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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ZSP-AIT: Support the workers struggle at Poland

Dear Friends, Comrades & Fellow/Sister Workers,

Recently a group of Polish Amazon warehouse workers struck against unsafe working conditions and pay issues at two Polish fulfillment centers. The workers are contracted through Manpower, Addeco and other temp agencies.

According to the Polish Syndicalist Union (ZSP), the union the workers
are organizing with:

“The working conditions are even worse than in other countries. Not only the low pay and long hours. Some Amazon workers, especially those hired by agencies, complain of a number of problems including late payments, incorrect payments, not having the mandatory health insurance payments, etc. etc. There is also the matter of workers in one center having a higher rate than in he other.”

The Polish ZSP Amazon workers have launched an international campaign in support of their effort to change conditions at Amazon in Poland.

In solidarity, the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA) is initiating a support campaign for the workers week of action. Their campaign will start on Monday, January 26 and end Saturday, January 31st.

Please join us in endorsing this campaign and in taking action.

Below, please find campaign action details.

Yours in solidarity,
Continue reading “ZSP-AIT: Support the workers struggle at Poland” »

Posted on January 10, 2015

Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, Part 2: Modern Slavery in the USA

By Mike Kolhoff

“Forced labor is most prevalent in five sectors of the US economy: prostitution and sex services (46%); domestic service (27%); agriculture (10%); sweatshop/factory work (5%); and restaurant and hotel work (4%).” David Batstone, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade, 2010, p. 214

The USA is not the only country where modern slavery exists, or even the one with the highest level of modern slavery, but it is the country that does make the biggest noise about “liberty”. It is also one of the few western countries where slavery existed as a legal institution after 1850. The peculiar symbol of the huge crack in the Liberty Bell perhaps best illustrates the broken nature of the “liberty” won by the American War of Independence, a liberty that left 4 million living in chattel slavery. So liberty in the United States was then, and is today, hypocrisy wrapped in abstraction.

Slavery did not end in the USA in 1865, but the legal institution of slavery did. There is an undeniable difference between being legally owned by capitalists as personal property, and in being merely rented as another type of resource for use in extracting profit. The first is infinitely worse, but both are without question fundamentally dehumanizing. In the eyes of the capitalists, the only difference is one of profitability. Eventually it was discovered by the capitalists that it was more cost-effective to rent workers rather than own them outright.  While wage-labor soon came to dominate as the preferred method of exploitation, slavery continues to be a source of profit to the present day.  Continue reading “Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, Part 2: Modern Slavery in the USA” »

Posted on January 8, 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)"

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.

Continue reading "WSA Memories"

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.

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"