What Happened in Edmonton this Week

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What Happened in Edmonton this Week

An Appeal for Solidarity from a Letter Carrier in Edmonton

 

This week we have seen hundreds of letter carriers in Edmonton take a stand. They took a stand for health and safety, they took a stand for their ability to provide for those who depend on their income, and they took a stand in defense of a public institution that is under attack.

 

Background:

For over three years now Canada Post Corporation has embarked on a project that they call “Postal Transformation”, or the “The Modern Post”. This experiment has taken a public institution that made hundreds of millions in profits for the Canadian public and driven to the point of ruin. There were countless minor confrontations over this issue, with some stewards taking a courageous stand and refusing, countless carriers sneaking the mail into their cases and many, many management staff choosing to turn a blind eye to the sortation methods.

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Communication is a Revolutionary Act: Thoughts on communication and media for liberation

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fight-for-15This week we’re including a piece by Scott Nikolas Nappalos on media and communication where he argues that we need to view them as part of our political process rather than just tools. The IWW has a unique history when it comes to culture, media, and communication in the history of North America. In particular, the IWW experimented with different forms of communication and media as part of its organizing including the famous cartoonssongsthe Industrial Worker newspaper, and the One Big Union Monthly. IWWs used forms of communication as political acts in ways that were innovative for their time such as silent agitators (mass visual propaganda), song and soapboxing tactics, and publications that sustained a working class culture of writers, artists, poets, and working intellectuals. Though good history of this is absent (and indeed of the IWW in general), Salvatore Salerno’s book Red November, Black November explores how culture and community formed a backbone of the IWW. The union went so far as to create a workers university run by IWWs, the Work Peoples College, that addressed a broad range of life under capitalism including basic skills, jobs and home life, as well as training for participating in the IWW, and of course political, artistic, and scientific education. This tradition was picked up by IWWs who started an annual educational and cultural retreat in Minnesota for IWWs by the same name. While focusing on the North American context and the IWW specifically, his points also apply more generally. Nappalos ideas open up a different take on communication that moves away from all the hype and technofetishism of our age, and tries to shift the focus towards understanding our role in sustaining and nurturing political relationships in struggle.


SN Nappalos

Traditionally many radicals have looked at communication and media as tools for implementing their ideas, programs, and lines on populations. Adopting the same model from capitalist marketing theory and propaganda models, communication is thought of as transmitting information from sender to receiver, with most of the thinking centered around how we can best transmit the information to our receivers, how to achieve the greatest numbers, etc. Different media are debated, and today fascination with the emergence of social media and internet culture has captivated political actors of all stripes. After the development of mass industrialized media around a century ago, the model of media and communication as a megaphone still is dominant in the actions and thinking of our time. (more…)

Against the IWW Series Part 2: The IWW (1955) by James P Cannon

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In this series, we want to present some of the arguments against the IWW (present and historical). The debates around the strategy of the IWW have a way of repeating themselves both in practice and in the labor movement. How should dissident unions relate to existing unions? What role do ideas play in labor organizations? What is the best use of our energy at work?

The second offering is from James P Cannon. Cannon was a socialist early in his life, and joined the IWW in 1911. Later, he became of the founding Trotskyists in the US and went on to help create the trotskyist political party the Socialist Workers Party. In this piece, Cannon reflects on the legacy of the IWW and advances an argument against the union that the Russian revolution made the IWW’s approach irrelevant and ineffective. Note that even in the early days of the IWW, its positions were understood not only as neutral to elections and political power, but overtly against electoral activity and anti-political. These topics continue to be live with workers in unions like the IWW. What is the role of politics, political organizations, and existing political institutions? How does workplace organizing and networks of workplace militants like the IWW relate to changing political climates of action? Below is Cannon’s critiques(more…)

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Against the IWW Series Part I: The Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement

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In this series, we want to present some of the arguments against the IWW (present and historical). The debates around the strategy of the IWW have a way of repeating themselves both in practice and in the labor movement. How should dissident unions relate to existing unions? What role do ideas play in labor organizations? What is the best use of our energy at work?

The first offering is from William Z. Foster. Foster was an IWW early in his political career before turning to one of it’s harshest critics. His trajectory took him from anarchosyndicalism to hardline Stalinism, and was one of the few Americans to be buried in the Kremlin (ironically next to Big Bill Haywood of the IWW). Foster’s arguments against the IWW are used by many unionists today against the creation of new competing organizations. Despite his Stalinism, his ideas around “dual unionism” (creating secondary left unions to compete with existing unions) have currency in a wider pool, even occasionally with some anarchists. Included is an excerpt from a larger work. The chapters we’ve chosen deal most closely with the IWW and dual unionism, but reading the complete text will give a better sense of Foster’s Trade Union Education League and their perspective.  (more…)

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