Want to Build an Anarchosyndicalist Organization?
The following piece is a repost of Ann Kij recent piece that was published in WSA’s Ideasand Action section. It is a very helpful article that provides advice for small anarchosyndicalist organizations that are in the process of building campaigns and overall growing and developing. We highly recommend to read further below.
By Ann Kij
The following is based on observations of different organizations, local groups and unions. While sometimes different ways work in different circumstances, I feel there are some practices which get organizations off track and some that are useful for moving forward. In all cases I am speaking about smallish sized organizations which have yet to develop as a union but would like to. Organizations which are larger or have certain experience tend to have different issues.
1. Establish goals.
The most important thing is to realize that our (very) long term goal of creating a libertarian society is just that – a long term goal. We need to promote and work towards it. But we also need to set more immediate goals and shorter-term goals which relate to practical activity. This is important because people need to see that anarchosyndicalism is not just a nice dream that doesn’t work now.
It is a mistake to think that attracting more people should rely mostly on promoting a theory. The best way to attract people is to decide how you can put your theory into practice in the here and now and get something working. But in order to do this, you have to scale down your theory. Scaling it down does not mean watering it down. In no way do I mean depoliticize what your organization stands for. I mean that you have to find a way that what you do reflects your goals and can be expanded on.
A scaled down goal then could be to create self-managed unions working on anarchosyndicalist principles. These can be of modest size and still can have effect. A union can also be of general membership and work in various professions or workplaces; it doesn’t need to be only in one. Once they become known or start to have effect, you will have to do a lot less work to attract people. People will start to seek you out at some point.
A starting point is to think of some possible project that would be most likely to bring attention to your organization and involve people who would like to do something concrete in their work place or concerning a more widespread labour problem. Having a project like this helps the organization to focus, to learn better organizing skills, to develop skills related to critical reflection and to come into contact with more members of the public who can sympathize with you or join.
It is important to choose a project or campaign that is realistic given your current capacities or some capacity you could reach in the immediate future.
2. Working towards the goals
If you don’t have a realistic short-term goal and projects or campaigns to help you realize it, you run the risk of being all over the place. Some organizations meet every week, without any really set agenda or working plan and just chat or react to some current matters, for example, current matters in politics or campaigns of other organizations or on other issues. This is not a good way to stay focused.
Meetings need to be regular. Well-planned meetings set agendas in advance and allow people who cannot attend a chance to provide input. It is important to write minutes. Minutes can be reviewed regularly, for example, after every 6 months, to see how meeting time is spent effectively or not.
It is a bad practice to let everything in the world come up at the meeting. If you don’t have your own business to discuss at the meeting and are just waiting for somebody to come along and bring their topic, it means you haven’t set out a campaign very well. Setting out the campaign means giving concrete tasks to people to do over reasonable periods of time, and reporting back regularly on the progress.
In order to stay focused, anarchosyndicalist organizations need to remember that they are different than anarchist organizations. While any organization may be interested in some other issues, the time you spend in the organization should reflect your main focus and goals. In other words, don’t get off on a million topics and don’t spend the majority of time on political issues and movement issues that are not related to the workplace if you claim workplace organizing is a priority.
3. Talk to people, not to yourself.
The webpage or printed organs of the organization say a lot to people who check you out. Since people are all different, ideally things would be geared towards different types of people. But it is important for people to know that your anarchosyndicalism relates to the here and now, not to some pie-in-the-sky post-revolutionary society.
For this reason, there have to be articles aimed mostly at people who are not from any movement, as well as ones that show how our organizations work in reality, not only in theory.
Focusing too much on history or using a lot of notions which are understood only by a narrow group of people limits your contact with people and give an impression that these things are theoretical, not things to be practiced now.
Webpages and printed organs should be scrutinized in this regard. This doesn’t mean that there cannot be more theoretical publications. But without something that focuses on practical applications of our ideas, we are less likely to inspire people.
Speaking of inspiring people, it is very important to have face-to-face contact. At the beginning, it is more important to have open events and these events again should tend to focus on practical organizing rather then things like the Spanish Revolution. Hearing tales about revolutions may be very interesting but it doesn’t make the difference between whether your organization remains a propaganda group or becomes a functioning union, even on a modest scale. Having meetings which allow more interaction and planning ways that new people can join in the organization’s activity is very helpful.
This is just for a start and the tip of the iceberg, but maybe these things are most important.