“The Rank and File Strategy”: A Syndicalist View. By Tom Wetzel

Black Rose Anarchist Federation – Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra

Veteran activist and writer Tom Wetzel enters the wide ranging debate on the left around the “rank and file strategy” orientation to the labor movement. This piece is based on material is his forthcoming book from AK Press, Overcoming Capitalism.

Kim Moody’s writings on “the Rank and File Strategy” have gained a broad hearing within a variety of socialist groups, such as Democratic Socialists of America and smaller socialist groupings. His original pamphlet from 2000 talks about the strategy in terms of both rebuilding socialist influence in the labor movement and as a way to build a more worker-based socialist movement in the USA.

Recently Moody encapsulates the point to building rank-and-file worker organizations in the context of the unions this way:

“Building rank and file power to fight for the independence of unions from capitalist influence, in part transmitted by the bureaucracy, is an important task in building a class-conscious workers’ movement—something without which socialism remains only a set of ideas.”

Why is worker control of the union organization important? Here I think it is important to look at the process of class formation — the more or less protracted process through which

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Informal organisation: Alfredo M. Bonanno 1985

the anarchist library in various formats

From Anarchismo, n. 47, 1985

Informal organisation

Alfredo M. Bonanno

First let us distinguish the informal anarchist organisation from the anarchist organisation of synthesis. Considerable clarification will emerge from this distinction.

What is an anarchist organisation of synthesis? It is an organisation based on groups or individuals that are more or less in constant relation with each other, that culminates in periodical congresses. During these open meetings basic theoretical analyses are discussed, a program is prepared and tasks are shared out covering a whole range of interventions in the social field. The organisation thus sets itself up as a point of reference, like an entity that is capable of synthesizing the struggles that are going on in reality of the class clash. The various commissions of this organisational model intervene in different struggles (as single comrades or groups) and, by intervening, give their contribution in first person without however losing site of the theoretical and practical orientation of the organisation as a whole, as decided at the most recent congress.

When this kind of organisation develops itself fully (as happened in Spain in ’36) it begins to dangerously resemble a party. Synthesis becomes control. Of course, in moments of slack, this involution is less visible and might even seem an insult, but at other times it turns out to be more evident.

In substance, in the organisation of synthesis (always specific and anarchist), a nucleus of specialists works out proposals at both the theoretical and ideological level, adapting them as far as possible to the program that is roughly decided upon at the periodic congresses. The shift away from this program can also be considerable (after all, anarchists would never admit to too slavish an adherence to anything), but when this occurs care is taken to return within the shortest possible time to the line previously decided upon.

This organisation’s project is therefore that of being present in various situations: antimilitarism, nuclear power, unions, prisons, ecology, interventions in living areas, unemployment, schools, etc. This presence is either by direct intervention or through participaton in interventions managed by other comrades or organisations (anarchist or not).

It becomes clear that participation aimed at bringing the struggle to within the project of synthesis cannot be autonomous. It cannot really adapt to the conditions of the struggle or collaborate effectively in a clear plan with the other revolutionary forces. Everything must either go through the ideological filter of synthesis or comply with the conditions approved earlier during the congress.This situation, which is not always as rigid as it might seem here, carries the ineliminable tendency of organisations of synthesis to drag struggles to the level of the base, proposing caution and using contrivances aimed at redimensioning any flight forward, any objective that is too open or means that might be dangerous.

For example, if a group belonging to this kind of organisation (of synthesis, but always anarchist and specific) were to adhere to a structure that is struggling, let us say, against repression, it would be forced to consider the actions proposed by this structure in the light of the analyses that had roughly been approved at the congress. The structure would either have to accept these analyses, or the group belonging to the organisation of synthesis would stop its collaboration (if it is in a minority) or impose the expulsion (in fact, even if not with a precise motion) of those proposing different methods of struggle. Some people might not like it, but that is exactly how things work. One might ask oneself why on earth the proposal of the group belonging to the organisation of synthesis must by definition always be more backward, i.e. in the rearguard, or more cautious than others concerning possible actions of attack against the structures of repression and social consensus. Why is that? The answer is simple. The specific anarchist organisation of synthesis, which, as we have seen, culminates in periodic congresses has growth in numbers as its basic aim. It needs an operative force that must grow. Not to infinity exactly, but almost. In the case of the contrary it would not have the capacity to intervene in the various struggles, nor even be able to carry out its own principle task: proceding to synthesis in one single point of reference. Now, an organisation that has growth in members as its main aim must use instruments that guarantee proselytism and pluralism. It cannot take a clear position concerning any specific problem, but must always find a middle way, a political road that upsets the smallest number and turns out to be acceptable to most.

The correct position concerning some problems, particularly repression and prisons, is often the most dangerous, and no group can put the organisation they belong to at risk without first agreeing with the other member groups. But that can only happen in congress, or at least at an extraordinary meeting, and we all know that on such occasions it is always the most moderate opinion that prevails, certainly not the most advanced.

So, ineluctably, the presence of the organisation of synthesis in actual struggles, struggles that reach the essence of the class struggle, turns into a brake and control (often involuntarily, but it is still a question of control).

The informal organisation does not present such problems. Affinity groups and comrades that see themselves in an informal kind of projectuality come together in action, certainly not by adhering to a program that has been fixed at a congress. They realise the project themselves, in their analyses and actions. It can occasionally have a point of reference in a paper or a series of meetings, but only in order to facilitate things, whereas it has nothing to do with congresses and such like.The comrades who recognise themselves in an informal organisation are automatically a part of it. They keep in contact with the other comrades through a paper or by other means, but, more important, they do so by participating in the various actions, demonstrations, encounters, etc., that take place from time to time. The main verification and analysis therefore comes about during moments of struggle. To begin with these might simply be moments of theoretical verification, turning into something more later on.

In an informal organisation there is no question of synthesis. There is no desire to be present in all the different situations and even less to formulate a project that takes the struggles into the depths of a programme that has been approved in advance.

The only constant points of reference are insurrectional methods: in other words self-organisation of struggles, permanent conflictuality and attack.

2020 review of the year

DRILL OR DROP?

2020 was a frack free year in the UK because the shale gas industry failed to persuade ministers to lift blocks on the process.


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London: Four squats evicted just before Xmas

Squat Net

Today [December 21] four separate squats were evicted in London. One being the mutual aid community free shop [pictured] in Harringay that was very close to our hearts. They illegally evicted us, as they didn’t tell us we had court on 17 December.

Many people have been made homeless today due to parasitic landlords. They’ve destroyed homes and communities. All before 9am.

Support your local squat. We’re working with other members of the crew to relocate and get running again but cannot guarantee when. We hope soon.

Kill bailiffs. Kill landlords. Kill cops.

Squat the world. We’ll squat the copshops. We’ll squat the bailiff HQs. We’ll squat your fucking holiday homes.

This Xmas forget the turkey and stuff the rich

The Slow Burning Fuse

Christmas, the vast, commercialised festival of selling and consumption is upon us again. It’s supposedly a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all, but there is precious little peace on earth to be found, and very little goodwill for the working class.

Christmas is a time of delusion when lots of us reflect that if we only had the spirit of Christmas all year round, and were kind, and nice, and generous to each other all the time, then all the world’s problems would be solved.

This delusion fosters the idea that the troubles of capitalism are caused by the fact that people are bad and, if only people were better, then the world would be a better place too. In reality, people should be asking themselves why they behave as they do, and why the world is as it is.

We need to realise that there is…

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London ABC’s Virtual Prisoner Letter-Writing 2020

Cautiously pessimistic

Via Freedom and London ABC:

This December London ABC wants to launch a special prisoner letter-writing: virtual, but with the same aim. Send some warmth and complicity, towards a world without cages or barriers.

To write a letter just send an email with the content to london_abc@riseup.net with the number of the solidarity card of your choice (between 1,2,3 above). Include the name of the prisoner you would like send the letter to (choose fromprisoner list, or the name and the address of someone you know is inside, if not in the list) and the address you want to the reply sent back to, or you can use this address: Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX. And we’ve done, you done, ABC will provide next day delivery.

When you write us the email with the content*(that will remain strictly…

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Greenwich Security Vote To Strike!

Independent Workers Union of Great Britain - Universities of London Branch

After a rapid two-week turnaround ballot, IWGB members at the University of Greenwich have voted resoundingly in favour of strike action.

This is their first major step by Greenwich security officers, porters and cleaners in getting ready to win an END TO OUTSOURCING AT UoG!! 🔥

After years of being mistreated, undervalued and discriminated against, they are now coming together in strength to demand equality with their colleagues directly-employed by the university. 

The IWGB has seen victories at UoL, UCL and Goldsmiths, now we’re ready to end outsourcing at UoG!  ✉️📮💪

Strike action is no easy decision for our members to take: as low-paid workers any pay we lose has big effects on our lives. But we know that it is the only way that UoG management will listen 📣

The Greenwich outsourced workers need your support in achieving their aims! 

How can you help?

🐤 Retweet the…

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Red And Black Telly Roundup




4 Indigenous Nahuas murdered by narco-paramiltaries In Guerrero, Mexico

Voices in Movement

Communique of CIPOG-EZ on the the assassination of four indigenous Nahuas in Guerrero, Mexico.

Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero, México, December 20th, 2020

To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
to the National Indigenous Congress (CNI)
To the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG)
To the People of Guerrero, Mexico and the World
To the National and International Sixth
To the CNI-CIG Networks of Support
To the Free, Honest and Autonomous Media

As women, men, grandfathers, grandmothers, boys and girls of the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero-Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ)—Na Savi, Me pháá, Ñamnkue, Nahua, Afro-Mexican and Mestizo peoples of the state of Guerrero—we are again raising our voice with rage and pain. Yesterday, December 19th, 2020, around noon, our sisters María Agustín Chino and Amalia Morales Guapango, and our brothers José Benito Migueleño and Miguel Migueleño were found assassinated.

These brothers and sisters of the Indigenous Nahua community of Alcozacan, municipality of Chilapa de Álvarez, disappeared Friday December 18th. Yesterday around noon, their bodies were found in their truck on the Chilapa-Tlapa highway. They were tortured, bound at their hands, and given their “coup de grace.”

This has taken place precisely one month after we broke the narco-paramilitary siege, on November 18th, when thousands of Indigenous Nahuas recovered our mobility in our territory. As twenty-two communities surrounded by the narco-paramilitary group, Los Ardillos, we decided to say “Enough Already!” because it is not life that we are living. However, in response, they are already beginning to charge the fee in blood, because they want us to be slaves and they want us subdued.

We dared to denounce the subsecretary of Human Rights, Population and Migration of the 4T, Alejandro Encinas. He only comes to plant division and buy consciences precisely in Alcozacan. There, on January 17th, 2020, 10 compañeros were assassinated in a massacre. Now, far from arriving to justice, they are only sending more death and signals of war. Encinas and López Obrador, you are no different than the PRI. You have become what you pretend to combat.

Today, and in the times that come, they will continue killing us. Mexico is being built on our dead bodies. Once again, we are in the way. But we can no longer continue in slavery. Here in the Montaña Baja of Guerrero, COVID-19 is the least of it. They are assassinating us like animals without anyone listening, without anyone doing anything. Our “Enough Already!” will continue and will cost more blood because no struggle for true freedom and justice has ever been smooth. Never in history have Indigenous peoples been given our freedom.

We hold responsible the municipal government of Chilapa de Álvarez led by Jesús Parra García of the PRI, the state government of Héctor Astudillo Flores of the PRI, and the president of the republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of MORENA, for the assassination of María Agustín Chino, Amalia Morales Guapango, José Benito Migueleño and Miguel Migueleño. The three levels of government know perfectly well that happens in Chilapa, but they make deals instead of ending organized crime.

Celso Ortega Jiménez is the operating command of “Los Ardillos.” Bernardo Ortega Jiménez is the political command. The ministerial police of Chilapa de Álvarez, as we have already denounced, are part of the problem and the National Guard knows this well. After being in the same place for so long, the National Guard are only spying on our organization instead of dismantling organized crime.

Our state organizers continue receiving death threats. Intimidation in the base communities of the CIPOG-EZ and CNI-CIG is becoming more and more fierce. Now, more murder. And again, impunity on part of the authorities only makes their complicity clear. That is why Encinas refuses to provide precautionary measures and why the CNDH did not send any visitors to register the human rights violations in Chilapa and the 22 communities that have suffered the narco-paramilitary siege.

Sisters and brothers who have not abandoned us, help us to share this word and let it be known what the 4T and its ally the PRI are doing in Guerrero. May our dead not remain in the shadow of “progress.” May our blood sow the path of freedom for our people.

We will we mobilizing and we reiterate our determined “Enough Already!” Our struggle is for life and freedom. We do not want to be slaves of organized crime, nor a bargaining chip of bad governments in disguise.

Sincerely,

Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero-Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ)
Regions: Costa Chica, Costa Montaña, Montaña Alta and Montaña Baja de Guerrero
Campesino Organization of the Southern Sierra (O.C.S.S.)
End the paramilitary war against the Zapatista communities of the EZLN!
End the Narco-Paramilitary war against the Indigenous communities of the CNI-CIG!
Justice for all the prisoners, assassinated and disappeared of the CNI-CIG!
Never more a Mexico without us!
This was translated Anonynmously by It’s Going Down.

Red and Black Telly roundup.