- Industrial Networks
SolFed Industrial Strategy
(as amended by National Conference, April 2012)
Solidarity Federation's ultimate aim is a self-managed, stateless society based on the principle of from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. It is a society where we are no longer just used as a means to an end by bosses wanting to make money from our labour.
As a revolutionary union initiative, the Solidarity Federation seeks to develop into a revolutionary union (anarcho-syndicalist union). We see this as an essential forerunner to such a society. To this end, SF seeks to create a culture of militant opposition to the bosses and the state, controlled by the workers involved. This means picking fights and winning victories, however small, in order to build confidence and a culture of militancy and solidarity which can take on bigger fights.
This strategy can apply equally where workers organise independently of the union bureaucracy within the official trade unions and where it is appropriate to set up organisation independent of trade union control
Rank and file control
Decisions should be made collectively. This means they are made by mass meetings and workers on the job, not by officials in union offices. These mass meetings should ideally include all those in the workplace, regardless of union membership. It will not, however, include scabs or management. Anyone we elect to negotiate with management should have a mandate from the workforce that gives them clear guidance on what is and is not acceptable. Mass meetings of workers must be able to recall all delegates. A meeting of delegates drawn from mass meetings, to co-ordinate different departments or work sites for example, constitutes a delegate council.
Direct action at work means tactics such as strikes, go-slows, working-to-rule, occupations and boycotts. We are opposed to the alternative which is 'partnership' with bosses and sham 'consultations'. Workers can only win serious concessions from management when direct industrial action is used or when bosses fear it might be. Where we are not strong enough to place major demands on our bosses, we still seek to collectivise grievances and use appropriate direct action to resolve everyday problems.
Solidarity with other workers is the key to victory - workers should support each others' disputes regardless of any anti-strike laws. We need to approach other workers directly for their support, and where possible attempt to extend our struggles beyond all artificial boundaries. We seek to rebuild a culture where all workers know a picket line is not to be crossed.
Victimisation, sacking and blacklisting are real risks for union activists, even from established unions. As a rule of thumb, a Solidarity Federation workplace presence will not publically announce itself until either organising efforts cannot be advanced without doing so, or members are confident they have the organisational strength and solidarity of their colleagues to resist attempts at victimisation.
Control of funds
Strike funds need to be controlled by the strikers themselves. Trade union officials will refuse to fund unlawful solidarity action and use access to resources to keep control of the struggle from the workers involved. Union bureaucrats are able to use the promise of official backing and strike pay to turn action on and off like a tap.
The interests of the working class lie in the abolition of capitalist society. The whole of the wealth of society is produced by the workers. However, a surplus is extracted from our labour which funds the ruling class of shareholders and business people and their state. When workers make wage demands, they are simply trying to win a bigger share of what is rightfully their own: everything. This struggle requires much more than economic wage demands. It is also a power struggle for control of the workplace.
We unite the political and the economic because it reflects the realities under capitalism. The working class is at one and the same time oppressed and exploited. If we are ever to be truly free, workers must challenge both capitalist exploitation and the power capitalism and the state has over us. The coming together of exploitation and oppression can be clearly seen in the smallest of workplace actions. Should workers win a fight for increased wages their power to win better conditions improves and vice versa. When workers organise we challenge management’s right to manage.
Simple trade union organisation around traditional bread and butter issues is not adequate to this task, as it is based on the acceptance of the capitalist class. As well as a structure of mass meetings and delegates there also needs to be a specifically anarcho-syndicalist presence in any workplace. This will almost always involve only a minority of workers in the present time. The role of anarcho-syndicalist militants is not to control these workplace organisations but to take the initiative organising and argue for anarcho-syndicalist methods in workplace meetings, attempting to gain broad support for our aims and principles through propaganda work and demonstrating our methods’ effectiveness in action.
Details of the strategy
While the eventual aim of all SF members in all workplaces is building a revolutionary union branch in their workplace, the immediate concern of SF members in the workplace is to build militant, independent class struggle. This means organising with and encouraging the militancy of others , and pushing for disputes to be directly controlled by those involved. We seek to build anarcho-syndicalism through practically demonstrating that our ideas work.
An anarcho-syndicalist (or revolutionary) union should not seek to be a simple substitute for TUC unions, but an entirely different form of organisation with distinct methods reflecting its distinct goals. While seeking to attract as many workers as possible, the organisation must retain a clear revolutionary perspective, even where this will sacrifice growth. Whether the union is a tiny militant minority or develops to a mass scale, the basic principles of direct action and collectivising struggle remain the same. Branches of this union will be federated together through the Solidarity Federation.
In the immediate term, to ensure control of struggles remains in the hands of those involved, we argue for and where possible organise mass meetings. Mass meetings should be seen as an alternative structure to official union structures, which by their nature constrain militant action. Decisions are made directly and collectively in these assemblies. The work of these assemblies in different workplaces, teams or departments should be co-ordinated by delegate councils, convened as necessary.
In the most militant workforces regular mass meetings will be held, and this is obviously the ideal we are aiming at. This may not be possible in other workplaces where it will only be possible to organise such meetings when a particular dispute arises.
Wherever there are at least two SF members in the same workplace, an SF workplace branch should be formed. The workplace branch is an extension of the Local and aims to give members a practical focus for carrying out organising work in their workplace. This should be seen as a springboard towards collective action and a foundational unit of the revolutionary union.
We need a three-pronged approach to the business of actually building anarcho-syndicalist structures, but the general principles of our industrial strategy apply to all three.
In a workplace with a recognised TUC union, an SF member would typically join the union but promote an anarcho-syndicalist strategy. This would involve organising workplace assemblies to make collective decisions on workplace issues. However, workers will still be likely to hold union cards here to avoid splits in the workplace between union members and non-union members. Members would also seek to build collective direct action beyond union structures, organise with other militants independently of the union and seek to build an organised anarcho-syndicalist presence on the shop floor.
- In a non-unionised workplace, SF members should attempt to organise collectively with workmates, and form committees of militant workers. The medium term aim should be to build from this into an SF workplace branch. If the mood in the workplacce moves towards unionisation with a recognised TUC union, members would typically join the union whilst continuing to argue for the importance of collective decision-making and direct action and pursuing the strategy for unionised workplaces. However, members would not silence their criticisms of trade unions.
In a non-unionised workplace that is difficult to organise due to a high turnover of staff or a large number of temps, we should just call workers assemblies when a dispute arises, while still attempting to network with other militants. Despite the difficulties, members would still attempt to build an SF workplace branch if circumstances allow for it.
In all three cases, members will seek to build groups of militant workers prepared to organise direct action – 'workplace committees' – which would organise independently in the workplace. Wherever there are multiple Solidarity Federation members in a workplace, they should immediately seek to form a workplace branch.
All members of Solidarity Federation aim to be directly networked with other workers in their industry by way of SF Industrial Networks. These networks should aid the development of SF workplace branches and help in spreading information and disputes beyond workplace boundaries. Finally, nothing in this strategy precludes SF members from co-operation with other workers or workers’ groups as they see fit, so long as such activity does not contradict the aims and principles and constitution.