So what do people think of the Wobblies?

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ftony
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Oct 28 2005 13:23
So what do people think of the Wobblies?

so there's all this heehaw about the IWW centenary and how great they are/were, and there's a new branch opening up in london, but i'm not sure how cool they really are. it seems they've got a lot smaller over the last few decades- is this a result of them getting a bit shit or just anarchism becoming more and more like a counterculture than a movement?

discuss goddamnit!

....red star .....

red star I red star

..W W..

(well isn't that clever!)

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Steven.
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Oct 28 2005 14:26

I love the history. But TBH I think that's what it is largely...

click here for libcom.org IWW centenary info:

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JDMF
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Oct 28 2005 14:28

well, there are many ways to look at it, but one is for sure: things stay small as long as people don't join in and start making them bigger wink

They haven't got smaller in a sense that IWW in UK has been really small for ages - if anything they are doing much better than say 10 years ago i would say.

I used to be in IWW and quite active, but in an activist kind of way: despite my best efforts didn't get IWW off the ground in my then-workplace (a print and copy shop with handful of workers), though we did get small stuff done anyway through collective action.

One thing to remember is that IWW is not an overtly anarchist group: it has all the anarchist elements that count: direct democracy, direct action, empowerment and so on, but it not subscribing to any -isms and is open to all workers.

In reality since it is not a functioning union (at the moment!) it is just a collection of radicals in UK. In US it seems like it is breaking out of that ghetto and workplaces get organised under IWW and majority of new members not being anarchists or your typical radicals.

I guess the guestion is: would some other more neutral syndicalist union work better than IWW in this country, or does the history and reputation help more than hinder?

I dont know the answer, but i wholeheartedly support IWW and the stuff they are trying to do, and its good that the idea of industrial unionism, syndicalism and OBU is kept alive.

Steve
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Oct 28 2005 14:56

I've a lot of respect for the historic IWW even though I don't agree with some of their ideas like the One Big Union (too centralised) and its anti-political stance. It was only really a viable movement in the US and never took root in this country even though attempts were made pre WW1.

The IWW in this country today is a propaganda group claiming to be a union although as far as I can see all its members are also members of reformist unions to protect themselves because the IWW cannot do that.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 28 2005 15:20
ftony wrote:
it seems they've got a lot smaller over the last few decades

The IWW was the radical US labour movement, once numbering millions. It was smashed in the years 1917-24 by a campaign of organised violence by the employers and the police. Then there were also the splits, when the Communists and the anarchist had a fight... the anarchos won, but inherited pretty much a nothing-union.

So don't know what you mean about the 'last few decades'. The IWW hasn't really functioned for about 8 decades, although they've done some good work unionising Starbucks in North America recently.

i'm a member, but mostly for nostalgia reasons.

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Steven.
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Oct 28 2005 16:06

Max membership was actually about 100,000 but yeah there was a high turnover. Those involved on some level with the IWW or IWW unions was probably in the low millions it seems...

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JDMF
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Oct 28 2005 16:23
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
although they've done some good work unionising Starbucks in North America recently.

i think thats not a great example mate smile I mean yes it is, but there are loads of similar drives going on. And the starbucks didn't seem to get any bigger than just one shop, or did it?

I think the truck drivers in California, or many of the small workplaces like cafe's etc are better examples where IWW is a properly functioning union.

It could still kick off in US i think. I'm not sure if the same could happen here though...

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PaulMarsh
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Oct 28 2005 20:16

There was a great documentary about the Wobblies shown on British TV in the late 80s - really concentrated on their struggle against union busters/scabs etc.

What people always have to remember about the US, is because it is such a violent society, when class struggle does occur, it is real up and at them stuff.

There is probably room on this site for some articles about some of the players in the organisation - if I recall correctly from past reading one or two escaped to the USSR when the red scare really started in the US - little did they know.....

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JDMF
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Oct 28 2005 20:37

as a finnish person i should of course point out that a lot of the early wobbs were finns who escaped after the finnish civil war ended in the working class defeat, and the "whites" set up the concentration camps to eliminate "reds".

There was even an IWW newspaper in finnish language published somewhere in wisconsin and those neighboring states.

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PaulMarsh
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Oct 28 2005 20:41
PaulMarsh wrote:
There is probably room on this site for some articles about some of the players in the organisation - if I recall correctly from past reading one or two escaped to the USSR when the red scare really started in the US - little did they know.....

From a Trot perspective, here is a biography of Big Bill Hayward:

http://www.geocities.com/mnsocialist/labor2.html

Jason Cortez
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Oct 29 2005 08:36

Steve

Quote:
The IWW in this country today is a propaganda group claiming to be a union although as far as I can see all its members are also members of reformist unions to protect themselves because the IWW cannot do that.

Whilst the SolFed is a propaganda group claiming it will one day be a union although as far as i can see all it's members are also members of reformist unions to protect themsleves because the SolFed cannot do that. roll eyes

Steve
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Oct 29 2005 09:52
Jason Cortez wrote:
Steve
Quote:
The IWW in this country today is a propaganda group claiming to be a union although as far as I can see all its members are also members of reformist unions to protect themselves because the IWW cannot do that.

Whilst the SolFed is a propaganda group claiming it will one day be a union although as far as i can see all it's members are also members of reformist unions to protect themsleves because the SolFed cannot do that. roll eyes

Wrong, SolFed does not claim that one day it will be a union. It says it promotes the idea of revolutionary unions which is different. Most of its members are also in reformist unions precisely because we recognise we are not a union and we have an approach of working within and beyond reformist unions. A bit too sophisticated for you?

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JDMF
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Oct 29 2005 10:48

steve, its a common misconseption of sol fed that SF tries to build an anarcho-syndicalist union probably because of the histroical references of the days when IWA used to be an international for revolutionary syndicalist unions.

It would be unfair though to say that IWW members do not understand that at this point in time IWW can't operate as a proper union - as far as i can see the understanding is very obvious and many IWW members are "dual carders" for that precice reason.

Anyways, the SF supporting revolutionary unions is not contradictory to what IWW does, and if IWW would register as a union then who knows what would happen. Brighton bomber can probably give a better idea on whats happening.

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Steven.
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Oct 29 2005 12:20
JDMF wrote:
There was even an IWW newspaper in finnish language published somewhere in wisconsin and those neighboring states.

Yeah it actually ran as a daily all the way up until after 1977 - don't know when it finally folded though.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 29 2005 19:54

star green black I star green black

W star green black W

Thora
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Oct 29 2005 20:18

I hear there's going to be vegan food at that thing at Rampart 8) So I think they're cool.

big al
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Oct 29 2005 20:58
Thora wrote:
I hear there's going to be vegan food at that thing at Rampart 8) So I think they're cool.

psgsdgtst *grumble*

gentle revolutionary
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Oct 30 2005 01:32
Quote:
it seems they've got a lot smaller over the last few decades

Actually, "IWW membership has reached its highest point since the 1940s" (latest Industrial Worker).

Quote:
a propaganda group claiming to be a union

We're currently pushing for recognition as a trade union, but are having problems with the state bureaucracy (long story, but you can imagine). Anyway, this won't stop us doing concrete stuff, and that's what we intend to do in London (to break the ice) - start up a real workers' resistance group! Also, Bread & Roses magazine might be rising from the ashes as well.

Quote:
The IWW hasn't really functioned for about 8 decades, although they've done some good work unionising Starbucks in North America recently.

Australian IWW has a valiant history as well, there were also fierce peasant struggles in Mexico led by a wobbly Primo Tapia and even wobbly-magonistas (Ricardo Flores Magon), "in the late 1910s through the mid-1930s, the IWW's Marine Transport Workers union, led by Ben Fletcher, organized predominantly African-American longshoremen on the Philadelphia and Baltimore waterfronts, even gaining industry control in Philadelphia for over a decade before the Great Depression" (wikipedia) & exerted some influence in the sit-down strikes by the United Auto Workers in the 1930s(...), the IWW had a role in the 1934 San Francisco general strike, it was "a major presence in the metal shops of Cleveland, Ohio until the 1950s"(wikipedia), they were quite active in the 60s (especially in Chicago), then of course the timber wars (Judi Bari et al.); today, apart from Starbucks and the Stockton rail truckers, there are also truckers in some West Coast ports interested in joining the IWW as well, workplace resistance groups in several stores and restaurants in Philadelphia, the Montpellier Workers Union reaffiliated from the United Electrical Workers to the IWW, and various other stuff has happened since its revival in the late 90s that I'm not fully aware of (just take http://www.iww.org.uk/br/br7Portland.htm for instance). The IWW is also quite big in Canada. Btw., the wikipedia article puts membership "at about a 1000" (for some reason down from 1200 as it mentioned before), the general secretary Alexis Buss says it's about 4000, but the actual ideological influence is obviously much bigger.

All the organising drives that are happening aside, the mere fact that it's still "carrying the torch of revolutionary unionism" (i.e. one of the rare forms of actually credible mass movement oriented libertarian communism) is something to be applauded imo. Besides, it's the "wobbly spirit" which I think is the most important ingredient for the future, having guts to do stuff (and persist!) even when the odds are against you.

Quote:
if IWW would register as a union then who knows what would happen

We're trying, and imagine if people backed this up and we finally had a fighting organisation dedicated to labour-community resistance!

red star I red star

W red star W

(copyleft:)

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Volin
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Oct 30 2005 12:27
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We're trying, and imagine if people backed this up and we finally had a fighting organisation dedicated to labour-community resistance!

Brilliant, hope it works out.

red n black star red star

Jason Cortez
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Oct 31 2005 00:56

Steve

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Wrong, SolFed does not claim that one day it will be a union. It says it promotes the idea of revolutionary unions

That's not quite true is it. Or are IWW not revolutionary enough for you. The problem with SolFed's appoach is you can't simply promote the creation of a libertarian workers movement, but have to actively be invovled in it's creation and despite alot of hard and good work over the last decade the SolFed has had negligibly impact.

Steve
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Oct 31 2005 10:00
Jason Cortez wrote:
Or are IWW not revolutionary enough for you. The problem with SolFed's appoach is you can't simply promote the creation of a libertarian workers movement, but have to actively be invovled in it's creation and despite alot of hard and good work over the last decade the SolFed has had negligibly impact.

Quite simple really. I'm an anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist. The IWW are neither of these things.

As for impact the same can be said of the IWW and any other left-libertarian group.

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JDMF
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Oct 31 2005 10:06
Steve wrote:
Quite simple really. I'm an anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist. The IWW are neither of these things.

but you said just a few messages ago that "SolFed does not claim that one day it will be a union. It says it promotes the idea of revolutionary unions which is different."

and IWW is aiming to be a revolutionary union, so there is no contradiction here?

Or does "revolutionary unions" mean specifically anarcho-syndicalist unions?

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JDMF
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Oct 31 2005 10:19
revol68 wrote:
the problem with the IWW is that it seems to think that it can actually function as a formal union, i should think all the money raised and time spent trying to get legal status would have been better used just getting on with actual solidarity work.

yeah, though if there are people who think it is worthwhile and have thought it through, then it is worth the shot. Unless you know for sure that using that amount of money in actual solidarity work will definitely be more effective? If you think so, then please show some supporting evidence.

And i dont know why you say "seems to think" when it clearly can work as a formal union if the basics are right. In US it is working as a formal union in many workplaces, in UK it at least used to work as a formal union in couple workplaces, though in a case of a conflict you do need to be a registered union to be able to use all available means for defence.

Steve
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Oct 31 2005 10:20
JDMF wrote:
Or does "revolutionary unions" mean specifically anarcho-syndicalist unions?

When I talk of revolutionary unions I am talking about unions with the stated end goal of libertarian communism and that are organised on anarchist principles.

gentle revolutionary
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Oct 31 2005 23:23
Steve wrote:
JDMF wrote:
Or does "revolutionary unions" mean specifically anarcho-syndicalist unions?

When I talk of revolutionary unions I am talking about unions with the stated end goal of libertarian communism and that are organised on anarchist principles.

Using slightly less ideological phrases, this applies to the IWW.

Steve
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Oct 31 2005 23:32

I don't agree.

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JDMF
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Oct 31 2005 23:39
Steve wrote:
I don't agree.

thats cool mate, but at the moment it seems like you are juggling between your own opinion and then sol fed positions and it can get quite confusing smile

Seems like there are quite a few sol fed members who are IWW members, so there seems to be support for what IWW is trying to do?

Steve
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Nov 1 2005 09:44
JDMF wrote:
Steve wrote:
I don't agree.

thats cool mate, but at the moment it seems like you are juggling between your own opinion and then sol fed positions and it can get quite confusing smile

Seems like there are quite a few sol fed members who are IWW members, so there seems to be support for what IWW is trying to do?

Sorry I don't understand. What do you mean by solfed positions? Also how many members of Solfed do you think are members of the IWW? Are you? If so that makes two as far as I know.

ftony
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Nov 1 2005 09:55

here is a can of worms

and here is me opening it (but i'm not as sexy as this guy)

personally, it seems to me that there's a lot of potential for some sort of anarcho union and i always thought that the IWW were one. i've read their constitution and it does hold all the main points for a syndicalist way of doing things.

maybe the problem with the IWW is that it isn't very big and doesn't have the funds and resources it needs but *guess what* if people gave it a chance and joined it might work

i say fair play to wibbly wobbly people tongue

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JDMF
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Nov 1 2005 09:57
Steve wrote:
Sorry I don't understand. What do you mean by solfed positions?

the ones you quoted above, like:

Quote:

Wrong, SolFed does not claim that one day it will be a union. It says it promotes the idea of revolutionary unions which is different. Most of its members are also in reformist unions precisely because we recognise we are not a union and we have an approach of working within and beyond reformist unions. A bit too sophisticated for you?

and then:

Quote:

When I talk of revolutionary unions I am talking about unions with the stated end goal of libertarian communism and that are organised on anarchist principles.

But then again, easiest to just read the sol fed workplace strategy:

http://libcom.org/hosted/sf/strategy.htm

which i agree with as well. And don't see why it would be in contradiction of what IWW is doing?

Quote:

Also how many members of Solfed do you think are members of the IWW? Are you? If so that makes two as far as I know.

no i'm not, but know of some. Perhaps it is only a few anyway, shouldn't try to guess, but the point is that surely that is not a problem?

Steve
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Nov 1 2005 10:32

This is turning into an internal debate about SF and the IWW. I don't see any contradiction in my position and the SF indiustrial strategy but I see contradication between that and the IWW (and the AF gentle rev)

From SF Industrial Strategy.

Quote:
This means that trade union organisation around traditional bread and butter issues is not enough on its own, although it is vital. As well as a structure of mass meetings and delegates there also needs to be a specifically anarcho-syndicalist presence in any workplace organisation.
Quote:
Solidarity Federation’s ultimate aim is a self-managed, stateless society
Quote:
SolFed promotes and seeks to initiate anarcho-syndicalist unions.

From IWW

Quote:
The IWW, as an organization, is non-political and it does not interfere with political beliefs or activities of its members.
Quote:
With the sort of organization the I.W.W. is building, labor can exert any pressure required to restrain the antics of politicians

Restrain politicians - not do away with the bastards all together.

JDMF if you are not a member of the IWW then that leaves only one other person as far as I know in SF and he is also a member of the AF.

AF Aims and principles.

Quote:
Unions by their very nature cannot become vehicles for the revolutionary transformation of society..... Even syndicalist unions are constrained by the fundamental nature of unionism.