I intend to give some more detailed information on the autonomous movement in Spain which in my opinion could help to better understand its radical characteristics as resulting from the process of adaptation of the workforce leaving the countryside: During the last 15 years of the Franco regime many workers were in such a situation, migrating to the industrial towns in Catalonia, Madrid, the Basque Country, Asturias, Valladolid, etc. I think that the workers' attitude is intimately linked to their personal and historical experience in the milieu where they have grown up. In short, most of the workers involved in the most characteristic, autonomous struggles were young people (the first generation born in urban districts or having emigrated from other parts of Spain, all of them having a very recent experience of factory life and of its contradictions, with no political tradition (most of them coming from small villages in Andalusia, Extramadura, Galicia, Aragon, Castilia), i.e. they were not used to the capitalist ways of mediation to solve the labour problems. They only knew the previous current practice of 'caciquism', and social relations still tied to some kind of feudal remains.
In this respect, there is a significant difference between the Asturian miners (where workers' organisations have always existed - it is not by chance that the Comisiones Obreras had their origin right here) and the workers on the line at the Valladolid Renault factory rejecting all discipline, showing a very radical behaviour and being completely hostile to the unions. I am familiar with both experiences, and I always refer to formal differences, i.e. differences in the formal ex pression of autonomous struggles. On one hand, the Renault unions had to wait for the autonomous movement to exhaust itself before they could impose themselves as mediators, though remaining rather weak; on the other hand the same unions, while still being powerful in the Asturias, have had to defend many of the workers' tricks, of the transgressions of working rules (refusal of work, Monday absenteeism, faked sick-leaves obtained from the doctors through pressure or bribery, etc.) in order to retain their influence amongst the miners.
With this I turn to what you said on the need of avoiding the easy 'recipes for the success of struggles'. Of course, we have to be aware of 'the dialectical relationships' or, in other words, of the existing conflicts in the formal expression of the organisations and of the struggle as the real battleground of proletarian action. I have asked myself for a long time up to which point we refer to prejudices, to inherited out-of-date concepts no longer related to the modern world, when we investigate the present conflicts in developed capitalist countries. I am talking here about the bankruptcy of 'finalism', i.e. the fading of the meaning of quite a lot of concepts linked to the theory of class struggle, a theory which certainly corresponded to the moment when working-class subjectivity formed as a formal social expression in front of capital represented by the bourgeoisie. In my view the disappearance of finalism and of the messianic concepts of emancipation is directly linked to the disintegration or the disappearance of the historical subject which supported them. We witness the unfolding of a more and more developed process of decomposition of the social form of the classical proletariat (the factory worker who worked in large units of production and whose life and working conditions were characterized by a certain homogeneity). The rise of the service sector with a new fragmented and precarious proletariat and the dispersion of the large productive industrial units inaugurate, in my opinion, a new phase of relationships in the exploitation of the labour force.
On the workers' side, this implies a break with the so-called workerist tradition, and on the capitalists' side new necessities and expressions of a social consensus. But all that happens in a process of endless contradictions developing everywhere and being completely reshaped in a kaleidoscopic universe of paradoxical ten sions and conflicts. Contradictions arising at a certain level of social relations are simply absent at another level. To consider human beings as nothing but labour force (synonymous with the growing proletarianisation of the population) was not in line with a sociologically homogenous class composition as the one we could observe after the Second world war, when working class struggle was linked to the dominance of Fordism. We might say today that work undergoes a process of transformation which is understandable only if we consider the crumbling of the old forms of capitalist domination (from classical Fordism to the decentralised production which implies the decomposition of the old forms of class structure at the level of the factory worker).
Accordingly, we might say that the classical model of class confrontation has been deeply transformed. The extension of capital has entailed the disappearance of the formal subjectivity, of a social subject developing around the traditional working class, visible to everyone as a practical reality in the mass movement of workers. On the other hand, the new production and management techniques helped to shape an extremely hierarchical structure of segments of the labour force. Whatever has been formerly described in terms of the struggle of two classes cannot be seen so anymore because all kinds of contradictions have ex ploded. There is no longer a fundamental contradiction, there is only a conflictuality which spreads all over the developed capitalist countries through a lot of small unfair 'cheatings', crimes, insubordinations in the production sphere and in the social life in general.
This dispersion of the conflicts concerning more or less large segments of the working class and the proletarianised population is not linked at all to a specific vision of the future (like 'communism' or 'socialism'), contrary to what used to be the prevalent ideology amongst workers organised in parties and unions. Rather we can observe a tendency towards the decomposition of capitalist society instead of a tendency towards the recomposition of a historical subject representing a kind of alternative form of sociality. This does not mean the end of class struggle as the theory of post-modernism tries to explain, but its radical transformation corresponding to the present stage in the development of the exploitation of the labour force. At the same time it means new ways of expressing the resistance, the organisation on the workers' side, even new values and concepts of struggles sometimes in contradiction with what we knew from the past.
In fact, I tried to discuss this problem in an article published in the last Etcetera issue concerning the transport strikes and the new dispersed fordist organisation of work (see preceding article). I think you are right when you say that this discussion about the forms of the struggles can easily end up in a heap of prejudices (anarcho- syndicalist e.g.) about the working class, and perhaps it would help enormously if we just stopped looking at these more general questions which are behind this discussion on the forms of the class struggle and its meaning.
Actually, I believe it is impossible to develop any kind of serious analysis concerning the theory of communism, i.e. neither an inductive theory (trying to discover in the present struggles elements which could be seen as prefiguring communism), nor a deductive theory (proceeding from ethical, ecological , teleological ... principles or premises). In my opinion, the transformation of society no longer follows laws like the ones which were formulated at the origins of modern social science according to a mechanistic picture of the world; on the contrary, it is an open process in which it is possible to detect contradictions through conflicts and tensions but we are dealing with contradictions which do not permit us to think of specific historic outcomes. The fact that there is still a lot of conflicts even if they are not seen by the actors involved as aiming at the substitution of one social order by another could be regarded as a kind of negation of the social status quo. Questions about the nature of communism and how to bring it to life were considered as being pertinent to the actual reality of a dominant capitalism from a point of view corresponding to the previous period. Presently, everything looks as if communism would be nothing but the virtuality of a fundamental social change springing from the multiplicity of conflicts.
In Spain, the present political debate concerns the 'competitivity pact'. As I have already mentioned in previous letters, the government tries to push for a new social pact (1) and the unions are against it. Of course we have to understand one thing: The conditions formulated by the government in its project were unacceptable; nonetheless the unions insisted on playing the same old comedy as usual - clamouring loudly their refusal with the threat to initiate a new general strike like in December 1988 (2) though agreeing 'to discuss' the matter. The government proposals include a tighter wage control. i.e. a bigger reduction of an already seriously lowered living standard, a reduction of the employers' contribution to the health system (with as a counterpart an increase of the employees' contribution), a diminution of enterprise taxes, more flexibility in the working contracts and the possibilities of redundancies becoming less expensive for employers, etc.
The central aim of all these measures is to increase productivity and competitivity in Spain which is the lowest among the European countries (only a little better than in Turkey) according to some OECD or other international reports. The reduction of the labour price is the last possibility to try to improve the Spanish competetivity on the European market and the counterpart offered by the government to the already invested transnational capital (or which could be invested in a near future). There are indeed no other measures to be taken. The modernisation of the productive apparatus is practically finished, mainly in the industrial branches which might have some future in the EC, while other branches with a less promising future have been left to themselves or have decayed which is more or less the same. Most of the modern factories already are in the hands of transnational capital (more than 90% of agribusiness, the entire business of electronics, computers, and automation components, etc.). The only thing the government could still do now is to be tighter with wages and public expenses for welfare.
The unions have maintained their usual position during the previous period i.e. a verbal opposition to the government proposals, only to come back more recently to a position of dialogue expressing the will to conclude a trilateral agreement (government, employers, unions). The strategy employed by the government is a very classical one in 'democracy': The government unveils its plans and proposals for an 'industrial pact' and deliberately presents it in a way and in such terms that they are completely unacceptable for the unions. Then it drops some formulations in its proposals (the less important but the most provocative) and then the unions agree first to meet for discussion and in the end to sign the agreement.
For instance, the unions at first refused to discuss the wage controls; but then, at the beginning of July, they declared openly they were ready to meet the government on this question (of course to discuss the rate of the next wage rise). As a counterpart the unions demanded quite a lot in the way of general measures concerning wage taxation, the management of employment, professional training, all measures being characterised of course by their ambiguity. What is even more, the same union document (a common ritual on the side of the CC.OO. and UGT) contained other proposals presented as a 're-enforcement of negotiation' which actually means a re-inforcement of the union role in the whole of industrial relations and a guarantee to be present in the management of the unemployment benefits organisations.
One of the proposals from the employers' side needs to be closely examined: the proposal linking the wage rises to the productivity increases. This measure would be considered individually for each worker in such a way that the wage fixed for a worker would be directly related to his personal productivity level. A general agreement would fix a minimum wage for each sector, category, etc. (Seat-Volkswagen already has tried to impose this system in its Barcelona factory). This is in fact another step forward in the process of destruction of the working class communities built around the Fordist organisation of work after the Second world war. Presently the uniformity of wages and the negotiating procedure for wages rises are the last point of practical convergence of the workers' interests when expressing claims at the factory level; these facts were the main element of aggregation for the workers.
I have no idea up to which point this disaggregation of the forms of resistance linked to Fordism will bring about new forms of resistance from the new proletariat. We will have to look for new forms of solidarity outside the traditional sphere of production, for instance in the sphere of commodity consumption where new identities are rising like styles of rock music, mass sport events, new fashions, etc. These new forms of solidarity would include some more or less marginal facts concerning the balance of the commodity sale like crime but essentially they would encompass forms of resistance in several specific conflicts in developed capitalist society (squatters, desertion, etc.) We have perhaps to consider these new forms of solidarity as the problematic (contradictory) expression of the present phase of the capitalist system, as the expression of a decomposition of social life (parallel to the process of decomposition of the forms of the Fordist aggregation), and as the expression of a certain rise of the resistance of the exploited in the form of new schemes.
Finally I have to add that the discussion on the 'competitivity pact' develops in a context of a more and more repressive policy from the side of the government. The minister of labour has just published a project to limit the right to strike. If the unions agree, the project will become law without a parliamentary debate by means of a simple government order. The Spanish Home Office has just published the proposal of a law on the 'citizens' security' which on one hand is written in a bizarre and obscure language not even correct in juridical terms and on the other hand pushes aside some fundamental rights included in the 1978 constitution. The pretext is to be able to fight the drug traffic (new scapegoat) because the value of terrorism is somewhat reduced in the social imaginary. The police break into private homes everywhere as it wants without any court order. It is in fact the extension of a previous law against terrorism. We can observe that the franquist law offered a better guarantee for the safeguarding of individual rights that this new proposal. As I told about the 'competitivity pact', after this polemics on the security law, the government will change some formulations, only to retain the essential and more fundamental questions like the limitation of the freedom of speech, of demonstrations and of assemblying freely.
1) On Spain, see the previous Echanges issues ( no. 64, p. 21 on the 'competitivity pact ') and for the post-franquism period and the assembly movement the book (in French by C. Brendel and H. Simon, 'From anti-franquism to post-franquism. Political illusions and class struggle' (Paris: Echanges et Mouvement, 1980). The first social pact called 'Moncloa Pact ' was the result of a general consensus involving all parties and unions in order to modernise capitalism in a 'democratic' Spain.
2) On this strike see Echanges no. 61, p 8.