Split in IWA

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Khawaga
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Sep 17 2017 19:05

From my vantage point as someone on the outside the IWA and "neo-IWA", and having read all the posts on libcom as some trainspotter, both sides have come across as petty, paranoid, and sectarian.

syndicalist
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Sep 17 2017 19:22
Khawaga wrote:
From my vantage point as someone on the outside the IWA and "neo-IWA", and having read all the posts on lib com as some trainspotter, both sides have come across as petty, paranoid, and sectarian.

I think those who have not been directly engaged in this stuff over the years could draw that conclusion. I would venture to say it's a lot more complicated and complex than that. Though no one is helping them out very well here on libcom in some ways, for sure.

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Khawaga
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Sep 17 2017 19:28
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I would venture to say it's a lot more complicated and complex than that.

Of course and I would be very surprised if it wasn't, hence why I appreciated meerov21 asking his question. All I know is what I've read on libcom and a few other websites.

syndicalist
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Sep 17 2017 21:24
Khawaga wrote:
.... All I know is what I've read on lib com and a few other websites.

Fair enough and understood.

ajjohnstone
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Sep 17 2017 23:36

Just to chuck in a sabot...one would begin to wonder if all those resources and time and energy in syndicalism organisation was directed to changing the existing mainstream traditional unions (and also their agitational offspring) that have sprung up, whether there would more success in having fellow-workers relate.

Being an advocacy group within the trade union movement rather than a rival outside it

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x372275
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Sep 18 2017 01:48
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Being an advocacy group within the trade union movement rather than a rival outside it

Within the IWW at least we do attempt to do just that to some extent.
In addition to our attempts to organize the unorganized (generally in retail, services, and precarious work) we have quite a few dual-carders within mainstream unions who try to influence their unions in a radical direction.
Apologies if I'm off topic, but we're at least somewhat related as we may soon be deeply involved in the new IWA, depending on the vote at referendum this year.

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fingers malone
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Sep 18 2017 17:13

In Solfed loads of people dual card and quite a few are union reps, this varies a lot from country to country

Spikymike
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Sep 18 2017 17:48

fingers is right about the SolFed and dual carding but I suspected that the strategy outlined in the Solfed 'Fighting for Ourselves' was not wholly accepted or acceptable to some of the other actual 'base-unions' in the IWA that have now split off and attracted the IWW in their direction that maybe could not just be put down to different local circumstances. See my comments at the very end of this earlier discussion for instance:
https://libcom.org/blog/new-pamphlet-solidarity-federation-31082012

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fingers malone
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Sep 18 2017 20:14

Ok but I was talking about people taking on shop floor rep roles, that post is talking about a different situation where the person has a full time role in the union.

Apologies if this is a useless derail. But if it isn't, ajjohnstone what would you have us do differently, seeing as loads of us already do a lot of our militancy in mainstream unions and those that don't is usually as much to do with the problem that there are no unions active in many workplaces.

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dark_ether
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Oct 23 2017 09:45
ajjohnstone wrote:
Just to chuck in a sabot...one would begin to wonder if all those resources and time and energy in syndicalism organisation was directed to changing the existing mainstream traditional unions (and also their agitational offspring) that have sprung up, whether there would more success in having fellow-workers relate.

Being an advocacy group within the trade union movement rather than a rival outside it

Wasn't this the sole strategy of the early revolutionary syndicalist movement in the UK? Sadly it ended in failure, although ofc, one could say that about every revolutionary strategy thus far.

Organising in mainstream unions is always going to hit a barrier at somepoint, how soon depends on the union and the local buerocrats. It may be they won't even start to take real action at all, or it may be that they will, but still generally act as 'the brakes' to large scale long term action. The problem is is you (as a duel carder) have to pursuade fellow workers that (1) The Trade Union is worthwhile and they should join it and participate and (2) The Trade Union is limited, buerocratic and not always acting in their interest and thus they should also join / move towards an industrial/syndicalist union, or other form of radical organisation outside the Trade Union. It's a difficult line to tread!

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fingers malone
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Oct 23 2017 10:51
dark_ether wrote:

Organising in mainstream unions is always going to hit a barrier at somepoint, how soon depends on the union and the local buerocrats. It may be they won't even start to take real action at all, or it may be that they will, but still generally act as 'the brakes' to large scale long term action. The problem is is you (as a duel carder) have to pursuade fellow workers that (1) The Trade Union is worthwhile and they should join it and participate and (2) The Trade Union is limited, buerocratic and not always acting in their interest and thus they should also join / move towards an industrial/syndicalist union, or other form of radical organisation outside the Trade Union. It's a difficult line to tread!

I think you can be a dual carder and not prioritise recruiting people to the union, you can prioritise encouraging people to take action together and show solidarity with each other

Mike Harman
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Oct 23 2017 14:21
fingers malone wrote:
I think you can be a dual carder and not prioritise recruiting people to the union, you can prioritise encouraging people to take action together and show solidarity with each other

Yes people have given examples of workplaces with an official union presence but not 100% density, where union meetings have been open to both union and non-union members, that at least gives the opportunity for them to behave as a workplace mass meeting rather than a branch meeting. On the other hand on trains you have RMT, ASLEF and TSSA all competing for drivers and negotiating independently which is a mess.

I worked at one place with probably about 3% union density, no recognition and there were two workplace mass meetings - one spontaneous when the management were on an away day, then a later planned one based off the first at lunchtime. As part of that process people were discussing joining the mainstream trade union, but the mass meetings were not union recruitment meetings, not was there a union recruitment campaign with leaflets/posters or anything like that going on. I wasn't a member of either the IWW or SolFed at that time, and in that situation I don't think it would have affected things much or at all - the workplace organiser training they offer might have helped me personally which is a bit different.

I occasionally see reports (usually in the US), where there's a unionisation campaign and it appears to be literally signing people up one by one until there's enough density to hold a union recognition vote, at which point they'll be represented at the branch/national level. Of course there may be other things going on as well, but that's how it's presented.

So it really feels like a false dichotomy between 'dual carding', vs. organising a workplace with a base union vs. solidarity network stuff such as what Brighton SolFed does (usually supporting a single worker in an unorganised workplace with wage theft-type issues). Informal work groups can exist in all of those places, and will usually form the basis for any of those three scenarios (unless it's literally one worker like the last example), and organising without that informal work group could result in a representational situation with any of them.

edit but all three of these are very different from a rank and filist strategy to reform the existing unions, to change the union structure you'd need to participate in the union at branch and national level, which is pretty irrelevant to most concrete workplace organising and tends towards people getting sucked into the union structure rather than changing it.

akai
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Oct 23 2017 18:57

There is a lot on the thread already, but going back to the original question, actually I think that there are plenty of political differences in play and which helped determine the situation, only I believe that Meerov took a very narrow view of what political differences could entail. Thus this sort of claim that there are „no political differences” I think to be false and the questions framed in such a way to produce exactly the response needed for the theory.

Meerov asked about two specific things – collective bargaining and courts and other systems of the state. Although there are no specific decisions concerning the first two, there are two decisions which can be referred to: the point in the statute against state and capitalist collaborationist schemes and the recent decision a few years ago to emphasise that the main form of action of the IWA is direct action. With the point about state and capitalist collaborationist schemes, we can directly point to historical examples where the IWA has taken a position: the collaboration in the government in Spain during the 30s, the turn of SAC in the 50s towards managing a state scheme and towards support for participating in elections, the splits in the CNT in the 70s and 80s where the IWA recognized the faction not participating in workplace elections, the splits in the 90s (esp. France and Italy) where the Sections supported factions split by similar issues, etc.

This has meant that Sections of the IWA have split on very concrete issues of practice, and the IWA in general has favoured those who did not participate in state or capitalist sponsored schemes. Of course, in the 90s, one Section of the IWA in particular tended to cultivate relations with some of the organizations participating in them and sometimes ignoring the others, which led to some issues. During the 90s and up until recently, that Section did not participate in work councils itself, but did not support the anti-work councils faction. Over the last few years, there has been growing participating in them, marking a turn in its practice and a divergence from general tendencies in the IWA.

In the existing IWA (not the thing the disaffiliated are hatching, which there's no name for yet), there may not be some explicit agreements about some things and there even may be some different practices, which the Sections have within the realm of their autonomy. But certainly we can see some different political tendencies already there between the two international tendencies. At least this is very clear from the perspective here, where we have rather clear thoughts about where certain boundaries should be drawn and where certain practice goes more clearly against anarchist thought. We here have had a chart for a decade now, outlining the differences between some unions, for those who want to know. I can point to a few of these issues, which we find very important, that distinguish practice. lt has to be said that they will not be issues for all, but can show some tendencies. If l say „we” here, it refers to my organization, but I also think these things have wider application along the divide.

The first is towards capitalist and state sponsored representative schemes, including „liberados” - unionists who are freed from work. We don't allow it, especially as in this country it is sponsored by the bosses. You can still hear critical points about „receiving money from the state” amongst the disaffiliated unions, except they haven't decided to exclude those who receive money and subsidies from the businesses. (This is largely because they want to exclude some (CGT) but include others.) Also, we are against taking money from the state and state/party connected institutions (like some foundations) whereas that practice is rather widespread amongst those unions, albeit sometimes through entities which are nominally separate, like newspapers, historical societies, etc.

Then there are also issues such as cross-class unions and having bosses and supervisors in the unions. That exists on one side of the split, not the other. It's already been discussed here elsewhere and there was some support for having supervisors in your organization, so I can assume that there are tendencies that think it's OK, but those that don't.

In terms of parties, l suspect there are a couple of party members around the IWA (for example in our Friends), but nothing prominent, whereas on the other side, there are prominent members (and even people holding offices) who appear as such at union events and there are numerous folks who have been candidates. In the worse situation, a few who ran in election with fascists and a cover-up of this. (This also includes not distributing information about this in some of the former IWA Sections or brushing it under the carpet.) All of this of course is against the IWA statutes since the IWA was formed to limit the influence of parties on the workers' struggle.

Related to the above, there are some populist/nationalist elements which surface from time to time in that sector and, although these are by no means dominant, they are sometimes given too much leeway inside those unions to pursue politics which are against the supposed goals. Here I am not talking about the odd individual with crazy ideas. These organizations haven't really acted against this and, although this type of stuff was roundly criticized in situations like the Schmidt affair, they don't register in these situations and the organizations involved have never owned up.

Then there are other issues of service unionism, passive membership,professionalization, paid officers, over-reliance on lawyers and executivism which have been contentious, especially in the CNT. I suppose that this is a major practical difference amongst the unions outside the IWA and inside.

There is a lot more, put pressed for time and feel it is not productive here, given the general audience / mood. One last thing, of course are some general problems with perceptions of democracy in an anarchist framework, divided between those for whom democracy resembles more of the bourgeoise democratic schemes and those who prefer discussion, finding solutions with minorities, etc. This created some problems where there were no real problems. On top of this, certain other issues in ways of „communicating”. For example, many in the „might makes right” faction, like this Bizantio or whatever, deal with this in a way that is also dishonest, for example claiming there were 4 sections of „more than 1000” bullied by 5, which is hogwash. Because prior to the CNT's moves to be „more democratic”, there was (and still is), a variety of positions, not related at all to size, and it wasn't like they couldn't pass proposals – they just couldn't pass ones that excluded others. And of course because there was only one Section of „more than 1000”, the others all being smaller. This sort of constant false claims used to try to gain power and influence is tiring and also l find it very macho. These sort of issues are political in my opinion, not personal.

Spikymike
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Oct 24 2017 11:13

To an outsider not involved in this IWA split I still perceive in terms of 'tendencies' a move away from the sort of strategy outlined in SolFed's 'Fighting for Ourselves' that agitates for/promotes both collective class struggle 'outside of' and 'across' union boundaries towards a model of 'representative base unionism' closer to that of other non-anarchist influenced minority unions such as the Italian COBAS. In many practical every day situations today both tendencies separately or in co-operation may achieve limited aims, but perhaps have very different roles in the context of extending class struggle in a potentially revolutionary direction at some future point?

akai
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Oct 24 2017 18:22

Spikymike, not quite sure what you're thinking with the question in the second sentence, but l would agree somewhat with your idea in the first, with the reservation that actually these unions come from different backgrounds and histories, so it's more complicated than that. But l would say representative base unionism is an adequate term. So then there is a question of whether or not we are critical of representative unionism and where it can differ from a vision of struggle in the class and workplace, without recreating the negative bits of unionism. The reason why l think the second question is rather difficult to answer is because l believe when people use terms like "revolutionary", they often are speaking of somewhat different things. One can believe the revolution will be accomplished one way, another person another. My personal feeling is that if we create organizations which have passive members, cadres of experts and executives and if we do that because we believe that this is the normal way of mass organizations, then we will get something closer to Bolshevism than to anarchist ideals. The other thing is that anarchism at its best is a much deeper transformation than the transformations of just the class struggle, so maybe some still want to spread something more, which requires more work from the bottom up. ln any case, the history of revolutionary syndicalism is full of wrong turns and deradicalization.

jc
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Oct 25 2017 15:08
dark_ether wrote:
Wasn't this the sole strategy of the early revolutionary syndicalist movement in the UK? Sadly it ended in failure, although ofc, one could say that about every revolutionary strategy thus far.

Organising in mainstream unions is always going to hit a barrier at somepoint, how soon depends on the union and the local buerocrats. It may be they won't even start to take real action at all, or it may be that they will, but still generally act as 'the brakes' to large scale long term action. The problem is is you (as a duel carder) have to pursuade fellow workers that (1) The Trade Union is worthwhile and they should join it and participate and (2) The Trade Union is limited, buerocratic and not always acting in their interest and thus they should also join / move towards an industrial/syndicalist union, or other form of radical organisation outside the Trade Union. It's a difficult line to tread!

IIRC, according to "first flight" by Albert Meltzer that's pretty much right (plan to scan and upload this soon). There has been a small IWW on and off here for a long time too. Outside of organisations there's also always been a syndicalist, pro "industrial union" tendency inside the trade union movement. For example search "syndicalism" on this Sheffield Trades Council page - http://sheffieldtuc.co.uk/history/

I think unions in the UK don't fit neatly into the categories of other countries - we don't have works councils like in Spain, and the laws are so restrictive that there's always going to be antagonism to the state. The bureaucracy is corrupt as hell and I think there's nothing that can be done at that level, or within the traitorous TUC. HOWEVER, individual union branches can be militant. Reading Dave Douglas' account of the NUM during the miner's strike, their branches sound like everything a syndicalist could ask for. Trades Councils also fit well into the syndicalist scheme, showing their potential best during the 1926 general strike where they took over the running of things in some places (Swindon, Sheffield).

Most of this has historical reasons imo. For one thing England was one of the first industrialised countries so much of the union movement was built up before the social democrats could fuck it up. For another, we've not lived under occupation unlike most of Europe and so there's been no chance for the state to do a big reform - compare that to Spain where the death of Franco and transition to "democracy" offered the perfect opportunity to try and co-opt unions. (Even the communist party essential collaborated with fascism during the transition - but that's another story...)

We're also different from US unions due to a different dynamic of race and class (and a different history of repression).

As well as state structures, I'd say our unions are much closer to syndicalists in other ways. Workers have far more control of their branches than in places where you have paid organisers (yuk!) - things here have always traditionally been organised by workers themselves, for example by shop stewards. Unions are closer to being industry-based instead of craft-based than ever, and are more economical than political. You don't really get people picking a union based on political tendencies - instead it's one workplace, one union.

I think this all adds up to: it's much more achievable for anarchists to work inside uk unions like Unite than it is inside mainstream unions elsewhere. I think it's a viable strategy to form militant branches, and try to link these up outside of the TUC and union bureaucracy. From there we can go on to the trades councils. All that's needed to fix those is to change "representatives" to "delegates" and they're pretty much syndicalist!

The problem here has never been forming militant union branches - there's been plenty of those. The problem has always been union-wide and branch-wide co-operation. The national organisations have always let us down time and again. They are what needs to be replaced most.

EDIT: addition...

I don't see how trade union branches are necessarily limited. Above that level for sure! But at the end of the day a branch is just a group of workers. Why shouldn't it be whatever we make of it?

EDIT2: additional addition...

What do you think about rank-and-file initiatives within the trade unions, like the Hazards groups? They're pretty much all under rank and file control...

Glossary for people outside of England:

Unite: One of our biggest mainstream unions
Trades Councils: Local "councils" made up of representatives from local trade union branches. Originally intended to co-ordinate struggle across different union branches (these sometimes use the acronym "TUC", which confuses people since they are NOT the same as the TUC below...)
TUC: Trades Union Congress. Originally meant to unite the different trades union councils this parasitic growth took on a life of it's own and lead to the downfall of the Trades Councils. Most official unions are now members of the TUC. They sold out the miners in the 1926 general strike and the syndicalists have never forgiven them
Shop Steward: Originally only meant to collect people's union dues in a factory, the role of the Shop Steward became that of an organiser, possible due to syndicalist influence. Instead of paid organisers, unions in the UK have normally relied on organising by workers themselves on the shop floor

meerov21
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Oct 29 2017 18:33

All groups involved in your splits, at the same time cooperate with the state in the course of labor disputes or support in principle. The basis of labour conflicts in Spain, the widespread use of judicial authorities of the state and lawyers. This is true for everyone and for al factions whosupport in principle. This practice has nothing to do with direct action. On the other hand you all do not care about these inconsistencies. OK. But then, why USI-Roma, or someone else may not participate in the formal elected councils in the factories or in the municipal elections?! I think it's hypocritical or at least inconsistent position.