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"Why the Leninists Will Win" by Ed Clark (1976)

category north america / mexico | anarchist movement | feature author Monday December 11, 2006 16:44author by Ed Clark Report this post to the editors

The idea that capitalism in its present form in the United States will not endure is hardly to be disputed anywhere. The capitalist class itself debates only the precise mixture of state capitalism, social democracy, and fascism that will best serve to maintain and expand their own power and profits.

That debate is, of course, reflected in Leninist circles. While some maneuver for potential advantage in a developing social democracy, others are busy learning the skills of underground terrorism and urban guerilla warfare. The fortunes of there various groups will ebb and flow with the developing consensus of the capitalist class.
The grim truth of the matter is that when (not if. when) the present form of capitalism in this country is overthrown, the Leninists will win ... unless we overcome our own folly of fragmentation, passivity, and disorganization. The Leninists will win... unless we develop confidence in our own abilities to organize a mass anarcho-communist movement. The Leninists will win... unless we ourselves accept the responsibility of fighting to win!"

It is nothing but ego-puffing drivel to call oneself an anarchist, anarcho-communist. libertarian socialist. etc. and then sit back and wait for working people "out there" to liberate us. It is nothing but revolutionary nose-picking to sit back and wait for the capitalist class to arrange a convenient crisis and then give up its state power to the working class.

I just came across this on-line article from 1976. I remember when this article circulated here in the. US and caused quite a stir of discussion. Interesting to read it again after so many years. While the thesis of the Leninists winning proved wrong, Ed's call for clear cut and responsible anarchist organization still rings out.
Mitch, ../

Why the Leninists Will Win

by Ed Clark (1976)

The following article was written by a radical in the United States last summer [1976]. Although it deals with a different context, we felt that it raised problems and situations that have relevance for us here in Canada too. So we reprint the article here as a contribution to the discussion that many of us are engaging in at the present time.

We anarchists and Syndicalists - indeed all who believe that the liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves - were too poorly organized and too weak to hold the revolution on a straight course towards socialism.
- M. Sergven in the Moscow anarchist newspaper Vol'nyi Golos Truda, Sept. 16, 1918
Most of the Russian Anarchists themselves were unfortunately still in the messes of limited group activities and of individualistic endeavour as against the more important social and collective efforts. . . honesty and sincerity compel me to state that their work would have been of infinitely greater practical value had they been better organized and equipped to quide the released energies of the people towards the reorganization of life on a libertarian foundation.
- Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, 1925
The idea that capitalism in its present form in the United States will not endure is hardly to be disputed anywhere. The capitalist class itself debates only the precise mixture of state capitalism, social democracy, and fascism that will best serve to maintain and expand their own power and profits.

That debate is, of course, reflected in Leninist circles. While some maneuver for potential advantage in a developing social democracy, others are busy learning the skills of underground terrorism and urban guerilla warfare. The fortunes of there various groups will ebb and flow with the developing consensus of the capitalist class.

Thus, barring a major nuclear war, we face two possible futures. One, which I think less likely, would see a major uprising against a fascist tyranny, an uprising led by the political descendents of the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army etc. The other future, which seems more likely to me, would feature the electoral victory of a broad coalition that would have evolved from groups we know today as the Communist Party, October League, Revolutionary Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party, etc.

In a sense most important to us, of course, both futures would be identical: the working class would have no substantive political and economic power. There would be a lot of speeches about the working class, a lot of red flags flying, a lot of statues of Marx and Engels. There might (or might not) be some improvements in the conditions of ordinary working people. But there would be no real freedom. As the rock song of several years ago put it: "Say hello to the new boss: it's the same as the old boss!"

But what about us? How will the presence of those who believe that "the liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves" affect these two futures of Leninist victory?

Therein, as it is said, lies a tale.

About ten months ago (October 1975) I decided to move to the San Francisco Bay Area from New Orleans. I had spent a number of years working in a very small anarcho-communist collective (usually less than six people), and it seemed likely to me that nothing bigger was going to come along in New Orleans for longer than I wanted to wait.

One thing I expected to find here was a much higher level of class consciousness among ordinary working people than was (is) the case in New Orleans. I was not disappointed. There are always thousands of workers on strike here. Frequently they side-step their "leadership" and engage in militant struggle. One can even get occasional glimpses of a kind of primitive socialist consciousness.

But I also expected to find a large number (several hundreds) of people who understood anarcho-communist politics and who were eager to implement those politics in mass struggles. In my more hopeful moments, I saw the possibility of beginning to build a real movement for workers' councils, starting in the Bay Area and spreading across the country.

Of course, why should I expect this? It's not true anyplace else. I have to admit that there was a sizable hunk of romanticism in my "thinking" on this matter. The Bay Area was one of the hotbeds of student radicalism during the 1960's. I had seen some of the pamphlets published by the neo-Situationist groups in the early 1970's, and I assumed these Berkeley-based groups had been steadily growing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it seemed overwhelmingly obvious that given the class consciousness of ordinary working people in the Bay Area, even a small but active anarcho-communist group would quickly grow towards becoming a movement, constantly expanding, recruiting new people, launching new projects, showing up in the midst of every struggle with our basic idea: only the working class can liberate the working class!

Well, I found the anarchists, anarcho-communists, libertarian socialists, etc., if not by the hundreds at least by the score. I attended one meeting with more than 50 people present and a number of others with from 30 to 40 people present. Not bad for a start, right?

This would be a much easier article to write if I could just say that all those I met were simply assholes. Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, they aren't assholes. They are people that anyone with our political views would be delighted to work with.

Except that that is the most amazing and sorrowful fact of the matter. The practical definitions of "political work" that I encountered among various libertarians here were simply stunning in their manifest idiocy.

Or perhaps my own understanding is simply too primitive. I think of political work, whatever form it takes, as something we do in order to win over millions of working people (our sisters and brothers) to the idea that we should all run our own lives. It is, or ought to be, clear that both elements are equally important: mass movements, no matter how massive, that are not libertarian will not liberate us; our ideas, no matter how libertarian, will not liberate us unless shared with millions of working people.

Instead, I heard arguments like these:
"Who needs a movement anyway? What we really need are more small affinity groups, a few close comrades operating on common politics and trust in each other. That's the only real egalitarian politics; big movements are authoritarian by their very nature."
If mass movements are authoritarian by their very nature, if we cannot build an egalitarian mass movement, then we are simply doomed. Small groups will never overthrow capitalism. Instead, the Leninists will do it and we will always live under some form of class society.
"Hell, it's not up to us to liberate the workers any more than it's up to the Leninists. The deepening of the current economic crisis will convince the workers that they must liberate themselves, without any help from us."
What is it up to us to do? Is our role that of merely sitting back and commenting on the latest trends in the economy? When we say that the workers must liberate themselves, do we include ourselves in that phrase?
"We cannot build a movement at all. Movements are built by millions of workers when they want to build them: a small group can't just command such a movement into existence."
It's true that movements by definition are built by millions of working people. But was there ever a movement that didn't begin when a small group decided it was time to begin?
"We can't simply go out and build a libertarian communist movement. First we should spend a year or two developing a common theory and building trust in each other."
How many times does it still have to be repeated: revolutionary theory comes only from revolutionary practice. Trust come only from mutual experience in common struggle.
"Anyway, we don't have to rush into building a united libertarian organization. It's not as if the Leninists are about to take over. They're always squabbling among themselves, committing one blunder after another, hah, hah."
One thing I've noticed out here: the libertarians all take endless delight in the blunders of the Leninists. Now go back and read the quotations at the beginning of this article: who had the last laugh in Russia?
"We should not publish a mass anarcho-communist newspaper in the Bay Area. It's too much work and besides, there's already a dozen left papers out here."
That is, we should scorn to reach working people with our ideas because we'd have to work hard to do it and, anyway it's not necessary since the Leninists are already reaching people with their ideas. (!)

That is what the libertarians in the Bay Area say; this is what they do: revolutionary psychotherapy, revolutionary computer programming, revolutionary book store, revolutionary radio, revolutionary film-making, revolutionary camping out at Lake Tahoe. revolutionary trips to Europe, and. most importantly, revolutionary study groups.

There may be dozens of these groups. some more serious in their studies than others. But they share a common pattern of social invisibility, They are, by and large, closed to new members as a matter of policy. Thus, even if a new person became interested in our politics and (somehow!) found out that one of these groups existed, they wouldn't be allowed to join. (!)

The reader will not be surprised, then, to learn that nothing is presently being done to build an anarcho-communist movement in the Bay Area. One naturally hopes that this will not always be the case, but it will be as long as the libertarians here resolutely refuse to accept their political responsibilities!

It is nothing but ego-puffing drivel to call oneself an anarchist, anarcho-communist, libertarian socialist. etc. and then sit back and wait for working people "out there" to liberate us. It is nothing but revolutionary nose-picking to sit back and wait for the capitalist class to arrange a convenient crisis and then give up its state power to the working class. It is positively criminal when we, knowing full well the intentions of the Leninists, do nothing except make wise-cracks while they gradually learn enough to take over from the old capitalist class and re-establish class society on a new and much more terrible foundation!

The grim truth of the matter is that when (not if. when) the present form of capitalism in this country is overthrown, the Leninists will win ... unless we overcome our own folly of fragmentation, passivity, and disorganization. The Leninists will win... unless we develop confidence in our own abilities to organize a mass anarcho-communist movement. The Leninists will win... unless we ourselves accept the responsibility of fighting to win!"

Published in Volume 2, Number 1 of The Red Menace, Summer 1977.

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author by Adampublication date Fri Dec 08, 2006 19:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe this is a silly comment, but was there really computers that people were doing programming work on in 1976?

Anyways, things have improved to some extent in the Bay. But to a degree alot of folks are stuck in the same shit. People around the country think the bay is some revolutionary hot bed, but most folks I know who've moved here are a bit disappointed.

author by mitchpublication date Fri Dec 08, 2006 21:52author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hey Adam, i no computer wiz, but yes, there were these huge industrial size mainframes.
In fact, I worked in a warehouse in, 1977, that supplied paper and stuff for a company which did checks, financial and other data related processing. I remember the computer rooms being likethe workfloors in the old style textile mills...only the rows of machines were computers. The "hands" were trained computer specialists, etc.

For sure it was all pre-pc, but this segment of the economy was starting to develop in a significant manner---as was the de-industrialization process moved into a higher level.

author by Pat Murtagh - selfpublication date Sat Dec 09, 2006 11:45author email murtaghpatrick at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, the computer age predates the advent of the PC. I can remember punching cards in the early 70s and doing programming on the then new 'Wang Mini Computer' in the mid 70s . Before "micro" came "mini". I have no clue what is taught in present computer science courses, but I'm sure it is a world away from what was taught then when we had to patiently learn both machine language and Basic. The world moves on, but the world then is not so outre as to be indistinguishable from what happens today.
I got a kick out of going back to Ed Clark's writings way back then. The world has changed more than might be assumed from looking at technology. It was certainly a different world then. When I went back to The Red Menace I found how little my own opinions have changed in almost 30 years, but I DID find that things that seemed important then have little relevance today.
Leninism definitely DIDN't win. Today it is a matter of tiny cults, the ends of the Earth (Nepal) or academics that are reaching retirement age. I certainly thought it was more important then, and perhaps it was. I looked through Ed's other writings on the site attacking the neolithic primmies of his day. This may actually have had visibility in San Francisco in those days, but I can attest as a Canadian anarchist at that time that it hardly entered our "radar screen" at all beyond the usual dismissal of, "oh that goof". Today it as hard an ideology as Maoism was then, though with mercifully far fewer adherants, but with every single bad habit that Maoism trumpeted in that time. Unlike the Maoists,however, it will never donate intelligent personnel to social democracy such as Gilles Duceppe. It simply isn't big enough to attract such talent and never will be. The number of Maoists at ANY single time in Montreal during the 70s was not just greater than all the adherants of primitivism in the whole world that have EVER existed, but it is also greater than all that ever will exist. A little reality check here.
What I can say is just how far anarchism has advanced since those days. At the time we were widely seperated groups. The idea of an organization such as NEFAC would have been a pipe dream. Other anarchist initiatives such as Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass or the spread of the Infoshops would have been an utopia. The IWW is far more of a living organization today than we could have imagined in the 70s. Yes, Ed bitched and complained about the lack of anarchist organization then, just as many of us do now.
But what progress HAS been made. In ONLY 30 years. Quite frankly I find this progress more amazing than the progress in computer technology.
By the way, what ever happened to Ed Clark ? All that I can say is that he was NOT the Ed Clark who was the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1980. I tried to find out what he went on to. Any info ?

author by Adampublication date Sat Dec 09, 2006 11:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

OK thanks Mitch. I had a feeling this was the case. I guess I'm just making it obvious that I wasn't around yet in the 70s. ;)

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Sat Dec 09, 2006 18:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maoism's popularity in the U.S. during the 60's and 70's fed on news of revolutionary upheavals and other events in China, Africa, and Latin America, as well as urban unrest and riots in the stateside black community. I suspect Maoism would never have enjoyed the success it did, as a stand-alone intellectual perspective (which is for the most part, all primitivism consists of today.) But a dramatic deepening of the ongoing ecological crisis could conceivably make primitivism the ideology de jour, I fear.

I liken the various crises of capitalism, economic or ecological, to a burning home. Approaching a doorjamb in flames, our instincts cry out, Go Back! This is the appeal of both Libertarian Party politics, with their romanticization of the founding fathers and early market capitalism, and of primitivism, with their more extreme (but nevertheless similiar) romanticization of a simple state of nature. But going backwards is a recipe for fulility and ultimate failure. The desire to return to a simpler time when the house was not alight is understandable, but not very helpful. To survive, we must somehow go forward, through the flames.

Okay, enough of the torturous analogies, you get the point.

author by mitchpublication date Sat Dec 09, 2006 21:47author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

To naswer Pat's question, Ed Clark moved on many years ago. No one has heard from him in about a decade or so.

author by Irving da Nailepublication date Sun Dec 10, 2006 01:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We did try to establish an Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America that lasted from 1978 to 1981 before giving up the ghost. Continental or "national" federations don't seem to fare too well in the U.S. and Canada but it looks like regional grouping like NEFAC have greater staying power.

author by mitchpublication date Mon Dec 11, 2006 07:31author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, we did organize the ACF/NA and, in spite of its shortcomings, it was a good first effort.

Irving, as you were also part of the ACF, why do you think regional efforts seem to work a bit better than a national/continental? Both the ACF and NEFAC had/have common political persepctives. What do you think can be learned from these experiances?

author by mitchpublication date Mon Dec 11, 2006 09:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

what i mean to say was, both ACF/NA and NEFAC have their own common perspective. Not that their perspectives are similiar.

author by Pat Murtagh - selfpublication date Tue Dec 12, 2006 14:37author email murtaghpatrick at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

At the time of the formation of the ACF I was of the opinion that the effort was "premature". The history of the ACF pretty well proved me right. I did my best to support said organization without ever joining it. I was in favour of a national based organization then, and I perhaps still am today. The politics of the USA and of Canada(and Mexico) are different enough that I think that efficiency would be best served by national federations rather than ones based on areas."Bioregionalism" is pretty much an arcane idea that only translates into real politics on a very occasional basis.When it does it is all to the good, but it is a small subset of the questions that an anarchist organization has to face. In my humble opinion the difference between what the ACF tried to do and what groups like NEFAC are doing now is simply a matter of the "bigger pond" effect. NEFAC and other regional organizations can recruit out of an anarchist sympathizer mileau that it at least 10 times larger than existed in the late 70s. Perhaps even more than one order of magnitude. As I said before...progress. It's a different world now. Regional federations in the late 70s would have meant 2 or three groups. That's the reality. End of argument. It may be hard for younger people to appreciate this, but it is true. Go back to the 50s if you want something worse.
As an addendum I agree with what Prole Cat had to say vis-a-vis the social base of 70s Maoism. Very ! true. Maoism has no social base today. Where I posit a different alternative future in terms of an hypothetical "ecological collapse" (whether it occurs or not) is that the "field" will be taken over by far more decent religious responses than the religious response that the primitivists propogate today. The future in such a case may be "bleak", but it will be far less bleak than if our insane comrades were to have their way. Put simply, the ideological attractions of ordinary religions can outcompete the primmies in ANY realistic scenario. THEY are the people who will put the strictures on consumption without the thuggery advocated by the primmies.

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Tue Dec 12, 2006 18:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Whether or not the "collapse" that Pat refers to occurs, we are already in something of an impending crisis. When the U.S. President his own petroleum-loving self, in the absence of any great groundswell of popular outrage around the issue, stopped denying the phenomena of climate change and took the tack that it could be handled without stalling the global economy- this was a sign that the even the self-interested power players (with access to data and analysis I lack) are becoming concerned.

Apologies for drifting off topic. I found the above article to be similar to many another critique of our political activities: long on (valid) criticism, short on specific recommendations of practical activity to improve the situation. Publish anarchist news and commentary- doing that already. Throwing study groups open to all interested parties- check. Strikes me that these were small suggestions, to accompany such a harsh denunciation of the status quo.

author by mitchpublication date Tue Dec 12, 2006 21:35author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat, I'd agree with you that the ACF was premature in the following sense. Perhaps there was not enough regional work done in advance of the continental. Perhaps there was not enough dicussion of the issues of the day. Perhaps.

On the otherhand, there was a sembalance of continetal contact and communication (through the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation-SRAF Bulletin, conferences) and some through other venues.

To this day, I believe the times required a class struggle anarchist-communist/anarcho-syndicalist federation. As 20 plus year olds we had the fire in our bellies and few from past generations to provide us with some guidance.

On the overall I think the ACF/NA was a positive first step forward. The ultimate results were less than what we all hoped for, but I would do it all over again (of course taking in the past lessons).

author by Tom - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Wed Dec 13, 2006 02:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with Pat that the politics of Canada and the USA are sufficiently different that it justifies separate national organizations. I suppose that the existence of competing ideas within ACF in theory need not have led to its break up. But there wasn't a willingness to coexist with, and have dialogue, the different viewpoints. Certain people had a "my way or the highway" attitude. One of the things that WSA has tried to foster is a practice of mutual respect so that compas do not resort to personal attacks or gross distortions of the other's views when disagreement occurs. Maybe this happens because of a lack of experience having to deal with people who have ideas different than your own. For one thing, if people have more experience in actual mass organizations, I think they'll find they have to learn to live with people who have different ideas.

author by mitchpublication date Wed Dec 13, 2006 22:21author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hey there prolecat, hope ya been well.

What I think the purpose of what Ed was doing was to give an additional wake up call to those who saw the need to break-out. While I was never a big fan of Ed, he was raising a point at a given juncture. As were others. The end result of much of these discussions was the formation of the ACF/NA.

author by mitch - Workers Solidarity Alliancepublication date Wed Dec 13, 2006 22:49author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Continuing the historical discussion of building an anarchist movement in the 1970s, Please find this piece written by the late Sam Dolgoff. This was originally published as a mimeo circular and later republished in pamphlet form (along with other essays).



There is no genuine labor movement in America. The class-collaborationist unions, part and parcel of capitalism and the state, cannot (like capitalism itself) be reformed by "boring from within." The phony "leftist" Marxian parties were never really revolutionary. For opportunist reasons of their own, they actually function as the "labor front" for the "welfare state" or state "socialist" varieties of capitalism .

Since the decline of the IWW to a mere handful of dedicated militants, deplores Stanley Aronowitz, " .. . there is no significant force within the working class offering a radical alternative to business unionism . . . " (Worker’s Control, p. 100). What are the possibilities for the regeneration of the labor movement? What are the possibilities for the re-emergence of a revolutionary minority capable of promoting, to an appreciable extent, the radicalization of such a movement? Our remarks are meant to stimulate fruitful discussion of these vital problems, not prescribe cure-all formulas.

Rebellion in the Ranks

The incorporation of the American labor movement into the "labor front" of the emerging American "welfare" capitalist state, plus the alarming extent to which bureaucracy and corruption--all the evils of capitalist society--infects the unions, has had a devastating effect upon the morale of the anti-totalitarian left. It has undermined the faith in the revolutionary capacity of the labor movement. Sincere militants, including many anarchists, reluctantly rejecting the labor movement as a force for social regeneration, are now searching for other alternatives.

In rightfully stressing the indisputable degeneration of the labor movement, the pessimists underestimate or ignore an equally, or more important development, namely, the spontaneous mass revolts of the rank-and-file „ordinary" members against the triple exploitation of the labor bureaucracy, the employers, and the regimentation of the state. The myth of the happy, uncomplaining, American worker, is not sustained by the facts.

The revival of militancy traces back to the revolutionary tradition of the labor movement and particularly to the revolts of the 1930s: a period marked by spontaneous "sit in" strikes of the unorganized against the employers and the organized workers against both the class-collaborationist unions and the capitalists. " . . . the country is full of spontaneous . . . wild-cat strikes . . . " [wrote an activist in December 1937] ... "wherever one goes, there are picket lines.... " The number of strikers in 1930 was 158,000; in 1933, 312,000; in 1934, 1,353,600. Serious assessments about the character of the American working class must take these facts into consideration.

. . . during the second world war, 6.7 million strikers participated in 14,471 strikes, far more than there were in the CIO¼s heyday from 1936 to 1939, and far more than in a comparable period in U.S. labor history. ... many of these strikes were unauthorized wildcats which implicitly challenged the leaders of the CIO and their pact with capital and the state.... (Radical America, July-August, 1975)

The AFL and the CIO, including the Communist Party led unions, after the Nazi invasion of Russia, patriotically opposed all strikes--often labor struggles altogether. Millions of AFL and CIO industrial workers refused to suspend the class-struggle during the second world war. The workers ignored high level agreements and conducted illegal strikes.

There were 1,843 strikes in 1950--more than in 1949, and more than the big year of the 1937 "sit-ins." More importantly, they were large national strikes involving not only wage increases, but also shorter hours, better working conditions, health and welfare benefits and quick correction of grievances. There were also unauthorized strikes r against speed-ups which prefigured the struggles of recent years.

In 1950, the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) signed a five year contract with General Motors outlawing strikes, ignoring the demand of the workers to stop speed-ups and insure quick settlement of complaints. to force the corporation to grant these demands the workers were forced to take action outside the union. Seventy percent of the workers repudiated the agreement and staged wild cat strikes.

The wild cat strike movements of 1953-1954 which spread to all the corporations and all sections of the nation, finally forced the union to restore the right to strike and shorten the duration of the contract.

The workers revolted against the betrayals of their officials by 0 throwing them out of national and local offices in the Steelworkers Union, Rubber Workers Union, Oil and Chemical Workers Union Textile Workers and Electrical Workers Unions, etc., and elected new leaders. Although the new leaders turned to be as bad as the old ones, it did manifest the extent of rank-and-file resentment. The leaders of the unions are afraid to oppose the rank-and-file directly. Having tried to thwart membership initiative, and failed, they have publicly supported strikes, while secretly sabotaging them by siding with the employers to impose labor peace on the rebellious members.

Coal Miners Revolt

One of the great achievements of the sweeping rank-and-file revolts in the trade unions is the victorious revolts of the coal miners which led to the ousting of the corrupt, entrenched, class-collaborationist, criminal regime of the United Mine Workers (UMW) despot, Tony Boyle. Boyle was convicted of plotting the murder of his rival, Jack Yablonski and members of his family. Boyle pledged that the UMW would not abridge the right of mine owners to run the mines. He did very little about safety in the mines, the fatal "black lung" disease, and the right of the miners to correct these, and other grievances by local strikes.

The miners resorted to wild cat strikes which the union could no longer control. Fortune magazine, in a long article declared that the miners " ... were no longer under union discipline.... " The wild cat strike involved 42,000 of West Virginia¼s 44,000 coal miners and thousands of miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and other high production areas. (For this and copious information on other wild cat strikes, see Jeremy Brecher’s excellent STRIKE!)

The miners served notice on the new Miller administration that they would not tolerate the dictatorial procedures instituted by John L. Lewis and his hand picked successor, Boyle. They staged massive wild cat strikes involving over 100,000 miners for the right to settle local issues by local strike without permission of their national, district, or local bureaucrats. Efforts to end the strikes led to the "resignation" (allegedly for health reasons--actually, the ouster) of Miller.

Public Service Workers Strikes

There have been massive strikes even among public service workers who were traditionally the least militant and anti-union. Postal workers staged a nation-wide strike in 1970 not only in violation of federal anti-strike laws (an offense punishable by one and a half years in jail and a $1,000 fine for each striker), but also in defiance of their leaders.

Striking teachers in New York, Newark, and other cities, were not afraid to go to jail for violation of anti-strike injunctions. For example: The Detroit Federation of Teachers was ordered to pay one million dollars for their six week strike. The New York Teachers local was fined $245,000, and the Philadelphia Teachers Local $290,000 (N.Y. F Times ) .

The "New Breed of Workers"

The young workers (40% of UAW members are under thirty) are revolting against the authoritarian, centralized, bureaucratic structure of modern industry. The young workers feel that they have less and less to say about their own lives and interests in the workplace as the union officialdom, in league with the employers, determines the con-ditions under which they must labor. The workers demand individual freedom on the point of production, in the factories and workshops in which they spend the best part of their lives.

Douglas Fraser, a vice-president of the UAW (now its president) complains that:

these young workers have different values than people of our generation And Walter Reuther, deceased president of the UAW talked about . . . the new breed of worker in the plant who is less willing to accept the discipline of the workplace. he is unwilling to accept corporate decisions....

In the spring of 1970, at the Chrysler Detroit plant, young workers rebelled, refusing to work overtime after fifteen straight days on the job. Absenteeism in the plants on weekdays rose from two percent in 1950 to five percent in 1970. On Fridays and Saturdays the absentee rate soared to fifteen percent of the work force. An article written by a reporter who interviewed young workers finds that:

. . . the younger generation which has already shaken the campus, is showing signs of restlessness in the plants of industrial America . . They are better educated and want treatment as equals from the bosses on the plant floor They are not afraid of losing their jobs and often challenge the foremen¼s orders . . many young workers are calling for immediate changes in working conditions, they bypass their leaders and start wild cat strikes. . .

a steel worker recalled that young workers started several wild cat strikes over the way an employee was treated by a foreman . . they wanted to be ASKED what to do. Not TOLD to do it. Last month, young workers led a three day strike in a brick making plant after a foreman disciplined a worker for carelessness in operating a life truck. (quoted--Brecher, p. 265)

In 1971, a wild cat strike almost halted the operations of the General Motors Lordstown, Ohio plant, causing it to lose production of thousands of small Vega cars and Chevrolet trucks. Most of the workers were under twenty five years of age, wages were good. A variety of new types of power tools and other automatic devices, eliminated much of the heavy physical labor. Clearly, the rebellion stemmed from something deeper than the question of wages. It raised the question which promises to be the major issue in the labor movement, namely, workers’ demand for a voice in how, and under what conditions a job is to be done--the issue of workers’ control.

In the 1973 negotiations for a new contract, the union leadership was under considerable pressure from the UAW members and local leaders to limit the freedom of the employer to make decisions about the speed of production, layoffs, automation, etc. But the Vice-President of General Motors, adamantly insisted on management’s uncontested right to make decisions in areas . . . vital to the success of the business.... " i.e., PROFITS.

Revolutionary Possibilities

Revolutionary unions cannot possible provide the conservative worker interested only in "What’s in it for me?" with the benefits that a "legitimate" union is able to provide: strike benefits; annuities; health and life insurance; an adequate staff to administer the welfare programs; a capable legal staff to draw up contracts and defend the union in the courts; plenty of money to pay for all these and many other services; a "responsible" union, recognized and enjoying the respect of the employers with whom employers are willing to sign contracts; etc.

We must face up to the unpleasant fact that the conservative wage slave, afraid to defend his or her rights against the boss and his stooges, is not going to join a tiny, poverty stricken ’ subversive" union whom he or she probably never heard of We have neither the resources, the personnel, nor the desire to imitate the classcollaborationist unions. We cannot do so without betraying our principles and losing our identity. Aside from practical considerations, making it impossible to compete with powerfully entrenched unions; attempts to induce conservative workers to leave their unions and join ours, by hypocritically diluting principles, is a suicidal policy which, to a great extent, led to the collapse of the European labor movement.

Those most likely to join radical unions are the unconscious rebels who are raising hell on the job. They are not afraid to lose their jobs. They challenge the authority of their foremen and supervisors They refuse to work overtime. To enforce their demands they start wild cat strikes in violation of union rules, contracts, and government regulations In the course of their struggles the rebellious workers improvised syndicalist tactics and grass-roots forms of ogranization similar to those worked out by the revolutionary labor movement during its development The demands of the wildcatters practically duplicate those made by the workers since the inception of industrial capitalism. They incIude :

the right of the workers on the job to call and settle strikes and grievances

all demands and ways of putting them into effect must also be decided by the rank-and-file.

slowdowns, ’sit ins" harassing employers, supervisors and foremen and other forms of passive resistance.

the battle for workers’ control must be fought on the shop floor.

refusal to honor agreements made for them, when such agreements clash with the interests of the workers on the job.

Today’s rebels are acting in accordance with the militant syndicalist traditions of the American labor movement. Because the syndicalist opposition is itself a wild cat movement in revolt against the system, it related best to their own experience. Today’s wildcatters could be most receptive to revolutionary ideas. If the libertarian left, now almost extinct, is to become a real force challenging business unionism, it will have to go all out to reach them.

This is not to imply that we should, even if we can, foist our own ideas upon the workers. As Stanley Aronowitz puts it, " . . . the spontaneous revolt will have to develop its own collective forms of struggle and demands." But he believes that ’ . the labor movements of the future . . will take a revolutionary syndicalist direction. . . " (see Workers ’ Control, p . 105 )

Another capable observer, Stanley Weir, notes that the rebellious workers’ groups " . . . scattered in thousands of industrial establishments across the country who have developed informal underground unions . " constitute a sort of guerrilla movement. He suggests that the coordination of such work-groups and plant committees united in city, regional and national councils " . . might be an alternative to bureaucracies elected every few years, far removed from the tribulations and the life of the workers in the factories.... (Workers’ Control, p 46-47,105)

Deficiencies of Wild Cat Movement

Without discounting such possibilities, it seems that these speculations about the future of the wild cat movement are too optimistic. They do not sufficiently consider a number of formidable obstacles

Spontaneity--synonym for the spirit of revolt--is, of course, an indispensable prerequisite for social change. But spontaneity alone, is not enough Emotions are fickle. Popular enthusiasm comes and goes, flares up suddenly and subsides as quickly as it rises, leaving little behind

A most disturbing, even tragic, confirmation of this truth, is the way the miners (the most militant wildcatters in American labor history) after, in effect, ousting their reform" leader Arnold Miller, allowed his successor, Sam Church, to re-institute a dictatorship almost as absolute as that exercised by Boyle Church was allowed to appoint his own vice-president, double union dues, increase the organizing staff from thirty to one hundred and twenty appointees, loyal to Church For this, Church was lauded by such organs of big business as the Wall Street Journal and the mine owners.

There must be knowledge and organization. Spontaneity is not sufficient. Spontaneity is effective only when translated into a solid organization, which animated by the spirit of revolt, is guided by clear and consistent ideas. Bakunin and the revolutionary syndicalists in the First International, stressed the point that if spontaneity alone:

were sufficient to liberate peoples they would have freed themselves long ago since . spontaneity did not prevent them from accepting . all the religious, political and economic absurdities of which they are the eternal victims They are ineffectual because they lack two things--organization and knowledge

. . not even poverty and degradation are sufficient to generate the Social Revolution I hey may call forth sporadic local rebellions, but not great, widespread mass uprisings it is indispensable that the people be inspired by a universal ideal . that they have a general idea of their rights, and a deep passionate belief in the validity of these rights (Bakunin On Anarchy, p 14)

The militants are not social revolutionists, determined to overthrow capitalism and build the new society. Their attitude to capitalism and social problems in general, differs in no essential respect from the ultra-conservative or liberal-bourgeois views of their leaders--men like George Meany or Walter Reuther (both deceased). They seek only gradual reforms within the unions and within the system. Thus, the rank-and-file miners of Kanaway County, West Virginia, virulently patriotic, demanded elimination of subversive" literature and teaching of "subversive" doctrines in the elementary and high schools

It is axiomatic that neither the rebellious mood of militants, nor the structure of an organization, however well conceived, make it REVOLUTIONARY A labor movement is REVOLUTIONARY only to the extent that the workers feel the need to organize themselves into revolutionary unions dedicated to the abolition of capitalism and the state, to take possession of the means of production and establish a society selfmanaged by the workers. Lacking these revolutionary perspectives, rebellious movements gradually lose their dynamism and integrate themselves into the system. The chief function of a revolutionary minority is to "fan the flames of discontent" (IWW slogan).

Revolutionary ideas cannot be artificially planted. Workers become receptive when these concepts are confirmed and reflected through their own experience.

"Welfare" Unionism Invigorates "Business Unionism"

Sid Lens’ contention that " . . . the labor movement won important new concessions from management . . health and welfare funds and auxiliary benefits to supplement social security . . . " is a dangerous illusion (Crisis of American Labor, p. 128). These are no "concessions." Welfare-pension benefits are paid by the workers in the form of "fringe" benefits deducted from wages. Federal social security benefits are likewise deducted from earnings of the workers in the form of income taxes.

Municipal, state and federal income taxes deducted from profits of individual business enterprises and corporations are eventually paid for by consumers--mostly workers--in the form of higher prices for goods and services. The same holds true for employer financed pension and welfare benefits.

The administration of pension-welfare funds, whether controlled exclusively by employers--in most cases jointly with the unions--or by local, state or federal governments, reached the staggering total of five hundred BILLION dollars! Investment of such colossal sums in stocks and bonds for business enterprises turns union trustees and administrators into full-fledged members of the business community.

As such they are more concerned with placing good investments than with the welfare of the workers. Thirty BILLION dollars are invested by unions in NON-UNION corporations!

Rifkin and Barber’s expose of the pension racket gives startling examples of the extent and close connection between union investors and corporations:

. . . Lawrence Smedley of the AFL-CIO Social Security Department says, the traditional adversary relationship between capital and labor needs to be re-examined, since labor now owns capital (The North will Rise Again Pensions, Politics and Power in the 1980s, p 149)

. . . virtually acting as owners, unions are calling for representation on the Board of Directors in 1977, President Roger D Wenthold of local 81 International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers proposed that unions become members of the board of Directors in Corporations in which union funds are invested similar proposals are being made by auto workers and other unions . [Douglas Fraser, President of the UAW is now on the Chrysler Corporations board of Directors] (ibid p 163)

But this is not all. We are informed that " . . almost all pension-welfare funds are handed over for investment . . . " to banks, insurance companies and brokers, who are paid a percentage of the funds for their advice and services. The 100 largest banks, ten big banks, insurance companies, etc, control the investment of three hundred BILLION dollars in pension-welfare funds! The money is invested in corporations in which the financiers own stock or are controlled by them A very lucrative business indeed!

. . . Joe Swire who teaches pension courses at the AFL-CIO Labor Study Center complains that bank investment people and insurance people, gambling with the workers money are losing billions of dollars with our funds (Rifkin and Barber--p 102-103)

Public workers pension funds are actually controlled by politicians and eighty per cent of public pension fund are invested in corporations controlled by the politicians, or have an interest in them The extent of this racket becomes even more scandalous when we learn that there are one hundred and twenty five BILLION dollars in local and state pension funds alone (see Rifkin and Barber, p. 129)

Rifkin and Barber document the charge that almost one out of every two workers qualified to receive pensions never collect a cent because:

. . . like insurance companies, pension plans work under the principle that, while everyone takes part, few will collect (p 126)

A few examples cited: After nine years and eleven months on the job, a Detroit welder is laid off DELIBERATELY only one month before he qualified for a pension.

A textile worker in Georgia, injured after years of faithful labor gets nothing.

John Daniel, a member of Chicago Teamster’s Local 705, who worked more than the twenty years needed to qualify for his pension, was denied a pension because he was laid off for three and a half months thirteen years before (p. 125, 126, 132).

. .. many Alaskans, because of extreme unemployment in the post pipeline era, find it impossible to work the necessary hours needed to qualify for pensions All the monies contributed in their behalf will be forfeited to the fund . . (Pioneer Alaska Weekly--Feb 15, 1980)

Welfare--Pension System Undermines Workers Militancy

Control of the welfare-pension system by labor and management for the joint expatiation of the workers, constitutes one of the mainstays of business unionism. It ties the worker to his job; makes it easier to impose discipline; curbs revolts and develops a servile attitude toward the union bureaucracy. Furthermore, investment of billions of dollars by the union in stocks and bonds of corporations, fosters the conviction that both the unions and the workers have a stake in the preservation of the capitalist system.

There is furthermore, an affinity between the common bourgeois life-style of the union administrators--almost all of them are nonworkers--and their employer counterparts. Management of such huge sums and the privileges derived therefrom, naturally spawns a new, parasitic class of bureaucrats, far removed from the workers: social workers, lawyers, economists, financial experts, ambitious executives and graduates of business schools seeking careers in the lucrative, expanding welfare-pension field.

The employers have been able to exert a measure of control over unions by threatening to withhold contributions to welfare-pension funds, without which the system would collapse. By threatening to stop collecting dues for the unions (the check-off") the employers pressured the unions to scale down their demands and discipline balking members.

Though written in the 1940s, labor historian Philip Taft’s remarks on this subject, remain relevant:

. . . Iabor beneficiary activities was an effective means of developing discipline . . . a threat to take action against those indulging in un-authorized strikes has been supported by the ability to inflict considerable penalties control of union benefits to members has given the union officials added power over locals power that might be abused by unscrupulous officeholders (Economics and Problems of Labor--p z61)

It is for such solid reasons that the revolutionary syndicalists, including the Spanish National Confederation of Labor (CNT) and the IWW, have adamantly opposed the accumulation of vast sums in union treasuries

Workers Themselves Should Independently Control Their Own Pension-Welfare Plans

The problem of regenerating the labor movement is inseparable from achieving independent control by the workers of their own welfare programs Mutual aid and welfare arrangements are necessary, but such matters should be handled separate and apart from the union as such. We should demand that wages, siphoned off into fringe benefits" and welfare" funds, be paid to the workers in CASH As a feasible alternative, we should urge workers to finance the establishment of independent cooperative societies of all types, which will respond adequately to their needs.

Long before the labor movement was corrupted and the state stepped in, the workers organized a network of cooperative institutions of all kinds schools, summer camps for children and adults, homes for the aged, health and cultural centers, credit associations, fire, life, and health insurance, technical education, housing, etc. We should encourage the revival and expansion of such cooperatives as a realistic alternative to the „welfare" racket

A typical example is the Workmen’s Sick and Death Benefit Fund, described as the "Oldest Progressive Fraternal Society in the (United States" with 60,000 members in 370 branches in 28 states (as of 1941) ’ free of profit making motives, operated solely for its members, this society offers a variety of features designed to give maximum protection at a minimum cost" The Society provides sick benefits, medical benefits, children’s insurance, life insurance, hospital aid, youth health insurance, death benefits, recreation farms, and a relief fund. There are literally tens of thousands of such organizations blanketing the country, providing every imaginable need Though financially limited, this movement could be enlarged and adequately financed to provide all, if not more, services now administered by the state and the bureaucratic unions. This could constitute a realistic alternative to the horrendous abuses of the establishment" at a fraction of the cost

In this connection Bakunin’s ideas remain cogent. Although he was a strong advocate of revolutionary syndicalist principles, Bakunin did not deem it practical or desirable that society be controlled solely by unions or by any other single agency: the abuse of power is a perpetual temptation, almost impossible to resist. Bakunin maintained that a free society must be a pluralistic society in which the ever expanding needs of humanity will be reflected in an adequate variety of associations .

The decentralization of power and workers’ control of their unions is impossible unless this problem is dealt with Our critique applies with equal force to employees of the biggest employer--the state It applies with even greater force to the social security system under which the bulk of the monies extracted from the blood of the workers in the form of taxes, are criminally expended for weapons for war, threatening the extermination of humanity.

Long Term Contrasts and Industry-Wide Bargaining

Many keen students of the labor movement, like Stanley Aronowitz, have come to realize that:

.. long term contracts, which have become standard practice in American industry, have robbed the rank-and-tile of considerable power to deal with its problems within the framework of collective bargaining Workers have been forced to act outside of approved procedures because they know instinctively that the union has become an inadequate tool to conduct struggles even when they have not yet perceived the union as an outright opponent to their interests (Workers¼ Control, pp 63, 64)

Direct agreements, negotiations and settlements between workers and employers in each plant without the intercession of any intermediate body--union hierarchy, arbitration boards, government agencies, etc.--automatically excludes industry-wide bargaining Agreements must never restrict solidarity with other workers in strikes, boycotts and other forms of direct action. Direct action must be supported in spite of the fact that such manifestations are prohibited in industry-wide agreements.

Shorter Hours: A Priority Demand Without in the least downgrading struggles for more pay (which is eventually passed on to the workers in the form of higher prices), the struggle for shorter working hours is even more important.

There has been ludicrously little progress in this direction since the great eight-hour-day movement in the 1880’s. If the eight hour workday was feasible in the 1880’s, a century ago, the four-hour day, four day-week is surely long overdue.

This demand, which is really a substantial, permanent gain, has not been seriously considered by the unions. Even the eight hour workday has not yet been attained in industries like auto, steel, transportation, etc, where millions working overtime actually labor ten and even twelve hours daily. Overtime work, except in real emergencies, must be prohibited. The four-hour-workday, four-day workweek, will alleviate the plight of the unemployed better than the nostrums concocted by legislators and union politicians.

In this connection, employed bakers (perhaps other trades?) shared work with their unemployed fellow workers, by taking a day or more off from their jobs and allowing the unemployed to replace them for that period. Thus, the unemployed worker could earn approximately the same wage by working in different shops. Another custom was rotation of employment. These temporary expedients would, of course, not even begin to solve the grave problem of mass unemployment. But it is precisely this noble spirit of mutual aid and solidarity, which is now so sorely needed to inspire the regeneration of the American labor movement.

„Workers’ Control"

The 1960s witnessed the growth of a tremendous movement for workers’ control of industry. The News Bulletin of the reformist International Union of Food and Allied Workers’ Associations (July 1964) predicted that . . . the demand for workers’ control . . . may well become the common ground for advanced sectors of the labor movement." There is an enormous literature on this subject.

In Western Europe, the movement arose with the failure of nationalization of industry to change the relationship between the worker and boss, of ruler and ruled. In Belgium, the General Federation of Workers called a special congress to consider workers’ control. In France, the second largest union federation demanded democratic socialism and workers’ self-management of industry. Similar demands were voiced in Italy, West Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and the Scandanavian countries.

In England, the Institute for Workers’ Control--in response to pressure from the ranks--was established in 1968, by a congress of rank and-file delegates from such powerful unions as the Transport and General Workers, and National Union of Public Employees.

Of this once promising movement, barely a trace remains. Their is no workers’ self-management movement. The "Marxist-Leninists"; the Stalinists; the Trotskyites, who deify the architects of the Russian totalitarian state (the exterminators of the labor movement); the socialist politicians; the welfareists; all echo the slogan for workers’ control.

Not one of them dares raise an irreverent finger against the Holy Ark of the State. Not one of them shows the slightest sign of grasping the obvious fact that elimination of the division of society between order givers and order takers, NOT ONLY IN THE STATE, BUT AT EVERY LEVEL, IS THE INDISPENSABLE CONDITION FOR THE REALIZATION OF WORKERS’ SELF-MANAGEMENT: THE HEART AND SOUL OF SOCIALISM.

American Business Unionists Sabotage Workers’ Control

The reactionary American unionists, like their allies, the employers and the state, are not interested in workers’ control of industry-- much less, workers’ control of their unions. Any move in this direction by the leadership, was made only when they were forced to do so by pressure from below.

To insure labor peace, employers may, under pressure, make concessions in regard to increased wages and „fringe benefits" such as paid holidays, vacations, retirement, supplemental unemployment insurance and similar matters. But the settlement of issues which encroach upon the right of the employers to determine the conduct of production (curtailing the power of foremen and supervisors, punishing violations of plant discipline, elimination of unprofitable plants or transfer of facilities to low-wage areas, etc ) is adamantly rejected. On such matters there is no compromise. The key provision of every contract is the unrestricted prerogative of management" to operate their enterprises as they alone see fit.

Like shorter working hours, widening the area of workers’ control, is a priority demand We repeat: THE BATTLE FOR WORKERS’ CONTROL WILL HAVE TO BE FOUGHT ON THE SHOP FLOOR.

Independence and Desentralization

The greatest possible decentralization and autonomy of the unions is the indispensable pre-condition for the independence of the workers’ organizations.

Integrated National and International Federations--NOT CENTRALIZED BUREAUCRACIES--in production, distribution, air and surface transportation, communication, exchange, natural resources, science and technology and other innumerable economic functions are of course indispensable.

But millions, perhaps most, organized workers mostly service trades, serving only local areas--cities and suburbs, towns, villages, etc.--do not need to be organized nationally.

Retail, wholesale and department store workers, municipal, hospital, and other public service workers, teachers, laundry workers, building service and maintenance workers, construction and repair trades, and innumerable other workers serve only local areas. They don’t have to be ruled by national bureaucracies-- miniature states--do not have to support hordes of parasites, drawing inflated salaries and "expense" accounts totaling millions of dollars.

Workers can achieve solidarity and coordinate operations through their own area federations on a local level, and on a national level, through direct contact and consultation via telephone and other modern high-speed communication and information technology; employing the same facilities used by national and international corporations .

Preventing Bureaucracy

It is for the sake of unions directly controlled by their membership that libertarian radicals fought to defend their independence against leaders and cliques bent on becoming dictators of the unions. It is for such reasons that they sought to halt the growth of bureaucracy and despotism, by insisting that wages of officials shall not exceed the average amount paid to the workers they represent; that no paid officials shall remain in office longer than two years, before returning to work; that officials and delegates, paid and unpaid, must at all times be subject to recall if they violate instructions of the membership. Bitter experience should convince the workers never to SURRENDER THEIR POWER to any of their leaders, no matter who these leaders may be; no matter how honest and selfless they may be--or pretend to be.

Libertarians working in union shops should resist all attempts of union bureaucrats to quell rank-and-file militancy. They should refuse to accept paid posts or become unpaid appointees of the union bureaucrats and obey their orders. They should serve the members of the union without pay by voluntarily undertaking obligations consistent with their principles. To illustrate how libertarian policies could be applied to actual situations, we quote the following excerpts from Black Cat, newsletter of the IWW Boston Branch, April 1980:

. Last week the locked out employees of Eugene’s Restaurant and Pub, against our advice, voted to affiliate with the Hotel, Restaurant, Institutional Employees, and Bartenders Union, AFL-CIO Unfortunately, it will not be long before they discover that this affiliation will yield them no benefits of anyvalue but will result in their losing the control they formerly had over their own activities Hopefully, the next time they are in similar circumstances they will have learned some lessons from their own experience....

. . . the workers had no choice other than to apply direct action techniques rather than taking the NLRB route (which would probably have resulted in their case dying of old age two or three years later) They have badly hurt the owners in their pocketbooks where the sting is felt most sharply If they can keep their picket lines up and avoid having the Hotel, Restaurant, and Bartenders’ piecards sell them out behind their backs, they have an excellent chance of winning....


On February 28 the 465 registered nurses who are now employed at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital voted on whether or not to be represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association Presumably, the union won a majority of the votes but it may take years before anyone ever finds out for sure Before the balloting the hospital administration asked the NLRB to broaden the bargaining unit to include all other professional employees at the hospital in addition to the nurses the Board then announced that the ballots would be impounded indefinitely....

. . This amounts to nothing less than union busting by the NLRB . . . if the nurses just sit back and hope that the Board will eventually count the ballots and certify the union, they will lose for sure. The hospital will use the intervening period to fire or harass union militants out of their jobs and replace them with hand-picked scissorbills. . .

. . . The nurses should say: "To hell with the election, to hell with Board certification, to hell with the whole NLRB union-busting trap." They should begin to act union on the job. If they have enough support to win a representation election, they have enough support to go ahead and make their demands to management and get them. This would require a different kind of unionism than the one that relies on the NLRB procedure. This would require direct action and solidarity.... But if the nurses were to choose this alternative, they would wind up with a much stronger and more vital union, one that would truly represent them, because it WOULD BE THEM....

Libertarian Organization

Bureaucratic unions will ultimately have to be dismantled and re-placed by close-knit federations of independent factory and workplace councils Unorganized workers, instead of joining the AFL-CIO or similar business unions, should also be encouraged to organize themselves into federations of independent councils. No single form of organization can possibly embrace the myriad needs of the workers This is but one of the many forms of organization that may be considered The self governing workers’ associations must be flexible enough to experiment with new, creative forms of organization, adopting those best suited to their particular and collective needs.

No form of organization, however well conceived, can possibly be immune to abuse of power This is a built-in characteristic. The problem of abuse of power will probably never be fully resolved: but it MUST BE REDUCED TO A MINIMUM Therein, lies the vast contrast between libertarian and authoritarian forms of organization. Power will not flow from the bottom up or the top down, for the simple reason that there will be no top and there will be no bottom. Power will flow through the whole organism, like the circulation of the blood, constantly revitalising and renewing its cells.

The tentative suggestions for the revival of the labor movement, outlined above, are by no means adequate There are doubtless more that can only be worked out by the workers in the course of their struggles We are primarily concerned with the orientation and general direction that should, in our opinion, radically alter the deplorable character of the American labor movement

The first step for the regeneration of the labor movement, is, as already noted, the formation of a revolutionary minority movement capable of promoting to an appreciable extent, the radicalization of the labor movement Our weak, scattered forces, must be reconstituted on the basis of a clear theoretical and practical program of action responsive to the needs and aspirations of the new generation of rebels, upon whose shoulders will rest the burden of reshaping the labor movement.

We must not be impatient We must be prepared to work within the context of a long-range perspective which may take years of dedicated effort before visible progress will show that our struggles have not been in vain

It is imperative that we launch a wide-ranging constructive discussion on better ways of promoting the regeneration of revolutionary unionism None of us have all the answers But together we can explore new possibilities and more effective methods than have thus far been advanced. It is hoped that the ideas here outlined will serve as the basis for such a discussion.

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author by Irving da Nailepublication date Wed Dec 20, 2006 07:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My point is that I think regional organizations have an easier time working together, getting to know each other better, meeting together. And it also seems to me that regional cultures are a little different also: Northeast folks have a different cultural milieu than Southeast, Midwest, etc. Perhaps if solid regional organizations can be established then a national or continental confederation could then be built on a solid basis.

author by mitchpublication date Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:01author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors


Yeah, understood. In this sense the midwest folks had a sembalnce of regional organization prior to the ACF. Most others (including myself) knew many people via the mail, publications, SRAFBul., Dark Star, etc.but there was little regional interaction. I suspect this was the same for folks in Canada and later the West Coast. Perhaps we just didn't have the numbers in some locations for this to happen. But I think we were all excited about the ACF/NA project.

I would say that this is probably one lesson to take away from the ACF/NA experiance.

author by dave - nefacpublication date Sun Dec 24, 2006 11:01author email dave at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hey this has been a very good thread. Gives me hope to think back to how much worse things were in the past and people have held on and remain active.

I think the strength of NEFAC has been a mix of a bigger pool to recruit from and the closeness comrades can maintain in a smaller geographical area.

We are starting to find the difference between the northest US and quebec are too big some times and are moving towards a more bi regional format.

I still hold out for the rebirth of other regional groups that will one day lead to a continental confederation.

We need staying power. If love and rage would have still been in existance (obviously it wasnt possible) during the rise of radicalism that gave birth to nefac we would have been in a much better situation to consolidate some serrious numbers.

I would hate to see nefac fall apart and a few years later another upswing sent people spending needless years re inventing the wheel.

As to the legacy of Maoism, i thouhg people might be interested to know what has come of Quebec's once massive maosit movement.,

I currently live in the neighborhood (east end montreal) which proibably had the highest concentration of working class maosist outside of China. Today the Revolutionary Communist Party-Organisational Committees (not same as US group) has a limited presence here, but all the social aid groups are leftovers of the old En Lutte! group of the 70's and 80's.

They have all factioned of and dont really work togeather but there are a few of them left. Same goes for the unions, lots of old memebrs, some even talk with nefac folks in friendly terms from time to time.

Obviously Gilles Ducepp, the leader of the Seperatist federal party (and one time oposition leader) is the most well know ex maoists, but Fracoise David, the leader of the large and powerfull Quebec Womens Federation and new popular provincial "socialist" party is also up there. Incidentally, as is one of montreals most powerful landlords....

Its good to have folks with experience and perspective around to keep us youngsters in line when the light t the end of the tunnel seems so far away.

author by mitchpublication date Sun Dec 24, 2006 23:39author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors


It's funny you mention La Lutte/In Struggle. I remember some of our (ACF/NA) Candian comrades always talking about them. More so how they had the ability to raise loads and loads of money for their press. While we we struggling to issue "The North American Anarchist." The maoists trick, of course, was a significant levy on their members. Yet I vaugely remember they (La Lutte) made these huge public efforts to raise funds as well.

On the point of having a pre-exisiting organization or network prior to NEFAC's birth. I hear what you're saying. I personally don't think L&R would've filled the void. While I do not mean to be personally insulting or disrespectful to the few former L&R folks on this list, in fact you folks are probably the best of the best of L&R. I thought L&R was significantly flawed. That said, I will give the comrades credit for seriously making an effort to bring anti-racism into the anarchist movement as a very serious part of our work.

So in the end, we all bring something to the table for the next generation of militants to build upon.

Gotta run.

author by mitchpublication date Mon Dec 25, 2006 01:38author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"You Can't Blow up a Social Relationship - The Anarchist case against Terrorism"

Originally published in Australia (you're linked to orginal text). This pamphlet was republished by the Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America. The ACF/NA modified some of the language to fit the North American scene.

As I recall, this one was of our "most poular" pamhlets.

The pamphlet has been republished a number of times. The content and critique are as valuable today as when it was first written.

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author by Ron Linville - Rochester Anarchist Forumpublication date Mon Jan 29, 2007 07:19author email scipville at frontiernet dot netauthor address author phone 585-461-2337Report this post to the editors

At the risk of exhuming old and mostly pointless disputes, I would llike to second the thought by Tom W. that one reason ACF/NA failed --although I think the FUNDAMENTAL reason was that international organization beyond the networking model WAS and probably still is "premature"--was a lack of respect for, and thoughtful consideration of, minority opinions voiced by members. I belonged to a group within ACF, Rochester Black Rose, and we became infamous big frogs within that small pond for even SUGGESTING, for example, that the french writers Camatte & Collu MIGHT have had a point worth thinking about when they said --to sum up--that ' all [political] organizations become "rackets", more interested in self-promotion than promotion of revolution itself'. Oh my god what a shitstorm was here loosed! No matter how many times we said that we were only saying it was a possibility that we had to worry about--our own position was always that racketization was a TENDENCY, not an inevitable result--we were consistently pillioried [led, in fact, by Ed Clark) with the canard that 'to condemn all mass organization is to admit defeat beforehand'. Well, duh...
APOLOGIES TO ALL FOR THIS BORING VISIT TO THE PAST--here's ANOTHER issue, MORE RELEVANT, that was subject to the same "Not listening...Not listening" dynamic: the relationship of feminism to anarchism. People got stuck in the theoretical traffic circle of whether women constituted a "class" in the Marxian sense, as a way of avoiding confronting their own (not excusing myself) male privilege. Fortunately, teh anarchists i run with now (well, WALK, actually--im 58) have integrated feminism. I have avoided large scale anarchist gatherings, although I am planning to attend Boston in February, I hope, and I expect, that I will meet more open-minded people there than were evidenced in ACF.

author by mitchpublication date Mon Jan 29, 2007 09:33author email wsany at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wow, Ron Linville, how are you? Mitch from the old-Liberatian Workers Gruop (NYC)here.Is Maria, Patti and, Rick still active?

I actually think a good conversation about the ACF is of value. In fact I've been creeping along with an article on the ACF for the NEFAC comrades.

I read your comment and I got a flashback to a very similiar letter RBR submitted to the ACF internal bulletin. To this day I can't figure out what you mean by "racketization"? But at least in the current enail you gave alot more of an explanation than you did years ago.

I think some of what you siad about the ACF is valid. I think there's a bit of a broad brush stroke as well. I think a major problem with the ACF that lots of people said lots of things, ofetn without explaning them. And most of the time just talking past each other. I think folks, including RBR, used loaded phrases (such as racket) and this was not helpful.

The ACF was intended to be a defined organization. The problem often was that not all of the parts fit together. Alot of tough personalities making some conversations difficult.

Anyway, good to hear that you're still an anarchist and would like to hear that the other former RBR folks are, at least, in good health.

author by Randy - CTC supporter (personal capacity)publication date Mon Jan 29, 2007 19:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I certainly have no objection to this "boring visit to the past". Hope no one objects if I try to draw lessons, for application in the present. Sounds like most agree that national, continental, or global federation is premature, until solid regional organization is in place.

The matter of regional organization preceding national, is a matter of particular importance in the Southern USA, where a colonial legacy lingers. (I'm not Yankee bashing, simply pointing out that a power struggle between ruling classes once took place, and the Southern bourgeoisie lost.) As a result of this legacy of military occupation and economic subservience, there is a bit of lingering animosity within the southern working class (more so outside international hubs such as Atlanta, than within). These sentiments are not to be overindulged, in the fashion of the white supremacists, but neither is it wise to go out of one's way to offend them.

My point (finally) is that Southern individuals or collectives that affiliate with existing organizations in the northeast, run the risk of appearing as satellites to an outside force, rather than an organic, grassroots presence. This is bad tactics, I think. Accordingly, I hope Southern groups in the U.S. (as they continue to come into being) will resist the temptation to formally affiliate outside the region, until a Southern federation is in place. (Of course, in no way would such a tack preclude communication, or even sharing of resources.)

My 2 cents.

author by mitchpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 22:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

was written for another forum, but contains some intersting historical stuff for this forum.
Please find our ACF disaffiliation letter, with all its run-on sentences, etc.
Although I abstained on the matter, as corresponding secretary, I was charged with writing this letter. I think it was the first of its kind for me. In fact, it reads pretty unpolished. In the pre-computer PC age, once a document was was written it was rough to re-type. And given my resistance to sending the letter at all, well, I guess I was resistant to re-typing it.

I suspect there will be some questions. I'll see if I should become a betting man, 'cause I have a hunch as to where some questions might arise. took me long enough to retype

March 31, 1981

Libertarian Workers Group
Post Office Box 692
Old Chelsea Station, NY NY 10113

Copies to all A.C.F.
Affiliates & Contacts

Dear comrades,

The purpose of this letter is to make known the LWG’s intention of disaffiliating from the Anarchist-Communist Federation. This decision has not been an easy one. The discussions around this decision have been long and hard, one which has been reached only after intense internal discussion spanning several months. We must strongly emphasize that this decision is an independent one. The LWG did not collaborate or inform any other ACF affiliate or ACF contact of this decision prior to the writing of this letter. We must further note that this decision was not a unanimous one.

Over the course of the past eight months we’ve seen a disintegration of the internal development of the Federation. Those LWGers who attended the Morgantown [West Virginia] conference left the conference with generally positive feelings. However since that time our feelings and commitment to the ACF has drastically changed. This can be seen, in part, to our lack of consistent contribution to the IDB [Internal Discussion Bulletin]. By the same token we have met our obligations to the ACF in those fields where we have committed ourselves, notably in writing articles and distributing the “NAA”
[“North American Anarchist”]; External Correspondence Group matters; finances; collection of graphics and in attempting, along with the Syndicalist Alliance [Milwaukee, Wisconsin] to develop an on-going fund and support group for our Chilean comrades.

Before we go any further, we should clearly spell out our future relationship to the ACF. In this regard we would like to maintain comradely ties. We view these ties in concrete terms. That is continued commitment to the “NAA” (in all aspects); to work on projects of mutual interest and concern and to discuss and debate in free and open fashion issues of the day, theory and development of an active class struggle anarchist movement.

On the positive side it can be said that our generally active role in the ACF over the past 2 ½ years has been a good learning experience. Our group has been able to sharpen our own theoretical as well as practical development and has made good contacts, in part due to the formation of the ACF. We look forward to continuing these positive developments, however, now on an independent basis. And we plan to send at least one observer to the forthcoming conference. Yet it is unfortunate that the negative aspects of this relationship outweigh the positive ones. It is now that we turn to this aspect and reasons why the LWG wishes to disaffiliate.

A problem that no doubts plague every active affiliate is that of finances. While the LWG is probably no larger than most affiliates
[10 members at time of this letter. M.] it can be honestly said that we are poorer than most. The average weekly income (gross is no more than $150.00 a week. In light of our high degree of activity (see our report in IDB V. 3 #’s 11-12) we’ve found our financial, as well as energy, commitment to ACF a drain on our limited resources. To clarify this let us say that many n the LWG feel that the money contributed to the ACF could have been directed to expand and publish on a much more frequent basis [the LWG newsletter] “On The Line”, the publication of more leaflets, as well as other projects.

The energy to distribute the “NAA” has generally presented little or no problems. However, over the course of time we’ve spent more and more of our meeting time to discuss the problems and future of the ACF. As an affiliated group we clearly saw the need, and rightly so, to discuss all matters pertaining to the Federation. Yet internal maters seemed to overtake the practical aspects of developing a clear organization with a presentable analysis and solid mutual projects. In this light the time that could have been used to develop our local work became somewhat wasted time discussing many non-practical matters. Matters that had no bearing on the future of an activist and well coordinated anarchist-communist movement.

Rather than placing the blame on what has become a rather sectarian (internally and otherwise) and ineffective organization on any one group, we feel we are all to blame to one degree or another. Thus we have observed that there has become little or no room for open and honest discussion. This has lead, in part, to the lack of collective discussion on practical activity and theoretical matters. The manner in which comrades have discussed issues with each other has been less than comradely. In fact some of the discussions and articles in the IDB and “NAA” have been downright dogmatic, ultra-sectarian and personally offensive. While many members of the LWG may not politically disagree with many of the opinions expressed, we are, however, displeased with the style they are written in.

Furthermore the LWG feels that the orthodoxy of some groups is not a positive example of other group’s attempts to develop a “new anarchism”. That is a theory and practice relevant to modern conditions. This only leads to a poor display of internal and public sectarianism, substituionalism, absententionism, censorship, intolerance and most of all lack of comradeship. While we can agree that it is important to maintain a solid degree of continuity with basic anarchist principles and organizational forms, we find it hard to accept and work with groups who are frozen in time and opinions.

Part and parcel of this, the LWG can no longer accept the fact that comrades are frozen out in one way, shape or form because of their particular outlook on any one issue or issues. We have found this to be the case concerning our group as well as others. We refuse to accept a monolithic outlook or “line”. We thus feel that by striking out on our own we will again have room to act and develop our ideas, methods of struggle and organizational forms without being unjustly criticized.

Concerning the “Basis of Affiliation & Internal Organization”, we feel that there is no longer a LWG consensus on this document. Over the course of time LWG members have come to some pretty clear and sharp disagreements with certain sections of this document. While there is some sympathy for continued debate on the “Basis”, it is clear that our concepts and future proposed changes would not be accepted by many affiliates.

Much to our displeasure we presently see the ACF as an ineffective organization. We have seen good intentions as well as potential dissipate without any signs that the present malaise will be overcome. We also see the ACF, as it exists, becoming more of a diversion from local work to mythical organizational fetishes. Our group has always stressed the need to build the local base as a compliment to building a continental federation.

The potential of our work in the New York area is great. It can be said without exaggerating that the LWG, small as it is, is in the best position we have ever been in to develop a solid base. Through the development of our independent positions and roles in our areas of activity do we stand a real chance of developing the type of influence and cohesiveness in the “movements from below” that has not been seen in the N.Y. area for years.

We would like to conclude this letter by making it clear to all that our decision to disaffiliate is an independent one. There may be those who feel we are working with others to wreck the ACF. On the contrary, we believe that the ACF will stand or fall on its own merits.

The Libertarian Workers’ Group looks forward to working with the ACF on many projects. We would still like to receive two copies of the IDB. We will continue to answer all external correspondence until a new group takes on this responsibility. We will forward all ECG files to the new group.

Naturally we invite comments on this letter and we hope to engage in an on-going dialogue with all.

Most importantly of all, we hope to maintain that special faith, trust and respect we have developed over the years.

Yours for a world without rulers,

Corresponding Secretary
Libertarian Workers’ Group
New York, New York

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