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
Is Life Worth Living or Should I Blast Myself?
This week’s piece Is Life Worth Living or Should I Blast Myself?, first appeared in the blog Poe Man’s Dreams which narrates some of the miseries and experiences of everyday life for people with few resources. This particular story is an account of being a juvenile delinquent and having to live with a family who had a multitude of issues. Check it out below.
(In case you’ve missed it, we also posted Exhibit A from the same author a few weeks ago.)
Trigger warning: Accounts or discussion of suicide, sexual assault, self-harm, drug abuse and physical abuse
This week’s piece Exhibit A, first appeared in the relatively new blog called Poe Man’s Dreams which narrates the miseries and experiences of everyday life for people with few resources.
Check out the story below.
Introduction to Poe Man’s Dreams, a blog about experiencing ‘the struggle‘ in the American Midwest.
It’s like I’m trapped in a maze walk around in a daze
I won’t rest ’til I’m paid or I’m down in my grave
I wanna look tough, but my sneakers is scuffed
Everyday pants in the week is enough
I had a little money, but it came and it went
Now its either pay the rent or stay in a tent
And it don’t make sense how the shit is intense
And all you got up in your pocket is lint, you get the hint?
I had a cigarette for breakfast, just for beginners
Pride for my lunch and sleep for dinner
I tried to go to church, priest called me a sinner
He called me everything, except for a winner
I’m walking in the rain wishing things would change
It ain’t a game, man I pawned all the rings and chains
Emotionally scarred from losing my job
Pass the nod nigga, times is hard
–G. Dep “Everyday” (featuring Faith Evans & Meelah)
Surprise – by Monica Kostas
This week’s piece comes to us by a regular Recomposition contributor, Invisible Man. In the face of fierce debates on racism, profiling, protests, and riots, his anecdote detailing an altercation with cops in Alberta feels painfully relevant.
A Worthless Piece of Plastic
by Invisible Man
There’s nothing to do on a Saturday night in Lacombe. We want to see a movie. In the fall of 1999, the nearest theatre is half an hour’s drive away in Red Deer, Alberta.
So, as usual, we drive into town with a borrowed ride – Terry at the wheel. (He’s white, you have to think of these things.) We turn into the theatre parking lot to read the lighted billboard on the north side of the building. As usual, there is nothing worth seeing.
“Let’s go to the cheap theatre. At least we won’t be wasting our money on a crappy movie.”
“You wanna walk?”
“Yeah, let’s walk.”
This week we bring you a second piece from a Starbucks worker about a firing, following Work to Rule. Part of struggle is not only the lessons and strategies, but also the experiences and the real life costs that occur when we start to take action. This submission succinctly takes us though one woman’s experience that ended too soon.
I think back to the last I worked at Starbucks on 80th and York, and recall what a beautiful day it was outside, that day was a nice break from the harsh winter we had this past year. As I walked into the store that day, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. However I still clocked in for my shift at 2:15 pm to close the store with one of new supervisors, put on the “happy barista persona” required of me, and went on the floor to work. About 15 minutes after I had clocked in I watched my supervisor Margret waltz in (15 minutes late and out of dress code) with her sister (another Starbucks partner) in tow, she had the most confused look on her face at the site of me. She said to me “Lyssa are you closing?” I looked at her with an even more confused face and responded to her. “Yeah I am. Why?” To which she replied, “So why did Jennifer have me bring my sister in to close?”
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.
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.
Syndicalism and Anarchism, by Errico Malatesta
The relationship between the labour movement and the progressive parties is an old and worn theme. But it is an ever topical one, and so it will remain while there are, on one hand, a mass of people plagued by urgent needs and driven by aspirations – at times passionate but always vague and indeterminate – to a better life, and on the other individuals and parties who have a specific view of the future and of the means to attain it, but whose plans and hopes are doomed to remain utopias ever out of reach unless they can win over the masses. And the subject is all the more important now that, after the catastrophes of war and of the post-war period, all are preparing, if only mentally, for a resumption of the activity which must follow upon the fall of the tyrannies that still rant and rage [across Europe] but are beginning to tremble. For this reason I shall try to clarify what, in my view, should be the anarchists’ attitude to labour organisations.
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.