Airbus wildcat, North Wales

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ernie
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Mar 28 2007 09:44

Catch thanks for the latest information on the way that the unions did not initially down play the numbers. Clearly the information that I based my now notorious second post on was not sufficient -all I had at the time was the report libcom and what a friend had told me, but that was all I had. This is why the post is hedged in with conditional phases and words

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From the latest news item on here it would appear that the movement was bigger than initially implied by management and unions. It will be interesting to see how it develops

Clearly, more detailed information now shows that I was wrong to say the union had downplayed the initial numbers: catch and John I hold me hands up on that one. If you want to see my initial intentions as dishonest that is fair enough, at the time I was working on what I had in the way of information and the history of the unions.

However, this in no way alters the fact that the unions at Airbus have once again shown that the unions are part of the state and managements policemen of the shop floor. I think the real disagreement behind yours and John's objections to the post is that you do not see the unions as being part of the capitalist state.

So to conclude: Catch and John you were correct my assumption that the unions had played down the numbers was wrong be that due to lying, dishonesty, laziness, sloganeering or bending the stick too far based on limited information but a century of union history: I leave that to others. But the facts of the unions own opposition to the struggle are undisputed.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 09:51
ernie wrote:
the facts of the unions own opposition to the struggle are undisputed.

isn't all that's fact the legally required public disownment? for all we know they organised it

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Steven.
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Mar 28 2007 10:00
Joseph K. wrote:
isn't all that's fact the legally required public disownment? for all we know they organised it

This would be legally required, and while union stewards may have been involved in seems very unlikely that high up union leadership would want anything to do with this. Especially as it's Amicus. And the fact that they are required to disown unofficial action is an argument against them in itself. That they are part of the "capitalist state" I wouldn't agree with, unless you define state in a strange way, but they are part of the capitalist system, of course.

Ernie - fair enough.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 10:08
John. wrote:
This would be legally required, and while union stewards may have been involved in seems very unlikely that high up union leadership would want anything to do with this. Especially as it's Amicus. And the fact that they are required to disown unofficial action is an argument against them in itself. That they are part of the "capitalist state" I wouldn't agree with, unless you define state in a strange way, but they are part of the capitalist system, of course.

yeah i'm not defending the union, and no way this would have come from high up, i'm just pointing out that for all we know the guy giving statements (a shop steward?) could well have been involved. of course the unions are part of maintaining capitalist order/work discipline, but it does seem lower levels at least have been involved in wildcats (e.g. the hush money to sacked gate gourmet shop stewards, union involvement in postie wildcats). of course they may well do this to strengthen their case as mediators for management - 'look at those unruly proles when you don't have a strong union' - but that doesn't mean union personnel are never involved in wildcats.

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Red Marriott
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Mar 28 2007 10:12
Jos. K wrote:
for all we know they organised it

True, JK - unions sometimes give the unofficial nod to their shop stewards to call out the workforce when management is refusing to negotiate with union bosses. Before some conspiraloon tries to misrepresent that, I hasten to add that saying this takes nothing away from a radical critique of the unions' role in containing/repressing struggle etc. But it is a tactic they sometimes use as a bargaining lever for their own ends, as occurred, e.g., in some postal strikes in London in recent years.

ernie
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Mar 28 2007 10:28

John: that fair enough by me! However, why do you think it is a strange view of the state?

ernie
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Mar 28 2007 10:41

Ret and Joseph, fully agree that the stewards do take part in the wildcats. It is not always in order to maintain the unions discipline over the class, as individuals stewards can be genuinely motivated by a powerful militancy and outrage at the actions of the unions. However, as a result of their participation the discipline of the union can be increased because the image can develop is that if only the unions were organised by real militants they would be alright. Those stewards motivated by a real concern for the class some find themselves caught up in terrible situations because they are unable to break with the union ideology.

If I remember -and given the above I want to be spot on (if I have to hold me hands up anymore me poor arms will ache) - Joseph whilst agreeing that the unions are against the class, you do not think they are part of the state: am I correct? Ret what do you think?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 10:49
ernie wrote:
Joseph whilst agreeing that the unions are against the class, you do not think they are part of the state: am I correct?

i wouldn't say they're part of the state as such, but they're part of capital. i mean they are bound by all sorts of legal obligations as a sort of state auxiliary, but i wouldn't say they are 'part of the state' really. depends how you define state.

ernie
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Mar 28 2007 10:59

Joseph, How do you define the state?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 11:08

probably something like 'an instrument of class rule claiming a monopoly of violence' - some things, like nationalised industries are drawn under that banner by means of their funding by taxation (extracted by means of said monopoly of violence), whereas i'd say the unions fall outside of it. i mean i'm not sure if this is of any importance, i'm opposed to capital, not just the state so i don't know if it changes anything either way.

ernie
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Mar 28 2007 11:37

On a general level, it does not change anything if one is opposed to capital, but for us the state has engulfed the whole of society in decadence. The state is what you say it is and more. More in that it not only includes the police, army, civil service and state firms, but also seeks to regulate the economy through central banks etc, seeks to control the ideological oppression of society through the media and above all to try to struggle against the proletariat through its integration of the unions, Social Democracy, Stalinism and the Left. For us the state has to do this in order to try and hold capitalist society together faced with the massive contradictions pulling at society due to decadence.
This is a very crude and schematic outline of what we mean by state capitalism. However, it does have an importance when it comes to the unions and the left. If one sees them as part of capital but not the state this is to see only part of their nature. Whereas if you see them as integrated into the state one sees them as an integral part of capitalism's effort to struggle against the proletariat through the state. This does not mean that the different Trot groups or the lower rungs of the unions are invited to meetings in Whitehall, but the function they carry out is essential to the state's effort to control the class.
This is probably not too clear but what the central point is that the state and capital have become integrated into a whole. In the 19th Century, the state was very confined -more or less- and civil society was a not under the full control of the state. In the 20th this has completely changed.
Does this make sense, even if you do not agree with it?

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Demogorgon303
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Mar 28 2007 11:50

Edit: hadn't seen ernie's and JosephK's exchange before finishing this.

John. wrote:
That they are part of the "capitalist state" I wouldn't agree with, unless you define state in a strange way, but they are part of the capitalist system, of course.

The question of the unions being a part of the state, is secondary to understanding their real role. Nonetheless, its still important to understand what this may or may not mean.

If we look at the question from a purely juridicial point of view, then the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, etc. are all separate entities from the state. The Freikorp that drowned the German Revolution in blood weren't officially part of the Weimar state either, despite being directed by Noske. All these organs perform state functions: repression (of which maintaining the democratic apparatus is a part) but do so without being formally integrated. In fact, political parties can only maintain the illusion of "democracy" only because they are not officially integrated into the state. Similarly, many of the front organisations of the CIA that interfere with the domestic politics of both the US itself and many other countries can only function because they are officially not part of the CIA. Once they are unmasked their capacity to carry out their role is neutralised.

First and foremost, the role of the unions - containing struggle - is a state function. But like the political parties, it can only carry out this function by pretending to represent a portion of civil society and it can only do this by being officially apart from the state. The state may or may not directly fund the unions but it provides the legal structure within which the unions operate and usually talks officially or covertly with them.

In totalitarian societies, the unions - if they exist at all - are usually more openly integrated with the state. Often, "unofficial" unions then appear claiming to represent the workers. These organs may function in clandestinity and suffer from repression which can give them a certain respectability from an otherwise brutalised population. In practice, these "oppressed" unions end-up fulfilling exactly the same role (e.g. Solidarity in Poland). For the most part, the workers that support these unions are manipulated in the same way the populace is generally manipulated by the whole gamut of competing bourgeois fractions. The fact that occasionally these fractions try to destroy each other doesn't change their fundamental nature - e.g. the McCarthyist purge against the Stalinists doesn't make the latter revolutionary and the same goes for the unions. Whether these "oppressed unions" are part of the state is a good question, especially the latter is putting bullets through union activists heads! But when a violent wave of struggle appears which neither side is able to manipulate for their own ends - they're more than happy to work together to crush any hint of an autonomous class movement. These alliances may be temporary, governed by the partners' relative strengths, and will often end with betrayal but will occur nonetheless. (with varying degrees of conscious organisation depending on the circumstances)

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 12:01
ernie wrote:
This does not mean that the different Trot groups or the lower rungs of the unions are invited to meetings in Whitehall, but the function they carry out is essential to the state's effort to control the class.

but a casualised labour market is also essential to the state's effort to control the working class - but is the market 'part of the state'? of course it is a legally modulated space (fuck i sound like deleuze sad), but does that mean it is the state?

Mike Harman
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Mar 28 2007 12:16
Devrim wrote:
I
This seems to be used as an excuse for them. It shouldn't be.
Devrim

No, it's simply a statement of fact. As JK and John have said, we know that shop stewards, in some cases, will organise and participate in wildcats then publicly disown them, for this reason. Other times it'll be outside (and sometimes against) the union entirely and they'll come out against the strike for additional reasons.

So because those statements _have to be made_ regardless of what's going on, they don't give any indication of how the strike's been organised and the actual stance of the unions (at shop level) towards it - because it's a standard response brought out for every strike.

The only thing they do tell you is that no risks are being taken to go outside the legal restrictions in order to support the strike - but I don't see that happening apart from in cases where militancy has pushed the union into a corner or for some other reason.

ernie
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Mar 28 2007 21:13

Joseph K, the point about the casualised labour market is a good one. The state certainly lays out the political structure for the development of this attack on the class through the laying out of polices to encourage casualisation. I do not have the exact policies at hand but over the past decade the British state has made 'flexibility' an essential part of its labour policy. So yes on this level it is part of state policy. On the other hand, it is not the same as the police, unions or lefts which are organised structures. The unions and Leftists have a very specific ideological function as well, which the casualised market does not. Hopefully this will help to clarify what we mean. It is certainly a question I had not thought about before.
In relation to casualisation, the latest issue of Foreign Affairs has a article on Japan, which shows how casualisation has become an important part labour policy in Japan. One third of workers are irregular (temps and part time. This is most starkly seen at Canon where such workers represent 10% of the workforce 10 years ago but now represent 70%. The encouragement of such attacks on the one hand does make since because it increases flexibility and reduces wages etc but on the other hand it also cuts the ground away from under capitalism's feet through reducing the market (especially in Japan where the state is trying to encourage consumer demand as a means for trying to get out of the depression it has been in since the beginning of the 1990's). A good example of the contradictions of capitalism i think you would agree

baboon
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Mar 31 2007 13:37

Any news on any latest developments?
I want to come back to a point about intervention that Tree made earlier but first the whole point about what Ernie did or didn't say is a bit of a pendantic pretext that diverts this discussion away from the role of the trade unions.
As Catch intimates, the first thing to say about this strike is that it is important. The walkout at Broughton was a wildcat and positive for that. Many workers are angry and involved - that much is clear. Whether or not the union gave a nod at some level is not the main point. The main point is to salute this struggle and see how it can go forward, and how it's part of a wider struggle. I don't know what the unions did or didn't do at Broughton but we can, based on overwhelming evidence from previous struggles, have a good idea. We saw the whole union business unfold at BA from January on in great detail. The anti-working class nature of the union structure, not just the bureaucrats but also the rank and file committee, was laid bare for all those with eyes to see. The defeat of the BA cabin workers' fight was a typical action of the trade unions.
A conception had developed, over the Flintshire strike, about the unions or some level of them giving nods to wildcats. What does this mean? Most posts raising this possibility seem to be saying that it doesn't at all imply that the unions are acting for the working class. Others are ambiguous. Even giving "nods" to wildcats, I would argue with those that say that this doesn't put the unions on the side of the working class but just demostrates their manoeuvring in order to stay with the class. As John already noted, nods and winks against the legal process is part of the legality of the whole process and thus restrictive to the working class. There's also the obvious point made by Ernie that stewards, etc., can be militant workers too, as well as the overall point that the job of the unions for the capitalist state is to stick to the working class like shit to a blanket.
The other point I want to refer to is the one raised by Treeofjudas concerning intervention in the class struggle. It seems to seperate the role of those elements who are thinking more seriously about the class struggle and the body of the class engaged in that struggle, ie, a separation between the class and its revolutionary minorities. There's obviously been a physical and historical separation between the working class and its minorities, profound in the time of the counter-revolution, but the analysis of its minorities demands to be heard as widely as possible within the working class. What's the point about constant talk about this or that aspect of the class struggle and its history if not to relate that to the working class? It's just empty chatter otherwise. To say that revolutionary minorities can't relate their positions to the working class, is to justify the separation of revolutionaries from the class struggle, seeing them for example as only lending a hand. It is clear that we need to learn and understand from what workers are saying and doing but revolutionaries, as part of the working class, are also part of the class struggle.

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Jacques Roux
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Apr 3 2007 13:55

French unions call half-day strike at Airbus