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(en) Britain, Anarchist SolFed-IWA (Manchester & NELSF) - Time to Organise for Workers' Rights

Date Tue, 03 Jul 2007 13:34:08 +0300

The aim of the National Shop Stewards Network is to build links between trades unionists. It intends to become "a grass-roots network capable of mobilising trade unionists to fight for workers’ rights". These are laudable aims and anything which strengthens workplace organisation is to be welcomed and encouraged. We need to be clear what is meant by "a grass-roots network", however. --- The network will be restricted to "bona fide rank and file TUC affiliated trade union workplace representatives". While this is clearly meant to put stewards rather than "full time trade union officials" in control are stewards really the rank and file? Are the rank and file not the ordinary members in the workplace, rather than their representatives meeting with other reps outside the workplace?

Workplace organisation not "rank and file" activism

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that organisation has to be based in the
workplace and to involve the membership of all the unions in each
workplace. "Justice in the workplace" will not be won by representation.

"Workers rights" will only be won by direct action, or by negotiations
backed up by the credible threat of direct action, regardless of
legislation. Confusing workplace representatives with the rank and file
only obscures the real task we face – that of building effective
organisation in the workplace.

no alternative leadership

Without being based on real workplace organisation NSSN would be a
top-down organisation in which activists gather together and come up with
initiatives which they would at best expect union members to follow
without any real input. At worst NSSN would be a forum for various left
groups to make demands on the leaders of TUC-affiliated trades unions not
in any realistic hope of gaining their agreement but to put themselves
forward as an alternative leadership.

We advocate starting with the real rank and file in the workplace. Just
getting people to confront issues such as health and safety, arbitrary and
bullying management and unpaid overtime is badly needed in the
overwhelming majority of workplaces. This is what activists should be
doing - getting ordinary workers to say "no" to management, to demand the
right equipment to do a job safely and without ruining their health. Shop
stewards, where they exist, can only do this for people if they are also
prepared to do it for themselves.

workplace meetings

Organisation has to be based on basic solidarity between workers –
supporting each other against the demands of management. Once that has
been established through workers talking to each other about the issues
and agreeing what to do about them, activists should organise workplace
meetings to establish real collective decision-making. Stewards can be
mandated as workplace delegates and can be held to account if they don’t
stick to their mandates. Negotiations can become effective because they
are backed up by organisation and the real prospect of direct action in
pursuit of the workers’ objectives.

11am - 5pm Saturday 7th July 2007
South Camden Community School
Charrington Street, LONDON, NW1

further information: www.shopstewards.net
email: info@shopstewards.net
Revolutionary unionism not social democracy

Links also need to be made between different groups of workers, between
different workplaces in the same industry and between unions. We welcome
the offer of "support to existing workplace committees" which should
include those which link workers in multiple-employer workplaces where
there are agency workers and subcontractors, and which allow workers in
different unions or who are unable to openly join a union to support,
participate in and benefit from workplace organisation based on
solidarity. Such committees can be either delegate-based or open to all
workers in the workplace.

Although NSSN refers to political issues like anti-trades union laws
(after ten years we can surely drop the "Tory") and pensions it is silent
on how to fight them. This partly reflects the unions’ desire not to upset
the Labour Party and partly the tradition of leftwing rank-and-fileism
where activists put aside their politics and unite around solely economic
issues. We think it is a mistake to leave our politics at the workplace
door because what we confront in the workplace are political-economic

challenge capitalism

The existing unions are social democratic, separating political issues
from economic ones and leaving them to political parties. They do not
challenge capitalism or the state and seek to secure a role for themselves
and to negotiate better conditions for their members within the existing
social order. Even where they reject or are ambivalent about "social
partnership" and take a trade-union rather than a joint approach to
"industrial relations" capitalism is off limits.

The left has no quarrel with this separation because they only differ
about which party to leave the politics to. Economic issues are products
of capitalism. In confronting workplace issues we must also confront the
capitalism from which they arise. We recognise that what we are engaged in
when we organise in the workplace is the class struggle and that our
interests cannot be reconciled with those of management.

As well as being explicit in our opposition to capitalism and the state
how we organise and fight is determined by that stance. Our methods are
consistent with our goal of libertarian communism.

class solidarity

We believe that the liberation of the working class from capitalism and
the state is the task of the workers ourselves, not of any political party
claiming to represent us. We advocate delegation and direct action in
place of representation. We advocate class solidarity and internationalism
against class collaboration and nationalism.

We reject centralised, hierarchical organisation in favour of federalism
based on horizontal links. Our aim is a stateless society based on the
principle from each according to their ability to each according to their

P&P Manchester and North & East London groups, Solidarity
Federation-International Workers’ Association

* PO Box 1681, LONDON, N8 7LE; nelsf@solfed.org.uk; 07856 522 231
* PO Box 29, S.W. PDO, MANCHESTER, M15 5HW;
manchestersf@solfed.org.uk; 07984 675 281

For more information about the Solidarity Federation send this to:
National Secretary, SF-IWA, PO Box 29, S.W. PDO, MANCHESTER, M15 5HW
(Web: solfed.org.uk; email: nationalsecretary@solfed.org.uk)

Name ____________________ email: ____________________
Address: ________________________________________
Town/City: ____________________ Post code: ____________________

Time to Organise for Workers’ Rights
Manchester and North & East London groups,
Solidarity Federation - International Workers’ Association

[HTML http://www.solfed.org.uk/nssn.htm]
[PDF http://www.solfed.org.uk/pdfs/nssn.pdf]
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