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(en) freedomnews: Interview with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the CNT
Tue, 28 Aug 2018 12:34:26 +0300
On the occasion of the Founding Congress of the New International, a member of
anarcho-syndicalist union CNT interviewed its foreign secretary Miguel Pérez, on the ins
and outs of the event. As a note, Freedom does not have a position re: the split with the
IWA which produced the new international, and readers are encouraged to check out comments
from both groups. ---- Can you describe the process that has led to this founding
congress? ---- Well, the process as such starts at the XI Congress of CNT, in Zaragoza, in
December 2015. There it was decided to immediately launch a process of founding a new
international. So we could not know, but it seems that we were touching a sensitive fiber
of anarcho-syndicalism worldwide, given the immense interest that has been generated and
the perceived need for an operational international.
Be that as it may, several sister organisations, such as FAU of Germany, USI of Italy and
the historic FORA of Argentina joined the project. Immediately we realised that the
process was going to be long and that it was better to walk slowly, always seeking
consensus, to have an International that would avoid falling into the mistakes of the past
and that responded to the current needs of anarcho-syndicalism on a global level. From
there, we convened the Barakaldo International Conference in November 2016, to which we
invited a series of related unions to present our proposal. From that moment, the
organisations that had decided to join the process, we began to work in the organisation
of this founding congress, which we reached more than two years after the beginning of the
The process has been difficult at times because all the member organisations are
horizontal (as it can not be otherwise), with decision-making processes from the bottom
up, and we have often had to extend the calendar to ensure that the deadlines and internal
processes of each were respected. For example, in CNT we have held three confederal
plenums in which the theme of the International has been discussed. In fact, in successive
stages, the agreements taken in these plenary sessions have constituted the main columns
of the project. The most obvious example is the founding congress itself, whose central
papers are from the unions of Compostela and Valladolid.
Personally, I want to say that I have always been impressed by the maturity of the
organisation in these debates and the opportunity and relevance of the agreements made.
Nothing speaks better than the consensus that they have generated among all the other
sections of the International.
What motivates you the most in the creation of the New International?
In the first place, I believe that the capacity of our organisations to bring such a long
and complicated process to a successful conclusion speaks volumes about the maturity that
anarcho-syndicalist organisations have achieved in recent years, globally. This holds
great potential, which I hope the new International will help develop.
Afterwards, it seems to me that to a large extent the ideas of internationalism, in the
libertarian and unionist sphere in general, but also beyond, was very distorted. For a
long time it seemed that it was enough to be included in a formal international and hold
meetings regularly to be an internationalist, although often that project lacked content
beyond the occasional collaboration or symbolic support. This has given rise to
international structures that are empty shells, without much content inside, but with all
the paraphernalia of large global projects. In fact, it is not necessary to go to the
international arena to understand why this happens. Anyone can see that in a co-ordination
of any size the activity of relatively inactive groups can only be formal and symbolic.
That is why from this secretariat we have always insisted that internationalism can only
emerge as an extension of the work of the sections in the local territory. It is not, as
it was erroneously interpreted, the size of the sections or their number, but whether they
enthusiastically address a project to build a revolutionary trade union alternative in
their local area, and that from there they converge with others at the international level
to help this local project to develop.
In that sense, I believe that we are now in a position to provide tools to build a model
of internationalism that goes beyond symbolism and is built as a positive complement to
the local activity of the sections. Undoubtedly, this requires exploring new forms of
solidarity and joint work among the sections, whose co-ordination should be closer and
more flexible as well. There is a lot to develop in this sense, but there is also a lot of
desire and enthusiasm.
It may seem paradoxical that internationalism, understood in this way, starts from the
local and returns to the territory, but if it is put forward in another way, it does not
offer relevance for the daily work of its members. I hope that, at last, internationalism
will no longer be a medal that organisations hang on their chests and becomes a reality
that provides resources and content to the local reality of the sections. It seems to me
that this new International is the opportunity to achieve it.
What proposals do you see more positive in the face of the founding Congress of the New
In my opinion, it is very positive that the proposals presented clearly go in the
direction of building an International that responds to the model I have explained before.
On the one hand, it seeks to explore all possible and necessary forms of solidarity and
joint work, from shared formation and debate, to support in union conflicts, joint
campaigns, defense against repression, shared resources, etc. The report from Valladolid
makes an exhaustive list of possibilities in this regard. There is no doubt that some can
be developed better than others, depending on the needs and possibilities of the sections,
that over time we will imagine more forms of cooperation, etc. But as a starting point I
think it marks an ambitious goal and proposes a very wide range of tasks, how it has to
be. You will not miss work in the new International from the first moment!
On the other hand, the Compostela proposal defines a flexible structure, which seeks,
precisely, to facilitate this coordination between sections. I know that the presentation
is made by compañeras and compañeros who have been accompanying the process of the new
International from the beginning and it is clear that there is a deep reflection on the
mistakes made in the past. It is evident that the existence of a relationship committee
seeks to facilitate the flow of information between sections and the development of direct
proposals for collaboration between them. Precisely, that is what it is about.
The most remarkable thing is the synergy that occurs between both papers, which complement
each other perfectly. Undoubtedly, there will be much to polish in the months and years to
come, but this fact constitutes, in my opinion, an irrefutable proof that our reflection
on internationalism is already framed in a new, much more promising horizon. It also seems
extremely positive to me that this has been understood by the other sections, which have
taken both papers as base documents to be discussed at the congress.
In what fields do you think that the New International is more likely to be useful to workers?
It is time for our international organisations to start making positive contributions to
the development of their local sections. From the moment that anarcho-syndicalism and
revolutionary syndicalism are no longer just useful, but necessary for workers and workers
from all over the globe, an International that contributes to their development and
settlement can only be positive. In this sense, sharing experiences, training and
resources would be a first step in many cases.
In addition, often working conditions, wages and life in a territory are determined by the
place occupied in a global chain of production and consumption. An international
organisation is in a position to provide perspective and analysis to this global structure
and to provide the framework in which to plan a response. There is no doubt that our
resources will be very limited in this regard for a long time, but the objective is to
move forward so that we can tackle the response to large global processes.
Finally, in the sense of the above, international solidarity has to materialise in acts
that go beyond issuing communiqués or holding solidarity pickets. The concrete form of
this solidarity will depend, of course, on each particular case, on the needs of the
sections involved, etc. but the new International should tend to propose joint processes
and projects that respond to these needs according to their possibilities. These cases
should be addressed with imagination, creativity and resolution and in that sense, the
role of the relationship committee can be fundamental in facilitating these processes.
What challenges does this New International face in the short, medium and long term?
Well as the anarchist newspaper says, everything is to be done. The first obvious step is
to build the scaffolding decided in the congress and organise to put the first projects in
motion. A few months of very serious work await the new International to get going. Also,
like anyone who has a new device, you have to learn to manage it. That is to say, it will
be necessary to see how the operating methods that are decided materialise in practice,
how to safely overcome the failures that are detected and develop an organisational
culture and ethics. All this will happen over time, but it is evident that it is the
immediate objective of the new International.
In the medium term, new forms of collaboration and solidarity should be planned and
enacted. As we advance in this process, it is expected that we will begin to see more
instances in which internationalism is incorporated into the daily practice of the
sections in the local terrain. This will be a gradual process, in which progress will be
made as the new International proves itself capable of responding to local needs. To a
certain extent it is a process that has already begun, but we will not know its true
potential until it begins to be seriously deployed, once the International is set up and
put into operation. In this sense, it seems to me that the objective should not be so much
to increase the number of sections that make up the International but to strengthen the
relationship between its components. Of course, contacts will be expanded with all the
anarcho-syndicalist groups that are interested, at a global level, but I believe that the
priority must be to give content to international solidarity and to lay solid foundations
for joint work. If the new International manages to do this, it will ensure that it has
the interest of those organisations that seek to raise a real revolutionary trade union
alternative and not just to put on a label. Any growth, to have a foundation, must be
given organically, starting from work relationships.
I believe the priority must be to give content to international solidarity and to lay
solid foundations for joint work. If the new International manages to do this, it will
ensure that it has the interest of those organisations that seek to raise a real
revolutionary trade union alternative and not just to put on a label. Any growth, to have
a foundation, must organic, starting from working relationships.
And in the long term, the planetary social revolution, right?
Finally, can you make any general assessment of the international political and economic
landscape, from a global point of view?
From my point of view, and this is a personal opinion, obviously, the main characteristic
of the current world, at a political and intellectual level, is the absence of a
revolutionary project of social transformation. For the first time since the emergence of
modernity, Western culture seems to have exhausted its dialectic of internal opposition.
If since the 17th century, at least on a purely intellectual level, there has always been
a tension between different currents within Western societies, this has disappeared, as a
conscious and articulated form, since the failure of Marxism, the defeat manu militari of
anarchism and the domestication of the labor movement.
This translates into a series of very obvious symptoms: the inability of the left to
propose alternatives, even conceptual ones, to the current systems; the repetition of
mantras or clinging to obsolete models on the part of the recalcitrant sectors, for
example, launching once again electoral projects that can not lead to anything or clinging
to international ones that are not operative; the absolute disorientation of oppositional
mobilisations, the return to nationalism and xenophobia of those who do not recognise
themselves in a left without a project; the rise of populism based on fear and uncertainty
I realise the enormity of this statement. Nor would it be easy to find examples that
contradict it, something otherwise normal in such a broad approach. I think it would be
the exceptions that confirm the rule. In any case, the characteristics of the global
political and economic panorama are symptoms of this fundamental problem. It is urgent,
therefore, to face the many negative aspects of the situation, to put on the table again a
revolutionary project of social transformation on a planetary scale. And to do it in a
practical way, not only in the discourse or in the theoretical level, that also. That is
to say, the task that we face is nothing less than to articulate a project where all the
projects have been exhausted and to do it, in addition, so that it affects the current
social reality and that allows the incorporation of broad layers of the population. I
sincerely believe that this can only be done in a libertarian key, through
non-hierarchical organisation from the base and rejecting the siren songs of electoralism,
betting on self-management and direct action.
In that sense, it seems to me that we are often not aware of the role played by the
current CNT, as a node in this context. Not the only one, of course, and of course
improvable in many ways. But it seems to me that our trade union model, the agreements of
our last congresses, the 10 point program recently approved by Catalan comrades, the
effective incorporation of a gender perspective into our practice, etc.; all this speaks
of an important effort to land proposals that are consequently revolutionary and
transformative, anarcho-syndicalist, in a concrete social, economic and political context.
No doubt one could do better in an ideal situation, we advance by trial and error, and we
make mistakes and mistakes many times, but we advance.
Returning to the international arena, attempts are being made to fill this void of broad
revolutionary projects with very imaginative proposals and equally grounded in concrete
situations. Almost without hesitation, the most obvious and interesting case is Rojava and
Democratic Confederalism. But that is not a reason to ignore the role of the CNT and other
sister organisations in this global sphere. In recent years our international projection
has skyrocketed and a well-deserved interest in our model and our proposals has been
awakened. I believe that the new international has a very important role to play in this
regard, as a projection to the global level of this will to be a revolutionary
alternative, and I am confident that it will be able to shape this much needed practical
and theoretical project.
This article is an edited machine translation of an interview conducted for the CNT website
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