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.
Internationally the working class is struggling to defend itself. May 1998 saw half a million workers on strike in Denmark. Since then workers in Europe, America and other parts of world have been in struggle.
In France transport workers have struck against their appalling working conditions, a struggle that spread from Paris to Lyon and Marseilles. Other workers have struck against the attacks that the used the 35 hour week campaign to disguise.
In Belgium there have been struggles in the private sector (VW in the private sector (VW cars, banks etc) and public sector (the post, public transport, etc) against falling wages, lay offs. Whilst in Britain struggles have broken out at Fords, the Post Office, council workers, construction
In America, workers in health, construction, education, airlines, car plants and other have struggled faced with attacks on wages and condition. In South Africa there have been important struggles in the public sector.
In South Korea car workers and other have fought to defend themselves against the price they were expected to pay for the crisis there, that is, with attacks on their jobs and wages.
These struggles are clearly not at the same level as the struggles of the 70s and 80's, but they are still significant. The very fact that the ruling class has blacked out information about struggles is particularly relevant. In 1995/96 the media was full of information about the struggles in France, Germany, Belgium and the US. Then they wanted workers to see these union-controlled struggles in order to boast the unions image. Today's blackout reflects the fact that the working class is becoming more militant.
Another reality that they want tonother reality that they want to keep concealed is the growing number of smaller unofficial strikes. Many of these are against deals agreed by the unions. For example: the strike by 11,600 teachers in Detroit, was not only against the wishes of the unions, who were negotiating a deal with the administration, but also illegal according to Michigan state law. In France, the struggle by public transport workers in Paris began as an unofficial strike against union wishes.
The spontaneity of this strike is not an isolated event. The struggle by drivers on Belgium railways (SNCB) rapidly spread from depot to depot. In Britain recent strikes by postal workers in Lothian, Scotland, and by workers on Parcel Force in Canning Town, London, were spontaneous reactions to attacks.
The way in which the struggles developed, particularly in France and the USA during the period of the Balkans war, is particularly important. In New York, on the 12th of May, between 25-50,000 city workers took part in a demonstration against attacks by the administration. Though controlled by the unions, it demonstrated the workers’ discontent. On this demonstration workers were keen to take the ICC's leaflet against the Balkans war, and many who walked passed came back when they learnt that our lhen they learnt that our leaflet was about the war.
International: the struggle and capitalism’s attacks
The ICC does not want to exaggerate any aspect of the situation, because it is clear that struggles are still on a small scale and unfolding in a very hesitant and slow manner. Nevertheless, it is important for workers to understand that what they feel is not some isolated desperation but a reflection of the international working class's growing discontent.
The combativity can only grow with the continuation of capitalism’s war on workers’ conditions of life and work. Millions of jobs have been wiped out in the Far East, Latin America and in Russia by the effects of the devastating crisis in the Far East. Tens of thousands have also been laid off in the main industrial countries as well. In the US, on average, 36,000 manufacturing jobs have gone each month this year. In Western Europe, the recent mergers between Renault and Nissan, are expected to lead to 11% of the workforce in these companies loosing their jobs. Japan has the highest levels of unemployment since WW2. It is not only unemployment that workers face. Their working conditions are also being put under pressure in tso being put under pressure in the name of 'flexibility'. Generalised insecurity is the norm for those in work, as is part time and temporary work. On top of that, workers are faced with the slashing of social spending on health, education etc, as governments cut costs.
The ruling class does not only attack the living and working conditions of the proletariat, it also mounts ideological attacks mystify the reality of capitalism. There is, for example, the whole campaign that says we are all equal ‘stakeholders’ in society. However, the main weapon against workers’ growing resistance is the unions. The unions divide up struggles, keeping workers trapped in their own sector or industry. There has also been the increased use of ‘militant’ rank and file unionism, attempting to give unions’ credibility when workers are becoming suspicious of what unions do to their struggles. A good example of this is the electricians in Britain (see article on page 3).
Above all, on top of the traps laid by the unions, workers still have a lack of confidence in their ability to struggle. The examples that we have given show that, internationally, the capitalist class are sustaining their attacks on the working class, but also that the working class is makin that the working class is making a response. Workers should be in no doubt that their only strength lies in the growing struggles, which can only begin to have an impact if they become more massive and under workers’ own control.