Our health series is out and has taken on questions from health care reform to workers struggles for better conditions and a liberatory system of health. We interviewed a nurse active in the movement for safe staffing in the US, and a network of health workers in New Zealand about their organizing and recent strikes. During a month of struggles around gender, we published a translation of an article on health and gender by anarchist leader and medical student Melissa Sepúlveda Alvarado in Chile. In a field that has traditionally been defined by largely defensive struggle, we put forward strategy and an alternative vision that goes beyond universal public health systems within capitalism. The first came from the perspective of the United States by one our editors S Nicholas Nappalos, and the second by Pedro Heraklio is from Spain within the context of a threatened public system. This series unfortunately will be our last for the foreseeable future. The priorities and situations for our…Read More
Our #healthseries was conceived and collected throughout 2016 at time when the Obama administration was winding down, and before the ascent of Trump or the more recent rumblings of the right in Europe. For workers in the health industries the changing political winds are part and parcel of the day to day conditions as funding and regulation changes continually intrude on the work, caring for other human beings who often have no other options. The debate in the United States over how to provide health care to a nation increasingly burdened by the costs and dissatisfied with the status quo has returned with a vengeance. One of our editors and contributors, S Nicholas Nappalos, comes at these issues as a nurse and organizer, and tries to unpack the implications of the growing health crisis, what alternatives we really have, and what health for-and-by workers and the community could look like.
What’s at Stake in the Health Care Debate?
S Nicholas Nappalos
The 2016 election cycle has show…Read More
For years now commentators have predicted the collapse of the unions. This has not happened. There has been a long slow decline with areas of victories as well. Following the Trump victory speculation has been rampant and has led to various proclamations yet again of the death of labor. It is clear that Republican domination of all branches of government poses a real threat to the Democratic-party aligned unions, particularly public sector unions, and that we are entering a new era both for the working class and the vestiges of their historic organizations. Our third piece exploring the potentials for labor under trump comes from one of our editors S Nicholas Nappalos. He argues that while these dangers are real, they also come with new possibilities for a militant participatory workers movement. Moreover it is not apolitical unions that can address the weaknesses of the labor movement heading into a collision with this government, but an active politicized union movement marking its opposition to both capital and the state.
Mobs in northern cities attacked abolitionist publishing houses and burned their pamphlets and materials.
We live in a time of challenges that can seem so great that they lead many to despair. Climate change, global instability, rising misery and inequity, racism and misogyny are on the march; the barrage of dangers is a heavy load to carry. Today’s article comes from S Nicholas Nappalos and takes us back to an even darker time, slavery-era America, where small groups of radicals defied the odds and dealt the ruling class a blow that has resonated through our history ever since.
A Goal / Image by Monica Kostas
Last week we began our series Politics on the Field featuring pieces about where sports, life, and politics intersect. The second contribution comes to us from Monica Kostas, who also has done the artwork for our series as well many Recomposition works. She describes soccer in the life of her hometown while giving background on the sport’s history and radical roots, and reflections on playing in a militant life. In an era of unprecedented money driving the clubs and leagues, soccer gets lost in the ruckus of what capitalism does to it. With her piece, Monica reminds us of the beauty and joy that’s at stake to fight for a match worth playing.
Hat Trick / Image by Monica Kostas
We are proud to present the first installment of our newest series Politics on the Field. Each week Recomposition will bring you an article for the next month and a half focusing on the connections between sports, politics, and our daily lives. The series will feature some history, an interview, narratives, and a little bit of theory. Our first work comes to us from John O’Reilly in Minnesota and is about his experiences working at a liquor store. Sports is often there in the background shaping our interactions, defining relationships, and reflecting the struggles and aspirations of workers. In Hat Trick O’Reilly reminds us of the role of sports setting out the divisions and unity in our lives.
In this piece Phineas Gage recalls the challenges of organizing under punitive back to work legislation and the effect it had on shop floor organising. As tensions grow over a dispute about the safety of various parking arrangements around renovated facilities the shop again begins to mobilise. Then tragedy strikes and the workers are reminded that sometimes the cost of a partial victory can be as great as any defeat.
Approximately 5 years ago work began on something called the intermediate analysis. A few members of the Recomposition editorial group contributed pieces, worked in groups, and tried to shape their work around the issues raised in the analysis. Between 2010 and today stand a lot of changes and a different landscape for radical action. The maturing of the world financial crisis, series of popular protest movements, and conservative responses have shifted the field from where we stood just a short time ago. Today we present a piece by Scott Nicholas Nappalos exploring what was useful and harmful in the intermediate analysis, and what lessons can be drawn for revolutionary unionists in North America specifically and for the libertarian left more generally.
Organizing at Jimmy Johns
This is the third part of a series of concrete examples (Part I – Part II) and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The following examples are from the IWWs organising efforts in food service. This includes fast food as well as grocery stores in a lot of the examples the IWW actually engaged in innovative organising that broke ground in more high profile campaigns like the well known “Fight for Fifteen” campaigns around raising the minimum wage in the USA.
To continue the dialogue on militant reformism, this week we post an expansive piece on the viability of reforming capitalism written by Nate Hawthorne. This week’s post dovetails with the piece from last month on the Argentinian crisis of the early 2000’s and S. N. Nappalos’ piece called Responding to the growing importance of the state in the workers’ movement.
Nate’s article first appeared in the book The End of the World as We Know It? which was edited by Deric Shannon.
This is the second part of a series of concrete examples and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The following are IWW projects that had aspects of Labour Relations Board campaigns to them but were essentially not oriented towards the LRB. You will also notice that these examples are American. One key difference in the American context is the presence of a longer and richer history of what is called “minority unionism” that is unions that seek to build majorities from minorities but are capable of acting as a part of the workforce that doesn’t always represent a majority pro-union group as verified by card check or a board election.
Cacerolazo in Plaza de Mayo. Banner reads “ALL OF THEM MUST GO – Government of workers and neighborhood assemblies”
The Argentinian crisis at the opening of the 21st century and the aftermath of those events up to the present day are an important experience. For some of us here at Recomposition, these events relate to what we’ve discussed in terms of militant reformism, the idea of mobilizing a population to fight for reforms that would yield to an improved form of capitalism. We think we’re likely to see more of this, and with that in mind, we hope to stir up dialogue by presenting some excerpts from Sebastian Touza’s introduction to an article by Colectivo Situaciones, and then excerpts from the article “Crisis, Governmentality and New Social Conflict: Argentina as a laboratory” by the Colectivo Situaciones. Lastly we link to a piece about militant reformism by S. N. Nappalos.
From Sebastian Touza’s intro:
“Chanting ‘All of them must go!’, on December 19th and 20th, 2001, massive…Read More
Happy Birthday Recomp!
We turned 5! We’ve been working hard to look good for our birthday, so we’re launching a new site that looks all caught up with the times!
There’s still a lot of work to be done but we couldn’t wait to share and celebrate with all of you, our readers, contributors, and our own fellow editors.
Below you’ll find a piece written by John O’Reilly, and Monica Kostas that looks back on the past 5 years, and looks forward to another great 5 years for Recomposition.
Check it out!
Emilio Lopez Arango
What is the role of unions in a future free society? How does the structure of capitalism and unions today reflect that? The difficulty of the end of the 1920s (fascism and repression, changes in demographics and industries) gave an opportunity for reflection on strategy and vision of the revolutionary movement. This happened mainly within the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) which at the time likely involved millions of workers across the world, but also within the IWW. The subject is poorly studied with minimal resources in English, most of what is publicly available about the IWA can be reduced to a few articles. The debate was wide ranging covering union structure, future society, revolutionary methods, amongst other subjects. Part of the discussion focused on whether revolutionary unions should adopt craft or industrial unions as their primary structure.
What follows is a translation of Medios de Lucha, Means of Struggle, by Emilio Lopez Arango, a working class autodidact and baker; the main thinker of Argentina’s powerful Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA). The FORA dominated the Argentine labor movement for decades in the turn of the century and its model spread across Latin America, in some cases like Chile and Mexico displacing the IWW affiliates. In the piece Arango grapples with the question of industrial organization and industrial unionism and critiques the IWW’s idea that unions within capitalism should form the basis for a future society especially centered on using capitalist industries as the model. He was not alone in this as some IWWs also critiqued it. We also recommend reading the recent piece by S Nicholas Nappalos that looks at the debate more in depth.
The piece today is also part 5 of our Against the IWW series, which, to be clear we’re not anti-IWW, we’re very pro-IWW and we’re running this series because we think IWW members should read criticisms of the IWW, discuss them with each other, and be able to respond to those criticisms. In our organizing we inoculate our co-workers to the criticisms employers make of the IWW. Similarly IWW members should be inoculated against political criticisms of the IWW. We invite people to write full rebuttals to this and all of the other criticisms of the IWW and submit them to us and to other web sites and publications.
You can find our previous posts in the series here:
Against the IWW Series Part I: The Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement
Against the IWW Series Part 2: The IWW (1955) by James P Cannon
Against the IWW Series Part 3: An Infantile Disorder
Against the IWW Series Part 4: The Legacy of the IWW
Today we share an article that first appeared in Deric Shannon’s book The End of the World As We Know It? published by AK Press. “Necessary Steps in Tough Economic Times” by Marianne LeNabat, one of our editors at Recomposition, takes us through an overview of how students in recent decades have become saddled with debt, how a student movement rose up in NY during the height of OWS, some of the lessons we can draw from organized resistance, and the ripples that student fights caused spreading solidarity throughout various sectors of society.
Equilibrium & Disequilibrium
The 2008 financial crisis in the US led to a flurry of ink and predictions of world collapse of capitalism. None of that has come to be as of yet, but the significance of the crisis is still unsettled. This week’s piece comes to us from Scott Nicholas Nappalos, and argues that more than crisis we need to create the pre-conditions for collective struggles and to actively construct a new society beyond waiting for conditions to do it for us.
Symptomatic Redness Podcast with L. Rinaldi
This week we present an interview by Symptomatic Redness with one of our fellow editors Luigi Rinaldi who discusses the Recomposition blog, the IWW, unions, among other subjects.
Symptomatic Redness is a show on political economy and historical analysis and you can check them out here.
Check out the podcast with Luigi here.
Workers gather over one thousand strong to protest back to work legislation.
Concluding Phineas Gage’s three-part series on struggles at the Canada Post during 2011, we present ‘Snake march’. In this final installment, he describes the moral as the lockout drags on. Parliamentary filibusters and symbolic occupations fail to turn the tide on contract negotiations. The postal workers return to work, determined to not let management bulldoze them in the shopfloor.
Check out here Part 1 of the series and also Part 2.
A truck pulled up to the parking lot in front of the main downtown Post Office. Christine and I jumped up and started unloading signs from the back. Camera people were setting up all around the truck and The Local President was going over the notes her people helped her prep for the interviews. Slowly the crowd swelled as people walked in from the bus stops, then a big bus from the Nurses union pulled up and people filed out. Half an hour later the crowd was huge spilling out of the parking lot. Around 1,000 people showed up.
Gil McGowan, the President of the Provincial Labour Federation, took the microphone from a local executive member who was managing the speakers list. The shopfloor committees huddled on the other side of the crowd, largely ignoring the people who had their faces in the television cameras.
Sheila was chairing the committee meeting. “Okay so what’s the plan?”
Last week we brought you the first in a series of articles by Phineas Gage about a strike at Canada Post. This week as the strike rolled on the workers faced a common challenge of workplace battles. The government, employers, and national union began making moves to diffuse the situation and try to control the actions of the workers. Viewed from inside the strike at one local we see the decisions workers were wrestling with to try and combat the cut backs, austerity, and attacks being leveled against them on the job, and at the same time responding to the real possibilities of further losses, repression, and possible sabotage from above.
I had only slept a few hours when I returned to the Mail Processing Plant the morning after they locked us out. As I parked my car I watched a crowd of Postal Workers gathered around a Lexus with the doors open, the trunk open and a bunch of chanting. I saw Sheila hauling a tire out of the trunk of the Lexus and bounce it a few times on the ground. I guess a few workers had this done to their vehicles when they took road trips across the border to the USA, the guards were seeing if there were drugs inside it, and thought that was how a proper search was done. The man in the suit got into his car and Sheila slammed the door hard behind him. He pulled out of the crowd safely but when at the edge of the mob he squealed his tires.
The mob covered their ears and a few plastic bottles were thrown at the car as he sped away.
Postal Workers rally around the plant after being locked out.
This week we proudly present you the first of a three part series that detail a set of organizing actions by postal workers in Canada during 2011. It is written by fellow Recomposition editor Phineas Gage who expounds on the actions that led up to the CUPW strike, the predicaments that workers faced challenging management, and the indelible memory of seeing management flee an angry mob of strikers.
Enjoy, and check back next week for Part 2!
Turning up the Heat
by Phineas Gage
Craig stood inside the Mail Processing Plant doors, just about to punch in. His phone rang – the number for National.
The voice on his cell phone spoke excitedly. Craig nodded slowly.
“Almost ready, we have a couple depots that are slacking but this will light a fire under their ass,” he said.
The voice from the National Office spoke again.
“Okay, I’ll pass that on. So the strike could start tomorrow, it could be in a few weeks, you will keep us posted but we probably won’t hear much until you tell us to go”. Craig talked into the phone loudly enough that the other people standing near him could hear. Grand standing while no one is supposed to be paying attention is the oldest trick in the book.
“For all their talk about ‘direct action’ Depot 2 sure seems to not be interested in the big job action we have planned for a few weeks from now. You remember that one, right? The strike? That’s a pretty big job action, right?”
Sketch contribution by Monica Kostas
Get ready to never see bus drivers the same way again. This week we feature a story by John O’Reilly who takes us through the route of his daily tribulations as a city bus driver in Minneapolis.
You’re just driving along, keeping your eyes open, checking side streets and blind alleys, and it happens. No warning. It jolts you, and you instinctively look down the road for the next blue reflective bus stop sign. If you know the route well, you can visualize exactly where the sign is. If it’s a route you don’t drive often, you push your eyes as far as you can see to find the next one in the thicket of poles on the side of the road.
It’s not until you’re a bus driver that you realize exactly how many signs crowd the boulevards of our cities. Only one among them is the one that your passenger has signaled for you to stop at, and you have the short time between registering the sound in your brain and where the sign sits to apply the full weight of your brakes, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of air pressure, to slow a half a million dollar vehicle to a stop without taking out a side mirror, hitting a biker or crushing a car, and maneuver it smoothly to the side of the road at exactly the spot where the passenger intends to alight. Every time, hundreds of times a day, it takes all your concentration to accomplish this simple, single task.
Vicious Care – sketch by Monica Kostas
This week’s piece comes to us from fellow editor Scott Nappalos, a healthcare worker in Miami. He writes about the challenges of salvaging human interactions and compassion while working in a profiteering healthcare system that renders impotent patients and healthcare workers alike.
We Carry Our Failures:
Working With People in a Dehumanizing System
My patient would come back to the hospital just as soon as he left. We’ll call him Mr. Jones. His arm was mangled by a rare cancer that took his digit and much of his sensation and movement. He wore a hat over his thinning hair that read ‘Vietnam Veteran’. Rare cancer, God only knows what he was exposed to there. He took to me and would greet me and discuss his condition even when I wasn’t assigned to him, “it’s miserable” looking to his hand “living like this”.
Everyone took him to be a problem. They accused him of being a drug addict and using the hospital like a hotel for room and board, as he would sneak off the unit to smoke, talk to vets, buy junk food, and tool around outside in his wheelchair. Doctors would discharge him and he’d come right back. No one believed the stories he gave that were enough to get him readmitted, essentially living in the hospital for months despite discharges.
Rage – contribution by M. Kostas
This week’s piece comes to us by fellow editor at Recomposition, Phineas Gage. In it, he analyzes three instances in different organizing scenarios where bluffing, whether premeditated or spontaneous, helped leverage reactions that would not have otherwise happened. A running theme through these experiences is the desire to struggle, but to struggle together, paired with the glaring fear that people won’t have each other’s backs when push comes to shove. His insight not only lets us in on the small details that can make or break actions, but also shines a light on how every step we take in our organizing, as in our life, is a gamble.
There’s been a long debate within the revolutionary union movement about structure and specifically about the relationship between locality-based units and workplace/trade/industrial based units. Though not well known, the IWW also had battles with these concepts with different factions trying to abolish the General Recruiting Unions, the predecessor of the General Membership branch uniting all workers based on a local who lacked a Industrial Union Branch, and other trying to support it. The recruiting unions were banned at some periods of IWW history and had to be brought back though not without controversy. Other revolutionary unions such as the CNT of Spain and FORA of Argentina maintained both locality based grouping and workplace based ones. This piece explores the debate around these issues within the IWW and experiences both with locality-units and workplace-units from recent activities, and attempts to get at the issues of our tasks and objectives beyond only looking at structures.
Area, Shop, and Revolution: a case for both locality and workplace unitary organization
Scott Nikolas Nappalos
In the early 2000s a series of experiments were carried out in the IWW that led to the formation of Industrial Union Branches (IUBs). Alongside the handful of IUBs emerged ideas around why IUBs should be prioritized and their superiority to other structures. The IUBs primarily were initiated in the Portland IWW after a series of struggles that produced the largest and most dynamic area for IWW workplace organizing in the union for decades. The Portland IWW ballooned to its peak with membership in the hundreds in the early 2000s after a decade of organizing attempts in the 1990s, and some high profile contract campaigns, strikes, and actions at the turn of the century. As membership grew, Portland moved from a General Membership Branch (GMB) towards IUBs in areas where there were a concentration of members: social service, construction, education, restaurants, grocery/retail, and transportation.
This entry is the second part in a two-part story from contributor Phineas Gage about a wildcat strike by contractors at the Canadian postal service, and continues our coverage of struggles within Canada Post.
The phone rang irritatingly early, early enough I ignored it the first time. Apparently Lise-Anne called several other executive members after she left a message for me. I later found out the message she left me said: “they’re cutting our pay by 30%, we had a coffee break meeting and we vote unanimously to walk out in response, what do we do now?”
The phone rang again, this time I picked up. “We just walked out, we’re sitting across the street in the Tim Horton’s”. Eight months prior I had talked to the workers at this depot about racial discrimination and harassment one co-worker was facing. They marched on the boss with eight people that sent a strong enough message it put an end to that issue. Even if the racist supervisor was still around he was a lot quieter. The workers became more assertive, and very strong on the floor. A series of small actions built the solidarity among the rural workers to the point where they felt strong enough to fight a change to the work measurement system that was going to cut their pay by almost a third.
“Did you make any demands?” I asked groggily, sometimes folks are so angry they forget to say what they want.
“Yeah, we wanted a repeal of the policy and he told us that the union was going to be upset we did this”.
“What did you say to that?”
“I said we didn’t need their permission to do this, but the local President and Sharon are coming down to talk to us and see what they can do to help”.
This entry is a two-part story from contributor Phineas Gage about a wildcat strike by contractors at the Canadian postal service, and continues our coverage of struggles within Canada Post. In the course of the strike, union workers had to figure out how to relate to contractors and where scabbing starts and solidarity ends. The experience of life under capitalism can reveal both the potential divisions that destroy struggles and the commonalities that can overcome them. These next two pieces can help us understand and try to go beyond the barriers class throws at us.
Abraham looked down the row at everyone else sorting mail. Their heads were bowed, occasionally rubbing their eyes they worked slowly but steadily- the only way you can when you work fourteen hours every day. He reached over to the letter that was left on his desk for him by a Canada Post Supervisor, he was in late because his daughter was up all night with a cough. The letterhead was from Reynolds Diaz, the private contractor that hired him on behalf of Canada Post.
-editorial by SN Nappalos. The development of Solidarity Networks, based largely to our knowledge on the example of Seattle Solidarity Network, has led to experiments and debate not only in the US, but internationally as well. At its simplest, a solidarity network is a grouping that uses direct action to sway fights of individuals and groups typically of workers and tenants. Different from traditional union organizing, Seattle Solidarity Network (also known as Seasol) began by bringing together a milieu willing to mobilize to support issues working class people have independent of where they work or live. This includes fighting in situations where a union is already there (as was the case with an SEIU shop), where it is a lone individual, or more recently amongst groups of tenants and workers. A thorough discussion of these experiences would be long indeed. Here we provide some of the main points of discussion and pieces looking at solidarity networks to keep those in circulation, and for us to learn as we carry forward.
A significant amount of organizing experience in the IWW comes from working in relatively small workplaces such as stand-alone single shops or franchises of multiple smaller shops. These places present their own set of difficulties and opportunities. Lou Rinaldi talks about what happened at a former job of his in this piece.
Lessons from small shop organizing
by Lou Rinaldi
From May 2012 to August of 2013 I was involved with organizing my workplace, a local small business in Providence, Rhode Island. My experience with that organizing, which lasted about a year before the campaign ended, has given me a lot of perspective that I plan on taking with me for the next time I’m organizing. I wanted to take the time to write down my thoughts and turn them into coherent lessons for my fellow workers, to aid in the creation of better organizers and better organizing campaigns.
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.
This 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 cartoons, songs, the 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.
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.
Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance
Half our waking hours are spent on the job, consuming the lion’s share of our time. Our years are woven with stories of work told around the dinner table, breakroom, and bars. Yet these stories are rarely put into print, investigated, or seen as they should be; as part of workers activity to understand and change their lot under capitalism.
Lines of Work offers a rare look at life and social relationships viewed from the cubicle, cash register, hospital, factory, and job site. Drawn from the writings of Recomposition, an online project of worker radicals, the text brings together organizers from a handful of countries sharing their experiences with the trouble of working and fighting back. Rather than professional writers or activists, the authors are workers reflecting on their experiences, aspirations, and how to improve our situation. Through storytelling, they draw out the lessons of workplace woes, offering new paths and perspectives…Read More
by Madaline Dreyfus
There were a couple of years where I didn’t do any organising at work. I had fair reasons, too. Good reasons, even.
As a temporary employee, I had no job security. Most of my coworkers are white-collar conservative teachers with few reasons to feel invested in direct action. It’s hard to trust people in a workplace like that, and I didn’t think my odds of staying around were good either. It’s true that things aren’t perfect but there is rarely a reason to get too excited about problems – anyway, everyone is too busy getting through the day to make life harder than it is. Every day feels like an avalanche of little dilemmas that need attention. Lots of good reasons not to get wrapped up in something risky and complicated.
An article by Alex Erickson on IWW organizing campaigns on how they are what will build the IWW.
Building the One Big Union: The Organizing Campaign
by Alex Erikson
In “Building the One Big Union: A Strategy for a Strategy,” I laid out a roadmap for building a union of 10,000 Wobblies- 100 branches of 100 members. We have several branches of 100 members currently, so it should be possible to reverse-engineer and replicate these successes in all of our local groups. Sounds great, right? With thousands of members, we would theoretically be able to take on more ambitious campaigns, deploy more powerful tactics, and add more strength to the workers’ movement. But of course, quality is more important and quantity when it comes to building workers power. 10,000 paper members who don’t show up to meetings aren’t a threat to the bosses. The promise of growth of our union is only meaningful if we build the union in a particular kind of way, in a way that organizes workers to engage concretely and directly in the class struggle. In the IWW, we do this primarily in what we call “organizing campaigns.” Organizing campaigns are the focus of our organization.
Other unions also run organizing campaigns. IWW organizing campaigns are unique. Our organizing campaigns have specific short-term goals, each tied to a specific long-term goal of our union:
In this article, Madaline tells the story of how she fell into organizing and the IWW – pushed both by terrible bosses and by amazing solidarity among her coworkers.
Working at Artistry
By Madaline Dreyfus
If the first week of work at Artistry Bakery and Cafe was any indication, there was no way this four-month experience should ever have resulted in two of the strongest friendships in my life. I was introduced on the first day to a group of men and women, mostly about University age, who were also going to be working with me at the restaurant. Before our new manager arrived to start the training, I started talking to a tall, tattooed woman, and the conversation turned to things which embarrassed us. I said that I was embarrassed by my one of my middle names, Ruth, and continued for several minutes to tell her how much I disliked this name. Confidently, I ended with “God, I mean, what a horrible thing to do to your daughter. What’s your name?”
Stone-faced she stared and me and said “Ruth”. I was fairly sure she wouldn’t ever want to speak to me again.
This post by Juan Conatz rekindles a discussion sparked by the discussion paper on Direct Unionism, which you can find here.
Cleaning out my numerous Google Doc drafts, I found this, which continues the direct unionism debate by taking on most of the responses to the original discussion paper. So I decided to finish it, as most of the written discussion has dropped off.
First off to clear something up, I did not write (not even one word!) the original discussion paper. There seems to sometimes be confusion over that, probably due to the fact I wrote 2 reviews in the Industrial Worker newspaper. Honestly, outside of a few people who later became involved in Recomposition, a former American Wobbly who is now in Solidarity Federation and some folks I associate with the Workers Power column, I don’t know who all wrote the thing. It was a collaborative effort involving a group of Wobblies over a couple year’s time.
Looking back on the discussion paper, I think (the authors would probably agree) it should be seen as an unfinished draft. Further along than a rough draft but not quite a final draft. I don’t view it as a complete program conceived in full agreement. Speaking of ‘direct unionists’ or a ‘direct unionist tendency’, which sometimes happens, is sort of misdirected because it talks of differences and perspectives in terms of factions. This is convenient when speaking in generalizations or to identify commonality, but can also be unnecessarily divisive or destructive. Part of how I interpret direct unionism is not as a sexy self-identifier, but as building a culture of seriously talking about IWW organizing in a way that advances our practice. To put it a bit more clearly, it’s not about being part of a formalized tendency that ‘wins’ out, but about pushing debate in a way where it has organizational ramifications that are discussed and decided upon by membership. Also, another problem of the sexy self-identifier is that it can be more about the term and not about the ideas. I’ve come across a few Wobs that identify with the term, but then advocate ideas that are basically the opposite of what the paper advocates.
Those ideas the paper advocates, in my opinion are:
A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work
By Matt Kelly and Nate Hawthorne
Last year in Lansing, Mich., the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union leadership fought a pitched battle with the Lansing City Council to push capitalist real estate developers to use union labor. When discussing the fight, Joe Davis, the union representative, proclaimed, “It’s important to have individuals work and get paid a fair wage. We have to make sure labor is valued.”
This post gives a brief account of some of the history of the capitalist state’s sponsorship of contracts for unions in the United States, with an emphasis on the reasoning that politicians and judges gave for their support of collective bargaining. The piece argues that what the U.S. government wanted out of introducing state support for collective bargaining was, in the words of the National Labor Relations Act, to ‘Promote the flow of commerce’ through ‘friendly adjustment of industrial disputes.’
This article is based on several interviews with workers that IWW members spoke with while supporting a couple strikes at Canada National Rail. The piece deals with the politics of the several unions who were all vying to become the One Big Union on the railways. It’s also worth looking at the rhetoric and practice of current contemporary Industrial Unionism and the revolutionary vision of the early 20th Century. There’s a lot of talk about mergers and consolidation right now in the labour movement. This is something pay attention to over the next few years.
At the bottom of this article are links for how your trade union or community group can support the students’ struggle. That will help tremendously, but spreading the struggle to your own job or school will do even more. This article is meant to help explain how, by showing how students in Quebec were able to organize their general strike.
This post reprints a short exchange about organizing strategies that originally ran in the pages of the Industrial Worker newspaper.
Forget About Industrial Power
The old wobbly song “There Is Power In A Union” goes “There is power there is power in a band of working folks, When they stand hand in hand.” This is the basic idea of a union, strength in numbers. We’re lacking in the numbers department in the IWW today. So our power is small, at least in one important sense. We need to recognize this if we’re going to grow quickly and efficiently, without cutting any corners in terms of member education and development.
This is the last piece in our series on sleep. Juan writes about sleeplessness, stress, poverty, and work.
‘Bout to explode: a day in the life of a precarious worker
by Juan Conatz
“Damn it, where’s this pinche thing?”
Sometimes when I get real frustrated, a few Spanish curse words enter my vocabulary. My mom would probably be both amused and disappointed.
“Jesus Christ, there ain’t nowhere in here for anything to get lost!”
It’s 4:30 AM, and I’m frantically looking for both my house keys and bus pass. It was another all-nighter. I’ve been up for almost 2 days now.
Our series on work, sleep and dreams continues with a story about a sleepwalking postal worker.
Let me sleep on it
By Phinneas Gage
I woke up and rubbed my eyes, Saturday was a long time coming this week. My aching body stumbled towards the fridge. I swung the door open and my eyes focused on the first clear object of the morning, a bottle of Catsup. I grabbed the bottle and stood up, straightening my aching back. I opened the freezer and my eyes focused again on a frozen bag of breakfast sausage.
This post continues our series on work and sleep with a post about stress and dreams in the education industry.
Good Morning Sweetheart
By Nate Hawthorne
I’m just… furious. Like so angry I’m sputtering and stuttering, as in “I – I – how could you – why would you ever think that … I just – you need to knock it off!” I’m standing in front of a room full of my students, and I’m spitting out these chunks of sentences and I’m doing it loud. I’m full-on shouting. I’ve definitely lost my composure. I’m yelling at them because they’ve been sleeping in class, and they’ve been turning in their homework late and doing it really poorly, and that makes my workload even higher because late work means more stuff I need to keep track of, and poorly written assignments take a lot longer to grade. And class size went up ten percent this year so I’ve got more students than last year’s maximum. So part of what I’m really shouting at them about is the fact that I can’t handle the workload.
Scott Nappalos writes about the problems of working in a hospital and how conditions seep into his dreams.
by Scott Nappalos
Within a few months of being on my own, the dreams started. I won’t say nightmares, because nightmares have a distinct sense of terror and harm; my dreams weren’t always like that. I was working as a nurse on an medical-surgical floor for oncology patients in a major urban hospital. Just out of school, I managed to fall into one of the most hostile units in one of the worst hospitals in Miami.
Juan Conatz spent a long time in Madison at the height of the protests there in 2011. In light of events since, in Wisconsin and across North America, these events take on even greater importance. Below are two articles Juan wrote about these events.
We’re pleased to repost this from our comrades at Common Cause.
Between October 22 and October 25, Common Cause organized a speaking tour entitled “Class War On The Workfloor” in four Ontario cities (Hamilton, Toronto, Kitchener & London). The speaker was postal worker, anarchist and rank-and-file trouble maker, Rachael Stafford, from Edmonton.
Below is the audio recording from the Hamilton stop of the tour, held on October 22, 2011. The talk outlines a perspective on workplace organizing not dependent on union executives, but rather on empowering workers to fight their own battles. In the audio recording Stafford explains why it’s important to deal with issues as they arise on the floor through direct action, worker education, and participatory decision making in order to build the kind of struggle that can aim for the whole pie — not just a bigger piece. The talk also offers first-hand context to the recent CUPW struggle, which saw postal workers go from being on strike to b…Read More
Holding the line: informal pace setting in the workplace
by Juan Conatz
Often when talking to people about their frustrations at work and the prospects for organizing, a common response is one of negativity and desperation.
“I could never get anything goin’ where I work!”
“Other people don’t care.”
“It would be too hard.”
This is a piece that Juan Conatz wrote in response to the “direct unionism” discussion paper that some other members of the Recomp editorial group helped write. This piece appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Industrial Worker newspaper along with a reply from another IWW member, Sean G. That reply is below Juan’s article here.
This is the first part of a two part piece by Juan Conatz, in response to a discussion paper called “Direct Unionism.” This piece originally appeared in the Industrial Worker newspaper, which has had featured an ongoing conversation about the “Direct Unionism” discussion paper.
This is a discussion paper advocating a vision of workplace organizing that the paper calls “direct unionism.” Several of us in the Recomposition editorial group had a hand in this document, along with some friends of ours who, like us, are members of the Industrial Workers of the World. The paper was never fully finished. The early parts are finished but as the paper goes on it gets rougher and toward the end is more like notes. We’re pleased that there has been some discussion of this paper recently in the Industrial Worker newspaper.
In this article Alex Erikson suggests some points for IWW members to emphasize as we continue to build our organization. A version of this piece appeared recently in the Industrial Worker newspaper.
Recomposition is subtitled “notes for a new workerism.” We take the phrase “new workerism” from this piece written by Alex Erikson before we started Recomp. This piece was originally circulated at the US Social Forum. We’re glad to put it up here. Alex advocates an emphasis on workplace organizing and an orientation toward some historical experiences that he believes contain resources for us in the present, including the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and various groups who have practiced what they called industrial concentration.
A New Workerism: Capitalist Crisis, Proletarianization, and the Future of the Left
by Alex Erikson
I. The Crisis
In fall of 2008, capitalism underwent its worst market crash since 1929, leading to the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly two years and over $11 trillion in bailout funds later, financial capitalism has stabilized. But while the worst of the crisis for our capitalist masters seems to have passed, it is clear that the crash of 2008 was only the beginning of the worst for the North American working class. Since the onset of the crisis, over 1 million homes have been foreclosed, 8.7 million workers have been thrown out of work, leading to a real unemployment rate hovering around 20% which translates into at least 30 million people in the US without jobs, with many more without sufficient employment. While corporations have seized on the recession to demand bailouts from the federal government, they have used the crisis as a pretext to slash benefits, freeze wages, and reduce staffing. In the last two years, despite the decline in consumer spending, productivity increased by over 7% in the last quarter of 2009 due to management’s ability to intensify exploitation of workers who are held hostage by the threat of layoff.
US elites seized on the economic crisis as a pretext to impose a “Shock Doctrine” acceleration of trends that began in the 1970s with the rise of capitalist globalization. Since the late 1970s, multinational corporations have battered the North American working class with union-busting, outsourcing of jobs, deindustrialization and automation, stagnant wages, and cuts to social services. The result of these trends is the fundamental remaking of the global capitalist production system, resulting in the destruction of working class communities in much of the United States and the disappearance of what once was the US middle class. The economic crisis has now given the green light to corporate elites to launch an even more aggressive offensive against workers.
In this article Scott Nappalos argues for an account of the present historical moment and our tasks within it.
The Nature of Our Period: looking to an autonomous working class alternative
by Scott Nappalos
The end of the twentieth century was a time of transition. The regime of low-intensity warfare, the dismantling of the welfare state, and neo-liberal privatization schemes ultimately was running its course. The final defeats were to be dolled out across the world in the eventual collapse of finance bubbles, widespread resistance to austerity, and the implosive of the economies of Latin America. Before this was all but said and done, there was the gradual and later meteoric rise and fall of social movements against neo-liberal reforms and the militarism leading to the afghan and Iraq wars. Revolutionaries played an active and disproportionate role in mobilizing the social actors in what would become the largest mobilizations of their kind.
We just found this, a translation of Phinneas’s Waves of Struggle article. We’re pasting the translation below. Since we don’t speak the language we’re not entirely sure what to make of this but we’re flattered and pleasantly surprised. If the translator(s) read this, thank you for translating this article! Regretfully, we mostly just speak English so it is hard for us to read your web site. We would like to know more about you, if there are any English-language writings of yours, and if you want to correspond with us please email us at email@example.com. If anyone who can tell us more, please do so, we appreciate it.
اتحادیه کارگران پست کانادا می نویسد: “پست کانادا مبلغ دو ونیم بیلیارد دلار برای مدرنیزه کردن پست، قصد سرمایه گذاری دارد“. اتحادیه معتقد است که برخی از این سرمایه گذاری ها اثر منفی دارد. مجموعه این تغییرات سبب می شود که نامه رسانان زمان بیشتری صرف حمل و نقل، و زمان کمتری صرف طبقه بندی کردن نامه ها، خواهند کرد. با تغییرات جدید کار تحویل خیلی مشکل خواهد شد، زیرا کارگران باید، ضمن راه رفتن، کار خواندن آدرس ها را هم، انجام دهند. نیاز به نیروی کار، بدلیل ماشینی شدن، بخش هائی از کار، کمتر خواهد شد. شیفت های شب کاری نسبت به روزکاری افزایش خواهد یافت، زیرا محموله نامه ها، اغلب در شب به اداره پست می رسد. شدت کار، بالا خواهد رفت، زیرا ماشین های جدید، سریع تر کار می کنند. اتحادیه می گوید که سود این کارها فقط به جیب شرکت پست می رود، و می خواهد که شرکت پست، کارگران را هم، در سود سهیم کند. در هیچ سطری از این تحلیل، نشانی از مبارزه جوئی دیده نمی شود. حتی حرفی از مقابله با عواقبی که در انتظار کارگران پست است، دیده نمی شود، بلکه فقط پیشنهاد می کند، که پست، کارگران را هم در سود حاصله سهیم کند. حرفی از این که این سود چیست، چگونه سود حاصل می شود، در میان نیست. حتی “سعدی” وار در پند و نصیحت به ملوک، از مثال هایی که تقابل با آن ها بود حرفی نمی زند، یعنی از مبارزات کارگران حرفی بمیان نمی آورد. به همین سبب است که، وقتی کارگران، خواه عضو اتحادیه، خواه غیر عضو، تصمیم به تقابل با کارفرما می گیرند، و آماده اعتصاب عمومی و سراسری، هستند، این مبارزه جوئی عمومی، را به مبارزه گردشی، یا دوره ای در شهر و ادارات، تقلیل می دهد. با این حرکت، از اتحاد کارگران، که قدرت آن ها را، بالا می برد، جلوگیری می کند. با این حرکت ضعیف، کارفرما، قوت قلب می گیرد، و به معلق کردن کارگران، ابتدا جزئی و سپس کل حدود ۵۰ هزار کارگر پست، اقدام می کند. کارگران برای دفاع از منافع خود تصمیم به عمل مستقل از اتحادیه و با مدیریت و هماهنگی خودشان می گیرند. و در نهایت موفق می شوند جلوی اخراج کلی کارگران را بگیرند. اما سایر موارد از جمله بیکار شدن کارگران با طرح ماشینی کردن، کاهش انواع بیمه ها، جانشین ساختن تدریجی، کارگران قراردادی موقت، با کارگران رسمی، و پرداخت دستمزدها و مزایای کمتر، به آینده، و به مذاکرات سه جانبه بین اتحادیه، کارفرما و دولت سپرده می شود. یعنی، دستاورد مبارزه مستقل و جمعی کارگران، در تقابل با کارفرما، تجربه دخالت پایه ای کارگران، در چگونگی حرکت، و دفاع مستقیم از منافع شان، به چیزی در گذشته، نه راهی برای آینده، تبدیل می شود. به همین سبب می بینیم که در مطلبی که کانون مدافعان حقوق کارگر با عنوان؛ ” اعتصاب کارگران پست و درس های آن” می نویسد، “رد پایی از کارگران نیست“. از آغاز تا پایان، در مناقب اتحادیه کارگران پست کاناداست. تنها در جائی به این بسنده می کند که ” کمتر دیده شده که اعضای سندیکا، علیه سیاست های اجرائی سندیکا، معترض هستند“. اما هیچ از نوع اعتراضی که این بار وجود داشت، و به شیوه ای که کارگران، در مقابل شیوه مرسوم اتحادیه، بکار بردند، اشاره ای هم نشده است. برای نشان آن چه که کارگران به شخصه انجام دادند، و تصمیماتی که گرفتند و نظراتشان، به ترجمه مقاله زیر اقدام کردم. اما ترجمه این مقاله بمعنی توافق با نقطه نظرات نویسنده در کل نیست. اما معتقدم هر مبارزه کارگری در هر کجای دنیا که انجام گیرد به ویژه اگر به موفقیت هائی مخصوصاً در زمینه خود سازمان دهی، خود تصمیم گیری، ارتباطات کارگر به کارگر و حذف واسطه های تقلیل دهنده، دست یابد، باید، دستاوردهای آن؛ برای اطلاع و درس آموزی، برای تجزیه وتحلیل و نقد، جهت ادامه مبارزه ، در اختیار سایر کارگران قرار گیرد. بنظر می آید نویسنده از زمره چپ اتحادیه ای است و اشکال اتحادیه را در بورکراسی آن و دوربودن آن از پایه های کارگری می بیند. این مقاله در حقیقت می تواند به عنوان دنباله مقاله ” اتحادیه از توهم تا واقعیت” به همین قلم، به حساب آید.
کلمات داخل پرانتز و تاکید ها از من است.
In this piece, Juan Conatz talks about some of his experiences on the job.
Sometimes We Don’t Even Get to the Point of Losing…
by Juan Conatz
Reading The American Worker and old Italian operaismo surveys of auto workers, it occurred to me that it would be worth documenting some of my own experiences in wage labor. We often forget how powerful and important first person accounts of what happens to us are.
We’ve posted a lot of articles about struggles at Canada Post. In this article Phinneas Gage lays out a detailed analysis of what went on in Edmonton.
Waves of Struggle, The Winter Campaign at the Post Office in Edmonton
by Phinneas Gage
Christine braced herself, took a deep breath and then jumped up on to a mail tub and began to shout “help! help! I am being robbed.”
In this post Scott Nappalos surveys a range of current ideas in order to offer further reflections on political organization. Nappalos aims to open a conversation about how to “transition to a a functioning cadre organization,” a topic which in his view has primarily been address merely by “merely theorizing the unity, tightness, and discipline that it would exhibit once we achieve it.”
Lately we’ve been posting items more quickly than our usual pace here at Recomposition. Right now some people in the editorial group and some of our friends work at Canada Post where they are involved in an intense and rapidly changing struggle.
Some of us struggle to articulate our core values and our main ideas in a non-specialist vocabulary. There’s a place for specialized vocabulary, but we need to challenge ourselves to be able to make our points in other vocabularies as well. The following two documents attempt this. They were written shortly after the Jimmy John’s Workers Union campaign went public in Minneapolis. The first appeared in the newsletter of the Twin Cities branch of the IWW.
On the heels of Rachel Stafford’s story of postal workers fighting mandatory overtime we bring you another piece from Edmonton. This is a speech by our friend and comrade Frank Edgewick. We’re reposting it because it speaks to our shared values, and because we like what it sounds like.
Recomposition is happy to post this article by Rachel Stafford about a recent victory in an ongoing struggle postal workers are having with management about compulsory overtime. Appropriately enough, our May Day post is about conflict over how long workers have to work.
We present another piece about the IWW, following from the last post by Phinneas Gage about the role of the IWW in revolutionary change. This piece first appeared as a Workers Power column in November 2008.
How the I.W.W. can contribute to Working Class Revolution
by Phinneas Gage
The I.W.W. we used to have.
The late 19th century and early 20th century were characterised by tremendous changes to the nature of industry. The rise of coast to coast rail lines, assembly line manufacturing, and the consolidation of Capital into monopolistic trusts came the stagnation of the conventional trade unions of the AFL and the Knights of Labour. Many unions in the late nineteenth century began groping for some kind of national organisation that could span the continent of North America and bring back the ability of workers to wage the class struggle effectively.
The people involved in Recomposition care a lot about history as a way to reflect on the present and our tasks. With that in mind, below is a rough outline for an introduction to US labor history. The outline attempts to periodize important organizations and broad trends by decade. A particular focus is to also look at the changing relationship of the left within the labor movement.
Recomposition’s newest post is “Building radical unionism: Providing services without creating service unionism,” by Adam W. This wasn’t intentional when the article was initially put in the list of material to publish on the blog, but the piece speaks to themes in the recent series of posts on leadership. In a way, this post continues that series.
Questions About Leadership
By Nate Hawthorne
What is leadership? What makes someone a leader? Why should we care who is a leader? Who should be a leader? What should leaders do? What is good leadership?
On Leadership, by Phinneas Gage
Miguel was charismatic. Middle aged yet still handsome, a principled family man, an open communist and refugee from Chile. He was part of the left, of the left, of the left, those who desperately argued that the working class had to defend themselves even as Allende their socialist President was dragged away and shot in a basement. As an entire generation was exterminated or disappeared, buried beneath soccer stadiums and dropped into Volcanoes Miguel managed to make it to Canada, like an entire generation of Chileans he vowed not to give up the fight. He was a survivor, a militant and a leader.
The Battle of the Sandwiches: What Does the Bosses’ Offensive Look Like?
by Alex Erikson
If you read stuff about the labor movement of the 1970s and 80s, there is a lot of talkabout the “bosses’ offensive,” an aggressive attack on workers movements by capital.
A friend of mine from Italy told me that in 1977, the bosses and pro-boss workers (we call these people ’scissorbills,’ because their words cut you) staged a march of several thousand people in opposition to the continued wildcat strikes, sabotage, and occasional kneecapping, kidnapping, or assassination of bosses in the plants of northern Italy. This action was sufficient to change the climate and turn the cultural tide against the workers’ insurgency.
In my own workplace, we have seen an ebb and flow of class struggle on a micro-level. Initially, when the union went public, the boss was so afraid of us that he would sneak in and out the back door of the store without us knowing. We actually had a hard time planning actions because we could never find the boss to make demands.
It will take time for the working class as a whole to become able to liberate ourselves from capitalism. Our class has various internal problems which limit us and help keep us in our place collectively. It takes work to move us beyond these problems.
At a smaller scope – not the whole class, but smaller numbers of people within our class – and at a lower level – not the abolition of capitalism but smaller steps that move us somewhat closer to that – I think the process works similarly. We have internal problems and it takes time to move us forward.
I think it’s important for anarchists to do work that fights directly against the state, capitalists, landlords and so on. I call it mass work. I’m not attached to the term, we can call it whatever. Mass work, and particularly anarchist involvement in mass work, is important for the process of changing people, at the class level and at a smaller level.
By P. Gage
The first permanent job I got at Canada Post was in the early weeks of the spring of 2007.
It was an ‘inside job’ processing and splitting up flyers between one hundred or so letter carriers. I had been working for Canada Post as a Term (read temp) for a year before getting a permanent position. Because of the labour shortages in Alberta I moved up in seniority quickly.
Being the flyer guy in the depot made me far from the most popular person. Letter carriers like delivering flyers even less than their customers like getting them, they see them as a waste of time and not worth the $0.15 piece rate they get paid to deliver them. It did mean that I got to talk to almost everyone in the depot and hear their opinions on everything. Sometimes those opinions were not just about how much they hated seeing me every morning.
The Building Trades Wildcat in Alberta
Alberta labour laws are not only some of the most repressive in Canada, they may be some of the most repressive in North America. For decades the labour movement tried to change the laws in Alberta, demanding the right for all workers to strike between contracts, to collectively bargain, and anti-scab legislation. Their main weapon was lobbying a government that was hostile to their very existence, and making alliances with marginalized left-wing politicians who were shut out of the corridors of power. For a long time more and more workers were robbed of the right to strike either directly, like farm workers, university teaching assistants, and nurses, or indirectly by tying them up in so much red tape that a strike was almost impossible.
A New Workers Movement in the US: A proposal for a refoundation through the intermediate level
By Scott Nappalos
It’s a tired truism that the workers movement in the US is floundering without a real base or path forward. A new generation of experimentation, struggle, and militants emerged from the ashes of the union’s most recent collaborationist strategy of labor-management partnership, contractualism, and labor’s historical parochialism of our-jobs-for-us.
It Takes Two to Tango
by P. Gage
As I pulled the gearshift into drive my cell phone was flashing telling me that I had a voicemail. When I got to my next stop I saw I had three messages on my phone now and my voicemail was full. I rubbed my hands together over the vent trying to forget about December in Edmonton. I got curious so I opened my voicemail box as I listened to each message my heart sank further.
“Hello, this message is for Phinneas, my name is Steve and I’m a driver in the same department as you. I understand management has cancelled all of the Christmas overtime for the rest of the month because of the fight you had with them this morning over paying the correct overtime hours.
In organizing, you have to develop a theory and an understanding of society, make a plan for action, and fully devote yourself to carrying out the plan and reaching your goal. There can be no half-measures if you want to be successful. Only by carrying things through to their logical conclusion can we decisively determine whether we were correct in our strategy.
This kind of committed, dedicated, singleminded attitude is the polar opposite of the mode of operation of much of the rest of the activist left, which typically proceeds from a fuzzy, hazy theory of society, does not clearly identify goals, and does not follow through with tasks, instead jumping from project to project in what a friend of mine has dubbed “fast food activism.”