Class struggle

Revolutionaries and the mass strikes, 1910-1914: the strengths and limits of syndicalism




In WR 341 we described the wave of struggles popularly known as ‘The Great Labour Unrest’ that hit Britain and Ireland 100 years ago. We showed that these struggles – which at their high points reached near-insurrectionary levels – were in fact a spectacular expression of the mass strike analysed so clearly by Rosa Luxemburg, and formed an integral part of an international wave of class struggle that culminated in the 1917 Russian revolution. In this article we look at the impact of the mass strikes on the British and Irish working class, and the attempts of militant workers and revolutionaries to draw the lessons of these historic struggles.

France, Britain, Tunisia: The future lies in the international development of the class struggle

The strikes and demonstrations of September, October and November in France, which took place following the reform of pensions, demonstrated a real fighting spirit in the ranks of the proletariat, even if they didn’t succeed in pushing back the attacks of the bourgeoisie. This movement is taking place in the context of a renewed dynamic of our class as it gradually returns to the path of struggle internationally, following a course marked in 2009 and 2010 by the revolt of new generations of proletarians fighting poverty in Greece and by the determination of the Tekel workers in Turkey to extend their struggle against the sabotage of the unions.

The bourgeoisie fears the contagion of revolt




Revolt is contagious, above all when more and more of the world’s population are facing a future of misery thanks to the deepening of capitalism’s economic crisis. The ruling class has no real control over the crisis and is becoming increasingly concerned about the growth of resistance to its austerity plans. This concern is manifested in two ways: the attempt to make concessions and ‘democratise’ its rule, coupled with the strengthening of its whole apparatus of repression.

The Importance of the Workers Struggles in Egypt

The article below was written in mid-February, during a wave of workers’ strikes which spread to numerous sectors. Although the governing military responded with stern warnings to the strikers,many of their demands were quickly acceded, thus avoiding a head-on confrontation. The strike wave seems now to have abated, but the Egyptian working class has kept its fighting spirit intact.Furthermore, as the article emphasises, the tendency towards the mass strike, which can certainly be discerned in this recent movement, unfolds on a historic scale, so that particular expressions of it contribute to the development of much deeper and wider movements in the future.

Our alternative:resist the capitalist regime!

When we are taking part in demonstrations, whether local rallies or big national marches, let’s use them to make links between different centres of resistance, different sectors of the working class. Let’s organise our own street meetings where instead of listening to celebrity speakers we can freely exchange experiences from our own struggles and prepare for the battles of the future. Let all those who stand for independent, self-organised workers’ struggles use them as an opportunity to meet up and decide on how to connect to wider numbers of their class.

Wisconsin Public Employees: Defense of the Unions Leads to Defeat

Tens of thousands of public sector workers and students have taken to the streets and are occupying the state capitol in Wisconsin to protest proposed changes to collective bargaining agreements between the state government and its public employee unions. The state’s rookie governor, Tea Party backed Republican Scott Walker, has proposed a bill removing collective bargaining rights for the majority of the state's 175,000 public employees, effectively prohibiting them from negotiating pension and health care contributions, leaving only the right to bargain over salaries.

Egypt: The class struggle takes centre stage

The tide of rebellion in North Africa and the Middle East shows no sign of abating. The latest developments: demonstrations and clashes with the police in the Libyan city of Benghazi following the arrest of a lawyer involved in a campaign demanding an investigation into the brutal massacre of hundreds of prisoners after a protest in 1996. Qaddafi’s regime again displays its ruthless brutality – there are reports of snipers and helicopters firing into crowds, killing many; in Bahrain, thousands of demonstrators occupy the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, hoping to emulate the occupation of Tahrir Square. They raise slogans against sectarian divisions (“No Shia, no Sunni, only Bahraini”) and against self-appointed leaders (“We have no leaders”). At the time of writing, riot police have now cleared the area with considerable violence – many demonstrators have been injured and some killed. In Iraq, there have been new demonstrations against the price of necessities and the lack of electricity. 

Mass strikes in Britain: the ‘Great Labour Unrest’, 1910-1914

100 years ago this August the British ruling class was forced to dispatch troops and warships to Liverpool to crush a near-insurrectionary general strike. The Lord Mayor of the city warned the government that “a revolution was in progress.These extraordinary events were one of the high points of a whole series of struggles in Britain and Ireland before the First World War popularly known as ‘the Great Labour Unrest’.

Revolts in Egypt and the Arab states: The spectre of the development of the class struggle

At the time of writing, the social situation in Egypt remains explosive. Millions of people have been on the streets, braving the curfew, the state regime and its bloody repression. At the same time the social movement in Tunisia has not gone away: the flight of Ben Ali, the government reshuffle and the promise of elections has not succeeded in damping down the deep anger of the population. In Jordan thousands of demonstrators have expressed their discontent with growing poverty. In Algeria the protests seems to have been stifled but there is a powerful international black-out and it seems that there are still struggles going on in Kabylia.

Campaigns about the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia: how the media serves the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie

For weeks, all the democratic states, with France at their head, have been supporting Ben Ali’s blood-soaked regime. There was an almost total black-out of information even though all these governments knew exactly what was happening in Tunisia. All the bourgeois media justified this disinformation by letting on that the country was experiencing riots but was in a confused, chaotic situation which was very difficult to understand.

Bloody repression in Tunisia and Algeria: the bourgeoisie is a class of assassins!

For several weeks now we’ve seen an uprising in Tunisia against the misery and unemployment which is particularly hitting the young. All over the country, street demonstrations, meetings, strikes have spontaneously broken out protesting against the regime of Ben Ali. The protestors are demanding bread, work for the young and the right to live in dignity. Faced with this revolt of the exploited and youth deprived of a future, the dominant class has responded with a hail of bullets.

60 Years Ago: Miners Challenged Union Manipulation of Strike Actions

After the Second World War, the US lived through an important upsurge in class struggle that often moved outside of the union stranglehold and asserted itself as a class with its own interests separate from those of the state. One such experience was the miners’ strike movement of 1949-1950.

Reflections on the recent student struggles in Britain

In November and December 2010 protests against aspects of cuts in education showed that the imposition of austerity measures is meeting resistance in Britain. What we are publishing here are extracts from a longer internal report for the rest of the ICC, adapted for our public press. It is a contribution to the wide-ranging discussion that recent events have provoked. We intend to publish a separate text on the ICC's intervention in the movement in the near future.

Leftist networks help unions regain control

As any reader of the Daily Mail will know there was “at least one” member of the ICC in at least one meeting of the Education Activist Network in London. But contrary to hysterical media articles, the present student movement against cuts and increased fees is not the creation of either the ICC or the EAN. Nor even of the EAN’s rival National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. On the contrary, among the most positive signs of militancy has been the ability of the movement to escape the control of the NUS or any other organisation set up in advance to drive in a particular direction


Revolt in universities, colleges, schools: A beacon for the whole working class

A whole series of demonstrations up and down the country, strikes by university, Further Education, sixth form and secondary school students, occupations in a long list of universities, numerous meetings to discuss the way forward... the student and pupil revolt against the rise in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA payments is still on the march. Students and those supporting them have come to the demonstrations in high spirits, making their own banners and their own slogans, some of them joining protests for the first time, many of them finding new ways of organising the protests.

Student/worker demonstrations: We need to control our own struggles!

The leaflet below was given out at the large meeting held at King's College on Monday 15th November, under the auspices of the left wing of the unions (Education Activists Network). We would welcome comments, criticisms, and above all, offers to distribute it or improve and update it in this period leading up to next week's Day of Action. A comrade from the ICC's section in Toulouse, which has been very active in the movement for struggle committees and assemblies,  was able to speak at the meeting; and despite a frontal attack on the French union strategies, was widely applauded. We will try to piece together more elements about this meeting.

U.S. Workers Return to The Class Struggle

Throughout the United States in recent months there have been a number of important strikes. The working class’ refusal to accept austerity is expressing itself in its increasing willingness to struggle. While these struggles have remained largely within the control of the unions and have mostly ended in defeat, revolutionaries should salute these signs of increasing combativity in the class and follow them closely.

Panama: Struggles of banana workers

Various comrades and groups have sent us information and comments on this struggle that took place recently. We are deeply grateful to them for their collaboration and encourage them to continue. We all know that the media is not neutral and shamelessly serves its masters, the state and capital, sometimes implementing a total black-out on workers' struggles - particularly those that show clear tendencies towards solidarity, self –organisation and militancy...

Strikes at BA and LU: We can’t win our demands in isolation

On the 17th August the Unite union representing airport workers reached an agreement with the British airport operator, BAA, for a measly 2% increase on basic pay and allowances with the added guaranteed lump sum of £500. Let’s be clear what this manoeuvre means: the same union, UNITE, which ‘represents’ both airport workers and cabin crew staff who have been engaged in a year long running dispute have delivered … for the bosses of BAA and British Airways.

Unofficial strike by Air India workers against austerity

Almost simultaneously with the British Airways workers' strike on 24th May 10, around 25,000 workers of Air-India throughout the country went on unofficial strike on 25th May 2010. The strike continued on 26th, but was called off after the Delhi High Court declared it illegal and an expression of irresponsibility of the workers.


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