Recently, the CNT has published their positions on the ”refounding of the IWA”. Several points of their article could cause misunderstandings and are factually incorrect.
Any official decisions of the IWA related to this matter can only be taken at the Congress of the IWA. It is not possible, under the IWA statutes, for the CNT or any other Sections to convoke a refounding conference of the IWA without the approval, in Congress, of the entire IWA. Only if the IWA Congress approves any Ordinary or Extraordinary Congress dedicated to its refoundation can such Congress be considered organic and legitimate.
We stress that only the decisions of the Congress are representative of the IWA’s positions. In turn, only the official positions of each member Section are representative of that Section.
Below we have produced a small FAQ related to the points brought up in the publication and to the many questions sent people from around the world have been asking us from the IWA Secretariat. The information herein is based on the actual Congress decisions of the IWA and other facts documented internally in the federation.
When is the Congress of the IWA?
The Congress of the IWA is in December 2016. Any official positions of the IWA on these proposals can only be known after this Congress.
Is the FAU expelled from IWA?
No. The Extraordinary Congress of the IWA of December 2014 decided to put this question on the agenda of the next ordinary Congress in December 2016.
No final decision has been made by the Sections concerning the future affiliation or disaffiliation of that Section.
Did the current General Secretary make this decision unilaterally and with no basis?
The Secretariat is held by Sections of the IWA, although the Congress may also name the General Secretary. The term General Secretary is related to one person while the Secretariat refers to a group of people. The Section chosen may delegate as many people as they wish to the functioning of the Secretariat but a minimum of three is required.
The Secretariat may receive some mandates from IWA Congresses which ask it to take certain steps in certain events. In the case in question, the Secretariat was mandated to expel FAU under certain circumstances due to violation of Congress decisions. This mandate was given through the process of two IWA Congresses.
The current situation involved six months of discussion and consultation about the circumstances and this mandate. The issue was brought to an Extraordinary Congress where the positions of all the member Sections were heard. The decision of the Extraordinary Congress was to treat this question in 2016 at the regular Congress. This would allow Sections to formulate their positions or initiate conflict resolution measures.
CNT did not agree to this process?
No. lt seems that CNT does not recognize that the Extraordinary Congress voted or that there was a mandate. It maintains that the General Secretary acted alone.
What has been CNT’s position on this issue?
The position of the CNT on this issue is currently to support the FAU. However, the original motion to expel FAU was made by the CNT. The CNT brought these positions to 4 consecutive IWA Congresses from 2000-2009.
Does this mean the position of the CNT changed?
Yes and it is normal. Organizations develop, change their membership or re-assess their positions so this can and does happen.
If the position of the CNT changed, could they ask to change the mandate of the IWA Secretariat?
Yes. All mandates of the IWA Secretariat are decided by the IWA Sections in Congresses and Plenaries and all Sections are entitled to make motions to change mandates or make new ones.
In 2009, the CNT supported it and the next Congress was in 2013. No motion was made by the CNT to revoke the mandate, nor was there any position of CNT related to this matter.
However, after the issue of FAU re-emerged in 2014, the CNT claimed that there was no longer any mandate for the Secretariat.
How was this claim handled?
Any claims like this must be decided by the Sections in a collective process. During the collective process, it is natural that there can be disagreements.
Further, a principle of anarchosyndicalism is that any parties claiming that an elected delegate has acted inappropriately has the right to motion to recall said delegate. Such an option was indeed exercised but rejected during the statutory process required in the IWA. That is, a majority of Sections voted against it.
lf CNT is bigger, why doesn’t the IWA just take that into account and let them decide what to do?
This is against our federative statutes which have regulated this since 1922. ln 2009 and 2013, the IWA overwhelmingly rejected motions which would go in this direction.
This historical position shapes the current composition of the IWA today since, had we operated on the assumption that the largest should decide, the CNT would not be the IWA Section today. That is because the CNT which we know today was the smaller part of two factions which split years ago, the larger being known as the CGT today.
The same principles which forced us to recognize the CNT as our legitimate Sections years ago are in play today. CNT conformed to our statutes, ideas and tactics. The faction which later became CGT held a split Congress and, although they were definitely much larger, this process was in contradiction to the organic norms and it was not the continuation of the CNT-AIT.
Today, the CNT takes another position. However the type of refoundation process it proposes today is close to this situation. The questions related to the organic legitimacy of such processes, remains the same.
Is it the duty of the Secretary to engage in dialogue between the Sections to resolve the issue of the difference of opinions related to voting rights?
The Sections of the IWA bring any motions that they have to IWA Congresses and at any time between the Congresses they are free to submit their opinions and propose any debates.
It is the Sections’ right to debate this.
IWA sections did discuss these issues twice in IWA Congresses.
It is not the duty of the IWA Secretariat to bring these issues back to the Congress for discussion: it is the right of the Section to motion for this.
Have there been any motions to the IWA or petitions to the IWA Secretariat to start a process of discussion with the aim to explore if there can be any compromise decisions?
What has been the process of discussion with FAU after the last Congress?
The IWA Secretariat expressed to FAU that it would like to talk and would hope that some Sections would facilitate discussion. Unfortunately, there has not been any good development in this area.
Members of the IWA Secretariat travelled to the Congress of FAU but were not allowed to address this issue at this Congress. Attempts to ask about meetings, including meetings with other Sections, did not get any positive response.
The Secretariat informed the Sections of these situations and sent all the proposals. Later it stressed that if any dialogues could be undertaken, efforts to initiate these processes would have to be undertaken by Sections interested since reactions towards the IWA Secretariat were hostile and any steps towards resolution really required a collective effort. From the very beginning it expressed opinions to the FAU delegation at the 2014 Congress that if FAU did not agree with the Secretariat and this presented a problem, it would be best if some other Sections, preferably ones considered more neutral, be part of this process.
Did the CNT offer to be involved in any process that would seek a resolution to basic problems between FAU and other Sections?
No. No Section has done this.
The CNT proposes a number of changes in the IWA. What next?
If the CNT proposes these things, they go on the Congress agenda for debate and voting.
Why hasn’t the IWA discussed some of these issues before? Some of them seem very important.
The IWA discusses every issue that Sections put on the agenda for debate. If something hasn’t been discussed it is because there have not been appropriate motions in the IWA for it.
From the points presented by the CNT, issues of minimum membership and voting rights have been discussed twice at IWA Congresses. The issues of dues have been discussed and regulated, as has training and international expansion.
Below is some basic information on decisions or pending topics.
The minimum membership issue was rejected by two Congresses.
In 2013, another Section rejected the number criteria completely and submitted the opinion that the criteria should be a demonstration of syndical activity and organizational regularity, together with an adhesion to our principles and tactics. However has this opinion could only be made after the original proposals were submitted and there was no time to submit a counter-proposal, it is up to the Section to propose a continuation of debate on it in 2016 or not.
The point on international expansion was brought in 2009 to the Congress by the CNT. There was a position paper of that organization. The IWA Sections were in agreement that they wanted to expand but the details on the specifics of how to do this, what steps to take, etc., were not in this paper and thus it was decided to take this to the next Plenary.
In 2011, the CNT did not add to this point, but several concrete proposals that could be said to relate to expanding contacts were agreed. Some of these were proposed by the other Sections. The CNT and ZSP proposed the creation of an lnternational Working Group comprised of delegates from the Sections and this was accepted (in the CNT’s version).
In 2012, the CNT did not submit any further points although another Section did. The CNT did not prepare any mandates or decisions nor send any official delegate to this Plenary.
In 2013, this proposal, still being pending, went as a point to the IWA Congress but lacking any development on the part of the CNT, it remains a pending point.
Currently there are working groups in the IWA which already are set up to carry out some of the tasks referred to in the CNT proposals: the lnternational Working Group to build contacts and the Syndical Education Commission. They are open to all Sections to send delegates but the CNT does not currently have delegates in either.
The idea to make training seems very productive. Why hasn’t the IWA done this before?
Some sections of the IWA hold training events in their own localities and the IWA Secretariat has organized some workshops on the international level.
The IWA Congress has recognized the need for education in this respect and has an open commission which all Sections can participate in. lf the CNT would like to propose anything in this respect, it can join the commission and volunteer to organize events, especially in coordination with other Sections. This does not require any additional Congress decisions – it only requires initiative and implementation.
What about the legal issue? Is the IWA funds in the name of one individual?
No, this is not correct. The funds are in the name of a member Section and have been for quite a long time.
Permission to access and manage the funds comes with the appropriate mandate of the IWA Congresses and this is a rotated task. The IWA Secretariat is fully accountable and reports all use of funds regularly.
We point out that no matter which entity holds the funds, only a group of mandated individuals would be legally empowered to access them. The safety of any collective money therefore is dependent on the commitment to our ideas of collective responsibility.
As the CNT should know, just because money is in the name of its organization does not mean it is safe because everything depends on the culture of the organization, whether people are committed to ensuring responsibility and have the ability to control the delegates of their organization.
The CNT welcomes other organizations to join the refounded IWA. What are the details on that?
Affiliation to the IWA is open to all organizations that agree with its statutes. By this, it is understood the binding statutes which are in agreement and approved by the official instances of the IWA. The official instance for modifying the statutes is the IWA Congress and only the official IWA Congress, held in accordance with our statutes, or any Extraordinary Congress held by decision of the IWA Congress. The IWA Congress is agreed according to the statutes and cannot be decided by a faction.
The normal affiliation process in the IWA has looked as follows: an organization makes contact with the official representation of the IWA (the IWA Secretariat), or vice-versa and the correspondence is transferred to all the Sections for transparency. There is usually a period of exchange and cooperation to get to know each other and build solidarity. Some organizations opt to start as Friends of the IWA to become more familiar with everything.
If an organization decides that the IWA is right for it, it applies to join and its potential membership is assessed by all the Sections.
The legitimate organic instance for applications is only the Congress of the IWA which is set out in our statutes.
We welcome organizations to be in contact with the IWA through official means, which implies accountability to all the Sections. Such contact is not limited to those organizations which would like to join, but also to those which would like to receive or exchange information (solidarity calls, bulletins, etc.).
At the same time, we point out that the CNT is not mandated to invite organizations to a refounding process that has not been approved, nor is it mandated to speak on behalf of the IWA. The process of official delegation is one strictly based in anarchosyndicalist doctrine and concretely in our case, by the Statutes of the lnternational Workers Association.
All Sections of the IWA are free to maintain relations with other organizations and do this, keeping in mind and within the agreements of the IWA.
We hope that this information will clarify some questions related to the publication. We ask that if organizations have questions, they ask them by writing to the IWA Secretariat so these questions and answers can be known to all the Sections. We also ask for time and respect for our internal process at this moment which is very difficult for our federation.