On April 30, 2018, the IWA General Secretary visited the legal counsel of the CNT-AIT concerning lawsuits brought against some of its member unions and later participated in a press conference together with representatives of the Secretariat of our Section in Spain. The purpose of this conference was to publically clarify positions and present facts concerning this case.
The CNT-AIT is the Section of the International Workers' Association in Spain and the IWA has recognized it as the continuation of the CNT-AIT. At the same time, there is an organization called CNT, which is split from the IWA and thus the CNT-AIT. There are also at least a dozen other organizations called CNT which are neither federated in that CNT Confederation, nor the CNT-AIT. These are mostly organizations which left or were expelled – either according to the Statues or not – from the CNT Confederation which currently is headquartered in Bilbao. We will refer to this as CNT-R (CNT renovada or CNT reformed).
Almost a decade ago, the CNT-R began an ideological drift – one of many that occurred in the history of the organization. As part of this drift and echoing the drift that took place from 1979-1984, when what is now the CGT created a split in the organization, the CNT-R began to reassess its relationship with the International Workers Association. The CNT-R presented numerous proposals which would marginalize or eliminate the majority of the international Sections, therefore they were rejected by 3 Congresses. The continual attempts to split the IWA according to the size of the unions, combined with attempts to create new networks with other organizations finally led the CNT-R to actions aimed to undermine the IWA and to attempt to coerce it into accepting its positions. The results of this will be presented further.
The Genesis of Splits in Spain
In Spain, in order to accomplish the ideological drift, a series of purges in the organization had to be carried out. At the same time, increasing irregularities appeared in the organization which on various occasions went against the statutes of the CNT-AIT. The 9th Congress of the CNT was already marked by irregularities. Following this, a scandal occurred within the CNT which gave shape to many of the current problems. This scandal started in 2008 and involved the buying of votes by the local Federation of Seville and other anti-statutory acts, such as dual membership and helping a parallel organization which participated as representatives in the work councils. The scandal led to an internal investigation which ended in several expulsions of individuals from that organization. However, as things progressed in Seville and the Andalucian regional organization, it turned out that in reality, there started a conflict about the future direct of the organization. Those who held positions of authority and leadership in the Committees responded to growing criticism of what was happening by various expulsions.
One of the people involved in those internal conflicts was the lawyer, Escribiano, who is now suing several unions of the CNT-AIT. This lawyer was one of the anti-heros of the first series of purges which took place in the Andalucian region. He was inhabilitated by the comrades of his union but after some while, the higher instances decided to give the SOV of Sevilla an ultimatum: to fully accept Escribiano as a member, despite threats he made against other members, or to be expelled from the CNT.
In such ways, several radical unions of the Andalucian region were expelled or decided to leave. Following this, other unions of that Regional decided to maintain contacts with those defederated unions rather than to deal with the unions which began to dominate the Region.
Following the X Congress, more purges were in sight – some successful, some not. Various unions left the organization and continue on as local groups. One entire Regional (Levante) was later expelled, but in a way that is not in accordance with the CNT-AIT statutes. Therefore it cannot be said that the Levante Regional was correctly expelled, but only that the entities that dominate the current CNT-R yet again broke the statutes of the CNT-AIT.
Anti-Statutory Actions against the IWA
At the same time, the CNT-AIT, which the CNT-R faction was member until recently, faced various challenges to its statutes by the practices of the CNT-R faction which, by virtue of purges and practices, slowly became the dominant faction. One of the numerous violations of the CNT-AIT statutes was the incompliance of binding agreements towards the IWA, which occured in an anti-statutory manner. The CNT-AIT statutes clearly state that they are a member of the IWA and the budgetary agreements require the Treasurer to pay IWA dues out of each members dues. Without any decision of the organization, the Treasurer, in agreement with the Secretary, withheld dues that were paid by the membership on several occasions. This was a serious breach of its mandate and statutory obligations for which they only received consent in December 2015, during the XI Congress in Zaragoza.
During this time, numerous unions of the CNT-AIT complained to the IWA that the organization had gone into arrears and faced expulsion from the IWA due to the anti-statutory actions of the executive, which unfortunately could not be held accountable to the organization. When speaking of anti-statutory actions, it should be specified that the executives, which came from the CNT-R faction, broke both the Statutes of the International Workers Association and the CNT-AIT.
The unions of the CNT-AIT consider that what is now the CNT-R created an anti-statutory faction inside CNT-AIT, thus creating a split. The CNT-R ignored many of the statutory obligations of the CNT-AIT and caused various organizations to be expelled or to leave.
The XI Congress in Zaragoza declared its hostile intentions to also split the IWA. It's idea was to ignore the binding statutes and agreements of said organization and to hold an anti-statutory Congress to „relaunch” the international federation. According to this plan, the very fact of this agreement would mean that the CNT-R would refuse to recognize the majority of Sections of the IWA as part thereof.
Upon publically declaring its intentions to ignore the binding Statutes and to attempt to split and re-create the IWA, it became clear that this organization could not in fact continue in the IWA or claim the legacy of the CNT-AIT.
In 2016, the IWA declared that CNT had both left the IWA of its own accord (by deciding not to abide by its statutes) and had to be expelled (for trying to split it and create a parallel organization). At the same time, we recognized that many comrades in Spain, both in and outside that organization, still followed the statutes of CNT-AIT and wished to remain as the Spanish Section. However, for that to happen, it needed to declare that the reformist faction was not in fact the CNT-AIT.
The Extraordinary Congress of the IWA in 2017 declared that the CNT-AIT is the continuation of our Spanish Section and indeed this means it is the continuation of our historic organization.
In 2018, lawsuits were filed against several organizations of the CNT-AIT, against an anarchist Ateneum and 3 individual people. Each lawsuit seeks 50,001 euros in so-called moral damages. The lawsuit mainly rests on supposed slanderous statements against the CNT-R.
Several anonymous people from the CNT-R, who do not have the courage to publically reveal their identities, appear in some popular internet forums and have tried to imply that these suits are something normal, similar to the lawsuits brought in 1985 against what was then the CNT-U (later the CGT), regarding the use of the acronym CNT.
There are numerous reasons why this is not true.
* The CNT-R did not sue the CNT-AIT. It sued several of its unions. Thus this cannot be seen as a case against the CNT-AIT.
* The CNT-R did not bring a suit to declare that the CNT-AIT has no right as a whole to use the initials CNT. The CNT-R brought a suit against individuals unions, claiming money for ”moral damages” citing various articles on the internet and they claim monetary compensation for damages caused by using the initials CNT.
* The CNT-R does not claim exclusive rights to the initials CNT. The CNT Catalunya, which was expelled more than 20 years ago has been freely using those initials for decades but is not the subject of any lawsuits. Likewise, numerous organizations throught Spain use this name and have not been subject to lawsuits. The lawsuits relate to organizations that the CNT-R want to destroy.
Thus these suits are quite different than the suit initiated by Gomez-Casas in 85. The earlier suit was against an entire organizational entity for the name and attached rights but did not include any punitive elements.
The current suits are not against the CNT-AIT, but against individual unions, an anarchist group and even individuals and the bulk of the case hinges on the so-called slander to the CNT and its reputation. Instead of simply trying to demand that the initials CNT not be used, it is using extreme coercion against individuals. Under Spanish law, if said union does not have funds to pay debts or judgements, the Secretaries of these organizations will be held personally liable. Failure to pay can result in imprisonment.
However one assesses the suits of the 1980s and their results, the fact is that these legal battles were not against individuals or individual unions and thus were not attempted vendettas. They did not seek the financial ruin of the other party, they did not attempt to violate the right to freely express opinions nor did they involve the possible loss of freedom of any people. Finally, the CNT-R has appealed to the state in these current cases to act as a Co-Plaintiff.
Worst of all, the suits were not the subject of an agreement made by any national assembly of the CNT-R, but were the result of an executive decision, under the pretext of „defending the CNT”. Not that such suits would be any better if they had been made by the general membership.
Defense of the CNT-AIT
The IWA Secretariat considers that the defense of the CNT-AIT is more than just the natural defense of our Spanish Section, which results from the practices of solidarity the International has always shown when our Sections are being repressed or attacked.
The defense of the CNT-AIT is also a defense of many other issues. Like the defense of liberty. It is absolutely not acceptable that punitive measures be taken against libertarian people for the „crime” of staying true to their believes and expressing their opinions.
Many people and organizations have expressed their opinions or misrepresented the IWA or its membership thereof. But the IWA has not sought to use the state to punish such people. The comrades of the IWA who have written criticisms for which they are being sued have agreed these texts in assemblies and have signed them. This should stand in stark contrast to the practices of some who pen long histories anonymously but imply they are positions of organizations. Those people do not take responsibility even for their own words.
The defense of the CNT-AIT is also the defense of a libertarian form of organizing in Spain, based on solid principles, as opposed to the current drift in the CNT-R, which draws it in the direction of verticalism, professionalism and executivism.
Finally, the defense of the CNT-AIT which is based on the anarchist ethic, as opposed to only the class ethic, is a defense of the values which the anarchists expoused against the Marxist orientation of the first international. A set of values which does not seek to reduce the struggle to the material field and includes a stress on anti-statism and freedom.
Current tendencies have been undermining these points in new attempts to combine various tendencies, both statist and anti-statist, in more neutral „class” organizations. These seek to do this to increase their numbers but while striving to become more numerous, they have been succesively giving in on clearer positions.
The CNT-AIT, like the IWA itself, continues to hold up its ideals, despite the recent attacks of the CNT-R, which have been shamelessly supported by proponents of neutral syndicalism.
The IWA Secretariat sees this situation as a disgrace in which the CNT-R has continously tried to strongarm the IWA and its Spanish Section. Instead of simply leaving the IWA or organizing a faction within it, it tried (unsuccessfully) to take it over and ended by attacking the comrades who showed solidarity with them for years. Instead of leaving the CNT-AIT to go about its business, they attempt to financially destroy them. And after years of disgracefully harrassing organizations that it considers „too small” or „too anarchistic”, they look for support from tiny anarchist-specific organizations for their parallel project.
In the meanwhile we declare that we will let none of this impede our ongoing work.
The Secretary also would like to thank the numerous libertarian collectives in Spain and in other countries which have been supportive to our comrades and refuse to go along with the drift.
General Secretary of the IWA
May 6, 2018