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A new International Workers Association?

category international | workplace struggles | other libertarian press author Saturday November 12, 2016 18:22author by CIB Unicobas Bari Report this post to the editors

Some remarks on the proposal for a "new IWA" proposed by C.N.T.-E., F.A.U. and U.S.I.-Prato Carnico?!

In the light of the convocation of a “congress to refound the I.W.A.” made by the C.N.T.-E., by F.A.U.-Germany and by U.S.I.-Prato Carnico (secessionist), we decided to make some considerations about it along with reproposing our testimony from the 20th I.W.A. Congress of Madrid from December 1996.
The reasons we express ourselves and repropose this documents are closely linked to the motivations with which the three unions propose this congress.

In the preamble to his “The Anarchists and syndicalist action in the aftermath of World War II” (Genoa, 2007), Guido Barroero wrote: “Has there ever been, among the anarchists, a substantial strategic and organizational unity, for significant lengths of time, in syndicalist action? The answer is no. There never was, not even the in the mythical 'golden times' of the first Syndicalist Union, let alone today, and likely there will not be even in the foreseeable future”.
Nine years after that bitter admission, we think that any attempts at recomposing anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism is worthy of attention, provided that one draws upon the failures of the past and regains the intellectual honesty to publicly recognize the mistakes done. Failing to do so will determine an inevitable and unforgivable failure in a historic phase like the present one. An age which sees the strident absence of the influence of libertarian ideas and proposals in opposition to and as an alternative to a world more and more marked by the catastrophic consequences of the decaying ravenous capitalism.

Therefore, in the light of the convocation of a “congress to refound the I.W.A.” made by the C.N.T.-E., by F.A.U.-Germany and by U.S.I.-Prato Carnico (secessionist), we decided to make some considerations about it along with reproposing our testimony from the 20th I.W.A. Congress of Madrid from December 1996. The reasons we express ourselves and repropose this documents are closely linked to the motivations with which the three unions propose this congress. The open invitation by the C.N.T.-E. states that the new I.W.A. will have to possess an “active and inclusive” character and be actively involved in the struggles of the workers in order to achieve “social improvements for them through this”. They affirm that this new international “will have to restrict itself to general principles that express the commonalities that the members sections have, despite their different histories, traditions and social-economic situations”. In any case, the general principles should be that said organization be “anarcho-syndicalist or revolutionary syndicalist” and organized from the “bottom-up”. What draws our attention is the admission on part of C.N.T.-E. that “despite our best efforts the IWA has deviated from its principles and practices. Instead of concentrating on union activity, it has become bureaucratic, dogmatic and isolationist with regard to the labor movement”. Assuming the I.W.A. has actually transformed itself this way, we wonder who might be those responsible of this degeneration?
In the light of all this, we repropose the contents of U.S.I.'s intervention to the 20th Congress of Madrid (1shown in full at the end of this document and published in December 14th, 1996 on A-Infos - On that occasion, the C.N.T.-F. (33, rue des Vignoles, Paris) was excluded from the I.W.A. and U.S.I. abandoned the Congress in protest against the exclusion, leaving their accreditation badges on the Congress presidency's table.
In its intervention, in addition to denouncing the motivations and the method with which the C.N.T.-F. was excluded, U.S.I. made a number of considerations and affirmed just what the re-founders affirm today. It seems, though, that C.N.T.-E., F.A.U. and U.S.I.-Prato Carnico bear no memory of what happened and what was said back then.
Already in 1996, U.S.I. remembered and reaffirmed the 'broad' identity of I.W.A., and that the I.W.A. “is the history of Revolutionary Syndicalism, not just that of Anarcho-Syndicalism”.
“The founders of I.W.A.”, the intervention goes on, “used the term 'Revolutionary Syndicalism' because they meant all the workers on the basis of their common condition: exploitation”. What is it that the re-founders affirm today? That the new international will have to be “anarcho-syndicalist or revolutionary syndicalist”.
U.S.I. denounced that the I.W.A. was taking an “anarchist fundamentalist” turn and that it was “necessary to start again to build a new international and anticapitalistic workers' movement, among the exploited workers, among the exploited children, among those who have nothing to eat, among those who have no rights. Not just among the anarchists.”. U.S.I. affirmed that “revolutionary syndicalist propaganda and the struggles for fundamental rights” were “both necessary” and were not “in contrast with each other”. Today we hear about the need for an I.W.A. that should be “active and inclusive” and also involved in achieving “social improvements” while at the same time there's the denunciation of a turn which is described as being “dogmatic and isolationist with regard to the labor movement”. This turn, on the admission of C.N.T-E., has moved the I.W.A. away “from its principles and practices (…) instead of concentrating on union activity”.
C.N.T.-E. talks about a “bureaucratic” turn, which is the predominance of 'official' power structures at the expenses of the living and acting base of an organization and at the expenses of its rules. What is it, that has happened 20 years ago? During the 20th Congress, without any discussion having taken place according to the terms of Chapter 5 of I.W.A.'s Statute, C.N.T.-F. was condemned and excluded and U.S.I., too, was charged with serious accusations.
What did the Statute say about it? That equal bodies of discussion must be summoned in order to settle the disputes within the organization and that such bodies must deliberate unanimously their conclusions. However, it seems that the offices bypassed the very rules by which they were supposed to operate. U.S.I. asked the Secretariat to respect “the principles and the Statute of the I.W.A.”, something the Secretariat didn't do. If that was not a “bureaucratic turn”, even back then, what is? And by whom was it done? Who supported that exclusion and those practices? The C.N.T.-E., among others, itself openly supported by the Italian Anarchist Federation (that very Federation which ever since its reconstitution in 1945 had always opposed the reconstitution of the U.S.I.). The Italian Anarchist Federation, a specific organization, was there at the 20th Congress with its representative to the I.F.A. (the International of Anarchist Federations) and with its members, which were urged to hastily join the U.S.I.-Prato Carnico.
Nevertheless, even the motivations behind the allegations and the exclusion of C.N.T.-F. and the charges against the Italian section are linked to the positions espoused today by the re-founders of the I.W.A. In its open invitation, C.N.T.-E. affirms that the new I.W.A. will just have to “restrict itself to general principles that express the commonalities that the members sections have, despite their different histories, traditions and social-economic situations”. From this we can infer that, besides the general principles they express, each of the organizations adhering to the I.W.A. enjoys or should enjoy a wide autonomy in their respective contexts of action, as long as they comply with the general principles of functioning as a bottom-up organization and don't participate to “any electoral project, neither of a political party nor of individual candidates”. C.N.T.-F. was expelled because it took part in the elections of the syndical and workers' representatives in the companies (something U.S.I.-Sanità-Prato Carnico did then and still does today). U.S.I. was charged with having allied itself with another union which was described as 'fascist' by members of U.S.I.-Prato Carnico.
These charges were spurious, unfounded and never proved according to the established procedures of the I.W.A.
On what grounds were these sections 'anarchistically' prosecuted? For the kind of work they carried on in an autonomous way but in accordance with the I.W.A.'s principles? However, even if there were doubts about or faults in their work, there still remains the problem of the method with which said accusations were discussed and the method which led to the exclusion. This problem is itself linked to the issue of 'bureaucratism', of the predominance of offices, which decided that 'for good reasons' they could bypass whatever libertarian practice. Not an abstract libertarian practice, but the one defined in the very Statute of I.W.A., that the Secretariat of the time was called upon to supervise and to ensure compliance with by all. Really, it was up to all the members to ensure the compliance with the Statute. Now, how 'true' do seem the current conclusions of the C.N.T.-E., F.A.U. and U.S.I.-Prato Carnico, except for a little fact. In the last twenty years, the I.W.A. has remained also in their hands and said bureaucratism was exercised by them. In the light of these conclusions, though, those who were excluded then should at least be rehabilitated, maybe even considered 'prophetic' as to what has apparently happened to the I.W.A..

It's been twenty years, now. It may well be, indeed it is almost certain, that many of those who were part of the 1996 are no longer among us, or have left it. Is it right to reproach to the current members of C.N.T.-E., of F.A.U. and of U.S.I.-Prato Carnico the choices that were made 20 years ago? When one is (or considers him- or herself to be) the continuator of a particular tradition, he also carries the memory. A memory which has to be complete and impartial. Nowhere do we find, in C.N.T.-E.'s open invitation, the memory of what has happened and of what has been said by the other protagonists of that moment. Curiously, some of the considerations made 20 years ago by the U.S.I. can be found again in those made today by C.N.T.-E., F.A.U. and U.S.I.-Prato Carnico. We may very well shake hands. But that won't do. As long as memory remains buried and as long as these new (new?) considerations and indications don't bring with themselves a revision of what has happened, there can be no understanding.

They are not politically and historically credible, those who today say the same things that were said 20 years ago by those that were expelled by them. The excluded of 20 years ago were expelled in an authoritarian way for the very same reasons that are denounced today.
C.N.T.-E., F.A.U. and U.S.I.-Prato Carnico have been in the I.W.A. from December 1996 until today. Maybe it is not just their fault if today the A.I.T. has become something different. But who are they to make a proposal, without illustrating to the whole anarchist movement all the facts? Have the records and acts of that Congress ever been released? Who are they to revive an organization that has regressed (and, according to them, has decomposed) also under their management, in the direction along which it was set also by them during the past 20 years? It seems that some of those who are actually responsible for such a decline claim to be the organization's renovators. Furthermore, they're doing it once again in violation of the I.W.A.'s Statute, by convening a secessionist Congress without even trying to settle the disputes in the designated bodies. Just as back then, clearly someone is afraid of a direct confrontation and finds it convenient to convene a totally new audience: their 'new' I.W.A. seems a lot like the one from 1996. Within it there are only those whom they want.
Today, as anarchists and libertarians, we would have expected a gesture of good faith in the face of what the I.W.A. has supposedly become. We don't expect excuses, which change nothing, as much as acknowledging that what was said back then by U.S.I. and by those who stood next to it has proven to be valid and well-grounded. If the conclusions are the same, this means that we have lost 20 years of time, that the excluded have been pointlessly excluded, and their ideas ignored causing great harm to the libertarian and anarcho-syndicalist organization and action.
Can this possibly be the problem? The one of acknowledging one's mistakes and the fact that someone acted in an authoritarian way and in bad faith?
Certainly, in bad faith, since there's no mention of this, and everything that has happened has been erased and kept secret. We can only go back and stick to the open invitation by the C.N.T.-E.
We consider it, after having shown the many concurrences or convergences of thought, to be a proof that speaks for itself: those who have actually done those things, that have embodied them 20 years ago, now denounce them, as if nothing has happened.
On this point, comrades, there's nothing else to say.

In memory of
Alessandra, Cettina, Marcello and Marco
Comrades of U.S.I.
Who are no longer among us

Giuseppe Gerardo Carbonara – Bari (Italy)
Robin Libero Carbonara – Bari (Italy)
Pasquale Cataldo – Montebelluna (TV) (Italy)
Present at the 20th AIT Congress in Madrid

and Nicola Laucelli – Bari (Italy)



To the attention of all I.W.A-A.I.T.'s sections

For information to the international anticapitalist political and syndicalist movement.

Communiqué of protest against the resolutions of the 20th I.W.A-A.I.T Congress in Madrid on 6-7-8 December 1996.

With this communication, transmitted by fax and by mail to all the sections of the A.I.T., we challenge and appeal against the resolutions adopted by the 20th Congress of Madrid due to the stalinist methods employed to split the A.I.T., and expel the sections with the largest membership and nevertheless active and participating in the struggles of the working people. These decisions have been made in contrast to the A.I.T.'s Statue, and specifically in violation of Chapter 5 – Conditions of accession, Paragraph a) – second subparagraph, Paragraph c) – second subparagraph and Paragraph e).

We challenge the method of voting which has allowed the “expulsion” of the C.N.T. Paris section, following the abandonment in protest of the U.S.I. Section. The method of voting allowed to expel the C.N.T. Paris with just two sections voting in favour of the expulsion, namely the N.S.F. Norwey and C.N.T. Spain. The U.S.I. Prato Carnico vote could not be considered valid in that U.S.I. Prato Carnico does not constitute a section. Moreover the vote saw the abstention or the non participation of the W.S.A-U.S.A, the F.A.U.-Germany, S.F.-Great Britain, F.O.R.A.-Argentina. Given the fact that the abstained have to be considered votes against both in the merit of the discussion and in the method of voting, the minority position has been imposed by the A.I.T.'s Secretariat and by the C.N.T.-E and does not reflect a unanimous resolution of the present organizations according to the libertarian methodology.

We challenge this authoritarian resolution, agreed-upon beforehand by the fundamentalist minority, in violation of Chapter V of the Statute. Chapter V of the Statute, Paragraph a) – second subparagraph, provides that a commission be formed comprising two members of every organization interested in the particular matter and the Secretary of the A.I.T.; Paragraph c) – second subparagraph, provides that a unanimous position is agreed-upon by a congress comprising the Secretariat of the A.I.T., and two members for each organization, belonging both to the splinter or excluded ones and to those still adhering to the A.I.T..

No Commission nor Congress has been convened by the A.I.T.'s Secretariat, which by this act must be considered itself in violation of the Statute, authoritarian and anti-libertarian.

After the circulation of this communiqué we shall ask the reconvening of the 20th Congress and the suspension of all the resolutions starting with Point 8, and we will reserve for ourselves the right to widely guard ourselves with future actions.

The General Secretary of U.S.I.-A.I.T.
Marcello Cardone

The International Relations Commission
Alessandra Sapunzachi

The U.S.I.-A.I.T. Delegation to 20th Congress in Madrid


Speech by G. G. Carbonara of U.S.I.-I.W.A. (Roma) on Point 8 at the 20th I.W.A. Congress in Madrid, 6-8 December 1996.

Comrades, I'm not going to perform an anarchist show, because the show is over.
No more red-and-black flags swaying in the wind, anarchist anthems or rock'n'roll.
No, the show is definitely over!
I would like to know if someone has ever read the principles and the purposes of the IWA.
I would like to know if someone knows the history of the First International or of the IWA,
starting from its foundation in Berlin in 1922.
It's the same history: the history of anti-authoritarian workers in their struggle against every form of Fascism, even against Marxism. But it's not just that.
It's the history of lies and calumnies that marxists have employed against the the anarchists, those lies being the first form of stalinism, employed in order to seize power at all costs.
But first and foremost, it is the history of workers, without adjectives, and not just of anarchist workers. It is the history of Revolutionary Syndicalism, not just that of Anarcho-Syndicalism.
The founders of I.W.A. Used the term “Revolutionary Syndicalism” because they meant all the workers on the basis of their common condition: exploitation.
Are you doing the same, today?
Today, someone is setting up a stalinist trial, or just an authoritarian trial, made of lies and calumnies, against those sections which are trying to restore the I.W.A.'s real peculiarity.
We have read the reports by the N.S.F, the A.S.F. And the U.S.I. Prato Carnico, in addition to the “neutral” articles on the periodical of the C.N.T.-Spain. Everyone is condemning the U.S.I. Roma and the C.N.T. Paris. But on what grounds? On the ground of ideological statements, made up of lies and calumnies. The same method employed by the marxists.
Dear N.S.F.... or A.S.F. (does the A.S.F. Actually exist?), where's the libertarian method of listening to both sides? Dear N.S.F., where's the Statute's Chapter 5? Dear C.N.T. - Spain, where is the truth? Maybe the truth is made of just what you like to hear? Where are the comrades with a different world in their hearts?
I officially demand in this Congress that Article 5 be applied. Who does not want that? Who is against the Statute of I.W.A.? The Secretariat of I.W.A.. must respect the principles and the Statutes of I.W.A., something it has not done before in regards to this point.
Today, someone I trying to erase a piece of class struggle, that same class struggle that the C.N.T. Paris and U.S.I. Rome carry on every day among the workers. Workers as they are: human beings.
The workers are not blank tapes on which to record, they don't need brainwashing.
Today, after the fall of false communism, in front of the triumph and the global expansion of capitalism, it is necessary to start again to build a new international and anticapitalist workers' movement, among the exploited workers, among the exploited children, among those who have nothing to eat, among those who have no rights. Not just among anarchists. I suppose the anarchists know they have to do. Or not? History has taught us that the way towards the revolution is long and difficult. The Spanish comrades know it well. And we all have to face a new, long path, made above all of the political awareness of the people, an awareness, a consciousness, that at times grows rapidly but that at other times grows slowly. We think that revolutionary syndicalist propaganda and the struggles for fundamental rights of the exploited are both necessary and are not in contrast with each other.
Today someone is trying to erase a little piece of the history of the workers, of our history. But he will not succeed, because one is not an anarchist for the way in which he appears, but for what one thinks and for what one bears in his heart, and above all for what he does.
We are not afraid of staying outside the I.W.A., because we have a lot of job out there, among the exploited, and we are capable to do it.
If the I.W.A. Is on the way to becoming a fundamentalist organization, then we, on our own, will stay out of it. But everyone will know that the I.W.A. Has become an anarchist fundamentalist organization. This must be clear! We've had a long journey, more the 2500 km, in order to stay with all the comrades of the I.W.A.. these days, and it is a wonderful opportunity to be together, to increase our strength, and not to split. We strongly believe in this.
Someone is trying to destroy the libertarian character of the I.W.A.
Be careful, comrades, someone is killing the I.W.A. Long live the I.W.A.!

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