Strategy paper: Industry
Liberty & Solidarity supports building of militant rank and file workplace organisations. Unions are strongest when they organise along the whole supply chain, from extraction, to manufacture to distribution. Liberty & Solidarity therefore encourages and supports industry unionism. It is essential for workplace organisation. [Italiano]
Liberty & Solidarity supports building of militant rank and file workplace organisations.
Unions are strongest when they organise along the whole supply chain, from extraction, to manufacture to distribution.
- Liberty & Solidarity therefore encourages and supports industry unionism. It is essential for workplace organisation.
There are two industry unions in the UK (the RMT and Unite), and one prospective industry union (the IWW), all have certain structural weaknesses, but it is notable that the former two unions frequently win industrial disputes - a rare thing in the UK today. The RMT in particular inculcates a culture of class consciousness amongst its members.
The One Big Union was a concept which emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century amongst working class trade unionists. The idea was that all workers should be organised in one union: one big union.
- Liberty & Solidarity considers that unions should empart class consciousness to their members, and seeks to encourage this.
When working class unions organised they initially organised as craft or trade unions. These organised workers by their job type: all those who drew pins in one union; and, all those who flattened pin heads in another. Capitalists could often divide craft and trade unionists along these lines in demarkation disputes. As capitalist enterprises and state bureaucracies became more centralised and larger, some workers felt that their institutions needed to become similarly large. A simultaneous disenchantment with the perceived weakness of craft unions caused many unions to organize along industrial lines.
Initiatives for One Big Union occurred across the world. Most notable was the attempt of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) to organise One Big Union in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries. The IWW has advocated the general strike as a favorite method for workers to gain control of industries.
While attempts to organise One Big Union on militant and revolutionary lines did not succeed, the unions which made the attempt like the IWW or Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in Spain have had a great influence on the labor movement.
One Big Union
Capital is transnational. Mobile phones rely on minerals extracted from central Africa, a fabrication in Scandinavia or the far east, and retail and supply, and supply and management in the UK. Our tomatoes often come from Spain. Our food is often processed in the far east, and so on. There is a global economy.
If as a class we want to control the supply, manufacture and distribution of products, then we need labour organisation which operates transnationally. In key sectors of the economy this is particularly important. Success in popular organisation relies on being able to organise to ensure control of food, energy, basic necessities and manufactured goods.
- Liberty & Solidarity will support all attempts to internationalise the kind of fighting industrial unionism that we support.
Liberty & Solidarity believes in a shop steward approach. The shop stewards movement of the past was hugely catalytic of a fighting unionism. Shop steward organisation, and building fighting union branches in general, helps to prefigure the kind of fighting union of the base that we would anticipate would prefigure future workers, or stewards councils.
At present in many workplaces there is already a trade union presence, or collective bargaining in place. To that end in British workplaces it makes sense to utilise the pre-existing structures of trade and craft unions to build powerful union branches, and to construct a kind of base unionism, built around developing a stewards movement and engaging the rank and file within the structures of their local union branch, irrespective of the position of the official union bureaucracy for whatever union maintains a collective bargaining agreement.
- Liberty & Solidarity therefore encourages all members to become shop stewards.
- Liberty & Solidarity therefore encourages all members to build their local trade union branches, should there be a collective bargaining agreement in place.
The IWW officially holds an anti-sectarian industry unionism as its mission, and reason for existing. In practice however it is a very small organisation which has no significant economic power at present. It does however have some currency among trade unionists and on the left for its official beliefs and history. It is also growing rapidly, and is member controlled. In the UK it is relatively pragmatic, favouring dual card organisation.
This kind of pragmatism could lead to the capacity for significant force projection within and without the unions.
While the IWW seeks to try and encourage fighting stewards, and the necessary kind of fighting base unionism, as a strategy, we believe that the IWW has something important to offer the class struggle, as a militant rank and file alternative to more politically composed, or sectarian initiatives. At present we note that the IWW also welcomes wider Labour Movement initiatives such as the National Shop Stewards Network, which also furthers the kind of union approach that we believe necessary.
Each strategy has an internal section not visible to the public which details the specific decisions of the organisation.
- Liberty & Solidarity therefore encourages all members to join the IWW, and where possible to involve themselves in initiatives such as NSSN, which cut across sectional trade union boundaries, and focus on a unionism of the base.