Concerning E.R.A.T.

SEAT is a subsidiary of Fiat [the automobile manufacturer]. Nevertheless, the comrades of E.R.A.T.[1] believe that the Spanish State owns 51% of it, but needs to verify this information. The SEAT factories in Barcelona employ around 30,000 people: 20,000 laborers, 7,000 or 8,000 executives and 2,000 or 3,000 office workers.

And so, few research offices; the majority of the projects are completed by the parent company. Not having any documents in our hands, we cannot speak of the capital assets that these 30,000 people manage, but we can plausibly guess that they must be colossal.

Obviously, any conflict at SEAT has repercussions for hundreds of subcontractors and consequently directly touches one of the nerves of the Spanish economy.

All of the comrades in the E.R.A.T. group have worked for SEAT for many years and have often played non-negligible parts in the many conflicts that have taken place there. We have spoken with them, and we can summarize the situation thus.


1968: the Workers’ Committees exist, but there are few of them. Management wants to restructure the firm; the workers spontaneously go out on strike. The workers fight against the dislocation of the teams because they know that it would diminish their ability to resist hellish working conditions (and this was in fact the result). The Workers’ Committees support the strike, but lack of preparation and the [subsequent] repression lead to the strike’s total failure. The reconstruction takes place, despite resistance in some sectors. There are many dismissals.

1971: a general strike lasting four hours takes place during the famous trial of Burgos.[2] The Workers’ Committees are reinforced [in number], but conflicts involving different tendencies thrive.

During the renewal of “Convenio,”[3] an assembly gathers to protest against unemployment. The police use violence to disperse it. The next day, there’s a general strike. The workers occupy the factories for two weeks. Armed police officers (the “Grays”) try to remove them, and are pushed back. During the confrontation, a worker is killed: Antonio Ruis Villalba, struck by several bullets. There are also many people injured. During the strike, the workers organize meetings in the mountains to avoid the cops, but there’s an informant among them and fights break out in the mountains. Finally, the workers learn that many subcontractors have been brought in to work at SEAT (this creates many internal divisions).

1973: management wants to increase Social Security deductions from the workers’ pay. A total strike is unleashed. The assemblies take place in the mountains because the factories are closed and guarded by the cops. At the end of two weeks, the workers return to work. They have lost and, obviously, there are many dismissals.

End of 1974 – beginning of 1975:

There’s a very long strike in response to the renewal of the “Convenio.” The bosses immediately declare a lock-out[4] that lasts ten days. The workers [then] return to work for two weeks. Then there is a general strike that lasts two weeks.

The workers assemble in the Place de Catalonia, at the center of Barcelona. There are demonstrations every day; the repression is violent. There are 500 dismissals, and Martin Villa, the Governor of Barcelona, asks that the factories let no one else go. The strike fails. But, at the level of the perception of the struggle by the workers, there are several important things to note.

Attitudes about the Workers’ Committees: they are made to demobilize the workers, and they even reach an agreement with management that their militants will not be dismissed or will be re-hired to SEAT’s Coop, and will participate in its administrative council. The Workers’ Committees want to increase staff visits to demoralize the workers (“we’re going to lose everything,” etc). After the strike, the Workers’ Committees don’t hesitate to say that it is easier to get hired at SEAT if you’ve got your Workers’ Committee card.

Sabotage: three days after the return to work, a bomb explodes in the car of a foreman. This action greatly “soothes” the executive staff.

Election of the first workers’ delegates: the workers, feeling that the Workers’ Committees don’t really represent them, hold a general assembly and elect two permanently revocable delegates to lead the negotiations. There are 24 delegates in total, but the management never accepts their legitimacy.

At the same time, the workers strongly critique the executives of the vertical unions in an attempt to get them to resign (the Workers’ Committees are part of the vertical unions).

How work resumed at Workshop 5 on 15 January 1975: this workshop employs 1,600 workers in two shifts (800 per shift). Entrance at 6 o’clock in the morning: the workers must enter in single file, between two columns of cops armed with machine guns. The entire factory is encircled by the cops and “the social.”[5]

The workers go to the locker rooms and wait until they number in the hundreds. A foreman comes to negotiate (he’d been responsible for 85 dismissals) and proposes there be a discussion with the management. A delegation of nine workers goes off to negotiate.

In the offices, the bosses Romero Martin Benito and Esteban Martin Benito, plus cops from the “social” police and the firm’s own armed guards are waiting. The only thing said to the nine delegates is: “If you haven’t gone back to work in 15 minutes, all nine of you will be immediately fired and thrown into the street.” A worker responds: “If we see you on the street, you will be going directly to a cemetery.” Four of the workers explain this to their comrades while the other five are held hostage. Because many other workshops have already gone back to work, they decide to return to work, too.

After this strike, the combativity of the workers is greatly weakened by the climate of fear and disappointment. It takes until 1976 – the death of Franco and the first steps toward “democratization” – for the situation to get better.

1976: the Workers’ Committees and the U.S.O.[6] are still in the vertical unions. The C.S.U.T. and the C.N.T.[7] thoroughly critique the positions of the Workers’ Committees.

There are many discussions, but no effective struggle. Problems with health, working conditions and security get worse. The first election of one delegate for 30 people takes place in Workshop 5.

Faced with the evolution of a situation that risks escaping their control, the Workers’ Committees and the U.G.T.[8] take charge of the elections and arrange them so their own militants are elected. Workshop 5 still shows great combativity: the workers slow production down, and sometimes stop it completely to hold assemblies. In solidarity with the situation in the Basque Country (a state of exception), a four-hour-long general strike affects the entire factory.

1977: the workers’ combativity increases greatly.

At the beginning of the year, several general assemblies involving the entire firm are held. Rivalries amongst the unions, which are virtually permanent quarrels, are very strong; sometimes they come to blows. People begin to stop paying their union dues and often tear up their membership cards (especially those of the Workers’ Committees).

Small strikes that break out are systematically sabotaged by the Workers’ Committees and the P.S.U.C.[9], which have reached an agreement with management: the re-hiring of all workers dismissed over the course of the last twenty years in exchange for “social peace” in the factory.

June 1977: First elections to the Factory Council, which covers all of SEAT, of 287 delegates (approximately one per hundred), elected by workshop and revocable at any instant.

Organizational schema:

Factory Committee: 22 members elected by the rank-and-file in the workshops; revocable at any instant. The committee is tasked with negotiating with management.

Factory Council: 287 delegates elected in the same conditions as those of the Factory Committee. The Council’s function is to coordinate actions, demands, propositions and [responses to] problems that arise within the firm.

Workshop and Office Assembly: the number of delegates varies according to the number of workers in each sector. The Assembly deals with the sector’s internal problems. Same mode of election and revocability.

One must understand that, in this structure, the number of workers who participate is very important, because at each level there are people other than those who are named.

There are overflowing assemblies almost every day during snack time (20 minutes). All delegates are simply spokespeople.

1978: today, the structure is functioning perfectly. Only the CNT basically supports it. All the other unions try to sink it. But management finds itself obliged to speak with the Factory Committee. At this moment, the union elections at SEAT are heating up and the affair of the armed group E.R.A.T. has taken on an enormous importance.

Before explaining the E.R.A.T. group and what it wants, we must sketch out the unions at SEAT (their official membership numbers): the Workers’ Committees: 11,000; the U.G.T: 10,000; the C.S.U.T.: 3,000; the C.N.T.: 2,000; and the U.S.O.: 300. The other unions include the S.U., the S.O.C., and the A.O.A. (a few militants each).

But beware! These numbers are very deceptive. For the comrades in the E.R.A.T., only the C.N.T. really functions. The others launch enormous membership campaigns, people get their membership cards, but that’s all. The bureaucrats are in charge of everything. Moreover, many of those who have torn up their cards are always taken into account, as are those who have changed unions or no longer pay their dues, not to mention those who practice systematic “inflation.” Not everyone who works at SEAT is part of a union.


The E.R.A.T. group: Ejercito RevoIucionario de Ayuda a los Trabajadores (the Revolutionary Army for Support of the Workers).

Between 16 and 20 April 1978, the Direction Générale de Sécurité arrested 10 people suspected of participating in different hold-ups.[10] Weapons and explosives were discovered. Six of those arrested work at SEAT. The affair begins to take on a clearly political turn and makes a lot of noise.

Today, five of these people have been released. The remaining five have admitted belonging to E.R.A.T., an armed group intended to procure funds for the workers and, in particular, those at SEAT.

On 21 April 1978, workers at SEAT demonstrated their solidarity with those detained in front of the Model Prison. Back at SEAT, things were hot. The reformist unions tried to pass the comrades from E.R.A.T. off as “terrorists” and implied that the Factory Council was, too. The Workers’ Committees and the U.G.T. demanded the dissolution of the Council and the “workers’ assemblies.” They went as far as getting the signatures of 3,000 unemployed workers who declared that they had never received any money from the E.R.A.T.! (And what does it matter, given the large numbers of unemployed workers?)

The Factory Council has maintained its unconditional support for those detained; so has the C.N.T. All this calls for debates on our conception of revolutionary struggle. Armed struggle or unarmed struggle? It seems that the workers at SEAT are going in the right direction.

The structure of the Factory Council is actually representative of the workers at SEAT. We posed many questions to the comrades in the E.R.A.T. concerning the main motivations for their passage to armed struggle. Though our hunger remains somewhat unsatisfied, we reproduce here (as faithfully as possible) what they explained in response.

All of us have passed through Leftist groups (the F.A.C., the F.R.A.P., the P.C.I., etc) and have returned because their avant-gardist conceptions do not correspond to the reality of the struggle here. The workers have shown that they are capable of organizing themselves, outside of all the political and union cliques. We have had enough of sterile debates between different organizations while the necessities of the struggle have been obvious.

Every day, but particularly payday, the wives of unemployed men or strikers at other firms seek our solidarity. Of course, we do what we can, but we, as workers, have just enough to live and we often have debts to pay at the SEAT’s Coop.

Therefore we have decided that this will be enough; it is necessary to do something. We have created our group with two criteria in mind: the rejection of political quarrels and the necessity of having money.

The first thing that we decided, seven or eight months ago, was that no one in the group should make an abstraction of his own personal tendencies and that the group would act in accordance with the needs of the struggle, with the needs of the workers. Attacks on banks have taken place; we do not say that we (those who have been arrested) have carried them out; but they have been carried out. And the total of the sums taken back have been placed at the disposition of workers and unemployed people in accordance with needs and possibilities. We believe that such expropriations are a necessity. But we also believe that the armed struggle mustn’t stop there. Expropriation is only one of the struggle’s aspects.

The workers must take charge of themselves totally and must prepare for the struggles to come. That is to say, they must prepare to commit sabotage that “helps” the bosses negotiate and they must anticipate the need for self-defense groups in case militants are personally threatened (this happens more and more often). Consequently, we are not the only ones who can take action. We have tried to explain our conception of the struggle to the workers. And we have done this in the assemblies. If the workers haven’t agreed, they were able to explain why and contradict us.

One can say that a series of sabotages have taken place, and they have demonstrated that we are not alone in what we think and do. What follows are examples of sabotage realized by the workers:

Intermediary water valves were closed, causing the electrodes of the electrical welding machines to roast, thus paralyzing all of the assembly crews.

Electric wires in subterranean installations were cut, closing down the workshop for several hours.

Screwdrivers were used to interfere with the assembly crews.

Computers were short-circuited, thus disorganizing work for the entire day. (This type of action is utilized when the workers have truly had enough of the work rate or want to hold an assembly tranquilly.)

Paint the cigarette lighters of cars intended for export in the colors of revolutionary banners.

Paint on the walls or the cars, or place stickers in their interiors. (These are the means by which it is made known that there are people who do not accept exploitation.)

Direct attacks against the bosses and the particularly repressive foremen (hurling objects or thrashing them good).

Bomb threats to the management’s offices.

Sugar in the gas tanks.

The expropriation and destruction of plans.

These actions are most often taken during or after periods of struggle to express rage or revolt against our conditions. But collectively we also have learned to make Molotov cocktails, and self-defense groups have been organized to protect our demonstrations against attacks by the police.

But we have also sought to gain solidarity from comrades in other firms. We have explained our struggles to them and have supported theirs. Once we went as far as puling down an electrical power pylon, thus depriving a factory (in the Valles region) of electricity for two days; another time we sabotaged the water lines in a capitalist’s house.

Despite capitalist propaganda, these actions are in general well understood by the workers, because they are directly tied to the workers’ struggles.

What we and many workers reject is the diversion of our demands towards political objectives, as in the Moncloa[11] pact. Each time, we have been told that we must be responsible, we must take the general interests of society into account, and we must thus put a brake on our struggles and tighten our belts.

Each time, we have been presented with a platform of demands that has been elaborated by the unions and [supposedly] intended to take care of everyone. But in fact they only suit the bosses.

Each time, these very unions and political parties have pretended to know what we must do better than we ourselves know, and of course they alone are capable of leading the negotiations!

In fact, the unions and political parties are only intermediaries that try to regulate [régulariser] the conflict between bosses and workers. We do not agree. Parties and unions (except the C.N.T., which supports us) have tried to profit from the opportunity that has opened up for them (we wonder if it is completely by chance that the police have discovered us at such a crucial moment) so as to discredit our methods of struggle and the Factory Council in particular.

The union elections will take place next June, and many bureaucrats hope that these official elections will put an end to the self-organizations of the workers. But it won’t be as easy as that.

Today, we are in prison, but our struggle isn’t over. And, after all, there are thousands of comrades at SEAT who continue.

But, at this moment, we are asking ourselves if the E.R.A.T. group should continue in its current form. It is possible that we should change the name and that we should become an autonomous group. We are almost in complete agreement where this is concerned. Likewise, many of us define ourselves as libertarians, but this is only recently and the product of a steady evolution. At the beginning, when the group was formed, there was only a single militant from the C.N.T. among us. The others weren’t union-members and had already left behind the formations of the extreme Left.

We are sure that many workers at SEAT truly do not want to be recuperated by anyone. And they recently demonstrated it when, to counter the dirty work of the reformists, they went out on strike to get two of us released and so that [people from] the Factory Council can visit us regularly. These two comrades, who weren’t involved in the E.R.A.T. group, have in fact been freed, and we see three delegates from the Factory Council every two weeks. The strike had lasted [only] a hour.

No date

Published in French in Appels de la prison de Segovie (Champ Libre, November 1980). Translated by NOT BORED! 10 May 2010. All notes by the translator.

[1] Ejercito RevoIucionario de Ayuda a los Trabajadores (the Revolutionary Army for Support of the Workers).

[2] Trial of 16 E.T.A. guerrillas in December 1970 in Burgos, Spain, for the 1968 murder of a San Sebastián police chief and other "terrorist" activities.

[3] Labor agreement.

[4] English in original.

[5] See the National Association for Social Action by the National Police and Personnel in the Ministry of the Interior.

[6] The U.S.O. brought together Catholic and independent unionists.

[7] The CSUT is the Workers Unitary Trade Union Confederation, while the CNT is the National Confederation of Labour, a French anarcho-syndicalist union.

[8] The UGT is tthe rade union of the Socialist Workers' Party.

[9] The PSUC is the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia.

[10] English in original.

[11] The Moncloa Pacts were agreements between all of the parliamentary political forces in Spain to fix the country's dire economic situation.

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