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IWA - international structure

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boozemonarchy's picture
boozemonarchy
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May 18 2016 12:24
IWA - international structure

Some unofficial IWW discussion prompted me to ask a question for IWA comrades and others -

Is the federative structure of national affiliation really working for the IWA?

No, I do not intend to argue that national affiliation is aping the state or something. I think I've heard that somewhere and it was a pretty shit argument from what I remember - basically folks grasping at wet grass to shit-talk the IWA, meh.

Anyways - some background of what I'm on about -

Recent troubles in the IWA - while clearly at least partially personal - are linked with the voting structure at the international congress. In the IWA, there is typically one section per country and one vote per section. The CNT has repeatedly attempted to reform this structure into a proportional system.

Seeing this discussion take place in the IWW, it's clear to me that many folks lacked a basic understanding of what kind of organization the IWA actually is; a federation (IWA) of discrete, national (non-pejorative) organizations (CNT, ZSP, etc) rather than a unitary membership based union like the IWW. It seemed to be a somewhat popular opinion in that particular online IWW forum that the CNT's reform of proportional voting was progressive and moving the IWA in the right direction structurally; and that this opinion was largely based on an (inappropriate) comparison with how the IWW does it's 'congress' (which is a proportional voting system on the level of individual branches / unions (not entire 'regions').

In my opinion it is fairly clear that the CNT's proposal of simply slapping proportional voting onto IWA's extant structure is shit - it effectively ices out it's sister organizations and blurs the line between the will of the CNT and the will of the international. Equally shit, is continually shooting down this proposal and moving the issue 'down the line' until, well, we all see what is happening now.

Anywho - seems to me a better solution would be to dissolve y'all's national organizations into a unitary IWA where individual branches / unions would carry proportional votes to an international congress. The idea here is that it seems hard to deny that organizational chauvinism is at least a thing in the IWA and has contributed at least partly to these perennial issue. Seems that folks on both sides of the issue are concerned that their voices are currently being stymied (CNT) in the IWA or will be stymied (ZSP) if proportional reform becomes a thing.

Was wondering if this has been suggested before within the IWA (or even outside it for that matter)? If so, how was it received? How do current members if IWA sections feel about being in a unitary international union?

I know some folks will laugh at these as entirely unrealistic and so forth. You're probably right, but this seems to be a fairly serious schism which is really unfortunate - so would seem ok to consider lots of options?

Full disclosure - I'm a WSA member (an org formerly the US IWA) as well as a wob (Missoula GMB). On these forums I've been a partisan for syndicalism outside of the IWW. This position is only a thing because there is a faction (not sure if it is coherent or anything) or at least popular opinion within US IWW that the IWW ought to have a monopoly on syndicalism in this region. This issue is about as perennial as the IWA proportional voting disease. I'm an adamant supporter of both (IWW & IWA) and have actively worked with both (acting in solidarity with IWA sections occasionally, attempting to broaden US syndicalism via WSA, and being an active member of my IWW GMBs).

nokta
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May 18 2016 13:07

I think the proportional vote was mainly put forward because of the unequal state and orientation of sections inside IWA. There are very small propaganda group sections that have voting power and have alienated the bigger union-oriented sections (CNT, USI, FAU) and there has been some bad blood through ideological witch hunting. So the proposal for proportional vote was a (maybe bad) try to save the IWA from drifting apart. Now that this split is real, we may not even need a proportional vote in the new IWA anymore, or e.g. only for very important decisions.

As for the structural debate. As I understand it the IWW has been mostly been only a real thing in North America and was quite centralized. Only in the last couple of years has the IWW been growing and building real structures outside of North America / the USA and there seems to be now a discussion inside IWW to change the structures now because of this development.

I think this "worldwide membership" of IWW is a very specific thing and cannot (and maybe should not) be copied easily.

The interesting discussion would be how IWW and IWA (or the "new IWA") can strengthen their bounds (if desired). The worldwide structure of the IWW and the "one country one section" of the IWA are incompatible in a strict sense, but I think there could be other ways.

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boozemonarchy
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May 18 2016 13:45

Thanks for the response notka -

I'm not interested in a debate about whose right in the proportional shit-show. I shouldn't have spouted my opinion on the matter in the OP, so sorry for misleading and all. Really curious about international structure and possibilities outside of the 'proportional or no' question.

That said, interesting post -

If IWW desired to be in the IWA and the IWA was really into it as well - it would seem that the 'other way' would involve something like I've suggested - a unitary organization. Thoughts?

Also, I don't really suggest that the IWA 'copy' IWW's international structure per say - it would def. be their own thing it just wouldn't involve discrete national (non-pejorative) organizations with their own constitutions and so forth.

Just wanted to say also that I'm sorry this, and my suggestion or kind of, well, neither here nor there. I get that it's easy to just spout on about how to fix this or that from my comfortable position from 'without'. Truth told, I do feel sort of invested (at least in a small way) with the success of the IWA and wish it well naturally.

akai
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May 18 2016 13:49

Comrade, this is a compl icated quest ion but l would l ike you to understand th is clearly: if you ask quest ions on L ibcom, not to the lWA d irectly, you w ill get maybe the private answers of 10 of the maybe couple of dozen of lWA members who read this. This means that it will not be representative. Also, l think everybody welcomes discussion with people outside the lWA, but the ultimate discussions about how things should work belong do the Sections. Not that l am trying to discourage your question - but just so it is clear.

That said, l can only tell you if anything was discussed in the lWA on this matter or inside any Section (that l know of) or my own opinion. l cannot tell you "what the lWA thinks" on any matter than it hasn't taken a position on.

However, one thing is clear: there are two different ideas at work here - "one big union" and federation. lWA was formed as a federation in the clear knowledge that organizations are different, maybe the social situation is different, maybe the legal situation is different, etc. etc. What this means in reality is that the different unions of the lWA have a lot of autonomy to discover what is best for them and apply their own internal agreements. So it is very different than in the lWW where maybe the internal rules are the same or similar.

l don't know the internal functioning of all the Sections, but some l know very well and we can point to very big differences. There can be a whole long text on that. This might be the voting systems, affiliation criteria, etc. etc. And the practices can vary incredibly. For example, CNT allows for the creation of workplace "syndical sections" with even one person. (Of course these sections would have to be under a SOV.) For us the minimum is higher but even so, we would consider it weird to have a tiny union in a big workplace and we wouldn't adopt that practice. What this means is that they have lots of "syndical sections", of different sizes. We have fewer but not the tiny ones.

We talked about this practice and saw one advantage: that is nobody knows your union is one person, you can seem to have lots of unions, but ultimately we just have the idea that it is a fiction. We are certainly involved in some struggles involving one worker in a workplace, but we can save the posturing.

lt is just one example of how we can have a different practice.

And, for example, WSA. As far as l know, it has a large individual membership and you don't have to be an organized group to join. ln our organization, we don't like that idea because we would like to start off and grow as a federation of unions, so first you have to have some group of people organized to join. lf you are an individual and isolated, you might be able to be a contact or sympathizer and, if feasible, join the nearest group. But the idea is different - that the main unit is the group of workers - whether it be a local, branch or workplace group - not the individual. However, we can understand that there are different factors in play and maybe this is better (or the only way) for you now. This is the whole idea of organizational autonomy in a federation.

There are some who would like to make autonomy too wide and this has long been an issue. l won't get into it, but basically the main autonomy in a federation is to decide.

ln my organization we also have some degree of autonomy of the unions: for example, they set their own dues (just as long as any obligations on the national or international level can be met); there were even some that wanted to have consensus decision making at their meetings. Our federation as a whole does not work on that, although we try to discuss and make compromises - but it isn't a big deal if one of the local groups have some variation. The list of small differences can go on.

Other differences might be how often Congress is held. For comrades from larger countries, Congress can be challenging. Or how votes are collected. (We have a referendum system as well, which allows us to make decisions between Congresses on an as-needed basis.)

Taking all of this into account, working out one internal regulation would not only be difficult, but not desirable. l mean, to be frank, some people have been doing things a certain way for years. lt is their tradition. And, people have their preferences for one way or another.

Even when l look at Sections who l think have good internal procedure (like our comrades from South of the Tatry, l think it is quite good), you sometimes have to realize that some of the things would be impossible in your concrete situation.

Also, as l said, inside even a national federation one can find a lot of different situation. For example, a local union like a SOV tends to have a different dynamic than a workplace union. So we here like to be flexible, as long as it is within our framework.

We can also mention that the composition of the national unions internally can look different and thus create some differences. For example, we know some unions (even bigger ones in the lWA) which have most of the membership in small local groups and maybe no workplace unions, or only a couple, or maybe only a couple but with the majority of the national structure... For example, the proportion of the workplace members of our national organization is extremely high, so our actions focus on this, on bigger or smaller workplace conflicts. And some policies we have reflect this - but they are not needed or desirable for some others.

l hope that answers the question.

To go to another point, no, none of these issues are personal. People may be trying to personalize them, but all things are real issues.

Now, if you want to talk about voting issues, don't get it wrong. We don't have the positions we have because we will be "stymied". We have the positions we have because we know how these things have been abused and how they can be used to just stop discussion. But just to give you a hint about another difference in practice and how it affects this issue.

How do the Sections get/take members? Some are rather restrictive, but l have also seen one Section where you just fill out a declaration on the internet and that's it. All proportional systems actually favor those who practice the latter: the real incentive is that you get more votes. Of course, if you have a very democratic structure, with a quorom, etc. having 100 people in one union becomes a challenge. ln fact, we saw locally that it is better to break this number down into concrete workplaces or so on and each smaller group delegate to the larger assembly than try to have a big meeting. On the other hand, we know there are plenty of larger orgs that in fact get run by very small groups of people, who dispose of more votes, because they theoretically have more people. So they because representatives of a passive membership and use their votes. lt's not like they count votes according to how many people actually voted. (We would have less criticism of that.) So there can be unions with 10 votes where 100 people votes, and ones where 10 people voted.

ln our organization, if you really don't take part, you are a sympathizer, not a member. Some other unions, especially where people are richer, are able to collect money from people who never come. Here it is hard enough to collect money from people who are our members. Sometimes we have to make them sympathizers because they didn't pay dues.

But then there are all the poor people we cannot afford. So if we have a poor member, we should waive his or her dues, but then that person is not counted as our member for lWA purposes, because we can count how many we can pay for. lf a person cannot pay, we can pay for him/her in solidarity, but this only works if it is an exceptional thing. Unfortunately, a lot of our members are poor.

Of course, look at this neat thing in the CNT proposal. Currently, l pay my one dollar like everybody else. But they want me to pay 10 cents! So basically, what that means is that l can now have 90 cents left over to sponsor 9 people's dues to the lWA. With such a scheme, l can call up every sympathizer, talk to any worker, etc. etc. and say, listen - you can join us for much cheaper or even free. This amount of course something CNT thought up to avoid having collective money and have more cash for lawyers, etc., but if we chose to use this, an organization like ours could benefit numerically since we have huge contacts with workers and small groups of workers. ln such a way, within a couple of months we would certainly have the same amount of votes as the CNT, since the voting bracket proposed is 1001-5000. lt would take CNT more effort to get to the next bracket than we to this bracket, and we would manage this bracket a lot faster than USl or FAU, because we have a lot of sympathizers already.

l suppose people won't understand this, but the thing is, we just wouldn't do this, even if we could. Because the cornerstone of our organizational model is that we want to work easily together in the same way, not just through anybody in the org and hope those people won't come and make the organization for example, a nationalist one. We actually want people to understand, not just join. This task is just much more difficult in our situation. So no, we won't go this way and we won't enourage anything that results in verticalization.

akai
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May 18 2016 14:10

Nokta, l don't agree with your point of view, as you can imagine. But l will say something. lf you think you don't need proportional voting any more, that is probably because you think that you can see eye-to-eye with those two unions on everything, but cannot see eye-to-eye with smaller unions.

Here, l think that this is a large part of the perceptional problem. l and also some comrades from other Sections have gone over past Congress decisions for years and, besides the question of voting rights and minimum numbers, there are literally no issues where there is a division in the way you suggest. ln other words, Sections propose their ideas, Sections support them or not. Thus, we have proposed many things. Some things almost everybody like, some things weren't passed. When l look at the votes, l can even see that there is no pattern that Sections we are close to necessarily supported all our proposals.

What this suggests to me is that there is a lot of room to discuss CONCRETE issues and the acceptance or not of concrete proposals doesn't depend on the size of organizations.

On the other hand, l would suggest a bigger problem is that in general, you don't respect smaller sections and this is as much a source of bad blood than you supposed 'witch hunts". ln fact, from my point of view (but not only) if some Section is criticized and a conflict spirals, it is more the result of the fact that nobody had to will to talk.

So it is somewhat funny, maybe you think we are not as big as you, but we are more union than you for sure but that fact has not led smaller sections to witch hunt us, only larger ones. There's nothing to do with large or small here. lt is mostly about your changing political and organizational positions. My opinion.

nokta
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May 18 2016 14:16
boozemonarchy wrote:
I'm not interested in a debate about whose right in the proportional shit-show. I shouldn't have spouted my opinion on the matter in the OP, so sorry for misleading and all.

I just wanted to emphasize that the "proportional vote" idea and corresponding shit-talk is a result of an internal IWA conflict that has been going on for years, not the source of it, as some people want to turn this into a debate about this particular idea. I think there is already a thread for that debate.

The interesting discussion here is this:

boozemonarchy wrote:
If IWW desired to be in the IWA and the IWA was really into it as well - it would seem that the 'other way' would involve something like I've suggested - a unitary organization. Thoughts?

So a unitary organization would mean a merger of IWA and IWW? I think this is just not realistic. The structural tradition of IWA (as akai has shown) and IWW is just too different.

I meant something different by "other way". I think there could be something like a formal contract of cooperation between IWW and IWA:
- Solidarity between all parts of IWW and IWA is encouraged.
- IWW becomes a observer/friend of IWA and vice-versa
- IWW members in countries with an IWA section but no IWW national branch should try to join the IWA section and vice-versa.
- If there is a IWA section and a IWW national branch in the same country they are encouraged to work together on all levels and e.g. invite each other to their national meetings.
- A more formal/structured way to exchange information and requests for solidarity
- ...

I think this is probably the only way to get IWW and IWA in its current structural form together. But I think this could even go further: Why not let IWW and IWA be as they are, quite specific organizations, and start thinking about building a new more formal world wide network of radical unions.

Just some thoughts.

syndicalist
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May 18 2016 16:15
nokta wrote:
I think the proportional vote was mainly put forward because of the unequal state and orientation of sections inside IWA. There are very small propaganda group sections that have voting power and have alienated the bigger union-oriented sections (CNT, USI, FAU) and there has been some bad blood through ideological witch hunting. So the proposal for proportional vote was a (maybe bad) try to save the IWA from drifting apart. Now that this split is real, we may not even need a proportional vote in the new IWA anymore, or e.g. only for very important decisions.

As for the structural debate. As I understand it the IWW has been mostly been only a real thing in North America and was quite centralized. Only in the last couple of years has the IWW been growing and building real structures outside of North America / the USA and there seems to be now a discussion inside IWW to change the structures now because of this development.

I think this "worldwide membership" of IWW is a very specific thing and cannot (and maybe should not) be copied easily.

The interesting discussion would be how IWW and IWA (or the "new IWA") can strengthen their bounds (if desired). The worldwide structure of the IWW and the "one country one section" of the IWA are incompatible in a strict sense, but I think there could be other ways.

I've been around long enough to simply say: What a pity.

akai
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May 18 2016 16:48

What I can say is that there already are a number of coordinations of unions in this vein, so I don't know how this should be different. Probably IWW is already in a number of them.

As far as the cooperation is concerned of course the question is about allowing member organizations to determine their own strategies and partners to work with on a local level. This is also an important idea. We here don't have a local IWW but we've had Soli actions for wobs in other countries. But I would think as a federation we have to let all people assess their own situations. Of course it would be good to be mutually supportive. But I wouldn't expect much more and actually I wouldn't even agree that IWW should send people to IWA. If people prefer that way, it's better they have their own organizations.

syndicalist
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May 18 2016 17:12

Just to be clear, affiliations or non affiliations have never prevented solidarity and cooperation.
In the more than 40 years of engaged movement activitiy, there has not been a time when there wasn't mutual solidarity and aid in some way, shape or form that I can recall. Solidarity, mutual aid and cooperation is nether the sole ownership, so to speak, of an international association, coordination or international union body.

akai
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May 18 2016 19:27

Yes, you are right about it.
Of course international associations should act to increase solidarity amongst themselves first and foremost, as l see it, otherwise what is the point?
Of course sometimes cooperation doesn't work out for different reasons, so people can't force things.
l think it is off topic, since this was supposed to be on lWA structure but turns to the lWW. l think l made the basic points about the federative approach above. l would point out that the federative approach is very rooted in the development of anarchist ideas, so it is nothing strange that it was taken. On the other hand, federations need to have agreements of cooperation.
As far as l see it, one of the underlying issues is the popularity of loose network politics as opposed to the federation, which might have certain conditions of affiliation or agreements. But that is another topic.

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Lugius
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May 19 2016 01:51

boozemonarchy:

Quote:
Recent troubles in the IWA - while clearly at least partially personal - are linked with the voting structure at the international congress. In the IWA, there is typically one section per country and one vote per section. The CNT has repeatedly attempted to reform this structure into a proportional system.

I don't think this is quite right. The CNT proposed a form of proportional voting in 2010. Before 2010, the CNT had no problem with 'one section, one vote' as had been the case since 1922. Even when the CNT was readmitted as a full section (as opposed to exile sections) in 1979 and constituted the largest section in the IWA it wasn't a problem. It begs the question; why did it become a problem some 30 yearts later? The issue was dealt with at the 2010 Congress but not to the CNT's satisfaction. Subsequently, the put the same proposal again (albeit slightly modified from 125 to 100 member minimum) the subtext being; keep voting til you get it right. But again the proposal failed. The CNT were not prepared to abide by these Congress decisions and are clearly prepared to take the drastic step of founding a parallel international that is based on proportional voting. And yet Notke writes:

Quote:
So the proposal for proportional vote was a (maybe bad) try to save the IWA from drifting apart. Now that this split is real, we may not even need a proportional vote in the new IWA anymore, or e.g. only for very important decisions.

So which is it? Proportional voting is so important that the proposal must be put again, despite having already been decided at Congress, and if that doesn't work, attempt to split the IWA or usurp it and claim that you are 're-founding' or, having rid yourself of worthless propaganda groups who won't go along with the big boys by having a system of proportional voting that effectively insures the hegemony of the CNT (do the maths) proportional voting is no longer an important issue.

Notke's remark is a giveaway as to the true intention of the proposal for proportional voting. It has nothing to do with democracy or fairness and everything to do with an attempt to concentrate power into fewer hands.

Comments have been made of certain personal animosities with the Lion of Alhambra getting honourable mentions. The subtext being; if only we could get the right people everything would be ok. This is the logic that trots use to run tickets at the elections for positions in reformist unions. The same logic is being used as one of justifications for the creation of a parallel international; Akai is the worst IWA Secretary in the world so we have to remake the IWA! It implies that these individuals have some kind of power they shouldn't or don't have. The problem is never individuals, no matter how bad they are, the problem is always one of structure and process - who is responsible for the Lion? The CNT. The Lion deliberately withheld information vitally relevant to the process of making decisions that, in effect, prevented two votes from two worthless propaganda sections (the ASF and the WSA) from being cast at subsequent Congresses - who is to blame? The CNT. The CNT proposed last year (as its final intimidation) to have the IWA Secretariat recalled - it failed largely on account of no evidence submitted beyond vague and generalised opinions.

boozemonarchy:

Quote:
In my opinion it is fairly clear that the CNT's proposal of simply slapping proportional voting onto IWA's extant structure is shit - it effectively ices out it's sister organizations and blurs the line between the will of the CNT and the will of the international.

Of course, it's bullshit - and you wouldn't need to be a rocket surgeon to work it out; these proposals have not been thoroughly thought through (probably as a consequence of haste); it doesn't take into account the respective populations of the countries represented (the ASF would be the proportional equivalent of the SolFed having 133 members approx.). Consequently, it penalises sections from countries with smaller populations. How is that fair? It also doesn't take into account the history of anarcho-syndicalism in respective countries - here is evidence of a cultural bias as certain countries have longer and richer histories. The proposal by the CNT, in collusion with the USI and the FAU, has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with the concentration of decision-making power.

Quote:
Equally shit, is continually shooting down this proposal and moving the issue 'down the line' until, well, we all see what is happening now.

This implies that 'shooting down' i.e. rejecting the proposal was wrong and that all sections should just agree with it. Huh?

Quote:
Anywho - seems to me a better solution would be to dissolve y'all's national organizations into a unitary IWA where individual branches / unions would carry proportional votes to an international congress. The idea here is that it seems hard to deny that organizational chauvinism is at least a thing in the IWA and has contributed at least partly to these perennial issue. Seems that folks on both sides of the issue are concerned that their voices are currently being stymied (CNT) in the IWA or will be stymied (ZSP) if proportional reform becomes a thing.

A similar idea has been discussed informally for a number of months among comrades of ASF Melbourne with one important difference to what you have proposed here; lose the proportional voting. The idea forming is that national sections would be dissolved and replaced by a federation of sections based on locality or industry, each of which could have one vote at Congress (this would mean the ASF with one vote would be replaced by seven Australia-based sections). Boozemonarchy, that your proposal or the one I have outlined was not thought of or considered by the CNT/USI/FAU reveals to true intention of the proposed proportional voting; the concentration of power, if not into fewer hands, then certainly into fewer places (Western Europe). One need only look at the CNT's track record with regard to expanding the IWA beyond the narrow confines of Western Europe. One section, one vote, no problem - as long as there aren't too many votes to count. When the IWA did expand into Eastern Europe - oh no, problems! The more votes, the harder it is to control. That is why CNT/USI/FAU came up with the idea of a parallel international based on proportional voting rather than the one Boozer has come up with or the one currently being discussed in Melbourne (and presumably elsewhere). These things take time to work out; we can find a solution to any problem given the time and effort. This has always been the case with the IWA and I expect it to remain so.

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Lugius
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May 19 2016 02:14
Quote:
Seeing this discussion take place in the IWW, it's clear to me that many folks lacked a basic understanding of what kind of organization the IWA actually is; a federation (IWA) of discrete, national (non-pejorative) organizations (CNT, ZSP, etc) rather than a unitary membership based union like the IWW. It seemed to be a somewhat popular opinion in that particular online IWW forum that the CNT's reform of proportional voting was progressive and moving the IWA in the right direction structurally; and that this opinion was largely based on an (inappropriate) comparison with how the IWW does it's 'congress' (which is a proportional voting system on the level of individual branches / unions (not entire 'regions').

This about as surprising as finding out that the FAU are going to get on board with the parallelos. Proportional voting conforms and complies with the thoroughly bourgeois concept of individual freedom and the rights of the individual. What about the rights of the collective? Should individual rights take precedence over the rights of the collective? These questions have clear political implications. Should union resolutions be binding on the members? an*arche from the ancient Greek means 'No Rulers', it does not mean 'No Rules' (the ancap interpretation). The rules are made by the workers meeting in assembly, this is why the assembly should have the vote, not the individual. This is anarchist federation. Proportional voting is representative democracy. The GST of the GEB can always assert a mandate based on the 'popular' vote.

Now the IWW and the CNT can have two things in common; captive to their own past and a structure that reflects the value of individuals over and above the collective.

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May 19 2016 21:23

Akai,

I understand that I'll be getting private answers and that libcom isn't an official organ of the IWA. I suppose I don't feel my question; which is just for the sake of discussion, is worth putting forward an official correspondence. Thank you for taking the time.

I understand the basic difference between federation and one-big-union (OBU) and think you have a sound argument for federation as naturally suited to flexibility across national situations and that this is important. That said, I'm not convinced that an OBU need necessarily be so rigid as to not be able to accommodate different legal / social situations across the globe? I don't have an answer for your comments regarding cultures of organizational process except that I don't think 'it's how it has always been done' is a decent reason for keeping something around if it's existence has come into question (I get it, this isn't even a discussion within the IWA right now, this is hypothetical).

Notka -

No, by unitary organization I meant specifically structural change in the IWA. I thought you were the one who brought up a, IWA - IWW merger? I was just responding that if folks in some future found that desirable, the structure that I opined would be better suited to making that happen.

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boozemonarchy
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May 19 2016 21:28

Lugius -

Regarding my 'shooting down' comment -

First, I would have voted to 'shoot it down' if I were a member of a small section. My comment was that that it seems the issue was left to simmer and turned rancid, Easy to judge from where I'm at, I get it.

Thank you for sharing regarding informal discussions with comrades. Though I lack a lot of info on the subject, I'm gathering an impression of the situation close to what you describe in your post. I'm excited to hear that some IWA folks are really looking at some of the structural stuff that contributed to the situation and how they could be changed.

Cheers!

syndicalist
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May 19 2016 21:27

Asked in a strictly personal capacity - is there really a belief that the current IWA crisis is structural in nature? Candidly, it seems to me that the "structural" presentation is really a cover
to control discussion and potential disagreements.

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boozemonarchy
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May 19 2016 21:53

I kind of have both impressions really - but please note my opinion is uneducated - I'm just a big enough ass to have one anyway.

I feel that the 'control discussion and potential disagreements' is probably an actual thing, but, with anything weird like this in a libertarian org / union, I think it probably comes from a small circle of bullies. I've not been around long, but I have seen this phenom in my own experience so I can sort of imagine you know?

Regarding structural, it seems clear that a good measure of CNT membership gets behind proportional vote stuff and maybe they actually do feel stymied internationally and these feelings are actually based on some reaction to the one-vote one-org situation and the large size difference. I'm not trying to comment on the fairness / desirableness of one-org / one-vote at the moment, just trying to point out that some folks may have a different take on that.

My suggestion is based on that analysis of the situation in order to poke around for a middle road - which is funny because it levies such a serious change in 'how it is'. Basically, with an OBU structure created with special care to provide both flexibility as well as a libertarian framework. I think that after a certain point with structure, the most 'libertarian' form is really still an open question. Like, it isn't really that fundamental of a change moving from a national org representing at the international to the unions.

syndicalist
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May 19 2016 22:39

boozemonarchy, really my comment was general and not directed at you. I should've prefaced it better. I don't want to wade deeper into this then I have or maybe I've just slid into ass backwards.
My comments are not really directed at you my brother.

I feel weird about the whole IWA thing. As you know, I have some pretty strong personal feelings about time spent in the IWA (well more than 20 years). Alot of this is personally painful for me on many levels. But I'll share some thinking.

Been pondering the various statements as well. Also trying to think of possible suggestions to make. Not that anyone would really listen, been out of that internal life for near 15 years now.
Not sure if I feel comfortable with using the term bully or bullied. I get it, I know what it feels like and I have seen it in action. There is nothing libertarian in it at all. But there is nothing libertarian about one section forever calling the shots as well either. And a lot of this is more sour grapes over losing that position than not.

That said, there are internal IWA problems, some internally cultural that even the dissenters contributed towards, others not. If it strictly comes down to proportional voting then, I believe, there probably can be no agreements reached. While I understand the frustration of having smaller organizations perhaps out vote larger ones, the question of reaching "consensus" on issues before the votes are cast, rather then everyone trying to rip a new butt hole in their "opponent", is incumbents on the affiliates. The reality is, sometimes "we" all loose votes.
But by trying to silence smaller sections because they may not agree with you is wrong. It's a hassle to have to deal with it, but is no solution.

And the issue of Section autonomy has always been tough. Though the CNT and sadly the FAU have played fast and loose with this issue over the years as well. USI, prolly so, but have been harder for me to understand. I say sadly, because I am now being critical of Sections friends of mine have or still belong too. And because it pains me to think that when "our generation" got active in the IWA, we fought for freedom of CNTistas in Francos jails and so forth. And the many solidarity campaigns and good interactions with the German comrades who were trying to move beyond their small scattered numbers in the early 1970s, from propaganda groups to union iniatives of today. Lest of all the personal relations i enjoyed for years. It is hard to say to them you move to defederate and form something less than the IWA our fore parents and the 1970s generation fought to build is wrong is painful and hurtful. But you can't poke people in the eyes and expect them not to react either. The concept of two ways streets seems to be lacking and has been lacking for a while.

I don't have the proposals in front of me or the USI and FAU statements, but I walk away with two very distinct feelings. On the one hand, there are some proactive and positive items in the CNT proposal. Mainly, as I recall concerning internal education and so forth. I recall having a convo about this very thing with IWA peeps back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, was told it's "not something we do". Didn't agree with it then, so it would be good to see proper workshops, schools and "trainings" carried out.

The fight for positive change should be internal. It should be based on arguing and fighting out the constructive changes needed. And to find ways to protect both organizational integrity/action and to continue to adhere to the libertarian principles as begun in 1922. Threats at refoundation with th prerequiste internal fight is using manipulation and scare tactics. Shouldn't we move from that point of perspective to something else? Or is the perspectives of one portion of the IWA to guide and dominate and create issues more important than finding unity or at least a truce and works towards greater unity. I think of all the times some f us just could've said "fuck it" and walk away. We didnt and just fought to either fight another day or make changes that might bridge us across very difficult waters.

EDIT: I hit the send button, I wanted to proof this and continue to tie some other stuff up and close out. I will just have to come back to this, as this really is very depressing and just a culmination of what I see as a lot of maniuplation, posturing and sometimes very petty and silly stuff...all around. But I think the unity of forces, so to speak, is greater then the splintering of all.
[i]
Final edit: To all my friends, enemies, detractors, this is written from strictly a personal point of view. And all opinions and comments are my own, not others. And further for the record, I am on organizational hiatus from the WSA and no way do my comments reflect those of that organization or members.
[/i]

akai
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May 20 2016 05:32

Boozemananarchy, unfortunately you are making a problem where their is none. Having differences in the federation in terms of organizational practices has not been as much of a problem as say the plain fact that anarchists are geographically concentrated and this makes it easier for some to survive and grow. Also, there are use disproportions not only in size, but in money. lf we had millions of euros like the Spanish...

Personally, l would be inclined to move away from the idea of national organization, but that would require a big discussion and, quite frankly, all big discussions about changes like that are just not helpful at this point. Basically, we have a few big decisions ahead of us and plans for the future. Besides, l honestly do not think anybody in the lWA assesses the main problems as stemming from this issue.

A comment to syndicalist is that, on the surface of it, the CNT proposal might seem good but we viewed it negatively. The reasons for that was that there are already various Congress decisions about developing educations, syndical activity, etc., but these have been consequently ignored by the CNT, which has not been working in any collective efforts. What this shows (at least us) is that it is not willing to cooperate on a collective basis with the rest of us, but only likes to organize things itself and act as a "teacher". But it is not the best way for the reasons we stated in our text (on our webpage). Furthermore, this "teacher" role can also be combined with a "checker" role. For example (and luckily the idea was withdrawn because of the costs) FAU wanted to "audit" the lWA Sections. This idea was so horrible... Back to CNT, it is currently overlegalistic and from our experience with it, they tend to be a little clueless about other countries, so if they approach things as they do, like 'the only model', it is not likely to be so helpful for people in a totally different situation. That's why the commission that needs to do this (and is already agreed by the Congress), needs to be comprised of people from different realities and with different experience. lt is not true that nobody has anything to contribute, because a lot of people in lWA have very good experience, sometimes people also organize outside their anarchosyndicalist organization for different reasons.

Finally, the real question that nobody at all asks, which just should be obvious, is just what is it that FAU or CNT have not been able to pass due to the bogeyman "smaller sections"? This is a serious question because if it were that way that they aren't able to do union activity because of some reason, or if it were that smaller sections block proposals about union activity, then actually, l would be on their side. But knowing what l do, l see this to be about power and control, not about anything else. Some Sections have gone through all the Congress decisions 1996-2009 to see first of all, if there were any patterns, and second of all, to see what CNT or FAU actually proposed.

l don't have a chance to write a full list now, but the lWA Sections will get it. FAU? lt proposed (twice) the use of Esperanto as a third official language (meaning all correspondence would have to be translated into Esperanto) and that proposal failed twice. lt proposed that Sections should be able to do whatever they like (complete freedom of the Sections), which literally had support from nobody (these facts also showing that there was no division on this into big and small sections), that lWA should get property back from Organize. The CNTE in this period mostly proposed the expulsion of FAU. USl had different proposals and represented the widest and most interesting range of the three. On the one hand, USl had several proposals against the parallel international, about protecting the lWA against parallel organizations (this is really funny given that they are now parallelists), they had several proposals like global strike agains the war, (which l am not against, but the problem with such USl proposals is that they are slogans which never give a thought about who is going to make this strike and how... ) and there was about the identity of lWA as anarchosyndicalist, meaning as a workers' organization. Well, this last one is the only thing that is really in the realm of syndicalist activity.... but you see, some sections thought it already was in the statutes, so it is obvious, they were supported by small organizations with little syndicalist activity (FORA, ASl) where not supported by CNTE... So where, prior to 2009, did except maybe this, did these "big unions" try to do anything related to union activity and get blocked? The truth of the matter is that anything related to this or to any real campaigns, are judged by merit. That means that even organizations that have not got any substantial union activity support ideas that lWA is a federation of unions and such issues are not clearly divided by Troika/non-Troika unions.

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boozemonarchy
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May 20 2016 16:39
Akai wrote:
Boozemananarchy, unfortunately you are making a problem where their is none. Having differences in the federation in terms of organizational practices has not been as much of a problem as say the plain fact that anarchists are geographically concentrated and this makes it easier for some to survive and grow. Also, there are use disproportions not only in size, but in money. lf we had millions of euros like the Spanish...

Personally, l would be inclined to move away from the idea of national organization, but that would require a big discussion and, quite frankly, all big discussions about changes like that are just not helpful at this point. Basically, we have a few big decisions ahead of us and plans for the future. Besides, l honestly do not think anybody in the lWA assesses the main problems as stemming from this issue.

First, the problem I was concerned about is the real or perceived issue in the CNT of the voting process of the international. It honestly seems like the federative structure of the IWA has allowed for success for some of the growing smaller sections, thinking of ZSP and ASF here. So of course, it is not the problem in the strictest sense, but more like a contributing factor.

I've suggested it before in this thread, but I am generally picking up that a lot of the criticisms I've seen put on libcom regarding CNT are mostly true. In part, and in truth, my suggestion of a hypothetical OBU structure for the IWA is aimed at some those in fact. I've picked up that some feel that the CNT is too legalistic. I have this fear / criticism of the IWW in certain times and places as well - I feel we've (the IWW) have been to quick to play the NLRB (the legalistic, worker-boss alliance promoting, labor bureaucratic infrastructure in the US) games and occasionally, to it's serious demise. The 'pragmatic' argument (promoting 'official union status' and cooperation and taking directives and seeking protection from the NLRB) always seems to win out in the IWW, even if a serious assessment has revealed such adventures as everything but pragmatic (at least in regards to our union's actually stated goals). If I were in the IWA, I too would be concerned about member sections engaging in this type of, um, trade unionism and would have my say about it. While my hypothetical OBU IWA isn't the only way to address such things, it does offer some advantages in that regard. What it mostly does though is quiet those folks so concerned about representation at congress.

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boozemonarchy
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May 20 2016 16:44
syndicalist wrote:
boozemonarchy, really my comment was general and not directed at you. I should've prefaced it better. I don't want to wade deeper into this then I have or maybe I've just slid into ass backwards.
My comments are not really directed at you my brother.

I feel weird about the whole IWA thing. As you know, I have some pretty strong personal feelings about time spent in the IWA (well more than 20 years). Alot of this is personally painful for me on many levels. But I'll share some thinking.

Been pondering the various statements as well. Also trying to think of possible suggestions to make. Not that anyone would really listen, been out of that internal life for near 15 years now.
Not sure if I feel comfortable with using the term bully or bullied. I get it, I know what it feels like and I have seen it in action. There is nothing libertarian in it at all. But there is nothing libertarian about one section forever calling the shots as well either. And a lot of this is more sour grapes over losing that position than not.

Thanks for the comment and clarification syndicalist. I guess bully was a bit heavy given that I'm not particularly up on things - again, just impressions I'm getting - I've not been read a litany or anything.

akai
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May 21 2016 08:55

Boozeman, l get where you are coming from but still, there are just so many points that things here are only parts of issues. Still, l think the OBU idea and issues around it are not really so relevant.

About criticizing legalism and having your say, we found that even asking a question about a legal issue (in cases that we supported!) can bring terrible consequences, as at the 2011 Plenary when some idiot Secretary of the CNT sent an opinion that they shouldn't have to listen to the opinion of "little Poles". Well, it was extremely shocking type of thing and the person from CNT who had to read it was embarrassed and the whole delegation apologized. But what we learned at that moment then was that the "official position of the CNT" was written by one guy and approved by above, and the rank and file membership or even the delegates were not in any way part of these words. (And this stuff repeats and repeats.)

And actually what the whole "scandal" was about was that they were trying to get money to pay lawyers to made them some study but l knew somebody who was an expert and could just tell them not only what they needed to know, but how things worked in practice (for free).

These types of situations show what some people think of other people. There would have been no problem to talk to this person, who is one of the best experts in Europe in this area, or to answer our questions, which was how it applies to the cases we were supporting. Since we were doing solidarity, l talked personally to one of the people coordinating in Spain, who also had no idea why this was needed at all. The conversations with rank and file workers were absolutely normal and comradely.

This, in my opinion, is not so much about the question of legalism or not legalism. lt is a question of a coordinator class of experts and how they tend to develop and how it affects the nature of the organization and tends to undermine more horizontal forms of dealing with issues. Those who have tended to verticalism of course favor creating even more hierarchy.