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Were there workers' councils in Spain?

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Steven.
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Jul 7 2006 17:07
Manu Garcia wrote:
More lies without knowing, from the more absolute ignorance. Is this the ICC usual line?

Manu - thanks for clearing that stuff up, the ICC's statement did sound like bollocks, particularly with respect to standing in union elections which we all know they split with the CGT over. The biggest problem I have with the ICC is their lies about anarchists. I'm not sure if they're mostly ignorance or deliberate...

redtwister
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Jul 7 2006 17:40
davethemagicweasel wrote:
redtwister wrote:
In a revolutionary situation, localism can just as easily be a problem because the issue is not "all of the workers doing their own thing" or "democratic agreement". The issue is the overthrow of capital, which means a certain unity in action and the possibility of the most militant and radical wing of the class leading or at least cementing the action of the class as a whole against capital, militates against any formalistic adherence to localism.

This is part of the role of the historical party of the class. From my point of view, to talk the of the party of the class, in this context, as anything other than an outgrowth of the class struggle, of the natural tendency towards unification and association in struggle, is nonsense. Such a historical party cannot be built, it comes into existence out of the need for class unity.

Surely whether the issue is the overthrow of capital, its taking over and managing by the workers themselves or any other of the numerous possible courses open to the workers wlll be an issue to be decided by the workers themselves, not by a bunch of self-described revolutionaries prior to the revolution. I personally think it should be about taking control over our own lives, not about the fulfilment of a specific political program.

The issue of the content of communism is not a choice. It is not a democratic question. Either communism is the abolition of capitalist social relations (value, money, commodities, the state, etc.) or it isn't. If you can show me another conception that is not managementist, statist or mutualist capitalm, if you can show me another content, please do.

For my part, I do not see what "workers managing themselves" has to do with it. Workers abolishing their status as workers, as wage-labor, as commodity producers and therefore as producers of exchange-value, that is the process we must self-manage. The construction of social relations in which we are no longer workers, that is the process we must self-manage. But it is a class, a global, task, not one we can decide to follow or not. Commuism is for the whole enchilada. And as a global, universal class, the proletariat has a right to fight against even workers who would re-impose the social relations of capital through self-management schemes or as bodies in the armed violence of organized capital, which will certainly put aside its national differences, as it always has, in suppressing us.

For example,

- Paris Commune. Did the French bourgeoisie defend French workers, take a nationalist position or did they act as agents of global capital and hand us over to German troops and then the Germans handed back the whole French army to finish the job?

- Spain. Did the "democratic" nations US, France and Britain take up arms against Franco the fascist supporter of their "enemy", German and Italian fascism? Nope, they handed us over, in the name of anti-fascism and democracy. The predicate of democracy is capital in their eyes and rightly so, even if it requires the judiscious support of fascism to enforce it.

- Russia. Did the warring imperialist powers squabble over who was winning the war or did they all "do their part" in supporting the White armies, and eventually the Bolsheviks, once they realized the Bolshies were not so much of a threat (the Treaty of Rapallo and the re-opening of limited trade relations come to mind as the first, tentative steps in that process, as does the co-ordination with national liberations, like Chiang Kai-Shek)?

I have explained my notion of the party in the previous post, so I hope you understand I am not claiming that such a party is the product or the plaything of some group of cadre assholes or technocratic professionals. It is not even a "communist" party in the sense that it must adopt a communist "program", but in the sense that it expresses the historical programme of communism: the abolition of class society.

This programme is not some document written by a group, but the historical critique of capital, from Marx's Capital, Critique of the Gotha Program, etc. to Bakunin's work, to Pannekoek and Gorter's stuff and the KAPD program, and so on. It is the critique of capital that refuses to compromise with capital, that refuses to act as its left-wing. It is our total intellectual and political inheritance, not a list of demands and positions. And it either expresses in ideas the material critique of capital by the actual movement of the class, however incompletely or partially, or it is nothing. It is not the property of an intellectual or a group of intellectuals or a group or a tendency. It is not "Marxist" or "Anarchist", it is communist. And it is not finished until capital is. As such, it is open-ended and one part of the class struggle. This is why I am loathe to call myself a Marxist. I refuse these sectarian, anti-communist lines of demarcation.

Cheers,

Chris

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Volin
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Jul 8 2006 00:14
John wrote:
The biggest problem I have with the ICC is their lies about anarchists. I'm not sure if they're mostly ignorance or deliberate...

Aye, after reading the stuff they have about 'anarchists' on their website, I'm actually amazed how dogmatically caricaturing they are. I especially loved their essay on "The German/Dutch Left isn't a Branch of Anarchism' (strangely similar to 'Left Communism isn't a Part of Anarchism' - they must've be feeling threatened.) Apparently, like we've not heard this before, only 'marxism' is, "able to apply a historical and dynamic analysis which makes it possible to grasp the real movement of the proletarian struggle" whereas anarchism is just, "abstract, timeless and [based in] idealist principles". Funny how, more and more, 'anarchists' seem to read Marx and marxist writers interchangeably with traditional anarchists or that the two tendencies weave together so much for us that they no longer appear to be distinct. Our 'principles', for example, are not a metaphysical morality, but for the individual as much as the social collective, are an experiential and rational orientation to our reality of struggle (like why we've always discouraged voting, objected to irrational authority etc.). None of this should be fetishised or seem in divergence with our immediate and long-term goals. And why do anarchists feel they have to reject accusations of being 'idealistic' (in the passionate, human sense) as though we should spurn it for an antiquated objective analysis? How this at odds with the "self-realisation of the human"?

At core, anything of worth in either anarchism or marxism deal with the same social questions - fundamentally they represent the same movement for communism.

redtwister wrote:
This programme is not some document written by a group, but the historical critique of capital, from Marx's Capital, Critique of the Gotha Program, etc. to Bakunin's work, to Pannekoek and Gorter's stuff and the KAPD program, and so on.

I like your posts as usual, Chris. 8)

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Alf
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Jul 9 2006 13:18

I'm not going to try to answer the post from Manu Garcia because I am not acquainted with the details in dispute. Hopefully our Spanish comrade will come back on this.

But leaving aside those particular issues, what 'lies about anarchism' by the ICC are you referring to exactly, John?

The posts from Redtwister are very clear on some points - the international nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the necessity to eliminate capitalist social relations. But I don't agree with those formulations which express an underestimation of the question of organisation.This applies both to workers' councils and the political organisation.

The workers' councils appeared because of a fundamental need in the class struggle at a certain point in its history - the need to centralise and unite a mass strike movement. Unless the mass strike is no longer the prelude to the next revolution, then workers' councils are still on the agenda. This is confirmed in practise by the mass strikes in Poland in 1980 in particular, where central strike committees were formed to centralise the various workers' assemblies that appeared throughout the country. It is also confirmed by all the other movements which have given rise to general assemblies, most recently the movement in France this spring and the strikes in Vigo this summer. The general assembly prefigures the councils of the future because a council is simply a central assembly of delegates from more local assemblies. Historical changes in the contours of the working class may change the organisational focus of the assemblies to some degree - for example, in Vigo, they held 'public assemblies' on the streets to bring together workers from a number of small enterprises; the assemblies in France were based on the universities but began to open out to the waged workers. But when we are faced with much more widespread struggles there will be an imperative need for the assemblies to unite and the council is the obvious form for doing that. In fact, at a certain moment it would be necessary for revolutionaries to call precisely for that.

It should go without saying that the council form is not enough they will still express a great heterogeneity of consciousness and there will be huge political confrontations within them, above all between those who really stand for the power of the councils and those whose function is to derail them and annex them to the bourgeois state in its various guises (like the SPD in Germany in 1918 - that will certainly be the role of the leftists in any future revolution).

That takes me to another point raised in Redtwister's post - the need for a distinct organisation of revolutionaries, which in our view is needed to fight for communist ideas and measures within the assemblies and councils. In the view put forward in his posts, at least as I understand it, the party is not a 'formal' organisation but defines itself in practise as the 'real' vanguard, and can be expressed either in diverse political groups or as the most radical elements of the class wide organs, or both at the same time. This seems to have a dual disadvantage of dissolving the party into the class, while at the same time being open to a highly substitutionist interpretation. However, I think this discussion is probably a bit off topic and perhaps could be taken up elsewhere.

Skraeling
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Jul 10 2006 03:00

i'm gonna return to the issue of "localism" because i thinks its quite important, and sort of shows where i think anarchist communism maybe more appropriate than left communism. also i should have replied to this much earlier but never seemed to have the time.

redtwister wrote:
First of all, while it is certainly true that communism will involve all kinds of levels of organization and what can be done at the most local level should be done at the most local level, that is by the people directly implicatd in it, there is nothing to say that revolution implies starting from the backyard, as you put it.

Localism, that is the fetish that local is somehow better, more communist, etc strikes me as a very bourgeois prejudice, akin to that of looking towards a "Town Hall" model of local democracy. In United States history it is patently obvious that bowing to localism would mean bowing to the worst prejudices, to extreme narrowness, to white supremacy, to small town cupidity and suburban fragmentation. Localism and extremely strong federalism was always the hallmark of the racist, white right wing, and it is so today in the U.S., and goes hand-in-hand with a most perniscious national chauvinist centralist militarism.

i think this misses the point really. we're talking about a revolutionary situation here, such as Spain in 1936, where there is a massive upsurge of proletarian self-activity and creativity, and an awful lot of quite radical local and largely spontaneous action happening.

but anyway, i think it is dismissive to claim localism is inherently bourgeois and narrow and whatnot. Yes in the US today (or where i live, New Zealand or 'Noo Zealand' as it is pronounced in the US) you are quite right. But it depends on the content of local action. If a bunch of supposedly backward, stupid and religious Aragonese peasants get together and expropriate the expropriators, run the local landlords and priests out of town, chuck out the police and other representatives of the state, abolish money and produce and distribute stuff for free, i think that is super super fantastic. And such local action is not neccessarily narrow; there is a tendency to link up with other workplaces and communities doing the same thing (though i suppose from a left communist position, its silly to suggest communism can be achieved in one locality, as for left commies it is global or it is nothing, right?)

while i reject making a fetish out of localism or decentralisation, and claiming localism is radical for all times and places (in the end, it does depend on the content of local action), i cannot see how in revolutionary circumstances, you can possibly achieve communism without massive, widespread local action. this is what a lot of Leninists and their ilk seem to miss. They distrust the local action of people, becuause they dont want it to get out of their control. This is basically what Kropotkin to me is saying. I'll quote him again, this time from a letter he wrote to Lenin in 1920:

Kropotkin wrote:
What are necessary and needed are local institutions, local forces; but there are none, anywhere. Instead of this, wherever one turns there are people who have never known anything of real life, who are committing the gravest errors which have been paid for with thousands of lives and the ravaging of entire districts.

Consider the supply of firewood, or that of last season’s spring seed...

Without the participation of local forces, without an organization from below of the peasants and workers themselves, it is impossible to build a new life.

It would seem that the soviets should have served precisely this function of creating an organization from below. But Russia has already become a Soviet Republic only in name. The influx and taking over of the people by the tonguearty,” that is, predominantly the newcomers (the ideological communists are more in the urban centers), has already destroyed the influence and constructive energy of this promising institution – the soviets. At present, it is the party committees, not the soviets, who rule in Russia. And their organization suffers from the defects of bureaucratic organization.

To move away from the current disorder, Russia must return to the creative genius of local forces which as I see it, can be a factor in the creation of a new life.

from http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/kropotlenindec203.html

now i think Kropotkin is essentially correct. I cannot see how you can build communism without local action. I don't think Kropotkin suffers from some sort of bourgeois town hall democracy mentality at all. Are you confusing him with Bookchin and libertarian municipalism? (he did romanticise the Russian mir a wee bit tho). But in the above letter he is basically advocating the unfettered rule of the soviets. and in the previous quote he was taken very much by the sections of the Paris Commune, which were his model for many years.

(on the other hand, i should say its equally important to note that you cannot achieve communism without widespread, well coordinated, and unified or generalised communist action across regions and "nations" and continents and the globe - local and regional "centralised" action do hand in hand really in the end)

Quote:
You could object that the content is different, but I think that would beg the question that what really matters is not federalism or localism versus centralism, but the content of each at any given moment, of what class interests they serve.

yes, totally agree. that's what i'm kind of saying above.

some other brief notes:

on the question of the party Chris talks about, why do you talk about just one party? why not many parties or organisations? i think to talk of just one party, now matter how nuanced and cleverly you put it, leads to ambiguity, namely it could be interpreted as recommended a monolithic organisaiton that attempts to synthesise all activity under its command. or maybe i just dont get this concept of organic unity yet.

on the question of federalism, as i understand it, the anarchist communist concept of federalism does actually differ from the left communist one. as i understand it, the chief aim of a "central" committee or soviet would under anarchist communism act as a mere co-ordination body of activity from below. it has no powers as such, just the power of recommendation. each local section or council or committee or whatever-you-call-it has autonomy in that they are able to disagree or ignore the recommendations of the regional or "central" soviet. as i understand it, left communists disagree, and say this disrupts unity and what not (not so i say, you can have unity without centralised discipline). the central committee must be obeyed at all times huh! call this anarchist commie federalism bourgeois "do you own thingism" if you like! but i cannot see how communism can be free if it doesnt allow local autonomy (among other things).

as regards councilism, i agree one should make a fetish out of councils, but i think i'm moving away from a Gilles Dauve like position that content is always more important than form. he is reacting to those who idealise councils, which is fair enough, but i think he goes too far and overreacts a wee bit. i think the two (communist content and councils (or whatever you want to call them)) are supplementary. you can't have one without the other. but i haven't really developed my view on this very well at all.

what about the popular assemblies in Argentina a few years back? were they a proto-form of workers councils in their modern day form? or a bit too bourgeois, as they involved "middle class" elements and were often in "middle class" neighbourhoods?

Rick Rhodas
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Jul 11 2006 07:51

I am the comrade from Spain who wrote to Alf about CNT; I would like to reply to Manu García. There are quotes in spanish; perharps someone could translate them to english better than me.

1.- The main point is about the very nature of the CNT. It is presented as it was a direct expression from the workers’ struggle. That’s why Oliver T. says “most CNT shops, at least, could be described as being similar to workers' councils in practice.”, concerning the 1936 experience, or “say that prior to the revolution the purpose of the CNT is to intervene in, strengthen, and initiate workers struggle”, concerning the situation today.

So what it is said is CNT = the workers in struggle; but CNT is a union, it exists everyday, even when the workers are not fighting. It doesn’t represent the whole of the working class in struggle, but concrete unionist positions. The CNT, nor now, neither in the past, is supporting the mass strike dynamic, but the unionist struggle (in fact they are opposed, as R. Luxemburg showed in “Mass strike, unions and the party” and we can discuss longer on that question), that’s why, some people unable to understand this, is also unable to understand the possibility of spontaneous strikes outside and sometimes confronted to the unions (including the CNT as a union). The CNT is for the assemblies, or demonstrations, or whatever, but through the unionist prism, even if it could be the most radical unionist prism.

2.-Concerning the SEAT strike last December, Was it spontaneous or conducted by the CGT?

To begin with, even the own CGT doesn’t dare to say the union was conducting the struggle. That’s what they said in its site:

«los delegados de CGT estuvimos presentes en esos paros»; They talked about what the union did as «canalizar el descontento que la plantilla demostró el pasado 23 de diciembre»

Was the union thinking about going to the strike immediately? That is what it was saying in December:

«CGT informaremos la próxima semana de la convocatoria que realizaremos a primeros de Enero para coordinar a los/as afectados ante la problemática que se les viene encima» (16 Diciembre)

On the other hand, this is what two workers testified after the strike:

Worker one:«Hace casi un mes que se anunciaron los despedidos y aún no hay una campaña importante para que se reincorporen los despedidos. Parece que la CGT no se dio cuenta (no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver) que la patronal declaró la guerra a los trabajadores. Aún no se editó una octavilla, ni un cartel. Sólo organizó 2 asambleas con 2 pobres manifestaciones a Pza España ¿Esto es lo único que pudimos hacer desde el 22/12 cuando se dijo quienes iban a ser los despedidos?» (posted in Kaosenlared)

Worker two: «Soy trabajadora de SEAT, de las que por el momento han tenido suerte. Desde que salieron las listas de los/as despedidos en esta web no me pierdo ni un día de leer el foro. Cada día estoy más confusa, y me siento engañada por todos los sindicatos y lo digo con causa porque mi compañero de piso estuvo como delegado en uno independiente y se venden igual que todos y no podéis llegar a imaginar los chanchullos que hay entre ellos y la empresa. Al final todos a comer con la empresa y no se libra ninguno. LO SIENTO PERO ESA ES LA CONCLUSION FINAL QUE SACO, ME SIENTO ENGAÑADA....» (Idem)

You can read more about these questions in the ICC paper in Spain:

http://es.internationalism.org/ap/2006/187_leccionesSEAT

http://es.internationalism.org/ap/2006/187_SEATintv

Manu García, I would like to pose a question to you: Do you think for the workers struggle to begin would be always required a minority organizing it previously? Do you think the workers themselves are unable to develop their own organization during the struggle? Do they need “organizers” to do it?

3.- As the CNT is not the whole of the working class in struggle, it should be admitted the possibility for

the workers to disagree with its proposals, as it was the case in Puerto Real in 1987. It is true that CNT didn’t sign any agreement (the workers refuse avoided it), but they got involved in the agreements discussions with the bosses, not in the name of the workers assemblies, but called by the government and the INI (“National Industrial Institute”) and together with the traitors unions (UGT,CCOO, CAT) in the shop committee (“comité de empresa), as you can still read here http://www.hesperides.org/7entidades/cgt-35.htm, in a text written as it is said by someone being 15 years a CNT militant

«…la Junta y el Gobierno Central preparan una reunión con el INI y los sindicatos representativos de la factoría para el 21 de mayo en Madrid. Pero el gobierno y el INI reconocen la poca influencia de los representantes legales del comité de empresa, y [u]piden a la CNT que acuda a la reunión [/u]pese a no haber pasado por las elecciones sindicales. El INI y el gobierno insistirán en la necesidad de desconvocar las manifestaciones sin dar contrapartidas. Hablan de que están en proyecto el contratar barcos, buenas expectativas... No se llegó a ningún tipo de acuerdo. En sus declaraciones a la prensa, el INI y la UGT se manifiestan optimistas y satisfechos. El CAT y CCOO dispuestas a continuar las manifestaciones. La opinión de la CNT no es recogida por la prensa.» (our souligned)

So, were the CNT delegates elected in the assemblies? Which concrete mandate were they defending from the assemblies? If we look to the assemblies in the 70s in Spain, or Poland 1980, they discussed the proposals and elected delegates directly from the assemblies; it could be the case that among the delegates there were unionist militants honest, able to get the confidence from their comrades, but the important thing is that the fight and the negotiations rested in the hands of the workers; when they were cut off them, became immediately controlled by the bosses.

Concerning the 2nd meeting with the unions and the bosses, in Jerez, as it is said, it arrived to any kind of agreement which, as it was presented to the workers, was “hardly” criticized:

«De un tiempo a esta parte se están produciendo de manera sistemática, continua y premeditada, todo tipo de insultos, amenazas y coacciones a los miembros del comité de empresa y a los sindicatos que forman parte de él con el solo objetivo de desprestigiarlo» En la misma nota aclaran el incidente con los pintores, que califican de «gravísimo», e informan de que las agresiones se produjeron cuando los sindicalistas estaban explicando las negociaciones con la empresa. Estas se habían llevado a cabo en base al acuerdo suscrito en Jerez el 27 de mayo...»(El correo de Cádiz) (our souligned)

Was the CNT in the meeting in Jerez, 7 days after being convoked “by the government and the INI” in Madrid, caused by the poor representativiness of the big unions?

Manu Garcia
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Jul 11 2006 11:44

Hi again.

Quote:
1.- The main point is about the very nature of the CNT. It is presented as it was a direct expression from the workers’ struggle. That’s why Oliver T. says “most CNT shops, at least, could be described as being similar to workers' councils in practice.”, concerning the 1936 experience, or “say that prior to the revolution the purpose of the CNT is to intervene in, strengthen, and initiate workers struggle”, concerning the situation today.

So what it is said is CNT = the workers in struggle; but CNT is a union, it exists everyday, even when the workers are not fighting. It doesn’t represent the whole of the working class in struggle, but concrete unionist positions. The CNT, nor now, neither in the past, is supporting the mass strike dynamic, but the unionist struggle (in fact they are opposed, as R. Luxemburg showed in “Mass strike, unions and the party” and we can discuss longer on that question), that’s why, some people unable to understand this, is also unable to understand the possibility of spontaneous strikes outside and sometimes confronted to the unions (including the CNT as a union). The CNT is for the assemblies, or demonstrations, or whatever, but through the unionist prism, even if it could be the most radical unionist prism.

This is a left communist point of view of the revolutionarian process, not an anarchist point of view. This, anyway, would be theme for another discussion. We are now talking about concrete facts. You are trying to prove with them that EVERY union or permanent organisation (not the ICC, I suppose) is against the interests of workers. Let´s go and see:

Quote:
Concerning the SEAT strike last December, Was it spontaneous or conducted by the CGT?

To begin with, even the own CGT doesn’t dare to say the union was conducting the struggle. That’s what they said in its site:

«los delegados de CGT estuvimos presentes en esos paros»; They talked about what the union did as «canalizar el descontento que la plantilla demostró el pasado 23 de diciembre»

Was the union thinking about going to the strike immediately? That is what it was saying in December:

«CGT informaremos la próxima semana de la convocatoria que realizaremos a primeros de Enero para coordinar a los/as afectados ante la problemática que se les viene encima» (16 Diciembre)

On the other hand, this is what two workers testified after the strike:

Worker one:«Hace casi un mes que se anunciaron los despedidos y aún no hay una campaña importante para que se reincorporen los despedidos. Parece que la CGT no se dio cuenta (no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver) que la patronal declaró la guerra a los trabajadores. Aún no se editó una octavilla, ni un cartel. Sólo organizó 2 asambleas con 2 pobres manifestaciones a Pza España ¿Esto es lo único que pudimos hacer desde el 22/12 cuando se dijo quienes iban a ser los despedidos?» (posted in Kaosenlared)

Worker two: «Soy trabajadora de SEAT, de las que por el momento han tenido suerte. Desde que salieron las listas de los/as despedidos en esta web no me pierdo ni un día de leer el foro. Cada día estoy más confusa, y me siento engañada por todos los sindicatos y lo digo con causa porque mi compañero de piso estuvo como delegado en uno independiente y se venden igual que todos y no podéis llegar a imaginar los chanchullos que hay entre ellos y la empresa. Al final todos a comer con la empresa y no se libra ninguno. LO SIENTO PERO ESA ES LA CONCLUSION FINAL QUE SACO, ME SIENTO ENGAÑADA....» (Idem)

The iniciatives of struggle against the dismissals at SEAT has been taken, principally, by CGT workers. It can be done critiques to its action, but the truth (I repeat, I am not from the CGT and I am in disagree with their tactics, but I have to recognise the truth, not sell what I´d like that were true...) is that the more combative workers are, the most of them, members of that union.

Probably, much more things could be done, but the workers, at this moment, are not doing them... it is sad but true. It is clear, we could make illusions and say that they are close to defeat capitalism... but we would be deceiving ourselves. Confusing dreams with reality is not sane nor revolutionary.

Quote:
Do you think for the workers struggle to begin would be always required a minority organizing it previously?

NO, but when that minority (or mayority) exist, we can´t conceal it due to our idelogical point of view. This is not ethic.

Quote:
Do you think the workers themselves are unable to develop their own organization during the struggle?

Of course, I think that we the workers can (and must) organise our struggles, during them and (why not?) before them.

Quote:
Do they need “organizers” to do it?

No, I don´t think so. We the workers should be always organised to answer the attacks and to attack, we don´t need nobody to organise us. We can develop our autonom organisations (unions, councils, call them as you want, the fact is the same) without bosses. That is a basic principle of revolutionarian unionism.

Quote:
As the CNT is not the whole of the working class in struggle, it should be admitted the possibility for

the workers to disagree with its proposals

Of course!

Quote:
as it was the case in Puerto Real in 1987

This is not truth. I encourage you to prove that.

Quote:
It is true that CNT didn’t sign any agreement

Well, you recognise that. Your comrade said the opposite, as you can see... THE CNT NEVER SIGNS NOTHING THAT HAS NOT BEEN DECIDED BY THE WORKERS´ ASSEMBLEY. You have recognise that your comrade was in a mistake. I encourage you to show us any case in what this CNT principle has not been fulfilled.

Quote:
they got involved in the agreements discussions with the bosses, not in the name of the workers assemblies, but called by the government and the INI (“National Industrial Institute”) and together with the traitors unions (UGT,CCOO, CAT) in the shop committee (“comité de empresa)

First of all: CNT workers went to that reunion to express their particular point of view about the conflict (that was, by the way, and I encourage you to prove the opposite, the majoritarian in the assembley), THEY DIDN´T GO TO SIGN ANYTHING, THIS ONLY CAN BE DONE BY A MANDATE OF THE ASSEMBLY. THE CNT DOESN´T DECIDE IN THE NAME OF ANYBODY.

Quote:
Concerning the 2nd meeting with the unions and the bosses, in Jerez, as it is said, it arrived to any kind of agreement which, as it was presented to the workers, was “hardly” criticized:

«De un tiempo a esta parte se están produciendo de manera sistemática, continua y premeditada, todo tipo de insultos, amenazas y coacciones a los miembros del comité de empresa y a los sindicatos que forman parte de él con el solo objetivo de desprestigiarlo» En la misma nota aclaran el incidente con los pintores, que califican de «gravísimo», e informan de que las agresiones se produjeron cuando los sindicalistas estaban explicando las negociaciones con la empresa. Estas se habían llevado a cabo en base al acuerdo suscrito en Jerez el 27 de mayo...»(El correo de Cádiz) (our souligned)

Hehehe this is really good, arguments for me. The attacks against the unionists that have signed against the workers (the text said it clear against who was the attack: "the unions who take part at the Comité de Empresa") came, precisely, from the CNT workers and sympathizers. The CNT, of course, didn´t sign.

Quote:
Was the CNT in the meeting in Jerez, 7 days after being convoked “by the government and the INI” in Madrid, caused by the poor representativiness of the big unions?

NO. The CNT wasn´t there. The government knew, after hear the position of the CNT, that the accord could be only signed and applied by the Comité de Empresa.

That´s all? Do you need that I explain something more? I wait

Salud

Rick Rhodas
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Jul 14 2006 09:09

Manu García wrote:

Quote:

Hi again.

    Quote:

1.- The main point is about the very nature of the CNT. It is presented as it was a direct expression from the workers’ struggle. That’s why Oliver T. says “most CNT shops, at least, could be described as being similar to workers' councils in practice.”, concerning the 1936 experience, or “say that prior to the revolution the purpose of the CNT is to intervene in, strengthen, and initiate workers struggle”, concerning the situation today.

So what it is said is CNT = the workers in struggle; but CNT is a union, it exists everyday, even when the workers are not fighting. It doesn’t represent the whole of the working class in struggle, but concrete unionist positions. The CNT, nor now, neither in the past, is supporting the mass strike dynamic, but the unionist struggle (in fact they are opposed, as R. Luxemburg showed in “Mass strike, unions and the party” and we can discuss longer on that question), that’s why, some people unable to understand this, is also unable to understand the possibility of spontaneous strikes outside and sometimes confronted to the unions (including the CNT as a union). The CNT is for the assemblies, or demonstrations, or whatever, but through the unionist prism, even if it could be the most radical unionist prism.

This is a left communist point of view of the revolutionarian process, not an anarchist point of view. This, anyway, would be theme for another discussion. We are now talking about concrete facts. You are trying to prove with them that EVERY union or permanent organisation (not the ICC, I suppose) is against the interests of workers. Let´s go and see:

What we are trying to discuss, is whether unionism (any kind of it; even when it is not represented by a union as such, but by baseunionism networks as could be COBAS in Italy, or that called “Xarxas” in Cataluña) is a valid way for the working class struggle in this historical period. And all along this century we have seen, from 1905 on, that the main workers struggles have been developed outside the unions, conducted by massive assemblies becoming councils in the revolutionary time, with elected and revocable delegates, in a mass strike dynamic. Besides the Russian experience, we can remember Mayo 1968 in France, Vitoria 1976 in Spain, Poland 1980, or the springtime struggle in France this year, or the recent strike in Vigo (Spain) etc

Could we talk about a particular unionist way to pose the struggle similar in every unionist structure apart from the degree of radicalism in its discourses and actions? I think this is a good question.

Manu García wrote:

Quote:

The iniciatives of struggle against the dismissals at SEAT has been taken, principally, by CGT workers. It can be done critiques to its action, but the truth (I repeat, I am not from the CGT and I am in disagree with their tactics, but I have to recognise the truth, not sell what I´d like that were true...) is that the more combative workers are, the most of them, members of that union.

Probably, much more things could be done, but the workers, at this moment, are not doing them... it is sad but true. It is clear, we could make illusions and say that they are close to defeat capitalism... but we would be deceiving ourselves. Confusing dreams with reality is not sane nor revolutionary.

    Quote:

Do you think for the workers struggle to begin would be always required a minority organizing it previously?

NO, but when that minority (or mayority) exist, we can´t conceal it due to our idelogical point of view. This is not ethic.

Many of the workers being laid off in SEAT were CGT members; but the question is: How did they react in front of the attack in December23th? Did they react as workers or as CGT militants? Were they a unionist minority intervening in the struggle according to what the union had discussed, or were they absolutely alone in front of the concrete laid off acting spontaneously to defend their living conditions?

What the union said was: “we will wait to January” and it was confirmed by the fact that, through the Christmas holydays they didn’t convoke any meeting or action as it was the tradition in the 70’s, when the attacks were carried on next to holidays. But nor in holidays, neither when the workers came back to work, the CGT had nothing to say about how to conduct the struggle.

Many workers are union’s members for different questions, there are even countries, like Belgium, where in order to work you have to be a union member; should be concluded that in Belgium all the strikes are organized by the unions? Many workers in the spontaneous strikes in Asturias in 1956 and 1962 were members of “Falange”, and some of them even delegates from the franquist union, Does it mean that “Falange” or the union were organizing the struggle?

In a certain way, and taking account of the historical and other differences, in this thread has been posed in a similar way the analysis of the events in July 19th 1936; while most of the workers in the streets in Barcelona were CNT members, fighting in a revolutionary way against the Franco army, and being confronted to the Republican state, the union itself (CNT) was supporting the Republican state and sending ministers to it.

I don’t see why would be more ethical not to take account of this different attitude by the workers on the one hand, and the CGT on the other, even if some of the workers were CGT members

Manu García wrote:

Quote:
    Quote:

Do you think the workers themselves are unable to develop their own organization during the struggle?

Of course, I think that we the workers can (and must) organise our struggles, during them and (why not?) before them.

    Quote:

    Do they need “organizers” to do it?

No, I don´t think so. We the workers should be always organised to answer the attacks and to attack, we don´t need nobody to organise us. We can develop our autonom organisations (unions, councils, call them as you want, the fact is the same) without bosses. That is a basic principle of revolutionarian unionism.

One of the main differences between the unionist viewpoint of the struggle and the mass strike dynamic viewpoint concerns the role of the minorities and the masses and their relationship. While the first one considers the role of the minority to convoke the different steps in the struggle, to mobilize the workers, even to negotiate in their name… according to the general strike model; the mass strike dynamic, without refusing the role of the minorities, before, during and after the struggle, makes confidence in the ability of the masses to assume their own struggle, to enter in the fight spontaneously, and to conduct negotiations directly from the assemblies through elected and revocable delegates; the role of the minorities being mainly political orientation, supporting discussions in the assemblies, making the balance of the struggles and posing the political trials to cope with in the struggle.

Unions aren’t the autonomous class organization in this period. They aren’t the same than the workers councils. These are the whole class organization, with the different political tendencies and awareness degrees inside the working class; but overall, councils are the class organization for revolutionary struggle, unifying workers over the different factories and sectors and posing themselves as a power alternative against the bourgeois state, as it could be seen in Russia in 1905 and 1917. Massive assemblies and elected and revocable delegates represent the same class organization out from the direct revolutionary periods.

Unions were the working class mass organization in the XIX century, when it was still possible to struggle for the workers living conditions without any strike confronting to the bourgeois state and at the end, posing “the hydra of revolution”; they organize the workers struggle into different sectors and categories, according to their “way of life” in capitalism, and they were absolutely unable to conduct a revolutionary struggle in 1917-26, and then on. Revolutionary unionism was a tentative to conciliate unionism with the revolutionary struggle in front of that inability, but the weight of unionism has been a heavy burden eroding the initial class reaction in front of the “fiasco” of unionism, http://en.internationalism.org/ir/118_syndicalism_i.html

Permanent mass organizations, as the unions were in XIX century are no longer possible, caused by the tendency for the Totalitarian state to integrate them into its ranks when they can’t be supported by the massive workers mobilization in the struggle.

Manu García wrote:

Quote:
    Quote:

It is true that CNT didn’t sign any agreement

Well, you recognise that. Your comrade said the opposite, as you can see... THE CNT NEVER SIGNS NOTHING THAT HAS NOT BEEN DECIDED BY THE WORKERS´ ASSEMBLEY. You have recognise that your comrade was in a mistake. I encourage you to show us any case in what this CNT principle has not been fulfilled

    Quote:

    they got involved in the agreements discussions with the bosses, not in the name of the workers assemblies, but called by the government and the INI (“National Industrial Institute”) and together with the traitors unions (UGT,CCOO, CAT) in the shop committee (“comité de empresa)

First of all: CNT workers went to that reunion to express their particular point of view about the conflict (that was, by the way, and I encourage you to prove the opposite, the majoritarian in the assembley), THEY DIDN´T GO TO SIGN ANYTHING, THIS ONLY CAN BE DONE BY A MANDATE OF THE ASSEMBLY. THE CNT DOESN´T DECIDE IN THE NAME OF ANYBODY.

    Quote:

    Concerning the 2nd meeting with the unions and the bosses, in Jerez, as it is said, it arrived to any kind of agreement which, as it was presented to the workers, was “hardly” criticized:

    «De un tiempo a esta parte se están produciendo de manera sistemática, continua y premeditada, todo tipo de insultos, amenazas y coacciones a los miembros del comité de empresa y a los sindicatos que forman parte de él con el solo objetivo de desprestigiarlo» En la misma nota aclaran el incidente con los pintores, que califican de «gravísimo», e informan de que las agresiones se produjeron cuando los sindicalistas estaban explicando las negociaciones con la empresa. Estas se habían llevado a cabo en base al acuerdo suscrito en Jerez el 27 de mayo...»(El correo de Cádiz) (our souligned)

Hehehe this is really good, arguments for me. The attacks against the unionists that have signed against the workers (the text said it clear against who was the attack: "the unions who take part at the Comité de Empresa") came, precisely, from the CNT workers and sympathizers. The CNT, of course, didn´t sign.

    Quote:

    Was the CNT in the meeting in Jerez, 7 days after being convoked “by the government and the INI” in Madrid, caused by the poor representativiness of the big unions?

NO. The CNT wasn´t there. The government knew, after hear the position of the CNT, that the accord could be only signed and applied by the Comité de Empresa.

What we can say is:

1.- CNT didn’t sign any agreement. Ok, could be a misunderstanding from the papers at the time

2.- CNT was involved, together with the other unions (CCOO, UGT and CAT), in a meeting with the bosses, without any concrete mandate from the assemblies; so it didn’t represent at all elected and revocable delegates from the assemblies; though according to you, CNT represented the majority position in the assemblies

3.- However CNT didn’t defended at all the power from the assemblies; yet CNT didn’t intend to ask the massive assemblies to elect delegates in order to negotiate with the bosses in place of the unions. On the contrary, in the meantime the next meeting in Jerez was going to negotiate (without any voice from the workers), and then CCOO-UGT-CAT would organize the sabotage of the general Assembly where the agreement had to be voted. Or else CNT positions weren’t the majority in the assemblies as you pretend, or it was unable to impose the force from the assemblies, and it rested prisoner of a unionist way to struggle

4.- As a result from the signed agreement, the workers confronted with the “shop council” (in fact with CCOO,UGT and CAT); according to you, they were overall CNT members. So the general Assembly has been betrayed by the “shop council”, and the workers (many of them CNT members) try to confront the traitors. What was then CNT doing?... «the (CNT) union section get in touch with the shop council twice (on July 15th and 22th) to begin to organize the mobilizations outside from the factory receiving a refusal as response» (Puerto Real CNT rapport about the events in 1987) (our translation and underline). In state of reinforcing the workers confidence in themselves, CNT was still supporting the confidence in the shop council. So, someway is true that the workers disagree with CNT.

5.- It should be said that, in spite of the CNT radicalism, its unionist way to organize the workers struggle is not a force, but a weakness. [/]

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OliverTwister
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Jul 14 2006 16:36
Quote:
Unions were the working class mass organization in the XIX century, when it was still possible to struggle for the workers living conditions without any strike confronting to the bourgeois state and at the end, posing “the hydra of revolution”; they organize the workers struggle into different sectors and categories, according to their “way of life” in capitalism, and they were absolutely unable to conduct a revolutionary struggle in 1917-26, and then on.

That's quite a narrative!

There is a direct, inverse relationship between countries where the workers were combative and formed revolutionary unions, and countries where the second international had influence. The 2nd international could not see the workers posing any threat to the bourgeois state because they were part of that same bourgeois state. The problem wasn't that the workers couldn't pose the "hydra of revolution", it's that whenever they did and a head was cut off, the social democrats seared that neck closed to prevent two new heads from growing.

The entire existence of the 2nd international was based on denying the legitimacy, and correctness, of the revolutionary socialists (i.e. anarchists). Since the ICC draw their legitimacy from a 'red thread' stretching back to the 2nd international, and the 'left' of its politics, they have to repeat its historical lies that the workers should not have fought for revolution but should have trusted their socialist parties in parliament because that was all that was possible. That is why the ICC stress so heavily their version of decadence theory, so that they can repeat that historical lie yet still say that things are different now. Thus to protect their legitimacy they must discredit those who descend from the revolutionary socialists who were excluded from the 2nd international - the anarchists.

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Jul 14 2006 17:26

I agree with that as usual OT. But it might be more politic to call them mistakes rather than lies.

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Jul 14 2006 18:08

Yes, i have inserted my foot into my mouth more than a number of times using the word "lie". The line is soft - what was an honest mistake can become a lie, if the mistaken parties become aware of their mistakes but continue committing them (either through their own reflection or from others telling them).

I tried to be politic in that I was only calling the line of the 2nd international a lie, and saying that the ICC use that line as a base of legitimacy. For better or worse, this is certainly at least as politic as they are when dealing with the lines of other groups. Two examples, (one of which I agree with): "Revolutionaries - a term which does not include Tony Cliff -..." and "The IWW... became an anarchist sect."

martinh
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Jul 14 2006 22:35

A quick point and something I have observed at length whenever Marxists talk about Spain (contemporary or historic). If they approve of what the CNT or anarchists are doing, they refer to the "workers" doing it. If they don't like it, it is always the "anarchists" who do it.

One of the points of anarcho-syndicalism that us workers developed for ourselves, without the need for intellectuals to do it for us, is that the class as a whole shouldn't have to start from scratch every time it engages in struggle. The CNT advocates assemblies (as does the SF, FWIW, though we're far less likely to be able to put it into practice). It seems that the criticism of them from left communists appears to be "they don't mean it". Or perhaps, they can't because they are a union. Neither of these seem to hold much water to me.

While I think the role of the "militant" needs to be treated with some care, I think you tend to get a lot more struggle when you have them than when you don't.

Regards,

martin

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Jul 14 2006 22:55
Alf wrote:
That takes me to another point raised in Redtwister's post - the need for a distinct organisation of revolutionaries, which in our view is needed to fight for communist ideas and measures within the assemblies and councils. In the view put forward in his posts, at least as I understand it, the party is not a 'formal' organisation but defines itself in practise as the 'real' vanguard, and can be expressed either in diverse political groups or as the most radical elements of the class wide organs, or both at the same time. This seems to have a dual disadvantage: of dissolving the party into the class, while at the same time being open to a highly substitutionist interpretation. However, I think this discussion is probably a bit off topic and perhaps could be taken up elsewhere.

Not exactly Alf. Of course, the misunderstanding is still partially my fault. I am working through a range of ideas right now and I am torn in several different directions with projects, so I am afraid I have not been either clear or as responsive as i would like. Also, my work situation is less free than it was, so I am more limitede time-wise.

I am not proposing that the historical party of the class is simply an amalgam of many different parties. Nor do I agree with the idea that communists or the party of the class dissolve itself into the organs of class power a la the Situationists. Instead, it is important for the party of communists to wage a political struggle in those bodies, whatever they be, to argue for the need to consistently attack all of the social relations of capital, for their suppression, and for the primacy of the internationalization of the revolution as the central priority.

I think that communists need to wage that struggle of ideas and for the central perspectives of the tasks of the proletariat with a consistent internationalism, against the local, national sectoral or regional tendencies within the class at any given moment.

For me, there is no relation of Party here as an object and Proletariat there as another object. The coming into existence of the proletariat as revolutionary (the old "the working class is revolutionary or it is nothing") is also the formation of our class into a Party, whose objectives are the destruction of all of the relations of capital and the internationalization of that process over and against the immediate interests of this or that part of the totality of labor.

More later, I am still trying to express my point both coherently and succinctly.

Chris

redtwister
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Jul 14 2006 22:56

Skraeling,

I have not forgotten your post, I am also working on an adequate reply that does not take on the form of a too long post.

Chris

redtwister
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Jul 14 2006 23:16
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
Unions were the working class mass organization in the XIX century, when it was still possible to struggle for the workers living conditions without any strike confronting to the bourgeois state and at the end, posing “the hydra of revolution”; they organize the workers struggle into different sectors and categories, according to their “way of life” in capitalism, and they were absolutely unable to conduct a revolutionary struggle in 1917-26, and then on.

That's quite a narrative!

There is a direct, inverse relationship between countries where the workers were combative and formed revolutionary unions, and countries where the second international had influence. The 2nd international could not see the workers posing any threat to the bourgeois state because they were part of that same bourgeois state. The problem wasn't that the workers couldn't pose the "hydra of revolution", it's that whenever they did and a head was cut off, the social democrats seared that neck closed to prevent two new heads from growing.

The entire existence of the 2nd international was based on denying the legitimacy, and correctness, of the revolutionary socialists (i.e. anarchists). Since the ICC draw their legitimacy from a 'red thread' stretching back to the 2nd international, and the 'left' of its politics, they have to repeat its historical lies that the workers should not have fought for revolution but should have trusted their socialist parties in parliament because that was all that was possible. That is why the ICC stress so heavily their version of decadence theory, so that they can repeat that historical lie yet still say that things are different now. Thus to protect their legitimacy they must discredit those who descend from the revolutionary socialists who were excluded from the 2nd international - the anarchists.

This would be a point where OT and I would tend towards agreement. I do not view the 2nd International as most Left Communists do, as a revolutionary organization of the working class. As far as I can tell, it was the product of the bastard marriage of the "Marxists" Liebknecht, Bebel, Kautsky (for whom Marx had a great deal of scorn, despite trying to steer them into a better direction) and the Lasalleans, who dominated the practical formation and the practical politics, even when they eventually gave the nod to the theoretical patina of Marx. It is no accident that the Critique of the Gotha Program was the first attack on this emerging unity and that his famous digust with "Marxists" was with the French Socialist Party.

If anything, the 2nd International represented the insitutionalization of the power of the working class, its recuperation. In relation to unions, however, it also reflected the practical power and independence of the unions and their existence perpetually in the right-wing of the 2nd International from which Noske, Ebert, David, and Co. arose or aligned themselves with.

There is no doubt in my mind that greater practical continuity exists between the communist left and the anarchists and revolutionarty syndicalists than with the 2nd International as a whole.

Then again, I do not share the same understanding of the Left in the 2nd International as most Left Communists, as I do not view Luxemburg's role as so positive or as an unbroken continuity between Luxemburg and the Left Communists. Her politics involved a practice that constantly sought to conciliate with the Center and led to the fucion with the USPD and later the formation of the KPD by her closest comrades against the KAPD.

Chris

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Jul 31 2006 10:23
martinh wrote:
A quick point and something I have observed at length whenever Marxists talk about Spain (contemporary or historic). If they approve of what the CNT or anarchists are doing, they refer to the "workers" doing it. If they don't like it, it is always the "anarchists" who do it.

I have noticed this as well...

Quote:
The CNT advocates assemblies (as does the SF, FWIW, though we're far less likely to be able to put it into practice). It seems that the criticism of them from left communists appears to be "they don't mean it". Or perhaps, they can't because they are a union. Neither of these seem to hold much water to me.

Exactly, it makes no sense. Especially since in most struggles now the CNT does not act as a union since it is so small. In Puerto Real it only had what 40-odd members? Under 100 anyway.

I would like to ask the spanish ICC comrade if their article still contains the inaccurate slur that the CNT signed an agreement with the bosses?

Calling that a "mistake" instead of a deliberate smear and a lie seems a little too generous to the ICC since anyone who knew anything about the CNT would know that they would not sign agreements like that. And other actions originally attributed to the CNT in the article it turns out were actually about the CGT. Which again seems very dishonest as the author would know that they are two separate organisations.

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Jul 31 2006 15:23
Quote:
Following on from the discussions on Spain, one interesting area that i don't know much about is workers' councils in Spain in 36-37. I think it deserves a separate thread. I know some claim workers councils were set up there, but i'm not really sure at all. I've read a fair bit about Spain, but it was many moons ago, and my impression that workers' councils weren't established by the Spanish workers and peasants, instead collectives were. I know some talked of councils, but they i think were different in my view from classical soviets

Can I get definitions for council, collective, assembly and soviet. I'm not sure I know the difference and I don't think this thread has clarified the original question (although I did skip most of it).

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Jul 31 2006 22:54

A soviet is a Russian name for a council.
An assembly is a mass meeting held in a workplace or neighbourhood.
Councils arise when the assemblies send delegates to a central council in a district or city. They are thus expressions of the mass strike; but they are more than just defensive, economic organs. They tend to take over the running of social life and pose a challenge to the existing state power. They are thus above all organs of proletarian political power. Such organs were not formed in Spain 1936, as the Italian left communists pointed out. Instead the bourgeoisie filled the gap between the insurgent workers and the capitalist state with organs like the Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias, which served to shore up the tottering Republican apparatus of power. When the Friends of Durruti called for 'Revolutionay Juntas' in 1937, it was because there was a lack of any organs of working class power.
The term collective is less clear. It tended to refer to the 'self-managed' (in fact, usually union-managed)enterprises. But as long as the bourgeois state remained intact, such organs assumed a capitalist function, running the war economy at hightened levels of exploitation.

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jason
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Aug 1 2006 10:01

Then how were all the 'collectives' of revolutionary Barcelona co-ordinated? Surely there were CNT commitees that functioned as councils, with delegates from the collectives?

Rick Rhodas
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Aug 3 2006 21:15

Hi!
I would like to post some comments
Oliver Twister wrote:

Quote:
There is a direct, inverse relationship between countries where the workers were combative and formed revolutionary unions, and countries where the second international had influence. The 2nd international could not see the workers posing any threat to the bourgeois state because they were part of that same bourgeois state. The problem wasn't that the workers couldn't pose the "hydra of revolution", it's that whenever they did and a head was cut off, the social democrats seared that neck closed to prevent two new heads from growing.

The 2nd International was a product of the working class struggle. It was not part of the bourgeois state. In fact nor the 2nd International, neither any other international worker’s party (AIT, or 3rd International) could be integrated as such to the bourgeois state. The International died, caused by its inability to confront the war, and inside the different SD parties a combat was fought against the opportunist tendencies conducting the parties to the bourgeois state under the bourgeois ideological pressure and the attacks on them, and against the centrist current who tried to avoid this combat. As a result from this combat, surged left fractions in the different parties (Spartaquist, with Rosa Luxemburg and Liebknecht; Bolsheviks, with Lenin and Trotsky, Dutch left fraction with Pannekoek and Gorter; or Italian left, with Bordiga…), conducting the struggle against the war on the basis of the different resolutions voted in the 2nd International (in Basilea, etc where was posed the perspective to develop revolution against the war), and too on the basis of the critique in front of the betrayal of the SD parties.
The degeneration process in the SD parties found another response in the revolutionary unionist current, to which were related a part of the anarchists; but this response was not enough, caused mostly by the strong weight of the apoliticism, as a false response to parliamentarism, and unionism, who avoided to understand the nature of the mass revolutionary struggle. Most of the best forces in revolutionary unionism converged with bolchevism in the struggle against the war and for revolution.
You can say that revolutionary unions were formed in countries where the 2nd International had little influence (and even that could be discussed for France); but it is not true at all that workers were not combative in the countries where there weren’t revolutionary unions. You only have to consider Russia 1905 and 1917 or Germany 1919, the two countries where the revolutionary wave went far away.
In this two countries, the SD parties had a strong influence, and they supported the imperialist war; but they generated too the left fractions that conducted the revolution.
So, even if the revolutionary unionism was in a certain way a class reaction to the SD parties’ degeneration and their tendency to become integrated in the bourgeois state, the real relationship between revolutionary unionism and SD influence is the weight of the apolitical influences. It was just this apolitical influence what avoided to completely draw the lessons from the SD failure and be ready to understand the consequences for the struggle opened by the period of “war and revolution” (as the 3rd International said).
At the end, while the CGT supported the imperialist war and the CNT sent ministers to the republican government and participated in the military front of the antifascism (anticipating the imperialist front in the 2nd War), the Bolsheviks and the spartaquist were conducting the revolution.
One of those lessons to be drawn concerned the union question. It seems you try to pose the question that the problem with the unions would be the SD influence; but on the union question, Kautsky positions were nearer to the anarchist’s than those of the left fractions. The left was supporting the mass strike dynamic, while the anarchist supported the general strike.

martinh wrote:

Quote:
A quick point and something I have observed at length whenever Marxists talk about Spain (contemporary or historic). If they approve of what the CNT or anarchists are doing, they refer to the "workers" doing it. If they don't like it, it is always the "anarchists" who do it.

It is no at all a particularity for the anarchist, or the CNT, but rather a way to pose the questions. We can take the experience in the 2nd International; firstly, The SD parties betrayed the working class, and they sent the workers to the imperialist front; so, who was betraying (because most of the workers themselves were in the SD parties, and they were too in the army, in the imperialist front)? According to your criticism, it should be said that both, the workers and the SD were the same; so the question would be, where did the struggle against the war and for revolution come from? Obviously the workers were opposed to the SD parties politic, and that was expressed at the political level in the left fractions.
At the end, the question is how to see the relationship between the political avant-garde and the class. The political avant-garde is a part of the class, but it is not the whole of the class, it doesn’t organize, nor create the class. On the contrary, the class generates political avant-gardes according to its political needs.

Rick Rhodas
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Aug 3 2006 21:22

Hi again!

More comments

John wrote:

Quote:
Exactly, it makes no sense. Especially since in most struggles now the CNT does not act as a union since it is so small. In Puerto Real it only had what 40-odd members? Under 100 anyway.

I would like to ask the spanish ICC comrade if their article still contains the inaccurate slur that the CNT signed an agreement with the bosses?

Calling that a "mistake" instead of a deliberate smear and a lie seems a little too generous to the ICC since anyone who knew anything about the CNT would know that they would not sign agreements like that. And other actions originally attributed to the CNT in the article it turns out were actually about the CGT. Which again seems very dishonest as the author would know that they are two separate organisations

Here it is again posed the question that CNT “does not act as a union”. It is true that something has changed. Firstly it was suggested that CNT would not act as a union because it is for the assemblies, it doesn’t use to sign agreements with the bosses, and it doesn’t vote in the union elections, neither works in the shop councils. Now it is said overall that it is “so small to act as a union”. John, what do you think is it acting as a union? Which are the differences between being for the assemblies and their elected delegates, preparing and intervening in the struggles conducted by the workers themselves, and being for the negotiation “in the name” of the workers, looking for the strength of the struggle and the demonstrations, nor in the awareness and determination of the workers, but in the force of the big unions to convoke?
From our part, it should be clearly stated that, even if a union is not openly signing agreements with the bosses, even if it is not in the shop council, its unionist approach to the struggle, its way to pose and conceive the workers demands, the fact that it is not an expression from the assemblies, but apart from them, led it to the end to the same terrain where use to intervene the big unions; as it is proved by a lot of experiences in 70s or 80s in different base unionist organisms (by the way, that’s what we were denouncing concerning the CNT in Puerto Real in our journal in Spain in 1987, though the CNT didn´t sign the agreement with the bosses –even if it was present in the meeting where it took place-, in practice it didn’t support the assemblies to fight against the agreement, and finished to look for the big unions to convoke the mobilizations, as it is said in previous posts, so it finished to conduct the workers to the agreement terrain –be quiet we never wrote in the journal that the CNT signed the agreement-; one more thing, concerning the article on the union elections in SEAT in Acción Proletaria nº 81 mentioned in other post, it was written in 1988, before the schism CNT-CGT; in fact it was CNT as such who won the elections then)

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sam sanchez
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Aug 12 2006 23:31

I think there is a problem of terminology. A lot of people use the word "council" to refer to both the face-to-face directly democratic assembly of all workers in their workplaces, and also to refer to the meetings of delegates from various workplaces.

Which do you mean?

MT
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Dec 17 2007 16:01

older topic but anyway - any comments on this?

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From our part, it should be clearly stated that, even if a union is not openly signing agreements with the bosses, even if it is not in the shop council, its unionist approach to the struggle, its way to pose and conceive the workers demands, the fact that it is not an expression from the assemblies, but apart from them, led it to the end to the same terrain where use to intervene the big unions; as it is proved by a lot of experiences in 70s or 80s in different base unionist organisms (by the way, that’s what we were denouncing concerning the CNT in Puerto Real in our journal in Spain in 1987, though the CNT didn´t sign the agreement with the bosses –even if it was present in the meeting where it took place-, in practice it didn’t support the assemblies to fight against the agreement, and finished to look for the big unions to convoke the mobilizations, as it is said in previous posts, so it finished to conduct the workers to the agreement terrain

btw, are there any other sources in English or German that deal with Puerto Real strike?

magnifico
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Dec 17 2007 16:15
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btw, are there any other sources in English or German that deal with Puerto Real strike?

Haven't read the whole thread, if this has already been mentioned then apologies:-

http://www.solfed.org.uk/booklets/pdfs/anarcho-syndicalism-in-puerto-real.pdf

Mike Harman
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Dec 17 2007 18:06
MT wrote:
older topic but anyway - any comments on this?
Quote:
From our part, it should be clearly stated that, even if a union is not openly signing agreements with the bosses, even if it is not in the shop council, its unionist approach to the struggle, its way to pose and conceive the workers demands, the fact that it is not an expression from the assemblies, but apart from them, led it to the end to the same terrain where use to intervene the big unions; as it is proved by a lot of experiences in 70s or 80s in different base unionist organisms (by the way, that’s what we were denouncing concerning the CNT in Puerto Real in our journal in Spain in 1987, though the CNT didn´t sign the agreement with the bosses –even if it was present in the meeting where it took place-, in practice it didn’t support the assemblies to fight against the agreement, and finished to look for the big unions to convoke the mobilizations, as it is said in previous posts, so it finished to conduct the workers to the agreement terrain

btw, are there any other sources in English or German that deal with Puerto Real strike?

Hmm interesting - there's similar criticism of the CNT made in BM Blob's pamphlet on the late '70s / early '80s docks strikes (most of it is collation of materials produced by dockers and allies, BM Blob didn't write the bits about the CNT).

http://libcom.org/library/workers-world-tonight-international-dockers-struggles-1980s

Can anyone confirm if Rick Rhodes/the ICC is the source of both?

Anarcho
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Dec 17 2007 21:20
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Permanent mass organizations, as the unions were in XIX century are no longer possible, caused by the tendency for the Totalitarian state to integrate them into its ranks when they can’t be supported by the massive workers mobilization in the struggle.

It is times like this when I remember how out of it "left-communism" is...

I'm assuming that "Totalitarian" has a different meaning than the usual meaning? Also, did Franco's regime "integrate" the CNT into its ranks? No, it tried to exterminate it. Did Mussolini's regime "integrate" the USI? No, it crushed it. Does the state now seek to "integrate" the trade unions? No, it ignores them -- or uses forces to break them (the firefighters unions).

In my workplace the only people who actually do anything are union members. They go on strike. They resist what the bosses try to do...

Anarcho
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Dec 17 2007 21:27
Skraeling wrote:
plus also the anarchists were very aware of the importance of the Soviets. the "class struggle anarchist" strain of anarchism has often been reponsive to radical developments in the class struggle. thats why after 1871 the commune of communes was adopted by anarchist communists (at least) as their primary model for a future society, then after the appearance of soviets in 1905 and 1917 and all that, many, many anarchist communists and anarcho-syndicalists were strongly influenced by the workers councils, and adopted them in their literature and programmes

Actually, the idea of a commune of communes was raised by anarchists before 1871, as was the idea of mandated and recallable delegates. The notion of workers' council as the means to fight and replace capitalism was also raised in the 1860s. So anarchists have had their ideas confirmed in revolutionary practice, a practice Marxists then take up and claim as their own..

It is always good to point that awkward fact out smile

Iain

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Dec 17 2007 21:53
TheWillsWilde wrote:
Anyhoo back on topic. This is from The Felix Morrow article from the marxists archive about the Council of Aragon. Alf and Skraeling shoulkd both appreciate this, it points to a lot of key issues. Sorry about the length but i think it bears a look.
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Backed by their success in freeing Aragon, the anarchists met with little resistance there from the bourgeois-Stalinist bloc in the first months. Aragon’s municipal councils were elected directly by the communities. . .

The anarchist majority in the Council of Aragon led in practice to the abandonment of the anarchist theory of the autonomy of economic administration. The Council acted as a centralizing agency.

Wow, someone quoting Felix Morrow like he knew what he was talking about! Says it all really. As a reply to Morrow, try this appendix of An Anarchist FAQ:

Marxists and Spanish Anarchism

For example, section 18 directly refutes Morrow's claim that the Council of Aragon was an abandonment of anarchist organisational theory.

Anarcho
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Dec 17 2007 21:53
redtwister wrote:
Localism, that is the fetish that local is somehow better, more communist, etc strikes me as a very bourgeois prejudice, akin to that of looking towards a "Town Hall" model of local democracy. In United States history it is patently obvious that bowing to localism would mean bowing to the worst prejudices, to extreme narrowness, to white supremacy, to small town cupidity and suburban fragmentation.

In reality, centralism has been the favoured mode of bourgeois organisation. The history of every bourgeois revolution has been one of centralising power to take it out of the people's hands. the attacks on popular assemblies and their federations has always been lead by the bourgeois, little wonder as such popular participation would end their power and privileges. Much the same can be said of Bolshevism as well, as it aims to replace popular power with people power.

Simply put, you cannot impose freedom. Without popular participation in a revolution it will not succeed. Thinking that the centre is always revolutionary is silly, almost as silly as thinking that crushing localism could possibly work.

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Localism and extremely strong federalism was always the hallmark of the racist, white right wing, and it is so today in the U.S., and goes hand-in-hand with a most perniscious national chauvinist centralist militarism.

So federalism goes hand-in-hand with centralism? ROFL! I wonder how long the right-wing support for "federalism" would last if there were a popular revolution in those areas? Oh, probably about 2 seconds...

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You could object that the content is different, but I think that would beg the question that what really matters is not federalism or localism versus centralism, but the content of each at any given moment, of what class interests they serve.

Looking at the history of every revolution, centralism has always favoured a new ruling class. That is unsurprising as it structurely disempowers the many and gives power to the few. That is why the bourgeoisie have favoured it...

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In a revolutionary situation, localism can just as easily be a problem because the issue is not "all of the workers doing their own thing" or "democratic agreement". The issue is the overthrow of capital, which means a certain unity in action and the possibility of the most militant and radical wing of the class leading or at least cementing the action of the class as a whole against capital, militates against any formalistic adherence to localism.

Talk about nonsense! Centralism means that the "most militant and radical wing of the class" has to wait until the majority agree with them. If they lead by example, then they are practising localism and federalism! And every revolution starts with a minority taking the lead, i.e., acting for themselves locally and then spreading outwards by inspiring others. Centralism would kill that process dead. Which is why the bourgeoisie has always favoured centralising power in revolutionary situations...

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I am not against the centrality of workers' self-activity, just so we are clear, but I am against trying to force it into a localist or federalist straightjacket.

I sometimes wonder if Marxists know what the term "federalist" means? The whole point of federalism is to co-ordinate local struggles from below.

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As far as Alf's point about anarchism being weak against the state, I think he is correct in reference to those anarchisms which deny a political aspect to revolution and who therefore (pre)tend to ignore the state.

No anarchist thinker has ever argued that,sorry but get your facts right...

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It is not enough to take over the means of production, the social power of the bourgeoisie must be broken and suppressed, which means the establishment of the political power of the proletariat, that is, the organized and at least to some degree centralized and coordinated suppression of the bourgeois state, of value, of money, of commodities, of the market, etc. (keep in mind, that for me these are social relations, not merely properties of things or things) because they will continue to re-appear until a new way of organizing social production and relations has taken root.

In other words, give power to the Marxists so that they can liberate society in the way they think is for the best... And if you disagree, well, that is just "localism" and the needs of the revolution is such that you will have to be suppressed...

I do wish Marxists would read some anarchist thinkers. This had, after all, been addressed by Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc. a long time ago!

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 17 2007 22:28

The left-communists in this thread present a false picture of the Soviets in the Russian revolution of 1917. They were NOT, in most cases, spontaneous creations of worker assemblies. The main big city soviets in St Petersburg and Moscow were formed top-down by party leaders of the Menshevik party, people from the intelligentsia, including members of parliament (like Alexander Kerensky, one of the founders of the St Petersburg soviet). The plenaries of delegates were generally treated as rubber stamps by the executive committees, which were controlled by party intellectuals.

There were SOME soviets that did exhibit the character of being controlled by assemblies at the base. This is true of the Kronstadt soviet. But the Menshevik and Bolshevik parties were minorities in Kronstadt. The libertarian Left (maximalists and syndicalists) were the dominant political influence in Kronstadt in 1917.

The situation in Aragon happened as an outgrowth of a decision by the national CNT conference in Sept 3, 1936. At that conference they modified their program to advocate a kind of workers government. This would consist of regional and national worker congresses and Defense Councils. This is the origin of the Defense Councils advocated by the Friends of Durruti group. The conference in Sept 3 1936 where this was decided was apparently the high point of revolutionary influence at the national level of the CNT.

The Defense Councils were revolutionary committees, and were supposed to be accountable to the worker assemblies via the congreses of delegates. Durruti believed it was very important to pursue this program and worked with the CNT village unions, and the regional committee of the CNT in Aragon to help set up this system there. This included periodic regional congresses of delegates from the village assemblies, as well as the election of the regional Council of Aragon. At first there were only CNT members on the council but later the minority UGT union also had delegates. In some of the villages the UGT was the majority in the village collective. Initially the villages were collectivized as "free municipalities" with a single organization that had both political and economic functions. Later on, after joining the government, they went along with government demands to set up a conventional town council.

So, if we compare the institutions in Aragon with those in the Russian revolution, there is nothing here like the Russian soviet. The regional congresses were really more akin to soviet congresses in the Russian revolution.