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(en) Aotearoa/New Zealand, Thr@l, #20 - The industrial workers of the world in aotearoa

From worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.thrall.orcon.net.nz/20iww.html)
Date Fri, 23 Nov 2001 02:15:37 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

           Ever woke up in the morning, cast a
           dispassionate eye over the economy and
           society that has been created, and thought "Gee
           this is fantastic! Give me more of this!" Neither
           have I. In fact, I've still to meet the person who
  has. Capitalism, for all its sophisticated propaganda, for all its
  carrots and all its sticks, has failed to instill in people the idea
  that capitalism is good and capitalism is right. At the end of
  the day capitalism is reduced to maintaining control. And that
  control isn't as firm as we might be led to believe. 

  revolutionary industrial unionism

  Since its inception in 1905 the IWW (Industrial Workers of the
  World) has had as its principle aim the abolition of the wage
  system and the establishment of Industrial Democracy.
  Founded during a time of intense debate between radicals in
  various countries over whether it was best to capture existing
  craft and trade unions, the IWW represented a decision to
  develop Revolutionary Industrial Unionism as a separate
  entity. Avowedly anti-capitalist, its aim to organise all
  workers, regardless of job, gender, race, or age into One Big
  Union was a powerful and successful idea that quickly
  spread. For example, the IWW was the inspiration behind the
  formation of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union
  in 1908, the One Big Union for Irish workers. 

  A few years later the Russian Revolution, in conjunction with
  the Red Scare in the US, saw the IWW effectively
  suppressed and marginalised as a labour organisation. In
  Australia the union was proscribed while in the United States
  the reaction to the "One Big Union" was particularly brutal. By
  the 1920s every wobbly (a nickname for members of the
  IWW) in the US understood that to be a wob was to invite
  being hanged, shot, beaten, jailed, deported or some
  combination thereof. 

                                                      postcard from genoa 

                                                 resisiting the capitalist tsunami

                                                      the industrial workers
                                                         of the world in

                                                    anarchists in east timor 

                                                      international news 

                                                 wellington G8 solidarity protests 

                                                          art report 

                                                     book review: no logo 
  direct action lives on

             In spite of the global suppression of the union,
             its tactics survived. Civil rights demonstrators
             of the 60s engaging in direct action were,
             whether they knew it or not, employing tactics
             first practiced by the IWW some 50 years
             previously. Now, 50 years on from that last
             popular upsurge of democracy, the
             anti-capitalist movement is employing not just
             the tactics but the decentralised
  organisational tenets of the IWW too. Which is not to imply
  that the IWW should enjoy some primacy or whatever. But
  the fact that a 100 year old union is so bang up to date has to
  be worth mentioning. 

  From being written off by many, the IWW is now growing in
  the US, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Finland, Ireland, Australia,
  Britain, Italy, Russia…the list goes on and now includes a
  small presence in Aotearoa with the setting up of a General
  Membership Branch in Dunedin. 

  putting the shits up the bosses

  Which may seem a little odd because Dunedin isn't exactly
  renowned as a hotbed of political activity these days. But
  then, last December various Dunedin activists (yes, we do
  exist!) began the frustrating exercise of supporting wharfie
  pickets at Port Chalmers and Bluff against attempted
  casualisation of the wharfies by Carter Holt Harvey.

  Frustration set in because union officials were offered sound
  tactical advice based on years of accumulated political
  activism but ignored it all. So some of us formed an IWW
  branch. We didn't want to form a political group because the
  politics of current IWW members cover such a wide
  spectrum and anyway, workers do not generally respond
  well to political groups. As Wobblies we want to be part of a
  labour organisation that puts the shits up bosses, not part of
  a placard bearing pressure group on the fringes of labour
  (many of us are also involved in political groups, but that's a
  separate matter.)

  The IWW focuses on the workplace because our most
  common and direct experience of capitalist control is there.
  We need money. The threat of an absence of money
  compels many of us to spend our lives working crap jobs.
  Meanwhile, the rewards that flow to a few from our being
  ripped off, allows that same select few to buy off the
  conscience of managers so that they, the managers get on
  with the job of maximising profit regardless of the
  consequences to ourselves or the world's ecology. In this
  way, money talks. 

  But if money talks, then the hiss of direct action leaves it
  dumbstruck. As an example, take the farmers who closed
  down Britain's oil refineries a few months back. They weren't
  political sophisticates. They were just pissed off about petrol
  taxes and to their own surprise as much as anyone elses
  managed to put a very big spanner in the works of Britain's
  industrial machine. 

  That's power. And it doesn't take years of political study to
  exercise it. The British state agrees. A few months later, the
  same few farmers had their guns removed from them
  because they were talking about engaging in direct action
  again. This time to halt the wholesale slaughter of their
  livestock during the foot and mouth outbreak.

  direct action by the workers themselves

  Pissed off workers taking direct action back into the
  workplace can open up a whole world of fun and possibility
  for themselves. Consider. 

  Workers want a 5% pay increase. They run off to a Trade
  Union official, who then negotiates with the boss on their
  behalf. In which case they neither act in union, nor
  undermine the power of the boss. Sure, they'll have their 5%
  (assuming the trade union official doesn't sell them short -
  perish the thought!) But they'll be as powerless and
  malleable as before. Or they engage in direct economic
  action which can be as fun and as unpredictable as their
  imagination will allow. It means they act in union. It means
  they directly undermine the power of the boss and take a
  step (albeit a small one) towards Industrial Democracy. 

  revolution without delusions

  It's that simple. We are aware that workers might not want to
  organise themselves and will settle for playing 'follow the
  leader'. All we can do is introduce them to the ideas of
  Revolutionary Industrial Unionism and see how it goes. If
  they pick up on it, then great. If they don't then they don't.
  Presently we are talking to casuals on the wharves; looking
  to run "Effective Picketing" workshops for workers and
  organising in the Hospitality Industry.

  We're not deluding ourselves. We know it won't be easy.
  Especially while there are so few of us. But really, what other
  option do we have? What option do you have? Either we
  take control of our working life when and where we can or
  others will continue to control our working life for their own
  benefit. What you reckon? It's your choice. 

  We can be contacted by email at iwwgmbdunedin@e3.co.nz or by
  slow mail through P.O. Box 5407 Dunedin. General
  information about the IWW is on the web at http://www.iww.org Links
  from there will take you to the Australian, British and
  Canadian sites among others. 

  first steps

  By May 1 2002 we'd like to see General Membership
  Branches (GMBs) and Industrial Union Branches (IUBs)
  functioning outside of Dunedin and to have a Regional
  Organising Committee for Aotearoa. 

  Dunedin is not and cannot be at the centre of any growing
  IWW presence in Aotearoa. If the IWW takes hold, its taking
  hold will result from a rhizomic spread, not a centre out
  spread. If you join the IWW you will not be joining a Dunedin
  organisation, you will be joining a global union that has no
  centre as such. By May 2002 the Dunedin GMB should be
  just another branch in Aotearoa - no different to an IUB in
  Auckland or a GMB in Christchurch. 

  The ROC would service the administrative functions of the
  IWW in Aotearoa and be responsible for the production of
  necessary union materials. An ROC has no power to tell
  Branches what to do. Members elected to serve on the ROC
  do so for a period of one year; are unpaid and are instantly
  recallable. Branches organise and act autonomously. They
  also have financial autonomy. There are three types of
  Branches; an IUB is 10 or more people from the same
  industry. A GMB is 10 or more people from different
  industries. It's formed with geographic considerations in
  mind. Job Branches are 5 or more people on the same work
  site and are connected financially to either a local GMB or


  The IWW covers all workers including the unemployed,
  homemakers, students and prisoners, those in the black
  economy and the self employed. If you do not have the direct
  power to hire and fire, and agree to abide by the constitution
  of the IWW and aquaint yourself with its purposes, then you
  can join for as little as $6 per month. 

  Disclaimer and acknowledgment. Thanks to other wobs for
  their input. The above article is (mostly) a personal viewpoint
  and should not be seen as representing the views of the
  IWW as an organisation, nor should it be seen as being
  representing the viewpoints of other Wobblies (IWW
  members). Because of space, many important aspects of the
  IWW have been left out. However, if you have internet
  access, a wealth of information can be found through the
  web addresses listed above. 
  - Wullie

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