There has been some debate, carried out in a largely comradely fashion between members of the Dumfries IWW and the elected Officers of the Union. The main areas of difference have been, the decision by the IWW some years ago to become officially recognised by the state (accreditation). This meant paying a considerable accreditation fee and having open accounts, suject to legal review. To keep state approval, an effective bureaucracy is required to keep accurate membership record. The burden is becoming so great that some Officers are pushing to break long-term IWW principles by having paid officials. This move to state-legtimacy also necessitated a very large rise in Union fees, just as the Union should have been effectively dedicated to fighting austerity. The Dumfries group members because of an administratve error were not informed of the vote on approving or rejecting higher fees.
For many in the branch, who joined when the IWW was a more activist orientated group, and willing to have a more fluid membership, the latest moves seem to be repositioning the IWW as just another trade union, with the same fee level, but with fewer resources, albeit with a more democratic (but centralising structure).
It seems likely that Solway group memebrs, rather than dedicating their time to the IWW will be creating a new local radical group, which campaigns against poverty, assists workers in struggle and embraces supportive environmental and communal direct action. Some will remain in the IWW as well. Details of the new group should appear in the New Year. If you wish to be involved or offer advice or support, do contact us (comments below or on email@example.com).
Here is part of the Minute of the meeting of 5th October, which outlines the issues.
Members of Dumfries GMB were unanimous in their disappointment at the general direction of the IWW. The main criticisms were:
1. The growing centralisation of the IWW
2. Fee increases which:
a. Are putting off new members
b. Driving off old members
c. Giving the impression that the IWW is a ‘service union’
i. But one which does not provide value for money
ii. Is an abandonment of its direct action traditions
d. Dumfries branch did not have the opportunity to vote on despite all members having been in good standing (and fee shares banked by the centre) but were excluded from the referendum
3. That complaints were not satisfactorily dealt with
4. The decline in general radicalism and autonomous initiatives from local branches as bureaucracy and the demands of centralised administration increases
5. Inadequate support to anti-ATOS campaigns and similar initiatives aimed at unemployed FWs.
6. We note that that none of this is deliberate or the result of malice from any FWs. Even those Officers of the union are undoubtedly motivated by good intentions and are diligent and altruistic activists. Nonetheless, we feel that the current trajectory of the IWW is to ape existing unions, rather than acting as a direct action alternative.
7. This change in trajectory is partly a result of the decision to go legitimate by seeking state accreditation. Whilst the Dumfries group did not oppose this initially, sharing the hope that this might attract new members and give the union a wide hearing; it has instead placed such arduous demands in terms of bureaucratic accountability that it is taking time and other resources away from campaigns. The recent attempt to introduce paid administrators is illustrative of the problem.
8. Accreditation has placed pressures on Officers, which could be reduced by returning to more flexible structures and without the fears of failing to meet state requirements.
9. Whilst finding reliable figures on current membership are not always easy, it is clear that the move to accreditation (and state legitimacy) has either seen a slowing down of growth in membership to less than 2% per annum since accreditation or actually seen a drop The in membership and a corresponding decline in direct activism. Prior to accreditation, the five years before had seen considerable average per annum rises in membership.
10. However the possible solution to the problem has largely not been considered – the ending of accreditation and no longer seeking state legitimacy. Instead the concentration should be on gaining respect and mutual recognition from other workers, rather than meeting state legal requirements.
11. Unless there is a significant change in direction many (though not all) of the Dumfries group will allow their
membership to lapse in February 2014.
a. A local non-aligned group of industrial, community and environmental activists will be formed in its stead.
b. Those choosing to remain in the IWW will seek to transfer their membership to Clydeside or Tyneside IWW . They will continue to campaign for decentralisation and democratic reforms within the IWW.