What is the CGT?


"I didn't come to anarchism after having read books or pamphlets by Kropotkin or by anyone else. I came to it because of the moral fibre of the workers who I had met and dealt with. This moral fibre was our treasure, and we won't be anything if it ceases to exist."

(Diego Abad de Santillan.)

If only it were so easy to explain who and what we are by resorting to the moral fibre of those who today form the CGT. It isn't, but surely one of the reasons that has brought Spanish workers closer to us or has peaked their curiosity has been the CGT's day-by-day struggle in the workplace.

We, the CGT, are an old organisation with what is still a very recent name. Family quarrels coupled with court rulings took away, in April 1989, our original initials, CNT. We still carry these letters in our hearts, trying to warrant them through actions and conduct, setting them in the place corresponding to the times we live in.

Despite being self-willed heirs to this historical movement, we do not feel it is untouchable. Quite the contrary, it would become putrid and moth-eaten if we did not try to daily discover and adapt the best of it to modern society.

The first thing we would like to say is that we are an organisation formed by people who are trying to change a society that they do not like due to its inequality, unfairness, authoritarianism, and, with great frequency, irrationality. For these reasons we struggle in many everyday fields, from Union affairs to anything socially relevant, fighting to repair the injustices surrounding us at each moment. We are conscious of the difficulty of radically changing the way things are, but we lend ourselves to it in the confidence that this struggle will improve our immediate living conditions and prepare those who take part in it with a rebellious spirit, ready to transform all that we suffer and feel unjust.

We are not the only ones ready to change and improve things. What separates us from others are, above all, the means to achieve our goals. To that end, our leading principle is autonomy. Autonomy is nothing else than thinking and acting according to the criteria that only by working together and with absolute independence, can workers and all those who feel exploited achieve anything. As was once said, the emancipation of the workers will be achieved by them alone, if not, it won't be.

What we have just said has several different meanings. On the one hand, we are outside the sphere of political parties, or any powers and doctrines differing from that which we have given ourselves, and are by no means dependent on them at all. Everything we do is the result of joining together the individual desires of each one of us, and not due to regulations, orders or strategies of others.

But another meaning is that we want to do things ourselves. We live in an ever more organised and specialised world, in which the real possibilities of individuals to do whatever they wish while respecting the rights of others grow smaller and smaller. That is why we urge and stipulate the participation of each and every one of us in both the internal and external dealings of our organisation, in our assemblies, in our struggles, in the responsibility of taking on tasks or posts.

An organisation that relies on its cleverest and most dedicated members, on those who have the most time available, or on those who are employed by it, is a defunct organisation without possibilities. Every member must get involved in the dealings of all others, insofar as their availability, willpower and enthusiasm allows them. But what we do not achieve by one alone or by one's personal contribution to a collective effort is of little use. The old-timers also said that if there are shepherds, it is, above all, because there are sheep; if there is someone who gives orders, it is because the others have abandoned the responsibility they had it the running of their own affairs.

If we put individual freedom and equality of those who form this organisation above anything else, then we could do no more than the same with the different entities that form it. Bottom-to-top organisation, federalism, is what characterises us. In this way, the different levels operate with total autonomy and co-ordinate amongst themselves in order to be more efficient. The individual member organises in her or his local Trade Union, the central and sovereign heart of the organisation. Within each Trade Union there are different "syndical sections" which cover the membership in a specific company or sector. The Trade Unions in the same town or area form a Local Federation. These, in turn, form Territorial Confederations (e.g., in territories such as Andalusia, Catalunya, Asturias, etc.) The Territorial Confederations, along with the Industrial Federations formed by local Trade Unions of each trade (Industrial workers, Health workers, Civil Servants, etc.), together with the Permanent Secretariat, form the Committee of the CGT, the maximum body of administration between Congresses. As you can see, this is an organisation in which the original nucleus of the local trade Union participates in two different levels: territorial and by trade.

Continue (Part II of "What is the CGT?")

CGT website (in Spanish)


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