Class struggle

The meaning of the New York City transit strike

A common tactic in the capitalist onslaught against pensions and medical benefits is the attempt to create “multi-tier” systems, in which new employees receive lower benefits or pensions. It was precisely this attempt to divide the workers that was at the heart of the recent struggle in NYC transit. It was precisely this attempt to divide the workers that was at the heart of the recent struggle in NYC transit.

The Hoax of Union Resurgence: Unions Continue to Lose Legitimacy in Workers’ Eyes

The American unions have been in the news often lately.  The decision by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and several other unions to split from the AFL-CIO and set-up the new “Change to Win Federation” has many commentators predicting a new burst of union activism, as the split will supposedly force both sides to compete with one another and thus organize more workers and step-up their political activity.

ICC leaflet on the transport strike in Sweden

We are publishing here a leaflet distributed by our section in Sweden during a workers’ struggle at SL-Connex public transport (SL is a state company that has recently contracted out a number of its functions to private firms like Connex). This strike was part of a wider movement among Swedish workers – none of them particularly powerful in themselves, but still expressions of a general revival of struggles that has been going on across the world over the past two years.

The future is class struggle!

For the past 15 years all the propaganda of the ruling class has been trying to tell us that the working class is dead, a thing of the past. But reality is showing that the proletariat is very much alive and that all over the world it has no choice but to develop its struggle. Over the summer we saw a clear expression of working class solidarity in the Heathrow strike...

Editorial: bombs and strikes in London - what future for humanity?

In 1867 in the preface to the first edition of his famous work Capital Karl Marx observed that the economic conditions of England, the first industrialised country, were the model of future capitalist development in other lands. England was then the “locus classicus” of capitalist relations of production. From here ascendant capitalism would come to dominate the world.

Heathrow: Unions sell defeat as victory

The dispute at Gate Gourmet has been brought to an end. The 670 catering staff were sacked in August for taking unofficial action when they heard of the scale of the attacks their employers were planning to implement. The dispute lead to a secondary walkout by British Airways baggage handlers and ground staff at Heathrow airport, which led to massive disruption for several days.

India - World's largest democracy Shows its ugly face

Police Brutality against striking Honda Workers in Gurgaon, India

When several thousand striking workers of Honda Motorcycles, and workers from nearby factories expressing solidarity with them, gathered at mini secretariat in Gurgaon in the afternoon of 25th July 2005, they were immediately surrounded by police and para-military forces. These forces were assembled by the Gurgaon administration from other districts during the day.  What followed was a premeditated attack on unarmed workers captured and broadcast live by the bourgeoisie media. When the brutal attack ended by 8 PM, 800 workers have been seriously wounded, most of them sustaining head injuries. To cap this repression, at least 400 workers were put in the jail. That the intent of the administration was to teach the workers a lesson is clear from the fact that repression did not stop on 25th July itself. When workers and their families went to meet injured workers at civil hospital the next day, they have to face the wrath of the police again. 

Strikes at Heathrow: Class solidarity is our only defence

The solidarity shown by the workers at BA and Gate Gourmet is an example to the whole working class. The article below, written by the ICC shortly after the strike by BA workers, draws out the main lessons of this action. These deserve to be studied and understood by everyone who really wants to defend the working class. The weeks since then have provided a lesson of a different kind, but one that is equally important and worthy of study. It is an example of how the ruling class works together against the working class.

Crisis in the AFL-CIO: A Falling Out AmongThieves

The AFL-CIO is primed for a possible split at its upcoming quadrennial convention. A coalition of unions, led by the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) and including the Teamsters, Laborers, United Commercial Food Workers, and UNITE HERE are threatening to leave the federation if it does not adopt a broad set of “reforms” ostensibly designed to once again make the union movement a powerful force in national and international politics...

Working Class Struggles to Regain Political Identity

Alaska Airlines has proposed a contract to its workers that, if signed, will cut their salaries by 20%, while United Airlines has succeeded in cutting wages by 25%. On a different front, the number of American deserters from the Iraq war over the last two years has grown to 8,000, and is still growing. Far away, across the Atlantic Ocean, in several European countries the working class has staged massive struggles...

Strikes at the BBC: management and unions keep the workers under control

The dispute at the BBC that led to a strike on 23 May is an indication of the difficulties facing the working class. Ever since the plans were published in December last year they have been presented as unavoidable; and the whole argument has been presented as being about how best to preserve the supposed excellence of the BBC...

Strikes in Devon and Cornwall: Workers respond to brutal pay cuts

In Devon and Cornwall at the end of April, the Police Executive sent out letters to its civilian support staff - from cleaners, canteen workers, and telephone staff to people working in forensic labs - informing them that the new pay evaluation meant pay cuts of up to 28% for hundreds of workers. The response was immediate...

Precarity: Questions and answers about the casualisation of labour

Our section in Spain produced the following questions and answers as a preparatory text for a day of study held in Barcelona last year on the question of ‘precarious’ or casual labour. These questions are those that workers most frequently ask in relation to this question, not only in Spain but in all the industrialised countries today.

Lessons of the workers’ struggles at Opel

The six day strike at Opel in Bochum in October 2004, in response to the threat of mass redundancies and possible plant closures by General Motors, was the longest and most significant, spontaneous, unofficial strike in a major plant in Germany since the great wildcat strikes of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This article seeks to understand the context of this recent struggle and the lessons that can be drawn from it.

Class solidarity is the only answer to massive redundancies

The announcement by Ford in September that it intends to close the Jaguar factory in Coventry by September 2005, with the loss of some 1,150 jobs, has once again posed the question of how workers can respond to such attacks and defend their working and living conditions. The logic of capital continues to impose itself. The chairman of Jaguar was quite blunt: "The fact is despite significant sales growth and excellent levels of quality in recent years, we have not been able to keep pace with significantly larger competitors. We have too much capacity and this is our underlying structural problem." ('Plan Announced to Put Jaguar Back on Track', www.jaguar.co.uk, 17/9/04). The Ford motor company is not unique in facing such a chronic problem. In September GM Europe announced plans to cut 12,000 jobs because of overcapacity, which led to a 6-day walkout at its Bochum plant in Germany (see below). Indeed, the Austrian automotive analysts Autopolis estimate that "The world as a whole has about 30% more [car] factories than it needs. That's about 170 factories around the world, and most of these, quite frankly, are surplus to requirements" (BBC Online, 14/10/04).

Response to Goldner on the Los Angeles supermarket strike

The following letter to the editor was sent to Red & Black Notes in response to an article by Loren Goldner analyzing the California grocery workers strike which was published in issue #19 of that publication. Internationalism.

While we wouldn't use the same words or formulations, there are certainly many things in Loren Goldner's 'Notes on Another Defeat for Workers in the US: The Los Angeles Supermarket Strike of 2003-2004,'

Workers' Strikes in the US

The turn in class struggle discussed in the accompanying article on this page has been echoed here in the US, demonstrating the international character of the struggle between the working class and capitalism.

Workers must return to the class struggle

It is no surprise that the worst impact of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the ensuing ideological campaign would be found in the US, where the events were particularly traumatic for a working class that had not experienced war on its own national territory since the Civil War (1861-65), except for Pearl Harbor – which had occurred in Hawaii, some 2,000 miles from the American mainland. Prior to Pearl Harbor the last significant foreign attack on the US was the British burning of the White House and the Capitol during the War or 1812-15. The success of US imperialism's ideological campaign in the first weeks after the attacks is difficult to exaggerate. Whatever its confusions and disorientations since the revival of class struggle at the end of the 1960s, the proletariat in America has been defiant and distrusting of the state, willing to undertake militant struggle, to confront the police if necessary, and even, at an elementary level, to put the unions into question. The American proletariat, despite its historical and political weaknesses, has consistently echoed the struggles of the international proletariat over the past 33 years. The overnight transformation of this battalion of the world proletariat into a patriotic, flag-waving mass, susceptible to the worst racist attitudes and manipulation by the state was an unnerving phenomenon, and for weeks, made the defense of proletarian internationalist principles in the face of this barbaric ideological onslaught completely against the current.

The "economic boom" is a bluff:The Condition of the Working Class Continues to Worsen

The U.S. government continues to boast about its "unprecedented, longest running economic expansion in history." And it is true that the anticipated bursting of the "bubble economy," which we had anticipated was just around the corner has not occurred, and this despite the fact that the elements for open rececession seemed to be in place in 1998 following the collapse of the Asian tigers. State capitalism has demonstrated the resiliency to postpone its economic day of reckoning. On the one hand, much of this economic wonder is based on deception – the manipulation of economic data to paint an artificially rosey picture – and on policies designed to foist off the worst aspects of the global economic crisis on the peripheral countries of world capitalism. On the other hand, the degree to which there is economic growth in the U.S., or, more accurately, the absence of open recession, it hardly makes a difference from an historic perspective. The global economic crisis of world capitalism, a crisis of chronic overproduction, continues to deepen inexorably, regardless of the vicissitudes of the trade vicissitudes of the traditional business cycle that the bourgeoisie focuses on in its propaganda.

Revitalization of the Trade Unions: A Key Element in Capitalist Strategy

Prior to the 1930s, only the AFL, organized in craft unions, represented a significant organization, though it represented only a small minority of the working class and pursued conservative policies. Industrial unions, organizing workers in mass production industries, such as auto, steel, rubber, electrical, aviation, etc., were created only in the 1930s, by the CIO, under state sponsorship, as part of the New Deal run-up to World War II, for which they were needed to assure a reliable, disciplined workforce.

Transit struggle in NYC: Workers confront union sabotage

The movement by 33,000 transit workers in New York City in December, resisting renewed austerity and fighting for a significant wage increase, was clearly a genuine workers struggle, a significant moment in the revival of class struggle. In the anger and combativeness of the workers, in their distrust of the union, in the embryonic reflection on how to struggle, this movement was fully inscribed in the recovery of the international class struggle, we have discussed in previous articles. Simultaneously, however, this movement shared all the weaknesses and confusions that illustrate how difficult it is for the workers to reclaim the lessons of past struggles.

Historical legacy of the working class -- History Demonstrates the Power of Workers’ Struggles

The ruling class has long gone out its way to give American workers an inferiority complex, to give the working class the false impression that they are powerless to change things, and that struggle is useless. A key ingredient in this bourgeois ideological campaign is the attempt to hide its own history from the working class, in order to prevent workers from building upon the lessons of their experience. In the last issue of Internationalism, we discussed the revolutionary heritage of the U.S. working class as demonstrated by events in 1919, with the tremendous support shown by American workers for the Russian Revolution, the General Strike in Seattle, and the massive strike wave involving four million workers including, miners, transport workers and steel workers. It is important to understand that the struggles of 1919 did not come out of the blue, but were part and parcel of a long history of militant struggle in the U.S.

Postal workers’ strike

Despite all the talk about the 'end of the class struggle' over the past decade or so, the spectre of the class war just won't go away.

In May and June in France, government attempts to make drastic attacks on the pension system led to a huge number of strikes and demonstrations by public sector workers. Austria and Greece saw large-scale mobilisations by state employees against similar attacks. There have also been a growing number of smaller spontaneous walkouts, like the one at Heathrow last summer. Perhaps even more important is the mounting evidence that workers everywhere are beginning to ask questions about what future capitalist society - with its plunge into poverty, war and environmental destruction - holds in store for us all.

Turning point in the international class struggle

In the first ten months of 2003 there have been large scale struggles involving workers from a range of sectors struggling with a determination unknown since the 1980s. In May and June millions of workers in France demonstrated against attacks on pensions. In Austria there were a series of demonstrations, also against attacks on pensions, culminating on 3 June with the largest demonstration seen since the Second World War when a million people took to the streets (this is in a country with a population that's less than 10 million).

ICC leaflet: A battle has been lost, but not the class war

For more than 6 weeks the working class in France has been engaged in struggles of a breadth unknown for quite some years. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of workers from a whole number of sectors have been out on strike and demonstrating in the streets. However, despite this massive militancy, the movement has not succeeded: the government is about to push through the law on pensions, which has been the main focus of workers' anger. What's more, to make it clear who's the toughest, the government has announced that there will be no 'presents' for the strike days lost: they will be fully deducted from the workers' pay, in contrast to what it has done before after movements of this kind. Its aim is clear: it wants the whole working class to know that 'there is no point in struggling', that we have to draw in our belts without complaining, otherwise things will be even worse. Faced with the capitalist attacks, struggle is necessary

Workers faced with the war campaign

When deputy prime minister Prescott announced legislation to impose a pay deal on the firefighters "particularly given the conflict in the Gulf and the heightened threat of terrorism" (BBC news website, 20.3.03), this was just the latest stage in the long-running campaign around the danger of keeping 19,000 troops on standby to cover industrial action at time of war. It is a campaign that started months ago with the first 48 hour firefighters' strike.

France: ICC intervention in the pensions struggle

When the working class in France responded to the unprecedented attack represented by the pension 'reforms', it was vital for revolutionaries to be present both in the demonstrations and amongst the various sectors in struggle, in particular the workers in national education. The ICC's intervention in the demonstrations

Government and unions lay trap for firefighters

In Britain 52,000 firefighters are pitched against a government determined to hand out a defeat that will be held up as an example to the rest of the working class. The stakes are plain: defeat for the firefighters will not only mean they won't have caught up on all the years their pay has lagged behind, but also draconian attacks on their working conditions in the name of modernisation and a 20% cut in the workforce. This struggle has important implications for the rest of the working class because the defeat of the firefighters will have a powerful impact on the whole working class's confidence in its ability to defend itself. This is all happening at a time when massive lay-offs and attacks in the manufacturing and financial sectors are spreading throughout the working class.

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