down to what these networks are for. Just my personal opinion the network is like a local anarchist group. It takes the political, historical and analytical positions it has and applies that to the local conditions, in this case an industry.

What you are talking is a rannk and file group. And it has been stated numerous times that EWN is not a rank and file group.

I think often anarchists start thinking too big and end up doing fuck all. We know we are tiny, but we have a network to build on. Lets see what happens...

So basically, the EWN is about organising as anarchists in the workplace, as opposed to organising as workers along anarchist lines?

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Steven.
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Apr 10 2006 15:05

TBH I think my personal view is that the best type of organisation would be an internal political one, within a more general apolitical (self-organised, pro-direct action) rank+file one (with the political group to help maintain direct democracy + da within the apolitical one).

Which I guess puts me more in the communist camp...

Steve
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Apr 10 2006 15:06

Sounds like a vanguard to me. wink

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Apr 10 2006 15:09

I'm somewhat echoing knightrose here but I'll carry on,

I've got no problem with Solfed trying to bring consciously anarchosyndicalist workers together in their workplaces - it makes plain sense coming from their position as a group. In fact, I really agree with their approach in so many ways, it's just I can't call myself an anarchosyndicalist! so as an education worker and a top notch class-struggle anarchist wink I suppose that's me stuffed as far as the present situation goes. ...Which is why the 'AF's approach for an EWN is not any way 'rediculous' -what else do we do? Open to all anarchist education workers...right? Not as a separate, competitive entity to challenge what Solfed are already doing but, concievably, to work with them.

Obviously I'm not in favour of the two groups merging, but in terms of activity and organisation (the things that really matter) we should be working together as far as possible, that is 'merging' in a different sense. We both want to create a culture of worker militancy and organisation, we both want to bring anarchism to ordinary people and not as small pockets but a mass movement. These are specific, primary goals we share.

Either we bring back the AWG from it's early grave or we try to cooperate, in a real sense, between groups (IWW included to a certain extent) as they are. Respecting the small ideological differences but not putting them before our more fundamental similarities.

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Apr 10 2006 15:10
madashell wrote:

So basically, the EWN is about organising as anarchists in the workplace, as opposed to organising as workers along anarchist lines?

how long do you think it would stay anarchist without the political backbone?