Post-Trump North American left trends

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doug
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Jul 10 2018 14:00

* What would winning look like in this context?
* To what extent did the J20 arrests and repression stun the union?
* For a while, it did seem like the IWW members were at the forefront of challenging the alt-right. Did this stop being the case because of the more conservative faction of the union? How could they do that?
* Why are we talking in the past tense? There might have been a spike in interest after Trump got elected but there will be other opportunities.
* Membership growth is only one measurement of success. Where do you think the best organising efforts are happening, or where should they be happening?

FWIW Juan, you’ve done an amazing job contributing to libcom, even if you no longer share the same politics.

Mike Harman
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Jul 10 2018 14:59
doug wrote:
Whenever there’s an increase of discontent against the effects of capitalism, left electoralism will grow and will probably grow much faster than something like the IWW. It’s easier, and more accessible to people. Their message is simple and seems achievable. We all know this.

We shouldn't write off folk joining the DSA, just like we shouldn't (not that I've really seen this anyway) write off people joining Momentum and getting behind Corbyn, or left-nationalism in Scotland.

I think this is based on a (slight) misunderstanding of the DSA which took me a while to figure out.

The DSA isn't a political party, and it has no official connection to the Democrats. This is how you end up with the DSA Libertarian Socialist Caucus and the DSA Communist Caucus. And various anarchists, Trots, Leninists have joined it without any intention of getting involved in the electoral activity that most/all DSA leadership (national and local) appear to be focused on. I think someone on here described it to me as more like the old Students for a Democratic Society than anything else.

Someone joining Momentum or the SNP is obviously committed to electoral politics (even if they justify it to themselves via some kind of short-term tactical position or whatever), there is a much looser relationship with the DSA.

This means there are a lot of people (let's for argument's sake say high hundreds or low thousands out of 20,000+) who are 1. not electoralist 2. have decided to join an organisation that engages in electoralism for whatever reasons. I think part of this is entryism, part of it maybe lack of other local alternatives to get involved with locally.

I agree that people in the three groups shouldn't be written off, people do change their politics. But the specific issue with the DSA is that people are joining it pragmatically who would have more or less the same criticisms of it as an organisation that all of us on this thread would, but have joined anyway.

i.e. it's not an electoralism vs. syndicalism decision, or a social democracy vs. anarchism decision, or even a reformism vs. revolution decision, it's that the DSA, mostly in spite of its actual politics and orientation, has managed to become a focus of activism (including things like anti-fascism, ICE blockades, tenant organising) in some places.

Where I've seen anarchists joining Labour, it's been accompanied either via some intellectual gymnastics ('scaling up') or brutal realpolitik (harm-reduction least worst-ism compared to May at best, careerism at worst). Plan C's Labour discussions have reflected some of these positions: https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/plan-c-website-launched-check-it-out-17102012. It's represented a shift away from revolutionary politics altogether.

These intellectual gymnastics aren't required to join the DSA, so it's not a case of ideological differences in the general sense, but quite specific questions about things like organising outside the workplace, attitudes to entryism, whether the grassroots of DSA will eventually be able to democratise the local and national structures or whether there'll be a purge of the ultra-lefts by the leadership, whether the greener new membership types will get pulled leftwards by the grassroots or into electoralism for the Democrats by the leadership, whether there's a massive split etc.

If the high hundreds/low thousands non-electoralists who agree with the preamble had joined the IWW instead, then it wouldn't have been a load of electoralists joining, but it probably would have included a lot of people who want to do migrant solidarity, anti-fascism, tenant organising etc.

You can think all those people are wasting their time in the DSA I'd probably agree with you - there are so many massive scandals almost weekly and different factions attacking each other something will probably come to a head soonish. But also I think it's worth having an straightforward as possible discussion about why they've ended up there.

With Momentum in the UK, everything about it is electoralism/Labour focused so unless people leave, they're probably in it because that's what they want to do.

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Awesome Dude
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Jul 10 2018 20:00
doug wrote:
jolasmo wrote:
The IWW had the people's attention, and the opportunity to offer them something better. It failed.

IWW outside the US:

I think the situation for the IWW in Britain and Ireland is very different. Here, things are, modestly, more positive. We've seen steady growth, are making inroads into new regions (hello Ireland!), new organising projects are being tried, and a bit more strategic thinking and political education seems to be happening, but not enough.

We also don’t have the same conflict over anti-fascism vs. organising. This might be because the threat is smaller — although it’s still present. There may also be a diversity of activity among the branches. But in general I think we’re able to combine organising efforts with campaigning on a number issues, including anti-fascism.

It’s sad to see fellow Wobs so despondent.

You do realise that the IWW in "Britain and Ireland" has failed to failed to live up to it's historical reputation when compared to the new wave alternative radical unions it gave birth to (through healthly splits imo) a few years ago, i.e. United Voices of the World (UWV) and Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB). Those unions have brilliantly organised amazingly succesful strikes (both wildcat and "legal") more times than the IWW has in 10 years of my membership. The last IWW strike in Britain was John Lewis 7 years ago. The only industrial branch of the IWW in Britain, Cleaners and Allied Industries, almost organised a "legal" strike last year but it was "sabotaged" by the secretary and area organiser (who said it would expose the union to legal difficulties). Union membership growth (which is the business unions relentless occupation) is not the same as advancing workers interests or seeking to win the class war which is the IWWs historic mission.

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R Totale
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Jul 10 2018 20:23

Is the "abolish ICE" moment a post-Trump NA left trend that anyone has any opinions about?

Mike Harman
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Jul 10 2018 22:17
R Totale wrote:
Is the "abolish ICE" moment a post-Trump NA left trend that anyone has any opinions about?

This was good on the Democrats attempts to co-opt it: https://libcom.org/news/socialist-case-ins-04072018

Would like to know more about how the actual protests/blockades are going - some of the camps were cleared out this week, but sounded like some groups are continuing to organise, which would be an improvement on the #NoBanNoWall airport protests.

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Jul 11 2018 03:28
klas batalo wrote:
Personally I prefer that activists and liberals jumped to DSA first. The IWW is not a political organization of that type and those who try to make it that way and push ambulance chasing of whatever Democrat hot issue / narrative is popular that week is actually what has weakened quality growth, i.e. more union organizers and rank and filers vs left activists. We seem to have retained our Trump Bump, I think there is just a difference in the type of people attracted to our politics vs those stoked on electoralism, and soc dem 101.

I assume you see base builders in the DSA like Refoundation, and outside like the Marxist Center tendency or Black Rose equally conservative then? Jacobin/Momentum are their Center right, and DSA North Star their right wing.

One thing I keep coming back to over the past few years is that one of the most important qualities for a revolutionary is modesty, pure and simple. Just knowing how to sit back, shut up, and listen. This is also an important feminist practice.

This is one of the huge differences between the two approaches we've seen in the union. The conservatives have literally tried to shout down and silence anyone who articulates a perspective or practice that isn't theirs, while those of us who've wanted things to open up have deliberately created space for new practices and listened to people with new perspectives.

I find it extremely ironic that you talk despairingly of 'liberals'. In my book there's a couple of ways to define 'liberals'. One relevant one is the contemporary tendency that doesn't see any actual threat from fascism and which defends their free speech, and which sees antifa as the greater threat to stability and civility. This certainly describes Marianne LeNabat's politics.

Another way to describe 'liberalism' is in the more Maoist way, that liberalism describes those who see opportunist and horrible behavior from their supposed comrades and don't challenge them on it. This describes everyone who stood back and watched JDD's behavior without challenging him, and everyone who continues to enable the behavior of people like Marianne - including you. So I'm really curious who you would consider to be the 'liberals' that are somehow being driven to DSA by allowing our officers to gaslight anyone engaged in mass anti-fascist organizing.

It's also astounding to see a real person seriously claiming that something like opposing fascism is a "Democrat hot issue." The Democratic Party is far more obsessed with unmasking antifascists than opposing fascism (something they share with Marianne). Do you actually understand what the democratic party is or does, or is this all just ideological auto-pilot for you?

Almost all of the real people who've joined since the election see no contradiction between engaging in IWOC or GDC activity and organizing at work. In fact there are plenty of people organizing at work right now who joined because they were exposed through IWOC or GDC. But you know that, as do the rest of the conservatives. In fact I'd bet that most of these people are more engaged in organizing at their own workplaces than most of the conservatives are. Kdog has referred to you as "workerists without workers" and I think that's pretty accurate. You just want to maintain some completely artificial separation between 'workplace organizers' and 'activists' because this artificial separation supports your very authoritarian attitude that you (or anyone else) are qualified to determine what the "quality" is that we need to judge over "quantity."

This gets into an insight that a comrade shared with me recently that some kinds of anarchists are more leninist than even the leninists are. You, Marianne, EdmontonWobbly, BR, and others (a small group, but a damagingly influential one) are of the opinion that you can judge what the union should be, should represent, and that you have the right to defend this against the majority of the members. None of you had the courage to bring proposals to Convention defending your positions, presumably because you knew how it'd go if you did. All of the proposals defending our positions passed overwhelmingly. The only thing left to you was to find ways to undermine solidarity behind the scenes.

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You admit yourself you didn’t have answers, other than vague plans for 10,000 members if I remember correctly. What would your plan look like? In hindsight what would you have liked to see? Or like to see going forward? I ask this genuinely.

"My plan", such as it was, looked like opening up the conversation to the membership and having a comradely, wide-ranging debate about it. (Really what "my plan" came to was shutting up and listening, and starting to acknowledge my own mistakes.) That is how revolutionary unions need to function if they are going to deal with important questions as they grow and adapt to the world around them. That was what the conservatives couldn't accept.

I would like to see a union which can have open and comradely discussion as it grows and struggles. I think that we're getting to that level, but only after overcoming the conservatives who were toxifying any ability to have these discussions in an open or comradely way. A lot of us were literally afraid to openly discuss anything for fear that the conservatives would notice and wade in to tell us how fucked up we were. (Or do something even more dangerous...)

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Personally I’m for quality over quantity, content over form, and strategic unity over tactical disarray.

I don't think that you, or any individual or small group, are qualified to determine what quality, what content, or what strategic unity to prioritize. That is an inherently ultra-authoritarian attitude.

It is up to the union as a whole to determine its priorities for growth, quality, and strategic unity. That's only possible with the culture of open and comradely discussion I mentioned above. Any individual or group that claims these rights for itself is a danger to the overall health of the union.

I have always been in favor of a strong organizing program (workplace and social) as opposed to the 'tactical disarray' of our current organizing but this organizing program, if it will mean anything, must be built through the union collectively discussing, agreeing on, and working out it's collective priorities and strategy to achieve them. It can't just be told what these are (or what they shouldn't be).

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klas batalo
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Jul 11 2018 23:51
jolasmo wrote:
klas batalo wrote:
Personally I prefer that activists and liberals jumped to DSA first.

This is the kind of attitude that makes me absolutely despair about what remains of the anarchist/libertarian communist movement in the US and elsewhere.

The reality is that "liberals" and "activists" are not simply inherently defective people from whom we must segregate ourselves to preserve our political (or "apolitical") purity: they think the things they do and do the things they do because they have been recruited and organised, formally or otherwise, by political movements that induce them to think and behave in these ways. The IWW had the people's attention, and the opportunity to offer them something better. It failed. But seemingly plenty of wobs prefer it that way, and would rather the IWW continues to be a tiny and largely irrelevant sect as opposed to grappling with the challenges of a new political reality, even if that means reassessing some long established holy truths.

I just prefer we relate to them and recruit based on class basis. Locally we recruited a bunch of former liberals to the IWW through workplace organizing not through Democrat demos.

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klas batalo
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Jul 12 2018 00:15

JDD was terrible and you have no proof I was a defender of his. I hated that guy from the get go.

Also BR folks have no such conspiracy such as you describe, however you and M1 comrades in WRUM certainly persued a boring from within takeover strategy.

Quote:
I have always been in favor of a strong organizing program (workplace and social) as opposed to the 'tactical disarray' of our current organizing but this organizing program, if it will mean anything, must be built through the union collectively discussing, agreeing on, and working out it's collective priorities and strategy to achieve them. It can't just be told what these are (or what they shouldn't be).

I have absolutely nothing against this and never have. If anything have combatted any such tendencies in groups I’ve been a part of, unlike you all who have pushed your agenda hard.

You really are terribly assuming bad faith and ill will. Fwiw I’m involved with anti fascism in just as flawed ways as I see it practiced by the wobs. Everything is self and collective critique.

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Jul 12 2018 03:05
klas batalo wrote:
JDD was terrible and you have no proof I was a defender of his. I hated that guy from the get go.

What action did you take to get rid of him? What support did you give to his victims? What did you do when those of us who did support his victims and take action against him were targeted and harassed? What did you do when the three conservative members of the board sabotaged the charges process against him and used his vote to form a conservative voting majority?

Quote:
Also BR folks have no such conspiracy such as you describe, however you and M1 comrades in WRUM certainly persued a boring from within takeover strategy.

There's a misunderstanding - by 'br' I was referring to a former prominent member with those initials. I like and respect Black Rose.

I'm not a member of M1, because I'm not an anarchist.

You've got WRUM backwards - it was formed by people who came together around a shared practice in the union and that's how it's grown. We expelled one person for continual authoritarian behavior within the union and towards comrades. That's the opposite of a pre-existing group all joining something in order to take it over.

Quote:
Quote:
I have always been in favor of a strong organizing program (workplace and social) as opposed to the 'tactical disarray' of our current organizing but this organizing program, if it will mean anything, must be built through the union collectively discussing, agreeing on, and working out it's collective priorities and strategy to achieve them. It can't just be told what these are (or what they shouldn't be).

I have absolutely nothing against this and never have. If anything have combatted any such tendencies in groups I’ve been a part of, unlike you all who have pushed your agenda hard.

We've promoted a certain vision, but a big component of it has been that the union should have open and broad debate about whatever it needs to, and we've done everything we can to open that debate rather than silence it. There's nothing wrong with 'pushing an agenda' in the abstract as long as it's not being done by manipulating, silencing, bullying, or emotionally abusing, as has been done to us by the conservatives in the union. We should have a culture where everyone is able to 'push an agenda' openly and honestly, and in comradely ways. Anyways, the stuff that we argued for was approved overwhelmingly by the union's membership at both Convention and Referendum. So it isn't like we've been 'pushing' some external 'agenda' - the things we argue for are clearly pretty popular with the broader union.

Quote:
You really are terribly assuming bad faith and ill will. Fwiw I’m involved with anti fascism in just as flawed ways as I see it practiced by the wobs. Everything is self and collective critique.

Maybe. You did say pretty bluntly that you're glad that more people didn't join the IWW just because you think you're capable of judging them in the abstract. I think that's a pretty conservative and authoritarian attitude.

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klas batalo
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Jul 12 2018 03:37

During the time of the JDD stuff I was a bit pre-occupied kicking out local abusers. I also avoided the GEB lists to focus more on ODB type things and trying to save the local IWW and get it oriented towards organizing.

Fair enough in regards the WRUM stuff and pushing agendas. My big thing there is folks should be obviously doing work as wobs. Good to here about the ethics internal to the caucus.

I do think you come off a bit conspiratorial. You were really close to all that though, so I'm not comfortable assessing it all. Just seemed like people felt constantly under threat of being accused of being reactionaries for sticking to basic IWW politics.

On the last point, I just don't think we should be recruiting people based on activism. We should be an organizing union, not a union that focuses on activism detached from building organization. Most of mainstream labor just tries to turn out some rank and file to help them militantly lobby, etc. (Maybe I'm just talking from local experience) but I just see our role as different.

If people are liberal activists but they actually wanna build a union at work, then cool. Better than some anarchist activist who just wants to chase ambulances all day.

Mike Harman
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Jul 12 2018 10:04
klas batalo wrote:
Just seemed like people felt constantly under threat of being accused of being reactionaries for sticking to basic IWW politics.

On the last point, I just don't think we should be recruiting people based on activism. We should be an organizing union, not a union that focuses on activism detached from building organization. Most of mainstream labor just tries to turn out some rank and file to help them militantly lobby, etc. (Maybe I'm just talking from local experience) but I just see our role as different.

If people are liberal activists but they actually wanna build a union at work, then cool. Better than some anarchist activist who just wants to chase ambulances all day.

I'd like to understand this better, specifically what you mean by ambulance chasing. I don't like the term 'ambulance chasing' at all, but let's assume it's a stand-in for 'mobilising around protests without a long term strategy or any real organisation'.

If I think over the past 18 months, two of the bigger things in the US have been the #NoBanNoWall airport protests last year, and the Occupy ICE stuff this year). There were variations in militancy between all these, from fairly liberal protests outside an airport, to actually disrupting the normal functioning of an airport, the NYC taxi strike in support, or this year blockading ICE car parks to prevent people going to work and vans leaving etc. Both were in response to news stories, the muslim ban and child separation at the border.

Generally I think both the airport protests and the ICE blockades were very good things, in the sense that they marked a change from set piece protests to actually disrupting the state and capital accumulation. Equally though, they were mass mobilisations and don't yet reflect ongoing organising against and disruption of immigration enforcement.

I've seen occasional US examples of resisting specific immigration raids - again these are often spontaneous, but co-ordinating information about them can maybe help normalise that kind of resistance. Or individual support of workers when they have to deal with ICE, here's an example from the US, that IWW members were involved with: https://itsgoingdown.org/utica-ny-iww-community-groups-mobilize-halt-deportation/ A UK example of longer term organising would be the anti-raids network: http://antiraids.net/ - it publicises times when people resist immigration enforcement agents, and they publish information on how to do so, bust cards, sometimes run stalls in areas that get targeted, things like that.

For an example of 'ambulance chasing', Socialist Alternative co-opting an airport protest in Seattle maybe works as an example.

If you'll excuse one more UK example. Burger chain 'Byron Burgers' organised a fake training session in London, to which only immigrant workers were invited, for the specific purpose of allowing immigration officers to raid it. . At least 25 workers were deported. There were then mass protests against the chain shutting down some outlets temporarily.

There's a whole range of activity in the above, from trot hijacking of protests, to individual case-work stuff, to blockades, to solidarity strikes.

If we look at 'basic IWW politics', then IWW members were deported all the time in the early years. There are several cases from 1917-1921 and it was a major factor in destroying the union as a functioning organisation: https://libcom.org/history/database-repression-iww-1906-1920

This ranges from IWW members being arrested during strikes, with several released, except the ones who got deported, to something like the Jerome and Bisbee deportations where hundreds of miners were deported in cattle cars at once: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisbee_Deportation

And then a lot of early strikes were also riots, insurrections, and relied on outside support, from unemployed workers, other towns, different workplaces etc.

So you have immigration enforcement operating in two ways. 1. As one of the state's most effective ways of repressing militants, since it can completely remove people from the country without them needing to do anything illegal 2. As having a chilling effect on any workplace or tenant organising in the first place, because employers and landlords can call ICE to have employees or tenants arrested, just because they don't like them let alone going on strike.

If you think any organising against immigration enforcement is 'ambulance chasing' then OliverTwister's charge of conservatism seems pretty accurate frankly and it puts you at odds with the history of the IWW.

If you think there is lots of anti-ICE stuff which is liberal, opportunistic, not really co-ordinated, then obviously that's there is plenty of that, but not sure how it's different to Fight for 15 being an outsourced NGO where the bosses sexually harass their workers and fire them for unionising. There's no strict inside/outside the workplace dichotomy.

Klas Batalo wrote:
Most of mainstream labor just tries to turn out some rank and file to help them militantly lobby, etc.

Burgerville looks like a genuine organising effort, three day strike etc., but this didn't stop Bernie Sanders inviting Burgerville workers to a campaign stop.

Roar Mag wrote:
During a recent rally in Portland, Oregon, the Portland Association of Teachers, Black Lives Matter Portland, Portland Jobs With Justice joined the BVWU, and others, who spoke about the inspiration these workers promised for the rest of the community. The rally moved to a Southeast Portland Burgerville location, where workers came in to announce their formation to the management. Supporters streamed in by the dozens to voice their support for the union. At the same time, a delegation led by two of the organizing Burgerville workers went into the franchise’s corporate office in Vancouver, Washington. Here leaders from SEIU Local 503, Unite HERE! Local 8, and several ministers spoke out about the low-wages and trying working conditions at Burgerville, which, ironically, is a company that has a reputation for its local focus.
...
As the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign returned to Oregon in advance of the May 17 primary election, Burgerville workers were invited to speak and share their story of organizing on the job.

“The Burgerville Workers Union is a perfect example of the type of political revolution that we need,” said Sanders in a public statement. “People coming together and demanding real change to improve the lives of working people.”

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Jul 12 2018 14:51

I mean mobilizing around activist, usually Democratic media determined single issues, not organizing around the issues of a directly-affected base.

Active Revolution wrote:
Activism — An activist is a person who is responsible to a defined issue and who helps address that issue through mobilizing a base of people to take collective action. Activists are accountable to themselves as moral actors on a specific issue. Democratic structures are a utilitarian consequence of activities designed to win on the defined issue.

Advocacy — An advocate is a person who is responsible to a defined issue and who helps address that issue through collective action that uses the instruments of democracy to establish and implement laws and policies that will create a just and equitable society.

Organizing — An organizer is a person who is responsible to a defined constituency and who helps build that constituency through leadership development, collective action and the development of democratic structures.

For example these two "progressive" left media outlets capture a good sense of what the local activist and lobbyist left is like where I live:

RI Future / are the Progressive Democrats
Uprise RI / slightly more grassroots NGO Left

I certainly think we should organize around what our members want to organize around, and also have solidarity with struggles outside our experience, but we need to make collective decisions about that, and as syndicalist said earlier you can't just do everything. There are people in the IWW who definitely want the IWW to be able to do everything in the movement. The one big activist org. The way I see it is we are a puny mostly activist union that has a few small shop campaigns and not enough industrial organizing at all. We are still mostly trapped in small campaigns, and that's when we are at our best in regards organizing i.e. Burgerville, Stardust, etc then the rest of the political leftists who join the union want to do pretty much everything other than union organizing. It's the same feature as to why the activist left who joins DSA try to use it for all sorts of pet projects, as another user mentioned. I just don't think it's conservative to relatively keep to your stated mission and goals. If you want to do environmental campaigning do it with an environmental movement organization. If you want to focus on anti-racism / hate join one of the many collectives or networks that do anti-fascist organizing and have been doing it for longer. Fwiw I agree with the mass antifa criticism of most of that activism, but I just don't think we actually apply it to ourselves. If you aren't building a working class base with your work, you are not organizing.

doug
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Jul 12 2018 16:20
klas batalo wrote:
I just don't think it's conservative to relatively keep to your stated mission and goals.

It depends how this is interpreted. A major part of our activity should be using the organising model to build a base in workplaces, exploiting grievances, finding informal leaders, and scaling up. But the IWW's mission is to organise the class against capitalism, and as Mike's already pointed out that means we have to act outside of the workplace. All the examples listed - the environment, anti-racism, anti-fascism, not to mention tenants, carers, the unemployed etc. - could be carried out based on an 'activist' mobilising model, or they could be genuinely tied in with the union's broader organising approach. (Jane McAlevey also talks about a healthy mix of 'organising' and some 'mobilising', as well as 'workplace' and 'community' in successful mass unionising.)

People who want to focus on the former things don't necessarily have to distract from the latter, but could add to the union.

Based on the numbers we have, we do need to have specific priorities and not dissipate our energy. But it rings alarm bells to see these things lopped off from our mission and goals.

Awesome Dude wrote:
You do realise that the IWW in "Britain and Ireland" has failed to failed to live up to it's historical reputation when compared to the new wave alternative radical unions it gave birth to (through healthly splits imo) a few years ago, i.e. United Voices of the World (UWV) and Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB). Those unions have brilliantly organised amazingly succesful strikes (both wildcat and "legal") more times than the IWW has in 10 years of my membership. The last IWW strike in Britain was John Lewis 7 years ago.

I've been in the union for a while, so yes I've seen plenty of ups and downs - including the cleaners split. It was disappointing at the time, but perhaps the approach was unsustainable at the time. The stuff IWGB and UVW have then gone on to do is impressive and we should be learning from them. Nonetheless, I want to build a revolutionary union, with the politics and range of activity that entails, and with a presence across the country. That's why I'm in the IWW.

We might not have called a strike recently, but usually there's a lot that needs to be done before that's on the cards and members are doing it. And just recently, we've been winning small victories from Glasgow to Manchester to Plymouth. More hope and less doom!

(If anyone wants to discuss this more we should probably start a new thread.)

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Ed
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Jul 12 2018 17:22
doug wrote:
We might not have called a strike recently, but usually there's a lot that needs to be done before that's on the cards and members are doing it. And just recently, we've been winning small victories from Glasgow to Manchester to Plymouth. More hope and less doom!

(If anyone wants to discuss this more we should probably start a new thread.)

I would definitely want to discuss this in more detail and would love to hear about UK Wobs' victories, however small. So yeah, feel free to start a new thread!

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Jul 12 2018 18:33

I just think we need priorities.

I saw the GDC in Grand Rapuds share anti circumscision propaganda last night.

Some folks in the union think it can be anything we want it to be. It’s the same additive people take to DSA, and used to take with Occupy.

Strategy means focus.

There is a really tendency to want to do anything but build unionism through workplace committees. Unionism is hard so people try to find short cuts.

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Jul 12 2018 19:44
klas batalo wrote:
I just think we need priorities.

I saw the GDC in Grand Rapuds share anti circumscision propaganda last night.

Some folks in the union think it can be anything we want it to be. It’s the same additive people take to DSA, and used to take with Occupy.

Strategy means focus.

There is a really tendency to want to do anything but build unionism through workplace committees. Unionism is hard so people try to find short cuts.

The newest member of my branch joined because they went to an anti-fascist rally (that we had co-sponsored) and were complaining about their conditions at work there and someone told them they should join the IWW. Now they're about to go to an OT 101. This is basically our first real possible organizing campaign in years (aside from the bus drivers), and not for lack of trying.

Maybe it's something about who's joining in the South, which is most of who I see, but I see person after person joining because of anti-fascist activity or through IWOC and then beginning to organize at work. It's been a huge part of our growth in the last 2 years down here, from having almost nothing to actually having a good number of branches engaged in multiple kinds of organizing. I always hear about this bogeyman of new members who join and are opposed to workplace organizing, but nobody has ever been able to point to this as any real tendency.

You say there's a tendency that opposes organizing, so you need to point it out with more than just one Facebook post. FWIW, WRUM's program begins by talking about organizing and almost all of our members are actively organizing either at our workplaces or intimately involved with others, so we're not the tendency you're thinking of here.

That said I do think there's a tendency that talks a lot about organizing, but just wants to manage how other people do theirs.

(It's possible there are a couple of individual members with weird ideas, but that's true with anything. There's some individual members who think the alt-right is made up by the democratic party, and no doubt others with other weird ideas.)

The tenant organizing at Stony Brook apartments in Florida has been making waves recently. Its Going Down and Chapo Trap House both covered it. There's organizing happening at another complex managed by the same company in my city, they got in touch with organizers at Stony Brook because they heard about the call-in campaign and now both locations are coordinating. The organizing at Stony Brook took off in large part due to a tenant's union started by the DSA in that city. Are those the kind of "activists" "chasing the democratic party" that you're so relieved to be repelling from the IWW?

syndicalist
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Jul 12 2018 22:04

Is the IWW a union or a political organization or something else? This has been a weird balance never actually resolved or addressed in some ways.

Mike Harman
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Jul 12 2018 22:06
klas batalo wrote:
I just think we need priorities.

I saw the GDC in Grand Rapuds share anti circumscision propaganda last night.

They wrote a leaflet?

Handed stuff out in a shopping mall?

RTd a tweet?

Shared something on facebook?

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Jul 12 2018 22:15
Mike Harman wrote:
I think someone on here described it to me as more like the old Students for a Democratic Society than anything else.

I think that was me, although I heard it from someone else. The most recent Jacobin has a piece on the old SDS, with lessons that I'm sure are primarily directed towards members of the DSA.

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Jul 12 2018 23:00

In regards to broader trends of a new layer of politicized people, I see klas expresses some views which seem common, if not widespread. A kind of suspicion of these people. I'm not convinced one can really make too many tangible generalizations about these people. So, yes, tens of thousands of new people joined DSA since 2015. DSA before this had been known to be basically an aspiring political organization that aimed to push the Democratic Party to social democratic positions. I'm not sure the majority of new people in that organization joined with that understanding. Like Mike has mentioned, there's such a wide variety of activities, factions, priorities and interests within the group. So, in one area, a group might be entirely working on getting a member elected to city council. In other places, it is different. For example, in the town where I grew up, there is a DSA chapter. I believe it is the first explicitly socialist organization that has existed here since the pre-World War I era. Most of their activity, other than participating in the few small protests there, is building a tenant union and doing solidarity network type stuff. That isn't much different than the average new IWW branch (or a lot of IWA/ex-IWA groups for that matter). So I really don't think its safe to assume that this new large group of politicized people are only or entirely interested in electoralism or single issue stuff. I have a hard time understanding why these people should be treated with an extra dose of suspicion compared to people who have come to radical organizations in the past through other stuff (Occupy, BLM, self-study of Spanish Revolution on the internet).

Really, this suspicion has less to do with the specifics of these people but more about how they may come in. These disputes are about who gets to set the parameters and expectations of entry. Will they adapt to established precedent or change the dynamics to the point where the existing leadership (formal or informal) lose their power? I'm not describing anything new, its essentially founder's syndrome. Every group probably suffers from this at some point, particularly when faced with a large surge in new members. From what I've seen with the DSA, this question has been a concern, but it didn't blow up like it did in the IWW. I'm not sure why that is, but I suspect that the established leadership of the DSA were older, been in that position for years and never not been in that position. For the IWW, the (former at this point, tbh) established leadership were much younger, been in that position for less than a decade and been dominated before by a previous generation of leadership. So in the DSA, you see older leadership that doesn't like some of the changes, but is excited about the possibilities of the explosive growth and is willing to stick around in a lesser role to see what happens. In the IWW, there was much less of that and way more hostility over these prospects.

With DSA, this explosive growth has revealed all sorts of contradictions about the organization. How long can people who are into electoralism and anti-electoralism exist in the same org without extreme decentralization and maintaining of lots of local autonomy? Maybe it all breaks apart bitterly in the end, and folks like klas were wise to be cautious.

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Jul 12 2018 23:22

This is really embarrassing and not something that has ever happened to me on here, but when trying to reply to doug's post (#32) I hit edit instead and ended up altering his comment permanently before I realized what I had done. Really, really sorry for that.

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Jul 13 2018 03:25
Quote:
With DSA, this explosive growth has revealed all sorts of contradictions about the organization. How long can people who are into electoralism and anti-electoralism exist in the same org without extreme decentralization and maintaining of lots of local autonomy? Maybe it all breaks apart bitterly in the end, and folks like klas were wise to be cautious.

But would that be worse in the end than the kind of bitterness they’ve already caused while trying to prevent that growth?

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Jul 13 2018 12:38
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
With DSA, this explosive growth has revealed all sorts of contradictions about the organization. How long can people who are into electoralism and anti-electoralism exist in the same org without extreme decentralization and maintaining of lots of local autonomy? Maybe it all breaks apart bitterly in the end, and folks like klas were wise to be cautious.

But would that be worse in the end than the kind of bitterness they’ve already caused while trying to prevent that growth?

This is a good point - obv, I can't predict the future, but it definitely seems plausible to me that the DSA might be headed for one or more painful splits, and that the experience will be distressing for those who go through it, *and* that the DSA will still come out the other side better and stronger than it was in 2015/early 2016, and that the general project of democratic socialism will definitely be better off as a result of whatever emerges, just as the broad project of rank-and-file workplace organisation in the UK is better off for having the IWGB/UVW/CAIWU, even if those people aren't wobs. Does that make sense?

Jim
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Jul 13 2018 13:58
Mike Harman wrote:
Yeah it's questions like:

- should/could the IWW in a college town help with organising against Generation Identity or similar groups organising on campus via a local GDC (probably yes IMO)

vs.

- should the IWW be fundraising for and organising transport for people to travel cross country to something like the Portland Patriot Prayer protests (probably not IMO)

If this is reduced to anti-fascism vs. not it seems a bit odd. Like even the most extreme 'anti-fascism is the worst product of fascism' positions would still agree with workers organising against local threats from fash.

I don't really understand where you're coming from with this. One of the big problems with things like the Portland Patriot Prayer protests (or Berkeley, or Charlottesville etc.) has been that the far-right have been mobilising from a wider geographical pool than anti-fascists. As one of the few left organisations organised across North America, the IWW should definitely be organising transport across the country for people to support large mobilisations.

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Jul 13 2018 21:10
klas batalo wrote:
There is a really tendency to want to do anything but build unionism through workplace committees. Unionism is hard so people try to find short cuts.

Fellow worker, you might benefit from a book called No Shortcuts with brilliant case studies of successful class struggle.

And “build unionism through workplace committees” is so goddamn painfully narrow. We build class struggle by organizing from our positions within the class, which doesn’t involve living in a hermetically sealed bubble limited to the workplace (although it is the main locus of exploitation), and is affected by all the social relations of capital. Open your mind and your ass will follow, as an old Motown classic advised.

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Jul 13 2018 15:38
Jim wrote:
I don't really understand where you're coming from with this. One of the big problems with things like the Portland Patriot Prayer protests (or Berkeley, or Charlottesville etc.) has been that the far-right have been mobilising from a wider geographical pool than anti-fascists. As one of the few left organisations organised across North America, the IWW should definitely be organising transport across the country for people to support large mobilisations.

In the UK it absolutely makes sense to get people from London or Sussex to Kent or Leeds, or Birmingham to Cardiff. 10-20 quid per person and a handful of hours on a coach each way.

I just do not see how you could organise significant numbers of people to get from Los Angeles to Houston or from Boston to San Francisco. There's only commercial flights, which you're not going to get a big bulk discount on, or if you were able to hire a coach you're talking a full day or more of travel each way for some distances. So you're talking about days of travel and/or tens of thousands of dollars. 100 people at $400 a pop for flights is $40,000 and you've managed to increase turnout by one hundred at one rally.

Boston to New York sort of distances (what is it 4-5 hours?) might make sense - in some states that'd be within the same state and it's fine by road.

While fash have managed large mobilisations in some places, in Boston they were outnumbered ~40k to a few hundred. Overall regardless of what else happens, massively outnumbering both the fash and cops is good, but at those numbers it's literally people who are treating it as a walk around mostly.

Organising local transport from cities 1-5 hours away seems like a much more effective use of time and cash than shipping IWW members around the country and it'd potentially bring people into local/regional networks. Doing national travel (in the US) feels like reproducing summit-hopping dynamics.

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Jul 13 2018 17:43

Yeah, Jim, not only is that not what a revolutionary union should be focused on, but it doesn't recognise the reality of life in the US, which isn't really like a single country but is more like a continent. The distance from New York to LA is similar to the distance from London to Baghdad

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Jul 13 2018 18:42
Steven. wrote:
Yeah, Jim, not only is that not what a revolutionary union should be focused on, but it doesn't recognise the reality of life in the US, which isn't really like a single country but is more like a continent. The distance from New York to LA is similar to the distance from London to Baghdad

I'm not sure where this idea even came from. Nobody in the IWW has ever tried to do that.

The closest thing would be that there has been some limited regional coordination about things like Charlottesville. But that was mostly from the states bordering Virginia. It's a far cry from the idea of flying people from all over the country to Portland.

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Jul 13 2018 18:57
R Totale wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
With DSA, this explosive growth has revealed all sorts of contradictions about the organization. How long can people who are into electoralism and anti-electoralism exist in the same org without extreme decentralization and maintaining of lots of local autonomy? Maybe it all breaks apart bitterly in the end, and folks like klas were wise to be cautious.

But would that be worse in the end than the kind of bitterness they’ve already caused while trying to prevent that growth?

This is a good point - obv, I can't predict the future, but it definitely seems plausible to me that the DSA might be headed for one or more painful splits, and that the experience will be distressing for those who go through it, *and* that the DSA will still come out the other side better and stronger than it was in 2015/early 2016, and that the general project of democratic socialism will definitely be better off as a result of whatever emerges, just as the broad project of rank-and-file workplace organisation in the UK is better off for having the IWGB/UVW/CAIWU, even if those people aren't wobs. Does that make sense?

So I've been thinking about this a lot since last night, and I think there's one really, really important difference between this possibility for the DSA and a similar hypothetical possibility for the IWW:

DSA: From our perspective, there is a huge political contradiction between electoral work and the more radical organizing that some people are doing through the DSA. It seems likely (though not inevitable) that this contradiction will come to a head in some way, and that could look like going in different directions (amicably or not). Or it could look uglier, like a purge. Either way, I think you're right, the overall profile of "democratic socialism" or even just "socialism" as a valid political identity and identifier has grown massively and that will have ripples even if the organized form can't contain it. I think you're also right to point to the existence of the splits from the UK IWW as overall a good thing that raises the profile and possibility of revolutionary unionism (or at least non-politically oriented rank and file militant unionism) in the UK.

IWW: Here's the difference - there's no clear contradiction between organizing militant unions at work, organizing prisoners (and it's an important political point here that prisons *are* workplaces), and organizing militant community organizations a la "Community Self Defense". Someone can very easily be pulled in through one kind of work and end up doing the other two - and in fact we've seen many concrete examples where this has been the case. I haven't seen anyone come in through IWOC or GDC organizing and then argue against organizing at work (although they might argue against the workplace-exclusive chauvinism of the conservatives, which is a very different thing).

Let's say that the IWW membership had grown 5x in the same period that the DSA's had, and a lot of it was from people coming in through IWOC or GDC organizing. Maybe that doesn't equal 5x the amount of energy going into workplace organizing. (Side note: I'd bet money that it would mean more than that, because it would allow us to slough off the parts of the organization that just go into maintaing an empty shell, a lot more of our members would have come in through some kind of organizing rather than ideological affinity or historical fandom, and a far smaller percent of our membership would be at-large paper members - in general, organizing energy is contagious and sets an example for new members and people on the periphery). Let's even say that some new axis of activity was developed, such as organizing tenant unions or unemployed unions. So if maybe 20% of our current members were actively engaged in workplace organizing, and that dropped to 15% of a total that is 5 times larger, that is still a ton more workplace organizing happening under the banner of the IWW, alongside a bunch of other organizing that almost everyone here would agree is useful. I doubt anyone on here could point to a political contradiction between revolutionary unionism in prisons, in other workplaces, in the community, and among tenants or unemployed - these things all tie together.

The only people who say they can't are the conservatives in the IWW. At which point it becomes pretty plain that they are the spiritual descendants of the DeLeonists who were obsessed with keeping the rabble out.

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Jul 13 2018 20:11
OliverTwister wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Yeah, Jim, not only is that not what a revolutionary union should be focused on, but it doesn't recognise the reality of life in the US, which isn't really like a single country but is more like a continent. The distance from New York to LA is similar to the distance from London to Baghdad

I'm not sure where this idea even came from. Nobody in the IWW has ever tried to do that.

that's what Jim said the IWW should be doing a couple of posts up