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A Report on the International Solidarity Conference, Essen, Germany, August 29-September 1, 2002

FAU Moers 2 faumo2 writes:

A report about the International Solidarity Conference (i2002)

Essen, Germany, August 29 - September 1, 2002


"ZECHE CARL" is a social and cultural center, within a former coal mine
complex, located in the former "red Ruhr region", in Essen. Perhaps
better called the "black-red Ruhr region", since the surrounding
industrial cities were the stronghold of anarchosyndicalism and unionism
at the beginning of the last century. At that time radical workers were
able to temporarily institute the 6 hour day in the Ruhr mines, before
their militias were broken up after 1920 on orders of the
social-democratic reaction.

It seems that the conference was rather
inspired by this space, to which the "Freie Arbeiterinnen Union" (FAU),
the German Section of the IWA, had invited them. 160 militants from 20
countries accepted invitations, some as groups, some as individuals.
Among them were, just to mention those who had the most miles to travel,
workers from Argentina, Australia, Japan and Siberia. Many more would
gladly have come, had they not been frustrated by the bureaucratic
hurdles of "Fortress Europa", or by the inability to raise the means for
the trip in the midst of a global capitalist crisis. Several instead
sent greetings to the conference, such as the exil region of the Spanish
CNT, the IWW and the WSA from the United States, the Syndicalist
Education Union from Australia, and many others.
FRIDAY. The first day of the conference consisted of various lectures,
on the crisis of the global economy and other subjects, including the
potential for a world wide working class, which now, for the first time
in history represents a global majority. The concept of Direct Action as
a collective, self-determined method of workers' struggle was discussed,
as were the global migration movements and the struggle of workers
without papers. In another presentation, the working group "Frau und
FAU" called for the beginning of an international dynamic on the theme
of "Gender and Class". Three short reports on current struggles of
workers, among them those at McDonald's, together with a penetrating
discussion of the current events in Argentina closed the first day of
the conference. Many of the participants were impressed by the
simultaneous translation into 5 languages, supported by sympathetic
language workers.

Since the tightly packed program was, as expected, very challenging and
strenuous, and besides provided the subject matter for many a heated
discussion, the conference reveled in the evening in a concert of the
groups CHUMBAWAMBA (a British anti-royalist pop band with unmistakable
anarchist sympathies), RANTANPLAN (ska-punk) and SCHNITTER (folk rock).

Just as the German comrades had threatened us: "A revolution I can't
dance at is not my revolution" (Emma Goldman)

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. On the second and third days the various work
groups got right down to work. The workshops were organized on the
basis of the wishes and requirements of the participants themselves, in
the spirit of self-organization ("No one else will make decisions for
you!") The organizers of the conference restricted themselves to
providing the material framework, and to assuring that the interested
parties prepared the working groups in advance. The responsibility for
the concrete content of the groups was with the participants, and this
arrangement worked very well for the most part. A broad spectrum of
workshops was developed:

Branch groups: Transport, Education, Research and Consultation,
Construction, Information Technology and Communication.

Internationalism: Cooperation with eastern Europe, McDonald's and the
challenge to organize, the struggle of the unpapered, International
solidarity and the language problem, the situation of workers in the EU
member states.

"Classics", but by no means of a lesser value: Nationalism, Women in
syndicalist organizations, strategies. And yet another working group for
a project to investigate call centers and, on the proposal of a British
(direct) Action group -- Casualisation and (deadly) work accidents with a
report on the campaign "Casualisation Kills".

The second day ended with a series of video presentations. The struggle
of the railway workers from Kokuro: This film was shown by a group of
Japanese anarchosyndicalists, working in the transport sector. It shows
the history of social planning a la Japonaise, which is to accompany the
privatization of a railway. Of 180,000 workers, 120,000 will be put on
the street, and no safety net is planned. The state has decided to put
the released workers in new uniforms and to put them in public work
colonies. The suicide rate among the declassified workers rises
dramatically, the privatization continues. The struggle of the railway
workers has lasted for years, and the Japanese media have felt
themselves duty bound to silence. The two railway workers present hoped
that the presentation would lead to publication of the information and
would sensitize syndicalists in other countries. "We are still here and
we will struggle to the end!" (tomonigo) and

A member of the couriers' union SiMeCa from Buenos Aires showed a video
on their activities and the current conflicts in Argentina. This
'young' sector employs 50,000 people in Buenos Aires alone. SiMeCa was
founded to distance itself from the Party/State unions and their
unresponsive bureaucracies. At the close of the conference, this
comrade will travel through several European countries, to disseminate
information about the union's struggles.

Casualisation kills: A video about the case of Simon Jones, who was
hired s a temporary worker for dangerous work in the docks of the Firm
Euromin in Brighton. Receiving no information or briefing, provided
with no protective equipment, he suffered a fatal work accident on his
first day on the job. His family and friends then occupied the docks of
Euromin in protest, packed the temporary job agency several times,
blockaded a bridge in the center of London near the Health Ministry,
pushed their way into the Industry and Trade Ministry, and encircled the
Court. Euromin was finally judged guilty, but the campaign against the
slave traders and their deadly profits continues
(simon jones) The Simon Jones Memorial Campaign
stresses that they use only Direct Action in connection with their media
strategies. And when that is successful on particular points, the
campaigners have few illusions on the long term impact on the
authorities, Parliament and the Courts. The most important thing for
them is the publication of information and the extension of debate
within society. The problem is at base a social one. Work accidents
are not isolated phenomena, it is rather casualization, flexibilization,
the logic of the economy that kills.

WHAT'S LEFT. Three days of discussions and working groups, and that's
not all. At breakfast, at lunch, until deep into the night it was always
the same picture. Groups of people discussing, laughing and debating in
various languages. Meanwhile, people with recording devices looking for
interview partners: How and where do you work? How do you make ends meet
on your salary. Which struggles are taking place with you, and which
not? In order to coordinate better, we must first begin to listen more
carefully and learn to understand each other. This was also argued at
the conference, this can not and must not be omitted. Finally, there
remain in the syndicalist "Family" very different and somewhat
conflicting ideas concerning many strategies and tactics. These
difference need not, and must not, be swept under the carpet in the
great process of getting to know one another, in the critical exchange,
in the arrangement of practical conference projects.

How much of the euphoria, the spirit at the conference end, and the
various projects will survive the next months, we will hopefully soon
see. The organising group announced a comprehensive conference reader by
the end of the year and there will propably me more activities as a
result of some of the workshops.

The International Solidarity Conference as shown itself worthy of the
name. So there is another question to answer: When will the next
conference take place, and who will organize it?

All lectures, workshop texts and other material will be published on the
conference website (conference) within the next few month.
The announcement list i2002-list@@ist.fau.org will remain active for a
few additional month, once you like to be subscribed to the list, please
send a mail to i2002@fau.org