Sunday, 22 November 2009

No War but Class War - November 2009

In the last few days, Honduran workers have secured an impressive and unprecedented victory in the fight for union rights in the country. According to the report on People & Planet, "never in history have people forced a multinational corporation to re-open a factory. It has shown that as students we can fight back against exploitation and the race to the bottom. We can campaign in solidarity with workers and WIN!"

Of course, this is far from the end of the struggle in Honduras. Since the military coup this June, Hondurans have suffered from a denial of basic rights and a climate of repression. However, this victory is a significant one. Not only is it an important step forward for the broader labour movement, but it sets a vital precedent against the use of sweatshop labour by multinational corporations.

Elsewhere in the Americas, the indigenous people of Ecuador and Bolivia have mobilised against capitalist exploitation of their land and resources. As I wrote earlier this month, their example is an important one for other indigenous peoples, such as those in the Niger Delta.

In the United States, according to WSWS, the United Auto Workers' (UAW) union "intends to force through the concessions on a plant-by-plant basis using the threat of factory closings and mass layoffs." The concessions in question were defeated "by a margin of 22,136 to 7,816" in a union-wide ballot. But still, in its role as "a right-wing appendage of the corporations and the state," UAW is determined to override the democratic will of the workers. Over the last 30 years, "on the basis of the program of “labor-management partnership” and “Buy American” nationalism, it has functioned as a labor police force for the employers, isolating and betraying every struggle against plant closings, mass layoffs and concessions." As such, "the first rejection of a national auto contract recommended by the UAW since 1982 and at Ford since 1976" offers "a harbinger of the return of great class battles." If the workers can organise and resist beyond the boundaries of the union bureaucracy, then American workers may see a reversal of the dominant, destructive trend of recent history.

Already the working class of America, traditionally viewed as the least willing to stand up for itself, is beginning to fight back. This month has seen transit workers in Philadelphia, teamsters in Chicago, and clerical, technical, and janitorial workers in Harvard stand up against attacks on jobs, pay, and conditions. Militants of the Longshore Workers' Coalition (LWC) are fighting, against considerable odds, to turn back concessions meade by the leadership of the ILA and force their union to fight for workers' rights.

The US Postal Service is following in the footsteps of its British counterpart, Royal Mail, "consolidat[ing] mail processing operations and cut work hours, in part by eliminating jobs." "With encouragement and assistance from the national union, locals have used media, petition campaigns, and pickets to organize postal customers, build community alliances, and enlist politicians to prevent station closings." However, the lessons of the recent betrayal of Royal Mail workers by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) should provide a valuable lesson as workers decide how to proceed.

In South Africa, activists from the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo were arrested during the ANC invasion of settlements at Kennedy Road. According to activist S'bu Zikode, writing for Libcom, "this attack is an attempt to suppress the voice that has emerged from the dark corners of our country. That voice is the voice of ordinary poor people. This attack is an attempt to terrorise that voice back into the dark corners. It is an attempt to turn the frustration and anger of the poor onto the poor so that we will miss the real enemy." As he states, solidarity is vital if they are to fight back against this injustice;
In this time when we are scattered between the Sydenham jail, hospitals, the homes of relatives and comrades, or even sleeping in the bushes in the rain, we are asking for solidarity. In this time when we do not know if the state will allow us to continue to exist we are asking for solidarity. In this time when we do not know if we will also be attacked in Motala Heights or Siyanda or anywhere else we are asking for solidarity.
In Greece, state repression against anarchists and other dissidents is ongoing. The latest incident comes on the 36th anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising against the military junta on 17th November. According to Libcom;
21:30 17 November 2009 At the time of writing all central Athens is off-bounds and cordoned off by thousands of police forces as battles between protesters and police are developing after the end of the 36th anniversary march for the Polytechnic 1973 uprising and massacre.

It was perhaps the most massive protest march commemorating the Polytechnic Uprising in the last 25 years. And despite guarantees from the government the presence of the police in the city of Athens was massive and provocative to the extend that the official organising bodies of the march refused to start their long way via the Parliament to the American Embassy (believed to be behind the 7 year fascist junta) if riot police forces did not withdraw. After 16:00 policemen arrested a young man claimed to be in possession of a molotov cocktail, while during the hours preceding the march a dozen of protesters en route to the Polytechneio were detained for carrying gas masks. Police blockades have sealed off large areas of the Athens centre and are all day conducting mass stop and search operations even in the remotest northern and western suburbs of the city.

The march started moving at 16:30, shortly stopped at Syntagma square to commemorate the police assassination of two protesters in the Polytechnic march of 1980, while with some tension built up uproad, at the junction of the Athens Hilton, at 18:15 when riot cops threw a tear gas in the midst of the march attempting to break away the anarchist block. The tension was quickly diffused. The first block of the march reached the American Embassy at around 18:00, where hundreds of riot policemen stood in line guarding the building. After the traditional long stop, the march started dispersing in large blocks. At that time, the anarchist block numbering between 2,500 and 4,000 people (still the numbers are unverified) decided to return to Exarcheia via Alexandras Avenue where the Athens Police Headquarters Tower and the Supreme Court are lined. Upon reaching the Police HQs, the big anarchist block was cut in two by riot police forces, leading the protesters to counterattack against the cops and the glass-n-iron symbol of repression with rocks and nautical flares. The clashes initially forced the police forces to retreat and continued until outside the Supreme Court, with smaller blocks breaking up in the side-streets.

Soon after 19:00, under unspecified circumstances, a 100 strong block of protesters was surrounded at the junction of Alexandras avenue and Spyrou Trikoupi street by large riot police forces that immobilised them and brutally detained them. There are reports of people seriously wounded, as well as of two journalists (one working for the French press, and one for the radio-station Kokkino) detained or arrested. The bourgeois media claim that the people detained were unrelated to violence against the police.

Meanwhile protesters that had managed to reach Exarcheia square engaged police blocking the way to the Polytechnic in battle with use of rocks and molotov cocktails, forming barricades. The area is surrounded by police forces and off bounds even for state and bourgeois journalists. At the same time Exarcheia locals have gathered in a demo demanding the immediate retreat of the police from their area. According to the locals the policemen are extremely violent and bear no insignia of identification.

Up to this moment the countdown is about 250 detentions which the persecuting authorities will decide if they are arrests within the next 24h, while protesters are gathering outside the Police HQ Tower demanding their release.

At the same time, the State Persecutor has published a law-suit against the rector and the three sub-rectors of the Athens Polytechnic for allowing athens.indymedia to use its server. The law-suit is considered an unprecedented violation of academic freedom.

In Salonica, three different protest marches in commemoration of the 1973 Uprising were marked again by massive participation. After the end of the march protesters attacked riot police forces outside the Aristotelian University building barricades across Egnatia street.

In the city of Irakleion, in Crete, the Polytechnic protest march starting at Freedom Square and soon attacked riot police forces surrounding it. During the clashes 5 people were detained, out of which 1 has been upgraded to an arrest. More than 100 protesters have occupied the city hall as a response to the repression, demanding the immediate release of the comrades and the retreat of the cops from the city centre.
Meanwhile, "there has been a silent wave of high-school occupations across Greece." In response to legislation "which allowed the persecution of pupils for the occupation of their schools," "more than 35 high-schools in Salonica alone, and an unidentified number in the cities of Volos, Pyrgos, Ptolemaida as well as smaller towns of the mainland and the islands have been occupied by pupils." This ties into a much wider university occupation movement. In California, "demonstrators had occupied the [campus] building" of UC Berkley "to protest a 32 percent increase in student fees and job and program cuts." In Vienna, "the students’ demands include the abolition of tuition fees, the lifting of entrance restrictions at universities and colleges of further education, more rights for students to influence what happens in higher education, better equipment in all educational establishments, as well as the provision of sufficient and well-paid teaching staff."

Such movements are so intricately bound up in the wider class struggle, as both the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 and the most recent victory in Honduras should remind us. The ultimate aim of class struggle is a world without inherent inequalities, and free, universal, all-round education is as vital to that vision as worker self-management is. It is common, within the state-corporate propaganda model, to see the needs of workers and students as antagonistic. If nothing else, these rebellions are important in reminding us that they are, in fact, intertwined.