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(en) Ireland, new position paper of Workers Solidarity Movements* July 2004 conference - Capitalist Globalisation and Imperialism

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 19 Aug 2004 11:50:42 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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1. Imperialism is the ability of countries to globally and locally dictate
trade relations with other countries. This means the term can only be
usefully applied to a few countries, in particular those composing the
permanent members of the UN security council and the G8.

2. The policy of these countries in this as in other respects is largely
driven by the major companies based there and not their peoples. Almost
all of the worlds top 200 companies are based in these countries. These
interests are defined on the regional and global level by bodies like the
World Economic Forum and the European Round Table of Industralists
(ERT). These bodies bring together the top 'decision makers' in the
corporations with the relevant ministers and civil servants of national
government and the European Union.

These companies and their governments have in the last decades
attempted to construct a neo liberal order by which their wishes can be
imposed on all the worlds populations and through which
inter-imperialist disputes can be resolved. This is the purpose of global
bodies like the WTO, G8, World Bank, IMF and UN, all of which are
structured so they can only act with the permission the major economic

3. Imperialism was not and is not just about the search for markets. On a
daily basis the imperialist countries seek to gain access to raw materials,
to gain military bases, to control the flow of scarce or vital raw materials
(including genes), cheap labour. It may even be to insure sufficient
imports of finished goods or heavy machinery.

4. In any specific region one country will be more powerful then others.
They will attempt to use their dominance to gain favourable trade and
territory concessions. They are however subject to the major imperialist
nations, and are probably retained as client states by one or more of
them. It is not therefore not useful to refer to such countries as

5. The countries that are not themselves imperialist show a continuous
spectrum of forms from those which are absolute colonies of one power
to those that although ultimately answerable to the imperialists are for
the most part independent junior parts of world capitalism and may have
considerable local power. Today almost all the national governments of
the world are promoting neo liberalism as it also provides benefits to the
local ruling class, even though this is at a cost to their population.

6. A colony is a country under the direct military or administrative control
of an imperialist country. Although the post war period saw many of
these countries gaining some self rule in more recent years new colonies
have been created, for example Bosnia, ruled through the UN.

The WTO, World Bank, IMF and UN are all bodies that disguise this
function but in all cases there internal structures are set up to allow the
powerful countries to not only determine their agendas but to decide
which policies are accepted or fall.

7. Today the ruling classes of most countries are prepared to go along
with this neo liberal program although they may have reservations
around particular issues. In some cases these countries have developed
their own industrial base (eg South Korea) so that they are not dependent
on primary agriculture, or the export of raw materials for their foreign
trade. They have developed a sizable home owned industry. They are act
not only in the interests of the multinationals but also of indigenous
capitalism. Commonly to act as local enforcers for imperialist rule and/or
partake in more global police actions through the UN or similar agencies.
Like Ireland they have become junior partners in the neo liberal
imperialist order.

8. In other cases, particularly in parts of Central Africa, the local ruling
class are little more then the local agents of multinational industry or the
major imperialist powers. Here the state exists almost completely in
order to maintain a high level of exploitation on behalf of these powers.
These countries may be formally self governing but they are effectively a
new form of colony where a local elite with no popular mandate has
replaced the direct rule of the imperialist powers.

9. There are a limited number of countries whose ruling class are
unwilling for one reason or another to become partners in this order. In
2001 Libya, Iraq, Cuba and North Korea were the most obvious
examples. In some cases like Cuba the ruling class are unwilling to open
their markets fully to the global economy. In others regional military
conflict has resulted in the hostility of the major powers to the current

The imperialist powers have militarily and economically attacked those
states that try to follow their own agenda. Today this often disguised as
'peace keeping' or 'peace enforcement' under the UN flag. While we
oppose the imperialist powers we recognise that the states that defy them
do so in the interests of their own ruling class rather then their people.
So rather then supporting, critically or otherwise, these local ruling
classes we look to support the working class (including rural workers) of
those countries in there struggle against imperialism and their own ruling
class. We make this concrete by offering solidarity including material aid
to independent working class and libertarian organisations.

10. We argue that to win any permanent improvements anti-imperialist
/ anti-neoliberal struggles have to be transformed into the struggle for
the international anarchist revolution. That said we recognise that short
of this any military defeat for imperialism will not only reduce the ability
of the imperialist powers to engage in future interventions but is also an
encouragement for those involved in similar struggles elsewhere.

11. The National liberation movements of the 20th century were an
attempt to defeat imperialism through an alliance of the "progressive"
bourgeois and the workers. The bourgeoise always dominated these
movements, ensuring that even the 'left' element within them become no
more then support for a project of state capitalism. Where an
independent workers movement threatened to appear which might have
seeked an alternative the bourgeoise quickly reached a temporary or
permanent agreement with imperialism in order to suppress this

12. Today with the great reduction in inter imperialist rivalary which
followed the collapse of the Soviet Union the room for such National
Liberation Movements is greatly reduced. This is the reason why many
made peace with their governments in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Most of the few that remain now call on the US and the other imperialist
powers to resolve their local situations on their behalf. In that context
while they may indeed be struggling for a fairer division of the local cake
they can no longer be considered anti-imperialist in any sense of the
word. Their calls for intervention may reflect a certain 'natural justice'.
But the imperialist powers will only intervene where it suits them. They
do so in a way that not only furthers their own agenda but frequently
results in far more death and destruction and a far more divided society
then that which previously existed. This of course results in the need for
'peace keeping' and hence direct imperialist control into the indefinite

13. Without necesserly supporting each and every project of resistance
we see our role as undermining the idea that the neo liberal order is
inevitable and that resistance to it is both futile and criminal. In the case
of National Liberation Movement we defend the struggle against
imperialism while attacking the nationalist basis of this struggle.

14. In relation to each situation we will seek to discover and promote the
anti-authoratarian strands within that struggle, particularly those that
seek to organise on a class rather then national, religious or ethnic basis
and win these to anarchism. We will argue that the interests of the
ordinary workers of the imperialist countries lies with the promotion of
such strands and not with their own rulers. We will argue for and where
possible build working class resistance to the imperialist strategies of
their own ruling class and direct links with those in struggle.

15. In countries where NLM's come to power the role of anarchists there
would be not to support them but rather to organise for a revolution
would replace government with a federation of urban and rural workers
assemblies and councils. In Ireland and the European Union our role
would be to undermine any imperalist intervertion and argue that the
workers of such countries are natural allies of the European Working

16. The current neo liberal phase of capitalism is a product of the
interaction of the capitalist and political systems with working class
resistance and technological development. As such it is a logical form of
organisation from the point of view of capital. We don't see any
progressive content to advocating alternative forms of capitalism on the
national or international level. This includes attempts to isolate countries
from the global economy and develop national capital on environmental,
religious or state socialist lines.

17. We are against the intervention by the UN or any other collection of
imperialist 'peacekeepers'. Ireland's role within the UN and common EU
defence arrangements demonstrates how it has become a junior partner
of international imperialism. The UN provides a manner in which it can
intervene alongside the big imperialist powers.

18. There can be no 'just settlement' that involves any imperialist power
or the UN or similar bodies. Such settlements will be designed in order to
protect the interests of the imperialists. Therefore we always oppose
intervention in any region of the world for whatever reason by the

19. We are for the unconditional withdrawal of troops of the imperialist
countries from any country they are occupying. Imperialism is the
primary cause of most of the national and ethnic conflicts imposed on the
worlds population. No imperialist can play any part in solving these

20. Wars between countries are a symptom of the battle for control of
markets etc which is an essential art of capitalism. We therefore do not
decide who is right or wrong in any given situation on the basis of who is
the apparent aggressor.

21. In conflicts between two imperialists or regional, ethnic or religious
groups we argue that for the workers in the countries their enemy is their
own ruling class. Their allies are the working class of the enemy state.
On this basis we would seek to undermine the war effort.

Short Term Perspectives;

The movement against neoliberalism

1.In the 1990's an international movement started to emerge that brought
together a broad coalition against neo liberalism, linking people in
struggle all over the world outside of the control of political parties. This
broad movement, as yet, has no common purpose beyond a wish to
address the unfairness of global capitalism and a general sense that
people rather then national governments or multinationals should be in

2. But large parts of this movement were influenced by anarchism or by
ideas that have organisational similarities with anarchism like Zapatismo
and radical envirnomentalism.
These often defined themselves in opposition to the party building
strategy of Leninism and social democracy.

3. The Zapatista encounters of 1996 and 1997 represented an attempt by
activists from these strands, recognising what they had in common, to
look at ways of building informal networks of communication and
solidarity. These meetings and more regional ones like them along with
new communications technology has helped create an informal global
information and solidarity network that in a large part led to the
successful protests against capitalism in the City of London, J18 and the
WTO in Seattle, N30 in 1999.

4. There is a real tension between this libertarian strand of the movement
and the more top down stands represented by most of the NGO's, trade
unions, religious groups and after Seattle the Leninist left. This tension
is exposed by the debates about tactics in the aftermath of most of the
major protests and the frequent division on the protests into
confrontational and non confrontational blocks or areas. The reality of
this debate is between those who argue for a bottom up autonomous
affinity group structure on the one hand and a top down, 'majority' rule,
representative committee on the other

5. The Grassroots Gathering has managed to draw together many of the
groups who favour a bottom up autonomous affinity group structure. We
must now start to look to encourage the creation of regional
co-ordination structures.

6. We are opposed to any involvement in military alliances including the
Rapid Reaction Force & partnership for peace.

As ammended July 2004
merged to form SIPTU), and the National Bus and Railworkers Union,
to name but a few of the main unions, were all born as "left" breakaways.

While we refuse to advocate breakaways, except possibly in the most
exceptional cases, we ultimately stand for the right of workers to make
the decision themselves.

5.1 Syndicalism, and especially anarcho-syndicalism, has been an
important current in many countries - particularly in Southern Europe
and Latin America. Its basic ideas revolve around organising all workers
into the "one big union", keeping control in the hands of the rank & file,
and opposing all attempts to create a bureaucracy of unaccountable
full-time officials. Unlike other unions their belief is that the union can
used not only to win reforms from the bosses but also to overthrow the
capitalist system. They hold that most workers are not revolutionaries
because the structure of their unions is such that it takes the initiative
away from the rank & file. Their alternative is to organise all workers
the "one big union" in preparation for the revolutionary general strike.
They see the biggest problem in the structure of the existing unions
rather than in the ideas that tie workers to authoritarian, capitalist views
of the world.

5.2 Syndicalism in itself does not create a revolutionary political
organisation. It creates industrial unions. It is a-political, arguing all that
is necessary to make the revolution is for the workers to seize the
factories and the land. After that it believes that the state and all the
institutions of the ruling class will come toppling down. They do not
accept that the working class must take political power. For them all
power has to be immediately abolished on day one of the revolution.

5.3 Because syndicalist organisation is the union, it organises all workers
regardless of their politics. Historically many workers have joined, not
because they were anarchists, but because the syndicalist union was the
most militant and got the best results. Because of this tendencies always
appeared that were reformist.

5.4 Syndicalists are quite correct to emphasise the centrality of
workers in the workplace. Critics who reject syndicalism on the grounds
that allegedly it cannot organise those outside the workplace are wrong.
Taking the example of anarcho-syndicalism in Spain it is clear that they
could and did organise throughout the entire working class as was
evidenced by the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth, the 'Mujeras
Libres' (Free Women), and the neighbourhood organisations.

5.5 The limits of syndicalism is rooted in its view of why workers are tied
to capitalism, and its view of what is necessary to make the revolution.
Spain in 1936/7 represented the highest point in anarcho-syndicalist
organisation and achievement. Because of their a-politicism they were
unable to develop a programme for workers' power, to wage a political
battle against other currents in the workers' movement (such as
reformism and Stalinism), and to give a lead to the entire class by
fighting for complete workers' power.

Instead they got sucked into support for the Popular Front government,
which in turn led to their silence and complicity when the Republican
state moved against the collectives and militias. The minority in the
CNT, organised around the Friends of Durruti, was expelled when they
issued a proclamation calling for the workers to take absolute power (i.e.
that they should refuse to share power with the bosses or the
authoritarian parties).

5.6 The CNT believed that when the workers took over the means of
production and distribution this would lead to "the liquidation of the
bourgeois state which would die of asphyxiation". History teaches us
different. In a situation of dual power it is very necessary to smash the

5.7 In contrast to this the Friends of Durruti were clear that "to beat
Franco we need to crush the bourgeoisie and its Stalinist and Socialist
allies. The capitalist state must be destroyed totally and there must be
installed workers' power depending on rank & file committees.
A-political anarchism has failed". The political confusion of the CNT
leadership was such that they attacked the idea of the workers siezing
power as "evil" and leading to an "anarchist dictatorship".

5.8 The syndicalist movement, organised in the International Workers
Association and outside it, refuses to admit the CNT was wrong to
"postpone" the revolution and enter the government. They attempt to
explain away this whole episode as being due to "exceptional
circumstances" that "will not occur again". Because they refuse to admit
that a mistake of historic proportions was made, they are doomed to
repeat it (should they get a chance).

5.9 We recognise that the syndicalist unions, where they still exist, are
far more progressive than any other union. But the anarchist-communist
organisation will organise within its ranks and everywhere else workers
are organised. We will not liquidate our specific politics and organisation
into the a-politicism of syndicalism.

5.10 We recognise that the union structures we argue for are essentially
the same as those that syndicalists argue for. In the context of union
structures syndicalism thus provides both historical and current
examples that demonstrate to fellow workers that such methods of
organisation not only work but bring results

6.1 In Ireland, as in many other countries, there are formal links
social-democratic (in some countries nationalist or liberal) Parties and
the unions. The largest general unions in Ireland are affiliated to the
Labour Party. Far from providing a "political voice" or "weapon" for
workers it helps to disarm them politically. In the unions; where we have
real, if unused, strength; the bureaucrats can argue against taking up
issues outside the workplace on the grounds that "that is what the
Party is there for". Political affiliation attempts to put the political
struggles of workers under the control of professional 'representative'
politicians. It aids passivity.

6.2 In Ireland the Labour Party does not even enjoy the electoral support
of most trade unionists. Properly speaking it is not the Party of the
unions - it is the Party of the union bureaucracy, and increasingly seeks
to weaken even that connection

6.3 We support the concept of a political levy but urge the unions to
disaffiliate from the Labour Party. Instead we seek to mobilise the
strength of the unions to take direct action on political issues. The first
step towards this is the raising of political issues at section and branch
level through arguing for sponsorship of specific demonstrations, for the
passing of resolutions on issues such as combating racism and giving
support to other workers in struggle. All such resolutions should be
linked to some action, no matter how minimal it may be at the beginning.

7.1 Our perspectives for activity within the unions are centred on
encouraging workers themselves to take up the fight against the bosses,
state interference and the TU bureaucracy. Our most important area of
activity is on the shopfloor.

7.2 We encourage 100% union membership and all WSM members are
members of their appropriate trade union. When members take up
employment in non-union jobs, they are expected to join an appropriate
trade union. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be
necessary for some considerable time for this person to remain a secret/
"sleeper" member. The process of unionisation of non-union workplaces
is extremely varied and complex. In some cases an immediate
drive can unionise a workplace, in others it is only when a specific issue
arises that workers begin to become receptive to unionisation, in yet
others it will be the product of slow and undramatic work aimed at
convincing people in ones and twos. The WSM members on a particular
job are best placed to decide what strategy is most useful in their

7.3 No WSM member will accept any unelected position that entails
having power over the membership.

7.4 Members elected as shop stewards consider their position as that of a
delegate rather than that of a 'representative' who can act over the heads
of the members.

7.5 When going forward for elective positions we make it clear that we
are not accepting the structure as it now exists. We will fight for more
accountability, mandation, information for members, etc.

7.6 The following points serve as guidelines for our day-to-day activity
and link it to our goal of anarchism, because of the method that lies
behind them.

7.6.1 WAGES

(a) Opposition to centralised wage bargaining. Defence of free
collective bargaining.

(b) Encouragement of joint claims and action across union and craft

(c) For cash claims, in preference to percentage ones, on the basic
with no strings attached.

(d) For opposition to "social partnership", which not only holds down
wages but also reduces membership participation in union affairs and
promotes the lie that there can be an equal partnership between workers
and their bosses & rulers

(e) For a national minimum wage set as a % of the national average
industrial wage.

7.6.2 Unemployment

(a) Because the economic cycle of capitalism sees each boom
by a slump, mass unemployment is a recurring threat. It cannot be
eradicated while capitalism exists but we can fight back against the
bossesâ desire to make us pay for their crisis.

(b) Opposition to all job losses through strikes and occupations
up by the greatest possible solidarity action throughout the TU

(c) That all closures be met by the demand for continued employment
with no reduction in pay, or worsening of conditions or union rights. We
are not concerned whether this is done by bringing in a new owner or by

(d) We point out that nationalisation is not a cure-all, and that state
ownership brings us not one inch nearer to socialism.

(e) Opposition to all productivity deals that involve job losses.

(f) Opposition to 'natural wastage' of jobs, forced early retirement.

(g) Full membership rights in the unions for unemployed workers, for
unemployed sections within the branches.

(h) Where possible, organisations of the unemployed should be set up.
These should keep in close contact with those still in work by helping on
picket lines and building links with the unions. They should also aim for
closer links with bona-fide tenants' and residents' associations. While
unemployed organisations which concentrate on service provision fulfil a
useful role, what is needed is a fighting unemployed movement which
will take up the political fight for jobs, decent social welfare payments

(i) For trade union support for the demands of the unemployed, e.g.
providing facilities, refusing to cut off services such as electricity and

(j) For putting pressure on the state to inject money into industry that
is both labour intensive and socially useful. For a programme of public
works paying union rates. For a crash programme of house-building
using direct labour employed by the local authorities.

(k) For unionisation of people on schemes, for TU rates of pay.

(l) We reject the idea that unemployed people should be thankful for
any 'job' they are offered. We call for decent jobs - ones that are well
and socially useful.


(a) Opposition to all laws restricting the right to strike, and all laws
which seek to interfere in the internal affairs of the unions. Opposition to
"union bashing". For the scrapping of the anti-union provisions of the
Industrial Relations Act.

(b) We are opposed to schemes for "worker directors" and "workers
participation". They are a confidence trick to deny the reality of class rule
by the bosses, as are employee share schemes. Workers' interests are
opposed to the interests of the bosses.

(c) When possible, we encourage workers not to use the Labour Court
and other supposedly "impartial" institutions. Instead we call for
solidarity action.

(d) We argue for the withdrawal of the ICTU representatives from the
Employer-Labour Conference, the N.I. Police Authority, state and
semi-state boards. We are against participation in all bodies that try to
destroy the independance of the unions by involving them in "social

(e) We are against the "sweetheart deals" negotiated by some unions
and the Industrial Development Board/Enterprise Ireland which grant
negotiation rights to a single union without the agreement of the
workforce. We stand for the right of workers to join the union of their


(a) For positive encouragement of women, younger members and
immigrants to participate in the unions, and to take lay office.

(b) We are against the concept of "reserved places" on union
committees for women. It is undemocratic and tokenistic. The real
alternative for the unions to seriously take up women's issues.

(c) For equal rights and benefits for all members regardless of sex, age
or whether they are full-time or part-time workers.

(d) For six months paid maternity/paternity leave.

(e) Opposition to the use of maternity leave as a disentitlement to pay
related benefit.

(f) In order to enable women to attend union meetings we call for
childcare provision at the expense of the union.

(g) To defend women's right to work we call for childcare provision at
the expense of the bosses, and under the supervision of the workers
using it.

(h) For 'flexitime' arrangements where workers with children desire it.

(i) To commit the unions to support a woman's right to control her
own fertility, including the right to avail of abortion, and to give moral
and material support to campaigns seeking to achieve this end.


(a) We fight to change the role of the full-time officials - not to change
the individuals who occupy the positions. Their decision-making powers
have to be removed and returned to the rank & file membership. They
should be elected and paid no more than the average wage of the people
they represent. They should only serve for a fixed period of no more than
five years after which they return to ordinary work. The unions will have
to win the demand for jobs to be kept open in order for this to be realistic.

(b) All officials to be subject to mandation and recall.

(c) We are totally opposed to the ICTU "two tier" picket.

(d) For regular branch and workplace meetings, in working hours
where this is possible.

(e) For direct elections to all committees, conference delegations and
national officerships, subject to mandation and recall.

(f) All strikes to be automatically made official as long as they do not
contradict trade union principles.

(g) Support for all disputes, official or unofficial, in pursuit of higher
wages, better conditions, jobs, trade union principles or any issue in the
interest of the class.

(h) For the publication of minutes of all union meetings.

(i) Where revolutionaries can gain enough support to win election to
national officerships in large unions, or indeed small ones, this support
should not be used to merely elect a candidate. Instead it should be used
to fundamentally change the structure of the union in such a way as to
return power to the membership and turn the officers into administrators
and resource people rather than decision makers.


8.1 The rank and file movement is that movement within the unions of
militant workers who are prepared to fight independently of the
bureaucracy, and against it when necessary.

8.2 The form it has taken in Ireland has been that of combative shop
steward committees, inter-factory committees, and groupings of activists
within particular unions and/or trades.

8.3 Such a movement arises when workers go into struggle and are
attacked not only by the boss but also by their own union officials. It
requires the confidence to fight on both these fronts, and to be
generalised to the degree where it can appeal for solidarity action over
heads of the bureaucrats.

8.4 In the case of building around a programme or list of demands, it
should be broad enough to attract workers who are militant but would
see themselves as having a particular political outlook. The basis for
building is (as a general guide): 1. for union democracy, 2. for equality in
the workplace and in the union, 3. against wage restraint, 4. for a fight
jobs, 5. support for strikes.

8.5 Within the rank & file movement we fight for our politics, we never
hide them. But we do not want to take over, the movement should be
independent of any one political organisation. While we seek to convince
as many workers as possible of the need for anarchism, we do not do
in an opportunist manner at the expense of the growth of the movement.
It should never be made a front belonging to the revolutionary
organisation. Its role is to provide a focus for workers moving to the left
and wanting to fight. Point 8.6 "Rank-and-file movements usually come
about as a result of struggle - when workers see that the union
is an impediment to that struggle. They cannot be willed into existence.
The establishment of solidarity networks can in the meantime draw
people together on a limited agenda where issues of democracy,
strategies for the future etc. can be discussed. We seek to build solidarity
networks where possible, as the first step towards the building of
rank-and-file movements

9.1 In line with our recognition of the need for solidarity the WSM,
within the bounds of its resources, offers to aid workers in dispute. In
we do not seek to "provide a service" but to encourage self-activity
among the strikers. We push them to pressurise the union into providing
material help. Only when this is not forthcoming do we provide leaflets,
etc. We will put our organisation at their disposal in terms of help with
fundraising, collections, publicity, contacts for blacking and other
solidarity actions - but we do it WITH the strikers, not FOR them.

9.2 Our most immediate aim in any strike is to win a victory. But it is not
our sole aim. We are political militants and not just good trade unionists,
we argue our politics. We seek to win support for our politics, we seek to
win members to our organisation.

9.3 Where groups of workers on strike seek the establishment of a strike
support group we will do all we can, given our limited resources, to
the establishment and success of such a support group. However, within
the strike support group, we will insist that the strikers themselves
maintain control and we will work to ensure that the strikers' confidence
in their ability to act for themselves is increased. We will argue strongly
against the support group becoming a substitute for activity within the
union concerned - activity which should place demands on the union
structures to fight with and for the strikers. We will work to ensure that
the support group does not do things "for" the strikers but instead gives
advice and assistance in terms of helping the strikers to fight for

Where possible, at the conclusion to a strike we will encourage the
strikers to compile a short article/pamphlet detailing their experiences.
Such articles/pamphlets would serve as a "memory bank" and would
prove useful to future strikers who find themselves fighting the same

10.1 When we say we are in favour of 100% trade unionism we mean
that. A fighting union will gain the support of the vast majority of
workers. But there will be that small minority, from whose ranks
parasites and scabs appear, who will refuse to join. As they automatically
benefit from every claim the union wins they should not be allowed to
out of the struggle for it. Where the majority of the workforce decide
want a closed shop agreement we support them. However we do not
support single union agreements that are forced on workers from above.
The important thing is that everyone is in a bona-fide union, it is less
important which union they join.

11.1 Trade unions will not become revolutionary organisations, they
never set up to be that. However from within trade union struggle will
arise the embryo of the workers' councils of the future. The early
beginnings of this are seen wherever workers create their own rank &
organisation (without mediation or "all-knowing" leaders) to pursue their
class interests.

11.2 Towards this end we push as hard as we can for independence from
the control of the bureaucracy.

11.3 The role of the WSM within these struggles is to unify the different
sectional struggles into an awareness of the overall struggle between the
classes; to act as a "collective memory" for the movement (i.e. able to
explain the lessons of past struggles); to take on the politics of
and Leninism within the movement; to explain and popularise the
anarchist-communist idea. Essentially our role is that of a "leadership of
ideas" - as opposed to a leadership of elitist individuals.

12.1 In the workplaces the employers are on the offensive. They want to
lower wage costs increase the authority of management, and weaken
grassroots trade union organisation in favour of the top bureaucrats like
the leadership of ICTU and SIPTU.

Since 1987 the majority of trade unionists have been conned into
supporting 'social partnership' deals. In the years since 1987 the rank
file campaigns against partnership have become weaker and weaker until
with 'Sustaining Progress' it was almost insignificant. Today such
campaigns are organised amongst such a narrow layer and at such short
notice that the kindest reading of then is that they are run, not to win
anything or even build a movement, but simply to 'do something'. A
more cynical reading would suggest they exist simply to get some new
union contacts for the main political party behind them.

Nevertheless a significant portion of workers vote against each deal,
indicating that they are at the very least unhappy with the terms offered
This opposition has lacked a focus and the various attempts made by left
union activists to provide one over the years have failed. Success either
requires a radical and sustained new strategy or that the employers
by a future crisis of capitalism go on a major offensive. The employers
may also become over confident and offer a deal so worthless that a
majority reject it, this would most likely lead to a new deal with better
conditions but even so this would be the best opportunity there has been
for years to mobilise opposition to partnership

12.2 Anarchists must work to generate wider solidarity for workers in
struggle, both through the official union structures and outside them...
Whilst we must not turn our backs on the official structures such as
branch committees, trades councils, etc., we also recognise that these
bodies are becoming more distanced from the members on the job and
are presently incapable of organising much in the way of solidarity action.

In these struggles it is particularly important that the WSM argument is
heard, for grassroots democracy and direct action as opposed to the
'broad left' strategy of capturing positions over which there is no
rank & file control.

12.3 In the workplaces the employers are on the offensive. They want to
lower wage costs, increase the authority of management, and weaken
grassroots trade union organisation in favour of the top bureaucrats like
the leadership of ICTU and SIPTU.

Since 1987 the majority of trade unionists have been conned into
supporting 'social partnership' But we must not forget that one third of
trade unionists have consistently rejected these agreements. While most
of them have not done so because they have a principled opposition to
such 'partnership', it is an indication that they know they are being
ripped-off and want a return to a more aggressive style of trade unionism.

Anarchists must work to generate wider solidarity for workers in
both through the official union structures and outside them. Whilst we
must not turn our backs on the official structures such as branch
committees, trades councils, etc., we also recognise that these bodies
becoming more distanced from the members on the job and are
incapable of organising much in the way of solidarity action.

In these struggles it is particularly important that the WSM argument is
heard, for grassroots democracy and direct action as opposed to the
'broad left' strategy of capturing positions over which there is no
rank & file control.

The main tasks facing us right now are:

* working to maximise solidarity action with workers in struggle.

* arguing against the concept of 'social partnership'.

* calling for international shop steward combine committees in
multinational firms. Such delegate committees, not under the thumb of
the top union officials, can lead to a situation where workers refuse to be
played off against each other on a plant-by-plant basis.


12.4.1 The long years of social partnership and the low level of struggle
have devastated rank and file organisation in most unions. Branch
meetings and AGM's are badly attended and rank and file positions from
unions reps to branch committee are often given to whoever is willing to
do the work rather than contested. In the private sector union
membership has drastically declined with many new companies being
effectively non-union. [CSO figures from 2003 showed that only 20% of
private sector workers are in unions, and only 10% of all union members
are under 25.]

12.4.2 This means that very few of the new generation of political
activists have any experience of union activity. Encouraging involvement
in unions is no longer a simple question of encouraging people to attend
meetings or stand for union rep. Done in isolation both of these
experiences can be demoralising. And most young workers now find
themselves in non-unionised workplaces. Advocating joining a union to
this layer can seem like a pointless strategy when all they hear of is
unions that are toothless and long drawn out recognition disputes that
seldom seriously fought by the union side and which end in defeat or
Pyrrhic victories.

12.4.3 It does not help that in the few sectors where there is real
militancy activists observe the union leaders repeatedly marching the
rank and file to the top of the hill only to lead them down again as a last
minute compromise is worked out. Large scale disputes when they occur
are often limited to a day of action or boycotting a single area of work.
Real solidarity is seldom even sought from other workers and disputes
end in muddied compromise rather than victory.

12.4.4 This is a depressing overview, one which most of the left avoids
facing up to. We know that there are also positive stories of struggle out
there but unfortunately they are not typical. Nevertheless our task is to
what we can towards building a fighting union movement under the
control of the rank and file. To that end:

a) We will urge the formation of networks which bring together activist
workers with the aim of discussing, formulating and implementing
strategies that will help them to win struggles in their workplaces, create
unions where there are none and win real rank and file control of union
branches where this is possible. They will seek to counteract the
individual activists often face when they get involved in workplace

b) We will seek to encourage a process of frank evaluation and
amongst existing left union activists both as to what the real situation is
now and what sort of strategies are realistic in the short term.

c) We will circulate and publish any positive news of workplace and
union struggles in Ireland.

d) Where we can obtain a speaker we will seek to tour libertarian
militants from rank and file unions in other countries to talk not only
about their struggles but also about the alternative way those unions are

Amended July 2004
The new position papers coming from the anarchist federation
Workers Solidarity Movements July 2004 conference are online
at http://struggle.ws/wsm

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