It starts on your job: Syndicalist proposals

How can organizers change their workplaces and, in the long run, build labor unions to change society as a whole? Rasmus Hästbacka of the Swedish SAC delivers some food for thought and action.

Hästbacka has written three articles about syndicalist vision, strategy and movement building which appear on the ASR website. In a fourth article, he relates these themes to making plans for action in individual workplaces. Thus, the articles start off on the macro level of class struggle and move down to the micro level on the job. Read the fourth article on the union site Organizing Work.

With inspiration from the Labor Notes book Secrets of a successful organizer, Hästbacka divides workplace organizing into four phases: (1) Mapping and personal conversations, (2) Making an action plan, (3) Collective action and (4) Evaluation. He also underlines the importance of a formal union structure. Such a structure is necessary for workers to be able to make and implement democratic decisions and bridge the ups and downs of activity and commitment.

A Swedish version of the fourth article is available in the union paper Arbetaren. All articles draw from Hästbacka’s book (free online) Swedish syndicalism – An outline of its ideology and practice.

Dems back bosses, outlaw rail strike

UPDATE: Trying to conceal their vile union-busting, House Democrats approved legislation to force workers to accept an “agreement” they voted to reject, but to cover their tracks also passed a separate bill to allow rail workers paid sick time knowing full well that the Senate would pass the forced-labor bill and scuttle the sick time. Had they actually supported paid sick time for workers, they would have included it in the main bill. Tonight the Senate did exactly that, and Biden’s signature on this vicious anti-worker bill is imminent. If rail workers want to uphold their rights they will have to turn to direct action – either defying the bosses’ government and striking or implementing a strict work-to-rule until the bosses are forced to knuckle under or face the complete collapse of the freight railroad system. (our original post follows)

Stripping Rail Workers of Their Rights

The Biden administration has called on Congress to ram the bosses’ contract terms down the throats of U.S. rail workers who have voted to reject them. Under the Rail Labor Act, the federal government has the right to ban strikes during a cooling-off period, force workers into arbitration [both have already happened] and them impose a new “agreement” on transportation workers if they refuse to knuckle under. South Korea’s president similarly just ordered truck drivers to abandon their strike, but South Korean workers have real unions and so have refused — and other unions have threatened a national general strike if the government proceeds with its threats to jail union officers. Continue reading

Remembering Staughton Lynd

Historian, labor lawyer, and antiwar, civil rights and labor activist Staughton Lynd died Nov. 17, 2022. He was 92.

The child of famous sociologists, Staughton did pioneering work in history before being blacklisted after organizing antiwar protests (including at Spelman College, where he taught), helping organize Freedom Summer in 1964, and being arrested for his role in protests against the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Workers’ Resistance to the Russia-Ukraine War from both sides of the East-West Conflict

ASR 86 is significantly delayed, though it will go in the mail before the year is out. In the meantime, we will bring you some articles slated for the issue…

By John Kalwaic

The government of the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine in February, allegedly in the name of “denazification.” This conflict had been slowly brewing since 2014 when the Euromaidan movement toppled the pro-Russian government and led to a government much more aligned with the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the West in general. The Russian Federation and its president, Vladimir Putin, who functions as a dictator, wants to recreate the old empire that collapsed when the Soviet Union fell in 1991, after which Ukraine became an independent country. Putin and his allies are trying to reestablish Russia’s former status as the Russian Empire from 1721-1917 and the Soviet Union from 1917-1991. Right before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government and allied states helped repress an uprising in Kazakhstan. Continue reading

The Unions’ Life After Death: Recipes for a new labor movement

“Solidarity means that we stand up for one another and expect something from each other, even if we don’t like the other very much or even understand each other.”

— Frances Tuuloskorpi

Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and the nation-states. In two previous essays, Rasmus Hästbacka touched on this vision and strategies to reach it. The following essay concludes with recipes for rebuilding the labor movement.

A vision is pointless without strategies to reach it. Strategies are pointless without a movement that can pursue them. At least in Europe and North America, we need to “bring back the movement in the labor movement,” to quote Labor Notes. Continue reading

(R)evolution in the 21st Century: The case for a syndicalist strategy

“Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not
have the status of machines ruled by private despots.”

The Mill Girls of Lowell, 1845

Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and the nation-states. The syndicalist SAC—Central Organization of Workers in Sweden—neither advocates armed struggle to reach the vision nor revolt through a general strike. So, what do Swedish syndicalists propose? Rasmus Hästbacka addresses this question in the second in a series of three essays.

ASR is presenting this series in the spirit of debate and an exchange of ideas across national borders. We do not agree with every formulation. The SAC’s evolutionary approach is, we believe, unique in the international syndicalist movement. It is certainly possible to fetishize the general strike, transforming it into an idle fantasy that serves as a substitute for the day-to-day struggle in the workplaces for workers’ control and better conditions. But this is to violate the very essence of syndicalism: its emphasis on building revolutionary unions that battle for better conditions today while building the capacity and power to take over the industries and bring them under workers’ self-management. Continue reading

Another World is Phony? The Case for a Syndicalist Vision

“Most people live most of their lives within totalitarian institutions. It’s called having a job.”

Noam Chomsky

Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and nation-states. But isn’t the nation-state the guarantor of all citizens’ security? What alternatives do syndicalists propose? These issues are addressed by Rasmus Hästbacka in the first in a series of three essays that will be posted to our website.

We are presenting this series in the spirit of debate and an exchange of ideas across national borders. We do not agree with every formulation, and have been quite explicit in our rejection of “participatory economics,” which fails to offer a vision of a free society, is unworkable, and seems to have given no thought as to how their bureaucratic utopia could be brought into being. We also reject the notion expressed below that markets are compatible with syndicalism, or indeed with any vision of social solidarity and emancipation. Continue reading

ASR 85 (Spring 2022)

Editorial The War in Ukraine 
Wobbles Organizing Amazon, ‘Green Capitalism’… 
Syndicalist News Myanmar, Turkish Strike Wave… 
Articles Support the Trucker Convoys? by John Kalwaic 
South Asian Truckers Build Class Solidarity, ‘Freedom Convoy’ Builds Fascism by Jeff Shantz 
Mandates, Vaccines & Freedom by Wayne Price 
Capital-labor relations in France, healthcare and American television by René Berthier 
Responding to the Ukrainian War by Wayne Price 
Black Wobblies: Hubert Harrison & Ben Fletcher review essay by Jeff Stein  Continue reading

The War in Ukraine

Editorial, ASR 85 (Spring 2022)

By the time you read this, Russian forces may be in Kyiv, or not, depending on how the battle goes. Ukrainian resistance and Russian military incompetence has given the lie to Western tales of Russian military might that has fueled NATO expansionism since the end of the Cold War. 

What induced Putin to invade Ukraine now? The war has actually been ongoing since 2014, Continue reading