A questionnaire about political/workplace organisation

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Steven.
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Jan 18 2007 14:43
A questionnaire about political/workplace organisation

Recently I've been trying to get some information out, via libcom, about various libertarian workplace groups/networks.

I was thinking a useful way of doing this generally would be using generic questionnaires. A lot of people don't feel comfortable writing things from scratch so questionnaires can be good for this.

There's one group/person in particular I'm going to send the questionnaire to to try to get an article together, and wanted to see if anyone else had any ideas for questions or anything to add/alter.

I'm using a slightly altered version of my questions for the McDonalds Workers Resistance interview:

Quote:
  • Who are you?
  • Briefly, what was the group?
  • How big did it get and what dates was it active from and to?
  • How did it get started?
  • Why were more other more traditional organisations (e.g. trade unions) not appropriate?
  • What problems did you come up against at first?
  • How did you overcome them?
  • Which remained problems the whole time?
  • When did things start to gain momentum/take off?
  • What struggles were you involved in?
  • What types of action did you take?
  • What did you achieve or what struggles did you win?
  • Could you describe the makeup and activities of the group at its height?
  • What links did you have with other groups of workers? (Other sectors, other countries, political groups, etc.)
  • If the organisation no longer exists, why did it fold?
  • What were the most important things you think you learned from your experiences?
  • What have you learned from your experiences in the group?
  • What lessons do you think other workers can take from your group?
  • Do you have a favourite anecdote or memory related to the organisation?
  • Where are the other people who were in the organisation now?
  • So any suggestions on questions, or changes to the order or anything appreciated. I would like to try to keep it shorter than the prol-position questionnaires which seem too lengthy

    Dundee_United
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    Jan 18 2007 18:15

    Hi John,
    It's actually a good set of questions. The only thing is that it presumes the network/organisation has peaked and declined or is dead, and the MWR specific thing.

    Also be good to tighten up the wording on 'more traditional organisations'. I'd suggest changing that to "why were other types of organisation not seen as appropriate?", or to change that into a positive statement - "what are the positives, negatives and quirks of organising the way you have?"

    I'd also say to ask a question on what others could learn from your struggle(s) for what they're up to as the question on what the interviewee sees as the important things is a bit open to interpretation and might be viewed kind of philosophically.

    AndrewF's picture
    AndrewF
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    Jan 18 2007 18:19

    An important question would be 'what did you win'.

    Steven.'s picture
    Steven.
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    Jan 18 2007 19:07
    Dundee_United wrote:
    It's actually a good set of questions. The only thing is that it presumes the network/organisation has peaked and declined or is dead

    JoeBlack2 wrote:
    An important question would be 'what did you win'.

    Haha my pessimistic side coming out!

    Cheers for the input, will update the questions later

    syndicalist
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    Jan 19 2007 13:52

    I suspect a bit off topic, but the MWR piece is interesting. I appreciated the dilema of fast-food libertarian organzing. I've never really worked in such places. "Food" for thought---good healthy food at that!

    Steven.'s picture
    Steven.
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    Jan 19 2007 13:53
    syndicalist wrote:
    I suspect a bit off topic, but the MWR piece is interesting. I appreciated the dilema of fast-food libertarian organzing. I've never really worked in such places. "Food" for thought---good healthy food at that!

    There's a thread about it here

    Link fixed- pingtiao

    Devrim's picture
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    Jan 19 2007 14:26

    John, are there actually a lot of people around today who have been in workplace groups? Maybe it would be a better idea to actually interview people directly. In that way you could respond to the things they said, and it would be more of a dialogue as opposed to just answering the questions. Of course you would start with a basic outline of what you wanted to ask, but then you could follow up anything interesting. We recently did an interview with Gün Zileli by e-mail, and it worked quite well.
    Devrim

    Tacks's picture
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    Jan 19 2007 14:27

    be sure to spread that outside of Libcom too john.

    Steven.'s picture
    Steven.
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    Jan 19 2007 14:31
    Tacks wrote:
    be sure to spread that outside of Libcom too john.

    What are you referring to here?
    dev:

    Quote:
    John, are there actually a lot of people around today who have been in workplace groups? Maybe it would be a better idea to actually interview people directly. In that way you could respond to the things they said, and it would be more of a dialogue as opposed to just answering the questions. Of course you would start with a basic outline of what you wanted to ask, but then you could follow up anything interesting.

    That's the intention here. You can see with the MWR one after these we went into some in more detail.

    Quote:
    We recently did an interview with Gün Zileli

    Who?

    Devrim's picture
    Devrim
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    Jan 19 2007 14:51
    John. wrote:
    Quote:
    We recently did an interview with Gün Zileli

    Who?

    Gün Zileli used to be No.2 in the Isçi Partisi (Worker's Party) in Turkey, a reasonably large organisation, which in his day was Maoist, and today is semi fascist in my opinion.

    He broke with them and is now a 'left anarchist' (He agrees with us on unions, and national liberation) in London. I have only met him once, but I think that Ret might know him. I don't know if he speaks English, but he has been there for over ten years so I presume he does.

    Devrim

    Tacks's picture
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    Jan 19 2007 20:30
    John. wrote:
    Tacks wrote:
    be sure to spread that outside of Libcom too john.

    What are you referring to here?

    lol, the world outside of Libcom mate grin

    martinh
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    Jan 19 2007 23:08
    Devrim wrote:
    He broke with them and is now a 'left anarchist' (He agrees with us on unions, and national liberation) in London. I have only met him once, but I think that Ret might know him. I don't know if he speaks English, but he has been there for over ten years so I presume he does.

    Devrim

    If it's the same guy who was involved in the Libertarian 5th May Group, I think his group wrote the piece in the library about Turkish anarchism

    http://libcom.org/history/1986-1996-anarchism-in-turkey

    Regards,

    Martin

    Red Marriott's picture
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    Jan 20 2007 02:33

    Have you read his autobiography in Turkish, Dev? It's not in English.

    Kdog's picture
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    Jan 20 2007 04:18

    OK, here's nothing . . .

    This is about the "workplace resistance group" called Uprise!

    I reccomend these articles on our efforts:

    http://nefac.net/node/98

    http://www.ainfos.ca/02/oct/ainfos00440.html

    WHO AM I? I post under the sophisticated & sublime name kdog. I describe my politics as revolutionary anarchist. I am a past member of several midwest (U.S.) anarchist collectives and two attempts to organize anarchist federations. My partner and I have two young sons. I am a worker.

    THE GROUP? The group Uprise! was an attempt to organize what y'all call "workplace resistance groups" and what i/we thought of as an explicitly revolutionary "extra-union" organization at United Parcel Service (UPS) in Chicago, IL (U.S.)

    HOW BIG? Our group never got very big. Four core members, and a number of supporters over it's two years of life (2002-2003 I think). We were able, however, to influence events somewhat and learn alot.

    STARTED HOW? It got started by myself and another older radical seeing each other at union meetings and seeing the need for a more radical grassroots approach -especially toward the hundreds of part-time workers.

    THE UNION? We did critically participate within the union - two of us were elected stewards. But we did not limit our political work to the union structures or to the role of union opposition. Our main constituency were workers who did not orient to the union,we emphasized organizing solidarity amongst grassroots workers at work. But we didn't exclude intervening at union meetings or steward meetings either. Thus "Extra-Union".

    PROBLEMS? Where to begin? The main problem was that although we were able to strike a chord with the many workers we were unable for a variety of reasons to bring them into the organization or into consistent joint organizing and action. The two original members of our group were both white amongst a heavily Black workforce, and that was a big obstacle to folks actually joining.

    Our explicitly revolutionary stance, while useful for distinguishing ourselves from the socilaists (ISO, like the brit SWP)who oriented to the bureaucracy and reformism, made it a big jump for workers to consider joining. In retrospect maybe organizing the group around direct-action and direct-democracy might have been able to include more workers in a collective dialogue and action planning.

    Other problems include our relative poverty and lack of resources made it hard to meet the needs of the workers that did approach us the one moment when we did have an actual opportunity to become a mass organization. The anarchist collective I was a part of - with just a couple of exceptions - was not able to give any support either. These anarchists were just not ready politically or psychologically to engage with the poorer sections of the working-classes.

    We faced a bit of repression from the company and the union. It's all in the articles linked above . . .

    ACTIONS? There were a number of small steward type battles that we were involved with all the time (over management doing union work, someone getting fired, sexual harrassment, a one day strike by the union, etc.) but there were three episodes that stand out the most:

    -The first was a small job action in which 9 UPS package car drivers briefly joined an anti-police brutality demo together in our UPS trucks.

    -The campaign to vote down the union & company's contract. This was a fairly well organized effort with stickers flyers lots of leafletting. It provoked some major confrontations with the company's security goons at one large facility where one of our members worked.

    -finally anti-war organizing at the lead up to Bush's invasion

    Our actions were varied. From using the steward position and our leaflets to agitate around all kinds of daily abuses, to the VOTE NO campaign, to interventions/confrontations at union meetings, to the rde over to the demo while on the clock. (there were many little things I'm forgetting)

    during the Vote No campaign, because of the excellent reception our agitprop and rap was receiving at the massive CACH facility (2nd largest UPS facility in N. America) it became a goal to reach a point where a mass walk-out could be called over the Living Wage demand. If we had been better organized and had more resources/outside support this was a real possibility. Such an action would have had a huge impact . . .

    WHO WE WERE?
    Our four members:
    me -irish amerikan dude early 30's anarchist veteran of ARA & L&R and at that time FRAC

    other dude- older white jewish guy veteran of the 60's struggles, was part of a Panther-affiliated project to do community organizing in Chicago's "white ghetto" Bridgeport neighborhood.

    other dude - Black mid twenties worker with no political history. Natural "solidarity steward" and good friend.

    other dude - young working-class mexican, singer in punk band, member with me of the BRICK anarchist collective (FRAC).

    We had a number of other workers who supported us - from passively to at times pretty firmly (voted with us, came to meetings we called, helped get out flyers and stickers, took action) Like the workforce as a whole they were mostly African-American and a disproportionate number of our supporters were women tho our core membership was all men.

    we were never able to develop a base beyond the UPS workplaces organized under TEAMSTERS LOCAL 705.

    ENDED HOW? One of our core was fired. Two others quit and I transferred to another city where I was fired. (both firings were clearly retalitory for our activities)

    I would really refer comrades to the two links above for more.The highpoints are described there . . .

    Thanks.

    thugarchist's picture
    thugarchist
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    Jan 20 2007 05:27

    # Who are you?
    Duke Polbut Aaron

    # Briefly, what was the group?
    SEIU

    # How big did it get and how long did it last?
    1.8 million members and growing

    # How did it get started?
    Janitors in Chicago

    # Why were more other more traditional organisations (e.g. trade unions) not appropriate?
    We are more traditional

    # What problems did you come up against at first?
    Not enough infrastructure

    # How did you overcome them?
    We raised the dues and put more of it into organizing workers then we quit the afl

    # Which remained problems the whole time?
    Need more organizers

    # When did things start to gain momentum/take off?
    1901

    # What struggles were you involved in?
    Too many to list

    # What types of action did you take?
    Guess

    # Could you describe the makeup and activities of the group at its height?
    We haven't reached the height yet

    # What links did you have with other groups of workers?
    (Other sectors, other countries, political groups, etc.)
    We're now in 5 countries as seiu and building links with other transnational unions while we build a new U.S. labor movement

    # If the organisation no longer exists, why did it fold?
    It exists

    # What were the most important things you think you learned from your experiences?
    Reality is better than fantasy

    # What have you learned from your experiences in MWR?
    Huh?

    # Do you have a favourite anecdote or memory related to the organisation?
    Winning a lot

    # Where are the other people who were in the organisation now?
    If they still aren't in it they're irrelevant

    Lone Wolf's picture
    Lone Wolf
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    Jan 20 2007 05:51
    Tacks wrote:
    John. wrote:
    Tacks wrote:
    be sure to spread that outside of Libcom too john.

    What are you referring to here?

    lol, the world outside of Libcom mate grin

    Tacks - grin yeah you can sense him grappling with the very concept.. wink

    John. - Hey you got more than you bargained for with the previous two posts there.. cool Normally in life you tend to get less than you ask for.. more is cool.

    Re: your qs - the third and fourth from the bottom appear to be virtually identical and can be merged.

    I agree that the most imp. q to ask is for the interviewees views on the applicability of their groups experiences to overall workers struggle.

    I also agree that it is great when an interview has a natural flow and the MWR interview is a prime example of that. You have picked a great template to use here.

    Love the observations of Dundee and co of the negative slanting of the qs - assuming that the glory days are in the past and the group is declining or folding. grin If I had seen this thread before Dundee i would have beat him to it with that observation. cool

    I look forward to reading these interviews and will let you know of any more suggestions.Its a bit late now..

    Btw what happened to that much touted super-long libcom users questionnaire discussed last year? You know, the one with all the intrusive questions?? wink

    Love

    LW X

    Devrim's picture
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    Jan 20 2007 10:02
    Ret Marut wrote:
    Have you read his autobiography in Turkish, Dev? It's not in English.

    Ret,
    I didn't know that there was one. I am talking on the phone at the moment to one of our supporters who used to be close to the İsçi Partesi, and she doesn't know about it either. I am going to try to get hold of a copy. Have you got a title?
    Dev

    Steven.'s picture
    Steven.
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    Jan 20 2007 11:23
    Tacks wrote:
    John. wrote:
    What are you referring to here?

    lol, the world outside of Libcom mate grin

    Er yeah but what do you mean, spread it outside of libcom? The idea is to get it to people who've been involved in different kinds of libertarian workplace organisation (i.e. not many peopl), and to try to get them to send responses to us. I'm not going to print the questions out and hand them out on the street or round my office, if that's what you're asking.

    I want to do the same with struggles too, prol-pos have a struggle questionnaire but it's too long, i will email them about it first though.

    Tacks's picture
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    Jan 20 2007 12:38
    John. wrote:
    Tacks wrote:
    John. wrote:
    What are you referring to here?

    lol, the world outside of Libcom mate grin

    Er yeah but what do you mean, spread it outside of libcom? The idea is to get it to people who've been involved in different kinds of libertarian workplace organisation (i.e. not many peopl), and to try to get them to send responses to us. I'm not going to print the questions out and hand them out on the street or round my office, if that's what you're asking.

    er no. Just the net.

    Kdog's picture
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    Jan 21 2007 03:13

    Thugarchist,

    What class is Andy Stern a member of? Jimmy Hoffa Jr.? How about the Democratic party politicians (and Republicans)that SEIU throws millions of dollars and hours into electing. Which class are they beholden to?

    Why have you chosen to participate in this union as an unelected paid staffer, instead of working as a janitor or other rank and filer like the rest of the dues base has to?

    thugarchist's picture
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    Jan 21 2007 03:59
    Kdog wrote:
    Thugarchist,

    What class is Andy Stern a member of? Jimmy Hoffa Jr.? How about the Democratic party politicians (and Republicans)that SEIU throws millions of dollars and hours into electing. Which class are they beholden to?

    Why have you chosen to participate in this union as an unelected paid staffer, instead of working as a janitor or other rank and filer like the rest of the dues base has to?

    1. Andy Stern or Jimmy Hoffa's class position is irrelevant as to the nature of building a winning union made up of working people. If you want to change the leadership of SEIU ot the Teamsters you should become a member of it.

    2. The vast majority of union members donate money to a special fund that plays politics. Hell, I'm in a right to work state. Workers don't even have to pay dues if they don't want to. Who exactly are you to criticize their choice? I don't do it because I choose not to, but if they want to thats what you get in an organization of more than 12 anarchists where people have divergent beliefs they put aside to fight the boss together.

    3. I was a janitor. Whats your point? I was a union healthcare worker for years. What does that do for you? How is that relevant to anything besides me?

    4. If you have a ideological perspective you want me to defend myself against you would have to first make me care what K-Dog(ieran) thinks of things and second actually state something.

    Mathias's picture
    Mathias
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    Jan 21 2007 04:26

    Duke (Thugarchist) refuses to answer seriously therefore I feel compelled to answer da k-dawg

    Kdog wrote:
    Thugarchist,

    What class is Andy Stern a member of?

    Class of 75 University of Pennslyvania

    Kdog wrote:
    Jimmy Hoffa Jr.?

    University of Michigan 1966

    Kdog wrote:
    How about the Democratic party politicians (and Republicans)that SEIU throws millions of dollars and hours into electing. Which class are they beholden to?

    Organize an anarchist boycott of the elections!! Organize fellow workers to stand outside polling places and hand out fliers with punk rock pictures that say "no matyter who you vote for government wins!"

    Kdog wrote:
    Why have you chosen to participate in this union as an unelected paid staffer, instead of working as a janitor or other rank and filer like the rest of the dues base has to?

    Only rich kids with something to prove "choose" to work as a janitor etc. Most working class kids do everything they can to get out of that situation.

    thugarchist's picture
    thugarchist
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    Jan 21 2007 04:28
    Mathias wrote:
    Kdog wrote:
    Why have you chosen to participate in this union as an unelected paid staffer, instead of working as a janitor or other rank and filer like the rest of the dues base has to?

    Only rich kids with something to prove "choose" to work as a janitor etc. Most working class kids do everything they can to get out of that situation.

    Rich kids that're gonna inherit bank cash when their rich maoist parents croak.

    Mathias's picture
    Mathias
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    Jan 21 2007 05:01

    you go too far.Let's keep this comradely

    thugarchist's picture
    thugarchist
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    Jan 21 2007 05:03
    Mathias wrote:
    you go too far.Let's keep this comradely

    Some college professor's kid is gonna ask me why being I didn't want to keep being a janitor? Puhleeese.

    Mathias's picture
    Mathias
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    Jan 21 2007 05:06

    Dude, don't upset the DOG!

    Mathias's picture
    Mathias
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    Jan 21 2007 06:00

    Admin - spam removed. Spam again and you're banned.

    throwhen
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    Jan 21 2007 14:41

    This comment has been moved here.

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    madashell
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    Jan 21 2007 17:18
    Tacks wrote:
    the world outside of Libcom

    LIES!!!11

    Seriously though, this looks potentially pretty interesting, any chance chuck and friends could have the twenty-seventh repeat of the "You're a middle-class union leader parasite!" "No, you're a middle-class dilletante who's just waiting for his trust fund to kick in" bun fight elsewhere? Illuminating and politically useful as it is.

    Joseph Kay's picture
    Joseph Kay
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    Jan 22 2007 08:27

    Guys, this is a serious thread in organise, if you want to throw idle threats and insults around cyberspace can you do it elsewhere please. cheers.

    Edit: right that took ages to split and i don't want to have to do it again, so play nice kids wink

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    Jan 22 2007 15:35

    For the record the link was to a video made by a large US industrial union. The video was critical of other US labor unions that were in the process of leaving the AFL-CIO, the same unions K-Dog referenced in his posts and the ones Duke and Chuck work for.