Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The need for anarcho-syndicalism, or why class war cannot be fought with reformism or gesture politics

The Spanish are set for a general strike on September 29th. This will be the fifth general strike against the Socialist government and planned austerity measures. The fact that the four before have had little impact has led the CNT to call for a shift from mainstream trade unionist tactics.

The anarcho-syndicalist union, best known from the revolution and civil war of the 1930s, has released the following statement;
The government’s plans to stabilise the economy through reducing the public deficit by 11% have placed the cost of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the disadvantaged.

It is evident that the proposals are designed to satisfy banks and employers by compromising with the neoliberal designs that prevail in the EU.

If there had been earlier mobilisations the government would not have dared to present the measures announced and would have had to cut elsewhere. It would have had to seek income where the money really is – on the bench, through corporate taxes, inheritance, hedge funds etc.

We believe it is a mistake to continue ‘negotiating’ labour reform, which is simply a concession to employers. The only possiblility for correcting this situation is to fight this economic aggression through social confrontation, to continue and expand protests to all sectors.

These great evils can only be treated with great remedies, and such remedies do not include, of course, a 24-hour general strike which, assuming that UGT and CCOO (the two major reformist unions in Spain) dared to actually convene one, would act only as a giant safety valve for employee discontent.

An indefinite general strike paralysing the country until the government withdraws anti-worker and anti-social actions would by contrast act as a binder for workers to recover their class consciousness and act together, with an eye to the destruction of the capitalist system through social revolution which is the only truly effective medicine against congenital diseases of the system. 
This is a point that workers would do well to heed, beyond the borders of Spain.

Even in Greece, where action has become riotous, it has not come close to being revolutionary. In other countries, where the radical tradition is presently much weaker, the one-day strike will undoubtedly remain the tactic of choice.

Union leaders can turn action on and off like a tap, continuing to appear up for a fight whilst readying for backroom concessions to the bosses.

As an example, take PCS's response to the budget. Rightly, they criticise measures that "will punish the poorest in society for an economic crisis caused by financial speculators." But, in their stead, they suggest "closing the tax gap." The reformist stance doesn't question the framework of capitalism but only hopes to make it "fairer."

But, as the CNT note in an editorial for their periodical, capitalism is inherently unfair;
At the end of the day, the problem lies in the balance of power between two social classes with conflicting interests - the bourgeois class, which holds exclusive ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the proletarian class, which has no more than their manual and intellectual labour to sell as dearly as possible. The salary of the employee, and therefore the worker himself, is just another cost of production like machinery, electrical power or fuel.

And when the worker is considered this way, not as a human being but as a cost to be cut without a second thought, you can do with them what you will, without remorse. That is neither more nor less than what capitalists do with us now. 
A great majority of workers and trade unionists realise these facts, but are hampered by leadership.

Creating leaders creates positions of privilege and power. Those who occupy them find themselves, by default, with interests antagonistic to the rest of the working class. It is these interests which inspire compromise and sell-outs.

Thus, whether they are openly so like the mainstream trade unions or the would-be "revolutionary leadership" of the hard left, all leaders and hierarchical power structures are inherently reformist.

If we want a hope in hell of forcing any kind of real and lasting change, we need revolution - not reform. And if we're going to see that, then the working class must be self-organised through mass participation.

As the CNT know, through experience, this really is "the only truly effective medicine against congenital diseases of the system."