manchester class struggle forum 19th july: anarcho-syndicalism

9 07 2010

The next Manchester Class Struggle Forum will host a discussion on Anarcho-Syndicalism.


What is anarcho-syndicalism? How do anarcho-syndicalist unions differ from existing workers’ organisations? Do anarcho-syndicalist strategies have any value in 21st Century Britain, or are they 80 years out of date and several countries out of place? Or are anarcho-syndicalist strategies the tool we need to fight back in a period of savage cuts and declining living standards?
The forum will be introduced by a speaker from Manchester Solfed, with open discussion to follow and an open literature table.

Suggested Reading:

‘What is anarcho-syndicalism? – libertarian reformism, vanguardism or revolutionary unionism?’ (Black Flag) -http://libcom.org/library/what-is-anarcho-syndicalism-libertarian-reformism-vanguardism-or-revolutionary-unionism

‘Winning the class war – An anarcho-syndicalist strategy’ (Direct Action Movement) -http://libcom.org/library/winning-class-war-anarcho-syndicalist-strategy

‘The Economics of Freedom – An Anarcho-syndicalist alternative to capitalism’ (Solidarity Federation) -http://libcom.org/library/economics-freedom-anarcho-syndicalist-alternative-capitalism

The meeting will take place from 7pm on Monday 19th of July at Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS. Email struggle@af-north.org or ring 07976386737 to express your interest or ask for more info.

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12 responses

10 07 2010
Chris

What about the Marxist syndicalists, such as Daniel De Leon, James Connolly, the militants of the Socialist Labour Party in Britain which existed until the 1920s? The anarchists do not have a monopoly of syndicalist ideas, even though they try to claim the IWW as their creation it was Marxists who played the pivotal role in its creation and most successful period of existence in the USA.

10 07 2010
Chris S

Chris makes a very good point, in Britain the syndicalist tradition was not influenced by anarchism in a major way. Many of the ISEL members looked towards the tactical advances syndicalism put forward, such as industrial unionism and the rank-and-file control, many of the syndicalists joined the early communist party most notably JT Murphy and Tom Mann.

10 07 2010
Ronan

Chris and Chris S. make an important point about the history of syndicalism which I agree with.

No doubt, it is an interesting aspect of working class history which I’m interested in, albeit from critical standpoint.

A minor correction, I think Chris is wrong about the SLP disappearing in the 1920′s. As far as I know a tiny remnant carried on under the SLP banner in Britain until the 1930′s/40′s (not sure of exact date) and Marxist syndicalism carried on until the 1950′s/60′s in the form of tiny groups defending that perspective. As I said I’m interested in this current of the workers movement and would like to investigate further at some point in the future.

Just to provide some context to the meeting on anarcho-syndicalism. At the second meeting of our discussion group on trade unionism. A discussion developed around workplace organisation and what the orientation of communist and anarchist militants in the workplace should be, into which we also discussion and had been doing so privately in our respective groups and online on libcom.org for instance. One of the catalysts for these discussions was a document produced by Brighton SolFed that trigered discussion inside SolFed and outside about the form and content of workplace organisation from a revolutionary perspective.

So to address Chris’s criticism of the narrow focus of the meeting, it isn’t intended as a meeting to discuss the broad syndicalist tradition. But rather a member of Manchester SolFed will be speaking on his experience as a militant worker for many years and his perspective on this question.

11 07 2010
Neil

“the anarchists do not have a monopoly of syndicalist ideas”

Anarcho-syndicalism itself is a very different kind of animal to (non-anarchist) syndicalism – despite many similarities. However, it has also differed in model, method and even interpretation from within organisations: compare the trientistas and people like Durruti. Or the FORA to other unions.

“…even though they try to claim the IWW as their creation it was Marxists who played the pivotal role in its creation and most successful period of existence in the USA.”

This isn’t correct. The IWW was founded by a mixture of socialists and anarchists and pre-existing trade unionists. To say that it was either Marxist or anarchist would be wrong. If it were genuinely ‘Marxist’ it would have taken on the SLP’s argument of a political party combined with industrial unionism. But it didn’t and instead the union had a deeply libertarian, non-partyist stance – in which Marxists and anarchists worked together.

“As far as I know a tiny remnant carried on under the SLP banner in Britain until the 1930′s/40′s (not sure of exact date)…”

Yes, IIRC it continued as a small group/s in Scotland, where it was always strongest.

14 07 2010
Tom

“What about the Marxist syndicalists, such as Daniel De Leon, James Connolly, the militants of the Socialist Labour Party in Britain which existed until the 1920s?”

This is like critising a horse for not being a zebra. The purpose of the meeting seems pretty clear to me.

15 07 2010
Chris

No its about seeing the Horse and the Zebra to get a grasp of the whole picture, especially as in the UK syndicalism in its most influential forms in the working class has been that of the Marxists.

15 07 2010
Ronan

It is like comparing a Horse to a Zebra though because the meeting is not on “UK syndicalism”. But on anarcho-syndicalism, which is a specific political current that has an experience and influence internationally.

Chris, you’re correct that it doesn’t provide the “whole picture”, anarcho-syndicalism is only part of the picture of the historical syndicalist tradition. The meeting announcement doesn’t claim otherwise and tries to reflect as I mentioned before the context for the meeting.

16 07 2010
Neil
16 07 2010
Matthew

Other than for the sake of historical curiosity or to learn a few lessons from the past why would you want to study anarcho-syndicalism? This tendency had no theoretical base to understand either the role and importance of the state or the function of capital particularly finance capital. Both of these are utterly central to any viable understanding or plan of action for the present. The high point of anarcho-syndicalism is the start of the Spanish Civil War when the CNT formed the bulk of the revolutionaries who smashed the Spanish Army in the streets of Barcelona, however, instead of taking power the CNT entered the capitalist government, signing both its own death warrant and that of thousands of workers.

17 07 2010
Ronan

First of all the meeting is not meant as a historical study of anarcho-syndicalism. If it was it would be worthwhile in my opinion to study the experience of millions of workers who fought for social revolution behind the banner of anarcho-syndicalism. The meeting as I’ve explained a couple of times now, simply an anrcho-syndicalist militant giving his perspective on what anarcho-syndicalism offers the working class as means for conducting the class struggle. To assert that “this tendency had no theoretical base to understand either the role and importance of the state” is quite ridiculous considering that “the CNT entered the capitalist government” produced opposition from within largely based around Durruti. And I think it is unfair to suggest the anarcho-syndicalist movement were unthinking, albeit from what I can tell the published work of anarcho-syndicalist writers and groups is largely untranslated.

PS – I’m not an anarcho-syndicalist. Just not prepared to dismiss the experience of this current in such a glib way.

18 07 2010
Matthew

I don’t think it is a question of dismissing the experience of anarcho syndicalism just of being deeply critical of it as it was unsuccessful when put to the test, plus the cost was extremely high. As far as I can see from Abel Paz’ biography of Durruti (“Durruti The People Armed” Black Rose Books 1976) his opposition to his close friend and comrade Garcia Oliver becoming a minister in the Generalitat, the capitalist government of Catalonia was only partial and not based on a clear rejection of the capitalist state. It was only after Durruti’s death at the siege of Madrid (where there was a possibility he was murdered by the Stalinists) and the catastrophe of May 1937 when the capitalists and Stalinists attacked the CNT in Barcelona that the “Friends of Durriti” group which was much more critical of the CNT leadership came to prominence.

3 01 2012
fairylights

Anarcho Syndicalism is a political idea which relies on people thinking the same and having the same interests. It would most likely turn out authoritarian due to huge impracticalities.




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