Wednesday, 28 April 2010

No War but Class War - April 2010

In Greece, this month began with tragedy. A bomb exploded outside a building in the Patissia area, killing and Afghan boy of fifteen and seriously injuring his mother and ten year old sister.

The media was quick to put the blame on "leftist militants" and "far-left or anarchist groups." According to the BBC, "bomb attacks earlier this month targeted the home of a Pakistani community leader and the office of a far-right anti-immigration group." This is the only mention that Greece's neo-Nazis get, despite paramilitary group Golden Dawn being one of the primary anti-anarchist combatants (often with at least tacit support from the state) in the country. Earlier on in the troubles, they threw grenades at a migrant shelter, and have been using the unrest as an excuse to target non-white communities.

In relation to this incident, according to regular LibCom contributor Taxikipali;
The responsibility for the attack has been claimed via a communique by a neonazi group "Revolutionary National-Socialist Front". In it the fascists unfold their racist discourse and promise more bombs in "places crowded by immigrants", pledging its solidarity to Combat 18 prisoners in Britain. The police has expressed caution in accepting the communique as genuine. An earlier phone call to the press taking responsibility under the name "Guerrilla group Lambros Foundas" has been brushed away as a farce by the authorities.
This set the tone for another turbulent month, as Prime Minister George Papandreou formally approved a €30bn bailout package from EU and IMF financiers. The response from workers was not a positive one. According to al-Jazeera, "about 2,500 people marched in the capital on Friday" 23rd April, and "labour unions are planning protests against the government's economic austerity measures next week, as part of ongoing demonstrations since the measures were announced."

Before this, the country saw the detention of anarchists on charges of domestic terrorism, and university buildings occupied in response. The arrest of boys with firecrackers was amongst the disproportionate response of police, looking to crush all dissent underfoot. But, as the growing movement of discontent demonstrates, the Greek public will not be cowed by state repression.

In the United States, airport workers in Austin, Texas held a protest at the Department of Health. According to Labor Notes, "on March 25, a delegation of 30 workers organized by their rank-and-file contract committee had presented a petition to managers demanding a stop to unilateral work rule changes. In response, a manager asked airport police to arrest the whole delegation. ... Several days later, four workers were served with termination notices for "insubordination" and "engaging in a protest"—although the National Labor Relations Act protects "concerted activity" by workers acting for their collective betterment."

This is just the latest grievance in a company which maintains "70 days a year when workers aren't allowed to call in sick without a doctor's note," and where "workers report seeing rodents and insects in the company's kitchens."

Like Britain, the US is facing heavy cutback and privatisation, particularly in schooling. As such, actions of resistance become increasingly vital in a country viewed by workers abroad as a place where the class war is already lost. But there are efforts to reverse that trend. Labor Notes has been at the forefront of this with its "troublemaker schools." As a recent editorial says;
Unionists cannot afford to be purists. Whether it’s a one-day strike or a publicity campaign, any method of fighting back and extracting gains is important and necessary in this era. In discussing the need to change the rules, the danger is promoting defeatism, which is the opposite of what the labor movement needs.

There is no instant answer. But after decades of declining membership, we must begin a discussion of the fundamentals of union power. When the labor movement rises up again as a powerful force in the United States, it won’t be as a result of legislation or of cutting deals with employers. It will be because workers have taken back their most powerful weapons—solidarity and halting production.
Acts of resistance continue to flare up sporadically in China.

In Beijing, "hundreds of laid-off former bank employees have attended a rally in Beijing demanding better benefits." Despite police violence, they chanted “President Hu [Jintao], we want food,” “Premier Wen [Jiabao], we want jobs,” “We have to support our parents, we have to raise our children,” and “We gave the banks our early life, but the banks destroyed our later life.” However, this looks set to be a long struggle as "many petitioners have spent years pursuing complaints against local officials over disputes including the loss of homes and farmland, unpaid wages and pensions, or alleged mistreatment by the authorities."

In Sichuan, violence erupted at the Pubugou dam as police tried to evict people in order to allow the demolition of homes. Some people threatened to blow themselves up, whilst many others engaged in a desperate standoff against the police until the people were eventually moved on.

Unfortunately, neither case resulted in anything approaching a victory. However, according to LibCom, "as public and private developers—using corrupt means, and the absence of property rights and the rule of law—eject people from their homes," China is seeing an increasing number of acts of resistance. There has to be a tipping point, when they become outright rebellion against the tyranny that dominates the country.

There are many other places across the world where the struggle continues, often unheard even by alternative media. It is important that, as Workers' Memorial Day draws to a close, we remember how vital it is to continue building those networks of solidarity. Working class people continue to day, not just at the hands of a brutal police or military force, but on the job in utterly unsafe conditions so that the bosses can add a few extra pennies to their obscene profits.

It will be more intense over the coming months, as the ruling class try to claw back their profits and erase the damage done to them by the recession at our expense. But make no mistake, we will be fighting a class war as long as the exploitation of labour by capital persists. It is no less vital when we are petitioning in the workplace to improve health and safety than when we are on the streets holding the picket lines together.