The massive protests in Turkey and Brazil may have died down for the moment - but this reprieve for the ruling class cannot be indefinite. We return to analyse the strengths, the weaknesses, and the significance of these movements in preparation for the years to come.
The article that follows was written by the comrades of our section in Turkey – a young section, both in the history of the ICC and in the age of its members. Both as revolutionaries and as part of the generation that has led the revolt, these comrades have been actively involved in the movement on the streets and this represents a first report ‘on the spot’ and a first attempt to analyse the significance of the movement.
A wave of protests against the increase in public transport fares is currently unfolding in the big cities of Brazil, particularly in the Sāo Paulo, but it’s also been happening in Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Goiânia, Aracaju and Natal. This mobilisation has brought together young people in particular, students and school pupils, and to a lesser extent but still very significantly, wage workers and people on benefits, all fighting against the increases in what is already a poor quality and overpriced service, and which will add to the decline in living standards for huge layers of the population.
In bourgeois mythology the first settlers to America were free men and women who built a democratic and egalitarian society from scratch in the New World. The reality is that the American proletariat was born into bondage and slave labour, faced barbaric punishment if it resisted, and was forced to struggle for its basic rights against a brutal capitalist regime that most resembled a prison without walls.
The defeat of the miners and printers in Britain did not bring the wave of class struggles of that decade to a close. 1987 saw a nationwide strike of British Telecom workers. In February 1988, there was a real wave of struggles involving car workers, health workers, postal workers, seafarers, and others. Internationally the movement also continued, with important struggles in the education sector in Italy and among healthworkers in France.
These movements showed a number of signs of a process of maturation in the working class. The struggles in Italy and France, for example, saw the emergence of general assemblies and revocable committees to coordinate the struggle, and in several cases members of revolutionary organisations (the ICC and others) were elected as delegates.
There was also a small but potentially important development of organisation among unemployed workers. WR 92 (March 1986) contained reports of our participation in meetings of unemployed committees in France Germany, and the UK.
The 1980s was a period of important working class struggles in Britain as well as in the rest of Europe and the world. The ‘Thatcherite revolution’, capitalism’s response to the inability of Keynesian economics to deal with the economic crisis, was a means of ruthlessly culling unprofitable industrial sectors and involved a brutal assault on workers’ jobs and living conditions. The classic expression of this policy was the decision to decimate the UK mining industry, which provoked the year-long Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. This struggle was a focus for the whole working class in Britain, but although its defeat came as a bitter blow, the effects of which would make themselves felt even more strongly in the longer term, it did not bring an end to the wave of struggles in Britain. Between 1986 and 1988 there were widespread movements involving printers, BT workers, teachers, health workers, postal workers and others.
As the CGT and the CCOO-UGT regrouping five different unions in Spain called for yet another 24-hour ‘general strike’ for October 31 and November 14 respectively, comrades of the Assembly movement - Indignant and Self-Organized Alicante Workers - published and distributed a declaration called "In the face of the 24-hour strikes: What strike do we want? The mass strike!".
It is often said that the history of the class struggle in America for the last four decades, that is, since the late 1960’s, is the history of an almost uninterrupted wave of defeats and rollback.Is it then correct to conclude that the working class has lost its battle against capitalism? Should we accept that we are at the point where the reversal of the balance of forces in favor of the working class is no longer possible? Are the struggles that the working class still engages in a sign of its waning, a reflection of a slow, but irreversible process toward all-out defeat? Does all of this mean that the working class is no longer the social force in society that has the potential and historic mission to destroy capitalist relations of exploitation and give birth to a communist world?
On September 11 last, a million-and-a-half people in Barcelona demonstrated for “their own state inside of Europe”. This event has been analysed widely in the media: is the independence of Catalonia viable? Why does Catalonia want “a divorce” from Spain? Will Catalans live better after independence? Is it true that Catalonia brings more to Spain than it receives from it? Should a federal state be created?
At first sight, everything seems to favour an explosion of working class anger. The crisis is obvious and no one can escape it. Less and people believe that it’s coming to an end despite the daily assertions to the contrary. The whole planet seems to be in a desolate state: wars, barbarism, famine, epidemics, the devastating manipulation of nature and our health in the name of profit.
In September 2011, the education sector workers in Madrid reacted to 3000 layoffs and the lengthening of the working day with mass general assemblies that united teachers, students and all the workers in the education sector. The five unions in the field of education did their best to stifle the initiative and to control the struggle. What was the outcome? The mass assemblies were replaced with "inquiries" and with meetings of union committees, keeping the teachers isolated, and successive demonstrations got progressively smaller. In the end, the struggle was terminated and the measures of the regional government eventually prevailed.
The last week of September has seen rising anger in a number of European countries in response to the brutality of the attacks and the endless succession of austerity plans. Despite the growing anger, expressed by increasingly regular confrontations with the police, the official ‘days of action’ have proved to be useless. For decades we have seen that this kind of ‘action’ serves as a means of sterilising and containing the class struggle, lining us up behind union banners, dividing us up into different sectors, trapping us between police lines and union loudspeakers which prevent any real discussion.
On Monday, September 10th 2012, 26,000 teachers in Chicago struck for the first time in 25 years and after years of suffering attacks on their benefits, wage freezes, and ever more appalling and degrading working conditions. The ICC have produced this leaflet in response.
On 16 August, above the mines of Marikana, north west of Johannesburg, 34 people were killed by the bullets of the South African police, who also wounded 78 others. Immediately, the unbearable images of these summary executions went around the world. But, as always, the bourgeoisie and its media tried to distort the class character of this strike, reducing it to a sordid war between the two main unions in the mining sector, and bringing up the ghosts of apartheid.
This is a leaflet produced by our section in Spain to denounce the ruthless attacks on working class living conditions now underway in that country. It’s also an analysis of the situation which tries to make proposals to take the struggle forward.
The working class in Spain is facing particularly harsh austerity measures. The explosive economic crisis is making the social situation equally tense. The anniversary of the 15M and the events surrounding it was followed by the start of a strike by 8,000 miners, mainly in Asturias, against the withdrawal of EU coalmining subsidies which will totally undermine the industry, threatening 40,000 jobs. This article aims to contribute to the discussion on what we can learn from both the anniversary of 15M and from the miners’ strike.
Over the past two months the British ruling class has subjected us to a slurry of nationalism, patriotism, the ‘pride in being British’, with Union Jacks and the Cross of St. George rammed down our throats and up our arses. The media, newspapers, TV and radio have not paused for a moment in the task of telling us that, regardless of wealth, social status or class we should all be proud to be British.
While governments of every country are bent on imposing more and more violent austerity plans, the mobilisations of 2011 – the movement of the Indignant in Spain, Greece, etc., and the occupations in the United States and other countries – continued during the first quarter of 2012. However, the struggles came up against a powerful union mobilisation that managed to seriously hold back the process of self-organisation and unification, which began in 2011. How do we get out from under the unions’ thumb? How do we once again find and revive the tendencies that appeared in 2011? We are going to try to give some elements of a response to these questions.
It has now been just over one year since the Conservative Party won a majority government in the last federal election.Since then Canada has been hit by a veritable wave of working class struggles and social unrest over the past year. Beginning in the summer of 2011, with tensions at Air Canada and the Canada Post strike and lockout.
Over the last decade or so, the proletariat in China, and the rest of East Asia have all been involved in a wave of strikes and protests against capitalist exploitation. It's China we want to concentrate on here and to do so we will largely use the information given by the China Labour Bulletin (CLB), the publication of a non-governmental organisation based in Hong Kong which promotes the idea of a “fairer” Chinese state, advocating its adoption of “Free Trade Unions”. Ideas which we do not support.
Tons of “democratist” rubbish has poured forth from Democracia Real Ya (DRY), likewise the PSOE, in order to bury the militancy, spontaneity, creativity, discussions and mobilisations of the 15M movement. But they cannot draw a veil over these events. Those days in May will remain a reference point for the fact that it is possible to struggle, to decide for ourselves. Each time that discontent and anger overwhelm democratic normality in order to fight back, 15M will be a reference point.
We publish here two leaflets produced during the recent general strike in Spain by the Alicante Critical Bloc & Assembly calling for a general assembly & the Workers group of Palencia condemning the role of the Trade Unions.
The wave of austerity measures that governments across Europe have imposed because of recession and the debt mountain that stem from capitalism’s economic crisis has been met with a mixed response from the working class. We have seen the rise of the ‘indignados’ in Spain and the angry demonstrations and assemblies in Greece, but there are other countries where workers’ discontent is more held back by the actions of the unions.
The furore over the oil tankers’ dispute shows what workers are up against in today’s capitalist system. The workers are fed up with the working conditions imposed on them by the oil companies and the contracting agents they use to hire them. They frequently have to work extremely long hours, which is a dire threat not only to their own safety but the safety of many others given the volatile nature of their cargo. There have also been serious attempts to cut their wages.
The general strike called by trade unions representing 100 millions workers spread all across India took place on 28 Feb 2012. All national unions, belonging to all political parties, including the Hindu fundamentalist BJP, joined the strike, as did thousands of local and regional unions. It is clear that unions did not use the strike to mobilise workers, to bring them onto the streets and unify them. They used it as a ritual, as a means to let off steam, to keep workers apart, to keep them passive and demobilised.
Up to 100 million workers were involved in a one day strike in India on 28 February. A strike that hit a number of sectors across the country was hailed by some as one of the world’s biggest ever strikes. However, the demands, as put forward by the unions, all make the assumption that the capitalist government of India is capable of responding to the needs of other classes.
After six months of struggle against the BESNA agreement which would have meant pay cuts of up to 33%, serious deskilling throughout the building industry, and unemployment for all those refusing to sign the new contracts, the electricians have forced the bosses to back off. Following a failed injunction against an imminent official national strike called by the Unite union, the main BESNA signatory, Balfour Beatty, announced that it was dropping plans to bring in the BESNA agreement, and most of the other firms involved have now followed suit.
The pundits of the bourgeoisie include China in their collection of economic ‘powerhouses’ known as the “BRICs”. This also includes Brazil, Russia and India, which are all supposedly going to be the salvation of crisis-ridden capitalism. In an ominous development for the Chinese economy – and for capitalism more generally – there is a massive building boom/bubble swelling up which, like those in the USA, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere, can only burst, with dire consequences. Alongside this there are thousands and thousands of reported “incidents” of strikes and protests in the cities, along with unrest in the countryside which are growing in number and intensity.