THE SYNDICALIST UNION & WHY WE NEED IT NOW
Tommorrow, 8th May, Nestles workers in Melbourne will consider a union
(AMWU Australian Metal Workers Union) recommendation to return to work,
substantially on the company's terms. I'm informed they are likely to
accept . If so, this will end a hard fought 6 week lockout in which
workers resisted the company's attack on basic conditions like shift
allowances. If they vote to fight on, as they may they will need massive
(Stop Press: The AMWU recommendation was accepted by the workers and a
return to work occurred.)
Down in Geelong wool scourers at E.P. Robinson are on strike defending
their right to join the Shearers Union, a union they believe will help
them fight nasty working conditions and low pay. Meanwhile members of
the AWU (Australian Workers U) (their old union), the TWU (Transport
Workers U) and the AMWU are walzing daily across their picket line. And,
in the AWU's case, doing their work.
Well we all know that the old trade union movement is on its death bed,
the only question is what will replace it. It seems to me clear that the
day is rapidly coming when no single group of workers can expect to win
a major confrontation without the full power of the class behind them.
In concrete terms the "full power of the class" means indefinite general
strike or the credible threat of it. For many workers, such as manufacturing
workers employed by large companies, that day is already here.
Take the Nestle lockout for example (in Melbourne). Nestle is a mighty
international concern able to transfer production offshore, to purchase
influence with the government and ultimately it is backed up by the
armed capitalist state. It is asking a lot of four or five hundred
workers to defeat all that. Leftists often don't seem to much care if an
industrial struggle is won or lost, as long its is "militant" and labour
history is made. Workers tend to have less interest in making labour
history and more interest in victory. In our time working for victory,
and here I just mean wages and conditions, means working to build the
infrastructure to support an indefinite general strike. You don't need
to be an anarcho-syndicalist to see this, just to have a little common
sense. But this infrastructure is itself nothing other than the
The syndicalist union exists for the sole purpose of confronting
capitalism and the state, which is why it can go on to make a revolution
and advance the anarchist project, if it is powerful enough and if its
members so will.
The reformist trade unions were never designed for this purpose.
In these pages Mark McGuire has argued for new syndicalist unions to
replace the existing reformist ones; and Dick Curlewis has argued that
anarcho-syndicalists should concentrate on forming "suppport groups" to
help workers in current struggles, but to take no initiative. It will be
seen that my conception is somewhat counter posed to both of these
views. I think that the reformist unions will continue to have their
place, dealing with protecting such workers rights as exist within the
capitalist framework. Part of the syndicalist union's work will be to
make sure they stay in that place.
More discussion please!
c/- email@example.com note Jeremy lives 300 miles away, any
correspondance will require a snail mail link!