Revolution or War n°4

(September 2015)

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Workers Struggles throughout the World

In this section on the international situation, we mainly deal with the question of struggle between classes and leave aside the monitoring and the analysis of the evolution of the economic crisis of capital and imperialist rivalries and wars. Amongst the three main factors which determine the world historical situation of capitalist society, class struggle is the one which raises the most questions and doubts. In fact, not many people continue to have illusions about a stop to capitalism’s drop into crisis and imperialist wars. The politicians, the media, bourgeois propagandists and ideologues don’t even attempt anymore to announce a brighter future. The ideological and political stakes and confrontations around these two questions are no longer, at least for the time being, at the forefront. On the other hand, the factor of class struggle, that is the economic and political attacks of the capitalist class and, above all, the reactions of the international proletariat, is the central question at the historical level. In the end it is the proletariat which holds the keys to the situation, but also at a more immediate level around the consciousness and confidence in its own strength and struggles. The bourgeoisie does all it can to silence the working class struggles by censoring them; and when it can’t anymore, it misrepresents their reality and significance. Besides the slowing down of the workers’ confidence in their strength and struggles as social class, this systematic and generalized policy of the bourgeoisie negatively influences the most militant parts of the working class, including also revolutionary individuals and political groups which, often, end up questioning the ability of the proletariat to oppose capitalism today. Thus, for us, it is important not only to engage in a fight against the bourgeoisie’s censorship and lies on the working class struggles but also to struggle politically within the proletarian and revolutionary camp so as to fight against a kind of defeatism, or at least skepticism, amongst the revolutionaries and the communist groups. Such is the goal of the following articles and the debate – published below – that we develop from a comrade’s correspondence.

Workers Struggles throughout the World

We regularly publish in this journal a report of the working class struggles around the world. The aim is not to catalogue them all (there would be too many) but rather to make a list of the most significant while countering the media censorship which is increasingly strong. We want to report the evolution of the workers’ struggles. For the wildcat strikes : the significance of wildcat strikes in a country like China (where all strikes are “ wildcat ” since they are illegal) is not the same as in countries with the strong and old democratic tradition of the historical centers of capitalism such as Spain. It is important to see in the course of the recent months a real tendency to resist capitalism’s crisis measures and a trend towards massive class confrontations.

“ This means that it [the proletariat] can “win” the massive confrontations which begin and which the international bourgeoisie took the initiative to start. To “win” this phase means that the revolutionary class will succeed to block the bourgeoisie and its projects of misery and generalized war. Thus it will set up the conditions for the opening of a revolutionary period. But for this, still it has to overcome the weaknesses it continues to express. Though, when the proletariat is struggling, it maintains itself on its class ground, it is also true that to date it hasn’t succeeded in forcing a withdrawal of the economic attacks that it suffers (nor the setting up of anti-working class measures for repression in the streets as well as in the workplaces). This weakness doesn’t reside in a lack of willingness to struggle and resist but essentially in its incapacity to raise its fight to the political level; that is to say to assume the political confrontation for the direction of its struggles against the forces, mainly union and Left political forces, which hinder and sabotage them “ [1]. Telefónica in Spain and Bursa in Turkey are examples which show that the working class can lead its struggles of resistance.

Struggles outside the Union Framework at Different Levels

Spain : tens of thousands of workers working for the subcontractors of Telefónica, the historic operator of telecommunications in Spain, have been on indefinite strike since April 7th in the whole country, the strike outside the unions having started in Madrid on March 28th. As in Turkey, these workers have been able to organize without the unions which do all they can to sabotage them (see the articles Strike at the Movistar-Telefónica and Spanish Telecoms Workers in an All Out Strike).

Moreover, tens of thousands of people demonstrated on March 21st in Madrid during “Marches for Dignity” to denounce the effects of austerity : “Bread, work, house and dignity”, could one read on a large banner held by the demonstrators in one of these marches.

Turkey : On Sunday May 17th 2015, some 5000 workers at a factory in Bursa (northwest Turkey), owned by the French car company Renault, Author0000-00-00T00:00:00Ain this case and the ones below, it is more appropriate to use the simple past (they stopped) than the present perfect (they have stopped), because it is an event that happened in the past and is not ongoing, unlike the indefinite strike at Telefonica. This is an important point because the reader should know if the events we are reporting are ongoing. e.g. ’They were on strike’ means the strike is finished. ’They have been on strike (since)...’ means it’s continuing.

stopped working and demanded a wage increase. The workers began their movement in the night between Thursday and Friday and several hundred gathered all Friday in front of the factory chanting hostile slogans against the management and the unions. As in Spain, this is another important strike outside of union control. Factory production was suspended, according to a Renault Turkey management spokesperson speaking anonymously . The strikers explained they went on strike to get a 60% raise of their wages. The strike spread to other factories in Bursa and to the industrial center of Izmir. The setting up of “workers councils” (actually strike committees) enabled the strikers to counter the sabotage of their struggle by the union and to spread it to other factories (see the article of the ICT :
Auto struggles in Turkey: ’We don’t want any unions. We have set up workers councils [2]).

Italy : In Late February, the workers of the Fiat Sata Melfi factory, in province of Potenza, received the unions leaders, who had negotiated new contracts for the working teams on the assembly lines, with hoots and insults. Also, on March 25th, the workers of Continental questioned the union secretary of the FIOM (CGIL) during the union assembly. The workers argued that we can’t pretend to regain anything with sporadic demonstrations and national strikes if we adopt a policy of continuous capitulation in the workplace. .

Brazil : Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Sao Paolo on March 27th in support to a teachers’ strike. On April 7th, a day of protest against a new law favoring flexible hiring was called by the unions and the Left organizations. It happened in at least 10 states and ended in Brasilia with eight people wounded and four arrested after a pitched battle between demonstrators and police.

Thousands of workers working on the infrastructure for the upcoming Olympics in Rio went on strike May 19th demanding a wage increase. The construction sites of the Engenhao Stadium, the Deodoro complex, the international airport of Galeao, the harbor and those of the subway South line as well as the trans-Olympic road have been paralyzed to 70%. All these anti-government demonstrations at a national scale have attracted international attention including of the International Olympic Committee. At the Mercedes-Benz plant, a large majority of the 10 000 employees opposed a 20% cut of their work day combined with a 10% reduction of their wage despite the union’s position. The Brazilian proletarians have hardly begun to free themselves from the hold of the unions and Left organizations which supported the election of the Workers’ Party of Lula and others.

Canada : Some 20 CEGEPS [3] in the province of Quebec stopped work illegally on May 1st in protest against austerity, despite the opposition of the union leaderships of the province. Several thousand peoples, mostly students, had demonstrated March 21st in Montreal against the austerity measures of the provincial government. The struggles in Canada are still strongly controlled by the unions which divide them sector by sector and province by province.

Israel : opposed to their privatization, two of the largest harbors, including Haifa, were closed at the end of May for two days by the dock workers despite the union opposition. The workers initially defied a court order to return to work. They returned to work only after the government threatened to declare a state of urgency and resort to drastic measures.

Increase of the Struggles and Strikes in Relation to 2014 and Significant Demonstrations

United Kingdom : tens of thousands people – up to 250 000 –demonstrated on Saturday, June 20th in London against austerity. The unions were obliged to organize such demonstrations to control, derail and calm down the growing anger of workers.

Russia : the majority of the strikes are spontaneous and illegal. The number of strikes and pickets were 273 in 2014. In 2015 their number will beat all records and could reach up to 400. Two thirds of the protests are linked to delays in payment of wages or no payment at all. The second most important reason is redundancies and downsizing.

Germany : between January and the end of May, there have been 350 000 days of strike according to Foundation Hans-Böcker, close to the unions, in relation to 392 000 for the whole year 2014. The IW Institute, close to the bosses, estimates 500 000 days of strike during the first semester which is a record since 1993. Nurseries, hospitals, distribution, post, railway, air transportation, etc. have been affected by social conflicts which are still largely under the control of the unions.

China : during the first five months of 2015, there were three times as many strikes than during the same period in 2014. All these strikes are outside the union framework and illegal.

France : On June 23rd, the police attacked the strike of the MyFerryLink sailors. These forces of order, numerous in Calais to surveil the 3000 migrants there, acted violently against the sailors who had mobilized against the threat of transferring two of Author0000-00-00T00:00:00AI would formulate it this way because the boats do not belong to the workers (they are not ’theirs’) and the Danish company is a competitor of their employer, not of themselves. Saying ’their’ competitor implies common interests between the worker and their employer, MyFerryLink in this case.

the three boats on which they work to Danish competitor of MyFerryLink, the Eurotunnel company (see ICT article : What’s Really Going On in Calais? [4]). Besides, there have been 750 strikes in France during only the six weeks covering June and the first half of July. As in Germany, Italy and others, these struggles are strongly controlled by the unions and are localized.

Bosnia and Herzegovina : On July 30th, demonstrators destroyed police roadblocks protecting the Parliament building. A delegation of demonstrators, gathered in front the Parliament where the project of a new labor law was being debated, brought a message to the deputies : “you have 15 minutes to announce the withdrawal of this project otherwise we’ll carry out new actions”. Delegations of workers arrived in Republika Srpska (the Serbian entity within Bosnia-Herzegovina) with a message which said that workers solidarity overcomes nationalist and religious divisions that the powers of all sides attempt to impose on them.

Greece : Thousands of people demonstrated on July 15th in all of Greece while the Parliament was to approve an agreement with the creditors. At Syntagma square, in front of the Parliament, the demonstration turned to riot at night, 40 were arrested (see the article Merkel, Holland, Obama, Tsipras... Each one utilizes Bourgeois Democracy, in their Way, against the Proletariat, p.1).

Cambodia : during the period from January to March, the Cambodia association of Textile factories declared having counted 40 major strikes which was 74% higher than one year ago, movements whose growing extent is linked with an increase in violent repression.

Iceland : a capitalist country like any other despite what some leftists pretend. Thousands of proletarians participated in a wave of strikes in the Spring for an increase of the minimum wage. They got a raise of 30% over three years.

Iraq : demonstration of workers and blockage of the transit on Monday February 9th 2015 in front of the Finance Ministry in Bagdad for the payment of wages. Even though they suffer the terrorists’ actions almost every day, the proletarians don’t stop defending their class interests.

South Africa : the increase in the electricity prices by the state company Eskom sparked things off at the beginning of May with the Southern winter arriving in Soweto. Several hundred people demonstrated their anger in a suburb of the township of Johannesburg. To the burning of tyres and stone throwing, the police answered with rubber bullets.

Portugal : On March 13th, 2015, hospitals, schools, Social Security centers and Courts were working at a slower pace because of a 24 hour strike by the state employees exasperated by four years of budgetary “discipline”. Since mid-April, Portugal is confronted with an important strike movement in transportation. The workers protest against the privatization in this sector that the government decided.

Ukraine : On April 22nd 2015, hundreds of miners confronted the anti-riot police near the Presidential Palace in Kiev. The miners had crossed the first police cordon in the Bankova street which goes directly to the Presidential building. They demanded the payment of their salary and protested against redundancies and the closure of the mines. Besides this, on May 22nd there were confrontations in the center of Kiev where a crowd mobilized against the economic crisis and soaring private lending costs. According to local media, several people tried to enter in the Ukrainian Parliament.

Iran : a wave of protests swept across Iran in February during about ten days. The protests focused on the workers’ demands, an increase of wage so keep up with inflation, the payment of delayed salaries and other issues such as redundancies and the non-renewal of working contracts.

Armenia : On Wednesday June 23rd, more than 9000 people gathered in the center of the Armenian capital chanting “we are the masters of our country” and claiming their resolution to maintain pressure upon the government of the President Serge Sarkissian until he withdraws his decision to increase electricity prices. The next day, around 12 000 protesters regrouped in front of Erevan city’s Liberty Square for the most important anti-government demonstration for years.

Normand, July 2015