Sunday, 3 October 2010

National Shop Stewards Network: Syndicalists vote against general strike?

YESTERDAY, a proposal from Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) members of the steering committee of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to 'campaign for a 24 hour general strike' was opposed by syndicalists on the committee on grounds that it was an absurd and premature proposition in the current climate. In the end the vote went against the syndicalists, but it was significant because this was the first time an organised section from the libertarian left has made an independent intervention. The syndicalists also issued a statement which declared: 'Syndicalists are opposed to the cynical use of the NSSN as a vehicle for sectarian aims. Talk about rebuilding the Labour Party Left or building alternative parties is a diversion ... it ignores the fact that militant trade union activity is a political power in itself. We believe that these distractions will only slow us down in reaching our goals of a strong working class able to defend itself and make significant gains. (The) NSSN is a broad-based organisation the class struggle and narrow political agendas must not be allowed to sap energy or hamper progress in the struggle.' (a full copy of this statement will appear in a comment on this post shortly).

These syndicalists, who have support in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Northumbria in the far North through the centres of our civilising industrial culture in Manchester and the West Midlands, down to the smoky city that is London and the wild South West, are trying to set an agenda outside the urban street-theatre of party politics with its rent-a-crowd and ridiculous resolutions such as the general strike proposal. They are in a sense the phantoms of freshness on the political left, far different from the traditional old left like the SWP and the Socialist Party, and even at odds with their would be allies among the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation. Their aim is to bring some sense and serious purpose to the British political left.

A syndicalist lass named Becca from Birmingham was elevated to the new post in charge of 'Fund-raising and affiliations' which became a 'job-share' with another lass named Suzanne from London. In the course of the meeting Becca drew the meeting's attention to the election address of Dave Chapple, Chair of the NSSN, which outlined what he thought the new officers and steering committee members should be doing:

  1. Mapping of ... potential militant NSSN support in the 'upper' part of our movement: trade union national officers, national executive members, regional officials, branch officers and local reps;
  2. Mapping all well-organised workplaces by union and location.
  3. Recording and contacting all workplaces & Branches that take local, national or unofficial industrial action.
  4. Drawing up and carrying out an action plan to build the NSSN within different unions, different cities & regions, and different types of union rep.
  5. Establishing a sound financial branch affiliation base.

Dave Chapple then asks: 'How can we grow without this information.'

A business-like approach on the libertarian syndicalist left! How different from the left party politicians and how different from the dilettantes who one sees shifting from one talking-shop to another among the affiliates of Manchester Anarchist Federation and the Manchester Solidarity Federation. It is far too early to say if these new young syndicalists will get anywhere, much less transform British politics, but today, as the Conservatives meet for their national Conference in Birmingham, it is a time for turning over stones to see what's underneath. The NSSN syndicalists have made a start.

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