N. American Anarcho-syndicalism today

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syndicalistcat
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Jul 19 2007 16:49

blackstarbhoy:

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ahhh, that puts the thread in a slightly different context, at least for me. i'm gonna re-read the Where We Stand document. I'll get back later.

cool but i'll point out that one of the holes in the old statement is that we didn't talk about what kind of organization we take WSA to be. we're trying to correct that in the new version by laying out a view as to what the role of WSA itself should be, as we see it.

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Nate
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Jul 19 2007 20:14
syndicalistcat wrote:
You, on the other hand, would rather the IWW function as a network of radical activists. Well, the fact is, the IWW has no internal consensus on this question, and never has. This debate was going on in the IWW in1908. Yet it isn't coherent to try to combine building actual unions and being a network of radical activists in whatever unions there are.

Actually Tom I think this is a reasonable description of what the IWW is doing, building unions and being a network within other unions. There are definite problems with execution and coordination, and mainly problems of us being small and there being way more work to do than there are hands, but it's happening. My branch, for instance, has at least seven dual carders (of varying level of activity in the IWW, in their other unions, and in their workplaces, there may be others who are inactive members I'm not sure but anyway they don't count) in four different unions, and we're working on organizing unorganized workers.

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syndicalistcat
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Jul 19 2007 20:52

I know that IWW has various dual-carders. but do they develop an actual program or goals in regard to what they want to accomplish? do they get together to work out an IWW program in regard to the workplaces in the AFL or CtW unions? does the IWW work out a strategy in regard to the larger question of revolutionary strategy in the USA? does the IWW have a strategy in regard to relations with community organizations or labor/community alliances? does a do-your-own-thing liberalism prevail?

based on my observations of the IWW since the late '60s/early '70s period, i am not convinced the IWW is going to somehow be a replacement for a specific organization, which is the topic of this thread.

Dundee_United
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Jul 19 2007 22:31

This is a highly interesting discussion. It is interesting seeing the WSA members' perspectives, particularly as I would define my own organisational perspective as especifist and platformist. Don't find much to disagree with you guys. Erm.... Keep up the good posts!

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Jul 19 2007 23:14

catch22:

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How is militancy and self activity not sufficient? Where do you think these revolutionary ideas came out of? There are but the polished afterthoughts of struggle. If we truly think that anarchism is possible than it’s necessary that anarchist ideas can develop relatively organically. When I was at the USSF the revolution was coming from the lived experiences of “another politics is possible” practitioners, not the anarchist workshop. These folk seemed to distill a pretty good praxis without “specific organization” pushing their politics on these mass organizations.

i think the way that radical ideas influence struggles and the larger working class is through the active members of the working class who are influenced by or have arrived at such ideas. if the layer of activists and organizers has an organic relationship to the working class which they are a part of, then their ideas develop through their discussions with people around them and their experience. different conclusions can be drawn from a particular struggle or situation depending on the theory that you bring to it, just as your experiences can strengthen or weaken the hold of ideas you hold. but why aren't the activists with revolutionary ideas, whether in a specific organization or not, a part of this? i also would not assume any static divide between activists and organizers and everyone else, as people who are not active can become active and organizing is something people can learn, and can be taught.

i agree that the workshop at the USSF on "another politics is possible" was better than the anarchism workshop, but it's a mistake to suppose the organizers and presenters in that other workshop were not equally radical activists. and some of the sponsoring groups of that workshop were specific groups, such as Left Turn and Catalyst Project. the difference in quality of the workshop is not explained by sponsorship or presence by specific groups or people with revolutionary ideas. the people presenting and organizing the "another politics is possible" workshop were also revolutionaries. the "another politics is possible" workshop didn't have a mechanical fixation on avoiding presenters talking, an error that is based on a mechnical egalitarianism ("We're all equal so just let each person in the room talk the same amount"), which characterized the anarchism panel, and selected people to talk who had experiences relevant to the key topics discussed. that panel was aimed at explaining in a simple and direct way certain key concepts related to revolutionary politics, such as "horizontalism"/non-hierarchy, "intersectionality" (of different forms of oppression), etc.

Catch 22
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Jul 20 2007 04:13
syndicalistcat wrote:
but i've found i can't create a mass organization by myself. and not all the mass organizations i've been involved in were set up by left-libertarians with an explicit orientation to being self-managing and so on. it's really helpful if there are others you can work with who have similar politics. here in S.F. we've been involved since the '80s in four organizing efforts i can offhand remember. two were organizing people into AFL unions. one was involvement in the Mission Anti-displacement Coalition, and a fourth is a housing organization that i'm involved in now. only the last is an organization that was initiated by a number of left-libertarians, and it's a struggle to keep a self-management orientation.

Of course you can’t start an organization by yourself but you don’t need too many folks to start one. During the fare strike you proposed starting a riders union. Clearly if that were to come about it would be “left libertarian initiated.” Of course this presupposes that class struggle anarchists aren’t isolated, but that doesn’t require an organization with dues, coordinated intervention, and matching tshirts.

I think that the struggle to keep things in a self management direction comes from our lack of experience in functioning radical mass organizations. I think if we want to build mass and radicalize at the same time then we need to gain practice in keeping those “left libertarian” mass groups in a self management direction.

syndicalistcat wrote:
This is a false dichotomy. One of the reasons it is useful to have a political group is so there are people to share the work. I don't know about you but i can't create a mass organization by myself.

Sharing the work doesn’t require the level of organization of the WSA or NEFAC. Hell the informal scene is typically a pretty good survey of all the anarchists you can work with anyway.

syndicalistcat wrote:
there are some situations where the IWW is trying to build genuine mass union organizations as with the restaurant supply warehouses in NYC. but i wouldn't describe the IWW in general as a mass organization rather than a political organization, in terms of who joins it, in my observation. the fact that the IWW attracts anarchists and has a large number of them in it in relation to total membership creates, i suspect, a certain illusion. the illusion that political organization isn't needed.

Yes there is the issue that the union is predominated by anarchists thus there being no need for a separate anarchist organization. But in any syndicalist group, regardless of whether its 5-500,000, the committed militants are typically within proximity to anarchism.

syndicalistcat wrote:
i think the way that radical ideas influence struggles and the larger working class is through the active members of the working class who are influenced by or have arrived at such ideas. if the layer of activists and organizers has an organic relationship to the working class which they are a part of, then their ideas develop through their discussions with people around them and their experience. different conclusions can be drawn from a particular struggle or situation depending on the theory that you bring to it, just as your experiences can strengthen or weaken the hold of ideas you hold. but why aren't the activists with revolutionary ideas, whether in a specific organization or not, a part of this? i also would not assume any static divide between activists and organizers and everyone else, as people who are not active can become active and organizing is something people can learn, and can be taught.

I pretty much agree with this. Though I don’t think you require some sort of especifista group to expose activists/organizers to left liberatarian ideas. Propaganda groups, discussion groups, open forums, etc. are all pretty useful for this. I’ve found at least in my own groups that people try to access these ideas when they’re ready. Attempting coordinated anarchist intervention tends to piss them off. Moreover if you’re operating within an organization that operates on the principles of self management and militancy that a certain anti authoritarian atmosphere tends to develop.

syndicalistcat wrote:
i agree that the workshop at the USSF on "another politics is possible" was better than the anarchism workshop, but it's a mistake to suppose the organizers and presenters in that other workshop were not equally radical activists. and some of the sponsoring groups of that workshop were specific groups, such as Left Turn and Catalyst Project. the difference in quality of the workshop is not explained by sponsorship or presence by specific groups or people with revolutionary ideas. the people presenting and organizing the "another politics is possible" workshop were also revolutionaries. the "another politics is possible" workshop didn't have a mechanical fixation on avoiding presenters talking, an error that is based on a mechnical egalitarianism ("We're all equal so just let each person in the room talk the same amount"), which characterized the anarchism panel, and selected people to talk who had experiences relevant to the key topics discussed. that panel was aimed at explaining in a simple and direct way certain key concepts related to revolutionary politics, such as "horizontalism"/non-hierarchy, "intersectionality" (of different forms of oppression), etc.

Heh you looked a bit perturbed during the workshop as the NYMAA made it pretty anarcho scenestery real fast. Though I’m not just talking of the quality of the workshop but the nature of the speakers. Yes they were radical, but how did they get so? Probably because they arrived at it organically through a synthesis of their own experience and radical theory. I don’t think especifista groups pushed them that way. From what I surmised it seems like most militants will come to a left libertarian perspective via struggle and a wide penetration of anarchist ideas via discussion groups, infoshops, and our individual participation and support. By and large I think a relatively hands off approach to explicit social insertion and specific goals gives us a far better impression in the minds of most of these folks.

Come to think of it most of this discussion comes from instances of folk getting pissed at me if they think I'm basing views on a subject solely becuase thats how it allies with anarchism. There really is a harsh reaction when you act like you have an over arching way to interpret events. *shrug*

Catch 22
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Jul 20 2007 04:20
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Ah, hey, sorry about that... probably more hostile than I intended it to come off. I get where you're coming from, and honestly, its the dichotomy between "mass organizing" and "conscious political minority" where I think some of the most useful conversations among anarchists sare to be had. I mean, we're conscious anarchists, and have at least some idea of where (at least in theory) we'd like to see the course of social struggle run... towards revolutionary transformation of society in a libertarian communist direction. I think it would be dishonest to approach struggles and organizing otherwise. But at the same time, there is a pitfall of arrogance and vanguardism (or else, purist abstentionism) that could easily be fallen into. But you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I dunno, I think this is one of the main reasons why we have a magazine... because we want to be honest and have a forum to talk about our experiences, assess them, challenge ourselves, invite criticism, and hopefully work towards developing better praxis, effectively incorporating our politics into the struggles we are involved with, etc. Its a process, and no one has the "correct line" just yet...

No offense taken. it's not that I want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" as I've said earlier, its not that i'm programtically against all especifist kind of organizing, I'm just rather wary of it becuase of the myriad pitfalls you mentioned. So I favor setting up either theoretically pure propaganda groups, disgussion groups, or operating within mass groups that operate on more libertarian principles. Though I've been in mass campaigns where I've agitated for self activity and militancy. I'm typically told that I hate black people or something similarly insane by a white liberal, at which point I hold back the urge to throw down and beat the coordinator class out of them.

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Jul 20 2007 06:48
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So I favor setting up either theoretically pure propaganda groups, disgussion groups, or operating within mass groups that operate on more libertarian principles.

I think this is self-isolating, if one limits oneself this way. I think the tendency to stick to the anarchist ghetto is fundamentally a mistake.

When I got involved in the anti-gentrification struggle in my neighborhood in 2000-2001, it was organized through a coalition of neighborhood groups and staffs of non-profits and a number of the key organizers were Leninists. but i got to know a lot of people, gained contacts that have been important later on.

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Heh you looked a bit perturbed during the workshop as the NYMAA made it pretty anarcho scenestery real fast.

I've already stated my critique of the way they ran things.

re: "another politics is possible":

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Though I’m not just talking of the quality of the workshop but the nature of the speakers.
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Yes they were radical, but how did they get so? Probably because they arrived at it organically through a synthesis of their own experience and radical theory. I don’t think especifista groups pushed them that way.

We're not here talking about "especifismo" -- a particular concept of organization -- but the role of an organization organized on the basis of agreement with a specific political perspective, which a person must agree with to belong. Anarchists sometimes call this a "specific organization" as a kind of shorthand. Not all specific groups are especifista.

A number of the people who spoke in the "another politics is possible" workshop were memers of specific organizations. Moreover, you say that people synthesize their experiences with "radical theory." Where do people come in contact with relevant radical theory? It's inadequate to talk about a purely theoretical propaganda group putting out theory because theory needs to develop in the context of practical experience.

syndicalist
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Jul 20 2007 11:59

Sorry, 12 hour work-day yesterday and oggta run now. Good to see some interesting discussion. I'll be back at ya -hopefully-tonite.

BTW, I see how there was a misconception about my initial use of the word specific.

I think syndicalistcat is right-on here:

"We're not here talking about "especifismo" -- a particular concept of organization -- but the role of an organization organized on the basis of agreement with a specific political perspective, which a person must agree with to belong. Anarchists sometimes call this a "specific organization" as a kind of shorthand. Not all specific groups are especifista."

One last thing, maybe I've misread some of the other comments, but are some of you saying there's no need for an a/s organization (an organization which has stated goals, dues, struture,produces lietrature) outside of worker, social and community organizations?

Gotta run.

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Felix Frost
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Jul 20 2007 12:00
syndicalistcat wrote:
well, i'm not willing to put all the eggs in the IWW basket. your reply essentially leaves "build the IWW" as the be-all and end-all of revolutionary strategy. (...) But it's highly implausible to suppose an entire revolutionary mass movement will be forged out of these IWW efforts.

In what way did my reply leave "build the IWW" as the be-all and end-all of revolutionary strategy? All I have said is that I don't think small "unitary" organizations nessesarily marginalizes anarcho-syndicalists, and that I don't see why revolutionary syndicalist organizing or networking should be done in the context of a "especifista" organization. In fact, I'm sure the IWW will only play a small part of any future revolutionary mass movement.

As for the current problem with the IWA, I'm not sure they can be attributed to the "unitary" ideas of the organization. It's not like problems with "marginalization, splits and sectarianism" is unheard of in specific political groups...

syndicalistcat wrote:
and you provided no answer to my point about the need for radical left-libertarian activists to also be involved in community organization, and to work to develop labor/community links.

As I said, I think this is a whole other discussion, and I don't think you have put forward any real arguments for why a specific anarchist organization is needed in order for this to take place.

syndicalistcat wrote:
You can say that training of members should be a function of mass organizations, but who is going to propose and push for this in mass organizations??

The members of those organizations. Who else?

syndicalistcat wrote:
There needs to be a place where revolutionaries can come together and share experiences and debate and learn from that, improving their own understanding, and finding people to work together with on projects.

I agree with that. I just don't think a "especifista" type organization is useful for that purpose.

syndicalistcat wrote:
We're not here talking about "especifismo" -- a particular concept of organization -- but the role of an organization organized on the basis of agreement with a specific political perspective, which a person must agree with to belong. Anarchists sometimes call this a "specific organization" as a kind of shorthand. Not all specific groups are especifista.

I'm sorry syndicalistcat, but we are talking about "especifismo" (or "plattformism" or the FdCA's concept of "dual organization" which is similar). Syndicalist asked in his opening post if an anarcho-syndicalist organization could be more like a "especifico" organization, and both Catch22 and me was arguing specifically against that "particular concept of organization".

Also, I think it is interesting that you are not sure you see any "deeper commitment to theoretical and strategic unity" in NEFAC than in WSA, at the same time as you admit that WSA "didn't talk about what kind of organization we take WSA to be" your its "codified" political statement. If your organization is really that committed to "theoretical and strategic unity", you would think that you would have taken the time to write this down sometime in your 20+ years of existence...

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Jul 20 2007 17:10

felix:

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Also, I think it is interesting that you are not sure you see any "deeper commitment to theoretical and strategic unity" in NEFAC than in WSA, at the same time as you admit that WSA "didn't talk about what kind of organization we take WSA to be" your its "codified" political statement. If your organization is really that committed to "theoretical and strategic unity", you would think that you would have taken the time to write this down sometime in your 20+ years of existence...

well, we've known for a number of years that there were holes in our political statement and it needed to be re-written. since fending off the entryist takeover attempt of 2000, there has been an effort to rebuild the group. now there is a new political statement, which we're discussing. the new statement addresses a number of things that we may have discussed in essays or that we took for granted, but which we hadn't incorporated into our statement back in the '80s.

i think that the emphasis of the thinking of activists changes over time or in certain periods. for example there were analyses that we wrote in "ideas & action" on certain important topics that didn't get reflected back into the political statement, but are reflected in the new political statement we're working on now. some things we took for granted. the "dual organization" concept was discussed a bit in the essay i wrote in 1988 on the factory occupations in Italy in 1920. in that case I was looking at the role played by the Turin Libertarian Group in the mass movement which I took as a positive model.

WSA prefers to stay away from labels and discuss the substance. "especifismo" is a particular label for the conception of organization developed by the Uruguayan anarchist federation. WSA's approach towards organization was evolved from our own experience. We didn't think it would make any sense for a small group of political activists to try to build a specifically anarcho-syndicalist union in the USA, we don't think it is feasible to build mass organizations right now in the USA on the basis of a revolutionary ideology, and when we were formed we had a number of members in AFL unions and at that time favored the development of rank and file movements, from a libertarian point of view, which would emphasize their autonomy from the bureaucracy. so in practice i always conceived of the WSA as a political group, that is, in anarchist language, a specific group.

especifismo and platformism were not familiar to me back then and were not being discussed by class struggle anarchists in the USA in the '80s. so we evolved our own concept from our experience without relying on those ideas. it may be that there are similarities between our viewpoint and "especifismo" and that may be relevant insofar as we can evaluate the practice of "especifista" groups in Latin America but it will fail to be relevant to the degree there are differences in the situation in the USA.

in both of your posts so far here, you don't really provide any arguments, just assertions.

syndicalist
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Jul 21 2007 02:04

Ok, hard day and not much in the mood, so I'll be brief....

I see this question has been replied to:

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One last thing, maybe I've misread some of the other comments, but are some of you saying there's no need for an a/s organization (an organization which has stated goals, dues, struture,produces lietrature) outside of worker, social and community organizations?

I only ask that you read what I wrote and not get hung up on a term. Obviously my questions got lost in terminology. I retract the use of the word "especiifico" as it has been taken for the substance of my questions and not the questions themselves.

I asked

Quote:
I'm curious how different anarcho-syndicalists (and those close to anarcho-syndicalism) see their activities and roles today. That is, what sort of organization and what sort of organizational relevancy foots their bill?

In the US and Canadian context, what would an expplicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization mean and do? ....{Would it be] an organization of like minded activists coming together to issue libertarian literature and help develop and enhance their work in a variety of worker, social and community struggles ?

{

Edited follow-up question: Or would it be something else?

syndicalist
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Jul 21 2007 02:54

Felix writes:

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....you admit that WSA "didn't talk about what kind of organization we take WSA to be" your its "codified" political statement. If your organization is really that committed to "theoretical and strategic unity", you would think that you would have taken the time to write this down sometime in your 20+ years of existence...

Felix, you know that WSA has always been what could be called (in a/s parlance) a "propaganda group". Our orientation has always been a mixture of groups and indivduals who generally adhered to both the WSA Statement and the general principles of the IWA. Our activities have varied from location to location and from militant to militant. we came together and worked on may common projects to specifically advance our version of anarcho-synidcalism. This worked, for the most part, for a long time. It then hit the skids cause the organization hit the skids.

Of course over the years we have asked what we can do to advance the WSA or what can be do to make it better. Perhaps greater efforts should have been made to periodically update our Statement or to ask some of the questions we are asking today.

That said, times, conditions, experiances and other factors change since 1984. To ask questions doesn't mean one has lost sight of basic principles. To say what worked in 1984 would work today, without any upgrading, is to say that what worked in 1905 can work in 2007. We all know that ain't so. So you review, discuss and hopefully come up with critical insights and constructive solutions to move forward.Some organizations never do that.

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Jul 21 2007 05:19
syndicalistcat wrote:
I know that IWW has various dual-carders. but do they develop an actual program or goals in regard to what they want to accomplish? do they get together to work out an IWW program in regard to the workplaces in the AFL or CtW unions? does the IWW work out a strategy in regard to the larger question of revolutionary strategy in the USA? does the IWW have a strategy in regard to relations with community organizations or labor/community alliances? does a do-your-own-thing liberalism prevail?

based on my observations of the IWW since the late '60s/early '70s period, i am not convinced the IWW is going to somehow be a replacement for a specific organization, which is the topic of this thread.

Tom, are you taking a tone here, or am I reading in too much? If the latter, I apologize.

Either way, I'm not a dual carder and I'm not particularly excited about dual card so I don't spend any time on dual card stuff so I'm not sure what exactly's going on. I do know that in my branch the dual carders have been working on getting more active as dual carders, using their existing relationships with people in other unions and in labor solidarity circles, and starting to network with other dual carders in other places. I also know that these folk are active in their own workplaces and have been active in their other unions in different ways. The deliberate coordination between these dual carders is all new-ish here in part because we're a new branch (less than 2 yrs old) and peoples time had been taken up with starting the branch. As you know having observed the IWW since the late '60s the IWW contains a variety of outlooks and coordination isn't perfect. It's improving, though. Others in my branch do community stuff and push for the branch to do more of that. I'm not real enthused about it so I spend my time on other things in the IWW and so I don't have a ton of info about that either, but there are efforts to do the stuff you're talking about. Other branches do this same kind of stuff and have conversations about it.

I think it is fair to say that many people in the IWW could be better at coordinating and could stand to make up their minds better, get clearer, etc about what they're doing. Still, yhy you would want to call this current imperfect situation "do you own thing liberalism" is beyond me. I think it's also fair to ask that people who have this - correct - criticism recognize that with the IWW being as big as it is this kind of coordination takes time and is slow to develop, so the improvements that are occurring are laudable, and I'm not aware of any organization on the left in the US of comparable size and focus that's much better on this stuff. Not that this is a contest or whatever, I'm just saying that the criticisms implied in your questions, while correct, apply to a lot of other groups too.

All of that aside, your original point was that "it isn't coherent to try to combine building actual unions and being a network of radical activists in whatever unions there are" and that the IWW needs to make up its mind about which it will do. Your additional questions are interesting and important, but the fact remains the IWW is doing both of the above - imperfectly, like I said, but with some small improvements - and in a way which doesn't strike me as incoherent. There are two positive effects of having people in the same organization. One is that dual carders with lots of experience can help out with new organizing of unorganized shops, passing on their experiences and skils and training new organizers. The second is that dual carders without lots of experience can get involved in new organizing and learn skills which transfer back into their unionized workplaces, to build organization there. Both of these things have happened to good effect in my branch.

I'm not saying that the IWW will create the only unions anyone needs and I'm not saying the IWW will create the only organization of dual carders that anyone needs. (And wobs are free to join other groups.) But I do think the two can be done coherently and productively and this happens at least in pockets in the IWW today. Also for what it's worth, I don't think the IWW is a replacement for a specific organization. I'm for specific organizations. I don't think the IWW is the end-all be-all. I just think it's great.

syndicalist
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Jul 21 2007 12:25

If I may, i have no desire to get into the merits or demirts of the IWW. The IWW will continue on whatever road it chooses and that is just fine. Our movement will continue to have people who are not in wobblies as well as anarcho-wobblies.
It is clear to me from a read of libcom pages that this has not changed much. Obviously both should coo-exist. Each brings their own flavor to the table.

Perhaps some of this discussion is based on some generational experiances. Some on the evolution of new realities in some localities. Perhaps some based on a certain aquired knowledge and some based on the enthusiam of new experiances. Perhaps there are some serious differences in approach. Perhaps not.

As this conversation seems to be headed in a certain direction, let me simply say that WSA has historically has been a sort of an anarcho-syndicalist bridge bewteen the different points within the broadly defined anarcho-syndicalist movement. Perhaps it might still serve that function.

I guess I'm a bit conflicted by some of the comments to this extent. Why wouldn't anarcho-syndicalists want to have some sort of specific orgganization where they come together on the bais of a certain "political" agreement? Oft times in our "mass work" we are constrained in our ability to have certain "political" discussions and develop viepoints from our unique perspective. would also think producing specifically libertarian worker literature would also be positive and allows for a certain non-constrained atmosp[here that may otherwise exist in some of our daily activities. I would think that having such an organization is engaging and positive.

On the question of "formality" vs. "informality", I guess I'm kind of taken by this. I suspect I'm much more of a "formalist" in the sense I believe things should be as organized as possible. I would, of course, agree that "informality" has certain advantages on a limited one-off basis. But I clearly believe that organization of tasks,collection of information/disementation of information and constructive taks and activities should be fomalized in some manner. Or, perhaps, I've missed the point of the comments.

A question was earlier asked whether or not WSA is open t working with other class struggle anarchists outside WSA, of course. I think there are quite a few comrades out there who, while not anarcho-syndicalists, are decent folks, with clear commitments to the class struggle.

I'll try and come back to other points later.

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Felix Frost
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Jul 21 2007 15:50
syndicalist wrote:
I only ask that you read what I wrote and not get hung up on a term. Obviously my questions got lost in terminology. I retract the use of the word "especiifico" as it has been taken for the substance of my questions and not the questions themselves.

I asked

Quote:
I'm curious how different anarcho-syndicalists (and those close to anarcho-syndicalism) see their activities and roles today. That is, what sort of organization and what sort of organizational relevancy foots their bill?

In the US and Canadian context, what would an expplicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization mean and do? ....{Would it be} an organization of like minded activists coming together to issue libertarian literature and help develop and enhance their work in a variety of worker, social and community struggles?

In that case, yes, that is what I think an explicitly anarcho-syndicalist organization should be doing in the US and Canadian context: Be an organization of like minded activists coming together to issue libertarian literature and help develop and enhance their work. Or as syndicalistcat wrote: "Be a place where revolutionaries can come together and share experiences and debate and learn from that, improving their own understanding, and finding people to work together with on projects." I also think such an organization should be non-sectarian and be open to people who have different strategies and tactics. I think a diversity of tactics is a strength to our movement, not a weakness.

I think WSA has had such a non-sectarian practice in the past: Some members have worked in rank and file groups within the mainstream unions, some have tried to set up independent unions, some have worked to build the IWW, while yet others have spent most of their efforts in non-workplace campaigns. As far as I can tell, this has never been a problem, and people haven't been told that they have to tow the party line. Syndicalistcat, on the other hand, has claimed that you are committed to "theoretical and strategic unity" and has derided other syndicalists for "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" for disagreeing with his chosen strategy for organizing. I don't think this is a constructive way to run an anarcho-syndicalist group.

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Jul 21 2007 16:14

felix:

Quote:
you are committed to "theoretical and strategic unity" and has derided other syndicalists for "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" for disagreeing with his chosen strategy for organizing. I don't think this is a constructive way to run an anarcho-syndicalist group.

I can't and won't take seriously some dickhead who takes quotes out of context or paraphrases in language i didn't use and then attributes it to me. This is a dishonest method of debate. It's also dishonest to ostensibly "quote" me (but not really quoting me) and then trying to describe this as "a way to run a group". That's an obvious leap of logic since whatever it is that i've said here is my own viewpoint and isn't "how WSA is run."

I have political disagreements with other anarchists. Heck, half the time I refuse to call myself an "anarchist." But if you want to have a discussion about those particular disagreements, then stick to what i actually said in the actual context.

And, yes, I do think that a viable political group should have theoretical and strategic unity. I've not seen you explain what you think this means or argue against it, other than attacking me personally here by paraphrases out of context. And I don't think I've "derided" other people here (other than you on this occasion).

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Jul 21 2007 16:25

I will add one other thing: I don't take "theoretical and strategic unity" to mean that people agree in every detail or have no theoretical disagreements. It means that the group itself has a developed set of theoretical ideas and vision and strategy that it agrees about, and which guides its common work. But there may be points that people don't agree on and that remain outside the area of a group's common agreement. In practice i take "theoretical and strategic unity" to mean a rejection of the "synthesist" concept of organization or "anarchism without adjectives" which Sebastien Faure had developed a century ago. My experience is that there are too many different ideas and approaches called "anarchism" in the USA for this to be plausible, and there are people I am closer to politically who don't call themselves "anarchists" than i am to some "anarchists."

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Jul 21 2007 18:48

Felix is right-on when he writes that the:

Quote:
WSA has had such a non-sectarian practice in the past: Some members have worked in rank and file groups within the mainstream unions, some have tried to set up independent unions, some have worked to build the IWW, while yet others have spent most of their efforts in non-workplace campaigns. As far as I can tell, this has never been a problem, and people haven't been told that they have to tow the party line.

I suspect this is how we intend to keep it.

Quote:
Felix: Syndicalistcat, on the other hand, has claimed that you are committed to "theoretical and strategic unity" and has derided other syndicalists for "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" for disagreeing with his chosen strategy for organizing. I don't think this is a constructive way to run an anarcho-syndicalist group.

Look, each individual posting is that, an individual posting. I or syndicalistcat have no script nor are we speaking on behalf of the WSA. We post on libcom as indivduals.That said each person has their own style and should be viewed as an individual style.

I would agree with syndicalistcat when he writes

Quote:
I don't take "theoretical and strategic unity" to mean that people agree in every detail or have no theoretical disagreements. It means that the group itself has a developed set of theoretical ideas and vision and strategy that it agrees about, and which guides its common work.

While I may have my own personal feelings about some of my other comrades views on this or that thing, the bottom line is we all try and work things out. That is, what are the common things which bring us together ("theoretical unity") and what are the common parameters which keep us working together ("strategic unity"). Achieving these don't preclude militants from implementing our "program" in ways and manners which best suit (or not) their own situations.

That said, we come together because we agree on some basic principles, values and goals. we battle it out, when need be, but walk away at the end of the day without malice and as comrades. WSA has been able to keep kicking for 20+ years with our own unique form because there's still alot of work to be done---and the piss and vinegar to go out and fight the fight the best we can.

So whatever direction this conversation goes, I extend my hand of comradeship to all who share similiar views and principles.

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Jul 23 2007 20:46
syndicalistcat wrote:
felix:
Quote:
you are committed to "theoretical and strategic unity" and has derided other syndicalists for "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" for disagreeing with his chosen strategy for organizing. I don't think this is a constructive way to run an anarcho-syndicalist group.

I can't and won't take seriously some dickhead who takes quotes out of context or paraphrases in language i didn't use and then attributes it to me. This is a dishonest method of debate. It's also dishonest to ostensibly "quote" me (but not really quoting me) and then trying to describe this as "a way to run a group". That's an obvious leap of logic since whatever it is that i've said here is my own viewpoint and isn't "how WSA is run."

The context for your comment about "do-your-own-thing liberalism" was IWW dual carders not having a common strategy. I guess they don't have enough "theoretical and strategic unity" for your liking. "Sticking to the anarchist getto" was your response to Catch22 saying he favored "setting up either theoretically pure propaganda groups, discussion groups, or operating within mass groups that operate on more libertarian principles," rather than setting up "especifista" type anarchist organizations. I think you arguing in favour of "theoretical and strategic unity" while dismissing other approaches to organizing as "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" does say something about how you think an anarcho-syndicalist group ought to function.

syndicalistcat wrote:
In practice i take "theoretical and strategic unity" to mean a rejection of the "synthesist" concept of organization or "anarchism without adjectives" which Sebastien Faure had developed a century ago. My experience is that there are too many different ideas and approaches called "anarchism" in the USA for this to be plausible, and there are people I am closer to politically who don't call themselves "anarchists" than i am to some "anarchists."

I also find that I don't have much in common with a lot of people who call thamselves anarchists, and that I have more in common with many people who prefers other labels. (Which is why I remarked earlier that I don't see any reason why a syndicalist organization or network should be restricted to people who use the anarchist label.) In any case, the multitude of weird anarchists out there isn't really relevant to this discussion, as the discussion was specifically about how anarcho-syndicalists should organize. As long as we keep that in mind, I think a synthesist approach to organizing is quite sensible, and preferable to the platformist / especifist / dual organization approach.

syndicalist wrote:
Look, each individual posting is that, an individual posting. I or syndicalistcat have no script nor are we speaking on behalf of the WSA. We post on libcom as indivduals.That said each person has their own style and should be viewed as an individual style.

The problem is that syndicalistcat doesn't just argue for his positions as an individual, but presents his arguments as if they were the collective positions of the WSA. I find this quite problematic, although it's not really my concern, as I'm not a member of your group anymore.

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Jul 23 2007 22:51

felix:

Quote:
The context for your comment about "do-your-own-thing liberalism" was IWW dual carders not having a common strategy. I guess they don't have enough "theoretical and strategic unity" for your liking. "Sticking to the anarchist getto" was your response to Catch22 saying he favored "setting up either theoretically pure propaganda groups, discussion groups, or operating within mass groups that operate on more libertarian principles," rather than setting up "especifista" type anarchist organizations.

again you refuse to provide the quotes from me in their actual context. and as I pointed out, i wasn't talking specifically about the particular theory of the Uruguayan anarchist federation, which is what "especifismo" refers to, but an organization whose membership is on the basis of agreement with a specific political perspective, and whose members are also active in mass organizations/movements. both mitch and i have already corrected you on this.

i've never said that a "propaganda group" is by that fact limited to "the anarchist ghetto" and i've certainly not said that about discussion groups, which I helped organize last year here where i live with others. most of the people in this study group did not identify as "anarchists" (tho all were anti-authortarian left) so how was it "limited to the anarchist ghetto"?

a rational discussion about a viewpoint needs to proceed from an examination of that actual viewpoint, not distorted, prejudiced descriptons. but you're only interested in the Stalinist method of falsification.

Quote:
The problem is that syndicalistcat doesn't just argue for his positions as an individual, but presents his arguments as if they were the collective positions of the WSA. I find this quite problematic, although it's not really my concern, as I'm not a member of your group anymore.

no i do not. i am explicit about what is a position of WSA. any person should assume that when i argue for anything here I'm arguing for my own view unless i explicitly say otherwise. for example on the various threads where i've defended participatory economics I've pointed out on occasion that this is not endorsed by WSA but is my own view.

again, you'd rather engage in lies and personal attack than rational discussion.

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Jul 23 2007 23:22

here is what i actually said:

Quote:
Quote:
So I favor setting up either theoretically pure propaganda groups, disgussion groups, or operating within mass groups that operate on more libertarian principles.

I think this is self-isolating, if one limits oneself this way. I think the tendency to stick to the anarchist ghetto is fundamentally a mistake.

The mere fact that one organizes a propaganda group or discussion groups doesn't have to mean that one is limited to the "anarchist ghetto". if these groups are organized only among anarchists, and there is no active involvement of the people in these groups in mass organizations, or mass movements, then it might be a case of limiting oneself to the specifically anarchist milieu. i went on to give reasons for being involved in mass organizations. so my point is about being active in mass organizations and struggles and communities that brings one into contact with non-anarchists. Among the reasons are that the experience of practice will help in developing ideas that are discussed in discussion groups or written as literature produced by a group that does "propaganda."

In the case of the study group that I helped to organize last year, almost everyone in the group was an activist or organizer involved in mass struggles/organizations (in housing and anti-poverty struggles).

my question about the IWW's "liberalism" was in reference to my view that it isn't possible to combine in a single organization being both a union and a network of radical worker activists in whatever unions there are. if felix had wanted to contest that view, then what he would need to do is to show how it is in fact coherent and feasible to be an organization that combines both of those things. obviously that is open to debate.

felix says the WSA has always had a "nonsectarian" approach -- something that is apparently not true of felix himself. if the merest criticism of the IWW -- a criticism shared by several other posters on libcom -- generates a personal attack, how is that consistent with being "non-sectarian"? apparently felix has failed to ask himself the question why the WSA was formed rather than us just joining the IWW. the WSA as a group has preferred to simply pursue a different course, tho we obvivously support the IWW case by case, as in the restaurant warehouse organizing in New York City. at the same time we insist on the right to pursue a different organizational conception as syndicalists. demonizing us for that would obviously be sectarian.

but felix prefers to engage in personal attack rather than discussing the issues themselves.

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Jul 24 2007 13:23

You really should calm yourself down. All I have said on this thread is that I don't find your approach to organizing and your dismissive attitude towards other viewpoints to be constructive. I don't really think that qualifies as a personal attack.

Also, I don't have any problem with you or anyone else criticizing the IWW. I do think it is a problem if you present your criticisms as WSA positions, especially since I think there have always been members of the WSA who were also committed to building the IWW. When I was a member I think probably a majority of WSA members were also in the IWW.

And you have repeatedly presented various viewpoints as WSA positions both on this forum and elsewhere. Often, I find that you have little or dubious support for these claims from official WSA documents . If you like, I can post some out-of-context quotes for you.

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Jul 24 2007 20:33
Quote:
Why wouldn't anarcho-syndicalists want to have some sort of specific orgganization where they come together on the bais of a certain "political" agreement? Oft times in our "mass work" we are constrained in our ability to have certain "political" discussions and develop viepoints from our unique perspective. would also think producing specifically libertarian worker literature would also be positive and allows for a certain non-constrained atmosp[here that may otherwise exist in some of our daily activities. I would think that having such an organization is engaging and positive.

On the question of "formality" vs. "informality", I guess I'm kind of taken by this. I suspect I'm much more of a "formalist" in the sense I believe things should be as organized as possible. I would, of course, agree that "informality" has certain advantages on a limited one-off basis. But I clearly believe that organization of tasks,collection of information/disementation of information and constructive taks and activities should be fomalized in some manner. Or, perhaps, I've missed the point of the comments.

Mitch I'm with you here 100%, and I agree with the rest of what you said in this comment completely.

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Jul 24 2007 21:21

felix:

Quote:
All I have said on this thread is that I don't find your approach to organizing and your dismissive attitude towards other viewpoints to be constructive. I don't really think that qualifies as a personal attack.

that's not "all" you said, felix. your mistake was in attacking me personally, trying to make me the issue, rather than sticking to the topic. That is not the way to have a rational discussion.

like anyone else i have the right to express my views here. if you don't agree with those views, you are at liberty to argue against them.

i report on what my take is on what WSA's positions are when the topic is WSA's viewpoint. If i don't say that a given view is WSA's view, one should assume it is my own view. It would be absurd to require me to add to the end of every post "This expresses my own view and is not necessarily the view of WSA." that should go without saying. Other people here who are members of groups and who express views not necessarily identical with a shared view of a group they belong to do not do this. Why should you make this requirement peculiar to me?

the real issue seems to be that you think a group like WSA should limit itself to being a "propaganda group" and not also be an organization of people working together as activists and organizers in mass organizations/movements, and I don't agree with you on that.

what you apparenly don't realize is that dual-membership between WSA and IWW has varied quite a bit over time. There were fewer dual members in the mid-'80s when WSA was formed than there were in the late '90s when you were visting, and probably fewer now also. for one thing, in the '80s the IWW only had a couple hundred members. there were IWW elections where only 100 people voted. Opinions about the IWW vary among WSA members. But for you, if someone isn't willing to embrace the IWW that's ground for a personal attack. That's not my idea of a "non-sectarian" approach. if i've never been a member of IWW, you can assume i have my reasons. but i don't go out of my way to talk about the IWW. i only talk about it when people bring it up.

The WSA does support efforts of the IWW to build actual unions, such as the starbucks and New York restaurant warehouse campaigns, as I've pointed out before. In situations like this where there are particular campaigns that WSA supports, there are reasons for WSA members to be involved in the IWW. Also, many of the WSA's members are individual members who are isolated, not part of a WSA branch. if there is an IWW branch where they are that has some life, and they are not a member of an AFL or CtW union, that is a reason for them to be a member of the IWW there.

But WSA has never officially taken any position in favor of "building the IWW" as such as a part of its overall strategy. WSA doesn't really have any position on the IWW as such. Rather, the WSA has a dual labor strategy, both in favor of developing autonomous rank and file movements in AFL or CtW unions, and developing what we call "independent self-managed unions." The reason we tactically support IWW union organizing campaigns is because we view these efforts as attempts to build "self-managed unions". Thus they fit in with our overall strategy. WSA members could very well be commited to "building the IWW" in the sense of building an IWW union in a particular case.

i've also given reasons why, from WSA's point of view, "building the IWW" can't be a complete expression of our politics, even apart from what anyone thinks about how it functions or what it's longterm prospects are, because WSA also supports community organizing, and recognizes the relevance of struggles around non-class areas of oppression such as anti-racism, gay liberation, etc. These do enter into the workplace and anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc. are relevant to workplace organizing, but they also are relevant in a broader social sense as well. But the IWW only focuses on the workplace.

Maybe felix's view of WSA as a "propaganda group" derives from the fact that
some members of the New York branch of WSA do sometimes refer to WSA as a "propaganda group." That way of speaking derives from the history of the New York branch of WSA. That group originated as the Libertarian Workers Group which affiliated to the IWA in 1976. in the traditional framework of the IWA, it had only room for two types of affiliate, either a "union" or a "propaganda group." they didn't seem to think in terms of a syndicalist political organization that did organizing. maybe this is because they thought in terms of a division of labor: anarchist political groups would affilaite to IFA and unions would affiliate to IWA. i don't know.

But the San Francisco branch never called itself a "propaganda group". We thought of WSA as a political group.

WSA didn't think in terms of affiliating to IFA because we weren't intended to be a synthesist style "anarchist" group. We were aware that there were a lot of different things called "anarchism" in the USA and we weren't interested in a loose formation that would be open to anything called "anarchism."

back in the '70s there had been a very loose anarchist federation in the USA called SRAF. SRAF included people who had no orientation to class struggle, counter-culturalists, individualists, etc. in 1978 a number of local collectives wanted to form a more serious, better organized group with a class struggle orientation. that led to the formation of the Anarchist Communist Federation. the ACF split in 1980 and one of the factions in that split were a major part of the people who formed WSA in 1984.

the main group on the "other side" in that split did eventualy become "a propaganda group" and had a strategic orientation to "building the IWW". that group is now the ASR collective. Obviously those of us who split from ACF didn't agree with a labor strategy based on "building the IWW" as disagreement over that was in fact one of the main reasons for the split. Those of us who left ACF and eventually helped form WSA also had an orientation to building autonomous rank and file movements in the AFL-CIO unions. this is why the "other side" in the split accused of us advocating "boring from within". in fact "boring from within" refers to a strategy of changing the labor movement by changing leadership in the AFL unions and, altho we might support a rank and file movement that wants to get rid of the leaders of a union as part of a larger strategy, just doing that is not our strategy. but my point here is that the folks who formed WSA wanted to have an approach relevant to fellow workers in the existing mainstream unions, as part of our political strategy and were not in favor of a labor strategy exclusively focused on "building the IWW."

after the split the syndicalist faction who left ACF held a meeting in New York City and set up a theoretical magazine, ideas & action. this was used as a tool to build a new organization. a couple years on the magazine sponsored a conference in San Francisco for "libertarian socialists and anarcho-syndicalists." around that time there was a split in the IWW.

the WSA's dual labor strategy was based on supporting autonomous rank and file movements in the AFL-CIO unions, and efforts to transform local unions where feasible, and building self-managed independent unions, where feasible. We did not assume that these independent self-managed unions would be part of the IWW, but we obviously haven't ruled that out either. In one case I've mentioned, members of our branch in Knoxville were involved in helping to organize an independent union of university empolyees at the University of Tennessee (now affiliated to CWA). in our magazine "ideas & action" we ran articles about a number of independent unions other than the IWW, such as IBM Workers United in the '80s.

Because WSA was a small group that was using "propaganda", such as its theoretical magazine, leaflets, political debates, etc. to help build the group in the '80s, there is some truth in referring to WSA as a "propaganda group" if this is intended as a purely empirical description. But felix didn't use it that way, but as a defintion of role, that the only role of the organization was to produce literature, to propagandize, and this is not how WSA viewed its role. If you read the various reports on the WSA conventions in ideas & action, WSA is never referred to itself in that limited way.

Nonetheless, WSA's practice in the '80s was heavily "propagandistic" in the sense that putting out the magazine took up a great deal of the organization's resources and energy, and we were very oriented in the content of the magazine to "the war of ideas". by the early '90s i had come around to the view that we'd been too propagandistic, and not sufficiently oriented to concrete organizing efforts. this was to some extent a self-criticism. but i was not criticizing some organizational self-concept as a "propaganda group" since in fact we never had collective agreement on any such self-concept, even if some members sometimes referred to WSA that way, as an empirical description of what our situation was as a small revolutionary group producing a magazine. We had ambitions to be more than a group putting out a magazine even if we didn't have the numbers to do as much as we might like.

the "theoretical and strategic unity" of WSA developed only over time. that's because, when you form an organization, it's hard to discuss every possible topic all at once. the topics that are discussed first will be those that are immediate issues for people. we took up topics over a period of several years. this is why the WSA political statement was amended four times between 1984 and 1988. during that period we gradually had discusssions on racism, sexism/patriarchy, gay liberation, and ecology, and we amended our political statement to add sections on these topics. that means our "theoretical and strategic unity", as reflected in the formal political statement, was developing. but we never got around to working out a specific description of how we viewed the role of the WSA itself as an organization. now is the first time we're having that discussion.

WSA doesn't base our "strategic and theoretical unity" on labels. Rather we try to describe what our political positions are in plain English (or at least we hope it is plain English). labels are a crutch, a substitute for thinking things through. if people can agree on substance so what if they have different preferences about label? WSA currently has at least six members who I think consider themselves "anarcho-communists", at least a few who reject the "communist" label, some who don't like the "anarchist" label,. It's probably true that "syndicalist" (or maybe "libertarian syndicalist") is the only label every member of WSA could agree on. but that doesn't preclude WSA from having a certain level of "theoretical and strategic unity" as embodied in our political statement.

At our national conference in 2002 we made a decision to try to rebuild WSA from the small remaining membership, and part of this was re-writing the political statement entirely from scratch. the new political statement will contain a section on how we conceive of the role of WSA as an organization, we've discussed this a little on our internal email list, and that is why syndicalist posted the question that started this thread.

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Jul 25 2007 02:51

Ok, I hope folks are done poking each others eyes.

I dogged tired now, so I read the longer postings later.

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Jul 26 2007 13:04
Quote:
syndicat: WSA doesn't base our "strategic and theoretical unity" on labels. Rather we try to describe what our political positions are in plain English (or at least we hope it is plain English). labels are a crutch ... if people can agree on substance so what if they have different preferences about label?

Yeah, i'd say this is pretty fair description. I would say labels can be a crutch, rather than they are a crutch. All depending on the setting and audience.

As a PS: WSA's main statements and documents have generally stayed away from using "lablels". Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. The goal has been to explain concepts---with empahsis on anti-authoritarian class struggle, direct action and direct democracy---to the widest possible audience. To, sort of, expand the the zone of reach. Our experiance from the ACF/NA was that people are generally turned off by labels. They shut down. From this experiance we want people to at least give us a listen, and hopefully agree with the substance of anarcho-syndicalism.

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Jul 28 2007 19:10
syndicalistcat wrote:
i report on what my take is on what WSA's positions are when the topic is WSA's viewpoint. If i don't say that a given view is WSA's view, one should assume it is my own view. It would be absurd to require me to add to the end of every post "This expresses my own view and is not necessarily the view of WSA." that should go without saying. Other people here who are members of groups and who express views not necessarily identical with a shared view of a group they belong to do not do this. Why should you make this requirement peculiar to me?

Yes, that would be absurd, and I am in fact referring to the views that you explicitly say are WSA's views. Often I don't find these reflected in WSA's published documents. Just to give a one example: On the current thread about the "coordinator class" you say that WSA "agrees with the three-class analysis", while your "Where we stand" document only talks about workers and bosses, and makes no mention of a third class.

Now, it's possible that everyone in the WSA agrees with a three class theory, and that this and all the other things you have claimed are WSA positions, will be added to the new and revised statement that you are working on. If so, I would say that you do indeed have a high commitment to theoretical and strategic unity. I think having such a high requirement to theoretical unity will be counter-productive for an anarcho-syndicalist group. What are the advantages to limiting your organization to people who have the same view of the nature of the middle class, or the relative independence of the state, or other finer theoretical points? I think this will only serve to further split up an already tiny and fractured movement.

I also find it problematic if WSA has one published statement of your political principles, that you can read on your website, and another unpublished agreement that members can refer to in articles and forum posts. And I don't appreciate being called a lier for pointing this out.

syndicalistcat wrote:
the real issue seems to be that you think a group like WSA should limit itself to being a "propaganda group" and not also be an organization of people working together as activists and organizers in mass organizations/movements, and I don't agree with you on that.

Well, I guess you could put it that way. Of course, being a "propaganda group" doesn't mean that all you should do is sit and write articles. I already said I agreed that it should be "a place where revolutionaries can come together and share experiences and debate and learn from that, improving their own understanding, and finding people to work together with on projects." And I imagine that doing solidarity work with ongoing struggles will be a part of any syndicalist group's work. But I don't think it's useful to have political organizations make decisions about how their members should act within the various mass organizations or movements they also happen to be a member of. Apart from some more principled objections, I also think this will only lead to a further fractioning of the libertarian movement. I don't see anything being gained by anarchists and syndicalists splitting up in even smaller and more ideologically pure groups.

syndicalistcat wrote:
what you apparenly don't realize is that dual-membership between WSA and IWW has varied quite a bit over time. There were fewer dual members in the mid-'80s when WSA was formed than there were in the late '90s when you were visting, and probably fewer now also. for one thing, in the '80s the IWW only had a couple hundred members.

Actually, I knew all that. I don't think that changes the point I was making.

syndicalistcat wrote:
The WSA does support efforts of the IWW to build actual unions, such as the starbucks and New York restaurant warehouse campaigns, as I've pointed out before. In situations like this where there are particular campaigns that WSA supports, there are reasons for WSA members to be involved in the IWW. Also, many of the WSA's members are individual members who are isolated, not part of a WSA branch. if there is an IWW branch where they are that has some life, and they are not a member of an AFL or CtW union, that is a reason for them to be a member of the IWW there.

But WSA has never officially taken any position in favor of "building the IWW" as such as a part of its overall strategy. WSA doesn't really have any position on the IWW as such. Rather, the WSA has a dual labor strategy, both in favor of developing autonomous rank and file movements in AFL or CtW unions, and developing what we call "independent self-managed unions." The reason we tactically support IWW union organizing campaigns is because we view these efforts as attempts to build "self-managed unions". Thus they fit in with our overall strategy. WSA members could very well be commited to "building the IWW" in the sense of building an IWW union in a particular case.

OK, I agree that WSA has never officially taken any position in favor of "building the IWW" and doesn't really have any position on the IWW as such. But why should WSA members only join the IWW if the local IWW group has a campaign going that WSA supports, or if there are no other options around? Why shouldn't they join simply if they - on an individual basis - think building the IWW is a good idea? If you don't "really have any position on the IWW as such" I should think this would be up to each individual member to make up his or her own mind about. Or do you think WSA members should only be involved in things that are approved by official WSA strategy?

syndicalistcat wrote:
Maybe felix's view of WSA as a "propaganda group" derives from the fact that some members of the New York branch of WSA do sometimes refer to WSA as a "propaganda group." That way of speaking derives from the history of the New York branch of WSA. That group originated as the Libertarian Workers Group which affiliated to the IWA in 1976. in the traditional framework of the IWA, it had only room for two types of affiliate, either a "union" or a "propaganda group." they didn't seem to think in terms of a syndicalist political organization that did organizing.

Yeah, that's pretty much where I'm coming from. I could add that in recent years that IWA have started acting more like a political group, and less like an international of revolutionary unions. Some of its more recent sections are what I would classify as anarchist communist political organizations (although they might define themselves as "unitary" organizations). IWA have also started demanding "stategic unity" of its members: Everyone who doesn't agree with the chosen strategy - such as boycotting work council elections - are purged from the organization, which has led to a series of ugly splits that I think has significantly weakened the syndicalist movement. Incidentally, WSA also fell victim to one of these purges. Needless to say, I don't think this has been a positive development.

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syndicalistcat
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Joined: 2-11-06
Jul 29 2007 01:15

felix:

Quote:
I also find it problematic if WSA has one published statement of your political principles, that you can read on your website, and another unpublished agreement that members can refer to in articles and forum posts. And I don't appreciate being called a lier for pointing this out.

Now you're redescribing what you said. what i objected to was you trying to personalize the discussion, by giving a false interpretation to what i had said. this is the comment i objected to:

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you are committed to "theoretical and strategic unity" and has derided other syndicalists for "do-your-own-thing liberalism" and "sticking to the anarchist ghetto" for disagreeing with his chosen strategy for organizing. I don't think this is a constructive way to run an anarcho-syndicalist group.

This is a very different statement than objecting to the fact that a group has some internal agreements that it hasn't yet developed into written positions in its political statement.

Here you are accusing me of "deriding" others for disagreeing with the idea of a syndicalist political group based on "theoretical and strategic unity." But when I objected to the idea of the IWW trying to be both a network of radical worker activists and a union, for example, I don't believe i was personally "deriding" anyone. It was not my intention to do so, anyway. I was saying I didn't think that was workable.

Political groups can learn things. People may fail to come around to debating and writing out a statement on something til that becomes an issue. I don't see why this is so hard to understand.

we sort of assumed, without writing it out, a certain approach that WSA would adopt as an organization. We acted as a political group, but we didn't say this explicitly in our "Where We Stand" statement. now this ended up causing problems. People would think that we must be trying to become an "anarcho-syndicalist union". We would have to correct this misunderstading by saying "No, we're not a union, we're not an embryo of a union." Also, because we had no explicit statement about how we conceived of WSA as an organization, members could fall into using different terminology, as I explained before. Some times people would refer to WSA as a "propaganda group" -- and that's okay as simply a description of much of our activity -- or as a "political group."

Also, i think there will be things like a group's "culture" that may go beyond what is explicitly stated. for example, most of the founders of WSA came from the experience of the ACF where there was a lot of conflict where people were subjected to personal attack. We've generally tried to discourage that sort of thing. We've tried to encourage members to behave in a comradely way towards other members, and to avoid personal attacks, and to try to state their own viewpoint in terms of what their reasons are, why they disagree with some other view, and so on. (I'm not saying we always live up to this but we try.) but this is a part of WSA's internal culture that we also didn't write down in our political statement or constitution. (It's related to what you refer to as our "non-sectarian approach.")

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I am in fact referring to the views that you explicitly say are WSA's views. Often I don't find these reflected in WSA's published documents. Just to give a one example: On the current thread about the "coordinator class" you say that WSA "agrees with the three-class analysis", while your "Where we stand" document only talks about workers and bosses, and makes no mention of a third class.

I didn't say that WSA had any agreement on the term "coordinator class." We recently took a poll on what term members prefer for the class of managers and top professionals. A number of people don't want to use "coordinator class" because that was a term coined by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, and altho it is technically independent of their proposals for "particiaptory economics," a number of people don't want to be identified with "participatory economics" and thus prefer a different term. The term used in the current draft of the new statement is "bureaucratic class." In its description of a self-managed post-capitalist society, WSA is neutral between the specifics of different forumlations like "participatory economnics" versus traditional "anarcho-communist" formulations. What we do is to try to come up with a description in ordinary English that doesn't rely on these labels. The new draft, like the old one, rejected both market socialism and central command planning, but that is not unusual on the libertarian left.

One of the areas where we're neutral is that we don't endorse a particular principle of distributive justice. We don't endorse the particpatory economics principle "From each according to ability, to each according to sacrifice in socially useful work tempered by need" nor do we endorse the communist principle "From each according to ability, to each according to need." But this is not new. The old "Where We Stand" also did not endorse the communist principle. That's because when WSA was formed it included people who identified as "anarcho-communists" and people who rejected the "communist" label.

Now, this makes WSA less "theoretically unified" than the IWA which officially endorses "libertarian communism" (altho actually the IWA doesn't say what that means and the truth is, participatory economics can be interpreted as a form of libertarian communism -- Michael Albert tells me he agrees with this).

Any viable political organization requires agreement on political aims and methods at some level. So i don't really see what your point is.

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Well, I guess you could put it that way. Of course, being a "propaganda group" doesn't mean that all you should do is sit and write articles. I already said I agreed that it should be "a place where revolutionaries can come together and share experiences and debate and learn from that, improving their own understanding, and finding people to work together with on projects." And I imagine that doing solidarity work with ongoing struggles will be a part of any syndicalist group's work. But I don't think it's useful to have political organizations make decisions about how their members should act within the various mass organizations or movements they also happen to be a member of.

so, then, we should not oppose people running for election on their own to a paid union position, for example?

When we say our aim is to help develop, to further, encourage, self-management of mass organizations, that does say something about what we expect our members will be doing inside mass organizations.

but if you mean that we would be giving detailed instructions to our members in a mass organization, where have we ever said that? how does that follow from anything i've said?

it is in fact useful if people who are active in a mass organization work together, if they want to have some influence. for example, let's say there is a contract struggle. you want to put out a leaflet or newsletter to the members of the union. what is wrong with them getting together to do that? It's a lot easier to do things like that as a group. i think it's even better of course if it's a larger group of rank and file workers involved in such an effort; if it's an actual rank and file opposition movement, that is stronger yet. and i think support for that does follow from our advocacy of "autonomous rank and file movements."

WSA hasn't been merely a meeting space for people to share ideas. We've also
at times tried to work on projects. For example, at our 2002 national conference the WSA adopted as its only national priority support for the Taco Bell boycott. A number of people in Northern California as well as New York worked on this.

Quote:
OK, I agree that WSA has never officially taken any position in favor of "building the IWW" and doesn't really have any position on the IWW as such. But why should WSA members only join the IWW if the local IWW group has a campaign going that WSA supports, or if there are no other options around? Why shouldn't they join simply if they - on an individual basis - think building the IWW is a good idea? If you don't "really have any position on the IWW as such" I should think this would be up to each individual member to make up his or her own mind about. Or do you think WSA members should only be involved in things that are approved by official WSA strategy?

of course not. there are in fact a couple of WSA members who i think may be committed to the IWW in the larger sense you describe. i don't see that as inconsistent with the WSA statement of principles. they may have a different assessment of the prospects of the IWW or something like that than me, but so what?

syndicalist
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Joined: 15-04-06
Jul 29 2007 02:06

Just thuming thru these 2 new posts, but i was caught by this

Quote:
felix:I also find it problematic if WSA has one published statement of your political principles, that you can read on your website, and another unpublished agreement that members can refer to in articles and forum posts. And I don't appreciate being called a lier for pointing this out.

I believe it has been said elsewhere by syndicalistcat that that there is currently an internal WSA new statement discussion. To imply that we're hiding something would be to say we're being dishonest. I'd take exception to that. And Felix, you know better than that. You wanna poke it out with syndicaliscat, that's one thing, to imply that people you have personally worked with and know would act in a manner inconsistant with liberatran ethics is wrong and disappointing.

Perhaps to avaoid confusion when talking about the internal WSA discussion would be to say: "Something WSA is now discussing..."

Gotta go for now.