Does the IWW have a future in these islands?

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Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 13 2004 12:24
Does the IWW have a future in these islands?

My latest bulletin tells me there's 240 paper members of the IWW in the UK, but only 80 who pay subs. There's going to be a re-launch meeting at the anarchist bookfair -- but launched for what?

For me, the IWW is a source of employment info, but i don't think I've got much chance of organising my workplace as wobblie; often getting people to consider a mainstream union is a big enough step.

It seems to me that the IWW could do well in some areas the mainstream unions won't touch --like super-casual workplaces, but this will only happen if ther's a big enough base of IWWs in those sectors prepared to put iun the work; most IWW members are activists who have other concerns so I don't think this is likely. On the other hand, the IWW could serve as a radical strand within existing unions, composed of people who want to introduce direct action tactics.

What do people think? Is the IWW card now only a nostalgic affectation?

AnarchoAl
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Oct 13 2004 14:27

They just unionised a Starbucks in NY... I think pushing the Wobblies is one of the best tactical options available to us. What people respond to and are encouraged by is effectiveness, and the IWW can be effective. Providing legal info etc is a good way to start (re)building a reputation for the union, but we need more of course.

One of the reasons people aren't attracted to the capitalist unions is their general ineffectiveness- not to say they never achieve anything, they do, but once they're established in workplace they soon get sucked into the cooperation with the bosses nonsense. The reason behind that ineffectiveness is their structure, and this can be explained to people.

Basically, once you have a workplace that wants a union, you can ask those people to compare their choices- direct control over their union or union bosses who have a history of selling out those they "represent". There are so many examples of these sell-outs that it's an easy thing to point out to people.

Selling the IWW on its revolutionary aims won't get far with most people, but effectiveness and direct control are clear dividing lines that people will care about.

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JDMF
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Oct 13 2004 15:45

I think i'm one of the paper members, my sub has expired...

the starbucks case is in US, and with the recent truckers victory plus numerous workplaces organised across west coast IWW in US looks really good.

But UK, i think the first question that needs to be asked is what kind of union we want IWW to be. The failure to defend the caravan workers (? not sure now what factory they were in?) in Hull was a sad case, and cannot be repeated, ever.

If IWW can go legit and will be able to use all the traditional workplace tactics, plus the legal means of recognition, protection and tribunals then why not, i think IWW could achieve a position like syndicalist unions in many other countries have.

Also the question could be asked, well, wouldn't some syndicalist union which would be affiliated with the international syndicalist network, but not necessarily with the name of IWW do much better?

In many ways IWW in this country has been keeping an idea and a dream alive. Worthy thing, but perhaps not really a good base to build a fighting union on.

Can you post the details of the relaunch meeting here, i'd definitely want to take part.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 13 2004 15:58
JDMF wrote:
The failure to defend the caravan workers (? not sure now what factory they were in?) in Hull was a sad case, and cannot be repeated, ever.

Any more details on this?

I think that IWW -- or any workplace activity -- will never work whele it's being focussed on by protest groups, as just nother campaigning priority. Movements like this rise and survive when there is a need for them, and when their activists are not just doing it for political reasons, but because it helps them to get a better life.

I can't see the IWW doing this for me right now.

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JDMF
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Oct 13 2004 16:27

IWW has in recent years organised couple workplaces, the solid one in Poole, Dorset, a co-op supermarket, about 18 members - this is all couple years old info because that was the time when i was involved in doing the IWW mag Bread & Roses.

Then suddenly Hull syndicalists joined IWW and loads of new members came in, then couple workplaces in Hull got IWW majority, small factories, around 20 workers or so. Some industrial action followed, people got fired, tribunals all over the place, but then membership of a union wasn't suddenly grounds of dismissal because IWW is not a union! At least not in official books. Things went downhill from there.

This is really just third hand info, probably loads of factual mistakes, but the central point remains: don't play union unless you are one.

IWW is not an activist club, in a right situation it can really kick arse.

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Steven.
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Oct 13 2004 23:36

also surely unions should be getting workers together on the basis of a common economic interest - not on their personal politics (i.e. revolutionary anarcho type).

I think they'd be better off trying to build things like the italian base unions...

Augusto_Sandino
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Oct 14 2004 09:11

Woah, i was thinking of joining up in the UK too... One of 80 sub-paying members. I feel sort of guilty now.

Id say that Wildcat striking in awful workplaces is probably the best strategy to shake things up a bit, one of my almost apolitical friends was talking about some people who had suggested a walk out at his workplace, McDonalds. The IWW gives you a flag to fly, legal advice and such i suppose.

Whats the deal with these Italian Base Unions?

Steve
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Oct 14 2004 10:39
Steven. wrote:
also surely unions should be getting workers together on the basis of a common economic interest - not on their personal politics (i.e. revolutionary anarcho type).

Then stick with the TUC unions cos the IWW ain't no union, it's a propaganda group. This is borne out by the fact that IWW members also join TUC unions.

Funny how anarchists seem reluctant to take their politics into the workplace in the form of an anarchist workplace organisation but will go with the non-anarchist IWW.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 14 2004 10:47

Not everyone in the IWW is an anarchist -- what about those 'Hull syndicalists?'

And if the IWW's a propaganda group, it's a better one than most. I joined because they got back to me promptly, had a clear way to join, clear organisation and provided me with stickers, etc.

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JDMF
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Oct 14 2004 11:02

IWW is a hybrid of a propaganda group and union, though the union part needs more addressing. Anyways, the fact is that it is possible to organise your workplace into an alternative workers controlled union, but at the moment the union in the form of IWW can't give any of the legal guarantees what are given to unions generally.

For some anarchists this doesn't matter, but IWW is not an anarchist group and i don't think there is any value in turning your back on some real benefits you can get by being a legit union. It's not like these things weren't bloody difficult to start with without limiting the available tactics and protection out there.

AnarchoAl
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Oct 14 2004 11:27

The IWW in the UK recently voted to become an official union, which from the sounds of it fixes a lot of the above problems.

Steve
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Oct 14 2004 12:09
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Not everyone in the IWW is an anarchist -- what about those 'Hull syndicalists?'

That's my point. Why do anarchists support it rather than anarcho-syndicalism?

Hull Syndicalists? Still going? Dodgy bastards.

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the button
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Oct 14 2004 12:10

As far as I understand it, what happened in Hull was that a small company (not a caravan company) with about 5 IWWs sacked them. At least one of these was a 'Hull Syndicalist.' They claimed it was 'cos they were part of a union & were going to pursue it legally. They lost their case because the IWW isn't registered as a union with the government's Certification Office.

The Bristish IWW has indeed voted to register, by a very narrow margin on a low turn-out (20-odd in favour, 20-odd against). As far as I know, nothing's been done.

Which leads me on to another problem with the IWW (the reason I cancelled my subs, in fact) -- that nothing much happens. I live in London. There were 2 meetings for London members in the year I was a member, & the turn-out of London IWWs on each occasion from 2. The second meeting, there were more there, but they'd come all the way from Brighton & dropped in because they'd been to a Chomsky lecture that day!

Also, the IWW admin in the US is not all it could be, & there are squabbles & petty arguments galore. Did you know, for instance, that for a brief period, details of the Starbucks organising campaign were taken off the IWW website because some folks reckoned the organiser hadn't gone through the proper channels to get his campaign approved? roll eyes

Ah well. That's my 2-pennorth on the IWW. I'm not hostile to the wobblies by any means, it's just I want to be part of an organisation that going places & doing stuff, and in London at least, that isn't the IWW.

red n black star

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Steven.
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Oct 14 2004 12:44

AFAIK the hull people all left when there were sacked...

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the button
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Oct 14 2004 12:46

Steven.speaks the truth. ^

Steve
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Oct 14 2004 12:58

Was the Hull lot still basically the same people who tried to rip off the DAM & brought out a bogus issue of Direct Action which we had to scrap? Wouldn't trust them at all.

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Oct 14 2004 12:59

button, IWW is only as active/strong/going places as the membership, so i don't know how the IWW shoud change, if there is no active and willing members to take shit forwards, nothing will, and thats it. Or did you have any suggestions how things should be taken forwards?

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the button
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Oct 14 2004 15:14

I joined the IWW because I thought it was a union, albeit a union of a special kind. Although it organises a few (& I mean a few) workplaces in the US, there are no IWW shops in the UK to my knowledge. No hard feelings towards the IWW from yours truly, it's just not a union. And I really can't see it being one, either.

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the button
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Oct 14 2004 15:14
Steve wrote:
Was the Hull lot still basically the same people who tried to rip off the DAM & brought out a bogus issue of Direct Action which we had to scrap? Wouldn't trust them at all.

Ohhhhhhhhh yes roll eyes

Augusto_Sandino
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Oct 15 2004 12:54
Steve wrote:
Steven. wrote:
also surely unions should be getting workers together on the basis of a common economic interest - not on their personal politics (i.e. revolutionary anarcho type).

Then stick with the TUC unions cos the IWW ain't no union, it's a propaganda group. This is borne out by the fact that IWW members also join TUC unions.

Funny how anarchists seem reluctant to take their politics into the workplace in the form of an anarchist workplace organisation but will go with the non-anarchist IWW.

Well the IWW is apolitical, but in America when it was big it came to be dominated by anarcho-syndicalists. There were always socialists, etc. there too. I am an anarcho-syndicalist, and im pretty friendly with the straight off syndicalists too, so none of this is a bad thing to me...

And as for joining TUC unions as well, i think thats a good idea. Get the anarchist influence in there, and one day it might actually come to something.

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button, IWW is only as active/strong/going places as the membership, so i don't know how the IWW shoud change, if there is no active and willing members to take shit forwards, nothing will, and thats it. Or did you have any suggestions how things should be taken forwards?

Yeah, thats pretty much it. Its more a tool, than the whole organisational structure. I suppose perhaps that does make it "not a union" as such... We want to look at CNT or something and compare the two, CNT was supposedly even less structured.

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the button
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Oct 15 2004 13:03

When I said IWW isn't a union, I wasn't thinking of how/whether it's structured. Unions are there to defend & organise workers (which boils down to the same thing, cos if we organise, the bosses can't fuck with us as much). As it stands, the IWW can't really do that.

Augusto_Sandino
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Oct 15 2004 13:18

But if it did have the workers in large enough numbers... I would go with what JDMF said, its only as powerful, or as effective as the people in it. Really, we need to be talking about how to rebuild it as a power, rather than its current effectiveness.

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the button
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Oct 15 2004 13:21

Take your point, Augusto, but people in Hull were recruited thinking that the IWW was a union that could protect them in the here & now. By all means recruit people to build a union that could do the business for them one day -- but be clear that that's what they're joining.

Steve
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Oct 15 2004 14:32
Augusto_Sandino wrote:
And as for joining TUC unions as well, i think thats a good idea. Get the anarchist influence in there, and one day it might actually come to something.

But my point is that if the IWW are a proper union i.e. can defend it's members in the workplace, call strikes, etc. then there is no need to join a reformist union at all. The example of the IWW would be enough.

If you are an an anarcho-syndicalist why are you a member of the apolitical IWW? Anarcho-syndicalism is about combining the political and economic struggle in a union federation with the aim of establishing libertarian communism.

Username
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Oct 15 2004 16:16
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Does the IWW have a future in these islands?

I'm pretty sure I hope not.

Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
often getting people to consider a mainstream union is a big enough step.

wow, over there, too?

Augusto_Sandino
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Oct 16 2004 12:44
Steve wrote:
Augusto_Sandino wrote:
And as for joining TUC unions as well, i think thats a good idea. Get the anarchist influence in there, and one day it might actually come to something.

But my point is that if the IWW are a proper union i.e. can defend it's members in the workplace, call strikes, etc. then there is no need to join a reformist union at all. The example of the IWW would be enough.

If you are an an anarcho-syndicalist why are you a member of the apolitical IWW? Anarcho-syndicalism is about combining the political and economic struggle in a union federation with the aim of establishing libertarian communism.

Im not a member, i thought about it but i couldnt be bothered with setting up a standing order to pay my dues and all that crap. And to be honest, i was running very much on reputation with the IWW, their past work in the US seemed a good way to be going, thats what made me want to join!

AnarchoAl
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Oct 17 2004 09:49

The IWW are not "apolitical"- they still have the explicit goal of abolition of the wage system and its replacement with direct workplace democracy, they just have no proposal for how geographical areas would be governed.

If there's nothing happening with getting the union registered, does anyone know either (a) who ought to be doing it (so I can harrass them ) or (b) if/how someone else can do it (my gf is newly-appointed the Glasgow delegate). Although apparently there's problems with this because you can lose the status again for wildcat strikes etc.

Here in Glasgow we've just got an official branch set up, and would like to move forwards to actually unionising workplaces (gasp! madmen!), so we really would appreciate it if the infrastructure the union claims to provide was actually there...

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JDMF
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Oct 25 2004 16:18

The meeting which was mentioned earlier is going to be held at:

Anarchist bookfair, University of london union, malet st, London, sat, 27th Nov, 12-2 room 2c.

See you there!

Bill101
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Nov 11 2004 20:32

Augusto Sandino wrote:

'Im not a member, i thought about it but i couldnt be bothered with setting up a standing order to pay my dues and all that crap. '

LOL. That tells us more about you than it does about the IWW. smile

It's true that the future of the IWW, just like any other organisation, depends on the committment of its members, and London has inexplicably always been a problem.

It is also true that some of the people who joined in Hull a couple of years ago were tossers, but we still have at least one decent member there.

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888
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Nov 11 2004 20:47
Username wrote:
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Does the IWW have a future in these islands?

I'm pretty sure I hope not.

Fuck off and die you irrelevant cock.

OldGit
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Nov 12 2004 00:26

I gave up on enrager forums after being labelled a racist, Prior to that I was a described as a Trotskyist. Having been informed of a discussion here on the IWW I returned ("... like a dog to its vomit") to learn that a group I was a member of are "dodgy bastards." This from somebody I don't know and who doesn't know me.

Well knowledge is power and ignorance is a licence to peddle shite. So, shit-peddlers, here are a few facts.

The Hull IWW was started by eight members of the Hull Direct Action Group. Some of these, maybe two, had been members of Hull Syndicalists.

The group was formed to support a rumoured breakaway from UCATT by caravan workers looking for a more reliable union. This never came about, the so-called caravan workers representative was a Walter Mitty type representing only himself.

The sacked members were working for survey firm, working the phones. They joined the IWW because they heard there were redundancies coming. We already had four members there and had represented one at a disciplinary hearing. I suppose we looked like an obvious choice.

With hindsight I don't think the sackings were against the union. Two of the people sacked would have gone by any redundacy criteria. The other four all had had run-ins with the management, one of these was not a union member. The sackings were vindictive, and the four had a tribunal case, but I don't think it was about the union.

Things moved too fast for us, and we handled things badly. On the other hand I don't think any other union would have done better. They'd have just said "tough shit!"

We all make mistakes, like handing a paper over to a rip-off merchant - gullible or what?

Factual part over, sneering time. I heard that DAM sent a hit squad up to Hull to work the the malefactor over,but they couldn't even get the strongarm stuff right. There's not a mark on him, and he's still ducking and diving.