Paid workers in the CNT in the 1930s

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Steven.
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Oct 25 2006 17:04
Paid workers in the CNT in the 1930s

Right well a few conflicting things have been said about the CNT and whether they had paid officials or workers or anything.

As far as I was concerned paying admin staff might be acceptable, but not paying delgates or anything.

People said a variety of things like the CNT had no paid staff, or it only paid one or something.

I'm reading Sam Dolgoff's The Anarchist Collectives and in the introduction Bookchin says that:
- delegates to regional/national/local committees were not paid
- National secretary was paid average workers' wage
- ditto clerical staff of national committee
- ditto editors and staffs of CNT daily papers (of which there were a fair few, no?)

Is this accurate? If so, does this change the opinions of the people who claimed you can have mass organisations with no paid admin staff, because the CNT did?

nastyned
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Oct 25 2006 17:58

My feeling from the stuff I've seen is that the CNT, the confederation, had one paid official.

Unions which constitued the CNT and publications of the CNT also had a number of paid employees.

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Oct 25 2006 18:14
nastyned wrote:
My feeling from the stuff I've seen is that the CNT, the confederation, had one paid official.

Unions which constitued the CNT and publications of the CNT also had a number of paid employees.

That would match what Bookchin wrote then.

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Oct 25 2006 18:20

so how many paid staff in all? Couple dozen? five dozen?

That would sound much more realistic than the "one dude" claim...

nastyned
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Oct 25 2006 18:45

Depended on the unions, and I guess the papers. I've found one reference to the CNT fishermens union having a full time organiser (though it did say this was rare). As the number of unions, members and publications varied a lot with time so will the amount of paid staff.

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Oct 25 2006 19:02

funny how it has always been taken as something written in stone that CNT only had one paid worker and people have been arguing against newspapers, printing presses and what not having any paid staff always refering back to the "one dude" position.

nastyned
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Oct 25 2006 21:42

Yeah, that is a misunderstanding. But the CNT did still to a huge extent rely on unpaid work people did in their spare time.

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Oct 25 2006 22:01

as do all the A-S unions who have been criticised of having paid admin staff above 1.

Feighnt
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Oct 25 2006 22:40

i didnt know people claimed it was only one person. i'd heard about folk being paid in the CNT - i never paid great attention to how many people precisely, but it never struck me as an extremely large number, and the fact that they werent paid more than the rest of the workers (in general) seemed quite fair and sensible.

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Oct 26 2006 01:44

Right now the IWW only has one paid official (though occasionally organizers receive temporary stipends). However back in the 1910s delegates received a certain percentage of dues they collected (a very small amount). Also there's currently discussion of paying around 5,000/year to the newspaper editor - are there any who would see this is problematic? How so? (not that i'm endorsing it necessarily, just asking for debate).

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Oct 26 2006 01:50

I support it, I also think we should work towards having (modestly) paid organisers. The real question is how long they are kept in place, and what sort of accountability they have to the base. But maybe this should be in thought...

Catch 22
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Oct 26 2006 07:21

I think a modest stipend to people doing organizing work is perfectly fine. I mean hell, you're doing a ton of fucking work for the union, you might as well get some compensation. You could be working a second job, or relaxing in whatever time goes towards organizing.

The key is that organizers don't become permanent members of a bureaucracy, have clear accountability, can be recalled quickly and easily and are connected with the community of workers they seek to organize.

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Oct 26 2006 07:21
Feighnt wrote:
i didnt know people claimed it was only one person. i'd heard about folk being paid in the CNT - i never paid great attention to how many people precisely, but it never struck me as an extremely large number, and the fact that they werent paid more than the rest of the workers (in general) seemed quite fair and sensible.

that is not the position of many anarcho-syndicalists who always quote the "one paid staff in CNT" as a way to attack things like paid printers staff or admin staff. These discussions have taken place on libcom many times over and the same arguments used so often that no one questioned it.

Regarding paid organisers, even modestly paid, i would be against that and i think it would violate principles of self organising on a different level than paid admin or printing staff would. I would also be against paid general secretary of that position included any decision making power.

Feighnt
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Oct 26 2006 10:24
OliverTwister wrote:
Also there's currently discussion of paying around 5,000/year to the newspaper editor - are there any who would see this is problematic?

while i'm certainly no authority in this, as i've never even been in a *reformist* union sad

5000 bucks per year? that's really peanuts. if people want to pay newspaper editors or whoever that much, seems fine to me. i mean, who's gonna rush to take a job for that little money? only way you could live off of that is if you lived in the gutter.

as for paying other folk... i suppose i'd be fine with it, with some reservations, though. it would depend a lot on how much they were paid - nobody should make tons of money out of a union/syndicate, imo. but, enough for them to live on? that might be fine enough.

just to point out to anyone who didnt know/forgot: the prime reason (i think...) the CNT had any paid positions was because they deemed the workload of that particular job to be too high to be properly done if you had to work another job. so, i dont think paid positions should be attacked too vehemently (as long as they're not paid *loads* and, as EW suggested, they dont stay in their positions for too long)...

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Oct 26 2006 11:25

but surely organisers job is a different kind of animal? Isnt the starting point of anarcho-syndicalism a belief that every worker is an organiser? (i realise IWW is not a syndicalist union but anyway)

or what does the organiser do in US?

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Oct 26 2006 13:09
JDMF wrote:
(i realise IWW is not a syndicalist union but anyway)

You mean it's not a proper syndicalist union yet? wink

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Oct 27 2006 07:42

We don't have paid organizers - sometimes volunteer organizers receive a stipend, for 3 months or so (it's always a set time), but only when the workers in a locality democratically decide to do that, and come up with the money.

re: the newspaper editor. The idea isn't that it would be a full time job, but as something that takes a lot of time, less of a burden. If you calculated the time commitment, its still not very much money, but would make it a lot easier.

syndicalist
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Oct 27 2006 13:09

The most definative accounting of CNT paid staff is in Tom Wetzel's long, yet,informative piece), "Looking Back After 70 Years…"

"No sindicato unico in the CNT had any paid officials. Workers liked the anarchist idea that the common struggle should not become an avenue of personal careerism. Anarchists believed that paid officials encouraged workers to look to those leaders to solve their problems, and led to domination of unions by chiefs. In 1936 there were only a few paid officials in the CNT federation - the national secretary, the regional secretary of Catalonia, and the secretary of the national industrial union in the commercial fishing industry. These officials, and the staff of the CNT daily newspapers in Madrid and Barcelona, were paid an average worker's wage. The paid officials were also rotated from office after one year."

Tom further writes:

"In the early '30s the CNT metallurgical sindicato unico in Barcelona began paying Soledad Estorach a small stipend as an organizer. The union was worried about the lack of involvement of women workers in the union."

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=10703

Catch 22
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Oct 28 2006 08:30
JDMF wrote:
but surely organisers job is a different kind of animal? Isnt the starting point of anarcho-syndicalism a belief that every worker is an organiser? (i realise IWW is not a syndicalist union but anyway)

or what does the organiser do in US?

But JDMF the IWW has a long history of agitators and organizers. What separates us from the business unions is that our organizers are there to help amplify the self organization of the workers, rather than retard or control it. They may want to form a union and may want to organize around a militant line, but most probably they have no idea of who or what the IWW is and what the IWW does. Organizers then can serve as a good way to further self organization by putting workers in direct contact with the resources of the union local. They're less organizers and more facilitators.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 28 2006 12:50

So the IWW in the US has paid organisers?

Dundee_United
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Oct 28 2006 13:31

Paid organisers are a good thing [period]

C'mon average workers wage and instant recallability for someone who surely then has no excuse but to work a 70-80 hour week. How often have you seen people flake about coz they don't get paid to do the productive work of revolutionary organisations. A paid organiser has no excuse not to spend their waking moment advancing the struggle. if they're not doing that they should be replaced.

Debates aside about 'the dynamics' it sets up (nothing to my mind that can't be overcome without training and recallability) it would make any of our organisations more sucessful.

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Oct 28 2006 14:50
Catch 22 wrote:
They may want to form a union and may want to organize around a militant line, but most probably they have no idea of who or what the IWW is and what the IWW does. Organizers then can serve as a good way to further self organization by putting workers in direct contact with the resources of the union local. They're less organizers and more facilitators.

This is nonsense. If this were true, IWW locals during the IWW's zenith would have remained in place, rather than what actually happened - which was that they mainly just fell apart when the big strikes were over and the IWW organisers went to the next big fight.

Contrast this with the CNT, which had only one paid organiser ever and had relatively long-lasting stable (civil war notwithstanding) locals, centres and syndicates.

Having outside organisers come in and sign a bunch of non-revolutionaries into a "revolutionary" union is not "self-organisation" at all.

Dundee - history does not support your position, whether you say "period" or not.

I don't think havin paid organisers is a complete no-no in *all* circumstances, but in most cases it is. Saying they should be recallable is nice, but pretty meaningless in practice if they're the full-timers who run the organisation and are in effect irreplaceable.

Mike Harman
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Oct 28 2006 16:02
Jack wrote:
Especially as if you in practise tried to recall them, I'd presume they'd be protected under employment legislation?

One year's fixed term contract on one year probation. Problem solved.

wink

Dundee_United
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Oct 29 2006 15:37
Quote:
Having outside organisers come in and sign a bunch of non-revolutionaries into a "revolutionary" union is not "self-organisation" at all.

Yes. Indeed IWW also had the support they did because during thie period workplace struggle was heavily repressed while technically legal. As soon as workplace agitation became less repressed ordinary social democratic Joe fucked off and joined some social AFL-ie union.

IMO tho unions are never likely to actually be revolutionary tho. Better to have a 'radical' anti-social partnership style union that can win social democrats over, and have an anarchist platform within and agitation without.

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Dundee - history does not support your position, whether you say "period" or not.

Heh heh. Lol tongue

Quote:
I don't think havin paid organisers is a complete no-no in *all* circumstances, but in most cases it is. Saying they should be recallable is nice, but pretty meaningless in practice if they're the full-timers who run the organisation and are in effect irreplaceable.

Yes agree with that - this is the situation in the SSP.

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Oct 30 2006 18:42
Quote:
If this were true, IWW locals during the IWW's zenith would have remained in place, rather than what actually happened - which was that they mainly just fell apart when the big strikes were over and the IWW organisers went to the next big fight.

That would be a good point, if it were right.

1) Come on, we both know that historians are only interested in flashy things like strikes and will only talk about those, that doesn't mean we should assume the IWW had disappeared when there were no strikes. That's no different from saying "Women did nothing in the 1930s", simply because historians don't talk about them. You are buying into the chic "hobo wobbly" culture promoted by historians and punks who like to ignore everything else.

2) It is true that there were some areas where the IWW only led a strike and did not build lasting locals. However this is not due to the organizational faults of the IWW, it was due to the composition of the class in those areas - primarily we are discussing migrant agricultural workers.

3) You are completely ignoring the extremely stable organizations which were built, such as the Marine Transport Workers who controlled shipping in many US and international ports for a good number of years, or the Cleveland branch of the IWW which controlled industry in Cleveland until 1950.

booeyschewy
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Oct 31 2006 04:32

One thing to consider about paid organizers too is that on some level it can increase democracy. That is if the people doing the organizing are those with enough money, free time, etc., to do so it can lead to power imbalances. Having the option of short-term accountable subsidies or stipends for organizing can open the door to people who might otherwise be held back (people with kids, people with less money and a harder time moving around, etc).

that said i'm pretty hardline on no permanent or careerist organizers, and that any payments must be available broadly and rotating so as to develop workers' skills, not to make it easier for hyperactivists.

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Oct 31 2006 18:33

I'd be interested in comments from Boulcolonialboy and revol68 on this, since they had used the CNT as an example of mass organisations not needing paid admin staff?

I understand Boul's concerns about unions not being employers, since if external circumstances force it it may make them have to sack people or whatever, but if it's only a small number of people and they are all committed to the organisation and understand the dangers then it's not a shibboleth, is it?

BB
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Nov 1 2006 16:02
Dundee_United wrote:
Paid organisers are a good thing [period]

A paid organiser has no excuse not to spend their waking moment advancing the struggle. if they're not doing that they should be replaced.

How do you make sure they're being productive, and not posting on here, or is this productive...

Deezer
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Nov 1 2006 18:02
JDMF wrote:
funny how it has always been taken as something written in stone that CNT only had one paid worker and people have been arguing against newspapers, printing presses and what not having any paid staff always refering back to the "one dude" position.

No, this was markedly not my position, and this 'one dude' thing is not something thats ever come into my arguments with you and others on this topic. I said that I was opposed to paid staff no matter what the CNT may or may not have done historically and I was critical that this always becomes the decider in such debates. It suggests a lack of the use of critical faculties in the here and now.

Steven. wrote:
I'd be interested in comments from Boulcolonialboy and revol68 on this, since they had used the CNT as an example of mass organisations not needing paid admin staff?

I understand Boul's concerns about unions not being employers, since if external circumstances force it it may make them have to sack people or whatever, but if it's only a small number of people and they are all committed to the organisation and understand the dangers then it's not a shibboleth, is it?

Again see above. A small number of people, all 'committed' to the organisation, c'mon now. My point has always been that the union should not get into the position of being an employer. If the union is based at least on a recognition of the fundamental clash between the interests of workers and employers then the damaging contradiction in this should be blatantly obvious.

I am not opposed to 'collectives' paying workers, I am opposed to the union running them. Hence I am in favour of initiatives such as AK paying its members, I would not object either to a newspaper or magazine collective paying its members out of subscriptions received should we ever see one (or more) in these islands with a big enough income to manage that.

I would oppose an anarcho-syndicalist union using its dues to create these jobs and then have to sack folk when/if the publication becomes less popular.

So at least some of my point rests on a realisation that the anarcho-syndicalist union is not the entire movement for a start. Nor would membership of such collectives and membership of an anarcho-syndicalist union be mutually exclusive.

Solid;

Boul

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Jun 7 2007 14:20

I realize that this thread has been dead for awhile. I'm really interested in learning more about paid officials in the CNT. I've reading Abel Paz's biography on Durruti over the last couple of weeks and in the book it looks like the CNT had a number of paid positions (primarily administrators for local and national unions). Paz doesn't deal with the issue directly. He just casually mentions it. Is there someone out there who either knows more about the subject or can point me to a source (in Spanish is fine) beyond Wetzel's article?

IrrationallyAngry
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Jun 7 2007 14:37

Looking at the examples mentioned I would guess that a large majority of the CNT fulltimers were editors and staff on the various publications - and if I remember correctly there was more than one CNT daily paper and a range of other publications. Even leaving aside the other officials mentioned, the national committee secretarial staff and so on, we must be talking about dozens of fulltimers involved in journalism and editorial functions alone and many more if the CNT had its own printshops.