"The people have nothing to lose…“ – Interview with a Romanian Anarchosyndicalist

The following Interview was first published on the 29th May 2010 in a German Version on Syndikalismus.tk.

Submitted by JoeMaguire on July 27, 2010

The following Interview about the announced social cuts of the Romanian Government was done with the Comrade Diogenes (30) from Bucharest. He is Anarcho-Syndicalist and a socialworker under contract by the town of Bucharest. From the announced payment-cuts and layoffs he is directly affected.

"The people have nothing to lose…“ – Interview with an Romanian Anarchosyndicalist

Syndikalismus.tk: On 19th of may went more then 50.000 workers, teachers and pensioners in Bucharest on the streets. In the shouted slogans they demand the withdrawal of the government. Do you think the demonstration was an success and that the government will take back their decisions of the social- and money cuts? What do you think about the demonstration from 19th of may?

Diogenes: The protests that took place on May 19th were initiated by the trade unions that are operating in Romania. These unions have nothing to do with defending worker’s rights – in my opinion, and they are very close to the definition of yellow unions. Many of these union’s leaders are millionaires and these unions are collecting huge amounts of money (1% from the gross income of an employee); and because the law obliges the employer to sign a collective labour agreement (which must be negotiated with the unions), even if you refuse to contribute in the account of such a union, the Romanian state, will automatically stops 0,6% from your gross salary under the pretext that this money will form a special fund for collective bargaining. There are huge amount of money – millions of Euros per month. That’s pure mathematics, no speculation at all. Administrating all that amount of money - why they need also to rob those people that refuse to join the union? I guess that if you’ll rent the Hermitage Palace for the collective bargaining it would be a cheaper business.

Within these unions there is no transparency at all. The union leaders hold their positions for life, I never heard about sessions within the union and also no elections. The conclusion that necessarily resulting is that these unions are a dubious business and have nothing to do with defending worker’s rights.

What do I think about the protest that took place on May 19th? Sorry to say this, but I think a mob of 50.000 people was taken there without any result and I think also that the opposition sees the current situation as an opportunity to replace the current poor governance with another one – equally poor, but a governance of their own. I am convinced by the fact that all this criticism that is put on the government by the unions, it represents, nothing more but an asset for the opposition. Why would a union leader compromise his position? They will stay for the interest of the opposition because the government is compromised anyway. Until an authentic spirit of rebellion won't come out to the surface, nothing will be changed.
I don’t know if the government will cancel the wage cut decision but I know that this crisis will be set on the shoulders of the poor however - as it is set right now within this government's project of wage cuts or within any other alternative project of the government or of the opposition in the parliament. This is the state policy guideline. This is its morality.

Syndikalismus.tk: In the foreign countries, also in Germany, got the demonstration very well realized. Especially in the left radical and the official FAU- report is the anticipation there, that in Romania happen now that, what is in Greece the fact: General strikes and mass protest. Is this expectation realistic?

Diogenes: Such a great expectation will lead to great disappointment if things will follow another path. How should be that possible knowing the activity of the unions that are activating in Romania? General strike and massive protests must start at the initiative of the workers without the interference of these so cold unions - which I have no doubt - will make everything possible to misappropriate the worker’s revolt towards something unproductive and in favour of a government or another.

However – the possibility for massive protest to take place it is born right now, caused by the increasing poverty within the working class: growing unemployment, the inability of borrowers to pay their rates for their ugly, small and very expensive houses, etc. The main conditions for these protests to take place are: 1. to take place spontaneously and 2. To be organised outside these parasitical organisations that are operating under the mask of syndicalism.

The conditions that generate massive protests in Greece are much softer than the harsh conditions that Romanian’s workers have to deal with. We’ll see if the solidarity spirit will be as strong as the solidarity among the Greeks… but we must notice that Greeks have a long tradition in operating with grass roots unions and also they are familiarized with radical ideas, while Romanians are not. However – we must create precedents for these kind of situations and anarchist agitation would be very useful in these times.

Syndikalismus.tk: In the past got generalstrikes several times by the specific branch unions announced. De facto doesn’t followed so many union-members this calls or the mass of the strikers stood at home and brought the protest not on the street and with that not to the public. Are the unions at all able to create real pressure? And in which branches do you see the must success of union-actions?

Diogenes: A large part of the employees that was called to participate remained not at home but at their work program under the pressure of the employers. I said before – the yellow unions are monopolist and all this situation smells as a fraud. Who announced the employees that it will be a large protest? Not the union leaders. The employers did that and the employers also decided who should go to the protest and who should stay at work. There is no communication at all between these leaders of the unions and the members of the unions. Bosses and leaders of the unions have no will and no interest to make real pressure.

However – I was impressed, as you were impressed, by the actions took by pensioners. I know several pensioners associations are activating in Romania but I can’t tell who organised them so well. Driven by despair, they shown solidarity as no one expected. They also announced that Monday, on May 31st they will protest again tied with chains to show their slave condition. Their social category is one of the most disadvantaged and they fight for survival. I don’t exaggerate telling you that 2010 and 2011 would be the years with the most increased number of mortality among the pensioners. With their subsistence pensions they could not afford more than food in the past. With this 15% cut from pensions, with no medical assistance (the government already closed many medical units) and no subventions for heating and other necessities, these years that are coming will be the worst years in the last 60 years for them. This cut is nothing more than genocide.

Syndikalismus.tk: Are colleges of your branch also involved in the protests? Is there a discussion under your colleges about the cuts and for common actions against?

Diogenes: I am not a member of the union and I don’t want to be. In case of reorganisation, because I am not a member of the union I will be the first to become unemployment because the employer will make a list with all those people that will have to go and that list will be negotiated with the union leaders. This is more than sure. Discussions with my colleges are related with these reorganisations and many of them decided to join the union and participate in protests.

Also the discussions about these cuts incite to revolt but a revolt that is repressed inside before it comes out. Propaganda by word is not enough to make this revolt explode just like that. The people must become conscious by their huge power that is at their hand and it is called: solidarity.

Syndikalismus.tk: What is your estimation about the mood under the people? Especially in the working class? Are Topics like class struggle and the fight for an anti-capitalist society on the agenda?

Diogenes: The outraged situations that determine the mood of the people it can not be something else but rage and that is predictable. The unions know that, the government knows that and the opposition take advantage of that. It’s nothing new under the sun. How much is orchestrated in this protest manifestations and how much is authentic – that should be the question. In this situation when people fight for survival the protests should reach and follow the concept of illegality. Having these parasite unions on our back imagine that anti capitalism and class struggle are not common topics on people agenda and revendications are in general limited to alternative solutions, like progressive taxation instead of salary and pension cuts.

The minimum salary here is 705 lei per month. That means - at the National Bank currency - 160 Euros. On the other hand, the prices here are sometime bigger than prices in Germany. After 20 years of capitalism, when you have to pay 65.000 Euros for a one bedroom flat although most of the workers gain around 200, 300 Euros per month - that simple fact should make people realise that capitalism simply doesn’t work.

Syndikalismus.tk: Was there a notable Participation of anarcho-syndicalists or anarchists in the protests?

Diogenes: Not really. I am not organised and there are not grass roots unions here. The anarchist movement in Romania is at its beginnings and it is more active among artistic manifestations and in underground culture.

Syndikalismus.tk: What would be the best, to stop the attacks of the governement?

Diogenes: General strike to paralyse the economy and I would add, as a hobby - sabotage over the banks that robber the whole existence of the people. People have nothing to loose. Anarcho-syndicalism for the future!

Syndikalismus.tk: Thanks a lot for this interview!