Argentina: Plenary of Combative Syndicalism. One step forward and controversies with Izquierda Socialsita

On Saturday the 3rd, a new regional plenary (north zone) of this coordination that started in June in Lanus, took place in the SUTNA camping of Pilar. Important resolutions were voted and there was a sharp debate with IS (Socialist Left, the Argentinian organization of the UIT-CI) about what union model the left should defend.

Classist and leftist organizations attended the event, along with important labor unions, internal commissions and delegates of the tire-workers union, CICOP (Buenos Aires Syndical Association of Health Professionals), ATE (State Workers Association), the hospitals of Eva Peron and Belgrano, SUTEBA (Buenos Aires Union of Education Workers), UF (Railway Union), telecommunication workers, Rio de la Plata meat packing plant, steelworkers, glassmakers, judicial and food industry workers. Our trade union organization ANCLA (National Classist Anti-Bureaucratic Organization) and the CSC (Combative Syndical Current) of the PO (Workers Party) contributed the biggest delegations, and Rompiendo Cadenas (Breaking Chains), 18 de Diciembre (Nuevo Mas), IS and the Jorge Weisz Current also participated. The organizations that conform ANCLA: Alternativa Estatal (public sector), Alternativa Docente (teachers), Violate Slate (railways), Alternativa Salud (health care), Grey Slate (tire manufacturing) and the Teresa Vive Movement, among others, took part in the debates of the state-sector workers, private-sector workers and gender commissions.

A representative round table

A representative round table presided and coordinated the event, including Orlando Restivo (president of the Belgrano-San Martin district and provincial director of CICOP) and Claudio Mora (delegate of Fate and general secretary of CTA San Fernando) from ANCLA. I joined the table in representation of the national committee of the PSC, along with Ileana Celotto (AGD and CSC), Edgardo Reynoso (UF and IS), María Elisa Salgado (General Secretary of SUTEBA Tigre) y Alejandro Crespo (SUTNA).

The controversies at the event

In an enthusiastic climate with a splendid day that accompanied the discussions, we gave the opening reports, the general document and proposed resolutions were discussed in the commissions, as agreed by the organizations that have been preparing this meeting for several weeks. The need to strengthen internationalist solidarity with the people of Brazil after Bolsonaro’s triumph, its impact in Argentina, the government´s crisis, the budget and the new deal with the IMF were part of the debates. We exchanged experiences about the reality of state workers and teachers in the area and its industrial belt. The proposed resolutions were a center of the discussion, along with the need to call for a national strike and the action plan, the mobilization in the Senate during the discussion of the national budget and the mobilization against the G20 among other specific proposals. At the end of the plenary, the resolutions were approved with the added contributions.

The union model in the center of the debate

The formation of a new regroupment in the Sarmiento Railway, the Black Slate, opened a debate not only among the railroad workers but also began to spread among the militant and leftist activists. It´s a debate about the union model, which we consider fundamental. Our current has been promoting this discussion for a long time and we think that spreading it is necessary and that the the Plenary should take it up.
Unfortunately the small delegation of IS raised the issue wrongly, with a method alien to both the workers and the left, with bizarre distortions of reality and in a non-fraternal way, as should be the framework of the discussions between activists. Showcasing an embarrassing spectacle in the plenary and commissions, with slanderous attacks on the leaderships of the MST and the PO and interrupting others´ interventions. But more important than their petty-bourgeois method is the content of their interventions, that shows they are politically mistaken.

Neither its speakers (Mónica Schlotthauer and Edgardo Reynoso, delegates of the Sarmiento railway) nor the members of IS that took part in the commissions mentioned the importance of the anti-bureaucratic unity slates of the Mitre and the North Belgrano railways, nor the need to support the electoral struggle against the bureaucratic variants of the Green Slate. Nor did they talk about the upcoming battles against the budget debate in the Senate or against the G20. In every commission, despite their disruptive attitudes and their slanderous attacks on the Black List, comrades answered them clearly and with plenty of arguments that unfortunately didn’t make them reconsider.

On the other hand, the sole emphasis of their interventions was to vindicate the Maroon Slate in a self-proclamatory way. Far from reflecting on why the activists of the former EMFER (recently closed train factory) and the main left groups of the railway joined in an alternative slate that proposes to democratize the body of delegates to fight against austerity and sweep the Green Slate from the railway.

Instead of supporting the slates of the North zone, they proposed the Plenary “repudiate” Sarmiento’s Black List and promised to “crush” it (sic).

Instead of explaining why they didn’t call the different classist currents to join the new list and set up a joint project, as is the responsibility of those who have majorities in leaderships, they decided to explain a fallacy: that there wasn’t a united list “because it was not requested of them”. In the debate we were clear: we cannot confuse unity with uniformity. Unity happens with the integration of diversity. Uniformity, like that promoted by the Maroon Slate and IS, divides.

Instead of explaining why its candidates were not chosen by sector and then integrated in the blanket slate required the reactionary statutes to be as representative of the base as possible, they preferred to assemble a slate with only Maroon members. We have no doubt that if there was preselections by sector, the slate would be integrated by all sectors. Evidently, they do not want to expose themselves to this possibility. In the debate, we provided numerous examples of unions where the statutory restrictions for democratically electing delegates were bypassed, proving that IS’s claim that you “cannot” choose candidates for delegates by sector is fallacious.

We provided several examples: At the CNEA (Atomic Energy National Committee) where the delegates are selected by crossing off on a list. This way, the best activists are selected to integrate the blanket slate required by the retrograde ATE statute. It is well known that the body of delegates elected by sector at the Rio Santiago Shipyards is a conquest won by the workers over the same ATE statute. In the case of the workers of the former EMFER, they did the same under the ultra-bureaucratic statute of the UOM (steelworkers Union). They chose the best colleagues and even voted their claims commission, formed by the most voted candidates. They also included members of other organizations to avoid uniformity. These comrades today are bringing this valuable experience of union democracy to the Sarmiento Black Slate, demonstrating that union democracy is not recited, but practiced

The importance of a debate we must deepen

The overwhelming majority of the plenary rejected the proposals of IS, which reflect the pressures of being in the leadership of the Sarmiento railway union for over 18 years, without the counterweight of applying a democratic union model. And shows a clear adaptation to the apparatus that leads them to reproduce bureaucratic methods of the old union model we need and want to change.

You can’t proclaim “two terms and back to work” and not act accordingly. They have ceased to reflect the needs of the rank-and-file and now prioritize maintaining the union positions.

One cannot mistake unity for the uniformity that is rooted in the Sarmiento railway union. Uniformity nullifies debate and divides. Proportional integration is the only mechanism that guarantees unity by having representatives of all sectors in a body of delegates or a board of directors.

These are the first aspects of a discussion that must be deepened and that is key in the face of the development of a new leadership. The historical and structural crisis of the bureaucracy has opened a labor renewal process where there will be new opportunities to win delegates, internals commissions, districts and even unions. The left and the militant sectors will play a key role, provided they apply a new union model and not the practices of the old model that has been rooted in our class for decades and must be uprooted. It´s a cultural battle, but it isn’t only about propaganda. It requires real practical application as soon as a union position is won. Practicing strict independence and not adapting to the apparatus. Practicing workers’ democracy and submitting to rank-and-file assembly decisions. And being consistent about unity in diversity and not the uniformity of unitary thought.

This programmatic debate, as we stated in the event, has to continue. The Plenary of Combative Syndicalism took an important step forward by rejecting the methods and politics proposed by the IS and voting for correct resolutions. Undoubtedly, if in addition to the actions and organizational steps that are taking place, there’s a favorable environment to develop these discussions, it will facilitate and strengthen our unified intervention in the coming struggles, organizational and electoral processes of the labor movement. We welcome that it has begun and we propose to develop them thoroughly.

Guillermo Pacagnini – Sec. Gral de CICOP –
Coordinador nacional de ANCLA