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PDFs for printing
By Tom Wetzel
In their reply to my attempts to defend revolutionary syndicalism, Joe Richard and Ty Carroll try to force the debate into an arbitrarily narrow set of choices.
The attack on “dual unionism” seems to be designed to rule out efforts at building new worker-controlled unions outside the bureaucratic framework of the AFL-CIO type unions.
The basic problem today is the glaring need to build a new kind of worker unionism that is directly controlled by the workers, is based on direct participation and practices of powerful disruptive action, recognizes the flat antagonism of interests between workers and the employers, builds solidarity in action between workers in different sectors, and builds solidarity with grassroots social movements and struggles outside the workplace. A workers movement of this kind in the USA would have to be prepared to violate court injunctions and unjust laws that restrict worker action. To do this, alliances and mutual support need to be developed between unions and social movement organizations so that worker action has mass support.
A movement based on direct participation, collective decision-making, and direct action is essential to the process through which the working class develops the confidence, aspirations for change, organizing skills, and social cohesion to mount a fundamental challenge to the dominating classes. Some Marxists refer to this as the process of “class formation” — the working class “forming” itself into a social force for change. Marxists and syndicalists can agree that it’s necessary to encourage this process. Continue reading “Boring from Within Won’t Work” »
Posted on June 11, 2015
The normal course of a person’s working life typically produces a plethora of stories where the boss got one over on the employees and faced no retribution; countless unfair firings, anomalies with the paycheck, bullying, mistreatment and abuse. Hidden within, and on the periphery of these tales, is evidence of a small scale class-struggle springing into and out of existence in every imaginable kind of workplace.
While many of these instances of rebellion do not result in long-term organization and often include a small number of workers, these events still play an important role in the class struggle. They become major contributions to a person’s constellation of experience in the workplace that reveals the counterpoised interests of the boss, as well as the potential for resistance. Continue reading “The (End) Work Zone: Tales of Spontaneous Rebellion in the Workplace” »
Posted on May 31, 2015
This is a war that will not end. It is only growing more deadly. In 2013 767 people were killed by police (64 a month, most of the them African Americans); in 2014 1101 people were killed by police (92 a month, most of them African Americans); in the 4 months of 2015 380 people have so far been killed police, (95 a month, most of them African Americans).
The militarization of the police has had a predictable outcome: the police are now behaving like the military would in their policing function. The rules of martial law are now (unofficially) in effect and anyone who violates those laws is The Enemy; the “insurgents”; the “terrorists” etc. and subject to summary execution. If by chance that person happens to be a Black Man, so much the better. The role of the police, their true role, has always been to protect the property of the Master Class from any defilement by rebel slaves.
Now, thanks to the grassroots organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement, people have risen up and are fighting back as best they can. In Baltimore the people are taking the fight to the oppressors. We can only hope this flame spreads like wildfire, and that the murderous police forces feel the heat in Philadelphia, New York, Memphis and Los Angeles, and all the other places they have decided to engage in ethnic cleansing.
In America, the capitalist system was founded on slavery and white supremacy. The only way to end the insanity of white supremacy is to end the American capitalist system. We need to build a new society, one based on true egalitarianism, where everyone, EVERY ONE, is actually and finally equal forever.
Posted on April 30, 2015
By Tom Wetzel
The International Socialist Organization’s webzine socialistworker.org recently published a critique of revolutionary syndicalism in the form of a review of Radical Unionism by Ralph Darlington. The review, by Tom Goulet, makes a number of mistaken claims.
The claim that “syndicalist unions broke off from mainstream federations to form ‘purely revolutionary’ unions, cutting themselves off from the mass of workers” doesn’t hold up, though it does conform to the Leninist orthodoxy of Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. There were many countries where the syndicalist unions were the majority – such as Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Brazil. Syndicalist unions in South Africa, such as the Industrial Workers of Africa (modeled on the IWW) were the only union that organized native African workers, who were excluded from the white craft unions. Continue reading “Reply to ISO on Syndicalism” »
Posted on April 27, 2015
What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?
By Tom Wetzel
Occupy Wall Street highlighted class inequality in the USA through its talk about the concentration of income and wealth in the hands of "the 1 percent." This does put a bullseye on the ruling class in our society. But much of the talk about class in recent times has focused on income inequality. The idea is that "the 1 percent" are at the top because they have the highest incomes. But this fails to get to the heart of the matter. The existence of different income levels doesn’t explain why there are classes at all. After all, what explains why there are such huge differences in income?
When American union leaders talk about a worker struggle as a “defense of middle class jobs”, you'd think they must lead an organization of lawyers and doctors. Again, this is about income. In the past, unions in some industries were able to use their leverage to secure wage gains that would enable some workers to “lead a middle class lifestyle.”
That way of looking at things is a product of the years of the so-called “class truce” after World War 2. By the ‘40s workers had gained major concessions from the capitalist elite in North America and Western Europe.
Continue reading "What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?"
Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)
By Mike Kolhoff
“The ideological push for the “science” of free trade has unleashed enormously destructive forces for social and cultural change that have wreaked havoc on the populations of developing countries. Rapid urbanization and restructuring of agricultural activities, upon which people have depended for centuries, has spelled disaster. In rural areas, the loss of common land, combined with the switch to the production of cash crops from subsistence farming, has in effect destroyed people’s livelihoods.”
From: The Economic Foundations of Contemporary Slavery, By Justin Guay , Topical Research Digest, 2014
The extractive power of capitalism has always existed. The ability to extract profit from people, production and resources is necessary for capitalism to function. There was a time when this was accompanied by a sort of creative power of capitalism. Capitalism once built things, even as it extracted profit from people and things. It built electrical power plants, built libraries, built universities and paved roads. These activities were in no way altruistic, they were adjustments, investments made to improve extraction of profit and to prove the superiority of capitalism over any competing system, but they still benefited non-capitalists just the same.
Any creative power capitalism may have once had began to decline in the last half of the 20th century, well after capitalism had faced its greatest crisis: the crisis of over-production and under-consumption that brought on the Great Depression. This crisis continues today, despite World War 2 and despite the invention of consumer capitalism (a wasteful system based on the production and sale of mostly useless things) and the conversion of the wartime propaganda machinery to the peacetime sales machinery. An economy based on selling people things they don’t want, and people buying things they neither want or need, on credit, is an economy treading water.
Continue reading "Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)"
By Mike Kolhoff
Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA
One of my fondest memories of my early days in the WSA was eagerly waiting for the next Discussion Bulletin to arrive in the mail. The DB had reports from comrades around the country on what they were doing, introducing new members, local actions and important news, international reports and letters from the IWA secretariat and other sections. Many phone calls were generated by the DB with questions and congratulations and offers of aid. Really the DB and the phone were the communication system that kept us in touch with the organization.
I miss that, a lot. Our current electronic instantaneous communications seem less substantial sometimes. The immediacy has, for me at least, degraded both the content and tone of our interactions. We have sacrificed thoughtfulness for speed, which isn’t a fair trade.
Continue reading "WSA Memories"
Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA
I joined the WSA in 2009 after participating in an anarchist reading group set up by two other WSAers. I was excited by what seemed like a density of good, smart people in the organization and because I was attracted to anarcho-syndicalist politics. While I learned the organization was not as clear-cut anarcho-syndicalist as I'd thought, with regard to the people I was not disappointed. I stuck around as an active member for about three years, even I'd become burned out on political organizations, primarily out of a strong sense of loyalty to the good comrades I'd gotten to know.
Continue reading "Recalling WSA"
Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism
By Tom Wetzel
Syndicalists have always supported a form of direct democracy based on majority rule. Like most American unions, the Industrial Workers of the World officially endorses Robert’s Rules of Order — although some of their smaller branches use a stripped down version called Rusty’s Rules. The point to taking a vote is that it enables an organized group to come to a decision that expresses the collective will, even when there is some disagreement.
This doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by voting. In grassroots organizations based on majority decision-making, it often happens that most decisions are made without taking any vote — especially in smaller meetings. That’s because people are often able to come to agreement just by discussing the issue or proposal.
Continue reading "Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism"