More on the attacks against the CNT-AIT and the principles of anarcho-syndicalism

More on the attacks against the CNT-AIT and the principles of anarcho-syndicalism

When the Spanish Section of CIT decided to bring multiple lawsuits against the CNT-AIT some years ago, it was very important how they did it. The Secretary of the CNT-CIT, Enrique Hoz, hired a lawyer who filed these suits – without the mandate of the organization to do it.

This says everything about the Spanish Section of the CIT. In anarcho-syndicalism, Secretaries are not mandated to make any decision they feel like by themselves, especially one so controversial. Such things should go before the membership as a proposal first.

Those who are in the CNT-AIT know this problem because not so long ago, many of them were in the CNT-AIT together, before the Spanish Section of CIT stopped being the CNT-AIT. This was a major problem then, as it is a major problem now. If it is not seen as a problem by parts of their membership, it just shows that they are not really interested in maintaining an anarcho-syndicalist practice.

The unilateral decisions of the executive members of the CNT-AIT (when it was occupied by the current members of the Spanish Section of CIT), were one of the great problems. For example, in relation to the IWA. The CNT-AIT of that time, being a member of the IWA, was obliged to pay dues, which also was a requirement in the very Statutes of the CNT-AIT. The Statutes set out standing instructions of several types of payments the Treasurer should make from the dues. One of them was a statutory instruction to pay dues to the IWA. However, the Treasurer, having no mandate, decided some time before the Xth Congress not to pay them. This was another example of how executives decided above the heads of the membership what to do.

In this situation, at least the members were informed about this authoritarian and anti-statutory executive decision and could protest it and finally force the dues to be paid. However, later, the same thing happened. Only that time, the membership did not find out about it right away because the Treasurer did not make any full reports and for some time, made no reports at all. As it turned out, these lack of reports coincided with a period of embezzlement on the part of the General Secretary.

These type of incidents show just some of the authoritarian practices which started to take hold in the old CNT-AIT, before it re-established itself some years ago. It was a necessary step to avoid a complete downward spiral and to maintain a functioning anarcho-syndicalist organization in Spain.

This is not the first time this has happened with that organization. As both a mass organization and an organization with some resources, the CNT-AIT has at various times in history attracted unscrupulous groups of people who sought to take it in another direction. From the Treintistas of old to those who during Francoism sought to cooperate with very undesirable forces, to those who went more mainstream in the CGT. Each time there were militants of the CNT-AIT who struggled to keep the CNT-AIT on track and true to the principles it was fighting for.

Inside the CNT-AIT of the early 21st Century, various moves went on to take control of the organization. Several unions, inclined towards changing the orientation and practice both the CNT-AIT and the IWA into more vertical ones started acting in ways with defied several Confederal agreements. Such as unions in Andalucia. It was there that the CNT-AIT had to carry out investigations into claims that some unions were buying more member stamps than it had members in order to inflate their votes and that some members were also in parallel unions and were diverting funds into these unions. These claims were proven, however, it turned out that those who took action in these matters to talk about these matters, investigate them and stop these practices were then scapegoated and expelled from the CNT-AIT. A series of expulsions occurred, starting in this region and later spreading and unions showed themselves in solidarity with those expelled, often anti-statutorially.

And so it happened that a series of purges occurred and the Secretariat of the CNT-AIT, being on the side of the authoritarian faction, started to try to evict people from their premises. It must be stated that there are many different situations about CNT-AIT premises in Spain; some registered these spaces to their local entities, not to the Central Organization, some to the Central Organization. Some did not exist in the historic past and some existed even decades before the CNT was founded. The fact is that all of these premises were maintained and used by the people in them, collectives who put time, money and energy into this.

The first acts of violence committed by members of the Secretariat were in Cadiz in 2012.  It consisted of a couple of raids on the CNT-AIT office in Cadiz.  The union in Cadiz was instrumental in exposing the fraud committed in Andalucia, for example, how they were buying votes so those who were implicated in this fraud decided they needed to get rid of them. Despite this, the CNT-AIT in Cadiz continued to operate, having a labor conflict shortly after. This activity was well-known in Cadiz and CNT-AIT Cadiz acted to continue anarcho-syndicalist activity while the executives of the old CNT-AIT tried to wipe it off the map. The Secretary of the Confederal Committee wrote that it would take possession of this office, that it had changed the locks and, if anybody had any personal belongings inside it, they should provide their name and their details.

After this attempt to evict CNT-AIT Cadiz, which proved unsuccessful, members of the Regional Committee of Andalucia appeared at one comrades workplace and threatened him with all sorts of things. Later, there was a physical attack which was fought off by some people from the neighbour who saw what was happening. Finally, the place was robbed. All the furniture from inside, flags, posters and books were taken. It should be pointed out that all of these things were gathered by the local membership who had taken years of collective effort to build up the space and the library. Even the door was destroyed, just to spite those in Cadiz who acted against corruption in their regional.

While there were other incidents and threats of incidents, for example, against the union of Alcoy, perhaps the best known were the attempted raid of the CNT-AIT Local Federation of Madrid's offices a few years ago. This federation, one of the largest in the CNT-AIT, had been problematic for the authoritarian faction for years and it had tried numerous times to expel some of its unions and even the whole federation.

Several failed attempts to expel the Federation hinged on false accusations that somebody shouted to another person during a demonstration about being a reformist. When the union did not expel the person falsely accused, the reformists tried to expel the whole union and when the Federation refused to expel the union, they tried to expel the whole Federation (more than 500 people).

That was how the purges looked. It should be noted that the CNT Statutes have provisions that say that members who are expelled cannot come back in another union and members of expelled union require a special decision during the Plenary which expels them. However, a number of expelled people were allowed back without such decisions, in contradiction to the Statutes.*

(* One of these people was Miguel Perez, first International Secretary of CIT.)

Finally, there was another attempt to expel this federation from the entity now calling itself CNT-CIT. It must be noted that this took place one week before a national meeting to ratify joining CNT-CIT. This fact represented the reality of CNT-CIT at that point. Executives attended meetings, took actions and decisions and then later asked the membership to ratify what they'd done. This was a big change from first taking a decision, then mandating an elected representative to do it. However, with a few like-minded people controlling a large number of votes of passive members who had joined in the service union model, they could expect decisions to be rubber-stamped.

Except for with Federations such as Madrid, the majority of whose unions still had an active base membership committed to anarcho-syndicalist practices. The Regional Plenary which took place the week before this ratification was to take place, was a good opportunity to try to get rid of the dissenters, but before the vote enough was debated, a group of people led by the Regional Secretary, went to carry out the eviction at the Federation's premises, where two women were alone. Informing comrades what was happening (while this situation was supposed to be discussed), people returned to defend themselves against this executive eviction.

Such were the practices of the current leadership of the Spanish section of CIT towards people who are members of the CNT-AIT.

Currently, the lawyer of the Spanish Section of CIT makes claims and charges that can land some people in jail and tries to get around a million euros in “damages” from CNT-AIT. Some people in CNT-AIT, who are legally registered officers face personal liability of tens of thousands of euros if the union doesn't have that money.

So much for promoting anarcho-syndicalism in Spain.

Other organizations in the world have also had their ideological turns splits and so forth. In France, there are 3 CNTs – each one with their own affiliation or ending initials and nobody confuses CNT-AIT with CNT-SO and so forth. There is no need for courts and although some may be critical of the others, there are no claims that the others are “damaging” them and should pay them a million euros.

However, that's just the way that some people are. Fits in more with the ideals of petty greed than with anarcho-syndicalism.
On the occasion of the Days of Solidarity with the CNT-AIT, we proclaim that we will not forget this situation and what caused it.

Long live the CNT-AIT and anarcho-syndicalism!

Laure Akai
Secretary General, IWA
Member of ZSP Warsaw Union

Some further reading: