"Syndicalism Without the Syndicalists"

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syndicalist
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Jan 25 2007 06:00
"Syndicalism Without the Syndicalists"

Sort of ironic, I just started reading a book I had on my shelf for years. "Workers. Worlds of Labor" by the hack Eric Hobsawm. And low and behold there's the libcom piece: "1978-1979: Winter of Discontent" http://libcom.org/history/1978-1979-winter-of-discontent In this book he has an article entitled "The 1970s: Syndicalism Without the Syndicalists?".

The Hobswan piece has the usual marxist ciriticisms of syndicalism. I found it interesting in the sense that workers often display or, rather, engage in an instinctive syndicalism in times of heightened class struggle or underground struggle. It appears this way in the Winter strikes, the early 1980s struggles of the Polish workers and those of black South African workers (FOSATU and even amongst some of the NACTU unions).

Even a marxist hack like Hobswan seems to recognize this, hence the title of the article. Now if we can only have struggles where not only the content is syndicalist but the participants are conciously (anarcho)syndicalist, ah that would be grand.

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Jan 25 2007 09:45

There is a mystical land where anarchists organize around class and the mainstream unions are revolutionary...they call this magical land of productive anarchists...Europe

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Jan 25 2007 09:55
revol68 wrote:
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mainstream unions are revolutionary

Never-never land?

mainland europe has some revolutionary unions that are considered mainstream in their country. I dont think any are dominant that are anarchist or libertarian though.

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Steven.
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Jan 25 2007 10:11
x357997 wrote:
mainland europe has some revolutionary unions that are considered mainstream in their country. I dont think any are dominant that are anarchist or libertarian though.

I don't know of any, and I live here. Loads of unions have meaningless "socialism" clauses they don't talk about or do anything about, just like lots of governments here.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Jan 25 2007 12:28

Well the CGT in Spain for all its faults is pretty big and still openly anarcho syndicalist no?

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Jan 25 2007 12:39
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Well the CGT in Spain for all its faults is pretty big and still openly anarcho syndicalist no?

Hmmm well possibly I'd give you that as the only one. Still 50,000 members for a general union (i.e. divided up across different industries) is not hugely significant. The SAC's proportionally probably slightly larger. But still that's it for Europe, they're both still fringe union phenomena.

Coconut man
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Jan 25 2007 12:52

According to Wikipeidia's Anarchism in Spain article, CGT is the third largest union in the country. That sounds pretty mainstream to me (if Wiki is correct, of course). The two million workers figure is also supported by the wiki article.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism_in_spain

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Jan 25 2007 13:08

why is that?

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Bubbles
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Jan 25 2007 13:13

explain the works councils.

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Jan 25 2007 13:27

dont get hang up with the word "represent" - if you take part in works councils, you by very nature end up representing the workers than gave you the vote. No escaping that. So if you can accept that CGTs participation to the works councils is a legitimate tactical choice, then the "representation" is part and parcel of that. Cant have it both ways.

So if you say that they are not anarcho-syndicalist, you have to come up with more than that, for instance regarding their structures, aims and politics.

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Jan 25 2007 13:44
revol68 wrote:
ah JDMF, Solfeds very own Montseny. You might have a point if a) I thought the CGT's participation in work's councils was fair enough on a tactical level, I don't and furthermore the CGT don't recognise it as a tactical compromise themselves, even if some of it's chums around the world seek to defend it on such terms

ok, maybe you know better, the CGT member i knew from Madrid, and then another one whose interview i just read seem to think that they are more like tactical necessities.

Quote:
or b) My whole point is that whilst they might "represent" these workers it's a whole different ball game to claim they are members and if the CGT have or do so then they have slide even further into their reformist cesspool.

well, since they dont seem to do that and there is no evidence to point otherwise, this is a pointless argument.

Quote:
Regarding structures, well how about the fact they quiet happily take the money for sitting on the works councils.

so, again: if you take the participation to the works councils as a legitimate tactical necessity, then the money will follow from that decision. Again, you cant have it both ways.

Do you have any other evidence, apart from this single tactical and strategic issue, which says that they are not an A-S union?

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Jan 25 2007 13:59
revol68 wrote:
and i'd think that the taking of decisions away from the shopfloor in class collaborationist committees of bureacrats paid for their presence would be ample enough to discount them as anarcho syndicalist!

yeah like USI. Personally i think it is down to how they have arranged it within the organisation.

i am not familiar with minutae of spanish anarchism so you have to give more details about solidaria obrera and how they have arranged it.

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Jan 25 2007 14:18

are you saying solidaria obrera reject state money? Who the fuck would reject money? Some rich punk ass lifestylist idealist?

I trust i understood this wrong, because it sounds so fucking bizarre. There is no way you mean that they should reject the money out of some principle grin

I personally dont think USI will stop using the works councils, but lets see if I am wrong.

syndicalist
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Jan 25 2007 14:23
revol68 wrote:
cos anarcho syndicalism isn't about representing workers through elections, it's kind of one of it's basics. roll eyes

True enough.

I think T. somewhere else said that the CGT is known as the "union of no". That is they are always saying no to the other unions on the works councils or in general assemblies---and, in turn, the bosses. The question of votes for these elections are interesteing in that they repesent a certain class attitude. Is it classical anarcho-syndicalism, no. Is it a trend of late 20th century and early 21st century syndicalism, apparently so.

While I may not personally agree with the CGT, I think it's interesting to see what manifestations working class anger take on in lesser periods of struggles in an industrialized capitalist country.

That said, one can only hope that comrades throughout the world will stick as close to anarcho-syndicalism as possible and advance the struggle "from below".

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Jan 25 2007 14:28

hey man, dont make it personal again, its really tiring when you always do that...

Anyways, sounds like you know a lot about whats going on with USI and what they are going to be doing. Have you been talking to USI comrades lately?

syndicalist
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Jan 25 2007 14:39

One brief comment on the SAC. I think they are a union in transition. We are surely all aware of the critical arguments of the past decades about the SAC. I share most of the criticisms.

That said, I find it interesting that many anti-globalization activists joined the SAC when they entered work world. I think this has created a space for more radical discussions within the SAC proper---not just in SUF (syndicalist youth). I suspect this is the reason why many of the recent debates within the SAC have been whether or not it should be a "service union" (like the LO-Swedish TUC o AFL-CIO,CTW, CLC, etc) or a "class struggle union". This was not only debated in their press, but also in some pre-Congress open meetings.

The SAC call for a strike against unemployment reform was a direct result of some of this debate and leftwards movement.

So... I would say that perhaps a meaningful transition leftwards may be happening within the SAC. Of course, time will tell what balance and direction the Swedish comrades choose.

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Jan 25 2007 14:42
x357997 wrote:
explain the works councils.

There was a discussion about the CGT and works councils here.

Generally on the forums if you have big questions that are unrelated to the topic at hand please start a new thread on them. This stops existing discussions being derailed and saves the admins time. I haven't got time to split all this CGT stuff off into a new thread I'm afraid.

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Jan 25 2007 14:47
revol68 wrote:
I only know what I hear on the grapevine, well that and IWA congresses.

If you know of something I don't regarding this then please do enlighten.

so basically one of your sources have been me and others from the congress grin

yeah like i said, i think it is unlikely USI will ditch the works councils any time soon. For that to happen, they would need to find alternative ways of keeping their profile without sinking into oblivion and there are no credible ones on the table apart from "dont do it".

Anyways, predicting is difficult and predicting the future even more, so lets see what will happen.

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Jan 25 2007 14:55
revol68 wrote:
I'll try and keep my cool but it's quite hard when suppoused "anarcho syndicalists" spout nonsense like this.

JDMF wrote:
are you saying solidaria obrera reject state money? Who the fuck would reject money? Some rich punk ass lifestylist idealist?

I trust i understood this wrong, because it sounds so fucking bizarre. There is no way you mean that they should reject the money out of some principle

It really makes me wonder if he has the foggiest notion about anarcho syndicalism and it's history.

yes, try to keep your cool. It must be upsetting for you to see people having different opinions.

yeah, if CGT would reject the money, they would really stick it up to the man! The state would not know what hit it.

Since revol you brought up the whole money argument, can you explain how it is paid, what it is paid for, is it paid to the individual or the union and is it on top of your salary or just to compensate the loss of earnings.

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Jan 25 2007 14:55
revol68 wrote:
another thing, why in the name of christ do i always end up defending anarcho syndicalism when I don't even describe myself as such. :?

Especially accusing an anarcho-syndicalist union of being reformist, or not politically pure enough. If someone else does that you call them a Trotskyist...

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Jan 25 2007 15:02
revol68 wrote:
Once again you seem to be having difficulty seeing the difference between JDMF being in an anarcho syndicalist propaganda group and an actual anarcho syndicalist union.

What?

Quote:
And the issue with the CGT is not political purity, it's to do with it's real concrete relations to the state, I don't care if it has a local made up of Che Guevara t shirt wearing celtic fans (well i would but y'know wink )what I care about is it is tied up state structures that mediate workers struggle.

Yes. It's actually well-known fact that the majority of all people are against representative works councils, whereas amongst libertarian communists support hovers around 100%.

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Jan 25 2007 15:06
revol68 wrote:
I only know what I hear on the grapevine, well that and IWA congresses.

Or in other words when you hear that the USI say it is tactical you believe them, when you hear that the CGT say it is tactical you don't believe them. Yet your knowledge of both organisations is the same, what you hear on the grapevine and via reports from IWA congresses. The tactical adjustment of both seems very similar the only difference is one has been doing it for longer (and perhaps consequently is a lot bigger).

Also your defence of anarcho-syndicalism is a defence of an idealised historical anarcho-syndicalism. The only context that you seem to have a good word for actual anarcho-syndicalism today is when you want to contrast the practise of one organisation against what you consider a worse one. I've not seen you put forward an argument for actually existing anarcho-syndicalism outside of that narrow context.

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Jan 25 2007 15:20
revol68 wrote:
John wrote:
Yes. It's actually well-known fact that the majority of all people are against representative works councils, whereas amongst libertarian communists support hovers around 100%.

John I'm having trouble making any sense from that point. Are you saying that because a majority of the working class don't see any problem with works councils that we shouldn't criticise them or those who participate in them?

No - but their participation in works councils is obviously an ideological issue, not a purely tactical one. If it had been an organisation of ideological libertarian communists they wouldn't have voted to participate in them. Any anarcho-syndicalist union that just lets anyone join, unless it's run by a hierarchy, is going to vote to do stuff like this which is counter to anarchist principles.

syndicalist
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Jan 25 2007 15:38

On the question of "state funding" I believe it's for "lost time" from work to carry out union business.

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Jan 25 2007 15:48
revol68 wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
On the question of "state funding" I believe it's for "lost time" from work to carry out union business.

I think there's more to it than that, i'll speak to boul later hopefully he's more up on that stuff.

what? you were ready to start arguing this case without even knowing all the facts?

This is just arguing for arguments sake FFS!

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Jan 25 2007 20:14

its good that you have a good hunch and a feeling upon which you can base your strong and personal attacks on. Who the fuck needs facts anyway.

gatorojinegro just posted some info on:
http://libcom.org/forums/thought/cgt-is-participations-in-works-council-...

but dont let things like that get in the away of good snipes.

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Jan 25 2007 20:20

well, it's worth considering how the CGT participation on comites de empresa began. In the late '70s there had been a wave of strikes run via workers assemblies, and the old fascist trade union collapsed. Since this way of running struggles was what anarcho-syndicalists had historically advocated, naturally enough the CNT wanted this to continuee.

But with the labor law setting up the works councils as the official bargaining agent, and the UGT and Workers Commission starting to channel their efforts this way, there was a decline in the worker assemblies. Some people in the CNT said, "The workers support the worker assembly system but they want to do it legally." In other words, they don't want to have to always conduct negotiations and struggles with employers by a method that violates the laws and faces a confrontation with the state. In a period where strikes via assemblies is widespread, you can hope this could be used to force a change in the law, but with the decline in assemblies, this is not so clear.

So, the CNT unions at the Barcelona Metro and at SEAT, in 1984, particpated in the comite elections on the basis that "We will not make decisions for you on the comite but invoke an assembly and let you make the decision." so it was an attemppt to let assemblies control the decisions but legally. And in 1984 the CNT won majorities at both the Metro and SEAT. Moreover, the longshore union, FEEP, was using this same tactic, and used various stratagems to control their representatives on the comites, to make them accountable to the assemblies in the ports. It was an attempt to make do with the cards they had been dealt, as far as the labor law scheme is concerned.

Sectors of the CGT still do apparently act as a kind of check against the tendencies of the UGT and Workers Commissions to make sweatheart deals or leave out the involvement of the rank and file in the decision, and this is, i guess, how they got the nickname "el sindicato de no", the union that says no.

From what i can gather looking at union websites, it seems that the Workers Commissions uses the bourgeois stereotype of anarchists as violent-prone against the CGT, accusing them of "threats of violence" or "violent intimidation" etc. ...accusations which the CGT vehemently denies on its website. The CGT says these complaints are just smoke screens to hide Worker Commission sellouts.

t.

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Jan 25 2007 22:03

sounds like these councils are ok. people need to stop getting all puritanical and start getting practical!

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Jan 31 2007 02:13

Well, there you go writing off 28 years of bitter conflict.

Clearly there are real problems, or else "Solidaridad Obrera" (Not solidaria!) would not have split out of the CGT in 1990.

I do think that dealing with the different methods that different states have for incorporating workers' organizations requires finding some sort of middle path between opportunism and dogmatism. I tend to like the groups who are trying to balance on this path (and its a hard balance) and I think it's an important lesson for the IWW.

To say "sounds like these councils are ok" is kind of like saying "sounds like these Contract Bargaining Agency elections are ok". There's probably no way to avoid some sort of participation in elections and contracts, but if we were to do it without realizing the dangers inherent and acting accordingly, we might as well not call ourselves the IWW.

makaira
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Jan 31 2007 05:14
John. wrote:
x357997 wrote:
mainland europe has some revolutionary unions that are considered mainstream in their country. I dont think any are dominant that are anarchist or libertarian though.

I don't know of any, and I live here. Loads of unions have meaningless "socialism" clauses they don't talk about or do anything about, just like lots of governments here.

The AFL-CIO is revolutionary.

......right?

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Jan 31 2007 09:37
makaira wrote:
John. wrote:
x357997 wrote:
mainland europe has some revolutionary unions that are considered mainstream in their country. I dont think any are dominant that are anarchist or libertarian though.

I don't know of any, and I live here. Loads of unions have meaningless "socialism" clauses they don't talk about or do anything about, just like lots of governments here.

The AFL-CIO is revolutionary.

......right?

Joke?

........right?