CSR discussed the international organization among the revolutionary syndicalists

dimanche 7 septembre 2008
par  CSR

Dear comrades,

The Courant Syndicaliste-Révolutionnaire (French Revolutionary-Syndicalist current) discussed the international organization among the revolutionary syndicalists during its national meeting, held in august 2007. The following points emerged.

1) The international unity of revolutionary syndicalists as a principle

The Revolutionary-Syndicalists (RS) have decided since 1921 that the principle of organizing inside a unified Internationale is fundamental. Back then, this decision was a consequence of the failure of 1914, due to the lack of such an international organization. In 1921, the Red Trade Union Internationale enabled the Revolutionary-Syndicalists to regroup their national structures, whatever their form, would they be independent confederations (French CGTU, Dutch NAS, German “Gelsenkirchen” FAU etc.) or currents inside reformist confederations (British Minority Movement, Spanish and Portuguese CSR, Italian RS Fraction etc.). Unfortunately, this unity did not last. Some structures got closer and closer to anarcho-syndicalism, because of their theoretical rejection of the united class front. The creation of the anarchist International Workingmen’s Association (IWA) only served as a pretext to this purpose. Then numerous RS stuck to the IIIrd International‘s bureaucratic strategy. This caused a major crisis inside the Red International of Labour Unions, which finally brought it to disappear in 1937.
Since then, the RS are isolated in each one of their countries, which explains a big part of our contemporary weakness.

2) The development of the French CSR :

Today our international syndicalist current is undergoing reconstruction in many countries. It is regrouping forces and develops close relations with anti-capitalistic syndicalist organizations whose strategies are near to ours. The French CSR’s recent development is a part of this international revival of RS.
The French CSR has always believed in the principle of international unity between all RS. However we consider a real national influence is a necessary basis for this unity, in order to avoid the danger of reproducing the AIT example, regrouping inefficient national organizations in a fake Internationale, a lifeless organization abandoned to bureaucratic disorders.

Today, the French CSR has a real influence in the French Trade Unionism. Our members animate around 20 Local Unions (mainly inside the CGT). We also lead some countywide or nationwide CGT structures. We gain these mandates by openly defending our RS strategy, which convinces more and more militants, members of the CGT or disappointed members of the so-called “autonomous” trade unionism (CNT, SUD).
Thus we consider the time has come to unite with other RS organizations around the world.

3) The IWW are an RS Internationale

The IWW want to build a RS Internationale. That is why we accept joining IWW as their French section.
However, after studying precisely the IWW’s statutes and their growth strategy, we think some contradictions appear.

In our opinion this growth strategy relies on a simplistic vision of international trade unionism. It consists of creating IWW trade unions out of nothing in each country, regardless of each country’s trade union history or contemporary situation. The fact is that in many countries, Revolutionary-Syndicalism has existed way before 1905, and these specific experiences still inspire some syndicalist organizations. For instance, 2 French confederations (CGT and CGT-FO) refer to the Amiens Charter in their statutes. Openly Revolutionary-Syndicalist organizations also exist, in France as well as in Spain (CGTE), Greece, Italy, Latin America etc.

In order to really unite every RS militants, we think it is necessary to bare in mind this diversity, and avoid the danger of trying to build an Internationale based upon the vision of a unique country or trade union “tradition” (linked to the “anglo-saxon culture”, as we call it in France). We consider the recognition of this diversity the foundation of internationalism and federalism.

At present RS militants belong to 3 different types of organizations :
* IWW trade unions
* National federations or confederations openly refering to revolutionary syndicalism, such as the CGTE, the NGWF etc.
* RS currents inside reformist confederations. It is the case for the French CSR, the Greek ESE, or for many IWW militants belonging to the AFL-CIO, the TUC or the DGB.

So there is not a unique way to build Revolutionary-Syndicalism. The efficient strategy depends on the situation in each country. It also depends on even more local situations. That is why the French CSR is composed by members of the CGT, but also by members of FO, SUD and CNT. Militants have to adopt a realistic strategy.

The same thing occurs at an international level. If the Revolutionary-Syndicalists organize internationally, they will have to accept each other’s strategy. Otherwise they will divide because of these 3 diverging strategies, and it will lead to 3 useless RS Internationales.
During the 1913 London international meeting, RS split because of strategic issues. So they were unable to organize against the imperialist war.
We must not see organization in terms of intangible rules always to be applied. In France we lead the CGT until 1914, then we created an opposition (the CSR) inside this confederation in 1919. Later, we created a new RS confederation, the CGTU, before the revival of RS currents in response to the CGTU’s bureaucratic deterioration.

4) Regroup every Revolutionary-Syndicalist

We must discuss the way to organize RS internationally. Organizations such as the CGTE or the NGWF must be able to join this international organization. But the IWW statutes do not allow it. In the same way, it would be nonsense to ask French CGT trade unions and local unions to leave the CGT just to adopt the IWW “label”. Still, some CGT organizations could want to join a revolutionary Internationale.

The RS cannot build itself in a centralist and uniform way. A RS International must federate organizations who have an influence in their countries’ working class. And federalism must respect these organizations’ tactical autonomy. The basis to international coordination must be the workers’ local reality and struggles, not an imported plan. The Red International of Labour Unions disorders began at the precise moment when the principle of each section’s autonomy was violated by a leadership dispatching orders from Moscow. We do not want to reproduce the same mistakes and bureaucratic schema.

The CSR respects every militant’s tactical freedom. At present, only members of so-called “reformist” confederations are part of the CSR. So we are a current. But tomorrow, new forms of RS organizations can appear in France, such as IWW trade unions having left the CGT, SUD or the CNT in order to form real RS trade unions. If we were a little over-optimistic, we could even consider the CNT could reject anarcho-syndicalism and come back to the Amiens charter’s principles…
Such developments would bring three types of RS organizations in France to coexist :

- a current (the CSR)
- autonomous IWW trade unions
- a small RS confederation

An international RS organization should make coordination between these diverging tactics easier, avoiding organizational chauvinism. Each current should be able to be a part of the international organization’s activities.

Apparently the French CNT’s direction seems hostile to our joining the IWW. On our behalf, such bureaucratic reflexes are excluded. Our interest lies in the revolutionary dynamics and therefore in the working class’s unity. We have no problem with the fact that several French organizations could become member of the IWW. On the contrary it would make debate easier and therefore avoid bureaucratic habits, who are a nuisance to our revolutionary goals.
We understand that the foregoing statement can surprise IWW comrades. But, in the same way we consider some elements of the existing IWW statutes are not realistic in regard of the situation of trade unionism in France and in other countries.
We fully share the RS strategy described in the IWW’s political orientations, which makes our regrouping even more necessary. But the question now is to define an international coordination that would enable to bring this strategy to life in every country.

5) An Revolutionary Syndicalist or Anarcho Syndicalist Internationale ?

It seems the direction of the French CNT met an IWW delegation in Paris, and opposed to our joining the IWW. We do not understand this interference.

We consider absolutely legitimate the IWW’s will to work with the CNT, as well as with any class trade union. We do so when we incidentally have the unusual satisfaction of meeting a CNT member in a firm. What we do not understand is where the interest of the direction of the French CNT for debates between Revolutionary-Syndicalists lies.
The CNT statutes and political orientations are clearly anarcho syndicalist. The CNT does not acknowledge trade union independence, nor refers to the unique class front. That is also why it does not want to join the IWW and prefers to build a libertarian trade union network. This anarcho syndicalist network has existed for ten years, with no real firm activity because it is a bureaucratic organization. The philosophical celebrations such as the I07 conference have no concrete application, and their only purpose seems to legitimate the existence of anecdotal national organizations.

Therefore we do not understand why an anarcho syndicalist organization should interfere in discussions between the CSR and the IWW. We identify with the IWW political orientations and history concerning the independence of trade unionism towards any political philosophy.
So we were puzzled by the report the review “Industrial Worker” published about the international meeting the French CNT held in Paris in June 2007. It is written that the IWW will reinforce their activity with trade unions, “especially with the CNTF and the FAUD”. Do the IWW priorities lie in coordinating with anarcho syndicalist organizations, who have no real influence in firms ?

The CSR wishes to distribute the IWW review in France, but this will quickly reveal useless if it contains far-fetched analyses. The French CNT direction may delude foreigners about a real influence in France. But French trade unionists are aware of trade union realities in French firms. So it will be difficult for us to promote the IWW if they are perceived as an Internationale linked with small anarcho syndicalist groups.
We think a RS Internationale can only rely on trade union independence, and therefore on working class unity. Our purpose is not to build a new exclusive Internationale, but to enable the unitary mobilizations of the working class in order to unfold revolutionary dynamics.

So we are thoroughly interested in reinforcing debates between our organizations, so that the CSR may join the IWW in the shortest possible delay. In the mean time, we naturally wish to strengthen coordination between our branches of industry and will send you several proposals to do so.