This week’s piece comes to us Erik Forman, a contributor to Recomposition. Forman cut his teeth organizing as an IWW in different fast food establishments before the recent push by SEIU and other unions. The text is a repost from from Counterpunch’s Monthly Digital Exclusive. In Fast Food Unionism, he gives a broad background of the industry, business union tactics, and draws out some directions that an autonomous movement of fast food workers could take to remedy the issues he identifies. Drawing from his experience both as a worker and a direct organizer in the field, the piece brings a closeness that is often missing in many discussions. Continue reading
The root for many critiques of the IWW came from the thinkers of the Bolsheviks, and the positions of the bureaucracies of the Soviet State via the Comintern. The positions laid out in Lenin’s text Left-Wing Communism: An infantile disorder, remain the references point for many such arguments. At the time, Lenin was engaged in purges and assaults on political opposition both within the Bolshevik party and across the territories of the former Russian Empire. The IWW is clearly in view here and Lenin specifically critiques IWW tactics, though he saves his ire primarily for his more immediate opponents: the opposition of left communists, syndicalists, and anarchists within Russia and in Europe. The chapter we’ve selected presents his position, that revolutionaries should abandon groups like the IWW and enter into the largest unions.
These words were not merely idle debates. In line with Lenin’s opinions, the Comintern attempted to sway the IWW to join the communist party and disband into the unions of the AFL. A protracted struggle within the IWW and outside of it unfolded in the 1920s-30s as the Communist Party and the IWW clashed in their projects organizing the North American working class.As the dust has settled and the crimes and tragedies of that era have come to light, while Lenin may have been displaced from his position within labor thought, his arguments live on. This posting is an attempt to evaluate and dissect them.