The International Revolutionary Syndicalist Current

lundi 17 octobre 2011
par  James Connolly

Our syndicalist current has been trying to reorganise for several years now. Numerous countries have seen attempts of reconstruction however so far these have proved unsuccessful. Our current is now undergoing a new step. The continuation of an ancient and prestigious current is no longer the only goal. Our current must regain its mass influence, it also has to adopt an efficient revolutionary strategy and coordinate internationally.

This text is the result of the experiences of militants over more than ten years in different countries. It has also benefited from the common reflections of two revolutionary syndicalist organizations (British Liberty & Solidarity and French CSR). We propose this text as a basis for a strategic unification and organisational regroupment of all militants, in every continent, who wish to play a part in the reconstruction of a Revolutionary Syndicalist International, built on sections based in each country.

1. Revolutionary Syndicalism and the Amiens Charter

The origins of Revolutionary Syndicalism lie in the action of the “Bourses du Travail” and the French CGT. During the Amiens Congress, in 1906, the CGT chose a revolutionary strategy summed up in a Charter. This Charter settled a coherent strategy for the revolutionary syndicalist movement and became its reference text.

- The Confederation will provoke the revolutionary process through the General Strike.

- The Confederation will be useful during and after the Revolution, as an organ of working class power, taking in charge the production and its distribution.

- The Confederation must guarantee working class unity before, during and after the Revolution. This is a compulsory condition for victory, but also for collective, national and inter-professional management of society. There cannot be any Socialisation without a unitary Confederation.

- In order to insure this organisational, and therefore political, unity of the working class, the Confederation must possess a political autonomy. Thus, the CGT insists on its independence towards every affinity or philosophical group.

Therefore the CGT is opposed to any action by political splinter groups within its ranks. But it accepts the existence of trade unionist currents and tendencies inside its unions. These currents are not a copy of ideological differences between political groups.

The difference between revolutionary syndicalism on one hand, summed up in the Amiens Charter, anarcho-syndicalism, social democracy and Leninism on the other, lies there, because these ideologies want to dictate their philosophical identity to the trade unions.

In these days, in France as well as in other countries, the revolutionary syndicalists were dominant in unified confederations. This brought them to underestimate the necessity of organising as a current. In other countries, the revolutionary syndicalists wished to split confederations in order to create explicitly “revolutionary syndicalist” confederations. It caused the same weakness as in France and encouraged union divisions, which were a major obstacle to the workers taking the power.

2. The Revolutionary Syndicalist Current

The syndicalist current is to be built inside the unions, in an autonomous manner. It fights for unity in action, produced and popularised revolutionary organisation methods and strategies :

- working class autonomy

- "Bourses du travail” and self-managed mutual aid activities

- revolutionary general strike preparations

- build up of unions and industry federations/unions etc.

Since the failure of the Red International of Labour Unions at the end of the 1920sthe revolutionary syndicalist current has found it difficult to reorganise in the recent decades. The temptation has often been the creation of small unions appealing to the revolutionary syndicalist legacy or, confusedly, to an “anarcho-syndicalist” legacy, which has encouraged the current’s isolation and its exhausting defence of small organizations with no real influence.

These attempts have sought legitimacy in an abstract “revolutionary” identity, thus based on several philosophical currents. To say that has certainly not helped the revolutionary syndicalists to adopt a unifying revolutionary strategy is an understatement !

It has been hard to get over this contradiction between revolutionary syndicalist strategy and its actual practice because the experience of the syndicalist current has not been analysed and has often been distorted. Overcoming such a contradiction is possible only by understanding the distinction between a mass organisation, such as a union, and an organisation regrouping only revolutionary militants, the revolutionary syndicalist current. This is so because it is useless to delude workers with a “revolutionary” union if most of its members are not thinking about revolutionary strategy and have not been trained in this field. The syndicalist current’s role is to spread revolutionary ideas and to build and strengthen the unions and their democracies.

The confusion between mass activism and revolutionary action has not yet been solved, causing costly strategic and organisational errors.

That is why we appeal to all militants inspired by syndicalism to create syndicalist currents in their country in order to get rid of this confusion. It is the only way to enable revolutionary syndicalists to find an expression in a mass organization, to offer a revolutionary training to the union members and to prepare for social management by the unions.

3. The IRSC

Revolution is no national process. A short term victory can take place in a country, but it has to extend so as not to be smothered. Therefore revolution requires a revolutionary international. This international must regroup syndicalist currents of every country, in order to coordinate action and reflection. It must facilitate the sharing of experiences and knowledge accumulated in each country.

This syndicalist international’s organisation has to be federalist, and must refuse the nationalist withdrawals that our international current has suffered in the past. Thus each current must be autonomous at the same time as it compares its action with experiences elsewhere. A “national” current must perceive its action and its prospects beyond its borders, with no delusions nor exoticism.

It must be free of dogma and willing to work with trade unionists and organisations beyond its ranks for the furtherance of common goals, building solid alliances where it can.

For 15 years many meetings have been organised with organisations identifying with revolutionary syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism. But these numerous meetings have had little impact, in terms of revolutionary ideas, actual strategies for struggle or the coordination of union’s actions. The reason for this lies in the lack of a real revolutionary international, offering prospects beyond a short term trade unionist routine.

Building this syndicalist international is not yet realisable because such a project must rely on sufficient forces. But this perspective must be affirmed and the dynamics of its construction must get started. The product of an International Revolutionary Syndicalist Current, regrouping currents already active in several countries, is a first step in these dynamics.

Delegates from Liberty & Solidarity (United Kingdom) and from the French Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees have met several times to compare their analysis. This text is the result of their political unification, based upon recent and past experiences.

Therefore our two organizations appeal to the existing currents in other countries, and to isolated militants, to discuss this text with us, in order to strengthen our strategic ideas and initiate common actions to solidify this International Revolutionary Syndicalist Current :

- by coordinating militants in the same industries across borders

- by organising and training immigrant workers in each of our unions

- by sharing articles and strategic analysis

- by embracing new techniques and technologies, and setting up a common website.

Liberty & Solidarity and CSR



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