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Meet the « Comité Syndicaliste Révolutionaire (CSR) »

Introduction

The CSR and the IWW have been corresponding by email for several years now. In January 2007 the ISC sent three FWs from BIROC  and GLAMROC to France to meet the CSR in person. For that occasion, this CSR document was translated into English.

If, by reading this translation, you come to understand how little you really know about Europe and its workers, that is good. If you become curious; better.

Goals
of the
Revolutionary Union Committee (RUC)[1]
·                   Coordination among revolutionary unionists during strikes and social conflicts (anti-fascism, anti-sexism, defence of the homeless, ... ).
That was lacking in December 1995. We need to construct an inter-union structure capable of achieving this.

We are no spontaneists. That is to say we think that the proletariat needs the intervention of a revolutionary union organization that can help it define its strategic goals and it needs class-combat experience before it can overthrow capitalism. Revolutionary situations are rare. It is essential to prepare a strategic analysis before hand in order to react quickly. Therefore, a revolutionary tendency must be present, not only to block the reformists. The revolutionaries need detailed writings, propaganda material ..... . The CSR must also serve as a network to promote „Workers’ Councils“[2] or fighting inter union committees that will help to transform society. We need to coordinate fighting collectives in order to block the kind of co-optation that established political and union apparatuses imposed on the movement in 68.  Capitalism recovers quickly from its moments of weakness, unless revolutionaries exploit them promptly. We must use the current social crisis in order to take the initiative and destroy capitalism.

The revolutionary organisation must train as many members as possible. This will keep individuals from becoming indispensable for the organization, a phenomenon that quickly leads to a crust of bureaucrats forming.

These tasks could be carried out by one or several mass unions. But such unions do not exist at present, leaving this work to the organizations of revolutionary unionists.
·                   Coordination of revolutionaries within one established union.
We need our own structure, independently of how other unions may be organized, because one of our roles is to make proposals to them.

Presently, there are very few unions or locals that one might describe as „revolutionary“. The term means more to us than the demand for the abolition of wage-slavery, hidden away somewhere in the union’s constitution. A union is revolutionary when it thinks about the overthrow of capitalism regularly, especially when deciding on its demands, tactics and internal organisation.

Differently from many other political organizations, we think that a mass union can be revolutionary. Its orientation depends on two factors; the level of the class struggle, and the revolutionaries’ ability to organize and influence the rest of the workers.

It is a goal of the CSR to work on both of these levels in order to maximize a union’s revolutionary potential. The level of demands has been driven down by twenty years of reversals for the worker’s movement. This makes the coordination of revolutionary unionists more urgent yet.


·                   Training unionists.
What makes the CSR interesting is that it has a union pedigree, that comes from a class-organisation, something that puts the breaks on petite-bourgeoisie syndromes like sectarianism, leftism. Intellectualism[3] .... .   We think that class consciousness and a revolutionary perspective are forged in the daily class struggle.



Nature
of the
Revolutionary Union Committees
The RUC is an inter union movement. As such it has nothing to do with any „political organisation“ or „philosophy” for the following reasons;
·       Only active unionists who are already involved in the class struggle can join the CSR. This is different from those political organisations that ask their members to join unions with a view to influencing their orientation and to creating political factions.
1)   Only radical unionists who understand the need to coordinate the revolutionary unionists join the CSR. Differently from a political organisation we do not demand acceptance of a rigid program, which is nothing more than a summary of the reflex ions of a given group of militants at a given time. Therefore, nothing is more subjective than a program.
When cooperating with anarcho-syndicalists or communists, we think of them as fellow unionist first, remaining on our guard against any attempts at manipulation.
We see no need for political splits so long as there is a minimum of common ideological ground;
I.            defence of proletarian interests,
II. union independence and internal democracy
III.          the goal of a worker’s revolution to replace capitalism with a communist system.
 The rest is debatable, open to doubt and discussion. It is theory which should serve the practice of class war, not the inverse. Class war should not be a test bench for revolutionary intellectuals’ thought-experiments.




2)   This is an important difference between the CSR and political parties; for us, theory does not trump practice. To place the party line above the practice is to lapse from „materialism“ into „idealism“. Unfortunately, Leninism shares a great deal of the blame for the growth of sectarian tendencies among revolutionaries during the last few decades. By placing the party’s political line above all else, Leninism pushed the revolutionary movement into intellectualism, into theory for its own sake. This is why the CSR reflects another class ideology, that of revolutionary unionism, born of the practice of the militant working class.
·       Membership in the CSR requires acceptance of the three principles invoked above, but not of every last detail developed in this platform. It depends primarily on the member’s practice in his/her union.

The CSR does not want to be a clandestine organisation, but rather to defend its principles openly. It does not intend to seize control of unions but rather to raise the level of revolutionary consciousness and unionists’ commitment, and to propose practices and orientations leading to self-management[4].

The CSR wants to be the organisational structure of the revolutionary unionists, their focal point for regrouping and reorganizing.

Our mistrust of political organisations is based on more than just criticism. We also see better alternatives for the practice of the class struggle.

Decades of Leninist/anarchist domination of the revolutionary movement have led to a schematic view of unionism. It will take a real cultural revolution to eliminate the stereotypical caricatures of unions as recruiting agencies for political organisations taking themselves to be the incarnation of the proletariat’s interests.

We are often told that unions cannot be more than reformist because the must encompass a maximum number of workers. But history shows that mass unions are perfectly capable of developing anti-capitalist strategies (the Spanish CNT, the French CGT before 1914, the IWW, the Mexican CGT, the French CGTU .... ) Unions will tend to follow the consciousness of the working class because they are combat organisations, especially of the most militant parts of the working class. During periods of „social peace“ reformist tendencies will naturally come to the fore. In pre-revolutionary times unions are perfectly capable of developing a revolutionary program. A political party will come under the same pressure of class struggle, even when it is a so-called mass-party with a, rare, working-class leadership.

The CSR opposes simplistic schemas, and was created to do so. We do not expect a union member to become a revolutionary automatically, even in revolutionary times. That is why revolutionary unionists must organize to defend their demands publicly against the reformists and against union bureaucrats, if they happen to exist. Our tendency is a relative guarantee against  three errors common among revolutionaries;


·       Dogmatism; the habit of writing programs within one’s own political tendency, without reference to the class struggle.
·       Reformism; the habit of certain anti-capitalist militants, who are isolated within their union, to give in to pressure of a well-organized reformist majority.
·       Manipulations by certain radicals who avoid raising the level of debate about social issues within unions because they feel that such discussions belong properly within the remit of their political tendency
The CSR also stands for real union independence. Their are plenty of unionists who affirm this while denying the task of transforming society to unions. This position is at best ambiguous, more often incoherent and sometimes hypocritical. If a union does not take care of social questions it necessary leaves that task to philosophers. The need for this supplementation is logical. So this position will sooner or later lead a union to bind itself to a political movement. Union independence is best served by making the union the centre of all social reflection and action, independent of political movements.





[1] « Comité Syndicaliste Révolutionaire (CSR) » in th French original.
[2] « conseils de travailleurs » in the French original, like the German « Arbeiterräte ».
[3] « sectarisme, gauchisme, intellectualisme » in the French original. These are the kinds of words that are used to mean different things by different writers.
[4] « autogestionnaires » in the French original. Self management was, perhaps, the key demand in 68.