Julian Ariza Y Nicholas Sartoriustwo veteran trade unionists and leftist militants, give each other an effusive hug after the intervention of the second in the presentation of the price of freedom (Cataract, Fundación Primero de Mayo), a book of memoirs written by the former, subtitled Memories of an anti-Francoist. “You were essential for the union and for democracy”, Sartorius recognized him at the end of his words after having recalled the clandestine adventures, his coincidence in the Carabanchel prison, the trip to Rome (without being able to visit Rome), the first steps of the Workers’ Commissions and many other things.
The presentation of the price of freedom was used by the union leadership to honor one of the founders. Already in his eighties (he was born in Madrid in 1934), he had to grow up in the first years of the Franco regime. He began working as an assistant in a pharmacy in his neighborhood, Usera, at the age of 12 and, at 15, he joined the Cofares pharmaceutical cooperative, where he was soon discharged (“I am one of the trade unionists with the most five years”) and where He became familiar with those workers’ commissions in tiny letters, “spontaneous, finalist and of ephemeral life”, which were formed to negotiate some conflict or disagreement and then disappeared.
Later he entered Perkins, an engine company where he met Marcelino Camacho and that they made mythical in the history of the union. There, the commissions with lowercase letters began to be not so spontaneous until they became the Workers’ Commissions, with capital letters. The transition had taken place from a young worker who defended his colleagues to a class-conscious leader ready to become a union leader, probably without his knowing it. He recounts it in detail in the auditorium that bears Camacho’s name before an audience that combs many gray hairs, after listening (by video or live) to old comrades (Edward Saborido, Juan Moreno, Salce Elvira, Christina Almeida…) and receive recognition from many fellow travelers. “I think that what encouraged the creation of this type of commission was the vacuum of representation in which, naturally, ways were sought through which to channel demands and claims,” says Ariza. A space that the PCE found appropriate to recommend entering the Vertical Union and take advantage of the legal possibilities to develop future Commissions from within. It can be said, therefore, that the Workers’ Commissions, with capital letters, were born within the Vertical Union.
The combination of industrialization that occurred after the creation of the National Institute of Industry (INI), migration from the countryside to the city, generational change and the lack of representation in a framework of demands for improvement in living conditions and labor were the best breeding ground. To this was added the change of government in 1957 with the arrival of the technocrats, which would soon give rise to the Stabilization Plan and to a certain opening, especially economic.
Then the actions would come; the conspiracies in Perkins, who presided over Joaquin Ruiz-Jimenez (later he would defend him in his legal cases); the meeting on a farm of a man as suspicious as Jose Maria de Areilza; the arrests after sometimes bizarre persecutions (he spent four years in jail); turtleneck sweaters; the struggle to grow in the factories… “Although we defined ourselves as a movement, we were in any case an organized movement whose objectives included contributing to the conquest of trade union and political freedoms,” writes Ariza, who does not want to leave out of the union paternity to Santiago Carrillo, the leader of the PCE from whom he never parted ways. And although the birth of the CC OO is dated in various places (La Camocha, Laciana, Jerez…) he puts that origin in the Metal Commission of Madrid in 1964.
Ariza’s public life is divided into three stages. The first was that of the lowercase commissions forming a tandem with Camacho (“Camacho was my teacher and fellow sufferer”), with whom he maintained a close relationship until well into the eighties, when the estrangement occurred for political reasons that led to the excision of the PCE. From that stage, perhaps the most romantic, Ariza vindicates the Transition (with capital letters) and the strike movements of 1976, already dead Frankagainst the survival of the regime (“directed by Arias Navarro and the uncompromising Fraga”), and disqualifies the criticism of Podemos that affirmed that the Constitution agreed in 1978 was a “lock” that had to be broken.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The second stage is precisely that of his ostracism in the union.
In the third stage, that of “the new normality”, the role of founder and historical leader is recognized. During this period, in which four general secretaries have succeeded one another (Antonio Gutiérrez, Jose Maria Fidalgo, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo Y unai deaf), he has been highly respected. Then he chaired the Fundación Primero de Mayo, until he decided to retire from that position and from his position in the Economic and Social Council (CES), of which he made a kind of refuge for 23 years and has not stopped producing reports and fighting for democracy.
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