I02 Essen International Solidarity and the Language Problem

Thursday 26 July 2007, by FAUD

i2002 Workshop: International Solidarity and the Language Problem

The workshop was held on Sunday morning, September 1, and attended by nine people. Here are some brief notes in point form.

- After the 10-minute introduction we had difficulty narrowing down the points to discuss in the short time available. Eventually we started looking at concrete situations involving the use of languages (e.g. contact with migrant workers, attending international meetings, etc) because we felt this would help us get to the heart of the language problem.

- Migrants who want to struggle are stimulated to learn the language of the host country. These are the people we have to look for if we want to reach larger numbers of migrants because they are often the connecting link between the syndicate and the other migrants. (The example of COMATEC, Paris, was mentioned) .

- It has been difficult contacting Turkish migrants in Berlin where there is a large Turkish community, though it shouldn’t be! What are we doing wrong?

- There are many Polish migrant workers in Spain picking strawberries. In Andalusia there is a climate of xenophobia which will cause problems next year. It is crucial that leaflets be produced in Spanish and Polish and ongoing communication established between the Spanish CGT and the Polish FA (Anarchist Federation).

- We sent a comrade to learn Turkish in Turkey. But we cannot learn the languages of all the different migrant groups. Chinese will be very important in future as the level of class struggle rises there.

- The FAU is preparing a booklet for Polish seasonal workers in Germany and Piotr (FA Wroclaw) is willing to help.

- There was a meeting on education here at the conference and we had to decide which language to communicate in. The comrades were overworked and didn’t want to translate...

- There are two levels to the language problem ˆ the present and the future. At present our main common language is English, and we should all make efforts for it to be spread wider and leant better. But tomorrow there may be other needs and solutions, and Esperanto could be useful (also for "underground‰ purposes: there is an anecdotal example of Portuguese anarchists during the Salazar dictatorship learning Esperanto and speaking it with one another so the police wouldn’t be able to understand them).

- We need to start up a list of the translators and interpreters in the anarcho-syndicalist movement (or who are sympathizers) to help us with contacting migrants.

- There are two kinds of translations in our movement ˆ urgent ones on current issues, and basic ones (what we stand for, our program, etc.).

- The use of professional translators and interpreters is not always 100% efficient because we have a lot of specific terminology which they are not necessarily acquainted with. Interpreters at conferences like i2002 need to have clear, short texts to help them prepare. People in our home countries will also appreciate our texts better if they are clear.

- Although we could have talked for much longer, near the end we reached several conclusions:

a) Wherever you are from, please make sure that your comrades attending the next international meetings are able to speak English!

b) When writing texts, please use simple language that is easily understood.

c) The Spanish CGT and the Polish Anarchist Federation (FA) shall coordinate their efforts to assist a campaign by Polish migrants in Spain. The leaflets should be in Spanish and Polish. Contacts of the same kind should also be established between the FAU and the FA.