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(en) WSM.ie: May 15th - a Peripheral Conversation about the crisis & the EU periphery II. (2/2)

Date Wed, 14 Dec 2011 09:05:58 +0200

MG: Socialising the loss ---- PB: … thousands of properties throughout Dublin, and of course we are not allowed to know which ones they are, that technically we own, although we are still paying rent for it [laughter]. So that an interesting thing. And also they say, in the discourse in the media in Ireland, in talking about the crisis, we say that the mortgages is the sleeping giant because I think… -- MG: Sleeping giant? -- PB: It’s a metaphor for something which will cause great destruction when it wakes up, in that, Ireland, as you know, is a country of 4.5 million but they reckon that the number of people who are behind on their mortgage payment is somewhere in the region of 200,000 people [FACTCHECK: more like 40,000] or families ---- MB: That cannot meet their payments?

PB: are having difficulties. Now what they have done for the last two years, they have, they keep passing these emergency, its not really legislation but just acts of government, if you like to say that, we will not evict people who are in arrears so they are delaying dealing with this problem but the problem is getting bigger. Because for historical reasons, really since the foundation of the Irish state, they have not gone in for evictions because, of course, evictions create this cultural memory of what the British used to do. So politically it’s a very toxic subject but at some stage they will have to deal with it properly. People are not paying their mortgages so what happens then?

MG: So, in Ireland, there are no evictions or only a few?

PB: Very few, its generally people who have…

MG: So they are denying the solution [situation?], are putting the garbage under the carpet.

PB: Yes, they are trying to. We have an expression in English, “kicking the can down the road”

MG: Yes, it’s the same [laughter]

MB: In Portugal, speaking about banks in Portugal, the banking system had some people that are very, very, ahem.. shrewd; and they made a bank using their influences in government and the main parties. And this was bank was all, em, how’d you say, something that was complete out of [its?] mind because .. it was sold, it was owned by Cape Verde based banking society, holding company and this holding company de-capitalised bank you see? …more or less this was more or less a very very horrible situation because you had lots of people who put with their deposits and they had the head of the bank that was making such crookery and they made a society that was based in another country – in this case Cape Verde - and this society owned the bank. So this society de-capitalises the bank and the bank was on the brink of bankruptcy. The State comes in – nationalises because it has to has to save the banking system.

PB: And this bank, what’s it called?

MB: Bank Nacional Populare. BNP. And there was another other – that was a tiny little bank – but it was business ..

PB: business loans

MB: .. you know..special - for rich people. It was also big bankruptcy or something like that. And they saved also this BPP [Banco Privado Português]. The deficit ..was 2% [GDP] risen? Arisen? Arisen because a rise..this 2% rise because of these operations. So it’s the classical - they nationalise the losses

MG: and privatise the benefits, the profits.

MB: Now they are going to privatise the most profitable parts of the public sector. Namely, there is a public owned bank called Caixa Geral de Depositos. it’s not Caixa [i.e. Spanish “Savings & Loans”]..its not..

MG: yeah, it’s the name of the bank. It’s not special regime or...

MB: it’s a state owned bank. And all the civil servants have bank deposit there, for processing their salary.

PB: OK..right. And the pensions?

MB: And their pensions… no, they want to privatise a sub business from.. because it is a group and there is a business that is working? I don’t know.. that is insurance. this group created an insurance … this is a profitable part – yes - insurance companies depending on this..


MB: Just to say, how they do the same in every country.. but with differences from country to country.

MG: Yes different structure, from the point of the social struggle or… but it is more or less the same..

MB: It is the same. The essence is the same.

PB: It’s good for us to hear the stories from each of the different countries so that people become aware of how much how similar, how its done..

MB: It repeats… It’s repeating. I think what happened to Ireland happened to Portugal eight months later. It’s like the fate ..


PB: We were talking about how the BNP bank in Portugal how this bank was set up in a murky way; then it was de-capitalised and then it was..

MG: One of the biggest attacks against the public sector or one of the biggest pieces of the cake that want…that sharks - the sharks of the finance, of the banking - is the pension funds. So, the worst of all is that the main unions – the bureaucratic union have signed an extraordinarily regressive agreement on pension funds… without fight. That is the question that these …

MB: What does this agreement say..

MG: It was signed in January.

MB: What is the content?

MG: First of all, you are not going to retire at 65, like until now. You are now going to retire at 67, after a period of adaption [?]. But we.. I for example..

MB: will never be able..

MG: For example.. And you should be paying during for more years than before for having that paid retired. You need more requirements to access to these funds. So, what is happening? Many people is seeing that they are not going to have a decent retirement, so they are going to the private funds. And this is the real objective of that reform.. because the are milles [millions?].. thousand of millions … there. It is an impressive number that these ‘sharks’ are seeing. The problem is the same as I have said before: the public opinion is dominated by the right. We, from the radical position – from the left – I don’t know how to express - we have not been able to confront the propaganda of the regime. We have been able to confront it until the point of convince the people. It was very simple, that it was..

MB: We don’t own/hold a TV channel.. that’s the reason why! [laughs]

MG: ..It was regressive. Regressive. But if we have a real, massive, grassroot work – we can contra-arrest the lies of TV. But it is not the question. The question is that we can convince the people because it is very easy that the reform is bad. But we cannot convince them that there is an alternative.

MB: Convince. Convince. Persuade…

MG: ..Persuade that there is an alternative. So always, all the people are saying “Yes –its very bad. No to reform; but ok, it is necessary as this system is unsustainable, because in Portugal there are many, many old people”. So..

MB: In Portugal it is the same.. in Portugal during many years, the social security and the pension – state run pension fund - was de-capitalised. Why? Because they had a schema, a mechanism that they could go and draw from the pension fund – state run pension fund, to make loans to the state. Loans that are very bad for the pension fund – interest rate – because the state would never obtain loans in the market, at these rates. So it is equivalent to de-capitalise the pension fund. So it’s not surprising, that this is one reason why it is not sustainable between commerce. The other reason is because the private sector - not the public servants; but the private sector had decades – various decades long policy - of sending to pension [retirement], people before pension age because, you know, the old workers are not adaptable and they lack some formation. They don’t, are not familiar with informatisation.

MG: They earn too much.. it is a problem! [laughs]

MB: They earn too much; they are unionised and they have fighting experience… and the pretty girls are sweet and very attractive..

PB: I don’t know the system..

MG: And pliable.

MB: And pliable.

MB: And so if you enter, for instance, a bank, you are only attended by young people before/ under 40 or under 30 - really young people. Of course, there are some that have our age, but it’s very few in the hierarchy. So what happened to these old or middle aged bank workers? They were retired with extra..

MG: paid with public money

MB: .. extra given by the bank – the bank gives an extra indemnity and they sometimes take a second, a second accumulating with their pension. They take a second…erm [MG: Pay; PB: Job?] MB: Job! [MG: Ah, second job.] Second job, they make. For instance, I now, I retired from teaching, from teacher, but I could. I think it’s immoral to let this happen. I earn a pension - I will soon be a pensioner, but I could hire myself to a private college. And still earn, but I think it’s immoral.

MG: Yeah yeah..I understand.

PB: Other people do it of course..

MB: But it was permitted.

PB: Could I just ask a quick question of facts. The majority of pensions in public and private sector, are they still the state pension or are they private pensions..?

MB: No. State pension…

MG: In Spain it’s still the public pension...

PB: OK. In terms of the neoliberal revolution, you’re behind the curve then, if you like, of where England and Ireland are..

MB: Yeah.. yeah.

MG: But now they are attacking..

PB: From a capitalist point of view .. [MB: We are forward in another..] ..a state pension, in fact does not represent a set of money. It just represents when you finish working, they have to pay you. Whereas a private pension – you pay into and you create a thing of capital

MG: You pay yourself

PB: A deposit of capital which then they play with. So yeah..

MB: The banks.. will play with this in the speculative economy

MG: They play with your money

PB: And you can lose as well - you can lose your pension. Whereas with the state pension at least, they still owe you money.

MG: In Chile, for example.. (My wife is from Chile) and..

MB: And it was in Japan as well a few years ago. And there is also something that I want to stress: is because the public sector is so bad in health care and in hospitals and so on, that it is a big business in Portugal; and it is the privatised sector – private health – and [the] so-called socialist government built some monstrous thing called Public Private.. er..

PB: ..Partnerships [laughs]. We’ve heard of them [laughter].

MG: They are trying to do that now in Spain.

MB: They only loose money and they have built …erm.. white elephant, big hospitals; perhaps they are functioning well in terms of public attending or not. I don’t know. But what is not functioning well is that the losses are for state..

PB: for public [laughs]

MB: and profits are private. So the public deficit is being always increased by this public-private partnership.

PB: I’m going to bring the discussion back to this idea of the capitalist composition of Europe – of the Eurozone – because what I find in some ways ironic but in other ways you kind of expect it, is that the left in our various countries have very little to say about the European dimension to this crisis; if only perhaps to say “oh the Germans are running everything” if you like; but this is only in relation to people in Ireland who will say “oh Frankfurt is running this” - but there is no concept of that happening to anyone else, but Ireland. But then if you read the bourgeois media – the bourgeois financial media – like The Economist or Financial Times etc., you’ll find commentators there who are going ‘well clearly the problem here is that we have monetary union without a political union’; and obviously that’s not the kind of model we are interested in, but at least they are posing the question of the composition of Europe - which is what’s at stake within this crisis. Now I guess for us, the radical left – whatever you want to call it – we have to provide some level of argument at that level, say the composition of Europe – if it means that we have this relationship between core and periphery, where effectively in Greece, Ireland and Portugal democracy is now meaningless, because economic policy is dictated from Frankfurt and this is in fact, a very strange occurrence. For the last 200 years we’ve had this liberal model of history where things go from colonialism and dictatorship, to post-colonialism and then to democracy; and now all of a sudden the arrow of history has gone backwards in Europe – we have gone from liberal democracy back to direct rule. And in the liberal model that’s unusual – it’s not supposed to happen.

MB: The so-called peripheral countries of Europe, they are putting into practice what they have done in Africa and Latin America in the 80’s. This is disaster capitalism in action.

MG: I wanted to talk about Chile because it has been one example and one model – not only for the region but for all the world – the neoliberal revolution started in Chile with Pinochet and the Chicago boys.

MB: Counter revolution.

MG: Counter revolution, of course.

PB: The first 9/11

MG: Yes. One thing is that the brother of the nowadays president of Chile – Piñera – was the brain behind the reform of the pension funds in Chile; and this is the model that is going to be applied and is starting to be applied in Spain. The bourgeois press, the bourgeois media is saying it is a very good model – a successful model and sustainable; but they are not saying the private funds are putting [the funds?] in the speculative market. And nowadays the people in Chile, that are forced by circumstance to have a private pension fund because the public sector has already told it has already been done – de-capitalise it. So the people are losing money, because with the crisis, these funds have been falling. So what model are they trying to sell us? A model of high benefits, high profits for a minority and where the majority have to pay and have to work for them as well. This is completely a result of the state of class struggle nowadays.

PB: You can see this as an egalitarian move - they are trying to make not only the young people precarious but no – precarity for all people. [Laughter]

MB: The contradiction makes the old system totally unsustainable, even in capitalistic terms. It is unsustainable to continue in such capitalist ways because it cannot be so. Because the financial system and all this speculation is only diverting welfare from the productive system. The goods and the services are the real economy; and the real economy is preyed [upon] even more and more by the financial system. So the financial system is a load on – so in fact there is a big contradiction because the financial system cannot go on having profits preying on the productive system. And what they have done is – what they do – is they externalise the loss – either preying [upon] the state pension funds instead of the ..

PB: This is a huge contradiction in neoliberalism – neoliberalism was supposed to get rid of the state, but now who is going to take all the losses but the state…

MB: They prey on the state..no. No perhaps at some extremist - Hayek and so on - discourse , but only [as] discourse, because the main aim was to prey on the state – it was not to get rid of the state. To prey on the state and to use the state for them to become more and more.. and they preyed on the state and now they cannot generate value by themselves. The financial system cannot generate value by themselves. They can only prey upon the value that is generated in the real economy; but the real economy is weakened. It becomes weaker and weaker because of this preying. So you see the contradiction – how can they continue this parasitic [relationship] – so it’s an internal contradiction to the capitalist system – and it has no solution inside the capitalist system. So this is the way out – the way out is to put this contradiction to light and make sure that – it is not the chaos if we… the chaos is made by this capitalist – they are running the society towards the chaos – towards the collapse. We are rescuers of human civilisation. Of you know… we want an economy not shattered, but an economy that produces for human beings instead of human beings being slaves to the economy.

PB: This is where I’m going put another steer on it (because we’re getting towards the end of our time) and this is the idea that.. As well as opening a discussion horizontally between the left of peripheral countries, we need also to open a dialogue with our comrades in the core countries – in France and Germany and so on. In order to do that we have to explain to them – um, yes, we need to challenge some of the racism that we see, for example in the coverage in Germany of how the so-called peripheral crisis has been covered in terms of simplistic explanations and xenophobic explanations of ‘lazy Greeks’ and ‘useless Irish’ – ‘irresponsible spenders’.. not proper, good protestant value Germans or what have you.. So partly some of that but also we need to explain that our vision is not a fairer sharing out of misery, if you like, that instead of simply just the Irish, Portuguese and Greeks paying for the losses of all the banks - because the money came from the core countries as well; but that we have a vision that is equally relevant to workers in France and Germany and Italy as well Spain, Portugal and Greece. And I think partly that ties into what you have just been saying about the system - it’s creating chaos and breakdown, that’s not simply a problem of governments overspending or…

MB: No, the logic of the system is to increase entropy – increasing entropy, because it is the logic intrinsic to the system; and they know it – the economists know it but they hide it because they are hired to make us believe that capitalism can be run - the economists are hired to make us the believe that the economy can still be run in a capitalistic way.

MG: I think they really are convinced in what they say.

MB: No. Most are intelligent to understand..

MG: Most have been learned [educated] in the orthodox economy. They have been said that the economy can grow indefinitely – upon this basis. The system needs a constant flux of money. The system needs a…

MB: Yes, yes the bullshit .. you know for me... the economy they teach in universities – it is not an economy as a science … it is an ideology.

MG: The economics that is thought in the top universities is management of capitalism. It’s philosophical, if you want to say it that way, foundation ..psychological…

MB: These so-called laws are only meaningful inside a capitalist system, so they are not laws at all. Because a law is something that is meaningful in nature. The general term of law, when we use law in the context of a science – [is] something that is valid here or on Mars or on Jupiter – the same. But they use laws in a sense that is only meaningful inside the capitalist system – and this is not law.

MG: And even in the capitalism they are not true. They psychologicist explanation and how the human beings act, and they try to destruct…

MB: They change [apply] a simplistic model to a law and they want us to believe that this is a law.

MG: For example, the rational election [expectations] model.. One child of five years is more clever… People don’t have that motivation but it is very useful this model – not for explaining reality but for ..hiding.. justifying..

MB: I think that we come to a point – I want to introduce another thing, that is for me very, very important. We left - anti-authoritarian/ libertarian left – we should be aware that people need to feel that some alternative model is workable. It’s not only something like a sociological science fiction novel. And this means we should be bold enough to build co-operatives, that are self-managed and that are run and that are economically sound. That address.. that go in the market.. I know that if we make a co-operative we are working inside the capitalist system, but the real interest of it is that it empowers workers, so the workers can see by themselves that to manage an enterprise is not so extraordinary. That people, common people, can take sensible decisions and can run – not in a perfect – but in a very sensible way, the economy at their scale. Because most of the people are dis-empowered – the people are convinced of their total incapacity to change whatever; and to look at this catastrophe in a fatalistic way. My concern is how can we invert this defeatist mentality that invades our field, our ranks too.

MG: I think the best way to gain is small reforms; and I think that is not a reformist strategy, but a way of accumulating forces; and so for the people – the power that is in their hands when they unite. One thing more is the importance of the unions – the popular [tr: has sense of lowest class in latin languages] union and other types of popular organisations. The importance too of being fully aware of the real struggles of our class – where we are living. Of acting there – of taking them as the model and taking them as the space where we can promote our vision of things, because it is the space where the people can grow politically – in that struggle..

MB: Self manage of the struggles.

MG: Yes of course but you are not going to have a pure self-management struggle or a pure self-management enterprise, but you have to promote it … with examples.

MB: Yes I agree.

PB: Because there’s an interesting thing that has happened in the last six months we’ve seen the events in Tunisia and in Egypt and across North Africa and so on. And we saw within Tahrir square people gathered against the dictatorship of a man, creating this self-managed space, in fact, of cafes and restaurants and media tents and toilets and so on. So within a space of struggle of pure opposition, they started to create self-managed things and that transformed the people’s experience. But what I find interesting is this contradiction that we have is that where they are getting a feeling of empowerment fighting the dictatorship of individuals, here in Europe we feel completely powerless against a dictatorship of the markets. And we have to find a way, in some ways, of turning that around, and going: “No. We can find a way of.. confronting the dictatorship of markets in the same way that people have confronted the dictatorship of individuals.” Now of course that’s more difficult because the market appears to be an impersonal force, almost like a force of nature. And all the media discourse presents it as a force of nature - a “tsunami” as they called the collapse of 2008. So I agree with you, we need to find ways to fight reforms to remind people that it’s not a natural force but a contest. That we can achieve things...

MG: That is the most important because this is the examples that can encourage the people for fighting.

MB: I have to make a remark because in past centuries we had terrible crisis with massive unemployment and things like that. But nowadays we have a difference in our countries now. We have a very high level education in this proletariat, we are a highly educated proletariat that is suffering this attack. So what about this? We can take advantage of this because I insist .. One century ago there was a crisis and there parts of the world where there were unemployment of 30% or more. But the problem was that these people they had only a chance not to starve to death, is a chance to be hire themselves as a wage slave to someone. And now we have the possibility to build our own self-managed enterprises, just like in Argentina. Look, in Argentina in 2001 we had a similar situation. The economy went bankrupt, the old economy and the people were there and sometimes the factories were taken by workers because the owners, the bosses just left away. And it happened the same in Portugal in ‘74. I remember very well, the self-managed industries and this arised because of need, urgent need. They have nothing and because they flee the workers in these enterprises they have other choice but to take control and put the things producing by themselves. And then, what happens, contrary to Portugal, in a second episode, lets say, in Argentina they managed to transform these in a self-management but legalised it so cooperative status. They became cooperatives. And there are many things that can be done so that we show that we don’t have to have the fear. Because the reformists they always appeal for people to claim their rights to the state. Well its true, but on the same time, we put always looking at the state as the sole provider of all the things from education to..

PB: What I’d say though, in the Argentinian situation there was a difference that, because there had been this collapse in 2001, you had the situation where people would go out and find that in their neighbourhood someone had written in chalk, on the corner of the road: “Meeting here, Wednesday 7 o’clock”, and people would come. Now, our situation at the moment is that still, even within the crisis, we have that people are still atomised into their individual things, so that if we go out and write “Meeting here 7 o’clock Wednesday”, no one will come. So our problem first of all is to break through that lack of collectivity that we have at the moment. There’ s still this capitalist mentality of everyone staying at home and watching the world through their TV screen. And that’s.. yeah, I don’t think.. because we need that mental transformation for people to have that confidence to say: “Yes, we can make alternative institutions, cooperatives, stuff like that. And I think to a certain.. I’m coming back to what Manu is saying that by winning even small achievements through the unions and stuff like that, that is a way of trying to..

MB: I think if you had the classical idea about unemployment that is the reserve army of the labour force. While there is unemployment, the lower the bargaining capacity of the still-employed workers. So, if part of the reserve army is becoming a army… [PB: guerrilla army!] .. or just army - they are in the economy, put themselves in the economy by themselves. This is a very big blow to the capitalist economy. They say: “Ok, if we don’t give decent wages, our best workers they flee to the cooperatives”.

MG: The problem is that as happened in Argentina, in a situation of crisis that crisis is objective. And this crisis not only for the hierarch[ical] enterprise, is a crisis for the cooperative too. And what was the case in Argentina? … in Argentina was, that the most of the companies taken, was the companies without, er.. proveedores? [suppliers] and sin cliente [without clients], without investment, without credit, without nothing. Without machinery.

MB: But they changed it..

MG: No. It was a project defeated.

MB: No, there were enterprises that now are..

MG: But they are islands. They are exceptions. The movement as a whole was defeated. You can talk with the comrades of the Red Libertaria. They have written a recent article. What’s the problem? We can create islands of self-management in the core of the capitalist system, as a strategy.. I think is a very marginal strategy and it only works in... [PB: like the kibbutzes in Israel...] ..in concrete moments of vacancy of the system. As a way of survive. But in the moment in Argentina it started the economic recuperation, most of the cooperatives or the initiatives for surviving, disappeared. There are only a few [surviving]. And these ones have been promoted or sustained by militant work. So the workers there are doing an extra effort. [PB: self-exploitation?] Yes. So I think it’s a very complicated way. I’m not against the cooperatives but I think that its a strategy with many limits.

MB: You are right. But I have to say that we are in a mainly a service provider society. Parts of our society that are devoted for material goods, is a minority. Mainly we are service providers, [MG: in our countries] in our countries, in Europe, it is for Europe that I am talking. I know that of course we are profiting, we are taking from the third world countries goods, because otherwise, heh, we could not survive [laughter] .. exactly. And so, .. our food comes from somewhere, of course. But for the moment we have economies that are very heavily based on service. So it is necessary to asses this problem that at the present we have high competent unemployed personel. That for instance, would be able to make one school as self-managed cooperative school. Of course it would not be aimed to.. how do you say ..it would have a, lets say, solidaire [adj. form of solidarity] attitude and let people of small income.. But we let this corporate sector of the, for instance, the high-quality school. There are many now, in spite of the crisis, they are not in crisis now, you know. In my country this sector, the private schools of high-quality, they have huge files of parents that want their children to be inscribed in this school. And why it has to be run in a capitalist way? No need.

MG: But you are not solving the problem.

MB: I’m not solving any problem. I only want to find ways of fighting.There are many ways. Unions - you are right. Confrontational forms of class struggle - and also we should build something that is providing us with subsistence and another culture. We don’t have to invent the things that were invented two centuries ago. And cooperatives seem to be a solution. If .. now unemployed, I would try to form a cooperative with other comrades so we can go to the market and say “we offer these services in these conditions and .. we are good professionals..” So I believe it has a chance to..

MG: But these type of initiatives are a chance for only, I only speak in this .. now I am talking.. these initiatives are taken by militants, if I understand. Because a cooperative, without bosses, equal responsibilities, equal profits, so.. You need very militant people, and even with very militant people, is difficult to continue. In Spain - you know - it has been many projects of libertarian school. You know, In the last in the last 30 years only one has survived - Paideia - and at a very high price. Is true, is a work alternative for militants. You have 20 - 30 militants working there. First of all they are isolated. They are militants, 20 - 30, isolated on that project for 30 years. In 30 years that project has not achieved expanding. It is the same as it was 30 years ago. Another problem, the people who is paying for the school is the middle class or higher class progressive people that wants a higher standard for their child. What’s the result? You have very clever and well educated boys and girls. I know personally people who have been education in Paideia and nobody is anarchist. So is very difficult. I didn’t want to descartar? [despise - tr: actually more ‘be dismissive’] to despise … but I think is a very difficult way of promoting libertarian socialism. Because the limits that we have in this society. And as a way of educating people in self-management, I think it has too limited power.

PB: There’s also a strategic question of, is it better to take.. if you have 30 active militants, is it better to take them and put them alone in a cooperative, or to have them working in 30 different workplaces where they can infect the minds of their fellow workers? But I guess you were talking about the unemployed..

MB: What my feeling is that we have to be open to many solutions. That there is not one main avenue for the class struggle, there are many, many, many. And the way is always to say, we confront their side, and we are a class and we have differences, we are not agreeing with things that are not, sometimes that are not details, sometimes that are significant differences. But we are mature enough to overcome this, because we know at this time the fight is at this level and this is what has to be theoretised, and the problem I see, for instance, nothing is more psychologically self-defeating than the thing that my leftist comrades from Portugal, the launch a petition - a petition - to not to pay the debt.

PB: In Ireland as well there is one part of the Trotskyist movement...

MB: The petition, as a mechanism is something that is like, you know, psychologically is like .. [MG: not always!] ok, but... the one that is disempowered to pray to the powers : “Please consider my point of view”. This is the first thing. The second thing is that there is no way that this campaign is effective. And I prefer...

MG: That is not the only problem..

MB: (sorry) I prefer, not putting on the agenda anything that I know has no chance to succeed. And I put .. I can write an article and say, “Yes, in fact, in theory we could, make default of the debt because of this and this and this, and it is not as the corporate media say because of that and that and that”. And .. could try to argue, in a theoretical field, these things. But what I think we should adopt as a attitude is something that stemmed from the tactical/strategical thought, because we are very good, in the left, we are very good in theory, but we fail dramatically in the strategically and tactical level, and this is..

MG: I think we are not [good] in theory and not in practice. I think that the problem is not that we have demands and we present demands. The problem is that in many cases we don’t fight for win. Because I don’t think it’s a bad habit .. [MB: what I don’t like is to represent fighting] One thing is that you present one demand and you have to fight for a win. It’s very different that you present a demand and you wait for the government, by the grace of god, will give you it. So. But if you fight for win, and you really win that demand then it is a big increase in consciousness. So I’m going to put an example. An example related with the unemployed people, one solution for the unemployed people. I’m aware that its a solution, not universal, but it’s a solution taken in a very concrete context. The context of a town. Near Seville, we have three years ago, we have a very strong struggle with the unemployed people of the town. It was a town of around 30,000 people. So they do the demand to the city council, of contract that people. They say, we are unemployed, you have to contract us. We don’t have work, it’s not our problem. You have to contract us. Because we the workers, need to work. Ok? And if you don’t have work then you have to repart [redistribute?] the work. But we are going to organise how the work is going to be given. Not if you are a sheep I give you the work, if you are rebel I don’t give you the work. You have to use our list - first, second, third, fourth... First is going to work the first on the list, second is going to work the second on the list.. Borsa de trabalho

PB: This reminds me of the Swedish, the SAC did with their, with this old tactic of the charter [register]? They would say, you don’t hire people, we hire the people...

MG: Yes

PB: ..You tell us how many people you want and we will send them to you.

MG: Yes. The CNT always has done this. With force. .. What is the positive for this?

MB: But the American unions in the history did this, and then they became mafiosi. It became just like, you know, to have work you had to be in the union and you had to please the union bosses..

MG: Yes, but this is why its necessary for the unions to be democratic, to have the democratic management of the unions. Because in the union of Seville, everyone has a voice and there is no a boss, everyone has a voice.

MB: Well this is the condition, otherwise [MG: of course!] very soon you become like the mafia.

MG: Of course. I don’t want to be like the Teamsters in the United States. Or another one the FLA? [PB: the longshoremen]. The model is another one. The model is that the workers has the power to force capital to impose its own conditions. Exactly the opposite to how it is now. To build our counterpower.

MB: But how do you build this power relationship? That’s the point.

MG: That’s the task of the anarchists!

PB: Coming back to you [MG], you were talking about this town of 30,000 people and the unemployed there, how they organised. They went to, what, the local council?, and said ok, you need to give us work. So how did that work? What did they threaten them with?

MG: Yes. The process was, first of all in that town there was a small group of the CNT, 20 - 30 people. And there were well-known by other people in the town, because they are honest people, people you can rely, you can trust. So they were there - we have this problem, since 7 months, 8 months, 9 months ago, we don’t have work. Our families need to eat, I need to pay the rent or the mortgage. So we are desperate, what can we do? So the people in the union started to think. So that there was only one alternative, achieving that almost all the unemployed people in the town united around one.. revendicativa? [demand] Programme of demands. So, it was a slow process of two months.. it was like a ball of snow. Now it will be entering in details, but for example in one assembly there were 200 people. And the people they say we need be more. So for the next assembly each one of you must come back with two friends and.. with your woman. Because.. [MB: er, compagnera?] Yes. You need to come here with the woman. Because we need to be both - men and women. And we need to do more, to do more pressure. So, that was the process.

PB: But how were they going to exert pressure?

MG: Yes, they declare a general strike in the town. OK, they were unemployed people, they are not working so they were not in strike. But everyone has sons, daughters, fathers, mothers.. it’s a town. It’s the reason that I am saying is not a model that you can transport/generalise...

MB: What’s the town name?

MG: Lebrija. [MB: spells out name] I did a very interesting interview and it’s translated to English. Nestor translated [it] to English.

PB: And what was the outcome? Did they get...

MG: Yes. They did a general strike. It was a success. It was a strike where everyone was against.. when I talk ‘everyone’ I refer [to] political parties, the city council, the reformist unions, the press.. But it was a very popular demand. So, they paralysed the town and so the politicians were very impressed by the people. They have to sign an agreement where the union present a list with the people that has to work. For avoiding the danger of the union being a mafia like in the United States, it’s a very transparent process. So it’s not only the union who says who is one, two, three etc. It’s a list that is controlled by the city council, by the union. So everyone can work.

PB: So, who is giving the money so that everyone can work? Is it the city council?

MB: Of course, it is the city council.

PB: Right. Guys.. I’m sorry we’ve run out of time..

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