Syndicalism / councilism

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SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Jul 31 2012 09:49
Syndicalism / councilism

Very quick question: is it fair to say that a council communist system does not necessarily entail syndicalism, but that syndicalist system might well involve councilism?

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Steven.
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Jul 31 2012 10:22

hmm I think it would be more accurate to say that both could entail either. The AAUD, for example, had both syndicalist and council communist elements. And Paul Mattick was a leading council communist who was also a member of the syndicalist IWW.

slothjabber
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Jul 31 2012 12:00
SatanIsMyCoPilot wrote:
Very quick question: is it fair to say that a council communist system does not necessarily entail syndicalism, but that syndicalist system might well involve councilism?

That sentence means the same the opposite way round. "... a council communist system does not necessarily entail syndicalism (but might well)... [a] syndicalist system might well involve councilism (but does not necessarily)..."

In Russia, if I remember my history correctly, the Anarcho-syndicalists around the paper 'Golos Truda' (Workers' Voice) almost immediately split (in mid-1917) over the question of the workers' councils - one faction (around GP Maximov) supporting the councils as organs of class power and the reorganisation of society, the other seeing them as unofficial union bodies that should be intergrated into the union apparatus.

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demolition squid
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Jul 31 2012 18:12

Obsolete forms of struggle are obsolete.

syndicalist
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Jul 31 2012 18:27

From a classical A/S point of view, Rocker sorta touches on this here:

The Soviet System or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
http://www.anarchosyndicalism.net/rocker/soviet.htm

RedFlagg
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Jul 31 2012 18:41
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Obsolete forms of struggle are obsolete.

I'm curious as to why councilism would be considered an "obsolete" form of struggle. Unless you are referring to Syndicalism, but even then I have my doubts that it is obsolete.

By the "soviet-system," one could either be implying proletarian rule through councils, or soviets; alternatively, it could imply the authoritarian single-party state that arose from the ashes of councilism in the Russian Civil War.

Workers' councils are not only desirable, but are also necessary IMHO to take over and run industries in a country if we are to presume the new state is to be council-based.

Councils in Russia had their limitations, however. Lack of education, which I don't fear will be as big an issue in the 21st century, hurt the Russian economy expropriated by the proletariat through rapid inflation, etc.

I think that with the internet and modern levels of education, council-socialism will win out in the long run over that of capitalism.

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Jul 31 2012 18:46
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In Russia, if I remember my history correctly, the Anarcho-syndicalists around the paper 'Golos Truda' (Workers' Voice) almost immediately split (in mid-1917) over the question of the workers' councils

Council communism is different from the workers councils that anarcho-syndicalists set up. Council communists tend to still organise on a centralist line, using the lingo of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as opposed to the horizontalist, federalist A/S model.

The original post - I agree with Steven.

Harrison
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Aug 1 2012 16:08
plasmatelly wrote:
Council communism is different from the workers councils that anarcho-syndicalists set up.

Almost the entire membership of the IWA's anarcho-syndicalist FAUD in Germany were also members of the AAUD (revolutionary workers councils based in the factories and heavily endorsed by the council communist KAPD) in 1919. I think that is decent evidence of the fact that anarcho-syndicalist workers councils and council communist workers councils are one and the same.

plasmatelly wrote:
Council communists tend to still organise on a centralist line, using the lingo of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as opposed to the horizontalist, federalist A/S model.

Agree with this to an extent - some currents did, others didn't. The tendencies grouped around Otto Ruhle and the AAUE, (and also Anton Pannekoek toward his later works) refused the centralised party model (and even then, the KAPD wasn't centralised to the point of a leninist party - ie. there was far more branch autonomy. but even then the AAUE currents broke with the (KAPD) party model claiming that the party was still led by an intellectual elite and disliking the paid functionaries).

You may be confusing left communist groups (ie. ICC, CWO) , many of which adopt elements of council communism. Council communism itself is rather different...

The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' for council communists purely refers to the power of workers councils.

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Aug 1 2012 18:55
RedFlagg wrote:
Quote:
Obsolete forms of struggle are obsolete.

I'm curious as to why councilism would be considered an "obsolete" form of struggle. Unless you are referring to Syndicalism, but even then I have my doubts that it is obsolete.

By the "soviet-system," one could either be implying proletarian rule through councils, or soviets; alternatively, it could imply the authoritarian single-party state that arose from the ashes of councilism in the Russian Civil War.

Workers' councils are not only desirable, but are also necessary IMHO to take over and run industries in a country if we are to presume the new state is to be council-based.

Councils in Russia had their limitations, however. Lack of education, which I don't fear will be as big an issue in the 21st century, hurt the Russian economy expropriated by the proletariat through rapid inflation, etc.

I think that with the internet and modern levels of education, council-socialism will win out in the long run over that of capitalism.

There's two primary reasons why what you're saying is dumb:

1. You fail to recognize the nature of the modern workforce, specifically the role that precarity plays in making syndicalism and/or councilism impossible. There's a reason that the precarious labor force is not, for the most part, unionized. Additionally syndicalism/councilism seems to imply that working can ever be revolutionary. The worker as revolutionary subject is no longer possible.

2. There's no such thing as a revolutionary state. Ever. Period.

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Aug 1 2012 19:45

First @demolition squid I don't think RedFlagg was arguing for a revolutionary state, where did they say that at all? The question of if syndicalism or in the council communist tradition "unionism" (i.e. aka marxist syndicalism of AAUD modeled after the IWW via factory organizations based on an assembly model with factory committees of delegates as the councils) can work in "precarity" is worth while bringing up. I think we can still see this though as moving in the direction of autonomous workers organization that could be helpful for fighting day to day as well as towards the abolition of work.

Quote:
Almost the entire membership of the IWA's anarcho-syndicalist FAUD in Germany were also members of the AAUD (revolutionary workers councils based in the factories and heavily endorsed by the council communist KAPD) in 1919. I think that is decent evidence of the fact that anarcho-syndicalist workers councils and council communist workers councils are one and the same.

You learn something new every day. It is also fairly important to me to note that later day council communism via the GIKH and the KAUD went in a federalist direction. You can see influence in this eventually in the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation in the UK as well. Generally I really feel these two currents have a lot of theory to merge and adapt from each other. I think the important lesson to learn from them is that workers self-organization via assemblies, councils, and base organizations on the mass level is the vehicle towards social revolution. I think they also pointed towards historically why the mass party and trade union forms are obsolete. Some groups in this tradition like ICC and ICT have kept the idea that a sort of revolutionary party could be useful, but I think I'd agree more with modern day councilists, anarchists, syndicalists that various formal active minorities are better set up as just revolutionary organizations and drop the party terminology baggage. If we are going to talk about any party I think it better be the historical/material party i.e. the "vanguard" and gathering of all the collective pro-revolutionary forces in struggle. For me it is pretty simple we have pro-revolutionary minority organizations and various forms of workers organizations some open to all, some explicitly anti-capitalist, some a mix of all of the above. I think the continued success of these forms will be determined through struggle.

*Also* On an interesting note, I was reading through Mahkno's memoirs and I was surprised when I heard about how they transformed the Peasant's Union into a Peasant's Soviet. I think this very early shows the validity that in revolutionary situations such forms are shown up to be obsolete for the extension of the struggle, though they could be possible towards working towards such a period where such is necessary. In the case of Mahkno and all the Anarchist Communist Group he was a part of worked very closely with the Peasant's Union and sort of like the KAPD and the AAUD years later there wasn't seen any conflict in their aims because their aims were the same.

syndicalist
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Aug 2 2012 00:33

While I'm no expert on Germany, I, respectfully, have not heard this before:

Harrison wrote:

Quote:
Almost the entire membership of the IWA's anarcho-syndicalist FAUD in Germany were also members of the AAUD (revolutionary workers councils based in the factories and heavily endorsed by the council communist KAPD) in 1919.

Is there a source for this info? I've written to a few of my German a/s comrades for thier feedback.

Perhaps Harrison, you use FAUD-IWA for ID purposes, meaning it was A/S. As the IWA was not formed until 1922.

I recall that members of the AAUD were invited to attend FAUD Congresses and had fraternal realtions. I believe the Congress invites ended with the issue of participation in the Third International. But I'm stretching the memory banks at the moment.

Yeah, it'd be good to know from what sources you were able to cull that info, Harrison.

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Aug 2 2012 00:34

Paul Mattick's description of council communism differs very little from early 20th Century syndicalism:

Quote:
The Groups of Council Communists recognise also that no real social change is possible under present conditions unless the anti-capitalistic forces grow stronger than the pro-capitalist forces, and that it is impossible to organise anti-capitalistic forces of such a strength within capitalistic relations. From the analysis of present-day society and from a study of previous class struggles it concludes that spontaneous actions of dissatisfied masses will, in the process of their rebellion, create their own organisations, and that these organisations, arising out of the social conditions, alone can end the present social arrangement. The question of organisation as discussed today is regarded as a superfluous question, as the enterprises, public works, relief stations, armies in the coming war, are sufficient organisations to allow for mass action-organisations which cannot be eliminated regardless of what character capitalist society may assume.

Complete article here:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1939/council-communism.htm

As a De Leonist, when confronted with this topic, I usually try to find something that Daniel De Leon might have written on it:

Quote:
In a country like the United States, where, differently from France and other European countries, there is no compulsory military service to prepare the soil for militarily organized insurrection, but where, on the other hand and differently from everywhere else, large capitalism is in such bloom as to have ranked the proletariat into the battalions for an industrial insurrection, and thereby to have furnished the Revolution, as an equivalent for a military force, with a mighty non-military engine of physical force,—in such a country Syndicalism has no place. In such a country, whosoever struts in the phraseology of Syndicalism is as ridiculous as a monkey would be in the frozen North, or a Polar bear in the wilds of the torrid zone. The social-political atmosphere makes them freak-frauds.

The entire article can be read here:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/deleon/works/1909/3.htm

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Aug 2 2012 04:24
demolition squid wrote:
1. You fail to recognize the nature of the modern workforce, specifically the role that precarity plays in making syndicalism and/or councilism impossible.

I sort of swore I wasn't gonna get into libcom forum discussions for the rest of the summer, but you roped me in!

Whether syndicalism or councilism is impossible, I don't know. I'm inclined to disagree, but I don't really view either as monolithic programs to be implemented, but instead traditions with a tons of valuable insights and practice worth taking very seriously and adapting. But the whole 'precarity' thing seems more like a European thing. What I mean by this, is that this discourse, from what I know, arose at the point the social democratic consensus in Europe was being broken. We've never really had a social democratic consensus here. In fact, I would say precarity has always been the norm in the U.S., and all the writings from Europe about it don't have much to offer us here.

For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

If anything, precarity has been (is?) a facilitator of syndicalism and councilism.

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Aug 2 2012 05:38

Thanks Juan for saying the extra bits I wanted to say but forgot to in my last post.

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Aug 2 2012 10:29
Juan Conatz wrote:
If anything, precarity has been (is?) a facilitator of syndicalism and councilism.

this particularly true of the german council movement which had a significant number of unemployed shop stewards, who rejected trade unionism and parlimentarianism in the form of the social democratic party after bitter experiences in militant struggles, and took part in the formation of mass political-economic organisations, e.g. AAUD-E.

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Aug 2 2012 11:25

Book O'Dead wrote -

Quote:
As a De Leonist, when confronted with this topic, I usually try to find something that Daniel De Leon might have written on it:

Hi Book - and welcome! As you're a DeLeonist I'm just wondering if you're a member of organisation/party/union?

Harrison
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Aug 2 2012 11:29
syndicalist wrote:
While I'm no expert on Germany, I, respectfully, have not heard this before:

Harrison wrote:

Quote:
Almost the entire membership of the IWA's anarcho-syndicalist FAUD in Germany were also members of the AAUD (revolutionary workers councils based in the factories and heavily endorsed by the council communist KAPD) in 1919.

Is there a source for this info? I've written to a few of my German a/s comrades for thier feedback.

I'm maybe being a bit hyperbolic, ('almost the entire membership' is perhaps a little extreme) but here are a few sources

http://goo.gl/dmNX8
http://libcom.org/history/jelinek-wilhelm-willi-1889-1952

"It is worth noting that simultaneous to this the anarcho-syndicalist union the FAUD (Free Workers' Union of Germany) had roughly 200,000 members. The membership of the AAUD and FAUD often overlapped."
http://libcom.org/library/left-communism-its-ideology

syndicalist wrote:
Perhaps Harrison, you use FAUD-IWA for ID purposes, meaning it was A/S. As the IWA was not formed until 1922.

Thanks for pointing that out, I did indeed use FAUD-IWA for ID, the key thing I was trying to communicate is that the FAUD was as orthodox an anarcho-syndicalist union as they come, and its platform ("Declaration of Syndicalist Principles") was drafted by Rudolf Rocker.

Also (according to JK, i can't confirm what source the information is from), interestingly, the AAUD-E sent delegates to the founding conference of the IWA (although clearly the politics of the union were too different to warrant it joining, as i understand the AAUD / AAUD-E only wanted to limit their organisational demands to communism, and did not intend to fight wage struggles like the syndicalist unions - something that only makes sense during a period of mass revolutionary struggle).

Anyway, the reason i posted that point isn't to say "council communism and anarcho-syndicalism are one and the same", but rather to point out to plasma that council communists are actually in favour of genuine workers power and anarcho-syndicalists have historically recognised this.

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Aug 2 2012 11:53
Harrison wrote:
(according to JK, i can't confirm what source the information is from)

It's from Vadim Damier's book.

Vadim Damier wrote:
The final formation of the anarcho-syndicalist International (sometimes also known as the “Berlin International of labour unions”) took place at the constitutional congress which took place illegally in Berlin from December 25 1922 to January 2 1923, punctuated by police raids and arrests. Represented at it were the Argentine FORA, the Italian USI, the German FAUD, the Chilean division of the IWW, the Swedish union central SAC, the Norwegian syndicalist federation, the Union for syndicalist propaganda of Denmark, the Netherlands NAS, and the Mexican General Confederation of Workers. The delegates of the Spanish CNT were arrested before they reached Berlin. The Portuguese CGT sent a written endorsement. Attending with a deliberative vote were representatives of the left-communist German General Workers Union-Unitary Organization (AAUD-E), the German anarcho-syndicalist youth, the French CDS, the French federation of construction workers, the Federation of Youth of the Seine, delegates of the Russian anarcho-syndicalist emigration, the Czechoslovak Free Workers Union, and representatives of the international syndicalist bureaus created in 1920 and 1922 in the Netherlands and Germany. Altogether these organizations accounted for roughly two million members. [

As you say, I think the main differences were over whether to engage in partial struggles (with the councillists saying no, and that the union should therefore liquidate when the prospect of communist revolution receded). There was also disagreement over 'the dictatorship of the proletariat'. I don't know if this was purely semantic, or whether there remained differences over how workers councils should rule (iirc Rocker saw the DotP as a top down logic, even when refering to councils, which could only flourish in a bottom-up, federalist manner. I'm not sure that's particularly different to Ruhle, Pannekoek etc).

Something to add is that in Germany, both the anarcho-syndicalist FAUD and councillist AAUD used the german term 'union' (union) as opposed to Gewerkschaft (trade union) - the FAUD was actually formed out of the FVdG ('The Free Association of German Trade Unions - Gewerkschaft'), so this choice of words seems deliberate (differentiating their unionism from the established trade unions). However in France where much syndicalism developed, there was a much less developed trade union movement and this distinction wasn't usually made, the term used being syndicat/syndicaliste, which is usually translated as 'trade union/ist'. This leads some people to conclude syndicalism says trade unions are revolutionary (based on English translations of French/Spanish material) whereas council communism rejects this (based on German/Dutch critiques of trade unionism), and likewise to distinguish (bad) anarcho-syndicalist unions from (good) councillist 'factory organisations'. While there are important differences between the traditions, this particular line of argument seems to be down to translation issues (as the FAUD/AAUD example shows).

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Aug 2 2012 16:27
plasmatelly wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote -
Quote:
As a De Leonist, when confronted with this topic, I usually try to find something that Daniel De Leon might have written on it:

Hi Book - and welcome! As you're a DeLeonist I'm just wondering if you're a member of organisation/party/union?

Hi, Plasmatelly.

Yes, I am a member of the WIIU but to my discredit I have not kept up my dues nor helped it in any meaningful way:

http://www.wiiu.org/

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Aug 2 2012 20:05

Thanks Book, gonna give it a good look over tomorrow.

nastyned
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Aug 2 2012 22:02
Awesome Dude wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
and took part in the formation of mass political-economic organisations, e.g. AAUD-E.

Were the AAUD-E mass? I always got the impression they were small.

nastyned
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Aug 2 2012 22:02

DP

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Aug 2 2012 22:10

I think they got really big (100,000s) really fast and then got really small (100s) in the span of a decade or less.

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Aug 3 2012 06:54
Juan Conatz wrote:
I think they got really big (100,000s) really fast and then got really small (100s) in the span of a decade or less.

Yeah, they went from like 100,000 to 200 or so in little over 5 years (which tbf, fitted their philosophy that the union existed solely to make a revolutionary push and had no purpose outside of that possibility). Apparently the only organisation that came out of the failed revolution stronger than it went in was the FAUD. It also dwindled from 100,000+ to around 25,000 where it stabilised, but that compared to an average of 6-7,000 for the FVdG pre-WWI. Then fascism happened which killed off the FAUD too, which was apparently the largest organisational force on the non-state left during the Weimar period.

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Aug 3 2012 15:12
Awesome Dude wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
If anything, precarity has been (is?) a facilitator of syndicalism and councilism.

this particularly true of the german council movement which had a significant number of unemployed shop stewards, who rejected trade unionism and parlimentarianism in the form of the social democratic party after bitter experiences in militant struggles, and took part in the formation of mass political-economic organisations, e.g. AAUD-E.

And how many times has that been the case since then? It seems like these are exceptions which prove the rule.

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Aug 3 2012 15:17
Juan Conatz wrote:
For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

I think that if we look at the high points of syndicalism in the US we see that it is either a reformist ideology which loses sight of any revolutionary goals in favor of local reforms or it isn't large enough to be relevant. To be frank, I think the contemporary IWW is a combination of both those things.

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Aug 3 2012 20:53
demolition squid wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

I think that if we look at the high points of syndicalism in the US we see that it is either a reformist ideology which loses sight of any revolutionary goals in favor of local reforms or it isn't large enough to be relevant. To be frank, I think the contemporary IWW is a combination of both those things.

But that has nothing to with the precarity thing you were talking about before. I was simply using the historical IWW as an example of how precarity isn't actually the reason syndicalism/councilism is irrelevant.

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Aug 3 2012 21:52

agreed, you are entitled to your opinion demolition squid that the iww today is small and reformist, but that is certainly different than the historical example juan produced.

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Aug 4 2012 00:12
demolition squid wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

I think that if we look at the high points of syndicalism in the US we see that it is either a reformist ideology which loses sight of any revolutionary goals in favor of local reforms or it isn't large enough to be relevant. To be frank, I think the contemporary IWW is a combination of both those things.

Why do you think the IWW is reformist? Was it always that way?

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Aug 4 2012 00:54
Juan Conatz wrote:
demolition squid wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

I think that if we look at the high points of syndicalism in the US we see that it is either a reformist ideology which loses sight of any revolutionary goals in favor of local reforms or it isn't large enough to be relevant. To be frank, I think the contemporary IWW is a combination of both those things.

But that has nothing to with the precarity thing you were talking about before. I was simply using the historical IWW as an example of how precarity isn't actually the reason syndicalism/councilism is irrelevant.

I'm kind of amending my argument to say that EVEN IF what you're saying about precarity is true (I still have my doubts), syndicalism/councilism is still dead.

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Aug 4 2012 00:59
Book O'Dead wrote:
demolition squid wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
For example, what is the day labor agency but the 'shape up hall' of past longshoremen. What is the temp agency but the job agency you had to pay to get a job in the Northwest back in the day. Also, if you look at the high points of syndicalism in the U.S. (the historical IWW), there were extreme amounts of precarity, far more than now.

I think that if we look at the high points of syndicalism in the US we see that it is either a reformist ideology which loses sight of any revolutionary goals in favor of local reforms or it isn't large enough to be relevant. To be frank, I think the contemporary IWW is a combination of both those things.

Why do you think the IWW is reformist? Was it always that way?

I'm not super well versed in Wobbly history (at least not as much as a lot of folks here), but I don't think it's unfair to say that the contemporary IWW has sacrificed any sort of coherent, long-term revolutionary strategy for at best creating more union work places (which can never constitute a revolutionary strategy if we define revolution as something including the abolition of wage labor) and at worst the activist equivalent of civil war re-enactment. There are, perhaps, a few places where this isn't the case, but they are the exceptions which prove the rule.

TL;DR the 30's called, they want their ideology back.