Socialist Industrial Unionism

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AJI
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Aug 21 2011 22:14
Socialist Industrial Unionism

I thought it would be interesting to start a thread here about this particular brand of revolutionary Industrial Unionism. I've been in and out of a couple groups that espoused this ideology, and though I still do am currently un-organized. Here's a couple texts for people who would like a little more information, they were suggested reading when I was in the Workers' International Industrial Union.

"The Road to Power or The Constructive Elements of Socialism” by Karl Dannenberg: http://zinelibrary.info/road-power.

“One Great Union” By W.E. Trautman: http://zinelibrary.info/one-great-union.

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Aug 22 2011 12:33

The key difference between this approach and the (Chicago) IWW approach, as I understand it, is that this tendency thinks that getting involved in the political structures of the capitalist state can be a useful way of furthering revolutionary goals where as the modern IWW, and the majority of the union when it split in 1908.

If that's right, I wander if you could explain, or link to explanations of, why you think that engagement in the politics of the capitalist state in the US today could be useful for furthering the goals of revolutionary unionism.

(for the record I'm a wob, and agree with the Chicago faction, but would be interested to hear a contemporary version of the De Leonist case.)

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Aug 22 2011 12:50
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The key difference between this approach and the (Chicago) IWW approach, as I understand it, is that this tendency thinks that getting involved in the political structures of the capitalist state can be a useful way of furthering revolutionary goals where as the modern IWW, and the majority of the union when it split in 1908.

Not so cut and dry tho, the NLRB (in the States) and registering with the state as a trade union (in the UK) is engaging with the 'political structures of the capitalist state'. My point is, I agree with you, but we should judge organisations by their actions, not their rhetoric.

Regarding OP, I'm not sure of the relevance or utility of trying to create such an organisation (1) when were at such a low point of struggle. It seems more like a political project than an economic one. And (2) why we would do so when the organizations like the IWW already exist.

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Aug 22 2011 16:02

Ok, not political structures, representative structures or parliamentary structures then. Basically setting up or cooperating with a political party that runs candidates in elections.

The whole question of whether to engage with the state's system of union management is another, albeit related, one which has caused it's own splits, of course, in the CNT (creating the CGT) and from the IWA (SAC) if I recall correctly. But that's another issue.

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Aug 22 2011 16:28

Ummm...it is and it isn't. I mean, "the state's system of union management" (which I tend to call the labour-relations regime) is inherently political. The state makes a political choice to promote "labour peace" with the unions in an effort to both control unions--those supposed organs of working class organisation--and to inhibit industrial action that threatens the smooth functioning of capitalism. What's the quote? "Politics is the shadow cast one society by economics."

In any case, I take your point, there is a difference between registering a union with the state and openly supporting, funding, or being an adjunct part of a political party.

Lots of the IWA splits are around the use of works councils that are legislated into the labour-relations systems in most European countries, with the splitting group wanting to use them. So it's a bit more complicated (and even more complicated with the SAC) than simply engaging with the state's union machinery.

syndicalist
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Aug 22 2011 17:31

wierd... i posted something elsewhere on a similiar topic...... here's the substance of that posting:

Quote:
[quote author=syndicalist link=topic=9199.msg85389#msg85389 date=1313863541]
I was thumbing through some pages on "socialist industrial unionism" (out of general interest), I came across this curious piece. This is an SLP party-line reply (well, after all, it was published in their press).

Anyway, as "Black Flame" has a segment on De Leonism (inevitably the SIU Program), I thought this might make for some fun conversation.

So....

Quote:
The difference between socialist industrial unions and soviets or workers' councils

The People February 6, 1993 page 6 Question Period

What is the difference between the socialist industrial unions advocated by the SLP, and the Soviets, or workers' councils, that arose in Russia in 1905 and again in 1917? Since the Soviets were the spontaneous product of workers' uprisings, and socialist industrial unions are just an abstract concept, shouldn't Soviets be the preferred form for a workers' government?

ANSWER

Socialist industrial unions are 'unions that embody the true mission of unionism-organizing and uniting the entire working class for the express purpose of taking, holding and operating the industries, putting an end to capitalist-class rule in its entirety. They are central to the establishment of a genuine socialist society; they would at once provide the organized economic might needed to ensure the defeat of the capitalist system and provide the basic organizational structure of the socialist industrial government.

Through the socialist industrial unions, every worker in a socialist society would have a voice and a vote in the running of their own workplace, their particular industry, and the economy as a whole. Meeting where they work, the workers would elect, and recall as necessary, their own managers, their own representatives to local, regional and national councils charged with administering their industry, and their own representatives to an all-industry congress charged with administering the economy as a whole.

Soviets, on the other hand, were essentially political, or parliamentary, bodies-elected by factory workers, and subsequently by soldiers, sailors and peasants as well. They were first formed by representatives of strike committees in 1905, and to a limited extent tried to function as an alternative, workers' government in some cities before that rebellion was crushed.

They re-emerged in 1917 and became the central organs of the new Russian state following the October Revolution, but were soon subordinated to the party-dominated Supreme Economic Council, the Council of People's Commissars and other party-run administrative bodies in the emerging hierarchy. In time, they became purely formal, rubber-stamp legislative councils, thoroughly controlled by the party bureaucracy.

Geographic vs. Industrial Organs

The key word here is that the so-viets were state bodies-organs of continued class rule, standing over society as a whole, not of workers' self-government. They were never intended to be used to administer the means of production and distribution: They were geographically based, not industrially based bodies, organized by city or village, district, county, and region, with an All-Russian Congress of Soviets ostensibly representing the nation as a whole. Accordingly, they were not, and are not, an appropriate model for the classless society of socialism, in which the workers themselves, collectively and democratically, are to administer the forces of production and distribution.

(It should be noted that the Soviets are sometimes confused with the factory committees that the Russian workers formed in 1917-which were industrially based organizations aiming to establish democratic workers' control over the forces of production. However, those bodies, too, were subordinated to the party-state machinery in short order, before they could form their own central authority for administering the economy as a whole.)

As to the second question, while it is true that the Soviets were created by workers during a revolutionary period, that does not confer superior status on them. Neither does the fact that they were more "spontaneous" in their origin. Actually, there is no such thing as a "spontaneous" organization; no organization can be formed without some degree of forethought.

'Spontaneity' Is No Virtue

Nonetheless, some "revolutionary" theorists make a fetish of "spontaneity," contending, in effect, that only organizations built in the heat of crisis, with little forethought, are truly "revolutionary," and that there is no point to trying to build revolutionary organizations with greater forethought and deliberateness.

That notion is refuted by common sense and historical experience. The Paris Commune, the factory committees and similar bodies of workers' power formed in Russia in 1917, Germany in 1918, Spain in the 1930s, Portugal in 1974, etc.-however inspiring and instructive their history may be-all suffered from the lack of a coherent and unifying program for administering the economy going into the revolutionary period, and all were defeated, in part, because of it.

Moreover, the Soviets were the product of a workers' uprising in an underdeveloped country that was far from being ripe for socialism; their inadequacies reflect those circumstances. And the final fate of the Russian Soviets and the "Soviet" government hardly recommends them as a model organization for Socialists to advocate today.

Finally, while it is true that there are no socialist industrial unions in existence today, the SIU concept is not a mere abstraction. It is itself a product of the class struggle in the United States, the most developed capitalist nation in the world, a nation that is ripe for socialism, at least in terms of having the necessary material foundation. The SIU program was formulated and first articulated by Daniel De Leon, but he didn't just dream it up: It evolved as a consequence of the lessons learned by the SLP in the course of its involvement in the class struggle and its efforts to build socialism under U.S. conditions.

More specifically, it evolved as De Leon and the SLP identified the pitfalls of the "purely political" or reformist "socialism" of the Socialist Party, on the one hand, and the pitfalls of "pure and simple," or pro-capitalist, trade unionism on the other. From these experiences, De Leon and the SLP drew the logical conclusion that a classconscious, economic organization of labor must play an essential, leading role in the establishment of socialism, with the party playing an equally essential, but supporting and transitory role. The SIU concept took concrete form with the organization of the original Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, though that effort came to naught when anarchist forces disrupted and split the organization in 1908.

But that initial disaster does not disprove the correctness of the concept. On the contrary, historical experience since then-including the fate of the Bolshevik Revolution and other attempts to reconstruct society under the political rule of a party-has only further affirmed that the socialist industrial union program is the real pathway to genuine socialism.

http://www.deleonism.org/text/93020601.htm

Spikymike
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Aug 22 2011 18:10

Well Deleon was a professor of law wasn't he? I'm convinced that his particular version of 'industrial unionism' with it's graphic and detailed structures for the running of a workers republic (in north America to start with it seemed) reflected that training, as well as the turn of the century concepts common in the socialist movement of the time of 'building the framework for socialism within the shell of capitalism'

It may have been an advance on the purely political and reformist politics of other social democratic parties (and the subsequent SPGB/WSPA) but didn't escape the limitations of the period.

The development of varying forms of workers assemblies and council's from 1905 on in the course of mass struggles seems to have demonstrated the limitations of these industrial union concepts.

In practice though SLP militants (from what I know of them in the UK) were to take a more flexible approach to the everyday class struggle whatever their formal commitment to SIUism.

syndicalist
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Aug 22 2011 18:57
Quote:
In practice though SLP militants (from what I know of them in the UK) were to take a more flexible approach to the everyday class struggle whatever their formal commitment to SIUism.

Spikeymike....you mean historically? Yes, the British SLP back at the turn of the last century was more flexibile and independent.

The Wiki link is pretty good, with additional links:

British SLP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Labour_Party_(UK,_1903)

British IWW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Advocates_of_Industrial_Unionism

scotchwallace
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Aug 22 2011 20:15

I was once a member of the SLP, and in 1980 I ran for congress under the SLP banner. I've been a proponent of Industrial Unionism for over 30 years, and I have worked hard trying to get the message out, but it is difficult. My efforts have, by economic necessity, been confined to passing out leaflets and holding up signs and banners. But when I ran for congress, I had the experience of talking to thousands of people during the process of gathering signatures to get on the ballot. I was invited to speak at league of Women Voters events, I was interviewed on a large radio station. My voice and message reached more people in that short campaign than I have reached in the rest of my life as a radical. You may say,"big deal, you still accomplished nothing!" And I would have to acknowledge that you are right. But imagine 100 people throughout the country running for congress, upholding the concept of industrial unionism, urging working people to organize for the purpose of putting the means of production under democratic control. I believe that would have an impact. Thirty years later I'm a member of the WIIU, and the Socialist Party, and I'm considering running for congress again. And I'm looking for 100 comrades to join me in that endeavor. Yes, I do indeed see a purpose for political action.

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Aug 22 2011 20:46

Wrong forum mate...

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Aug 22 2011 22:48

I actually think his point of using political campaigns as an educational forum, whether one agrees with it or not (and I think, on practical grounds alone, and increasingly, in the usa it's an impossibility) is totally relevant to the OP, so it's not the wrong forum, given the premises of the OP and subsequent discussion.

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Aug 22 2011 23:22

Yeah, I meant this forum (libcom generally) is not the right place to try and recruit "100 comrades" to run for congress... roll eyes

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Aug 22 2011 23:38

Ok. I just took him to be using that little fact to flesh out his description of what he's currently doing party-politically, not actually trying to recruit us here. (he's probably in a rhythm of it all where it just spills out. But he can say so himself, I'm sure, when he responds.)

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Aug 22 2011 23:38
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Yeah, I meant this forum (libcom generally) is not the right place to try and recruit "100 comrades" to run for congress... roll eyes

Yes, all it takes is a good appeal to orthodox to crush an argument.

syndicalist
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Aug 23 2011 00:04

Actually, I would agree with the spirit of Chili, that this prolly isn't the place to recruit supporters for electoral politics.

I gather the comrade is involved with trying to resurect
the old De Leonist Workers International Industrial Union: http://www.wiiu.org/
I suppose it would be interesting to hear a presentation on the WIIU and how it intends to be relevant in 2011. That'd be interesting, not a push for electoralism IMHO.

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Aug 23 2011 00:38
RedEd wrote:
The key difference between this approach and the (Chicago) IWW approach, as I understand it, is that this tendency thinks that getting involved in the political structures of the capitalist state can be a useful way of furthering revolutionary goals where as the modern IWW, and the majority of the union when it split in 1908.

If that's right, I wander if you could explain, or link to explanations of, why you think that engagement in the politics of the capitalist state in the US today could be useful for furthering the goals of revolutionary unionism.

That's the key difference. Personally I think we should use whatever means are necessary as long as we don't become what we oppose. Part of this is starting from a legal, peaceful campaign, even if it's just to prove we need to do away with the system out right.

I was in the IWW before I was in the SLP or the WIIU for what it's worth, though I was already a De Leonist.

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Aug 23 2011 00:42
syndicalist wrote:
wierd... i posted something elsewhere on a similiar topic...... here's the substance of that posting:

Thanks for sharing! What do you think?

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Aug 23 2011 00:48
Spikymike wrote:
Well Deleon was a professor of law wasn't he? I'm convinced that his particular version of 'industrial unionism' with it's graphic and detailed structures for the running of a workers republic (in north America to start with it seemed) reflected that training, as well as the turn of the century concepts common in the socialist movement of the time of 'building the framework for socialism within the shell of capitalism'

Yes, De Leon was a Law professor. I think you've hit on the problems. When I was in the SLP of America I was pushing a sort of ParEcon line for while, that we needed to expand and make it more relevant, but it went no where. I still have vision of Socialist Industrial Unionism as a basic organizational structure, but it needs more. Auxiliaries and/or caucuses for people of color, women, LGBT folks, and the community and consumer organizations of ParEcon... something like that.

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Aug 23 2011 00:50
scotchwallace wrote:
I was once a member of the SLP, and in 1980 I ran for congress under the SLP banner. I've been a proponent of Industrial Unionism for over 30 years, and I have worked hard trying to get the message out, but it is difficult. My efforts have, by economic necessity, been confined to passing out leaflets and holding up signs and banners. But when I ran for congress, I had the experience of talking to thousands of people during the process of gathering signatures to get on the ballot. I was invited to speak at league of Women Voters events, I was interviewed on a large radio station. My voice and message reached more people in that short campaign than I have reached in the rest of my life as a radical. You may say,"big deal, you still accomplished nothing!" And I would have to acknowledge that you are right. But imagine 100 people throughout the country running for congress, upholding the concept of industrial unionism, urging working people to organize for the purpose of putting the means of production under democratic control. I believe that would have an impact. Thirty years later I'm a member of the WIIU, and the Socialist Party, and I'm considering running for congress again. And I'm looking for 100 comrades to join me in that endeavor. Yes, I do indeed see a purpose for political action.

Oh hey Scot-this is Alex the farm laborer and card weaver who was in Industrial Union News a few times, thanks for weighing in!

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Aug 23 2011 00:56

I can only speak for myself, not the rest of the WIIU, but I got involved because I'm also a member of a teachers' union, which began to hold rallies to protest the austerity measures to which we are being subjected. The union portrayed our situation purely in terms of corruption and incompetence on the part of the school board, without uttering a word about the crisis of capitalism we're experiencing. I decided to put some leaflets together contrasting the reformist posture of the teachers' union to the class struggle approach of the WIIU. I was hopeful that we could get an industrial union caucus started within the teachers union, in much the same way Frank Girard was attempting to organize back in the 80's. My approach has not been subtle. I go to rallies with a big banner that says "No Solution Under Capitalism, Think Outside The Box". The union bureaucrats, of course, do not appreciate my efforts to recruit revolutionary industrial unionists. I figure I'll cap off this campaign with a run for congress. If I didn't see potential in this political approach, I would simply join the IWW.

I also see great potential in what I like to call revolutionary cooperativism, and have advocated that within the WIIU

scotchwallace
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Aug 23 2011 01:01

Hey Alex, good to hear from you!

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Aug 23 2011 01:02

fucking depressing fantasy paper organisations... sad

syndicalist
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Aug 23 2011 01:30
AJI wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
wierd... i posted something elsewhere on a similiar topic...... here's the substance of that posting:

Thanks for sharing! What do you think?

Well, candidly, not a whole lot ..... but I have a curiousity in the SUP/SLP/"Detroit IWW in textile that goes back to the 1970s.... mainly because some of the old timers from Section______ had my public library subscribed to the Weekly People ..... but I have been committed to anarcho-syndicalism since that time ....but found folks who left the SLP (folks around Phila. Solidarity, League for Economic Democracy, the DB, all to be very interesting and comrades engaged n the struggle for a libertarian socialism that was similiar to my own views, but based on a sort of marxian varient of syndicalism and libertarian marxism..... Basically, truthfully, all I have is just intellectal and historical interest only.

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Aug 23 2011 02:21
scotchwallace wrote:
Hey Alex, good to hear from you!

Likewise, it's good to read from you. I didn't realize you were also an SLP man, though you ran for congress the year I was born, which I think is pretty cool. The youngest members of the Party I knew were a sold 25 or so years older than me in Section Portland. Good people. I miss the SLP Newsletter, it was very intellectually stimulating, but it wasn't worth staying in for. If I wasn't going to be a full time activist, I didn't see a point in being in the Party, and after two years I never recruited anybody so I wanted to figure something else out especially after my failed attempt to work ParEcon into the Program as I wrote about above.

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Aug 23 2011 02:28
888 wrote:
fucking depressing fantasy paper organisations... :(

You've gotta start somewhere. Last time I checked, the IWW was still a fraction of the size of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance in its heyday.

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Aug 23 2011 02:32
syndicalist wrote:
Well, candidly, not a whole lot ..... but I have a curiousity in the SUP/SLP/"Detroit IWW in textile that goes back to the 1970s.... mainly because some of the old timers from Section______ had my public library subscribed to the Weekly People ..... but I have been committed to anarcho-syndicalism since that time ....but found folks who left the SLP (folks around Phila. Solidarity, League for Economic Democracy, the DB, all to be very interesting and comrades engaged n the struggle for a libertarian socialism that was similiar to my own views, but based on a sort of marxian varient of syndicalism and libertarian marxism..... Basically, truthfully, all I have is just intellectal and historical interest only.

That's cool. After looking at your info I checkout the WSA it looks promising, I'm going to save the link and peruse it more later, and HEY! I really dig cumbia. Have you ever heard Grupo Kual? Dinestia Pedraza? They are excellent.

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Aug 23 2011 04:49

I don't know much about any of this. Did the "Detroit IWW" or historical WIIU ever do any actual successful organizing? Has the current WIIU, which I understand to be at around 5-6 members nationwide done any actual organizing?

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Aug 23 2011 08:54
jacobian wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Yeah, I meant this forum (libcom generally) is not the right place to try and recruit "100 comrades" to run for congress... roll eyes

Yes, all it takes is a good appeal to orthodox to crush an argument.

Seriously, why would I bother? Someone obviously came to this forum unaware of the explicitly anti-state bias of the website and is advocated running for state office. If, however, you feel like responding and getting into a very long, drawn out debate about how the state in an inherently bourgeois institution and co-opts even the most dedicated radical who joins it, have fun.

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Aug 23 2011 09:00
scotchwallace wrote:
I can only speak for myself, not the rest of the WIIU, but I got involved because I'm also a member of a teachers' union, which began to hold rallies to protest the austerity measures to which we are being subjected. The union portrayed our situation purely in terms of corruption and incompetence on the part of the school board, without uttering a word about the crisis of capitalism we're experiencing. I decided to put some leaflets together contrasting the reformist posture of the teachers' union to the class struggle approach of the WIIU. I was hopeful that we could get an industrial union caucus started within the teachers union, in much the same way Frank Girard was attempting to organize back in the 80's.

http://unify-oneunion.org.uk/

It's not industrial, per se, as it doesn't include grades outside of teachers, but the guy who runs would probably be worth you talking to.

From a anarcho-syndicalist perspective, industrial trade unions still mediate struggle and that's the fundamental problem. It's not craft/grade vs. industrial, it's unmediated industrial organization vs. trade unionism.

jacobian
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Aug 23 2011 10:30
syndicalist wrote:
Actually, I would agree with the spirit of Chili, that this prolly isn't the place to recruit supporters for electoral politics.

There is an enormous problem when people decide to take tactics and raise them up to immutable principles. It's a recipe for dogmatic adherence to failure.

There's almost not a single tactic that can't be used in some context such that it improves the situation of the working class.

Electoral politics has loads of negatives so anyone who suggests use of it obviously has the onus on them to present why it's not very likely to be a failure.

However, the point made was clearly valid. This comrade had more contact and more conversations with the working class in this small period than before or after. It takes more than knee-jerk orthodoxy to counter arguments like that successfully. Sensible people will look at it and think you're just a an ideologue, and they'll be right.

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Aug 23 2011 20:24

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