Union Training Guidebook
This work is a practical guide for union activists, delegates, representatives, or leaders, both for those who are taking their first steps in union activity and for those who have more experience. The irruption of thousands of activists from all over the world who carry out the union struggle against the capitalist employers, their governments and states, is a true political revolution against capitalism that is bringing down the old workers' parties, and the old leaderships of unions.
Many believe that unions have always existed, but this is not the case. Trade union organizations were born in England and France, which were the most important capitalist countries in the eighteenth century, and then spread throughout the world. They arose thanks to the struggle of thousands of workers who suffered imprisonment, persecution, exile, and even gave up their lives to achieve the conquest of having unions.
Capitalism created the working class, the social class of those who live on a salary, and do not own the means of production and exchange. Our social class developed and grew in all countries, reaching gigantic proportions, taking over entire neighborhoods of the big capitals, and industrial cities. The first trade unions were founded by hat workers in London in 1771, by shipbuilders in Liverpool in 1790, and by workers in Paris in 1790, after the French revolution.
Before, they met in taverns and clubs and formed the "Mutual Aid Associations" to defend themselves against the total lack of protection against the abuses of the capitalists such as long working hours, child labor, poorly paid women, unhealthy factories, overcrowding, dismissals without compensation, misery, diseases, etc.
Governments and capitalist states to prevent unions from emerging between 1799 and 1800 approved laws such as the "Combination Acts" in England, or the "Chápelier Law" in France that prohibited all types of worker associations. But the working class became numerous, strong, militated clandestinely, organized legal and illegal methods, and became so decisive in social processes that it managed to impose its demands for wages, working conditions, the right to unionize, to strike. , to the protest based on the revolutions, and workers' struggles.
The "Unions" and "Trade Unions" arose , the first legal unions, and then the great organizations and trade union centers of the world arose. These Trade Union Training Notebooks are a guide for union members, combining the legacy left to us by the workers' leaders and fighters, and the most modern and advanced formulations of Marxism. All the militants and union activists of today are the continuators of our predecessors, humble fighters, some anonymous who bequeathed to us the rights and union organizations that we managed to obtain with so much sacrifice.
1- WE PROMOTE PERMANENT MOBILIZATION
Unions are organizations that unite us in defense and promotion of our labor interests before the capitalist employer, the chambers employers of the capitalists, or before the capitalist State. Millions of us have unions all over the world as tools to fight and defend our right
But we must not forget that millions of workers in the world still cannot access the right to unionize: precarious workers, out of payroll, black, underemployed, outsourced, subcontracted, etc. The employers and capitalist governments do not allow them to have unions, this means that the right to have unions is a fight that never ends, and we must defend it permanently. We defend the interests of those who have the right to unionize, and of those who do not, we demand that right for all workers.
We push our claims permanently. We mobilize all the time, we demand wage increases, we demand improvements in working conditions, we demand the right to medical care, clothing, tools, and the protection of our integrity, and occupational health. We face layoffs, suspensions, and any other sanction that the state or employers can exercise, we demand the right to assembly, organization, strike, and mobilization.
When we talk about mobilizing, we are not referring only to taking to the streets. To mobilize is to carry out all kinds of actions in defense of our rights: From filing a petition, holding an assembly, raising a claim letter, attending an interview with the employers, with labor lawyers, demonstrating, everything is mobilizing.
Why do we claim permanently? Because the attack on our living and working conditions that capitalism makes is permanent. The state and employers lower our wages, demand more hours of work from us, fire them without reason or compensation, make us work longer, more hours, for less money. They hire workers in precarious conditions to encourage competition between workers seeking to degrade our conditions, they break the laws of the capitalist state itself, etc. We call this the "permanent economic counterrevolution."
To the extent that capitalism advances in its crisis, it permanently attacks our living and working conditions, to increase exploitation and obtain more profits, which causes our living and working conditions to go backwards every day. The only way to face the "permanent economic counterrevolution" is to permanently promote the mobilization for our interests and needs. Mobilizing is our permanent task to be able to defend our conquests and our rights.
2- FOR PROLETARIAN INTERNATIONALISM
Capitalism is a world system. The
companies, multinationals, and corporations that dominate the economy
are global, the businessmen, bankers, and capitalists that dominate and
manage the companies meet, agree, and arrange all the time to get us to
exploit the workers of the whole world.
The capitalist governments, both those of the imperialist countries of the G7, as well as of the poor capitalist countries, agree in international organizations such as the UN, the G20, or the Davos Summit, about how best to exploit us, and oppress us, the workers of the world to obtain better profits and benefits for their companies.
For this reason, the workers of the entire world to defend our rights have to unite, surpassing the origins, nationalities, sexual condition, generations, races, languages and traditions of the whole world. The capitalists, bankers and heads of the multinationals try to divide us all the time looking for us to consider other workers enemies because they are of another nationality, of another race, creed, or sexual condition. We have to overcome those prejudices that permeate the capitalists, their parties, governments, and states to achieve the unity of the workers.
We consider North American, European, Arab, Indian, Chinese, South American, or Japanese workers as class brothers. We work for the same multinationals that exploit us with branches in different countries, many times we work for the same aviation, computer, tire, soft drink, food, etc. companies. We must unite to confront the millionaire owners of these companies in better conditions.
State workers may have doubts if their interests are equal to state workers in other countries. However, in the case of the Magisterium, teaching workers are victims of Educational Reforms approved by international organizations such as the World Bank or the IMF, and are applied equally in all countries to privatize education, which attack the labor rights of teachers, and the same occurs with health workers, administrations, services, retirees, etc. For this reason, we state workers must also unite all over the world
The struggle for the union of workers from different countries is called Proletarian Internationalism. This postulate that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels launched with the famous slogan "Proletarians of all countries unite" in 1848, is fundamental in union activity to coordinate and permanently unify the struggle of workers from different countries, and better defend way our rights.
3- BY INDEPENDENT UNIONS OF THE STATE
To the extent that capitalism is under the domination of monopolies, multinationals and corporations, that is to say, it goes through its imperialist phase, it tends to put the unions under their control. The capitalist state dominated by bankers and multinationals needs docile, controlled unions, submissive to their interests in order to make a profit.
If capitalism in its imperialist phase did not have submissive unions, the multinationals would not be able to survive or sustain themselves, and capitalism would collapse. Therefore, the existence of unions controlled by the capitalist state is a fundamental requirement for the existence of capitalism.
The businessmen and bankers, if they cannot prevent the existence of the unions, try to bring them under their control. So, just as we defend the existence of unions as a permanent conquest, we then need to defend their independence from the state, their governments, and officials who defend the interests of large companies and multinationals.
How does the capitalist state gain control of the unions? Through 2 mechanisms:
1) With a layer of officials that runs the unions called "union bureaucracy" that works in favor of the interests of the employers, and the capitalist state. The existence of the union bureaucracy is supported by the agreements and pacts between the traitorous union leaders and the governments, and capitalist political parties.
2) Establishing laws that regulate the operation of the unions established in the union statutes, and forcing the unions to adhere to the legislation of the state
To defend workers' rights, we need to free unions from the control of the capitalist state. This battle is fundamental, because it is the fight for class independence. We fight for unions independent of the capitalist state, because we need unions to be organizations independent both from the control of civil servants, and from governments that defend the interests of capitalists, and multinationals.
To defend the interests of our class against the meddling of the state, its officials, and the ruling classes, we need to confront the union bureaucracy and the laws that regulate the operation and the union statutes. The independence of the state unions is a permanent struggle, and one of the principles on which the struggle for class independence is based.
4- OUT THE UNION BUREAUCRACY! LET THE BASE DECIDE!
The union bureaucracy usurps the unions to betray the struggle of the workers, and favor the interests of the employers. They turn the unions into a branch of the Labor Ministries of the capitalist state. They take control of the unions to do business, and appropriate the funds of the unions based on discounts of union dues, social works, and employer bribes.
These leaders seek to enrich themselves based on union control. They are hated by the worker bases, and they retain power based on a brutal repression that they exert within the union, installing an anti-democratic regime. It is a top-down regime where the general secretary or top leader and the union leadership have all the powers, and make all the decisions.
The central policy of the union bureaucrats is to impede union democracy, and the decision of the worker rank and file. All the methods and actions of the union bureaucracy are aimed at stifling, impeding, and silencing the opinions, claims, and demands of the base in companies, offices, schools, administration, and factories. The union bureaucracy never goes down to the workplace to listen, hear, and receive the opinions of the bases, because if the decisions of the bases were imposed, the union bureaucracy would disappear.
For this reason, the union bureaucracy develops a methodology based on the fraud of union elections, statutes that make up an anti-democratic organic structure, and the formation of groups of thugs that repress and intimidate fighters, activists, and leaders who confront their politics. It is necessary to defeat the union bureaucracy, and its treacherous politics! Our slogan is Down with the Union Bureaucracy! And our method is workers' democracy, our politics is the opposite of the union bureaucracy, we want the bases to decide everything, for the bases to express themselves, for the bases to impose their demands and demands. Our rallying cry to defeat the union bureaucracy is "Let the rank and file decide!"
We fight to push the grassroots decision using all necessary methods. We go through the sectors, we hold assemblies, general, or by sector, if the assemblies prevent us, we place ballot boxes where each worker can vote. We abide by what the majority of our base says, even if the opinion of the base is contrary to our position. If we are of the opinion that a strike should continue, but the rank and file vote to end it, we abide by the decision of the majority of the rank and file.
The only thing we abide by are the decisions of the bases. If we are union leaders, or delegates, or union representatives, we are at the service of the bases, their opinions of their needs, and their decisions. We fight for the base to decide, a method that unifies, guarantees the strength of the decisions, because they are resolved by the majority with a democratic method. This policy is the best tool to destroy the union bureaucracy, defeat it, and impose a new leadership.
5- WE REVOLUTIONIZE THE UNIONS
The union statutes establish a vertical structure within the unions, providing mechanisms and organizations that give full powers to the general secretaries and the executive committees. This is the legal basis of the union bureaucracy because it prevents the rank and file of the unions from expressing their will, and needs.
The ministries and officials of the capitalist state control, and approve the union statutes, forcing the unions to adhere to the legislation of the state. These union statutes promote and support the union bureaucracy through all kinds of mechanisms that give it full powers, for example, they establish norms that prevent being able to present an opposition list in union elections, placing impossible conditions to establish candidacies, or to be delegates. , to those who oppose bureaucracy.
They establish resolution assemblies to define all crucial issues for the workers, which are in the minority because the majority of workers cannot participate in them, and in these assemblies a minority of workers resolves for the majority. The union bureaucracy is sustained thanks to the existence of these undemocratic statutes, without them, the union bureaucracy could not exist. To defeat fraud and the top-down regime imposed by the undemocratic union statutes, it is necessary to revolutionize the internal structure of the unions.
When we take control of a union we immediately propose the reform of the statutes to establish the most democratic norms, we propose the permanent rotation of charges every 2 terms, the leaders return to their workplace. If we are not in the leadership of the union, we promote all kinds of actions and tactics to impose the decisions of the bases.
If the statutes propose that 1 delegate be elected for every 100, or 200 workers, we propose the election of collaborating delegates for every 20 workers. We propose that the delegates have mandates from the bases. We propose that the minority assemblies held at the union facilities take their resolutions to the base for approval, we encourage general assemblies, assemblies by section, or sector, and all kinds of instances that allow the expression of the will and decision of the bases .
We propose all kinds of creation of commissions that strengthen the delegates closest to the bases, internal commissions, bodies of delegates, etc. We promote formal and informal meetings with activists, we coordinate with other unions, in short, we revolutionize the unions to counteract the top-down and bureaucratic structure imposed by the undemocratic statutes imposed by the capitalist state, to permanently impose the will of the bases.
7- WE FIGHT FOR A NEW DIRECTION OF THE WORKING CLASS
Unions are largely controlled by union bureaucrats who are part of reformist, social democratic, and pro-boss leaderships. These directions are defenders of capitalism, their leaders respond to political projects of parties that seek to reconcile with the capitalists, and end up serving their interests.
For this reason, the fight against the union bureaucracy, and for the independence of the state unions, points to the emergence of a new union and political leadership of the working class. As new leaders emerge who aim to overthrow the union bureaucracy, its methods and privileges, there is a crisis in the old union leadership, and the union bureaucracy.
This is precisely the process that we are experiencing throughout the world, which we call the process of "Political Revolution" to the extent that new union leaders emerge in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc. The old political parties of the working class of the world, the social democrats, the Stalinists, the Maoists, the ex-guerrillas, the bourgeois nationalists such as the US Democratic Party, the PRI, MORENA, APRA, the PT of Brazil, the Peronism, the PSOL, Syriza of Greece, etc. All these organizations are in crisis and are being questioned for defending the interests of capitalism.
Capitalism cannot be reformed, it will always defend the interests of the ruling classes, which is why the irruption of thousands of new union leaders throughout the world who question capitalism constitutes a danger for capitalism and world imperialism. That is why all these old leaderships will do everything possible to prevent these new leaders who are emerging all over the world from coming close to Marxism. The danger of the emergence of a revolutionary leadership causes a fierce struggle to win the sympathy of these new thousands of union leaders who are emerging throughout the world.
Thus, for example, the Progressive International (IP) has been formed, made up of all the leaders of the old world left in crisis, who show themselves to be "critical" of capitalism, and argue that capitalism can be improved by supporting "progressive governments " . Another current that emerged is autonomism, or "21st century anarchism" headed by Zapatismo in Mexico, or the PKK in Kurdistan, which proposes that the working class must form a "parallel world" to the capitalist one based on cooperatives.
Those of us who propose to abolish capitalism must confront both IP and the autonomists because it is essential that the new activists and union leaders do not fall into the networks and traps of the reformist leaders. This battle is fundamental for the emergence of a new working-class and popular leadership linked to Marxism, which allows us to put an end to capitalism once and for all.
8- WE PROMOTE SELF-ORGANIZATION AND SELF-DEFENSE
state and capitalist governments seek to stop our claims and demands by
appealing to all kinds of methodology, which includes persecution,
repression, sanctions, imprisonment, penalization of our struggles, the
declaration of illegality of our strikes or actions.
The army, the police, the security services, and the judges of the capitalist regimes attack all the time the struggles, the demands, the leaders, and the unions in all the capitalist countries . The history of the working class is a long history of struggles in which our class has permanently suffered the criminalization of protest and union activity. For this reason, union activity includes the need for self-organization, and the necessary self-defense to defeat any attempt to repress and criminalize our struggles.
The class struggle implies triumphs and defeats, advances and setbacks. Those of us in union activity must be prepared for both, and for that we must be clear that the union bureaucracy is incapable of organizing the defense of workers' struggles. On the contrary, many times the union bureaucrats act as watchmen, and denounce before the courts and the police activists, and opposition delegates, whom they consider a nuisance.
For this reason, in each strike, each mobilization, each action that we carry out, it is necessary to carry out the organization and preparation of everything necessary to protect our comrades, the activists and the fighters without trusting the union bureaucracy, its apparatus, and his thugs.
On some occasion we can unite with the union bureaucracy, for example, in the face of a fascist attack, or another attack, but this unity of action is merely occasional, episodic, because the union bureaucracy will betray any fight or action that is just and necessary. . That is why when it comes to organizing actions and struggles, we cannot trust the organization of the union bureaucracy, we must promote self-organization among the delegates and activists to better preserve our actions of struggle.
We promote organizational meetings, with activists, with collaborators, formal and informal, in the union, or in other locations. At the same time, we promote self-defense through all the necessary methods, pickets, trenches, and all kinds of organizations with all kinds of necessary tools to defend ourselves against violent repression. We must also carefully prepare the necessary tools to face the armed repression of the police, or the military corps of the capitalists, we have every right and need to carry out this policy carefully, relying solely on our forces, which are well organized. they are very strong
9- WE SEEK LEGAL ADVICE AND SUPPORT
In the class struggle, the fight for our rights is also fundamental in the legal field, in the courts, in justice. Although justice is bourgeois, that is, it is an institution controlled by the ruling capitalist classes, we also need to fight in that area
Our rights are attacked all the time, we must defend them all the time, with actions like strikes and mobilization, but also with legal presentations to stop or stop the actions of the state and capitalist governments. Despite the fact that the judiciary, its judges and officials, defend the interests of the ruling classes, our struggle must cover all fronts, including the most unfavorable front for the workers, which is the legal one.
But if we know how to make a correct combination of the fight in the streets, and in the workplace, with the legal fight, this element makes our fight stronger, because we close it, or we complicate the attempts that may lead to the employers. out that way. In other words, the fight we are carrying out is not complete if we do not support it with legal actions that provide coverage for the actions we are carrying out. At the same time, we must respond at all times to the legal actions that the bosses, the multinationals, the capitalist governments can carry out against us. For example, if judicial filings are made against us, we respond immediately by appealing to all types of filing. Strengthen our actions and in front of our bases, presenting ourselves as a serious and trustworthy management.
We must take advantage of the contradictions of the legislation of the capitalist countries, and use their own laws, protect ourselves in civil, democratic, or labor rights to defend our actions, when they try to penalize us, or make us illegal. These presentations must be accompanied by extensive propaganda and consultation of our legal actions with the grassroots, which will give more strength, and put pressure on officials who want to attack us.
Legal presentations require specialists, who are lawyers. Just as big businessmen have their lawyers and officials, we too must have lawyers with knowledge of labor law to permanently defend our actions and presentations. Unions often have good lawyers, and we must use these lawyers for permanent consultation.
We also rely on other lawyers who are in solidarity with the workers' and popular struggles, even if they do not belong to the union. It is of great value that there are Marxist lawyers who are able to advise adequately, and carry out presentations that strengthen the actions that we carry out, comrade lawyers who make the exercise of law a militant activity, and they are fundamental.
10- WE ARE NOT FOR THE RED UNIONS
Many honest union militants promote or militate in small union organizations, which are mostly made up of people from the left, anarchists, "progressives", socialists, or Marxists. These organizations like to call themselves "combative"
They are small union organizations, without much weight in the class struggle, in which their assemblies like to carry out long ideological debates, or many left-wing organizations like to carry out their political confrontations, carrying out endless assemblies that are completely foreign to any worker.
Most of the reformist or left-wing organizations promote this type of organization, their militants feel comfortable where they can debate the most varied topics, they can debate the human and the divine. However, these organizations are not very useful when it comes to fighting for the rights of a sector, branch of production, or certain labor activities, for the simple fact that they are not representative of the majority of workers in the sector.
We call these small organizations the "red unions", made up of small groups without real representation of the workers. We are not in favor of joining the red unions, on the contrary, being in these organizations can be a tactical moment in some circumstances, but it can never be our long-term objective of union activity.
Our goal is to be within the mass organizations, where Marxists are an overwhelming minority. Our trade union activity is a thousand times more useful, and has more repercussions among the great laboring masses, if we carry it out within the great trade union organizations. In these large trade union organizations, the majority of the workers are not Marxists, nor are they from the left, nor are they "combative"; the majority have illusions about reformism, but our proposals in defense of rights, our firm and determined attitude, and our claim to defend union democracy, and that the bases decide, can quickly win the support of vast sectors of workers who had never heard a Marxist discourse.
We are going to develop our union activity in the big union organizations, where the leadership is reformist, or pro-boss, and the bases are reformist, but our proposals can position us as an alternative for large sectors of the working class. In addition, by being in the big organizations, we break down the prejudices that the union bureaucracy tries to install against the Marxists, the workers will see that we are not what the bureaucracy says, and by listening to our message, we will drop the masks of the bureaucracy's lies , which makes it easier for many honest comrades to approach Marxism.
11- WE ARE IN FAVOR THAT THE UNIONS RISE TO BE AN ALTERNATIVE OF POWER
insurrections, uprisings, general strikes, the great confrontations of
the class struggle take place, it usually happens that the unions play a
relevant role, even superior to other moments. When a trade union raises a general strike, if this action is successful, the entire country is paralyzed
At that moment, the question of power arises, the question of who has control of society in their hands. In the general strike, the question arises: Who has control of the country? The capitalist class, which is the ruling class? Or the working class that has paralyzed the country? Just as in the general strike the question of power is raised, the same happens in insurrections and revolutions. Unions
organize only a small portion of the working class, 20% or 25%, let's
remember that millions of workers do not have access to the right to
But in addition, there are millions that are popular sectors such as retirees, peasants, small merchants, etc. They don't have unions either. When insurrections and uprisings occur, all these sectors rise up and build their own organizations, coordinators, communes, popular assemblies, open councils, etc. Organizations created by the masses appear with different formats, which are an alternative of power to the power of the capitalist class, as were the Soviets in the Russian Revolution, or the Commune in the revolution of the French working class in Paris.
But it can also happen that it is the trade unions or trade union centrals that appear before the masses as organisms of power. This was the case in the revolution in Poland in 1980 where the Solidarity union emerged as a power alternative to the dictatorship, or the Bolivian revolution of 1985 where the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) remained as an alternative. Or as happened recently in the French national uprising of 2023 against the pension reform of the Macron government, where the unions played a decisive role, despite the disastrous role of the union bureaucracy.
We are in favor of unions and trade union centrals rising to the task of being an alternative to power and government, in the face of the power of the capitalist state. Or in a combination between unions and communes organized by the rest of the people. In this case we propose: For an economic plan prepared by the Central Union! That the unions, or the Central union seize the power and implement their plan! For a government of unions and popular organizations!
We cannot rule out that in a popular uprising the unions fulfill a role for which they were not destined, but that sometimes the class struggle can put them in that situation. In this case, we are totally in favor of the unions being not only an institution for the defense of our rights, but also an institution for the expression of our power in the path of a workers' and popular government to begin building Socialism.
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