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Anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism

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Jun 9 2007 16:19
Anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism

According to Gregori Maximov (historian of the Russian Revolution) the term anarcho-syndicalism was first used by members of the 'Chicago' or anarchist current of the IWW. This faction of the IWW was libertarian communist.

Anarcho-syndicalism is the fusion of syndicalism and anarchism; especially in relation to the common development of criticism of capitalism, the state, militarism and the causes of bureaucracy. Concerning anarcho-syndicalism today the Statutes of the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) insist on both the syndicalist demand for workers control of the economy which workers themselves create (revolutionary unionism) and the anarchist demand for a non-coercive stateless society (libertarian communism).

Until the day that members of the IWW start argueing for a Free Confederation of Workers Community and Union Federations, it is not libertarian communist but nothing more than Internationalist General Union, founded in the USA, by Union delegates from the USA, with its headquarters always in the USA.

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Jun 9 2007 19:00

Jacque,

No-one's said it's overtly libertarian communist. We could argue that 'economic freedom' and the abolition of the wage system can mean nothing other than base control by workers; 'political freedom'. The rejection of parliamentarianism and power political involvement, the emphasis on self-organisation and solidarity is plainly a part of the basic approach to collective empowerment and that such would inevitably come against government per se. Which is all true but none-the-less up in the clouds as far as the small collection of today's Wobblies are concerned.

What you don't get is that in places where the IWW's trying to grow and become a credible fighting organisation, the apparent need to get everyone to believe in an ideology as a starter practically wouldn't do shit to help them (or if you want, to 'build towards libertarian communism'). It's hard enough as it is to instil in others that you don't need to accept the boss-system or that root improvement can and must come about by their own efforts - as daft as that sounds. But this is also the most crucial thing, the creation of grassroots militancy and radicalism (or if you want, 'building towards libertarian communism'). So its putting our eggs into another pointless ideological propaganda basket or slowly growing a class-struggle network from below?

I've got mucho respect for the the IWA statutes and many of the unions therein (aside from its air of sectarianism and self-importance) but it is not 'anarcho-syndicalism' - it is an a/s international. A/s unions, groups and individuals exist outside it, and yes I'd say in no small part in the inspiration and practice of the IWW itself.

Quote:
nothing more than Internationalist General Union, founded in the USA, by Union delegates from the USA, with its headquarters always in the USA.

It doesn't really matter where the 'headquarters' or GEB are, but it would have to move from the USA if there was a greater concentration of members somewhere else.

Quote:
According to Gregori Maximov (historian of the Russian Revolution) the term anarcho-syndicalism was first used by members of the 'Chicago' or anarchist current of the IWW. This faction of the IWW was libertarian communist.

Where did Maximov say that, btw? I think there's been more than a few 'Chicago factions', but the only one I know about is what's sometimes used to represent the main organisation after the SLP split, the former having ditched any political ties to the union. There was anarchists involved in the 'split' (although the decision itself was made by the rank-and-file) but I'm not aware of libertarian communist groups fitting that description. There's the Marine Transport Workers IU closeness to Spanish revolutionaries, the Latin American branches attempt at affiliation to the IWA and so on, however.

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Jun 10 2007 12:17
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What you don't get is that in places where the IWW's trying to grow and become a credible fighting organisation, the apparent need to get everyone to believe in an ideology as a starter practically wouldn't do shit to help them (or if you want, to 'build towards libertarian communism').

What you dont get were Solfed is growing is comrades pretending to be a union when we clearly are not. Solfed is a political organisation at the moment moving towards the creation of anarcho syndicalist unions. The problem with the IWW atm in the UK, is that it is not a functioning union but it sells itself to workers as a union, what worries me, is how effective could IWW react if a group of workers joined the union and came under attack by their bosses, how effective could the IWW defend them?

I would also point out, that you join anarcho syndicalist unions like the CNT, USI and SAC as a worker, its not a union of anarchists its an anarcho syndicalist union.

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Jun 10 2007 13:35

Full disclosure: I'm a US anarcho-syndicalist and not in the IWW.

Is the critisim of the IWW that it's essentially US based and that is where it should focus its efforts? Aside from some of the more nuanced criticisms, this is the impression I'm walking away with. I can be absolutely wrong in this. Sorry folks, help me out here.

WeTheYouth
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Jun 10 2007 13:55
syndicalist wrote:
Full disclosure: I'm a US anarcho-syndicalist and not in the IWW.

Is the critisim of the IWW that it's essentially US based and that is where it should focus its efforts? Aside from some of the more nuanced criticisms, this is the impression I'm walking away with. I can be absolutely wrong in this. Sorry folks, help me out here.

Quote:
Until the day that members of the IWW start argueing for a Free Confederation of Workers Community and Union Federations, it is not libertarian communist but nothing more than Internationalist General Union,

No that is the main criticism.

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Jun 10 2007 16:16

So the IWA has sections that are not unions but political groups, espousing 'anarcho-sindicalist' ideolgy (to the extent that their 'industrial networks' exclude those anarchists and libertarian communists who are not specifically 'anarcho-sindicalist', and actual unions (if relatively small) which are not specfically political!

The IWW has nominally revolutionary objectives but is not political and in many places promotes itself as a union but in practice is more like the IWA-Sol Fed, namely a ploitical group, espousing 'industrial unionism'.

It seems both organisations have members doing some useful work, but neither seem to have taken a realistic look at what is actually possible in modern capitalism, but are content to muddle along trying to reproduce the hey days of their historic roots?

A minority network of pro revolutionaries within the kind of broad spectrum covered by lib com might be useful but it seems unrealiseable at present, in Britain at least.

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Jun 10 2007 16:19
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So the IWA has sections that are not unions but political groups, espousing 'anarcho-sindicalist' ideolgy (to the extent that their 'industrial networks' exclude those anarchists and libertarian communists who are not specifically 'anarcho-sindicalist')

i don't think that's true, not sure though

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Jun 10 2007 17:00
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political groups, espousing 'anarcho-sindicalist' ideolgy (to the extent that their 'industrial networks' exclude those anarchists and libertarian communists who are not specifically 'anarcho-sindicalist', and actual unions (if relatively small) which are not specfically political!

Thats bullshit. It is simply a matter of joining solidarity federation then you will the be part of one of the industrial networks which are the building blocks of anarcho syndicalist unions, to be a member of SF you have to accept the statutes of our federation and our international, thats it.

Were do we exclude people and organisations which want to join us? We have no problem having fraternal links with other organisations, we are happy to work alongside others in campaigns and struggles.

Quote:
It seems both organisations have members doing some useful work, but neither seem to have taken a realistic look at what is actually possible in modern capitalism, but are content to muddle along trying to reproduce the hey days of their historic roots?

In what way has Solfed and the IWW not took a realistic look at what is possible? I dont think the IWA is trying to reproduce the hey days of our historic roots, we are trying to build on our victories and learn from our mistakes, to move forward and build organisations which are capable of carrying out effective struggle against capitalism.

Quote:
A minority network of pro revolutionaries within the kind of broad spectrum covered by lib com might be useful but it seems unrealiseable at present, in Britain at least.

That is unrealistic. What is the point of having a broad spectrum organisation which would not have a definite way forward or strategy because of its internal contradictions?

Spikymike
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Jun 10 2007 17:38

Well I think many in the IWW (inc Volin?) are looking for a 'broad' organisation in the sense of it not being specifically anarchist, whilst being militiant, class based and direct actionist etc, but the IWW has some historical baggage which gets in the way in my opinion.

I am aware that there is some coperation between Sol Fed and IWW which is all well and good, and perhaps that might grow into something beyond both groups (whilst those groups will inevitably in the current climate continue to exist). The upcomming 'Education Workers' Conference on 1st July in Manchester migh be a testing ground for that?

Elswhere on the IWW/IWA thread it was pointed out that 'anarcho-syndicalism' has historically had close relations at various times with other currents such as 'Industrial Unionism' and 'Council Communism' which is true, but most (though admitedly not all) of these currents today, fail to understand the extent to which the 'building blocks' approach to revolution is a thing of the past and still think they can gradually buid up a mass Union movement which combines revolutionary objectives and day to day economic struggle. There is no evidence for that. Real revolutionary movements tend to surpass all previous, laboriously built pro-revolutionary organisations.

On the other hand, I think a militant minority movement may have some potential, in the right circumstances, if it is not tied to a particular anarchist or communist political current.

Youth may breed enthusiaism but not necessarily wisdom. 'We the Aged'

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Jun 10 2007 20:50

The issue of relations between the IWA and IWW have become a perennial discussion on this forum because both internationals have affiliates in Britain - SolFed-IWA and IWW-UK, and this is also occasionally raised by people new to the forums. Its understandable that passers-by can't tell the difference.

The purpose of the Solidarity Federation is to demystify revolutionary unionism and libertarian communism (anarcho-syndicalism) and make this a real choice for the working class. As far as I'm aware, SolFed-IWA is the only organisation in Britain that insists on building a free confederation of working class community and union federations - libertarian communism - with its locals and networks. Neither the Anarchist Federation (AF-IAF, which seems to be becoming a purely political organisation) nor Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM, a purely political platformist organisation - generally platformists only associate themselves with syndicalism to avoid it being controlled by marxists) nor the IWW (currently it seems a purely economic organisation) advocate this in their structure.

The International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) has libertarian communism as its aim (a free confederation of working class community and union federations). Concerning organisation and distribution of decision-making power, this is arranged on a federalist basis of both its geographic and economic organisations, we refer to this as Revolutionary Unionism because both the regional and workplace organisations (of IWA affiliates) are composed of workers, which are united into a confederation. We do not advocate purely political bodies (or factions) to compete within our affiliates and international for any reason, even as a means of internal education.

From the Statutes of the IWA "The international bond of struggle and solidarity that unites the revolutionary unionist organizations of the world is called the International Workers’ Association (IWA)." In Britain the affiliate of the IWA is the Solidarity Federation (SolFed-IWA) and in my personal opinion, the closest other revolutionary organisation to us is Organise! in Ireland (also a small organisation, they are not affiliated to the IWA).

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is an international industrial union which fights for one big union and describes itself as a union for all workers and organises economically through branches and unions (and also advocates 'direct action' albeit only economically) and as far as I'm aware its branches have never been and are not a geographic structure with equal decision-making power to its unions. Concerning political discourse and internal education the IWW seems to rely on competing political factions (drawn from green, left, anarchist organisations and workers unaffiliated to any political opinion) while demanding that the union will create "no formal or informal alliances with political sects" in order to maintain an independent grassroots union structure.

Throughout its history the official documentation of the IWW has preferred the description of 'industrial unionist' to 'syndicalist' and to this day in its official material this stands. Having said this, the IWA have invited observers of the IWW to attended Congresses of the IWA, in this way the IWW have attended almost all of our Congresses and have repeatedly turned down our invitation to affiliate. Nonetheless, the IWW argues for grass-roots democracy of its unions and puts forward Direct Action as its inspiration, which is more than can be said for any other purely economic union, particularly in the USA.

SolFed does work with the IWW in Britain when the need arises, and we even have one joint member (a member of a workers co-op who does not fight an employer directly). Some members of SolFed in Northampton, Edinburgh and South London (not in the IWW) have worked with the IWW in defense of Starbucks Workers, see http://www.solfed.org.uk/pdfs/starbucks-workers.pdf

Applicants and affiliates of the IWA do not require a 'litmus test' of anarchism to join. In a discussion with the general secretary of the CNT-AIT we were recently told that in Seville their "pequeño" (small) local federation of 400 members in the area are doing the best they can build their local and union federations - we are doing the best we can here. As I have said above, the purpose of the Solidarity Federation and IWA is to demystify revolutionary unionism and libertarian communism and make social revolution a viable choice for workers. What is required is a commitment to building a free confederation of working class community and union federations. This is no more or less dogmatic than the IWWs demand that its unions are industrial unionist, can trade unions apply to join the IWW without being reconstructed as industrial unions?

Affiliates of the IWA such as the FORA-AIT have never adopted industrial unionism and have not been forced to do this despite the majority of IWA-AIT sections preferring industrial unionism in their own structure.

Volin wrote:
No-one's said it's overtly libertarian communist

This has been said on a number of occasions, for a recent example see http://libcom.org/forums/thought/iww-or-iwa

x357997 wrote:

It promotes workers self activity, direct democracy and abolition of the wage system...sounds like libertarian communism to me.

The IWW has always been an industrial union, it does not advocate libertarian communism (a free confederation of working class community and union federations) in its structure and its constitution.

Fidal Gorron Canoyra (a previous General Secretary of the IWA), in his "A.I.T. : La Internacional Revolucionaria Desconocida. Una aproximación a la historia de la AIT actual: 1922-1986" (a summary of the history of the IWA-AIT) wrote that the decisions of the XVI Congress (held in Paris, 1979) of the IWA are partisan to continue relations with other organisations but does not regard the IWW as anarcho-syndicalist (ie. compatible with libertarian-communism). Will the IWW ever adopt and advocate a free confederation of working class community and union federations - libertarian communism? We have advocated this and have held our breaths for a century in hope already and continue to plead but we hear no echo.

The Archive Commission of the Solidarity Federation (SolFed-IWA) has more than 60 years of material (including newpapers, letters, minutes, etc) which substantiates our part in terms of this fraternity. In the pages of Direct Action for more than 60 years we have recognised an economic fraternity with the IWW - as the Anarchist Federation of Britain (AFB) 1945-1950; the Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF-IWA) 1950-1979; Direct Action Movement (DAM-IWA) 1979-1994; and today as the Solidarity Federation (SolFed-IWA) formed in 1994.

Most recently the Direct Action Collective published '100 years of the IWW - A ‘Wobbly’ Century' http://www.direct-action.org.uk/solfed-iwa/vol.2/html/35.htm#50, which was edited here on libcom as '1905-today: The Industrial Workers of the World in the US' http://libcom.org/history/industrial-workers-of-the-world-in-us

Even the editors of this forum seem to be confused as to what differentiates industrial unionism, syndicalism, revolutionary unionism, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism (probably because these do overlap). In 'Anarcho-syndicalism - an introduction' http://libcom.org/thought/anarcho-syndicalism-an-introduction the IWW is listed (whithout clarify that it is not anarcho-syndicalist or libertarian communist and has never claimed to be that). The Solidarity Federation is the last organisation mentioned as a British IWA "group", no less, admittedly SolFed is very small with only 75 members but this is a federalist organisation of functioning locals and networks.

Some 'anarchists' seem to have too much on their own agenda and do not promote libertarian communism (a free confederation of working class community and union federations) but instead argue a reductionist position

such as . . . http://libcom.org/forums/thought/iww-or-iwa

Dundee_United wrote:
I don't believe unions are revolutionary however. . .
. . . A powerful political organisation is necessary to go beyond that.
OliverTwister wrote:
. . . There should be more unity between the IWW and the IWA, unless some major difference arises. . .

As mentioned above - The IWW has always been an industrial union, it does not advocate libertarian communism in its constitution. Will the IWW ever advocate libertarian communism? And what are you as an anarchists in the IWW doing about this? As 'anarchists' you can't possibly not know what libertarian communism is! For all of the rhetorical criticism of anarcho-syndicalism we have heard from the AF, WSM and 'anarchist' members of the IWW - do you not want to create equal decision-making community structures parrellel to revolutionary unions? How will this be done!

syndicalist wrote:
Is the critisim of the IWW that it's essentially US based and that is where it should focus its efforts?

When I said "Until the day that members of the IWW start argueing for a Free Confederation of Workers Community and Union Federations, it is not libertarian communist but nothing more than Internationalist General Union, founded in the USA, by Union delegates from the USA, with its headquarters always in the USA."

It was emphasising that the IWW was founded by delegates of unions in the US and has not had its general administration outside of the US throughout its existance (for more than a century). I am aware that the IWW has existed in Chile, Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc. (also, I was told by a member of the IWW branch in Edinburgh, the branch that passed info to Industrial Worker) that the IWW in Sierra Leone was fake, considering that this was the source of contact between IWW and IWW Sierra Leone, I believe him.

Volin wrote:
Quote:

According to Gregori Maximov (historian of the Russian Revolution) the term anarcho-syndicalism was first used by members of the 'Chicago' or anarchist current of the IWW. This faction of the IWW was libertarian communist.

Where did Maximov say that, btw?

see Syndicalism and Industrial Unionism in Britain until 1918, written in April 1950 by E Burdick, page 104
(held by the Archive Commission of the SolFed-IWA) see http://www.selfed.org.uk/page-104.pdf

Quote:

The origin of the term "anarcho-syndicalism" is shrouded in considerable uncertainty. Von Maximoff, "Die revolutionar-syndikalistishe Beweging in Rusland", Die Internationale, Berlin, No 6, 1926, suggests that the term was first used among the Russians who, in 1917, returned from the United States to Russia to share in the Revolution. Many of these men had been active in the "Bummery" of Chicago I.W.W. after the 1908 split in I.W.W. ranks. They had been Anarchists before they were Syndicalists and to a considerable extent had fused the economic program of the Syndicalists with their Anarchist beliefs. Von Maximoff argues that it was this group of men who, upon their return from Russia, first began to use the phrase. This arguement is given support by A. Lehning, Anarcho-Syndicalism, Amsterdam, 1927, who was widely aquainted among the Russian Anarcho-syndicalists who came to Berlin after their expulsion from Russia in the early 1920's . Lehning states that although the original Russians who returned from America to Russia after the revolution were only about one hundred in number they exerted a great influence on the thinking of Russian Anarchists

Jacque
(Edinburgh Solidarity Federation, personal capacity)

For Anarcho-syndicalism!
For the Free International Confederation of Workers Community and Union Federations!
For the International Workers' Association!

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Jun 10 2007 21:30

Thankyou for taking the time Jacque!

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Jun 10 2007 21:52

So Jacques does this mean you guys don't believe in organising workers by industry and that geograohic organisation should come before organising a whole industry?

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Jun 10 2007 21:53

doubel post

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Jun 10 2007 22:14

No need to get defensive, I'm rather fond of Solfed actually.

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Affiliates of the IWA such as the FORA-AIT have never adopted industrial unionism and have not been forced to do this despite the majority of IWA-AIT sections preferring industrial unionism in their own structure.

I was just wondering because of this comment. The GMB structure that the IWW exists with now is a form of geographic organisation. As it functions now the IWW is primarily a geography based grouping more so than industrial in character. I think the catch is that we are trying to get away from this (without much success at the moment in my opinion).

I would say that unless industry in Argentina is much less dominated by large operations than here (and I don't think it is), this is dangerous and ideological. What I mean is that its indicative of thinking that puts political blueprints of a future society ahead of what is likely to actually beat the bosses. In my mind the best way to build 'libertarian communism' is to win fights against the bosses, and small regional groups with total autonomy aren't likely to do this unless fighting against small regional businesses. (Again I'm not criticising Solfed or the IWA here, I'm criticising what has been put forward as the stance of FORA).

For the record the IWW doesn't have any plans for the administration of sports leagues either, maybe its because as a union we should stick to being a union and allow other groups to develop to address other things.

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Jun 11 2007 07:47
Jacque wrote:
Libcom admins,

Can this be corrected? I'm asking politely.

i've flagged it up on the admin board so someone will have a look at it

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nastyned
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Jun 11 2007 13:56
Jacque wrote:
Jacque wrote:
The purpose of the Solidarity Federation is to demystify revolutionary unionism and libertarian communism (anarcho-syndicalism) and make this a real choice for the working class. As far as I'm aware, SolFed-IWA is the only organisation in Britain that insists on building a free confederation of working class community and union federations - libertarian communism - with its locals and networks. Neither the Anarchist Federation (AF-IAF, which seems to be becoming a purely political organisation) nor Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM, a purely political platformist organisation - generally platformists only associate themselves with syndicalism to avoid it being controlled by marxists) nor the IWW (currently it seems a purely economic organisation) advocate this in their structure.

I'm very surprised that no AF, WSM, IWW or other revolutionaries including the ICC have had nothing to say about this!

From where I'm sitting the SolFed look like a purely political organisation too.

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Jun 11 2007 15:02
nastyned wrote:
Jacque wrote:
Jacque wrote:
The purpose of the Solidarity Federation is to demystify revolutionary unionism and libertarian communism (anarcho-syndicalism) and make this a real choice for the working class. As far as I'm aware, SolFed-IWA is the only organisation in Britain that insists on building a free confederation of working class community and union federations - libertarian communism - with its locals and networks. Neither the Anarchist Federation (AF-IAF, which seems to be becoming a purely political organisation) nor Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM, a purely political platformist organisation - generally platformists only associate themselves with syndicalism to avoid it being controlled by marxists) nor the IWW (currently it seems a purely economic organisation) advocate this in their structure.

I'm very surprised that no AF, WSM, IWW or other revolutionaries including the ICC have had nothing to say about this!

From where I'm sitting the SolFed look like a purely political organisation too.

Jacque wrote:
SolFed-IWA is the only organisation in Britain that insists on building a free confederation of working class community and union federations - libertarian communism - with its locals and networks.

Solfed is both an economic and political organisation, we dont seperate the two like AFM WSM, IWW and ICC.

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Jun 11 2007 15:04

i think he's saying the size of solfed renders such nuance moot

john
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Jun 11 2007 15:11

yeah, it has to be said that if the aim is:

Quote:
to demystify revolutionary unionism and libertarian communism (anarcho-syndicalism) and make this a real choice for the working class.

a movement with 75 members doesn't seem like a real choice

and

the nuances between the various anarchist groups seem so slight and confusing that actually you could argue there has been greater mystification.

In arguing for the importance of the divisions between the existing anarchist groups, i think you do more to convince of the benefits that would come through a further integration of them.

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Jun 11 2007 15:30
WeTheYouth wrote:
Solfed is both an economic and political organisation, we dont seperate the two like AFM WSM, IWW and ICC.

O rly?

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Jun 11 2007 15:52
nastyned wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
Solfed is both an economic and political organisation, we dont seperate the two like AFM WSM, IWW and ICC.

O rly?

yes really.

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Jun 11 2007 15:58

Since when has the SolFed had industrial unions then?

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Jun 11 2007 16:11
nastyned wrote:
Since when has the SolFed had industrial unions then?

Since when is an industrial union 5 college kids and a punk protesting outside of a coffee shop?