DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

decision making in an organisation

169 posts / 0 new
Last post
Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 4 2008 07:36
Madashell wrote:
]If individual members or local groups choose not to particpate in something the national organisation is doing, that's down to them, as long as they don't work to undermine the national organisation. I really don't see why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

I understand it. I just don't agree with it.

Madashell wrote:
I do think that you guys have a tendancy to dedicate yourselves to your organisation more than is sensible, and I think that it's because of volunteerism more than anything else.

I don't understand the second bit of this sentence. Why is it voluntarism*?

Madashell wrote:
I don't actually have any problem with organisations following a strategy, I just find the idea of an organisation making a binding decision upon all of its members that they have to take part in this or that campaign a little odd, to say the least. Every single member of an organisation can't be involved in everything that organisation does, communists are people too, and we happen to have lives of our own wink

No, I think that the organisation should decide, which members are involved in which activity, in order to best utilise its resources.

I completely disagree with this comment:

Jimmy wrote:
Because we’re involved in a range of issues, members will focus on some issues more than others. In that sense members can choose to focus on some work more than others.

Members, in my opinion, should choose as individuals. It should be a decision made by the organisation.

Knightrose wrote:
My guess is that if they strongly disagree and try to implement something, then they'll do it badly.

Knightrose has a point with this comment, but the way I look at it that is just something that needs to be considered by the organisation when it makes its decision.

Devrim

*I understand voluntarism to mean believing that communist militants can move the class by their efforts alone.

gurley's picture
gurley
Offline
Joined: 4-01-07
Feb 4 2008 07:51
Devrim wrote:
Madashell wrote:
]If individual members or local groups choose not to particpate in something the national organisation is doing, that's down to them, as long as they don't work to undermine the national organisation. I really don't see why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

I understand it. I just don't agree with it.

I am sort of seeing this discussion through the eyes of someone who is involved with a very large expansive union. We are fairly democratic, but occasionally locals end up take positions or engage in actions which are opposed by the national/international organization. I have, at many times, supported these small locals who have taken unpopular stances within their unions. What is your position on this ? Would you support a local group who is engaging in an action which is not supported by the national org. even if that action is justified and is furthering a revolutionary agenda ?

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 4 2008 08:42

I think it is a very different discussion, Gurley. You are talking about unitary organisations, and the discussion is about political organisations. Of course, I would support workers who took action against the wishes of their union. I don't think that their union is a revolutionary organisation though.

Devrim

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 4 2008 11:45
Quote:
I don't see why the IWW should be treated as special or distinct from any other organization engaging in class based organizing.

Yeah but that's not all that the IWW is (at least ostensibly). Its got very similar stated goals and principles to SolFed's.

There's also the attitude that some wobs have had towards SolFed, such as an ex-member (Gentle Revolutionary) talking about how soon the IWW will be big enough to humiliate SolFed into submission and be the only group for anarcho-syndicalists in the UK.

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Feb 4 2008 11:56

We loved him, too. grin

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 4 2008 12:13

well are you "into submission" twisted yet?

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Feb 4 2008 12:48

well, I've never heard that attitude within the IWW. That's not to say it never happens, but I guess some SF members may be just as stupid. If anyone like GR says that, they are speaking out of turn.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Feb 4 2008 13:10

I don't believe GR is involved in IWW anymore and hasn't been for a long time.
Anyway, anyone who has had any dealings has quickly realised he is full of shit and bonkers.

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 4 2008 13:24

Oh come on, GR left us for the fucking AWL after denouncing every anarchist group there was knightrose - speaking out of turn? Putting it a bit lightly grin

Now that said [in b4 shitstorm] - whilst the IWW is certainly never going to be the *only* option for anarcho-syndicalists the IWW is already the only option for people who want to use a syndicalist union in the contemporary workplace. It is a functioning syndicalist union, a coupla weeks ago i was working in a job branch where everyone except the boss was a wob; last year we defended a mate of ours in sheffield at a tribunal. These are just things i have had experience of, there is a huge amount of other activity too.

Correct me if i am wrong, but solfed is very much like the AF in that is a propaganda group that gives a certain perspective, but at this time is not functioning as an organisation in the sense of organising. The AF advocates community groups and peoples assemblies (my words, not theirs) to tackle social issues, but as yet has not done them itself, and most of its activity until recently was in solidarity with other campaigns. It advocates 'workplace resistance cells' but i don't think there has ever been a single one.

Similarly SF advocate a syndicalist union but to my very very limited knowledge have not founded one yet, and most of the activity is again, in solidarity with others - and like the AF, propagandising - which it does very well.

This is not meant to be sectarian, if i have made mistakes - point em out smile

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 4 2008 13:28

I guess the main point i was trying to make (and GR was making this point at the time, too) is that right now there are two viable organizations for "syndicalists" (in the very broad sense) to join and be active in.

This could be a somewhat clumsy situation and it doesn't hurt for either group to have a collective discussion about relations with the other. Hopefully that can help prevent any sort of sectarianism or fighting that isn't based on real issues.

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 4 2008 13:39
Battlescarred wrote:
I don't believe GR is involved in IWW anymore and hasn't been for a long time.
Anyway, anyone who has had any dealings has quickly realised he is full of shit and bonkers.

ok now thats going a bit too far in the other direction grin

He took himself way too seriously which lead to shit politics, but he was a quiet, friendly type if you met him.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 4 2008 13:45
Tacks wrote:
Oh come on, GR left us for the fucking AWL after denouncing every anarchist group there was knightrose - speaking out of turn? Putting it a bit lightly grin

Now that said [in b4 shitstorm] - whilst the IWW is certainly never going to be the *only* option for anarcho-syndicalists the IWW is already the only option for people who want to use a syndicalist union in the contemporary workplace. It is a functioning syndicalist union, a coupla weeks ago i was working in a job branch where everyone except the boss was a wob; last year we defended a mate of ours in sheffield at a tribunal. These are just things i have had experience of, there is a huge amount of other activity too.

Correct me if i am wrong, but solfed is very much like the AF in that is a propaganda group that gives a certain perspective, but at this time is not functioning as an organisation in the sense of organising. The AF advocates community groups and peoples assemblies (my words, not theirs) to tackle social issues, but as yet has not done them itself, and most of its activity until recently was in solidarity with other campaigns. It advocates 'workplace resistance cells' but i don't think there has ever been a single one.

Similarly SF advocate a syndicalist union but to my very very limited knowledge have not founded one yet, and most of the activity is again, in solidarity with others - and like the AF, propagandising - which it does very well.

This is not meant to be sectarian, if i have made mistakes - point em out smile

SolFed is trying to build industrial networks, though, which ostensibly would play a part in workplace activity.

Also they had some success in the 90s with a couriers union in London.

I see value in both groups' activities and would like to see something a bit more oriented towards workplace activity than solfed seems to be, but with a bit less voluntarism and idealism about "building the (revolutionary) union" than i often see in the IWW.

And I totally agree with them that you can't simply declare the existence of a "revolutionary union". Despite all of our fine workplace activity, the IWW still has a number of fake unions - lumber workers industrial union, for example. This isn't something that SolFed needs to copy, and i think that 10 or 20 pro-revolutionary lumber workers would have a lot more effect with an industrial network (which could build the way for larger and more permanent organizations, but more importantly promote job control amongst co-workers on a broader scale, even if they aren't pro-revolutionaries) than if they pretended to be a union.

Of course the opposite situation would be in an independent cafe with 15 employees, and 13 of them join the IWW and form a job branch. This is great, and its not important whether they call themselves a union or not, but what they do. Of course this doesn't happen as much as i wish: sometimes it seems like 3 out of 15 join, file for an election, convince 5 more to vote for the union, someone from the branch gets real excited and helps them negotiate a contract (sometimes good, sometimes bad), and 6 months later all the members have quit and we don't know anyone who works there.

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 4 2008 14:04

aha! so they are aiming to build industrial networks, not unions. I see. Perhaps unfair to assess them as a union then. To me it 'industrial network' sounds a bit like the AF's 'resistance cells'; i.e. not happening.

Personally i think you have to offer something for people to join; hoping there are enough revolutionaries out there who will want to help you build a network/union is not going to work.

Also, i knew about the couriers thing - i didn't know it was solfed, so fair play to them for that.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 4 2008 14:25

afaik, solfed also had some members involved with workmates about 3-4 years ago - which was a tube maintenance rank and file group (don't know how much it was 'rank and filist' and how much a 'workplace group', or how exactly solfed was involved - there's not a lot of information around on it). I saw something about there being a couple of hundred people in 'workmates' somewhere though - which'd suggest 1. that solfed was a small minority 2. that it was fairly significant in itself given there's not many such groups the past few years.

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Feb 4 2008 15:30

From the archives: -

Quote:
New workers' organisation on Tube

Tube workers at a West London deport have moved from grassroots trades unionism to workers' control over their own organisation. On Thursday 13th February, a meeting of the Workmates Collective, attended by 150 or so workers, unanimously carried a proposal to set up a council composed of recallable delegates from each gang. The Collective has been transformed from a handful of RMT workplace reps into the Workmates' Council, moving towards a libertarian formation on anarcho-syndicalist lines instead.

Workmates' history

Workers from various London Underground Ltd. (LUL) engineering departments formed the Collective. These included Track Installers (P-Way), Track Welders, Crossing Makers, Carpenters, Ultrasonic Rail Testers, Track Vent Cleaning Gangs, along with lorry drivers. Some of these departments work alongside large numbers of barely unionised subcontracted labour, comprising over 120 agency workers in total.

More than 250 workers formed the Collective initially centred on the fight against the privatisation of London Underground through the Public-Private Partnership. Over the last five years of this struggle agency workers have shown utmost loyalty to their LUL workmates during a number of strikes. This was established early on by agency Track Installers and Track Welders, some of whom had been Yorkshire and Kent miners, and has been maintained ever since.

This solidarity has also been maintained in dealing with Health & Safety issues affecting agency and LUL workers alike. When necessary, this has resulted in “refusals to work on the grounds of Health & Safety”.

On track

At the time of writing, the various gangs have been going through the process of nominating their delegates. Initial delegates' meetings have been held to form the Council. A number of gangs have already nominated a delegate, and everything is said to look “on track”!

That's from 2003.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 4 2008 15:56

Thank button. I'd seen that, but it was pretty much all I've seen apart from very brief mentions. Is there any more of what happened afterwards? The role in the strikes that were mentioned?

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Feb 4 2008 16:26

There was a much longer piece in Direct Action a couple of years ago, but I can't find it. embarrassed At least one of the SolFed members involved is still active on London Underground. Don't know what became of Workmates though (or even if it's still going in some form) cos he's a man of few words.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 4 2008 22:06

Here's the website of the education workers network, which anyone can peruse and judge for themselves: http://www.ewn.org.uk/. Its looks more organized than anything the IWW have going in the education sector.

gurley's picture
gurley
Offline
Joined: 4-01-07
Feb 4 2008 22:23
guydebordisdead wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:
Here's the website of the education workers network, which anyone can peruse and judge for themselves: http://www.ewn.org.uk/. Its looks more organized than anything the IWW have going in the education sector.
Quote:
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 31 July 2007 )

It still looks more organized than anything the IWW has going on in the education sector.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Feb 4 2008 22:23

Do we really need to talk about the IWW?
In most organisations it is unlikely that serious disagreements will arise and as such people are unlikely to be forced to do things they have a real problem with. For example at HSG we passed a motion to leaflet every month as a standing commitment, because it was felt it was important. First two were against UCKG bec\ause we had a decent leaflet (nicked off someone I think), some people wanted to return to confrontingt Brighthouse (high interest payment plans electrical shop) but we didn't have the leaflet ready so we didn't. So while only some members felt UCKG was more important , that was still what was done. Incidentally I think leafletting every month is a good thing, both for discipline and in getting the organisation out into the public. They were also leafletting brighthouse on saturday smile

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Feb 4 2008 23:51
gurley wrote:
I don't see why the IWW should be treated as special or distinct from any other organization engaging in class based organizing. Why should anarchists discuss the wobs specifically and not other unions and organizations who are using creative organizing models. There are plenty of organizations similar to the wobs doing dynamic organizing that builds significant membership bases, challenges authoritarian models and who are organizing successfully to win real victories for working class people. Many of these organizations are regionally based so I can only point to groups I am familiar with in Philly or San Francisco. But why aren't groups like Young Workers United, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy or Pride at Work's Queer Youth Organizing Project being discussed as viable and interesting organizing models which are just as, if not more, successful as the IWW's organizing endeavors. The IWW is not explicitly anarchist, but there are anarchists involved in the IWW. The same is true for many of the organizations I mentioned above. Since the dissipation of the anti-globalization movement you have seen many anarchist organizers move into working with these regional (often) economic justice based groups. I don't see why those working with explicitly anarchist based groups like Sol Fed ignore the work that these small regional orgs. are doing but focus so intently on the wobs.

You do realise we're in the UK, don't you? There are very few groups doing anything in terms of organising workers here. We've talked about other groups before, such as Building Worker Group and Justice for Cleaners. None of those are ever described, however wrongly, as anarcho-syndicalist though. I'm sure these groups you mention are interesting and there may be things we could learn from them, but they're not on our doorstep, nor are we likely to come across them in day to day activity.

In my local we think it's important that we talk about this, so that the organisation can work through its ideas on relating to the IWW and achieve a bit more clarity. This helps us, and ultimately it could help others work out their approach. It's one of the reasons to be in an organisation - particularly one where members are encouraged that theory and policy is owned by all of us - together we can work out more than we can on our own.

On Workmates, my understanding is that it is fairly dormant at the moment; in part this is because there's a lot going on on the Tube at the moment and the RMT are currently fighting to end the 2-tier workforce introduced by privatisation, which would be the main preoccupation of a lot of the people involved in Workmates. They are also gearing up for a possible Boris victory as one of his key commitments to his backers is to smash the unions on the tube. It is certainly true to say that SolFed was a small minority in Workmates.

The DIWU (couriers) predates SolFed, it was set up by DAM members. When it collapsed, some of them went into the first wave of recent IWW (90s) but couldn't sustain it.

Regards,

Martin

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 5 2008 00:36
jef costello wrote:
In most organisations it is unlikely that serious disagreements will arise and as such people are unlikely to be forced to do things they have a real problem with.

I disagree. You must have democratic structures in place, hoping things will just bimble along all friendly like will not ork in a national group or any group tied to a national structure. HSG is a great group, but probably doesn't have to tackle these questions immiediately because of its Haringey focus.

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 5 2008 00:38
martinh wrote:
The DIWU (couriers) predates SolFed, it was set up by DAM members.

that explains it, i would have remembered if it was solfed.

ftony
Offline
Joined: 26-05-04
Feb 6 2008 09:45

this has strayed a wee bit from the OP, although it has been very interesting to read. wish i had noticed this thread earlier. damn, no time to contribute significantly right now. it does seem that within anarchist organisations especially, due to their nature and principles, there is this negotiation between the right of the individual to stand back and not get involved and the organisation's need to operate as a unit, i.e. in unity. so the issue is creating productive structures that mediate between collective discipline and purpose, and individual freedom of refusal (or otherwise nonconformity to org principles/strategy). personally, especially given that the only organisation i am a member of is a) not anarchist and b) not a political organisation (i.e. a mass-oriented organisation with very broad membership criteria), it seems that a key building block for ensuring that organisations function democratically, effectively and transparently is participation.

so, a question to our friends in anarchist organisations - what level of participation is there in your organisations, and how do you think it affects the issues discussed above?

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Feb 6 2008 11:41

for me, the higher the level of participation the better your internal democracy becimes but the greater the need to formulate firm guidelines and agreements.

Carousel
Offline
Joined: 19-09-07
Feb 6 2008 15:13
Quote:
Do people think it is even neccessary to decide what an organisation should collectively do, as a whole?

Good question. Organisations with a vaguely communist (or even conventionally humanitarian) frame of reference will struggle to make decisions due to the various magical beliefs about oppression, exploitation and so on. Casting our gaze onto organisations able to make progress on their missions for moment, one finds a series of business processes with well-defined decision points within them, the criteria being set out as part of that process definition. Where there is room for deliberation it occurs in workshop environments where processes are designed and in the boardroom over matters of strategy. Even then, as far as strategy is concerned, the options are usually so limited that argumentation is rarer than might be generally expected.

It astonishes me, Tacks, that there are any anarchist / communist parties significant enough in terms of either mission or capacity to warrant making organisational decisions. Organisation is just a crippling overhead unless the task undertaken requires collective action. The creation of policy, for instance, does not. That is to say, such decisions are things to be made prior to the organisation being formed.

gurley's picture
gurley
Offline
Joined: 4-01-07
Feb 6 2008 17:55
martinh wrote:
You do realise we're in the UK, don't you?

Sorry...I spaced that Sol Fed is only in the UK. The same thing happens in the US as well...I was making a generalized statement. I also think that I may have been tipsy on a few glasses of wine when I was posting that night. smile

gurley's picture
gurley
Offline
Joined: 4-01-07
Feb 6 2008 18:13
Quote:
so, a question to our friends in anarchist organisations - what level of participation is there in your organisations, and how do you think it affects the issues discussed above?

I have only been a part of a few anarchist organizations. The only one that significantly discussed organizational issues was NEFAC. And I think others on this site could go into NEFAC's structure better than myself since I was only a member for a year or so. One of the reasons I left NEFAC was because I found it to be very top heavy and a little *too* focused on process...not enough on action. By "top heavy" I mean that they put allot of energy into hashing out their national political positions....but often on a local level there was very limited activity. It took years sometimes to come to an agreement on a position paper. Not that this stopped local unions and collectives from moving on certain issues....but it did make things a little clunky. Plus, on a local level there was constant minor political disagreements that for some, warranted a split in the local collective. So based on little political differences you suddenly ended up with 3 collectives in one city. This is just my personal opinion, I' m sure others have had different experiences.

Most of the other groups (locally and nationally) I've been a part of were mostly single issue campaign based groups that functioned as "anarchist" or "consensus based" organizations. ACT UP was one of those groups where the local chapters had complete autonomy but would often unite with other chapters to work on national or international campaigns. I like this model because national unity was based on need and necessity. So you didn't see local groups (who were often working on very specific regional campaigns) being shoehorned into a national campaign or position that didn't make sense for the local organization to be part of.

Beltov
Offline
Joined: 10-05-05
Feb 6 2008 19:35
Tacks wrote:
I'd like to hear some of the different ways revolutionary groups make decisions and decide what they are going to do as an organisation... How do left communists do it?

Firstly, as you're probably aware membership of the ICC is based on a clear understanding of our platform and statutes and a firm commitment to abide by and defend them. This doesn't mean that there isn't disagreement and discussion, but we start off from quite a high level of agreement. We have never published our statutes but our platform is widely available.

The sovereign body of the ICC is our international congress, which meets every two years. It is composed of delegations sent by the territorial sections from all over the world - from the Americas, Europe and Asia. At the last congress we also invited delegations from groups outside the ICC, from Turkey (EKS - I met Leo!), Brazil (OpOp), South Korea (SPA) and Philippines (Internationalysmo, who unfortunately couldn't attend). The size of the delegation depending generally upon the size of the section. Before the congress draft reports are written on Activities, International Situation (class struggle, imperialist tensions, economic crisis), Finances etc. which are discussed by the sections in the months before the congress and the delegations are given mandates, but these aren't necessarily binding. It depends on how the discussion develops at the congress. At the congress itself draft resolutions are presented to which ammendments can be proposed. At the end of the congress the resolutions and ammendments are voted on. These give the general orientations and perspectives that become binding on the whole organisation for the next two years. The congress nominates various central organs to ensure the continuity of the work of the organisation in between congresses. These meet regularly between congresses and sections send delegates to these meetings.

The territorial sections themselves hold congresses and conferences in the alternating years, taking the various resolutions from the international congress as their framework. The sections go through a similar process themselves of draft reports, discussions and resolutions that concretise the international resolutions, but can also develop on them as time moves on and situations change. The territorial sections themselves nominate central organs and sub-commissions that meet regularly to ensure the orientations given by the congresses are carried out. Also, delegations are invited to attens from other sections. There is a lot of international travel involved in being part of the ICC!

So, the approach we take is centralised - the central organs at the international level take precedence over those at the territorial level. But this does not mean that the individual militants are simply cogs in a machine. There is a great emphasis on militants to read, reflect, discuss and take position - to state their disagreements openly if they have them, so that they can be discussed and clarified.

Is that clear? If there's anything that isn't then I'll try to answer it.

Finally, a few observations on the discussion so far. First, from what I can see of the activity of the WSM/AF its just leftism, plain and simple: tail-ending a hole raft of bourgeois campaigns, activities, stunts, unionism. There doesn't seem to be much difference between them and the activism of the SWP. And this leads on to the second point really - activism of the leftists isn't called 'mindless' activism for nothing. Nowhere have I seen on this thread any reference to theoretical deepening and discussion of different positions with the aim of raising the class consciousness of the members of the organisation. Yes, 'practical' skills such as producing websites, leaflets, regular publications, books, pamphlets, public speaking etc are vital to have, but there seems to be such poverty in terms of political development of militants. I'm beginning to remember again why I broke with anarchism and joined the communist left!

ronan
Offline
Joined: 26-06-05
Feb 6 2008 23:18
Beltov wrote:

Nowhere have I seen on this thread any reference to theoretical deepening and discussion of different positions with the aim of raising the class consciousness of the members of the organisation. Yes, 'practical' skills such as producing websites, leaflets, regular publications, books, pamphlets, public speaking etc are vital to have, but there seems to be such poverty in terms of political development of militants. I'm beginning to remember again why I broke with anarchism and joined the communist left!

er, well actually beltov the thread isn't about political education in organisations, so i wouldn't be too shocked if there isn't any discussion on the topic. feel free to start another thread on that topic though, WSM does a lot of ongoing political education and discussion of our positions so we might be able to have some input.