Report on WSM Spring 2007 National Conference

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May 29 2007 13:23
Report on WSM Spring 2007 National Conference
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The Workers Solidarity Movement held its Spring 2007 National Conference in the Teachers' Club at the end of April. Our conference saw around 70% of the membership attending with many new faces since our last conference 6 months ago.

continues at http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=5708

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May 29 2007 17:18
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Motions passed at conference include a call for the nationalisation of Ireland's natural resources and the formation of a campaign based around reclaiming our Natural Resources.

?

edited to say: It looks like ya'll are doing some pretty cool stuff - but, whilst I'm reluctant to trot out the old Platformist/Trotskyist metaphor (or is it a simile?), a "call for the nationalization of Ireland's national resources" (or anything else), is a method pretty common to Trotskyism.

But maybe its something much different than what the report makes it seem, which is why i'm asking now.

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May 29 2007 17:27

Without digging or giving either argument the benefit of the doubt -- this question came up in another context recently too. I'm wondering if there is a single word that means seizing from private capital and bringing under public control when that public control isn't expected to be exercised through the nation-state?

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May 29 2007 17:30

'socialisation' is probably a bit better for that ...?

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May 29 2007 17:37

Yeah I thought that was what 'socialization' was used for...

Mike Harman
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May 29 2007 17:38
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I'm wondering if there is a single word that means seizing from private capital and bringing under public control when that public control isn't expected to be exercised through the nation-state?

socialise.

edit: beaten to it.

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May 29 2007 17:53

oh yeah

So did you-all mean socialize, or nationalize? I mean there's definitely something to be said environmentally speaking for keeping stuff on the island instead of being so massively dependent on international exchange, -- is that kind of delinking what you were trying to get at with this "reclaim our resources" thing?

Terry
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May 29 2007 18:11

err I guess they can answer for themselves, but I don't think the point of this is environmental at all, it is so that control of the natural resources can be subject to more popular influence than at present. Joe expounds on that theme here: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/82764

Dust
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May 29 2007 18:17

Hi

Yeah terry is right. I don't have the amended motion to hand at the moment but i think it consisted of an explanation that state ownership isn’t the same as workers ownership and that there is unlikely that even if held in public ownership the resources will be used for the benefit of the public.
However we go on to say that if they are held in state ownership it would make it easier to force the government to spend the money in the interests of the working class.

These points are elaborated on in more detail in the motion itself which should be released in the next few days.

Terry
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May 29 2007 18:19

..and so as localised environmental struggles around resource extraction* can possibly be linked up with struggles around under-funding of public services.

* In addition to Rossport note the following Exxon-Mobil fields (also development of LNG terminal in Kerry):

From Sunday Independent:

The Dunquin field is being principally developed by Exxon Mobil: "With Dunquin we are planning to drill wells next year and 2009. It is deep water, and as a rule of thumb, it takes about five years to get a field into production, so we are looking at 2013 to 2015.

"The gas will be brought ashore in a pipeline and the oil tankered away," explained John O'Sullivan, Exploration Manager with Providence Resources, who have a stake in Dunquin and fields off the coast of Clare.

Further up the coast is the Spanish Point field, which is 200km off the coast of Clare. The field has known reserves of one and a quarter trillion cubic feet of gas and 206million barrels of oil, and is valued at €19.6bn.

"At Spanish Point we are looking at drilling wells next year and looking at production in that field in 2011,"explained John O'Sullivan.

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May 30 2007 09:33

We had a good bit of discussion around this.

Basically we wanted a demand we could, with others, build a campaign around in the short to medium term. We think there is the potential for this because of the obviously corrupt deals the oil companies got which mean the vast bulk of their profits will leave the country at the same time as health and education need a lot of money.

Socialisation is the 'correct' anarchist slogan but it is obviously something that only applies to a revolution, you can' 'socialise' industry under capitalism. And as our wish to to build a broad campaign now starting off with a long term anarchist slogan that others on the left wouldn't agree 100% with would be self defeating. So basically getting a bigger chunk of the profits for health and education in the short to medium term requires some form of nationalisation to achieve that purpose.

The articles at http://www.wsm.ie/resources look at some of these issues in more detail

BTW Oiiver as long as anarchists base their politics on whether or not it makes them sound like trots (or some other left faction) anarchists will be irrelevent. We've got to base them around what can be fought for and what can be won. A primary concern with spin is really the terrain of representative politics, not anarchism.

knightrose
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May 30 2007 10:02

Spin maybe the terrain of bourgeois politics, but clarity is something anarchists should aim for. I am sure that's why you are getting negative comments about this.

The experience of nationalisation that I am aware of has hardly been something that benefited the working class. You must be aware of the role of the British state, for example, in breaking strikes in nationalised industries, using troops to do so at times. Nationalisation has mostly been used to support capital's accumulation or to support a national capital in crisis.

Surely the issue of getting a bigger chunk of profits to support health and education is dependent on the state of the class struggle. The more combative the working class, the bigger the slice of the cake?

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May 30 2007 10:09
Jack wrote:
It just reads like WSM putting their fingers in their ears and blowing raspberries at their critics.

"They call us leftists, so we're delibratly going to word stuff in a leftist way to wind them up".

If they actually did that I'd support it.

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May 30 2007 10:22

Knightrose I don't think there is any argument here for nationalism as some sort of wonderful thing in itself - the actual wording of the motion when it is available will make this clear. Rather we are advancing the demand in order to achieve a specific short/medium term objective which we think a mass campaign can be built around and where the objective is winnable. That has always been our general approach to struggles for reforms, identify what is possible first, worry about the slogans second.

Jack - I don't think we take many of our critics here very seriously, in fact AKAIK only about 20% of WSM members ever look at libcom. So wording motions to wind up the 'proletarian camp' would be as silly as wording motions to avoid using terminology trots might use.

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May 30 2007 10:26
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Knightrose I don't think there is any argument here for nationalism as some sort of wonderful thing in itself

Freudian slip? tongue

knightrose
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May 30 2007 10:27
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Rather we are advancing the demand in order to achieve a specific short/medium term objective which we think a mass campaign can be built around and where the objective is winnable.

I understand that, which is why I'm not making any accusations of leftism/trotskyism or whatever. I'm questioning whether the consequences of winning this demand would lead to what you hope for. Of course, if it came about as a result of mass class struggle, which is what I imagine you are aiming for, then it probably would. However, the class struggle would produce those results irrespective of nationalisation and nationalisation 's gains would be eroded rapidly if the wave of struggle dissipated.

gurrier
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May 30 2007 10:30
Jack wrote:
It just reads like WSM putting their fingers in their ears and blowing raspberries at their critics.

"They call us leftists, so we're delibratly going to word stuff in a leftist way to wind them up".

1. What's this leftist stuff about? Sounds like the sort of stuff that those US post-leftist eejits come out with. We are, obviously, on the left, so we are hardly going to be reacting to being called leftist.

2. The practical problems thrown up by our involvement in campaigns is what drives most of our thinking, critics who call us "leftists" as an insult are probably unknown to most of our members and certainly don't form a part of our thinking at all.

3. We generally try to come up with winnable objectives for our involvements in campaigns that lead towards our long term objectives, but do not simply amount to calling for a revolution as the only possible gain. So, for example, we support all sorts of reforms which make the lives of working people better. Do you have a problem with this general approach? If not, what do you think would be a good winnable objective in this particular case? Certainly, our approach here may not be perfect and it would be interesting to hear others put forward alternative short to medium term goals, but if they're just coming from some revolutionary purist point of view where any and all reforms short of a revolution are to be sniffed at, we just aren't interested as we just disagree with the fundamentals of such an approach.

gurrier
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May 30 2007 10:34
knightrose wrote:
Quote:
Rather we are advancing the demand in order to achieve a specific short/medium term objective which we think a mass campaign can be built around and where the objective is winnable.

I understand that, which is why I'm not making any accusations of leftism/trotskyism or whatever. I'm questioning whether the consequences of winning this demand would lead to what you hope for. Of course, if it came about as a result of mass class struggle, which is what I imagine you are aiming for, then it probably would. However, the class struggle would produce those results irrespective of nationalisation and nationalisation 's gains would be eroded rapidly if the wave of struggle dissipated.

Absolutely true. However, if we want to campaign we need to have some concrete goal in mind. We can't campaign for "class struggle" in the abstract. We need to put forward some realistic (if ambitious) objectives which might mobilise workers or else we'll be campaiging on our own and it won't matter what we call for as we won't have a chance of attaining anything.

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May 30 2007 11:08
knightrose wrote:
Of course, if it came about as a result of mass class struggle, which is what I imagine you are aiming for, then it probably would. However, the class struggle would produce those results irrespective of nationalisation and nationalisation 's gains would be eroded rapidly if the wave of struggle dissipated.

Well exactly - I think the key question with demands for reform is not whether they can somehow be dressed up as really being revolutionary (as the troskyists try and do with their dishonest transitional method) but how they are fought for and won. What is revolutionary is not the phrasing of the demand but the struggle in the streets and/or workplaces to impose it.

gurrier
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May 30 2007 11:13
Jack wrote:
Calling for mass nationalisations under capitalism in the current economic climate is probably more pie in the sky than demanding the immediate instigation of workers councils to control the economy, to be honest. Even if nationalisation wasn't shite in of itself, it's simply not going to happen.

Nah, that's definitely not true. Capitalism can and has often managed to concede nationalisation but workers control of the economy is by definition revolutionary. Also, in this particular case, the resources start out as being nationalised and are being given away to private corporations - i.e. the state owns the offshore deposits of hydrocarbons and is giving away exploration licences which grant all the resources to the corporations which extract them. It's analagous to the health service where we also call for a single-tier public health service. Currently there is a mix of public and private health systems and the government is falling over itself to privatise whatever it can. In that case we would like to see an end to privatisation and a re-nationalisation of the private parts of the system as a reform that is possible without a revolution. I don't see the difference in principle.

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May 30 2007 11:16
Jack wrote:
Calling for mass nationalisations under capitalism in the current economic climate is probably more pie in the sky than demanding the immediate instigation of workers councils to control the economy, to be honest. Even if nationalisation wasn't shite in of itself, it's simply not going to happen.

Venezula?

Bolivia?

The first is of course a top down nationalisation but in Bolivia the limted nationalisation was a response to mass struggle and pressure from below. Closer to home Norway has a nationalised oil extraction industry and indeed that industry is involved in Corrib. In the consequence of the corrupt deals given to the corporations and these examples a mass struggle to nationalise the Irish oil and gas fields is in our opinion feasible. If we did not think this we would not be involved in the process of building a campaign to do so.

Also I'm not sure where your word mass comes in as we haven't used it. The demand is in relation to natural resources which in Ireland basically means the offshore oil/gas fields and possibly the wind farms. Not to the top 100 industries or whatever.

Terry
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May 30 2007 11:33

Well I think Jack's point was in the current climate. Not whether or not capitalism can concede nationalisation - and in fact it often hasn't been a concession.

To me the usefulness of something like 'Reclaim our Resources' revolves around two things:

(1) Struggles around the under-funding of public services. There was recently a nurses strike and are sizable campaigns around hospital cut backs in different parts of the country, well at least one, and smaller one elsewhere. Obviously the government line on this is we don't have the money and we can't raise taxes cause all the investement would dry up (the Republic has the lowest corporation tax in Europe and is heavily dependant on foreign direct investment). Widespread knowledge about the prospective resources off coast would be a useful weapon in this context.

(2) It links local environmental struggles around resource extraction up with a wider discontent around the country. Obviously Rossport, but also as I posted above there are likely to be other Rossports in the future.

Like Jack however I would question whether nationalisation is realisable (probably more realisable than having an anarcho-syndicalist union in Britain though).
I'd like to read the motion in full though as I'm sure it has been thought through as I know there were varying opinions.
Personally I would have thought a higher tax rate with the proviso that the money is put into a special fund for education/health/fuel povery or some such would make more sense.

Be interesting to see if this 'takes off'.

Terry
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May 30 2007 11:39

Joe as I understand it the difference between Statoil and Ireland is that:

(1) Norway had more proven amounts of oil and gas.

(2) Its major development was in the middle of the oil crisis.

In any case Statoil is I believe slowly being privatised.

However it is the case that generally speaking oil and gas has a high degree of state participation in its extraction.

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May 30 2007 11:44
Terry wrote:
Personally I would have thought a higher tax rate with the proviso that the money is put into a special fund for education/health/fuel povery or some such would make more sense.

Yes that was another option being discussed but in many regards the idea of the Irish state changing its corporate tax regime is probably going to be a lot harder to build around as a lot of workers do believe that low corporate tax is what is responsible for high employment (and actually in a sense they are not wrong).

In saying I think nationalisation is winnable I'm not trying to say this is either easy or automatic. It would not only require a major struggle but whether or not the conditions for this struggle continue to emerge will in part be determined by objective factors outside our control.

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May 30 2007 11:47
Terry wrote:
Joe as I understand it the difference between Statoil and Ireland is that:

I'm not suggesting that conditions are in any way identical. Just that the fact of some widely publicised nationalisations in South America plus a successful national oil industry in a wealthy European country mean that nationalisation does not seem an impossible demand.

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May 30 2007 12:05
Jack wrote:
Personally I reckon if we had a movement powerful enough to force that, then nationalisation would be basically an irrelevance.

I think perhaps what is key here is that we don't have a movement, we (should) take part in building movements. From the point of view of building something what matters is putting forward a set of idea that people find useful, convincing and perhaps more importantly achievable. We reckon this applies to the demand for nationalisation of oil, unfortunately it doesn't in relation to anarchist revolution. We might prove to be wrong on the first, time will tell but I'm pretty confident on the second that a march for 'anarchist revolution now' would only attract a few counter cultural elements.

BTW staoil was set up in 1972 and partly privitised in 1991 (the gov now owns 2/3). Again the point being not that these situations are identical just that if something is happening somewhere then the idea of doing it does not sound so outlandish

Terry
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May 30 2007 12:15

I wasn't suggesting focusing on a change to the corporation tax regime. The taxation system for oil and gas extraction is already different than that, in that there are cost write offs, royalties, and licenses - and these are the most extreme neo-liberal parts as far as I can see, or the effective abscene in the second two cases. Depends on what 'nationalisation' means, it could mean the state holds onto the field and the company pays for everything it takes out, or it could mean the establishment of a state company. I'm sceptical if the second option is a runner. Not just for what Jack says.....the day there is an A to B march in Dublin with machettes and dynamite I'll be up for demanding...sorry taking a bit more, but cause its feasibility is dependant on the extent of the resources. Which is a crucial issue. The idea of the fund I like (as in Norway incidentally) cause it directly links state participation with what the money is being spent on. Though that could be a bit naive.

Hey...how about re-unification of the Pale and Scandanavia : )

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May 30 2007 12:28
Jack wrote:
to fuck off back to the 70s. ;)

Terry
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May 30 2007 12:39

and Jack, I think you'll find it's Scotland's oil not the UKs!!! : )

...the "it's Scotland's oil" campaign was big part of the rise of the SNP, in case anyone is wondering.

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May 30 2007 23:41

I am very sympathetic to what the WSM is trying to do here, but share some of the concerns about the "Nationalization" slogan.

Why not frame the demand in a way that doesn't tie you to a concept you don't agree with or have no illusions in. The broad concept is popular control of the resources, no? Let the marxists and reformists use the Nationalization term, you'd still be part of the same general movemet without giving in to that concept.

Also if (when!) such a movement does arise -even a small movement of a few thousand, the WSM would presumably be arguing within that movement for workers/community control as opposed to bureaucratic State control, so why leave that concept for the "inner-circle", especially since many workers rightly view State control wearily?

hope these comments aren't seen as hostile or burdensome . . .

solidarity,

K.

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May 31 2007 00:28

Not at all Kdog. A few people including myself shared your concerns and did not support the motion. But we decide things by majority vote and the majority felt that these concerns were adequately dealt with in the motion. (The motion is not simply 'We Support nationalisation'.) In fact the motion was co-authored by the author of this article from Red and Black. Its an issue we are debating and the debate is far from over.

I do think its important to note that the call for nationalisation was around the issues of natural resources and Shell to Sea exclusively. And that the WSM is currently looking into helping set up a campaign around natural resources, the details of this campaign are not yet worked out and the WSM has not as of yet committed itself to that campaign. Its a kind of complicated process. The call for nationalisation amounts to a collective clarification of what the demands we should be pushing in Shell to Sea are and an endorsement of what the demands of a non-existent campaign should be.

It is not a call for mass nationalisations. It is rather a collective clarification of what demands we should be pushing in a real campaign which we are already involved in. The motion includes caveats about it not being enough, workers control etc. It was also an attempt to provide a basis for looking into the formation of a campaign based around reclaiming our Natural Resources.

To be honest it makes more sense when you read the motions themselves. Although as I said I do think this is something we need a lot more discussion about.