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banning paid organizers

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Nate
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Jul 8 2007 23:12
Nate wrote:
Revol, you still aren't following a basic principle of honest discussion, which is acknowledging questions and either answering them or saying why you won't answer them. NEFAC's workplace strategy, potential raiding of IWW campaigns by other unions, and anarchists who are organizers are all fine topics but they're not the topic at hand. The topic at hand that you initially raised was why paid union organizers should be banned from membership in NEFAC and similar groups. I don't see how this is the case. Saying paid organizers "activities in organising are tied to a higher chain of command namely the unions" isn't an answer. The question is the nature of the "tie". You said basically paid organizers are paid to deter working class self-activity, with the implication being that that's all they do and that they can only do that, that there's no possibility at all of paid organizers doing otherwise. I already told you I don't think this is the case and I asked you for some evidence or additional argument. You haven't provided it. Please do so.

I ask you again, how do paid union organizers - organizers in particular, not other positions - particularly the ones who don't have the power to hire and fire, deter working class self-activity? I think Chuck and Duke (Thugarchist) can be jerks on Libcom (though I don't think they're particularly beyond the pale of the frequent tone of discussion here, I do wish Duke would try more to raise that tone rather than lower it), but in any case - "the shit that falls from Chuck and Duke's mouths" on Libcom is no evidence that paid union organizers "relate to working class struggles, as a job" in a way that deters working class self-activity. No more than your posts here are evidence of anything about Organise!'s role in the class struggle.

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Jul 8 2007 23:13
revol68 wrote:
it's not about this or that individual ffs, it's about how they relate to the 'organising' , the simple fact that the union pays their wages and so the vast, vast majority of them will end up doing the unions bidding or have to quit, it's not a simple matter of them being paid to deter working class self activity, but of two different ideas of working class self activity, one that seeks to be autonomous from the unions, to go beyond them and eventually smahs them and another that where the unions actual direct the organisation themselves. Now this isn't to deny agency to those workers that are being organised nor does it mean that 'organizers' are evil plotting bastards sent out by their evil union overlords, it's about the fact that these two models are in conflict. I mean anarchists would be arguing that workers should run their own struggles, reject paid organisers and keep decision making with the workers on the shop floor, on the other hand a paid union official can;t exactly argue that or they'd be out on their arse, now one or two folk might try and play it both ways but it's ultimately untenable.

You also don't understand that we have principles for reasons and these reasons extend beyond a narrow short termist outlook in times of low struggle, they are there precisely to oppose lurches into oppurtunism.

Basically it looks like you are trying to rationalise the fact you were a union organiser with your own political beliefs, you can't, do one or the other.

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Jul 8 2007 23:13
revol68 wrote:
maybe you've missed thugs constant put downs of workers self organisation, his meaningless babble about extending 'industrial democracy' rather than worrying about this or that shop floor. Maybe you've missed the fact that he looks at struggles in terms of what ones he can win, he and his cunt friends in the union essentially pick and choose what struggles to support, whilst real workers don't have that option.
revol68 wrote:
How can anarchists argue vehemently that workers should control their own struggles, reject full timers and bureacrats and then take a job as a full time organiser?

I mean for fucksake if it's to pay overdue rent and bills just accept it as a breach of your politics and do it as long as you need, rather than trying to normalise it into anarchist politics.

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Jul 8 2007 23:14
Nate wrote:
Revol, you start saying "it's not about this or that individual," that this is a political and not a personal matter, then end by speculating about my personal motivations for what I'm typing. That's not an on the level conversational move and it's also a logical fallacy, an ad hominem. Even if my motivations were what you speculate they are - and they're not, for whatever that's worth - that would not undermine what I'm saying or establish your position.

If you want to justifiable hold that NEFAC or anyone else should ban paid organizers because all paid organizers insofar as they do their jobs are actively bad for the working class, then you first need to establish that all paid organizers are actively bad for the working class. You haven't.

You said that "the simple fact that the union pays their wages [means that the] vast majority of them will end up doing the unions bidding or have to quit". What is this "bidding" that organizers will end up having to do which is so nefarious? I assume you mean again "deterring working class self-activity," but can you give more details? How will this happen? Do you have any examples?

You write that there are "two different ideas of working class self activity, one that seeks to be autonomous from the unions, to go beyond them and eventually smahs them and another that where the unions actual direct the organisation themselves" and "that these two models are in conflict."

I'm not saying that becoming a union organizer is a good strategy for creating or relating to working class self-activity or any kind of radical act or radical strategy. The issue is not "which type of self-activity should an organization embrace." That's a strawman, another logical fallacy. The issue is whether or not paid union organizers should be excluded from membership in organizations like NEFAC.

You argue "that workers should run their own struggles (...) and keep decision making with the workers on the shop floor." I agree with you completely. That's not the issue. As part of this, you argue that workers on the shop floor should "reject paid organisers". I don't know what you mean by "reject paid organizers" and I don't know if you mean already unionized workers or unorganized workers. I actually think paid (and for that matter, unpaid) fulltime organizers can be a real problem in organizing (I'm generally opposed to the IWW having paid organizers for instance) and I'd be keen to discuss that eventually. But that also is not the issue. The issue is whether or not paid organizers should be banned from membership because of some actively anti-working class thing that paid organizers can't help but do, like deterring working class self-activity.

You argue that "a paid union official" - I wouldn't call an organizer, certainly not one without the power to hire and fire, an "official" but whatever - can't argue the position you put forward or they'd get fired. "[O]ne or two folk might try and play it both ways but it's ultimately untenable." That is, for you, paid organizers can only ever act on the second of what you called two "ideas of working class self-activity."

Let's assume this is true. I think there's an element of truth here. I think being paid organizing staff does put limits on how organizing is done. Even if you're right, and I'm inclined to think you are though I think we'd still disagree on some of the details, that still doesn't establish that paid organizers actively deter working class self-activity. It doesn't establish that paid organizers are bad for the working class. So it doesn't establish that NEFAC and similar groups should ban organizers from membership. All this establishes is that it would be a bad anarchist strategy for NEFAC and similar groups to all get jobs as organizers. Fair enough, but that was never on the table. What was on the table was your outrage that NEFAC allows paid organizers to join and your view that NEFAC and similar groups shouldn't do so, that they should have a policy like Organise! has. So far you've failed to support this view and implicitly have failed to justify Organise!'s policy.

Mike Harman
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Jul 8 2007 23:15

nate: thanks!

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Jul 8 2007 23:16

I think that a good analogy is banning cops from an organisation.

Which isn't to say that paid union organisers are anything like cops, but they are banned from membership of a number of political organisations because their role is ultimately anti-working class. You might get the odd lefty full timer who genuinely believes that workers should control their own struggles and pushes for that to happen, just like you might get the odd well meaning, liberal cop who routinely turns a blind eye to people smoking pot or taking pills of a weekend. Despite that, in both cases, if their employers ever found out what they were doing, their job would be at serious risk , meaning that they either have to stop doing it, or do it at such a limited level that it's not really worth doing at all.

Workers are strongest where the union bureaocracy keeps well out of it. One of the most striking things I noticed when I interviewed a former shop steward at British Leyland's Speke plant was when I asked him what the union did to support him:

Quote:
The car industry has traditionally been so well organised that they very rarely need the services of the full time official, because we had such a good structure. On site 2 we had about a hundred shop stewards and 3 full time conveners, when we needed support from the union and the full time official, we always got that. That wasn’t a problem as such. In the car industry, and I’m talking about the T&G now, years could go by back in those days and we’d never see the official on the site, because we were big and ugly enough to look after ourselves. We rarely needed the services of the full time official, but when we did it was usually forthcoming.
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Jul 8 2007 23:16
revol68 wrote:
Organise!'s position is there to primarily stop Organise! members taking such roles, it is also there because we would find it hypocritcal to argue that workers should reject 'full time' positions whilst our members get paid to do exactly that.

As an example if we are arguing that workplace militants should reject recuperation into the unions (and in many cases a nice job off the shop floor) it isn't going to go down to well if we have members quite happily taking the unions money.

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Jul 8 2007 23:19
Mike Harman wrote:
nate: thanks!

No worries. Sorry for all the nested quotes. It was faster to just highlight copy paste everything, I didn't have the patience to edit.

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Jul 8 2007 23:20
MJ wrote:
Devrim wrote:
I am all for people getting involved where they work, but these people are hardly the vanguard of the proletariat, are they?

Of course not -- why, are we supposed to be trying to get jobs as the vanguard of the proletariat? eek

That would be such a sweet job. All you have to do is stand around with a hammer looking pretty cool

petey
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Jul 8 2007 23:21

and who doesn't look pretty with a hammer?

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Jul 8 2007 23:25

Madashell, how are union organizers anti-working class? Same thing I said to Revol, all you've established is that organizers can't support a certain type of worker self activity.

georgestapleton wrote:
I think I'm right in saying that, despite what revol says, Organise! do not have an agreed position on this. Their only agreed position is their Aims and Principles.

Can someone send a link to O!'s As and Ps?

Jack wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:
I think I'm right in saying that, despite what revol says, Organise! do not have an agreed position on this. Their only agreed position is their Aims and Principles.

Am I right in thinking the WSM position is to bar members from holding "unelected positions with power over the membership" or words to that effect?

To me, that sounds pretty much right - altho there are certain elected positions I'd have an issue with too - altho I'd presume the WSM position paper is a lot more complicated than the phrase and would take this into account...

Fair point, though I don't know that paid elected officials are any better. Some union elections are no more democratic than the US gov't elections. What's not at all clear to me is how organizers have "power over the membership."

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Jul 8 2007 23:31
Nate wrote:
Madashell, how are union organizers anti-working class? Same thing I said to Revol, all you've established is that organizers can't support a certain type of worker self activity.

It goes further than them not being able to properly support workers having full control over our struggles though, they are often forced to actively sabotage this due to their role as organisers. I'm sure you've heard of the many, many cases of union full timers going to workers on strike and telling them to get back to work so the union can talk to management, regardless of what the workers in question feel about it.

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Jul 8 2007 23:40

Sorry Jack. Too much copying comments.

revol68 wrote:
Organise!'s position is there to primarily stop Organise! members taking such roles, it is also there because we would find it hypocritcal to argue that workers should reject 'full time' positions whilst our members get paid to do exactly that.

As an example if we are arguing that workplace militants should reject recuperation into the unions (and in many cases a nice job off the shop floor) it isn't going to go down to well if we have members quite happily taking the unions money.

Revol, I think there's a confusion here. On the one hand, you could say, which you have but without any support, "organizing staff are actively politically bad for our class and if you take one you will be working against our class." On the other hand, you could say "full time organizing positions are politically limited" or that they're a political dead end so there's no positive political reason to take one. That amounts to political indifference to individuals' taking staff jobs. That's my position. If someone takes a staff job, it's their business. It's not a radical thing to do, doesn't advance the revolution, but not everything we need to do has to advance the revolution. You actually argued something similar in the the 'subculture' thread against Dundee, against the idea of changing how people dress. It's funny now that you're saying "don't take organizing jobs even if you want one", which is much more major matter of one's life than the clothes one wears.

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Jul 8 2007 23:46
madashell wrote:
It goes further than them not being able to properly support workers having full control over our struggles though, they are often forced to actively sabotage this due to their role as organisers. I'm sure you've heard of the many, many cases of union full timers going to workers on strike and telling them to get back to work so the union can talk to management, regardless of what the workers in question feel about it.

Are these full timers organizing staff? Or other positions? I do know of examples like this. Because of examples like this I think that excluding unelected people who have "power over the membership" is a good idea, as is excluding certain elected positions and any one with the power to hire and fire.

I actually think it's plausible that some organizing staff might actually have to something like what you describe. I don't think it's likely, though, and "might have to" doesn't sound like enough grounds for banning organizers from being members in a group and there are other ways to handle this, like a process for expelling members who do actions that hurt the class. Anyhow Revol's position and what you said above isn't that organizers might have to do this or that thing that's bad for workers. It's that organizers will always have to do this.

Edit: What's funny, and a bit stupid on my part, is that at the end of the day I don't actually have very strong feelings about any of this. If Organise! wants to ban staff, their business. If NEFAC did the same, their business. I'm not pro-staff. I guess I just got caught up in the debate here, not least because it seemed a case of Revol making claims without argument as a way to attack NEFAC. I have stronger feelings about Revol's way of arguing this than I do about Organise! and NEFAC's differing policies. Ah well, call me Mr Excellent Time Management Skills.

What I am interested in is more specific stuff on the upsides and downsides of paid staff position and full time staff, whether paid or unpaid, in workplace organizing. That's one for another thread, under the organizing heading. I'm personally not in favor organizing staff in the IWW.

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Jul 8 2007 23:56
madashell wrote:
Workers are strongest where the union bureaocracy keeps well out of it. One of the most striking things I noticed when I interviewed a former shop steward at

You're talking about unionized workers. What we're talking about is people who are paid to help non-union workers unionize. The 90% of workers in the US that are non-unionized are hardly "stronger" than the 10% that are unionized. In certain cases, sure; and there's only a certain amount of strength that can be built within the framework of the types of union under discussion here. But you can't go saying that the absence of union bureaucrats makes workers "strongest," there's something missing from that formulation.

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Jul 9 2007 00:45

There are some unions in the USA where there are full-time officials who are not directly elected by the members. For example, in the UTU the General Chairman, who typically controls the staff, negotiations, etc. at transport companies where UTU is situated, is chosen by the local union presidents, who are often full-time, altho elected, officials. There are also local unions where there are no full-time officials but some full-time staff. A radical leftist who had been a full-time person in a union of this type told me she was able to dominate the union. i would infer this happened because there was little training of members about the ins and outs of running the union.

It seems that whether one thinks a revolutionary organization should not have as members staff people would depend on whether one thinks it's okay to have staff people. of course, even if one thought that it was okay for a union to employ staff for various things including organizing, one might not think that is the best position for a revolutionary to be in. i guess this would depend on how you conceive of the role of the radical activist in a workplace setting.

a staff person could find themselves in between the fulltime officials and the members. a friend had told me about a staff job opening in the OCAW in my region and I had experience working in the petroleum industry, but I knew that the head official of OCAW in that region was red-baiting a rank and file group that had organized around safety and conditions in a large refinery.

i think that there are a number of useful roles that could be played by people who are paid fulltime to do it, such as doing labor education classes, to train rank and file members of unions. but i also think it would be best if this was done independently of the union bureaucracy. the problem is, if the bureaucracy controls a union they won't want there to be resources like that not under their control.

assuming that a union has no full-time officials but has some fulltime staff, it seems to me this would be okay if there were programs for training the members on how to do the verious things needed in running the union, like negotiations, etc. the idea would be that the member-run union controls its staff.

but insofar as we aim to develop rank and file movements independently of the paid bureaucracy of the unions, is this compromised if members are paid staff? aren't they then controlled by the bureaucracy of that union?

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Jul 9 2007 00:54
Nate wrote:
If someone takes a staff job, it's their business. It's not a radical thing to do, doesn't advance the revolution, but not everything we need to do has to advance the revolution.

Hmm, its not about it 'not advancing the revolution' in the style of lifestyle choices like vegetarianism or ethical consumerism though. Its more to do with the fact that a union organiser's loyalty is split between the workers they're responsible for and the union they work for. If an anarchist union organiser has been helping workers organise, what do they do if the union decides to pull out of the struggle? Back the workers or the union?

Being a full-timer puts you in a position where your daily function at work puts you in conflict with your class. Being a union organiser doesn't just mean being able to call the workers out but also being able to send them back in. As such its not just a case of 'Organise! can do X and NEFAC can do Y', its about the fundamental principles behind any libertarian industrial strategy. Personally, I'm not so fussed about rows between syndicalists and Platformists or anything else but not having full-time union organisers isn't just some abstract purist musing. Its plain common sense principles for libertarian communist organising at work.

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Jul 9 2007 00:59
Quote:
Quote:
madashell wrote:
Workers are strongest where the union bureaocracy keeps well out of it. One of the most striking things I noticed when I interviewed a former shop steward at

You're talking about unionized workers. What we're talking about is people who are paid to help non-union workers unionize. The 90% of workers in the US that are non-unionized are hardly "stronger" than the 10% that are unionized. In certain cases, sure; and there's only a certain amount of strength that can be built within the framework of the types of union under discussion here. But you can't go saying that the absence of union bureaucrats makes workers "strongest," there's something missing from that formulation.

I read this as madashell talking in the context of an organised workplace but where there was a level of shopfloor solidarity that meant fulltime union officials should and could be kept out of actual struggles as much as possible.

As an elected shop steward for nearly eight years I had experience of a workplace that called meetings of workers whenever issues needed discussed, sometimes we invited the fulltime official, most often we didn't. Shop stewards were elected on a regular basis and there was a culture whereby they were immediately and directly accountable to the workers and whereby they took their mandate from those workers. This was not uniform and as far as I know recently (I don't work there anymore) the union fulltime official moved to cancel a workplace meeting and the, at this stage weaker workforce and shop stewards caved in (This is in part explained by highturnover of staff - not in terms of them leaving the company but in terms of many getting promotion/changing to other grades and ending up in different unions while more inexperienced and less militant workers were recruited to replace them. Of course large numbers of new workers may learn the lessons that many previously in the grade had learnt over time but there is nonetheless a lull in militancy due to inexperience and a desire to keep yer head down during probation). We certainly were stronger without union officials getting involved, I have posted here before with numerous examples of the role of our trade unions bureaucracy.

I also have experience of an unelected union organiser withdrawing the threat of industrial action when over 90% of union members had voted in favour, we tried to do something about this and were summoned to a meeting where it was pointed out that as an employee of the union we could not touch him but that he on the other hand was entitled in the union rulebook to 'suspend' all the elected shop stewards and health and safety reps, appoint whoever he wanted and call a new election whenever he saw fit. An extreme example perhaps but one that underscores the the promblems with what I presume is a similar unelected layer of bureaucrats that youse are referring to when youse talk about 'union organizers' in the US.

Lets be clear though, we are not talking about someone who does the photocopying or filing in a union office, who does reception or cleans the building.

But MJ the current form of union organisation that you, and I, are familiar with does weaken the position of workers, and that more and more workers are realising this, Anarchists should be arguing for alternatives to the inadequacies of trade unionism not getting involved in paid work for organisations we largely regard as a hinderance to our struggles as workers.

There is also a pretty blatant contradiction between advocating and encouraging direct action and workers control of struggles and getting involved in, supporting others in elections to the union bureacracy or in taking on full-time organising jobs with trades unions. I know several folk who have left these positions, by no means anarchists, who could not reconcile their desire to promote working class organisation and struggle with the union line they were exprected to consistently tow. This is not where we should be trying to promote solidarity or build on working class resistance.

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Jul 9 2007 01:22
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I read this as madashell talking in the context of an organised workplace but where there was a level of shopfloor solidarity that meant fulltime union officials should and could be kept out of actual struggles as much as possible.

Sure. But that's not who we're talking about when we talk about "organizers" here.

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I also have experience of an unelected union organiser withdrawing the threat of industrial action when over 90% of union members had voted in favour, we tried to do something about this and were summoned to a meeting where it was pointed out that as an employee of the union we could not touch him but that he on the other hand was entitled in the union rulebook to 'suspend' all the elected shop stewards and health and safety reps, appoint whoever he wanted and call a new election whenever he saw fit. An extreme example perhaps but one that underscores the the promblems with what I presume is a similar unelected layer of bureaucrats that youse are referring to when youse talk about 'union organizers' in the US.

I think that example makes it clear that we're talking about different layers. NEFAC doesn't let in people who have the power to hire or fire, and we certainly wouldn't allow someone who had the power to do the things you describe.

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
But MJ the current form of union organisation that you, and I, are familiar with does weaken the position of workers, and that more and more workers are realising this,

Yeah I'm just not going to agree with you, it's not that clear cut or universal, and in the current US context you're basically talking about greasing the rails of industrial defeat when you argue for doing away with unions and contracts.

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Jul 9 2007 05:00
MJ wrote:
Yeah I'm just not going to agree with you, it's not that clear cut or universal, and in the current US context you're basically talking about greasing the rails of industrial defeat when you argue for doing away with unions and contracts.

Who's arguing for "doing away with unions and contracts" in the short term? That's just mental.

I'm talking about the way that organisers are hampered in supporting workers' control over struggles, and how that contradicts with what communists should be doing and potentially puts them in a completely untenable position. I'll reply to your other, longer post later, I've got to go to work.

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Jul 9 2007 09:01
MJ wrote:
I think that example makes it clear that we're talking about different layers.

I think that people in the UK are very unclear about what you are talking about by 'union organiser'. I tried to explain what was meant by union full timer in the UK. I think it would be helpful if somebody in the States laid out basically what the function of these people is. Personally, I am very unclear as to what they do, and the impressions that I have got here ranges from 'working class leaders' to basically a form of insurance seller.

MJ wrote:
Devrim wrote:
I am all for people getting involved where they work, but these people are hardly the vanguard of the proletariat, are they?

Of course not -- why, are we supposed to be trying to get jobs as the vanguard of the proletariat? eek

I didn't suggest that we were. What has been suggested though by Thug, and CH is that these people are 'working class leaders'.

Nate wrote:
Devrim, I don't know why NEFAC has these folk in its orbit. I agree that these organizer positions aren't any particularly important sector or anything. I don't think anyone else would disagree. I just don't see why they should be banned from membership in NEFAC or other similar groups.

Nate seems to argue logical line. As I said before, I don't really understand the function of these people, so it is difficult to comment. Certainly, I wouldn't say that you shouldn't have a secretary in union HQ in a communist organisation, but then Revol agreed with this too:

revol68 wrote:
btw Organise! do not have an issue with ordinary union employees, admin staff etc

Without knowing these peoples role exactly, my personal feeling is against it though.

I think that one of the questions that arises from that Nate is why NEFAC seem to have a number of these people around them. Your argument that it is just another job stands up on its own, but the fact that NEFAC seems to have these people around them suggests that it isn't coincidence though.* Even if it is a coincidence these people are at best put in an ambiguous position regards their employers.

MJ wrote:
You're talking about unionized workers. What we're talking about is people who are paid to help non-union workers unionize. The 90% of workers in the US that are non-unionized are hardly "stronger" than the 10% that are unionized. In certain cases, sure; and there's only a certain amount of strength that can be built within the framework of the types of union under discussion here. But you can't go saying that the absence of union bureaucrats makes workers "strongest," there's something missing from that formulation.

There are a couple of points raised here. Firstly, people in the UK talk more about unionised workers as the level of unionisation is much higher. The TUC in the UK has 6.5 million members (this makes TUC union members 11% of the total population. I am not sure about as a percentage of the workforce. There are unions outside the TUC too). Although this is lower than twenty years ago, it still means that virtually all significant sectors in the UK are already unionised. Therefore the problems that workers are likely to face are much more likely to be problems with the union that they are already members of, rather than a boss trying to prevent them from unionising. The type of recruiting campaigns that exist in America, are not at all common in the UK. (I also get the impression from America that these campaigns are looked on as an economic prospect, a sort of "will we get as much back in dues as it costs us to run the organising campaign basis.)

We are actually talking about America here, so obviously your examples are more relevant. Personally I would argue that trade unionism has a universal character. These points though should at least help you to see the perspective that UK workers are coming from.

Secondly, the talk about non-unionised workers not being as strong as their unionised counterparts is not necessarily a logical argument. The fact is that certain sectors of the economy are unionised for historical reasons. That is not to deny that the establishment of these unions was not connected to workers struggle. It obviously was. However, I would expect a non-unionised factory with 5,000 workers to be stronger than a unionised café with 5 workers. The fact is that factories with 5000 workers tend to be unionised whereas cafés with 5 workers do not.

My final, and major, point is with Revol though:

Quote:
it's not a simple matter of them being paid to deter working class self activity, but of two different ideas of working class self activity, one that seeks to be autonomous from the unions, to go beyond them and eventually smahs them and another that where the unions actual direct the organisation themselves.

To me this shows a certain lack of clarity on the role of the unions today. If the unions by 'directing the organisation' of the struggle, were capable of defending workers living standards, I would support them. If the social democrats could defend workers living standards, I would vote for them. We believe that not only are they unable to do this, but that they take a role in supporting those attacks, which is why we oppose them.

To a certain extent both our position, and NEFACs seem logical. They think that unions can defend the working class, and work in them. We think that they can't, so we don't work threw them. Yours doesn't. You seem to think that unions can defend the working class, but they do it in the wrong way. Of course, it could have been just badly phrased. wink

Devrim

*Of course it could be coincidence. Also when you get one person others follow. When I was in DAM-IWA our local branch (SW London) had about 15 members, and 11 of them worked in three sectors (dole offices, post offices, and nursing). We didn't have any orientation as a group to these sectors. It is just how it turned out. They are quite large common sectors, and it is not so surprising though. The one we are discussing here isn’t.

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Jul 9 2007 09:09
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If your politics are in favour of working class autonomy, for the strengthening of it's control over it's struggles, if you are opposed to the existing unions and if you are opposed to having paid organisers

I'd put it stronger than this. I'd say if your politics are in favour of working class autonomy, for the strengthening of it's control over it's struggles, then you must be opposed to having paid union organisers as members of your organisation.

I've met full-timers who (to coin a phrase) had their hearts in the right place, but, as someone else has pointed out, I'm sure a fair few coppers have signed up because they genuinely thought it was a good thing to do for the community.

Far from organising workers, FTOs disorganise the working class by taking struggle away from the workplace and away from the workers involved. No place for people like that in the working class movement, I'd have though.

Deezer
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Jul 9 2007 10:56
MJ wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
But MJ the current form of union organisation that you, and I, are familiar with does weaken the position of workers, and that more and more workers are realising this,

Yeah I'm just not going to agree with you, it's not that clear cut or universal, and in the current US context you're basically talking about greasing the rails of industrial defeat when you argue for doing away with unions and contracts.

Yeah I'm arguing to grease the rails of industrial defeat after years of trying to win industrial victories (even just small ones) or stave off defeats with my fellow workers. I have not included the sort of detailed strategy in my post that could lead to the conclusion you draw and drawing it demands that you forget that its posted in relation to the matter under discussion, that of having full-time organizers as members and supporters of an anarchist organisation.

I haven't argued for doing away with unions and contracts (I haven't even mentioned contracts). Please note that I also specifically said "the current form of union organisation". Also in relation to workers realising that the types of unions they are members of weaken their position they are usually a bit more inventive - some leave but will still act in solidarity with their fellow workers, others rely on their own shop floor based solidarity, many will take wildcat industrial action while remaining members of the union, others again will union hop, some split and set up their own unions. All pretty clear indications that workers are realising that the current, business model or trades, unions weaken their ability to take on the bosses.

As for organisers with their hearts in the right place mentioned by someone else, yeah thats not the issue. The official I used as an example had his heart in the right place until other layers of bureaucracy at liberty hall told him to squash our industrial action.

On the power to hire and fire, yeah maybe youse wouldn't have this particular organiser in - not sure if its a different layer though as opposed to a more right-wing union rule book. But I'm pretty certain youse couldn't get one sacked for calling off your industrial action - particularly when he's acting inline with others in the bureacracy of the union. Another issue I'd bring up in relation to an organisers position is that victory or defeat these fuckers keep their jobs. The people who put their necks on the line to unionise a workplace are workers who can get sacked for doing so. The union 'organiser' can't. The people struggling, and who may lose, in face of redundancies and closures are the people who's jobs are on the line. The union organisers isn't. These people are little more than parasites on our struggles, where their hearts are, whether they've some social worker conscience about helping us, is pretty irrelevant.

Edited to add: Also MJ I find it 'interesting' that you didn't try to say that the ability to withdraw industrial action, agreed upon by over 90% of the workers would indicate we were talking about different layers. This for us at the time would have been a much more important issue setting the union organiser on the wrong side in relation to our struggle than his threat or ability to suspend shop stewards and health and safety reps.

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 9 2007 11:05

didn't thug say that people (and a specific poster in particular) should be sacked for leaving a collaborationist union? they may not formally have hire and fire powers but they sure as hell think like management, which would tend to support the argument that their position tends to put them in a position of contradictory class interests

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MJ
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Jul 9 2007 11:51
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
Revol, I think there's a confusion here. On the one hand, you could say, which you have but without any support, "organizing staff are actively politically bad for our class and if you take one you will be working against our class." On the other hand, you could say "full time organizing positions are politically limited" or that they're a political dead end so there's no positive political reason to take one.That amounts to political indifference to individuals' taking staff jobs. That's my position. If someone takes a staff job, it's their business. It's not a radical thing to do, doesn't advance the revolution, but not everything we need to do has to advance the revolution. You actually argued something similar in the the 'subculture' thread against Dundee, against the idea of changing how people dress. It's funny now that you're saying "don't take organizing jobs even if you want one", which is much more major matter of one's life than the clothes one wears.

MJ aren't you a syndicalist of some manner? To hear you put someones occupation in the same league as how they dress is the most absurd thing i've ever heard!
If your politics are in favour of working class autonomy, for the strengthening of it's control over it's struggles, if you are opposed to the existing unions and if you are opposed to having paid organisers , then it is basic fucking sense that you won't be taking a job as a full time paid organiser for the existing unions.

And it is both politically limited and politically bad for the class, i don't see how you think there is a contradiction here, at most all I can see is that in the absence of wider working class militancy it will appear more as just limited than actively counterproductive.

And I pointed out that the ban on is on members taking full time roles in the union apparatus, this is primarily aimed at stopping members getting sucked into them, y'know being offered a nice full time job to take them off the shop floor. Now if we have members who have turnt down such offers at personal sacrifice to themselves or their families, how can we then turn round and let in someone who is a paid full time organiser?

I didn't say that, I believe that was Nate.

knightrose
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Jul 9 2007 11:54

I agree with Devrim. We need some clarification of what is meant by the term "organizer". It does strike me at the moment that there are a lot of cross pruposes going on here.

posi
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Jul 9 2007 13:51

Hi, very busy so will have to be quick.

On the matter of what organisers do (I work as one, for those who hadn't spotted this already), it varies alot from union to union. The archetypal role of the organiser has been generated, historically, by the praxis of the SEIU, and UNITE-HERE in the US. The organiser's job is to build relationships with workers and move them gradually into action and organisation. It's to teach basics of organisation, and strategy. it's to 'rub the sores of discontent'. In practical terms: alot of time spent leafletting, or talking to workers outside work to make first contacts, meeting them at home or in a cafe, or using the phone, to have conversations about work, what it could be like, how to get there... etc. In hotels, or public workplaces, you can sometimes walk around talking to people on the job. It's to be a little extra social glue in massive, transitory workplaces. i've never had to do it, but Chuck talks about following people home to build the workplace map. The organiser will support the workers to build and run a committee. They won't have any formal authority over workers, and will only do organising, not 'servicing' of any form. Depending on the size of the workplace or industry, they may work in teams of up to 10, or alone.

(I was surpised to hear Boul's story... no organisers I know, have that sort of authority (though i wouldn't be surprised to hear it from an elected branch official). I have absolutely no capacity to order workers to do anything. Since everything I do takes place in private conversations with workers, I'm more or less unmonitorable for anything sensitive, as long as everyone keeps schtum.)

Umm, ask if I should be more specific, but the organisers will do lots of mapping and (in the absence of a proper research dept.) will do research on the company to identify strategic vulnerabilities. They will keep records on what they do (fucking time consuming), and arrange trainings where appropriate (again, in the absence of a proper fucking training dept.)

Also, it is not the case that anything approaching a majority of organisers are midle class, ex students. Only 25% of my team has any sort of university degree, which I bet is significantly lower than e.g. SolFed, and is probably lower than the national average (or will be, if things continue at their current rate).

The model is bastardised to varying degrees. e.g. UNISON, and most Australian unions, don't have pure organiser roles, their employees tend to do organising and servicing. In some places they're elected. A union with a proper industrial strategy will have to employ lots of organisers to go after defined targets. A union with less resource committment will probably just let organisers 'hot shop' - follow workers' energy. That's fine in itself, but in industries where wages are a high proportion of flexible costs, and competition is intense, workers won't be able to win significant wage increases without the struggle being generalised. (What do you do if you've organised your shop, and the company has 6 other places over the country which it can bleed work to in order to kill the union? In lala land, your revolutionary organisation contacts will leaflet the sites, leading to a sudden explosion in activity. In reality... maybe you'll need to find a way to commit more resources.)

(nb. saying that organisers should be elected is generally a total form over content obsession - the responsibility of the organiser is to the unorganised workers who by def. can't elect or appoint anyone. Also, elections are the functional process by which bureaucracy emerges - oddly, employment cancircumvent that a little.)

Just a few other points:

Devrim - it's not the case that most significant sectors are unionised in the UK already. The service (inc. hotels and restaurants, building services) and retail sectors, private sector call centres, postal services outside of Royal Mail. Density in the UK is about 30% of the workforce. But that is overwhelmingly concentrated in the public sector.

Also, nobody has answered a key question of Nate's. (Quality argument from Nate, btw.) Are you talking about already organised, or unorganised workers? Revol implicitly assumes already organised, the button repeats this:

the button wrote:
Far from organising workers, FTOs disorganise the working class by taking struggle away from the workplace and away from the workers involved.

... assuming that there's already a struggle there, to be taken away. Most of the work organisers do, like I say, is starting new struggles where there are none (or not none, but nothing with any significant level of collectivity or tempo). I wish, I wish I was routinely confronted with hot shops, ready and willing to take action, but it's not the case. It's a massive, massive amount of effort, months or maybe years of agitation to even begin to spread any sense that people aren't just lucky to have the jobs they've got, and if they don't like it they should move on. Making them feel that they can change how things are - especially without adopting a rhetorical short cut to give the impression that the union, as an outside body, will fix it for them - is another slog on top of that. It's not even always possible to get people to not be grateful for their 19 grand a year jobs in London. In many of these unorganised sectors, you're lucky to find anyone who's been around for more than 2 or 3 years, one place I organise which has about 600 employees, hires/fires around 40 every week. Almost none of the people in these workplaces will have any social movement experience whatsoever. Finding one person whose on the case, angry, relational and has time on their hands feels like an absolute miracle. The whole idea of calling a meeting to decide what to do - and to decide to do someting oppositional - even to them - is totally alien. Getting people over this initial hurdle is a valuable step in itself. This is most of what we do.

Also, fact is, when unions have got some militant angle on a particular struggle (because it doesn't threaten the union structure, but advances it), organisers can help with that as well. Chatted to any of the NCP Enfield strikers? The couple I talked to seemed pleased with the support they'd had from the full time organisers, and the rest of the union (whose private equity campaign probably contributed to the victory). Talk to any of the T&G tube or city cleaners - same. Often it happens.

Final point: revol uses the argument says that outside organisers are anathema to workers' self organisation. But it's simply not accurate. The job of the organiser is to ever reduce the dependency of the core activists, and workers in general, on anyone from outside. It's not even possible, let alone desirable, to entirely organise a place from the outside. This is why Thug and Chuck bang on about 'leaders' all the time. Why isn't it ok to prompt and stimulate organisation from the outside? Think of Devrim & co. leafletting that factory in the Czech Republic. Did they work there? No - but no problem, it was valuable. They came along, as outsiders, in order to agitate and show to workers the power they have. It's just the same as what organisers do. As I argued on another thread, that someone works in a different grade shop, or company, or even industry, doesn't disqualify them from from having something useful to say to a given set of workers.

OK, one more thing. Obv. the ideal union wouldn't need paid organisers, or full timers. That's because the membership would be hyper engaged, and wouldn't need full timers. (Once engagement reaches a near 100% and highly committed/militant level, then you get the council form, and the union HQ will probably resist the transition, and its political implications.) But it doesn't follow that a highly unengaged membership (not just engaged in the union, in the formal sense, but in any sort of struggle or oppositional identity at all), cannot, or does not, benefit from full time organisers. Obviously all things about form are historically specific. To take the example of a 2000 person workplace... I think that if there were even 5 really committed activists with good relational skills who'd been working there for a few years... then I'd probably be completely redundant. Which would be a good thing. But it's not the case. So pay cuts (given inflation) come round every year. Bullying is rife. etc. so what do you (from the POV of the working class movementas a whole) do or advocate? Wait for them to kick off and have a wildcat? Leaflet them all about how capitalism's really bad? Get a few of you together and salt the place? (Making sure that you've got people to do the same in the three other sites based over the country - wouldn't want to create a vulnerable bridgehead, only to see the work transferred away.) Or put extra (human) resources into stimulating organisation? I don't mind, as long as there's a strategy. As long as you aren't just sitting back and waiting for people to get fucked day in day out.

k - sorry this is so badly written, already spent longer on this than I meant to

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Devrim
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Jul 9 2007 13:58
Posi wrote:
Think of Devrim & co. leafletting that factory in the Czech Republic. Did they work there? No - but no problem, it was valuable.

Er...Actually I do, but that isn`t the point.
Devrim

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Devrim
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Jul 9 2007 14:06
Posi wrote:
Devrim - it's not the case that most significant sectors are unionised in the UK already. The service (inc. hotels and restaurants, building services) and retail sectors, private sector call centres, postal services outside of Royal Mail. Density in the UK is about 30% of the workforce. But that is overwhelmingly concentrated in the public sector.

What I said was the most significant sectors, not most significant sectors.
Devrim

Jimmy
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Jul 9 2007 14:10
Quote:
syndicalistcat wrote:

here i have to agree with revol's objection to what the WSM says about syndicalism. i've written now two critiques of it, one here on libcom, one on the WSA website, but they ignore me because I'm not in Ireland (a sorry and chauvinistic excuse).

Actually, as well as a reply by Alan a couple of years back, I wrote you a pm back in January after your libcom piece saying I agreed with a lot of what you said. Possibly there wasn't much argument because there wasn't too much disagreement. There's usually a lag between critiques and changes in the position papers, due to inertia more than anything. And obviously most members wouldn't have read your pieces anyway so a prolonged debate will likely happen before any substantive changes make it to the internet.