Revolution or War n°7

(Biannual - February 2017)

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Working Class Struggles Around the World

Internationally, the present time is marked by upheavals which affect the political apparatus of the main capitalist nations of the world and the imperialist alliances. The belligerent language accompanying Trump’s election and the Brexit are the most obvious expressions. Even though the working class struggles are for the most part silenced by the media, the combativity of the working class and the persistence of its struggles, as limited as they may be, nevertheless remain a reality and the only historical resistance to the course towards generalized war to which capitalism inescapably drives us if it is not finally overthrown. This is the only realistic alternative to generalized imperialist war. Hence the “historical” importance – that is beyond their immediate significance – of the present working class struggles.

United Kingdom: “Millions of Londoners were affected, Monday January 9th, by a new strike in the subway system. It is the last episode of a nightmarish early winter for the British users [Ed: of services] who are confronted by a multitude of social movements. The oldest subterranean network in the world, inaugurated in 1863, was almost wholly paralysed since Sunday night. (…) Several strikes have already taken place since 2014 to denounce the reforms initiated by the former Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Caught in the conflict, his successor, the Labour Party member Sadiq Khan, has called the strike “totally unnecessary” and has lamented that it “is causing misery to millions of Londoners” (…). This misery could continue into Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday since the Southern Railways employees, the company which links London to the Southeast of England, has called for a new stoppage to protest against the management’s willingness to entrust the closing doors of the trains working alone. Thousands of members of the British Airways flight staff must also comply with a social movement Tuesday and Wednesday due to a conflict on the wages of staff contracted since 2010” (French newspaper, Le Monde, January 9th 2017).

As we can see with the transport strike that the media can’t ignore, it is a whole series of strikes that has taken place in the United Kingdom these last years, particularly in the transportation sectore where the number of strikes is up 33% in 2016 in relation to the previous year. But above all, after the December strikes in the subway, the trains, and the Post Office, the week from January 9th to 13th was the occasion of an extension and a dynamic of unification of the struggles which not only could have paralyzed the country, or at least the region around London, but above all represent a concrete appeal to the outbreak of wider class fights enabling the anticipation of the development of a more favourable relation of forces for the proletariat against capital. Faced with this potentiality, the British unions have known how to break the dynamic under way. While the Southern Rail inspectors were on strike December 18th and 20th, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers imposed a “Christmas truce” which stopped the movement. At British Airways, the union succeeded in cancelling the strike which was planned while the workers had largely declared themselves (7 to 1) against the wage proposal recommended by the union. At the same time, the Post Office union has been successful in limiting the strikes to some sectors only. There is scarcely any doubt that the crisis, and particularly, the Brexit will impose greater attacks against the living conditions of the working class . To resist this at all efficiently, the workers in the United Kingdom must oppose the systematic sabotage carried out by the unions and thereby assume the direct political fight against them as well as against the Left (and leftist) forces which support them.

Mexico: at the same time, mass protests against the 20% increase of the gasoline price have provoked riots in at least 15 of the 32 states in the United Mexican States. In the state of Mexico, a recently adopted law allows the police to fire at demonstrators. In this same state, 430 people were arrested and the police killed several protesters. The union bosses have signed a pact calling on the workers to go back to work and to give up the struggles against the gasolinazo and other aspects of their living conditions [1].

Massive demonstration in Mexico city against the "Gasolinazo"

USA and Canada : A broad reformist movement of strikes and demonstrations for a minimum hourly wage of $15 (10.5 euros) has been launched in 2015 in the USA and 2016 in Canada. In North America, the different minimum wages maintain the workers at poverty line and even lower. Rather than a unified movement between Canada and the USA, the unions want to limit the struggle to the negotiation of separate collective agreements. Moreover, unions like the Fédération des Travailleurs du Québec (FTP) sabotage the action by reporting that they have secured a $15 minimum hourly wage by 2022.

Brazil : On December 1st there were anti-austerity demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police. More than 10 000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Brazilian Parliament to protest against the salary cuts, the reforms of the pension system, and a measure that plans to freeze public spending for the next 20 years. They also attempted to invade the Parliament but the police forces prevented this by firing rubber bullets, and using tear gas and water canons.

Greece: Pensioners demonstrated on November 8th in Athens against new reductions of the pensions imposed by the state in the framework of the austerity measures demanded by the financial backers of Greece. Around 3000 people gathered to the cry of ’liars’ in front the Labour Ministry in Athens. Then the demonstrators went to the Parliament demanding the return of the ’stolen money’. Early December, gatherings, demonstrations, strikes and blockades of ports began throughout Greece, notably in Athens, while the Parliament was discussing the 2017 budget and new, still more severe, austerity measures.

South Africa: Early November, the bus drivers led a wildcat strikes in Johannesbourg.

Palestine :power failures have provoked a workers’ demonstration which has been strongly repressed by the Hamas. The demonstrators went to the electricity company offices singing slogans against the Hamas and Fatah leaders. While these thousands of demonstrators headed towards the electricity company, the Hamas police forces attempted to prevent the demonstrators from assailing the company offices by firing gunshots in the air. While the rich can buy diesel from private producers, the working class in Gaza, where the rate of unemployment is 43% and the average salary two to seven dollars per day, can’t afford it. [2]

Algeria: Strikes have taken place during November in the education and health sectors and among the state employees. On November 27th, a gathering in front of the National Assembly lasted a short time since the demonstrators were arrested before and during the demonstration. Riots occurred in several cities. Early January, strikes, riots, and demonstrations took place against the high cost of living. Since November, hundreds of workers have been arrested.

Mauritania: there were clashes between striking dockers and the police in Nouakchott on November 9th.

Bangladesh: Late December, tens of thousands of textile workers demonstrated in the Ashulia fabrication center which produces clothes for Western brands such as GAP, Zara and H&M. The protests began after the dismissal of 121 workers. The number of laid-off could rise to 3500. The demands have grown to a threefold increase of the minimum monthly salary. Around 55 factories have locked out to attempt to limit the demonstrations which turned to clashes when the police fired rubber bullets and wounded ten demonstrators.

China: the number of strikes has increased by 16% in 2016 in relation to 2015. China is a state regime which has never been socialist or communist. This regime is a particularly brutal form of a universal tendency towards state capitalism which belongs to the historical period of capitalism’s decline.

January 23th, Normand

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Notes:

[1For more information, see the ICT website : http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2017-01-21/mexico%E2%80%99s-turmoil

[2See also Against Israel, Against Palestine – For Class Struggle http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2002-11-01/against-israel-against-palestine-for-class-struggle. Voir Contre Isra
ël et la Palestine – Pour la lutte des classes http://www.leftcom.org/fr/articles/2002-11-01/contre-isra%C3%ABl-et-la-palestine-pour-la-lutte-des-classes