But we truly intent to keep to the point delimited in the FSA-IWA statement, and - although it would be very attractive to spread it to "counter-attack" - we will not comment neither debatable statements nor some controversial features of FSA-IWA, as we have never commented them on the international level.
First of all, the FSA-IWA International secretariat objects to an interview for the Russian anarchist magazine "Autonom" where the ORA-S international secretary Vadim Barák stated that Solidarita had 50 supporters. Further on, the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat suspects V. Barák that he purposely missed out the number of their organisation supporters to make ORA-S look stronger.
If V. Barák stated that ORA-S had 12 members and 50 supporters, than the term "supporter" does not mean neither narrow circle of sympathisers nor activists who just buy our materials or come to a demonstration organised by ORA-S. It indicates people who discuss with us or support our work in any way - but not just temporarily: they help us to distribute posters and other materials etc. We expect FSA-IWA not to ask the name list of those supporters. V. Barák did not mention the number of FSA-IWA supporters because we simply do not know them (and for the same reason he did not mention the number of supporters of the third group - Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation, CSAF).
The FSA-IWA´s International secretariat also blames ORA-S for pathological behaviour, when it states that ORA-S "covers the grey and joyless reality of the anarchist movement of Czech workers with an umbrella of joyful optimism. It is a ´public relations´ image of ORA-Solidarita to be presented and an exclusive ´idea´ organisation, exerting decisive influence over a lot of ´workers action groups´, ´supporters´ and other vague subjects," says the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat.
Well, this is what the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat writes. But what did ORA-S really say? V. Barák stated that we had 12 members and 50 supporters. That is reality and we consider these numbers to be - in contradistinction to FSA-IWA - rather sad. (And only a lunatic could find them to be a reason for joyful optimism, considering 10 million inhabitants in CR.) And as far as workers action groups are concerned, V. Barák spoke about two of them, this number could be hardly taken as "a lot of" (as FSA-IWA have said). And as for "other vague subjects" - we truly do not know what FSA-IWA´s International secretariat would like to pretend we have said.
But let us stay with WAG (workers action groups) because in this point FSA-IWA´s International secretariat misrepresents the reality very badly.
The worst of all intentional lies produced by the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat is the statement that there has never been any workers action groups (WAG).
At the very beginning let us say: it is very interesting that it is FSA-IWA who comes with this accusation in the English statement (FSA-IWA has never doubted the existence of WAG in the Czech movement), nine months after we have informed Czech anarchists about WAG in the Zetor factory in Brno, and six months after a main article about this WAG in our newspapers. The existence of WAG was not problematised by the same comrades from the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat even two months ago (3 November 2000) on the Meeting of Anarchist Activists of Moravia Region, which they attended personally. There they were seriously discussing our experiences with WAG with us (and it is really difficult to find out why since they thought there had been no WAG at all). They attacked our action programme based on WAG, general assemblies of employees and autonomous strike committees as "reformism", but did not presume to state that there had not been any WAG in Zetor or LET Kunovice at all. They presumably knew that such a lie would not be accepted by local Moravian anarchists and other radicals familiar with the situation (in contradistinction to the international anarchist movement).
FSA-IWA´s International secretariat based its statement on the ingenious construction of a whole net of lies and half-truths about all Zetor events, but it can be summarised in one sentence: there have been no WAG at all. A local group of ORA-Solidarita in Brno just organised a meeting with several Zetor employees, where it "proposed (in vain) the direct action to be adopted and some unspecified ´general strike´ to be made, which vas rather confusing proposal." "After short discussion with no concrete results these workers created parted farewell, went home and never met with Solidarita again." "No WAG was created and none had never existed in Zetor. The whole very short radical and spontaneous expression of discontent, which culminated in big general meeting in factory, had been fully controlled and channelled by official metalworkers (OS KOVO) trade union top bureaucracy." In its "correction" of the original version, sent to A-Infos two days later, the FSA-IWA´s International secretariat says: "Few active workers, who tried to disrupt the silence of rank and file and met with ORA-Solidarita, produced moreover one leaflet, calling for general assembly, but did not attend this assembly and did not do anything else apart from this, being isolated and unfortunately not supported by others. We of course still insist on our critique that ORA-Solidarita International secretary claim: ´In the meantime, ORA-Solidarita with its 12 members incited through a relentless agitation a one day occupation of factory and a subsequent general assembly of 1000 workers´ (see 02/2001), still belongs to the realm of fantasy. Workers themselves made it whatever very little was achieved in Zetor, not ORA-Solidarita."
Such "unprejudiced and precious information" about the events in the Zetor factory is a total misrepresentation of reality by either the FSA-IWA International secretariat, or by the referred member of FSA-IWA Brno.
Let us state the true facts: the Zetor trade union organised one day occupation of the factory shortly before Christmas 2000 because the workers had not received any salary for several months.
The trade union bosses were pushed to it by workers who asked for such events during their trade union meetings. According to our information, they were inspired by an example of miners from the Northern Bohemian mines Kohinoor and also by ORA-S posters and leaflets. Firstly, during the strike, they used some arrangements suggested in our propaganda, which had not been used in Kohinoor: for example strike guards around the factory and workers guards preventing managers to get in the factory (although the strike was controlled by the leaders and done in harmless manners - limited to one day only and aimed to called an attention to problems in the factory). And secondly, one trade union boss afterwards implicitly admitted an influence of our propaganda to the membership during a direct confrontation: to our posters inviting for a public meeting with the Zetor employees under the motto "unlimited occupation strikes" he said: "We have already tried your proposals - with no results."
At this first meeting the workers really complained about their situation. But instead of "confusing" proposal for an "unspecified general strike", we tried to carry out a revolutionary anarchistic analysis of their situation, we talked about the anti-capitalistic perspectives and presented quite precious action programme. Our arguments were supported also by one worker from Prague CKD factory where had employees the same troubles as in Zetor. Several Zetor workers agreed to organise another meeting to decide following steps.
Four workers, who attended this second meeting - their consciousness and courage let them at least to fight for themselves, decided to create informal WAG. A specific action programme, based on direct democracy and direct action, was written down as well as a leaflet inviting to a general employees assembly. It contained precious time and place information. This leaflet was signed by WAG, it was printed out on the expenses of ORA-S, and WAG distributed it in the factory at the beginning of the morning shift of the assembly day (6 March 2000). About 1,000 workers attended this general assembly at 10,15 a.m. in front of the factory head-office.
In contradistinction to all lies of FSA-IWA´s International secretariat, this event was not "fully controlled and channelled by official metalworkers (OS KOVO)". Local trade union bosses were absolutely startled and they cruelly attacked WAG. They got their control back after intimidating and promising (together with the Zetor general manager) the WAG members. ("Unfortunately, this attempt was suppressed by an alliance of the factory management and union leaders," says V. Barák in the Autonom interview.) The WAG members themselves were in a difficult position: on one hand they felt obliged to a strong support of the employees assembly, on the other hand they had no experience with fight independent on all trade union bureaucracy and based on a direct action.
Afterwards, we described the whole course of Zetor events in the latest issue of our newspaper which we gave out to the Zetor workers. Do the members from FSA-IWA´s International secretariat really think that we would distribute there newspapers lying about Zetor events? We would risk at least a physical insultation, or at worse: we would discredit ourselves absolutely and we could not later on distribute there hundreds of our newspaper special issues against IMF/WB and capitalism. The reality was following: Zetor workers were keen on our materials, they knew - in contradistinction to FSA/IWA - what had happen in the factory.
Let us summarise it: all Zetor events were - in the Czech situation context and at the level of working class consciousness - rather outstanding activity. They represented an attempt to lead a social fight using direct action, independent on the trade union bureaucracy. ORA-S does not pretend to persuade WAG to enter the anarchist movement, but managed to persuade them to use some anarchist methods of self-organisation. This self-organisation attempt had only a limited realisation (limited by a dominating low level of Czech working class consciousness). And this fact was described in the "Autonom" interview.
And the point that the existence of WAG was so short, without reaching any success? That their members deferred and WAG was dissolved (but later on, they realised this fault and that they should have continued)? And that their present contacts with Brno ORA-S organisation are limited to rare meetings? Well, it is true: they were not any mythical heroes of the working class, as many revolutionary romantics would like to see them, but ordinary human beings with - as the whole working class in the Czech Republic - the weight of absence of any traditional radical social encounters. But they did what their consciousness let them do. But this in not a reason why to reprobate or even contest all experience coming form these events: THAT would be a pathological reaction, performed exactly by a revolutionary disgusted romantic who looks down to all workers - which have not become anarchists yet - with despise. A revolutionary romantic wants everything and now - or nothing at all. Any process of obtaining class consciousness, creation of class-for-itself and birth of this workers anarchist movement will not be as simple as a revolutionary romantic thinks: any worker will not become an anarchist overnight, thanks to one action. That must be a process of many attempts and many moments when even the most developed workers give up their libertarian thoughts.
By the way, bigger results could not be reached through the "strategy" full of naivety and revolutionary romanticism, missing any sense of analysis of the present level of class struggle, which was suggested by that future member of FSA-IWA (attended both meetings) who asked for establishing anarchists trade unions and organising "general strike for revolution".
Events in LET Kunovice aeroplane factory are described by the International Secretariat of the FSA-IWA as follows:
"After some time when situation in Let factory culminated, being isolated in the region and having no possibility of immediate support of other ORA-SOLIDARITA members, this comrade contacted in urgent situation our local groups (FSA-IWA's groups)."
ORA-SOLIDARITA allegedly organised several unsuccessfull meetings with local workers. Together with a member of ORA-SOLIDARITA the local FSA-IWA group took part in propagation and poster actions. The ORA-SOLIDARITA's member than called a meeting attended by about 200 workers and members of ORA-SOLIDARITA and FSA-IWA.
"Local trade union bureaucrats were unfortunately allowed to speak and workers rather listened to them than to the proposals for grassroots direct action, issued both by ORA-SOLIDARITA and FSA-IWA on a common leaflet."
So much for the FSA-IWA's International Secretariat's point of view.
In LET Kunovice, where employees had not been receiving wages since April, we tried &endash; since july 2000 &endash; to intervene in a similar way as in Zetor Brno &endash; towards a general workers assembly, formation of a strike committee controlled by workers etc. We distributed 600 copies of a leaflet, about 300 copies of a special issue of our paper on occupations of factories and 150 copies of a 10th issue of our paper.
On August 24 we organised a meeting attended by 10 male and female workers of LET, 2 members of ORA-S, three supporters from that region and two local journalists. After a discussion it was decided to call a general assembly in front of the factory for August 31. The statement was signed by present employees of individual shopfloors. Before the date of the assembly the first larger counter-action of the unions &endash; which we had been previously criticising for pasivity and collaboration with an employer &endash; happened. A leader of the LET union branch said in an interview for "Halo Noviny" (the Communist Party's newspaper), that irresponsible elements, who called themselves the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists &endash; Solidarita were spreading unrest in LET and confusing workers with calls for an occupation strike.
At this stage the member of ORA-S, who dedicated himself to the struggle in LET, learned from a member of the FSA-IWA's International Secretariat, Petr Wohlmuth, that local groups of FSA-IWA from Zlin a Otrokovice were going to see the assembly on August 31. Until that time those branches of FSA-IWA (the town of Otrokovice is 20 kilometres from Kunovice) had not participated in the events in LET in anyway, nevertheless their help was very welcome and it was of a great benefit.
According to media estimations the demo (assembly) was attended by 300 employees. Given the fact that workers, who took part in the preparatory meeting, were relying on "a spontaneous course of action" and had no programme, the union leader Zajicek started to speak. At this very moment a member of the action group asked a member of ORA-S to speak (he also aked him to inform the assembly, that WAG members are present, but just do not wish to speak publicly, because they are afraid of victimisation by the employer). This is why our comrade started by quoting one of WAG's members and went on talking about our experience from other factories and advocating the idea of an independent workers' direct action and their self-organisation. Among a part of workers his speech was received negatively, but majority expressed their agreement. However, the call for a formation of an independent strike committee did not materialize. This was mostly due to a strangeness of such an organisational form and than also due to an apathy and demoralisation caused by a lasting closure of the factory. Under such circumstances workers are always closer to pasivity rather than to a spontaneous activity.
Immediately after this assembly members of ORA-S and FSA-IWA decided to issue a joint poster. On behalf of FSA-IWA the member of their International Secretariat, Petr Wohlmuth, participated in its drafting. It was said on the poster, that:
"The experience of Zetor Brno and other factories show, that workers can really grasp an initiative in their hands."
This text was in a form of posters (150 copies) and leaflets (300 copies) distributed by joint efforts of the FSA's local group and ORA-S.
Than a meeting organised by the KOVO trade union took place and it was attended by about 200 participants. The union leader, Zajicek, announced a union appeal to a court to declare LET bankrupt. At the end the participants agreed a toothless resolution demanding that the government paid its attention to the situation in the factory. A member of ORA-S tried to speak, but he was not allowed to access the microphones.
It is possible to say that after this meeting an overwhelming majority of workers resigned and although they showed a discontent with the solution proposed by the unions and also with their overall existing policy, they did not really feel like to further engage themselves in this case &endash; this is also true for workers of the action group.
The events in LET did not go further than in Zetor. Nevertheless, this does not question the fact, that a group of workers, who perhaps for the first time in their lives tried to step out of the official union structure and attempted at organising something by their own forces, had existed. Again the level of workers' class consciousness and years of a bolshevik dictatorship, educating people towards pasivity, subservience and relying on some fickle institutional gods, played its role.
As a black humor the FSA-IWA's International Secretariat then desribes a situation, when:
"ORA-SOLIDARITA printed new issue of its magazine ´Solidarita´, with articles about non-existing ´WAGs´ and started to distribute it right in front of gates of respective factories. Well, it could be interesting to see reactions of workers, who suddenly learned to have some ´WAG´ in their workplace and knew nothing about it."
So, we really do publish a paper called "Solidarity" and we do distribute it in front of factories. But that is all; further we can just reply: well, it might be also interesting to see reactions of ORA-Solidarita's members, who are now lectured by the International Secretariat of FSA-IWA, that in the time of LET Kunovice struggle we published a new issue of our paper with an article about WAG in Kunovice, while our members do not know of any such issue. The last, 10th issue of our paper "Solidarity" was in fact published at July 2000 (when we was starting to participate in the events in LET Kunovice) and there is nothing in it about LET Kunovice. Subsequently we unfortunately have not published any issue, because we were busy about the mobilisation and S26 protests.
The FSA-IWA International secretary than doubts about mobilisation at S26 in Zetor Brno and Let Kunovice and about the connection between the will of the trade union members in Vítkovice steelworks and ZDB Bohumín steelworks to go to protest to Prague on 26 September and the anarchist propaganda and IMF/WB congress. ("But there is unfortunately absolutely no connection between these cases and some anarchist propagation and even more with IMF congress," says the FSA-IWA International secretariat statement).
As far as Zetor Brno is concerned, it is true that there is gap of several months between Zetor events and S26 protests. But the September protests were being prepared during this period, and the mobilisation effort had already started. Some information about planned summit of IMF/WB in Prague, and arising protests against it, was included in the materials we distributed in Zetor and CKD during autumn and winter 1999. And we opened this topic during the first meeting with Zetor employees - we tried to contextualize their problems and to enforce revolutionary anarchist anticapitalist thoughts. And the LET Kunovice fight took part at the same time when our mobilisation for 26 September was culminating. The topic of capitalistic globalisation was inevitably discussed with the employees - and mostly because Let was owned by the American Ayres Corporation.
And what about Vítkovice and ZDB Bohumín, where ordinary trade union members asked their bosses to go to Prague to protest on 26 September? "Thanks to this involvement we have been also able to familiarise workers with anti-capitalist ideas of S26 protests. At least in two factories rank & file unionists demanded a collective participation at Prague demos," says simply the former ORA-S international secretary in his press material. Both factories were several times leafleted by our members and supporters. Therefore we have a good reason to believe that also this agitation (together with a big popularity of this topic) led workers to think about protests against IMF and WB as about the best time and place to express their opinions.
And besides: ICF, a daughter bank of WB, was highly involved in difficulties of Vítkovice steelworks - which was pointed out in ORA-S press materials and also in the official press (in our propaganda, we tried to show workers the connection between their present problems and anticapitalist protests and to create real, practical connection between discontented parts of Czech working class and actions against IMF/WB). No connection between a proposal of the members and IMF/WB protests still visible? Well, yes, it is true that the union members did not want to go to Prague and demand an abolition of the debt of Third World countries or to support Indian peasants - but they did want to protest against their factory situation caused also by the WB daughter bank. The ordinary trade union members thought of going to Prague because of globalisation of capitalism which overtook themselves. The international aspect of the problem could be understood through their participation on those protests - therefore it is a pity they did not joined them.
FSA than doubts that 2,000 of young workers, students and unemployed from the CR joined the S26 protests, as V. Barák said.
ORA-S former international secretary used an official media estimation which he found the most precise. Even in the "blue" march there was much more than 400 Czechoslovak sympathisers of anarchism and autonomism, marching in one united contingent. Many people were marching in other blocks. But it is very difficult to find out their precise number. It is quite misleading to use a preparatory meeting in Convergence Centrum as an argument - it was not attended by all participating Czechs.
The FSA-IWA international secretariat produced another misleading information: it says that V. Barák stated that our industrial fight experience (expressed during his Irish lecture tour) have "had a serious impact on the inner discussion for instance in WSM, his guests organisation and in all Irish anarchistic movement".
This is an interpretation of the report that could (should?) discredit our former international secretary in front of all the international anarchist movement, and especially in front of our Irish comrades. In fact, the report (published as a supplement of our inner bulletin, No 19, December 2000) says about this topic:
"WMS Dublin than had a special discussion about our experience, and they tried to gather some information for themselves."
Not a word about "serious impact" on WSM or the Irish anarchist movement. And nothing of that kind could be found in the rest of the report. And one note more: it was not a promotion tour for ORA-S, but for our Irish comrades and to raise funds for legal defence of S26 prisoners.
The FSA-IWA´s International secretariat criticises the former ORA-S´ international secretary and his way of describing their organisation activities: they protest that it was described as ordinary section of IWA and their anarchist-communist character was not mentioned at all.
Nevertheless, in the "Autonom" interview, FSA-IWA is described positively: "Second, there is the Federation of Social Anarchist, the Czech section of the IWA/AIT with some 30 members and pretty productive publishing activities." V. Barák simply tried to describe (on very limited space) the best feature of FSA-AIT: its publication activity. But these members from FSA-IWA are probably too sensitive, as far as their practical activities are concerned &endash; perhaps they have got a good reason for that. (Especially its part in S26 mobilization was totally minimum).
As far as relationships between "Platform" and anarcho-communism and FSA-IWA is concerned, we do not deny FSA-IWA translation efforts, including "platformist" texts. This effort is really valuable. But why to celebrate a group as "anarcho-communist" just because they translate such documents but are not able to turn pure theory into practice? Let us say that we doubt about the way how FSA-IWA turn the platformist organisation principles into their practice, and that we consider their anarcho-communist character to be questionable. Their rigidly anarchosyndicalist features are quite visible in their fetishist attitude towards the trade unions for anarchists only. Their present effort to create trade unions for anarchists only requires really big misunderstanding of present situation, characterised by low intensity of class conflict. Despite their reference to "Platformism", we consider them to be anarchosyndicalists in politics and in practice, too. One important thing, in which they differ from other IWA section, is just their special conception of anarchosyndicalist trade unions open for convinced anarchists only, who must firstly join FSA-IWA - and the trade unions are integral part of it.
We also refuse another false accusation from FSA-IWA secretariat, that in 1997-1998 we were "hopelessly reformist" group. This purpose lie has been used against us by the Czech section of IWA since 1996, when we split from its predecessor. We would like to remind FSA-IWA´s International secretariat that it was on our 3rd Conference, 31 Dec. 1997, when ORA-S accepted all main points of "Platform" as its organisation existence base for the first time.
The FSA-IWA International secretariat accuse our former international secretary of breaking one of our basic organisation principle - collective responsibility. The only "proof" they presented to the international anarchist movement is a case of WSA-IWA "scandal".
And the reality was again a bit different than FSA-IWA International secretary says. Our former international secretary just said to the IWA American section that he had heard that they should be cut off at the congress of IWA. He did not offer them any solidarity in behalf of our organisation, he only offered them a possibility to suggest it to ORA-S. He acted so because one our good comrade and revolutionary, who is a friend of the WSA-IWA international secretary, suggested that something like this might happen. The WSA-IWA international secretary replied that he did not know anything about it. Nevertheless, he was complaining about FSA-IWA´s small interest in WSA-IWA fight in Duluth steel work in Minnesota and asked us for solidarity in this fight. As far as we know, FSA-IWA was not informed about this correspondence by "some anonymous" e-mail but directly by WSA-IWA. FSA-IWA denied an intention to exclude WSA-IWA, and our former international secretary apologised for this misunderstanding and possible problems to FSA-IWA and also to WSA-IWA. WSA-IWA did not have any problems with it and it is in regular touch with ORA-S since.
Yes, it was a fault, not to contact FSA-MAP international secretariat first, but let us repeat that our former international secretary apologised to FSA-IWA and to WSA-IWA, too.
All ORA-Solidarita members were fully informed about this "scandal" in our inner bulletin, where our former international secretary send all relevant correspondence among him, WSA-IWA and FSA-IWA. He explained that he performed so with the knowledge of conflict relationships with FSA-IWA, and therefore tried to find out the truth from WSA-IWA. The members understood this, and they were also informed about his apologise to FSA-IWA as well as to WSA-IWA. In different discussions, they all agreed that he had not broken his liability and he did not mean it as defamatory attack towards FSA-IWA which should damage it.
Let us emphasise again that the statement of FSA-IWA International secretariat has nothing in common with protection of objectivity and fair-play relationships in the workers anarchist movement: their roots consist in FSA need to bring about the political competition inside the anarchist movement. The sad fact is that (and we do not want to speculate to which tradition this FSA-IWA attitude is linked) FSA-IWA takes anarchist movement as a space for political competition more than a space for honest solidarity in fight for stateless and moneyless society of libertarian socialism.
Two days after the publication of his statement, the FSA-IWA International secretariat send a short correction of this statement to A-Infos. We do not expect FSA-IWA International secretariat to be brave enough and rectify all facts and publish another correction. But we believe that the international anarchist movement will not need it. And we do not want to occupy with this case any more, unless it will be absolutely inevitable.
With anarchist-communist greetings,
Dan Novák - international secretary of ORA-Solidarita
(elected by a conference, 9 - 10 December 2000)
Milan Náplava &endash; local group of ORA-Solidarita, Brno
Stanislav Beránek &endash; local group of ORA-Solidarita, Brno
Jindrich Lumbach &endash; local group of ORA-Solidarita, Prague
Interview with former international secretary of ORA-Solidarita Vadim Barák for the Russian anarchist magazine "Autonom"
Article of former secretary of ORA-Solidarita Vadim Barák for Alternative Libertaire, Organise! etc.