Monday, February 21, 2011

[olympiaworkers] How Things Could Work


By Arthur J. Miller

The working class has long suffered oppression and exploitation at the hands of capitalism. Through those long years working people have struggled to improve their conditions and some have even struggled to change that social arrangement. In order to change the system working people must be able to develop the means to do that. Those means includes two important elements. The means to remove the power that oppresses and exploits us and the means to create a new society. The basic idea of the IWW for this is rather simply. The working class is organized into an organization of industrial unions that covers all industries and all of those industrial unions are joined together within the 'One Big Union'. Those industrial unions are built through day-to-day union organizing to improve conditions now. As the industrial unions grow, that is creating an organization of the organized power of production and services of the working class. At which time the organized power of the working class is greater than the organize power of the capitalist class, the working class stops its production and services for the benefit of the capitalist class and uses it for the benefit of all. By organizing in the day-to-day struggles, the IWW is thus, striving for better conditions now, organizing the power to end capitalism and the creation of a new society based upon the self-management of the working class.

Many people have asked, "How would that new society work?" It is impossible to say for sure how things would work because we cannot foresee all of the problems working people may face at that time. No manual or blueprint could be written and if any were to try it, following such a plan would place an unneeded burden on working people to try make that work, while at the same time dealing with other more immediate problems and needs. Having said that, I can write about how it could work from the viewpoint of one Wobbly worker.

It is important to point out that the IWW's organizing a new society within the shell of the old, is just a starting point for a new society. The very nature of worker's self-management will necessitate change based upon needs and desires.

First, we must be realized that working people have all the skills needed to create a new society. We know how to produce, we know how to inventory goods, we know how to take orders of needed goods, we know how to transport goods, we know how to distribute goods and we know how to provide services, and as we organize our labor, we also create the means to keep industry functioning. In fact, without the interference of the bosses, working people can do their jobs even better. There is no doubt that we have the ability to create a new society.

The IWW has what I like to call progressive organizing. What this means is that we have created our organizational plan while at the same time creating the means to organize that plan. In other words, we progress or grow into our structure using the orgnizational means needed at any given point. As we organize our structure can be modified based upon direct needs. This allows us to carry on organizing in any situation we find ourselves in, while at the same time having the united vision of the organization we seek to build. This is essential in order to organize the power of the working class to gain greater power than the capitalist class and to have the means to create a new society and make it function.

The IWW organizes horizontally which starts off with organization on the shop floor, which is called an Job Branch. The Job Branch is a branch of the local Industrial Union Branch of the industry that the Job Branch works in. The Industrial Union Branch is a branch of the Industrial Union. Workers, in a local area, who do not yet have enough members for an Industrial Union Branch, belong to a local General Membership Branch. Within a local area, when there are two or more local branches an Industrial District Council can be organized which is organized to meet the needs of the local industrial union organizations. On a regional level there are Regional Organizing Committees and then Regional Administrations that deal with regional needs. Then you have the International Industrial Union Administrations and a General Administration to deal with international needs. Related Industrial Unions are organized into Industrial Departments. So without creating a centralized hierarchy the IWW has industrial organization for all workers and their needs.

There are times when workers need organization that goes beyond their Industrial Unions and Industrial Departments. For example, Maritime Port workers. At most Maritime Ports you have many different types of work going on that would include different Industrial Unions, like those that sail the ships, those that load and unload the ships, those that service the ships, those that repair the ships, trucker drivers, railroad workers, and tug boat workers. In order to run a Maritime Port efficiently and to deal with all the needs and concerns of Maritime Port workers, there needs to be an organization for that purpose. That would be an amalgamation of Industrial Unions that work at the Maritime Port. Another example could be workers who all work in a business district. Those workers could belong to different industrial unions, but they have common needs and could join together as an amalgamation of industrial unions of that district. All these workers would still have their industrial unions, but they would also have additional organization for their common needs.

There are those that advocate things like People's Assemblies or other mass organizational forms. These organizational forms seek to be involved in every concern or need. However, there are a number of problems with such forms:

    1 You have people deciding things who may not have a direct interest in them.

    2. You have people deciding how things are done who do not do the work themselves and thus you create new bosses.

    3. Such mass organizations create majorities and minorities and minorities are most often people who have been historically oppressed as minorities and thus their second class status could continue..

    4 In such mass organizations even when they seek to attend to the needs and concerns of all, due

    to the sher number of such needs and concerns, some people are forced to wait, or do not have

    their needs and concerns dealt with. This will often be the problem with single organizational

    forms that seek to be all things to all people.

    The IWW does not organize such mass organizations. Rather the IWW organizes according to direct interests. The Job Branch is the organized form of the direct interests of those workers at any given shop. The Industrial Union Branch is the organized form of the local workers in a single industry. Agricultural workers do not tell shipyard workers how to build a ship and shipyard workers don't tell agricultural workers how to grow food. But when needs and concerns overlap between workers of different industries these are handle within the union by the general organization and its conventions.

    All needs and concerns do not exist within industry alone and the means to create social change and build a new society will necessitate other forms of organization than just industrial organization. There are three basic types of these organizations:

    One important element not necessary organized by the IWW, would be the need of community organization. By community I mean the area in which we live. In small towns one community could be all there is, in larger towns there would be a number of communities. Community organization would be the organization of the needs, desires, culture and other such things that a community would need. Community organization could include organizations of direct needs, like the IWW organizes, like housing, safety, the Elderly, and so on, with the whole community organized together in a general community organization. Then like the industrial organizations, organize regional and international community organizations. Again like industrial organizing, community organizing starts off with the day-to-day needs of the community and in that process it builds organized community power in order to make social change and the means to create a new society within the shell of the old. Part of that has to do with removing the dependence of the communities upon the capitalist system and its state for needs and services. That would happen by cooperation with the industrial organizations, and organizing fulfillment of community needs by the community itself.

    The next element I believe would be necessary is self-determination organizations. The old system that we seek to change not only oppresses people by class but also by other things like race, sex, culture, and so on. Just because we changed the economic and community systems does not mean we have eliminated all oppression of the old system out of the new system. That will be a continuing struggle. Because people have been oppressed by groupings of people, they need to organize not only to resist that oppression but to also give voice to the oppressed. This is the same as workers do since they also are a oppressed grouping and organize worker's organizations, which are also self-determination organizations. Thus as a part of the social change and the new society, oppressed people would create their own form of organization. Women may want to organize and build a women's center, or Native people may want to organize and build a Native cultural center. This could even be a part of other types of organization. For example women organizing to end sexual harassment in the workplace or women organizing within community organizations, as part of a community effort to end sexual violence. Or Native people organized to end the bigoted exploitation of their culture. Or oppressed groupings organizing to create learning centers for their history.

    One more form of organization is issue based organization. These issues would be what ever

    concerns, needs or desires people wanted to get together and organize around, and could be the environment, education, culture and so on.

    One of the goals should be regional self-sufficiency. In some things this may not be possible, but it is a needed direction where it can be applied. In some places some types of foods cannot be grown without diverting large amounts of water and that is something we may not want to do. But every area can provide for some of its own needs and where it can this should take place. The capitalist system has sought to produce a lot of our food outside of the regions we live in. Much of that food is produced in lands where the people are very oppressed and poor and while they produced food for others, often they themselves went without. We cannot expect those workers to continue to feed us and do without mnny of their basic needs. This will necessitate a radical transformation of industry in the direction of regional self-sufficiency.

    In a new society there needs to be an organizational form to deal with direct needs and concerns, between industrial organizations, community organizations, issue based organizations and self-determination organizations. For the lack of a better term, I will call this a Council Of Direct Interests. When a Council Of Direct Interests is convened, it is made up of those that have a need, those that would work to meet the need, and those that have direct concerns about the need, for example environmental concerns or cultural concerns..

How could this work in a new society? I'll again use the industry I work in, shipyards, as an example. First you start off with a determination of needs by industrial organizations and community organizations. That could be international transportation of goods and people, or local needs like tug boats and ferry boats. Then a Council of Direct Interests is convened. This could include members of the crews that who sail the ships or boats, longshore workers who load and unload the ships, those that service the ships or boats, and those that build the ships and boats and do maintenance on them. Each have interests in how the ships or boats are designed. And communitiy organizations maybe included for their need of goods coming into a port. Then the industrial union, based upon work loads and other factors, would assign the work of building a ship or boat to the Ship Builders Industrial Union Job Branch of a shipyard. That job branch would be divided into the different trades it takes to build a ship. Each trade department would review the plans for the ship and then come together to plan out the process in which the ship would be built and the needs for the construction of the ship. The needs would be divided into immediate needs to get started and long term needs, and a schedule would be made to get the various jobs done in the order in which they are needed be done. This information would be given to the local Industrial Union Branch which would coordinate the needs of all the local Job Branches. It could be that one Job Branch has more material than it needs and it could be moved to another Job Branch. Or one Job Branch does not have a lot of work and they could prefab some of the needed parts of the ship in their shops. The local Ship Builders Industrial Union Branch would also contact the local Industrial Union Branch that distributes the materials they need. There maybe other local needs for that material and thus another Council of Direct Interests may have to be convened. Maybe there is a hospital being built that needs to be finished before a ship. The local Industrial Union Branch for distribution may not have all the material needed so they contact the regional organization of their industrial union that runs a regional distribution center. It maybe that the regional distribution center does not have enough material so they would contact the International Industrial Union.

Once the ship is built it is turned over to the Industrial Union that will sail the ship and a regular maintenance schedule would be set up. If the ship ran into problems and needed to be repaired the Job Branch of that ship would contact their Industrial Union Branch that would arrange with the Ship Builders Industrial Union a near by Industrial Union Branch that would assign that work to one of their Job Branches.

In any type of great social change the first job is to provide for people's basic needs. If people can't eat they are not going to support a revolution for very long. The first step would be to identify people's basic needs and how to fulfill those needs. This should be done before the revolution so that it is in place and functioning at the time we take over industry. How this could take plave is to conven local, regional and international Councils of Direct Interests made up of community organizations, that would include special needs organizations, Industrial Unions that produce needs, distribute needs, transport needs, maintain the means of transportation and others. Together they would determine what the needs are and how best to provide for people's basic needs.

Would we fulfill the needs of everyone, or only those of everyone who contributes to the well-being of all? Yes, there are those that due to illness or some physical disabilities, who could not directly contribute and their needs should be met with dignity. This could be determined by medical workers and their interests looked after by a community special needs organization. Others have limitations but still can contribute based upon what they can do. Folks in wheelchairs may not be able to climb buildings to repair them, but they could maintain a phone bank at an information center. Even kids can contribute. As part of their school day they could plant trees and other such things to improve the community. The system as it functions now keeps students isolated from industry. It was just dumb luck that I found work as a marine pipefitter which I could do well and liked. In a new society a part of being a student could be to send some time in different industries in manners that would contribute, allow them to learn about industry directly and learn what industry they may like and are best suited for. Thus within our organized industrial system there is the means for everyone who wants to contribute and is able, to contribute to the well-being of all.

As for those that don't want to contribute, we workers have no responsibility for those that want to just live off our labor! If they want to benefit from the labor of all, then they must contribute to the well-being of all. There are so many working people that do not have their basic needs fulfilled, that we should not waste our labor and resources on lazy slackers. This includes all the former bosses and politicians, if they want to eat then to work they must go!

We must realized that there is an inter-dependance of industries. I work in the maritime industry, and one of its important functions it to transport goods including those needed to fulfill basic needs. As I said before, in the maritime industry you have those who build and repair the ships. You have those that sail the ships. You have those that load and unload the ships. You have those that provide the needed servicing of the ships. You also have those that provide the needed material. I am a pipefitter but I can't fit any pipes on a ship if I don't have any pipes to fit. So those that are involved in the production of pipes, all the way back to those that gather the raw martial, are a part of the necessities of the maritime industry. In mapping out industry so that we are able to fulfill basic needs we must include those industries that provide needed material and support that makes it possible for workers in other industries to do their work so that we are able to achieve our goals.

We need to analyze how much labor it takes to provide for the basic needs and based upon that, general work hours would set. I know there are those that dream of such things as the 4 hour day, but if we are to meet the basic needs of the people, that will take a lot of hard work. For one thing there are millions of people now who do not have their basic needs met in the old world. Look at all the homeless, the hungry, the slums and so on. Should we just meet the basic needs of some of the people then go on vacation? The general organization of the industrial organizations would set the basic working hours based upon needs. Everyone who works those hours will have their basic needs met. The job branch would issue exemptions on hours for such things as illness, having and carry for babies, visiting the ill, personal hardship, attending important events like industrial union conventions, holidays, vacations and other such things. As we are better ably to provide for the basic needs of the people our work hours should go down.

One of the most important jobs of a new society, will be the cleaning up the mess that capitalism left us. The capitalists abused our environment. Ending that by learning to live in balance with our world needs to be one of the founding principles of our new society. That means transforming industry and cleaning up what was left behind. This is not something that can be put off because many things in industry, if left unattended, can increase in its danger to us and the environment. We need to map out the problems in industry and change the way many things are done and we need to map out the clean-up and begin work on that immediately.

We do not live by bread alone. Quality of life goes beyond just basic needs. I will call these things quality of life items. At the community market they would include things beyond just the basic needs and first come first served unless there are wait lists and the community market would order based upon those lists. I could see three types of lists.

    1. A wait list for everyone who worked the minimum number of hours.

    2. A wait list of worked credits. You really want something so you work extra hours, if there is work to do, or volunteer work for the industrial organizations or the community. Each credit could equal one hour worked. Those with the most credits would be first to receive the item.

    3. The question that always comes up is who will do the jobs that no one else wants to do? While it maybe true that some may do those jobs out of idealism, most people do not live that way in their daily lives. Those that do the undesirable work would receive additional work credits for that work, as set by the industrial conventions.

    4. Bartering with the shops that produce those items. Lets say you want a new guitar and you went

    to the shop that makes them and offered to paint the shop for them or something else that they

    would exchange their labor producing that guitar for.

    In all of this, there must be a change in how we conduct ourselves. We need to change the culture of winners and losers to a culture of common ground, understanding, respect and cooperation. The old system is based upon winners and losers, with the ruling class controling the game. In our new system, no workers should be losers. The problem with the winners and losers culture is that it creates majorities and minorities and majorities could get most of what they want and minorities could get little of what they want. Part of this is realizing the difference between disagreeing with something and opposing something. For an example within a community people could disagree over the site of a new women's center because that site has features that would make it a great park. Though the women's group may disagree with changing the location of their center, what they would oppose would be not building a women's center at all. So the common ground is providing the needs of the community and compromising is the means to reach that common ground. The women want the site to have some open space around it for outside activities, so another site is found to provide that need.

    In the production of many goods, the industrial organizations would produce for local needs, regional needs and international needs. In this way we would be able to deal with places that have greater needs because of their exploitation and neglect in the old system, or in the case of natural disasters. Also, some natural resources do not exist everywhere and some production maybe small and thus not needed to have that production everywhere. By local and regional production being used to help others then local and regional production from other places would be used to help local and regional needs everywhere.

    Now lets put all this to work. As stated the first thing is to provide for basic needs. People's needs are not all the same in the specific requirements. Some people eat more rice than wheat, for example. The community organization could access the basic needs within the community and then meet the local industrial organizations of food, medical and other distribution of needs to make an accounting of needs. The distribution industrial organization would contact its sources which could be the local agriculture workers industrial organization and the regional distribution workers organization that could run a regional distribution center. Then the transport workers industrial organization would be contacted to transport the goods.

    Each industrial organization would convey its needs directly to the industrial organizations that provides for them. For example the Trucker's industrial organization needs to deliver food to food distribution centers and it needs fuel for 12 trucks to do that. Some times it maybe that the industrial organization needs to contact a community organization. Maybe the food distribution industrial organization needs more room and it contacts the community organization on housing to get that room. Or maybe there is a group of retired workers within the communitiy and they need a food distribution center in their area, so they contact both the food distribution industrial organization to provide workers for it, contact the housing community organization for space for it. And then the retired workers knowing their needs, and the food distribution workers, knowing their needs in the workplace, get together with the construction workers industrial organization to get the new food center created.

    The community housing organization would work with the local construction industrial organization, to do a survey of housing and buildings in that community. There maybe some homes and buildings that need little work to get up to safety, liveable, and workplace standards. Others may take more work. Though reusing is an important environmental and resources issue, some homes, buildings and other structures are too dangerous and must be torn down. What cannot be reused should be recycled and what cannot be recycled needs to be disposed of safely. After the survey is done and it is determined what needs to be done with each site the industrial organization of environmental technicians would come in and do a site assessment of each site as to environmental, health and safety factors. Then the community housing organization would issue a work request to the construction industrial organization prioritized based upon needs and possible dangers.

    Let us look at a more complex situation to show how it could work. A larger town and the trucker industrial organization wants a new road built to a town that has a regional distribution center. A council of direct interests could be called. That could include everyone that could have a direct interest in this road. That could include the community and industrial organizations that have the need. The community where the road would lead to. Along the route there could be other communities that have an interest in the road, maybe a community does not want such a road close to them or maybe a community does want the road close to them. Maybe there is a Native spiritual site in the area. Maybe there are environmental concerns like nesting sites. Maybe there are other communities that want connecting roads to that major road. And then there is the industrial organization that would build the road. All these organizations have an interest in the road so they attend the council of direct interest set up to meet and make decisions on the road based upon the needs and concerns of all.

    These are just simple ideas as to how things could work. More than likely there will be some differences for one person cannot and should not do all the industrial and community planning for new society. But what this shows is that the IWW process of creating a new society can work and that we are creating that new society with every bit of organizing we do. And such a logical process will not leave working people wondering what to do next when our revolution takes place, nor will it need new bosses to tell us what to do. The new society is in our hands everyday we work and all we need is to have the great desire to make it come about.

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