A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) ASF/AF (Ireland) Statement on Trade Unions and Industrial Organisation

From Al S <klasbatalemo@yahoo.ie>
Date Sun, 27 Jul 2003 21:59:27 +0200 (CEST)

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

> The Role of Trade Unions
The Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (ASF) and Anarchist
Federation (AF) Ireland, as organisations of
class-struggle anarchists, agree that trade unions
cannot be used, in the long term, as vehicles of
revolutionary activity in Ireland.

Here, as elsewhere, trade unions are top-down
organisations of bureaucrats and workers where those
at the top (the bureaucrats and trade union elite)
stifle the hopes of those at the bottom (the workers)
and impede their natural desire for an improvement in
working conditions. This elite is nothing but a
management board of full-time, permanent officials
motivated largely by self-interest, with even less
interest in rocking the industrial boat. Trade union
officialdom will not, for example, involve workers in
long-term strike action that would interrupt the flow
of precious union dues. The threat of sequestration is
often more of a concern for officials than winning
battles on behalf of trades union members. In short,
trade unions are not controlled by their members; it
is they who control. The fact that trade unions like
SIPTU have scrapped notions of democracy and member
participation and will not even countenance changes in
the ways they are organised, is testament to the
stranglehold union bureaucracies have over workers.

As capitalism is an exploitative system where workers
produce the wealth, but do not receive it, trade
unions, by promoting collective bargaining, are also
promoting and legitimising exploitation. In recent
times, the ‘social partnership’ entered into by trades
union leaders and bosses has made this even more
self-evident, while Public Private Partnership (PPP)
and Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) are paving the
way for private investment in the public sector. In
the meantime, trade unions are overseeing the run down
of our public services which will be ultimately paid
for by an increase in our rates and by the
introduction of water charges in the north.

However, the AF and ASF do not believe that its
members should not join trade unions. While we realise
that trade unions will never be able to step onto the
revolutionary stage, we also acknowledge the benefits
to be gained by union membership in the short term.
Trade unions are places where workers can gather
together, and where progressive ideas can be
discussed. Trade unions can also offer better Health
and Safety conditions, legal protection, and support
in the daily skirmishes of the class war.

Shop-Stewards and Union Reps.

The ASF and AF accept that in some cases -for example
in militant workplaces, it may be worthwhile for its
members to become shop-stewards or union reps. (Having
said this, in periods of industrial calm, there is
nothing to bar our members becoming shop-stewards if
they feel that by doing so they can make a
contribution to the struggle against the boss class.)

An AF or ASF member who becomes a shop-steward will do
so as a delegate of the workers electing them, and not
as a mouthpiece for management or to represent the
views of union bureaucrats back to members. The role
of the shop-steward/union rep is seen not as a means
to advance the interests of our organisations
specifically, but as an opportunity to advance the
class struggle and anarchist methods of organising and
ideas generally.

However, the ASF and AF realise that becoming a
shop-steward/union rep. is a lesser tactic in the
ongoing struggle against capital, and would always
argue for autonomous working class organisation (see


The AF and ASF are supportive of rank-and-file
initiatives, while remaining aware of how these
initiatives are often used as Leninist fronts, whose
sole object is to force through a particular party
line. Rank-and-filism can provide us with the
experience and confidence we need to become better
militants, and can help us in our fight against the
bosses. Ultimately though, it will never be able, by
itself, to break the trade unions’ tie to so-called
Labour parties, old or ‘new’, to radicalise enough
workers to affect any major change to how trade unions
function now, or will function in the future. We agree
that trade unions cannot be reformed, or democratised
from within. Rank-and-filism is a strategy that can
prove useful, but only if used in conjunction with
other strategies that will move workers away from the
strangle-hold of sectional and bureaucratic trade

Workplace Organising

The ASF and AF believe that workers must begin the
process of thinking of themselves not as mute
subscribers to decisions made behind their backs, and
over which they have no control, but as individuals
with the confidence and self-belief to organise beyond
the manacled grip of trade unions, which, until now,
have served to channel their energies down the road to

To this end, the AF and ASF advocate the establishment
of workplace and community groups that will act as
hotbeds of militancy in times of increased struggle on
the shop-floor (pushing ideas of resistance and direct
action in the form of go-slows, sabotage, wildcat
strikes.) while maintaining and strengthening links
with the community outside the workplace. We believe
these groups ultimately will federate both at
local/regional and eventually at national level, and,
in the workplace, across sectors of skilled and
non-skilled labour. They will form a network of
resistance which will involve as many people as
possible: both unionised and non-unionised labour, the
unemployed, single parents etc. In short, an
organisation that will provide a method of autonomous
working class activity where our class will use for
itself the means at iits own disposal to overthrow
An example of this type of workers’ self-activity can
be seen in the work of ‘McDonalds Workers Resistance’
(MWR) who:

“emerged as a determined response to the idiocy of our
working lives. An angry rebellion against boredom,
exploitation, poverty and discipline, a rebellion
against the idiocy of McDonalds and capitalism.”

Remove the word ‘McDonald’ with the name of the
company you work for, and you have a fair idea of what
we mean.


The working class in Ireland today are as downtrodden
as ever before. Casualisation, a run down health
service, a service sector on its knees to capital,
harassment of our unemployed and employed alike,
pervasive privatisation, mass redundancies, inflation,
squalid housing, sectarianism, rampant racism, are the
yoke we bear in the system we need to change. The AF
and ASF don’t have all the answers, but we think our
ideas give us a base for which to start to do our bit
to affect change, and work for the society we all of
us deserve.


>From the pages of Wildcat #2, joint bulletin of the
Anarchist Federation (Ireland) and Anarcho-Syndicalist
Federation. For more information, contact the ASF/AF



****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
COMMANDS: lists@ainfos.ca
REPLIES: a-infos-d@ainfos.ca
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
WWW: http://www.ainfos.ca/
INFO: http://www.ainfos.ca/org

-To receive a-infos in one language only mail lists@ainfos.ca the message:
unsubscribe a-infos
subscribe a-infos-X
where X = en, ca, de, fr, etc. (i.e. the language code)

A-Infos Information Center