NEFAC workplace position paper

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AndrewF
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Dec 14 2005 11:10
NEFAC workplace position paper

I've just added http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1982 to Anarkismo (hmm - nearly at 2000).

For those of you who follow anarchism in the USA this is really a surprisingly good position paper on workplace organisation, in fact its one of the best treatments of the subject I've seen from any anarchist source.

Bobby
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Dec 14 2005 12:49

Its is a good analysis on workplace strategy!

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Lazy Riser
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Dec 14 2005 14:52

Hi

Quote:
Its is a good analysis on workplace strategy!

And that’s why Capital is on its knees in the U.S. No doubt it will be shortly superseded by an anarchist-communist utopia built on these innovative guiding principles of workplace struggle.

In the immortal words of Revol68…

Quote:
i mean do you actually think your saying something interesting? Do you think if things were that simple we'd not be there by now?

Love

LR

gurrier
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Dec 14 2005 15:15
Lazy Riser wrote:
Hi
Quote:
Its is a good analysis on workplace strategy!

And that’s why Capital is on its knees in the U.S. No doubt it will be shortly superseded by an anarchist-communist utopia built on these innovative guiding principles of workplace struggle.

That's a very silly response. Nobody thinks that a good analysis of capitalism is equivalent to succeeding in overcoming it, but without a good analysis you are even less likely to get anywhere in that task.

You seem to be implying that any action that does not involve the immediate defeat of capitalism is worthless - in which case everything is worthless.

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Steven.
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Dec 14 2005 15:28

I think it's quite good, but the main problem I have is with the introduction, which implies that we only want to help organise at work because that's how we'll have a revolution, rather than a way to collectively improve all our lives. But I spose that's just an omission based on who the document's aimed at (which is, i'm presuming, basically the converted)

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Lazy Riser
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Dec 14 2005 15:50

Hi

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Nobody thinks that a good analysis of capitalism is equivalent to succeeding in overcoming it

I do. Everything else is a just a regular analysis of capitalism, at best.

Love

LR

"Average" was mathematically impossible, so I changed it. Sorry.

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AndrewF
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Dec 14 2005 16:48
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't like the way this paragraph suggests that organising in unions is a requirement for social revolution it quite clearly isn't.

This is an interesting assertion to make. What is it based on?

Steve
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Dec 14 2005 17:49
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't like the way this paragraph suggests that organising in unions is a requirement for social revolution it quite clearly isn't.

Yeah the revolution will be coming and it will not occur to workers that they should be organising in the workplace to fight capitalism head on. They will simply wait for the anarchists from the local squat to tell them what they should be doing.

Steve
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Dec 14 2005 17:51
John. wrote:
I think it's quite good, but the main problem I have is with the introduction, which implies that we only want to help organise at work because that's how we'll have a revolution, rather than a way to collectively improve all our lives.

But if they did that it would lead them to the logical conclusion of anarcho-syndicalism.

gurrier
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Dec 14 2005 17:57
Steve wrote:
But if they did that it would lead them to the logical conclusion of anarcho-syndicalism.

In fairness there is a heavy dose of subjectivity in such an assessment - claiming that an anarcho-syndicalist strategy is the only logical outcome of such a statement is a bit dogmatic and unrealistic: 'our way - the only way - everybody else is categorically incorrect'.

For example, I don't think that such an observation says anything at all about the merits of having 'specific' politcal organisations as distinct from the unions. Claiming that there is a deterministic, logical path from one to the other is confusing opinion with fact.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Dec 14 2005 18:03
Steve wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't like the way this paragraph suggests that organising in unions is a requirement for social revolution it quite clearly isn't.

Yeah the revolution will be coming and it will not occur to workers that they should be organising in the workplace to fight capitalism head on. They will simply wait for the anarchists from the local squat to tell them what they should be doing.

That;s completely misinterpreting what Tommy Ascaso was saying, and, frankly, flailing at him in a very unfriendly manner.

Mike Harman
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Dec 14 2005 18:44
Steve wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't like the way this paragraph suggests that organising in unions is a requirement for social revolution it quite clearly isn't.

Yeah the revolution will be coming and it will not occur to workers that they should be organising in the workplace to fight capitalism head on. They will simply wait for the anarchists from the local squat to tell them what they should be doing.

It's possible to organise in the workplace without being a member of a union. It's also possible to organise outside the workplace without doing so from a squat (realises a link to broadway market occupation won't work in this particular argument tongue).

Union bureaucrats are quite capable of redirecting revolutionary activity towards strengthening their own position at the bargaining table as mediators of capital. The role of the unions in Russia as they subsumed the factory committees is another example of their limitations. Doesn't mean I think people shouldn't join them or be active in them, but I wouldn't put forward either traditional unions or syndicalist ones as prerequisites to revolution. Some kind of workplace organisation is definitely necessary and it may take the form of a union, but it' might not as well. To be fair, the author of the original article does offer options other than the labor unions later on:

Quote:

Sometimes this struggle formalizes itself into groups of workers that act outside and in opposition to not only the exploiting class, but also the union bureaucracy. Some names that these formations have taken in the past are workers' committees, flying squads, resistance groups, action committees, etc. Other times, this is expressed through unofficial spontaneous collective action, such sit-down-strikes, occupations, slows downs, sabotage, and wildcat strikes utilizing informal networks that exist between workers. What matters is not the name or even the specific organizational form they take, but rather the way that the unmediated class struggle of these workers' formations starts the transformation of the organization of production.

which is better. I don't see why the introduction says largely the opposite though.

Back to the introduction again:

Quote:
However, as anarchist-communists, we have a particular strategic interest in workplace struggles due to the ability to directly challenge the material interests of the capitalist class

The material interests of the capitalist class can be directly challenged outside the workplace as well. Surplus labour is expropriated through rent, interest, the sale of the means of life as commodities, and an interruption of any of these disrupts the circuit of capital potentially as much as a strike.

If you put workplace struggles at the top of a strategic list due to their "ability to directly challenge the material interests of the capitalist class", then you also have to put the struggles in certain sectors (actual commodity manufacture, resource extraction, agriculture, transport, energy, construction) at the top of your priorities for workplaces struggles - since they have more potential to interrupt capital's circulation than a strike in the service sector.

redtwister
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Dec 14 2005 19:07

[Note inserted after writing this: You can see my attitude towards unions in the first thing I ever posted here and it has not largely changed, this is my hostile attitude to Leftist stupidity, which this article largely is, particularly in talking about what 'we' should do in relation to unions.]

Jeebus, what crap...

I know a few of these folks and the distance between them and Trotskyists is basically some arguments over Kronstadt and Spain. Not a single intelligent word on unions, on their relation to wage-labor, on their essential complicity with capital, etc.

This is less anarchist than the Left Communists opposed to Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In fact, except for ostensibly rejecting parliamentarism, the democratism and trade unionism here is completely reformist and right in line with mainstream Leninism.

Bleh, fucking bleh. God damned trade unionism permeates the Lef here. Fucking Leninists and anarchists both in the US incapable of getting beyond 'trade union consciousness'. Not even decent syndicalism.

By comparison the discussion of communisation in "Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution; it then becomes an obstacle which the revolution has to overcome" by Theorie Communiste, stuff by Gilles Dauve, and discussions of associationism by the IGC are infinitely superior, though none of them quite agree.

Anyway, look at it: struggle in the workplace is not struggle in the unions. In fact, 'outside and against the unions' is essential for most workplace struggles after WWII. Also, do we want to take over the unions? To run them? At least in capturing the workplaces as a whole, we take over the means of production, unlike taking over the unions.

Here's a laugh:

"Independent rank-and-file tendencies within existing unions, coupled with workplace resistance groups, solidarity networks , and, eventually, workplace assemblies and coordinating councils, provide a glimpse at the kind of self-managed workers movement needed to not only effectively challenge the employers, but also develop the unity and revolutionary class consciousness needed to overthrow the capitalist social order."

Weeeee, the self-management of capital by the workers. No sense that communism is the abolition of 'workers', 'workplaces', etc.

"As anarchist-communists, we want a radical reorganization of the workplace. We want workplaces that are run by directly democratic federated workers' and community-based councils. We want the highest decision-making body to be general assemblies of workers held on the shop floor and in the communities where they live. We want to abolish the wage system, end the alienation and division of labor, and usher in a new society of libertarian communism."

Democracy, the political mode of operation of commodity society. Yay. The first three sentences guarantee a strategy that gets us nowhere near the last sentence.

"To achieve this society, we engage in a struggle against the bosses; a struggle between the working and the employing classes; a revolutionary class struggle that will only end when the class system itself is destroyed and everyone controls and shares in the wealth that we as working people produce."

Bosses? Populist crap Leftist language. Are we struggling against Bill Gates? Bosses: today all that means is someone's supervisor or foreman, it is far more archaic than Leftists realize, but it has that good old CIO smell American Leftists love so much. "Oh for a John L. Lewis today..." It is a struggle against capital, against labor, against the whole kit and kaboodle, but this language hopes to attract workers with less 'radical' terms, to get them a little bit of the way in and then open up the whole program to them. It is indecent and bullshit recruitment tactics. Also, why the hell would we be 'working people' after the abolition of classes? That just makes no sense.

"We believe that the struggle toward libertarian communism must be brought about by the whole of the working class, and see the workplace and labor unions as an essential point of agitation and struggle. Labor unions represent the largest organized grouping of the working class. For this reason we feel that anarchist participation within the unions is essential. Anarchists must be involved in workplace struggles, both because we are both workers and because we are revolutionaries. As we fight the bosses with our fellow workers, we also fight the mediation of our struggle."

Complete and utter confusion of workers, the working class, workplaces and unions. Participation in the unions so we can ecome lawyers for the working class? This is not a position of how we understand that workers will struggle in and through the unions, but a call to entrap us in being whores for trade unionism. Half-Leninist, trade unionist shit.

"Firstly, we now have the productive capacity to create enough wealth to provide the basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing, education, health care) for everyone and still have plenty to spare for science, culture, luxuries, etc.

Secondly, and more importantly, our everyday life as workers prepares us to eventually self-manage our society."

Ok, well who the fuck wants this shit? They don't even vaguely think through that the separation of spheres like culture, science, etc from work, from an organic social life is already capital. No, we want the separations, but... managed by the workers.

"the reality of the labor movement today in North America is one of compromise, and often collaboration, with capitalist exploitation. Unions serve as a mediator between the working class and the bosses, often playing the role of business organizations that negotiate the sale of their members labor power to employers (and, in exchange, they offer workers material benefits: job security, health care, better wages). They seek a fairer form of exploitation under capitalism, rather than an end to exploitation itself."

As if the unions could be anything else... dipshits.

"As the labor movement has failed over the years to mount a fundamental challenge to the power of the bosses, the unions became increasingly top-down in their structure and integrated into the system. The officials who run these organizations work to contain workers' struggles within the framework of their longstanding relationship with employers and politicians."

This is exactly how the Leninists, even in State & Revolution, understand the state: its capitalist because capitalists run it, bu its just a vessel which can be filled with any content, if only the good people were running it. More semi-Leninism, more retardation.

There is no point in going on. Almost every sentence is a mistake, an 'anarchization' of old Social Democratic/Leninist positions on trade unions. I have listened to this shit for 20 years. The Trotskyists I was involved with, Lutte Ovriere, were better, much better than this on trade unions.

Oh wait, this was prescious:

"Sometimes this struggle formalizes itself into groups of workers that act outside and in opposition to not only the exploiting class, but also the union bureaucracy. Some names that these formations have taken in the past are workers' committees, flying squads, resistance groups, action committees, etc. Other times, this is expressed through unofficial spontaneous collective action, such sit-down-strikes, occupations, slows downs, sabotage, and wildcat strikes utilizing informal networks that exist between workers. What matters is not the name or even the specific organizational form they take, but rather the way that the unmediated class struggle of these workers' formations starts the transformation of the organization of production."

Notice: outside the union bureaucracy, not outside the unions. Never outside the unions or against the unions. And the struggle is never unmediated. All forms of organization are mediations. What is the content? Unions have a specific content, the types of self-organization have a radicalized content, but that too must be overcome, as it remains of necessity sectional, fragmented and fragmenting. The content of communism is the abolition of unions, of capital, of labor, of all the social forms associated with class society.

This is nothing but a retarded retread of a very worn out old tire and it displays the complete miserableness this kind of Leftism.

Nuff said.

Chris

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Lazy Riser
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Dec 14 2005 19:28

Hi

Harsh, but true. Apart from the transcendental bits.

Love

LR

redtwister
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Dec 14 2005 19:58
Lazy Riser wrote:
Hi

Harsh, but true. Apart from the transcendental bits.

Love

LR

Then I have to especially insist on the transcendental bits.

chris

Steve
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Dec 14 2005 20:29
gurrier wrote:
Steve wrote:
But if they did that it would lead them to the logical conclusion of anarcho-syndicalism.

In fairness there is a heavy dose of subjectivity in such an assessment - claiming that an anarcho-syndicalist strategy is the only logical outcome of such a statement is a bit dogmatic and unrealistic: 'our way - the only way - everybody else is categorically incorrect'.

For example, I don't think that such an observation says anything at all about the merits of having 'specific' politcal organisations as distinct from the unions. Claiming that there is a deterministic, logical path from one to the other is confusing opinion with fact.

Yes it's subjective, everyone's opinion is subjective. I'm not saying it's the only way but in my (subjective) opinion it is the best way to fight capitalism.

I don't think there is any merit in having a specific political organisation distinct from a revolutionary union be that political party or whatever.

Steve
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Dec 14 2005 20:34
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Steve wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't like the way this paragraph suggests that organising in unions is a requirement for social revolution it quite clearly isn't.

Yeah the revolution will be coming and it will not occur to workers that they should be organising in the workplace to fight capitalism head on. They will simply wait for the anarchists from the local squat to tell them what they should be doing.

That;s completely misinterpreting what Tommy Ascaso was saying, and, frankly, flailing at him in a very unfriendly manner.

Oops sorry. Maybe from the local affinity group or resource centre is better.

Jimmy
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Dec 14 2005 21:00
redtwister wrote:

Here's a laugh:

Nefac: "Independent rank-and-file tendencies within existing unions, coupled with workplace resistance groups, solidarity networks , and, eventually, workplace assemblies and coordinating councils, provide a glimpse at the kind of self-managed workers movement needed to not only effectively challenge the employers, but also develop the unity and revolutionary class consciousness needed to overthrow the capitalist social order."

Redtwister: Weeeee, the self-management of capital by the workers. No sense that communism is the abolition of 'workers', 'workplaces', etc.

But NEFAC aren't advocating this as their objective; merely as a “glimpse at the kind of self-managed workers movement needed to...overthrow the capitalist order. They explicitly say: “...[o]n their own such institutions can and are absorbed into the capitalist system (and do not constitute a strategy for revolutionary change)...” As it's clear from both this document and elsewhere that Nefac are committed to an anarchist communist society, this criticism is missing their point.

redtwister wrote:

"As anarchist-communists, we want a radical reorganization of the workplace. We want workplaces that are run by directly democratic federated workers' and community-based councils. We want the highest decision-making body to be general assemblies of workers held on the shop floor and in the communities where they live. We want to abolish the wage system, end the alienation and division of labor, and usher in a new society of libertarian communism."

Democracy, the political mode of operation of commodity society. Yay. The first three sentences guarantee a strategy that gets us nowhere near the last sentence.

If you don't think direct democracy in the workplace and neighbourhood is such a good idea then what proposals do you have for organising production and community & regional life?

redtwister wrote:

Nefac: "To achieve this society, we engage in a struggle against the bosses; a struggle between the working and the employing classes; a revolutionary class struggle that will only end when the class system itself is destroyed and everyone controls and shares in the wealth that we as working people produce."

Bosses? Populist crap Leftist language. Are we struggling against Bill Gates? Bosses: today all that means is someone's supervisor or foreman, it is far more archaic than Leftists realize, but it has that good old CIO smell American Leftists love so much. "Oh for a John L. Lewis today..." It is a struggle against capital, against labor, against the whole kit and kaboodle, but this language hopes to attract workers with less 'radical' terms, to get them a little bit of the way in and then open up the whole program to them. It is indecent and bullshit recruitment tactics. Also, why the hell would we be 'working people' after the abolition of classes? That just makes no sense.

Rarefied Marxist twaddle tongue. Bosses are a very real part of workers' daily life. The reality of being told what to do by a boss who's getting loads of money, long holidays and so on, makes the oppressive nature of capitalism real to far more people than explaining the social nature of Capital, in my experience. Maybe the land is full of Marxist scholars over where you are?

redtwister wrote:

Nefac: "We believe that the struggle toward libertarian communism must be brought about by the whole of the working class, and see the workplace and labor unions as an essential point of agitation and struggle. Labor unions represent the largest organized grouping of the working class. For this reason we feel that anarchist participation within the unions is essential. Anarchists must be involved in workplace struggles, both because we are both workers and because we are revolutionaries. As we fight the bosses with our fellow workers, we also fight the mediation of our struggle."

Redtwister: Complete and utter confusion of workers, the working class, workplaces and unions. Participation in the unions so we can ecome lawyers for the working class? This is not a position of how we understand that workers will struggle in and through the unions, but a call to entrap us in being whores for trade unionism. Half-Leninist, trade unionist shit.

Nefac are aware of the role of the union bureaucrats, it's a major part of their article. They just don't equate the union with the bureaucracy, and rightly so. As for the rest of your distinctions, what meaningful difference do they make?As far as I can tell, they're advocating anarchist participation in unions just because loads of workers are there. Rather than sit around and wait for workers to see the light, they're thinking that they should bring anarchist ideas to them. What's wrong with that?

-----------------------------

redtwister wrote:

"Firstly, we now have the productive capacity to create enough wealth to provide the basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing, education, health care) for everyone and still have plenty to spare for science, culture, luxuries, etc.

Secondly, and more importantly, our everyday life as workers prepares us to eventually self-manage our society."

Redtwister: Ok, well who the fuck wants this shit? They don't even vaguely think through that the separation of spheres like culture, science, etc from work, from an organic social life is already capital. No, we want the separations, but... managed by the workers.

Most of us do want food, healthcare, shelter etc. Hopefully work would be more pleasant in a free society, but there's still going to be lots of it that isn't particularly cultural, intensive care nursing, street cleaning. What specific proposals do you have for the integrated organisation of work, culture, and science?

-------------------------------

redtwister wrote:

Nefac: "the reality of the labor movement today in North America is one of compromise, and often collaboration, with capitalist exploitation. Unions serve as a mediator between the working class and the bosses, often playing the role of business organizations that negotiate the sale of their members labor power to employers (and, in exchange, they offer workers material benefits: job security, health care, better wages). They seek a fairer form of exploitation under capitalism, rather than an end to exploitation itself."

As if the unions could be anything else... dipshits.

If the unions were already full of libertarian revolutionaries then there wouldn't need to be an anarchist involvement. It's precisely because they aren't that anarchists need to be involved. Kinda like the fact that anarchists should be involved in say, neighbourhood associations even if they are full of folks into gardening rather than revolution. It's gonna be heard to spread libertarian ideas if we aren't interacting with the people capable of making a revolution.

-----------------------

redtwister wrote:

"As the labor movement has failed over the years to mount a fundamental challenge to the power of the bosses, the unions became increasingly top-down in their structure and integrated into the system. The officials who run these organizations work to contain workers' struggles within the framework of their longstanding relationship with employers and politicians."

This is exactly how the Leninists, even in State & Revolution, understand the state: its capitalist because capitalists run it, bu its just a vessel which can be filled with any content, if only the good people were running it. More semi-Leninism, more retardation.

I think you're misinterpreting Nefac on this. They're providing a historical analysis, not a proposal for anarchists to become union bureaucrats. Don't be deriving ought from is.

--------------------------------------.

redtwister wrote:

Oh wait, this was prescious:

"Sometimes this struggle formalizes itself into groups of workers that act outside and in opposition to not only the exploiting class, but also the union bureaucracy. Some names that these formations have taken in the past are workers' committees, flying squads, resistance groups, action committees, etc. Other times, this is expressed through unofficial spontaneous collective action, such sit-down-strikes, occupations, slows downs, sabotage, and wildcat strikes utilizing informal networks that exist between workers. What matters is not the name or even the specific organizational form they take, but rather the way that the unmediated class struggle of these workers' formations starts the transformation of the organization of production."

Notice: outside the union bureaucracy, not outside the unions. Never outside the unions or against the unions. And the struggle is never unmediated. All forms of organization are mediations. What is the content? Unions have a specific content, the types of self-organization have a radicalized content, but that too must be overcome, as it remains of necessity sectional, fragmented and fragmenting. The content of communism is the abolition of unions, of capital, of labor, of all the social forms associated with class society.

Yeah, but what's that got to do with Nefac's document? Nefac explicityly recognise that ordinary unions aren't suited to bringing about revolutionary change. They recognise that anarchist communism goes further than having half-decent unions. What they are saying is that activity within the unions is necessary *in the here and now* in order to spread anarchist ideas and methods. You're confusing a revolutionary situation, even a post-revolutionary one, with where we are now. Even if unions must be overcome, then at least put forward some suggestions how this can be done.

nastyned
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Dec 14 2005 21:40

Well, I think redtwister has come up with the best ultra-left rant i've seen in ages. And they're putting the boot into democracy on another thread simultaneously! Fantastic stuff. It's almost enough to make me dig around for my old copies of Wildcat. Almost.

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 04:06
Jimmy wrote:
But NEFAC aren't advocating this as their objective; merely as a “glimpse at the kind of self-managed workers movement needed to...overthrow the capitalist order. They explicitly say: “...[o]n their own such institutions can and are absorbed into the capitalist system (and do not constitute a strategy for revolutionary change)...” As it's clear from both this document and elsewhere that Nefac are committed to an anarchist communist society, this criticism is missing their point.

I'm not missing it at all. I'm saying that self-management is crap, that it equals managing ones own exploitation. And your quote makes the point: a glimpse of the kind of self-managed workers movement needed to overthrow capitalism pretty much indicates that their goal is self-management. Self-management of what? Of current production? Of factories? Of the workplace, but now in workers' hands? That's capitalism, masquerading as 'workers' control' of production fantasies. Its a dead end, repeated here as if it were fresh meat.

Quote:

If you don't think direct democracy in the workplace and neighbourhood is such a good idea then what proposals do you have for organising production and community & regional life?

I don't want democracy at all. We are having a lovely discussion of why democracy is rot and poison in the "Lenin's Alleged Crimes" section in Introductory Thought. That's clear enough. And for fuck's sake, what are anarchists doing defending 'democracy'. Hello, state form! I just posted a bunch of stuff to the Library under Riff-Raff, Theorie Communiste and Monsieur DuPoint, go indulge a bit. Posting more soon that will deal with this.

Quote:
Rarefied Marxist twaddle tongue. Bosses are a very real part of workers' daily life. The reality of being told what to do by a boss who's getting loads of money, long holidays and so on, makes the oppressive nature of capitalism real to far more people than explaining the social nature of Capital, in my experience. Maybe the land is full of Marxist scholars over where you are?

Craptacular, old man. I have a boss, and i don't envy the poor prick. Stupid as a post and not paid enough to be the moron he is. What, do you think capital is like Dilbert? I mean, Dilbert is kinda funny, but it ultimately let's capital off the hook and so does populist Union-Man language like "bosses".

Most people do not meet those bosses, the big ones, and even then, those bosse are just ciphers, stand-ins for capital. Capital isn't the capitalist class. After Russia, China and Eastern Europe, haven't you figured that out?

And why the hell do i want to explain the nature of capital that way? It doesn't explain it, it mystifies it by talking down to people in 'ordinary' language.

Quote:
Nefac are aware of the role of the union bureaucrats, it's a major part of their article. They just don't equate the union with the bureaucracy, and rightly so. As for the rest of your distinctions, what meaningful difference do they make?As far as I can tell, they're advocating anarchist participation in unions just because loads of workers are there. Rather than sit around and wait for workers to see the light, they're thinking that they should bring anarchist ideas to them. What's wrong with that?

And I'm suggesting, not unknown among anarchists, that the unions are a trap. Not that anyone should quit their union, but that if any struggle develops, the union will end up, as militancy grows, being an impediment, and that the unions must play that role because their job is to negotiate the rate of exploitation. I have nothing against workers trying to get the best deal they can, but anarchists and communists should not be playing the game and becoming labor lawyers and union boosters. The unions will be a huge impediment to revolution, not the union bureaucracy, but the unions.

And in the US loads of workers aren't in the unions anymore. The largest portion are in what are little more than state unions, too (AFSCME, for example and NEA and AFT.)

Quote:
Most of us do want food, healthcare, shelter etc. Hopefully work would be more pleasant in a free society, but there's still going to be lots of it that isn't particularly cultural, intensive care nursing, street cleaning. What specific proposals do you have for the integrated organisation of work, culture, and science?

No doubt we will engage in human activity, which wil include activities that feed, clothe, etc Why should they happen in a workplace, separate from family, community, etc? Why should there be a distinction between work, education and creative activity?

Please feel free to peruse the Theorie Communiste piece I just posted in the Library on communisation, call "Self-organisation...", or Dauve's piece "To Work or Not to Work" which takes exactly the workerist/happy labor position of NEFAC to task.

Quote:
As if the unions could be anything else... dipshits.

If the unions were already full of libertarian revolutionaries then there wouldn't need to be an anarchist involvement. It's precisely because they aren't that anarchists need to be involved. Kinda like the fact that anarchists should be involved in say, neighbourhood associations even if they are full of folks into gardening rather than revolution. It's gonna be heard to spread libertarian ideas if we aren't interacting with the people capable of making a revolution.

I didn't ay anything about the people in unions. i said that the unions can't be anything but reactionary, in the end. They are 'workers' organs' within the confines of capital, but communism isn't capitalism without bosses, it isn't 'the economy sans anarchy'.

As for whether or not you should be in the local gardening association, that's your own damn choice. But don't try and tell me that the gardinging association, especially if it regulates the rate of wage-labor, is going to be anything but a dead end for communism.

Quote:
I think you're misinterpreting Nefac on this. They're providing a historical analysis, not a proposal for anarchists to become union bureaucrats. Don't be deriving ought from is.

I'm deriving is from is. The unions didn't become tools of capitalism. The unions are a form of workers' self-defense completely within the limits of capitalism. The problem is not the bureaucratization of the unions, but the unions. There is a reason that the unions ALWAYS form the right-wing of the radical workers' movement.

Quote:
Yeah, but what's that got to do with Nefac's document? Nefac explicityly recognise that ordinary unions aren't suited to bringing about revolutionary change. They recognise that anarchist communism goes further than having half-decent unions. What they are saying is that activity within the unions is necessary *in the here and now* in order to spread anarchist ideas and methods. You're confusing a revolutionary situation, even a post-revolutionary one, with where we are now. Even if unions must be overcome, then at least put forward some suggestions how this can be done.

All NEFAC was doing was giving the same talk about unions that the Leninoids give. The Left Communists and councilists and anarchists tore that nonsense up in the 1920's. The position that we have to work in the unions, fight for 'good unions', take leadership positions, that isn't an anarchist position, it is the position of the Bolsheviks and Lenin in 1920-1 in smashing the "Infantile Left", and turning the 3rd International into a filthy mud hole of counter-revolution. All NEFAC is doing is rehashing that.

And if I am terse it is because I've been watching that with NEFAC for years, waiting for them or anyone around them to catch a clue, but this land isn't full of communists or marxists or even decently Bakuninist/Kropotkin anarchists. Nay, the fare is poor indeed.

Chris

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 04:26
revol68 wrote:
i hope by best you mean completely devoid of any gras of reality, an almost perfect example of mistaking categorie, labels and concepts for reality.

His criticisms of democracy are hardly anything new whilst some of them hold nasty little kernals of determinism and elitism.

And wildcat was fucking dreadful, their position of outside and against elped make the AF a fuckig laughing stalk and continues to cast a shadow over them sorting shit out.

Ah Christ, Revol is gonna school me on anti-elitism? What's next, Lazy Riser lecturing people on the abolition of value and commodities? And determinism is a word that scares me about as much as "authoritarian" or "essentialist."

I never claimed the criticisms of democracy were anything new. That's why i cited some old shit. Doesn't make it wrong. And its not about Wildcat (UK). Its not about telling workers to get out of unions. Its about WTF we do in the unions, what the unions are and are not. Its about what we do say about the unions if anyone gives a fuck to ask.

And given that almost every major struggle of the post-WWII period involved a simultaneous struggle against the unions or where the unions helped strangle it, maybe that might be something other than "the problem is the union bureaucracy".

I did not say that the not having a union is better, but that doesn't mean we should be fucking off to become the union rep, to 'spread democracy in the unions', etc. But that is pretty much NEFAC's position: dive into the unions, that's where the workers are, son! We need to be active in our unions! Bleh and double bleh and 'twaddle'.

What pisses me off about the NEFAC stuff is that it is totaly going to stick a lot of anarchists into miserable trade union slogging, campaigns to 'oust the bureaucracy', etc. Don't any of you people read Martin Glaberman or the Autonomists or anyone on what happened to all the radicals who took this line on union in the 1930's, 1960's and 1970's? Across the board, this approach turned loads of anarchists and communists into total fucking asshole union hacks because you don't change the machine, the machine changes you.

If NEFAC had come out and said: Hey, the unions are fucked. We know we can't trust them and most workers don't. But... usually unions shops are more militant today. usually the workers there are in a little bit better shape. And sometimes we can use the union rules to cover our asses. But understand this, if we get into a real fight, not only are we on our own, but the union will try and control the strike and prolly trap us in bullshit legalism and drown us in pointless tiny pickets and months of trying to starve out a multi-national or the government. And frankly, right now the unions are not stopping some hidden militancy waiting to burst forth. But when struggles do burst forth, you better organize your own leadership to run the strike, outside the union. (You know, anarcho-syndicalism, duh!) You better reach to workers everywhere you can. You better well shut down production and prepare to break some laws, because there is no national production anymore and they'll shut down this workplace faster than you can spit. Oh, and maybe along the way we better figure out some ways to take care of ourselves that don't require money...

If NEFAC and had said something even vaguely resembling that, i wouldn't be all pissed off. But no, they took the fucking social-democratic-Leninist-trade unionist line. So I ranted and with good reason because its horse shit from beginning to end.

Chris

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 04:39
Jack wrote:
Jesus red twister, what happened to you? You used to be beautiful. sad

Now I'm siding with a bunch of activist dickheads ( wink ) over you. cry

Jack, I live to disappoint because it keeps me from attracting followers, which only some fucking cult asshole wants to have or little groups looking to recruit and build the revolutionary organization one suck-holing sorority sister/fraternity brother at a time.

But bear with me, there is a method to the madness, unlike that sad, half-Leninist anarcho-trade unionism, which is merely banality.

chris

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 04:46

To repost my first post on Libcom on unions, I addressed what to do if you were in a union workplace, what to do in a general way if there was a union organizing drive (to not oppose it, generally, but that does not mean to join the union and become one of their organizers, etc.) For al those who think this is some great change and that what I wrote below is closer to NEFAC, I will happily clarify why I think it is not.

"I just wanted to note one thing, noted by the old Sojourner Truth Organization in the US in the 1970's. They went into the factories thinking that the unions held the workers back. What they found was that the workers were more active in union shops, and that it was not the unions that held workers back in many cases.

Certainly in the US today, the passivity of the working class in workplaces is not a product, in any simple sense, of the unions' stopping such action. In fact, the unions have initiated most of what action there has been. Certainly, in a long view sense, the unions' role in imposing neo-liberalism on the workers int he 1970's and 80's played a big part in demobilizing and restructuring the working class, but today it isn't the unions that are the primary impediment.

Rather, with the formation of a large (and largely white) Republican (aka neo-con) proletariat in the US, the internationalization of capital, the elimination of more and more manufacturing and the fragmentation and isolation of workplaces and neighborhoods (suburban sprawl, neighborhood decimation), the impact of the drug trade, the post-9/11 militarism and the transformation of the structure of the workplace play a far larger role than the unions do. By comparison, the unions are more irrelevant than anything, and a source of some activity where they do anything at all. (Wildcat in Germany recently translated and published a piece of mine on this for their journal and in the US, a radical politics which does not address these changes is a meaningless politics.)

I suspect that the degree of activity and holding back shifts with the situation. In many cases, not having a union is worse than having one, as long as it is not a gangster union (seemingly a particularly US problem.)

There ar at least several levels to the question.

For the workers confronted with organizing a struggle in their workplace, the struggle to unionize can itself be far more important than the union per se. There are a range of political issues in this:

* who controls the organizing, the workers involved int he workplace, or the union officials? The officials will always fight to have control over the organizing and, if there is to be one, the contract.

*will there be a contract? If so, with what provisions? IMO, the less a contract says the better. Being able to avoid a contract is feasible, but prolly only in those situations where there is more general level of struggle.

In a strike situation where there is a union, there are some of these issues, but additionally:

*Is the strike starting with union support? If its a wildcat, there are a whole major range of issues. But if it is, there may be all kinds of tensions between the local and the international and intervening levels. Sometimes the International will be forced to submit, sometimes they will crush a strike themselves in order to regain control. More likely, especially in the abscence of an active strike committee, they will slowly bleed the workers dry.

*what structure runs the strike? There is almost always a way to introduce the idea that there should be a strike committee, independent of the union, that runs the strike. That may cause all kinds of problems with the union officials, who may very well turn on the strikers.

*Is the strike in part a strike AGAINST the union? This was very common in the US in the 1960's and early 70's, and found some more formal organizational form in the Revolutionary Union Movements (DRUM, FRUM, ERUM) connected to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and allied groups like Sojourner Truth Organization.

*Legalism today is one of the ideologies of the unions, but it was not always so. The heads of the CIO were not radicals, but they had no problems breaking the law when necessary. It is important to not underestimate the willingness of union officials to go beyond what we think are their boundaries if that is the difference between losing control of a movement and keeping or gaining control.

For radicals in a unionized workplace or in one that is being organized:

*To refuse on principle to be involved in a union organizing drive at the grass roots is, IMO, a way to isolate onesself.

*But that is not the same as hiring in to be a grunt organizer for a union, with no relationship to the workers one organizes other than as an outside organizer totaly dependent on the union. That is pretty much always the worst possible position to be in, unless the union has left you alone for so long that you develop strong, independent relations with the workers organizning. But ultimately, if you are on the outside, they and their families and friends have to live with the choices made, not the outside organizer.

*Abstract participation in a union, as a union opposition, without any base of support in the workplace or business from a collective of workers is the hallmark of stupid Leftism, esp Trotskyism. That and trying to get resolutions supporting Cuba or the ANC or a general strike or some other shit, passed by the local and then suckholing with the local officers. This is the perfect way to get fired with union approval or to get pimped by the officials or under the right conditions, to become the new union boss, same as the old union boss.

*If you don't have a practical proposal on how workers can do something better for themselves, then its better to not make a proposal at all. Lots of workers still see the union as providing services and protection that are valuable. If co-workers aren't ready to push their own fight, they don't necessarily see the limits in the union we do.

As far as general comments politically on unions go, IMO any body which exists to mediate the relation between wage-labor and capital already is invested in the continuation of that relationship. Unions may have their uses, but ultimately they will be an impediment to action which calls capital into question because they act as a de facto lawyer negotiating the terms of exploitation, as opposed to seeking the abolition of exploitation. Whether one calls it a syndicalist or revolutionary union or not, I see it as a limited form. It is no accident that in each and every instance, the union officials form the right-wing of working class political movements and organizations (the relationship of unionized workers to non-unionized workers is considerably more complicated and not subject to a general rule of thumb, IMO.) Note, the IWW and maybe some other syndicalist organizations, did not make contractual relations with the bosses, did not act on behalf of the workers, did not attempt to create locals that could survive the loss of workers' self-activity. These were, contrary to the normal criticism given by the Leninists, the strengths of the IWW.

There are other problems unions suffer from, common to most working class organizations:

*In so far as they are mass organizations of action, in the abscence of mass working class activity they will tend to act on behalf of the workers, see them ultimately as objects, as passive, etc. As such, they will develop, if they did not already have, a paternal and disdainful attitude towards the workers.

*In so far as they exist after the struggles, and in so far as capital re-establishes its own power, survival means compromise with capital as a social relation and the state as the political form of that relation. in other words, it is not so much treachery or a sell-out, but the logic of an organization with a life-span beyond the struggles that gave life to it.

*In so far as unions have an apparatus for their maintenance separate and distinct from the workers themselves, there is a tendency for the apparatus to take on a life of its own, with its own interests, espcially if that apparatus gets paid by the dues from the membership. This was especially a problem in the US since the 1948 Taft-Hartley Act, but that only formalizes the problem, instead of creating it.

An interesting way of thinking about some of these issues can be seen from Dauve's When Insurrections Die (new translation from the fine folks at Antagonism http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3909/whenidie/index.html) and a critique of it by Theorie Communiste (http://www.theoriecommuniste.org/WhenInsurrectionsDie.html)"

nastyned
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Dec 15 2005 09:19
revol68 wrote:

And wildcat was fucking dreadful, their position of outside and against elped make the AF a fuckig laughing stalk and continues to cast a shadow over them sorting shit out.

In your ignorant mind that for some bizarre reason thinks the AF and Wildcat are the same thing that is.

nastyned
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Dec 15 2005 10:10
revol68 wrote:
no im well aware they were never the same organisation but the AF did pimp the wildcat pamphlet outside and against all over the shop and had very close ties.

No we didn't. So either you're lying or you're ingnorantly spreading lies.

gurrier
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Dec 15 2005 12:16
redtwister wrote:
All NEFAC was doing was giving the same talk about unions that the Leninoids give. The Left Communists and councilists and anarchists tore that nonsense up in the 1920's. The position that we have to work in the unions, fight for 'good unions', take leadership positions, that isn't an anarchist position, it is the position of the Bolsheviks and Lenin in 1920-1 in smashing the "Infantile Left", and turning the 3rd International into a filthy mud hole of counter-revolution. All NEFAC is doing is rehashing that.

And if I am terse it is because I've been watching that with NEFAC for years, waiting for them or anyone around them to catch a clue, but this land isn't full of communists or marxists or even decently Bakuninist/Kropotkin anarchists. Nay, the fare is poor indeed.

Chris

What self-important, arrogant rubbish. It's hard to say more since I can't detect a single non-abstract proposition in your rant.

nastyned
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Dec 15 2005 12:46

It's Subversion we were close to, not Wildcat.

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Steven.
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Dec 15 2005 15:37

redtwister - sorry but you're projecting shit onto NEFAC that they obviously aren't saying, nor do they mean. For "being active within unions" they obviously don't mean what you try to say they do.

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 15:54
gurrier wrote:
What self-important, arrogant rubbish. It's hard to say more since I can't detect a single non-abstract proposition in your rant.

Well, defending NEFAC's stuff is exactly rubbish. I worked with CFAC (the Great Lakes folks related to NEFAC) who adopted NEFAC's stuff pretty much across the board, aside from my own discussions with NEFAC people elsewhere, and this stuff was a mess then and indistinguishable from the positions in practice of ex-Labour Militant Tendency types I knew in Chicago. There's nothing abstract about it.

Nor is there anything abstract about 150 years of working through the problem of relating to the unions. Left communists and non-syndicalist anarchists (and even the syndicalists were like the IWW were better) shared a common position on this, that we don't orient a political activity towards the unions, we don't take positions as shop stewards or union reps, much less executives.

Now, if you want to take Marx's position that the unions are a school of democracy for the workers, go ahead. You are more Marxist on that than I am, except in so far as unions in 1875 are not unions today, which are not only about regulating the degree of exploitation ('fair day's pay for a fair day's work'), but have also increasingly been incorporated into the state and capital, as another layer of managing workers. But I admit, I read Marx's comment as a perverse quip, that the unions are a learning experience in how fucked up principled democratism is, forcing them to learn how to run their own struggles.

And Revol, there is nothing mitigating about shop stewards or union reps (as they are here.) That is the most important level of 'labor lawyer' and having been to a few 'Labor Notes' conferences with lots of local union reps, and been involved in and around Left politics for 20 years, including local struggles and my own adventures in 'low level union participation', organizing drives, etc, I have spent plenty of time talking to trade unionists of all sorts, dealing with union politics, etc, including Leftists who 'only' took 'shop steward' positions.

It was very rare that it was not a total mess, as the nature of the job (filing grievances, arguing with managers, etc. absorbed all of their time when they were not submerged), not the person doing it, drives things. Unless you are against activism in all matters except trade unions, as if that were more proletarian and therefore exempt from the broader critique of activism.

That's why I (rantingly, I agree) raised the thoughtful (and non-ranty) discussion of this stuff by Martin Glaberman. The Forrest-Johnson Tendency and the people around CLR James went through that experience, coming out of the 1930's and 40's, around the formation of the mass unions in the US, and it was a sobering experience as they watched what happened to people who 'merely' became local reps.

NEFAC is throwing away 150 years of experience and discussion in favor of essentially the same positions as the 3rd Interntional in 1920 against the ultra-Lefts.

Irony of that sort I can do without and I'm sorry, it flipped my switch, but fer fuck's sake, its senile.

Of course, it isn't about discussion and experience, its about pressure and the moribund state of the Left and the current conditions under which we find ourselves, a matter that few people seem to have anything much to say about. NEFAC has no more of a rudder than anyone and IMO are completely mistaken on this matter in thinking that they can get 'only a little pregnant' by staying at the level of shop stewards and local reps.

chris

nastyned
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Dec 15 2005 16:01

I dare say 'OATU' was more popular in the AF than what Dave Douglas wrote but we never distributed the pamphlet. For what it's worth personally I preferred what Cajo Brendel wrote to either Wildcat or DD.

redtwister
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Dec 15 2005 16:03

Detroit auto-worker Martin Glaberman analyses the bureaucratisation and decline of the US trade union movement. An interesting article interspersed with historical information and personal reminiscences.

Consider these two units of time: 36 seconds, the rest of your life. The job that takes 36 seconds to do that you’re going to do for the rest of your life. I don’t know a better definition of alienation than that...

Admin edit - massive c+p removed. Text here:

http://libcom.org/library/unions-workers-limitations-possibilities-glaberman