The group called Autonomous Workers’ Union was formed in 2011 by activists who had been participating in different unions (students’ syndicate Direct Action, Media Union), anarchists, libertarian Marxists. Political philosophy and practice of the AWU is defined as revolutionary syndicalism. The group is not very large, but it represents people from various trades: workers of art and media, trade and services, construction, engineering, science and education, self employed entrepreneurs.
The AWU doesn’t have three activists at any given enterprise (which is a required condition for officially registering a union). Furthermore, many AWU activists are forced to work illegally, their jobs not being protected by law. The AWU is not an officially registered union, but it operates as a syndicalist initiative.
Since 2008, many activists who later joined the AWU had taken active part in the campaign against the new Labour Code, which could have legalized the 48-hour work week and 10-hour work day. This law would have also made it easier to fire workers. Four years later, the law is still not approved by the Parliament.
The tactics of extra-parliamentary pressure and the experience of the struggle against the Labour Code inspired creation of the AWU. “Realistic” political action is possible without creating a centralized political party, and an active minority has the power to push back the state if it’s persistent and resolute.
We continue campaigns against a number of other similar anti-labour bills and initiatives. We also campaign against the new Housing Code, against privatization of the railways, against bill No 2450 which aims to limit the right of assembly. Our union staged demonstrations against the pension reform; unfortunately, the first stage of this “deform” has been implemented.
The AWU organized demonstrations to support precarious workers of art and culture sector, show solidarity with the victims of the Zhanaozen massacre in Kazakhstan, and protest against the Customs Union with this country. Also, the AWU held solidarity rallies with the maintenance workers of the Reuters office in London and with the strikers of Chung Hong Electronics in Poland. The organization plays an active role in supporting social and political prisoners and other victims of repressions in other countries.
The AWU holds educational and cultural events. The organization’s website propagates libertarian theory, gathers and analyses information on class protests, publishes materials on legal aspects of employment. The AWU is growing and developing despite the unfavorable and quite difficult conditions in Ukraine. Social apathy, advancement of capital, and increase in popularity of the far-right forces are putting serious brakes on these processes.
The Kharkiv branch of AWU was created on May 6, 2013. It’s been the result of the crystallization of the Kharkiv libertarian community segment, which is determined to employ syndicalist methods of the social struggle. The AWU federation was joined by former activists of the Kharkiv Direct Action syndicate, unaffiliated anarchists, and libertarian Marxists. Such choice was determined, inter alia, by the economical and social infrastructure of the second largest city of Ukraine, a big industrial and educational centre.
Today, the Kharkiv branch takes active part in various campaigns of local, national and international significance. They have carried out and continue to stage protests against shale gas development, abortion bans, privatization of the railways, to support affordable and high-quality transportation system, and to show solidarity with foreign comrades (MPRA union workers of the Volkswagen factory in Kaluga, activists of the Action union in Izhevsk). The Kharkiv AWU organized the permanent campaign against the new Labour Code.
Participants of the Kharkiv branch take active part in local libertarian initiatives and, as a rule, they are the driving force behind the local anarchist community. The AWU activists co-organize the annual May Day marches (2012, 2013), feminist projects (Feminist Studies), and environmental “subbotniks;” they participate in organizing counter-cultural events (punk and hardcore concerts, presentations of libertarian literature). Their priorities are the student and feminist movements; the resistance against the precarization of employment; the struggle against the destruction of the social infrastructure (affordable and high-quality education, health care, public transportation); and the formation of the national network of libertarian collectives (Libertarian Coordination project).
The AWU is a class union uniting representatives of the working mass that are exploited by capital.
The AWU is a self-governed organization, which bases its activity upon participation by all its members in the management of the union, not allowing for the emergence of a separate apparatus above the mass of rank-and-file members.
Basic form of the AWU’s struggle for the interests of workers is extraparliamentary activity – strikes, rallies, demonstrations.
AWU concentrates its efforts on the struggle for vital economical and political interests of workers, cooperating with organizations whose activity does not contradict the tactical and strategic tasks of the Autonomous Workers’ Union, and implementing political initiatives supported by the majority of the union members.