Why solidarity is necessary – but it’s not just about class

By Geoff

“An injury to one is an injury to all”. This IWW slogan characterizes the solidarity necessitated by class struggle. It characterizes the idea that it’s necessary for the working class to cooperate and work together towards their individual interests, as these are also class interests. The interests of gaining control over economic, social and work decisions which affect the working class directly is made necessary due to the odious nature of our current global economic conditions.

But this slogan really goes further than just class. It is also an embodiment of the solidarity necessitated by intersecting forms of oppression which divide the working class and hinder their ability to fight back in the global class war. Intersectional, meaning, issues concerned with intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. These issues also create various social hierarchies which marginalize and disempower people. Examples of these issues include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism, queerphobia and gender essentialism. For instance, sexual harassment in the workplace, workplace discrimination on bounds of race or gender, and gender essentialism when it comes to the dignity of transgender folks who often experience terrible cruelty from others when they need to use public restrooms.

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Posted on April 9, 2015

On RailCon15: the Future of Railroads

By Tom Wetzel

More than 120 people attended the Future of Railroads Conference (RailCon15) in Richmond, California, March 14th, organized by Railroad Workers United, with support from local environmental groups and others.

Ron Kaminkow of Railroad Workers United talked about the history of railway worker attempts to build industry wide solidarity and unity, going back to the American Railway Union of Gene Debs in the 1890s. These efforts were stymied by the persistence of the conservative craft unions. The railroads are able to play one craft union off against the other to the detriment of rail workers. Railroad Workers United is an effort to build solidarity and unity of the workers across occupations and unions. Continue reading “On RailCon15: the Future of Railroads” »

Posted on March 26, 2015

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Anarcho-Syndicalist Organizations – Operating Principles

By Ann Kij

Last week I wrote some advice about what to consider if you want to start an anarcho-syndicalist organization. That advice concerned mainly focusing on your activity. Another important area would be setting out your operating principles in line with anarcho-syndicalist practice.

Mostly this means writing good statutes for the organization. If we look through the statutes of existing organizations, we see many different provisions, but some common elements. The common elements rest on the idea that the decision making in the organization should come from below and that anybody who is chosen to perform a function in the organization should be held accountable, be recallable and should be rotated. These ideas are very important, because anarcho-syndicalists aim to create a libertarian society and thus, the strive to embody these ideas in the functioning of their organizations. Continue reading “Anarcho-Syndicalist Organizations – Operating Principles” »

Posted on February 26, 2015

Want to Build an Anarchosyndicalist Organization?

By Ann Kij

The following is based on observations of different organizations, local groups and unions. While sometimes different ways work in different circumstances, I feel there are some practices which get organizations off track and some that are useful for moving forward. In all cases I am speaking about smallish sized organizations which have yet to develop as a union but would like to. Organizations which are larger or have certain experience tend to have different issues. Continue reading “Want to Build an Anarchosyndicalist Organization?” »

Posted on February 6, 2015

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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.

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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.

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WSA Memories

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.

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Recalling WSA

By Kevsota

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.

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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.

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