Union democracy

What We Believe - WSM Points of Unity Explained - Audio

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This is a series explaining the 8 Points of Unity of the Workers Solidarity Movement - an anarchist organisation active on the island of Ireland. [Download PDF of these explanations]

The WSM regularly discusses, debates and decides on what our collective political approach is. The Points of Unity are the most basic political agreement necessary to be a WSM member or supporter. They are 8 short points which outline the anarchism the WSM stands for.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 5 - Trade Unions

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'5. A major focus of our activity is our work within the economic organisations of the working class (labour organisations, trade unions, syndicates) where this is a possibility. We therefore reject views that dismiss activity in the unions because as members of the working class it is only natural that we should also be members of these mass organisations. Within them we fight for the democratic structures typical of anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT. However, the unions no matter how revolutionary cannot replace the need for anarchist political organisation(s).'

Throughout history the trade union movement has been a vitally important mass movement. In the face of bitter hardship and repression - even state murder - the downtrodden have banded together and demanded more, driving society forwards in the process. For instance, in Ireland we can thank the union movement for the end of child labour and for the 'weekend'. However, unions are not a relic for museums. Recent victories for better conditions and pay are a practical proof of that, not to mention participation of some fairly large unions in wider grassroots political campaigns. In spite of the relative decline of trade unions in the past neoliberal decades, their role today is still greatly important, as long as there are zero-hour contracts, wage cuts, pay freezes, lay-offs, unpaid overtime, long days, workplace bullying, and capitalism itself.

The trade unions

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The Workers Solidarity Movement position on the trade unions including an anarchist analysis of the unions and what sort of demands anarchists should put forward in the unions. This paper was retired at the July 2017 WSM national conference as the accumulation of three decades of modifications had made it cumbersome and outdated. It is preserved here to reflect that debate and because it was a fundamental foundational document of WSM drawn up in part through exchanges with with the FdCA in Italy.

Why are the ICTU leaders refusing to fight the cuts - It's Time to Strike Back

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Working people hit the streets in huge numbers on November 6th. The protests showed, once again, that there is a willingness to resist the government’s attacks on living standards. Most observers put the total number who walked out of work to take part in the eight protests at around 100,000.

An anarchist introduction to trade unions

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TRADE UNIONS were founded to defend the interests of workers, but today have become more and more dominated by an unaccountable, and often unelected, bureaucracy. Trade unions - or at least their leadership - have been co-opted into becoming partners with Capital, and see their role as managing their members, controlling difficult situations rather than leading struggles. You are much more likely to see a trade union official selling the management's latest "productivity package" or "re-structuring deal" than to hear him/her calling for an occupation of a plant to avoid its closure, or for industrial action to fight redundancies.Given this, one might wonder why anarchists spend so much time talking about and working inside the trade unions. To write off trade unions, however, is to ignore the basic fact that for a worker to join a trade union means having to recognise, to some degree, that he or she has different interests to the bosses.

Anarchists and the trade unions - Be active - be involved

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Trade Unions are important organs of the working-class. Gregor Kerr - a member of the Irish National Teachers Organisation who has been involved in campaigns against "social partnership" and in many strike support groups - argues that trade union involvement should form a central part of the political activity of all anarchists.

Lessons of Trade Union Fightback

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Following the vote on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work at the end of March 2004, the Trade Union Fightback (TUF) campaign was wound up. Here Gregor Kerr, an INTO member who was secretary of TUF, looks at the history and lessons of the campaign.Following the vote on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work at the end of March 2004, the Trade Union Fightback (TUF) campaign was wound up. Here Gregor Kerr, an INTO member who was secretary of TUF, looks at the history and lessons of the campaign

Syndicalism : Its strengths & weaknesses

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The main organisational form in libertarian politics in 1994 was syndicalism. Alan MacSimon, a delegate to Dublin Council of Trade Unions who has also attended a European gathering of revolutionary unions looked at the potential, and limits, of syndicalism.

Rebuilding radical trade unions from below - audio from #DABF 2016

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One hundred years after the vigorous labour organising of Jim Larkin, James Connolly, Rosie Hackett, and Louis Bennett in Ireland, we still remember the old labour slogan “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

But in their present structure, are trade unions nothing more than an arm of the state and of the bosses? Do unions function more to control workers rather than advance their interests? Can the major unions be reformed from within, or should we start building new ones? Are militant trade unionists ‘wreckers’, or the future of the labour movement?

Jack O’Connor has no mandate for surrendering on water charges

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Well over 100,000 people are expected to take part in over 90 anti water charge protests across the country tomorrow (Nov 1st).

But instead of throwing the weight of the country’s largest trade union behind the protests, SIPTU’s general president Jack O’Connor has this morning in the words of the headlined report on Newstalk’s facebook page been “waving the white flag”.

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