ASR 67 (Summer 2016)

asr67coverASR 67 (Summer 2016)

3. Editorial: The Anti-Fascist Dilemma
4. Obituaries: Paul Poulos and Louis Prisco
4. Wobbles: Unaffordable Healthcare Act, Walmart Calls in the FBI, Wildcat Strikes, World Without Work? …
6. International News: Verizon Strike, S. Korean Unions Under Attack, Terrorist Puppets?, Reorganizing the International Workers Assn.?… compiled by Michael Hargis
10. Worker Revolt in France by John Kalwaic
12. Organizing Immigrant Workers in Berlin from Direkte Aktion
13. Articles: Should the Left Call for a Third Party? by Wayne Price
17. Bows & Arrows: Indigenous Workers and the IWW on the Vancouver Docks  by Jeff Schantz
20. The $400 Question: Getting By After 50 Years of Stagnation by Jon Bekken
21. Anarchism in the 21st Century  by Iain McKay
25. A History of Anarchism in Ukraine, 1980s – 1990s by Anatoly Dubovik, translated by Malcolm Archibald Supplemental Glossary available only online
34.Reviews: An Improved Capitalism? Or the End of Capitalism?Review essay by Wayne Price
37.George Orwell’s Solidarity with Imprisoned Anarchists Review essay by Raymond Solomon
38. Transportation and the Ecological Crisis by Jon Bekken

Trans-Pacific Partnership of Corporate Oligarchs

The so-called “Trans-Pacific Partnership” treaty was recently “fast-tracked” by Congress, would giving President Obama a free hand to finish negotiating this deal behind closed doors. (House Democrats united with far-right Republicans to delay passage by stripping the Senate bill of provisions to assist workers who lose their jobs because of TPP. So the Senate approved this even-more-anti-labor version; nothing can stand in the way of the bosses’ ability to enrich themselves.) Under fast track, Congress will not be allowed to change the final treaty, but only to approve the entire thing after a brief period for public comment. Americans will have to suffer the consequences of another NAFTA/CAFTA “free trade” agreement that makes it even easier for U.S. manufacturing to move to the sweatshops of Vietnam, Bangladesh and China (which is not part of the current negotiations, but could be added to the treaty later).

What makes the TPP different than previous “free trade” treaties is the enforcement provisions, which allow multinational corporations to go before a non-elected tribunal of corporate judges (who work as lawyers for the bosses in their day jobs) and sue governments for “future damages” that may be caused if an environmental law, food safety regulation or worker protection is enforced. Citizens of these countries could be taxed to pay for hypothetical losses that have not yet happened. (A chapter of the treaty draft obtained by Wikileaks includes a provision specifying that it would not be made public until four years after the agreement is implemented. The treaty draft is being kept secret from citizens and unions; members of Congress are allowed to read it but not to take notes – however, hundreds of corporate “advisors” have special access.)

This is nothing short of a power grab by the multi-national corporations that will result in lowering labor and health standards down to the level of the poorest countries in the world. Future government leaders will be bound by whatever terms the multi-national corporations dictate. Although President Obama and the leaders of the other countries involved will be giving up some of the national sovereignty they now have, they know what they are doing. Obama and his supporters (in both the Republican and Democrat corporatist parties) are playing the role of corporate hit-men, and will be handsomely rewarded for their betrayal. The six hundred corporate lobbyists who are helping write this treaty will be gaining a lock on future governments and the international economy, creating a bulwark against workers who might follow the example of Greece and Spain to fight austerity policies.

The business union leaders of the AFL-CIO have not been silent about TPP. Although they have been shut out of the secret negotiations, they know from past experience with NAFTA and CAFTA what “fast-track” means – more jobs losses to global sweatshops. The so-called environmental and labor protections will never be enforced. What will be enforced are patent and copyright protections that are there for the drug companies and media companies to stop production of low-cost generic medicines and to police the internet. The provisions of Stop Online Piracy Act that were rejected after a public outcry because they would have criminalized unauthorized use of copyrighted material (by, for example, posting a video of you singing a copywritten song), blocked internet sites accused of hosting copyrighted material from appearing on search engines, and allowed media conglomerates to go after internet providers for allowing their users to share “copyrighted” information have been reintroduced through the back door as part of TPP.

This is the brave new world order in the making. The mainstream labor movement’s efforts to block the deal by pressuring Democrats (many of whom rely on unions for campaign workers and money) have failed. Even the Republicans’ much-ballyhooed hatred of the Obama administration was not sufficient to peel off enough Republicans to join the tiny handful of Senate Democrats who tried to block fast-track. The social democrats in the Democrat Party are too few in number to make a difference, even if the corporations were willing to tolerate democracy. The one principle upon which nearly all politicians can agree is the supremacy of capital over all.

If we want a different world, or even to preserve the limited protections won through past struggles, we can not rely on the Democrats. Our power lies in our organization – in our refusal to submit. It is time to organize and take back our lives.

The U.S. government’s war against the IWW

A Symposium on The Wobblies in their Heyday

Eric Chester, The Wobblies in their Heyday: The Rise and Destruction of the Industrial Workers of the World during the World War I Era. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2014. 316 pages, $58, hardcover.

Eric Chester’s new book on the IWW focuses on the period leading up to the U.S. government’s decision to crush the organization, and to the massive repression unleashed against the union during World War I. Based upon an impressive array of archival sources, many previously unavailable, Chester argues that the IWW appealed to many workers precisely because of its radicalism but that IWW leaders made a series of strategic errors that undermined their ability to build the broader radical coalition necessary to prevail.

ASR has published three articles by Eric Chester: two on IWW history (one on the Wheatland Hops case appears in longer form in this book; the other examined IWW membership levels from World War I through the mid-1920s) and an analysis of a Danish general strike for shorter hours. His previous books include True Mission: Socialists and the Labor Party Question in the U.S.; Rag-Tags, Scum, Riff-Raff and Commies: The U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic; and Covert Network: Progressives, the International Rescue Committee and the CIA.

Chester offers detailed accounts of the Bisbee and Butte mining strikes, offering a sympathetic portrayal of IWW organizer Frank Little in the process, though he is critical of Little’s proposal to resume picketing when strike support waned (strikers originally decided against picketing in order to avoid confrontations with gun thugs), and seems to suggest that Little should have heeded warnings to go into hiding at a critical moment in the strike. (Little was lynched two days later.)He discusses California Wobblies’ resort to empty threats in a counter-productive effort to free Ford and Suhr (imprisoned for their role in a strike of hops pickers) – substituting rhetorical bluster for the power they had been unable to build in the fields. (The argument that national IWW leaders supported this, or that government officials were provoked to crush the IWW by this campaign is less persuasive.)

Chester also offers a detailed analysis of the IWW’s legal strategy, which he argues exhibited a naive faith that justice could be had in the U.S. courts. He demonstrates that the Chicago espionage trial was a show trial whose outcome was pre-arranged by prosecutors and the judge and presents evidence suggesting promises of leniency if the Wobblies played along. (Instead, the judge handed down savage sentences that shocked many observers.)

The book focuses on IWW activity and government repression in the Western United States; the IWW looks like a very different organization when examining its work in the maritime, textiles and timber industries, or its substantial membership among the immigrants who made up so large a share of the U.S. working class. (The claim that the IWW failed to sink deep or lasting roots in working-class communities, for example, ignores textile, longshore and seafarers branches that lasted for decades, as well as a network of Finnish branches that sustained a daily newspaper, several large halls, a traveling theater troupe, etc.) And while Chester is surely correct that the union suffered a far more devastating blow than is acknowledged in its official history, it remains true that the IWW was far from crushed. The IWW launched several major organizing drives in the 1920s and 1930s, reopened its halls and newspapers, and maintained a significant industrial presence in manufacturing and maritime.

We offer four takes on this important addition to the historiography on the IWW. We asked each reviewer for critical reflections on the book and “what this history can tell us about the challenges and prospects facing those trying to rebuild a labor movement that envisions itself as part of a broader emancipatory project.”

Staughton Lynd has written countless books on history, labor law and political theory; is a longtime advocate of solidarity unionism; and a life-long participant in and student of radical social struggles. His books include Doing History From the Bottom Up, The New Rank and File, and Wobblies & Zapatistas.

Peter Cole is professor of history at Western Illinois University, wrote Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois) and edited Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly, including Fellow Worker Fletcher’s Writings & Speeches (Charles H. Kerr). He is currently working on a book titled Dockworker Power: Struggles in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Gerald Ronning is chair of the liberal arts department at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. His dissertation explored the IWW in the West and offers the most authoritative available account of IWW martyr Frank Little.

Steve Kellerman is a longtime Wobbly, retired machinist and compiler of An Annotated Bibliography of Books on the IWW (2007), a comprehensive list of books published in the IWW’s first 100 years with brief but useful assessments of each.

The Bernie Sanders Illusion

Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont, a former member of the Young People’s Socialist League and self-described “democratic socialist,” is running to be the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. president. Sanders’ candidacy has generated enthusiasm among liberals and leftists in an otherwise bleak political landscape dominated by the likes of Hillary Clinton (right-wing Democrat), Jeb Bush (right-wing Republican) and Donald Trump (right-wing demagogue billionaire). Could it be possible that this one man could do the unthinkable, and get Americans to rally behind an anti-corporate and progressive political agenda and return the United States to the pro-labor capitalist welfare state of the Roosevelt and pre-Vietnam era?

Not likely. For one thing the political odds are stacked against him. As Sam Dolgoff pointed out in his classic essay “The Labor Party Illusion,” the electoral system has always been rigged in favor of big business and capitalism. Even before the Supreme Court Citizens United decision (2009) and the massive Gerrymandering that occurred in the wake of the Republican sweep of 2010, elections have always been bought and representation has never been proportional and evenly distributed. The electoral system has been created to make sure that the majority does not rule. Sanders will face an uphill battle both within the Democrat Party and in the general election that will follow.

On the other hand, should a miracle happen and we have our first “socialist” president, Sanders will be blocked by the same forces that prevented Barack Obama from accomplishing anything beyond a bailout for the capitalists when they need it. There will be no socialist party that will be taking their places in the next Congress but the same army of corporate hacks in both parties that will prevent Sanders from implementing even the mildest reforms. Not to mention that Sanders himself has a spotty voting record in his past. Although Sanders did vote against giving George Bush the green light to invade Iraq, he voted in favor of Clinton’s “humanitarian war” in former Yugoslavia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the F-35 war plane program, giving military aid to Israel to make sure it did not run out of artillery shells it rained on Gaza, and Obama’s drone assassination program. Sanders is a member in good standing of the military-industrial complex, although “he doth protest too much.”

Nor would it make much difference if there were a left-wing party swept into office with Sanders. We have seen recently what happened with Syriza in Greece. When faced with the prospect of forced austerity in favor of European bankers, Syriza held a referendum of the Greek people. The people voted overwhelmingly to reject the austerity plan. When the bankers were unimpressed and doubled-down on their demands, Syriza agreed to them, ignoring the referendum results.

Apologists for Syriza on the left blame the bankers for ignoring the referendum results and staging a “coup.” If there was a coup it was not the bankers, but Syriza who staged it. Syriza had made no preparations for the likelihood that the bankers would ignore the voters. To do this would have required that the Greek people be ready to take over industry and agriculture themselves, and toss out the capitalists. This goes beyond the capabilities of politicians, even socialist ones. Syriza had no choice and their election to power was an empty victory.

Many on the left will no doubt agree that Sanders can lead us nowhere, but will insist on voting for him anyway. What can it hurt?

Admittedly the act of voting itself will not hurt. An extra few minutes out of the day, does not really hurt. It could be seen as a protest vote, like voting for Mickey Mouse. The real problem is the many who will spend inordinate amounts of time and money on the Sanders campaign that could better be used to build unions and grass-roots movements that could make a real difference. The choice is yours.

ASR 66

asr 66 coverASR 66 (Winter 2016)

3. Editorial: The Bernie Sanders Illusion

3. OBITUARY: Federico Arcos

4. Wobbles: Vulture Capitalists, Economic “Boom,” Killing Your Own Job, Jailed for Poverty, Profiteering Off Pensions…

6. Syndicalist News: Union-busting in Kyrgyzstan, Polish Nurses Strike, U.S. Job Deaths Rise, Repression in Iran, Paperworkers Build Global Links, Autoworkers Fight Two-Tier, Polish & German Amazon Workers Coordinate Struggles, CNT Strike…  compiled by Mike Hargis

9. Articles: Ready to Fight: Developing 21st Century Community Syndicalism  by Shane Burley

15. Imperial Wars &  Their Losers: A Critique of ‘Labor Aristocracy’ Theories by Lucien van der Walt

16. The “Sharing” Economy  by Jon Bekken

17. The Attempted Rehabilitation of the Communist Party by Wayne Price

21. Poor Adam Smith  by Iain McKay

23. Proudhon, Property & Possession  by Iain McKay

26. Regarding Louis Blanc – The Present Utility and Future Possibility of the State by P. J. Proudhon; translated by Shawn P.  Wilbur

29. Anarchists in the Russian Labor Movement: 1900 – 1930 by Anatoly Viktorovich Dubovik, translated by Malcolm Archibald

32. REVIEWS: The Realities of Self-Managementreview by Jeff Stein

34. Anarchists & the French-Algerian War  review by Wayne Price

35. Joe Hill’s Living Legacy review by Jon Bekken

35. The “Progressives” and Labor Reform  review by Dylan B.

38. Germany’s “Wild Socialism” review by Jon Bekken

39. Reclaiming the Commons  review by Jon Bekken

39. Letter: Like A Bag Over Our Heads by Kenneth Miller

ASR 64/65 Summer 2015

asr64 coverASR 64/5 Contents:

3. Editorial: Trans-Pacific Partnership

4. Wobbles: Outbreak of Bi-Partisanship, Profiteering off Health Care “Reform,” Announcements

5. International News: Bulgarian Syndicalists, Solidarity with Amazon Temps; Green/Rail Alliance, Fighting Wage Theft… compiled by Michael Hargis

9. Polish hospital workers win… by John Kalwaic

10. Articles: Anarchy in Athens by Nicholas Apoifis

13. (barely) Staying Alive: The US Economy Since the ’70s (50 Years of Economic Crisis) by Jon Bekken

17. From Capitalism To Commons by Brian Martin

21. Symposium: The U.S. Government’s War Against the IWW Review and commentary by Staughton Lynd (21), Peter Cole (23), Gerald Ronning (25) and Steve Kellerman (27). Response by Eric Chester (29).

33. Kropotkin: Class Warrior by Iain McKay

36. The Action of the Masses & the Individual P. Kropotin

38. Climate Change: “Only Mass Social Movements Can Save Us Now” Review essay by Wayne Price

40. Canada’s New Anti-Terrorism Act and the “Green Syndicalist Menace” by Jeff Shantz

42. Democracy At Work Review essay by Iain McKay

50. Reviews: Lessons of the Spanish Civil War Jeff Stein

52. The Great Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912review by Steve Kellerman

53. Syndicalism in a Neo-Liberal Climate by Mark McGuire

55. Two Cheers For Anarchism review by Iain McKay

58. Celebrating a Frame-Up review by Robert Helms

58. The Legacy of Chinese Anarchism review by Jing Zhao

ASR 62 (Summer 2014)

ASR 62Editorial: The Capitalist Seige Mentality

Obituary: Penny Pixler

WOBBLES: Bosses want cheap workers, Union Scabbery, Amazon rips off workers, Educators under attack…

Syndicalist News: CNT gains ground, Workers occupy factory in Istanbul, Solidarity Federation wins unpaid wages, IWW picket attacked, Turkey: “It’s not an accident, it’s murder” …  Compiled by Mike Hargis

Fast Food Walkouts: New Experimental Solidarity or Astroturf Smoke and Mirrors? by John Kalwaic

ARTICLES: Ukraine, Odessa, Anarchism in the context of civil war  by Antti Rautiainen

Venezuela: Autonomy, self-management, direct action & solidarity  by El Libertario

The making of an anarchist bookfair by Jay Kerr & Sid Parissi

Bakunin Bicentennary: An injury to one is an injury to all: Mikhail Bakunin’s social conception of freedom  by Harald Beyer-Arnesen

Bakunin: Count on No One But Yourselves!

Bakunin & the First International by Jon Bekken

Politics at a distance from the State: Speech to South African Movements   by Lucien van der Walt

Radical Happiness  by Brian Martin

Work & Freedom  by Jon Bekken

REVIEWS: Libertarian Socialism: Beyond Anarchism and Marxism?  Review essay by Iain McKay

What really was the “Real Socialism” of the Soviet Union? Review by Wayne Price

Marxist economics for anarchists  Review by J.N. McFadden

Green Syndicalism  Review by Jon Bekken

Early New Zealand anarchism

Jared Davidson, Sewing Freedom: Phillip Josephs, Trans-nationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism. AK Press, 2013.

Review by Graham Purchase

I knew nothing about the development of anarchism in New Zealand before reading this well-researched and ably produced study. Sewing Freedom is a brief, readable and informative piece of anarchist historical scholarship examining movements, organizations and personalities active at the cusp of the 20th Century.

The book is nominally an account of the life of Josephs, who, from his little tailor’s shop, organized the distribution of anarchist literature he imported wholesale from London and America. Josephs was an anarchist of the category perhaps best described as the Kropotkinite-Freedom Group (London) tradition.

Josephs migrated to Glasgow from Latvia in 1897. There he married a cigarette-factory worker, fathered four children and toiled as a sweatshop machinist before moving to Wellington in 1904. In Wellington, he set up as a self-employed tailor-cum-anarchist bookseller, becoming involved in local revolutionary and anti-capitalist groupings, particularly the N.Z. Socialist Party, then a broad-based organization attracting many syndicalists. Activities focused around Socialist Hall, where lectures on such topics as socialist economics were delivered. Josephs contributed articles to the Commonweal and the Maoriland Worker, newspapers published by the NZSP and the Federation of Labor.

Strikes were illegal under an obsolete and bankrupt arbitration system, whose courts invariably favored employers despite low wages and increasing living costs. The first challenge to the arbitration system was an illegal strike by tram workers in 1906, followed by slaughtermen and miners (the Blackbull strike), culminating in the General Strike of 1913. The ‘Red-Fed’ (Federation of Labor) was an I.W.W. affiliate and the most revolutionary. The Federation split with the N.Z. Socialist Party because its members rejected parliamentary politics and trades unionism in favor of direct workers’ action. The syndicalist surge within the class struggles of 1908-13 was bolstered by a stream of noted revolutionaries and labor leaders who stepped off the ship and onto the soapbox. Transnational radical tourism created a melting pot of ideas which spawned a minority movement of anarcho-syndicalists within a radicalized and militant labor movement.

War legislation was used extensively to stymie revolutionary syndicalism, and a state-sponsored campaign against Wobbly-anarchist-socialism continued after the conclusion of the Great War. Fascination with Bolshevism after the Russian Revolution (1917) and the founding of the N.Z. Labor Party in 1916 corresponded with a decline in revolutionary syndicalism.

Josephs migrated to Australia in 1921, and little is known about his life thereafter. In truth not much is known about his life in New Zealand, either. But his life usefully serves as an anchor upon which to elaborate a modest but extremely cogent account of early anarchism and syndicalism and its relationship with the wider labor movement in New Zealand.

Shutting down the government

The recent U.S. government shut-down and the budget deal to avert a new one make it clear whose interests it serves. Long-term unemployment benefits were allowed to expire in the budget deal, leaving millions of workers without any form of sustenance. (Now the Democrats are making a show of trying to reinstate the benefits, but had they really cared about the jobless they would have used the leverage the budget impasse offered.) Corporate tax loopholes were left untouched, and food stamps avoided another round of cuts only because the polytricksters can not agree on how deep those cuts should be.* (At present, the program is generous enough that most recipients make it into the third week of the month before running out of food and turning to the soup kitchens to survive, so the need for cuts is obvious to all.)

During the shutdown, health and safety inspections of workplaces stopped, as did oversight of polluters. Museums, art galleries and public parks were closed. No one answered the phones at agencies charged with “enforcing” workers’ rights. But the border guards were out in full force, making sure none of our fellow workers crossed the borders money flows across so freely. The military continued its operations. No one was released from prison, not even those the administration concedes are victims of unfair treatment in the war on drugs. Whistleblowers like Private Manning were not set free; the persecution of those accused of lifting the curtain on the government’s secrets did not stop.

We can see what is important to the bosses in the list of essential “services” continued during the government shutdown, and in the list of those shuttered.

Even more telling was the pundits’ bleating. The government shutdown was not so bad, they said. We can get by just fine without parks and art, without labor rights and the like. What really matters – and on this the pundits were unanimous – is that Republicans back down on their threat to not lift the debt ceiling.

If they didn’t, horror of horrors, the government might go into technical default. The bankers would not receive their money on time! Financial markets would rebel! Catastrophe would ensue!

One can almost see the platoons of bankers, decked out in three piece suits, fountain pens in hand, parachuting in from their global tax havens to occupy Washington DC and set things right. Money must prevail! Debts must be paid!

They really don’t go to all that much trouble to conceal who’s in charge, and whose interests really matter.

*After we went to press, a deal was struck to slash food stamps by a “modest” $8 billion; the boss press and pundits hailed this bipartisan compromise, and expressed their fervent  hope that it presages more of the same.

International Solidarity Actions Hit Santander Bank

by John Kalwaic

On Oct. 1 and Dec. 12, the International Workers Association (AIT) organized international days of action against Santander Bank in solidarity with information technology workers facing casualization and retaliation for union activity.

Despite being highly profitable, the Santander Group (which bought U.S.-based Sovereign Bank in 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis using funds it pulled out of land speculation in Spain just before the bubble burst) has been slashing payrolls and outsourcing operations around the world. In order to evade Spanish laws providing protections for permanent workers, Santander’s information technology services subsidiary, ISBAN, is in the forefront of transforming thousands of what should be decent jobs into ill-paid temporary jobs. In August 2013, workers organized in the National Confederation of Labor (CNT-AIT) protested this outsourcing; ISBAN responded by firing the union delegate (as a “temporary” worker, technically he was merely returned to the employment agency that supplied him, Panel Sistemas), sending a clear message to Santander workers that they risk their jobs if they demand their rights as workers.

The historic international anarcho-syndicalist federation, the IWA-AIT, which includes labor unions as well as other groups, responded with demonstrations around the world. The COB in Brazil handed out flyers in Aracajú and Araxá. In Philadelphia, syndicalists leafleted a Santander branch across from City Hall. The Polish ZSP demonstrated in Warsaw where Santander is trying to expand. In Uruguay the anarcho-syndicalists of Montevideo visited the headquarters of Santander Bank for an informational picket.

The Portuguese section of the IWA-AIT organized pickets in Lisbon and Oporto. In Norway the NSF picketed in Oslo. In the UK the Solidarity Federation held informational pickets in Brighton and Hove. The FAU in Germany picketed in Koln. And of course there were protests across Spain.

Where there were no Santander branches, groups such as the KRAS in Russia and the PA in Slovakia demonstrated against affiliated companies such as Isban and Panel Sistemas.

The dismissed CNT delegate made a symbolic gesture of thanks for this solidarity by putting up a banner in English in his current workplace, Panel Sistemas.