Textile production is one of the most internationalized branches of capitalism today. Indeed, due to its incapacity to become computerized or even seriously mechanized, it was forced to constantly research the cheapest wage labor possible in order to remain within average rates of profits. In this context, delocalization, first affects factories within the United States itself. Faced with this situation, various leaders of the working class, or even the political or religious realms, found themselves obliged not only to pose the problem clearly but also to move their organizations towards the dominated countries to convey solidarity with working class struggles there, in the objective of attempting to establish a better equilibrium, in their own interest.
Thus, amongst others, we find the support of the AFL-CIO’S Solidarity Center (ACILS) in the very field of struggle where, on top of supplying financial support, they also offer a militant support by putting pressure on the brands or on finance sources (like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, in particular) and thus confer their weight to the struggle. This practice, the Solidarity Center has it throughout the world, everywhere the assembly industry is establishing itself in the logic we just mentioned.
To allow for a better organization of this struggle, in the beginning of the month of the November 2005 (from the 3rd to the 7th) , ACILS facilitated a regional meeting in Guatemala amongst various worker’s organizations and solidarity groups in view of building a coordination in order to, together, better attack the general common problem. This is how Batay Ouvriye was invited to participate.
During the recent months, while recognizing the concrete presence of Solidarity Center members to working class fights and the weight this presence can convey, we underlined our important differences with them, not only concerning their nature as an office of the AFL-CIO that has a long negative balance in the struggles of the American working class, not only for the reactionary role this Center played in Latin America, particularly Venezuela recently, but also, closer to us, concerning their totally bureaucratic line in practice.
In the text “Sobre Sindicato” (On Unions) that we distributed during a meeting between SOCOWA and FM1 workers from the Dominican Republic we conveyed a clear and specific criticism on the negative aspects of this bureaucratic line and its nefarious effects on working class struggles. Similarly, in various documents, we always denounced this reactionary role in their practices in Latin America, while we clearly established our position with respect to the their “solidarity” and how we accepted it, as all others, in the context of our complete political independence as a main axis of this relationship. Thus: we went to the Guatemala meeting not only because of its importance as such, and also, in struggle, to attempt to transmit our line based on mobilization and the accumulation of forces of the working class; not only because, there, we would meet workers in struggle coming from various countries and confronting the same capitalist brands and even often, the same factory owners; but, precisely, to convey all of these debate points openly and frankly. In this sense, we produced a “Message…” for the assembly, which one can read in its integrality.
Amongst the participants, we based ourselves on this “Message…” to, from the start, show how negative the inconsiderate mixing of working class organizations with support ones was. For us, this situation is part of a line that we criticize and, naturally, this is the same line that would have one believe the meetings with brands are the principal element in question. Principal, precisely, because they are the very role these solidarity organizations play. So: at this phase, the line puts the workers’ organizations behind the solidarity ones and, concretely, the information necessary for the class’ struggles themselves, coming from the factories in struggle, are secondary (Annex 2). For us, such an approach can only weaken the struggles and organizations of the working class. We clarify this position even more in a report synthesis that we produced and sent to all those present (Annex 3).
However: despite all our interventions that aimed to denounce this approach and that showed all its dangers for the working class’ struggle and those of the people’s camp generally, the Solidarity Center’s agenda remained unchanged. No rectification took place, the points we conveyed truly weren’t taken into consideration. This despite the fact that our points generally were supported by the present workers. In the same way, some mebers of the Solidarity Center hesitated to diffuse our message. Further along, we were able to find the democratic and more courageous support of other members of this Center, which allowed the document’s distribution; but without its ever being able to be discussed, the organizers arguing that “this isn’t the best place for discussions on the question of the AFL-CIO or its role in Latin America” etc. Although we showed our disagreement, expressing how, to the contrary, we had here capital points to be discussed in front of all the workers present, the “Message…” wasn’t able to be debated.
These fundamental points of disagreement, on questions of line, confirm for us that in this “campaign”, the offensive of the brands is this Center’s main axis of struggle. The worse is that certain ACILS members even went so far as to say that “if some don’t agree with the ‘campaign’, they can remove themselves”. To which we answered that “our disagreement doesn’t come from the question of common struggles, nor of the coordination necessary for it, but rather the form by which we will attain it and the orientation guiding it, as well as the importance that the support groups (petty-bourgeois, NGO…) will have within it.
Up through the synthesis, the important points we transmitted were put aside, that is: “the working class’s independence in its organization and struggles as a basic principle”. And, to demonstrate this fundamental principle in the context of the practices going on, we established with all the necessary firmness that, in the workshop distribution of participants, given the importance of this aspect, it was necessary for worker delegates or the member-representatives of workers’ organizations meet first together, while those of support or solidarity organizations would constitute themselves in other groups, so that the class nature of each may first be marked, concentrated, and thus, better express itself and, in a further moment, find better energy. Useless to say that the petty-bourgeois opposed themselves to this initiative. But it’s important to point out the majority of workers present clearly saw its common sense and some expressed this openly. Faced with the number of support delegates present and the difficulty of the workers to pronounce themselves (dependency? Lack precisely of independence?...) this basic differentiation wasn’t able to happen. Which, for us, largely limited the level of coordination of struggles and organization that could have emerged from this meeting, in the real interest of the working class, its struggle, its future.
Giving us reason, during the night of the second day, three Guatemalan guests came to share their struggles’ experiences with us. Without even being aware of the debates going on, they supported all the various positions we had expressed during the two days of meeting (see, again, Annex 1).
Finally: despite all our efforts to rectify and transmit a correct workers’ line, only that which had been planned by the ACILS remained on the agenda: choosing common brands amongst the various countries, and imparting them with pressure so that the workers could set up unions and negotiate collective bargaining contracts. Besides, instead of concentrating on a determined aim that would emerge from the basis of the workers’ struggles themselves, it was the capacities of the support groups that, in the end, increasingly guided the final choice. What was needed was to target the brands most ‘open’ to support practices (“those opening their doors to us”, as they say). On another hand, the coordination mechanisms also depended on a type of capacity the solidarity groups alone have (internet, travel…)
- Considering these circumstances in which we realized that the ACIL’s initial orientation remained without the slightest variation or serious consideration with regard to the other points transmitted;
- Considering the (for us) completely erroneous and very nefarious line for the struggles and organization of the working class;
- Considering that all that which we were transmitting was in the interest of the proletariat (the concentration of its organization, the development of its true capacity of mobilization and struggle to attain its objectives, the fact of its need to assume independently its struggle, its worldwide organization and the direction of the peoples’ camp generally):
We chose NOT to be a part of the coordination thus established. But:
- Since we believe this activity to be an important one for the workers of the entire world, suffering from the exploitation, domination and repression of the textile industry’s capitalists;
- Since we are in relation, in our concrete struggles, with our comrades from the Dominican Republic;
We remain articulated with their practices in this context. With our fellow Dominican comrades, we will continue to transmit our thoughts, our coordination of struggles with our concrete presence in the very fields of struggle, always in the framework of the struggle we will carry out together with the working class’s movement in construction.