WSA membership

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syndicalist
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Feb 5 2008 14:39
WSA membership

Recently WSA has been receiving a fair bit of new inquiries.

A typical question has been "What WSA does and what it would mean to be a member?"

I thought it might be useful to post this reply here. This should give folks a sense of what WSA membership entails and some of the activities our members are involved in.

At the moment basic membership requirements are:

1. Agree with out "Where We Stand"
2. Pay dues - smile
3... Try and build a local
4. Participate in internal discussions
5. Distribute/write for "Workers Solidarity"

Most of the areas of member’s activities seem to fall into:

1. Workplace (work in reformist trade unions, IWW or support roles)
2. Housing/tenant issues
3. Reach out to workers of color
4. Solidarity (international & worker solidarity)
5. Anti-war
6. General movement stuff (working in coalitions, etc.)
7. It appears a number of us are also active on class struggle websites as well.

Some of this is broad and general. Some specific to the individual’s situation. On a local level we believe that there is room to engage in activities which are of value to the local comrades.

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Oct 8 2010 01:35

Is their any WSAer's in the pacific NW?

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888
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Oct 8 2010 21:22

Yes, I just joined. Seattle.

syndicalist
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Oct 8 2010 20:43

Once again, welcome aboard 888!

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Oct 9 2010 22:19

Alright, a few Q's about the WSA (hopefully without turning too much into a flame war):

1. What's the current relationship between the WSA and the IWA? Improved at all?

2. What's the story between the ASR and WSA fued?

3. How does the WSA interact with unions and how is thier presents taken?

That's all I have at the moment, I'm sure I'll have more if I can think of them.

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Oct 9 2010 21:42

More:

What's the current membership?

What's the relationship between the WSA and the IWW (I know a bunch of Wobs have joined up recently)? But no need to answer this if it's not a settled/discussed question.

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Oct 9 2010 22:03

I have a few as well, meant in a comradely spirit: what's the balance between pareconists and communists? What's the actual stance of the organization on this question? I ask this as someone who would have signed up years ago if the WSA was an explicitly communist organization. Do I have a mistaken impression due to one members' prolific writing on the subject or is it more endemic to the organization?

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Oct 9 2010 23:34

http://libcom.org/forums/workers-solidarity-alliance/workers-solidarity-alliance-and-iwa

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Oct 10 2010 00:52
jesuithitsquad wrote:
I have a few as well, meant in a comradely spirit: what's the balance between pareconists and communists? What's the actual stance of the organization on this question? I ask this as someone who would have signed up years ago if the WSA was an explicitly communist organization. Do I have a mistaken impression due to one members' prolific writing on the subject or is it more endemic to the organization?

+1

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Oct 10 2010 00:55

Ya I went cross-eyed reading that thread the other night. I'm just curious if things are the same or if anything has changed.

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Oct 10 2010 01:29
sabot wrote:
1. What's the current relationship between the WSA and the IWA? Improved at all?

Doesn't seem like much other than individuals within WSA having relationships with individuals in IWA groups and us passing on various news or callouts from the IWA.

Quote:
2. What's the story between the ASR and WSA fued?

Way, way, way before my time. I believe it started before I was born, so it's pretty irrelevant to me.

Quote:
3. How does the WSA interact with unions and how is thier presents taken?

Like are there people within unions that are open about their WSA membership and what is the reaction?

No idea. A number of us are in the IWW, but as I'm pretty far from other members of the WSA and IWW, I couldn't speak on that.

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Oct 10 2010 02:40
jesuithitsquad wrote:
I have a few as well, meant in a comradely spirit: what's the balance between pareconists and communists? What's the actual stance of the organization on this question? I ask this as someone who would have signed up years ago if the WSA was an explicitly communist organization. Do I have a mistaken impression due to one members' prolific writing on the subject or is it more endemic to the organization?

Have no idea on the exact balance. I think the number of people who are not concerned with the finer points of the communism VS parecon thing vastly outnumber those who are partisans of either. I would be one of those people. I think arguing over minute economic questions of a post-revolutionary society when our numbers are still pathetically small (there MIGHT be 200 people in the organized class struggle groups in the U.S.) is a waste of time and energy. That said, I don't think 'communism' is a useful word in the United States (although I'm a partisan of libertarian communism) and from what I know of it, I disagree pretty strongly with parecon.

There isn't an organizational stance that I'm aware of. I think some of "Where We Stand" demonstrates a compromise between the two, in my personal opinion.

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Oct 10 2010 07:52
Dead End wrote:
jesuithitsquad wrote:
I have a few as well, meant in a comradely spirit: what's the balance between pareconists and communists? What's the actual stance of the organization on this question? I ask this as someone who would have signed up years ago if the WSA was an explicitly communist organization. Do I have a mistaken impression due to one members' prolific writing on the subject or is it more endemic to the organization?

Have no idea on the exact balance. I think the number of people who are not concerned with the finer points of the communism VS parecon thing vastly outnumber those who are partisans of either. I would be one of those people. I think arguing over minute economic questions of a post-revolutionary society when our numbers are still pathetically small (there MIGHT be 200 people in the organized class struggle groups in the U.S.) is a waste of time and energy. That said, I don't think 'communism' is a useful word in the United States (although I'm a partisan of libertarian communism) and from what I know of it, I disagree pretty strongly with parecon.

There isn't an organizational stance that I'm aware of. I think some of "Where We Stand" demonstrates a compromise between the two, in my personal opinion.

I can understand where you're coming from about using the word "communism," but I think principles can be laid out in such a way that describe libertarian communism without immediately turning people off. Though to be fair, I don't think "anarchism" is much better received/understood colloquially than "communism' in the States, but from what I remember, your collective (WRC not WSA) uses the latter as an explicit descriptor so it could just be a matter of perspective or priority.

I guess we'll just have to disagree about the importance of the difference between parecon and a communist view point. I find the distinction important and not at all minute. For instance, I wouldn't be particularly interested in going through a revolutionary upheaval for a pareconist society for starters. In fact, I can very easily imagine a situation in which a revolution wouldn't even need to take place in order for a parecon-like society to take hold, but I suppose that's a conversation for a different thread.

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Oct 10 2010 09:08

I don't want to derail this, but I view parecon and anarcho-syndicalism as two distinct and different political programs. I'm generally quite surprised that pareconists joined/were encouraged to continue their membership in an openly anarcho-syndicalist organization.

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Oct 10 2010 09:21

Likewise not wanting to derail, but I think there's more to parecon/communism than visions of a future society, I think the respective analyses effect how we organise in the here and now. Eg communists see capital as a totalising force that tends to restructure things in it's image, so particular thought is given to avoiding mediating roles etc, not seeking to manage capital (by setting up self-managed businesses etc), avoiding paid officials etc. Whereas parecon's focus on 'participation' may well favour 'participatory unions' with no particular regard to the role (i.e. rank and file unions not revolutionary ones), seeing self-managed businesses as the progressive growth of the future in the present and seeing the threat of recuperation coming from 'the co-ordinator class' taking leadership roles rathercthan structural/material dynamics.* That could mean pretty divergent approaches.

* based on discussions with UK pareconists, I don't know the WSA ones well enough to comment.

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Oct 10 2010 09:40
jesuithitsquad wrote:
I can understand where you're coming from about using the word "communism," but I think principles can be laid out in such a way that describe libertarian communism without immediately turning people off.

Agreed.

Quote:
Though to be fair, I don't think "anarchism" is much better received/understood colloquially than "communism' in the States, but from what I remember, your collective (WRC not WSA) uses the latter as an explicit descriptor so it could just be a matter of perspective or priority.

They both bring up images of things that don't necessarily correspond with what I believe in. But one brings up images of vegetarian college kids dressed in black, breaking windows and the other brings up images of labor camps, shortages of basic necessities and secret police. The latter is probably lessening to some extent as the Cold War is becoming more distant, but red baiting is still used and it is effective (see: Glen Beck and Teabaggers).

It might depend where you're at, too. Using it in certain parts of the East, West and Northwest might be fine, but any usage in most of the Midwest or South is probably not a good idea.

Quote:
I guess we'll just have to disagree about the importance of the difference between parecon and a communist view point. I find the distinction important and not at all minute. For instance, I wouldn't be particularly interested in going through a revolutionary upheaval for a pareconist society for starters. In fact, I can very easily imagine a situation in which a revolution wouldn't even need to take place in order for a parecon-like society to take hold, but I suppose that's a conversation for a different thread.
Quote:
I don't want to derail this, but I view parecon and anarcho-syndicalism as two distinct and different political programs. I'm generally quite surprised that pareconists joined/were encouraged to continue their membership in an openly anarcho-syndicalist organization.
Quote:

Likewise not wanting to derail, but I think there's more to parecon/communism than visions of a future society, I think the respective analyses effect how we organise in the here and now. Eg communists see capital as a totalising force that tends to restructure things in it's image, so particular thought is given to avoiding mediating roles etc, not seeking to manage capital (by setting up self-managed businesses etc), avoiding paid officials etc. Whereas parecon's focus on 'participation' may well favour 'participatory unions' with no particular regard to the role (i.e. rank and file unions not revolutionary ones), seeing self-managed businesses as the progressive growth of the future in the present and seeing the threat of recuperation coming from 'the co-ordinator class' taking leadership roles rathercthan structural/material dynamics.* That could mean pretty divergent approaches.

* based on discussions with UK pareconists, I don't know the WSA ones well enough to comment.

Well, I can't even conceive of something like a revolutionary upheaval happening in the United States any time soon, so hypothetical situations around such a far flung scenario remain of questionable use to me. In fact, I think it's a demonstration of impotence that revolutionary groups spend so much time bickering like children about such things.

As far as all that other parecon stuff, that probably belongs in another thread, but the direction and sentiment that you guys seem to be heading: pareconistas should be disallowed from our groups, is deeply troubling.

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Oct 10 2010 10:55

Well. like JK said, I think such disagreements have relevance to how we organize now.

As to whether paraconists should be disallowed from our groups, I've always thought the WSA viewed itself as a political group. I presumed that would entail a relatively high degree of political agreement unlike, for example, the IWW, which at least in theory is apolitical syndicalism and with the level of ideological commitment being the "abolition of the wage system". That seems to be more of position the you're describing, but please let me know if I'm mischaracterizing your views.

Personally, I think parecon is whack and I wouldn't want pareconists in SolFed, precisely because SF believes in non-mediated struggle through revolutionary unions. Pareconists (at least that I've spoken to and from what I've read) don't; they're just as likely to argue for workers taking forming co-operatives--either through expropriation or from scratch. But in any case this still involves managing capital and not the abolition of capital, which I think is a bloody huge difference.

Now, I'm not opposed to working with pareconists on joint projects and if they come down to support a picket line, fuck right, bring them on down. But politically they have different goals and different strategies for change. I'm all for comradely relations, but I want my political group to reflect my politics. Does that make sense?

syndicalist
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Oct 10 2010 14:55

Hello comrades....no time to answer many of these questions now...we'll come back to some of this later. But much of this seems to have been covered on Libcom lesewhere.

Just curious, how many folks who are asking questions here are actually in north america?

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Oct 10 2010 17:26

I'm a North American transplant and will probably end up spending a reasonable amount of time in the US at some point in the next couple of years....

petey
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Oct 10 2010 18:08
jesuithitsquad wrote:
In fact, I can very easily imagine a situation in which a revolution wouldn't even need to take place in order for a parecon-like society to take hold

i agree, and i think the same about proudhonism. and this makes it an alluring option, not to avoid the revolutionary times, but because it means that a large enough percentage of people are already there somewhere in their thinking, unlike anything properly called communism, not only because of the odor attaching to that word (here in the states anyway) but because of the non-market elements, which would take alot of explaining to make palatable to alot of people (including me). otoh, either parecon or proudhonism would be an enormous improvement over what we've got; otoh, i take the argument about the recrudescence of capital. i've been stuck here for a while.

ps, jesuithitsquad was right, this is better for another thread.

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Oct 10 2010 18:46
Dead End wrote:
Doesn't seem like much other than individuals within WSA having relationships with individuals in IWA groups and us passing on various news or callouts from the IWA.

That's too bad. Is this just because of political differences or is it just not a pressing issue with the organization...?

Quote:
Way, way, way before my time. I believe it started before I was born, so it's pretty irrelevant to me.

Strange...

Quote:
Like are there people within unions that are open about their WSA membership and what is the reaction?

No idea. A number of us are in the IWW, but as I'm pretty far from other members of the WSA and IWW, I couldn't speak on that.

Syndicalist mentioned earlier that one of the roles of the WSA is to "work in reformist trade unions." Trying to understand what is meant by this.

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Oct 10 2010 19:01

Even if thier are pareconist/socialist/whatever...Shouldn't it be the role and responsibility of the WSA to educate it's own membership of the organization's politics and the "Where We Stand" clause?

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Oct 10 2010 20:09
syndicalist wrote:
Hello comrades....no time to answer many of these questions now...we'll come back to some of this later. But much of this seems to have been covered on Libcom lesewhere.

Just curious, how many folks who are asking questions here are actually in north america?

I'm in the good ol' USA.

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Oct 10 2010 20:11

I don't think there are any reformist pareconists in the WSA. "Where We Stand" does specifically advocate revolution.

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Oct 10 2010 20:34

Hmmm...can you elaborate on "reformist pareconists"?

I mean, i'm not against concessions from capitalism ("reforms"), but it's a matter of what sorts of concessions and how we achieve them. Co-ops, which Parecon endorses as a means and and end far as I know, are not in the revolutionary tradition of Anarcho-Syndicalism. At least in my humble opinion, the propositions of Parecon have far more in common with Proudhon and mutualism than Rocker or the CNT...

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Oct 10 2010 21:12
Dead End wrote:
As far as all that other parecon stuff, that probably belongs in another thread, but the direction and sentiment that you guys seem to be heading: pareconistas should be disallowed from our groups, is deeply troubling.

Just to come back to this briefly, I think you should be allowed to have whomever you wish in your organization.

My questions were designed to figure out if I had a mistaken impression of the WSA membership, and while I personally don't wish to be in an organization that waffles on the issue, there's no question the WSA can have whatever membership criteria the membership wants. It just isn't for me is all, but I will continue to express comradely best wishes to the WSA even if I have broad disagreement on this issue.

I will reiterate what JK and ncwob have expressed that I believe the parecon/communist difference is one which effects how we organize in the here and now. Check out the vast gulf between Wetzel's ideas and the 'libcom consensus' (for lack of a better phrase) on just about everything.

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Oct 10 2010 21:21

I might be wrong but it seems some of this discussion is getting off-topic and doesn't apply to the WSA specifically. For further discussion on the parecon/libcom vision, refer to:

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/pareecon-libcom-07082009

edit: post #25 is a fair question smile

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Oct 10 2010 21:18

also just to add, it seems to me that i have a very high level of ideological agreement with the wsa members who post on libcom. i'm thinking of nate, syndicalist, david etc. i just wanted to add this so as to not look like some kind of prolier than thou snipe from the sidelines kind of a guy.

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Oct 10 2010 23:56
Quote:
As to whether paraconists should be disallowed from our groups, I've always thought the WSA viewed itself as a political group. I presumed that would entail a relatively high degree of political agreement unlike, for example, the IWW, which at least in theory is apolitical syndicalism and with the level of ideological commitment being the "abolition of the wage system". That seems to be more of position the you're describing, but please let me know if I'm mischaracterizing your views.

No, that's not what I'm arguing. I'm just against the sentiment I see on libcom sometimes that sees the need for a position on everything. That can be done, of course, but I don't see the use of it. I'm interested in practical work and involvement. Does so-and-so's embracing of parecon mean they are for no-strike clauses? Does it mean they are for cross class alliances? What does it mean when it determines the actual work of the group? I'm not convinced that there's something inherent in ideologies that makes people more likely to do this or that. I think there's undesirable traits in everything.

For example, there's tons of people who identify with the word communism and claim they are for it. Everyone from social democrats (CPUSA) to do nothing ultraleft sects. Does that say something inherently about the ideology?

I see the need for internal education, theoretical debate and so on, but in my opinion, it seems many political groups get so stuck up on this stuff that they are mere propaganda groups floating around like cults. There needs to be a balance between theory and action and at the end of the day, action needs to win out, if it comes down to it.

Quote:
That's too bad. Is this just because of political differences or is it just not a pressing issue with the organization...?

In my opinion it's probably the latter. For newish people like me, after hearing about the whole debacle of the past, it left me with a negative impression of the IWA, although as an anarcho-syndicalist, I'm still really drawn to them.

Quote:
Strange...

Strange that it has roots in stuff that happened before I was born or that I don't care?

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Oct 11 2010 01:02
Quote:
SABOT: Alright, a few Q's about the
Alright, a few Q's about the WSA (hopefully without turning too much into a flame war):

1. What's the current relationship between the WSA and the IWA? Improved at all?

2. What's the story between the ASR and WSA fued?

3. How does the WSA interact with unions and how is thier presents taken?

That's all I have at the moment, I'm sure I'll have more if I can think of them.

For the time being, let me briefly try and reply to the questions. Before doing so, I thought Dead End gave some fair and decent replies. To a large extent, some of what he said is reflective of our newer members, a vast majority who make up our more than 60 members.

Regarding the questions:

1. WSA (and two of our founding groups before our formation) belong to the IWA from 1979-1999. From 2000 forward WSA has consistantly mainted relations and have stood in solidarity with IWA member sections. Our relations mainly consists of relations with either
individual sections, locals of sections or with militants within sections. The WSA has a consistant policy (and stated many times here on Libcom) of our willingness to work with all IWA Sections who wish to work with us. At this time there are no plans to pursue any discussions about our position inside the IWA. There are currently no relations with the IWA Secretariat (although WSA continues to send them info emails on a periodic basis). The WSA will always be internationalist.

2. I'm not sure what the significance of any past differences, real or perceived, between ASR and the WSA in 2010. They ut out a magazine and we try and build an organization. I would argue that the disagreements stem from real and significant personality clashes that go back to some of our mutual days inside the Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America (1978-1981). I've no real desire to go back and discuss something that has no significance on how we all go about our stuff today.

3. I'm not sure I exactly understand what you mean by point #3. Can you please expand on it a bit or clarify more?

If the question is how do we relate to reformist unions, the IWW , indpendent unions, well, I'd say it's probably close to the way say the SF lays it out in their "Workplace Startegy" statement: http://www.solfed.org.uk/docs/strategy/

In our "Where We Stand" document (scroll down to "Unionism" section), we write:

Quote:
.....
The paid hierarchies are allergic to militant action, wanting to minimize legal and financial risks to the union organization that is the basis of their career. They work to contain workers’ struggles within the framework of longstanding relationships with the employers. National unions may impose a dictatorship called a trusteeship on local unions that pursue a more independent and militant course.

To have a labor movement that can be more effective as a fighting force today, and develop the potential to replace capitalism with economic self-management, a different kind of unionism needs to be developed.

The type of unionism that we advocate is self-managed by the members, works to spread solidarity and link up with workers in other countries, encourages mass participation, fights against all forms of inequality and discrimination, and rejects any idea of “partnership” or “common interests” with the bosses.

To transform the American labor movement, we support efforts to build new self-managed unions independent of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions in situations where this makes strategic sense. At the same time, we cannot hope to play a role in many workers struggles, to put forth our ideas and our program, if we remain aloof and abstain from them simply because many of them take place within the AFL-CIO or Change to Win unions. So long as workers struggles are organized through these unions, we participate in those unions and their struggles.

We also support the building of autonomous rank-and-file movements in the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, independent of the bureaucracy. The sort of rank-and-file opposition movements that we support should not aim at merely electing a different leadership, but should aim at changing the union into a social movement based on mass participation and member control.

For unions to be self-managing, this starts with the importance of the general meetings of the members to make decisions. To prevent the organization becoming dependent on a small number of people, executive committee posts should have term limits. This needs to be combined with a systematic approach to training members in all the tasks needed in running a union.

Full-time paid officials no longer suffer the daily indignities of subordination to the bosses. The often high salaries of union bureaucrats in the USA separate union officials from the conditions of life of union members and encourages officials to look at the union as their personal ticket out of the working class. We believe that the number of paid officials in the labor movement should be kept to a minimum. Local unions should avoid paid officers as much as possible. If workers feel that a paid officer is needed in a particular case, their pay should be limited to the average wage level of the workers. Half-time paid officers are better than full-time because at least the person still works under the bosses part of the time.

Genuine self-management of a union goes beyond the formal structure and also depends on active participation and education of members.

http://workersolidarity.org/?page_id=78

Trusting this gets to the heart of what I think you're asking.

Others have mentioned parecon. Yes, there are some in WSA who have been inspired by aspects of parecon. It is not a debate we have had in WSA and not a debate we wish to have. The WSA premise for WSA membership is our statement, "Where We Stand". Thus far it has served us well enough to allow for modest growth. As a founding WSA member, I think we have tried to build a culture that is reflective of comrades trying to work stuff out collectively, in a spirit of comradeship and give and take.Dead End (and any others) who are newer members can give their own opinion, but I think we try and find the proper balance between positions and personalities, not always an easy task.

WSA evolution from an anarcho-syndicalist propaganda group into a spefiic political organization was more organic than ideological. In fact, we pretty much work in much the same manner as we have always. I'm old school and would much prefer to be more of anarcho-syndicalist propaganda organization. But I think the times and new generational growth change some of the circumstances on how some of this is framed and worked out.
I would think the goal is to develop an organization whose foundations are in line with anarcho-syndicalist tactics, strategies and goals, but may not strictly be identified as such. I think the current phrase here in north america would be "class struggle anarchist". And as such we try to provide the organizational framework from which to build a class struggle anarchist movement that is engaged and grounded basic libertarian socialist principles.

I've probably missed some stuff in the numerous comments. I'll try and go back to them at some point.

Hoping this has been somewhat of a helpful reply.

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Oct 11 2010 01:02

I don't really know the story between ASR and WSA, but Bekken is an expert at blowing up minor disagreements into political shitstorms. Now that he's gone from the IWW, things should hopefully run a lot smoother for the wobs!