IWA Conference in León

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akai
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Aug 21 2010 11:57
IWA Conference in León

The following is a translation of the first report back, from CNT Galicia.

From the 13-15 of August the IWA (International Workers' Association) Conference entitled "Precarious work, Self-management and Cooperatives" took place in “La Vecilla” in León (Spain).

More than a hundred workers of different ages and from different countries took part, as did the Secretary of the IWA from the NSF in Norway. There were comrades from the Polish ZSP, Slovaks from PA, KRAS from Russia, USI from Italy, SolFed from England, FAU from Germany, CNT from France, SP from Portugal, the Spanish CNT. Later Peruvians comrades from the paper "Humanidad" joined and their were greetings from the comrades from FORA Argentina.

The organization on the part of the CNT-AIT from Leon was perfect. There was an extraordinary atmosphere between the comrades from all over the world since our homeland is the world and our family is all of humanity. The event was self-managed and everybody took part in the activities and the infrastructure. People spoke in French, English, German, Italian, Russian and even Galician-Portuguese or Esperanto, with no problems, everybody on equal terms.

The 13th dealt with "Anarchosyndicalism and precarious work"

1) The General State of Things: After the chair was chosen, our Secretary of the IWA from the NSF, people from the various organizations spoke. First there was a comrade from ZSP from Poland who described a situation of high job insecurity, much like the sitution in Slovakia which the comrades from Priama Akcia later described. The Italian USI said that since 93, workers rights are being cut, with the collaboration of the official trade unions rights. There are more temporary employment agencies, there was a direct action against IKEA, etc ... A comrade from the Portuguese section of the IWA spoke of the law of August 1 which gives fewer rights to workers in companies nationalized after April 25. The comrades from Solidarity Federation described the 20 years of a "flexibile market" strategy to keep wages low.

The Norwegian comrade explained how rights were being cut... they have an unemployment rate of 4% which is a lot for them. The CNT from France described rising unemployment and precariousness, trying to organize the precarious. FAU talked about labor reform, increased insecurity in both health and transport and how the mainstream unions do nothing. Finally, the Spanish CNT represented by the union of Granada, described what happened in Spain after the "real estate racket" with 4 million people laid off. What they described as a bleak picture.

The floor was then given to the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation) which intervened to say that effectively the same economic conditions are being given throughout the world, that we can only mend the problems and therefore the only alternative is to make social revolution together with all the workers of the world.

In the afternoon the comrades from Priama Akcia from Slovakia made a report. Afterwards were the comrades from Croatia with more concrete experiences. The Portuguese section talked about how the crisis favors going from conformism to revolt to social revolution, and reported from of a factory in Arcos de Valdevez, where the workers took over and where 40 of them self-manage the work. The ZSP, which works with precarious workers, especially in food services, was won a number of conflicts with direct action. The CNT of Granada reported on two conflicts: Vincci and ASM.

2) Definition of the Main Problems for Syndicalist Action: Struggles, Concrete Examples of Self-organization, Results and Lessons Learned

The CNT in Zaragoza reported on the conflicts at Start People and Ryanair. Then Russian KRAS presented us a very complex situation where, according to their data, 2 million workers come to Moscow each year, only 200,000 of whom are legal, mostly from the republics from the east, causing perpetual insecurity for those people, where mafias operate without control, where the fear is common. They spoke of a supermarket where the workers went on strike; the KRAS supported it and publicized the conflict, but the police used the "anti-extremist laws" to intervene against the workers. Also KRAS explained that it has no legal status and that it is very difficult to get legalized at this time.

Then came the turn of the FAU, which reported on the conflict at Babylon Cinema in Berlin, the problems it encountered along the way with the "delegalization" of the union and the great victory achieved with international solidarity.

On the 14th, the Polish ZSP presented a paper on immigration which was discussed by the various delegations with great interest.

3) Discussion of Possible Proposals for a Common Strategy of the IWA

Here there were different interventions of the international sections on how to organize precarious workers, and also about the pros and cons that come with actions related to this topic. Participants from the sections presented their positions and mandates and discussed this point.

On Sunday the 15th, the USI presented its proposal for self-management based on solidarity and class pride. The SP spoke of a number of experiences in Portugal and Porto Setúbal. USI also explained the experiences of 30 years of the cooperative IRISBIO, one of the leading brands of organic agriculture, which maintains contact with USI.

In the afternoon after visiting the Vegarada trenches, where the comrades of the CNT fought during the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39, the conference was closed, much to the heartache of all its participants.

English translation:
http://cia.bzzz.net/iwa_conference_in_leon_spain

Translated from:
http://elmilicianocnt-aitchiclana.blogspot.com/

Spanish version based on the text of CNT Galicia:
http://www.cntgaliza.org/

akai
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Aug 21 2010 12:01

There were some interesting reports; perhaps some of the sections might publish them in the future. Like always at such conferences, there was excellent opportunity to learn more from the comrades, to discuss practical and theoretical issues and to discuss plans for the future.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 21 2010 12:12

We asked CNT-Granada about publishing their piece on self-management and they were happy for us to, but I want to tidy up some of the clunky translation first. But yeah, great conference for the most part, well organised, a good chance to share experiences and tactics and some inspiring examples of how to win.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 21 2010 12:13

A SolFed report back is being written for DA and I'll post online too when it's ready.

akai
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Aug 21 2010 12:29

Yes, would be good to see that Granada piece in English.

syndicalist
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Aug 22 2010 00:24

Sorry comrades, I don't understand what this means:

Quote:
"the USI presented its proposal for self-management based on solidarity and class pride."

How else would self-management be made withoutout "solidarity"? And "pride" in what you do as worker? Perhaps something is lost in the translation. Or I could just have a thick head.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 22 2010 01:15

Tbh, I couldn't tell if the USI presentation was poorly translated (from Italian to Spanish to English and back) or just not very coherent. Essentially they seemed to be arguing that sone form of fair trade co-operatives could progressively replace capitalism, providing 'somewhere to buy goods outside the market' and quoting Proudhon. Charitably I'd put it down to translation Chinese whispers - I understood bits in spanish that weren't translated - but it was really hard to tell. Might have been an argument along the lines of Iain McKay's 'conflicts and co-ops'.

akai
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Aug 22 2010 07:02

Syndicalist, you know Spanish so you can see that was what was written. What I understand the author of the article to mean is that USI was arguing that people who produce in cooperatives should should pride in the fact that they do so.

Joseph is being diplomatic about the USI speaker though. My opinion is that he was the most problematic at the conference, who rambled on and on and took far more time than anybody else in an embarrassing show of political egoism. I have translated many conferences myself and here one has to realize that it is just impossible to follow and translated somebody like that who speaks on and on without pauses for such a long time.

I'll be translating the minutes of this talk into English either today or tomorrow; if anybody is interested I could make a short (coherent) summary of his position.

BTW, we don't know if this is the position of USI as a whole or only this man's group.

akai
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Aug 22 2010 08:33

The minutes taken are not full versions of what was said. I think my comrade who spoke about it can fill out the minutes and I will get you in touch. smile

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mikail firtinaci
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Aug 22 2010 08:34

congratulations for your efforts! It was very interesting to read this report and I hope in the future more detailed ones will come.

This may be a bit of an ignorant comment -But this was also the impression that I got from the very interesting talk we had with Akai-; can it be said that the general type of struggles that anarchosyndicalists involve are concentrated on small scale workplaces mostly based on direct consumption?

If that is so, was this issue also discussed in the congress? Don't you think that this is a weakness?

gypsy
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Aug 22 2010 09:36
Joseph Kay wrote:
A SolFed report back is being written for DA and I'll post online too when it's ready.

did you visit the Alhambra?

akai
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Aug 22 2010 10:59

Mikhail, I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea! I do not think anarchosyndicalists as a whole concentrate on small workplace struggles, but it may be that some groups encounter more of those types than others. This is understandable: the big mainstream unions don't give a fuck. Also, when groups are still young and small, these types of struggles can be more manageable for them.

Was this discussed at the conference? No. Is this a weakness?

Honestly, we all know that our groups are weak in absolute terms. But being flexible and being able to fight exploitation in various settings is a strength. This is particularly true when we are dealing with service economies with dispersed workforces.

When speaking to you in Turkey, I think I wanted to stress that this is also a possible way for the nascent movement there to be more active in the workplace. It seems that, when concentrating on the large workplaces and while working in the framework of legal unionism, the anarchosyndicalists are condemned to work inside the larger union federations like DISK. This obviously has its drawbacks. But even small groups may make effective campaigns in smaller workplaces, and it provides not only a lot of concrete experience, but also can help consolidate the group and attract new people.

asn
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Aug 22 2010 11:48
Quote:
This may be a bit of an ignorant comment -But this was also the impression that I got from the very interesting talk we had with Akai-; can it be said that the general type of struggles that anarchosyndicalists involve are concentrated on small scale workplaces mostly based on direct consumption?

If that is so, was this issue also discussed in the congress? Don't you think that this is a weakness?

you are refering to "anarcho-syndicalist groupings" which are more in the leftist sect spectrum - the focus of these groups on these small scale work places reflects the very crude and simplistic concept of anarcho-syndicalist union building in these groups - encouraged by an unscientific climate/lack of research and debate in these groups and their members lack of industrial experience and the legacy of mass stalinism in the mid 20th Century in the leftist subculture - there is of course no historical precedents in how this small scale organising can lead to the emergence of mass syndicalist unionism and in these "sects" the highly experienced people and this scientific climate doesn't exist which would head off this stuff and orient the group toward the kind of long range "strategic organising' which could lead realistically to transitional steps towards mass syndicalist unionism which is supported by historical precedents eg Solidad Obrera (union federation) which led to the formation of the CNT in Spain in the early 20th Century, the alliance of the Western Miners Federation and other labour groupings which formed the earlier IWW in the USA etc.

akai
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Aug 22 2010 12:20

What a load of crap.

First of all, I usually suspect that the ones who throw around the word "sect" at first go are actually in sects themselves, albeit they may be practicing different forms of entrism as part of this denial.

There is no such thing as a "simplistic concept" in our groups like ours in terms of what we are doing. Our local group consists of almost 100% precarious workers. I wonder what "lack of industrial experience" means to you. Not working in a factory? Or not working in an industry? You are fucking talking like some old fashioned leftist. We work in such conditions here, because they are the conditions that dominate on our job market, and this is what we are dealing with. If you think for a moment that we are not going to react to the real conditions and real exploitation of our members, their friends, neighbours and family, you must be one of those people who know about workplace struggles from leftist handbooks but not from real life.

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fingers malone
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Aug 22 2010 12:42

agree with this 100%

Valeriano Orobó...
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Aug 22 2010 12:53
Joseph Kay wrote:
Tbh, I couldn't tell if the USI presentation was poorly translated (from Italian to Spanish to English and back) or just not very coherent. Essentially they seemed to be arguing that sone form of fair trade co-operatives could progressively replace capitalism, providing 'somewhere to buy goods outside the market' and quoting Proudhon. Charitably I'd put it down to translation Chinese whispers - I understood bits in spanish that weren't translated - but it was really hard to tell. Might have been an argument along the lines of Iain McKay's 'conflicts and co-ops'.

Thanks for the repport, akai.

JK, i could translate the text to english if you & the comrades want me to. Just post it in a thread and the translation would come next.

syndicalist
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Aug 22 2010 13:35

Thanks Joseph & Akai. I actually read the Spanish first. It was still unclear what was being said. At least here the two of you have added a bit more substance.

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mikail firtinaci
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Aug 22 2010 14:12

Thanks for the comments akai. And I agree that being small is not equal to being a sect. And I don't think that IWA is a sect; on the contrary I appreciate their cauraegeous activities especially in the ex-soviet countries in difficult conditions.

kuro
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Aug 22 2010 14:19
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akai - that would be great if you can get him to email / pm me - apart from filling me with geeky joy due to the techno aspect, it was one of the most inspiring contemporary AS actions I've ever heard off - y'all would be blushing if you'd heard us gushing over it on the train back to Madrid. ;)

Sounds exciting! Could you give an overview of what happened? I'm keen to hear about this once you receive any info.

rata
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Aug 22 2010 14:36
akai wrote:
BTW, we don't know if this is the position of USI as a whole or only this man's group.

I think that's his personal opinion.

Valeriano Orobó...
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Aug 22 2010 19:45

If the text at the begining of the thread is the one from Granada copied by the chiclana section (Cádiz), these are the only translation problems that i find:
- When it’s being talked about the languages spoken, they say they missed esperanto with whom they would be in equal conditions.
- It’s not clear either in the original text if with 25th april they mean the companies nationalized after the portuguese revolution of 1974 (usually called in spain “el 25 de abril”) or nationalized after 25th april this year.
- The slovakia comrades and not the croatian, reclaimed more concrete experiences.
- In the take over, they precise that the workers didn’t allow the machines to be taken away
- Setubal and Porto are both portuguese cities

akai
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Aug 22 2010 20:03
Quote:
Kuro wrote:

Sounds exciting! Could you give an overview of what happened? I'm keen to hear about this once you receive any info.

The comrade who was speaking about it said he can only write something "within a week", since we are a bit busy will some daily pickets and other stuff. But I can say something I guess. This was related to the Groenflex case, which went quite well. I will give some links to articles about it. I think what was interesting were a lot of the details about how it was organized that were not in any of the accounts of the case we had written.

In terms of the "geek stuff" I think people thought this was interesting: the worker in question, like many seasonal foreign workers, lived in a workers' hostel and was picked up in the morning in a truck and driven to work. Many people in this situation are not really oriented where they are being driven to. They may not know the name of the town, street, workplace, end-user employer, etc. In this case, the worker only knew he was in a shipyard. So my comrade located shipyards on Google Earth and narrowed down the search using the description of the routes. Then he found ground-level photos and eventually the worker recognized where he had worked. Then the good folks at AGA went there and found out more details. Well, I am sorry, I can't tell the story as well as he. smile

But it is a common problem. I also mentioned how last year some Chinese workers we were helping also didn't know where they worked, so I brought them photos of all the construction sites in Warsaw.

Here are links to some of the articles about the case:
http://www.zsp.bzzz.net/node/135
http://zspwawa.blogspot.com/2009/03/groen-flex-and-eurocontract-zeeland.html
http://zspwawa.blogspot.com/2009/03/action-at-groenflex-in-opole.html

MT
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Aug 22 2010 20:20

As for the USI - it was very hard to get them to clarify their real position. in the end they said something like they support workers who try to set up coops during struggles and at the same time they support also setting up coops as a form of alternative market without capitalist relations. And this was suppossed to be clarification when in fact this only makes things even more problematic.

As for the Conference as such - a very important event which was mostly inspiring and interesting. A lot of self-criticism from the speakers when speaking about the conflicts. I believe it is only a matter of time when some of the things discussed at the conference will be published on some websites in English, at least as reports.

syndicalist
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Aug 22 2010 20:42

As an interested comrade, I'm glad that folks came away positive and it was a good event.

Quote:
As for the USI - it was very hard to get them to clarify their real position. in the end they said something like they support workers who try to set up coops during struggles and at the same time they support also setting up coops as a form of alternative market without capitalist relations.

Is it possible that this is not a contradiction? Sort of a bi-level approach? Not sure how there can not be some form of "capitalist relations" in selling products made in the coops. I suspect this has been much of the same issues as faced by the Argentinian's over the past decade, or at least a segment of the "recouped" workplaces. Anyway, be interesting to read more of what is meant.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 22 2010 23:37

Like I say, it was really hard to tell what USI were saying, and repeated questions seeking clarification only added to the mystery. My best guess is they were arguing that 'union action' as struggle in firms against the bosses needs a constructive wing, which will progressively replace capitalism with a mutualist economy. But simultaneously this was called libertarian communism (mutualism, collectivism and communism being distinct, mutually exclusive approaches is well established). There were also all sorts of odd assertions about goods produced by co-operatives being better quality, cheaper and having better working conditions, which frankly didn't seem based on the experiences of actual co-ops in the real world but mutualist dogma. When someone asked how this was different to fair trade there wasn't really an answer, except a repetition that co-ops are outside the market and based on solidarity and an 'alternative' etc, which isn't actually an argument or explanation, just a restatement of the thesis.

asn
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Aug 23 2010 11:50

admin - you were explicitly told, you want to do this, start a new thread. This has nothing to do with this conference.

syndicalist
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Aug 24 2010 03:03

I ask this in a serious and comradely way.... I recall the FORA being very critical of the workplace occupations in Argentina and the workers engagement in cooperative production/ownership. Would the Argentian experiance of a few years back be in conflict with some of what USI was laying out?

MT
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Aug 24 2010 08:22

Basically, USI delegates seemed to be the only ones promoting coops as a kind of strategic way forward. I think that concerning USI we cannot move further without them explaining themselves properly, because we would be only guessing here.

akai
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Aug 24 2010 09:04

Further, we can say that there was not really any proper discussion of the issue given the particular speaking style of the delegate. By contrast, we know that there were a lot more critical and complex analyses that could have been made by those present. Some, however, were from organizations which did not have an official position, so they did not believe it proper to argue a position which might not be representative of the group as a whole. For example, we have discussed the issue of worker shareholder schemes, but don't have an official position on cooperatives as such. However I am pretty sure our position would be rather different than the USI comrade's.

KRAS presented an interesting position but there was no time to discuss afterwards. There was no moderation of the USI delegate and all the time went on that, unfortunately. So I do believe that what was said about cooperatives at the conference will wind up being not very representative of the different ideas in the sections.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 24 2010 09:09
akai wrote:
There was no moderation of the USI delegate and all the time went on that, unfortunately.

in fact the request for the chair to moderate discussion and cut off verbose monologues to allow more discussion was translated as a request to 'moderate' by speaking more slowly sad

akai
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Aug 24 2010 14:44

forget it smile