OK, new questions

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VisionOfTheFuture
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Apr 7 2009 15:56
OK, new questions

These are specifically for SolFed members, and the first question must not be viewed in isolation to the others:

(I ask these not to criticise but because I am interested in joining but have some problems with your ideas)

1. Is the Brighton Manifesto consensus in the group, and is it likely to become so. If not, what are the disagreements, and whats the outcome of them likely to be?

From this point in I am going to ask questions which would assume the Brighton Manifesto is consensus. I will draw other questions from the answer to question 1.

2. How do Sol Fed members envisage their organisation ever having enough influence to spread anarcho-syndicalist ideas and strategy across the class? SolFed is a political organisation and thus will attract people who agree with the ideology. Not many people agree with the ideology, because it hasn't been spread yet. But in order to be spread, you need members. I see this a paradox which would prevent growth, not seen in the IWW, where members would join because they want a good union and would develop and spread revolutionary unionist (Yes, I know IWW are not explicitly Anarcho-Syndicalist) whilst they are within it.

3. Do you believe that making the networks open to non-SolFed members could aleviate the above problem?

4. Is it likely that the networks will be opened to non-SolFed members?

5. If (as is said in the Brighton Manifesto) the revolutionary union can only be formed in times of class struggle, how will it be formed quickly enough to be able to fight a social revolution?

6. Surely it (the revolutionary union) needs time to build up, to gian members and spread ideas. Surely it needs years of winning battles in the workplace and gaining support, trust and strength before it can effectivelty defeat the state and capital?

7. If a revolutionary union was somehow formed in a period of high class struggle, and then that period did not lead ot a revolution (it failed), would the union from that struggle have to be dismanted and re-built for the next attempt?

Thanks

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Apr 7 2009 19:53

Alright mate, I didn't write the Brighton pamphlet but I definitely am very supportive of it and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

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1. Is the Brighton Manifesto consensus in the group, and is it likely to become so. If not, what are the disagreements, and whats the outcome of them likely to be?

No, the pamphlet isn't the consensus of the Solfed. Its currently being discussed internally and it will be ratified at conference what exactly to do with it (i.e. adopt it as policy, reject it entirely or amend it)

Quote:
2. How do Sol Fed members envisage their organisation ever having enough influence to spread anarcho-syndicalist ideas and strategy across the class? SolFed is a political organisation and thus will attract people who agree with the ideology. Not many people agree with the ideology, because it hasn't been spread yet. But in order to be spread, you need members. I see this a paradox which would prevent growth, not seen in the IWW, where members would join because they want a good union and would develop and spread revolutionary unionist (Yes, I know IWW are not explicitly Anarcho-Syndicalist) whilst they are within it.

I think the problem here is the the bit that I've highlighted in bold. That section sounds a lot like its saying that radical ideas aren't taken up by the class purely because not enough leaflets have been handed out, not enough pamphlets produced etc. It doesn't take into account that struggle ebbs and flows regardless of the activities of small groups of radicals. All that political minorities (like Solfed, IWW etc) can do is try and influence the direction of workers' struggles as and when they happen and when these struggles do happen, those involved are more receptive to radical ideas as their relevance to people's lives is more clearly apparent.

So back to your question, how do I envisage Solfed growing? Well, I see it doing so by involving itself in the struggles of the class and as the tactics we advocate (i.e. mass assemblies, direct action defying anti-worker laws, solidarity etc) become more of a reality then perhaps so will our influence.

Quote:
5. If (as is said in the Brighton Manifesto) the revolutionary union can only be formed in times of class struggle, how will it be formed quickly enough to be able to fight a social revolution?

6. Surely it (the revolutionary union) needs time to build up, to gian members and spread ideas. Surely it needs years of winning battles in the workplace and gaining support, trust and strength before it can effectivelty defeat the state and capital?

I think (and this is a guess from your post) that a problem here may be an idea you have that the organisation which will fight a revolution will be the revolutionary union a la Spain 1936. It may be, but that's a choice to be made by the working class at the time. It's not the job of politicos at a low ebb in the class struggle to decide how a social revolution will be organised (basically because its impossible).

Class struggle is a gradual process and develops over a period of successes and defeats which are learned from. We can't decide now the form which future struggles will take, we can only point towards certain principles (for instance, direct democratic workers' assemblies, direct action etc) which struggles will take on. It's in these struggles that workers learn the lessons, tactics and organisational forms necessary to fight a revolution. The revolutionary union in 21st century Britain, whatever its form (which almost certainly won't be the same as the one in 1930s Spain) will be formed by the federating of (not currently) existing structures of radical workers.

Related to this, one of the problems I have with the IWW is that they put the cart before the organisational horse (so to speak wink ) by setting up the structure of the union which will conduct the class struggle and fight social revolution before we're even in a position to defend the basics. It's as if the revolution is already organised, all we need to do is get the workers to join it!

Another problem is that it attempts to set up the 'union' when there isn't the class struggle to support it. As such, I think its desperation to appear 'a real union' leads it to do lots of daft stuff (i.e. Edinburgh parliament workers, no strike deals etc). This also isn't mentioning the problem of its aspirations to be 'a real union' and all the shite that comes with it (i.e. conforming to anti-worker laws, compromising with the state etc).

Quote:
7. If a revolutionary union was somehow formed in a period of high class struggle, and then that period did not lead ot a revolution (it failed), would the union from that struggle have to be dismanted and re-built for the next attempt?

It's not a case of 'having to be dismantled', its that the basic precondition for its existence (an active and class conscious working class) would be defeated and thus would be dismantled regardless of the wishes of its members. It seems apt to throw in the phrase 'Those who make revolutions half way only dig their own graves' at this point. Class struggle is rarely static, periods of advance (on our part) are followed by periods of retreat (for instance, Britain in the 1970s to the 1990s) and in retreat the organisations of our class deteriorate. It's not really a case of thinking revolutionaries should do this or that, its a more a case of what will be done to us by the context in which we find ourselves.

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Apr 7 2009 23:21

So you mean you see SolFed growing by its existing members engaging in the workers struggles, say like at Enfield, spreading ideas, getting people on board through this and then doing the same over?

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Apr 8 2009 21:07

Hmm, yeah but I think that would be an oversimplification. I mean, yeah, I do basically think that Solfed members should engage in workers' struggles and that its through this that Solfed will grow but even this - engaging in workers' struggles - can take a variety of forms.

One thing that Solfed does currently (and the Brighton pamphlet argues) is that we should set up industrial networks (like the one we have in education) to try to spread info on struggles, dirty tricks from the bosses/government/unions etc. Currently these are open only to Solfed members but I would like them to be open to anyone who agrees to work according to the principles of rank and file control, direct action, a critical approach to the unions and libertarian communism. Through this we'd hope to build links with workers in our industries and be able to push the struggles in our industries to go beyond the limits set by union bureaucracies.

In a similar vein, I would mention Solfed's support for the recent London Shop Stewards Network meeting where two of the three speakers were Solfed members (and mighty fine speakers they were too wink )..

Another thing that I think would come under the heading of 'enaging in workers struggles' is getting involved in ongoing campaigns. For instance, some members have been involved in the Campaign Against Immigration Controls, supporting migrant workers' struggles, attending meetings, turning up to pickets etc. Again, through this, we'd like 'our' ideas of workers' self-organisation and a critical approach to the unions to influence the workers' activity and build links with these sections of our class (as as been happening - a bit like, there's not a mass of anarcho-syndicalist migrant workers just yet). I'd also say stuff like our Stuff Your Boss leaflet is quite good as well for getting precarious workers to know their rights.

There's other stuff as well like supporting specific disputes (Visteon etc) or more 'political' stuff (meeting with the AF coming up, anti-war etc) but this post is already too long (sorry about that).. hope it answers your question..

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Apr 9 2009 17:43

Isn't the SolFed attitude a bit sort of like: A period of heightened class struggle is going to happen anyway, and from this an anarcho-syndicalist union can be formed. Where does the SoLFed fit in, what is its role if the union is formed from struggle anyway?

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Apr 10 2009 19:10

bump

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Apr 11 2009 11:53

Sorry I've not gotten back to you on this mate, been a bit busy.. will write something as soon as possible...

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Apr 11 2009 12:13

no problem!

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Apr 12 2009 16:22
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
1. Is the Brighton Manifesto consensus in the group, and is it likely to become so. If not, what are the disagreements, and whats the outcome of them likely to be?
From this point in I am going to ask questions which would assume the Brighton Manifesto is consensus. I will draw other questions from the answer to question 1.

Brighton Manifesto is not consensus. I for one thought it pandered to the council communists too much and made a strawman out of 'classical anarchosyndicalism'. I also don't get the obsession with permanent and non-permanent organisations.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
2. How do Sol Fed members envisage their organisation ever having enough influence to spread anarcho-syndicalist ideas and strategy across the class? SolFed is a political organisation and thus will attract people who agree with the ideology. Not many people agree with the ideology, because it hasn't been spread yet. But in order to be spread, you need members. I see this a paradox which would prevent growth, not seen in the IWW, where members would join because they want a good union and would develop and spread revolutionary unionist (Yes, I know IWW are not explicitly Anarcho-Syndicalist) whilst they are within it.

The idea is that we are in the class and take up its fights, and attempt to bring militants together under a banner. This in my view is a question of throwing up structures which is inviting to more than people who agree on all the abc's of your political aims. Im therefore in favour of an anarchosyndicalist union not a union of anarchosyndicalists. As Pannekoek says the best school is struggle, and I don't envisage picking up people based simply on the fact they agree over the issue of politics. That to me is redundant.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
3. Do you believe that making the networks open to non-SolFed members could aleviate the above problem?

Depends. I am in favour of our industrial networks being open, but that as to be people who are principled to working within the relevant structures and none of the outside and against types that seem to pop up from time to time.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
4. Is it likely that the networks will be opened to non-SolFed members?

That depends, we have a conference in May, the issue of our industrial stratergy will probably be central.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
5. If (as is said in the Brighton Manifesto) the revolutionary union can only be formed in times of class struggle, how will it be formed quickly enough to be able to fight a social revolution?
6. Surely it (the revolutionary union) needs time to build up, to gian members and spread ideas. Surely it needs years of winning battles in the workplace and gaining support, trust and strength before it can effectivelty defeat the state and capital?
7. If a revolutionary union was somehow formed in a period of high class struggle, and then that period did not lead ot a revolution (it failed), would the union from that struggle have to be dismanted and re-built for the next attempt?

Class struggle is an everyday occurrence, the point being made in the pamphlet is obviously lost on me because victories can sometimes emerge from unlikely quarters and designating periods as upturns and downturns for the class is not possible or desirable in a given time. We have just seen strikes outside of the service sector for the first time in possibly decades which is something we probably couldn't have predicated. Things will go up and down all the time.

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Apr 12 2009 16:38
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
Isn't the SolFed attitude a bit sort of like: A period of heightened class struggle is going to happen anyway, and from this an anarcho-syndicalist union can be formed. Where does the SoLFed fit in, what is its role if the union is formed from struggle anyway?

As workers we want to get to a position where we run the economy, the basis for this is organising in the here and now by networking with other workers to bring about co-ordinated resistance. Im not keen on anarchists who just seem to plow through as though its all about getting political positions together. There are some sincere and well clued up activists who because of lack workplace experience I don't think could organise a bin collection never mind organise in a post revolutionary situation. This as to be about means and ends, and making those steps in the here and now.

When capacity allows a given network then as the potential to be a union. The idea is this is an organic process and not me a few mates claiming we a union in industry x, calling yourself a union doesnt make it so, as the IWW will soon enough find. It requires the development of expertise, a number of imbedded militants, a good capcaity to produce and distribute propaganda as well as understanding their industry and understanding the scope for resisting where they're at.

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Apr 13 2009 10:09
Quote:
As workers we want to get to a position where we run the economy, the basis for this is organising in the here and now by networking with other workers to bring about co-ordinated resistance.

So, it's democratic trade unionism for a self managed exploitation all the way then?

~J.

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Apr 13 2009 16:08
BigLittleJ wrote:
Quote:
As workers we want to get to a position where we run the economy, the basis for this is organising in the here and now by networking with other workers to bring about co-ordinated resistance.

So, it's democratic trade unionism for a self managed exploitation all the way then?

He's not saying that, speaking for him (sorry mate wink ) I'd say he wants democratic and revolutionary union structures which would eventually help facilitate a social revolution, itself bringing about a stateless, moneyless society based on 'from each according to their ability, to each etc etc'. He just didn't put that in the short post above coz, you know, some things are a given...

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
Isn't the SolFed attitude a bit sort of like: A period of heightened class struggle is going to happen anyway, and from this an anarcho-syndicalist union can be formed. Where does the SoLFed fit in, what is its role if the union is formed from struggle anyway?

Not really, its more like an acceptance of the fact that you can't just magic a revolutionary union out of nothing. If the working class aren't in a position to defend themselves against pay freezes, then it definitely isn't able to go on the offensive and build organisations which will attempt to reshape society along communist lines.

In periods of heightened class struggle, however, workers are more receptive to ideas about revolution, action outside traditional union structures etc because things like class solidarity, direct action etc are on the up. Its in conditions like these that workers are able to form mass revolutionary organisations.

As for where Solfed fits in to this equation, well, I suppose we're here to try and promote the principles which would lead to this union. Where the traditional left and unions fight for their spot as leaders of the class, we see our role as supporting and encouraging those elements within the class who reject them (whether explicitly or implicitly) in favour for their own collective power. From this power, revolutionary unions of workers are formed. Personally (and this view might be controversial within some sections of Solfed), I don't think Solfed will ever become a union; I think it can be a network of militants to encourage such a union.

october_lost wrote:
I for one thought it pandered to the council communists too much...

As Pannekoek says the best school is struggle

wink

october_lost wrote:
I also don't get the obsession with permanent and non-permanent organisations.

How come? I think that this is one of the central questions for Solfed (and particularly the one which divides them from the practice of groups like the IWW or Spanish CGT)..

october_lost wrote:
Class struggle is an everyday occurrence, the point being made in the pamphlet is obviously lost on me because victories can sometimes emerge from unlikely quarters and designating periods as upturns and downturns for the class is not possible or desirable in a given time.

Again, the point isn't that victories can't occur in times of retreat or that an offensive working class can't be defeated. What it is, is a sober look at the balance sheet and accepting that the conditions which formed the Spanish CNT of the 1930s were hugely different from those we find ourselves in now - one main way is that discussion of revolution, direct action, solidarity were commonplace then, whereas now standing up to bullying at work makes you some kind of radical firebrand!

I'd say seeing the differences between these periods is fair enough, and would help us orient our activity accordingly i.e. not doing stuff like declaring Solfed a union or even a union 'in formation'..

Fuck me, this is long.. smile

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Apr 13 2009 17:28

I think Ed's largely hit the nail on the head, although

Ed wrote:
october_lost wrote:
I also don't get the obsession with permanent and non-permanent organisations.

How come? I think that this is one of the central questions for Solfed (and particularly the one which divides them from the practice of groups like the IWW or Spanish CGT)..

To be honest, the distinction between the two was arbitrary and more or less completely lost on me.

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Apr 13 2009 21:44
Quote:
Not really, its more like an acceptance of the fact that you can't just magic a revolutionary union out of nothing. If the working class aren't in a position to defend themselves against pay freezes, then it definitely isn't able to go on the offensive and build organisations which will attempt to reshape society along communist lines.

In periods of heightened class struggle, however, workers are more receptive to ideas about revolution, action outside traditional union structures etc because things like class solidarity, direct action etc are on the up. Its in conditions like these that workers are able to form mass revolutionary organisations.

As for where Solfed fits in to this equation, well, I suppose we're here to try and promote the principles which would lead to this union. Where the traditional left and unions fight for their spot as leaders of the class, we see our role as supporting and encouraging those elements within the class who reject them (whether explicitly or implicitly) in favour for their own collective power. From this power, revolutionary unions of workers are formed. Personally (and this view might be controversial within some sections of Solfed), I don't think Solfed will ever become a union; I think it can be a network of militants to encourage such a union.

Surely the working class need a union that already exists, a fighting union with alot of revolutionary syndicalists in it, too gain the political education and practice neccesary to know how to resist capitalism and the state? Surely they need a revolutionary union to go on the offensive in?

In a time of heightened class struggle where workers are receptive, how will a few hundred SolFeders get the ideas out there to the millions of workers as a whole? Why would anyone listen, or even hear?

I just simply don't see how you can hope that a few hundred anarcho-syndicalists will have sufficient influence to get enough workers to be actually convinced of the need to form a revolutionary union. I think you'd need to build a union with anarcho-syndicalist ideas and principles, build up a membership by getting people to join a union because they want a good, militant union, not a reformist one, and let those ideas (revolutionary communist ones) develop in struggle and discussion within it.

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Apr 14 2009 08:32
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
Surely the working class need a union that already exists, a fighting union with alot of revolutionary syndicalists in it, too gain the political education and practice neccesary to know how to resist capitalism and the state? Surely they need a revolutionary union to go on the offensive in?

The thing with all this is that you're separating the forms of struggle from the context in which they occur. As Marx would say, of course its people who make history, but we don't do it under the conditions of our own choosing.

So, to look at the historical context in which previous revolutionary syndicalist unions were formed (IWW and CNT say, early 20th Century Spain and USA), they were periods of massive social upheaval and unrest, words like 'revolution', 'anarchism', 'communism', 'solidarity' etc were far more common as were mass participation in strikes, general strikes, sabotage, violent repression etc. All in all, they were far more revolutionary situations and, as such, were far more capable of developing revolutionary unions (i.e. unions with the intention of not merely negotiating the price of labour but of negating it).

Outside of such a situation, how do you suggest such a union could exist? For instance, if where I worked, we were all in the IWW and we walked out on wildcat strike, what would the IWW's response be? Because of anti-worker laws, they would have to publicly urge us back to work or else get their funds taken off them by the state. The only way they could resist this would be through spreading the struggle, which would only happen with a higher level of struggle i.e. one that could support a union which had a policy of non-compliance with the state and capital.

The point isn't just what the working class needs, its what is possible at any given moment. The idea that you can set up revolutionary unions in a time of low class struggle is folly. As for where the class gets its education from; well, it gets it in struggle, within and without any union.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
In a time of heightened class struggle where workers are receptive, how will a few hundred SolFeders get the ideas out there to the millions of workers as a whole? Why would anyone listen, or even hear?

Well, class struggle doesn't just erupt imo, its something which builds gradually. Working class direct action becomes more and more common, strikes, occupations, riots etc. As these things happened, I'd like to think Solfed would gain members along the way who would in turn get involved in further struggles.

I'd also ask you how the IWW would do this (very difficult) task in a period of high class struggle? I'd also like to know how they'd do it in a period with a low level of struggle..

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Apr 14 2009 10:30

Well I'd hope people'd join us because we're a fighting union which has clear benefits, as unions do. And then when they're within the union, just as ordrinary people in a union, through discussion and struggle they'd develop the ideas.

I'm just not so sure of the idea that wildcat strikes, riots etc will build, or that the working class will develop these ideas naturally and with input from a group like SolFed, these ideas will develop into a mature anti-capitalist anti-state line. Have you any evidence in support of this?

Even the Spanish Revolution of 1936 was the result of years of CNT activity...all of the events that led up to it in the 'school of the revolution' were carried out under the banner of the CNT-FAI, as a mass organisation of the working class, a revolutionary union in the here and now.

I'll try to explain this in a sort of 'diagram'.

Stage 1 - Alot of workers are getting sacked in a recession (like at the moment) but fightback is low, buerecratic reformist sell out unions dominate (as was seen at Enfield) and so there is no militant struggle being encouraged, just a degree of anger and reformist pandering.

Stage 2 - There are more struggles, wildcats, etc, but without a coherent revolutionary nature, i.e. they still ask for government handouts rather than control.

Stage 3 -Things get more militant, say with a general strike of the sort the unions call regularly in france, i.e. not a revolutionary one, but alot of people are out and theres a few mass protests of the unemployed and strikers.

Stage 4 - The government is beginning to get worried, the strikes are becoming more frequent, people are getting very angry, maybe theres alot of demonstrating and militant action etc.

Stage 5 - What could be called a revolutionary situation ala France 1968 happens, alot of barricades and alot of striking etc, but as with France there is no coherent, structured revolutionary nature to the struggle, so there is potential for buyout.

At what point is the anarcho-syndicalist union formed? If it wad formed, say, in stabe 3, but then the time difference between stage 3 and a fully blown revolution was 5 years, how would the union stop itself having to operate within the boundaries of capitalism in that period (no strike deals, back to work etc)? How would the clear revolutionary ideas spread in such a time? How would we be organised enough in such a short period to take on the state? Would we be united, experienced enough?

I prefer the idea of a militant union builiding up for many years prior to a highly revolutionary situation so people can get united, get the right ideas (anti state anti capitalist anti reformist) and generally learn solidarity and actions by means of widlcat strikes, intermitent occupations etc, but then I also agree with alot of what you guys are saying...

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Apr 14 2009 12:17
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
Stage 1 - Alot of workers are getting sacked in a recession (like at the moment) but fightback is low, buerecratic reformist sell out unions dominate (as was seen at Enfield) and so there is no militant struggle being encouraged, just a degree of anger and reformist pandering.

Like we were saying last week in the pub, if the IWW had been the union at Enfield, they would have had to have largely behaved the same as Unite due to Thatcher's anti-worker legislation. (OK they probably would have searched for some ways round it and not been quite as wankerish as Unite but still...)

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Apr 14 2009 14:21

How has the CNT got around these problems historically then and kept its integrity as an anarcho-syndicalist union?

Caiman del Barrio
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Apr 14 2009 14:35

Well compared to most other European countries, Britain has a unique system of union registration. It also has exceptionally harsh anti-union laws which Thatcher brought in. I'm not sure about the specifics of the Spanish situation though, presumably there are equivalent issues. Perhaps someone else can fill us in.

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Apr 14 2009 15:50

My problem basically boils down to I think there needs to be anarcho-syndicalist union in the years building up to a situation which could potentially develop into a revolution. I think the anarcho-syndicalist union has to build up and act as the 'school of the revolution' as Durruti would have put it so that in strikes and uprisings workers become educated in the task of revolution.

But I also achknowledge what you say about unions existing in the here and now being bound by the anti-union laws and thus being unable to function as anarcho-syndicalist unions, hence why I am torn between the two ideas.

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Apr 14 2009 16:42

...well my feeling on this is that regardless of our personal beliefs, both the IWW and Solfed exist and will continue to do so, in the medium term at least. The questions you are asking revolve around which organisation you should be in as an individual, which in my mind means you should ask what you think you will gain from being in these organisations. You're unwaged right? So what will you gain from paying 2 sets of dues?

Ideally, Solfed and IWW would cooperate on most issues. We did over Starbucks, we are over Visteon, etc etc

Either way, I'll invite you to the next meeting of South London SF.

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Apr 14 2009 19:44
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
Well I'd hope people'd join us because we're a fighting union which has clear benefits, as unions do. And then when they're within the union, just as ordrinary people in a union, through discussion and struggle they'd develop the ideas.

But as you've mentioned, if put in a confrontational situation with the state/capital, the IWW would be forced to act in a similar way to which all unions do (urging wildcats back to work, signing anti-worker contracts to maintain seat at negotiating table etc). Equally, I don't see why you think that such political education can't happen in struggles without the union. After all, it's struggle, not necessarily the union, which is the school of socialism.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
I'm just not so sure of the idea that wildcat strikes, riots etc will build, or that the working class will develop these ideas naturally and with input from a group like SolFed, these ideas will develop into a mature anti-capitalist anti-state line. Have you any evidence in support of this?

Even the Spanish Revolution of 1936 was the result of years of CNT activity...all of the events that led up to it in the 'school of the revolution' were carried out under the banner of the CNT-FAI, as a mass organisation of the working class, a revolutionary union in the here and now.

Yeah, but look at how the CNT was formed. The CNT wasn't started by a union setting itself up in 1894 and then recruiting workers to it and then reaching a critical mass of members in 1936 which led to a social revolution. It was set up by a collection of already existing unions (who had been through their own 'schools of struggle' already) coming together to set up a larger union structure. I don't know much about the formation of the IWW but I imagine it was somewhat similar considering the huge level of industrial unrest in the 1890s.

Also I'm not saying that anarcho-syndicalist ideas "naturally" develop within the working class (though I do think that certain forms of struggle develop 'naturally' within elements of it). What I'm saying is that you can't expect anarcho-syndicalist ideas to just grow out of nothing. When there isn't mass struggle, our ideas seem less relevant and more abstract (what would talking about a general strike with workmates sound like at the minute? A nice idea judging from the past couple of years' pay disputes...) and you can't recruit to an organisation (especially not a revolutionary economic one like an anarcho-syndicalist union) en masse with abstract promises.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
At what point is the anarcho-syndicalist union formed? If it wad formed, say, in stabe 3, but then the time difference between stage 3 and a fully blown revolution was 5 years, how would the union stop itself having to operate within the boundaries of capitalism in that period (no strike deals, back to work etc)?

Well, the first thing I'd have to say is that I think the revolutionary union is inherently a non-permanent organisation and its fate is tied to that of the working class. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I think that not prematurely declaring yourself a revolutionary union (in a context where you are not able to defend any of your 'revolutionary' principles) is key. When the class is militant, the law can become inconsequential, as we saw when hundreds of energy workers went on wildcat strike across the UK recently, and no one said a thing. Perhaps when we're in a position to defend ourselves like this, we can declare ourselves a union. Finally, and linked to this, I'd say not chasing things like official recognition or registration are vital as is non-cooperation with undemocratic negotiation structures (i.e. modern day CNT and works councils).

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
How would the clear revolutionary ideas spread in such a time? How would we be organised enough in such a short period to take on the state? Would we be united, experienced enough?

Here I feel that maybe I've sounded like I'm talking about a revolutionary union being formed in the months preceding a revolution. That's not what I think. I do think that a revolutionary union can be set up in a non-revolutionary context, but it still has to be one with a sufficient level of class struggle to support a union with revolutionary principles (like the ones outlined above). Such a class does not exist in the UK in 2009 hence no revolutionary union. However, if there does emerge a sizeable (though even a minority) section of the class both willing and able to resist anti-worker legislation and defend revolutionary principles, then perhaps an anarcho-syndicalist union could be formed.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
How has the CNT got around these problems historically then and kept its integrity as an anarcho-syndicalist union?

Well, firstly, by sacrificing size for principles (not taking part in representative works councils, for instance). Also, Spanish union legislation allows a lot more for minority unions.

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Apr 15 2009 17:42

If this pamphlet (brighton) is not universally agreed on in solfed, what do those opposed to it believe in? permanent organisations?

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Apr 28 2009 10:42

Bump

My main problem is the idea that a) In periods of struggle, revolutionary ideas develop naturally nad b) how the hell would solfed have enough influence to ever start participating in and building a mass organisation/advocate the delegate mass meetings etc.

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May 4 2009 19:53

come on guys help me out here tongue

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May 5 2009 11:27

I'm one of the authors of the pamphlet, I've been meaning to reply to this thread but haven't had a chance yet as our conference is next week and there's been loads of internal discussion over it. I'll try and reply tonight.

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May 5 2009 16:24

wicked

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May 5 2009 21:41
VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
My main problem is the idea that a) In periods of struggle, revolutionary ideas develop naturally

we don't say this. in fact, we differ from some anarcho-syndicalists in seeing a role for a plurality of specifically libertarian communist propaganda groups (which could be print or web editorial collectives, feminist groups, or an anarchist federation...) to actively spread revolutionary ideas.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
b) how the hell would solfed have enough influence to ever start participating in and building a mass organisation/advocate the delegate mass meetings etc.

we'd need a strategy for growth, that's for sure. groups like the SP (~2000 members) and SWP (~3000 members) are influential on a national scale, although only the SP have any real industrial presence. so as a ballpark we're one or two orders of magnitude away from the size we'd need to be to have any real influence. is that a big task? certainly. is it impossible, over a timescale of years? not necessarily (i mean the wobblies have 3-500, solfed and the AF combined circa 200, accounting for cross-membership there's potentially 600 or so libertarian class struggle militants in organised groups at present, plus peripheries, plus large numbers of dissilusioned union members etc who may be attracted to anarcho-syndicalist politics if they come into contact with them).

i'll try and respond to some of your other questions tomorrow or thurs, busy busy at the moment.

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Jul 7 2009 08:22

i've only just refound this thread, but we had our national conference in May, so I'm now in a position to answer these questions more definitively.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
1. Is the Brighton Manifesto consensus in the group, and is it likely to become so. If not, what are the disagreements, and whats the outcome of them likely to be?

it's a minority view at present. the main disagreements are (1) our historical account of 'classical anarcho-syndicalism' and (2) our understanding of what an anarcho-syndicalist union is.

with regard to (1), on further investigation it does appear our criticisms should really have been aimed at residual revolutionary syndicalist tendencies within anarcho-syndicalism, rather than 'classical anarcho-syndicalism' per se. with regard to (2), we were defining a union in accordance with the 'principles of revolutionary unionism' which said it was for all workers, thus the only way we could square this with reality was with a mass-meeting based structure. subsequent discussions within solfed have revealed that an alternative (perhaps majority) view is that an anarcho-syndicalist union is basically what we called a 'network of militants', and so the discussion is more terminological than ideological.

to address both these points, and others, we've added a preface to the online version and are currently researching and writing an expanded, revised version of the pamphlet.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
2. How do Sol Fed members envisage their organisation ever having enough influence to spread anarcho-syndicalist ideas and strategy across the class? SolFed is a political organisation and thus will attract people who agree with the ideology. Not many people agree with the ideology, because it hasn't been spread yet. But in order to be spread, you need members. I see this a paradox which would prevent growth, not seen in the IWW, where members would join because they want a good union and would develop and spread revolutionary unionist (Yes, I know IWW are not explicitly Anarcho-Syndicalist) whilst they are within it.

i don't think there's a unified view on how we should grow - hopefully our document will help contribute to that discussion. the aspiration is for solfed to be a political-economic organisation (i.e. one rooted in our position as workers, but for workers with specific anarcho-syndicalist politics). solfed's Education Workers' Network is a step towards being a political-economic organisation, but i agree because of our size we're mostly a political group at present.

i don't think the paradox will necessarily prevent growth, nor do i think growth based on a lack of principles is a good thing. historically you had syndicalist groups that grew very large by dropping principles - the French CGT for instance - who then supported WW1 and all sorts. it just means we have to grow in a certain way, we can't just go round trying to pick up random workers until we're a mass organisation - that's not really our objective, we want to be a netowork of anarcho-syndicalist workers organised locally and industrially, capable of initiating mass meetings where we argue for militant direct action.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
3. Do you believe that making the networks open to non-SolFed members could aleviate the above problem?

we were on the fence on this when we wrote the pamphlet (saying only membership of a political organisation shouldn't be a prerequisite of membership - when solfed could become a political-economic one). at conference we adopted the latter position - networks are a fundamental part of solfed's structure and vital to us ever becoming a truly political-economic organisation. however, workers who feel they would benefit from involvement in the networks but don't want to take the plunge and join solfed are welcome to join the email lists, contribute articles to Education Worker or Catalyst etc. i think we could probably do more to build such a periphery, and make clear it's not all-or-nothing join or gtfo.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
4. Is it likely that the networks will be opened to non-SolFed members?

the motion was defeated at conference (Brighton voted against for the above reason). however, as i say workers who feel they would benefit from such networking are welcome to contact us, and will be able to join email lists etc (only the EWN is properly functioning, we have a dormant Public Service Workers network too, and are currently reviewing members' employment sectors to see what opportunities there are for new networks).

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
5. If (as is said in the Brighton Manifesto) the revolutionary union can only be formed in times of class struggle, how will it be formed quickly enough to be able to fight a social revolution?

we don't see a 'time of struggle' as a sudden thing. if you look at the history of the Spanish Revolution for example, you have a rising tide of struggles over several decades, ebbing and flowing until the insurrectional cycle kicked off from '34 until the revolution in '36. however, if we revise our understanding of an anarcho-syndicalist union in line with our critics, it would be the 'permanent, pro-revolutionary, minority' organisation we term a 'network of militants', while it would only be mass meetings, workplace committees and workers' councils formed on a non-permanent/contingent basis.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
6. Surely it (the revolutionary union) needs time to build up, to gian members and spread ideas. Surely it needs years of winning battles in the workplace and gaining support, trust and strength before it can effectivelty defeat the state and capital?

this is what our critics argued, and the role we saw for a network of militants. however, an anarcho-syndicalist union is not an IWW-type revolutionary syndicalist union for all workers, but an organisation for those workers who agree with anarcho-syndicalist goals and methods.

VisionOfTheFuture wrote:
7. If a revolutionary union was somehow formed in a period of high class struggle, and then that period did not lead ot a revolution (it failed), would the union from that struggle have to be dismanted and re-built for the next attempt?

our view was that it would 'naturally' recede into a network of militants as participation ebbed with defeat, and that network would agitate for mass meetings whenever they were next on the cards.

from the internal discussions we've had over the pamphlet i think solfed actually have a very different view of what a revolutionary union is compared to the IWW say, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from the 'principles of revolutionary unionism'. hopefully the upshot of the discussions will be more internal and external clarity on this.