Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Labour struggle: within or outside the union?

In order to prevent being co-opted, worker initiatives should remain independent of large union federations, argues Kees Stad of Klasse! Magazine. “Abroad, there are many examples of small groups, often anarcho-syndicalists, that radically stick to their roots.” He mentions a group from Germany he met. “They had about 11 members and have been campaigning for years in their city on local labour conflicts and against privatisation of the railway service. And they have not been swallowed.”
Stad says such initiatives can make a difference, partly for being embedded in international networks. However, they need to be clear about what they stand for: “As a matter of speech, your bye-law should state that you’re against capitalism and wage labour, like the one of the old IWW.”
Stad makes his observations in a conversation with Paul Benschop of Grenzeloos magazine, published in Klasse! Benschop says that the leadership of union federation FNV has in the past not been critical enough on matters such as privatisation. “Changes will have to be achieved bottom up. There are only two options. You can try to build a strong organisation outside of the FNV, which can bring about such change. But how realistic is that? … Or you should organise within the FNV, in order to influence its course.” He points to the Rotterdam-based FNV fight for your right-initiative, which is currently mobilising workers against a higher retirement age, and FNV Bondgenoten official Wim Baltussen who is organising immigrant farm workers.

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