the role of an anarcho-syndicalist organisation and the role of an anarchist federation

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Steven.
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Sep 28 2009 13:40
Alf wrote:
"what SolFed's talking about is revolutionaries organising in the workplace, and involving other workers through mass meetings which control the struggle. the mass meetings may be really regular if there's a militant workplace, or more ad hoc if there's not. but the mass meetings and the revolutionary union aren't the same thing".

What the ICC is talking about is revolutionaries organising in the workplace, and involving other workers through struggle groups which argue for mass meetings which control the struggle. the mass meetings may be really regular if there's a militant workplace, or more ad hoc if there's not. but the mass meetings and the struggle group aren't the same thing.

yes, while I now get what Joseph is saying it's clear there are big parallels in different groups ideas.

Joseph's description of Solfed also sounds like what some people in the AF decided to treat the IWW as (except of course without the troublesome baggage the IWW has, wanting to be an official union etc)

I would also agree on this sort of organisation being beneficial (although my preference would be not to call it a revolutionary union, and I still don't see any qualitative difference between it and a standard anarchist/left communist political organisation - because of course those politics will be largely based on things going on in workplaces anyway). I can also see the benefits of additional organisation in the purely political sphere, as Joseph outlines, including being atheist, materialist etc. I would see the libcom group as one which exists in this sort of area.

gypsy
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Sep 28 2009 14:21

Did not know the politics behind that split. Thanks

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Sep 28 2009 15:20
Steven. wrote:
yes, while I now get what Joseph is saying it's clear there are big parallels in different groups ideas.

i think this has become increasingly evident, and it's a very good thing as it means the possibilities of such an organisation coming into being are heightened. there may be people on all sides who are more interested in the identity politics of 'differentiating' different groups*, but there has been a recognition within parts of SolFed (and Brighton's critics at that) that we're operating in a 'comfort zone' of being a tiny political organisation, which isn't what we want to be (and frankly the AF do it better, since we don't actually put much effort into being a political organisation - e.g. researching and publishing pamphlets like the excellent new AF nationalism one - since we don't want to be that). as for the ICC, i think that since they see things like Tea Break as positive developments they would agree revolutionary workplace organisation should be broader than their notoriously stringent membership critiera.

* i think we should differentiate organisational roles rather than my gang from yours on identity grounds (arguing who 'owns' red and black flags for instance).

Steven. wrote:
Joseph's description of Solfed also sounds like what some people in the AF decided to treat the IWW as (except of course without the troublesome baggage the IWW has, wanting to be an official union etc)

yeah my understanding is the AF or AF members approached SolFed and were rebuffed. i don't know the details, and i don't think it went through any formal channels (we don't really have any) so it would have been at the whims of the personalities involved. they subsequently joined the IWW, so it couldn't have been our 'revolutionary unionism' that put them off. a missed opportunity really, although i don't know the details. i think the thing is, some SF members read the AF's A&P no.7 and say 'the AF reject revolutionary unionism therefore they are our political opponents'. unfortunately they don't notice (or ignore) the fact we're talking about different things and that nobody in solfed wants us to "through negotiation, achieve a fairer form of exploitation" (negotiation is the business of mass meetings not the revolutionary union). the AF's critique of syndicalism actually strengthens the kind of anarcho-syndicalism solfed advocate if we can just get past the semantic hurdles.

Steven. wrote:
I would also agree on this sort of organisation being beneficial (although my preference would be not to call it a revolutionary union, and I still don't see any qualitative difference between it and a standard anarchist/left communist political organisation - because of course those politics will be largely based on things going on in workplaces anyway).

like i say i'm not particularly attached to any particular terminology - we argued in S&S not to fetishise form over content and failing to organise for the want of a name would be an example of falling into that trap. tbh you're not wrong, the anarcho-syndicalist critique of pure political organisation was developed in opposition to so-called 'workers' parties' which do 'political action' (seek state power by democratic or bolshevik means). anarchist/councilist/left communist groups already break with that in supporting workers' direct action and self-organisation so they're already not really purely political in that sense - to the extent they formally organise in the workplace (rather than their members doing so as individuals - e.g. libcom isn't a political-economic organisation).

Steven. wrote:
I can also see the benefits of additional organisation in the purely political sphere, as Joseph outlines, including being atheist, materialist etc. I would see the libcom group as one which exists in this sort of area.

something raised internally by a supporter of S&S was that this also covers a lot of things like feminist groups or what have you that wish to be involved in class struggle organising as equals (so join an anarcho-syndicalist group) but also have particular politics of their own tighter than the broader group.

but yeah we hope to set this out a lot more clearly in 'S&S 2' - everybody comes to the table with their own lexicon of political jargon so as this thread shows it can be hard to understand one another. we simply didn't anticipate that problem in S&S and went in at quite a high level of abstraction. this time there will be a lot more history and we'll draw on historical examples to illustrate the more abstract/general points.

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Sep 28 2009 16:30

I've read this thread from the start and must have started at least three emails then decided not to send them. As I see it, both AF and Solfed occupy essentially the same ground. We are both purely political organisations. Solfed has aspirations to be more than that, but so does the AF. Our documents talk about organising in the workplace as AF members and in collaboration with others. I haven't got them in front of me, but the references are to workplace resistance groups and to groups of revolutionary workers. This seems to differ little from what Joseph says is meant by modern anarcho-syndicalism.

Moreover if anyone reads the pages of Resistance these days they will see that it the lead articles have mostly concerned struggles in the workplace over recent months and the inside has also had a similar emphasis. The October edition looks like differing only to the extent that the cover article may be on different themes. The upshot of all this is that there is really no different role that the two organisations play. They play the same one. It's just that in some towns the group is a Solfed one and in others an AF one. The only question a militant needs to ask is "which one is nearest me?"

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Sep 28 2009 17:01

Knightrose, that assessment looks pretty spot-on to me.

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Sep 28 2009 17:05

Although actually, thinking about it I'm not even sure they would be as much difference between the two types of organisations Joseph is talking about.

Because things like having a critique of nationalism and race are also of vital importance to an "anarchosyndicalist organisation" as described by Joseph here. Joseph, you try to differentiate slightly by arguing that you'd need a critique as related to workers struggle, but to be honest that would be the purpose of a standard communist critique anyway.

So I'm not sure there is even any real difference at all.

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Sep 28 2009 17:16

Which would seem to somewhat beg the question of why we're in different groups at all, if we're both political groups with aspirations to be something else.

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Sep 28 2009 17:30

Farce, I think it's due primarily to historical circumstances and coincidence. I.e. there is Solfed group in Preston so people there join that, and there is an AF group in Hereford, so people there join that, etc

knightrose
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Sep 28 2009 17:33

There are some political differences without doubt. And whatever Joseph says, I think the take that Brighton have is different from the trad one. But tbh the main reasons are historic and I'm afraid to say due to personal reasons and sectarian attitudes - the latter of which I'll hold my hand up to.

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Sep 28 2009 17:37

Knightrose, yeah sure there are political differences, but I think you would probably agree that there is more difference in political opinion within each organisation, than between the two organisations.

And so in many cases the distinction between the organisations is arbitrary.

knightrose
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Sep 28 2009 17:39

I completely agree with you.

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Sep 28 2009 21:23
Steven. wrote:
Because things like having a critique of nationalism and race are also of vital importance to an "anarchosyndicalist organisation" as described by Joseph here. Joseph, you try to differentiate slightly by arguing that you'd need a critique as related to workers struggle, but to be honest that would be the purpose of a standard communist critique anyway.

there's obviously overlap, but i think the difference is essentially between a negative opposition to things like discrimination and a positive exposition of anarchist politics. thus an anarcho-syndicalist organisation should only have a position on gender, sexuality, religion etc insofar as it relates to discrimination, harassment and violence, whereas an anarchist federation would have critiques of all those concepts. nationalism's a little different since as an ideology of class collaboration it must be opposed, but i think there would probably be a difference in approach with the a-s one drawing more on concrete struggles to the AF's comprehensive critique of the entire notion of the nation as a historical construct.

which kinda brings us to the theory/practice thing. i think 'Stuff Your Boss' is a typical anarcho-syndicalist publication, Basic Bakunin is a typical one from an anarchist federation. that's not to say an anarchist federation has no practice, but i think the application of anarchist ideas to the workers' movement is anarcho-syndicalism, and so it is the role of an anarchist federation to further anarchism in its fullest sense and that practice may take it into other areas (like Manc SF's recent pamphlet on sexual freedom is the kind of thing that should be published by an anarchist federation, notwithstanding my personal quibbles with the content).

knightrose wrote:
As I see it, both AF and Solfed occupy essentially the same ground. We are both purely political organisations. Solfed has aspirations to be more than that, but so does the AF.

it's not about being more but being something else, i.e. not only taking on 'union functions' but shedding 'anarchist federation' functions.

knightrose wrote:
Our documents talk about organising in the workplace as AF members and in collaboration with others. I haven't got them in front of me, but the references are to workplace resistance groups and to groups of revolutionary workers. This seems to differ little from what Joseph says is meant by modern anarcho-syndicalism.

does the AF advocate permanent, workplace organisation by revolutionaries? despite 'On the Frontline', 'Workplace Resistance Groups' remain pretty vague ("a tendency of self-organisation and militancy which can take radically different forms as a result of different contexts, but remains the form of organisation which takes on the bosses in both the workplace and in the union.")

They seem to be defined as coming and going in particular workplaces depending on the level of struggle ("A workplace resistance group, as an autonomous manifestation of workers’ struggles, has the potential to carry forward struggles in a manner that permanent workers’ organisations such as unions cannot"). SolFed is arguing for permanent, formal industrial organisation (like the EWN) - Workplace Resistance Groups are described as "an informal grouping of militant workers." SolFed's approach doesn't preclude the latter, but it's not the same.

Now the AF say they support the industrial networks strategy, and see it as an example of workplace resistance groups. but they're anything but "an informal [non-permanent] grouping" - the EWN is a subs-paying, formal membership organisation with its own conferences, publications etc. if the AF supports the EWN concept that's brilliant, and i can understand your caution about it being a 'revolutionary union in formation' (although i have explained this does not mean negotiating deals on behalf of members but agitating for mass meetings), but it simply doesn't fit your definition of a 'Workplace Resistance Group' ("an informal and semi-clandestine group of politicised workers") as it's permanent and formal. SF members read your definition and conclude you oppose anarcho-syndicalism (permanent, formal industrial organisation along anarchist lines).

this really needs clarifying imho, as it's the source of a lot of the skepticism towards the AF in SolFed. at a Brighton Class Struggle Forum on industrial strategy someone commented that the AF approach seemed like "defeatest anarcho-syndicalism" since it simply dodges the question of what to do when there's a half decent number of revolutionaries, instead favouring informal, ad hoc, temporary groups (even the combined 200 or so members of SF & AF could easily form permanent, formal industrial organisations, small and uninfluential though they may be at the present time).

fwiw i think formal, permanent industrial organisation by revolutionaries can be very much complimented by more informal groupings around it (particularly for illegal/violent activities). but like i say you really can't shoe-horn the EWN (or the IWW dual-card networks for that matter) into the above definition.

knightrose wrote:
The upshot of all this is that there is really no different role that the two organisations play. They play the same one. It's just that in some towns the group is a Solfed one and in others an AF one. The only question a militant needs to ask is "which one is nearest me?"

the logic of which is to merge. in that event, i'd assume the AF would have dropped its above opposition to formal, permanent industrial organisation which contradicts its support for SF's networks strategy. i'd imagine the religion position would probably be a casualty too as people often have no trouble with the cognitive dissonance required to take militant direct action with revolutionary aims while having some kind of imaginary friend. but in that event, i'd still think there's a role for an organisation (or many) to push anarchist politics in their fullest sense.

but to be honest, i think even if you want a merger, with two organisations of our combined irrelevance the weight of personalities, habits and traditions probably presents an insurmountable inertia (you'll know this more accurately than me though, i've only been involved 2-3 years). if you did want that to happen, it would still make sense to me to begin with an SF-AF relationship where our networks become part of your industrial strategy (i think the informal stuff could really enhance this though). if i'm wrong, and you're correct that there's no two different roles, then a merger would present itself as the logical thing to do. if i'm right, the relationship could continue with an appropriate division of labour. to be honest, only practice can answer that question definitively.

knightrose wrote:
if anyone reads the pages of Resistance these days they will see that it the lead articles have mostly concerned struggles in the workplace over recent months and the inside has also had a similar emphasis.

yes definitely. although this isn't about workplace fetishism - the anarcho-syndicalist approach i've outline also applies outside the workplace (there's an article in the next DA along these lines). the AF does seem to have moved away from its stance in 'role of the revolutionary organisation' i've quoted elsewhere ("reclaiming ourselves can only occur in areas outside the main focus of capitalist control: our neighbourhoods, campaigns of resistance or protest, areas of greater freedom (such as squats) and libertarian initiatives"), and that's welcome - hopefully it will be clarified further in futrure editions. i imagine it was a product of both mutual identity-politicking wth SolFed and the low level of struggle in the 90s leading to a fetishisation of 'the margins' ("This is where we reconnect with the ‘unemployed’, the ‘underclass’, the ‘socially excluded’ (...) The need to control our lives (...) can be experienced through work only on a personal or local level, never within a mass society.")

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Sep 28 2009 21:28
Steven. wrote:
I think you would probably agree that there is more difference in political opinion within each organisation, than between the two organisations.

i'm minded to agree, but i think it's more accurate to say there's equal amounts of confusion/lack of clarity in each. i mean the AF's new pamphlet describes workplace resistance groups as a "tendency", "not a discrete thing" and a "form of organisation" and contradicts itself all over the place, saying they're not permanent then citing the EWN and IWW as examples and so on. i've refrained from commenting on 'On the Frontline' for ages as i've wanted to properly digest it, but i do just think it's confused. sorry. SolFed's reciprical lack of clarity on what a revolutionary union is has already been done to death on this and the previous thread, but i'm not afraid of throwing stones from my glass house here tongue

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Sep 28 2009 22:52

Yes, the AF workplace document is confused, but so was your one!

But I think similar to the way you conflated mass meetings with the "revolutionary union" there is some ambiguity over what the AF means by workplace resistance groups.

You would think they mean the basically informal groupings of workplace friends who usually form the basis of any sort of activity in the workplace.

And it seems that the AF also support the development of "permanent" (or released ideally long-term) networks of militants in particular areas where appropriate - which by your terminology now is a "revolutionary union". Which would argue for things like mass meetings etc. But the way that ideas would practically filter through into activity in a workplace would be via informal "workplace resistance groups", these combinations of workmates where people begin to discuss and implement collective action.

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Sep 28 2009 23:04

like i say, the two are complementary. insofar as the AF are describing a tendency of the more militant workers in a workplace to informally come together etc they are entirely correct. But the IWW and EWN clearly fall outside that. we accept conflating revolutionary unions and mass meetings was an error, this is very much the 'orthodox' SolFed position though, although i confess we've apparently never told anyone that, new members included.

confusion or a lack of clarity is inevitable when you're trying to formulate things. the important thing is criticisms and practical lessons are taken on board and formulations improved. we're doing this and i'm sure the AF will too.

gypsy
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Sep 29 2009 06:57
Steven. wrote:
there is some ambiguity over what the AF means by workplace resistance groups.

Im really interested in what you guys are writing. I think that religion seems to be an obviously difference for joining. As I dont think SOLFED ban people from faith backgrounds. I will clear this up for you steven. Each workplace resistance group would be armed with clubs. RPGS and 15 ak47s. wink

Jared
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Sep 29 2009 08:47

Can I just say that reading from afar, this thread has been really amazing for clarifying a lot of my own notions of contemporary organising in the workplace. Thank you, and I hope the thread brings about some constructive outcomes for you all locally.

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Sep 29 2009 09:20
Jared wrote:
Can I just say that reading from afar, this thread has been really amazing for clarifying a lot of my own notions of contemporary organising in the workplace. Thank you, and I hope the thread brings about some constructive outcomes for you all locally.

Ditto this, I'm extremely interested in where all this discussion is going.

~J.

knightrose
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Sep 29 2009 10:16

The idea of a workplace resistance group is surely different from the reality of a union and is different from the conception behind an industrial network, which essentially is neither.

Unions are a problem because they exist to mediate between the working class and capital. Moreover, they were creations of the class as a category that exists within capitalism and are constrained by that.

Networks need to have a permanent basis as they bring together revolutionaries within industries and make possible the creation of workplace resistance groups. The only examples I can see of those networks existing at the moment is within the IWW, which itself is subject to contradictory pressures. Some of the IWW job branches have taken on the function of the wrg.

The other permanent organisations that should exist are political ones. These act as both a leadership of ideas and as a collective memory for the working class. They provide a focal point where militants can come together to discuss, debate, strengthen their ideas and agree on collective practice. Speaking with my tongue somewhat in my cheek, shouldn't Solfed members join the AF, rather than the other way round? They wouldn't then find 150 others who could engage in the A-S project as by no means all of our members are in work - but they would then form a powerful caucus within the organisation.

Finally, the AF will not drop Principle 10. Most of us know it's badly worded and we seem to spend ages discussing how to rewrite it, but there is no way we are going to have priests joining us, nor people who say that they are anarchists because a god told them to be. However, that doesn't mean that we refuse to work with religious people in the real world of class struggle!

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Sep 29 2009 10:16
Steven. wrote:
in many cases the distinction between the organisations is arbitrary.

i've been thinkinig about this a bit more. in the 1930s CNT you had 'ideological anarchists' who were also FAI members and 'practical anarchists' like the Friends of Durrurti whose rejection of class collaboration, participation in the state etc was more a product of their practical experiences as working class militants than anarchist theory - although it was certainly informed b it (Frederica Montseny was (in)famously not a worker but a sympathetic intellectual). as it happened, the CNT ministers who joined the government were ideological anarchists and FAI members, while those who argued against it - effectively putting the anarchist position - were drawn from the rank-and-file.

now obviously today the division between 'intellectuals' and 'workers' is much narrower than in 1936 (or 1917) due to mass literacy and thus the possibilities for self-education, but there does seem to be a distinction between the anarchism of the FoD and that of the CNT-FAI ministers (although not a hard and fast one). i mean when the SAC left the IWA in 1956, it was over participation in state structures. the unanimous opposition to that seemed to mirror the FoD's 'practical' position of uncompromising class militancy. subsequently the debate was framed as the 'revolutionary unionist' IWA vs the 'reformist unionists' of the SAC, Vignoles etc, but it can't escape mention that many IWA sections have chosen to shrink to propaganda groups rather than compromise their principles, while the SAC et al remain large, functioning unions in the traditional syndicalist sense. therefore it seems to represent as much a split between representative unionism and revolutionary agitation for self-organisation as between 'reformists' and 'revolutionaries.'

the CNT Sevilla text quoted by Felix seems to want to have their cake and eat it. On the one hand they want to be revolutionary, on the other they are open to all workers including members of political parties (many of whom would obviously have no objection to joining the state or participating in state structures). i mean if Brighton SolFed decided to admit all the SP, SWP, AWL members and fellow-travellers we'd be the size of a typical SAC local (60-80). but i've also no doubt we'd be expelled, as you can't be a member of a Trotskyist party and agree with the first principle of revolutionary unionism, which "addresses itself to all workers in our capacity as producers, as creators of social wealth, so that it will take root and develop in our class in opposition to the so-called 'workers' parties'." there is talk of a wider workers' solidarity group developing out of the Vestas Workers Support Group - but at most it would be simple syndicalist and not anarcho-syndicalist for the above reason.

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Sep 29 2009 10:45
knightrose wrote:
Unions are a problem because they exist to mediate between the working class and capital.

this is simply an axiom. the AF say so, but that doesn't mean it's the only definition. Marx used the term to mean 'a combination of workers' in his polemics with Proudhon. did the CNT in Puerto Real mediate between the working class and capital? (I'm fairly sure it was the mass assemblies that carried out all negotiations, mandated delegates etc not the CNT negotiating 'on behalf of' 'its' workers - though i'm open to correction). if you want to say the CNT was not functioning as a union but a network in Puerto Real that's fine, but let's not get drawn back into the semantics as there's a decent discussion to be had here.

knightrose wrote:
Moreover, they were creations of the class as a category that exists within capitalism and are constrained by that.

The FORA recognised that - "We must not forget that a union is merely an economic by-product of the capitalist system, born from the needs of this epoch. To preserve it after the revolution would imply preserving the capitalist system that gave rise to it" - i would argue the IWA did too in aiming for "a system of free councils" rather than a society administrated by One Big Union.

kinghtrose wrote:
Networks need to have a permanent basis as they bring together revolutionaries within industries and make possible the creation of workplace resistance groups.

i can agree with that. what you need to understand is that regardless of your personal definition of a union, when SolFed says the networks are 'unions in formation' it means that as soon as the EWN is influential enough to be organising mass meetings where it argues for militant direct action then it is a 'revolutionary union'. at no point do SolFed people see the EWN mediating between the working class and capital, for that is not what we mean by 'revolutionary union.'

thus when the AF says "were the [industrial networks] to coalesce into functioning unions they would cease to be workplace resistance groups as we understand them" then SolFed people read it as defeatism; 'we're in favour of networks that agitate for mass meetings but as soon as they suceed we don't support them.' Obviously what the AF mean is that if the EWN were to move from agitating for self-organisation to representing its members in collective bargaining then that would be problematic. I agree, but like i say all SolFed mean by revolutionary union is a network that is influential enough to initiate the things it otherwise simply advocates. this really is a communication problem rather than one of substantive politics imho.

knightrose wrote:
The other permanent organisations that should exist are political ones. These act as both a leadership of ideas and as a collective memory for the working class. They provide a focal point where militants can come together to discuss, debate, strengthen their ideas and agree on collective practice.

so you DO see a distinction between the networks (which SolFed would call 'revolutionary unions' if they were large enough to initiate mass meetings) and political organisations?

kinghtrose wrote:
Speaking with my tongue somewhat in my cheek, shouldn't Solfed members join the AF, rather than the other way round?

tbh, much of a muchness. i'm pretty agnostic over 'what is to be done' at present, i think we need to have these discussions over a decent period of time and see where that leaves us. the reason i said it the way round i did is simple; if the AF support the industrial networks they should join them. i'm not being chauvinistic about it, like i say i'd most probably join the AF too if SolFed sheds 'anarchist federation' functions and takes on 'union functions' as i see a need for both.

knightrose wrote:
They wouldn't then find 150 others who could engage in the A-S project as by no means all of our members are in work - but they would then form a powerful caucus within the organisation.

anarcho-syndicalism is not limited to workplace organisation. i don't see why you couldn't have an industrial network of the unemployed, domestic workers or even prisoners or students for that matter, working in essentially the same way as the EWN. unless the AF is full of bosses, spooks and screws i don't see a problem wink

knightrose wrote:
Finally, the AF will not drop Principle 10. Most of us know it's badly worded and we seem to spend ages discussing how to rewrite it, but there is no way we are going to have priests joining us, nor people who say that they are anarchists because a god told them to be. However, that doesn't mean that we refuse to work with religious people in the real world of class struggle!

PRECISELY! and what are the industrial networks/'revolutionary unions' but "the real world of class struggle"? the membership criteria for an anarchist political organisation and an anarcho-syndicalist organisation are different. if these two organisations existed, i'd be a member of both, but their roles, while complementary are not the same.

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Sep 29 2009 11:12
BigLittleJ wrote:
Jared wrote:
Can I just say that reading from afar, this thread has been really amazing for clarifying a lot of my own notions of contemporary organising in the workplace. Thank you, and I hope the thread brings about some constructive outcomes for you all locally.

Ditto this, I'm extremely interested in where all this discussion is going.

~J.

yeah i've been folowwing this from the start, best theory thread in a long time smile

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Sep 29 2009 11:19
Choccy wrote:
best theory thread in a long time :)

and i put it in 'organise' sad

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Sep 29 2009 11:30

hhahahaha ah well, you know what i mean wink

knightrose
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Sep 29 2009 12:02

I simply use the word union in the way that most people understand it.

Our concern about all forms of unions has been based on the danger of them becoming mediators between capital and labour. The view that we reached when writing On the Frontline was that the way that A-S unions organise makes them less likely to fall into this position.

The analysis was reached because of the uneven development of class struggle. Class struggle (as I know you know) goes in waves. Forms of organisation get created which rely on mass participation. As the struggle wanes, what happens to them? They either scale back or they try to maintain the position they held during times of intense struggle - which is when they end up organs of mediation - that's exactly what happened in Poland in the early 80s for example. Saying this isn't defeatism, it's reality.

Got to go back to work now. I may write more later. But a final thought - we may need two separate organisations, AF and Solfed. Neither knows for sure they are right.

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Sep 29 2009 12:26
knightrose wrote:
I simply use the word union in the way that most people understand it.

tbh, this may be true on libcom, but my girlfriend asked me what a union is the other day as she was asked to join one at work. she certainly didn't say 'ah yeah it's one of those mediators between capital and the proletariat structurally bound to reproduce class society.' maybe hang out with less communists?* wink

* i recently had to be reminded todays freshers weren't even born when the USSR existed, so i'm not immune to this kinda assuming others are like me thing. and i'm only 26 tongue

knightrose wrote:
Our concern about all forms of unions has been based on the danger of them becoming mediators between capital and labour. The view that we reached when writing On the Frontline was that the way that A-S unions organise makes them less likely to fall into this position.

yes, and i actually think this is a bit of a fudge that is the worst of both worlds, trying to explain away what is an evident lack of strategic unity with some AFers joning the IWW and some being consistent with your A&Ps and not.

the reason representatives of labour power mediate between the proletariat and capital is not because they are undemocratic but because of their structural role which shapes the parameters of democratic decisions. this is a straightforward, materialist analysis that the AF put forward in their critique of syndicalism.

what SolFed are arguing for is not 'like the IWW but with circle-As' at all, but the networks to develop to such a point that instead of just printing a paper that says 'you know what would be great? mass meetings and militant direct action' they are actually in a position to instigate that - having a critical mass of well-respected militants in a given workplace who can organise a mass meeting. that's what SolFed calls a 'revolutionary union.' fine, you don't like the terminology, i get that, but surely you can see the substance of what is being advocated has nothing to do with mediating between labour and capital?

and of course it's made all the more farcical by AF members considering SolFed too 'unionist', despite the above, and then joining the IWW which is actually trying to do all the things your critique correctly criticises syndicalism for to the extent of becoming a registered trade union.

knightrose wrote:
The analysis was reached because of the uneven development of class struggle. Class struggle (as I know you know) goes in waves. Forms of organisation get created which rely on mass participation. As the struggle wanes, what happens to them? They either scale back or they try to maintain the position they held during times of intense struggle - which is when they end up organs of mediation - that's exactly what happened in Poland in the early 80s for example. Saying this isn't defeatism, it's reality.

yes, but 'revolutionary unions' in the SolFed usage don't require mass participation. we're not talking about hundreds of thousands of people but a militant minority. sure, that minority will ebb and flow with the class struggle*, but we're not like a regular union where we can only function once we 'organise' a majority of workers in a given shop. 'revolutionary unions' in the SolFed sense are likely to be minority organisations most of the time, they are defined by their political-economic character, permanent, formal industrial basis and agitational role, not mass membership.

* although this is asymmetric, since people tend to deradicalise much slower than they radicalise; class struggle changes people. this is a major anarcho-syndicalist wager, that even in defeat the number of radicalised workers is likely to grow (depending on the severity of the defeat of course) - for instance a minority of the former Vestas workers are now involved in all sorts of stuff they weren't before, like visiting other occupations, strikes etc.

knightrose wrote:
But a final thought - we may need two separate organisations, AF and Solfed. Neither knows for sure they are right.

my point is these aren't alternatives like anarchist bourgeois parties ('ooh, the SF manifesto's swung it for me, i'm voting for them...' tongue ), they're different organisational roles that complement one another. now if i'm wrong, then they'll end up merging anyway as a result of closer co-operation.

but imagine the AF decided to join SolFed because you wanted to be a part of the industrial networks strategy. so in Manchester you'd have an SF-AF meeting of maybe 15 people. there may well be AF stuff like pamphlets or religion stuff or whatever that AF members did outside that meeting, whether before, after or another evening. if that was the case, any SF members interested could join the AF too and take part. if in practice there was close to 100% overlap then a merger would soon be on the cards anyway. but i'd imagine there would be a division of labour between practical organising work (SF) and anarchism in its fullest sense (AF), producing pamphlets on sexuality, doing anti-religious stuff and so on.

posi
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Sep 29 2009 13:55
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thus an anarcho-syndicalist organisation should only have a position on gender, sexuality, religion etc insofar as it relates to discrimination, harassment and violence

What if - for example - workers in abortion clinics (or any other workers for that matter) wanted the union to adopt a motion to campaign for extended reproductive choice? What do you to, tell them to go and join the designated 'political' organisation?

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 29 2009 14:08
posi wrote:
Quote:
thus an anarcho-syndicalist organisation should only have a position on gender, sexuality, religion etc insofar as it relates to discrimination, harassment and violence

What if - for example - workers in abortion clinics (or any other workers for that matter) wanted the union to adopt a motion to campaign for extended reproductive choice? What do you to, tell them to go and join the designated 'political' organisation?

why would I do that? I'm not describing an apolitical union, womens' control of their bodies is every bit as much a class issue as wages or lunch breaks so why wouldn't a revolutionary union of the type I describe organise for it? It certainly falls within the spirit of combatting 'discrimination, harrasment and violence'.

posi
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Sep 29 2009 14:15

ok, but in that case, what sort of positions on "gender, sexuality or religion" are not to do with combatting "discrimination, harrassment or violence"?

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 29 2009 14:30
posi wrote:
ok, but in that case, what sort of positions on "gender, sexuality or religion" are not to do with combatting "discrimination, harrassment or violence"?

well I think I cited Manchester SF's pamphlet on free love for instance. Also, critiques of gender roles (or race fwiw) per se. I mean it's perfectly possible to oppose discrimination against women without problemetising the whole notion of 'femininity' (i.e. taking a position that differentiates gender roles and biological sex), likewise to oppose racism without seeing race as an ideological narration (i.e. you could accept the facticity of 'race' but simply not consider it a meaningful or fair way to discriminate).