How should anarchists be organising in the workplace in the 21st Century?

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Sleeper
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Dec 17 2015 19:52
How should anarchists be organising in the workplace in the 21st Century?

I've put this in theory so it can be as open as needed, anything goes here so please feel free to get stuck in. Just show the respect you expect from others.

So are we talking creating syndicalist unions from nothing

Or joining an existing union and the IWW on the quiet

Maybe working within an existing union and waiting for when the shit hits the fan

Or is there something else?

admin: moved to organise forum

akai
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Dec 17 2015 20:40

To be honest, l don't think you can get a real answer here. The whole issue revolves around many factors, including what you expect the union to accomplish, it's many goals, where you are and what you can realistically do.

Over here, we have an anarchosyndicalist union. We don't like mainstream unions because in our reality they are all sell-outs and ineffective and workers have almost no autonomy from the union bureaucrats. lt might look different in different places. So, you can't say just one thing. lf people really want to fight, they should make their own unions, independent of the mainstream here. ln general, l have little use for the mainstream unions but appreciate that in some realities they offer real benefits. So if workers wanna join them for real benefits, why not. But l don't think you can carry on any meaningful anarchosyndicalist work inside one of those unions. l think you could agitate to anarchosyndicalize without a syndicalist union, although you might not be effective. And finally, l don't think lt makes much sense for anarchosyndicalists to build syndicalist unions from nothing - if you are starting from nothing, you might as well go for anarchosyndicalist.

Just my opinion.

Sleeper
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Dec 17 2015 21:57

Hi Akal,

Thank you comrade I'm in the UK, and you are where?

If we look at the 20th century the growth of revolutionary based unions, anarcho-synicalist unions, they were created from nothing.

Me I'm in the RMT and wondering if I should just get organised and stop worrying about you lot wink

Sleeper
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Dec 17 2015 22:12

RMT - https://www.rmt.org.uk/home/

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Steven.
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Dec 17 2015 22:30
Fai1937 wrote:

Thank you comrade I'm in the UK, and you are where?

Akai is based in Poland.

Quote:

If we look at the 20th century the growth of revolutionary based unions, anarcho-synicalist unions, they were created from nothing.

don't really think that's accurate. I mean it depends what you mean by "nothing"…

In terms of your original question, basically in my view it depends on your particular circumstances. So if you are in a super casual workplace with a high turnover and no union, you are probably best trying to organise informally and if possible call group meetings to make decisions.

If you're in a more stable workplace with a union which is not a "company union", then it might be worthwhile joining the union, but as much as possible try to organise people across different union lines, include non-union members, temps etc (this is what I do).

What part of transport do you work in? On the railways, the Workmates collective was a very good example: https://libcom.org/library/workmates-direct-action-workplace-organising-...

Sleeper
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Dec 17 2015 23:08

Thank you Steven. Is Akal not able to speak for her/him self?

The CNT was created in 1910 and comrades worked hard for a long time to create what happened in the 1930's in Spain. It was and still is a long hard struggle.

You talking about the IWMA?

Steven can I suggest anyone in the UK can a join a trade union. Here's how you do it, if you want to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union

If your employer/boss tries to tell you can't then that's when you learn how to organise...

I'm a railworker but not in London

Steven. wrote:
Fai1937 wrote:

Thank you comrade I'm in the UK, and you are where?

Akai is based in Poland.

Quote:

If we look at the 20th century the growth of revolutionary based unions, anarcho-synicalist unions, they were created from nothing.

don't really think that's accurate. I mean it depends what you mean by "nothing"…

In terms of your original question, basically in my view it depends on your particular circumstances. So if you are in a super casual workplace with a high turnover and no union, you are probably best trying to organise informally and if possible call group meetings to make decisions.

If you're in a more stable workplace with a union which is not a "company union", then it might be worthwhile joining the union, but as much as possible try to organise people across different union lines, include non-union members, temps etc (this is what I do).

What part of transport do you work in? On the railways, the Workmates collective was a very good example: https://libcom.org/library/workmates-direct-action-workplace-organising-...

syndicalist
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Dec 17 2015 23:19

Many of the main IWA unions were actually borne out of struggles and defeats inside many of the existing trade unions of the time (CNT, FAUD,USI) And the early syndicalist French pioneer, CGT) union coming out of the reformist union of the time. Others were formed from scratch. The IWW origins seem to be a bit of both early on (WFM,Brewers, some exisitng Local Unions), with the main orgnaizational strength coming from the unorganized sectors and basically starting from scratch.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 18 2015 04:03

FAI, you should read this

http://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-s...

because:

a) it's amazing
b) it gives a good idea for how anarcho-syndicalists can organize in the 21st century
c) it gives a great look into how those 20th century anarcho-syndicalist unions developed

And - not to derail - but I'd suggest there's a very big difference between organizing and joining a union and I think any anarchist approach to organizing has to take into account the structural inadequacies of trade unionism.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 18 2015 14:17
FAI wrote:
Is Akal not able to speak for her/him self?

Ehhem...

FAI wrote:
Just show the respect you expect from others.

Spikymike
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Dec 18 2015 17:42

Yes the two links in Chilli's post 8 above are a very good starting place for this often repeated and extensively discussed set of questions on this site over the years.

I've also previously recommended this earlier series of discussions involving both proponents and opponents of the 'outside and against' attitude to the trade unions from both a theoretical and practical point of view:
http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip_41_trade-unions...
There are a few typing errors but it's worth taking some time to read and consider.

There are also plenty of other past discussion threads dealing with these issues worth searching out.

Sleeper
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Dec 18 2015 21:36

Thanks Chilli I will read that (again). I don't mean that in bad way, it's just that I have read various versions over the years, including going back to DAM stuff. But I will read it again.

You're not derailing at all. This is what I mean by an open discussion. Yep I would certainly agree that many trade unions are totally inadequate for workers needs. And yes I do understand the anarchist argument that trade unions by their very nature and structure are tied to reformist socialism and seperating workers rather than uniting across a workplace. However I would argue that you should join the union that 'represents your interests' whatever work you do. I am constantly amazed by how many young people don't even have a basic trade union conciousness. They don't know what any form of workplace organising is.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
FAI, you should read this

http://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-s...

because:

a) it's amazing
b) it gives a good idea for how anarcho-syndicalists can organize in the 21st century
c) it gives a great look into how those 20th century anarcho-syndicalist unions developed

And - not to derail - but I'd suggest there's a very big difference between organizing and joining a union and I think any anarchist approach to organizing has to take into account the structural inadequacies of trade unionism.

Sleeper
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Dec 18 2015 21:46
Chilli Sauce wrote:
FAI wrote:
Is Akal not able to speak for her/him self?

Ehhem...

FAI wrote:
Just show the respect you expect from others.

Well yes I was replying to Akal, and now two of you seem to have taken to talking for this comrade who opened a discussion with me. I can wait for a reply, I'm a patient person.

Sleeper
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Dec 18 2015 21:52

Thank you comrade I'll have a read of that as well. Is it too long to paste here?

Spikymike wrote:
Yes the two links in Chilli's post 8 above are a very good starting place for this often repeated and extensively discussed set of questions on this site over the years.

I've also previously recommended this earlier series of discussions involving both proponents and opponents of the 'outside and against' attitude to the trade unions from both a theoretical and practical point of view:
http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip_41_trade-unions...
There are a few typing errors but it's worth taking some time to read and consider.

There are also plenty of other past discussion threads dealing with these issues worth searching out.

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Dec 19 2015 02:05

I think as usual a diversity of tactics is preferable. Silent minorities and social insertion have their uses especially with reactionary, bureaucratic, national unions, however as Solfed states the ultimate goal of the anarcho-syndicalist project is the building of a mass revolutionary union movement.

akai
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Dec 19 2015 08:17

Hi. l pretty much agree with some of what others are saying, except that l disagree that working within the mainstream unions are any tactic for building anarchosyndicalism. l see it as one tactic for workplace self-defence in situations where, for whatever reason, other unions are not or cannot be present. That said, there is much to debate about the latter.

For example, l had debated some years back with Ali Kitapci, who was tragically killed a while back in Ankara. ln Turkey, they haven't made an anarchosyndicalist group and this is partly because of a platformist influence which was popular a while back (MF, if he is reading can correct me if l am wrong or say more). Well, Turkey does not have union pluralism and you need to have 51 percent of the workforce to be a recognized union, which means that a few big unions dominate and a group of anarchists became active in a leftish union because they assessed that to be the best option. But l wouldn't necessarily argue that what they were doing in the union was in that direction because the comrade took a union leadership position and so, while maybe offering some resistance to the bosses, that's not an anarchosyndicalist model since we want the rank and file to control the unions, not paid functionaries with discretionary decision making power.

A few years ago in Turkey l was talking to some comrades, especially who were working with undocumented migrant workers, etc. and really found a lot of areas where anarchosyndicalist type of organizing not only would be possible, but really be the best option. But alas, they really seemed to think the current model in Turkey is the only possible and are more familiar with platformist ideas on the subject than anarchosyndicalist practices, although l see a little more interest in the latter growing.

So basically, what l am saying is that, although l see a diversity of tactics as appropriate for organizing workers to deal with economic and other workplace grievances, l think only the anarchosyndicalist organization can be a laboratory for libertarian practice, for creating models of organization that would be useful and develop self-management skills that would be useful for the future libertarian society.

For FAl1937, l think the other comrades were having a bit of a laugh when you asked if l can't answer for myself. smile That's not an issue. But l cannot always answer in a timely manner as l am extremely busy, so my internet activity is erratic.

Anarcho
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Dec 19 2015 12:15
Fai1937 wrote:
So are we talking creating syndicalist unions from nothing

Or joining an existing union and the IWW on the quiet

Maybe working within an existing union and waiting for when the shit hits the fan

Or is there something else?

The answer is all of them -- depending on the objective situation you face.

I am a union rep in an existing union because any syndicalist union would have about 3 members in it. The union I am in allows some flexibility in applying anarchist tactics -- assemblies, direct action, etc. -- and so building class consciousness and combativeness. That may not be the case in other workplaces.

We should avoid thinking there is one, best, option -- there are many and we need to use commonsense when deciding which one we use in a specific situation. So flexibility in tactics is needed to reflect a complex world.

Sleeper
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Dec 19 2015 17:14

Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

deathspiritcommunist wrote:
I think as usual a diversity of tactics is preferable. Silent minorities and social insertion have their uses especially with reactionary, bureaucratic, national unions, however as Solfed states the ultimate goal of the anarcho-syndicalist project is the building of a mass revolutionary union movement.

Sleeper
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Dec 19 2015 17:16

No worries as I said I'm a patient person.

akai wrote:
For FAl1937, l think the other comrades were having a bit of a laugh when you asked if l can't answer for myself. smile That's not an issue. But l cannot always answer in a timely manner as l am extremely busy, so my internet activity is erratic.

Sleeper
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Dec 19 2015 17:28

Yes, I agree with being open and ready to use whatever tactics suit the situation. Be flexible and ready to change and move. This shouldn't be a difficult thing for anarchists as we understand that we live in a state of flux. We are normally at least two steps ahead of the capitalists and statists.

Anarcho wrote:
Fai1937 wrote:
So are we talking creating syndicalist unions from nothing

Or joining an existing union and the IWW on the quiet

Maybe working within an existing union and waiting for when the shit hits the fan

Or is there something else?

The answer is all of them -- depending on the objective situation you face.

I am a union rep in an existing union because any syndicalist union would have about 3 members in it. The union I am in allows some flexibility in applying anarchist tactics -- assemblies, direct action, etc. -- and so building class consciousness and combativeness. That may not be the case in other workplaces.

We should avoid thinking there is one, best, option -- there are many and we need to use commonsense when deciding which one we use in a specific situation. So flexibility in tactics is needed to reflect a complex world.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 19 2015 18:03
Quote:
We are normally at least two steps ahead of the capitalists and statists.

Man, I wish I shared that sort of optimism.

Sleeper
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Dec 19 2015 18:38

Hiya I did say we normally are, at least two steps usually more, but that does seem to not be happening at the moment. That might explain why I've found myself back here and a bit edgy and spiky and whatever.

I think were probably going to have to kill the internet soon. It has become a liability now capitalism has discovered it...

Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
We are normally at least two steps ahead of the capitalists and statists.

Man, I wish I shared that sort of optimism.

Spikymike
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Dec 20 2015 19:28

Fai1937,
That IP linked text is a bit long and not specifically anarchist which the SolFed pamphlet is and of course this more critical piece by former members of the AF worth reading sometime;
http://libcom.org/library/frontline-redux-problem-unions

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Ivysyn
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Dec 27 2015 08:20
Fai1937 wrote:
Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

deathspiritcommunist wrote:
I think as usual a diversity of tactics is preferable. Silent minorities and social insertion have their uses especially with reactionary, bureaucratic, national unions, however as Solfed states the ultimate goal of the anarcho-syndicalist project is the building of a mass revolutionary union movement.

It's not really that they think this is the basis for an Anarchist society, it's more that they see an Anarchist society as one to be achieved through a mass revolutionary union movement.

no1
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Dec 27 2015 10:16
Fai1937 wrote:
Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

The final chapter of Fighting for Ourselves tries to address the question of the role of the revolutionary union first in everyday struggles and then in a revolutionary period. Just to quote some bits of it:

Quote:
The aim of the anarcho-syndicalist union is to act as an organisational force in the daily lives of the working class. We seek to organise workplace and community resistance, and to constantly link this to the need to overthrow the double yoke of capital and the state. We seek the overthrow of capitalism, and for it to be replaced by the self-managed libertarian communist society. [...]

The aim of anarcho-syndicalism is to build militant workers’ organisation, but from a clear revolutionary perspective. It fully realises that conditions in society may vary, and accordingly so will the possibility of organising class struggle. But no matter what the conditions, anarcho-syndicalists argue that militant workers' organisation cannot be achieved by a political group organising outside of the workplace. Organisation in the workplace will have to be built by the revolutionary union that involves itself in the day to day struggle of workers. But the aim of anarcho-syndicalism is not to enrol every worker into the revolutionary union, but rather to organise mass meetings at which the union argues for militant action. ‘Mass’ does not necessarily mean ‘massive’. If a team consists of five people, then a meeting of four is a mass meeting. Obviously, at the other end of the spectrum, these could include hundreds of workers. But such large meetings can stifle opportunities to participate, and so splitting into smaller meetings, co-ordinated by a delegate council may be more appropriate. The precise forms employed by the revolutionary union are dictated by the needs of the struggle and not by theory. And the revolutionary union does not limit itself to the workplace. Class struggle also takes place against landlords, property developers, the benefits regime, letting agencies, temp agencies, the tax authorities, the prison regime, and other representatives of capital and state.

But neither should the anarcho-syndicalist union be seen as a monolithic organisation that seeks to organise every aspect of human activity. Our aim is to build a revolutionary culture within the working class that will form the basis of the future libertarian communist society. And this revolutionary culture will be as rich and diverse as humanity itself. It will comprise of countless groups and interests, formal and informal, that will operate both in and outside of the union. The role of the union is to bring this diversity together on the basis of class in opposition to capitalism and the state. At the heart of the anarcho-syndicalist union is the Local, which aims to be at the centre of community and workplace struggle in the surrounding area. But the role of the Local goes beyond that. It provides the physical space where a diverse range of groups, such as oppressed, cultural, and education groups can organise. The Local acts as the social, political, and economic centre for working class struggle in a given area. It is the physical embodiment of our beliefs and methods, the means by which workers become anarcho-syndicalist not just on the basis of ideas but activity.

The Local aims to be a hive of working class self-activity in the area, inside and outside the union, a catalyst for workers’ self-activity, an infrastructure and tool of struggle for the working class. It’s a base not only to organise against capital and state, but for all sorts of marginalised and oppressed groups to organise. If we’re serious about prefiguring a libertarian communist society, we must challenge patriarchy, racism, and bigotry of all forms within society and, when necessary, within our own ranks too. So long as we don’t have our own premises, we can use drop in sessions in whatever venues are available, we can use picket lines, or hold regular stalls, to discuss organising with workers. And out of these we’re likely to find fights to pick with capital and the state. In the early days, these fights are likely to be small, attempts to collectivise individual grievances. We can only bite off what we can chew. But by taking on instances of wage theft, stolen deposits, and the other everyday little attacks, we can both win concrete demands but also start to build a culture of direct action, and normalise the idea of standing up for our interests, of fighting for ourselves.

The role of the revolutionary union in the revolutionary process
Just as the anarcho-syndicalist union cannot and does not wish to organise all aspects of human activity, nor does it seek to organise the revolution on behalf of the working class. For us, revolutions come about when the anger of the oppressed can no longer be contained by the power of the oppressors, leading to an explosion of anger that drives revolutionary change. Revolutions break out, they cannot be planned, they cannot be predicted, they cannot be organised. But if they are to succeed, revolutions have to move quickly from anger to decisive action. The revolution has to be advanced and defended, people have to eat, they need water and electricity, and these things have to be organised. The role of the anarcho-syndicalist union is to act as a catalyst and organising force within the revolution to ensure its success.

Within the revolutionary process, the anarcho-syndicalist union seeks to organise the insurrectionary general strike as the means by which the workers take control of the streets and the workplaces. This means that, amidst strike waves and street demonstrations, riots and political turmoil, the revolutionary union looks to generalise the strikes, to turn them from walkouts into expropriations, restarting production and distribution under self-management to meet social needs. The insurrectionary general strike marks the start of the process of building the libertarian communist society. The production and distribution of goods and services is taken over under workers’ democratic control and run on the basis of human need. The revolutionary union seeks to organise a system of free councils without subordination to any authority or political party, bar none. These organisations of the working class both administer production and distribution according to needs, and supplant the authority of the state. Militias are formed to defend the revolution from the external forces of capitalism and to shut down the forces of the state. The building blocks of the new society are put in place on top of the foundations laid by the preceding struggles.

Prolview
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Dec 27 2015 11:33

Unfortunately many anarchist activists don't understand how direct workers' action and workers' organisation function. Usually anarchist unions are not forms of workers selforganisation but were founded as proletarian arm of anarchist ideological movements. Real workers selforganisation must spring out of concrete workers actions and needs. Of course I have respect for any anarchist worker fighting honestly among his colleagues, but yet in the past and present anarchist unions like the CNT were and are not forms of independent workers struggle, but instead function like most unions as heteronomy over workers actions through unionbureaucracy.
The following text describes how proletarian classwar from below functions in reality:

"Day-to-day resistance of workers shows itself at the workplace in usually hiden actions. For example it can be a form of classtruggle to dally, to skip work, to steal small products or even to appropriate/damage the means of production. In capitalism the means of production become a weapon in classstruggle, wich today is in the hands of capital. With this weapon capitalists can squeeze dry workers like lemons and kick them away after usage. The anwer of many workers is hidden classwar: Hidden destruction of means of production, or hidden production for own use. All these different forms of resistance are illegal and militant but yet hidden from the public eye. In the apparent calm of bourgeois everyday life the social explosion is prepared.
Overt forms of selforganized workersactions are wildcats or occupations. In small actions workers dont form official organizations (strike comitees, workers brigades, independent workers associations....) , in these situations the direct action is the unoffical coalition of the fighting workers. Petty-bourgeois philistines can only see "spontanity" in such selforganized workers-actions. These Ladys and Gentlemen cant see the forest for the sake of the trees. Ladys and Gentlemen, these "spontanious" actions are the forms of proletarian organisation. This direct coalition of workers in action is the base for all offical proletarian organisations like strike-comitees and workerscouncils. The wildcat of Opel-workers in october 2004 ( in germany, bochum) and many other examples show claerly that the working class dont has to beg for democratic rights but instead can fight self-confident for its own aims."

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boozemonarchy
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Dec 27 2015 12:38
deathspiritcommunist wrote:
Fai1937 wrote:
Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

deathspiritcommunist wrote:
I think as usual a diversity of tactics is preferable. Silent minorities and social insertion have their uses especially with reactionary, bureaucratic, national unions, however as Solfed states the ultimate goal of the anarcho-syndicalist project is the building of a mass revolutionary union movement.

It's not really that they think this is the basis for an Anarchist society, it's more that they see an Anarchist society as one to be achieved through a mass revolutionary union movement.

I consider myself as very close to anarcho-syndicalism though I do not envision a-s union structures as existing in a post-revolutionary situation. Instead, I see the mass revolutionary movement as prefiguring in two ways:the development of a massive worldwide culture of prole solidarity and the actual physical appropriation of the means of production that will destroy the parasitic class. I imagine that existing union structures will probably be found undesirable / inadequate given the massive retooling of production and distributions needed to sustain life on earth. Instead, new forms will emerge likely during the struggle against capitalism and later, during the struggle for communist organization.

Sleeper
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Dec 29 2015 23:32

In theory I totally agree with you comrade.

However I think, being realistic, you have to decide where and how to direct limited resources. If you believe workplace organising, revolutionary unionism, is the way forward then concentrate your resources there and be ready for the long journey to creating a new revolutionary union. Be focused and believe.

If you succeed you will bring other like minded people with you.

no1 wrote:
Fai1937 wrote:
Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

The final chapter of Fighting for Ourselves tries to address the question of the role of the revolutionary union first in everyday struggles and then in a revolutionary period. Just to quote some bits of it:

Quote:
The aim of the anarcho-syndicalist union is to act as an organisational force in the daily lives of the working class. We seek to organise workplace and community resistance, and to constantly link this to the need to overthrow the double yoke of capital and the state. We seek the overthrow of capitalism, and for it to be replaced by the self-managed libertarian communist society. [...]

The aim of anarcho-syndicalism is to build militant workers’ organisation, but from a clear revolutionary perspective. It fully realises that conditions in society may vary, and accordingly so will the possibility of organising class struggle. But no matter what the conditions, anarcho-syndicalists argue that militant workers' organisation cannot be achieved by a political group organising outside of the workplace. Organisation in the workplace will have to be built by the revolutionary union that involves itself in the day to day struggle of workers. But the aim of anarcho-syndicalism is not to enrol every worker into the revolutionary union, but rather to organise mass meetings at which the union argues for militant action. ‘Mass’ does not necessarily mean ‘massive’. If a team consists of five people, then a meeting of four is a mass meeting. Obviously, at the other end of the spectrum, these could include hundreds of workers. But such large meetings can stifle opportunities to participate, and so splitting into smaller meetings, co-ordinated by a delegate council may be more appropriate. The precise forms employed by the revolutionary union are dictated by the needs of the struggle and not by theory. And the revolutionary union does not limit itself to the workplace. Class struggle also takes place against landlords, property developers, the benefits regime, letting agencies, temp agencies, the tax authorities, the prison regime, and other representatives of capital and state.

But neither should the anarcho-syndicalist union be seen as a monolithic organisation that seeks to organise every aspect of human activity. Our aim is to build a revolutionary culture within the working class that will form the basis of the future libertarian communist society. And this revolutionary culture will be as rich and diverse as humanity itself. It will comprise of countless groups and interests, formal and informal, that will operate both in and outside of the union. The role of the union is to bring this diversity together on the basis of class in opposition to capitalism and the state. At the heart of the anarcho-syndicalist union is the Local, which aims to be at the centre of community and workplace struggle in the surrounding area. But the role of the Local goes beyond that. It provides the physical space where a diverse range of groups, such as oppressed, cultural, and education groups can organise. The Local acts as the social, political, and economic centre for working class struggle in a given area. It is the physical embodiment of our beliefs and methods, the means by which workers become anarcho-syndicalist not just on the basis of ideas but activity.

The Local aims to be a hive of working class self-activity in the area, inside and outside the union, a catalyst for workers’ self-activity, an infrastructure and tool of struggle for the working class. It’s a base not only to organise against capital and state, but for all sorts of marginalised and oppressed groups to organise. If we’re serious about prefiguring a libertarian communist society, we must challenge patriarchy, racism, and bigotry of all forms within society and, when necessary, within our own ranks too. So long as we don’t have our own premises, we can use drop in sessions in whatever venues are available, we can use picket lines, or hold regular stalls, to discuss organising with workers. And out of these we’re likely to find fights to pick with capital and the state. In the early days, these fights are likely to be small, attempts to collectivise individual grievances. We can only bite off what we can chew. But by taking on instances of wage theft, stolen deposits, and the other everyday little attacks, we can both win concrete demands but also start to build a culture of direct action, and normalise the idea of standing up for our interests, of fighting for ourselves.

The role of the revolutionary union in the revolutionary process
Just as the anarcho-syndicalist union cannot and does not wish to organise all aspects of human activity, nor does it seek to organise the revolution on behalf of the working class. For us, revolutions come about when the anger of the oppressed can no longer be contained by the power of the oppressors, leading to an explosion of anger that drives revolutionary change. Revolutions break out, they cannot be planned, they cannot be predicted, they cannot be organised. But if they are to succeed, revolutions have to move quickly from anger to decisive action. The revolution has to be advanced and defended, people have to eat, they need water and electricity, and these things have to be organised. The role of the anarcho-syndicalist union is to act as a catalyst and organising force within the revolution to ensure its success.

Within the revolutionary process, the anarcho-syndicalist union seeks to organise the insurrectionary general strike as the means by which the workers take control of the streets and the workplaces. This means that, amidst strike waves and street demonstrations, riots and political turmoil, the revolutionary union looks to generalise the strikes, to turn them from walkouts into expropriations, restarting production and distribution under self-management to meet social needs. The insurrectionary general strike marks the start of the process of building the libertarian communist society. The production and distribution of goods and services is taken over under workers’ democratic control and run on the basis of human need. The revolutionary union seeks to organise a system of free councils without subordination to any authority or political party, bar none. These organisations of the working class both administer production and distribution according to needs, and supplant the authority of the state. Militias are formed to defend the revolution from the external forces of capitalism and to shut down the forces of the state. The building blocks of the new society are put in place on top of the foundations laid by the preceding struggles.

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 31 2015 02:46

I agree totally with those who say it depends on your concrete circumstances...on the concrete organizing opportunities open to you & your workmates.

I don't really know the situ in Britain so I'm no help to you there. My organizing experience has mostly been in California. I and other anarcho-syndicalists or libertarian socialists I know have organized both new unions from scratch and also independent committees in the context of the bureaucratic unions (AFL-CIO, SEIU, etc in USA).

Based on what I know about unions in USA, I also will say that prospects in the context of the bureaucratic unions varies depending on the character of the union. Nowadays in USA there often aren't even elected shop stewards and some unions have even stopped having local meetings. Even so when they are considering demands against employer, new contracts or contract ratifications, they have meetings. These are a mass context & the officials are one factor & it is possible for an organized group to intervene in such a situ, to lay out its perspective.

But it's much better if one is in a situation where one is trying to organize a union from scratch I think because that gives you the opportunity to pull people you work with together around libertarian principles as far as how it is run & what methods you'll use.

But in Britain I understand union membership is far higher than in USA. But even in USA union membership in railways is very high. But the two main unions of crews are completely top down craft unions. So lately many militants have formed an independent organization, Railway Workers United, which is cross-union & can organize independently of the unions. They've held various conferences here with climate justice & enviro groups because safety is a major issue for rail workers here & there have been huge propblems with safety of oil trains which is also a climate justice movement focus as well. so the workers are trying to build community support via this alliance with the more grassroots enviro groups. The major big fight of RWU was over the railways proposal to cut crew size on freight trains to just one person, the driver. So far they've defeated this for over the road trains. Some of the leaders of RWU are libertarian syndicalists by the way.

This is by way of giving an example of building a parallel organization to the coopted & legalistic bureaucratic unions.

But as I say I favor creating new organizations from scratch where feasible. I've done this myself in the past but in that case it depended in practice on a united front of independent socialists & the more democratic Marxists working with anarcho-syndicalists. Clearly it is important if you can develop a commmittee of others of like mind in the area where you work. That is a very initial step. I do not agree at all with people who think that a movement emerges "spontaneously." Preparation, organization, laying seeds, popular education....all are important.

I also think that the more medium term aim should be to build a kind of class union in the region where you are...that is, workers in various industries or occupations being united together in the same union. I think this is key for being able to deal with the general social & political situ in the cities.

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Ivysyn
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Jan 2 2016 08:07
boozemonarchy wrote:
deathspiritcommunist wrote:
Fai1937 wrote:
Do solfed still see this revolutionary union as the basis of a future anarchist society?

deathspiritcommunist wrote:
I think as usual a diversity of tactics is preferable. Silent minorities and social insertion have their uses especially with reactionary, bureaucratic, national unions, however as Solfed states the ultimate goal of the anarcho-syndicalist project is the building of a mass revolutionary union movement.

It's not really that they think this is the basis for an Anarchist society, it's more that they see an Anarchist society as one to be achieved through a mass revolutionary union movement.

I consider myself as very close to anarcho-syndicalism though I do not envision a-s union structures as existing in a post-revolutionary situation. Instead, I see the mass revolutionary movement as prefiguring in two ways:the development of a massive worldwide culture of prole solidarity and the actual physical appropriation of the means of production that will destroy the parasitic class. I imagine that existing union structures will probably be found undesirable / inadequate given the massive retooling of production and distributions needed to sustain life on earth. Instead, new forms will emerge likely during the struggle against capitalism and later, during the struggle for communist organization.

I completely agree. Rudolf Rocker in "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism" describes this process as the working class developing through federative worker's organization, unions that would act as associations of workers for worker's struggles against the nascent society and for a free-society based on Anarchist Socialism. He states that once this society of freedom and common life is achieved the unions will, since they no longer can be associations of workers for struggle against capitalist society (as capitalist society will have been abolished), become syndicates for the organization of the new, free, and common social life. This to me would mean that they cease to function as unions and become just another appendage of socialist production and reproduction.

orkhis
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Jan 2 2016 09:50

Whilst I have a lot of time for anarcho-syndicalism as a tactic and organisational form, I think those who argue against organising outside explicitly anarcho-syndicalist need to understand that a group of 12 people working in different workplaces is not an anarcho-syndicalist union/syndicate and is unable to act as one.

There are obvious limitations with working inside other unions, even at branch level, but if it's a choice between that and being part of an afinity group which shares a critique of reformist unions but lacks the members of density to function as a union, I don't think anyone can be condemned for choosing the first option.

akai
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Jan 2 2016 10:31

Well, l certainly do not condemn anybody for joining a mainstream union if they have no way to act otherwise, which is often the case. However, l would point out that a few years ago we started our organization with exactly 12 people, in different cities and workplaces but now we can even win strikes inside workplaces. That does not mean that we can do that in every workplace we are present, nor can we be present in every workplace where our members are, But the reality of the working world is complex and, quite frankly, we are in also in places and doing things that the mainstream unions don't do, either because it is not profitable or because it doesn't fit in the legal framework. For example, can you believe that there is one political party in Poland which has been saying over and over again that people in small workplaces cannot make unions because they don't fulfill the legal number of workers ... but this is completely ignoring the point that they can all unionize in reality, in structures like our unions, and they can also win their demands from their bosses - actually much more easily than in some workplace with thousands of workers and a dozen unions, half of them all sold out to the bosses to keep their paid positions. Anyway, l don't know about you, but in my area of work, many people are dispersed, working on false self-employment contracts or on temporary contracts and the mainstream unions can offer us completely nothing. There are no unions for us except mine. Unfortunately, most people don't see the point in unionizing yet and only get angry when they are personally fucked over... but l am absolutely certain that when the shit does hit the fan, only we will be equipped to act in this environment where the mainstream unions have no strategy and no legal framework.