Report of the first online Plenary and Extraordinary Congress of the International Workers’ Association (IWA-AIT)

On Friday 25th to Sunday 27th June 2021 the IWA Plenary and Extraordinary Congress took place. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions both meetings were organised online, not in-person in Bratislava as was initially planned. Most of the IWA-AIT affiliates (Sections and Friends) were able to attend. Since it was online, our meetings were not interrupted by repressive regimes and travel visas. In the report that follows we summarise what was discussed and how Priama Akcia as the host Section of the IWA-AIT evaluates the meetings.

How the agenda is prepared

Sections of the IWA-AIT can put motions to the agenda of the Plenary or Congress. They have several months to meet and decide on each agenda point. These decisions are then presented, discussed and decided by delegates based on the mandates made by their organisations (decisions are made at Congresses/Conferences, or in Referenda). These federalist principles of organisation and decision-making are our means to ensure that opinions that are presented are of organisations, and not individuals.

IWA-AIT Sections agreed in advance, that if all the Plenary agenda points are finished on time, an Extraordinary Congress will follow. The Congress has different decision-making powers, for example they can decide on affiliation or disaffiliation of organisations. Regular congresses are held every 3 years, Extraordinary Congresses are held if the need arises.

Formal-organisational points on the agenda

There are usually two types of points on the agenda of IWA-AIT meetings. We could simply say one type is of practical nature and the other is of formal-organisational nature. Among the latter there were points like how to organise online meetings, minor changes in the IWA-AIT statutes, guidelines for the delegates to make their work easier when preparing mandates or to make the minute-taking more effective. Also, we discussed how to make the affiliation process faster, so that applying organisations don’t have to wait for their affiliation decisions so long (3 years from one Congress to another is quite a long period). Among the standard points on the agenda is also election of credentials and financial audit commissions. Besides this, we vote on a general and financial report of the IWA-AIT secretariat, minutes from previous Congresses etc. And of course, there are points related to affiliations.

Practical points

Points of this type were major part of the agenda. We evaluated last year’s International Week Against Unpaid Wages that was organised by the IWA-AIT, and we agreed on a plan for this year (11th -17th October 2021).

We discussed how the workplace related trainings could be further developed and shared between affiliates. For example, various affiliates highlighted that the Solidarity Federation’s (the UK affiliate of the IWA-AIT) Workplace Organiser Training was very useful for them (SF currently offers also trainings for general workplace organising, workplace organising of women, organising in social care services and is developing a training for LGBT+ comrades).

Delegates approved financial support for public events related to 100th anniversary of the IWA-AIT (at the turn of 2022-2023). In Poland a conference on the history of the IWA-AIT will take place, in Slovakia there should be events in Bratislava and Košice that will present everyday practice, and similar event will be also in Vienna. There will be a separate part on the IWA-AIT website related to these events and publications dealing with the history of the anarcho-syndicalist international and about organisations that are currently part of it will be prepared.

The IWA-AIT Plenary also approved creation of a working group that will focus on the climate crisis. Its role will be to map the issue and existing activities of the IWA-AIT unions, and draft the possibilities for co-ordinated actions and the overall anarcho-syndicalist statement to the topic.

New affiliates of the IWA-AIT

The IWA-AIT continues in its expansion. Two organisations applied to change their status from Friends to fully-fledged Sections - WAS from Austria and ULET from Colombia. Two new workers groups were approved as Friends – MK from Philippines and WSI from Pakistan. There was also growth in Chile and the IWA Friends Grupo Germinal have combined together with groups from other cities and formed themselves into Solidaridad Obrera union which was confirmed as the IWA Friends. Thus, there are 21 organisations that are part of the IWA-AIT after this Congress coming from Europe, Asia and Pacific and South and North America.

Sections:
ASF (Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Austrália)
ASI (Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, Srbsko)
BASF (Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Bangladesh)
CNT-AIT France (National Confederation of Labour, France)
CNT-AIT Spain (National Confederation of Labour, Spain)
COB (Brazilian Workers’ Confederation, Brazilia)
KRAS (Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists, Russia)
NSF (Norwegian Syndicalist Federation, Norway)
ÖLS (Örestad Local Selforganisation, Sweden)
PPAS (Anarcho-Syndicalist Comradeship of Workers, Indonesia)
PA (Direct Action, Slovakia)
SF (Solidarity Federation, UK)
ULET (Libertarian Union of Students And Workers, Colombia)
WAS (Vienna Workers Syndicate, Austria)
ZSP (Union of Polish Syndicalists, Poland)

Organisations with Friends of the IWA status:
ARS (Autonomous Workers’ Union, Bulgaria; due to the split in the organization the next Congress of the IWA will discuss their status)
MEM (Libertarian Solidarity Front, India)
MK (Liberating Comradeship, Philippines)
SO (Workers Solidarity, Chile)
WSA (Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, USA)
WSI (Workers Solidarity Initiative, Pakistan)

Evaluation

Our union, as a host organisation, had to prepare the IWA-AIT Plenary and the Extraordinary Congress so that the process of the meeting was trouble-free regarding the connection, the minute-taking, voting etc. We are glad that the IWA-AIT Secretariat helped us make sure this task is done and that we were able to come up with processes that were successfully applied and will make effective the process of future meetings regardless of being online or not.

The meeting was conducted in English and Spanish languages and lasted for more than 7 hours each day, which was quite demanding. Use of online platform has its limitations and did not suit everyone. On the other hand, the agenda was rather long and if the meeting wasn’t online, we doubt we would be able to go through it all. Every such meeting requires a lot of energy and patience primarily by the people who moderate it, take minutes, count votes and translate. Neither physical, nor online meetings go without difficulties, but this time they were quite minor. We think this was one of the smoothest meetings of the IWA-AIT with many important practical decisions. And it was great that we could make decisions together with our comrades who otherwise would not be able to make it to Bratislava due to travel visa problems that would make meeting impossible.

Covid-19 pandemic hit all the organisations in the IWA-AIT and made it impossible for many to meet, which was to some extent reflected in the mandates of the Sections. Some of them were done via referenda which may be a practical, but in this case insufficient form of decision-making, especially with more complex points that require more than a Yes or No vote.

We hope that during the next IWA-AIT Congress in Spain in 2022 the pandemic restrictions may have resolved. Until then, a lot of constructive work on a local and a global level lays ahead of us. If you are in Slovakia, you can take part too - starting here perhaps: www.priamaakcia.sk/zapoj-sa.

Priama Akcia union

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