Differences between the AF and WSM

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knightrose
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Dec 12 2006 16:20

But did you have to pay the bin and water taxes? Was it a question of the more solidarity the better the chance of victory? In which case, there's no contest.

My question is about what if an ancrhsist group decides an area needs a campaign about something. That is different.

And I really don't need to answer about abortion rights. The right to a safe, legal, cheap abortion is in all our interests. I wouldn't want my partner, daughter, friends etc to have to go for anything else.

gurrier
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Dec 12 2006 16:29
knightrose wrote:
And I really don't need to answer about abortion rights. The right to a safe, legal, cheap abortion is in all our interests. I wouldn't want my partner, daughter, friends etc to have to go for anything else.

But can't you use the exact same argument with any old thing?

"The right to [enter good stuff here] is in all our interests. I wouldn't want my fellow human beings / neighbours / fellow city dwellers to have to go for anything else".

In short I don't think there is any clear dividing line. The good thing though is that if any group tries to start a campaign in an area where it isn't wanted, nobody will show up and it will just become a shallow front for the group itself (c.f. all those local campaign groups which never managed to become anything more than the local branch of the SWP)

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AndrewF
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Dec 12 2006 16:37
knightrose wrote:
My question is about what if an ancrhsist group decides an area needs a campaign about something. That is different.

Have you any particular examples in mind as I'm puzzled about why your emphasising this and I guess it may be something to do with some group making fools of themselves. I'm sure instances of anarchists trying to 'impose' an unwanted campaign on some neighboorhood could exist but I'd tend to argue against this on a case by case basis rather than construct some general rule of never going outside you own area.

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 18:17
gurrier wrote:
Okay, I see your point and I was talking at cross purposes a little. I was sort of assuming that the network of militants was counterposed to the union and would not function within existing unions.

A network of militants which operated both within and outside the current unions is a fair enough thing to try I think and it's one of the strategies that the WSM has attempted at various times (SIPTU fightback - within SIPTU, EWN - across unions) without much success I should add.

No I think you're back to rank-and-filism again, which is definitely not what I'm suggesting. I'm personally a member of a union, but I've no interest of "operating within it" if that means messing around with its structures or representing it to my workmates. Because it's shit.

Nor would I be interested in a "network of militants in Unison" - most of the union members at my job are in a different one (which I can't join) anyway so what would be the point? Apart from 1. trying to reform it 2. pushing for various candidates both of which I think are a waste of time or counterproductive.

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My problem arises when the network takes a stance against working within unions. That sort of thing could function during a struggle, but even then it would be limited since the majority of workers are highly likely to be members of the union and to look towards it for some sort of direction.

Unison membership at my job is around 8% of eligible people. For that Dominos thing I posted none of them were in a union (although they were going to contact one) - do you think the best thing for them is to get into a union sharpish, or to work on picketing other Dominos branches out as they already were (and an actually existing union would tell them not to)?.

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Just ignoring the fact that the union exists would sort of condemn it to irrelevance at crucial moments - a vote to use the strike fund for example.

The union is irrelevant at my job, more irrelevant than me and my pissed off mate shooting our mouths off in fact. Why should we be operating within an irrelevant and powerless organisation to avoid being condemned as irrelevant?

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At times when there were no major struggles what would the network do? Aside from fairly abstract and general purpose class struggle propaganda, I really don't see what it could focus on.

Presumably try to circulate and develop small struggles etc. etc. In terms of propaganda it could ciculate information on the constamt attacks that go on during low periods of struggle. At my workplace there's been a below inflation pay rise, new (and in some instances I think illegal) sickness and absence policy/strategy, increased pension comtributions for some workers, longer probation, more temp contracts, constantly degrading H&S compliance etc. contacts in other similar workplaces might well be experiencing similar things. I don't see why it automatically has to be abstract??

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In concrete terms what could it argue for?

As I see it, such a network would have to put forward some concrete strategy or else remain wedded to completely abstract and general arguments. It could argue for workers to set up alternative structures which could be utilised in times of struggle (which would make it an alternative union in essence)

What makes it an alternative union? An informal group of say 5 people in a workplace of 150 who might produce a leaflet nd include individuals who give informal advice to other workers doesn't mean "alternative union in essence" - unless any conscious group of workers coming together is a "union" - in which case you're arguing the same way as Trots who insist any formal organisation is a state/party. Maybe you need to explain what you mean by union since it sees conveniently elastic at the moment.

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if it wasn't to adopt one of these approaches, then what could it do in practice?

What does an approach inside an existing union do "in practice"? If it's producing prop, going to meetings and backing/running candidates then none of that is very consequential, and short of candidates I don't see why prop and meetings outside the union would be any less practical. Also, better do nothing than make things worse.

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Organising themselves to do what exactly?

Well in my example, set up groups. i.e. if an organisation says set up groups in your workplace industry, and people do it, why is that less successful than saying "join us"?

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To me the completely negative attitude to all possible approaches at building mass workers organisations is sort of ducking the issue. If it really is impossible to build mass organisations of workers, we might as well just give up the game.

Mass organisations are possible. What I don't think is posible is 1. us building them outside times of mass struggle 2. if they did get built, them retaining any revolutionary character outside times of mass struggle. large? maybe. influential? maybe. mass? no.

By ignoring the history of attempts in the past I don't think you should be throwing around accusations of ducking the issue so lightly.

knightrose
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Dec 12 2006 18:21

aaaarrrrgggh! I just wrote a really long response and then managed to wipe it. You'll have to believe me that it was brilliant, witty and the killer argument on this topic.
So here's a go at reconstruting it.
My anxiety about @ groups setting up campaigns is that it's replicating what the trots do. I can think of three @ groups that were too uncritical in their attempts to copy the trots. The AWG, ORA and AWA. They all ended up falling into the open arms of the trots!

Regarding abortion rights. They are a class issue. It's that simple. Rich women have always been able to get safer abortions. They still get them more easily. So abortion isn't an issue that compares to other things as gurrier implies.

We don't have to go around substituting ourselves for the class. Where I live and work I we find ourselves confonted by the state's desire to shut our schools and open academies. These are not nice places! Working conditions are poorer than in schools. For students, they find themselves in institutions without the safeguards schools have against exclusions and bullying by staff. We'll be part of the campaign against it. We'll also want comrades to help leafletting and I'm sure they will.

When you agitated against the bin and water tax, did you leaflet as WSM or as a campaign. I know WS contained articles about them, but that's different.

IrrationallyAngry
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Dec 12 2006 18:35
knightrose wrote:
My anxiety about @ groups setting up campaigns is that it's replicating what the trots do.

Trotskyists also eat, shit and breathe you know.

knightrise wrote:
I can think of three @ groups that were too uncritical in their attempts to copy the trots. The AWG, ORA and AWA. They all ended up falling into the open arms of the trots!

This betrays a certain lack of confidence in anarchist politics you know. It also shows a quite touching faith in the attractiveness of Trotskyist politics and the strength of our arguments. Don't stand too near us: You'll convert.

knightrose wrote:
When you agitated against the bin and water tax, did you leaflet as WSM or as a campaign. I know WS contained articles about them, but that's different.

They primarily leafleted as part of the campaign. But they continued to distribute their own, specifically anarchist, material on the subject at the same time. And inside the campaign they worked as an organised group, pushing for or against different strategies.

gurrier
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Dec 12 2006 18:41
Mike Harman wrote:
Unison membership at my job is around 8% of eligible people. For that Dominos thing I posted none of them were in a union (although they were going to contact one) - do you think the best thing for them is to get into a union sharpish, or to work on picketing other Dominos branches out as they already were (and an actually existing union would tell them not to)?.

Both. There's actually a very good example of using both strategies in tandem in Ireland. BATU, a builders trade union, operates in tandem with an 'unofficial' campaigning organisation (builders against the black economy) which operates outside the industrial relations framework.

Mike Harman wrote:
The union is irrelevant at my job, more irrelevant than me and my pissed off mate shooting our mouths off in fact. Why should we be operating within an irrelevant and powerless organisation to avoid being condemned as irrelevant?

Being condemned as irrelevant isn't the problem, being seen as irrelevant by your co-workers is.

Quote:
Presumably try to circulate and develop small struggles etc. etc. In terms of propaganda it could ciculate information on the constamt attacks that go on during low periods of struggle. At my workplace there's been a below inflation pay rise, new (and in some instances I think illegal) sickness and absence policy/strategy, increased pension comtributions for some workers, longer probation, more temp contracts, constantly degrading H&S compliance etc. contacts in other similar workplaces might well be experiencing similar things. I don't see why it automatically has to be abstract??

All of those things are just saying "things are shit" which isn't exactly the most constructive strategy. To be honest, unless you have some inkling of a way of making things better, what's the point in agitating. Just to depress people?

Quote:
What makes it an alternative union? An informal group of say 5 people in a workplace of 150 who might produce a leaflet nd include individuals who give informal advice to other workers doesn't mean "alternative union in essence" - unless any conscious group of workers coming together is a "union" - in which case you're arguing the same way as Trots who insist any formal organisation is a state/party. Maybe you need to explain what you mean by union since it sees conveniently elastic at the moment.

Fair enough. I consider any organisation composed of workers which exists to fight for workers interests within the workplace to be a union in essence. What do you consider to be a union? The only thing in the above description that marks it out from my conception of a union is the informal bit, and to me informal is just another way of saying "wheel must be re-invented every time" and "will fall apart as soon as informal leadership leave". If you were to agitate in favour of unionisation, you'd at least have made it relatively difficult for the bosses to reverse any gains your agitation may cause and you'd have a concrete way of seeing if you were making any difference. Note that I'm not arguing that there is any huge advance in unionisation, but I think it compares well to the alternative. It's not as if you couldn't join a union and continue your informal agitation at the same time.

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What does an approach inside an existing union do "in practice"? If it's producing prop, going to meetings and backing/running candidates then none of that is very consequential, and short of candidates I don't see why prop and meetings outside the union would be any less practical. Also, better do nothing than make things worse.

There's lots of things you can do - propose motions in support of x, y, and z, propose financial support for your favourite struggles, propose bringing the union banner on marches. Although most of these are fairly irrelevant, they are better than nothing and at times of heightened struggle, you'll be in a position where you'd already have built up a network of contacts with other workers and would be in a better position to argue your point to them.

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Well in my example, set up groups. i.e. if an organisation says set up groups in your workplace industry, and people do it, why is that less successful than saying "join us"?

How is that different than trying to set up an alternative union? To me that is exactly what those who try to set up A-S unions do.

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Mass organisations are possible. What I don't think is posible is 1. us building them outside times of mass struggle 2. if they did get built, them retaining any revolutionary character outside times of mass struggle. large? maybe. influential? maybe. mass? no.

Well there are mass organisations and while they may not be revolutionary in character and may never be likely to become revolutionary in character, they contain an awful lot of people and I don't think it's sensible to write them entirely off as unreformable. The problem isn't really the 'union', it's the membership. Unions are conservative nowadays largely because their members are conservative. The only way to change this is to persuade the membership of the benefits of more radical politics - and to do that you have to talk to them.

Dundee_United
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Dec 12 2006 18:50
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My anxiety about @ groups setting up campaigns is that it's replicating what the trots do. I can think of three @ groups that were too uncritical in their attempts to copy the trots. The AWG, ORA and AWA. They all ended up falling into the open arms of the trots!

Tut, tut, tut... tongue

OK when I said this thing that everyone has commented on what I meant was...

In every community or workplace you will find "hot-button issues". Unless you live in a really weirdly, still heavily organised for power community, or in a really strongly unionised workplace these issues, which loads of people really care about, will not be organised around (except in passivity - "we should have a youth centre, those bastards! They've got one in Place Y!").

What I meant in terms of starting social movements was to play the role of outside agitator if you like, and build up the capacity for power around an issue people feel strongly about. If you don't do this you'll end up waiting for a weak class to launch a passive response, if any at all. It is wrong to assume a unversal organisational reaction to perceived injustices. Organisation for power is a learned response to a problem. Just because "nothing is happening" around a certain issue does not mean that there is not a groundswell of feeling around that issue.

In my own community, until we launched a number of initiatives there was literally no basis for organisation, based on where you're coming from here. Now we have a number of front to be pursuing (all of which 'we', as radicals, started up, and all of which are now 'social movements', in a small and local sense of the phrase).

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 18:56
knightrose wrote:
My anxiety about @ groups setting up campaigns is that it's replicating what the trots do. I can think of three @ groups that were too uncritical in their attempts to copy the trots. The AWG, ORA and AWA. They all ended up falling into the open arms of the trots!

There seems to be a really unhealthy obsession with "the trots" amongst British anarchists, which unfortunately taints every discussion about strategy. Let's pretend there was no such thing as Trotskyists. They never existed. Trotsky who? Now, working from this hypothetical clean historical slate, without the fear of having any icky Trot baggage attributed to a "wrong answer" here... how does everyone really feel about conscious anarchists working in a concerted and organized way to further a given struggle? Should we ever stick our necks out and openly argue for an anarchist position and actively try and win people to that position? Should we highlight antagonisms, link struggles, and do our best to radicalize participants? Should we take initiatives, particularly in areas of social struggle where there is a vaccuum to be filled, as conscious anarchists? If so, would it be most effective to do so in an organized and concerted way?

Honestly, at the end of the day I could care less if I (or any other anarchist I happen think is right) "sounds like a Trot" because honestly I am left entirely unimpressed by most of the "anarchist answers" I hear to very basic questions. Even among the class struggle tendencies. Whether or not I agree with them, I can understand why many people have historically become frustrated with the anarchist movement and tried to look elsewhere for a more effective political path.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 18:57
knightrose wrote:
My anxiety about @ groups setting up campaigns is that it's replicating what the trots do. I can think of three @ groups that were too uncritical in their attempts to copy the trots. The AWG, ORA and AWA. They all ended up falling into the open arms of the trots!

There seems to be a really unhealthy obsession with "the trots" amongst British anarchists, which unfortunately taints every discussion about strategy. Let's pretend there was no such thing as Trotskyists. They never existed. Trotsky who? Now, working from this hypothetical clean historical slate, without the fear of having any icky Trot baggage attributed to a "wrong answer" here... how does everyone really feel about conscious anarchists working in a concerted and organized way to further a given struggle? Should we ever stick our necks out and openly argue for an anarchist position and actively try and win people to that position? Should we highlight antagonisms, link struggles, and do our best to radicalize participants? Should we take initiatives, particularly in areas of social struggle where there is a vaccuum to be filled, as conscious anarchists? If so, would it be most effective to do so in an organized and concerted way?

Honestly, at the end of the day I could care less if I (or any other anarchist I happen to think is right) "sounds like a Trot" because I am left entirely unimpressed by most of the "anarchist answers" I hear to very basic questions. Even among the class struggle tendencies. Whether or not I agree with them, I can understand why many people have historically become frustrated with the anarchist movement and tried to look elsewhere for a more effective political path.

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madashell
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Dec 12 2006 19:14

SRB, are you seriously suggesting that a set of ideas can be divorced from what they have led to in the past?

British anarchists are wary of becoming like the trots because they're an irrelevant mess, and their "The party knows best" attitude is a big part of that.

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AndrewF
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Dec 12 2006 19:29
madashell wrote:
SRB, are you seriously suggesting that a set of ideas can be divorced from what they have led to in the past?

What trotskyism 'led to in the past' had very little to do with 'trotskyists' thinking you should struggle alongside others. Above NI point outs that trotskyists eat, shit and breath - were these things also responsible for what trotskyism 'led to in the past'.

madashell wrote:
British anarchists are wary of becoming like the trots because they're an irrelevant mess, and their "The party knows best" attitude is a big part of that.

Or in other words British anarchists are defining themself in relation to 'an irrelevant mess,'.

I'm with SRB on this - you need to work out a strategy and tactics - from first principles if needed - that is good for anarchists. Not on the basis of 'not what the trots do'. The actual problem with the AWG was that like the rest of the British anarchist movement they spent far too much time worrying about what the trots were doing and not enough time developing what was good for anarchism.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 19:32
madashell wrote:
SRB, are you seriously suggesting that a set of ideas can be divorced from what they have led to in the past?

British anarchists are wary of becoming like the trots because they're an irrelevant mess, and their "The party knows best" attitude is a big part of that.

Am I arguing that a set of ideas can be divorced from what they have led to in the past? Sure, why not. We're talking about very basic points of political tactics and strategy (ie, political insertion in social struggles), which have been utilized by countless different political tendencies the world over for literally thousands of years. Why you, or anyone else, sees the need to give undo credit to "the trots" for having some monopoly in this area is beyond me.

IrrationallyAngry
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Dec 12 2006 20:32
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Why you, or anyone else, sees the need to give undo credit to "the trots" for having some monopoly in this area is beyond me.

It's just fine by me though!

One of the notable things about Britain is that (on the far left at least) Trotskyists do have a near monopoly on such things and have had since the Communist Party fell apart.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 20:35
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Why you, or anyone else, sees the need to give undo credit to "the trots" for having some monopoly in this area is beyond me.

It's just fine by me though!

One of the notable things about Britain is that (on the far left at least) Trotskyists do have a near monopoly on such things and have had since the Communist Party fell apart.

So if the Trots are an irrelevant mess, yet, among the far-left tendencies in Britain, still apparently have something of a monopoly of influence within the social movements there... what does this say about the anarchists?

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 12 2006 21:00

Good points SRB, you've put forward what has been lurking in the back of my mind for the past couple weeks whenever this issue comes up. Surely those who object to concerted political activity within a larger movement of groups can concede that there is a difference between aiming to take the leadership and implement your program and arguiing with the goal of convincing others of your approach and strategy?

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 21:05
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Good points SRB, you've put forward what has been lurking in the back of my mind for the past couple weeks whenever this issue comes up. Surely those who object to concerted political activity within a larger movement of groups can concede that there is a difference between aiming to take the leadership and implement your program and arguiing with the goal of convincing others of your approach and strategy?

Exactly. Which is why I don't agree with the comparsion to Trotskyists. To me, Trotskyists seek a form of entryism that entails capturing official leadership positions as a means of radicalizing from above (although, more often than not, they just become another passive component of the existing bureaucracy). The platformist/especifista conception of "social insertion" seeks to develop political influence from below, at the grassroots level. At least that's the way I understand it.

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 21:15
gurrier wrote:
BATU, a builders trade union, operates in tandem with an 'unofficial' campaigning organisation (builders against the black economy) which operates outside the industrial relations framework.

What do you think the advantages of the SIPTU will be for them then?

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Being condemned as irrelevant isn't the problem, being seen as irrelevant by your co-workers is.

That perfectly describes the union at my work.

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All of those things are just saying "things are shit" which isn't exactly the most constructive strategy. To be honest, unless you have some inkling of a way of making things better, what's the point in agitating. Just to depress people?

Well you can provide information on minimum standards and ways around things, possibly organise meetings around it etc., examples of other workplaces where they're fighting it. How is "things are shit, join the shit union" any better? In both cases it starts from things being shit, knowing how and why they're shit is often a first step to changing them.

Quote:
Fair enough. I consider any organisation composed of workers which exists to fight for workers interests within the workplace to be a union in essence. What do you consider to be a union?

what you said plus

1. permanent
2. membership based
3. aiming to involved the majority of workers at a workplace wherever possible

off the top of my head. Plus specific stuff about trade unions, syndicalist/industrial/base unions as well which might not apply to all.

Quote:
you'd at least have made it relatively difficult for the bosses to reverse any gains your agitation may cause

When the unions are often involved in pushing through "reforms", negotiating away gains made and constantly mediating for compromise when workers are on strike I fail to see how you can say this with a straight face?

Quote:
It's not as if you couldn't join a union and continue your informal agitation at the same time.

Formal agitation on behalf of a union might undermine your informal agitation when you become associated with an organisation that's going to take subs/do nothing, condemn wildcats etc. etc.

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There's lots of things you can do - propose motions in support of x, y, and z, propose financial support for your favourite struggles, propose bringing the union banner on marches.

Sounds no different from Trottism to me.

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Although most of these are fairly irrelevant,

yep

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they are better than nothing

nope.

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and at times of heightened struggle, you'll be in a position where you'd already have built up a network of contacts with other workers and would be in a better position to argue your point to them.

Why would I need to get involved in the irrelevant shite you mentioned to do that?

Quote:
How is that different than trying to set up an alternative union? To me that is exactly what those who try to set up A-S unions do.

I think solfed and maybe the IWW operate in a similar way in practice to at least some extent, but there seems to be some disagreement within both organisations as to whether they're proto-unions or not.

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Well there are mass organisations and while they may not be revolutionary in character and may never be likely to become revolutionary in character, they contain an awful lot of people

So do the workplaces those people work in.

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The only way to change this is to persuade the membership of the benefits of more radical politics - and to do that you have to talk to them.

And this can be done at work, where they actually are, doesn't have to be at a branch meeting or conference or whatever where most people won't be if they've got any sense.

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Devrim
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Dec 12 2006 21:26

I agree with what SRB wrote in that there is an unhealthy focus on what the 'Trots' do. I also agree with what Joe wrote at the start of this thread when he was saying that the AF don't seem to act in an organised way. That is the way that it appears to me although I am looking from afar, and am willing to be corrected.

For us the question is not whether an organisation intervenes, or not in the class struggle. I think that we all agree that we should intervene in the struggle as an organisation, and not as individuals. I think that whether the AF do that, or not, is not a matter of politics. If they don’t, it is a matter of organisational failing.

Gurrier shows a lot of misunderstanding about where the communist left is coming from. We are for organisation. However, we don’t have this old social democratic idea of trying to organise the working class. He is quite clear though about the logic of growing rank-and -file groups. They can become alternative union structures. We reject both the official unions, and their leftist apologists.

The left communists don’t reject ‘campaign politics’, and getting involved in union elections because it is ‘what the ‘trots’ do’ . We reject it because it has nothing to do with revolutionary politics today.

Devrim Valerian

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AndrewF
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Dec 12 2006 21:40
Mike Harman wrote:
gurrier wrote:
BATU, a builders trade union, operates in tandem with an 'unofficial' campaigning organisation (builders against the black economy) which operates outside the industrial relations framework.

What do you think the advantages of the SIPTU will be for them then?

Err whats SIPTU got to do with this example, BATU is a different union.

But here is one reason why (other) workers are in SIPTU
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/80126

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 22:08
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
gurrier wrote:
BATU, a builders trade union, operates in tandem with an 'unofficial' campaigning organisation (builders against the black economy) which operates outside the industrial relations framework.

What do you think the advantages of the SIPTU will be for them then?

Err whats SIPTU got to do with this example, BATU is a different union.

If you'd read the thread, you'd note that I mentioned the wildcatting flying picketing Domino's workers were approaching the SIPTU. Gurrier brought up BATU in relation to my example. You might want to read it again before you jump in.

Quote:
But here is one reason why (other) workers are in SIPTU
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/80126

No that's a reason why it's good to (even threaten) strikes.

The article is interesting though:

indymedia wrote:
It will take some months to tell if these concessions are genuine or were simply an exercise to buy time at a point management were under massive pressure.

If it was an attempt to buy time, SIPTU more than aided management by calling off the strike at the first sniff of concessions - disruption averted, industrial relations restored. There's nothing in that article that suggests industrial action might not have 1. actually happened 2. happened earlier without the union's involvement. Now clearly having written it you'll know more about the background than me but I don't see what the special ingredient was that SIPTU added to that dispute other than a representative framework and some diffusion of what appears to have been a lot of anger.

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AndrewF
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Dec 12 2006 22:24
Mike Harman wrote:
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
gurrier wrote:
BATU, a builders trade union, operates in tandem with an 'unofficial' campaigning organisation (builders against the black economy) which operates outside the industrial relations framework.

What do you think the advantages of the SIPTU will be for them then?

Err whats SIPTU got to do with this example, BATU is a different union.

If you'd read the thread, you'd note that I mentioned the wildcatting flying picketing Domino's workers were approaching the SIPTU, my example. Gurrier brought up BATU in relation to it.

The normal protocol is when you quote something and when you then write under that quote the text you type is considered to refer to the bit you've just quoted and not to some other random bit of the thread. Otherwise its very hard for people to understand you.

That said it is sometimes the case here that wildcatting is actually really union organised, as has been pointed out. No idea if this is the case here but as this article from Workers Solidarity http://www.wsm.ie/story/1204 points out SIPTU members in Dominos Naas factory recently won a pay increase. Naas and Tallaght are pretty near each other and the Tallaght workers seem to want to join SIPTU so I'd suggest there may well be a connection.

At the level of the bureaucracy SIPTU is very limited as they are very committed to social partnership. But as the article linked shows even the most useless, in bed with the bosses bureaucracy will have to support action some of the time. The action and victory in Naas Domino's shows the same thing.

nastyned
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Dec 12 2006 22:30
nastyned wrote:
Could I have some examples of current social movements I could insert myself into as I'm not entirely sure what people are thinking of here.

Hmmm...no one seems to have answered this one but what I'm gathering is the whole 'social insertion' things means that anarchists should get involved in campaigns. This is surely an outstanding theoretical and tactical breakthrough!

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 22:35
JoeBlack2 wrote:
The normal protocol is when you quote something and when you then write under that quote the text you type is considered to refer to the bit you've just quoted and not to some other random bit of the thread. Otherwise its very hard for people to understand you.

No, the normal protocol is to avoid loads of nested quotes like this:

Mike Harman wrote:
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gurrier wrote:
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Mike Harman wrote:
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gurrier wrote:
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Quote:
That said it is sometimes the case here that wildcatting is actually really union organised, as has been pointed out.

This is true, although generally by shop stewards rather than head office. Doesn't mean those same shop stewards don't then go on the record condemning it when interviewed.

Quote:
No idea if this is the case here but as this article from Workers Solidarity http://www.wsm.ie/story/1204 points out SIPTU members in Dominos Naas factory recently won a pay increase. Naas and Tallaght are pretty near each other and the Tallaght workers seem to want to join SIPTU so I'd suggest there may well be a connection.

That's possible.

Quote:
At the level of the bureaucracy SIPTU is very limited as they are very committed to social partnership. But as the article linked shows even the most useless, in bed with the bosses bureaucracy will have to support action some of the time. The action and victory in Naas Domino's shows the same thing.

So we should run around recruiting for them, breathing life into the corpses of branch meetings etc. etc. because they aren't all shits all the time? (even if they are).

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AndrewF
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Dec 12 2006 22:35
Mike Harman wrote:
If it was an attempt to buy time, SIPTU more than aided management by calling off the strike at the first sniff of concessions - disruption averted, industrial relations restored.

Oh dear!

Apart from anything else the strike was not called off by 'SIPTU' but by an assembly of SIPTU members after hearing and discussing what was on offer.

Shocking as it may seem union members are not always desperate to go on strike, in particular if they appear to have won just about everything they wanted anyway.

And the idea that the strike would have happened sooner without a union is off the wall. It took months of union organised assemblies to get to the point where most workers had the confidence to vote for action. The idea that might have happened quicker without this organisation has no basis outside ideological needs to see the union holding back the workers in each and every circumstance.

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 22:53
JoeBlack2 wrote:

Oh dear!

Apart from anything else the strike was not called off by 'SIPTU' but by an assembly of SIPTU members after hearing and discussing what was on offer.

I only went by what I read, and this is what I read:

Aoife and Joe, WSM on indymedia wrote:
When management seemingly backed down SIPTU agreed to suspend the strike action

It's not my fault if you conflate the workers and 'SIPTU'.

Quote:
in particular if they appear to have won just about everything they wanted anyway.

The article is dated yesterday, but the beginning of term would have been September no? Any of these concessions materialised yet in that case? If not I expect you'll report back either way in a few weeks?

Quote:
And the idea that the strike would have happened sooner without a union is off the wall.

Again, I only summarised what you wrote:

Quote:
A large majority of SIPTU members voted to give the section committee the power to call a one-day strike, to be followed by a work to rule. Rather than act on this straight away at the start of the summer when action would be less effective the section committee delayed this action until the first day of the new autumn term.

Vote for strike action by membership - section committee (= branch committee?) decides to delay it. Either way the decision to delay was taken by the official representative body, not that assembly of workers - at least according to the article you linked, which is all I have to go on.

Quote:
The idea that might have happened quicker without this organisation has no basis outside ideological needs to see the union holding back the workers in each and every circumstance.

Since that's not my view I fail to see how that has relevance. I think unions can sometimes act in advance of workers' militancy - for example the Justice for Cleaners campaign, or the SuperSize My Pay in NZ. That doesn't mean I don't think that as organisations they have their own interests seperate from (and often in opposition to) those of their members and workers in general.

IrrationallyAngry
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Dec 12 2006 22:55
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Shocking as it may seem union members are not always desperate to go on strike, in particular if they appear to have won just about everything they wanted anyway.

And the idea that the strike would have happened sooner without a union is off the wall. It took months of union organised assemblies to get to the point where most workers had the confidence to vote for action. The idea that might have happened quicker without this organisation has no basis outside ideological needs to see the union holding back the workers in each and every circumstance.

Which is an example of why, I suspect, that "ultra-left" ideas about trade unions rarely survive first contact with attempts to organise actual strike action.

afraser
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Dec 12 2006 22:57
nastyned wrote:
what I'm gathering is the whole 'social insertion' things means that anarchists should get involved in campaigns. This is surely an outstanding theoretical and tactical breakthrough!

You'd think. But what this debate masks is that when revolutionaries get involved in (necessarily reformist) campaigns, then they run the risk, with high likelihood, of getting sucked into the swamp of reformism altogether. And that applies equally to workplace/trade union campaigns as to community campaigns.

The options are:
1) Stay pure and clean and avoid reformist campaigns by sitting in an ivory tower doing nothing other than producing pure revolutiuonary propoganda. The drawback of that is that no one will pay any attention to you, because you are irrelevant to their day to day struggles.
2) Join in reformist campaigns, either workplace/trade union or community, or both, and accept that your revolutionary ideals will get more and more moved to the back burner.

It's ultra-leftism versus reformist leftism. And everyone would like to be able to square the circle, but no one can. Redtwister some time ago said that communists should, when they have to, join reformist campaigns as footsoldiers, but as nothing more. Problem is, reformist campaigns and unions aren't short of footsoldiers so much as NCOs and junior officers.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 12 2006 22:58
nastyned wrote:
nastyned wrote:
Could I have some examples of current social movements I could insert myself into as I'm not entirely sure what people are thinking of here.

Hmmm...no one seems to have answered this one but what I'm gathering is the whole 'social insertion' things means that anarchists should get involved in campaigns. This is surely an outstanding theoretical and tactical breakthrough!

I think the controversal points are in how we get involved in campaigns or social movements (as individual participants, or an organized group?), and what it is we hope to bring to or take away from said campaign or social movement.

Here's a pretty good essay that touches on the subject a bit: Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in South America

Also, I recommend this bit on organizational dualism from the Italian FdCA:

Quote:
Organizational Dualism

The feature which best distinguishes Anarchist Communists from all other schools of thought within Anarchism is what we call "organizational dualism". This means that apart from the general organization of the entire proletariat (as outlined in Chapter 1.2, dedicated to Fabbri), there is also the political organization of Anarchist Communists, or, to use the usual terms adopted in the movement's debates, beside the Mass Organization there must also be the Specific Organization. As already indicated, the other trends in Anarchism reject either or both of these.

It is clear that Individualists recognize no role for the movement of the exploited who are seen as a humble flock of individuals unworthy of any personal realization as they have no ambitions. But the Individualists lie completely outside class-struggle Anarchism. The Kropotkinist Anarcho-Communists (not for nothing known as anti-organizationalists) believe that any work among the masses apart from pure and simple propaganda of the "right" ideas, is useless. This is the origin of their lack of interest in the daily struggles of the working class which are seen as pointless and counterproductive. Pointless in that every gain made under the present social system is held to be short-lived and counterproductive as the syndicalist approach only encourages the habit of gradual conquests with a consequent loss of sight of the revolutionary goal. We have already seen how Bakunin threw himself into the struggle which began with the First International and how both Fabbri and Malatesta considered that any gains towards the well-being of the masses in the present were nothing to be looked down on. Anarchist Communists believe that it is essential to be involved on a day-to-day basis in the workers' organizations (to which, as workers, we belong). We believe that the existence of these organizations is necessary as a barrier to the powerful whims of the exploiter class. For Anarcho-Communists, instead, their abandoning of all attention to the proletariat's immediate demands results in the specific organization being relegated to a role of propaganda of the ideal, the recruiting of new members, in other words something like the function of a religious sect.

Basing themselves on similar premises to those of the Kropotkinists, Insurrectionalist Anarchists also deny the value of work within the labour movement. After all, Kropotkin was present at the International Congress in London in 1881 which approved the strategy of propaganda by the deed. Disappointed by the late arrival of the revolution, unable to enjoy a useful relationship with the masses thanks to the spread of special anti-anarchist legislation all over Europe, the anarchists chose to act according to their times in order to extricate themselves from the corner they found themselves in. The hope was that the spread of violent acts directed at the pompous bourgeoisie of the period would provide an example which would rapidly be imitated thereby transforming the insurrectionary spark into an immense revolutionary blaze. This was the period of the bloody acts of the likes of François-Claudius Köhingstein (better known as Ravachol), Bonnot, Émile Henry and many others. France, in fact, though at the centre of the insurrectionalist wave was also the place where class-struggle Anarchist militants (Émile Pouget, Fernand Pelloutier, Pierre Monatte, and others) found a way out through the formation of the "Bourses du Travail" and the syndicates and thereby brought Anarchism back to its natural element, the proletariat, which led to a new and profound method of struggle and organization. Despite this, there are still today those who as a result of a childish theoretical simplification, hold that gains made by the unions are ephemeral and who continue to preach the idea of propaganda by the deed. They are mistaken twice over. Firstly, when they think that syllogisms can cancel history - in other words they believe, with purely abstract reasoning, that as long as capitalism exists there can be no improvement in the living conditions of the masses even where there have been labour struggles. Secondly, they are under the illusion that some external example can be more attractive and convincing than long, tiring educational activity within the day-to-day struggles.

Then there are those Anarchists who deny the need for a Specific Organization. Anarcho-Syndicalists of various types and Revolutionary Syndicalists lay their trust in the spontaneous evolution of the proletarian masses and that accordingly if the labour unions are left alone, sooner or later they will arrive at the decisive clash with the boss class. Malatesta already opposed this idea, held by Monatte, in 1907 at the International Congress of Amsterdam. He clarified how the proletariat's associations for resistance would inevitably slide into reformism, thus blurring sight of the goals. This was the economicism which Lenin pointed out, though he wanted to fight it by instilling class consciousness into the masses from without, but which Anarchist Communists fight by acting as a critical conscience from within. The historically proven decline of all unions which were born revolutionary (starting with Monatte's own CGT), has led some Anarcho-Syndicalists to seek the answer not in political organization, but in the creation of unions which are based on a pre-determined revolutionary idea. In other words, to create unions which are exclusively composed of conscious, revolutionary elements. The result is a strange mix of mass organization and political organization which is basically an organization of anarchists who set themselves up to do union work. In this way the obstacle has not been removed, but avoided, as the link which connects the masses to the revolutionary strategy is missing, unless of course it happens to be the resurrection of the idea of an external example which contaminates the masses by some process of osmosis.

For Anarchist Communists these theoretical problems are resolved with organizational dualism, assigning precise tasks and separate functions to the two organizations.

5.2.1. The Mass Organization is not a carbon copy of the political organization

For Anarchist Communists, the mass Organization (labour union) does not need to mimic their particular expectations of combativeness or opposition to capital to the point that if the union were not to meet their standards, they would not participate in the unions' struggles. They do not expect the union to be born revolutionary nor to continually carry on a fierce level of combat against the bosses. Unions are born out of a need for the proletariat to defend itself. They aim to wring as much as possible out of the bosses in order to win greater wealth for the exploited classes they represent. They try to satisfy the needs of the workers who are being continually squeezed by their adversary, the bosses. As long as the union exists, it will produce within it a managing class which more often than not acts in its own interests rather than in the interests of those it claims to represent. This is all an inevitable, naturally-occurring state of affairs and something which has yet to be avoided throughout the course of history.

From the capitalists' point of view, the unions' economic fight is not only an attempt to demand improvements in the (always unequal) division of the goods provided by the system of production, it is a permanent need to re-organize according to the fluctuations in the workers' demands. The unions therefore, linked with the phases of the class war, genetically take on the double role of answering the proletariat's interests and being one of the sources of the development of capitalism. And that is without taking into consideration the bad faith of its managing class who view their role as answering their own needs for a better life, or worse still as a trampoline for their careers in the bourgeois State's administrative ranks.

One fundamental requisite for an egalitarian revolution is that it be the work of those who wish to find within the new society the benefits of the happy life they are denied under the present social system. "The emancipation of the workers will be at the hands of the workers themselves" is not simply a slogan for Anarchist Communists, as it is for Marxists - it is a profound conviction. It is the proletariat, acting on its own initiative, which will liberate not only itself but all others too, heralding the end of class society. It follows therefore that the most united and conscious proletariat possible should face the bosses in the final clash if it is to avoid falling prey to an intellectual class which might "offer" to manage society on its behalf and supposedly for its benefit. But if it is to avoid every form of substitution, be it imposed or produced in all apparent naturalness, and if it is to prevent the handing over of power in any way which might end up being permanent and damaging to the final goal of establishing a free and equal society, the proletariat itself must be able to take on immediately the management of the various phases of the revolution and the subsequent reconstruction. This is why workers' unity is indispensable. And it can only be reached through collective struggle and not through the marvellous example of exemplary struggles which the masses should watch, admire and imitate. The nub of the problem is the link between the economic condition of the class and consciousness of the historical ends which the class must necessarily pursue for its own emancipation. Or, in other words, how does the link between class and class consciousness come about?

We have already seen how the Leninists consider class consciousness to be external to the proletariat and must be brought to the proletariat, even through authoritarian means. In direct opposition to this, Revolutionary Syndicalists hold that class consciousness is born spontaneously and gradually among the masses, the more they engage in the clash with capitalism. This is a vision which is clearly descended from economic determinism and the inevitable explosion of the internal contradictions in the capitalist system, while the Leninist vision is a product of bourgeois Jacobinism. Marxism has not remained immune from either. For many Anarchists who side with the struggle of the exploited, there is no automatic link between the class and class consciousness, while there is also a rejection of the Leninist methods. As we have already seen, Anarcho-Syndicalists (though admittedly not all of them) avoid the problem rather than face it, with their theory of example designed to infect the proletariat, who otherwise tend to bow down to the reformists. Their vision is for well-organized revolutionary unions to engage in radical, victorious struggles which serve as a magnet for the great mass of the exploited. Therefore, they hold that the union organization should, from day one, take an ideal form - even if this damages class unity. Theoretically, class consciousness comes before the condition of the class and the union becomes a carbon copy of the political organization.

Anarchist Communists consider this to be wrong (indeed Fabbri drew attention to this). Though we are fully aware that there will always be differing levels of consciousness among the workers and are convinced of the fact that unity does not mean homogeneity, we believe that the class comes before the consciousness, that unity comes before radicalness and that therefore the relationship between the class and class consciousness needs to be resolved in another way.

5.2.2. The Political Organization is not only for propaganda

If the running of the phase of revolutionary struggle and the society which follows must be firmly in the hands of the workers, as we have said already, then class unity is a necessary prerequisite as is the proletariat's consciousness of its historic needs, which are much greater than its immediate economic needs. How to grasp the horns of this dilemma is something which has been hotly debated for a long time and various solutions have been proposed, as we have seen. For class-struggle Anarchists, the solution has been clear since the days of Bakunin and requires two things: direct action and political organization.

The practice of direct action, in other words the first-hand running of the struggles, is a training ground for the acquisition of consciousness by the proletariat, which independently evaluates its victories and the methods adopted to win them on the one hand, and on the other, the bitterness of the conflict and the strength of the opponents. The progression from self-management of the day-to-day struggles to self-management of the revolutionary conflict is thereby more natural, without doubt. We must, however, be careful not to confuse direct action with just any action carried out by those concerned. Direct action is not just a group of people (however big or small, well-organized or conscious) self-managing their own struggles. This is something that every political grouping does in the course of its activities, but it does not add even one ounce of consciousness to the masses. Direct action can only be carried out by economically or territorially (and not politically) homogeneous groups in order to achieve even a modest objective, because it is only in this way that individuals with varying degrees of social consciousness can engage with each other against an external obstacle. They thereby acquire an awareness both of the momentary limitation of that struggle's aims, together with the skills (including technical skills, too) which will be needed to widen the scope of objectives they can aim for and ensure the long-lasting nature of their gains.

And it is precisely within the process of direct action that the irreplaceable role of the "party" (to use Malatesta's expression) of Anarchist Communists can be seen. Pushing forward the terms of the clash; enabling others to become conscious of how fruitful the gains made in economic struggle can be and how quickly and easily what has been won can be taken back by the enemy; placing the immediate aim within an ever-greater context of aspirations. These are the specific tasks of Anarchist Communist militants in the class struggle. In other words, the conscious members of the mass organization must work towards spreading the practice of direct action and use the struggles of today to enable a consciousness of the objectives of tomorrow to develop. Anarchist Communist militants find strength for their activities in the co-ordination of their efforts which takes place through their work in their political organizations. The political organization is therefore the much sought-after link between the class and class consciousness. Its activities as a part of general class organization are the enzyme which sparks off fermentation of the economic condition of the class in the full awareness of the proletariat's historical ends. But in order for that to happen there must be workers' unity, independent of their level of class consciousness and direct action. The mass organization, therefore, does not subject prospective members to entrance exams but simply groups together all the exploited unconditionally, in the way envisaged by Bakunin's project for the International Working Men's Association. The conflict with capital and the constant actions of the political organization (in Bakunin's plan, the Alliance for Socialist Democracy) within it, will ensure the struggles will gradually become more radical until such times as the decisive clash arrives.

The goal of the Anarchist Communist political organization is thus to remain a part of the class struggle in order to radicalize it and promote consciousness of its final objectives. The organization cannot limit itself to making propaganda (abstract propaganda, out of sight of the proletariat) but must descend to the level of consciousness expressed by the proletariat in any given moment and constantly seek to raise it. To do this it must produce analyses, strategies and credible proposals. Its members must gain the trust of the workers and distinguish themselves by the clarity of their ideas and their ability to promote convincing struggles which should, if conditions so permit, be victorious. However, they must not become a new leader class, separate from their comrades in struggle, but simply a point of reference which can point the way at any time and not lose their sense of direction during the ups and downs.

As it is obvious that not all proletarians will have reached the same level of consciousness when the revolution breaks out (what is required is unity, not an identical state of consciousness), it follows that "leading groups" will naturally evolve, if the reader will forgive the expression. But this does not mean that a Leninist-style dictatorship necessarily follows, if three fundamental points are adhered to. First of all if the gap between the "vanguard" (Bakunin's "active minority") and the masses, in terms of consciousness, is not too great. In this way it will be possible to maintain the maximum level of grassroots control over the former's actions by the great mass of the proletariat. Obviously, what is referred to here is the level of consciousness regarding ideas for struggle and not strategic awareness that members of the specific organization need to possess. Secondly, the "vanguard" needs to remain physically alongside its comrades in the struggle. It must not expect or demand a directing role for itself even if this were to be justifiable by the need to guarantee a successful outcome of the revolution. Finally, all power will have to be invested in the workplaces and in the proletariat's associations and, from there, proceed upwards from below, without ever being delegated to higher organs, allowing them carte blanche, not even with the excuse of greater scientific or technical competence. The organization of Anarchist Communists will have to be vigilant in order to ensure that none of these three potential deviations occurs.

Mike Harman
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Dec 12 2006 23:07
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
Which is an example of why, I suspect, that "ultra-left" ideas about trade unions rarely survive first contact with attempts to organise actual strike action.

The closest I've got to a strike was the union convenor at my job telling me they weren't "doing anything" for the national public sector pensions strike the day after I joined (which was the week I went full time there). Fair enough no one not in the union went on strike either but it was still fucking woeful.

And again, these Domino's guys down the road from Joe aren't ultra-leftists but they seemed to manage pretty well on Friday.