Revolution or War n°3

(February 2015)

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Workers struggles throughout the world

Working class resistance against crisis measures is not only unabated but on the rise. Since the intensification of capitalism’s 2008 crisis, the working class is far from capitulating. Back in the ‘30s, the working class was ideologically subjugated to the bourgeoisie. Millions of proletarians gave life and limb to defend democracy whether in Spain or in the second world war. The working class set its immediate and long term interests aside, with the large majority defending bourgeois interests, first in Spain, then that of the Allies in the Resistance and of Russian state capitalism against fascism during the 2nd World War.

Today, it is no longer prepared to sacrifice itself economically and especially not physically to the interests of the bourgeoisie [1]. Our purpose here is to combat censorship and the bourgeois media blackout of workers’ struggles and to emphasize above all that the class is increasingly defending itself, particularly in the central countries and in advancing the struggle and consciousness within the ranks of workers. The large majority of these struggles and demonstrations are still tightly controlled by the unions, which keep them within a ‘reformist’ and ‘legal’ framework. The unions expose themselves as part of the state apparatus in diverting workers from a truly anti-capitalist struggle. In Belgium, during the railway workers’ strike of which we give an account in the communiqué, (in pamphlet form) that we have included below, the unions have lost control and have failed to put down the explosion of strikes: “If this government does not step back, we risk losing control of our troops”, declared a leader of the Christian union CSS, in the newspaper Le Soir. And this isn’t the only price of a succession of days of action up to the 15th of December that the Belgian bourgeoisie and its unions have succeeded in putting down with this particular period of workers mobilization. The succession of strikes in Germany, Lufthansa and railways in particular, expresses as well the course and significance of workers strikes to come in Europe. Here then is a list, not extensive, of those over the latter part of 2014 which seem indicative of the reality and potentialities (as well as limits and shortcomings) of international proletarian militancy.

Belgium: October 20th, the Charleroi railway workers went on a wildcat strike. They had to endure the sabotage of the train conductors union, ’syndicat autonome des conducteurs de train (SACT) . Previously the region’s railway workers had already wildcatted. On November 6th, more than 120,000 workers demonstrated in Brussels against crisis measures. This demonstration ended through very violent confrontations between the police and primarily the dockers of Antwerp and the metal workers of Wallonia. Afterwards, a wave of rotating strikes in the provinces of Antwerp, Luxembourg, Hainaut, and Limburg on November 24th put forward by the unions to permit them to avert a general strike. On December 15th, airport, school, public service, hospital and public transport workers went on strike against pro-austerity measures. The strikers took up their pickets and barricaded main roads of regions both Flemish and francophone, refusing to let the nationalists divide them.

Germany: October 20th (the day of the Belgian railway workers’ strike), Lufthansa airline personnel were again on strike, taking over from the German railway workers’ strike of the previous weekend. The fact that these struggles were paralyzing national and international transports forced the bourgeois media to mention them or risk losing credibility entirely.

Spain: Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, and most of the big cities on November 29th to protest the austerity that the bourgeoisie had imposed on them and the misery that’s hitting them hard.

Great Britain: Mid-October strikes and demonstrations took place in every country under union control, leading up to big demonstrations in London, Glasgow, etc..

Greece: Twenty-five thousand, according to police, demonstrated Saturday, November 1st in Athens against austerity. “We are not just numbers, we deserve to live under human conditions”, chanted demonstrators at Syntagma Square, in front of the Athens Parliament.

Ireland: Demonstration against billing for water use in Dublin. These were the most important demonstrations against austerity, since the beginning of the financial crisis, the country had ever seen. More than 100,000 Irish demonstrated against the government’s austerity measures and its project to charge for water.

Italy: A million and a half Italians poured into the streets of more than 50 cities on December 12th for a general strike against the projected 2015 budget and labour market reform. In Turin and in Milan, these demonstrations ended in violent confrontations with police.

Portugal: Tens of thousands of civil servants demonstrated October 31st on the streets of Lisbon to protest salary cuts and increased working hours, after parliament’s adoption of the draft budget for 2015.

Poland : in mid-January, after a week of strikes and blockades of the railways, the coal miners forced the government and its chief Eva Kopacz, the “ Polish Margaret Thatcher ”, to give up. The strike had spread to 14 mines and aimed at opposing the closure of 4 of them.

Ukraine: Demonstration in Kiev against austerity measures. Several thousand workers, pensioners and students demonstrated on December 23rd in front of Rada (parliament) in Kiev to denounce the government’s violent austerity plan. This plan allowed for the layoffs of 10% of public sector workers, the closing of 400 schools, cuts to student bursaries, a tripling of gas prices, a hike in university registration fees, etc. This plan’s objective is to repay Ukraine’s debt to the IMF.

Bosnia: “Tuzla, Bosnia, today, December 1, 2014: The gathering of workers from several factories and …a strong police presence. In the words of a worker confronted by cops who had come in force to protect the local government building: “You will not stop me! I am ready to die here today, so that my child will have something to eat tomorrow.”

Canada: September 20th in Montreal close to 50,000 demonstrators came out against attacks to the municipal employees’ retirement system. On October 31st, around 30,000 demonstrators did likewise against cuts to public services, and on November 29th nearly 100,000 expressed their discontent against austerity in general.

Mexico: During the last few months, dozens of demonstrations comprising hundreds of thousands of participants in several cities around the country massively impeded the economy to denounce the mafia’s murder of 43 students with the complicity of the state’s police. (see our article in this issue)

China: This autumn, in the northern province of Heilongjiang, 20,000 teachers went on strike against low salaries. This is a rare known example of a labour conflict in the country’s public sector. On December 18th, hundreds of police burst into the Artigas Clothing and Fine Leather Goods company in Shenzhen to break up workers who had been on strike for nine days to demand their social insurance and contingency funds of prime mandatory housing. There had been an 11.1% rise in work conflicts compared to the previous year. Most of the conflicts stemmed from unpaid salaries, layoffs, remuneration of insurance and work benefits, among other things.

Egypt: “the 100 workers of the Helwan Iron and Steel Company (…) went on strike and occupation Saturday, October 22, 2014 to primarily demand payment of their “bonus” (profit sharing), for the dismissal of their director and the rehiring of workers previously laid-off, particularly during the December 2013 strike” ( They were then suspended temporarily in order not to be associated by the government to an Islamic demonstration expected a few days later.

Brazil: In Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, January 9th, thousands of demonstrators protested against the rise in transport costs. In Sao Paulo, the demonstration brought out nearly 30,000 people and many youths carried placards declaring “No to the increase!” Others demanded the readmission of metro employees dismissed during a strike. In Rio, the cost of a bus ticket was raised last Saturday from 3 reais to 3.40 reais, a 13% increase, putting inflation for the year at 6.4%. In June 2013, in the middle of the Confederations Cup, Brazil was shaken by massive demonstrations demanding improvement of public services and criticizing the money invested in the World Cup (June-July 2014). It began with a student protest movement against the increase of public transportation costs.

USA: On “Black Friday” (November 28th), Walmart workers mobilized across the US. No less than 1600 strikes and demonstrations took place across the country, mobilizing tens of thousands of workers. Workers are demanding a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

South Africa: a strike by employees of the South African Post “This is the longest strike since the end of 2012”, the management admits. This strike began with a wildcat in 2013 of temporary workers in Pretoria, exasperated with being chained to fixed-term contracts.

Although not comprehensive, pulling together only essential information that we have received in recent months, this list of workers struggles clearly indicates a real trend and shows the potential and limits of workers’ battles to date. We can summarize them as follows: all continents are affected, in countries both central to capitalism and those emerging, by workers struggles opposing the simultaneous intensification of attacks. To date, these often massive battles remain, essentially, under the political control of the bourgeoisie, particularly its unions. Nevertheless, and despite their sabotage, the fighting continues unabated and some sectors of the most advanced international proletariat tend to free themselves from union and the state control through wildcat strikes, spontaneous movements, indeed by the opposition’s attempts to paralyze and thus confrontation with the state apparatus. It’s precisely on this path that the proletariat in Greece engaged most strongly in its struggle against the effects of the crisis in years 2008-2010.

This is the path that workers should take. It is on this path that communist groups should advance the directions of struggle and adapt their watchwords.

Normand, January 2014



[1. Some anarchist groups have attempted to drag the proletariat behind them in defense of the Kurdish bourgeoisie in Kobane in Syria