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Position of the X Congress of ZSP, To the Sections and Friends of the IWA

Rebuilding Anarchosyndicalism

Beyond Eurocentrism – Spreading anarchosyndicalist strategies – Unifying Struggles


Anarchosyndicalism is currently at a crossroads. On the one hand, we have new opportunities to build active movements on the ground which can show another model for workers in struggle. On the other hand, insufficient mobilization and coordinating efforts on the global level and slow progress have lead some activists towards “quick fix” solutions of unsustainable service models or non-libertarian but perhaps more syndically oriented models.

The anarchosyndicalist lnternational cannot rest in light of such developments and must retake the initiative to be a reference for anarchosyndicalism and a model for new anarchosyndicalist activity around the world. In order to do this, we must break a certain Eurocentric mentality and encourage organizational models which can work in parts of the world that have a lack of anarchosyndicalist tradition.

For this project to work, we have to maximize our efforts and to strengthen the existing IWA Sections.

Anarchosyndicalism cannot be treated as a great theory that maybe can happen years from now but must be seen as a practice that can be used now by working people to spread our method and as a tool of struggle.

We need to learn from the lessons of our movement and not return to the bankrupt strategies.

We also have interests in issues and grassroots libertarian movements outside the workplace. As anarchosyndicalists, we need to focus on building a workers' movement to combat capitalism but not forget that our struggle does not end there. Our struggle is also for radical egalitarianism and a rejection of capitalist logic in our way of organizing. These goals intersect with other movements which we see as comrades in our struggle.

We invite a debate inside the IWA on these premises and on concrete proposals and a long term plan of action.

Due to an internal crisis inside the IWA, which has been brewing a long time, numerous proposals which we have made over the past 5 years, all of which aim to increase syndical coordination, education and activity, have been ignored by our largest Sections, which logically could have much to contribute. We were and are very hesitant to bring any ambitious proposals when we are still left with the hard work of implementing the prior Congress decisions. However, due to the CNTE Congress decisions, we will need to reiterate some of our older ideas and submit some counterproposals. We will also submit the explanations as to why we reject these decisions and consider them not just inappropriate but an attack on the legitimacy of the IWA statutes in other documents. We reserve the right to publish all or part of these as a response to the media campaign undertaken by the CNTE to support a split on our lnternational in the name of “defending” it.

We had wanted to make some of these concrete proposals after the internal discussions calmed down but we understand that they must be made now. We have chosen not to develop some details very deeply. If the Sections agree in principle, we can develop them at further Plenaries and Congresses.

We hope that the IWA will take it into their hands to ensure that the Congress will be able to look at some constructive proposals. We are demotivated to continue in the current situation, where certain issues are unlikely to be resolved.

Proposals and Positions

(Each proposal will be submitted separately and in its complete version to the IWA in the appropriate format.)

1. We reject the number logic of the CNTE, for the reasons stated at the XXV Congress. However, we think the IWA would be best benefitted if in the future we accept new Sections which are capable of building a practical anarchosyndicalist movement. We refer to our positions at the XXV Congress (2013).

"About minimum membership in IWA Sections.
* Limits development of IWA
* Is stricter than requirements to join other international organizations (RBC, IWW)
* Favors larger and richer countries
* Is not the best criteria / does not take into account specifics of organization
* Does not take into account different membership criteria and practices
* Can encourage fake and passive membership

(Alternative Criteria)

- Can be a newer, developing organization
- Can be an organization which has not established very regular activity yet, but which is trying to do this in the future
- Should express an interest in developing activity among workers and/or in the workplace

- Should be established a few years
- Should exhibit stable activity (campaigns, activities, regular web page or publication)
- Should have formalized statutes, in line with principles and practices of IWA
- Should show that it is a stable organization, meeting regularly enough, able to manage internal affairs
- Should show that it is able to deal with or trying to deal with activities related to workplace organizing and / or workers struggles
- Should agree with the principles and practices of the IWA in practice

In either case, we think that the main criteria for membership in the IWA as a Friend or Section should be that the organization carries on or intends to carry on anarchosyndicalist activity in practice and that it understands anarchosyndicalism as we do, as something independent of the state collaborationist schemes and other methods of reform, such as electoralism, etc.

The discussions about numbers of people etc. are substitute subjects instead of speaking about the ways of conducting anarchosyndicalist activities in different countries, in places without traditions, without many activists etc., which is the main question for our International and our future successful expansion."

(Source: Mandates of the ZSP for the XXV Congress, 2013)

We ask that these criteria be accepted as a guideline for future admissions. (Of course we are open to the modifications of these ideas by the Sections.)

We do not ask that these be strict requirements, but a guideline.

Justification: As we explained in the XXV Congress, it may be the case that even a small union works clearly as a union and according to our principles. On the other hand, there can be organizations with more people that are quite dispersed, work irregularly, are only losely federated or only occasionally work on labour activities which could qualify under the number logic but are less coherent in terms of identity as either an anarchosyndicalist organization or as a union. We can give our comrades concrete examples.

The ZSP is very open to all those who share our goals in spirit and we do not want to put too strict limits which make our federation inaccessible. And we certainly do not agree with any tendencies which incorporate the capitalist logic and seek to fire comrades for “non-performance”. We want to find some way to cooperate with all who have the same vision. We are ultimately going to grow in a positive direction when we show a preference for taking initiative in organizing ourselves and having more relevance for workers, using various strategies – not only inside single workplaces, but inside local unions, branch unions, campaigns etc. We think it is important not to limit our idea of what a union is or can be to the traditional models in large workplaces.

2. Our above ideas could serve also as a good litmus test for our current Sections who can self-assess how they are doing.

We do not agree with some in the IWA who curse smaller organizations and wish to marginalize them or exclude them. We understand completely how hard it can be to build organizations and we also understand that people can and do make valuable contributions and efforts even when numerically marginalized due to various circumstances. We know many people around the world who would love to have been born somewhere there they could just join an anarchosyndicalist movement, but instead are faced with sometimes insurmountable challenges to even starting the most fundamental activity. But we also know that there are always ways to organize better and we appreciate the role that practical activity has in attracting new people to any organization. We believe that we can all do it. We can all take actions to improve the activity of our organizations, their public visibility, the clarity of their ideas and their role as tools for workers' self-organization.

We would like the IWA to be transformed from a divided pressure-cooker environment to a supportive and solidary one where we can work to achieve reasonable goals in the near term.

We do not believe that the ways some have proposed to cure the IWA are healthy and we note their lack of participation in positive efforts. On the other hand, the IWA grows healthier when all its Sections can contribute better to both the common struggle and the collective management of the IWA.

3. We call for more collective work inside the IWA and this is crucial at this moment. We need more participation in the projects intended to make us grow, such as the lnternational Working Group or the Syndical Education Commission.

We ask all the Sections to consider what they could do at this most serious time in IWA history.

4. ln regard to some of our ideas, we will submit a proposal to the Congress that a Special Plenary (or Conference) of Sections and Working Groups be called, dedicated to the following questions:

*Progress and concrete work of the working groups.
*Proposals for action and improvement.
*Planning and implementing goals for the working groups.
*Discussion about possible action plans for local and international development.

One focus of this special Plenary shall be the strengthening of workers' actions in the IWA and strengthening a commitment to its development. The other shall be the intensification of international work to the best of our abilities. However the topics need not be limited strictly to these.

We think that the Plenary can be held in the summer of 2017 or 2018.

5. IWA lnitiative Groups and Contacts

All developing organizations have the same problems and one is that there are people who want to be active but are in a situation where they are isolated. Some of the IWA Sections have different strategies for including them in the organization, which helps them feel engaged and eventually can help them to build new unions and local organizations.

Currently, the IWA has a list of friendly organizations on its list (2011 Plenary) and has regular exchange which them and others.

The CNTE wants to create initiative groups inside the IWA. There are already a number of organizations we know which formed with the intention of developing into a Section of our lnternational and are in fact such initiative organizations. However, we must recognize that due to the recent size mania, several of them feel too small to apply to be Friends of the IWA.

We must do all we can do help such initiatives, if possible and to show them our moral support. Also, we can think of ways to invite them to interact with us more, through public meetings but also by invitations to events and by encouraging some activities they can do in conjunction with the Federation.

Therefore, we ask the Sections to consider whether it would be positive for us to invite a few organizations to call themselves IWA lnitiatives or contacts so that they can feel more included and welcome into our federation.

6. We propose the IWA support the efforts of all Sections which develop events where the above organizations can be invited. We would like to promote events with at least some substantial part devoted to organizing worker activity. If the Sections organizing it would like help in the latter, we should support the visits of Sections which could help with practical workshops.

We note that this already exists but we propose that this is carried out in a more systematic way and that the Secretariat or some Section make sure at least one such event is held per year. We will also propose a simplified procedure for requesting modest financial support for such events.

Justification/Note: Such events already take place in the IWA, we only seek to make them easier to organize and make them more regular.

But to be clear, we reject any idea that seeks to put responsibility for this in the hands of only one Section or to tend to hold these events in only one country. The locations must be as diverse as possible, which involves the local efforts of our Sections. Spreading out the workshops is the most beneficial model.

We reject ideas that would centralize this and point out that such centralization would be more expensive than the existing IWA practices and would exclude the participation of Sections which benefit greatly from organizing such events themselves.

Also, we think one of the best ways is to visit organizations and help tailor events to their needs, by working together.

We are not opposed to any Section taking initiative to organize such an event and invite people to them, but we would not like any one Section to see themselves as an exclusive organizer of such a “mission”.

The ZSP will submit a number of other ideas to the IWA Congress and some additional concrete details about the above proposals.

For a matter of public record, we state that we are against the positions of the CNTE. We will not work with them in any form towards refounding the IWA outside of the organic instances of the IWA and we do not agree to their basic way of thinking. We point out that similar or identical proposals have already been rejected and we do not respect the way that they boycott their dues payments and make plans for parallel projects. We criticize the attitudes displayed by them towards comrades who have shown solidarity with their struggles on countless occasions and we are disappointed with them in different areas of practice. However, we know that these attitudes are far from universal in that organization and we value the solidarity of the many CNT comrades who have been more solidary in their approach. We look forward to continued relations with those unions which are against the plans to divide the IWA should the CNTE continue its course and wind up outside of the IWA.

Adopted by the X Congress of ZSP
Krakow, May 2-3 2016