Anarkismo.net's union blurb

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booeyschewy
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Oct 26 2007 04:19
Anarkismo.net's union blurb

from the anarkismo editorial policy:
"A major focus of our activity is our work within the economic organizations of the working class (labour organizations, trade unions, syndicates) where this is a possibility. We therefore reject views that dismiss activity in the unions because as members of the working class it is only natural that we should also be members of these mass organizations. Within them we fight for the democratic structures typical of anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT. However, the unions no matter how revolutionary cannot replace the need for anarchist political organisation(s)."

I find two was to read this:
1. The uncharitable way- Platformists should work inside the existing majority unions [aka business unions]. The goal is to make their structures more anarchistic. They are nothing without political organization though.

2. The ambiguous way-Platformists should work within organized working class struggles be that unions, syndicalist unions, or autonomous workers' struggle. One of the (many) things we do in unions is fight to make them more horizontally based. Unions don't fill all roles though, there is an additional need for political organization.

I think it's somewhere between these two. Can someone clarify? If it's more like 2, then why is it written as is?

todd

yoshomon
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Oct 26 2007 17:52
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as members of the working class it is only natural that we should also be members of these mass organizations

Only at the very height of trade union membership in the US were most working class people members of these mass organizations. In 2007, when trade union membership is tiny, I think it's absurd to say it's "natural" as working class people to be in a union. It would be more accurate to say: "it's natural as LEFTISTS...".

Quote:
Within them we fight for the democratic structures typical of anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT. However, the unions no matter how revolutionary cannot replace the need for anarchist political organisation(s).

This Anarkismo position on unions is identical to a Trotskyist one, except that it calls for 'anarchist political organization' rather than a Party.

Do people seriously think they can "fight for democratic structures" within the SEIU or UAW or whatever? What does this even mean? Is the line 'no matter how revolutionary they are' a joke?

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AndrewF
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Oct 26 2007 18:25

US Union members ship is between 10% (private sector) and 42% (public sector) which is 16.5 million
http://allcountries.org/uscensus/712_labor_union_membership_by_sector.html

Whatever way you twist it that is indeed 'mass organization'. Of course those figures hide a more complex reality with very much higher percentages in the North East and very much lower in the south.

Your statements are also flawed by the inevitable assumption that everything is about the good ol USA or everything is like the USA. A country where leftist is indeed a frequent insult. However there wasn't any N. American input into the drawing up of the statement, it originated from experiences in Ireland, Italy, Chile and South Africa. Revolutionary unions of significant size are not unusual either historically or currently in those countries.

The logic of the statement is that locally anarchists should organize where their fellow workers are. That is if 4,999 of the people you work with are members of the ABC then almost regardless of the positions taken by the ABC it is stupid to be the one member of the XZY and refuse to join the ABC. And that while syndicalist structures are the goal to be fought for (as opposed to different leaders - its not intended to be a statement about how possible that goal is) achieving them in itself is not enough, you also need anarchist political organization.

It is not more definitive because its intended to take account in the huge variety of local conditions that exist between Turkey, Chile, Ontario, Ireland, South Africa, Greece, France, Italy, Peru etc

Mike Harman
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Oct 26 2007 18:35
Quote:
it originated from experiences in Ireland, Italy, Chile and South Africa. Revolutionary unions of significant size are not unusual either historically or currently in those countries.

What are these revolutionary unions in Ireland you speak of?

Quote:
The logic of the statement is that locally anarchists should organize where their fellow workers are. That is if 4,999 of the people you work with are members of the ABC then almost regardless of the positions taken by the ABC it is stupid to be the one member of the XZY and refuse to join the ABC.

Workers can be found in large numbers in workplaces, that they are also members of unions is secondary to this. Also it's one thing to be a member of a union, quite another work through it's structures, you and others constantly conflate the two.

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AndrewF
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Oct 26 2007 18:42
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it originated from experiences in Ireland, Italy, Chile and South Africa. Revolutionary unions of significant size are not unusual either historically or currently in those countries.
Mike Harman wrote:
What are these revolutionary unions in Ireland you speak of?

The ITGWU would be the most obvious example in the 1910's and perhaps early 1920's.

Quote:
The logic of the statement is that locally anarchists should organize where their fellow workers are. That is if 4,999 of the people you work with are members of the ABC then almost regardless of the positions taken by the ABC it is stupid to be the one member of the XZY and refuse to join the ABC.
Mike Harman wrote:
Workers can be found in large numbers in workplaces, that they are also members of unions is secondary to this. Also it's one thing to be a member of a union, quite another work through it's structures, you and others constantly conflate the two.

Yes your right - we do think workers should go along to union meetings and even be willing to take rank and file positions at the base of the union where this makes sense. We don't think they should be indifferent or hostile to these structures.

Mike Harman
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Oct 26 2007 19:02
JoeBlack2 wrote:
The ITGWU would be the most obvious example in the 1910's and perhaps early 1920's.

No not so different to the US considering they had the IWW then?

Quote:
Yes your right - we do think workers should go along to union meetings and even be willing to take rank and file positions at the base of the union where this makes sense. We don't think they should be indifferent or hostile to these structures.

Well this is at least pointing to something concrete rather than making blanket assertions about where 'workers' are and aren't.

You don't just argue for taking shop steward positions though do you (I think Organise! allows for this, as does the AF and solfed as far as I know although they don't activively promote it)? - behind that statement is the idea that the unions can be reformed. This means not just taking rank and file positions as an individual but this being a strategy, aimed at the overall structure of the union itself, active rank and filism.

Iron Column
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Oct 26 2007 19:04

I'm curious-what did Anarchists do in the past when their country went fascist? Did they work in those corporate unions as well? Also should Anarchists work within state supported employer unions, in countries not fascist but under a dictatorship like Egypt? I'd be interested to hear from the two (or more?) sides here.

lem
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Oct 26 2007 19:07

i thought of the attitude toward shop stewards more as a [valid] concession to reformism than a desire to change the unions. sure some, but most? oversimplificatio tho i'm sure.

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AndrewF
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Oct 26 2007 19:17
JoeBlack2 wrote:
The ITGWU would be the most obvious example in the 1910's and perhaps early 1920's.
Mike Harman wrote:
No not so different to American considering they had the IWW then?

OK I'll allow for the fact you are commenting on something you don't know much about.

The IWW was revolutionary and for brief periods was locally a mass union in the same period. However the ITGWU was the main union in Ireland towards the end of that period and in the south organised most of the workforce. Despite the fact that Ireland had maybe 1/10 of the population of the US at that point in time or less the ITGWU would have had 3 or 4 times the maximum membership of the IWW in that period. Ideologically they were quite similar (some key figures in the ITGWU had been IWW organizers in the US) but in terms of shaping the history of trade unionism the ITGWU was definitive in a way the IWW was not.

Quote:
Yes your right - we do think workers should go along to union meetings and even be willing to take rank and file positions at the base of the union where this makes sense. We don't think they should be indifferent or hostile to these structures.
Mike Harman wrote:
You don't just argue for taking shop steward positions though do you (I think Organise! allows for this, as does the AF and solfed as far as I know although they don't activively promote it)? - behind that statement is the idea that the unions can be reformed. This means not just taking rank and file positions as an individual but this being a strategy, aimed at the overall structure of the union itself, active rank and filism.

Well this is a good example of post leftism vanishing up its own arse. So basically its OK for an organisation to 'allow' for its members to become shop steward but it would be wrong to have as a 'strategy' a 'willingness' to take such positions 'where it makes sense'. Maybe its just me but I can's see the distinction your are trying to draw here unless it is simply one between groups you like and groups you don't like.

lem
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Oct 26 2007 19:20
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Well this is a good example of post leftism vanishing up its own arse

if you "can't see the difference" you are either a thug wink or a liar. i assume so, seeing as you want to make assured comparisions between afed and hakim bey!

and you don't need to know the history of the iww off by heart to be right!!!1

edited to include '1'.

yoshomon
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Oct 26 2007 19:44
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Your statements are also flawed by the inevitable assumption that everything is about the good ol USA or everything is like the USA. A country where leftist is indeed a frequent insult. However there wasn't any N. American input into the drawing up of the statement, it originated from experiences in Ireland, Italy, Chile and South Africa. Revolutionary unions of significant size are not unusual either historically or currently in those countries.

What is a "revolutionary union"* of significant size anywhere in the world?

(*putting aside for a moment my feeling that this is an oxymoron)

yoshomon
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Oct 26 2007 19:46

JoeBlack, thank you for confirming that this position on unions is indeed identical to that of Trotskyism.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Oct 26 2007 20:02

I'm sorry, what exactly is the "Trotskyist position" again? It seems to get thrown around as an insult on here a lot... and as far as I'm concerned (unless someone can convince me otherwise) holds about as much weight as being called a "workerist" by post-leftists, or "a red" by rightwingers, or "fascist" by liberals. Yawn.

lem
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Oct 26 2007 20:05

startegic reforms? not sure TBH.

lem
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Oct 26 2007 20:06

dp.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Oct 26 2007 20:07

So "Trotskyists" are in favor of strategic reforms and "anarchists" aren't? You sure you wanna willingly hand that distinction over to them? Seems kinda like you'd be shooting yourself in the foot.

mikus
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Oct 26 2007 20:08
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Well this is a good example of post leftism vanishing up its own arse. So basically its OK for an organisation to 'allow' for its members to become shop steward but it would be wrong to have as a 'strategy' a 'willingness' to take such positions 'where it makes sense'. Maybe its just me but I can's see the distinction your are trying to draw here unless it is simply one between groups you like and groups you don't like.

Why do you see no difference between allowing for certain actions and making those actions into strategy? For example, I sometimes give money to the homeless. I don't think this is the same thing as an organization making giving the homeless money as a strategy.

lem
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Oct 26 2007 20:09

i don't know i'm not saying it's wrong neutral

Mike Harman
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Oct 26 2007 20:13
JoeBlack2 wrote:
OK I'll allow for the fact you are commenting on something you don't know much about.

The IWW was revolutionary and for brief periods was locally a mass union in the same period. However the ITGWU was the main union in Ireland towards the end of that period and in the south organised most of the workforce. Despite the fact that Ireland had maybe 1/10 of the population of the US at that point in time or less the ITGWU would have had 3 or 4 times the maximum membership of the IWW in that period. Ideologically they were quite similar (some key figures in the ITGWU had been IWW organizers in the US) but in terms of shaping the history of trade unionism the ITGWU was definitive in a way the IWW was not.

Yes I know next to nothing about the ITGWU, but I was hoping you'd withdraw your crap exceptionalism here:

Quote:
Your statements are also flawed by the inevitable assumption that everything is about the good ol USA or everything is like the USA. A country where leftist is indeed a frequent insult. However there wasn't any N. American input into the drawing up of the statement, it originated from experiences in Ireland, Italy, Chile and South Africa. Revolutionary unions of significant size are not unusual either historically or currently in those countries.

I think we can say that the IWW in the US was of "significant size", so you'll need to come up with another response which doesn't rest on slagging off yanks. edit: and like yoshomon I'd be interested in what 'revolutionary unions' of significant size you think are around today.

Quote:
Well this is a good example of post leftism vanishing up its own arse

That's not very comradely Joe.

Quote:
So basically its OK for an organisation to 'allow' for its members to become shop steward but it would be wrong to have as a 'strategy' a 'willingness' to take such positions 'where it makes sense'. Maybe its just me but I can's see the distinction your are trying to draw here unless it is simply one between groups you like and groups you don't like.

The difference is that people who are very critical of the unions have taken shop steward positions as individuals, I'm not making a value judgement on this although clearly it's contradictory and recognised as such by most, just saying that it's the case.

This however is very different from become a shop steward (or branch rep depending on how far you take these things) in order to:

Quote:
fight for the democratic structures typical of anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT.

in the unions. Which is rank and filism.

Do you not think there's any difference between these two positions at all then? And I don't like quite a lot of stuff the AF and SolFed are up to, get on well with some members though of course. edit: Mikus put it a bit more straightforwardly than that.

Mike Harman
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Oct 26 2007 20:19
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
I'm sorry, what exactly is the "Trotskyist position" again?

Rank and filism. I dunno if it's used the same in the US, and if so whether y'all use it differently from 'boring from within'. This statement is as good an example from this week, although in itself it's very confused given the beginning and the end say completely different things.

FWIW WSWS are trots and they hate the unions as much as the ICC does, but they aren't ortho trots, and I think it's just them who are like that

Terry
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Oct 26 2007 20:48

In what way was the ITGWU revolutionary?

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Devrim
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Oct 26 2007 22:00
Quote:
I'm sorry, what exactly is the "Trotskyist position" again? It seems to get thrown around as an insult on here a lot... and as far as I'm concerned (unless someone can convince me otherwise) holds about as much weight as being called a "workerist" by post-leftists, or "a red" by rightwingers, or "fascist" by liberals. Yawn.

Actually, I tend to get called a workerist by anarchists.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Well this is a good example of post leftism vanishing up its own arse. So basically its OK for an organisation to 'allow' for its members to become shop steward but it would be wrong to have as a 'strategy' a 'willingness' to take such positions 'where it makes sense'. Maybe its just me but I can's see the distinction your are trying to draw here unless it is simply one between groups you like and groups you don't like.

In one way I agree with Joe here. There is a need for a strategy. What that stratergy is is a different question.

Devrim

alan35
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Oct 27 2007 00:14

Does anyone here really believe there is a similarity in method between anarchist-communists and Trotskyists?

The Trotskyist approach is rooted in Trotsky's idea that the main thing preventing revolution is a "crisis of leadership" within the working class. In this case, it essentially means that if the Trots controlled the union executives most of the members would simply fall in behind them, what is holding back the revolutionary wave is the "misleadership" of the bureaucrats/reformists/Stalinists/soft lefts/and so on. The job is to "expose" and "put to the test" the existing leadership, show them to be wanting, and eventually replace them.

On he ther hand, anarchist-communists, like the WSM, see unions as not just working class organisations but ones which are based on the contradiction between the interests of the bosses and our own class. It is the potential that arises from this, and the strength to do more than just protest, that is important. We also support the concept of working class mutual aid, which is essentially what a union should be about.

Being made up of ordinary people, they generally reflect where people are at. If most workers vote for New Labour or the Lib Dems, why are we surprised when our unions are not radical, militant organisations? For us, the task is winning a 'battle of ideas' among our fellow workers, not winning a competition for 'influential positions'. The unions will only be more democratic and combative when we convince the membership that's the way to go. If we are not there, or are not involved as more than nominal members, we make it more difficult for them to take us seriously and be willing to seriously consider anarchism.

And, no - we don't think that SIPTU, UNITE or UNISON will become revolutionary organisations. Their role is one limited to within capitalism, but something we need to defend and improve our lot this side of a revolution. When we have ended the rule of the bosses we won't need to negotiate the price of our labour. When we get to the stage of the working class challenging for control of society, I'm pretty sure that new forms of organisation will emerge to serve that need. Has it not always been that way?

booeyschewy
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Oct 27 2007 01:04

sorry for unleashing this debate sad not my intention

"The logic of the statement is that locally anarchists should organize where their fellow workers are. That is if 4,999 of the people you work with are members of the ABC then almost regardless of the positions taken by the ABC it is stupid to be the one member of the XZY and refuse to join the ABC. And that while syndicalist structures are the goal to be fought for (as opposed to different leaders - its not intended to be a statement about how possible that goal is) achieving them in itself is not enough, you also need anarchist political organization."

I see this interpretation then. It seems like it could have been reworded to show that you aren't just interested in structure (a common left-communist critique), but rather you organize in the workplace towards gaining more autonomy and solidarity but realizing that this struggle needs augmentation with political organization. I think some of this wording leads to these debates. If you said that you organize in the workplace, you wouldn't get into this ruckus. I think whether you take positions like shop stewards is actually a regional question. In the UK it might have one meaning, and in the US another. I'm opposed to taking such a position in the US, but that's because of the nature of contractualism and the unions here. Even with that said there might be unions I don't know about that have different (more autonomous) relationships to stewards, or some positive reason to do so (I've only worked under SEIU, UFCW, and AFSCME shops). Becoming a part of the bureaucracy is a different matter though. All in all I think internationally its too complex to say anything sensible with broad strokes and leads to confusion.

I think catch has some point in that the focus could shift from where are you to what you're doing there. In some ways the point could be, it doesn't matter where you are but the anarchist and revolutionary struggle as a member of the working class engaged in workplace struggle.

just some friendly thoughts

petey
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Oct 27 2007 03:14
Mike Harman wrote:
WSWS are trots and they hate the unions as much as the ICC does

i wouldn't put it that strongly, but they are critical of unions, whereas the SWP (US version) are sympathisers

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AndrewF
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Oct 27 2007 10:54
booeyschewy wrote:
sorry for unleashing this debate sad not my intention

You mustn't spend much time on libcom then - the debate and participants were both very predictable.

What I don't get is why you think it would make sense for the statement to have been worded in a way that would make the post-left crowd happy. Both because they are not even a slightly significant force anywhere - all the 'groups' are of the 3 men and a photocopier variety. But also more importantly as the purpose of the statement is to mark out what anarchist communists around anarkismo have in common with each other and why they are different to the rest of the left. It's not meant to be be setting up a group hug for everyone on the left or even all anarchists.

IMHO it does a pretty good job as those I would expect to object do so for the reasons I would expect (even if in their methods of 'debate' this oftens means they distort just what it is they are objecting to) And those I would expect to agree with it don't for the most part seem to 'see' the misinterpretations.

syndicalist
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Oct 27 2007 13:51

For what it's worth, here's what the original writers of "the Platform" set out to say on this:

"VIII. Anarchism and syndicalism

The tendency to contrast anarchist communism with syndicalism, and vice versa, is one that we consider totally artificial and bereft of all basis and meaning.
The ideas of communism and of syndicalism occupy two different planes. Whereas communism, i.e. the free society of equal workers, is the goal of the anarchist struggle, syndicalism, i.e. the revolutionary movement of industrial workers based on trades, is but one of the forms of the revolutionary class struggle.

In uniting the industrial workers on the basis of production, revolutionary syndicalism, like any trade-union movement, has no specific ideology: it has no world view embracing all the complex social and political issues of the current situation. It always reflects the ideologies of a range of political groupings, notably of those most intensively at work within its ranks.

Our standpoint with regard to revolutionary syndicalism follows from what has just been said. Without wanting to resolve in advance the question of the role of revolutionary syndicalist organizations on day two of the revolution (i.e. are they to be the organizers of the new system of production in its entirety, or will they leave that role to the workers' councils or workplace committees?), it is our view that anarchists must be involved in revolutionary syndicalism as one of the forms of the workers' revolutionary movement.

However, the question now is not whether anarchists should or should not play a part in revolutionary syndicalism, but rather, how and to what end they should play a part.

We regard the whole period up to our own times, when anarchists were part of the revolutionary syndicalist movement as individual workers and propagandists, as a period when relations with the industrial labour movement were amateurish.

Anarcho-syndicalism, which attempts to firmly establish anarchist ideas within the left wing of revolutionary syndicalism through the creation of anarchist-type unions, represents a step forward in this respect, but it has not yet improved on its amateurish methods. This is because anarcho-syndicalism does not link the drive to "anarchize" the syndicalist movement with the organization of anarchist forces outside of that movement. Only if just such a link is established does it become possible to "anarchize" revolutionary syndicalism to prevent any slide towards opportunism.

We regard revolutionary syndicalism solely as a trade-union movement of the workers with no specific social and political ideology, and thus incapable by itself of resolving the social question; as such it is our opinion that the task of anarchists in the ranks of that movement consists of developing anarchist ideas within it and of steering it in an anarchist direction, so as to turn it into an active army of the social revolution. It is important to remember that if syndicalism is not given the support of anarchist theory in good time, it will be forced to rely on the ideology of some statist political party.

A striking example of this is French syndicalism, which once shone out on account of its anarchist slogans and anarchist tactics, before falling under the sway of the communists and, above all, the right-wing opportunist socialists.

But the task of anarchists within the ranks of the revolutionary labour movement can only be performed if their efforts there are closely connected and coordinated with the activity of the anarchist organization outside the syndicalist union. Put differently, we must enter the revolutionary labour movement as an organized force, answerable to the general anarchist organization for our work inside the syndicalist unions, and receiving guidance from that organization.

Without limiting ourselves to the establishment of anarchist syndicalist unions, we must seek to exert our theoretical influence on revolutionary syndicalism as a whole in all its forms (the Industrial Workers of the World, the Russian trade unions, etc.). But we can only accomplish this by setting to work as a rigorously organized anarchist collective, and certainly not as tiny amateurish groups, without organizational links or a common theoretical base.

Groups of anarchists in the workplace, working to create anarchist syndicalist unions, campaigning within revolutionary syndicalism for the prevalence of anarchist ideas within syndicalism and its theoretical orientation and themselves guided in their activity by the general anarchist organization to which they belong - this is the significance of the relationship between anarchists and revolutionary syndicalism and the related revolutionary syndicalist movements (and the form it should take). "

yoshomon
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Oct 27 2007 17:32
JoeBlack2 wrote:
booeyschewy wrote:
sorry for unleashing this debate sad not my intention

You mustn't spend much time on libcom then - the debate and participants were both very predictable.

What I don't get is why you think it would make sense for the statement to have been worded in a way that would make the post-left crowd happy. Both because they are not even a slightly significant force anywhere - all the 'groups' are of the 3 men and a photocopier variety. But also more importantly as the purpose of the statement is to mark out what anarchist communists around anarkismo have in common with each other and why they are different to the rest of the left. It's not meant to be be setting up a group hug for everyone on the left or even all anarchists.

IMHO it does a pretty good job as those I would expect to object do so for the reasons I would expect (even if in their methods of 'debate' this oftens means they distort just what it is they are objecting to) And those I would expect to agree with it don't for the most part seem to 'see' the misinterpretations.

So which unions in the world are revolutionary then?

booeyschewy
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Oct 27 2007 19:51

Joe- I don't want a statement that makes post-left people happy, but one that makes me happy since I'm generally supportive of those politics, but that particular statement doesn't fit the context I live and doesn't fit with how people I work with would think about these issues. The reading group I work with and comrades in other anarchist groups wouldn't sign onto that even when they support anarkismo and the groups therein.

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OliverTwister
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Oct 27 2007 20:19
Quote:
Both because they are not even a slightly significant force anywhere - all the 'groups' are of the 3 men and a photocopier variety.

What an insightful post to make on a site run by what you would term "post-leftists", which has on occasion had 100,000 page hits daily.

Cock. roll eyes

Smash Rich Bastards
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Oct 28 2007 05:41

I thought he was being generous. Most post-left "groups" I've encountered over the years (with a few exceptions) are one-man operations... and I would question their ability to effectively operate a photocopy machine.