Workers Solidarity Alliance and IWA

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 10 2007 20:20
Workers Solidarity Alliance and IWA

Background on the Workers Solidarity Alliance and the International Workers Association

I'm going to give a brief summary here, for the record, of the relationship between the Workers Solidarity Alliance/Alianza Solidaridad Obrera and the IWA.

The Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA) was founded in November, 1984. The WSA mainly derived from a syndicalist tendency that had existed in the Anarchist Communist Federation in 1978-80 (members of the New York, Milwaukee and West Virginia affiliates of the ACF), plus some ex-wobblies who had been active in the IWW Industrial Organizing Committee. From 1981 to 1984 this political tendency had exsisted as a network around the magazine ideas & action, which was set up at a conference in New York City in July, 1981.

The WSA has always understood that it is a political group, not a union, and with no pretentions to becoming a union. WSA has always assumed what some anarchists call the "dual organization" theory: distinct roles for a left-libertarian political activist organization and for mass organizations such as unions. Moreover, WSA also supports community organizing and struggles outside the workplace as well as workplace organizing. WSA also recognizes there are struggles around various non-class forms of oppression -- racism, structural gender inequality, the oppression of gay people, and accepts the autonomy of people in these areas. In the late '80s and early '90s, one of WSA's areas of focus was on the defense of reproductive rights and we had people in three parts of the USA working on defense of abortion clinics against the right-wing anti-abortion movement. Although the WSA was an affiliate of the IWA, the WSA's politics were not defined solely by the IWA Principles, but by its own political perspective, based on our understanding of the situation in the USA.

WSA's strategy towards labor organization is two-pronged and based on tactical flexibility:

(1) In workplaces where the bureaucratic business unions (AFL-CIO or CtW) exist, we propose the organizing of a rank-and-file organization independent of the union bureaucracy (such as the Needle Trades Action Committee organized by some WSA members in the New York area in the '80s), which can draw in workers who want to fight, encouraging active participation in struggle by workers, and able to pursue a range of possible tactics, from worker actions independent of the union (the JeffBoat wildcat would be a good example) to a campaign for changes in the structure and functioning of the union, to decertification in favor of a new self-managed union, if there is a real movement behind it; in other words, efforts to enhance rank and file control, and to encourage a higher level of class consciousness, recognizing the contradiction between the interests of workers and the dominating classes.

(2) In certain situations where conditions are favorable to building a new union organization, we also support organizing projects to build a new independent union that has a self-managing character, as a way to enhance control by workers over their struggles and avoid the limitations posed by the entrenched union bureaucracies.

When WSA was formed in 1984, a group that merged into WSA was the Libertarian Workers Group in New York City. LWG had been an affiliate of the IWA and the IWA in the '80s accepted WSA as the section in the USA. The fact that WSA was a political group, not a union, did not seem to bother the IWA at that time. People sometimes ask, "Why didn't WSA affiliate to the International Association of Anarchist Organizations (IFA). WSA is not a loose umbrella for all sorts of anarchism -- we're not a so-called "synthesist" organization. WSA has a more definite political perspective, articulated in the 1980s in our "Where We Stand" statement (http://www.workersolidarity.org/wherewestand.html), and a libertarian syndicalist strategy is central to our politics.

Since 1984 the membership of WSA has fluctuated between 20 and 50 members. The WSA constitution provides for local geographic organizations called "groups". A group requires a minimum of three members who live within some regular commuting distance of each other. When WSA was at its height in the late '80s and early '90s, WSA had groups in a number of cities, including Knoxville, San Francisco, New York, and Sacramento.

Even with 40 to 50 members, WSA had a difficult time maintaining its magazine and loss of the magazine in the '90s, plus a general downturn in the radical left in that period, led to a drop in WSA membership. If the membership of an organization drops low enough, it becomes a struggle to even function as an organization. By 1998 WSA had reached a particular low point in its history. It was at this time that a group in Duluth, Minnesota, joined the WSA, but not by negotiating a merger, but by joining as individuals.

This group in Duluth now calls itself the "Syndicalist Action Network." SAN has a few scattered individual followers outside Duluth, but is a small group overall -- less than 10 members. The leading personalities in this group are Seamas Cain and Jeff Hilgert. SAN has operated over the years under various names including "Syndicalist League of Minnestota" and "IWA Action."

WSA has a seven-member national committee, made up of the national secretary, treasurer, international secretary and four regional delegates. SAN members offered to take on the administrative tasks on the WSA national committee. SAN's subsequent behavior shows that their joining WSA was a classic entryist takeover attempt. In retrospect I think WSA's mistake was not requiring merger negotiations since the Duluth people were a pre-existing group.

By joining WSA, SAN members were pledging to uphold the politics and constitution of the WSA. However, after election to the WSA national committee, SAN members used the national committee to try to bureaucratically expel long-time members of the WSA.

The WSA constitution does not empower the national committee to expel members. SAN members used various pretexts for these expulsions such as the fact that some expellees were self-employed. However, the WSA constitution does not require that one work for a boss as a condition of membership. Moreover, the WSA constitution only permits expulsion by a vote of a national conference, after the individuals are given 90-day notice and an opportunity to defend themselves. These conditions were never met in the expulsions attempted by the SAN entryists. Hence, they were null and void.

In its attempt to dump the political legacy of WSA, SAN tried to change the name of WSA to "U.S. Section of the IWA." However, the WSA constitution requires that this action be approved by a valid mail vote of all the members. Because the people invalidly expelled were not sent ballots, this vote was invalid.

The WSA constitution requires mail ballot votes for proposed changes to
the constitution, after a proposal is discussed in the internal discussion bulletin, because the membership is scattered across the gigantic territory of the USA, so it's impossible to get all the membership together in a single meeting.

In public statements issued by the SAN folks while they were in control of the WSA national committee (for example: http://www.ainfos.ca/01/jul/ainfos00045.html),
they claimed to have "collectives" in places like Oakland, California, and Bath, Maine. Subsequent fact-checking by WSA has failed to find any evidence of any such groups. SAN has a tendency to create a fictional image of themselves as larger than they are.

While these entryist maneuverings were going on, WSA had another problem with its San Francisco group. Two IWW members had joined the group. These two individuals were actively involved in the planning for the I-99 international syndicalist conference, which was held in San Francisco in 1999. To understand the problem this posed for WSA, it's necessary to understand the "no contact" rule in the IWA. As part of the fallout of the split in the Spanish CNT in the 1980s, the IWA adopted a rule of "no contact" with the CNTU (which became the CGT in 1989), and with organizations outside the IWA supporting them, especially the SAC in Sweden. At the time the WSA stated its opposition to this rule (for example, I was a delegate at the 1988 IWA congress and I stated WSA's opposition to this rule at that time). Nonetheless, WSA does believe in organizational discipline and was therefore not willing to blatantly disgregard the feelings of some European sections of the IWA in regard to I-99, and therefore did not endorse it. However, the two IWW members in the San Francisco WSA group who were promoting I-99 got that group to publically endorse I-99, which violated the WSA's organizational discipline. After I-99, however, these two individuals didn't stick around, and are now no longer members of WSA.

When the New York Group of WSA and other WSA members rallied to take back control of their organization, the SAN folks in Duluth decided to withdraw in 2002. SAN, as the Duluth group of the WSA, then sent a message to the IWA Secretariat saying that they "disaffiliate from the IWA". A vote of five or six people in the Duluth group could not validly disaffiliate the entire WSA from the IWA. The WSA constitution requires that such a decision be approved by mail ballot of the entire membership. No such mail vote ever took place. Therefore, the so-called "disafilliation" from the IWA by the SAN folks in Duluth was not valid. To suppose that a vote of one local WSA group could disaffiliate the WSA from the IWA is like saying that a local branch of the CNT in Seville could disaffiliate the whole CNT from the IWA.

This is why the IWA Secretariat is mistaken when it claims that the WSA -- the
U.S. Section of the IWA -- disaffiliated from the IWA. No valid disaffiliation
vote of WSA members ever took place.

The question of whether to recognize the continued affiliation of the WSA to the IWA came up for a vote at the IWA congress in 2004. At that time, FAU and USI voted to recognize the WSA as still an affiliate, but the CNT-AIT, Solidarity Federation (UK), and NSF (Norway) voted against recognition of the WSA as an affiliate. This amounted to a vote of expulsion of the WSA from the IWA.

Caveat: I post this here because WSA's relationship to the IWA comes up from time to time. My own personal assessment is that the WSA needs to let the period of its IWA affiliation fade into the past.

syndicalist
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Feb 11 2007 02:47

I'd like to add some additional comments, but time doesn't permit tonite.

Anyone interested in more WSA history can go http://www.zabalaza.net/index02.htm and read "A Brief History of the WSA"

EDIT: I see this link isn't doing the trick, so:

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORKERS' SOLIDARITY ALLIANCE: (M, WSA, USA) eng
Author: blackdragon (---.argus.co.za)
Date: 06-30-05 17:13

A Brief History of the Workers' Solidarity Alliance
by M

The W.S.A.'s Origins

Some members of the WSA can trace their roots to the 1974 effort to establish an anarcho-syndicalist "Committee of correspondence for an anarcho-syndicalist liaison group". In their June 2, 1974 circular the Committee established its basic approach to moving forward. The Committee was to be the "clear expression of syndicalist principles in the face of 'do your own thing' anarchist movement drifting away from [the] class struggle'." We, therefore, wanted to clearly establish an organization that was both structured and accountable. Another aim of the Committee was to form a US Section of the International Workers Association (IWA).

Although the Committee effort did not immediately succeed, new contacts were made and a new and mainly younger generation of anarcho-syndicalists began to come together. Further contacts and networks were also established through involvement in the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America (ACF, 1978-1981), the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and various workplace campaigns. Many of the founding members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance met and worked together during this time.

In 1978 the New York City based Libertarian Workers Group (now NY-NJ WSA) affiliated to the IWA. Soon to follow was the Syndicalist Alliance (SA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the former IWA Secretary General Fidel Gorron Canoyra, we became the "first [US] IWA section in the history of the IWA."

While a formal "national" anarcho-syndicalist organization was not formed until 1984, a network of anarcho-syndicalists decided began to work together. By 1981 we came together to publish an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist magazine titled "ideas & action". "ideas & action" later went on to become the magazine of the WSA.

Also during this period we worked with like-minded folks on the US and Canadian newspaper "Strike!" and the informal network publishing it. The informal "Strike!" network also engaged in some activities aside from publishing the paper. These mainly consisted of various solidarity campaigns in the US, Canada and abroad. Our internationalism has always been strong and we engaged in many internationalist activities.

During this time period, many Latin American countries were under US supported military dictatorships. A number of these countries also had a rich tradition of anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist activity as well. Given our own proximity to Latin America, we cooperatively set up the Libertarian Aid to Latin American Workers (LALAW) committees with others in the "Strike!" network. Our various LALAW committees worked on a number of campaigns and published an impressive journal "No Middle Ground".

Additionally some of our members, mainly in the New York area, were also engaged in activities in support of the underground struggles of workers to establish independent unions in the former "socialist" East Europe, as well a trying to organize the Needle Trades Workers Action Committee of rank-and-file workers. Members in West Virginia were particularly focused on the coal industry and rising unemployment and its effects on the rural coal mining communities. Californian members were active with publishing tasks, community activities and workplace outreach and activity mainly in the emerging high tech sector. [It is also worthwhile noting that it was the WSA that first made contact with the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League in Nigeria and recently donated it the equipment to set up its own radio station in Enugu! So the WSA's internationalism has had a strong African connection, too - note by ZACF international secretary]

During this time period, the main areas of network activity consisted of distributing various informational leaflets, newsletters, newspaper and magazine ("On The Line" in NYC, "Strike!" and "ideas & action"), and solidarity activities. Network participants were also involved in their workplaces, labor unions, on picket lines and in various social issues and student movements. Particular attention and focus was also given to anti-militarist and anti-nuclear power and weapons struggles as well.

These events bring us to the period preceding the formation of the W.S.A. in November 1984. Perhaps in future issues we will review in detail some of the events of this time period, as well as the early years of the W.S.A.

A Brief History of the W.S.A.

2004 marked the 20th anniversary of the W.S.A. Never a large organization, we have always made up for it in spirit.

Originally a network of anarcho-syndicalistsand class struggle anti-authoritarians in the early 1980s. The network included the magazine "ideas & action", began in 1981, and the Libertarian Workers Group organized in New York City in the 1970s.

It was flexible in its approach to workplace organizing, which was integrated into the WSA when it was founded in New York City in November 1984. Identifying with the syndicalist tradition, the WSA affiliated with the International Workers Association in 1984 - until recently. However, the WSA continues to be sympathetic to the traditions and Principles of the IWA.

Although the WSA's main strategic focus is on the labor movement, the WSA also believes that a working class-based movement needs to be broadly based in working class communities, not just in the workplaces, and that the movement needs to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, and internationalist in character. These concerns are expressed in the WSA's "Where We Stand" statement developed in the 1980s.

Surely the WSA can not claim credit for the adaptation of other workers' organizations alternative approaches to workplace and community organizing. On the other hand, we have seen others draw similar conclusions as we have in developing a variety of alternative and self-managed movements and ideas. Many very similar to the ideas we envision and have been advocating for. Examples of this can be seen in the growth of workers centers; the concept of "solidarity unionism"; "flying picket squads"; independent organizing against sweatshop conditions and other forms of workers themselves organizing on their own and in their own name.

WSA documents and some articles from "ideas & action" may be viewed at our website: www.workersolidarity.org.

Mark.
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Feb 11 2007 13:32

I'm new to libcom - I came across it doing a search on the last IWA congress in Manchester. As I haven't been involved for years and haven't followed events I'm finding the recent history of the IWA puzzling to say the least. Can anyone from Solidarity Federation explain why they voted not to recognise the WSA as an IWA affiliate - and do they still think this was the right decision? I'm just trying to understand what happened and what the issues were.

syndicalist
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Feb 13 2007 06:35

As it's almost 130AM, having just got in from work, so I'll be brief at the moment.

I should be a betting man, I probably could retire. I should've placed a bet that when I returned from work there would be no reply to JH's question.

It is clear to me that members of the IWA feel comfortable with just sweeping things under the rug. Ignore the WSA, they'll just go away. Forget all the times the WSA stood by our side when we needed their solidarity. I find it quite telling that not one comrade can come forward and say why they voted the way they did. Tough to look a comrade in the eye and say you were wrong, eh?

syndicalist
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Feb 13 2007 07:38

Elsewhere on libcom:

http://libcom.org/forums/nefac/nefac-and-iwa-ait-vs-ils-sil

Flint wrote:
"In my opinion, in terms of international solidarity from U.S. anarchists groups... the group that does the best job of that is the WSA ... The IWA lost a lot by loosing ... the WSA. WSA does a better job of it than NEFAC, than the IWW's international solidarity committee, and better than Black Bridges International."

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JDMF
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Feb 13 2007 09:46

syndicalist, i think most SolFed members on libcom were not members during that time so it is difficult to comment. I dont think "we", as in libcom solfed members, are trying to sweep things under the carpet, i mean we have been answering lots of difficult questions about IWA issues before (many of which i dont support myself).

I dont have a first clue about this issue and didn't know that solfed voted against WSA.

Sorry cant be more helpful.

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Steven.
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Feb 13 2007 10:14

Yeah that sounds pretty shitty from the point of view of the IWA/Solfed/etc.

I know some people on libcom would've been in solfed then - it was only 2004. Steve and martinh at least, wasn't the button in then too?

Is the SAN still around then? And are they fucking insane or what?

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the button
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Feb 13 2007 10:58
John. wrote:
wasn't the button in then too?

I was, but only just, IIRC.

WeTheYouth
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Feb 13 2007 11:34

The WSA question should be brought up again at the next congress, and until then i think that SF locals should keep in good contact with the WSA as if they were a section of the IWA.

syndicalist
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Feb 13 2007 14:13

Good AM.

Thanks to all of the younger Solfed folks who have replied and for the interest. More comments later as I have to get to work.

WSA (and our respective NY-Libertarian Workers Group and the Milwaukee-Syndicalist Alliance) have for better than 20 years enjoyed a good, positive and mutually respectful relationship with the SWF, the DAM and briefly with Solfed. I can only assume that some of the older comrades who were around over the years read libcom. I suspect there are other IWA members reading libcom as well. So whatever historical comments which are made are surely directed at those involved at the time. But they bring forward a legacy which has not simply harmed the WSA, but the IWA as well.

Over a period of time you build not only organizational but personal relationshiops as well. You assume that cause you got a comrades back, they got yours. You don't expect them to knife you in the back. Organizationally and personally speaking, this is what folks in the IWA did, including Solfed. When you have relationships with comrades and they refuse to answer mail, refuse your questions and refuse to allow debate, there's a problem. Cause if they do it to "you" they will do it to others.In the long run this is the more far reaching issue.

I'll get to the SAN and other stuff later. I will say,in reply to John,the people from Duluth are stuck in the cespool of intrigue, personal animus and simply off their medicine.

martinh
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Feb 13 2007 14:28

I rejoined in 2005 so can't say why SolFed voted as it did. I think Steve is probably the only one who ever posts here who was around at the time.

On a personal level I consider the WSA comrades and it's quite clear they have been treated badly,

regards,

Martin

David in Atlanta
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Feb 13 2007 17:37

I'd add a couple of words to this sentence, which sounds rather cold:

Quote:
However, the WSA continues to be sympathetic to the traditions and Principles of the IWA.

We're also, of course, in complete solidarity with economic and political struggles undertaken by IWA sections or sections facing repression.
OK, thats more than a couple of words.

I was involved in the I99 organizing, more as a wobbly than as a WSA member. I thought at the time, and still do, that it's good for the IWW (or someone) to host periodic cross-organizational conferences, both for their own membership and for the libertarian workers movement overall. I saw it as follow-up from Mayday '86 and the Workers Democracy initiated conference in St.Louis. I can't claim to have realized it at the time, but i'm of the opinion that I99 was also an important part of the organizing that led to the Seattle WTO actions the next year. Also I acted in political defense of the SF branch, who were being attacked inside the IWW primarily for being WSA members.

I didn't see a violation of formal WSA discipline. It looked at the time like it was the New York group disagreeing with SF and the rest of the organization who were more willing to actively break the "no-contact" rule in an informal and non-binding conference setting. Am i correct in my recollection that SAN supported I99?

Flint
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Feb 13 2007 17:54
gatorojinegro wrote:
While these entryist maneuverings were going on, WSA had another problem with its San Francisco group. Two IWW members had joined the group. These two individuals were actively involved in the planning for the I-99 international syndicalist conference, which was held in San Francisco in 1999. To understand the problem this posed for WSA, it's necessary to understand the "no contact" rule in the IWA. As part of the fallout of the split in the Spanish CNT in the 1980s, the IWA adopted a rule of "no contact" with the CNTU (which became the CGT in 1989), and with organizations outside the IWA supporting them, especially the SAC in Sweden. At the time the WSA stated its opposition to this rule (for example, I was a delegate at the 1988 IWA congress and I stated WSA's opposition to this rule at that time). Nonetheless, WSA does believe in organizational discipline and was therefore not willing to blatantly disgregard the feelings of some European sections of the IWA in regard to I-99, and therefore did not endorse it. However, the two IWW members in the San Francisco WSA group who were promoting I-99 got that group to publically endorse I-99, which violated the WSA's organizational discipline. After I-99, however, these two individuals didn't stick around, and are now no longer members of WSA.

This was when I was a member of the WSA. I had joined the IWW through my acquaitence with Rafi Sharif Bey, also a long time AFSCME member, as well as in the WSA. In the IWW, I got on good terms with the San Francisco folks. In the lead up to I-99, I joined the WSA. At the time, I believe the National Office (I don't recall who exactly had which posts) was in San Francisco. throwhen also joined. We did so out of our feelings of political sympathy with the only anarcho-syndicalist organization in the U.S. I attended I-99, so did the folks setting it up from San Francisco (were you there, Tom? I forget; I know our WSA/IWW comrade from Atlanta was there also). There were a large number of wobblies, as well as the SAC, CNT-F (Vignoles). I believe some comrades from the FAU also showed up. One of the big topics was Seattle Wobs like Jason Adams trying to motivate folks to come to Seattle for the protests against the WTO.

This was also around the time of Sam MBah (Nigerian Awareness League) had a speaking tour in the U.S. thanks to the hard work of the WSA; and I setup a successful event in Baltimore.

Both of these events were mentioned in the "Quiet Americans" articles that lead to the "We Dare Be Free" collective in Boston to be contacted "Groupe Emile Henry" in Quebec. They went on to form NEFAC.

All this stuff going on with SAN was going on during all of this, and to someone new to the IWA; it was very confusing. While the internal bulletin always came out well when it was being sent from NYC; (and I believe it came out from SF as well); under the folks Duluth... it was being used to further their agenda. The international email lists were still hot over elements of the WSA and the FAU being at a joint discussion conference with the CNT-F (Vignoles) and the SAC. At the time, the WSA also hadn't been producing a publication, and Anarcho-Syndicalist Review still had venom for the WSA.

One of the San Francisco WSA comrades was also in a bid to become GST for the IWW. He lost that election to Alexis Buss, who was relected to the post several times. He seemed to drift away at that point.

As we came up to the World Bank/IMF meetings the following spring in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore WSA members got involved with that protest. We also host a talk at Black Planet Books from someone who had been at the founding NEFAC congress. I know I signed onto the call for a Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Bloc as a "Northeast Regional Delegate of the WSA" (I was never entirely sure what my role was there, but the organization was in very bad shape at the time). Baltimore WSA/wobblies were part of a shared reading group with Collective Action Notes and Claustrophobia. The WSA/wobblies ended up joining up with NEFAC as the Roundhouse collective and attended their next conference that summer in West Virginia (I also think that the West Virginian WSA member was there in the evening, but declined to join).

"We Dare Be Free" was active on the street, had a regular publication, and a lot closer to where some of us folks in Baltimore were in temprament. So, while the WSA got embroiled in a fight with the folks from Duluth; I decided to focus my time with NEFAC... rather than get involved in what was a confusing situation to me.

It was the Roundhouse collective that pushed for a position of engagement with unions (including, but not limited to the IWW) in NEFAC, instead of adopting a more "outside and against" position that was popular among some folks sympathetic to the A(C)F or various council communist ideas.

There is a lot of other history before we get to all this about the ACF, "Strike" and the animosity from the LLR/ASR, etc... but I wasn't around for any of it.

Is that all as clear as mud now?

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 13 2007 18:18

Thanks to David and Flint for clearing some of this up
for me. I had dropped out of WSA in 1994 and didn't rejoin til 2002.

t.

Mark.
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Feb 13 2007 22:49

Although it doesn't answer my original question thanks to the Solfed members for responding. I was in the SWF and then DAM for a while - a long time ago obviously - and for what its worth I can remember that I was always impressed with what I read from the Libertarian Workers Group and the WSA.

At the risk of derailing this thread I'd like to ask more about the IWA's "no contact" rule. Gatorojinegro mentioned the CGT and SAC. Who else does this rule apply to? In the Liverpool dockers dispute in the late nineties there was a lot of active support from SAC and from the Coordinadora, the main spanish dockworkers union. These contacts were initiated by Hull Syndicalists through Hull Trades Council. Does the "no contact" rule mean that Solfed would not have been allowed to approach SAC? Would this apply to the Coordinadora as well?

Long before the main body of the CNT-F was expelled from the IWA I remember talking to Solfed members who felt a lot more sympathy with them than with the Bordeaux group (now the official CNT-AIT). Have Solfed now cut off contact with the CNT-F? I understand that FAU have contacts with the CNT-F and that this was an issue at the congress in Manchester. Was there any debate or support for changing the "no contact" rule?

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JDMF
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Feb 14 2007 12:35

Again, cant really answer your question JH because of being a new member and dont know all the historical details about who said what when. I am a member of Solfed, but havent seen any official documents about this alleged no contact rule, and i have asked to see some.

I am in close personal contact with people in SAC and also in the CNT-F because I have friends there, and i doubt any one would like to try to prevent those contacts being in place. As far as official contacts i dont know for sure.

Anyways JH, sounds like you are still interested in the international A-S drama if not solfeds current practical work itself grin SolFed is doing pretty well these days, lots of new blood in and some locals are doing a good job I think. The international issues seem to be more of a burden than a benefit.

syndicalist
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Feb 14 2007 18:15

Interesting stuff. I'm a bit pressed for time at the moment. So let me address some things quickly. I'll come back to I-99 later.

Flint wrote:
"outside and against" position that was popular among some folks sympathetic to the A(C)F or various council communist ideas.

For clarification, you mean the British A(C)F. Not to be confused with the old ACF of North America.

JH wrote:
I was always impressed with what I read from the Libertarian Workers Group and the WSA.

Thanks, good to hear. And we always felt the same about the SWF and DAM.

As a total aside, I think the first rough englsih of the IWA Aims translation we got from the SWF was from (I think) Pete Turner. Hand written no less! Our local NY comrades then went on to actually translate into english the first (post-war?) Statutes, Aims & Principles of the IWA.

Anyway...

JH wrote:
At the risk of derailing this thread I'd like to ask more about the IWA's "no contact" rule. Gatorojinegro mentioned the CGT and SAC. Who else does this rule apply to? In the Liverpool dockers dispute in the late nineties there was a lot of active support from SAC and from the Coordinadora, the main spanish dockworkers union. These contacts were initiated by Hull Syndicalists through Hull Trades Council. Does the "no contact" rule mean that Solfed would not have been allowed to approach SAC? Would this apply to the Coordinadora as well?

Ok, this is actually a two-fold question.

On the "no contact" question: It is my understanding is, if they have contact with
a local branch of the SAC it was ok. no contact with SAC central. No contact at all with CNT-F or CGT. This
is my general understanding.

The issue of the Hull Syndicalists complicated the first question even further. As you must be aware JH, the folks in Hull created quite a stir inside the DAM over their handeling of an issue of "Direct Action" and other things. Without reliving too uch of the history, they (Hull) tried to cause fritction between the WSA and the DAM. They were trounced by the DAM in that effort.

Back on point: Because of the problems with Hull, and because of the "no contact" policy with the SAC, etc. I can only imagine some form of "no contact" would've prevailed. As far as Coordinadora goes, I suspect IWA sections would've had no restrictions.

JH wrote:
Long before the main body of the CNT-F was expelled from the IWA I remember talking to Solfed members who felt a lot more sympathy with them than with the Bordeaux group (now the official CNT-AIT).

The reason why some in the FAU have maintained contact with some in Vignoles is the same reason wh some in Solfed today have contacts in the SAC, etc.: personal friendships.

I really gotta run now. More later.

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Feb 14 2007 18:24
JDMF wrote:
Anyways JH, sounds like you are still interested in the international A-S drama if not solfeds current practical work itself grin SolFed is doing pretty well these days, lots of new blood in and some locals are doing a good job I think. The international issues seem to be more of a burden than a benefit.

Ok, one last thing.... the SF is an intergral part of the IWA. The SF continues to play a key role in the IWA. The SF was part of an injustice to a sister organization (WSA). An organization that always stood in solidarity with SWF, DAM and SF when asked.It's all part of the mix.

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Feb 14 2007 20:33

shit, why is this A-S world so full of this kind of bullshit drama though! Reflects badly on our politics IMO.

No suprise the non IWA anarcho syndicalist/revolutionary syndicalist groups are not too keen on setting up a new international!

Ah, i remember my first years as an anarcho syndicalist without good english skills, i was blissfully ignorrant about these issues grin Life was good then, the SAC poster was next to the spanish CNT one.

syndicalist
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Feb 14 2007 22:16
JDMF wrote:
the SAC poster was next to the spanish CNT one.

You must've been to the NY WSA office ... we've got cool posters from all around the globe on the walls -;)

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Feb 14 2007 22:30
gatorojinegro wrote:
As part of the fallout of the split in the Spanish CNT in the 1980s, the IWA adopted a rule of "no contact" with the CNTU (which became the CGT in 1989), and with organizations outside the IWA supporting them, especially the SAC in Sweden. At the time the WSA stated its opposition to this rule (for example, I was a delegate at the 1988 IWA congress and I stated WSA's opposition to this rule at that time)

Could you elaborate on ...
- The reason for adopting a measure as severe as 'no contact'?
- Your reasons for opposing it, and your position regarding SAC, the Spanish CGT et alia?
- Whether the I-99 event was intended to be IWA-unfriendly (or IWA-opposer-friendly perhaps) somehow?

Mark.
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Feb 14 2007 22:59
Quote:
The issue of the Hull Syndicalists complicated the first question even further. As you must be aware JH, the folks in Hull created quite a stir inside the DAM over the handling of an issue of "Direct Action" and other things. Without reliving too much of the history, they (Hull) tried to cause friction between the WSA and the DAM. They were trounced by the DAM in that effort.

I'd forgotten that the WSA had a run in with Hull Syndicalists. It does ring a bell now, though I can't remember any of the details. Anyway I wasn't intending to refer to this - the point I was trying to make was that their contacts with SAC came in very useful in supporting the Liverpool dockers. I can't see what the IWA achieves as a union international by restricting these kinds of contacts, even if there are some serious disagreements.

I only met the people from Hull a couple of times. The last time was about nine years ago when they arranged a meeting to try and set up a national organisation. My feeling was that some kind of network for anarchosyndicalists who found themselves outside Solfed might have been worthwhile, but they were aiming for a formal organisation, something like a re-run of DAM with a pro-CGT and SAC line. At least that was my impression - I'm not sure if it's a fair assessment or not. It was all a bit abortive really.

The most interesting thing about the meeting was that they had people over from the CGT and SAC. There's an interview with the CGT observer at http://libcom.org/library/cgt-union-interview-cnt-split-freedom
I think the people from Hull were also aiming at a new international - the kind of thing that sometimes causes paranoia in the IWA. It was clear that SAC were opposed to this. The CGT observer was against it as well although from what he said I think there might have been more support for the idea in the CGT. The general feeling was that a parallel international would only entrench the divisions with the IWA and that there was a lot more to be gained from setting up international networks and avoiding being sectarian. The position of SAC on the CNT and CGT actually sounded pretty reasonable to me.

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Feb 14 2007 23:19

in regard to your first question, you'll have to address that to the people in other sections of the IWA who supported such a rule. i believe that there was some fear of efforts to peel off sections of the IWA to form a competing international, based on groups that had been excluded from the IWA, such as CGT and CNT-Vignole in
France.

My impression is that the WSA opposed the "no contact" rule because it would be a roadblock to solidarity between workers in actual struggle and because it struck some of us as sectarian. Other WSA members here can explain their own impressions.

I don't think the I-99 event was intended by its organizers to be "IWA unfriendly". However, refer to my comment above about the fear of some in the IWA about the possibility of creating a competing syndicalist international. i believe that the WSA's sense was that these fears were exaggerated.

in any event, my own view is that the IWA should have been aiming to expand its influence, and that restricting itself would undermine that. my own view is that it would be best for the IWA to be a broad umbrella of organizations supporting syndicalist methods and strategies. the WSA was generally unhappy about the various splits in the European sections, as in France and Spain. thus at the time of the split in the French CNT, the WSA took no position on it.

JDMF's sentiment about these conflicted affairs in the IWA being a drag on one's own organization is totally shared by WSA members.

t.

Mark.
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Feb 15 2007 00:16
Quote:
shit, why is this A-S world so full of this kind of bullshit drama though! Reflect badly on our politics IMO.

Well yes. It's a bit depressing coming back after years not being involved to find the same issues rumbling on. Maybe there's a need to look beyond the divisions between the IWA and the SAC, CGT etc and think about what the underlying problems are. After all there have been splits in the CNT, the CNT-F and USI. I think there was also some kind of split in SAC at one point though I don't know much about this. Taking sides in these disputes doesn't really help. When the CNT split it was certainly damaging for DAM. There were only a handful of members with good enough Spanish to follow the arguments at first hand and a couple of them ended up getting expelled. Other people probably got a fairly one sided picture. With hindsight it doesn't make a lot of sense.

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Feb 15 2007 00:35
Quote:
my own view is that it would be best for the IWA to be a broad umbrella of organizations supporting syndicalist methods and strategies.

Tom weren't you, and the WSA, against the IWW joining the IWA in the early 90s?

I've read the old ASR's which talk about this; do WSA have any articles on the web which talk about this as well?

I'd like to see what the WSA's position was on the dispute, from their own POV

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 15 2007 00:46

my viewpoint on a variety of things probably isn't what it was at an earlier time. that's called learning.

i think the IWW never has actually asked to affiliate to the IWA, and so your question is sort of hypothetical.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 01:07
Quote:
On the "no contact" question: It is my understanding is, if they have contact with
a local branch of the SAC it was ok. no contact with SAC central. No contact at all with CNT-F or CGT. This
is my general understanding.

shit i don't get how it works???

Its not so easy. There is no general linie in the IWA.
For exampel. The East-West meetings were organized by east-european groups, always with help by the FAU. The FAU get therefor a mandat from the IWA. It was never a problem, that the SAC was invided (and take part) by every East-West meeting.
Years ago, the FAU get the order from the IWA not to call for the participation on an Anti-Global demonstration in Cologne, because the CGT and the SAC take part too...
In the discussions of having contacts to the "enemys of IWA" they mostly talk about "contacts on an organisation level". But a local branch is also an organisation level.
The extrem interpretation was made on an IWA plenery by a CNT-F IWA member (I think) that there is no purely meet up with a person who is member of a "no contact" group. Every meeting is planned, even you sit near by him or her in a coffee shop on holiday. And therfore forbidden.
wall

Uncontrollable
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Feb 15 2007 02:17
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
my own view is that it would be best for the IWA to be a broad umbrella of organizations supporting syndicalist methods and strategies.

Tom weren't you, and the WSA, against the IWW joining the IWA in the early 90s?

I've read the old ASR's which talk about this; do WSA have any articles on the web which talk about this as well?

I'd like to see what the WSA's position was on the dispute, from their own POV

I wasn't a member of the WSA at the time but I would've been opposed to it if it meant that WSA members would have to join the IWW, maybe if there wasn't the one organization per country rule. The IWW is already an international organization so I don't know how that would've worked. Would the Solfed members have to join IWW-UK, WSA members into the IWW-US, etc.? It would be nice to be a member of an international but I'm kinda soured on the IWA. The way they treated the WSA, the "parallelism" paranoia, the "no contact" rule all seems pretty absurd to me.

-Rick

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Feb 15 2007 02:35

Well it's all hypothetical now.

But at the time I believe the conditions for affiliation were that the IWA open itself up to revolutionary unions which were not specifically anarcho-syndicalist.

In my anarcho-daydream sessions I wonder what the IWA (and the IWW) would look like these days, if that had happened.

Tom:

It was 17 years ago now, we certainly all do learn (in fact back then I was in elementary school). Regardless it feels like you are dodging the question. I can respect that there's been a lot of conflict over the years, but all I've read is the LLR writing about the WSA trying to keep the IWW out of the WSA. (Too many TLAs....)

I'm not trying to raise a shitstorm, I'm only asking if the WSA has any writings from that time online, explaining their position. If you disagree with the old position now, I'd like to hear about that too. If there isn't something, could you summarize what happened?

I'm only trying to get the 'other side of the story', not accuse you of anything

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Feb 15 2007 03:00

Oliver, I don't even remember what my thinking was on this subject back then.

And since i don't recall WSA taking any position on this subject at the time, i doubt there are any "WSA writings" (writings, that is, stating a position of WSA as an organization) on this subject, tho, who knows?, i could be wrong.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 12:43
OliverTwister wrote:
I can respect that there's been a lot of conflict over the years, but all I've read is the LLR writing about the WSA trying to keep the IWW out of the WSA. (Too many TLAs....)

I'm not trying to raise a shitstorm, I'm only asking if the WSA has any writings from that time online, explaining their position.

I wasn't a member of either group back then, but I did look through the written material about this at one point. I think the only position WSA took as an organization, is that any negotiations with US groups wanting to affiliate to the IWA had to go through them, as stipulated in the IWA constitution. (IWA did allow multiple affiliates from one country at the time.) Much of what is written about this in the LLR are just conspiratorial fantasies, like dual WSA-IWW members acting as a secret faction inside IWW working to sabotage affiliation, etc.

There were individual WSA members who were against the IWW affiliating, for various reasons, but there was never any organizational position about it.