DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

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

170 posts / 0 new
Last post
guadia
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Oct 7 2009 13:15
Quote:
is essentially a call to abandon everyday class struggles

part of this text by marx seems to be to the point with regard to the anti-politic insurrectionalist contempt for these "tame demands" like better wages etc.. (obviously the role of unions differs now in comparision with the time marx wrote it)

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Oct 7 2009 21:16
Joseph Kay wrote:
tbh i doubt the author could explain either, it reads like a copy and paste from the IWA 'principles of revolutionary unionism.' if i had to hazard a guess, i would say that being written in 1922, with much of the world still to be proletarianised and in drafted opposition to Bolshevism/the dictatorship of the proletariat, this refers to the peasantry and the proletariat determining and directing their own struggles rather than subjugating the rural peasants to the leadership of the urban proletariat. with the massive proletarianisation that's happened since then, 'self-determination for economic groups' seems to have lost any useful meaning - since we want the proletariat to seek its own abolition and certainly don't want 'self-determination' for the bourgeoisie!

As far as I know, the original 1922 principles didn't include the phrase 'self-determination for economic groups', so either somebody messed up the English translation, or this was changed at some later congress. The original says something like:

Quote:
Revolutionary unionism rejects all arbitrarily created political and national frontiers, and sees in nationalism only the religion of the modern state, behind which is concealed the interests of the propertied classes. It recognizes only differences of a regional nature, and claims for every People the right to regulate their own affairs, in solidaric agreement with all other economic, regional or national associations.

(My translation based on the German and Norwegian version.)

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 11 2009 01:01

Ah Felix thanks for that. It actually looks like a bad translation from the Spanish:

"y reclama para toda agrupación el derecho a una autodeterminación acordada solidariamente a todas las otras asociaciones del mismo orden"

i make that

"and in the spirit of solidarity claims for all groups the right to self-determination and free association with all those of a like mind"

that's not a literal translation, but seems to be the gist to my gringo spanish; "orden" has lots of meanings, but i read it as 'disposition' in that context. an alternative rendering of "del mismo orden" could be 'of the class', reading it as 'of the same [economic] order', but i think that's a much looser translation.

personally i think the whole notion of 'self-determination' can be problematic, but in the context of the rest of the principles it's clear it has neither connotations of nationalism nor self-managed capitalism.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 11 2009 01:20

The original argument i set out in this thread was that there's a separation of complementary roles between a political-economic anarcho-syndicalist organisation and a specifically political anarchist organisation.

although SolFed's political-economic status is largely an aspiration, i actually think the differences between the latest issue of Resistance (which has great design by the way) and the forthcoming Catalyst makes my point for me. Grab a copy of both at the London bookfair or online as soon as it's out to see what i mean.

in short, Resistance is an anarchist newsletter. approximately 80% of its contents are basically political activism (anti-arms trade, anti-EDL, and a no borders-esque piece) or content aimed at other anarchists/fellow travellers (like the lead article beginning 'Anarchists...', the Organise! editorial, plugs for pamphlets and so on).

Catalyst is trying to be a freesheet for general distribution that appeals to more militant workers, but not necessarily those who would identify as anarchist (e.g. one of our members got given a copy by a workmate who'd picked it up somewhere!). So the forthcoming issue that's being finalised at the moment is almost entirely news and analysis of workplace and community issues from a militant workers' (anarcho-syndicalist) perspective.

i definitely think there's a place for both, and trying to do it all in one publication probably wouldn't work as the content and target audiences are not the same. they could probably be distributed together a lot of the time though, the new Catalyst will be a tabloid and the colour, A4 Resistance would make a snazzy 'anarchist supplement'...

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Oct 11 2009 08:01

Of the point a little - but I wrote the front page article in Resistance. The article starts with "Anarchists oppose the war in Afghanistan" - not because it's aimed at anarchists and fellow travellers, but precisely because it isn't. It's aimed at people on the streets who are maybe interested enough to read some of it and want to know what the people distributing it believe. As we distribute around 800 copies in Manchester every month it would be foolish to write it solely for fellow travellers. This is just a point of clarification and isn't intended to derail the thread.

I look forward to seeing the new Catalyst. Am I going to be jealous?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 11 2009 10:24

I'm not trying to say you're ghetto-oriented, but that as an anarchist organisation you're producing an "anarchist paper" which aims to explain anarchist ideas. does that make sense? like I say I think that's a good thing, something that's necessary if you want to spread anarchist ideas and so on. My point is that therefore your target audience (and correspondng editorial emphasis, aesthetics and so on) is different to that of catalyst.

With catalyst, we've addressed the propaganda aspect differently. with the exception of articles on 'who are the solidarity federation?' and 'anarcho-syndicalism at work' it's essentially like the corporate media insofar as the politics is between the lines in the assumptions behind the articles. so we have straight news articles like 'postal workers vote to strike' and 'heroin prescription 'cuts crime'' that are written from a militant workers' perspectve to which anarcho-syndicalist ideas/practices are the logical corrallary. Therefore we've gone with a Financial Times style aesthetic.

yeah I know you distribute a lot of copies on the streets (this is something we've been looking to emulate and it has informed the redesign), my point is that "people on the streets who are maybe interested enough to read" more about anarchism is a different but overlapping audience to pissed off workers who have had enough and think it's time to start fighting back. this point might appear subtle, but I think it will make sense to anyone with a copy of both in front of them.

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Oct 11 2009 10:39
Quote:
I looked at the fucking thing for so long yesterday doing the lay out I dreamed about it last night. sad

That sounds terrible. It's bad enough spending all my waking hours worrying about politics. Sleep should bring some respite ...

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 11 2009 14:50
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
I agree that there is a need for workplace and community, militant, possibly revolutionary, directly democratic, solidarity based organisations - and that within them, there would no doubt be specific formal and informal political factions, and tendencies, and that anarchist communists would need to organise specifically to but forward their ideas within that wider organisation.

I think that means we agree. beard

i've just looked up the L&S strategy and i actually think it's quite different (i don't know how closely that reflects your personal position). L&S quite uncritically advocate base unionism, One Big Union and quite industrial unionism a la the RMT and Unite (who are currently scabbing on postal workers). the criticism of said unions is limited to 'certain structural weaknesses' and 'bureaucracy' to which the antidote is for L&S members to "build their local trade union branches" (there is no hint that the 'structural weaknesses' of the unions reflects their role as representatives of labour power).

class consciousness is also seen as being imparted top-down from the unions ("Liberty & Solidarity considers that unions should empart class consciousness to their members, and seeks to encourage this") not arising from the experiences of workers in struggle (which may of course be struggle in the unions). furthermore, the supposed greater number of victories by Unite and the RMT is attributed to their industrial nature with no reference made to the militancy of their members.

coupled with the belief "that the IWW has something important to offer the class struggle, as a militant rank and file alternative to more politically composed, or sectarian initiatives" that seems to explicity reject the idea of political-economic organisation. in a similar vein, the lead article on your front page at the moment also argues that having explicit anarchist methodology and principles is "sectarian."* tbh i think this is miles away from what SolFed are talking about, and the uncritical approach to the trade unions is anything but pragmatic and "what works", drawing nothing from the history of syndicalist, rank-and-filist and base unionist failings (tbf to the WSM, at least they acknowlege the 1930s CNT's a-politicism as a failing rather than a virtue).

it would be unfortunate if such criticisms were rejected as "unbending principles." i'm offering them in a constructive spirit, i think i've criticised basically every anarchist tendency on this thread.

* this is not the definition of sectarianism i recognise (putting your organisation before the class struggle). it seems to equate having poltical principles with sectarianism; not dropping your principles doesn't mean you don't organise alongside your fellow workers, as SolFed's strategy of mass meetings rather than building One Big Union shows.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 5 2010 01:40

i've been thinking about this some more. it seems like there's three basic areas that class struggle anarchists are/wish to be involved in: (1) workplace/community organising, (2) political activism (Brighton AF list Anti Arms-Trading Campaigning, Ecological Protesting, and the AF have also done anti-ID card stuff) and (3) propaganda activities.

I think the AF are into all 3, based on regularly reading Resistance an talking to members anyway.

i think (1) is anarcho-syndicalism plain and simple. the AF objection to 'revolutionary unions' doesn't apply to the kind of anarcho-syndicalist unions SF have been advocating since at least '91, when DAM wrote 'winning the class war.' The AF say that were these networks "to coalesce into functioning unions they would cease to be workplace resistance groups as we understand them" - however as the DAM pamphlet makes clear, for the networks to become 'functioning unions' they would simply need to be actually able to organise independent direct action via mass meetings rather than advocate it. not act as a mediator between bosses and workers, not eschew political principles to build 'One Big Union', and not "work as a part of the capitalist system."

So while the AF position is a valid critique of IWW-style syndicalism (the 'functioning unions' they advocate are very much like democratic, industrial versions of the regular unions) and old CGT/modern CNT-Vignoles style revolutionary syndicalism, it comes across, as one comrade put it in a meeting discussing industrial strategy, as "defeatist anarcho-syndicalism": supporting revolutionary workplace organisation, until it's influential enough to actually organise, say a strike through a mass meeting of all workers. now i'll be the first to admit SolFed is not a shining example of the kind of organisation we advocate - this is pretty widely recognised and by the looks of the motions submitted to conference we're very much keen to change that.

In terms of (3), there's some overlap between anarcho-syndicalist propaganda and anarchist-communist propaganda. i think the latter has broader scope, including theoretical (Basic Bakunin) and analytical (Against Nationalism) stuff, whereas anarcho-syndicalists would tend to focus more on detailing actual struggles (Puerto Real, Couriers are Revolting).

So the upshot of all that is imho the ideal situation is SolFed gets its act together and does (1) well, with a secondary propaganda role focussed on actual struggles (Catalyst, pamphlets on interesting struggles). Then, the AF could 'outsource' (1) to SolFed, much like is the norm on much of the continent. the AF could continue to do (2) independently of SolFed, and for (3) function as a 'libertarian communist think tank' - pamphlets like Against Nationalism would be well received in SolFed as well as needing to be propogated in the wider workers movement/left as part of the battle of ideas. is this likely to happen? fuck knows, it's certainly nothing to be rushed even if deemed desirable. but i reckon it would represent a massive improvement for all parties, giving clarity over what it is we're each trying to and thus helping fill the void that too often passes for strategy in 'the anarchist movement.'

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Feb 11 2010 01:58

(2) and (3) should proceed from (1). If (2) and (3) are produced without participation in (1) they will end up being alienated and irrelevant.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 11 2010 02:25

yes i agree. i think every self-respecting libertarian communist should do (1), but then again i would as it's how i understand anarcho-syndicalism and i'm an anarcho-syndicalist... i guess the question pertinent to this thread is whether you have one super communist organisation doing the lot, or whether you have a division of labour along the lines i've described, with members of orgaisation type (1) also joining organisation (2) if they want to do other more specifically political activites.

Jared
Offline
Joined: 21-06-09
Jan 4 2011 02:33

Looking back to this thread almost a year later, how do people in AF/SolFed feel things have progressed/developed? Any lessons to share from these discussions, or from organising together on the ground?

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Jan 4 2011 04:52

Also quite interested...

prec@riat's picture
prec@riat
Offline
Joined: 3-10-07
Jan 4 2011 06:58

I'm also quite interested...

and haven't managed to read up on all the UK student stuff as much as I may have liked... if you can point me to, or have reflections on how SolFed(& AF?) desire for mass meetings translated into participation around student assemblies and or critiques thereof... or how organizing against austerity could fit (or wouldn't) into the type of hypothesized organization described above I'd be especially interested...

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Sep 26 2013 02:56

Please don't give me mean glares for bringing up a pretty old thread but I have a thought on this:

If the role of a specific Anarchist Federation is mainly as theorized here as a propaganda group/discussion circle, then why not just become some hybrid of AK Press/Libcom.org? Both are projects that span even more international in scope than such federations usually do.

However, this role assigned by Joseph may have always been to specific, and perhaps such federations could elaborate how they are strategically involved in particular struggles, etc or set up new divisions of labor to address this, but then that might encroach on what the role of an a-s group is in this scenario.

I sorta wrote on this recently:

http://ideasandaction.info/2013/09/thoughts-on-solfeds-anarcho-syndicali...

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 26 2013 07:58

Yeah, I can't remember what I said here, and my views have probably changed a bit. I do think the traditional activities of an anarchist federation have been squeezed by technology though (I think Andrew Flood's been writing about this lately). So to take the AF (because they're clear and unambiguous in their aims, not cos I'm having a go), they identify "a number of vital roles to perform": (1) propaganda, (2) memory of the class, (3) a forum for debate and discussion, (4) analysis/coherent communist response to social developments, (5) leadership of ideas, (6) exposing criticising social democrats/Leninists, and (7) intervention.

Probably all except 7 are being squeezed by technology - websites, blogs, things like novaramedia. 7 you probably still need IRL formal organisation for (maybe ad hoc affinity groups could do it, but an organised, co-ordinated fed would seem better placed). If this is understood as long-term organising work, it's probably pretty close to what SolFed advocate (and maybe the FARJ?). If it's understood more as intervention in other groups and campaigns as they arise (particular local campaigns, things like Occupy), that's probably closer to the traditional platformist position of influencing wider class organisations. Maybe you could also broaden it to not explicitly class things like the P2P/file-sharing movement, or even intervention to influence stuff like skeptics/atheists who are large in numbers but low in anti-capitalism.

Just to be clear, I'm not telling anyone what to do, I'm just trying to think of what organisations are for, as part of a wider movement ecology of complementary/non-competing roles.

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Sep 27 2013 15:52

I'm not sure I exaclty understand this:

Quote:
"Probably all except 7 are being squeezed by technology - websites, blogs, things like novaramedia. 7 you probably still need IRL formal organisation for (maybe ad hoc affinity groups could do it, but an organised, co-ordinated fed would seem better placed). If this is understood as long-term organising work, it's probably pretty close to what SolFed advocate (and maybe the FARJ?). If it's understood more as intervention in other groups and campaigns as they arise (particular local campaigns, things like Occupy), that's probably closer to the traditional platformist position of influencing wider class organisations. "

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 27 2013 16:29

I mean, for six out of seven of the things the AF identify as the role of political organisation, technology has meant you don't necessarily need a formal, dues-paying organisation to do them. I don't think this is the case for 'intervention', as you need a real world presence for that.

While you could form an ad hoc group to go and intervene in, a local Occupy camp say, in theory an organised federation's in a stronger position to do this. In addition, 'intervention' seems to mean two things - (a) long term organising work and (b) activity in whatever movements and campaigns spring up. I think (a) is best done by union or proto-union organisations (or SolNets). (b) seems best done by specific political organisation with theoretical/tactical unity etc.

Does that make more sense?

factvalue
Offline
Joined: 29-03-11
Sep 28 2013 08:56

Just a throwaway comment and no reflection on libcom and other web fora but I think debate and discussion are often less ponderous (but perhaps also less detailed and elaborate) and less open to misinterpretation face-to-face and so should remain at least an essential complement to not so immediate forms, particularly if 7 ('interventions') become successful and large-scale in the future.