Revolution or War n°4

(September 2015)

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Workers strike at Movistar - Telefónica in Spain (ICP-Proletarian’s statement)

We publish here the position taken by the comrades of the International Communist Party (whose English journal is Proletarian, on the Telefonica strike in Spain. We share with them the essential from the point of view of the immediate struggle and the orientations of the fight that the comrades put forward. But above all, the interest of this article (and of the strike) is in highlighting that the ’modern’ conditions of production are not an insurmountable obstacle to struggle. Effectively, the conditions of production and of capitalist exploitation today have seen the disappearance of a large part of factories and enterprises which gather thousands of workers at the same place and, in their place, the division into multiple ’small’ entities, often subsidiaries and sub-contracted businesses, which also have multiple work contracts. This results in the ubiquitous presence of the totalitarian ideology of ’management’ over the workers who are dispersed and isolated from one another, and in a feeling of powerlessness when it comes to launching an open struggle, indeed a strike. As such, the Telefonica strike is an experience which must be shared and resumed. This is the other interesting aspect of this article by the ICP. The reader will understand then that for us it is secondary to bring up the divergences that we have with these comrades, in particular in their characterisation of the sabotage of the unions as the fruit of ’union opportunism’ and not as the result of organisations which long ago become organs completely integrated into the capitalist State. It goes the same when they denounce the ’renewed opportunism’ of the party Podemos – the Spanish ally of Syriza, in power in Greece – even though the article illustrates the action against the strikers by the Catalan version of Podemos, Guanyem, in front of the city hall of Barcelona, and correctly highlights that ’these parties have acted and will continue to act as genuine agents of the bourgeoisie in the proletariat’s ranks’. From the point of view of the class, opportunism is the expression of the penetration of bourgeois ideology in the workers’ movement. It has been a long time since the parties of the left and the unions, gangrenous with opportunism, have betrayed the proletariat and have become an integral part of the apparatus of the capitalist State. As such, they are no longer opportunist as they are no longer in any way proletarian. They are entirely organs of bourgeois society.

ICP statement on the Workers Strike at Movistar - Telefónica : We can Struggle against the Conditions of exploitation Imposed by the Bourgeoisie ! We can Win if we utilize Class Means and Methods !

For 55 days the workers under fixed-term contracts, the subcontractors and the false independent workers under the status of self-employed (independent workers obliged to remain under a commercial contract and not a work contract with the employer company) of Movistar (Telefonica) lead a hard strike against one of the major companies of Spanish capitalism. Their demands are :

● Abolition of the “ loop ” contract which implies a system of points for receiving the salary and according to which the workers pay out of their own pocket the expenses caused by their work and which, furthermore, allow very heavy penalties which reduce accordingly the nominal monthly salary.

● Equality between workers with fixed-term contracts and of the subcontractors with the ones directly employed by the company itself with the same wage conditions and with a permanent contract.

● 40 hours work per week with 2 days off in regards with the present situation where one can work up to 12 hours every day.

● One month holidays a year.

● Security at work and tools and instruments for work paid by the company, including the personal protective equipment, vehicles, fuel, etc.

● That all the self-employed who ask for it, be directly employed by the company.

● Guarantee there’ll be no retaliation for having been on strike.

Telefónica, main brand of Movistar, is the main Spanish enterprise of the telecoms sector and one of the most important worldwide. It is present in all European countries (mainly in United Kingdom and Germany where it operates under the name of 02), in Brazil (where it is the main brand of the telephone market under the name of Vivo), and in Argentina and other American countries in which it is less important. It is also the main Spanish company listed on stock exchange and its official profit has been 4.403 billion Euros in 2012. In fact, Telefónica has been considered for many years as the crown jewel of Spanish capitalism amongst the main financial entities and above any other company of the so-called real economy. Since it has been privatized in the years 1995 and 1999 under the successive governments of the Socialist Felipe González and the right Popular Party of Aznar through public offering of shares, it has become the emblem of Spanish capitalism’s dynamism capable of spreading almost to all developed markets of the planet (except China) and to compete advantageously with the other national and foreign capitals. Capable of developing an advanced system of management of the labour force which, since its privatization, allowed it to increase vertiginously the profits through the reduction of the labour cost, Telefónica got rid of a great part of its staff which was 80 000 workers before the privatization and now is barely 28 000 after the successive “ downsizing plans for economical reasons ” [1] which has been set up these last years under the Popular Party and Socialist governments.

Telefónica is a model for the whole of Spanish capitalism. It has been able to restructure its organization so that it has thousands of enterprises which depend on it but with a juridical status of their own and which assume all the work of installation, repair, maintenance, customer relations, etc. It is an extremely flexible productive structure which enables the company to minimize the risks by reducing the cost of constant capital and of variable capital which depends directly on it. Like this, in the period of economic growth such as during the boom of the telecommunications at the end of the 1990’s, Telefónica has simply raised the number of contracts with subcontracted enterprises and, at the time of recession, it got rid of them at no cost which would have been impossible in the case of an over-capacity of production and an excess of labour force employed directly.

For the proletarians, the increase of productivity and the management excellence of Telefónica took a bitter dimension: the fragmentation into thousands of enterprises which are the employers now, allowed them to set working conditions clearly unfavourable for the workers. By imposing to some tens of workers, a negotiation in which they are, by far, the weakest part, the wages had been lowered drastically, the working hours got longer, always based on the demands of production and without respecting the minimum wage fixed by law. Finally, we have arrived to a situation where the workers often pay the enterprise for being able to accomplish their work. All this, always, conditioned by the demands that Telefónica imposes upon the sub-contracted enterprises which, in their turn, compete to maintain their relation with the company and to not disappear. If in the capitalist crisis, the proletarians pay through unemployment and over-exploitation the crime they committed by not being profitable enough for capital, in the expansion moments, those who have made Spanish capitalism a model for the world based themselves too on the workers’ misery. Before the proletarians sold their life to the enterprise in exchange for their survival, today the enterprise ends their lives to survive itself.

Since the beginning, the Telefónica workers’ strike has developed by a total break with the collaborationist leadership of the unions. These ones, arguing that the workers did not belong to the company, refused to include them in the demands which related only the staff directly employed by the company itself and, on the other side, always under the condition of respecting its requirements. That is why, for the first day when the strike of the installers under precarious contract began in Madrid, the workers set up strike committees to organize and lead the conflict. The fundamental demand of this mobilization has been that these strike committees be recognized as the unique negotiators of the workers in front of the bosses. In April, the CCOO and UGT [the two main Spanish unions] called for a strike within the company addressed only to its direct employees. Some days before the beginning of this strike, these same unions decided to call it off under the pretext that all the demands put forwards had been obtained which actually meant that the situation would remain exactly the same as before and without any demands put forwards by the workers through their strike committees being satisfied. The alliance between the company and the collaborationist unions simply attempted to finish with the independent organization the workers had set up and which was the reflection of their demands far removed from the policy of concessions to which the unions accustomed.

Throughout this strike, the precarious workers of Telefónica have utilized the means and the methods consequent to their demands so that they could win. Like this, they have been able to organize pickets which were in charge of ensuring that the enterprise did not utilize scabs to break the strike. They have collaborated with other proletarians who were in conflict themselves; they have spread their struggle beyond the limits of the enterprise to exceed the narrow limits of the corporatist action; finally, they have struggled to develop their fight as a class struggle and not as a confrontation stuck exclusively in the nets of the negotiation that the bourgeois state allows and in which it guarantees the rapid submission of all rising conflicts. This way to confront the struggle has led to, once the combined action of the enterprise and the collaborationist unions were unable to break it off, the bourgeois state itself, as collective representative of the interests of national capital, taking things in its own hands to arrest 13 strikers in early May under the charge of sabotage and pressure against the scabs. The so-called “ Operación Muro ” of the national police had the goal to frighten the workers a few days before the UGT and CCOO called for an end to the strike. Again, the Telefónica workers with precarious contracts had demonstrated that in bourgeois society, law, order and rights only mean maintaining the proletarians slave to capital’s requirements.

Finally, the precarious contract workers of Telefónica had broken the usual dynamic of the strikes and the struggles controlled by the opportunist policy which has as basic point the scrupulous respect of the interests of the bosses at the very moment they are questioned. Actually, not only is the economy of the company maintained in the margin of these conflicts but also the brand, its image and its position in relation to its rivals on the market, thus transforming any struggle into a simple ineffective gesture.

The occupation on two occasions of the Telefónica head office at the World Mobile Congress was a severe blow to the company’s image, struck at the very centre of Barcelona, economic and tourism capital in Spain. These occupations have been until now the culminating point of a struggle which has always placed the proletarians’ demands before the needs of the company. They have led to the intervention of the future mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, of the Party Guayem (local version of Podemos [2]) which had to resort to all the political force of her formation to get the precarious contract workers to give up their occupation while several hundred families and workers of other enterprises had gathered to prevent their expulsion, and that they stop demanding that Telefónica negotiate as integral part of the conflict. [The Telefónica management was refusing to participate arguing that they weren’t “its” employees but “subcontractor’s”, translator’s note].

The precarious contract proletarians of Telefónica have shown that if the bourgeoisie, who fights permanently with its national and international rivals, but also against the workers to obtain every time more profit and for this purpose reorganizing the productive process to maximize the extraction of the surplus value from the labour force, can isolate every worker and set them in competition with the other workers, it also can suffer hard setbacks once the proletarians unite to confront that competition.

The proletarians of Telefónica have shown that, to win, the workers must take their struggle in their own hands and defend only their class interests despite all the calls for compromise with the economic necessities of the enterprise. They have shown that the class means and methods are the only ones which, without guaranteeing victory, can enable it. The proletarians of Telefónica are confronted with the united forces of the union opportunism and the bourgeois state police. They have suffered the repression in the police stations charged with serious offences and they thus highlighted that any attempt of proletarian struggle which aims at taking the path of real confrontation with the bosses will be confronted with all possible attempts of the bourgeoisie to destroy it.

Finally, the proletarians of Telefónica have seen appearing on the scene the force of this renewed opportunism in the “ renewal ” parties such as Podemos and Guayem. These ones, which verbally support the working class struggle, have acted and will continue to act as genuine agents of the bourgeoisie in the proletariat’s ranks by actually defending the general interests of the bourgeoisie which uses them as mediators that always oppose the small improvements we can get through struggle, in truth the conflict between proletarians and capitalists, with the excuse of “ really possible conquests ” thus preventing the great conquest which is “ the ever expanding union of the workers ” according to the words of the Manifesto of the Communist Party.



International Communist Party, June 1st 2015. (translated from Spanish by the IGCL)



[1. An expediente de regulación de empleo, known in Spain as ERE, is a state plan for “ economic downsizing ”

[2. The political group “Podemos” is coming from the “Indignant” Spanish movement and which claim a “ radical anti-liberalism ”, indeed “ anti-capitalist ”, Left and supports the Syriza government in Greece.