Against the IWW Series Part 5: Means of Struggle

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Emilio Lopez Arango

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:

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News from Houston

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USW strikers on picket duty.

USW strikers on picket duty.

Today’s post comes to us from fellow IWW’s in Houston giving us a brief overview on their recent work around the USW strikes on the oil refineries.

Click here and you can also listen to an interview with two of the Houston wobs talking about the work their branch is doing, and also their perspectives on the IWW’s projects at large.

 

A Houston Wobb’s Reflection on the USW Strike
by Adelita

Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them. (more…)

The Making Of A Politicized Prisoner

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mps

The third installment in our ‘How I was radicalized’ series comes from Okwute Ekwensu. His powerful account describes the experience of leading a criminal life that led to incarceration, followed by his radicalization in prison. Okwute lives in the Twin Cities and is involved in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).

Part 1|Part 2|Part 3 (more…)

Growing up during the ‘War on Terror’

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The second part of our ‘How were you radicalized?’ series brings us to the 2000s. Starting with his family roots in the South African anti-apartheid and American civil rights movements, the author takes us through the post-9/11 and Iraq War era, a time when many of us found the radical left. This piece was written by our friend, Dee, who is in First of May Anarchist Alliance as well as the IWW. Although a lifelong Midwesterner, he is currently living in South Africa. (more…)

A new society must be built

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Equilibrium & Disequilibrium

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. (more…)

Podcast Interview with Luigi Rinaldi

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Symptomatic Redness Podcast with L. Rinaldi

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.

Beating Back the Bureaucrats

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Bloque Sindical de Base

Bloque Sindical de Base

 

We are happy to present Beating Back the Bureaucrats from a comrade writing in South Africa. The piece focuses mostly on a recent initiative called Bloque Sindical de Base in Argentina. Argentina’s labor movement and its many divisions are not well known or understood by english-speakers in the workers movement. Having a history of revolutionary unionism that pre-dates the IWW by some decades and has continued through multiple dictatorships, union labor laws modeled after Mussolini’s Italy, and more recently a severe crisis in 2001 that led to 75% unemployment and a broad uprising, Argentina’s history contains a lot organizers can learn from about building the IWW and more broadly militant workplace organization. How do we deal with government control over the labor movement? With efforts that push organizers into bureaucracies? With reform efforts within unions? Beating Back the Bureaucrats is a welcome addition to bring some of the perspectives and debates to our audience.
The author gives a general history of the development of Argentina’s two largest trade union federations today, the CGT and CTA, starting at the birth of the CGT, its unification with the Peronist movement, and the fights and splits that have followed in the past 50 years since. Much of the work focuses on a recent initiative by union militants within the rival federation CTA which split from CGT. These militants formed a current called Bloque Sindical de Base aimed at increasing rank and file participation and combating bureaucracy within the unions it organizes. Bloque Sindical de Base uses union assemblies to mobilize worker participation on the one hand and on the other runs slates in union elections. Drawing from his analysis of Bloque Sindical de Base, the author argues for positions about the development of more combative and libertarian workers movements, and how new unions initiatives could help or hinder that situation. We have some reservations about the strategy presented at least where we live in the US and Canada, but the article raises important questions for anyone that wishes to develop revolutionary unionism, and we hope it can inspire constructive debates over these issues.

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Against the IWW Series Part 4: The Legacy of the IWW

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This week we present part 4 of our Against the IWW series which we started back in late 2013.
The Legacy of the IWW: To Break Their Haughty Power by Joe Richard can be found in the International Socialist Review site.

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

Just to be clear, we’ve run anti IWW stuff before though last time around we accidentally confused people. People thought we had become anti-IWW. We’re not, we’re pro-IWW. Very much so. We ran those pieces and are running this piece 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.

IWW Charter

IWW Charter

The Legacy of the IWW: To Break Their Haughty Power
by Joe Richard

You men and women should be imbued with the spirit that is now displayed in far-off Russia and far-off Siberia where we thought the spark of manhood and womanhood had been crushed…. Let us take example from them. We see the capitalist class fortifying themselves today behind their Citizens’ Associations and Employers’ Associations in order that they may crush the American labor movement. Let us cast our eyes over to far-off Russia and take heart and courage from those who are fighting the battle there.
—Lucy Parsons, at the founding convention of the IWW, 19051

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On Bluffing

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Rage

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. (more…)