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On the margins of the debate and split in the Irish anarchist organization WSM

category international | anarchist movement | debate author Monday October 15, 2012 07:55author by Ilan S. - AAtW, ainfos. Mazpenauthor email ilan at shalif dot comauthor address Tel Aviv Report this post to the editors

Mass line versus workerism

The term "reverse engineering", used in computer programming, differs from the old strategies used in the past to start with a problem and try to find a solution to it as it starts with characterizing the goal and then working backwards to try to find the way to it.

The anarcho-syndicalist approach characterized the revolution for cancelling capitalism as an organized uprising of the working class in a crisis of the capitalist system in a similar manner to that of the Marxist left, which claimed that the revolution would be led by an organized party... but differed from it with a slight change: the revolutionary uprising would be led by an organized revolutionary labour syndicate which would be dominant in the working class and would be built and led by anarcho-syndicalists.

Instead of concentrating the efforts of the Marxist left into building the ultimate party which would gradually win the support of a significant part of the working class, they advocated efforts to gradually build the (one big) revolutionary union with anarchist leadership/principles that would gradually include most of the working class.

Neither of them really have bother to understand what has been going on in the minds of the masses of workers over the years, and what necessary and sufficient conditions are required in order to change the minds of the people before the outbreak of the revolution, when before the revolutionary crisis most of the working class will not be advocates of revolution.

Anarchists-Communists and other anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist activists who do not hold the view that a very large pre-revolutionary organization is necessary and able to lead the revolution that will abolish capitalism, advocate a wide variety of activities to bring about the dormant preparedness of the masses of the working class to start a popular uprising in times of crisis in the capitalist system.

Many of these activists intuitively understand that undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist system and strengthening the doubts in the minds of the working class about the feasibility of continuing to live under it, will lead to a serious crisis to arouse the dormant revolutionary trends to be aroused and expressed in an uprising that may lead to revolution.

Organizing the workers' struggle in the workplace was for many years the only prominent field of battle/struggle and contradiction between the interests of the workers and capitalism.

But, more and more other areas of conflict of interest and struggles against the capitalist system and its main aspects have become prominent (social services, gender, the environment, social security, wars, immigration, etc.). The struggles in these areas and more so the participation in them (direct actions are no less empowering than wildcat strikes) contribute to eroding the legitimacy of the capitalist system and the belief that there is an option to continue to live under it for long.

Those who do not understand the dynamics of undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist regime, the undercurrent doubts about life, and the tendency towards struggle/uprising are bound to channel efforts into areas with limited utility and ignore activities that contribute immensely to the mental change that is needed.

The nature of the current global struggle for "social justice" characterized by anti-capitalism and anti-authoritarianism (anarchist style by fans and detractors) shows the right direction.

Just one illuminating example:

A few dozen social justice activists - most of them with no previous experience of struggle with anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian tendencies, but influenced by the year of world social struggles - initiated mass actions that included at their peak nearly half a million participants in one evening of demos in a country with 7 million inhabitants.

Addendum:

Evening of 11.10.2012 in Tel Aviv: After splits and elections coming, those who reject the parliamentary road mobilized again about 400 participants in a social justice demo.

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by akai - zsppublication date Mon Oct 15, 2012 17:00Report this post to the editors

I find this to be a generally hollow article. Without any convincing arguments to speak of, we are being told what "the right direction" is. But this article overall is based on flawed premises and has no strength.

The first idea which I find remarkable (in the negative sense), is the very false idea that their are quite separate roads for anarchosyndicalists and other anarchists. The reason for this is simply because many participants in anarchosyndicalist organizations are at the same time anarchocommunists and anti-authoritarians. It simply is not true that people in these organizations see the workplace as the only important area of activity. Any basic research into what people are actually doing shows that this idea, which seems to be a central point in the author's argument, is just false.

The author also writes: "Organizing the workers' struggle in the workplace was for many years the only prominent field of battle/struggle and contradiction between the interests of the workers and capitalism."

What on earth? Other types of struggles with capitalism outside the workplace have been prominent for as long as I can remember. In fact, one can say that in some areas of the world, the participation of anarchists and anti-authoritarians against capitalism has not been primarily in the workplace. I would be quite curious to learn where the author thinks concretely the workers struggle has been so prominent as to exclude the others. I cannot think of any such places, although I can think of a number of places where there are large anti-authoritarian movements, but no large anti-authoritarian workers movements to speak of.

Maybe the author would use the latter as some sort of argument against the necessity of building workplace movements, but anarchosyndicalists would all argue that they are a necessary part of tearing down the capitalist edifice. I don't know people personally who would argue they are the only part. Which makes this article seem ingenuine to me, some sort of ideological baiting in promoting what seems to be weakly argued assumptions.

author by Ilan S. - AAtW, ainfos. Mazpenpublication date Mon Oct 15, 2012 21:01author email ilan at shalif dot comauthor address Tel AvivReport this post to the editors

The article was not intended to be a stand alone. It referred to the criticism of ex-WSM activists who criticized the "neglect" of WSM activity within workplaces and "inflation" in the activity within the other "social struggles".

The objection expressed to "anarcho-syndicalism" was not directed to all who self label themselves so or their political/social activity - only towards those whose core is the old anarcho-syndicalist claim that anarcho-syndicalists should build revolutionary unions for wide spectrum of people (including non anarchists) in anarchist stile organization. This "one big union" will do the revolution.

Like many other anarchists I hold that anarchists should organize themselves and not organizing non anarchists. I stress the difference between initiating and/or involvement in organized activities and projects with other and monopolizing the leadership of these.

In the work place struggles anarchists activists can and often are elected to the position of shop stewards and heads of workers comity within general (and reformist) unions...

I regard the main difference between my opinions I label them "libertarian/anarchist communist" and that of these who label themselves as "anarcho-syndicalists" in a) the role dedicated to syndicates and the work of anarchists within them; b) the role of the pre-revolution anarchist lead syndicates and the occurring of the revolution.

As for my claims about the way people opinions are built and the dynamics within the system, they are based on big pool of research tat is no reason to quote them here as this is not a scientific paper.

To the: "Maybe the author would use the latter as some sort of argument against the necessity of building workplace movements" The answer is clearly NO.

The difference is about who initiate and building workplace movements, who manage them, and the role of anarchists in workplace and syndicates movements.

The comrade akai - zsp is invited to clear for us the difference she see between anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian communists we do not label themselves anarcho-syndicalists...

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by akai - ZSPpublication date Mon Oct 15, 2012 21:24Report this post to the editors

Ilan wrote: The objection expressed to "anarcho-syndicalism" was not directed to all who self label themselves so or their political/social activity - only towards those whose core is the old anarcho-syndicalist claim that anarcho-syndicalists should build revolutionary unions for wide spectrum of people (including non anarchists) in anarchist stile organization. This "one big union" will do the revolution.

Ilan, can you enlighten me as to what is in your head?

Are you saying that unions should not contain non-anarchists, or that somebody is claiming that only a union will do the revolution? And, as far as I know, few anarcho-syndicalists refer to the OBU - that is usually the idea of anarchists working in neutral syndicalist organizations.

Ilan wrote: Like many other anarchists I hold that anarchists should organize themselves and not organizing non anarchists. I stress the difference between initiating and/or involvement in organized activities and projects with other and monopolizing the leadership of these.

So, how is participating in a grassroots, democratic workers organization organizing "other people"? There are organizations without leaders, where people decide for themselves, even if they are not anarchists.

Ilan wrote: In the work place struggles anarchists activists can and often are elected to the position of shop stewards and heads of workers comity within general (and reformist) unions)...

Sure, but this has nothing to do with anarchosyndicalism.

Ilan wrote: The comrade akai - zsp is invited to clear for us the difference she see between anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian communists we do not label themselves anarcho-syndicalists...

Well, maybe I will attempt that later, but it would surely not satisfy anybody working on certain assumptions. First assumption to get over would be that all people in anarcho-syndicalist organizations are actually anarcho-syndicalists. The other assumption which is clearly seen on this portal is that reformist syndicalist practices in which anarchists participate are somehow equal to anarcho-syndicalism. Third assumption is that libertarian communists have such similar ideas and therefore see a clear distinction between their work in the here and now and that of activists in anarcho-syndicalist organizations. Without overturning a few of these assumptions, led by a desire to define things for other people, my answer would not fix into somebody else's boxes.

author by Ilan S. - AAtW, ainfos. Mazpenpublication date Mon Oct 15, 2012 22:01author email ilan at shalif dot comauthor address Tel AvivReport this post to the editors

AKAI wrote:

"Well, maybe I will attempt that later, but it would surely not satisfy anybody working on certain assumptions. First assumption to get over would be that all people in anarcho-syndicalist organizations are actually anarcho-syndicalists. "

Ilan
Long long ago a study on the affiliation of people reveled that only about 50% of those enlisted in political organizations have a political opinion compatible with the official one.

No reason i will be different in anarcho-syndicalist organizations....

AKAI
"The other assumption which is clearly seen on this portal is that reformist syndicalist practices in which anarchists participate are somehow equal to anarcho-syndicalism."

Ilan
I wonder where this come from as it was not raised in the debate within the WSM or in the margin of it. The spectrum of syndicates is wide. There are ones from the extreme right on one side and revolutionary syndicates on the other. To my opinion the only and objectionable characters unique to anarcho-syndicalism is the role they give to the "one big anarcho-syndicalist union." and the role of anarchists within it. Activists who just self label themselves anarcho-syndicalists but do not hold this principles are not subject of my criticism.

AKAI
Third assumption is that libertarian communists have such similar ideas and therefore see a clear distinction between their work in the here and now and that of activists in anarcho-syndicalist organizations. Without overturning a few of these assumptions, led by a desire to define things for other people, my answer would not fix into somebody else's boxes.

Ilan
For sure the spectrum of libertarian/anarchist communism is relatively wide. However there is at least one common distinction between them and the anarchosyndicalists - even those anarchosyndicalists who do not object to specific organization of anarchists in addition to the syndicate.

The difference to my opinion is about the role of anarchists in the building of syndicates/ organizing workplaces and about the role of the "one big anarchist syndicate" in the revolution.

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by akai - ZSPpublication date Tue Oct 16, 2012 02:14Report this post to the editors

llan wrote:
I wonder where this come from as it was not raised in the debate within the WSM or in the margin of it. The spectrum of syndicates is wide. There are ones from the extreme right on one side and revolutionary syndicates on the other. To my opinion the only and objectionable characters unique to anarcho-syndicalism is the role they give to the "one big anarcho-syndicalist union." and the role of anarchists within it. Activists who just self label themselves anarcho-syndicalists but do not hold this principles are not subject of my criticism.

It came from you because you argued that people are shop stewards, work in the mainstream unions, etc. And if a person who defines him or herself as an anarchist is part of this, well, it is their activity, but NOT as anarchosyndicalists as it is not by nature anarchosyndicalist activity. Although some anarchosyndicalist organizations allow dual carders, these people do not see their activity in the mainstream unions as anything other than economic one, maybe forced because the other workers have chosen it and no other union is functioning.

I don't think it is correct to make some generalization about the role of one big anarchosyndicalist union since this is more an academic theory than a revolutionary dogma for the anarchosyndicalists from the anarchosyndicalist unions. (Don't know what ideas are predominant from those calling themselves anarchosyndicalists working in the state-funded and straight syndicalist ones.)

Ilan wrote: The difference to my opinion is about the role of anarchists in the building of syndicates/ organizing workplaces

This is truly mysterious for me. Seems like you took this from a history or ideology book, not from real life.

All of us here at least are workers. We build organizations with people in different areas, in the workplace, outside, in the community, etc., sometimes specific to one struggle. The role of anarchists is the same role as anybody else in the organization. The only thing is when we found an organization, we want to found something to promote direct decision making, horizontal structures and some basic political aims. If people are fine with that, they join. If not, they don't join. It's sort of crazy to thing there is any special "role", except for starting something based on certain principles. It is part of promoting our principles and whether or not people like this depends on what they see us do concretely. And everything else is bullshit from some history books. Joining an anarchosyndicalist organization is something people do of free and conscious choice, so why is there anything wrong with anarchists building self-managing organizations with other people in their workplace and community?

If people in the end don't like that way of working, they will either outvote the others out of anarchosyndicalism or will do something else. Anarchists are not forcing people to do anything.

Of course there are some people who call themselves anarchists who behave like vanguardists, but I would not assume this is part of anarchosyndicalism, but rather something in strict contradiction to it.

Did not read the WSM debate and do not know what it is about; my comments here only relate to your article and tendencies to try and examine anarchosyndicalism from a theoretical point of view which doesn't correspond to most people I know.

author by curiouspublication date Tue Oct 16, 2012 03:28Report this post to the editors

Irrespective of the merits of Ilan and Akai's debate, where can I find information about this supposed split in the WSM? What information is Ilan taking into consideration to base his arguments? Could you give some links? Thanks

author by nestorpublication date Tue Oct 16, 2012 16:57Report this post to the editors

It refers to this article:

Related Link: http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/bronterre/2012/08/16/th...lysis
author by Andrewpublication date Tue Oct 16, 2012 18:08Report this post to the editors

Not really a split as such as although a few people left (4 in that group, one of whom has since rejoined) they didn't carry out any political activity as a group afterwards. Two of them are involved in that website but they have quite a different view on how to implement their proposals (one has joined the broad left ULA, the other hasn't).

I have a reply to the text linked to above in the works - I'd hope to finish that soon but for now just keep in mind its one persons' perspective and memories and others would have significant differences with both. It will be easier to discuss the specific points raised once differences of perspective and memory have bee outlined.

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