Workers Solidarity Alliance

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syndicalist
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Dec 16 2009 14:24
Workers Solidarity Alliance

Not to side track another conversation, I split this from: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/iwa-congress-report-backs-10122009?page=1

AES wrote:
Is WSA an anarcho-syndicalist organisation?
syndicalist wrote:
AES wrote:
Is WSA an anarcho-syndicalist organisation?

The WSA has three main pillars: Anarcho-syndicalism; libertarian socialism and anarchist-communism. These pillars have, more or less, existed in the WSA since the start. To a large degree, this is pretty consistant with some of the other propaganda groups that have been part of the IWA over time. In fact, not every IWA affiliate (USI) would call itself anarcho-syndicalist.

The WSA was not formed on a union basis. We always considered ourselves a propoaganda group and fell within Section V. Conditions of Affiliation of the IWA Statutes. http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/iwaprinciple.html

Given our historic roots in anarcho-syndicalism, we are obviously not hostile to it as the question may imply. Personally, I consider myself an anarcho-syndicalist first and foremost
and believe that the WSA should maintain friendly and principled relations with anarcho-syndicalists and others within the broad libertarian workers movement.

Jack wrote:
How do you mean 3 main pillars? As in, so long as you accept one of the above you are welcome?
syndicalist wrote:
Jack wrote:
How do you mean 3 main pillars? As in, so long as you accept one of the above you are welcome?

Actually, as long as you accept our "Where We Stand" statement.

Let me roll this back a bit. I've got to do it quickly as I'm "working", but will be happy to come back to it later.

Those of us who came about to form the WSA come from two main groups. The Syndicalist Alliance (Milwaukee) and the Libertarian Workers Group (New York City area). Both groups,at its core were anarcho-syndicalist and, in 1978 both affilauted to the IWA. While separate and freestanding locals, they were also affiliated to the ex-Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America. So, what does this have to do with things? Well, see, the SA, aside from itself general anarcho-syndicalism felt more confortable with libertarian socialism. The LWG
(the larger and much more pro-active internally of the two) was anarcho-syndicalist and had anarchist and libertarian communist members as well. In the broader network of comrades we met and melded with inside the ACF, there were those who considered themselves comfrtable with as much Kropotkin and Bakunin as with Rocker or other thinkers (for eample).

Unlike in most other lands, there is has not been a long and enduring tradition of one ideological brand of anarchism or another. I guess WSA would be the longest standing contemporary organization as we have just turned 25 this past November. But the point here is that most in the class struggle movement take from a variety of historical traditions and tendencies. Our newer members have no real experiances with anarcho-syndicalism and are just beginning to get a feel for it. And it is the role of the few WSA veteran's to pass along what our experiances have been and our general perspectives are and work with those whose experiances and traditions may be somewhat different.

I will not get into the 1999-2000 IWA and WSA period here, except by way of a general commentary. As we passed into a new milenium and the events between the WSA and the IWA unfolded, quite a few younger US comrades chose to be part of movements that had nothing to do with the IWA. What transpired had a negative affect on what was identified with anarcho-syndicalism in the US, as well as internationally.

Since this time period WSA has committed itself to being a positive force here in the US and Canada (to the extent that Canadian comrades want to organically be a part of the WSA). Some of the 1984 veteran's hung in there. It was a hard period, a period of isolation and few members. Yet we made an effort to kept the WSA afloat,we could have just thrown the towel in and walked away defeated. The principles, the pride and the dedication to advancing the WSA as far as it could go served as our high-energy drink.

Since those dark days we built relationships with younger and mainly anarchist-communist and Wobbly members. We have always been outfront as to where we have come from, what we believe and as long as there is mutual respect we can work things out and work together.

So through our jouneys the three pillars have developed.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. Again, I'll be happy to address anything I may have missed or which you might want to ask.

akai
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Dec 16 2009 15:58

Well, as you know, I have known the WSA from the beginning, even though at the time of its founding I could say I was further away from anarchosyndicalism than I am now. I have not always been able to follow the comings and goings in the WSA, also partly because many things are of an internal / organizational nature - but I am interested in how it is developing.

A few observations / comments about the movement in the US:

Basically, the class struggle anarchists were, for many years, a minority in the American @ movement. They still are, but are a growing force, in particular when compared with other sectors of the movement which tends to be non-formalized and fluid.

In terms of strategy and tactics in workplace organizing, I have noticed two main trends in the last 25 years:

- The first trend was participation in the mainstream unions. Ideas about working inside these unions varied - from the practice of being shop stewards to being rank and file members urging more radicalism.

Right now, from what I understand, this trend is still popular. We also can see that some people in the platformist tradition have this idea of trade union density (or whatever they call it - sorry if I mixed up the term) and thus try to keep in the larger unions.

- Another trend grew around the IWW. 25 years ago, when the WSA was founded I saw the IWW as a historical society mainly - but some, especially some old-timers, in the IWW was eager to form new strategies, get out of the outdated industrial sector model they were using (I was very critical of it personally) and took a pro-active approach to organizing in certain areas which were not traditionally unionizing. (To some extent, some of the mainstream unions also modernized their strategies in this time.)

This has to do with organizing strategies in the workplace. I will not refer to any ideological / theoretical issues around WSA, the IWW or platformists at this time, but will reserve the right to come back to it later.

The WSA, at the time of its founding, had many critical points against the IWW - for different reasons. I certainly remember being present at at least one or two interesting discussions which highlighted some differences - but that was more than 20 years ago. Perhaps these differences are in the past, but I am wondering what has changed more: the IWW's practices / ideas or the WSA's?

Now, if I look at the WSA's position, of course as an outsider who doesn't know too many details, it looks as if the WSA has developed an approach which looks to bringing together in some way people who see themselves in the broader class struggle tradition, be it those who grew out of the first workplace strategy, or out of the second. Am I incorrect in this assessment?

So my main question is not only about the WSA, but the possibilities for anarchosyndicalist development in general in the US.

Personally, I really never liked the shop steward approach, nor do I see any future in the fuck up unions. Although I can understand why somebody might personally choose to join one rather than be non-unionized. In the situation where, if I am not mistaken, the only two real, popular workplace organizing strategies amongst anarchists have been the two I mentioned, for me the IWW approach is the preferable one, even if it is not an anarchosyndicalist union. Although I am supportive of many of the IWW campaigns, there are also some problems from time to time with the IWW. (Won't get into it now. Some were discussed on this site in the past. We also have to see how the IWW will develop in the nearest future.)

I wonder if the WSA sees its development as going in one direction or the other, if it is trying to be in the middle ground, or if the dominant attitude is not to push WSA in any specific direction, but sort of "go with the flow" and see who joins and how it will develop?

Also, I will say something straight - no diplomacy here. smile For me the organizing strategy of working inside the crap unions is just misguided. I would hope that in the US and Canada, a different type of unionism would be supported by anarchosyndicalists. That said, even before the WSA's alienation from the IWA and their move closer to other class-war anarchists, some WSA members were in favour of this way of organizing. Although as I recall, there were some discussions/ debates about the shop steward issue inside the WSA.

I guess my question from that would be if support of this way of organizing is growing or dwindling in the WSA at present,

Also, does the WSA see itself as getting more directly involved in workplace struggles itself, or will its members do so only through other union organizations (IWW or otherwise)? Will WSA remain a propaganda group, and if so, will it be a propagandist of a pluralist approach? Will it promote different ideas, even if they imply some sort of contradiction?

And, do people in the WSA see any hope for any development of increased worker activity outside of the framework of mainstream unionism? If so, what could that be?

Sorry if it's too many questions at once, but I really want to know about this more than about the history of the WSA. smile))

petey
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Dec 16 2009 16:18

on another thread here AES wrote:

Quote:
There are no anarcho-syndicalist organisations that formally identify with the platform today nor am I aware of this being the case in the past.

which was my impression of the situation - before i started visiting the ABC site, where i see some few people now expressing sympathy for both A-S and the Platform, and/or being members both of NEFAC and WSA. this is not a formal identification, but, syndicalist, is there some ideological confluence developing here?

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Farce
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Dec 16 2009 16:34

What are the relations generally between NEFAC and WSA like? Genuinely not sectarian shit-stirring here or anything, just interested cos from here they pretty much seem like two of the best American anarcho groups (not that there's a massive amount of competition), so I wondered if they co-operated much.

syndicalist
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Dec 16 2009 18:37

Interesting quetions. I'm at work now and I would like to come back to all the good questions tonight. I've no problem with the questions and will try and answe as best I can.

Very briefly tho.

Akai: I think one of the biggest and greatest misperceptions has been the WSA & the IWW.
The WSA has aways had between 25% - 50% dual WSA, IWW membership. Today that's about is well over 50%. So it's never been an issue of WSA folks either being a member of the IWW and never an issue of WSA supporting IWW campaigns.

I keep getting interrupted. I'll drop off here and come back.I can't focus now. Sorry.

akai
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Dec 16 2009 21:32

I will not disagree with what you are saying as I know that there were always IWW members in the WSA - I just also know that some in the WSA were critical of the IWW. So maybe for background, it may be interesting to say why.

Please note that parts of my archives are now in Poland (though not in Warsaw), and I put into these boxes an old IWA - IWW article from ASR which maybe is worth skanning when it gets here and I dig it out of the boxes. I think you have a good memory. smile Although this may be in the past for you, i think from the historical / theoretical point of view it is interesting and shows some of the different thoughts going on at that time. So it is rather interesting for me how this has developed and whether there is now a less critical stance towards the IWW, and if so, how that came about. (Just more people join the IWW or some shift?) Of course I agree that if there was a critical position towards the IWW, it may not have been reflective of the whole WSA - although I also don't assume that just because people are members they are not critical.

I think you answers to my first questions will be interesting for people here. Also, I don't know how many other WSA members read this forum, but if they do, maybe they would say something.

syndicalist
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Dec 16 2009 22:02

Akai, I'll do my best to answer in detail. I suspect you'll all be asleep by that time.

Truthfully, much of the misperceprtion was floated by the same folks who are in ASR.

The WSA workplace perspectives are really not a whole lot different from the offical Solfed one ( http://www.solfed.org.uk/docs/strategy/ ). Perhaps we've gotton a bit more specific about some things. But our views are basically the same as they were in 1984. Scroll down to "Unionism": http://workersolidarity.org/?page_id=78 Yeah, there are a whole lot of background that needs to go into a more formal reply. That will probably take the most amount of time.

As for other WSA members to post, they should. Not sure how many are on here these days, but I surely don't have a monolopy of what to say. Perhaps once I get the historical set up out of the maybe some of the newer members who may be on libcom might want to reply.

OK, more and detailed later.

syndicalist
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Dec 17 2009 02:17

My eyeballs are still burning from the IWA discussion.

But for some reason this sort of irks me. It's like answer questions here as if it's an audition.
I realize it's been a long day and I'm tired. But WSA isn't auditioning for anyone.

I'll certainly be happy to try and give a sense of the lay of the land from our perspective,kindly. But if folks feel that I'm answering in some official capacity and care to use it for some other purposes. Sorry, that's not the road I wish to spend my time on answering the many questions.Again, I'm writing in a personal capacity.

-Nite.

akai wrote:
As to the second part of your statement, even keeping in mind the divergence in tactics and politics inside the IWA itself, I suppose that if the IWA sections are not actively trying to court the WSA back into the IWA, they must have come to a similar conclusion. (Although there were plans to investigate the situation in the US, so there was some will to discuss with the WSA.) If this conclusion is wrong, based on misinformation or whatever, more discussion with the WSA on their vision, strategy and positions should make things clearer.

But this is on the WSA thread. :-)

syndicalist
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Dec 17 2009 05:13
petey wrote:
on another thread here AES wrote:
Quote:
There are no anarcho-syndicalist organisations that formally identify with the platform today nor am I aware of this being the case in the past.

which was my impression of the situation - before i started visiting the ABC site, where i see some few people now expressing sympathy for both A-S and the Platform, and/or being members both of NEFAC and WSA. this is not a formal identification, but, syndicalist, is there some ideological confluence developing here?

I haven't read that thread, sorry.From what I can tell, the ZACF in South Africa has probably been the one organization to try and pair strong elements of the two together.

I think things are a bit more nuanced than simply this document over that document here in the US. Are the discussions about organizational dualism hot and heavy here, not really. I think all agree with the need for "mass work" and the need to be engaged in community, workplace and social movements. I don't think this has come about from any real confluence of ideologies as written in 1922 (IWA) or 1926 (Platform). I think that there are folks in different organizations who have reached similiar conclusions about certain things.

One thing I've noticed, is folks here are a bit less concerned about the documents of the past, but how to best make libertarian applications of the best of many traditions.

On some membership dualism, it's more recent. While not quite the same, some of what is happening here is similiar to some of the stuff I read on Libcom about members of SF and AF cooperating and so forth. From a far it seems a bit of a mix-match, so I suspect vice versa here. Our general aim with class struggle anarchists is to seek closer cooperation on projects and stuff of mutual interest while maintaing our organizational autonomy.

syndicalist
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Dec 17 2009 05:47
Quote:
[akai] The WSA, at the time of its founding, had many critical points against the IWW - for different reasons. I certainly remember being present at at least one or two interesting discussions which highlighted some differences - but that was more than 20 years ago. Perhaps these differences are in the past, but I am wondering what has changed more: the IWW's practices / ideas or the WSA's?

I think the major points back in 1984 were:

1. Was the IWW the "One Big Union" of all the working class, that is the one and only body of all of the class? We did not agree with that. The IWW was part of the broader novement for liberation and should be supported, but it we felt it prolly would never be in a position to the one and only OBU of the working class.

2. The IWW of the 1970s and 1980s rejected any discussion or plan on what to do with those members who were "two-carders" (I think they're now called dual carders). That is, those who belonged to both a reformist trade union and the IWW. Most of us were either members of reformist unions or dual carders. Those of us in the IWW were simply told to "organize the IWW". What did that mean and how would it work (not) in a closed shop scenario? No one would give us an answer or were simply hostile to the notion of doing rank-&-file stuff. So this was an issue.

3. On a much more theoretical front, and with less significance, was the centralist proposals of the OBU. Truthfully, this really mean little in the reality of the life and workings of the IWW. But on paper it was subject for criticism, but the reality was somewhat valueless.

What has changed? I guess the massive de-industrialization of the US has eliminated a whole bunch of the commonly found union jobs of 30 years ago. I think the IWW has largely changed and is refective of a generation or two of folks who are more flexible in their approach and outlook. I'm not clear as to what their dual card policy is these days (I'm not a Wob), but it actually appears close to what we worked out (build bases of militant radical unionists). I think those Wobs who joined the WSA saw us as being pretty supportive and basically not hostile to the IWW as some portrayed us to be. And those dual WSA, IWW members seem to be on the more active side and folks who are respected inside the IWW.

Times change, people change, a new generation wanted to be active and have been finding ways to do it. WSA encourages tactical flexibility and folks see us as being encouraging. I dunno, this is what immediately comes to mind.

petey
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Dec 17 2009 14:20
syndicalist wrote:
I think all agree with the need for "mass work" and the need to be engaged in community, workplace and social movements. I don't think this has come about from any real confluence of ideologies as written in 1922 (IWA) or 1926 (Platform). I think that there are folks in different organizations who have reached similiar conclusions about certain things.

...

On some membership dualism, it's more recent. While not quite the same, some of what is happening here is similiar to some of the stuff I read on Libcom about members of SF and AF cooperating and so forth.

thanks, that's the sort of thing i was wondering about.

syndicalist
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Dec 17 2009 14:37
Farce wrote:
What are the relations generally between NEFAC and WSA like? Genuinely not sectarian shit-stirring here or anything, just interested cos from here they pretty much seem like two of the best American anarcho groups (not that there's a massive amount of competition), so I wondered if they co-operated much.

We try and maintain friendly and cooperative relations, as with all others here in nort america.. We have some dual members of at least 3 groups. Both WSA and NEFAC co-sponsored the first of two Class Struggle Anarchist Conference's. We cooperate on an issue by issue basis and try and keep relations cordial/friendly, open and principled. We participate with them and others in an information sharing (members only)
"North American Inter-Organizational Duscussion Bulletin"; have intiaited an Inter-Organizational Labor Working Group and there's been dicussion of an I.O. Housing Group.

The cooperation has been progressing over the past year or two. So alot is not very developed and in the opening stages.

I'm sure the question of the "heavy" issues will be raised on this list. No, we have not engaged others in a discussion of all of our "aims & principles" and I suspect this will eventually happen. For the moment, we all seek to cooperate in areas where there is mutuality and general agreemnt (with lots of room for particular organizational nuances).

I need to go now. I owe my old pal Akai a bunch of replies.

Jason Cortez
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Dec 18 2009 01:21

never mind

syndicalist
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Dec 18 2009 05:00

Comrades, I will be happy to come back and finish answering Akai's questions as time permits.

akai
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Dec 18 2009 20:01

Syndicalist, you KNOW I never sleep. smile

I'm interested in this:

Quote:
2. The IWW of the 1970s and 1980s rejected any discussion or plan on what to do with those members who were "two-carders" (I think they're now called dual carders). That is, those who belonged to both a reformist trade union and the IWW. Most of us were either members of reformist unions or dual carders. Those of us in the IWW were simply told to "organize the IWW". What did that mean and how would it work (not) in a closed shop scenario? No one would give us an answer or were simply hostile to the notion of doing rank-&-file stuff. So this was an issue.

How is being a member of reformist unions equal to doing rank-and- file stuff? I personally never heard this issue brought up, so I am wondering what arguments were used.

Further, I am wondering if the people working in the reformist trade unions ever made clear if or how they intended to go about transforming them into something more than bureaucratic structures which at best do manage to negotiate some better material conditions for certain groups of workers, and at worse act to mediate conflict and discourage more radical demands and forms of organization?

I've been asking people for quite some time to give me examples of how this works in practice, but so far have no answers.

As I said, I can see how people can join such unions for practical purposes, but if people join the IWW, I think that they should try to thing first and foremost how to organize the IWW.

In terms of "closed shops", (a bit of a misnomer, but it is basically the same thing in practice) this is clearly a mafia practice. I actually managed to go out of the AFL-CIA in one workplace without being fired since I made a stink about how it was being run. I think that it has been a mistake of parts of the labour movement in the US to consider this as some exclusively beneficial thing - this is another story. Provided that you see unions as an instrument to make pressure on bosses through direct action rather than just a legal entity which sits down at the negotiating table, there should be no problem to organize a IWW not only in a city or interbranch local, but also at a workplace with a closed shop. Because the IWW could play a different role - as a radical workers group making pressure on both the union bureaucrats and the bosses.

Of course provided that there are workers who actually are more radical than their unions.

I'd be interested in hearing more details on this point.

syndicalist
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Dec 18 2009 20:37

Briefly while I am on line.

I'm not sure how some of this will translate into non-US conditions. in other lands you exists union affiliation by choice, not mandated by collective agreements. Here in the US (and, I believe in Canada.....Canadian comrades correct me if need be) you do not have your choice of union affilaition....except if the job is broken into crafts or the front office workers are in a different union then the factory workers or the drivers, etc.

Ah, I should of said Union shop, my error. Akai, I'm not sure I would agree with how you framed the union shop as being "mafia" and some of the other things you've written. Even in a union shop setting, if the job is part of the bargaining unit, you still have to pay dues to the union as a condition of employment.A Union shop requires membership in the union in order to work.

BTW, an excellent article on the "Origins of the Union Shop" which appeared in the WSA magazine Ideas & Action can be found here: http://workersolidarity.org/archive/union3.html

For sake of some of this conversation, as there are a bunch of british comrades here, our perspectives were often analogus with those of the Direct Action Movement http://www.dam-iwa.org.uk/ (who we had a solid relationship with) and what the Solfed has up on their current website http://www.solfed.org.uk/docs/strategy/

I think back in our early years of formulating things or looking at what other anarcho-syndicalists (who were in similiar situs) the old british Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF)
initiated "National Rank & File Movement" was something we looked at and was inspiring.
Basically, we sought, as I believe our british and even norwegin comrades, to try and buld dual power situations on the shopfloor.

OK, I've got to get some work done and pick the kids up. I will try and get to all of the stuff as time permits.

akai
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Dec 18 2009 23:53

Truly, US conditions are awful in terms of union affiliation. That said, radical unionists could exist to introduce a radically new potential element in the equation. As I understand the WSA's "Where We Stand", this is also the idea you have.

As far as I know (unless things have changed), a collective agreement with a workplace can be with one or more unions. But, why would a boss want to have more than one union if it can achieve a symbiosis but creating a union shop? (That's the correct term. Closed shops were banned by the Taft-Hartley Act if I remember my history.)

In many workplaces, union affiliation is indeed not by choice, I am aware that, in the situation where working people are under extreme pressure, and unionized jobs offer many benefits one would otherwise not have, people accept the unions forced on them to get these benefits. Then, they often face lack of union democracy, selling out the workers, etc. etc. This is why there was a lot of discontent in the teachers' union back in the 70s and 80s. (Personally, I even signed out, without losing anything in the collective agreement - but then again, the AFL bureacrats were happy to be rid of me.)

There is no reason we should be supportive of the monopoly union model. (I am not implying that you are, just a general comment,) Although you might feel this is comparing apples and oranges, the basis of the issue can be seen in the FAU case. If anybody really believed that having one union who has a collective arrangement with the bosses and having unions that have reached such hegemony that they can effectively squash any smaller and more radical unions out is in anyway beneficial to our struggle, then they should write a letter in support of ver.di, not of FAU. In the US, this is just a fait accompli - but it should be a totally unacceptable fact.

I wonder how the biggest unions are not mafias? Sure, workers get their protection for their protection money - which they then, for the large part, have little control over. They also tend to give over the most important parts of the bargaining process. The worst unions have really no democracy to speak of.

As I mentioned before, I understand that people will be in these unions. Some struggle for a more radical workers' movement has to occur someplace - be it in groups of workers joined inside or outside the workplace, or as a cell inside one of these unions. I am still wondering is there are any successes found inside the mainstream unions? I have asked this question many times, to many people, because I honestly am curious if anybody has ever managed to successfully transform a mainstream union, even in one workplace, into a more directly-controlled, non-concessionist unit in circumstances like in the US.

About the WSA, since you said that WSA has had a flexible approach, what have been the other approaches? Also, since I really don't know, has there been any success in shaking up the status quo? Or real material gains in the workplace?

I am also curious since you mentioned the former attitude of the IWW towards the approach of working inside the unions if this was motivated by a critique of the tactic, if they thought it would bring no good, or if they rather thought that such activity would potentially draw time away from the task of building the IWW? I would like to know how it was justified.

Also, about other people's strategies and the mainstream unions -

SolFed strategy, as I understand it, is to encourage workers' self-organization so a SolFed member in a TUC union should promote an anarcho-syndicalist strategy with the aim of achieving independent organization, control of funds, etc.

Our ZSP members can join mainstream unions but also with similar aims - except if there are enough people, they should establish a new, independent structure in lines with anarchosyndicalist ideas in terms of self-organization and direct, horizontal democracy. (This reflects a difference in the level of pluralism, although this may change shortly.)

When I read the "Where you Stand" piece on unionism, the first few paragraphs sound basically OK for me - as do the last. They pretty much condemn the status quo of the hierarchical unions, and this seems to be pretty much similar to what I was writing. BUT, then we get to the concrete STRATEGY and read this:

Quote:
To transform the American labor movement, we support efforts to build new self-managed unions independent of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions in situations where this makes strategic sense. At the same time, we cannot hope to play a role in many workers struggles, to put forth our ideas and our program, if we remain aloof and abstain from them simply because many of them take place within the AFL-CIO or Change to Win unions. So long as workers struggles are organized through these unions, we participate in those unions and their struggles.

I think that this is less specific than SolFed's document, especially as there is a big "where this makes strategic sense" clause here. If we take into account some people (not necessarily from the WSA), who believe first and foremost that the strength of a union is its density, we can sometimes hear that setting up self-managed unions make no sense. At least I personally have heard this argument MANY TIMES from those who are in the mainstream unions. For example, in our situation, if we have a sustainable group formed inside a mainstream union that could break off and form a new one, we would do it to promote another type of unionism. However, some people have said that this is stupid, because they somehow believe that a larger union is always more effective. Our direct experience showed us that it isn't necessarily true - we had a relatively large group in one workplace which some soft people joined who preferred soft discussions with the boss - and it negatively effected the radicalism. It was, quite frankly, a mistake. There would have been a better effect if the union had remained smaller but with more determined people.

Being that we all know some anarchist groups of the platformist tradition see no sense in trying to start anything up themselves which would be an alternative, since ultimately they believe they would be ineffective in comparison with the mainstream unions, one really can wonder what "strategic sense" means.

Compare two sentences: "we support the efforts to build new, self-managed unions" and "we support the efforts to build new, self-managed unions when it makes strategic sense". This personally leaves me with questions.

Ultimately, building self-managed unions has to start somewhere and the beginning phases surely will be modest. I really wonder if a tendency that I heard from some people to say that there is "no sense" to building these unions now, when they make "no strategic sense" hasn't just been putting off this difficult task.

Not that I am making any implications about the WSA - I just wonder what that has meant in practice.

Also, I would just wonder if you could comment on dominant platformist strategic tendencies in the labour movement and whether or not you think they present any issues which are problematic for anarchosyndicalist goals or whether you think that there is a possible viable synthesis of strategies. WSA includes platformists now and sees itself as being flexible; has the inclusion of platformist members caused a change in your ideas and practice or has been been thoroughly compatible?

syndicalist
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Dec 19 2009 07:23
Quote:
As far as I know (unless things have changed), a collective agreement with a workplace can be with one or more unions. But, why would a boss want to have more than one union if it can achieve a symbiosis but creating a union shop?

No, this is not factual to the extent that jobs that are not divided by crafts (building trades for ex.) or organized at different times (say, factory or warehouse organized first, then office workers organize years later or at the same time with a white collar union). Also, you can have employers with multi-locations that will have multi-unions bargaining with it.

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In many workplaces, union affiliation is indeed not by choice, I am aware that, in the situation where working people are under extreme pressure, and unionized jobs offer many benefits one would otherwise not have, people accept the unions forced on them to get these benefits. Then, they often face lack of union democracy, selling out the workers, etc. etc. This is why there was a lot of discontent in the teachers' union back in the 70s and 80s. (Personally, I even signed out, without losing anything in the collective agreement - but then again, the AFL bureacrats were happy to be rid of me.)

If a union has a collective agreement with an employer which establish a union shop, well, no, you don't have a choice. If a collective agreement has only an agency membership clause, it often times means you must pay union dues, be represnted by the union for purposes of grievances and collective negotiations but not be a member. In quite a few states they have laws on the books proclaiming them "right-to-work" states. Anotherwords, even if a union wins an election, union membership is strictly voluntary. These cover the private sector.
My general understanding is that there is usually only one form of "union security" clause in a contract re: type of membership.

Now, the teachers union is covered by state and local laws covering collective bargaining and so forth. I less familiar with this sector, so I can't really reply with any intellegence here. Or on your experiances, but sounds like there was an agency form of membership clause in place

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There is no reason we should be supportive of the monopoly union model. (I am not implying that you are, just a general comment,) Although you might feel this is comparing apples and oranges, the basis of the issue can be seen in the FAU case. If anybody really believed that having one union who has a collective arrangement with the bosses and having unions that have reached such hegemony that they can effectively squash any smaller and more radical unions out is in anyway beneficial to our struggle, then they should write a letter in support of ver.di, not of FAU. In the US, this is just a fait accompli - but it should be a totally unacceptable fact.

I would also urge all to support the FAU as well.

I'm not sure I get the point you're driving at though. What I will say is that anyone can set up a union and organize an unorganized shop. Or workers can, during what they call the open period in a collective agreement, set in motion to decertify the exisiting union as the bargaining agent. If the shop is strong and united around the need for a rank-&-file, agreesive and class struggle oriented union can do this. Or the suck-asses in the shop can do it and seek to have a "union free" shop. So if your point is, can a union dominate forever, no. But I would only say you go that route if you got the place locked up and you know that there will be no anti-union (in general) backlash and the bosses end up winning.

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I wonder how the biggest unions are not mafias? Sure, workers get their protection for their protection money - which they then, for the large part, have little control over. They also tend to give over the most important parts of the bargaining process. The worst unions have really no democracy to speak of.

I guess we don't use that lingo in that manner. I mean, there are some unions which are literally controlled by the mafia. I can't agrue with the substance of the failure and pitfalls of reformist unionism.

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As I mentioned before, I understand that people will be in these unions. Some struggle for a more radical workers' movement has to occur someplace - be it in groups of workers joined inside or outside the workplace, or as a cell inside one of these unions. I am still wondering is there are any successes found inside the mainstream unions? I have asked this question many times, to many people, because I honestly am curious if anybody has ever managed to successfully transform a mainstream union, even in one workplace, into a more directly-controlled, non-concessionist unit in circumstances like in the US.

Successes as measured by libertarian standards, probably not. I would say that there are some union locals that are probably more directly controlled and membership oriented then others. But I think the only point you're driving at is that anarchists should not participate in any manner in reformist unions, even on the shop level. I'd disagree with that and I suspect the history of other anarcho-syndicalists (in Britain for ex,) would also go in another direction.
Of course, each and every circumstance will dictate what this means and the reality of what can and should be done.

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About the WSA, since you said that WSA has had a flexible approach, what have been the other approaches? Also, since I really don't know, has there been any success in shaking up the status quo? Or real material gains in the workplace?

Um, has anyone shaken up the status quo lately? Has the ZSP? Not really clear on the point you're trying to make. or are you saying that WSA's policies are inherently a failure? Then I think we have all failed to a large degree.

Broadly speaking, the WSA believes in the building of a new libertarian labor movement, or at least an approach to getting there, would be building independent unions, developing workers centers or working with exisiting ones, trying to build rank-and-files that are libertarian in form, content and orientation and other forms of self-managing means of struggle/organization.

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I am also curious since you mentioned the former attitude of the IWW towards the approach of working inside the unions if this was motivated by a critique of the tactic, if they thought it would bring no good, or if they rather thought that such activity would potentially draw time away from the task of building the IWW? I would like to know how it was justified.

As i recall it, it was just sort of knee jerk "build the IWW". I a lightbulb went off somewhere in the IWW at some point. Like, hey, how shall we deal with this issue. It exists and how do we advise our members?

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Also, about other people's strategies and the mainstream unions -

SolFed strategy, as I understand it, is to encourage workers' self-organization so a SolFed member in a TUC union should promote an anarcho-syndicalist strategy with the aim of achieving independent organization, control of funds, etc.

Our ZSP members can join mainstream unions but also with similar aims - except if there are enough people, they should establish a new, independent structure in lines with anarchosyndicalist ideas in terms of self-organization and direct, horizontal democracy. (This reflects a difference in the level of pluralism, although this may change shortly.)

There's no disagreement here. I don't see how our principles are in conflict with these points. Is the SF a bit specific about union funds and we';re not? I don't get what you're saying about the ZSP that would be different from what WSA would argue.

When I read the "Where you Stand" piece on unionism, the first few paragraphs sound basically OK for me - as do the last. They pretty much condemn the status quo of the hierarchical unions, and this seems to be pretty much similar to what I was writing. BUT, then we get to the concrete STRATEGY and read this:

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To transform the American labor movement, we support efforts to build new self-managed unions independent of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions in situations where this makes strategic sense. At the same time, we cannot hope to play a role in many workers struggles, to put forth our ideas and our program, if we remain aloof and abstain from them simply because many of them take place within the AFL-CIO or Change to Win unions. So long as workers struggles are organized through these unions, we participate in those unions and their struggles.
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I think that this is less specific than SolFed's document, especially as there is a big "where this makes strategic sense" clause here. If we take into account some people (not necessarily from the WSA), who believe first and foremost that the strength of a union is its density,

Respectfully comrade, is this about a WSA position or about conjucture of what you think some think "union density" is? I would prefer to stick with specific questions about the WSA, not about what you think others may mean about things or personal opinions of others.

The WSA position as I understand it is exactly what it says "where it makes strategic sense". In some instances it makes clear and absolute sense. And if you got the shopfloor power, do it. I mean we try and choose our tactics appropriately, right? Do we ask individual members who may be isolated in their workplace (for whatever reason) to go out and lead a charge that will end up in a disaster? Do we do stupid stuff because it may be politically correct, but absolutely tactically unwise at the moment? So, yeah, things need to make some sense. As a sort of PS to this, I don't want you to think comrades shouldn't take gambles, it happens that somethings are gambles need to be taken. But I would, again, argue it should come from some sense of strength or ability to whip it up pretty fast.

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we can sometimes hear that setting up self-managed unions make no sense. At least I personally have heard this argument MANY TIMES from those who are in the mainstream unions. For example, in our situation, if we have a sustainable group formed inside a mainstream union that could break off and form a new one, we would do it to promote another type of unionism. However, some people have said that this is stupid, because they somehow believe that a larger union is always more effective. Our direct experience showed us that it isn't necessarily true - we had a relatively large group in one workplace which some soft people joined who preferred soft discussions with the boss - and it negatively effected the radicalism. It was, quite frankly, a mistake. There would have been a better effect if the union had remained smaller but with more determined people.

can't speak to the ZSP experiance. Will there be time when we don't have the numbers, the strength, yes. So we still organize as a minority and try and build this for mutual defense and action. Clearly this is something WSA has discussed and would "counsel" on doing "where it makes strategic sense."

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Being that we all know some anarchist groups of the platformist tradition see no sense in trying to start anything up themselves which would be an alternative, since ultimately they believe they would be ineffective in comparison with the mainstream unions, one really can wonder what "strategic sense" means.

Compare two sentences: "we support the efforts to build new, self-managed unions" and "we support the efforts to build new, self-managed unions when it makes strategic sense". This personally leaves me with questions.

Ultimately, building self-managed unions has to start somewhere and the beginning phases surely will be modest. I really wonder if a tendency that I heard from some people to say that there is "no sense" to building these unions now, when they make "no strategic sense" hasn't just been putting off this difficult task.

Not that I am making any implications about the WSA - I just wonder what that has meant in practice.

Again, respectfully, if you are asking about the WSA's view, that's one thing. But I think you are trying to imply more than making some sort of statement. And surely a sort of set up for the below question.

In practice, I don't think you can force anyone into position of action that they feel is incorrect for their situation? Can you argue against a position, can you say that this is not the way we would approach a question and so forth. It's a tough call and would have to be addressed on an individual case by case basis. I think all of us face certain questions at times that are difficult and not always simply answered. For those of us in lands where there is no mature history of anarcho-syndicalism or anarcho-syndicalist traditions, we'll periodically be faced with such matters. I would hope that we are able to develop a culture and practice which is consistant with libertarian worker principles and applied in a manner most consistant with those principles.

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Also, I would just wonder if you could comment on dominant platformist strategic tendencies in the labour movement

First, I'm not a platformist so my comments are strictly antedotal and based on my own interaction with those in the what I call the "broad" or semi-platformist tradition. here in the US. I would say that to a certain extent north american "broad platformist tradition" groups have similiar points of view as we do on this question: a) work in trade unions where it makes sense and b) work extensively in the IWW. Of course there are differences---mainly what, if any, positions folks should have in the trade unions. i think a lack of noticable difference between north american "broad platformists" is their universal work inside the IWW and their critical understanding that taking on leadership of trade unions does not consitiute building real working class control or building a viable libertarian internal structure/relationship.

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and whether or not you think they present any issues which are problematic for anarchosyndicalist goals or whether you think that there is a possible viable synthesis of strategies.

Not real sure what you mean. I think workplace (and housing stuff) stuff are areas where there's probably less points of disagreement and similiar work.

I've not read some of their workplace documents in a while so if there's something specific in any of the north american's papers you have a question about, I'll have to read them again.

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WSA includes platformists now and sees itself as being flexible; has the inclusion of platformist members caused a change in your ideas and practice or has been been thoroughly compatible?

WSA has always had a "flexible" point of view. In days of old (when we started WSA in 1984)
we called it a "pluralistic" approach. If you look at our 1984 "Where We Stand", you'll see our views are pretty similiar back then: http://workersolidarity.org/archive/wherewestand.html

Comrades who join WSA join because they agree with our "Where We Stand". Those coming from a "broad platformist" tradition have joined because they are favorable to our take on anarcho-syndicalism and other matters are appears in our "WWS". Would the WSA adopt "The Platform" and become a platformist organization, no, that it won't. Will we be hostile to working with class struggle anarchists who take some of their perspectives from that tradition, no we won't. Obviously if folks are hostile to anarcho-syndicalism and hostile to the WSA, I doubt there's a place for them in the WSA.

One point, I think class struggle anarchists here in north america, while in different organizations, probably have more in common then elsewhere. perhaps it's because we're all small. Perhaps we have reached similiar conclusions on many (not all) things. Perhaps we work well together (thus far) and are not at each others throats. We try to maintain a principled point of view where there are disagreemnts, and agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Is it a love fest, no. But it ain't a war either,

Ok, I've been at this for a long time. I'll let it fly at this point.

syndicalist
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Dec 19 2009 19:15

deleted by syndicalist.

gypsy
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Dec 20 2009 11:26

Is it true that class struggle anarchists are the minority in the anarchist movement in the USA? If so how can you change that?

syndicalist
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Dec 21 2009 02:07
akai wrote:
- The first trend was participation in the mainstream unions. Ideas about working inside these unions varied - from the practice of being shop stewards to being rank and file members urging more radicalism.

Right now, from what I understand, this trend is still popular. We also can see that some people in the platformist tradition have this idea of trade union density (or whatever they call it - sorry if I mixed up the term) and thus try to keep in the larger unions.

- Another trend grew around the IWW. 25 years ago, when the WSA was founded I saw the IWW as a historical society mainly - but some, especially some old-timers, in the IWW was eager to form new strategies, get out of the outdated industrial sector model they were using (I was very critical of it personally) and took a pro-active approach to organizing in certain areas which were not traditionally unionizing. (To some extent, some of the mainstream unions also modernized their strategies in this time.)
...
Now, if I look at the WSA's position, of course as an outsider who doesn't know too many details, it looks as if the WSA has developed an approach which looks to bringing together in some way people who see themselves in the broader class struggle tradition, be it those who grew out of the first workplace strategy, or out of the second. Am I incorrect in this assessment?

I can't say I agree with your two catagories, both of which seem to be flawed and inaccurate.

On the point about WSA reaching out to others in the broad class struggle anarchist tendency here in north america, yes, this is factual. As indicated elesewhere, WSA cooperates with others on a couple of projects and we have played an important role in the two "Class Struggle Anarchist Conference"'s. It has always been the position to work with and build relations with folks outside our organization. It's not like we're all huge and it's not like we can't cooperate where need be and do it in a comradely and principled manner. WSA wants to be deeply involved with others who share a class struggle anarchist point of view, I mean, don't we all? Particularly in those lands where our movements are realtively small and not so influential.

I mean, what's up with members of the Solidarity Federation and the Anarchist Federation? Both seem to an outsider to be very different, but they seem to periodically cooperate and -- as strictly an outside observation -- openly talk on libcom about a somesort of combined national federation. I mean, the SF has a very clear point of view on pro-anarcho-syndicalism,while the AF is, shall we say, has a differnt point of view. But they seem to find
some sort of middle or common ground to work together. I don't know, but has this been something of concern inside the IWA?

Anyway, the point really is, cooperating with comrades can only work if there is a will to do so and a principled agreement as to what the work will entail. So far we have both working here.

Trusting this is helpful.

syndicalist
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Dec 21 2009 19:39

I think I answered all of the questions Akai asked in the above posts.

I believe there's one more posting on "Workers Solidarity Alliance and IWA". I'll try and get to them this week.

syndicalist
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Dec 21 2009 19:57
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
allybaba wrote:
Is it true that class struggle anarchists are the minority in the anarchist movement in the USA? If so how can you change that?

I think it is, and it's down to a number of factors, at the moment I'd say it was down to the influence of Crimethinc, and the obsession with race rather than class. It's probably a discussion for a different thread though.

Briefly, the class struggle anarchist "wing" of the anarcgist movement is probably its largest in decades. That said, those identifying with other segments of the movemtn are probably more numerous, have a better developed press and internet presence.

For WSA, we try and see things partly through an inter-sectional lense. That is, class, race., gender, community, housing, transit are all part of the broad understanding of class struggle anarchism. That is, there are other components to oppression and places where we struggle.

gypsy
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Dec 21 2009 21:44

ok thanks guys.

syndicalist
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Apr 18 2012 21:56

Ah, a walk down memory lane.