Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Centenary of the First International Syndicalist Congress

100 years ago this week there took place in London the first International Syndicalist Congress, this came in part as an initiative of the Industrial Syndicalist Education League of Tom Mann, Guy Bowman and others who held a significant conference in Manchester three years earlier...It is interesting that on this anniversary weekend of an event that had so much promise, and that have might have led to great things had not the First World War intervened, the Unions in Britain are supporting a major demonstration in Manchester outside the Tory conference.  If workers wish to rebuild organisation and take the fight to the enemy in the era of zero hours contracts, exploitative agencies, workfare, poverty pay and food banks, they could do worse than look to the example of the industrial unionists and syndicalists of 100 years ago.  Reading facsimiles of Tom Mann's Industrial Syndicalist bulletin of that period, and the famous Tressell novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists that also grew out of early Twentieth Century social conditions the relevance to today is clear.

"The First International Syndicalist Congress was a meeting of European and Latin American syndicalist organizations at Holborn Town Hall in London from September 27 to October 2, 1913. Upon a proposal by the Dutch National Labor Secretariat (NAS) and the British Industrial Syndicalist Education League (ISEL), most European syndicalist groups, both trade unions and advocacy groups, agreed to congregate at a meeting in London. The only exception was the biggest syndicalist organization worldwide, the French General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Nevertheless, the congress was held with organizations from twelve countries participating. It was marked by heated debate and constant disagreements over both tactics and principles. Yet, it succeeded in creating the International Syndicalist Information Bureau as a vehicle of exchange and solidarity between the various organizations and the Bulletin international du mouvement syndicaliste as a means of communication. It would be viewed as a success by almost all who participated."

More here
and here

The leading and growing advocates of radical Industrial Unionism in Britain today are the Industrial Workers Of The World  who will be represented on this Sunday's demonstration.  The current IWW pursue a strategy both inside and outside the existing TUC unions.

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