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For A Union and National Counterpower

Editor’s Note: This article comes to us from La Intersindical in Catalonia. It was written by David Hernández Teixidó , member of the Trade Union Action Secretariat of La Intersindical

Trade unionism is the defense and promotion of the rights of the working class, and for these objectives, as in any struggle, there are different strategies. Simplifying them, there are two: the strategy of concertation and the strategy of counterpower. The strategy of concertation bases its struggle on dialogue, negotiation and pact, assuming as its own the final goal of social peace to maintain the established order, of which its promoters are guarantors. The majority trade union model in Spain is situated in this area and does not question either the territorial framework or the current political system. The counterpower strategy, on the other hand, bases its struggle on organizational and mobilizing capacity; and in the conflict, to assume greater quotas of force when negotiating. In the field of counterpower are the ELA and LAB unions of the Basque Country and CIG of Galicia, among others. The Intersindical of Catalonia aspires to play this role as well. These four unions also share the struggle for national liberation.

There are clearly two coordinates: the positions on the trade union model and the positions in the national framework: Contrapower – Independence VS Concertation – Regime of 78.

Here are some data from the end of 2021:
In Galicia , the CIG has more than 75,000 members [1] , more than CCOO and UGT together. The CIG has more than 4,500 delegates, which represents a union quota of 36%, the majority. CCOO and UGT do not reach 4,000. The trade union membership rate in Galicia is 23.2%, above the average for Spain, which is 14%. [2] In the Southern Basque Country (Basque and Navarre Autonomous Community), ELA has more than 100,000 members and an approximate share of 36.33% of the total delegates [3]. LAB has more than 46,000 members and more than 4,600 delegates, representing 19.24% of representation. CCOO narrowly surpasses LAB with around 4,900 delegates and 20.22%, while UGT stands at 14.23% with more than 3,400 delegates. The membership rate is 20.3%, also above the national average. In Southern Catalonia, the reality is extremely different – and worrying: between CCOO and UGT they hold 79% of workers’ representatives, with 21,048 and 18,939 respectively. [4] CCOO and UGT each have more than 145,000 members [5] [6] . The Intersindical on December 31, 2021 1,073 delegates, 2% of the total [7] , and 5,760 affiliates [8](in October 2022 both figures have grown, with 6138 affiliates). The third representative union in Catalonia is the USO with 2,649 delegates [9] and the CGT the fourth with 1,485 and 20,000 members. [10] Year after year, Intersindical takes a distance from the sixth union and shortens it with the fourth. However, the membership rate is only 12.6% [11] . In the Valencian Country the membership rate is 20.5% and in the Balearic Islands 17.4%. At the end of 2019, in the Valencian Country the sum of CCOO and UGT held approximately 72% of the delegates, out of a total of approximately 27,500. The Valencian Intersindical barely exceeded 2%. [12] In the Balearic Islands, on August 31, 2022, CCOO and UGT together hold 70.52% of the delegates. The third union is the USO and the fourth with 4.36% (330 delegates) of the union quota is the Union of Workers and Intersyndical Workers of the Balearic Islands (STEI). [13]

As a result of the current trade union model prevailing in Catalonia (that of concertation), trade unionism has lagged behind other nations such as Galicia and the Basque Country; proof of this is the very low and worrying membership rate. It is also proof of the lack of recognition of trade unionism due to the bad practices of the trade unions of the Spanish regime and the fact that the trade union struggle is not a priority for the pro-independence left in the country. While in Galicia and the Basque Country they have built for decades a nationalist and combative trade unionism that successfully responds to the interests of workers, in Catalonia they have not done their homework. We must make a 180 degree turn and give a boost to trade unionism ;workplaces are where we spend a large part of our daily time, so it is up to us to take collective action as we do in other areas. Today, the Intersindical is the organization that is making up for lost time and that is working for national and class trade unionism in Catalonia south of Albera. Proof of this are the advances in its internal structure with the Federations of Public Services, Private Services and Industry, its national and territorial organizational reinforcement ; and obviously, the results in the union elections that show its constant growth and increased membership. An increase that has tripled since 2017.

The majority union model of concertation in Catalonia and Spain has not benefited all workers. Harmful labor reforms have been passed that have eroded our rights and, through the weakening of collective bargaining, frozen wages while production and the cost of living have continued to rise. There are also no actions that propose new frameworks to deal with structural unemployment, job insecurity or the loss of workers’ purchasing power. Proposals that should be aimed at reducing the working day, having a truly progressive taxation where whoever has more pays more or having strong public services and a social protection system.

Nations without a state, such as Galicia, the Basque Country and the Catalan Countries, can really be decisive in the living conditions of the majority of workers through combative trade unionism and if we have our own political and social framework. As long as we are a minority within the Spanish State, we will be able to achieve improvements in working conditions, but we will not be able to determine the bulk of the structural conditions, decisions and public policies.

We need a nationally self-centered and pro-independence trade unionism because the construction of the independent Catalan Republic requires it . If independence is a matter of class, we need a majority union organization to defend it, and thus add support to this path for overcoming inequalities and injustices and for a democratic and sustainable society. The workers must organize themselves in structures that challenge the imposed and oppressive Spanish territorial framework to strengthen the struggle for national liberation which is also class based. We need counter-power trade unionism because it is the popular organization itself that guarantees a transformative project rooted in the territory. Trade unionism, like any socio-political struggle, must not be a club of members who come together to have shared services, but a collective action of workers who, with their dedication, achieve labor demands and improvements. Counter-power unions operate from a militant perspective, understanding the union as a tool for collective struggle, and this is the model of success that we must deploy in Catalonia and the Catalan Countries.

The struggle for national liberation that must be deployed and the struggle for class liberation that trade unionism must practice have in common the strategy that I think allows for the accumulation of strength and victory: popular power confronting the ‘status quo’ When we talk about democratic confrontation with the Spanish State, we mean uncomplicated political action from organized popular spaces and mobilization, from clearly republican structures and coordinated institutions, seeking at all times to strengthen republican legitimacy and generate sufficient costs (political , economic, etc.) to the Spanish State to force it to accept what it does not want to allow, the right to independence. Because as in trade unionism,a negotiation will bear positive fruit if it is possible to hurt the other party enough to accept the requests presented to him. This is where the strength of popular power lies: employers will never accept an improvement in working conditions because they think they are rights, but to heal the costs caused by union action (costs in public image, in production, in profits , etc.). Rights are not given away, they are conquered, and as they are conquered, the workers’ organization grows, expands and strengthens.

It is essential that in every town there are popular spaces for the defense and promotion of the Catalan language, feminist and environmental groups, organizations for the independence of the Catalan Countries, etc. How essential it is that in each work center there are trade union sections committed to the promotion and defense of the labor and socio-political rights of the country and the working class. The trade union units (work center, regional…) are interrelated within the trade union movement itself but also with the country’s socio-political struggles, forming a large grassroots associative fabric that, from each area, makes progress towards the goal of the independent democratic and social Catalan Republic. And currently, the union sections of the Intersindical in the workplaces want to be part of the great republican popular network.The struggle for the Catalan Republic and the constituent process has and will have as primary agoras the squares of towns and cities but also the workplaces. The workers of Catalonia will have a lot to say about the new Republic and its labor relations framework, which will have to be much more advanced, fair and dignified than that of the Spanish State. For example, we must have the ability to prevent situations where business profits grow 8 times more than wages, as has been the case with IBEX companies since 2019. This wage devaluation is unacceptable.

We can liberate the country from the left if there is a strong national and class union. We can expand labor and social rights if we do it from the participation of workers, with analysis and collective action. The Intersindical is moving towards this direction and its generalized reinforcement is essential: affiliates, activists and militants to grow the independenceist and class trade union alternative against state concerted trade unionism that leads to helplessness and, in fact, to surrender

[1] “The combative model that has led the CIG to be the first trade union in Galicia”
[2] Workers affiliated to unions in Spain by communities
[3] “Affiliation and representation in figures”
[4] IDESCAT
[5] CCOO
[6] I did not find the data of the UGT on the web, I take as reference those of 2019 that Wikipedia sets:
[7] “La Intersindical, the union that will grow the most in Catalonia in 2021, the post-pandemic year”
[8] “Membership Information”
[9] I could not find the affiliation data.
[10] “The CGT of Catalonia exceeds 20,000 affiliated people”
[12] Generalitat Valenciana
[13] Government of the Balearic Islands

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