Following you can read Interview with Catalina Rojas, union leader and candidate for the direction of the Classist Central of the Workers, published in the newspaper "el pueblo" from Chile.
How has the struggle changed you?
I have had to develop aspects of my personality and abilities that I did not have and that you need to develop as a product of the struggles. For example, the capacity of having a personality able to confront someone, who looks enormous next to you, while you look small and defenseless. It is necessary to develop the confidence to confront that someone even though you feel weaker. For example, I used to be way more shy and I had to develop that capacity of speaking, of negotiating, of speaking in public, of trying to convey a clear message that is coherent, those are all things that I would have never done before.
The other thing is to dare to argue what you think is right, no matter if people accept you or not. At first you do not dare to argue because you think it is not right, because what you think is not as complete as what others say, because others may talk better. Dare to argue what you think is right, above all.
What has also changed me is the necessity of collective work for advancing. You can have many ideas or a plan, but if you do not work with a bigger team or as a collective, it will be hard to advance in these propositions and these propositions will develop in a collective way. Something I‘ve come to realize is that if you do not trust in the class or in the people you work with, it also becomes harder to advance. As you come to realize that the things you are fighting for are just and that the class fights for the things that are just, everything becomes less complicated.
Although you may be alone sometimes, never lose confidence that the working class develops consciousness and fights for what it considers just.
When one decides to take up a task like this every day are there new problems? How do you confront these?
Something I have had to develop is the management in crisis situations. At first a small crisis puts you out of balance, it fills your head, it stresses you, and well you always stress, but you have to learn to manage the conflicts and that means learning to keep a cool head. Regardless of the problem you have to have lucidity in those moments to be able to take the most correct decisions. That has also been a very important challenge, in times of crisis not to lose perspective, not to lose the objectives. Try to keep the crisis away from affecting to such an extent, that it may for example, affect or dissolve the organization. In the end, what has to stand out is the organization over individuality, over personal egos, over personal problems, because we are all persons with thoughts, subjectivism and the relationships are not ideal either. That‘s why the organization has to be put before everything and it shall prevail over everything else.
And this adheres to learning to defend the ideas that one considers right and just, no matter if the context is very adverse. No matter if you are only a handful of people saying something. Even if you are only a handful, this does not make your ideas wrong.
Also learning to be self-critic in the struggle in general and in syndicalism, from what I have had to go through, there is so much trial and error. Since there is so much conflict, things always happen. Sometimes you take decisions that are not always the most correct ones. In that sense, you have to have a capacity for self-criticism important for learning from mistakes and that requires an amount of humility. When you are exposed, in my opinion you have to learn to keep yourself humble. You have to remember that you are in the service of everyone else, in the service of the class and not in the service of your own personal interests. That‘s where the importance of self-criticism comes in.
Today, there is a high percentage of workers that are not syndicalized. In many sectors there is a lot of fear. In concrete facts there is fear-mongering.
What can you win from syndicalizing?
It helps you develop consciousness, develop the capacity of organizing with others and that makes you stronger and I think that in the end the organizing and the struggle are the only way that allows you to achieve rights, to achieve improvements in your life. Not just at a consciousness level with your comrades or class brothers in your own organization, but also getting concrete material improvements. In this society nothing is made for the well-being of the workers, on the contrary. For that reason the only way to get improvements that are real, that translate into well-being for each and everyone, for the class in general, is to fight. And that is something I have lived. I am honorary in a place where the syndicate did not exist. We have rights that were unthinkable of having. At the beginning we won vacations -we did not even have that!- and today we even have maternity protection. The things we have achieved have been thanks to the struggle, if it were not for it we would have nothing and that translates into the personal life. That is why even though there is fear, the call is to organize, because as you organize you start to lose the fear, that is the only way. You strengthen yourself as a person, with your ideas you continue developing more consciousness and the fear starts to pass.
One of the best deals to honoraries at a national level
In the syndicate we have one of the best deals of working place hours at a national level. One of the differences with the others is the protection of maternity, that is something very little deals have. The other thing is the situation of the syndicate, which is very particular. We are 5 female leaders, we have never run the risk of being fired, we have our own syndicalist hours without any question, every year we negotiate our deal. In the syndicates to honoraries in general they are very unstable, they fire the leaders, they do not respect the syndicalist hours. For us hours are liberated monthly so we can take part in assemblies, they liberate us one day a year so we may go for a walk with the partners. Apart from the deal in terms of rights, the syndicate in itself is particular in regards to other syndicates to honoraries and that has given the conviction that only by organizing things can be achieved.