This site is a static archive. Visit the current IWW website at ▸
Skip to main content

(10) Goals. Then Strategy. Then Tactics. Part II of II

Last month we talked about goals, strategy, and tactics. We called forth our visions--our ultimate goals. As an example, we said: “Free food for every human being.” Then we came up with intermediate goals: “Workers domination of the agriculture and food stuff industry.” But to feed ourselves this week, our immediate goal was a pay raise. Next, we planned out a strategy--both to get us that pay raise and to set us on our way to our dreams. We designed our strategy to unite around immediate necessities and build our strength to achieve the impossible. Our strategy groups workers into shop floor and industrial committees. Workers group together in many ways, however, so we’ll work with what the situation calls for. To implement this strategy, we’re going to select tactics.

Tactics are the concrete actions taken to further a strategy. Our tactics must demonstrate our resolve to transform the food stuff industry. The effort to get a group of food stuff workers a pay raise relies on workers’ collective mass action. The shop floor and industrial committees choose tactics that build confidence and successfully demonstrate to food stuff workers their power “€˜at the point of production.’

A scenario might play out like this: Workers sign a letter and present it to the boss in a group. Everyone wears a special t-shirt. If the boss refuses, then they all participate in a 'cold-shoulder day’ to let the boss know nobody’s happy. Workers leafleting customers, vendors, transportation workers, workers at neighboring businesses, and investors might be necessary. The point is to demonstrate to the boss your unity and resolve. If management remains stubborn, then a 'sick out’ or a slow down might be next.

The point is to have the workers on the shop floor decide on a tactic and take action together. If our actions rely too heavily on a 'third party’-- the media, lawyers, negotiators, or even the so-called “community,” we might still achieve the pay raise. But whose skills, confidence, and power are we building and demonstrating? If we’re doing our job right, every small victory we achieve is a boost to workers’ confidence in themselves.

When workers are accustomed to demanding concessions through the use of our power at the workplace, we see that we have strength. When workers feel this power, we shift from “€˜bread and butter’ demands to broad political demands that represent our aspirations. If workers in the agriculture and food stuff industry world wide get good at demanding control over their jobs, pretty soon they’ll demand control of food itself.

This was just one example. Can you see how it all fits together? This way of looking at the work we do can be applied to almost anything. From planning a strike to printing branch t-shirts, the 'goals, strategy, tactics’ method helps us look more closely at our activity.

Ever wanted to do a tactic that conflicts with your--or has no--strategy? Often this is a problem of unstated goals. For instance, you might want to walk out immediately but the “5 Year Plan” calls for organizing quietly. In this case, responding to a particular offense, and the temporary freedom that comes from action, might be the real goal and the far-off revenge of industry-wide standards doesn’t seem worth the wait. The unstated goals of many tactics are some form of satisfaction. It is important to recognize this and balance a patient strategy with our irrepressible desires.

When we use this method, we call into question certain assumptions about 'tactics’ that might seem self-evident. Do we come up with a tactic--“Let’s put out a press release!” “Let’s picket!”--then dream up our goals from what we think we can win? Or might we plan out a strategy and selectively choose tactics that will build workers’ power effectively? This method also puts to the test certain so-called 'principles’ and makes them prove their usefulness as 'tactics’ rather than sacred truths. “We don’t have paid staff!” “We have extremely low dues!” “We don’t sign contracts!” “We allow anyone to join on the spot!” “We don’t affiliate with political groups!” “We don’t have mandatory anything!”... Whether we do these things or not should be because they are effective tactics in a plan to get to our goals, not because we read it in some bible somewhere.

First goals--to determine what we really want tomorrow and what we think we can get today. Then strategy--to plan out the campaign to achieve our goals and build the power and confidence of workers. Then tactics--to take concrete steps that demonstrate our resolve and alter the balance of power.

Next page: Workplace Organizing and Member Development Checklist