Class struggle

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',, 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.

In defence of discussion groups

In the last two issues of World Revolution we have published articles concerning discussion groups: in WR 257 we reproduced a text on the Paris Commune of 1871 that introduced a discussion in the Midlands Discussion Group; in our previous issue, WR 258, we published a brief history of the MDG. In the following article we want to look at some more general aspects of what a discussion group is, what function it fulfils and what in our view a discussion group is not, and what objectives it shouldn't try to serve.

Union manoeuvres to isolate firefighters

For the first time in 25 years there is the threat of a national fire-fighters' strike. This prospect has been the focus of workers' attention in Britain for months. As with nurses and ambulance workers, fire-fighters are respected by other workers for doing an important job which can involve saving lives. This strong feeling of support for the fire-fighters has tended to take the form of sympathy for a 'special case'. The work of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has helped undermine prospects of sympathy being transformed into real working class solidarity. Attacks on the fire-fighters

A contribution to the history of the Midlands Discussion Group

The Midlands Discussion Group (MDG) has existed for more than two years now, involving people from Leicester and Birmingham from various political backgrounds - left communist, councilist, anarchist, environmentalist, leftist. The aim of the group is to discuss the proletarian alternative to capitalism, like other discussion groups that exist or have existed in Mexico, India, France, Spain, Switzerland and Australia. Discussion circles: important moments in the development of class consciousness

The discontent is real, and so are the union obstacles

In Argentina in the first five months of 2002 there have been more than 11,000 demonstrations as well as various others forms of mobilisation - rallies, hunger strikes, the blocking of main roads and workers’ strikes. In a very mixed social movement the working class has found it very difficult to defend its particular class interests, to struggle as an independent class when so many other social strata are acting in response to the austerity imposed by the economic crisis hitting the country.

Workers Power attacks No War But The Class War

In WR 249 we reported the return of the ‘No War But The Class War’ group in response to the ‘war on terrorism’ and the first attacks on Afghanistan. As the basis of the group is opposition to war on a class basis, the ICC thinks that its re-appearance is positive and our militants have participated in the majority of NWBTCW’s London meetings. As in its previous manifestations NWBTCW contains all sorts of people. Some call themselves anarchists, some anti-capitalists, some communists and some who would resent any label being put on their views. This means there are a number of different approaches to the ‘anti-capitalist’ movement, to activism, and to political discussion. One thing that is shared by all NWBTCW participants is a rejection of the leftist campaign of the Stop The War coalition. In response Workers Power have attacked NWBTCW - at a meeting, in their November paper and in on-line discussion.

The only answer to capitalist war - the class struggle!

In response to the horrible war crime of 11 September, new and equally horrible war crimes are now being committed by the USA, which has come under direct attack for the first time in nearly two hundred years. Even before the first assaults were launched on an already ruined Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghan refugees were being condemned to death by starvation and disease. The death list will increase dramatically now the military strikes have begun.

Zimbabwe: Government and opposition are both against the working class

The EU observer mission sent to watch the election in Zimbabwe were not happy about the "climate of fear" and that the "Zanu-PF leaders seemed to sanction the use of violence and intimidation". However, as the Movement for Democratic Change, lead by Morgan Tsvangirai, won 57 seats, despite being only able to safely campaign in 25 of the 120 at stake, political parties in Europe declared their satisfaction. In Britain, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat all appreciated the work of Tsvangirai, a leading trade unionist often called a ‘British puppet’ by Zanu-PF. Such accusations are based on the reality that he was in constant contact with the British government throughout the campaign, and all British coverage of the Zimbabwe election campaign was devoted to the denunciation of violence and the demonisation of Mugabe.

Behind the 'recovery' of the economy: The hidden crisis and attacks on the working class

But when the Chancellor presented his November pre-Budget report it was against the backdrop of some apparently impressive economic indicators. Unemployment was at a 20 year low of 4.2%; the public spending budget showed a surplus of £9.5bn. The OECD produced a glowing report on the health of the British economy, holding out the prospect of higher economic growth of 2.7% coupled with lower unemployment and inflation despite strong increases in household wealth and pay. Indeed, "The forecasts paint a golden scenario for the Labour government moving towards the next election" (Financial Times, 17/11/99).

Rover/Ford: When workers are under attack, class struggle is our only defence

The threatened massive redundancies at Rover would destroy up to 50,000 jobs in the West Midlands. The threat to cut car assembly at Dagenham (or even close it altogether) would cause similar devastation, on a smaller scale, in East London and Essex. Tens of thousands of workers face the misery of unemployment and poverty.

Struggles in UK, USA, France: The class war is not over

Despite the wishes of the ruling class, the class war is not over. In fact over the past 18 months there has been an intensification of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Our television screens have not been full of pictures of struggling workers, but, then you’d hardly expect the capitalist media to tell you the truth. An obvious example of this is the nurses strike in the Irish republic. Involving 27,000 workers, it’s the biggest strike since the 1920s and yet has hardly been mentioned in the media.

Rover workers 'stabbed in the back' by bosses, unions and the state

BMW’s decision to break up the Rover Group is a massive blow to the working class, with some 9,000 job losses expected at the Longbridge plant and up to 50,000 jobs to be lost throughout the region. Since BMW bought Rover in 1994 it has pumped in £3bn into the group, but the losses have only mounted, totalling £647m in 1998. In response the bosses announced more investment, measures to improve productivity and 2,500 redundancies. BMW also managed to squeeze a £1.5m pledge of support from the government, while the unions bent over backwards to successfully push through the deal. Sir Ken Jackson, of the AEEU, said at the time, "This excellent result puts Rover on course for success and the workforce on course for stability" and Roger Lyons, of the MSF, said "This is a vote of confidence in the future of the car industry and shows that partnership is now the central focus of British industrial relations." (BBC Online, 11/12/98). Far from defending the interests of the workers, the unions again revealed their real role as the servants of the bosses and the interests of capitalism.

Ten years after the fall of stalinism: Communism is the only perspective for humanity

The fall of the Berlin Wall led to a media orgy on a scale not seen before in this century. For 3 days there was an almost uninterrupted flow of images, showing nearly 3 million East Germans crossing the wall and invading the West of the city of Berlin. In this first phase there was no need for propaganda. The images spoke for themselves; the bourgeisie’s message was directly attached to them and hammered home implicitly: "This historic day marks the total and definitive victory of democracy over totalitarianism", "People of the world, rejoice in this glorious day when capitalism has demonstrated its absolute superiority over the socialist regimes".

Workers strike against ANC austerity

Over the summer South Africa has been rocked by the largest wave of strikes since the ANC took power in 1994. With economic growth stagnant at 0.6%, unemployment running at 30%, and inflation at 7.3%, the new ANC administration led by Thabo Mbeki have committed themselves to "fiscal discipline", which can only mean attacks on the living and working conditions of the proletariat.


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