This an interview with a CNT member working in the shipyard of Seville in March 2004. At a time when there was an attempt to close many of the shipyards in Spain, which met fierce resistance from the workers and thier local communities.
- P: Can you tell us who you are?
- R: I am a worker of the auxiliary industry of the shipyard of Seville, although to talk about it as an auxiliary industry doesn’t seem right to me when we are responsible for 80% of ship production. I am also a member of the CNT union branch in the shipyard. In this interview I am expressing my own opinion, I am not acting as a spokesman.
- P: Is it true that the naval sector is in crisis? Where does this crisis come from?
- R: The crisis is not happening because of a lack of competitiveness, from high costs or competition from other shipyards. The crisis is caused by the incompetence of the bureaucracy in the shipyards. We can point the finger at certain individuals in politically appointed positions, and negligent penpushers who instead of looking for markets, orders, sales, or reaching agreements with REPSOL...[oil company], they stand around with their mouths open catching flies. We have shown that we have finished ships before our deadlines. The problem is not due to a of lack of competitiveness, we have shown that. What we are demanding from the directors of the Shipyard is that they do their work, they get the orders in, they don’t wait around for the orders to fall from the sky like rain.
- P: Have you offered any alternative plans for keeping the shipyards open?
- R: No
- P: Can you explain?
- R: We do not have to offer an alternative to a crisis that they have created themselves. It’s a mistake to enter into negotiations about reorganization, dismissals, undercover closures and productivity increases. If they want plans, let them rack their brains, and we'll make sure that we stand up to them if it doesn't suit us.
- P: Are you present in the negotiations?
- R: We have not been interested so far. The forums that are open lack decision-making ability, and the people that go there just go to talk and pose, or to take their cut like the IU [Izquirda Unita - United Left, a coalition of Leninist Parties] and the PSOE [Partido Socialista Obrero Español – Spanish “Socialist” Workers Party, a social democratic Party, like the Labour Party] do. The unions of the company committee are just there to waste time. We must construct another type of unionism [sindicalismo] outside this environment, in the periphery.
- P: What is the composition of forces in the company committee?
- R: In the Shipyard of Seville only 300 people work for the IZAR group, the old Spanish Shipyards company [Astilleros Españoles]. The Shipyards have undergone a conversion process over the last twenty years that has made the auxiliary industry dominant. In the auxiliary industry companies we have 1100 workers. However, the company committee remains an IZAR committee, because the auxiliary companies lack these organisations, or if they do have them they are inoperative. In the IZAR committee the CC.OO [Comisiones Obreras – Workers Commission, the biggest trade union confederation in Spain] has been running the show for thirty years. They win elections time and time again because they have built a network of clients in the company where everybody gets "favours".
- P: What is the influence of the CNT?
- R: CNT has a union branch that organizes through its affiliates in the Shipyard. Our arguments are receiving a good welcome in the assemblies and we have influenced several hundred workers. This is not propaganda, it is the truth.
- P: How do you exert that influence?
- R: We explain our positions and avoid turning into a vanguard. We oppose the instability of our working situation, and we demonstrate for the maintenance of employment and the dignity of the workers. When we are sure that people are ready for action, we are the first to join them. We try and get people to express themselves and fight for their rights at the margins, not through the “suits” and their cultured words. We have an influence because our message is expressed by people who do things, rather than by mere spokesmen. We are also determined to fight for union freedom, for the rights that are being held hostage by the system of company committees (where they exist), and by repression and fear in the auxiliary companies where there are no committees. That is what we say and that’s why we have our influence.
- P: Which is the role of the IZAR committee in this conflict?
- R: The role of the committee is the role of the State Metalworkers Federation of the CC.OO - that is to try and cool down the industrial action. They do have influence in IZAR, but they don’t have control over the auxiliary industry. They are scared of a conflict arising in the auxiliary industry, since they would lack representation there and a conflict could ignite. That is my opinion.
- P: What is the relationship between the company committee and the CNT in the shipyard?
- R: In general, one of mutual respect. On some occasions there have been very serious confrontations, when we have seen that they held back the industrial action.
- P: What resources can the CNT branch count on, if you lack representation on the company committee and don’t fight elections? How can you negotiate in those conditions?
- R: Our resources are those of our branch, those of CNT Seville, and of the CNT in Andalusia and Spain, plus whatever forces the workers lend to us when they carry our banners, plus the solidarity of people who support us. To have all that we did not need to participate in the union elections. Negotiations do not depend on anything other than force. We have no legal representation, yet our opinions are still considered. In order to make Anarcho-Syndicalism the only thing you need is militancy. I don’t know if this will sound very dogmatic, but it I see it happening and I practice it. Where has [traditional] trade unionism got us after twenty years of State handouts, subsidies and the representative system?
- P: In the last few years CNT Seville has gained a lot of prominence with a series of both large and small conflicts, for example in the shipyard...
- R: I believe that the importance of CNT Seville is less than that of the dozens of other branches of the CNT that are battling courageously all across Spain at the moment. This is about the CNT generally, not about CNT Seville.
- P: It is true that the yards construct ships for the military?
- R: In Seville we did not work on any type of military project. There are shipyards in Cartagena and Galicia that do work for the military. Personally, I think if that happened in Seville, we would take them to task. Working for the police, the military, or constructing ships for the Navy, I believe that this is all very similar. I think that there are better ways to make a living.
- P: Have you considered self-managing the Shipyard?
- R: No. I believe that that would be very complicated at the moment. In order to arrive at that point we need more experience. We can see that.
- P: What type of industrial action you are planning?
- R: There is a calendar of industrial action that we are planning, with strikes, demonstrations, etc.
- P: Why is there a climate of confrontation with the police?
- R: What do you expect the climate to be? The police are agents of the Government. They make it impossible for the conflict to remain within the shipyard, and then whenever we try to demonstrate in the city they crush us with all their resources.
Spent police ammunition collected by Sevilla CNT
- P: But in the press and on the TV there are images of the workers throwing devices at the police...
- R: I don’t know what you want me to say. What do expect them to throw? Flowers? You notice that they don’t show what the police are throwing at us: rubber balls and new kinds of tear gas. Dozens of our comrades have passed through the casualty department of the Virgen del Rocío [hospital in Seville]. There are a couple of them who may have irreversible eye injuries. The police arrive all hooded-up, with body armour, masks, riot shields, armored cars, spy cameras, tanks, electric cattle prods, shotguns… they bring everything. Next they enter the factory and they smash it up: they demolish fences, they destroy machinery, they dent cars, they break windscreens, they shoot bullets and they create a state of terror. If they issued the order for them to kill us, then they would kill us. Nobody can say that the workers have responded equally. The only police that had problems were two that were hit by rockets from somewhere. But you see, these things happen. It must be clear: we are workers exercising our rights: the right to strike, the right to demonstrate and express ourselves, the right to the work, the right to unionise, and the right to live with dignity. Those that use violence to take away those rights are the representatives of the State. Those who defend their rights, they do not make violence.
Translated by Jim Bradley.
This translation originally appeared at http//:red-star-research.org.uk/rpm/entrevista.html
with addition pictures.
Original article in Spanish can be found at http://www.cnt.es/sevilla/asti3.html