Joining forces on a UK-wide publication (was AF/Platformist split)

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mons
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Feb 13 2011 18:02
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If the AF, SF, parts of The Commune, and a load of other local groups came together and formed a revolutionary union that would be pretty sweet!

And probably most of AF, SolFed and The Commune would want that - which makes it so frustrating that it is so far from happening!

Think Joseph Kay's point is important. I understood the bringing together of libertarian communists as more of a political (rather than political-economic) network, which would have clear advantages in terms of no duplication effort, more people wanting to get involved and would open the door to further cooperation and understanding. I guess that would mean SolFed, though still part of it, would be less involved if it becomes a political-economic organisation. Bringing all libertarian communists together in a revolutionary union seems a totally different task.

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Feb 13 2011 18:19
bulmer wrote:
If there was some set regroupment called between say AF and SF, I would be in touch with them seeing what happened and consider joining the new group.

The merits of this discussion are about co-operation, not regroupment as far as I can tell. And unless there is an improved level of debate and understanding (emanating from our practice and orientation) aside from what is shown on this thread any larger group would be liable to pull in many directions.

bulmer wrote:
I would be even more likely to join if it did include The Commune and L&S, but I think thats a lot less possible (partly due to, I feel unjustified, ill feelings towards L&S from SF and especially AF. Not that I feel L&S are always perfect though).

As said before I can't see why the Commune would be all that interested given their political composition and I am sure L&S would have nothing to do with joint act given their parasitic political activities from their inception. Also I think the prevailing consensus amongst most anarchists is that threatening groups with violence and sabotaging other groups activity is pretty contemptible. Even IWW members have now something to say about them now and their tolerance threshold is about as high as it can go.

bulmer wrote:
I think what has to happen is more groups like WAG,

WAG's political culture did not lend itself well to the internal structure of London Anarchist Forum from a few years ago. If the concept of mandates are alien to you I don't think trying to move towards or work within a national organisation is ever going to be a starter. Thats just my experience.

bulmer wrote:
Also more lib socs need to be working together to improve existing national publications like BF and Freedom, especially from people outside of London. There then needs to be an upsurge in local groups trying to get these publications out there, again especially outside of London.

This is true, but you don't need to regroup to try and get your existing literature or your views aired in BF or Freedom, they both have pretty transparent collectives running them. If I was in a local anarchist group, I would simply try and network with whoever nearest but consider membership for AF and/or SF.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 13 2011 18:20

The trouble is, I just can't get away from the feeling that a joint national freesheet would just be an immensely useful thing to have. I think Catalyst is excellent: the interviews are great, the 'know your rights' stuff is useful, and I love that it looks like a proper paper (compared to Res), but the fact that it only comes out quarterly is a real drawback. The current issue is now just rather out of date. I'll be giving it out on a demo in York next weekend, but it seems a bit ridiculous given that the lead article is about Millbank. This month's resistance, which I've just got, is at least a bit more current, but it's just not of as high quality imo (no disrespect to the editorial collective, who are doing a great job under pretty difficult circs atm - it's just that time and resources limit what we can do with a monthly paper).

From a personal perspective as a more-or-less isolated AF member with no active SolFed members nearby, a joint freesheet is probably the single most useful thing I can think of that would come out of cooperation between the two orgs. I can see that the two papers as they exist now have slightly different pitches, but I don't think the differences are irreconcilable - the latest Catalyst contains plenty of reports of working class resistance, so I don't really see the problem with expanding that content to include what currently goes into Resistance, plus contributions from AF members on changes in their industries and so on.

There are of course numerous difficulties with getting from here to there. And if SolFed just aren't interested, which is the impression I'm getting, then it's obviously not worth it. But if just seems like a shame.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Feb 13 2011 19:18

I am not suggesting Solfed and Afed (or any other national org) call for somesort of regroupment you divs! wall

Topdownism doesn't work in this sort of case.

It would only happen if there were a critical mass of locally rooted class struggle anarchist and solidarity groups like HAL or whatever that chose themselves to come together for practical reasons, and of course hopefully members of national orgs would be involved in the various local groups anyway...

In fact national orgs have no ability or desire to call for somesort of national regroupment.

axiom
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Feb 13 2011 22:11
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
or any other national org

There are two national organisations that are anarchist — Anarchist Federation and Solidarity Fedreation.

So when you mention 'any other national org', who are you thinking of?

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Feb 13 2011 22:30
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
If the AF, SF, parts of The Commune, and a load of other local groups came together and formed a revolutionary union that would be pretty sweet!

To me Jim, and this may well include my own personal prejudices about unions, I don't think that brining all of the anarchists in the UK together would give you a union.

The UK union movement is dominated by one union confederation, and split from it are few and far between. If I remember correctly the last split by workers in struggle, as opposed to things like the UDM, was at Pilkington in St Helens in 1973.

Personally ı don't see the working class in the UK breaking with the TUC much this side of workers' councils.

In other countries, like ours or Spain for example, where unions exist on a political bais (i.e.e there are amy union centres and you join the one which you want to based t some extent on political ideas I think this is more possible.

I put up a guy a few weeks ago from İstanbul who was going to some radical teachers conference, and he said there were 14 unions in the teaching sector. That was a higher number than I had ever heard before (previously I had heard seven, but in Ankara not İstanbul).

In these circumstances I think it is possible to form a 'red/anarcho-syndicalist union.

There is a guy I met once or twice in Ankara who is a train driver who is working towards it. ı think he is a pretty admirable bloke with good politics.

The question is whether it does any good. Eiğtim-Sen, which this guy was in a leftist group within was set up as a radical union with membership control. Now the members are forming left groups within it. That is onşy a few years ago.

On a more historical level DİSK (The Confederation of Revolutionary Workers Unions) still has about 327,000 members in Turkey. I used to be one of them when I worked in construction. Today for all practical concerns (admittedly it has more left wing and less nationalist rhetoric), it is the same as the yellow unions. To give an example of its degeneration, the first prsident was assassinated by the state. The one before the current one was locked up for pilfering funds to build his villa.

Devrim

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Feb 13 2011 22:38

Hey everybody! Why don't we take issue with the semantics of the word union? We haven't had that conversation in at least 48 hours!

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 13 2011 23:21
Joseph Kay wrote:
Hey everybody! Why don't we take issue with the semantics of the word union? We haven't had that conversation in at least 48 hours!

Sorry - are you suggesting someone is doing that here? I missed it if so.

EDIT: Can't see anything like that since your last post on this thread.

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Feb 13 2011 23:38
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Sorry - are you suggesting someone is doing that here? I missed it if so.

EDIT: Can't see anything like that since your last post on this thread.

Devrim's clearly suggesting Tommy Ascaso thinks a joint venture betwen SF, the AF and the Commune would be a rival TUC, as if that is what Tommy Ascaso means by union. it's pretty hard to take this in good faith to be honest, given the number of times this has been discussed on here and in person.

to be honest it's symptomatic of what passes for political discussion on libcom, where semantics trump content. some poor newbie says 'people' instead of 'proletariat' and gets torn a new arsehole, everytime someone says union, like Pavlov's dog, we get some or other defender of the precious proletarian consciousness to point out, OMG, there are class collaborationist unions, some of which were founded by revolutionaries! as if it's some dramatic new revelation nobody had considered before.

jumping on mentions of unions with examples of collaborationist unions isn't a critique. it doesn't get beyond superficial restatements of position. it doesn't explain anything. but we've been over and over this, and people, often with no stake in the practical outcome anyway, consistently weigh in as if SF has no critique of unions (which tbh, i think is far more thought through than 'unions = class collaboration' repeated ad nauseum). it's patronising, bad faith and tedious as fuck. perhaps more importantly, it's utterly uncritical.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Feb 13 2011 23:52
axiom wrote:
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
or any other national org

There are two national organisations that are anarchist — Anarchist Federation and Solidarity Fedreation.

So when you mention 'any other national org', who are you thinking of?

admin: no flaming

knightrose
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Feb 14 2011 10:10

JK, you are pretty clear, but my contact with other SF members suggests that they are not. I thought Dev's post was useful - if off the point.

I worry about articles about workers rights and leaflets like Stuff the Boss. They look to me like they are on the same wavelength as representational stuff. Workers reading them are likely to come to you for guidance/leadership. Likewise involvement in the NSSN.

Don't forget that some of us have the benefit of more detailed discussions with Solfed members on the joint forum and are more clued up. Also, don't forget that lots of long posts make it easy to forget the point that is being made.

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Feb 14 2011 10:18
knightrose wrote:
JK, you are pretty clear, but my contact with other SF members suggests that they are not.

as i've said elsewhere, this is a really passive-aggressive way to conduct a conversation. if i wanted to be a dick i could mention the AF members i've had to explain A&P #7 to or whatever, but it serves no purpose whatsoever apart from to establish a spectacle of coherence and superiority.

knightrose wrote:
I worry about articles about workers rights and leaflets like Stuff the Boss. They look to me like they are on the same wavelength as representational stuff. Workers reading them are likely to come to you for guidance/leadership.

i really don't understand this. so what if someone calls us up saying 'solve my problem for me'? we just say we can't do that, here's what we can do, are you interested in that, and take it from there. it's not rocket science.

knightrose wrote:
Likewise involvement in the NSSN.

as far as i'm aware the point was to network, although we only really had involvement where it was active rather than trying to set up new groups. obviously it was full of leftists, but i'm still not sure what is actually lost by some involvement apart from a sense of communist superiority?

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Feb 14 2011 10:32
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as i've said elsewhere, this is a really passive-aggressive way to conduct a conversation. if i wanted to be a dick i could mention the AF members i've had to explain A&P #7 to or whatever, but it serves no purpose whatsoever apart from to establish a spectacle of coherence and superiority.

I don't understand what you are saying. I don't like naming individuals on the internet in a public forum, but I'm speaking about members of Manchester SF for one. It's really hard to pin down, but my perception is that they want to create a mass union in the traditional sense. I also get the feeling that they are quite prepared to be the representative of other workers in negotiations with bosses - albeit very militant ones.

So we have a situation where some SF members and some AF members are confused. That's why Terry's idea of a day school is a good one. I don't get why Solfed members are so against discussing their ideas face to face with comrades. We've got stuff to learn as well as to give.

Quote:
i really don't understand this. so what if someone calls us up saying 'solve my problem for me'? we just say we can't do that, here's what we can do, are you interested in that, and take it from there. it's not rocket science.

Again, Manchester AF used to have drop in advice sessions for workers. To me that is like replicating what either the CAB or TUC unions do.

The NSSN was supposed to be a network of shop stewards. That is a network of low level union officials. Revolutionaries should only take on that role occasionally and for very specific purposes. Involvement means giving that legitimacy and gets you embroiled in TUC type union politics.

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Feb 14 2011 10:57

edit: on second thoughts i can't be arsed.

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Feb 14 2011 11:13
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I think they're only prepared to negotiate if elected as a delegate by a mass meeting which is entirely different to taking a mediating role. I could be wrong about this but that was my impression.

which would make sense, since that's been our industrial strategy for years.

gypsy
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Feb 14 2011 11:32
Joseph Kay wrote:
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Sorry - are you suggesting someone is doing that here? I missed it if so.

EDIT: Can't see anything like that since your last post on this thread.

. some poor newbie says 'people' instead of 'proletariat' and gets torn a new arsehole.

grin

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Feb 14 2011 11:36

Edited due to JK's edit.

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Feb 14 2011 11:37
Joseph Kay wrote:
Devrim's clearly suggesting Tommy Ascaso thinks a joint venture betwen SF, the AF and the Commune would be a rival TUC, as if that is what Tommy Ascaso means by union. it's pretty hard to take this in good faith to be honest, given the number of times this has been discussed on here and in person.

I honestly don't think that's what he's doing. He's saying

Quote:
Personally ı don't see the working class in the UK breaking with the TUC much this side of workers' councils.

In other countries, like ours or Spain for example, where unions exist on a political bais (i.e.e there are amy union centres and you join the one which you want to based t some extent on political ideas I think this is more possible.

I think that's a fair enough comment. I mean the CNT in Spain does see itself as a challenge/an alternative to the CCOO and UGT. To my knowledge they don't have cross membership with other unions. And that's because trade unionism in Spain works differently.

I think France is a better example. There people join unions according to political affiliation, and then vote for their union to represent them. (To my knowledge the CNT-AIT is the only union that doesn't participate in these elections.) So the idea of having an anarchist union makes sense because what a union is in france is different.

Over here a union is something you and all the members in your workplace join. So a work place is either 'unionised' or 'ununionised'. Nobody joins unions on the basis of political affiliation. They join them on the basis of whether they are in their workplace or not. Indeed in many industries, there is only one union to join so you couldn't join a union politically even if you wanted. It for this reason that you don't have christian unions and communist unions like you do on the continent.

Now, I know that that's not what you mean by a union. But it is and it isn't. As I said, the CNT are an anarchist union that competes with the UCT and CCOO. Its an alternative union, its a very different kind of union. It's not a terminological confusion where the word union refers to totally different things like if someone says I support the union and the mean the united kingdom. Its a radically different kind of union but a union all the same. Insofar as SolFed doesn't ever aspire to having a union that would compete with the TUC unions that makes you different to the CNT.

And that's fine. But then you aren't aspiring to simply build a CNT in the UK so what are you aspiring to build. Personally, I don't think you actually have to answer that question, but I do think you need to stop pretending you have it answered.

But when I hear solfeder's speak about the union they advocate it sounds like the CNT sometimes, a more anarchist version of the IWW (with all their confusion) othertimes, and sometimes its sounds more like the kind of organisation Jim Higgins wanted to turn IS into, and sometimes it sounds more like an anarchist lutte ouvriere. But what ever it is, SolFeded's always seem sure its the only answer.

My problem is that I have almost no experience, and know of almost no experience, of workplace activity by anarchists that's been in anyway successful over the last 20-30 years. And what successes there are all look very different. I mean to take a positive example, Chilli sauce seems to have done some great stuff in the US and now SolFed are learning from it. So I think we need to I guess admit that we don't have the correct idea, and be willing to listen and learn from what others have achieved elsewhere and the little we have achieved in the UK and Ireland. Oh and we should also learn why so much of what we try to do doesn't work. Relevant cliche: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I suppose my attitude is rather that at this moment libertarian communists should organise themselves and experiment with how to organise at work. Theoretically, I can think of lots of ideas but what is more important is what actually happens, and often great ideas don't work exactly as planned.

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Feb 14 2011 12:49
georgestapleton wrote:
And that's fine. But then you aren't aspiring to simply build a CNT in the UK so what are you aspiring to build. Personally, I don't think you actually have to answer that question, but I do think you need to stop pretending you have it answered.

well it's been answered in tens of thousands of words, and every time people just revert to 'ah but it's not...' or 'but don't you mean...' or 'ah but someone else said' and so on. it's just a boring libcom game of having to justify every single thing you do to an ever-shifting burden of proof to prove you're communist enough. it's not even critical in the sense of critical thinking because actual practice doesn't really feature, it's a self-contained excercise in pure reason.

georgestapleton wrote:
Theoretically, I can think of lots of ideas but what is more important is what actually happens, and often great ideas don't work exactly as planned.

well that's exactly what i'm saying, and why i wrote this blog post. our 'theory' comes from trying to make sense of our practice, reflecting on how to apply our politics in our everyday lives and so on. the prevailing wisdom on here is you have to construct a theoretically impeccable ideal model without any possibility of failure, recuperation etc, then, maybe, try and do it. that's arse about tit.

Edit: fwiw it would be sweet if thousands of workers began to adopt a direct action approach and organise independently of the TUC. but our strategy isn't dependent on that happening any time soon, nor can that be a reasonable interpretation of what Tommy Ascaso said.

knightrose
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Feb 14 2011 13:01
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it's just a boring libcom game of having to justify every single thing you do to an ever-shifting burden of proof to prove you're communist enough.

No it's not. That's just you getting cross and being rude. It's about people like me trying very hard to fit what you are saying into our particular view of things. It sounds interesting. I keep trying to work out how it works in practice, but I'm broadly sympathetic.

Quote:
it's not even critical in the sense of critical thinking because actual practice doesn't really feature, it's a self-contained excercise in pure reason.

And don't be so patronising. I've been a steward in the 90s and also a workplace militant since 1976. My politics are based on what I've done and seen done. I've organised cross union meetings and strikes at work.

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Feb 14 2011 13:24
knightrose wrote:
No it's not. That's just you getting cross and being rude. It's about people like me trying very hard to fit what you are saying into our particular view of things. It sounds interesting. I keep trying to work out how it works in practice, but I'm broadly sympathetic.

ok well i appreciate the effort, i've tried to explain my thoughts at length, when i've done so the goalposts shift to what someone else may or may not have said. there's nothing i can really say in reply to that.

bringing up hearsay about what someone else in SF said is no way to shed light on anything since even if you're recounting the conversation with 100% accuracy i can neither speak for them nor square it with the extensive internal discussions and our current practice.

knightrose wrote:
And don't be so patronising. I've been a steward in the 90s and also a workplace militant since 1976. My politics are based on what I've done and seen done. I've organised cross union meetings and strikes at work.

right no doubt, but none of that comes into discussions, which are operating on the level of semantics and a priori deductions. i would be very interested to hear about how things have been recuperated or otherwise failed etc, all that experience is really important. for example how would you see Stuff Your Boss putting SolFed into a mediating position between capital and labour (correct me if i'm over-extrapolating your point about representation/duplicating the TUC)? Now it's not like we haven't thought about this, it's pretty easy to not be a service provider by just not acting like a service provider, even if someone asks us to. Maybe we're missing something.

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Feb 14 2011 14:37
Joseph Kay wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:
And that's fine. But then you aren't aspiring to simply build a CNT in the UK so what are you aspiring to build. Personally, I don't think you actually have to answer that question, but I do think you need to stop pretending you have it answered.

well it's been answered in tens of thousands of words, and every time people just revert to 'ah but it's not...' or 'but don't you mean...' or 'ah but someone else said' and so on. it's just a boring libcom game of having to justify every single thing you do to an ever-shifting burden of proof to prove you're communist enough. it's not even critical in the sense of critical thinking because actual practice doesn't really feature, it's a self-contained excercise in pure reason.

georgestapleton wrote:
Theoretically, I can think of lots of ideas but what is more important is what actually happens, and often great ideas don't work exactly as planned.

well that's exactly what i'm saying, and why i wrote this blog post. our 'theory' comes from trying to make sense of our practice, reflecting on how to apply our politics in our everyday lives and so on. the prevailing wisdom on here is you have to construct a theoretically impeccable ideal model without any possibility of failure, recuperation etc, then, maybe, try and do it. that's arse about tit.

Edit: fwiw it would be sweet if thousands of workers began to adopt a direct action approach and organise independently of the TUC. but our strategy isn't dependent on that happening any time soon, nor can that be a reasonable interpretation of what Tommy Ascaso said.

Sorry maybe I was unclear. I asked "what are you aspiring to build?" And said "Personally, I don't think you actually have to answer that question, but I do think you need to stop pretending you have it answered."

And you replied saying that it was answered and then after my other quote saying that what its a question you are trying to answer.

What I was trying to say was that I don't know what a mass anarchist movement with a strong workplace presence would look like. And I think as libertarian communists we need to try to work that out. Its an open question. And you are saying, 'in Brighton SolFed we are trying to work it out, it is an open question for us.' And that's great. If I was in Brighton, I'd probably have joined Brighton SolFed. The stuff you are doing seems from-a-far really impressive and inspiring.

But my problem with SolFed is that you DO act as though you have this question solved. You want to build an anarchosyndicalist union in the UK like the CNT is Spain. Even look at this thread. Ask what's the difference between the AF and SolFed and the answer is that SolFed want to build an anarchosyndicalist union. But then ask what do you mean by anarchosyndicalist and the response is either honest and modest. Something like "Well anarchosyndicalism is a broad and complicated tradition and exactly what an anarchosyndicalist union would look like in the UK isn't all that obvious. Its something we'll have to work out as we go along." See the second half of the above post. Or its assertive, "it simple, this has already been explained". See the first half of the above post.

Now you might say that it really is simple and that it has been explained. But while you rightly point out the issue is only being debated in abstract terms, thats because has only been explained in quite abstract terms. When we try to understand it practically the only example that you can point to are short lived, relatively informal things (ex. the Workmates* thing) or the CNT. But as I said

"...Insofar as SolFed doesn't ever aspire to having a union that would compete with the TUC unions that makes you different to the CNT. And that's fine. But then you aren't aspiring to simply build a CNT in the UK, what are you aspiring to build? Personally, I don't think you actually have to answer that question, but I do think you need to stop pretending you have it answered."*

You need to either admit that your ideas for an anarchosyndicalist union are not well worked out and stop defending*** them. Or you need to spell them out.

Now Brighton SolFed are seem to be doing the former and personally, I think thats great. I think the lefty thing of pretending that we always have the answers gets us nowhere. I mean I know where I want to go kind of (wageless society in which production is managed through some kind of federated workers council system) and roughly how to get there (a mass working class movement expropriating the capitalist class and smashing the state). But beyond that all I know are loads of ways NOT to do it, a bunch of inspiring historical examples and some concrete ideas but not many.

*I might have the name of this wrong
**I've edited myself slightly to correct typos.
*** I say defending because, honestly the way SolFeders defends REAL anarchosyndicalism is by far the biggest turn off for me with SolFed. See for example this.

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Feb 14 2011 15:11
knightrose wrote:
I don't like naming individuals on the internet in a public forum, but I'm speaking about members of Manchester SF for one. It's really hard to pin down, but my perception is that they want to create a mass union in the traditional sense. I also get the feeling that they are quite prepared to be the representative of other workers in negotiations with bosses - albeit very militant ones.

A couple of things on this. Firstly, I can't speak for the Manc SF lot but I imagine it's a vocabulary (rather than political) issue.. they don't use the language of the ultra-left but if you read Winning the Class War you see there is a full critique of (for instance) the role of official trade unions, representation etc.. as such, I think you can glean what an anarcho-syndicalist union isn't.. I think it's especially important as this document is basically what defined SF as an organisation when it was set up..

Secondly, if it makes you feel better, it's not just Brighton.. I'm not in the UK now but when I was in NLSF I'd say it was the majority view there, probably also of SLSF too..

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Feb 14 2011 15:59
georgestapleton wrote:
You want to build an anarchosyndicalist union in the UK like the CNT is Spain.

really? because that doesn't appear in our aims and principles, or in our industrial strategy. the "like the CNT is in Spain" bit. none of the IWA sections are identical, nor is the CNT identical to the 1930s CNT, nor is the CNT identical to itself, containing numerous different tendencies and approaches. it's certainly not a blueprint to transplant to Britain, and i don't think any of our strategy/principles say it is.

georgestapleton wrote:
You need to either admit that your ideas for an anarchosyndicalist union are not well worked out or stop defending them. Or you need to spell them out.

but it HAS been spelled out. we want revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action. an organisation that does so, organised according to the principles of mandated recallable delegates, federalism etc, operating through mass meetings is functioning, or beginning to function as an anarcho-syndicalist union.

what hasn't been fleshed out is how you get from one isolated militant to a mass meeting. that's not in the strategy. i'm not sure it needs to be, so long as we have a decent organiser training programme. but the idea is pretty simple. i'm not sure what more detail can be specified in advance. So for example, an 18 month old leaflet that's been reproduced by most locals, including those who were most critical of Brighton a couple of years ago says:

SolFed wrote:
Anarcho-syndicalists seek to organise with other militant workers who agree with their revolutionary aims and principles. Initially, this takes the form of local groups and industrial networks, but as these grow in size and influence they can begin to take on union functions such as advising fellow workers and initiating direct action like work-to-rules, strikes and occupations.

The role of anarcho-syndicalist networks and unions is not to try and recruit every worker, but to advocate and organise mass meetings of all workers which control the struggle. Within these meetings anarcho-syndicalists argue for the principles of solidarity, direct action and self-organisation.

In this way anarcho-syndicalism is completely different to Trade Unionism, which seeks to represent workers on an economic basis, and the so-called ‘Workers Parties’ which seek to represent workers on a political basis. Instead, anarcho-syndicalism unites the political and the economic and opposes representation in favour of self-organisation.

By organising this way, workers learn to act for themselves, exercising their power without being lead by union officials or political vanguards, calling into question the way society is organised and prefiguring the world we want to create, without bosses or rulers.

That is literally spelling it out.

i mean most of that is already in Winning the Class War, the industrial strategy etc. Ok fair enough first time you read it maybe getting the wrong end of the stick, but after a while it starts looking like wilful misreading.

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Feb 14 2011 16:00

Yeah, I'd imagine so, do you mean a public meeting or a private meeting? We're always up for meetings. wall

(I should give the caveat here that most people in the Commune come from things from a variety of Marxist perspectives (SouB, councilist, autonomist, operaismo, open Marxism etc.). There aren't many others who are as interested in anarchosyndicalism as I am. But as I said I'm sure people would be interested in discussing it in some format or other.)

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Feb 14 2011 16:42

All definitions of "union," "struggle," "reformist," "boring" and "political-economic" will be posted at the entrance, anyone who asks anyway will be beaten with SolFed's newly-purchased "semantics stick" (which in a fit of irony, is actually a baseball bat).

Matt_efc
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Feb 14 2011 17:21

I have to say as an impartial observer to all this it seems fairly abstract I'm not sure if I've got it right. I mean I can understand all the historical arguments going on etc... but what seems obvious to me is that we live in a different world than these debates and organisations did. I mean it seems fairly obvious to me that if you read stuff from the AF what they are are a political entity... it also seems obvious that within "anarchism/ libertarian communism" there is space for something that is not simply political. It seems like SF is going through a process of trying to envisage what this might look like in the world we live in today.

Regardless of the signifiers people are using surely its the practise and the relationship between practise and theory that is most important... and until SF start looking like a TUC competitor, then given that their principals/ objectives are obviously Anarchist and non representative, why should anyone think they will become that, regardless of the fact that some words might be slightly ambiguous. Maybe I'm missing something, but it all just seems like a political way of saying "look we just dont really want to work with you in that respect" which is fair enough, and maybe thats the case of the 2 organisations...I dont know. But if thats the case does it open a debate towards another type of joint project (outside the remit of the feds - maybe libcom is it already) or does it just mean that people continue to work in the way they are doing now?

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georgestapleton
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Feb 14 2011 18:09
Quote:
but it HAS been spelled out. we want revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action. an organisation that does so, organised according to the principles of mandated recallable delegates, federalism etc, operating through mass meetings is functioning, or beginning to function as an anarcho-syndicalist union.

what hasn't been fleshed out is how you get from one isolated militant to a mass meeting. that's not in the strategy. i'm not sure it needs to be, so long as we have a decent organiser training programme. but the idea is pretty simple. i'm not sure what more detail can be specified in advance. So for example, an 18 month old leaflet that's been reproduced by most locals, including those who were most critical of Brighton a couple of years ago says:

Firstly, I'm not wilfully misreading here but rather as you point out the discussion of this remains really abstract and its difficult to work out the distinctions.

Secondly, my confusion here is justified and you've just justified it because you've just given me two different definitions of anarchosyndicalism.

The first is that you want "want revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action.... organised according to the principles of mandated recallable delegates, federalism etc."

The second is that "Anarcho-syndicalists seek to organise with other militant workers who agree with their revolutionary aims and principles." And you explain your aims and principles on the linked to leaflet as:

Quote:
Anarcho-syndicalists aim to promote solidarity in our workplaces and outside them, encouraging workers to organise independently of government, bosses and bureaucrats to fight for our own interests as a class. Our ultimate goal is a stateless, classless society based on the principle of ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ – a system of free councils made up of recallable delegates from workplaces and communities. This is libertarian communism.

But its there is a gap between "revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action etc." and a workplace based organisation of libertarian communists. And in that gap fit my earlier examples of the CNT, the IWW, the kind of organisation Jim Higgins wanted to turn IS into, an anarchist lutte ouvriere and many other real and imaginable organisations. Its this gap that I think has everyone confused.

I'm not being bad here because I agree with your aims and principles. I also "want revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action.... organised according to the principles of mandated recallable delegates, federalism etc." And I think the idea of building industrial networks of libertarian communists in the medium term is a good idea. But I also know that being a revolutionary worker is not the same thing as being a libertarian communist.

(In case someone says something about lefties who are libertarian communist not being real revolutionaries. No I agree you can't have a successful revolution based unless its libertarian communist. But you can be a revolutionary worker and believe in a whole variety of shit. And anyway it'd still be wrong to use revolutionary as shorthand for IWA supporter and nonrevolutionary for the rest of the working class. Libertarian communists are a subset of a wider class of revolutionary workers.)

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Steven.
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Feb 14 2011 18:50
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:
But its there is a gap between "revolutionary workers to organise on a local and industrial basis towards collective direct action etc." and a workplace based organisation of libertarian communists.

That gap's pretty much down to size though isn't it? I'm getting a bit confused here. We're saying that revolutionaries/libertarian communists/anarchists/communists etc. should be organising themselves into a single organisation structured along industrial and local lines. The idea being that when it has enough members in different workplaces they should form branches of that organisation in those workplaces, this is when we can probably actually start calling it a revolutionary union.

I've got to go do Valentine's Day stuff, so I will write a proper response to this hopefully tomorrow or as soon as I get a chance. But I think this does illustrate the confusion here.

What Jim is saying here, that size is the distinction, is basically what I was getting in my previous post, when Joseph responded that size was not the point. So it really is not clear to me what the Solfed people are saying exactly, which is qualitatively different from the AF.

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JoeMaguire
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Feb 14 2011 18:53

JK possibly keep it a little more civil. Or if the tedium gets too much just refer people directly to documents rather than rehash arguments ad nauseum.

knightrose wrote:
I don't understand what you are saying. I don't like naming individuals on the internet in a public forum, but I'm speaking about members of Manchester SF for one. It's really hard to pin down, but my perception is that they want to create a mass union in the traditional sense. I also get the feeling that they are quite prepared to be the representative of other workers in negotiations with bosses - albeit very militant ones.

I am not aware that anyone within SF who advocates mass unionism or a type of unionism which necessitates mediation. Our industrial strategy based on the three union scenarios reaffirms my theory on this because as a shop steward I tried to draw in non-unionised members (which worked well) and in an office which had a flabby union, I successfully called a mass meeting.
This is an embroyo, albeit in a small non-revolutionary situation of how I see our politics working. I don't think I am 'constrained by the fundamental nature of unionism' because I see this as either the AF referring to a different union (a TUC union) or being coy about how anarcho-syndicalism works. SF is just an organisation for training activists in workplace struggles with the ultimate aim of doing the dirty on the bureaucrats and leftists who keep us in check. And for that reason I think some of the workplace training stuff my local has pushed is really going to arm workers with the tools to create leverage in their struggles. Its not just going to provide another layer within official unionism.

Now we have tried to cover alot of ground internally after there was some strong disagreement with Brightons 'Strategy and Struggle' document so I think this would have rung alarm bells if someone was advocating a strategy which hinted at - shall we say vertical unionism. That said much like the AF, SF is not an homogenous group and I do have qualms about certain unjoined up thinking, particularly how we get to where we want to be but there is no major strategic divisions AFAIK. I have always envisaged that a political-economic entity we desire would have a difficult life and would more than likely take a semi-illegal form. But its based on activists trying to imbue a cultural of resistance, not simply about throwing up structures. Our history and cultural practice does not allow us to simply import the CNT model as an example.

knightrose wrote:
So we have a situation where some SF members and some AF members are confused. That's why Terry's idea of a day school is a good one. I don't get why Solfed members are so against discussing their ideas face to face with comrades. We've got stuff to learn as well as to give.

I am not against this, but the best way to reflect on political differences is going to be at looking at praxis. North London have tried to do some very base level work with London Afed and I think stuff like that will bring more clarity than anything else.

knightrose wrote:
Again, Manchester AF used to have drop in advice sessions for workers. To me that is like replicating what either the CAB or TUC unions do.

Of the few cases we usually get, its because they usually have no one else to turn to or because they have exhausted the CAB and TUC unions. And both those will only take it up as an individual grievance, our role is to collectivise and give it impetus if and where that is possible. There is a good level of difference between the two. One reflects an organisation happy to pursue legal posturing with the cards stacked against the worker the other is about upping the ante in the class war by giving this the assistance and solidarity it may need.

knightrose wrote:
The NSSN was supposed to be a network of shop stewards. That is a network of low level union officials. Revolutionaries should only take on that role occasionally and for very specific purposes. Involvement means giving that legitimacy and gets you embroiled in TUC type union politics.

You have a problem with the shop steward as a position or the NSSN?