Ep. 2 Comrades Read A Syndicalist View on The Rank and File Strategy w/ Tom Wetzel
Tom Wetzel, author of the forthcoming book Overcoming Capitalism from AK Press, joins Laborwave Radio to discuss a syndicalist critique of Kim Moody's rank and file strategy.
Our conversation focuses on arguments made by Wetzel in two pieces for Black Rose Anarchist Federation, The Case for Building New Unions https://blackrosefed.org/the-case-for-building-new-unions-wetzel/; and The Rank and File Strategy: A Syndicalist View https://blackrosefed.org/wetzel-rank-and-file-strategy-syndicalist/
Wetzel points out that Moody's strategy exclusively relies on transforming existing business unions, an unlikely task but also one that overlooks how nearly 90% of workers do not belong to unions and can be organized into independent unions. Rather than reforming business unions and then hoping it expands into more unions, Wetzel maintains our primary focus should be on organizing the non-unionized workers into entirely different types of unions.
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So I want to go ahead and dive right in for listeners. This is the second episode of our series on comrades. Read the rank and file strategy by Kim moody. You can go back to the first episode and hear our conversation on what's in the text and Moody's arguments. Our guest today has a critical take on the strategy and its limitations. So Tom, the first thing I wanted to ask you is what is limited about Moody's take on the rank and file strategy. You talked about how he focuses on trying to create militancy within existing AFL CIO unions. And why is that not going to work out?
2 (2m 13s):
He assumes one kind of situation, which is where you have an entrenched AFL SIA union and the bureaucracy to paid officials at the top of that union pose a roadblock or problem for the developed further development of the struggle. And he recognizes that problem posed by the, particularly at the international union level of, of the, the full-time paid officials and their staff and the way in which many American use, since the second world war have become very top-down and staff-driven. And so his whole focus is on trying to change those right and to rebuild from within this inherited heavily bureaucratized kind of labor movement.
2 (3m 7s):
And that is actually a situation that, that a certain proportion of the workers do face that the problem is that today only 6.2% of workers in the private sector belong to those unions. They've been basically the, the, the so many industries of India union. So you have these men, you have today many large workplaces, large companies where there's no union, right? And he, his approach doesn't really address that situation. It's as if he saying, well, we will have to change the inherited unions so that then they can go out and try and organize the unorganized and build new union.
2 (3m 56s):
And that was actually the position that William Z. Foster took back in the twenties with the trade union educational league, which Mooney refers to as the first time his approach was used. So that's a fundamental problem. Fundamental problem is that there's really today, a lot of scope, a lot of space, so to speak for building new industrial unions controlled by workers from the beginning from scratch, right? And so why should we have to wait until somehow in the future you've rebuilt, you know, or somehow changed inherited unions.
2 (4m 39s):
And I think a problem there is that a lot of these international unions, the structurally are never going to be really changed into a work control. And you, if you look at, if you study carefully, the United auto workers union, and then its history and unions like SEU and UFC w they are so hardened in their bureaucratic control from the top. And, and you have tons of examples of rank and file movements in those unions that were smashed by the bureaucracy, went back to say the 1980s with the UFC WWE and the peanut strike at that time where there was a very participatory democratic militant movement among workers in meatpacking class, did that, that union organized well, what happened at, and the companies that was the beginning of the dehumanization, that industry where wages were being chopped down, the speed up was beginning to coming worse and worse.
2 (5m 43s):
And PNI was the first real fight back against that. And it was supported by many meatpacking workers, but it was destroyed from the top by the officials of the UFC w placing at union and trusteeship, throwing out their elected leaders, and literally forcing on the workers acceptance of the employers offer because they were simply interested in protecting the union as an institution, as a source of dues for them. And they were willing to accept any conditions. Anyway, as long as the union would be. And this relates to the problem of sort of the bureaucratic layer at the top, they tend to identify working class interests with protecting that institution that gives them their position and their income and their prestige and so forth.
2 (6m 36s):
And it ends up, you know, becoming a barrier to the advance of the struggle. Now that moody recognizes that problem. He recognizes that the role of the bureaucratically, but the fundamental inconsistency in his outlook is he doesn't really have any different, he doesn't have a different vision of how a whole national union could be Brian and the history of the American Federation of labor. The legacy of that, of the American Federation of labor is we have these international unions as they're called that are really forms of democratic centralism, where power is centered in the international executive board and paid officials at the top.
2 (7m 25s):
And they have legally the right and the power to control and manage the whole union. The local unions legally are just this street of units of the people at the top, and the courts have ruled this so that when unions go in and throw out the leaders, that they, you know, if, if they feel that the militant movement at the rank and file level is threatening them, their interests, the courts have said that that's perfectly legal for them to do because that's how those unions are structured and moody never really deals with that problem at all. And there is of course, an alternative to that, an alternate and, and the penile strikers in the 1980s sort of revived the earlier like 1920s and 1930 cynical view that said we should build the national union organizations as controlled by the workers from the local unions, so that the local unions would remain in control of the, of, of the whole national organization, because the union would be organized as a kind of horizontal Federation of local union.
2 (8m 37s):
So the peanut and Stryker's proposed, for example, a new national meat packing industry union, where instead of a headquarters that paid officials at the top, they propose there would be the UV control by the local unions to election of delegates, to like coordinating councils. So like, there'd be a whole coordinating council for the union, but it would be made up of delegates from the local union and in a particular company like Hormel or one or Smithfield, one of the other companies, if there was multiple plants, then there would be a chain committee for that company that would also be made up of delegate delegates from the local unions.
2 (9m 19s):
And that way the local unions themselves would remain in control and they explicitly rejected the whole power of trusteeship. They said that if a local union disagrees with the national union, they should have the right to disaffiliate and go the wrong way so that the national union should be regarded as a Federation of horizontal Federation of local unions under the control of workers at the local level. Right. And so, so it's interesting that the Penai strikers from their own experience came to that conclusion, which had been like the common program in the twenties and thirties of these, of the large syndicates unions in Europe and Latin America.
0 (10m 3s):
Yeah. I want to talk more about that history and also go deeper into your arguments about how to organize the unorganized, the need to do that. But before getting there, there there's something that I find is very interesting and paradoxical about the popularity of Moody's arguments. As you just noted yourself, moody acknowledges all of these limits to boring from within, at the AFL CIO and how the bureaucracy keeps reproducing itself. And what's interesting to me is that it seems like we're witnessing a resurgence in the popularity of the rank and file strategy and the people that are finding it inspiring also tend to understand these well-documented limitations of trying to bore from within the AFL CIO.
0 (10m 49s):
So I just kind of wonder, like, what's happening. Like, why is this so heavily embraced even by people that will out of one side of their mouth, talk about how probably it's not going to work, but then keep pushing forward. Like, what do you think is happening?
2 (11m 3s):
Well, I think the problem here is that it's really both the democratic socialist or social Democrats on the one hand and Lennon is on the other, have been committed politically to what they call democratic Central's conceptions of organization. That conception of organization is that you have at the top of an organization, a paid group of paid elected officials, and they have the power to manage that organization. So if you accept that concept and you think that's the way organizations, unions, or political parties or whatever should be run, you don't really have a critique of the kind of structure of this kind of top-down structure of the FLC.
2 (11m 54s):
That is the fundamental contradiction in Mooney's theory of the rank and file strategy, because he recognizes the importance of patient of developing, you know, the struggle and the shop worker control over the union. And he also, you know, but at the same time, he wants to propose that movements work rank and file movements go for powers and put it, or take over the existing apparatus of the unions. But that's just simply as accepting that paid the Roxy at the top implicitly, right? He doesn't critique that idea the way in which the AFL CIO interaction with Oregon, and that makes the whole program inconsistent.
2 (12m 41s):
But I think that gets to your question it's because I think of the it's the political limitations a whole lot, that a lot of the groups that support the rank and cross strategy come to the, to this issue with they bring the, they accept already the idea of centralizing control of organizations at the top. Yeah. I mean, that's part of Leninist ideology was historically also part of social democratic political organizations as well. But I mean, that's, it's a political problem basically.
0 (13m 16s):
Well, and it sounds like it's a political problem of a vision, right? Like there's competing visions of politics and the path forward. And clearly right now, the popularity of groups, like the DSA makes one type of political vision, more prominent, one that we're more exposed to regularly on social media, you offer a different political vision. And what I really like about your articles and black Rose is you document some of the history of when these moments of imagination around like what's possible kind of flourished. So can you talk about like the cynical view, like what, what it means, what this vision is politically and what periods of time and us history have we seen cinder carism really like more prominent.
2 (14m 5s):
If you go back to the two biggest periods of working class insurgency in USA in the first world war era, very that's where you can see examples of that kind of grassroots unionism being built. And one of my favorite examples from the 1930s was the independent union of all workers. It was ironically, but started at the same plan as in Austin, Minnesota. And the main architect of that union was a long time IWW.
2 (14m 47s):
What's your crack yellows. And his conception was that we're going to organize all the workers in town. It's not going to be like siloed, just focusing on meatpacking workers. We're going to organize everybody in the town into a single union and two to run. What was essentially a local labor Federation in that town. They had delegates elected from the different sectors. So they're going to be from the retail sector. We organized the storms and the downtown. They organized truck drivers and warehouses, and they to have sector delegates who would come to a monthly delegate council meeting.
2 (15m 31s):
And that, that was how they made decisions for that local union. But they built similar role in a number of other cities like in Albert Lea, Minnesota, which is fairly North Northern part of Minnesota. And in the cities that they also look into view Iowa. Another one, there was no national executive board that ran it rather. It was a horizontal Federation of these local unions that were essentially internal federations of the various sectors in that now. And that's very similar to the way that unions were developed in places like Spain and Portugal, where you would have like an, a CNT in Spain in the twenties and thirties, the dominant organization was the local Federation of local unions.
2 (16m 23s):
And so each ancient, these vocal unions would be built on the basis of, in the shop organizing, you would have elected delegates, you have a delegate council and you have periodic assemblies of the workers, each of these workplaces, right? And then they would send delegates to a Federation throughout the city throughout that particular region. And then the CFE nationally was just a Federation of all those local Federation. That's another example of that. And, and B, because it remained very locally focused and controlled. The tendency was to develop struggles of solidarity who general strikes among those different local unions, these sectors, because they direct directly were connected to each one of the problems of the AFL CA each union is sort of siloed.
2 (17m 18s):
That is no national Congress of worker delegate to make up, decide on the program direction, the whole labor movement, the FLC is just an Alliance of these top leaders, right. Or the different union. And so there's no cross union direct connection of the workers.
0 (17m 41s):
Yeah. I mean, operating inside mainstream labor unions, business unions, I can attest that the inter union is complete, is minimal to non-existent. It's like such a mess. And these are things that fall under the umbrella, the AFL CIO, like the Teamsters don't fall under that, but even, but they operate very similarly. I want to hear more of your thoughts about how they do try to practice democracy and like AFL CIO type unions, particularly at that national international level, you're talking about conventions. So why are conventions basically a farce of democracy? How do they cut out the rank and file?
2 (18m 19s):
They nominally, they're supposed to be democratic organizations where the local unions like delegates, but in practice, what happens first of all, the conventions nowadays don't happen very often, four or five years at infrequent. And so they don't interfere with management from the top that much, but very often at the convention that these conventions you will have, the delegates will actually be paid officers or staff members for local unions or from the international union. And many of the larger local unions are kind of like eat them erratic Ethan's are political machines. And so they will have their people there at the conventions.
2 (19m 1s):
That would be a very powerful for us at that convention so that the international union ends up being kind of like just building alliances among the bureaucracies that make up the layers of that and the international. And also the conventions may have limitations in terms of what the rank and file can do. If you look at the United auto workers, unions, sample their constitution, which is creating a top-down, but the 1935, let's say you're elected as a delegate. And there is a proposal from the leadership. You have no right to stand up and make a proposed amendment to that proposal.
2 (19m 46s):
The constitution gives delegates no right to do this proposals from the floor, no right. To make amendments from the floor at all calls. Those have to go through the committees, the convention committees and the convention committees are appointed from the top of the national executive board. So that's how in that union, there really is no rank and file control over those convention.
0 (20m 13s):
Also to that point, it's pretty common that union elections are uncontested even the mechanisms of democracy that might exist. Aren't heavily utilized because they're in various ways kind of discouraged, I think. And I think this, again, a test, all the well documented case studies that we know make Moody's arguments about the rank and file strategy, extremely difficult to realize if not outright implausible. What I think is interesting that you lay down in your article, the case for building new unions in black Rose is that you're not opposed to the rank and file having power over unions. Like that's not the aspect of Moody's arguments that you find out of order.
0 (20m 57s):
Like you think that, but you're saying what kinds of unions is more important? And I really like, I just want to read this quote from the piece and ask you to expand on it. You're right. In certain times and places, the rebel grassroots soul of unionism comes to the fore and other periods of paid bureaucratically or consolidates its positions and looks to restrain the level of conflict in order to ensure the survival of the union as an institution, to the hostile terrain of capitalist industry. This contradictory character of unionism is also expressed at times in the conflict between the rank and file of unions and the paid officials at the top. So you're clearly wanting that other expression, the rank and file and rebellious expression of flourish.
0 (21m 40s):
What are the ways that you believe for today? We can enable that spirit to come to the, for the rank and file that actually has power over particular kinds of radical unions. How do you suggest that can start happening?
2 (21m 55s):
Well, if you look at the particular periods of time, when this rebel tendency is, I call it constant reform becomes really a major force like in the world war one era or early 1930s, there were certain kinds of conditions that started enable that to happen. There was, first of all, there was a previous period of testing and, and developing experiences by ranking for our workers who were interested and committed to building right over a period of some years. But by the time this really takes off what you see.
2 (22m 38s):
If you develop a very substantial layer in the unions of what the cynical to call the military minority or the active committed workers who have some kind of experience who know a little bit about organizing and, and committed to building and bringing in other coworkers into the game, right. Then a lot of them present. So the prep, so the development of that layer of more and more people who are actively committed to organizing in the workplace, you know how to do that. That's one of our tasks. We have to develop more and more people up.
2 (23m 21s):
And also another thing that you will find in those periods is that there's a kind of connection between a period of social turmoil and development of social movements in general, that affects the work that thinking of the working class in general, and therefore more and more workers rank. If I work with open to the idea of taking on you in court and at building an opposition organization. So that's another one of the features of those kinds of theories, you know, and another sort of aspect of those situations is workers learning from other workers.
2 (24m 4s):
So you'll have strike waves, which are, can be a kind of copycat phenomenon. You see, you see a group of workers in another place they've gone on strike at one certain concessions from an employer, you know, so then you borrow their tactics. You try to build something like that. And when that really takes off and you see lots and lots and lots of strikes going on, then that creates a kind of, it's greater than the individual parts for social force that creates pride. And that's when the working class is really on a roll and is able, he make major gains in the society and it encourages workers more and more to have competence and the ability to do that.
2 (24m 51s):
So that class consciousness develops from the success at curing out disruptive actions that bring production to a hall, which is the way that worker power is really expressed.
0 (25m 6s):
And those features, they all seem very present today. Like so many of them. Absolutely. So what's your assessment right now of the prospects for building these radical independent labor unions? Like, are we seeing it happen or what does it look like?
2 (25m 22s):
I don't really, I don't know. I haven't yet seen a lot of initiatives towards independent unions. There are some that do exist organizing groups or trying to build independent, but mostly most of the organizing of new unions or unions at workplace that takes place happens within the framework of the AFL union. So you have people who want to organize the union. So their tendency is to go out and contact one of the AFL CIO union. You know, like for example, the current, the effort at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, they contacted the retail wholesale and departments that are part of the CW.
2 (26m 13s):
And if there aren't workers there as organizers who are consciously thinking along the lines of building an independent union, that the workers control, and because of the fact that they understand the problems of the AFL CIO union, if you don't have yet significant numbers of those people, then you're not yet ready to have a real movement of independent unionism. So I think more and more organic ranking need to be, have that kind of orientation of trying to build unions that are independent from the AFL CIO, the workers themselves would remain in control of them, I think.
2 (27m 4s):
And I think that there's potential for that precisely because as you pointed out there is gradually a growing willingness of workers to fight that willingness of workers to try to build organizations in our, in workplaces where you use. And when you see that, you know, see this in various place, it is in, high-tech like warehouses healthcare in various areas, right?
0 (27m 31s):
Yeah. But it does sound like the real challenge is figuring out like what should be our approach to the AFL CIO, like recognizing that their reach is much more extensive than say, like the IWW, like that could help foster and instill this idea of like rank and file control and administration of your own affairs. And you put this on your article too, is that we shouldn't just completely ignore the AFL CIO Moody's arguments leave a lot to be desired. So like, how do we approach the AFL CIO understanding that it poses a real challenge to cynical us unions for fishing, as well as other forms of like radical, independent. Yes.
2 (28m 10s):
As I stay in that ease that there is a certain section of the economy that is where the AFL unions aren't, I, we can't sort of ignore that sector. So we do need to have a kind of strategy for how to deal with that situation. But I think that it, there, again, it's similar to the perspective of building anything in unions and you recognize and understand the problem posed by the concentration of power in the paid official layer in yantra Alfio union. So that means that if you're in a workplace where you do have any AFL union, then your goal there should be to build a worker, community worker, organization, independent of the garage, and to maintain that independence.
2 (29m 4s):
And you can intervene in various ways because unions at the local level have a certain level of democracy, or there are certain kinds of meetings where more of the members present, like if you're going to have a strike vote, or you're going to have vote on contract, these are like massive debt where large numbers of the, of the members of the union show up, which they may not two monthly meetings, regular meetings. And so in those kinds of situations and independent Nate can express its particular orientation, its point of view, you can sleep, people can speak their mind, you know, and your committee can have its newsletter or blog or whatever.
2 (29m 48s):
And he producing information. And it had a perspective for the rank and file members of that union. And I think that the thing about having an independent is that you want to be able to, to the extent possible, have the potential to develop action evidently of the bureaucracy and also in situations where the you're obviously is going to sell you out. It's significant opposition to defeat an example of an organization like that is a railroad represent height. For example, they have, they have members in several different railroad crafting the smart, which is a conductors union and the brothers over a reel of maintenance away employees and locomotive engineer.
2 (30m 43s):
And they basically bird dog what the officials of those unions do. And they've been able to intervene to stop sell out agreements at various points and may have one of the main issues. There is the push of the companies to go to just having one person running a huge trade rather than the present two person crews. And they've been able to defeat those moves. Right. And so having an independent organization enables you to mobilize people for action like that.
0 (31m 17s):
Well, and just for clarification, that independent committee, that's not the same as having like a caucus, like a left caucus, internal to the existing union. It sounds to me like what you're proposing is more like an IWW strategy of dual carding that you can participate as a union member in the craft union or business unit that exists, but you actually want to have an outside committee, like not try to run like a left caucus and plank to take over the official of that union. Am I right on that?
2 (31m 48s):
Yeah. The, the, the problem with the IWW strategy of the <inaudible> is that it very often in not actually taking the step of organizing a distinct organization in the workplace, but it becomes just simply, well, I happened to be a member of the IWW, but you're not organizing independently in that workplace. So I think that what, this is why I would say the, what is important is building a collective organization, committee and association, which actually takes engages in activity in that, in that workplace produces their own newsletter, their own literature though.
2 (32m 33s):
Their leaflet talks to people as their own meeting so that they have the ability to, as an independent force, right. In those workflows and can intervene within the union, within the, the FLC union in that sense that isn't, that a form of due carton. That is isn't is an example of, at times there have actually been a few situations where the IWW has actually done that in the thirties. They did that in the sealer Pacific group, so that the actions of that minion and Navy did that earlier on <inaudible>
0 (33m 15s):
With the main focus on organizing non-unionized workers, as it pointed out, you know, that that's, that's the situation, realistically like 6% union density in the private sector is effectively non-existent right. So realistically, we should be looking at this as like the masses are non-unionized. So we have a lot of, there's like, there's a lot of putty to mold in a particular ways. Right. So what do you think are practical and tangible, like steps for workers on the ground, in the shop for is whatever industries that might be in to start building these independent unions to avoid the capture of the AFL CIO and their they're imitators?
2 (33m 56s):
Well, I think that you, the course, the first step is trying to find other people in the workplace and building an ordinance or first step. And then once you have some kind of a resistance grouping, then you can start small steps based on, depending on the amount of support you have. And it's the numbers and cohesion of that grouping, which gives you whatever level of power you have. And so that can grow as you become, you gain a greater support. And eventually what you want to get to is having majorities, or you want to be able to get to the apartment.
2 (34m 37s):
You could actually turn out a Stripe and shut the place down, but you have to start, you know, you have to have walked before you can run. You start with smaller scale actions at the very beginning. So like I organized the teaching assistants was one of the organizers and teaching being in little seventies, the first one at UCLA. And we started out with an organizing team. We had a fairly larger it's about 40 people, but you get to the point of having a majority took six years of pursuing grievances issues after issues in the various departments. And it was really an action of the employer that enabled the union to build itself through a majority force.
2 (35m 23s):
The UCLA administration tried to want it to eliminate 10% of all positions. And so then the union developing a manager mobilization campaign yet speak out on campus week where the teaching assistants would be invited to give their own perspectives. They were constantly, they had like every two weeks you're producing a newsletter and they give this mobilization campaign. They go through union up to where it had an average membership of 75% of the teachings. My department was 90%, but over more than 90%. But at that point, once you have that kind of a majority, then you're in a position to actually shut them down.
2 (36m 8s):
And so that's when he decided to carry out a strike and they had a one week strike and the interesting person would never negotiate with them. You see, in that era was included in transition and I guess all you, but after about a week, the university minister, she said, Oh, well maybe we found some funds and we won't have to lay off that. The setup of the TA that we can just reduce it by five who's that. And then there was a meeting where a lot of them are military people said we got to still keep going until they have fully off anyway, but the vote actually, they voted at that point to correct work. But by the end of the semester, the university, it found the money.
2 (36m 48s):
So they will, they won, it was a victory. And that's, what's interesting also is that it was a victory, even though there was no negotiation, no contract was ever signed, but they won on the issue. They fought over. And if you, if you study the strike ways of the world war one era and the thirties, that was not uncommon very often. If you have a particularly in transition inquire, what might happen, this workers might strike. And then after like a couple of weeks, the employer begins to soften and then say, Oh, well, maybe we can raise wages by a certain amount. Maybe we can, you know, do other kinds of changes. And eventually the workers have to make a decision, whether the concessions are sufficient to go back to work, right?
2 (37m 32s):
So it's a question of starting with what you have with getting together people for me, organizing and building the workplace organization and doing smaller scale kinds of actions around whatever the grievance, the God people have there. And if you're starting from just not even having an organizer, then what I recommend usually spending a lot of time talking to people because you have to find out what is important to people there and you know, what are they willing to take action about? What are the issues that are important to them? So an organizing committee, it needs to be able to know what people, what really moves people.
2 (38m 18s):
Right? Well, people are really interested. You can build up their resistance to the employer.
0 (38m 24s):
Well, and something I want to immediately respond to is the length of time. It took for y'all to build a majority. You said six years, if for any listeners that that might sound like daunting, I guess I would just for one year, that that is not a uncommon timeline. Even if you are going to try the roots of like traditional business unions, I've seen those campaigns from start to finish, take 10 years, even before they get their first contract. So it is a marathon, right? Like you have to dig in for the long grind of organizing,
2 (38m 55s):
Right? If you, if you think about just for example, the famous, the Memphis, that patients, right. Of the guy who a man who was the main organizer, he ended working for something like six or eight years. And he had built an independent union there that at the time of the strike only had 30 members, but because it was such an incredibly damaging thing, two workers were killed, but I, for equipment of these Cobb packing trucks, right. Trashcan, that everybody was really angry and suddenly 600 workers walked out. And so now his 30 members, you know, 30 member union is suddenly growing into this huge union, right.
2 (39m 41s):
Large local union and a major struggle. So that's how things can happen. Things, you know, people can be organizing and talking to you and, you know, as a ranking for organizing, you may think your words, you're not having any effect like in, in, when I was building a teaching assistant union, which it took me several years to organize my department, I thought I would talk to people about talking about the issues. And I thought I had noticed that finally, when the, the, our supervisors did something that equally as dangerous people were coming up to me and saying, we have to have a meeting, you know? And I, and I called a meeting and 23 of the 24 teaching assistants.
2 (40m 23s):
So suddenly we haven't had an organization with more than 90% of the people in that department from that immediate reaction, what the supervisors are doing, speaking all the talks that I had had over a period of years, various people laid the groundwork for that, that wouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have come to me and say, we got out of a meeting. I hadn't been doing well. Yeah. And that's the thing with organizing, you know, you may not, you may feel that things aren't going anywhere or that you're not really getting making progress, but you may be laying the groundwork for a better response when people, you know, in the future.
0 (41m 6s):
So if you build it, they will come. I mean, what I like about that story too, is that I I've encountered this a lot. The impulse is to call a meeting and just see who shows up. And I try to organize people in a mass meeting setting, but clearly the, the methodical approaches, you had all these one-on-one conversations prior to the need for a meeting. And then by the time there was a mass interest, you call a meeting and you work with that. So I just think that's, I just wants to say that aloud for like, that's an organizing lesson right there. Don't try to substitute meetings for one-on-ones. You got to focus on one worker at a time where you get to that point. But I wanted to bring us to a conclusion here.
0 (41m 46s):
I really appreciate the conversation. Something that you have been saying throughout has made me kind of wonder this question around the history of these examples. What I see a lot right now, are people on, on social media. I got to get off of social media. I have to be honest. Cause it's, I think it's distorting my understanding of like where people are at, but I see a lot of people that are enthusiastic about unions and organizing, trying to claim that what we're doing now is new and unique. And there's all of these new examples and novel experiments with unionization and over. And what they're talking about is like minority unionism rank and file committees. It's like, this is stuff that we've been doing for years, for hundreds, like at least a hundred years, it's not longer.
2 (42m 33s):
0 (42m 34s):
Why is that history? So submerged under the surface, like what happened to that history and how do we bring it back to the four to like show people that actually the AFL CIO is not the only type of union there is. There's lots of other expressions of unionism and there's a long and deep history of that. Like what do you, what do you think are some ways that we can start bringing back this memory around like what's possible and how many times we've actually done this.
2 (43m 1s):
We re we really need to have a much more systematic, popular education oriented to talking about this kind of thing. And they're doing exists. Things like organize a training, which I didn't w does that labor notes, you know, where a lot of the lessons of the past are kind of still, and, you know, they talk about them. But I think also in terms of publications that are accessible to working class people, you know, I think that in the past or been here is when there's been just a lot more like local, radical worker oriented publications that were whatever lessons, the people who were more experienced in those organizations that develop, could then be told to other people, to large interims people.
2 (43m 54s):
That's a question of the popular education infrastructure that the centers of training that we don't have when we have one-off organizing. But like there aren't like social centers that much. Well, I might say for example, in the thirties and Spain, you know, they had every neighborhood in Barcelona and Valencia have their worker storefront at schools and they had classes, workshops, and building games. And what kind of union, there's a little social theory about educating, working class people on these issues.
2 (44m 36s):
So that kind of process needs to take place. Then the answer that means various kinds of publications, various workshops, and kinds of social sectors that were popular education.
0 (44m 54s):
Thank you so much for the conversation. Our guest has been Tom Wetsel on that last note there around popular education. I think your articles and black Rose are useful for those purposes. I'm going to include them in our show notes, but it's the case for building new unions and the rank and file strategy as cynical view, check it out on black Rose. Honestly, you have a forthcoming book that's going to be published by AK press called overcoming capitalism. So just thank you for contributing to the popular education that you're advocating for. And we appreciate you coming on labor wave.
2 (45m 26s):
Thank you. <inaudible>.