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Syndicalist Unions in Siberia

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Syndicalist unions in Siberia by Joe Black, Workers Solidarity Internationally there is a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 11, 2001
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Syndicalist unions in Siberia

      by Joe Black, Workers Solidarity

      Internationally there is a long and close historical
      relationship between anarchism and what in English is often
      referred to as syndicalism or revolutionary unionism. Such
      unions have no bureaucracy, all decisions being made by
      their membership and include among their aims the abolition
      of capitalism and its replacement with libertarian
      communism. Recently we received details of one of the newer
      syndicalist unions, the Siberian Confederation of Labour

      Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism were reborn in the USSR in
      the opening created by Gorbachev's 'glasnost' in the late
      1980's. Lenin and the Bolsheviks physically destroyed the
      previous movements of the 1917 to 21 period. Not only were
      the anarchist organisations and papers suppressed but also
      tens of thousands of activists were jailed or even executed.

      On May 1st 1989 the Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists
      (KAS) was founded. This body took the same name as the mass
      anarcho-syndicalist union (it probably had over 50,000
      members) that had been suppressed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
      The founding meeting of this new organisation included
      delegates from the Siberian towns of Tomsk and Irkutsk.

      In the difficult conditions of the early 1990's KAS quite
      rapidly split into a number of different anarchist
      organisations. At the fourth conference of KAS the Siberian
      anarcho-syndicalists proposed the creation of KAS unions and
      by 1994 they had themselves created regional unions in the
      cities of Omsk, Seversk and Tomsk. In 1995 a conference of
      the SKT was held in Tomsk leading to the regular production
      of Dielo Truda (again the name of an anarchist paper
      suppressed by the Bolsheviks) and Rabochy.

      1998 saw the blockade of railway lines by workers across
      Russia (often demanding the payment of wages) with some
      participants affiliated to the SKT. In January of 2000 the
      union centre 'Trud' of Novosibirsk, the confederation of
      labour of Kusbas and the union of the aluminium factory in
      the town of Sayanogorsk also affiliated to the SKT.

      Today the SKT has a total membership of 6,000 with the
      largest union being the OKT in Omsk. This has ten local
      unions each with between a handful and 400 members. They
      organise air traffic controllers, rail workers, technicians,
      electricians and others. Members of sections in other towns
      include teachers, miners, broadcasting staff and chemical

      On the 30th September 2000 the SKT held a conference in Omsk
      at which it adopted a new charter. This included traditional
      elements of syndicalism such as direct democracy and
      independence from political parties. A draft of political
      goals included workers self-management and they adopted the
      red and black flag as their union banner.

      The SKT also attended the protests in Gothenburg in June
      against the EU summit there. They took part in the
      international program organised by the Swedish
      anarcho-syndicalist SAC union with union activists and
      political activists from Nepal, Bangladesh, Chile, and South

      According to Alexander from SKT the most important thing at
      the moment is to fight against the extremely low wages and
      to fight for wages being paid at all and the defence of the
      worker's rights.

      Over the last two years SKT has successfully stopped a law
      that would drastically decrease workers rights in the whole
      of the Russian Federation. According to Alexander the
      independent unions play an important role since only they
      have the guts to oppose the corruption in society. The
      traditional unions have become a part of the establishment.

      The existence of syndicalist unions like the SKT demonstrate
      that we can run our unions without the sort of bureaucratic
      structures that are currently typical of Irish Trade unions.
      While most of the left in Ireland sees struggle in the
      unions as being about getting their members elected to key
      positions we do not. Instead we want to contribute to
      building a rank and file movement that can force through the
      sort of democratic reforms needed to transform our unions
      into ones with the democratic structures and radical program
      of unions like the SKT. Such syndicalist unions would then
      have a major part to play in the revolutionary
      transformation of society.

      Joe Black

      Based on information from AnarchoSyndicalist Review and

      Dan Clore

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