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(en) Australia, Rebel Worker* #28/3 Sep-Oct 2009 - Debate on Australian Shop Stewards' Network

Date Sat, 03 Oct 2009 15:48:52 +0200

At the "See 'Through the Empire's New Clothes" Conference on 12-13th Sept in Redfern,
Sydney, a workshop was held on a proposal to set up a Union Delegates Network. It was
attended by 20 or so. It particularly focused on such a network being composed of union
reps from the existing bureaucratic unions which are affiliated to the ACTU, but would be
also open to reps from other organisations and would play an -important role in the fight
back against the employer offensive via helping coordinate solidarity action. The session
began with presentations from 3 speakers. One gave a brief talk about the early shop
stewards movement in the UK during WWI. Bizarrely a sort of role play was then initiated
where some meeting attendees imagined they were shop stewards from this movement and they
in turn confronted attendees representing contemporary union reps. A much more detailed
discussion of the trajectory of the British Shop Stewards would have been more helpful.

Another speaker from the NSW Public Service Association Progressives gave an interesting
talk about the neo liberal offensive and the role of the ALP controlled union
bureaucracies in assisting it and some positive grass roots syndicalist developments to
counter it.

Another speaker, spoke about this grandiose scheme originating at an ASF
(Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation) conference early in the year. She admitted the discussion
had a very utopian aspect. It lasted 7 hours! It seems when the scheme was taken out of
the hot house of the conference, the wild enthusiasm of many they were expecting such as
in Sydney has not eventuated. The ASF has been known in the past for its enthusiasm for
"papier mache" and even "internet" syndicalist unions and seeing itself as a union, with
much lascivious massaging of its micro bureaucracy. So this proposal is certainly a new
tack. However, as pointed out by an ASN (Anarcho-Syndicalist Network) militant without
serious long range strategic organising and a climate of raised morale amongst actual
workers, it’s likely the proposal will just lead to another micro bureaucracy and talk
shop. A recruiting ground for leftist sects, where no doubt all manner of motions will be
passed and political correctness displays will occur. However, due to low morale on the
job, solidarity direct action will not be forth coming. In a period of raised workers'
morale, the network idea would be more realistic. In the case of the British Shop
Stewards' Movement after WWI, in a period of employer offensive, it also became a micro
bureaucracy dropping ultra democratic features and being absorbed by the macro bureaucracy
of the early Communist Party as the Militant Minority Movement. Ed.

* Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network

www.rebelworker.org <http://www.rebelworker.org>
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