As part of the libertarian movement already knows, for several years now the CNT-AIT faces a process of suffocation by an organization that calls itself “anarcho-syndicalist” and also claims the name of CNT. The individuals and anarchist groups that feel that they are not part of anarcho-syndicalism perceive this situation with some suspicion, with skepticism and even with a bit of irony. They think that it is absolutely decadent and ridiculous that, as a result of a “split”, there are “two CNT” in the Spanish state which become irreconcilable and, furthermore, are fighting a “battle for acronyms” in which both struggle for holding the historic acronyms, thus leaving aside the real social and political issues that anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism should face.
We find ourselves in the need to deny this idea of a supposed battle for the acronyms and explain what is happening within anarcho-syndicalism both in the Spanish state and internationally. Nevertheless, trying not to overwhelm those who read this statement, we have avoided to speak in detail about all the abuses, dishonest uses of agreements and organization rules, outrages, corruption and aggressions committed along these last years. We wanted to speak only about the central issues, without getting into detail. We are aware that, on our side, we still have to develop the task of making visible all these embarrassing and intolerable attitudes. Therefore, the aim of this text is not to sink those who read it in a sea of data, dates and names, since there are lots of written materials explaining what is happening from the beginning in more or less detail. These materials are being recovered to make them more accessible to those who have an interest. What is intended with this release is to give an update to the current anarchist movement and launch a few reflections on the matter so that, if deemed appropriate, all comrades can assess for themselves what is happening and position before it.
The CNT-AIT always worked in an assembly and horizontal way, within its union confederation structure and as an IWA Section as well. It means that the Local, Regional and National Committees, which are nothing but groups of comrades who are in charge of coordinating activities at different levels, have no decision making powers beyond the affiliate agreements. The decisions made in the Confederation start directly from the base of the different unions and are raised from there to national level. With this purpose, every CNT-AIT militant gets awareness and can take part in everything that happens at confederal level (or this is how the Statutes themselves promote and strengthen it). If these Committees were the decision-makers for the rest of unions and militants, we would be facing a vertical and authoritarian structure with no relation at all with the anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism principles of horizontality and non-delegation.
This is one of the main issues of the regrettable current situation. The Confederal Committee and the secretariats of the CNT-AIT (when it was still “one”), unilaterally and behind the backs of the unions that formed the CNT-AIT, stopped paying fees to the IWA for around two years, wasting and using that money for the purposes they felt appropriate. The people who made these decisions hiding them from the Confederation considered the IWA a small thing and its Sections too insignificant to be worth belonging to it. On the other hand, the CNT© (from now on we will name it that way, and will say why later on) started to organize international conferences with other organizations outside the IWA and with the intention of beginning to shape what would be the CIT (International Labor Confederation), a “new International” –in our opinion, with little libertarian overtones. Obviously, all of this led to his expulsion from the IWA.
But beyond those premeditated movements of the CNT© Confederal Committee and a number of committees and secretariats that cost the expulsion from the IWA, we now see how a part of the militants, due to lack of awareness or indifference, allowed everything that this centralist and authoritarian attitude on the side of the CNT© unleashed. Militants that left themselves to be dragged towards a new organizational approach more focused on aesthetics than on ethics, more on marketing that on ideology, more on affiliating “fees” than active militants, aiming to get rid of everything of no interest to develop the “plan for exponential growth of the organization”. The CNT-AIT unions are what the membership makes of them. For this very reason, anarcho-syndicalism seeks militancy, the participation of affiliates in the functioning of the organization in order to create the longed-for ties of mutual support and solidarity that are the basis of our fight against authority, but also against passivity and the delegation of our emancipation in any institution. We are an organization among equals, where workers need each other to improve our living conditions and make a walk towards the libertarian horizon. It is why we prefer an organization with active, conscious militancy and in constant training and reflection to trade unionism that prioritizes a massive membership (through online affiliations, for instance) from which no transformation potential is expected, not even their attendance to assemblies, nothing except their fees and their names to inflate numbers and get profits. Therefore, the fact of the existence of a leadership in the CNT© which makes decisions without informing or consulting the militancy, is very enlightening in order to understand where an organization that calls itself anarcho-syndicalist leaves its affiliates.
We have also seen how in that CNT© grew the idea that the more affiliation (not militancy) and fees a union, federation or section of the International contributes to the organization, the more authority and decision power it must have when reaching agreements (if you can call them that) with the comrades from other localities or regions. It is not necessary to point out how harmful this logic results in an organization founded on mutual support, free agreement and anti-authoritarian federalism. The results already have begun to be seen: search for affiliation as a way to achieve votes (or direct purchase of votes by inflating affiliation with fake fees) and a centralism that gives all the decision power to big cities against small towns. Such centralist authoritarianism has nothing to do with an anarchist federalism based on solidarity and the search for consensus. This is undoubtedly one of the issues that led the CNT© to attack the IWA. We understand that an organization that aims to serve as the seed for a free and anarchic society cannot base its agreements on the submission of the will of its comrades in struggle. We do not seek to impose ourselves by vote, we seek to convey an opinion, a position, an agreement on any issue, trying to reach consensus. Out of that intentional dynamics, every decision made by voting, without a debate, without concessions and without a search for common grounds, proves to be conflictive, forced, and can lead to irreparable damage, as in fact happened.
And what is the result of all this?: a breakup and a showdown between two organizations that, until then, had been only one –the CNT-AIT. Starting from the moment when centralist and authoritarian dynamics and logics became the norm, every debate and every discrepancy would be resolved with expulsions of a magnitude never seen before. The agreements, the Statutes and our organization rules were forced with the aim of silencing, obliging to quit or directly expelling the unions and comrades that intended to face such an alarming drift: a full-blown purge. Since the ploys of the Confederal Committee and its supporters began, at least 30 unions have left the CNT© or have been expelled. Those that remained in the CNT© and were critical of the Confederal Committee’s attitude also ended up being expelled. Throughout this process the CNT© has proven to be an organization that rejects dialogue with comrades and that is limited to counting the votes with which they will carry out their agreements.
In 2015 some of these unions, embarrassed and radically opposed to the drift taken by the CNT©, decided to start a restructuring process of the CNT-AIT. This process ended up in 2017 with the acknowledgment of this organization as the IWA Section in the Spanish state.
But in the plans of this beyond recognition CNT©, there is no room for the existence of a CNT-AIT. In 2017, after the evidence that the commitment and affinity of anarcho-syndicalism towards the IWA not only had not disappeared but was growing and consolidating with adhesions of new unions and sections, the CNT© Permanent Secretariat of the Confederal Committee –Enrique Hoz- hired a lawyer at the expense of confederal funds and once again without the agreement from the unions and behind the backs of the organization. The aim was to sue seven unions of the CNT-AIT (together with the Albacete Libertarian Athenaeum) before the Social Courts of six different provinces. The charges: “usurpation of acronyms and damage to public image”. The six Province Social Courts declared themselves inadequate as they considered the seven sued unions as one and the same organizational structure at state level. Not satisfied with the damage they caused, and with a CNT-AIT that far from disappearing continues to grow after its restructuring, the CNT© makes again use of the state justice in the second half of 2020 to try to put an end to the CNT-AIT although this time they do in the National Court. Under the same charges, they claim 50,000 euro of compensation from each union, including the previous seven unions and new ones –some of which did not even exist when this situation broke out. And as if this were not enough, some unions are even accused of occupying premises owned by the CNT©.
This is their goal, to take over the few resources that the CNT-AIT still owns, its premises, so they can sell them and continue paying fees and allowances to their trade union professionals, their cronyism, their corruption and all their shameful expenses (which they indeed tried to hide).
Throughout this process that many people misunderstand as a battle for acronyms, the CNT© greed and lack of ethical and anarchist principles, caused that some unions ended up disappearing and good comrades left the organization. They have trampled on and destroyed the enormous efforts of many workers to build the anarcho-syndicalist organization and culture.
At the beginning of the statement we said that less than 10 years ago there was only one CNT in the Spanish state and now, in 2021, we say that there is still only one legitimate CNT, the CNT-AIT. We will defend ourselves against these mean-spirited attacks and we will not give away our premises, our documentary heritage or our history. But we also mean that our main heritage, our greatest wealth is our militancy which they can never snatch or destroy. Monarchies, dictatorships, infiltrators or police setups have not been able not do it and neither can this unrecognisable organisation. They took a path that leads them towards servicing unionism, towards an increasingly professionalized, centralized and vertical organization, moving away from the principle of anarchist federalism. It is no surprise that, under a centralist and hierarchical perspective, obsessed with image and marketing, the CNT© National Management Committee decided to register the logo, flag and acronyms, also trying to get a slice of it all in the courts (hence the ©). It almost seems that we are facing a company rather than a supposedly anarcho-syndicalist organization.
We fought and will continue fighting to defend ourselves while we keep on working tirelessly to undermine the power structures and build the society we want. The time has come to break the silence so that the anarchist movement and anarcho-syndicalism around the world know the situation of the CNT adhered to the IWA. The time has come for everyone, including the unions and militants that form the CNT© today, take parts and put aside their indifference.
In defense of anarcho-syndicalism, internationalism and anarchist struggle!
In defense of the CNT-AIT!