On November 3-5, 2017 an Extraordinary Congress of the IWA took place in Belgrade, Serbia. The Congress was held, extraordinarily, less than one year after the XXVI Congress, that took place in Warsaw. Despite this technical challenge, the Congress again went smoothly and was accompanied by discussion on practical matters and public presentations of the work of the Sections.
The choice to hold an important Congress in Belgrade can be seen as an act of defiance against the authoritarian state, that tried to criminalize comrades in this country on more than one occasion.
Matters Discussed at the Congress
The Congress included a number of technical matters as well some debates and knowledge and skill sharing. Technical matters included revising the language of the Statutes and updating them to reflect current procedures and give more information. There were also presentations from various delegates of working groups about work on strategy and training.
The last day of the Congress was devoted to speaking at more length about various training courses that were run and the particular situations of the Sections. This helped everyone to understand the types of problems we can face in the workplace, with a view to sharing experiences and improving our skills and the effectiveness of our organizing efforts.
The Next Regular Congress and New Perspectives
It was decided that the next regular Congress, which is scheduled for 2019, should take place in Australia. This agreement shows our committment to combatting the (Western) Eurocentrism that the IWA had been suffering for decades and which it now has a good chance of overcoming. We were very pleased to have a delegate from the PPAS (Indonesia) at the Congress and are excited about the attempts of comrades to spread anarchosyndicalism in this area of the globe. There was also discussion about new contacts in this area and others.
The working groups should now make efforts to support these organizations, as well as the current Friends and Sections of the IWA.
A public meeting was held where the Sections and Friends of the IWA, as well as members of invited organizations, presented a bit about their organizations. Due to the number of participants and the translation, the presentations were all about 10 minutes long, which turned out to be too short for some Sections which have been active in a number of conflicts lately. It was a very good chance to get more information about what some of the Sections are doing.
In addition, another public meeting was held before the Congress. The host Section, ASI, has recently been involved in housing struggles, blocking evictions. Both the ZSP and SolFed are involved in tenant organizing, so there was an idea to make some presentations for local activists. Unfortunately SolFed were not in Belgrade in time to take part, but members of the ZSP talked about how they organize and showed some films of how they block evictions and about direct actions against responsible politicians. Importantly, it showed how we can take our class struggle and horizontal organizing and direct action methods to other areas and, in effect, build effective social movements, capable of making a difference.
The participants found these meetings interesting and we thank the local hosts for organizing them and the Congress. There was also an art exhibition held in honor of the Congress and we thank the artists who took part. We think we can state that we all enjoyed the events very much.
Happenings Unrelated to the Congress
Although unrelated to the Congress, we can mention that ASI has maintained an important publishing initiative for many years and a type of alternative book fair took place at the same weekend of the Congress. Some of the comrades were there maintaining a table and some comrades from the Congress visited afterwards, reporting positively. It also turned out that Postal Workers decided to strike and make direct actions around this time and some local comrades went to support this struggle. On learning of this, comrades from Poland thought it would be positive to pursue links between the postal workers in Serbia and their union.
The CNT-AIT is still our Section in Spain
The main reason for holding an Extraordinary Congress this year was to deal with some recent issues that has changed the composition of our international federation. Part of our former Section in Spain, the CNT, has decided to pursue different forms of organization. As a result, many comrades in that area, who do not agree with attempts to split the IWA and reorganize it along other lines, found themselves temporarily in a difficult situation. We are happy to announce that upon restructuring themselves on the basis of the CNT Statutes before the reformist swing, the CNT-AlT has been recognized as the continuation of our Section in the Spanish State. We welcome the comrades (who never left us), back as the local representation of the International.
We also send our best wishes to the others in Spain that remain in comradely relations and sent special greetings to the Congress. We support the efforts to keep anarchosyndicalism alive in the area and to maintain the bonds of solidarity which some have tried unsuccessfully to tear apart.
For purposes of clarity, we reiterate that although there are now at least a dozen separate organizations that carry the name „CNT” in Spain, our Section is called CNT-AIT and its headquarters are currently located in Granada. The CNT, whose headquarters are currently located in Bilbao, after unsuccessful attempts to split the International organization and take it over – an attempt not entirely abandoned by those holding their Secretariat – was disaffiliated by the IWA in 2016. The Sections of the IWA are federated with the CNT-AIT, not with this other confederation.
The Secretariat, on behalf of the Sections, would like to thank everyone who participated in the Congress and helped to run it.
Long live the IWA!