Federation co-operation

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Halifaxclasswar
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Nov 24 2009 10:14
Federation co-operation

I've been hearing a bit about the national federations working more closely recently (as in the 'Problem with federations' thread) but mostly just casual chatter. I personally see this as an exciting prospect and possibly a large step forward but i can't help but feel it's just rumors rather than a genuinely proposed activity. Can anyone enlighten me as to whether or not this is a real possibility and, if not, then why not?

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Steven.
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Nov 24 2009 10:41

Hi, while I don't think there is any significant political difference between some of the groups - AF and Solfed, a merger is not something which is on the cards. This is mainly due to organisational inertia, and personality differences going back decades.

But you're right, there have been recent moves towards better co-operation, which is a good sign, and something I think our site has helped with.

A good discussion related to this was held recently here, would be worth taking a look at:
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/role-anarcho-syndicalist-organisation-role-anarchist-federation-24092009

posi
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Nov 24 2009 11:44

Perhaps if a full on merger straight off seems a bit much, something like what the Revolutionary Marxist Current did with Big Flame in the '70s could be tried: do a temporary merger for three months. e.g. hold joint branch meetings, produce joint materials locally, discuss each others' conference business. See how it goes. Then, at the end of the three months, evaluate how it all went...

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 12:11

i don't think a merger is on the cards, some in each camp have floated the idea for hypothetical scenarios but the prevailing view seems to be that we're trying to do complementary but different things, so co-operation is the way to go.

for SolFed's part, the internal discussions we've been having since our national conference in May have begun to bear fruit, with a consensus seeming to emerge on what we consider an anarcho-syndicalist union and its role - this should filter through to our published output in the next 6 months or so.

i think something to aim for is a situation akin to places on the continent where SolFed takes on a more practical applied role and the AF participates in it to this extent while retaining its independence for more specifically political activities. what this means in practice is under discussion locally and nationally, as soon as some kind of consensus emerges i'll elaborate, but locally we've been looking into ways 'direct action casework' type activity could put us in a position to practice what we preach without becoming either a proto representative union or radical NGO-style service provider.

There have been some inquiries about dual membership from AFers who find themselves nearer an active SF local, and for my part i'd probably dual card if SF is successful in taking on a more practical anarcho-syndicalist role (and sheds its more purely political activities), although at the moment we're too similar for that to make sense. no-one in SF objects to individual dual membership, and there are no objections in principle to mass dual membership so long as it follows a proper discussion of our respective roles (so as it isn't seen as entryism).

In terms of what should happen next, i think both members of the feds and the wider milieu need to think about and discuss the purpose and roles of (pro-) revolutionary organisation, look for areas of practical co-operation and take it from there. the idea of a joint SF-AF industrial/community strategy has been mooted, and that would certainly be a positive step imho.

Halifaxclasswar
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Nov 24 2009 12:22

I think using 'merger' was perhaps a bad choice of words, I more meant just an increase in co-operation. As a non-member to either solfed nor AF i was wondering how tangible this co-operation is. I've never heard of explicitly joint events/publications/meetings do these happen at all? (The 2009 conference is the only thing i can really think of and its hard to say, from an external perspective, if anything has come out of that)

vanilla.ice.baby
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Nov 24 2009 12:40

I think that there is no need for federations or groups to merge, when they are doing different things and developing different perspectives - as long as class struggle anarchists of all federations and none (and hopefully non party socialists as well for that matter) can work together on promoting practical class struggle action and politics where ever possible.

If Afed and Solfed were to merge, it's almost certain a new organisation would emerge to fill the real or perceived gap within a year.

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Steven.
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Nov 24 2009 12:42

That conference was organised by independents, not by the federations.

Joint events have been held, however, publications, no although members of both contribute to libcom and via libcom very similar leaflets have been produced, for example during the Gaza conflict.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 12:43

in terms of concrete co-operation, i think the London Education Workers' Group is one example, as well as adaption of each others' leaflets on Gaza and the BNP. in Brighton we've attended each others meetings and worked together on Vestas occupation support. i think the current discussions might lead to a more systematic co-operation - if we clarify our respective roles and strategies, that opens the door for that. For example, the AF supports SF's strategy of industrial networking, but hasn't wanted to join because that means joining another political group (hence many AFers joining the IWW instead). if SF sheds its more specifically political functions and focusses on being an industrial/regional network of militants, that might change the situation.

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Steven.
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Nov 24 2009 13:03

Joseph, if you went through with the latter strategy, possibly with the AF you could work out some practical scheme to assist this, such as offering free or discounted membership of the second Federation

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Farce
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Nov 24 2009 14:38

I'm pretty sure I've heard of London AF and SF having joint meetings. And are Brighton AF not part of the Brighton Class Struggle forum thing?
Do SolFed still have anyone in South Yorkshire, by the way?

martinh
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Nov 24 2009 15:13

In London there have been joint meetings (including a public one) and we are currently trying to find a date for a joint meeting/social before xmas. There's also been the London Education Workers Group, but we're a bit apart from that where I am as we lack education workers.

We did a joint leaflet for the Strangers into Citizens demo in May, and marched together (with others it must be said); and also for the last Belgrade 6 picket we did.

I believe there is one isolated member of SF in South Yorks, not sure what he's up to.

Regards,

Martin

vanilla.ice.baby
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Nov 24 2009 16:20
Joseph Kay wrote:
For example, the AF supports SF's strategy of industrial networking, but hasn't wanted to join because that means joining another political group (hence many AFers joining the IWW instead). if SF sheds its more specifically political functions and focusses on being an industrial/regional network of militants, that might change the situation.

But that is not really on the cards is it?

Yorkie Bar
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Nov 24 2009 16:29

Which cards are these that everyone keeps talking about? There doesn't seem to be much on them; anyone would think we're not playing with a full deck... wink

~J.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 16:32
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
But that is not really on the cards is it?

weird statement from a member of neither organisation confused

its certainly under discussion, the poles being (1) we should leave specifically political functions to the AF and focus on being a political-economic organisation of militants, organised industrially and regionally, and (2) doubt over the role for specific poltical organisation, since the 1930s FAI approach was a historical failure.

personally i don't think (2) should prevent us focussing our energies on being what we want to be. the rest will take care of itself. hardly anybody in SolFed wants it to be a political organisation, the discussions are mostly over how to change, not whether to change.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Nov 24 2009 16:50

I'm monitoring your chatter on Facebook. wink

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 16:52

me and jack account for 95% of SolFed's internet usage. i never realised our organisational luddism was a counter-surveillance strategy.

knightrose
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Nov 24 2009 17:34

In Manchester the AF and Solfed have generally good relations. We (AF) regularly invite Solfed members to our meetings - including some of the more internal ones - and the Solfed member who attends is valued. We also have held a number of joint events in the past, most recently a day school on the crisis last year. We've also done joint meetings and leaflets in the past.

That said, I'm personally against the idea of joint membership with either Solfed or Class War. Joining the AF means agreeing with all 10 of our Aims and Principles (no crossed fingers). I don't see you can do that and be part of another federation with different ones. We're going to discuss this issue as a federation in the near future.

However, I've gone on the record in the past in saying that I think that AF and Solfed forming something new would be a step forwards. I still think so. I'm not so sure about CW, but that's down to nuances that probably could be easily overcome or worked around. I've certainly met some excellent comrades in CW. One area of disagreement I've had with Solfed comrades in the past has been over the need for a specific libertarian communist political organisation. We are firmly committed to that.

However, the most important thing is working closely together wherever possible. That's the way we will see what can be achieved.

Finally, one thing about groups like ours is that there isn't a mad competitive urge (except when we're either pissed or having a laugh).

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 17:52
knightrose wrote:
Joining the AF means agreeing with all 10 of our Aims and Principles (no crossed fingers). I don't see you can do that and be part of another federation with different ones.

only if there's some contradiction. since nobody in SolFed wants to set up organisations that are "accepted by capitalism", that have "to be able to control its membership in order to make deals with management" and "aim, through negotiation, (...) to achieve a fairer form of exploitation of the workforce", i don't see any contradiction. in fact every member of SolFed agrees that "What's important is that we organise ourselves collectively, arguing for workers to control struggles themselves."

kinghtrose wrote:
One area of disagreement I've had with Solfed comrades in the past has been over the need for a specific libertarian communist political organisation. We are firmly committed to that.

like i said above, some SF members don't see this need. which is fine, they won't join it. personally i do, although it's not the historical FAI role, so if SolFed makes the changes under discussion i'd probably be a member of both. i don't see this as an obstacle really.

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Farce
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Nov 24 2009 17:52

I'd guess that pretty much all of SolFed would agree to 1-6 and 8-10 (although I suppose some might have problems with 9). So 7's the only one that people might have real problems with, and I don't pretend to understand the nuances of SF's industrial strategy well enough to say for a fact that SFers disagree with principle 7 if they say they don't.
If anyone has contact details for the South Yorkshire SolFed comrade, could you PM me?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 18:01

i think the problem over the AF's A&P #7 is that it unilaterally defines a union, then assumes that everyone else means the same thing by it. SolFed would also reject such an organisation, however revolutionary it claimed to be. in fact we're more consistent in doing so since none of us have joined the IWW wink

DAM were making the critique of unions which seek recognition in order to negotiate on behalf of workers back in 1991:

DAM wrote:
The main aim of any union is to maintain its power within as part of the wider trade union movement and also to exert pressure and maintain influence on the state, management and society as a whole. They seek to do this in various ways, one of the most important being maintaining as high a membership as possible. This is of prime importance not least in the TUC pecking order. This has now reached the point where it seems to matter little how remote it inactive that membership is or maybe just as long as the dues are coming in and membership figures are up. Getting to the bizarre stage where unions sign up members, in single union deals for factories that are not yet even built. As for their role within the state and government, this has all but been eliminated under Thatcher. But the desperation of the unions can be seen for instance in the willingness of the 'mighty' TUC, in return for being allowed some involvement with what was the Manpower Services Commission, helping to administer youth schemes like the YTS that not only pay slave wages but encouraged dangerous working conditions for thousands of working class young people.

But of all the areas that the unions seek to have influence in by far the most important is its dealing with management, for it is from this area that all their power flows. They must retain the right to negotiate wages and conditions with management. It is by having the power to negotiate on behalf of workers that they retain their influence within the workplace and ultimately attract and retain members. In turn it is having that control and influence in the workplace that they are of use to the boss class. The unions offer stability in the workplace, they channel workers anger, shape and influence their demands and, if need be, act to police the workforce. Perhaps this is best summed up by a quote from the boss class themselves: a manager when asked by a reporter why his multi-national had recognised unions in South Africa replied "have you ever tried negotiating with a football field full of militant angry workers?" And it was this threat of an uncontrollable militant, if not revolutionary workforce, that first persuaded the capitalist of the need to accept reformist unions, seeing them as a way to control the workforce.

i admit SolFed has been poor in articulating what exactly a 'revolutionary union' is, but it should have long been clear what it is not.

knightrose
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Nov 24 2009 18:18
Quote:
Jack wrote:
would feel the value of a specific political organisation instead / as well.

It's more than just a "value". We're committed to a leadership of ideas.

Yorkie Bar
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Nov 24 2009 18:22

Are you? Where is tha in the A&Ps?

~J.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 24 2009 18:26
Jack wrote:
There are members who would oppose point 10, altho most would personally agree with it.

that may prevent some SF people joining AF, but not vice versa. so it's an argument for a kinda CNT-FAI relationship rather than merger, imho.

knightrose wrote:
It's more than just a "value". We're committed to a leadership of ideas.

i agree with this to an extent, although i don't think the AF should attempt to 'lead' SolFed which would be patronising as fuck. obviously you make arguments, but i think the 'leadership of ideas' role applies more to the wider class with the full (anti-)political ideas of anarchism; attacking gender roles, religion etc as well as class society. i don't think a political-economic organisation such as SolFed aspires to be would need such leadership since it has (essentially anarchist) politics of its own, unlike the Charter of Amiens unions for whom the practice of entryism/leadership was derived.

knightrose
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Nov 24 2009 18:26

It's in Role of the Revolution and Beyond Resistance - two key AF pamphlets.

knightrose
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Nov 24 2009 18:49

Actually most AF people I've spoken to wouldn't see it that way. That's not to say we're all going to join Solfed, of course smile Most would probably worry that if some of you said something like that you would alienate a lot of your own members and sections of the IWA. We really want good relations between our two federations and would hate it if anyone did or said anything to spoil them.

Yorkie Bar
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Nov 24 2009 18:54
knightrose wrote:
It's in Role of the Revolution and Beyond Resistance - two key AF pamphlets.

So it is. My mistake.

~J.

nastyned
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Nov 24 2009 19:09

I've long been of the opinion that difference between the AF and SolFed are not that big but I think people should hold off on the grand strategies and CNT/FAI comparisons (ancient and modern) for now. Let's get some practical stuff sorted and see where we can go from there.

knightrose
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Nov 24 2009 19:15

I think nastyned has just said quite succinctly what we should do.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 25 2009 00:09

Absolutely agree

Yorkie Bar
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Nov 25 2009 12:39
Quote:
Let's get some practical stuff sorted

Well, we could do that, or we could just hang out on libcom like the ultra-leftist sparts we are...

~J.

nastyned
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Nov 25 2009 17:08

laugh out loud