Freie ArbeiterInnen Union (FAU) – the German section of the International Workers Association (IWA), of which I am a member of its British section; the Solidarity Federation.
I met in Kreuzberg, a well-established radical area in Berlin, with
comrades who have founded the English speaking sub-group initiative
within FAU Berlin. This is a
group specifically designed to organise workers for whom German is not a
first language, and to cater to Berlin’s increasing character as an
international city. To this group I gave a gift of English language
propaganda paid for by North London Solidarity Federation, including two
recent issues of Freedom paper
– currently under threat from bankruptcy. At this, I met FAU comrades
from Ireland, South Africa and Sweden, all of whom shared a commitment
to the building of revolutionary unionism.
The next day I had a chance to visit the FAU office on
Lottumstrasser, a ten minute walk away from where I was staying. I was
immediately impressed by the tidy and professional feel of their office,
which had a great number of rooms, computers, a stack of well kept
archives tracing the outcomes of their decision making processes and
even boxes of paints for their youth section which holds crafts sessions
and other activities at the office on a regular basis. I was also
impressed with Baiz, an anarchist bar
situated near the FAU office, cleanly decked in red and black. When I
visited it in the afternoon with a friend, I found staff playing Tom
Waits whilst a few anarchists and other local radicals sat having a
quiet drink, reading papers and talking.
At the FAU office I had a chance to talk to members who were there
working on various activities for the union – it seems the office is
often well used like this. Speaking to the local secretary and an editor
for their bi-monthly paper Direct Action,
the FAU Berlin section alone has tripled its membership over the last
three years, now finding themselves with a vastly expanded pool of
resources with which to engage in the local class struggle.
Like Solidarity Federation’s newspaper Catalyst,
the FAU’s newspaper Direct Action was reorganised from being
essentially an event bulletin into a professionally laid out
publication, now possessing a defined and trained newspaper collective
with editorial powers in order to ensure the continuing quality of its
Members of the FAU also expressed support for the concept of Solidarity Federation’s Organiser Training program
as a way to share and horizontally distribute knowledge and skills
throughout an organisation. Also described was how some FAU members have
recently began to engage in research into labour law and have sought to
arm the union with the resource of labour lawyers. This is something
some see as essential for syndicalists in Germany after the famous conflict initiated by the FAU Berlin at the nearby Babylon cinema
– a struggle which resulted in a court ban on the FAU’s status as a
union, and ability to call itself a union. This was eventually revoked,
but only after a prolonged round of international solidarity, combined
with the sending of a motion to a congress of the International Labour
Organisation demanding that the FAU be reinstated as a union.
The FAU have emerged stronger from that dispute, and thanks to their
excellent standard of organisation and the global uptick in worker
struggle produced by the economic crisis, have since established an
increasing rate of growth and a determination to keep the organisation
interwoven into the class as a real fighting body of militant workers.
I would finally like to advise any English speaking workers living in
Germany and experiencing problems with their bosses, should get in
touch with the FAU if they want to organise their workplace, fight
management and win demands.
For the syndicalist fight,
A member of North London Solidarity Federation and Hull Solidarity Federation