We are very unfair with this government! We all believe his catastrophic handling of the COVID crisis is due to his inability to anticipate and prepare. This is completely wrong and the government shows us every day that it is quite capable of planning and organizing itself, when it wants to do so.
Already in March 2020, we did not have a stock of masks because the government had not ordered them. On the other hand, he did not forget in November 2019 and then again in April 2020 to order several million euros of tear gas, rubber bullets and other police drones. This government has a sense of priorities and urgencies!
In health services it is the same. As the second wave is here, hospital beds are full but the iceberg of all the other « postponed » conditions reappears, what do you think the government is doing? Let’s not talk about this agreement of shame, the infamous Segur agreement… It is an agreement of treason, signed by the reformist unions and against which the so-called protest unions have not organized any serious resistance (did they call for workers’ General assemblies in your unit?) when public opinion was very favourable to us. The 183 euros will not even cover the inflation of the last ten years with a blocked salary index point!
While we are exhausted, that many colleagues are in “burn out”, that in certain departments colleagues have been contaminated by Covid for lack of means of protection, what is the government doing? Is he hiring more staff? Does he provide additional resources? But no, no, his eminence Macron told us on October 6, in response to an angry group of health workers: « It is not a question of means, but of organization«
And in terms of organization, the government is preparing for the future: it is giving the green light to privatization. Oh, he does it quietly, not openly, but step by step. It started with Decree 2019-1593 of December 31, 2019 (adopted in the middle of the end of the year holiday season, to go unnoticed) which introduces the provision for conventional break in the public service. In other words, which allows civil servants to be dismissed without telling it … And then this September 3, a new decree, number 2020-1106, relating to support measures in the event of job cuts in the public hospital civil service. Of course, this decree does not talk about dismissal, it just explains what will happen when public hospitals are closed. Of course, this text says that a civil servant will stay in public service, even if his structure of assignment is closed. But the text provides that the State is not obliged to find a new assignment for him … However, if State closes structures, it is not to reopen others, nor to inflate the staff of those already existing, on the contrary it is time to « degrease the mammoth » … If the public worker is unassigned, he has no duty to perform and so he will no longer receive any bonus related to the performance of his duties! In other words his income will be greatly reduced, so that if the worker has a family, loan to reimburse, student children to financially support, he will no longer earn enough to meet his needs … The worker will then be pushed to negotiate his departure from the public service with the illusion that by setting up a liberal activity or joining private structures, he will be able to find a better alternative.
We understand, this text is nothing less than a text of formalized institutional harassment, to push health workers towards the exit… The State will play poker face, saying it does not privatize and that it is the civil servants who go to the private sector « at their request », but will the workers have a choice? And for the bosses of private structures it will be without any risk: article 16 allows a probationary period for the employee who can go for a full year in a private structure, on lay-off. So if « the graft » does not take, the boss can separate from his employee without risk and take another one that would fit better. Who said that the state does not think of everything and does not prepare anything?
Here again, we do not hear the unions on this real plan of privatization and institutional harassment … So we too must be prepared to retaliate, so as not to let it happen. The Covid crisis has shown that health is a public good, and that strictly accountable management produces health catastrophe and injustice. And the future « organization », privatized, will not help! It is up to us to mobilize, health workers and patients together, to demand more beds in our hospitals, massive hiring of dignified salaries.
More beds, more staff, a decent salary,
Withdrawal of the Ségur treason agreement,
For a universal, socialized, united health system!Long live the social Revolution!
Workers in the health sector of the CNT-AIT (Anarchosyndicalist) Cochin-Broca –Hôtel-Dieu Hospital, December 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org http://cnt-ait.info
Due to the new peak of the corona virus that has hit Serbia as well, the situation is more than alarming. Hospitals are full and available beds for newly infected people, who arrive by thousands every day, are almost non-existent, as well as rested medical staff. Thanks to looting privatizations and years of systematic destruction of the public sector, our healthcare system is so devastated that it is unable to adequately cope with the crisis caused by the pandemic.
This, along with the general global uncertainty, leads to a justified growth of distrust of the population in the entire system, both in our country and in the world, but unfortunately also disbelief in the existence of the virus itself, which is very real and very dangerous for many of us.
Therefore, we consider it is sensible to repeat the demands that our organization, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, as well as the entire International Association of Workers, expressed at the beginning of the pandemic:
– all non-essential companies should be closed immediately, since jobs have undoubtedly proven to be a key source of infection. It is necessary to provide all employees with compensation in the amount of one hundred percent of salary during the period of job closure. It is necessary to close all educational institutions to the crisis end and enable everyone to teach and learn at distance.
– To all workers in essential jobs – doctors, nurses, drivers, salesmen, etc. it is necessary to immediately raise salaries by one hundred percent due to working in life-threatening conditions. Also, all executive measures against the weakest, as evictions and the like, must be stopped immediately. We demand from the authorities the immediate introduction of these measures! Enough playing with our lives for your profit!
The government has announced a second lockdown in the country, which will start on Friday the 27th of November. This is happening against the background of a complete collapse of our health system, mainly due to the lack of nurses and paramedics, uncontrolled spread of the virus, which put Bulgaria in first place in mortality across Europe and complete insecurity among the majority of working people about their income in the short and medium term.
How did we get here?
Let’s start with the collapse of our health system. The truth is that it was on the brink of precipice long before the pandemic, as medical experts have been warning for years. The pandemic only helped us take a decisive step forward. Now is the time to remember that for the past two years the nurses has been organising mass protests for adequate wages and humane working conditions to keep nurses, and our health care system, and to put an end to the rampant commercialisation in health care. They protested for months, organized tent camps and even occupied the parliament, in a desperate attempt to force the government to take measures to save Bulgarian healthcare. The government flatly refused to comply with even one of the demands of the nurses. The results are catastrophic, and today we all – both healthcare workers and patients – experience them on our backs.
Although they missed the opportunity to save the health care system from collapse, the government could at least mitigate the decline to the bottom by taking adequate measures after the start of the pandemic. Instead, since the spring, we have witnessed a criminal recklessness and the most brazen scheming that has added to the inevitable collapse of health care and a sense of despair and hopelessness. While governments across Europe rushed to increase the salaries of nurses, paramedics and doctors by leaps and bounds, Bulgaria remained the only country where, instead of salary increases, nurses received only bonuses, and not everyone. The insane measure of 1,000 Bulgarian Lev (500 Euros) in one-time bonus for first-line employees has thrown the nurses class into chaos, created tension over ambiguities – who should be considered front-line workers and who should not – and helped undermine much-needed cohesion and solidarity in times of crisis. Most of the workers never received anything. The measures planned for next year continue to dig the bottom, and the meagre increase in salaries will be TEMPORARY, only for 2021.
But this is just a drop in the ocean. The thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics who are exhausted, packed in spacesuits, giving unbearable duty to compensate for the lack of staff, were not and still are not provided with even the most basic protective equipment – gloves, masks, aprons. While billions of leva are poured into the health care system each year, workers are forced to buy their own safety equipment, dozens of hospitals survive on aid and charity campaigns, others send desperate calls for volunteers, and patients die outside hospitals due to lack of staff. The government had months from spring to today to try to prepare our health system for the coming second wave of the virus. But to save money, they didn’t want to attack the business as usual in healthcare, they didn’t try to change the neoliberal model of health care, and they did nothing. And now health care is collapsing on our heads.
The government’s anti-epidemic measures
After seeing that the government has refused to take measures in health care, let’s take a look at the other anti-epidemic measures that have been taken since the spring. From the very beginning, they had and still have a strong class character. With the entry of the coronavirus into Bulgaria in early spring, the government announced a complete lockdown, although the spread of the infection was many times lower than we saw in early autumn, when the government refused to introduce even a partial lockdown. Behind these seemingly chaotic actions of the rulers, the economic interests of their class are clearly visible. Lockdown in the spring was dictated mostly by the small business owners that wanted to be able to save the summer touristic season and limit their financial losses from the expected ebb if the spread of the disease was limited to the end of May. And so it happened – with the start of the summer season, the spread was controlled and all bars, hotels and restaurants opened their doors, and anti-epidemic measures gave way to the business.
This, in turn, quite “unexpectedly” led to a sharp increase in the spread of the disease, which began in July, got out of control in October and continues to grow to this day. It was in October that the class character of crisis management was revealed in all its glory. At the notoriously (and comically) famous briefings of the country’s Minister of Health, people like Richard Alibegov – head of the Bulgarian restaurant owners association – started appearing next to the Minister and began to give instructions to the population. This made it clear in whose interest the crisis was being managed. Accordingly, the pubs remained open, the cases continued to rise, and the price was paid and continues to be paid primarily by the families of the workers who, unlike Alibegov, actually work in his pubs.
While bosses are content with their privilege of isolating themselves and holding online board meetings, workers are the ones who have to work on site – in pubs, offices and shops every day, despite the risk of infection, in order to be able to feed themselves and their families.
But the class nature of crisis management does not end there. It is evident in each of the measures taken since the beginning of the crisis. As the state melted away with empathy for long-suffering businessmen and the reduction of their invaluable profits, it was a strict stepmother to workers and the people at large. Caressing with a feather and sacrificially discussing every whim of business, the government viciously attacked the people, accusing them of the failure of their insane measures. Because it refused to introduce real measures to deal with the health crisis so as not to harm the profits of the business, to compensate and simulate liability – the state introduced a bunch of half-hearted, meaningless or downright harmful measures against ordinary people. The people had to wear masks in the strangest places, to follow the ever-changing schedules of green corridors and paths, and all sorts of other whims of the rulers. The work of the Government’s pandemic headquarters can be summarized in pointing fingers at the people and accusations of lack of discipline, stupidity and misunderstanding. Against this background, it is not surprising that many people just stopped caring about the government and the pandemic headquarters and the measures.
The pandemic will pass, as any other similar pandemic in the history of mankind has passed. But it will have severe economic and social consequences. They began to appear from the very beginning, during the first lockdown in the spring, when thousands of workers lost their jobs or were forced into unpaid leave. The social measures of the state in this situation were not surprising having in mind the class interest it serves, as we have already seen in detail above. For the businessmen, support funds were immediately organized to cover most of their expenses for the period of the crisis, interest-free loans and a bunch of other benefits. Workers crowding in front of Labor Offices received nothing. In the current lockdown, thousands of workers face the same situation, but further aggravated by the fact that many of them have already spent their unemployment benefits during the lockdown in the spring and now remain literally without income in the middle of winter and with no prospect of easing the situation in the coming months. The government promised crisis assistance of 24 Lev (12, 25 Euros) per day for those sent on forced unpaid leave – of course not out of special concern for the workers, but mostly to help the companies to keep their staff. There is no money for the workers made redundant due to the lockdown, who are considered unnecessary for the business – and therefore unnecessary for the state!
The consequences of the class principle of distribution of the generosity of the state do not end with the social catastrophe in which the redundant workers are thrown. They destroy the very foundations of society. Today we see how the government’s refusal to provide income for parents forced to leave work to care for their children while schools and kindergartens are closed leads to an ugly confrontation between parents worried about their income and teachers worried about their lives. We can see these examples in other sectors as well. Through its anti-social policy, the state is on track to do more harm to society than the pandemic.
What can we do?
Regarding the health crisis, the match is over. Whatever measures are taken from now on, it is too late to talk about dealing with the situation. What can be done is to put pressure on the government to provide at least basic protection to workers in the sector so that they can continue to save lives with dignity. The other and even more important thing is to put strong pressure, not only from the medics, but from the whole society – the workers in the sector to be fairly compensated for their work during the pandemic, not through one-time or temporary bonuses, but through permanent and significant salary increase. This wage increase must also be the first step towards a radical reform of the sector, which will put an end to the commercialisation of healthcare and which today, more than ever, is a matter of life and death.
In terms of social measures, protests by workers in the most affected sectors have already erupted as we write this article. What needs to be done is to avoid the division of workers, which the rulers so well master and exercise whenever they have the opportunity. It must be insisted on guaranteeing the incomes of all – those on unpaid leave and redundancies, those in tourism and those in manufacturing. For the right of teachers to work remotely and the right of parents to be at home with their children without risking losing their income. Now is not the time for division by sectors, cities and professions, but the time for solidarity and unity.
At the end of May 2020, the grassroots union ARK reported fear and anger in the labour dispute at Pirogov Hospital, the country’s largest hospital. In the previous days, an unprecedented attack (even by Bulgarian standards…) of state repression against the “Union of Healthcare Professionals” (SBMS) had started.
Demonstrations and strikes in the health sector have been taking place there for over a year. The SBMS nurse’ Union is fighting for decent wages and working conditions, and an end to the commercialization of human health that everyone suffers from.
A few months ago, the local government tried to prevent the setting up of a SBMS union group in the city hospital and initiated disciplinary proceedings against the section president, Boyka Anastasova. These are bold but desperate attempts to destroy the rebel nurses. The police also took action against the main organizers, who were summoned to the central police station in Bucharest, the capital, for questioning.
The grassroot union “Autonomous Confederation of Workers” (ARK) declares its solidarity with the SBMS in its labour dispute, and calls for the immediate dismissal of the director responsible for the clinic, Professor Asen Baltov. All police officers who arbitrarily violated the constitution and the law during the operations should also be removed from their posts and an investigation should be opened. In addition, we urge unions in Europe and around the world to take a stand on this case of State attack on freedom of association and to protest against this suppression of healthcare professionals in Bulgaria
In the united struggle for the dignity of workers.
October 2020, from ZSP-AIT information and mainstream medias
In Poland, under pressure from religious and conservatives, women’s rights have just experienced a further decline. Indeed, at the initiative of ultra-Catholic organizations, the Constitutional Court has banned abortion in cases of foetal malformation. It was one of only three cases allowed (along with rape and incest) by Polish law, one of the most restrictive in Europe.
The ruling “Law and Justice Party” is taking advantage of the pandemic to push through this very unpopular measure, knowing that all gatherings of more than 5 people are prohibited.
But opponents have nevertheless decided to show their determination by defying the ban and increasing signs of resistance. Better than virtual networks, it is in the public space that defenders of abortion appear, showing inventiveness and originality: on their balconies. They hang posters against the anti-abortion bill, and also black umbrellas. Symbol of the Polish women’s struggle for the right to abortion since major demonstrations at the end of 2016.
“The Polish government is dealing with a bill that it was forced to reject years ago because we protested,” said Ola Glowicka, who lives in Warsaw. “So we show them that even if we are stranded at home, they cannot beat us. I, for example, put posters on my windows. And I also sent 276 emails to MPs telling them my opposition to the bill.”
Since the court’s decision was announced, thousands of protesters have been blocking the centre of major cities in Poland by occupying several downtown intersections, crippling traffic. The demonstrators held up placards with slogans such as “Women’s Hell”, “You have blood on your hands”, “We want a choice”, or “its war!” Strajk Kobiet movement calls for women’s strike: “It’s really impressive. We share hundreds of photos, videos. This is the only way, we cannot negotiate with the ruling party.”
Friday, October 23, despite the rain and in defiance of the strict measures to ban gatherings in the name of the fight against the coronavirus, at least 10,000 people demonstrated in Warsaw in the evening, in order to express their anger after the quasi-delegation total abortion, decided the day before by the Constitutional Court. Gatherings were held in other provincial towns, such as Lodz, where our companions from the ZSP-AIT, the polish section took part.
On Thursday, October 22, the Constitutional Court issued a disgraceful sentence forcing women in this country to bear extremely deformed foetuses that could not survive on their own outside the mother’s body.
Mass protests against the sadism of the authorities, the church and the fanatical right are sweeping through Poland.
The protesters include Activists of the Union of Syndicalists of Poland (ZSP-AIT).
We are there because it is our duty to be in solidarity with women who are barbarously deprived of the right to decide about their own body and life.
We are there because, as syndicalists, we fight for the freedom and dignity of all female workers, emphasizing that the right to abortion is one of the elements of women’s emancipation.
Solidarity is our weapon!
Revolution is a woman!
Union of Syndicalists Polish Section Łódź, AIT-AIT
September – October 2020, CNT-AIT France, Editorial of the magazine Anarchosyndicalisme ! n ° 169,
A divided scientific community, government lies legitimized by a scientific council, contradictory health injunctions, systematically false forecasts, a prescription right of doctors flouted by the Surgeon Council of the Order … As in the worst hours of the Chernobyl disaster, the assessment is clear, it is clear that a certain science is slavishly placed at the service of the State.
This monstrous coupling signs the persistence of a political project as old as it is perverse, consisting in the implementation of a policy rooted in dogmas aimed at denying the freedom of individuals in favour of a frozen social and economic order and therefore with no prospect of change. This project is perfectly explained by an Anti-Enlightenment figure, Ernest Renan. In « The Future of Science » published in 1890, he called for « a scientific government, in which competent and special men would treat governmental questions as scientific questions and would rationally seek their solution. «
Recall that at that time the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, which was going to be swept away by the Mexican Revolution in 1911, had taken this model by relying on « los Científicos« , that is to say a conglomerate of extremely rich characters using technocracy and statistics to exploit a population reduced to misery.
Such a scientist ideology very quickly collided with modern scientific thought, from 1865, Claude Bernard wrote a first warning vis-à-vis the emergence of statistical studies in the medical field and especially their tendency to transform probabilities into certainties and these certainties in fantasies.
« As for statistics, it is given a big role in medicine, and therefore it constitutes a medical question which must be examined here. The first condition for using statistics is that the facts to which it is applied be observed exactly so that they can be brought down to units comparable to each other. However, this is not most often found in medicine. Anyone familiar with hospitals knows the causes of gross errors in the determinations that serve as the basis for statistics. Very often the names of the diseases have been given at random, either because the diagnosis was obscure, or because the cause of death was entered without attaching any scientific importance to it, by a student who had not seen the patient, or by a person from the administration foreign to medicine. In this respect, there could be no valid pathological statistic except that which is made with results collected by the statistician himself. But even in this case, no two patients are exactly alike; age, sex, temperament, and a host of other circumstances will always make differences, hence the average or ratio deduced from comparing facts will always be open to dispute. But, even by hypothesis, I could not admit that the facts can never be absolutely identical and comparable in the statistics, they must necessarily differ by some point, because without that the statistics would lead to an absolute scientific result, while it can only give a probability, but never a certainty ”(In “Introduction to experimental medicine”).
This passage, which is still relevant, is perhaps destined to be forgotten as it is obvious that it can only displease a system based on the accumulation of data for the benefit of digital manufacturers. At worst, it will be easy for them to debunk Claude Bernard, founder of experimental medicine, on the grounds that he widely practiced vivisection. But the fact remains that by affirming this fundamental truth that “no two patients are exactly alike”, he is already calling into question a medicine based on big data and defending for each patient as a unique being the right not to be treated like a number. This is why medicine thought of as knowledge of humans always begins with a unique and direct dialogue between practitioner and patient.
This critique of mathematical reductionism would broaden a century later. First under the blows of Bachelard, who in his book “the rationalist commitment” denounces the scientific superstition of formalists and logicians, spouting out a dialectic which “may perhaps lead to general morality and policy” But absolutely not “to a daily exercise of freedoms of mind,” against this narrow and bourgeois rationalism which “then as the bad taste of painful elementary school lesson, is cheerful as a prison door, and welcoming as a tradition.” Bachelard writes that “in order to think, we would first have to unlearn so much!” He offers what he calls a super-rationalist approach:
“The risk of reason must be total. It is its specific character to be total. All or nothing. If the experience is successful, I know it will change my mind completely. It is because a physics experiment can change my mind that I am willing to make it. What is the interest, in fact, in making one more experiment that would confirm what I already know and therefore what I am? Any real discovery determines a new method, it must destroy a previous method. In other words, in the realm of thought, recklessness is a method. It is only recklessness that can be successful. We must go as quickly as possible to the regions of intellectual recklessness. Knowledge accumulated for a long time, patiently juxtaposed, avariciously preserved, is suspect. They bear the bad sign of prudence, of conformism.”
In 1975, this discourse against a fixed method that politicians would like hegemonic was amplified by Feyerabend who wrote his essay “Against the method” with the subtitle “Outline of an anarchist theory of knowledge”.
For Feyerabend, it is above all about pointing out what he calls scientific chauvinism, that is to say a body of knowledge based on an ad-hoc method and the proliferation of which the state promotes. For him, it is necessary to separate science from the State, as one separated the State from religion, so that each individual is able to freely choose what to think. In any case, we more often see the renewal of knowledge than its overcoming in the etymological sense of the term. Thus Copernicus renews Aristarchus, and the physics of the twentieth century renews the intuition of the Greek atomists. The scientist claim to return past knowledge to the dustbin of history and to despise extra-Western knowledge is harmful to the imagination necessary for the renewal of scientific thought and therefore for its progress.
What has been called the health crisis highlighted this centuries-old battle between knowledge serving the dominant system and free and open science. Modern version of Auguste Comte’s positivist crusade for whom science should be at the service of bourgeois order against the spirit of the Encyclopaedists responsible in his eyes for the troubles of the French Revolution. Let us never forget, however, that contrary to what Shakespeare wrote, power is never afraid of a time when “madmen lead the blind”.
Vienna is not just the romantic city of balls and waltzes. It is also a city with more than 10,000 poor and homeless people. Winter is harsh and freezing in the Austrian capital. To prevent the homeless from freezing to death, and to prevent them from being seen in the subways or elsewhere in public, which is not good for the city’s touristic image, the Vienna Homeless Aid of the municipality of Vienna (Wiener Wohnungslosenhilfe) organizes each winter the campaign « winter package » (Winterpaket). 1,200 additional places are open for the winter season in homeless shelters.
This campaign is managed by various charities, including the Red Cross. The Red Cross is renowned for being deeply conservative, but it is even worse in Austria since it acts as a satellite organization of the ÖVP, the conservative party of Chancellor Kurz. The government now delegates to Red Cross some activities that were strictly governmental until then, as for example the administration of the civil service or the realization and the distribution of the telephone application « Stop Corona App ». The Red Cross is therefore fully integrated into the State.
Each fall, the Red Cross hires seasonal social workers for the period of the « winter package » campaign. Their employment contract ends in the spring, then they are rehired the following fall. But during the summer, homeless do not disappear … So, a small group of seasonal social workers, from various Vienna Homeless Aids’ institutions, created a few years ago the “Initiative Sommerpaket” (Initiative summer package). This grassroots collective of workers publicly highlights the gaps in homeless care and also campaigns for better working conditions for social working with homeless people. In particular, they are fighting to be hired for a full year, so that their contracts do not end during the summer, and that accommodation for homeless people is thus available all year round, including summer.
Refusal of employment for political reasons
In early September 2020, some of these seasonal workers understood that they would not be rehired by the Red Cross unlike in previous years. While some seasonal workers had received at least 4 phone calls from the Red Cross begging them to come and work for the winter campaign, the phones of 7 colleagues from the former « NQ Apollogasse » homeless shelter remained desperately silent.
Some of these colleagues are politically active in their free time, they campaign with the Sommerpaket Initiative for the improvement of the service of the Viennese homeless. Others of the not rehired colleagues have been on pickets of the Initiative Sommerpaket. Obviously this bothers the Red Cross. In order to get rid of the disturbers, they therefore chose not to rehire them, giving the following reason: « Due to incidents and events not known in detail to the management of the homeless shelter, your application was rejected by the management of the red cross”
On enquiry, they have been informed that at least 7 employees were on an internal blacklist because they were involved, according to them, in the « Sommerpaket » initiative, as well as having denounced the poor health safety standards implemented by the Red Cross in their institution at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the workers involved declared: “In fact, we just wanted to contribute constructively in this difficult and new situation for all of us. I am really shocked by this response from the Red Cross”. It is indeed ironic that the Red Cross sanctions people for their commitment to greater security in the management of the Covid 19 pandemic! This is clearly a situation of discrimination in hiring for political reasons, and this despite the fact that the « Sommerpaket » initiative had never acted directly against the Red Cross!
For many, working during the winter campaign means a fixed source of income that has now been quickly denied to some long-time employees. “It was confirmed to us that there was no lack of performance at work on our part. We even received a certificate of impeccable service. It was a political decision. And that is why we are now responding with political means!” announced one of the former employees concerned.
For the companions of the WAS, this repressive measure is a deliberate attack on all attempts to organize collective resistance. In this atmosphere of intimidation, anyone who publicly advocates publicly and loudly for a social change could face serious consequences. This is why the WAS responded favourably to the request for solidarity addressed by the Sommerpaket Initiative and the workers affected by this employers’ lockout. They therefore organized together, with another « Social but not stupid » initiative, a rally in front of the Vienna headquarters of the Red Cross on October 28, 2020 at 7:30 a.m., the start of the winter campaign this year.
If they hit one of us, they hit us all! Report of the rally at the Red Cross headquarters in Vienna
October 28, 2020, WAS-AIT
Motivated and punctual, at 7:30 am, we met in front of the headquarters of the Vienna Red Cross. The comrades that the Red Cross did not rehire were present, as well as many acquaintances who expressed their solidarity in their support, many of them from the social sector, or about 70 people in total. The rally was organized by the “Sommerpaket” initiative and WAS-AIT. The initiative “Social but not stupid” and KOMintern, a communist union initiative, appealed also for this rally. The Gewerkschaftlicher Linksblock, a socialist fraction in the system did not miss the opportunity to join this left bloc.
With banners, brochures and flags, we protested the decision of the Vienna Red Cross not to re-engage our colleagues who had previously worked in the Winterpaket campaigns. This group of colleagues who worked for this campaign to help the homeless during the winter was not rehired, as apparently the commitment to better conditions for users and better working conditions for workers did not does not meet the objectives of the Red Cross.
Immediately, a “friendly and smiling” delegation of three prominent Red Cross figures came out of their offices and approached the rally intending to speak, visibly in awe of what was going on. « Hello, I’m the manager, who can we talk to? » To which no one in the crowd responded. The official was accompanied by the Red Cross press officer and a secretary. Colleagues from the Summer Package Initiative told them that they would not speak to them until the rally was over, after which they told the press officer that they wanted an explanation for the refusal to rehire them.
During the rally, several speeches were made to inform participants, Red Cross headquarters workers and passers-by, of the Red Cross shenanigans and the need to organize against these structures that are monopolizing the sector of social services. We chalked up on the sidewalks our indignation against the Vienna Red Cross and those who run it. These messages were deleted as soon as the concentration ended, a clear response from the Red Cross, which shows its unease at our criticism.
It is now up to the Red Cross officials to find a solution if they want to stop our protest actions. The precariousness of working conditions in the social services sector is obvious; something with which all the comrades of the gathering agreed, as well as with the fact that only with union and solidarity can we face it.
Further action is planned if the Red Cross does not respond favourably to our requests.
There where land becomes ugly, where all poetry disappears from the landscape, imaginations are extinguished, spirits are impoverished, routine and servility overtake the soul and set it on the path to torpor and death.
Élisée Reclus, Concerning the Awareness of Nature in Modern Society
“Ecology” is commonly defined as a branch of science dealing with the relationship of living things to their environment; a late 19th century word coined by the german zoologist Ernst Haeckel. As a political term, it gains currency in the 1960s to refer to reflections on the impact of human activity on the environment and the respective social movements that in different ways have sought to address the negative consequences of that activity.
In its more anthropocentric expressions, ecology would seem to be essentially concerned with human survival, that is, with assuring the environmental conditions that will provide for the continuity of the human species, which for this reason, extends concern to other forms of life which are necessary to human well-being.
The emphasis on human survival has always lent itself however to all manner of technical and authoritarian solutions to the multiple “environmental crises” that beset us, for the question is increasingly and exclusively one of survival (with pandemics offering a helping hand), with little thought given to how this may best be attained.
The latter is a luxury, some may contend, for which we have no time. And no one really knows how to examine what is best anyway, except to state sincerely or duplicitously what is best for them.
To recall the work of Élisée Reclus in this context is not to play the role of historian of ideas. It is rather to reclaim a concept of “ecology” (a term which Reclus does not employ directly), or of “social geography”, which is disruptive of the “scientific-political” management of life.
The epigraph of Reclus’ L’Homme et la Terre reads: “Geography is nothing other than history in space, and history is geography over time”. The thin, physical envelope in which the human species has lived is not a static reality; since their appearance, humans have been “geological agents” shaping and reshaping, with wisdom or without, the earth’s surface, seas and skies, rendering them thereby “historical”. History’s stage, in parallel, includes and transforms the physical world. Human evolution, for Reclus, is the dialectical interplay of human and environmental change, with “progress” measured by the growth of human awareness of the balance necessary for a common, human life in harmony with the world we inhabit. (The oikos of the word “ecology” also signifies “dwelling place”, “habitation”). “The essence of human progress consists of the discovery of the totality of interests and wills common to all peoples; it is identical to solidarity.”
As people developed intelligence and freedom they learnt to react on this exterior nature to whose influence they had formerly submitted to passively: they became by force of circumstances real geological agents and, in a variety of manners, they transformed the surface of the continents, changed the course of flowing waters and modified the climate. It is time that, because of their magnitude, one can compare some of the activities carried out by the lowest animals – such as the island formed by madropores and corals – to the works of man: but these gigantic constructions have not added a new feature to the general physiognomy of the globe and proceed, so to speak, in a uniform and fatal manner as if they were products of the unconscious forces of Nature. Man’s actions, on the contrary, have greatly changed the appearance of the surface of the earth. While on the one hand they destroy, on the other they improve, depending on the social order and progress of each people, sometimes they bring about the degradation of nature, sometimes its beautification. Camping as a passerby, the barbarian has plundered the earth and has violently exploited it without compensation, for the richness he has seized from her. He finished by devastating the country which served him as his home thus making it uninhabitable.
Through culture and intelligent treatment, the truly civilised man, being aware that his own interest, the interests of all and that of nature blend, acts quite differently. He repairs the damages incurred by his predecessors, helps the earth and instead of being brutally dead set against it, works in his estates for its beautification as well as its betterment. Not only as a qualified farmer and industrialist does he know how to utilise, more and more, the earth’s forces and its products; but also as an artist he learns to give to the surrounding landscape more charm, grace and majesty. Having become the “consciousness of the earth” the man worthy of such a mission assumes, by virtue of that, a responsible role within the harmony and beauty of his natural environment.
The measure of our progress is revealed in the beauty of our world. And if the Latin origins of the word point to “what is pleasing to the senses”, the Greek word kallos binds beauty to virtue or goodness. In Koine Greek, the word for beauty, horaios, refers to “what is in season, what comes to be at the right time” and is contrasted with asteios, meaning “that which befits city dwelling”. Reclus offers no conceptual analysis of the idea of beauty. When he speaks of beauty and ugliness, he does so from the perspective of his own sensitivities and experience acquired over many years as a traveler-geographer. Yet in what he says, we find all of this overlapping etymology in his judgment: beauty is pleasing to the senses and thereby informs our sensitivity and feeling, moulds our habits, shapes who we are; the beautiful is good as what finds expression in the harmony or balance between human beings and between humanity and its world, a harmony which presupposes a community of equality and freedom; and the beautiful is that which is proper for a time and a place that are the confluence of what is natural and artificial.
Writing of the modern industrial cities of his time, Reclus writes:
Another cause of ugliness in our modern towns springs from the invasion of the great manufacturing industries. Almost every town we have is encumbered with one or more suburbs bristling with stinking chimneys, where immense buildings skirt the blackened streets with walls either bare and blind, or pierced, in sickening symmetry, with innumerable windows. The ground trembles under the groaning machinery and beneath the weight of waggons, drays and luggage trains. How many towns there are, especially in young America, where the air is almost unbreathable, and where everything within sigh —the ground, the walls, the sky— seems to sweat mud and soot! Who can recall without a horror of disgust a mining colony like that sinuous and interminable Scranton, whose seventy thousand inhabitants have not so much as a few acres of foul turf and blackened foliage to clear their lungs? And that enormous Pittsburg with its semi-circular coronet of suburbs fuming and flaming overhead, how is it possible to imagine it under a filthier atmosphere than now, though the inhabitants aver that it has gained both in cleanliness and light since the introduction of natural gas into its furnaces? Other towns, less black than these, are scarcely less hideous, from the fact than the railway companies have taken possessions of streets, squares, and avenues, and send their locomotives snorting and hissing along the road, and scattering the people right and left from their course. Some of the loveliest sites on the earth have been thus desecrated. At Buffalo, for instance, the passenger strives in vain to follow the bank of the wonderful Niagara across a wilderness, of rails and quagmires and slimy canals, of gravel heaps and dunghills, and all the others impurities of the city.
Rather than dismissing all of this as the ramblings of a lost romantic, as all hopelessly subjective, let us rather consider that the contemporary onslaught of stimuli targeting our senses makes any discrimination about what is pleasing impossible (titillation is what we desire most), that we have lost any substantive notion of goodness and are blind to any relation that pleasure may have to it, and that living within an eternal present and largely undifferentiated spaces, we are without any notion of the seasons, of dwelling with discernment and thus of propriety. Stripped bare, as we have been, we can only reach out for, grab, aim to possess, violently if necessary, failing which we fall back on what we have increasingly become, nothing.
Reclus may be criticised, as he has been, for an overly optimistic or acritical understanding of human evolution and progress. But the critics may also be challenged for oversimplifying his complex and nuanced conception of the same. Reclus maintained a belief in progress, understood progress as the advance of “civilisation”, but this “progress” depended on the increasing human understanding of the interdependence of human beings on their “natural environment”, it did not exclude unpredictable events of revolution – Reclus participated actively in the Paris Commune of 1871 -, and it did not ignore moments or possibilities of regression and recognising the virtues of seemingly more “backward” societies. If his political judgements are not without ambiguity or contradiction -e.g., Reclus’s position on the french colonisation of Algeria -, there remains within his work the extraordinary possibility of imagining wildlybeautiful utopias, beyond mere survival; and there can be no anarchism, or if one wishes, freedom and equality, without a utopian imaginary (this was the very reason for Reclus criticism of isolated “anarchist” experiments in communal living).
To the contention that Reclus’ “ecology” is overly anthropocentric, we recall his defence of vegetarianism, which is in turn grounded in the ideal of a future fraternity-sorority that would not only include human beings, but all life. The earthly envelope of human existence is the object of capitalist apetite as the source of exploitable energy and commodity transformation. As nature is increasingly “humanised”, contact with anything beyond the artificial, the spectacle of life, is increasingly impossible. We thereby lose ourselves. It is only through the encounter with something which “de-centres” us that we may be able pass beyond capitalism.
Let economists and rulers invent political constitutions or salaried organizations, whereby the worker may be the friend of their master, the subject the brother of the potentate, we, “frightful Anarchists” as we are, know only one way of establishing peace and goodwill among women and men — the suppression of privilege and the recognition of right. Our ideal, as we have said, is that of the fraternal equity for which all yearn, but almost always as a dream; with us it takes form and becomes a concrete reality. It pleases us not to live if the enjoyments of life are to be for us alone; we protest against our good fortune if we may not share it with others; it is sweeter for us to wander with the wretched and the outcasts than to sit, crowned with roses, at the banquets of the rich. We are weary of these inequalities which make us the enemies of each other; we would put an end to the furies which are ever bringing people into hostile collision, and all of which arise from the bondage of the weak to the strong under the form of slavery, serfage, and service. After so much hatred we long to love each other, and for this reason are we enemies of private property and despisers of the law.
Élisée Reclus, An Anarchist on Anarchy
… two opposing societies exist amongst men. They are intermingled, variously allied here and there by the people who do not know their own minds, and advance only to retreat; but viewed from above, and taking no account of uncertain and indifferent individuals who are swayed hither and thither by fate like waves of the sea, it is certain that the actual world is divided into two camps, those who desire to maintain poverty, i.e. hunger for others, and those who demand comforts for all. The forces in these two camps seem at first sight very unequal. The supporters of existing society have boundless estates, incomes counted by hundreds of thousands, all the powers of the State, with its armies of officials, soldiers, policemen, magistrates, and a whole arsenal of laws and ordinances. And what can the Socialists, the artificers of the new society, oppose to all this organised force? Does it seem that they can do nothing? Without money or troops they would indeed succumb if they did not represent the evolution of ideas and of morality. They are nothing, but they have the progress of human thought on their side. They are borne along on the stream of the times.
When the miserable and disinherited of the earth shall unite in their own interest, trade with trade, nation with nation, race with race; when they shall fully awake to their sufferings and their purpose, doubt not that an occasion will assuredly present itself for the employment of their might in the service of right; and powerful as may be the Master of those days, he will be weak before the starving masses leagued against him. To the great evolution now taking place will succeed the long expected, the great revolution.
It will be salvation, and there is none other. For if capital retains force on its side, we shall all be the slaves of its machinery, mere bands connecting iron cogs with steel and iron shafts. If new spoils, managed by partners only responsible to their cash books, are ceaselessly added to the savings already amassed in bankers’ coffers, then it will be vain to cry for pity, no one will hear your complaints. The tiger may renounce his victim, but bankers’ books pronounce judgments without appeal. From the terrible mechanism whose merciless work is recorded in the figures on its silent pages, men and nations come forth ground to powder. If capital carries the day, it will be time to weep for our golden age; in that hour we may look behind us and see like a dying light, love and joy and hope — all the earth has held of sweet and good. Humanity will have ceased to live.
As for us, whom men call “the modern barbarians,” our desire is justice for all. Villains that we are, we claim for all that shall be born, bread, liberty, and progress.
The matter of knowing which aspects of human labour serve to beautify or to degrade outer nature may appear futile to the so-called positivist spirits but it is, nonetheless, an issue of prime importance. Human developments are linked in the most intimate manner to the natural environment. An implicit harmony exists between the earth and the people it nourishes, and when imprudent societies strike a blow against what beautifies their environment they have always ended in regretting it. There where land becomes ugly, where all poetry disappears from the landscape, imaginations are extinguished, spirits are impoverished, routine and servility overtake the soul and set it on the path to torpor and death. Among the causes in human history which have already contributed to the disappearance of many successive civilisations, one must mention the brutal violence with which the majority of nations have treated the nourishing earth. They cut down forests, dried up springs, flooded rivers, damaged climates, surrounded the cities with swampy and pestilential zones, then, when nature desecrated by them has become hostile, they grasped her with hatred and not being able to re-immerse themselves like savages into the life of the forests, they let themselves become more and more stupefied by the despotism of priests and kings. “The great estates have mined Italy” said Winy, but it could be added that these great estates, cultivated by slaves, had disfigured the land almost to the state of leprosy. Historians shocked by the surprising decadence of Spain after Charles the fifth advance various explanations. According to some the main cause of the ruin of the nation was to be found in the discovery of the American gold; to others, it was the religious terror organised by the “sacred fraternity*’ of the Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews and the Moors and the bloody auto-da-fe of heretics. People have likewise blamed the fall of Spain on the iniquitous tax alcahala and the despotic centralisation a la French; but surely has not the kind of rage with which the Spaniards cut down the trees for fear of the birds, par miedo de los pajaritos, something to do with repulsive and fearsome aspects, soil is impoverished and the population, diminishing within two centuries, has relapsed into barbarism. The little birds have avenged themselves.
Therefore, it is with joy that we now welcome this generous passion which brings so many a man and may we add, the best, to cross virgin forests, beaches and mountain gorges and to visit many regions of the world where nature has kept its primordial beauty. For fear of ethical and intellectual impoverishment, one feels that the vulgarity of many disfigured and mediocre things which narrow minded spirits see as evidence of modem civilisation, needs, at all costs, to be counterbalanced by the great scenes of the earth. The direct study of nature and contemplation of its phenomena has to become for all mature men an essential part of their education. Also it is necessary to develop in each individual the skill and the physical strength to enable him to climb the summits with joy, to look at the abysses without fear and to keep up in all his being that natural equilibrium of forces without which he will never be able to perceive the most beautiful sights other than through a veil of sadness and melancholy. Modern man has to combine in his person all the virtues of those who have preceded him on the earth and never give up the immense privileges, which civilisation has conferred upon him; he should never loose his ancient force and let himself be surpassed by any savage in vigour, skill and understanding of natural phenomena. In the heydays of the Greek republics the Hellenes aimed at making heroes of children through grace, strength and courage; equally modern society, by fostering vigorous traits in its youth, by leading them back to nature and putting them in touch with it, can ensure itself against all decadence, through the regeneration of the race itself.
Long ago Rumford said: “One always finds more in nature that one looks for.” Whether a scholar examines clouds, stones, plants and insects, or whether he studies the general laws of the globe, he everywhere and always discovers unforeseen wonders; the artist, in pursuit of beautiful landscapes, is visually and mentally in perpetual celebration; the industrialist, looking to utilise the produce of the earth, continues to see around him riches that are not yet utilised. As to the simple person who is satisfied to love nature for its own sake, there he finds his joy and when he is unhappy, at least, his pains are sweetened by the view of the open country. Surely the proscribed or those declasse who live on the soil of their homeland as exiles feel, even at the most charming sites, a sense of being isolated, unknown and without friends, and the wound of despair always gnaws them.
Nonetheless, they also end by responding to the sweet influence of the milieu which surrounds them, their most vivid bitterness changes, little by little, into a kind of melancholy which allows them to understand, with a sense refined by grief, everything gracious and beautiful offered by the earth; more than many of the happy do they know how to appreciate the rustling of leaves, the singing of birds and the murmur of springs And if nature has such power to console or to strengthen individuals what is her influence, over the course of centuries, on humanity itself. Without any doubt the view of the vast horizons to a great part contributed to the quality of the mountain people and it is not a vain linguistic formula when one refers to the Alps as the boulevard of freedom.
Man loves to live in dreams. The effort which Thought must put forth in order to seize hold of realities seems to him too hard, and he tries to escape the task by taking refuge in opinions ready-made. If “doubt is the pillow of the wise,” we may say that blissful faith is the pillow of the weak in mind. There was a time when the power of a supreme God, who thought for us, who willed and acted over our heads, and directed human destiny in accordance with his own caprice, was amply sufficient for us, and caused us to accept our mortal lot with resignation or even with gratitude. Now this personal God, in whom the meek reposed their confidence, is perishing in his own temples, and men have to find a substitute for him. But there exists no longer any almighty power on which they can count; they only have a few words, to which they seek to give as it were a mystic force — as it were a magic virtue; for example, the word “progress”.
No doubt it is true that in many respects man has progressed; his sensations have (I indeed think) become more refined, his thoughts keener and more profound, and his humanity, embracing a vaster world, has prodigiously grown in breadth. But no progress can establish itself without a partial retrogression. The human creature grows, but in growing changes his place, and in the act of advancing he loses a part of the ground, which once he occupied. The ideal would be that civilised men should have preserved the force of the savage, that he should also have his skill, that he should still possess a perfect balance of limb, native health, tranquillity of the moral nature, simplicity of life, intimacy with the animals and the fields, and the harmony with the earth and all that inhabits it. But what was once the rule is now the exception. Many examples no doubt prove to us that the man of energetic will, exceptionally favoured by his surroundings, can quite rival the savage in all his primitive attainments, while at the same time adding thereto a consciousness saturated by a higher soul. But how are there those who have gained without losing, who are at once the equals of primitive man in his forest or prairie, and the equals of the artist or modern savant in the turmoil of city life?
And if here or there a man, unique in force of will and dignity of action, succeeds in rivalling his ancestors in respect of their native qualities, while also outstripping them by reason of those acquired, one may say with regret that, as a whole, mankind has certainly lost some of its early winnings. Thus, the world of animals, from which we derive our genesis and which was our tutor in the art of existence, which taught us fishing and the chase, and the rudiments of healing and of house construction, the habits of work in common, and the storing of food — this world has become a stranger to us. We today, in regard to the animals, talk of education or domestication simply in the sense of enslavement, but primitive man was thinking of a fraternal association. He saw in these living beings companions, and not servants; and indeed in many cases, as of common calamity (especially in times of storm or flood), the beasts — dogs, birds, serpents — came and took refuge with him.
The Indian woman of the Brazils surrounds herself quite wittingly with a regular menagerie, and her cabin will have in the surrounding clearing tapirs, deer, opossums, and even tame jaguars. There one sees monkeys gambolling in the branches over the hut, peccaries rooting in the soil, toucans, hoccos and parrots perching here or there on the swinging branches, protected by dogs and great trumpeter birds. And this whole republic moves and has its being without any necessity for a cross-grained mistress to deal out insults and blows. The Quichuan shepherd, crossing the plateau of the Andes by the side of the llama and his burden, has never attempted to gain the assistance of the loved animal otherwise than by caresses and encouragement; a single act of violence, and the llama, his personal dignity offended, would lie down in wrath and refuse to rise. He walks at his own pace, never allows his burden to be too great, stands still a long time at sunrise to contemplate the ascending orb, expects to be crowned with flowers and ribbons, or to have a flag poised on his head, and desires the children and women, on his arrival at the huts, to flatter and caress him.
Does not the horse of the Bedouin — another primitive man — come into the tent? And do not the weaning children sleep between his legs? The natural sympathy existing between all these creatures harmonised them in a broad atmosphere of peace and love. The bird would come and perch on the hand of man, as he does even today on the horns of the bull, and the squirrel would frolic within arm’s reach of the field-worker or the shepherd.
Even in their political communities primitive folk did not overlook the animal. In Fazokl, when the people depose a king, they are accustomed to address him as follows: “Since you have ceased to be pleasing to the men, the women, the children, and the donkeys, the best you can do is die, and to that end we will assist you.” In old times men and animals had no secrets from one another. “The beast talked,” so the story goes; but the main thing was that Man understood. Are there any stories more charming than the tales of South India — perhaps the oldest legends in the world — transmitted to the Dravidian invaders by the aborigines? In them elephants, jackals, tigers, lions, jerboas, serpents, crabs, monkeys, and men, hold converse in all freedom, thus constituting, so to speak, the great reciprocal school of the primitive world, and in this school it is more often the animal that is the real teacher.
Associations between man and the animals included, in those early times, a much greater number of species than we find today in our domestic sphere. Geoffroy St. Hilaire spoke of forty-seven, which thus formed, as it were, the retinue of Man; but how many species which he did not mention dwelt of old in intimacy with their youngest born brother! He did not included the many companions of the Indian woman of Guiana, nor the snakes which the Dinkaman on the Nile calls by name, and with which he shares the milk of his cows, nor the rhinoceros that pasture along with other cattle on the meadows of Assam, nor the crocodiles of the Indus, which the Hindu artists show decorated with sacred emblems. Archaeologists have proved beyond doubt that the Egyptians of the ancient empire had, among their herds of domestic animals, three, or even four, species of antelope, and one of wild goat, all of them creatures which, having once been associated with man, have become wild again. Even the hyena-like dogs and the guepards had once been transformed by hunters into faithful allies. The Rig Veda sings the praise of messenger pigeons “swifter than the clouds.” It sees in them gods and goddesses, and exhorts that burnt sacrifices should be prepared and libations poured out for them. Without a doubt, the mythic story of the Flood recalls to us the skill of our earliest ancestors in the art of making use of the carrier pigeon’s fleetness. It was the dove that Noah sent forth from the Ark to explore the waste of waters and the reappearing lands, which brought back in its beak the branch of olive.
And we may say that in many respects the domestication of animals, as we practice it today, exhibits a veritable moral backsliding, for, far from having improved them, we have deformed, degraded and corrupted them. We have, it is true, been able, by selection of specimens, to augment in the animal such and such quality of strength, of skill, of scent, of swiftness; but in our role of flesh-eaters our great preoccupation has been to augment certain four-footed masses of meat and fat — to provide ourselves with stores of walking flesh, moving with difficulty from dung-heap to the slaughterhouse. Can we truly say that the pig is superior to the wild boar, or the timid sheep to the intrepid mouflon? The noble art of breeders is to castrate their beasts, or to create hybrids, which are incapable of reproduction. They train horses “by means of bit, whip and spur,” and then complain that these exhibit no mental initiative. Even when domesticating the animals under the most favourable conditions, they diminish their powers of resistance to disease and their adaptability to new surroundings, making of them artificial creatures, incapable of self-support in the freedom of Nature.
The corruption of species is already a great evil, but civilised science tends also to their extermination. It is notorious how many birds have been destroyed by European sportsmen in New Zealand and Australia, in Madagascar, and in the polar archipelago; how many walrus and other cetacea have already disappeared. The whale has fled from our more temperate seas, and before long will not even be found among the ice floes of the Arctic Ocean. All the great land animals are threatened in the same way. One knows the fate of the aurochs and the bison; one can foretell that of the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus and the elephant. Statistics estimate the production of elephant ivory at 800 tons yearly, which is as good as to say that the hunters kill 40,000 elephants in the same time, without counting those who, after being wounded, go off and die afar in the jungle. How distant are we from the Singhalese folk of old times, for whom “the eighteenth science for man was to win the friendship of an elephant”! How distant from the Aryans of India, who appointed for the captive colossus two Brahmins as companions, in order that he might be taught to practice the virtues worthy of his race!
What a contrast there exists between the two kinds of civilisation I had occasion to see one day in a plantation in Brazil. Two bulls, bought at great expense in the Old World, were the pride of the proprietor. One of them, which came from Jersey, was pulling at a chain which passed through his nostrils, bellowing, fuming, tearing the ground with his hoof, thrusting with his horns, and watching his keeper with a wicked eye; the other, a zebu, imported from India, followed us like a dog, with gentle eyes, begging for a caress. We poor ignorant “civilisees”, living in our closed houses, afar from Nature, which alarms us because the sun is too hot or the wind too cold — we have entirely forgotten even the meaning of the festivals which we celebrate, and which, all of them — Christmas, Easter, Rogations, and All-Hallows — were originally festivals of Nature, though Christianity itself does not know it. Do we understand the meaning of the traditions which place the first man in a garden of beauty, where he walks in freedom with all the animals, and which tell us that the “Son of Man” was born on a bed of straw, between the ass and the ox, the two companions of the field-worker?
Nevertheless, though the gulf which separates man from his brethren the animals has widened, and though our direct influence on those species that remain free in Nature’s wilds has diminished, it seems clear that at least a certain progress has been effected, thanks to the more intimate association which has arisen with those domestic animals which are not used for food. No doubt even dogs have been partially corrupted. The majority of them, accustomed like soldiers to blows, have become degraded beings that tremble before the stick, and cringe and crawl under the threats of the master; others, who are taught savagery, become the bulldogs that seize poor folk by the calf of the leg, or leap at the throats of the slaves; and then again “greyhounds in petticoats” adopt all the vices of their mistresses — greediness, vanity, luxury, and insolence; while the dogs in China, bred for the table, are stupid beyond compare. But the dog that is truly loved, and brought up in generosity, gentleness and nobility of feeling — does he not quite often realise a human or superhuman ideal of devotion and moral greatness?
And cats — who have understood better than dogs how to safeguard their personal independence and originality of character, who are “companions rather then captives” — have they not, too, since the day of primitive wildness in the woods, made advances intellectual and moral which partake of the miraculous? There is not a human sentiment, which on occasion they do not understand or share, not an idea, which they do not divine, not a desire but what they forestall it. The poet sees in them magicians; it is that in fact they do seem at times more intelligent than their human friends, in their presentiment of the future. And such and such “happy family,” exhibited by showmen in the fairs, does it prove to us that rats, mice, guinea pigs and so many other little creatures, only desire to enter, with man, into the great kinship of gladness and kindness? Every prison cell is soon transformed — provided the warders do not impose “good order” — into a school of lower animals, rats and mice, flies and fleas. The story of Pelisson’s spider is well known. The prisoner had begun again to take interest in life, thanks to the little friend whose training he had undertaken; but a guardian of order appears on the scene, and avenging official morality with his boot, crushes the creature which had come to console the unfortunate man!
These facts prove to us the resources which man holds in command for the revival of his influence over all this animated world which now he leaves in the lap of chance, and neglects to associate with his own life. When our civilisation, ferociously individualist as it is, and dividing the world into as many little hostile States as there are separate properties and different family households — when its last bankruptcy shall have been declared, and recourse to mutual help shall have become necessary for the common salvation, when the search for friendship shall have taken the place of the search for wealth — that wealth which, sooner or later, will be sufficiently assured for all; and when the enthusiasm of naturalists shall have revealed to us all that there is of charming, of lovable, of human, and often of more than human, in the nature of the animals, then we shall remember all these species that have been left behind on the forward route, and shall endeavour to make of them, not servants or machines, but veritable companions. The study of primitive man has contributed in a singular degree to our understanding of the “law and order” man of our own day; the customs of animals will help us to penetrate deeper into the science of life, will enlarge both our knowledge of the world and our love. Let us long for the day when the doe of the forest shall come to meet us, to win our caresses by the look of her dark eyes, and the bird shall perch triumphantly on the shoulder of the loved woman, knowing himself beautiful, and demanding, he also, his part in the kiss of friendship!
The history of a stream, even one that is born and is lost in the moss, is the history of infinity. These sparkling droplets have passed through granite, limestone and clay; they were snow on the cold mountain, molecules of vapor in the cloud, white foam on the crest of waves; the sun, in its daily course, made them shine with the most brilliant reflections; the pale moonlight has made them vaguely iridescent; lightning turned them into hydrogen and oxygen, then with a new shock made these primitive elements flow into water. All the agents of the atmosphere and space, all of the cosmic forces, have worked in concert to constantly modify the aspect and the position of the imperceptible droplet; it too is a world like the enormous stars which roll in the heavens, and its orbit develops from cycle to cycle in a movement without rest.
If Elisée Reclus was held in high esteem as a geographer, he was perhaps esteemed even more as a man by the immense numbers of persons of all nations who had known him. It was impossible to approach Elisée Reclus without feeling the elevating influence of his character—such is the unanimous verdict of those who knew him. The profound scientific honesty of his work was only a reflection of his high personal integrity, absolute disinterestedness, and unlimited love of truth, without any restriction, mental or otherwise, that had become his intimate nature. The sobriety of his life was marvellous. Bread and some fruit was all that he lived upon, even when he worked from six in the morning till eleven in the evening. It was also his favourite food. Apart from the need of warmth that he began to feel as he grew in age, he may be said to have had no wants. He knew how to die poor after having written wonderful books. And he knew how, having attained the high summits of fame, never to rule anybody and to remain the equal of his humblest collaborator and of every one he met with. He certainly was one of the finest specimens of civilized mankind, a man free in the purest sense of the word.
The Vienna Workers’ Union (WSA-AIT) joins the appeal of the Austria-Bulgaria Workers International Aid (Internationalen Arbeiterhilfe Österreich-Bulgarien) for a rally in solidarity with Bulgarian healthcare workers. We are in friendly contact in Bulgaria with the companions of the ARK base union, in which some nurses are organized, and we support their fight against dismissals and repression.
Long live international solidarity!
Call for demonstration in front of the Bulgarian Embassy: Friday, October 16, 2020, 5 p.m.
Solidarity with the Union of Bulgarian Nurses (SBMS)!
Immediate reinstatement of dismissed colleagues!
For more than a year, the Bulgarian Independent Nurses Union (SBMS) has been fighting with the grassroots union ARK against the deteriorating conditions of the health system. Privatization, corruption and austerity measures are part of a policy that sells the health of the people to the interests of the few. There is a shortage of over 30,000 nurses in Bulgaria. Each nurse does the work of three people, while she receives a salary of just over 400 Bulgarian Leva, or 200 Euros. 80% of working nurses are already retired, they are overworked and often sicker and more broken than their patients.
“Today nurses have become known to the public, before our struggle, they did not exist, only doctors were considered. The nurses continued to be pushed down. But now they have a voice, now they have risen.” (a member of SBMS)
The response to the concerns and struggle of Bulgarian nurses has become so great in recent months that not only has the Minister of Health had to resign, but improvements have also been made. But precisely because the support of the population is so strong, the government and the entrepreneurs are now trying to intimidate and silence the militant nurses with repressive means. Not only the most active nurses in the movement are arrested during protests, they are also harassed and fired, as was recently the case with Boyka Anastasova, one of the most active members of the SBMS
In Austria, too, we see how the healthcare system is continually being cut and dismantled. Here too, hundreds of nurses took to the streets last year to fight for better working conditions. And right now, in the middle of the corona pandemic, attempts are being made to push through further austerity measures. By now it is becoming clear how justified and necessary the struggle of nurses is – in Bulgaria and Austria.
Immediate reinstatement of dismissed SBMS colleagues!
Solidarity with the fight of the Union of Bulgarian Nurses!
For a health system at the service of the people!
International worker aid – Bulgaria / Austria
With the support of: Antifascist Action, Vienna Workers’ Union (WAS-AIT)
[Bulgaria/Austria] SARS-CoV-2 Aid delivery has arrived in Bulgaria!
In June of this year, the Vienna Workers ‘Union (WAS-AIT) supported the Austria-Bulgaria International Workers’ Aid with donations of equipment and products.
This campaign was launched by the Bulgarian grassroots union ARK to help staff in Bulgarian hospitals who are seriously suffering from lack of protective masks, disinfectants, etc. We are happy to announce that the relief delivery packages have arrived in Bulgaria and hope that these donations will be of great help to Bulgarian colleagues!
Below we document the full article from Workers’ International Aid:
Great success of Austria Bulgaria International Workers’ Aid!
The Austria-Bulgaria International Workers’ Assistance initiative launched in June has been a great success and an important sign of international solidarity. Our Bulgarian colleagues welcomed the aid packages as an important support and a strong symbol of the common cause of the workers!
For the first time in many decades, an initiative like this has been organized in Austria by independent and activist trade union initiatives and colleagues from different sectors. The exemplary and determined struggle of the Bulgarian nurses found a broad solidarity among the colleagues. Protective equipment and disinfectant material were collected vigorously to support their justified fight.
International worker aid not only found wide support among Austrian workers, but it was also warmly welcomed in Bulgaria as a strong sign of international solidarity. Colleagues of the Bulgarian Nurses’ Union (SBMS) and the “Autonomous Association of Workers” (ARK) union received the aid with great joy! In a broadcast on social networks, the ARK writes: “Solidarity during a crisis and in the workers’ struggle is the most important thing for the success of this struggle. Collectives of self-employed workers in Austria have taken the initiative to support medical personnel in Bulgaria. They campaigned for solidarity and collected a large amount of protective equipment and disinfectants to help their Bulgarian colleagues. This donation shows that not only political leaders can unite against workers, but also how we ourselves can break down national barriers and help each other. With great gratitude to the Austrian colleagues and may this example illuminate all of Europe and the whole world for common work and the unification of workers for a new and just world.”
Many Bulgarian colleagues, particularly from rural areas where the material collected is particularly urgently needed, welcomed this action and thanked them for this strong and exemplary sign of international solidarity.
The Austria6bulgaria International Workers Assistance Initiative is the right response to the pandemic and to the capitalist-imperialist policy of plundering and shifting the burden of the crisis onto the working class and the people!
This initiative is a living expression of internationalism and the necessary cohesion of workers. We are very happy to have made an important contribution to the development of international solidarity with this initiative and we would like to thank all those who so actively support Austria-Bulgaria Workers’ International Aid! This success also shows us how necessary and urgent it is to pursue this initiative even more intensely!
Long live the international solidarity of workers! Long live the just cause of the ARK and the SBMS!
Manifestaciones de anarquistas españoles exiliados en Orán (Argelia), 1 de mayo de 1946
Demonstrations by Spanish anarchists exiled from in Oran (Algeria), May 1, 1946
مظاهرات الأناركيين الإسبان المنفيين في وهران (الجزائر) ، 1 مايو 1946
(Photos prises par Álvaro Ponce de León, militant de la CNT-AIT espagnole réfugié en Algérie à partir de 1939.)
Les travailleurs réfugiés espagnols au peuple algérien pour la fête du travail
The spanish workers refugees to the algerian people for the Labor Day
عمال لاجئون اسبان للشعب الجزائري لمهرجان العمل
AIT – Movimiento Libertario Español Para nosotros los trabajadors de España nos señalla dos deberes : luchar por la liberaction de nuestro pueblo y por la emancipación de los Oprimidos del universo ¡ Ayudadnos ¡ ¡Trabajadores ¡ esta lucha recuerda a todos los explotados del Mundo su deber de luchar por su emancipación. La emancipación de los trabajadores será la obra de los trabajadores mismos.
AIT – Mouvement libertaire espagnol Pour nous travailleurs d’Espagne, se signalent deux devoirs : lutter pour la libération de notre peuple et lutter pour l’émancipation des opprimés de l’univers. Travailleurs! Cette lutte rappelle à tous les exploités du monde leur devoir de lutter pour leur émancipation. L’émancipation des travailleurs sera l’œuvre des travailleurs eux-mêmes.
AIT – Spanish Libertarian Movement For us workers in Spain, we points out two duties: to fight for the liberation of our people and to fight for the emancipation of the Oppressed of the universe. Help us! Workers! This struggle reminds all the exploited of the world of their duty to fight for their emancipation. The emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves.
AIT – الحركة الليبرتارية الإسبانية بالنسبة لنا نحن العمال في إسبانيا ، فإنه يشير إلى واجبين: أن نناضل من أجل تحرير شعبنا ومن أجل تحرير مظلوم الكون. ساعدونا! العمال: هذا النضال يذكر كل المستغلين في العالم بواجبهم في النضال من أجل تحررهم. إن تحرر العمال هو عمل العمال أنفسهم.
“LET’S GO” TOWARD TOTAL PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH
September 2020, CNT-AIT France, info sheet of CNT-AIT health branch workers
The Covid crisis has highlighted the dilapidated state of our public health system in France, and particularly in hospitals. This is no coincidence: it is a deliberate policy, followed for decades by all governments, without exception, no matter they were right or left wing. All of them have closed tens of thousands of hospital beds, President Macron only continued the dismantling policies implemented before him by Hollande, Sarkozy Chirac and even Mitterrand. Their goal is to put an end to the French health system, which certainly has flaws but above all has the great advantage of being universal and based on solidarity. Under the pretext of « Social Security deficit », it is a rampant privatization that the politicians are preparing, for the greater benefit of the private insurers.
The financiers hope to take advantage of the Covid crisis to give the final kick that will collapse the public health system in France. Their campaign to influence public opinion is in full swing. This summer, they paid a full page in the number one mainstream newspaper, Le Monde, to promote the health privatization scheme. On TV sets, pseudo experts follow one another to spread their venom in favour of the “liberalization” of public health…
But there is one country that has already implemented the privatization they dream of: Spain. Today, Spain is the country in Europe where the Covid situation is most catastrophic, with thousands of people who died at home or in seniors’ residences for lack of space in hospitals. Public health systems and caregivers are on the verge of collapse, for lack of resources, beds, and staff workers. We reproduce after a text from our companions of the CNT-AIT health union in Barcelona, who explain the nightmare of the situation of the Spanish health system.
In Spain, hospital staff trusted the traditional unions to try to slow down this fatal development. They voted for them in the union elections, they listened to union officials telling them to be reasonable, to just walk from one day of action to another day of action 6 month later, without mixing their struggle with that of other industries. Healthcare workers have been spectators at all round tables, rounds of negotiations and other “bailout deals”, leaving union officials to speak for them. In short, the legitimate revolt of the staff was numbed by the institutionalised Unions with fine words and short-lived electoral promises. This is what is likely to happen to us in France also…
The hospital staff of Paris hospitals (AP-HP,) who have not counted their hours, can no longer stand it! We are not superheroes nor sacrificed soldiers! In addition to the looming burnout, some services have been severely affected by the Covid, department heads have also resigned. THESE FACTS ARE SERIOUS. WHY THIS COMPLICE SILENCE FROM TRADE UNIONS?
It is time for that to change! Let’s go for General Assemblies of Struggles!
[France] THE « SEGUR » AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE STATE AND THE TRADE UNIONS: INDIGNITY, IMPOSTURE AND TREASON
16 June 2020, CNT-AIT France, leaflet
Health workers have not been increased in salary for 10 years in France. The dissatisfaction of these workers was already great before the Covid crisis. After the first wave of Covid, the government felt that discontent could turn into anger, especially since the population stood in solidarity with health workers. To avoid a social explosion, the government cleared the situation with the help of the Unions, by pretending to negotiate a wage increase agreement with them. The Unions – even the so called “struggle unions” like CGT or SUD – prevented any self-organization of the workers, they made sure that no grassroots initiative took place, they confiscated the workers’ voice. The final agreement – known as “the Segur agreement”, provides for an increase of 183 euros per month that is to say exactly the amount of 10 years of inflation for an average salary. But it is not given immediately: half will be given 3 months after the agreement signature, the other half 6 months later. In addition, not all employees will receive this increase of salary. But above all, the agreement provides that the closures of public hospitals will continue, and so under the pretext of « better organization of the hospital system » privatization can continue…
The Ségur agreement was therefore signed. An increase of € 183 per month for all, after 10 years of wage freezes … Remember that since 2010 cumulative inflation has been + 11.64% (source INSEE). Example for a NET salary of around 1,500 Euros in 2010, he would have to earn NET 1,674 Euros today to have the same purchasing power. This means that with 183 euro the real increase is … 9 EUROS! IT DESERVES APPLAUSE! In addition, the 183 € announced you will not see them right away, but only partially from JANUARY then MARCH 2021, whereas Véran had promised that the increase would be effective from July 1st 2020!!!
At this level, this agreement is above all an INSULT TO OUR DIGNITY!
CFDT, UNSA and FO are the accomplices of this “middle finger” to health workers. But that “middle finger” will not be criticized by the mainstream medias, unlike that of Nurse Farida [who has been arrested by the police during demo and accusing of assault against policemen which is false]…. CFDT, UNSA, not surprisingly; we know they lie in front of managers, even when those don’t ask them to do so. But let us dwell on the case of FO, which is more demanding. FO dares to declare in its leaflet “Negotiations VICTORY”. Fortunately for FO, ridicule does not kill … Let’s see what victory it is:
A victory for wages? Not really …
We have already seen that the revaluation will not even be enough to make up for the freeze on wages since 10 years. In addition, why wait until 2021 to implement the revaluation? The state did not wait to release 3 billion directly to Air France. Is health less important than airplanes? It seems the State is waving that carrot under the noses of health workers in order to assure that they would continue to sacrifice themselves in case a second wave should happen in the fall.
Moreover, this revaluation is not clear and sharp. The agreement does not provide for an increase in the index point or in the salary but an « additional index salary up to (sic) 49 points representing 183 euros net per month« . Basically it’s like a bonus: a supplement can be cancelled overnight, without notice, because it is not permanently integrated into the salary. With the looming crisis, we might as well say that this revaluation is likely to fizzle out… And what means “up to” ? Does it mean it will be a maximum that can be reached, but without guarantee? Because the spirit of this text is to leave the negotiations on indemnities and bonuses to the local management. The Agreement will be implemented on the basis of local agreements signed with local trade unions. Management’s ass lickers, the future is smiling to you!
Finally, this “agreement” provides for “simplifying” the payslips by merging all the allowances: “The parties to this agreement agree that a renovation of the allowance system for public hospital staff will be undertaken [on] the following principle: the new compensation plan is intended to merge all the existing compensation plans.” Concretely, this means that in the long term the compensation supplement of 183 euros would absorb all the current indemnities, such as for example the hardship allowance for a Class 3 caregiver, which is 165 euros per month and who had was acquired by a fight in 1991. A great victory for SÉGUR indeed to suppress the victories of our previous struggles!
A victory for working conditions and the organization of services? Not really …
The agreement text also provides that the Unions agree to the implementation of the “management of jobs and skills scheme”, with self-managed schedules by the caregivers themselves. But the text says nothing – or little – about the material resources necessary to exercise our functions under DIGNABLE conditions. On the contrary, the text even provides for continued bed closures by « developing scheduled and outpatient hospitalizations »! (cf. Bichat Beaujon hospital 35% fewer beds…) In the absence of additional and massive material resources, in the absence of new beds, in the absence of new firm and massive staff hires, it will be above all self-management of poverty and of our own alienation. Let us remember what happened last summer: while the staff demanded MEANS in the middle of a heat wave (air conditioners, ventilators in good working order, refrigerated care stations, etc.), FO Cochin claimed a BONUS for this Heat wave. However, bonuses do not prevent the deterioration of working conditions.
The text also opens the Pandora’s box of calling into question the « 35 hours » (even if we know that it was never the real “35 hours working per week”): « It will be proceeded after consultation, to regulatory changes, in particular Decree No. 2002-9 of January 4, 2002 relating to the organization and reduction of working time in the public hospital service, in order to implement the provisions aimed at improving the organization of work without calling into question the framework legal. »
The reminder of the legal framework should not be misled: the legal framework is not the “35-hours week » but « the annualization of working time » – provided for in the so-called “35-hour’s law”. With the SÉGUR agreement, « within the framework of local agreements« , the Management will be able to change your time schedule, your holidays plan, to plan 12 hours shift everywhere « on a voluntary basis » … and my ass on the dresser … Look what happened in the respiratory medicine unit in the name of COVID, they all had been forced to switch to 12 hours shifts without any Union organization saying anything against it… It must be said that Union officials were exempt from « volunteering » (imposed de facto): 12 hours is good, but for workers, not for their « Union representatives »…
It is necessary to underline the ruse introduced by this agreement: under the guise of organizational autonomy: as the questioning of the mode of organization of the work being done at the local level, structure by structure, each one that would possibly engage in struggle will do it in an isolated manner, but without being a generalized movement. This is the good old « divide and conquer » strategy. We know that the struggle in an isolated structure will have less weight, and therefore less chance of success, than a general strike of the entire hospital sector. However, popular support for hospitals following the COVID crisis put us in a favourable balance of power vis-à-vis the State and the hospital management. But the Unions didn’t take advantage of this massive support and instead, by agreeing to participate in the negotiations, the Unions have disarmed us and sabotaged our favourable balance of power.
In the end, the only victorious are the unionists who “shepherd” our anger…
What is truly incredible is that trade unionists signed this text which is a surrender in open field even before having started any struggle!!! But in fact, this text fits totally with their conception of unionism, a unionism of service, of support, of consultation and discussion, which provides unionists with advantages (permanent union staff paid by State and company, material advantages like offices, subsidies, etc.) in exchange for their docility. (see the article in Le Canard Enchaîné this week which confirms our analysis)
That SUD or the CGT did not sign the agreement should not fool us: they do not need to sign, since the others Unions do it for them. This allows them to play the role of the rebels, but basically they don’t act that much differently from other unions. (By the way, did these so-called “fighting unions” call for struggling assemblies while they were negotiating? No! It shows although neither of them really wanted to engage in fighting with the State). And above all, they do not spit on the advantages that their status as a “representative union” confers on them. If they were really “fighting unions”, they would refuse the advantages granted by the State, so as to be truly free and independent.
This agreement is an INSULT against our dignity.
The objective of the agreement is not to increase the salaries of health workers, but to make us work even more, in material conditions which will always be as degraded, with the unions in the role of wardens. Unions will ensure that the agreements they have « negotiated » is well implemented by health workers. And the unions will obtain concreate benefits from this class Collaboration, under the form of subsidies. Under the guise of managerial autonomy, the agreement will in fact mainly serve to increase the pressure on staff, by forcing them to self-manage their own misery.
Macron told us at the start of the epidemic, “Health is priceless. The government is mobilizing all the necessary financial means, whatever the cost. «This Ségur agreement shows that once again, MACRON LIES: ultimately the accounting logic prevails over health considerations …
Today we are at the time of choices. Not to denounce this agreement is to be complicit. If there are any sincere Unionists left in FO or elsewhere, if they don’t tear up their cards, they are covering up this betrayal. This pseudo-deal is a coup directed against us, those who sacrificed themselves without counting during the crisis. Capitalism carries with it war and misery, and does not care about our health or our living conditions. Only a social revolution will make it possible to put an end to the widespread exploitation of both the planet and humans.
But until then let’s reclaim:
– The immediate withdrawal of this humbug of the Ségur agreement;
– Respect by Macron of his word « health before the economy, whatever the cost » and a single salary for all caregivers, on the basis of the salary of a Regional Hospital Manager (after all, we do not have less demerit than them during the COVID crisis);
– Massive creation of additional beds;
– Massive hiring of at least 300,000 staff in the hospital sector and nursing homes.
To defend our interests, let us not expect anything from the official Unions. Let us organize ourselves, refusal of representation, for direct action, let us create our assemblies of struggle, to free speech and initiatives and bring our demands to fruition.
For a real union activism without union discharges, against permanent union staff for life!
For a universal, socialized, united health system.
Long live the social Revolution!
Some anarchosyndicalist Hospital workers
 « Let’s go », « En marche » in French, is the name of the President Macron’s political party.