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

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Spikymike
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Feb 14 2011 19:12

Despite some secondary disagreements over terminology I fully comprehend the emphasis which Joseph and other SolFed's put on 'anarcho-syndicalist methods' and that this is what an anarcho-syndicalist group or 'union' (as a minority in any workplace) would advocate and organise towards.

The difference, if any?, between this and other pro-revolutionary strategies around 'workplace groups' perhaps lies in our understanding of the process of working class struggle.

SolFed seem to envisage that in some circumstances, large scale or even mass uptake of such anarcho-syndicalist methods/strategies could lead to the 'union' being comprised of a whole section of workers and not just the initial minority revolutionary A-S group or 'union'. I suppose that scenario is plausable, but short of a major international class wide anti-capitalist upsurge, such an expansion of this 'union' form would inevitably ( based on my understanding of the nature and functioning of modern capitalism from historical experience) be of a temporary nature and not be the basis of any more permanent 'block by block' build up of a mass based A-S 'union'. On this assumption any more permament A-S 'union' would always be a minority tendency within the class up until, and probably beyond, the beginning of any revolutionary process itself. I have got the impression that, some at least, in SolFed, still expect this more gradual 'block by block' build up to be a realistic scenario but perhaps I am wrong?

I'm struggling to express this clearly but I hope this makes sense?

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Rob Ray
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Feb 14 2011 19:47

I don't think most people in Solfed would pretend to know what's likely to happen in the next upsurge of struggle, but there's a certain amount of planning going on around both the idea of building things up methodically where possible and simultaneously on, as far as is possible, putting in place mechanisms that are able to cope with a big influx of interest should something sudden happen. Any vaguely serious organisation would have a similar approach I'd think.

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Feb 14 2011 21:28
JoeMaguire wrote:
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.

just to be more concrete, say it's an inherently individual case. someone who's been laid off and is owed back pay, but none of the other workers have a problem or are interested in sticking their neck out. you could, for example propose to the person to get some friends involved and help them organise a picket. as much as possible you'd encourage people to self-organise it, giving assistance and explaining the rationale, helping work out an escalation strategy etc. now there's nothing inherently revolutionary about getting someone what they're owed. but there's nothing inherently compromising either, if it's not done as a service. most people in such situations would then thank you and move on, rather than deciding to become libertarian communists. but if you can build up a rep for such activities, it becomes 'the done thing', i.e. part of a culture of resistance. if you get such a culture, receptivity to revolutionary ideas and methods is likely to increase, and workers may well become more receptive to our more far-reaching goals of social change rather than just winning day to day grievances.

i mean say you built up a track record of getting people their job back through such methods, and had shouted from the rooftops about it in local newsletters/website/organisational paper/local press maybe. something like the Iraq war comes along, and maybe, just maybe, you're in a position to try and organise a sick-out or something, since you've built up a rep for being able to help people defend themselves. now that's just an example off the top of my head, but it's meant to illustrate how having a rep for winning small battles using collective direct action could lay the groundwork for things that would simply never be on the cards otherwise. SeaSol are probably the best example, although i have some criticisms of their model too (of course, nothing's above criticism since there's no perfect way to do things).

Spikymike wrote:
what an anarcho-syndicalist group or 'union' (as a minority in any workplace) would advocate and organise towards.

i don't see why that needs so much emphasis, since that's not really the point. the point is we organise according to A&Ps. that, naturally, means we're likely to be a minority in most workplaces, certainly for the foreseeable future. but i see no reason, in principle, why through struggle workers can't come to hold a revolutionary perspective in much larger numbers - after all none of us accept 'trade union consciousness'. i mean an organisation of 30,000 revolutionary workers would be a tiny minority of the class (0.01% of the labour force, less if including housewives, pensioners etc). but in many respects it would be a 'mass' organisation, since it would likely develop unevenly (since you're more likely to become a revolutionary if you're near to existing concentrations of revolutionaries organising along direct action lines, propogating their ideas etc. so you may well end up with substantial workplace branches and the like. this is why we ditched the 'mass/minority' terminology, it actually obfuscates the central point, which is whether or not the union organises according to revolutionary principles, or ditches them in search of growth.

i mean Pannekoek argues big = bureaucratic, but i don't agree. i'm not sure if you're making that argument so i'll leave it at that.

Spikymike wrote:
On this assumption any more permament A-S 'union' would always be a minority tendency within the class up until, and probably beyond, the beginning of any revolutionary process itself. I have got the impression that, some at least, in SolFed, still expect this more gradual 'block by block' build up to be a realistic scenario but perhaps I am wrong?

i think there's two main things I'd add:

(1) radicalisation is not symmetric. yes, struggles ebb and flow, but radicalisation isn't undone that quickly. so in theory, an organisation could grow despite such ebbs and flows. in fact so far, people tend to join off the back of struggles, since when it all dies down a bit, those who have been radicalised look for a way to continue the fight (i know a few students have joined SolFed lately, it'll be interesting to chat to them and see whether the recent struggles played a part in them wanting to be part of a revolutionary organisation).

(2) 'the level of struggle' is not just an external variable. i mean, at the macro level it is, but at the micro level, there are always grievances and gripes that can potentially be agitated and organised around, collectivised and turned into direct action. now that's a specific skill-set, and doesn't come naturally to most, but it's something that e.g. through training we can make the most of. Again, i'm not uncritical of the US IWW, but if you look at the cold shop (i.e. no prior struggle/organisation) they've done in the service sector over the last 5 years, there's some evidence this can be done.

Now neither of those two things make us immune to wider social conditions, but equally we're not completely hostages to fortune. whether or not we'd ever get to a point of positive feedback between points (2) and (1), which was something like the insurrectionary cycle in Spain in the 30s i don't know. Perhaps more likely is should widespread unrest break out, we'd be in a position to help spread it, argue for strikes to become occupations/expropriations etc. I also think it's worth noting there have been periods of time lasting over several decades where revolutionary organisations have had tens of thousands of members, which ended in either revolutionary attempts and/or repression by dicatorships.

obviously any significantly sized revolutionary union, in refusing to compromise, is going to attract repression, which is going to radicalise some and polarise society, so it's either going to spiral into revolution or provoke crushing reaction. so it's almost tautological to say it could only be big 'in a revolutionary period', because its size would be a major indicator that you were in such a period!

but equally, i can't see a libertarian communist revolution taking place unless a significant proportion (a minority, sure) of the world's proletariat actively desires it. i doubt they'll all come those ideas within the last strike wave, i think there needs to be lots of groundwork, and the best way to do that is looking to organise struggle along libertarian direct action lines on a sustained basis.

Spikymike
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Feb 17 2011 15:47

Thanks Joseph for that response which, with others, satisfies me for now.

I suspect we still have some differences (other than those over terminology) in our understanding of how modern capitalism has changed the conditions for struggle and the potential for revolutionary change since even the 1930's, as a result of which I think I would put more emphasis on the abillity of mass working class struggle to undermine and exacerbate capitalist economic and social crisis well before the emergence of any conscious communist movement on a mass scale, but I can still agree with most of the practical points you make.

So I'll stop pestering you for a bit!

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Feb 17 2011 18:06
Spikymike wrote:
I think I would put more emphasis on the abillity of mass working class struggle to undermine and exacerbate capitalist economic and social crisis well before the emergence of any conscious communist movement on a mass scale, but I can still agree with most of the practical points you make.

that may well be true, but my response would be, wouldn't we still be in a better position to spread and radicalise such a struggle, if we'd built some (even if still tiny in per capita terms) revolutionary workplace/industrial organisation? For example, if you had a couple of revolutionary union members in a larger workplace, who'd helped build up a culture of meeting to discuss conditions, using low level direct actions to maintain or improve them etc, then should some mass strike wave come along that workplace is more likely to (a) join in and (b) resist takeover by leftist types (since that could be part of the ongoing 'innoculation' involved in the organising process; 'if we walk out, there's going to be all sorts of people purporting to speak for us and make deals on our behalf, we need to make links directly with other workers, use delegates not representatives etc').

i would argue we'd be in a much better position to influence unfolding events from the standpoint of long-term industrial organising, compared to political groups who could only really 'intervene' once the struggle went mass/public (this is certainly true of those who 'work through the unions' and hadn't attempted to build a direct action culture beforehand). now i'd be overjoyed if the struggle completely overtook whatever organisation we had. brilliant. but a major problem in such struggles is co-option (e.g. the 1905 St Petersburg soviet feeling they had to elect non-worker intellectuals to leadership positions because they lacked confidence in their ability to act for themselves). groundwork in direct action, a libertarian culture of resistance etc should help innoculate against that.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 17 2011 18:50
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i would argue we'd be in a much better position to influence unfolding events from the standpoint of long-term industrial organising, compared to political groups who could only really 'intervene' once the struggle went mass/public (this is certainly true of those who 'work through the unions' and hadn't attempted to build a direct action culture beforehand)

I don't really want to derail this thread, but I don't think it's true to say that specifically political groups can only intervene in struggles after the effect. The political group I'm a member of has been involved in plenty of struggles from the get go, as well as supporting and engaging with struggles that started independently of us.

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Feb 17 2011 19:02
Yorkie Bar wrote:
I don't really want to derail this thread, but I don't think it's true to say that specifically political groups can only intervene in struggles after the effect. The political group I'm a member of has been involved in plenty of struggles from the get go, as well as supporting and engaging with struggles that started independently of us.

maybe i phrased this badly. firstly for 'poltical group' don't read 'AF'. whether or not the AF is in fact content to be a political group, or has actually been advocating political-economic organisation all along is one of the issues on this thread!

secondly, it isn't about 'being involved in struggles' so much as who organises them. political organisations - lets stick to marxist parties to be uncontroversial - see it as the role of other organisations - in this case trade unions - to organise in the workplace, with their members being active within them. if you apply the AF's critique of unions, that means struggles will be organises along bureaucratic, legalistic lines. but members of the political organisation are very much involved, critically or otherwise.

the difference, i am suggesting, is that by seeing the role of revolutionary organisation as organising such struggles directly itself*, along direct action lines, this means struggle is an empowering, educative collective experience rather than the disempowering, demoralising, bureaucratic one when left to non-revolutionaries.

i'm deliberately not placing the AF in there, because i don't know exactly where you/they/it stand (RORO to me suggests a political organisation type outlook, but 'Workplace Resistance Groups' could be interpeted as the latter).

* this is short-hand for the rather clunkier 'seeking to initiate self-organised direct action by agitiating and organising to collectivise grievances'

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Feb 17 2011 20:07

Could someone give me the idiot's guide to the debate that's going on here? It seems important, but I think I'm missing the terms of reference.

I know the SolFed position; that they are trying to move away from being a 'propaganda' organisation and into the realm of economic, workplace organisation (from a revolutionary perspective). Even though things are at an early stage, I can see things are gradually progressing in that direction (and I think it's great, personally).

So what is the general AFed position? How is it seperate from that of SolFed's? What exactly is being discussed here?

Apologies if I seem completely dense. I'm looking at this from the outside in as I haven't really followed the argument to date. Perhaps explaining things in terms a dunce like me can understand will help clarify some positions. tongue

Thanks in advance.

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Feb 17 2011 20:08

Blargh, doublepost.

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Feb 17 2011 20:25
Auto wrote:
So what is the general AFed position? How is it seperate from that of SolFed's? What exactly is being discussed here?

if we knew that it would probably be a lot easier! i mean, part of the discussion seems to be establishing just that. Relevent AF documents are probably the constitution, 'The Role of the Revolutionary Organisation' (2009) and 'On the Frontline' (2009). A 3-part critique of syndicalism that appeared in the AF's magazine Organise may or may not be relevant (i don't think it ever represented an agreed organisational position). AFed people - please add or correct anything there!

As far as i can work out, the disagreement would seem to centre on permanent workplace-based organisation. SolFed wants to move towards a situation where industrial networks become federations of workplace groups rather than networks of isolated individuals. Some things said by AFed seem to oppose this on the grounds they would inevitably become reformist, sucked into a mediating role etc. Other times, it seems to be fine as long as they're based on revolutionary principles (which they are; the networks are part of SolFed and membership is subject to the A&Ps). I'm not sure that there is a single AF position on this tbh (and that's fine if so). It may also partly reflect a lack of clarity on SF's part about what we advocate, and/or semantic differences over whether a revolutionary workplace organisation is a union (AF A&P #7 says a revolutionary union is a contradiction in terms).

In practical terms, this has meant the AF has tended to support SF's industrial networking strategy 'so long as the networks don't become functioning unions'. To SolFed members that means 'so long as they're too small and ineffective to organise direct action', whereas to the AF it may mean anything from 'remain primarily propaganda groups' to 'organise stuff but don't play a mediating role', (probably more the latter).

Please let me know if this is unfair/a misrepresentation. I'm trying to get my head round this too, and having read all the above documents this is my honest impression of where we're at.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 17 2011 20:35
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So what is the general AFed position?

As far as I'm aware there isn't one. Some members are sceptical of what SolFed are trying to achieve for a variety of reasons. Others are more optimistic about some or all aspects of SolFed's "political-economic" activity, but are annoyed that they can't get involved without joining SolFed. Personally I'm still sort of grappling with it all, but since there's no SolFed members this side of Leeds and I don't work it's a bit academic from my PoV.

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the difference, i am suggesting, is that by seeing the role of revolutionary organisation as organising such struggles directly itself*, along direct action lines, this means struggle is an empowering, educative collective experience rather than the disempowering, demoralising, bureaucratic one when left to non-revolutionaries.

I can definitely think of some cases where AF members or groups have tried to "initiate self-organised direct action by agitiating and organising to collectivise grievances" as you put it, with varying degrees of success. Then again, where this has happened it has usually involved another grouping/organisation, e.g. a union, a solidarity network, a mass meeting in an occupation, a militant antifascist group or an IWW local.

But if I've got you straight, wouldn't an anarchosyndicalist union work through workplace assemblies in a similar way?

EDIT: cross posted with JK there, but my post maybe answers some of his questions too

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Feb 17 2011 21:39

It seems to me that AF members are primarily asking for alot my clarity in what we hope to achieve through economic-political activity. Which is quite problematic on a number of levels.

Yorkie Bar wrote:
Others are more optimistic about some or all aspects of SolFed's "political-economic" activity, but are annoyed that they can't get involved without joining SolFed.

I would argue the industrial networks should include non-SF members, but this is not a popular opinion because it means the networks would either create a two-tier membership or would have to be entirely separate from SF (sponsored/supported bodies). I would have to look at past conference decisions to see where this opinion got to within SF.

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Feb 17 2011 21:54
JoeMaguire wrote:
I would argue the industrial networks should include non-SF members, but this is not a popular opinion because it means the networks would either create a two-tier membership or would have to be entirely separate from SF (sponsored/supported bodies). I would have to look at past conference decisions to see where this opinion got to within SF.

I must say that personally I don't really understand why the Industrial Networks couldn't be open to non-SF members. I understand the desire to not have an 'all-comers' big-tent network (which could obviously slide from revolutionary principles). But if there's me and an AF member in one city, in the same industry, dealing with the same struggles. It just doesn't make sense to me to disbar them from the Network. Yes we could just 'work together informally' or I could implore them to join SF, but it doesn't seem to be very comradely.

If the Industrial Networks had their own aims and principles that were acceptable to both members of AF and SF, couldn't they be open to both membership groups?

I'm aware that I may be sounding massively naive and be missing years of back and forth arguing but this is my initial gut reaction when approaching the issue, so forgive me if I've opened a can of worms.

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Feb 17 2011 21:55
JoeMaguire wrote:
I would argue the industrial networks should include non-SF members, but this is not a popular opinion because it means the networks would either create a two-tier membership or would have to be entirely separate from SF (sponsored/supported bodies).

I think behind this is the pressure to grow at the expense of our principles.

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Feb 17 2011 22:04
no1 wrote:
JoeMaguire wrote:
I would argue the industrial networks should include non-SF members, but this is not a popular opinion because it means the networks would either create a two-tier membership or would have to be entirely separate from SF (sponsored/supported bodies).

I think behind this is the pressure to grow at the expense of our principles.

Why would it necessitate an abandonment of our principles? Or rather what specific principles would need to be abandoned? This is an honest question, I'd really like to see the other side of this argument.

no1
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Feb 17 2011 22:11
Auto wrote:
I'm aware that I may be sounding massively naive and be missing years of back and forth arguing but this is my initial gut reaction when approaching the issue, so forgive me if I've opened a can of worms.

When I joined SF I had the same opinion as you, but when you think about it properly you realise that it doesn't make sense to have members who aren't members - the industrial networks are as much part of SF as the locals, if someone agrees with our basic principles, then they should be a member, if they don't then not. Splitting off the networks immediately raises two questions 1- what would be the political basis of these new networks and how would they be different from SolFed's? (IMO the obvious answer is that they'd be the same) and 2- what would be the point of the SF rump without industrial networks? (obvious answer IMO is that there wouldn't be a point, it'd be a small political organisation that doesn't see a point in political organisations.)
I do agree that there's a special case for those AF members who agree with our principles, but I think the logical solution to this problem is dual membership, and IMO we should take practical measures to make that easier.

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Feb 17 2011 22:13
Yorkie Bar wrote:
I can definitely think of some cases where AF members or groups have tried to "initiate self-organised direct action by agitiating and organising to collectivise grievances" as you put it, with varying degrees of success. Then again, where this has happened it has usually involved another grouping/organisation, e.g. a union, a solidarity network, a mass meeting in an occupation, a militant antifascist group or an IWW local.

But if I've got you straight, wouldn't an anarchosyndicalist union work through workplace assemblies in a similar way?

exactly, the IWW isn't the AF! it's a separate organisation. so AF members joined the IWW in order to organise at work. That is an organisational separation of the political and the economic. The IWW organises in the workplace (on a purely economic basis, in practice, "for all workers"), AF members are active within it (as members of a political organisation).

what SolFed is saying is the revolutionary organisation itself needs to do this, since leaving it up to non-revolutionary organisations (and that includes the IWW in the UK, on account of their legalistic/representative, apolitical strategy) means using their methods - typically not self-organised direct action.

yes, this involves organising beyond your membership. but a mass meeting isn't an 'organisation', it's something organised by members of the revolutionary union to facilitate action. the revolutionary organisation itself does the workplace organising. that is distinct from there being one, permanent, economic-based organisation for the workplace (IWW, TUC) within which a separate political organisation operates.

I mean, it's the same difference as between say, Platformists being active in a Trade Union branch, and the CNT. One is revolutionaries in a union. The other is a revolutionary union. Is that making any sense?

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Feb 17 2011 22:23
no1 wrote:
When I joined SF I had the same opinion as you, but when you think about it properly you realise that it doesn't make sense to have members who aren't members - the industrial networks are as much part of SF as the locals, if someone agrees with our basic principles, then they should be a member, if they don't then not. Splitting off the networks immediately raises two questions 1- what would be the political basis of these new networks and how would they be different from SolFed's? (IMO the obvious answer is that they'd be the same) and 2- what would be the point of the SF rump without industrial networks? (obvious answer IMO is that there wouldn't be a point, it'd be a small political organisation that doesn't see a point in political organisations.)
I do agree that there's a special case for those AF members who agree with our principles, but I think the logical solution to this problem is dual membership, and IMO we should take practical measures to make that easier.

Thanks, this makes the issue a little clearer for me.

Though on the wider question of differences between the AF and SF I must admit I still find myself fairly confused. Though that may simply be my tiny simian mind not being able to cope. I never was much good with theory...

no1
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Feb 17 2011 22:38
Auto wrote:
no1 wrote:
JoeMaguire wrote:
I would argue the industrial networks should include non-SF members, but this is not a popular opinion because it means the networks would either create a two-tier membership or would have to be entirely separate from SF (sponsored/supported bodies).

I think behind this is the pressure to grow at the expense of our principles.

Why would it necessitate an abandonment of our principles? Or rather what specific principles would need to be abandoned? This is an honest question, I'd really like to see the other side of this argument.

Well, the assumption has to be that people who agree with our basic principles and who care enough to want to organise would be members of SF. If someone doesn't want to be a member of SF it implies they disagree with our principles*, which implies they would only become members if we watered the politics down.
If people disagree with us that's perfectly fine and we can still work together on stuff, but I don't think it's possible to build a revolutionary union on a different political basis. So what would be the point of being in the same industrial network if we don't have the same aim? The simple fact is that to be able to have a functioning organisation that is completely controlled by its members you need a minimum political agreement.

* if it's only practical problems that stop them from joining then we have to think of practical solutions to enable them to become members

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Feb 17 2011 22:39
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When I joined SF I had the same opinion as you, but when you think about it properly you realise that it doesn't make sense to have members who aren't members - the industrial networks are as much part of SF as the locals, if someone agrees with our basic principles, then they should be a member, if they don't then not.

This is not a helpful position to take, since it ignores the reality of the situation in favour of defining the organisation as its A&Ps. In fact SF is much more than its constitution. As all healthy organisations should be.

Quote:
Splitting off the networks immediately raises two questions 1- what would be the political basis of these new networks and how would they be different from SolFed's? (IMO the obvious answer is that they'd be the same)

Fine, but even if they had exactly the same politics as SolFed on paper that doesn't mean they'd be the same as SolFed in reality. Assuming I was in a position to do so, I'd be much more willing to join anarchosyndicalist industrial networks if they didn't also have to join a second anarchist-communist political organisation in order to do so.

Quote:
and 2- what would be the point of the SF rump without industrial networks? (obvious answer IMO is that there wouldn't be a point, it'd be a small political organisation that doesn't see a point in political organisations.)

I don't see why anyone is in SolFed if they don't see the point in political organisations. At the very least they must see a point in them as a way to start up political-economic organisations. Otherwise surely you'd just leave.

Anyway, this isn't an argument as keeping your industrial networks welded to SolFed purely to give SolFed a reason to exist seems a deeply silly thing to do.

Quote:
I do agree that there's a special case for those AF members who agree with our principles, but I think the logical solution to this problem is dual membership, and IMO we should take practical measures to make that easier.

Or in other words, "join SolFed".

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Feb 17 2011 22:48
no1 wrote:
I do agree that there's a special case for those AF members who agree with our principles, but I think the logical solution to this problem is dual membership, and IMO we should take practical measures to make that easier.

fwiw, as of last national conference, all SF members are supposed to be attached to a local and a network (setting these up is still in progress), but are free to direct their activities towards each as they see fit. So if you were solely active in your network, and your local was ok with that, that would be fine. In principle, AF members could join as dual members, negotiate with their local only to pay subs to the network (only the EWN has subs at present, afaik) and be mainly active through that.

To me, if you had a local in your area it seems weird you'd only participate in SF via network email/skype conferences but not face-to-face meetings. But you'd be within your rights to do so (like i say, subject to agreement with your local). Obviously if you were geographically isolated from SF locals this would make a lot of sense (as it does for isolated SF members).

I think the hesitation on SF's part comes from the fact AF members don't seem to 'get' the network strategy (this may be communication failure on our part, i'm not having a go). Networks are meant to become an integral part of SolFed's future activity. As no1 says, if they were separated, the remaining 'SolFed' consisiting solely of locals may as well disband. I mean if someone approached AF and said 'I really like Resistance, I'd like to join the Resistance collective, but i don't want to join the AF' i'm fairly sure it would be explained to them that Resistance is an integral part of the AF's activity and the request doesn't really seem to make sense because of that.

Now there may be a case for some special status for AF members on account of their closeness to our A&Ps, but the networks are a long term project to build revolutionary workplace organisation. Since recent AF publications ('On the frontline') could be read as saying they don't think the networks should become any more than networks, i suspect there's likely to be skepticism towards moves in this direction, since it would appear there's a fundamental difference in approach: SF wanting the networks to become the basis of revolutionary workplace organisations, AF wanting them to remain simple networks of individuals. That would appear to be more than semantics, and would immediately cause problems as SF wants the networks towards revolutionary union functions and AF members, on the face of it, appear to oppose that (i'm stressing appearance here in case of talking at crossed purposes).

How to get past this impasse? There's a discussion document circulating in SolFed which basically sets out 'the role of the revolutionary union'. It's due to be discussed this weekend; depending on the discussion it could be tidied up and published. The soonest that could happen as an official national publication would be National Conference at the beginning of May (since we've just had a delegate council, and are unlikely to call an extraordinary one over that). If that happens, AF members can read it, discuss it and maybe we can move forward, perhaps on the basis 'if that's what you mean by a revolutionary union we don't oppose it, or the networks becoming it, we'd prefer to call it X but we now feel we understand where you're coming from'. Of course, AF members may well read it, and oppose it. That's fine too. At least there should be an increase in mutual understanding.

That would still leave all sorts of questions: if only some AFers agreed with it, what would be the AF-SF relationship in terms of membership overlap? if the AF as a whole agreed with it, wouldn't that suggest a merger made sense? These are big questions with big implications, so i don't think they should be rushed.

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Feb 17 2011 22:52
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Assuming I was in a position to do so, I'd be much more willing to join anarchosyndicalist industrial networks if they didn't also have to join a second anarchist-communist political organisation in order to do so.

please see my post above, but this is precisely the problem. by wanting to join SolFed without joining SolFed, which is what you're saying, you're dicating that industrial networks should be something separate and consigning SolFed to being a 'second anarchist-communist political organisation'. Which SolFed doesn't want to be, which is the very reason for forming networks in the first place!

Like i say, perhaps this will make sense if you read my post above.

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Feb 17 2011 22:55
Joseph Kay wrote:
what SolFed is saying is the revolutionary organisation itself needs to do this, since leaving it up to non-revolutionary organisations (and that includes the IWW in the UK, on account of their legalistic/representative, apolitical strategy) means using their methods - typically not self-organised direct action.

I'm not sure that's being entirely fair to those AF members, self not included, who joined the IWW. At the time I don't think the apolitical/representative strategy was quite so established (and since it has been, a lot of AF members have gotten fucked off and left), and I think the AF members who joined did so with the intention of using it as a platform to self-organise workers direct action.

Quote:
yes, this involves organising beyond your membership. but a mass meeting isn't an 'organisation', it's something organised by members of the revolutionary union to facilitate action. the revolutionary organisation itself does the workplace organising. that is distinct from there being one, permanent, economic-based organisation for the workplace (IWW, TUC) within which a separate political organisation operates.

A mass meeting is certainly a form of organisation, in my view. If, as has happened historically in times of heightened class struggle mass meetings form delegate councils and federate together along regional or industrial lines, would you still say that's not an organisation? If so I'd say you're just mucking about with semantics.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 17 2011 23:00
Joseph Kay wrote:
please see my post above, but this is precisely the problem. by wanting to join SolFed without joining SolFed, which is what you're saying, you're dicating that industrial networks should be something separate and consigning SolFed to being a 'second anarchist-communist political organisation'. Which SolFed doesn't want to be, which is the very reason for forming networks in the first place!

Like i say, perhaps this will make sense if you read my post above.

Yes, I do understand this, but whether or not SolFed wants to be a second anarchist-communist political organisation that is in practice what it is. I thought we all agreed on that?

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 17 2011 23:13
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Yes, I do understand this, but whether or not SolFed wants to be a second anarchist-communist political organisation that is in practice what it is. I thought we all agreed on that?

right, and we have a clear strategy towards not being one, which you're seemingly telling us to abort!

Yorkie Bar wrote:
I'm not sure that's being entirely fair to those AF members, self not included, who joined the IWW. At the time I don't think the apolitical/representative strategy was quite so established (and since it has been, a lot of AF members have gotten fucked off and left), and I think the AF members who joined did so with the intention of using it as a platform to self-organise workers direct action.

right ok, but even if the IWW was the bees knees badass revolutionary union, it still isn't the AF. the AF would still be a political organisation, whose members joined a separate organisation in order to organise at work. The AF would not be seeing it as its role to do so.

Yorkie Bar wrote:
A mass meeting is certainly a form of organisation, in my view. If, as has happened historically in times of heightened class struggle mass meetings form delegate councils and federate together along regional or industrial lines, would you still say that's not an organisation? If so I'd say you're just mucking about with semantics.

SolFed: The revolutionary organisation needs to organise at work, this involves organising mass meetings as well as plenty of other things.

You: The revolutionary organisation needs to get involved in organisations at work such as unions or mass meetings.

That might seem subtle, but there's a gulf between them. Mass meetings don't just happen for you to get involved with. SolFed is saying it is the role of revolutionaries to organise them (and not just them, organise collective direct action from a standing start). You seem to be saying that AFed members will get involved with organisations. that's not the same thing as organising. it's a fundamental question of the role of the revolutionary organisation, is it to (a) organise in the workplace or (b) to join a separate organisation which does this.

As far as i can tell, the AF says both things at once, without ever acknowledging they're different things. the plasticity of 'workplace resistance groups' comes in here: "They are anti-work, anti-boss, anti-union, anti-capitalist organisations advocating class war and practicing direct action. They are not ‘revolutionary unions’ but a way to band together the most militant workers for direct action" - i.e. revolutionary unions! - assuming they're federated together beyond workplaces. However, in the most recent publication, WRGs aren't formal organisations but a "tendency".

I suspect the plasticity of the 'workplace resistance group' reflects the fact some AF members are opposed to any formal revolutionary workplace organisation, or even negotiation (hence 'a tendency'), whereas others are ok with it as long as it's based on explicitly revolutionary principles (the first definition?). The former position is irreconcilable with SolFed, the latter is basically revolutionary unionism as we advocate it.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 17 2011 23:17
Joseph Kay wrote:
I mean, it's the same difference as between say, Platformists being active in a Trade Union branch, and the CNT. One is revolutionaries in a union. The other is a revolutionary union. Is that making any sense?

that's a plain and succinct as i can possibly put it. does it make sense?

no1
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Feb 17 2011 23:40
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Quote:
When I joined SF I had the same opinion as you, but when you think about it properly you realise that it doesn't make sense to have members who aren't members - the industrial networks are as much part of SF as the locals, if someone agrees with our basic principles, then they should be a member, if they don't then not.

This is not a helpful position to take, since it ignores the reality of the situation in favour of defining the organisation as its A&Ps. In fact SF is much more than its constitution. As all healthy organisations should be.

Of course I'm being a bit simplistic here, there are many other dimensions to an organisation , but the A&Ps do define the basis on which members associate to form the organisation.

Yorkie Bar wrote:
Quote:
Splitting off the networks immediately raises two questions 1- what would be the political basis of these new networks and how would they be different from SolFed's? (IMO the obvious answer is that they'd be the same)

Fine, but even if they had exactly the same politics as SolFed on paper that doesn't mean they'd be the same as SolFed in reality. Assuming I was in a position to do so, I'd be much more willing to join anarchosyndicalist industrial networks if they didn't also have to join a second anarchist-communist political organisation in order to do so.

I think this shows that you think of the industrial networks as the economic dimension and the locals as the political dimension, but this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how we see SolFed. The locals arr no less economic, the networks are no less political than any other part of the organisation.

Yorkie Bar wrote:
Quote:
and 2- what would be the point of the SF rump without industrial networks? (obvious answer IMO is that there wouldn't be a point, it'd be a small political organisation that doesn't see a point in political organisations.)

I don't see why anyone is in SolFed if they don't see the point in political organisations. At the very least they must see a point in them as a way to start up political-economic organisations. Otherwise surely you'd just leave.

Some members see no point in political organisations, some do (including me). However as an organisation we are agnostic on the importance of having political organisations, except that we strongly believe that we want something else - a revolutionary union.

Yorkie Bar wrote:
Anyway, this isn't an argument as keeping your industrial networks welded to SolFed purely to give SolFed a reason to exist seems a deeply silly thing to do.

I think this comment shows that you misunderstand how we see it. I do agree that there are a lot of tensions though between what we are and what we want (so I don't really blame anyone for being confused...).

Yorkie Bar wrote:
Quote:
I do agree that there's a special case for those AF members who agree with our principles, but I think the logical solution to this problem is dual membership, and IMO we should take practical measures to make that easier.

Or in other words, "join SolFed".

Yes, if you have the same aims as us, if you believe in the same methods, then you're better off joining us, and we're better off with you as a member*. That's not meant in an arrogant or dismissive way, and I don't see why you think dual membership would be so offensive. I mean if it's not a problem for AF members to be IWW members, why would dual membership with SolFed be a problem?
* of course if we don't agree on the political basics then we're better off in seperate organisations and having our disagreements on the internet rather than within the same organisation.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 18 2011 00:05
Joseph Kay wrote:
right, and we have a clear strategy towards not being one, which you're seemingly telling us to abort!

Sorry if I'm not being clear, I wouldn't presume to tell you guys what to do. I was just trying to explain why members of the AF wouldn't want to join SolFed right now (not SolFed as described in its A&Ps, not SolFed as it aspires to be, but SolFed as it is).

Quote:
SolFed: The revolutionary organisation needs to organise at work, this involves organising mass meetings as well as plenty of other things.

You: The revolutionary organisation needs to get involved in organisations at work such as unions or mass meetings.

That might seem subtle, but there's a gulf between them. Mass meetings don't just happen for you to get involved with. SolFed is saying it is the role of revolutionaries to organise them (and not just them, organise collective direct action from a standing start).

As far as I can see all you're really saying here is that revolutionaries should take the initiative i.e. not just wait for other workers to kick off, but actively agitate for class struggle and organise to make it happen. This is something that AF groups are actively doing at the moment e.g. Sheffield AF with MASH. The only difference I can see is that MASH 'is an organisation', whereas a workplace assembly isn't (even if it elects delegates and comes together with other assemblies into a region- or industry- wide federation?). I don't think that difference is really all that meaningful tbh.

Quote:
As far as i can tell, the AF says both things at once, without ever acknowledging they're different things. the plasticity of 'workplace resistance groups' comes in here: "They are anti-work, anti-boss, anti-union, anti-capitalist organisations advocating class war and practicing direct action. They are not ‘revolutionary unions’ but a way to band together the most militant workers for direct action" - i.e. revolutionary unions! - assuming they're federated together beyond workplaces. However, in the most recent publication, WRGs aren't formal organisations but a "tendency".

Yeah. I dunno. I'm not convinced they are massively different things to be honest. There's the question of taking the initiative to start the process of organisation versus joining in later, and obviously I'd argue for the former but you inevitably do end up in the latter situation sometimes. There's different levels of formality which I guess it's worth discussing, though imo this probably comes down to circumstances - I can see a formal anarchosyndicalist union organising an informal workplace assembly in an ununionised workplace; I can see an informal group of revolutionaries who happen to work together organising a formal cross-union meeting in a workplace with multiple trades unions. Each of these might work well or badly depending on the broader situation, and I'm not sure they're all that different from each other in terms of the content of what's going on.

Quote:
I mean, it's the same difference as between say, Platformists being active in a Trade Union branch, and the CNT. One is revolutionaries in a union. The other is a revolutionary union. Is that making any sense?

I understand the distinction, but I'm not sure I grasp the broader relevance of it.

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 18 2011 00:08
no1 wrote:
The locals arr no less economic, the networks are no less political than any other part of the organisation.

Sorry to ask this again, but is it your position that SolFed locals are now, not in aspiration, not in the future, but in the here and now, a form of political-economic organisation?

And if your view is that they are not, that they are in fact political organisations, can you see why asking members of another political organisation to join your political organisation before you'll work with them on a political-economic basis is a bit cheeky?

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JoeMaguire
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Feb 18 2011 00:11
no1 wrote:
I think behind this is the pressure to grow at the expense of our principles.

No, this simply is not true. There are people outside of SF who accept the core of our politics and would participate in industrial networking but simply do not want to join another organisation, and who can blame them. The core of anarchism is about co-operation, and its pretty gross to see both AF and SF have mutually exclusive education based networks, and a complimentary pool of activists, this shows a complete unecessary replication of both groups activity to do separate work. As communists we should push for the maximum possible basis for principled activity.

no1 wrote:
Splitting off the networks immediately raises two questions 1- what would be the political basis of these new networks and how would they be different from SolFed's? (IMO the obvious answer is that they'd be the same) and 2- what would be the point of the SF rump without industrial networks? (obvious answer IMO is that there wouldn't be a point, it'd be a small political organisation that doesn't see a point in political organisations.)

At present our industrial networks are composed of people who are recruited based on political agreement with SF. At no point in its future trajectory will this course ever be anything other than a union of anarcho-syndicalists. So it will be entirely stuck within the political realm of activity because it won't attract sufficient enough militants to ever be anything other than ineffective at industrial organisation. (Its probably worth mentioning the IWW have tried to move into a niche we have failed to fill) If industrial networks are separate and are successful it will feed into the larger organisation. People do give kudos for actually doing the work, initiating stuff etc and graduating from a network to the larger organisation is entirely plausible.

no1 wrote:
Well, the assumption has to be that people who agree with our basic principles and who care enough to want to organise would be members of SF. If someone doesn't want to be a member of SF it implies they disagree with our principles*, which implies they would only become members if we watered the politics down.

Anarcho-syndicalism is about schooling people in our methods of struggle. Nobody comes politically fully formed, we all have ample shit to learn along the way including the more savvy people who need to learn the practical stuff of organising and being militant in the workplace, which isn't exactly handed to us on a plate. By cherry picking militants who are simply wanting to commit fully to joining SF, you have set the bar so high its completely self-defeating. How many full anarcho-syndicalists are you expecting to meet out in the wilderness, seriously? It does not sound like this has anything to do with principles, as far as I can see, but sectarianism (in its proper sense) and political conservatism. If someone agrees with the core of a networks work and politics, then they should join and learn what they lack through our activity.