A little under 12 months ago, the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers’ Association / Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores (IWA-AIT) underwent an acrimonious split. Well, of sorts. In any event, at its XXVI Congress (December 2-4, 2016, Warsaw, Poland), the (Spanish) CNT, (German) FAU and (Italian) USI sections were disaffiliated ‘as a result of a conscious disregard for process, statutes and dues of the IWA’. For its part, in November 2016 the CNT organised a conference in Barakaldo, with participants from ‘comrades from IWW from the USA and Canada, IWW from the UK and Ireland, FAU and IWW from Germany, IP from Poland, USI from Italy, ESE and Rocinante from Greece, CNT-GAP and CNT-Vignoles from France and FORA from Argentina, as well as receiving solidarity statements from the Sociedad Obrera from Paraguay, FOB from Brazil and CNT-STCPP from France’. The purpose of the gathering was to establish a new international. In January 2017, the FAU published a statement elaborating upon its issues with the IWA-AIT and committing the organisation, along with the CNT and USI, ‘to jump-start a new international project’. More recently (April 17, 2017), segments of the CNT have published a statement [ESP] which suggests that at least some will be adhering to the IWA-AIT rather than joining in this new project.
- Communique of the CNT-AIT Congress to all workers and fighters — To All Anarchosyndicalists and Sympathizers
[April 23, 2017]
From various unions of the CNT-AIT that left what is now called the “CNT”, together with others that remain in it but with a critical stance, as well as with many others that were expelled or purged for having denounced the irregularities committed, we have met in Villalonga from the 13-16 of April in the Congress of Restructuring the anarchosyndicalist organization. We would like to publically communicate the reasons and the resolutions of our Congress and make a call to unite in our organization in order to strengthen and give potential to revolutionary, anti-authoritarian and emancipatory anarchosyndicalism.
Motivations: In the last few years, what now calls itself “CNT” has been suffering an ideological derive [ie, drift] in all senses. This has included a series of scandalous situations in which some things are decided in the absence of assemblies, there has been a rupture of Confederal pact and federalism, a lack of solidarity, the inexistence of transparency, executive decisions of the Committees, the buying of votes, falsification of agreements, committees that veto the unions or their proposals without putting them on the agenda, centralism and even physical aggression. This derive has produced a weakness in [the] CNT that anybody can see: the need to have paid position[s] because of an absence of militants, the inability to publish the CNT newspaper, the decrease in the number of unions federated… Above all, it has provoked the serious fact that it was expelled from the IWA, our International which established anarchosyndicalism in the world, because of the numerous irregularities committed by its Spanish section, the “CNT”, among others not paying the dues, as established in the statutes, but also trying to organize a parallel international, only because it could not impose its agreements in the Congresses of the IWA.
The Congress of Restructurization: We met in order to give structure to the numerous anarchosyndicalist unions that exist in the geographical area, to affirm anarchosyndicalism and the values that have inspired it, especially direct action, against parliamentarianism and bourgeois representationism that are being injected into supposedly revolutionary organizations, including the “CNT”.
We have taken the following agreements:
– We have adopted new statutes which are free of provisions which have supported or can support authoritarian practices, vertical structures and executive committees. In exchange, we are fostering consensus among the unions, more means for the local organizations and more autonomy against the committees, which will be reduced to authentic organs limited to coordination.
– Affiliation to the IWA, with the CNT-AIT being its Section in Spain, putting an end to the irregular situation that has been promoted by the Committee of the “CNT”, and contributing to the promotion of internationalism which is so necessary for the opposition of a globalized capitalist world, a question that characterizes the real anarcosyndicalism and not this colonialism of a negative and irrational “CNT”.
– We consider ourselves the continuation of the CNT created in 1910, the anarchosyndicalist and historic one.
– We call on all the anarchosyndicalists in the geographic area to retake and resurge anarchosyndicalism and to put it in the place that it should be: as a libertarian and emanicapatory reference for the working class in the whole world.
From Villalonga, libertarian greetings, in solidarity and internationalist, to all the people, groups and organizations that aspire for freedom.
1. Such an absence of transparency, for example, encouraged the theft of around 20,000 euros from the CNT treasury by the General Secretary based in Valladolid.
2. For example: The union responsible for the CNT newspaper is no longer nominated by the unions and decided in Plenaries, but by the Confederal Committee, since the XI Congress in Zaragoza. (Translator’s explanation: The CNT’s reformist and executive wing have caused the situation in which the paper has not been published in years, due to the fact that they are trying to keep control of the publication and infuse it with their politics.)
3. A paradox since some unions that were expelled from the CNT were for dues arrears. While the CNT failed to pay dues to the IWA, it paid for a legal office of cronies whose cost were higher than the dues to the IWA. This office also absorbs all the resources destined to help repressed workers and prisoners that are from or collaborate with the CNT.
4. This decision was made by the Committees of the CNT without any agreement of the unions or the Congress. Leaving the IWA was not proposed in the XI Congress of the “CNT”.
See also : ASF-IWA (Australian section of the IWA).
In September 2015, AK Press issued a statement about one of its authors, historian Michael Schmidt, describing him as “an undercover fascist” and “a white nationalist trying to infiltrate the anarchist movement”. Subsequently, Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens published a series of articles detailing the allegations, and there has been a good deal of discussion online About Schmidt. Most recently, the Instituto de Teoria e História Anarquista (ITHA) / Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH) have published a 2017 Statement on Michael Schmidt Case / Declaração sobre o caso Michael Schmidt (March 23, 2017) and Schmidt’s one-time co-author Lucien van der Walt has also released a statement: Lucien van der Walt – 2017 Statement on Michael Schmidt Affair – 10 April 2017 while anarkismo has published a Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry. Schmidt himself has recently announced his intention to complete an anarchist history titled Wildfire, ‘a 16-year study [which] will be the most comprehensive global history of the anarchist movement over 15 decades’.
• On ANZAC Day, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group has issued a statement on the subject of WAR: WWI was a crime against humanity, with two rival imperialist alliances fighting it out to redivide the colonies, markets and resources of the world. The lives of soldiers, Australians included, and civilian populations were sacrificed to the power and profits of their own ruling classes …
• On the Role of Black Bloc: A Critical Look, K., First of May Anarchist Alliance (M1), April 18, 2017: When we, as anarchists or anti-fascists, go out into the streets, questions should arise: What are we doing here? What are our goals? What is the most appropriate or powerful way to achieve those goals? Our tactical choices should always be in service of our goals — they should never be goals in themselves. I fear that in the anti-fascist movement, the tactic of black bloc has become fetishized and that this fetishization has impeded the growth of our movement and struggle …
• Channel Zero is a newly formed podcast network of several anarchist and anti-authoritarian podcasts across so-called North America. Our goal is to create an ever growing platform to expand the reach of anarchist analysis into a larger and more public audience. Currently, we are made of up the Final Straw, the Crimethinc Ex-Worker Podcast, SubMedia, the Solecast, Which Side Podcast, Resonance: an Anarchist Audio Distro and the IGDCAST. Our goals with this network are several fold. First, we aim to support each other and expand the audience of all of our podcasts with a common website and platform where each of our shows can easily be found.
• CrimethInc is always worth reading. Some recent articles of interest include: The State of Emergency and the Totalitarian Drift of the State: A Report from France (April 20, 2017); From the Loi Travail to the French Elections: A Retrospective on Social Upheaval in France, 2015-2017 (April 19, 2017); “The Struggle Is not for Martyrdom but for Life”: A Critical Discussion about Armed Struggle with Anarchist Guerrillas in Rojava (April 18, 2017) and; Why the Alt-Right Are So Weak And Why They’re Becoming So Dangerous (April 17, 2017).
Maybe the ASF will manage to affiliate just in time to be expelled, though considering the doctrinaire attitudes of their leaders strikethrough most influential militants I’d say their place will be secure enough.
1. Ta for the plug for our Anzac Day Statement. It drove extra traffic to our blog.
2. While Crimethinc have some interesting observations on the Alt Right, their theoretical framework is all wrong. It leads them to giving far too much emphasis to the psychological aspects of Fascism. Human nature doesn’t change that fast (it needs radically different material conditions), so a psychological interpretation misses the real dynamics of why Fascism is rising *now* and what should therefore be done. That doesn’t mean Crimethinc’s recommendations are to be opposed. Rather, they’re insufficient and should really be supplementary to the main game, which is class struggle. Unfortunately, Crimethinc define themselves as “ex-workers”, thus rejecting class analysis and missing the real power workers have to change the world.
3. The split in the AIT is a tragedy. It has lost its three biggest affiliates and risks being reduced to irrelevance. I say it’s a risk rather than a result, because I’m aware of impressive growth in some of the remaining affiliates.
Taking the CNT’s statements at face value, we can see that the CNT is fed up with providing the bulk of the finances for an international organisation which has been rejecting its positions for the last few years. I know I’d be annoyed in that position, too. It’s a reflection of the unbalanced structure of the AIT, where Anarcho-Syndicalism is a minor trend in the labour movement in a few countries, but utterly marginal in many others. As a result, the CNT has wanted to restructure the AIT to give the larger sections more votes and to relegate many of the smaller sections to supporter status. There are also numerous protests about the AIT Secretary’s intrusive behaviour, interrogating affiliates as if the Secretary has the right to do so and about the Secretary’s treatment of the FAU. To the uninitiated, these might seem reasonable positions.
Looking at the AIT Secretariat’s statements, we can see numerous allegations of breaches of process by the CNT. The most serious, given its effect on the AIT’s operations, is the refusal to pay membership dues. We can also see that the CNT has been, for some years now, completely unpersuasive in its relations with the majority of AIT sections.
Thirdly, we can look at the stories coming out from CNT dissidents, who have decided to remain loyal to the AIT. Here, we see numerous allegations of grievous abuse of process, including behaviour far worse in relation to CNT affiliates than the CNT is accusing the AIT Secretary of performing. Being at a distance from the action, I can’t reach a firm opinion on the various allegations, but the CNT’s behaviour certainly does sound suspicious.
Finally, I look at the split in the AIT from the position of Anarchist principles. In particular, how should we evaluate the proposals from the CNT to give more votes to the larger sections and relegate many smaller sections to supporter status? I have no problem with the AIT having set criteria for admitting full members and wanting small propaganda groups which don’t act as unions to be supporters. The CNT may, therefore, have a case for relegating some AIT affiliates until such time as they start acting as actual unions in the workplace. On the other hand, the proposal to give larger affiliates more votes is a fundamental violation of Anarchist principles.
Why is this? It is because such a proposal is a violation of the principles of federalism and presages an even graver violation. Consistent federalism entails each constituent unit of the federation having autonomy and initiative. Higher bodies exist to co-ordinate the activities of the lower ones, not direct them. The conferences and congresses of federal organisations also exist to co-ordinate, not direct. As such, each constituent body comes together as an equal of the others, autonomous in its own operations.
The CNT’s proposals, while not going as far as introducing majority rule in the sense of rule by affiliates representing the majority, are a strong step in that direction and have no theoretical basis other than as a transitional step towards such a process. This form of majority rule is telling, because it can only be justified if the Secretariat and the Congress which elects it has executive authority over affiliates. In fact, if an organisation has an executive body overseeing it, “one member, one vote” is the only defensible basis upon which to operate.
There is one contradiction that has come to knowledge which I find particularly telling. The CNT has been loud in its denunciations of the interference of the Secretary in interrogating the CNT to ensure it had been adhering to rules and processes, including validating its membership figures. On the other hand, the CNT was proposing to introduce a voting process at AIT Congresses where larger affiliates get more votes. If the AIT had accepted this proposal, the AIT Secretariat would necessarily have to be granted the authority to audit claims of membership numbers by affiliates, since an affiliate could get more votes at Congress by simply lying about its number of members. A great advantage of the “one affiliate, one vote” principle is that it removes the biggest single incentive to be dishonest with one’s comrades.
Looked at in this light, therefore, I cannot resist reaching the conclusion that the CNT was aiming to introduce elements of centralism into the AIT’s structures and that the Secretary’s actions, although perhaps subject to criticism on some grounds, are basically sound and carried out in defence of Anarchist processes of consistent federalism.
Readers should note that, while I am sympathetic to the AIT, I am not a member of any of its affiliate organisations.