I’ve been reading We the Anarchists (history of FAI), and will post something about that soon. Lately I’ve been thinking about a problem in the IWW I want to outline and see if I actually believe it (and what others think).
The problem is about growth and development. Now much of our practise and theory draws from when organizations build from scratch or maintain momentum. This is distinct from the IWW, as our history is rebuilding a new organization from a more stagnant old one. Roughly before a decade or so ago the IWW was a political/history club that did not have a root in organizing or class struggle. The organization was transformed by organizing in recent times. Yet it seems to me that much of the clashes that go on with growing pains are rooted in the shift internally in the organization. There is a clash between the members who cling to the political club past, and various ad hoc factions who have conflicting views on organizing (which aren’t actually rooted in ideology despite the hype, i think it’s a matter of practice and education). Problematic situations have arisen where solid members come into branches that have heavy inertia or have pre-established feuds, political squabbles, or strong personalities. Unfortunately much of the destructive dynamics come from the people who aren’t organizing though this isn’t wholly true (I think there are important counterexamples like Starbucks which i think many had the wrong orientation towards but came around to). The tension as I see it is that the IWW has to fight between the organization it was and the one it is becoming. That is something that is true of all organizations, and is generally an organizing problem. We try to bring everyone together for common interests and positively transform one and another through the process. What I’ve begun to ponder is whether this dynamic will define our work and the residual political conflict will derail the good work going on. I don’t think its necessarily the case and I reject the perspective some people harbor of wanting everything to be perfect outside their branch without doing anything for the broader union (that’s why I try to work as much as possible with wobs from outside portland). Anyway just some thoughts.