Thursday, 21 January 2010

No War but Class War - January 2010

In September last year, a group of six Serbian anarcho-syndicalists was arrested for a molotov cocktail attack on the Greek embassy last year. Although the organisation Black Elijah (Crni Ilija) has taken full responsibility, and the six are members of indikalna konfederacija Anarho-sindikalistička inicijativa (Union Confederation Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative), they remain in jail. As the Anarchist Federation states, "what is really taking place is an attack on anarchist organisation in Serbia, just as is taking place in other states simultaneously." On January 3rd, anarchists held a demonstration in Belgrade to that very effect.

Fish workers have now added to the struggles ongoing in Greece, with Egyptian workers blockading the small port in the village of Nea Michaniona. According to reports, they "accuse the owners of vessels of exploiting the method of payment to present less earnings and shrink the workers’ money." The owners responded by launching a lawsuit against the strike, which was judged “illegal and abusive” by the courts. Despite this, "the fishworkers will go on  with their struggle and their Union has decided repeated one-day stikes for the days to come."

Recent updates tell us that "the Egyptians are determined to continue," and like all other workers they deserve our solidarity. But it is important to note that they also represent a growing demographic of migrant workers who are willing to stand up for themselves. Several days ago, I reported on the migrants in Italy who were rioting against their use as slaves by the mafia, with tacit state support. A one day migrants' strike is being organised for March 1st, whilst Italy's Interior Minister has blamed the unrest on "mistaken tolerance," and vowed to crack down despite increasing international pressure. At the same time, No Borders Brighton reports on "an international call to action to hold protest vigils" in support of the 254 Tamil refugee passengers detained in Merak by the Indonesian navy, at the request of an Australian government unwilling to take responsibility for them. These actions are vital, but there needs to be a growing recognition of the fact that class crosses international boundaries and that migrants are part of the class struggle against global capitalism.

The working class of Iran have, since the violence against them during last years unprecedented May Day rallies, been engaged in tireless efforts to organise resistance to the Islamic Republic. Due to repression in the country, news on such efforts is hard to come by. However, from the "Support workers councils in Iran" facebook group, we do learn that "workers have continued their strikes for the unpaid wages and in the process they have founded a number of (underground) organizations." Such organisations include the Metal Workers council in the Isfahan Steel Company, whose public statement makes the following call;
Considering the total absence of conditions for open activity, the Council calls upon all workers to set up autonomous labor cells throughout Isfahan Steel. It is our strong belief that without forming these cells, the workers will not be able to advance their aims in any meaningful way. The prime goals of these cells would be to disseminate news and information, to unify the rank and file, and to elect individuals who can represent them and provide leadership for their efforts. These cells could take form on the basis of friendship networks, sports and recreation links, in-house loan associations, etc.
Although workers' resistance in Iran is still young, and will no doubt go underreported in Western media, it holds considerable promise. If the workers council can live up to its aims, and other workers councils along similar lines appear, then there is no telling of their potential. Nevertheless, it will be worth watching closely as events unfold.

Last October, Mexican President Felipe Calderón dissolved the state-run electric company Luz y Fuerza and sacked its workers. Since then, they have been occuipying factories in order to demand their jobs back. However, the Sindicato Mexicano de Electristas has effectively abandoned 24,000 of its members by "asking that the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), the state-owned successor company to Luz y Fuerza, hire 20,000 workers who have not accepted their termination and severance pay." Angered that over half the 44,000 workers who had lost their jobs had fallen by the wayside in the union's considerations, workers have taken to wildcat action in defiance.

North of the border, Labor Notes describes how hospitality workers union UNITE HERE has "drafted a new constitution that announced democracy provisions protecting dissenters, reformers, and open debate inside the union."This, in itself, is an important development and one which workers in Britain, for example, would do well to force upon their own bureaucracy-ridded organisations. Within UNITE HERE, this has opened up a debate about "pink sheeting" and the role of the rank-and-file in decision-making which is long overdue elsewhere as well.

At the same time, bus drivers at Georgia Tech University are challenging union-busting activities by their employer. The university "chose Groome Transportation, a notorious bottom-feeder operation," over their former bus company First Transit after it "signed a nationwide neutrality agreement" under union pressure. Their campaign is being supported by United Students Against Sweatshops, and the support of students in general will be vital in their campaign. Especially given the weakness of the labour movement in the US, all moves to challenge such activities are welcome and long overdue.

Members of the Canadian Auto Workers union are engaged in a "bitter struggle" with US company Catalina Precision Products over severance pay and benefits. The struggle has been ongoing since march last year, when "management told employees not to report to work until further notice." In order to gain severence vacation pay, blockades of CPP facilities were neccesary, during which battles with the police and management ensued. It is important to note that "international solidarity was enough to spook the company," as this reflects the global nature of the class war. However, "this fight is far from over," and we must continue to support our fellow workers in their struggles.

In Britain, disputes between the Fire Service and bosses are threatening to erupt, with fire fighters on Merseyside already operating an overtime ban. This comes as the service is threatened by £200 million of cuts, which would dramatically affect the running of the service. Merseyside fire fighters were able to fend off £3.5 million in cuts in 2006, and with all public services threatened by looming cuts, the fire fighters may once again provide a model of resistance for the public sector.

Meanwhile, after the victory at Lewisham Bridge last year, more school occupations loom. Last week saw a brief sit-in at St Matthews School in Wishaw;
Five protesters refused to leave St Matthew’s Primary School in Wishaw. The four parents and a grandmother began the protest just after 3pm on Thursday when pupils left the building for the day and took resident in a parents’ room. They left at approximately 9am on Friday morning.
The necessity of such actions, alongside the recent university occupations in Greece, Austria, and California, show us that it is not just jobs that are affected by the class war waged by the rich. In seeking to maintain their power and privilege, they are willing to attack every basic provision available to the working class. Cuts in public services do not mean, as the free marketeers argue, cuts in the power of the state. They mean increases in the power of private capital and, most significantly, limitations on our ability to obtain medical care, on fire and rescue services, and (in this particular case) on the quality of education available to our children.

The need to fight back could not be more apparent.