Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

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The latest mass anti-water tax protest, Dublin, Saturday, April 18

by Philip Ferguson

While the class struggle is at a record low in this country, in Ireland significant sections of  the working class in the south began battling in the aftermath of the financial sector meltdown there against attempts by the Fianna Fail/Greens coalition to impose austerity on them.  The anti-working class measures were stepped up when the Fine Gael/Labour coalition took power: they have tried to impose household and water taxes on the population, as well as cutting benefits and pensions.  Colluding with these enemies of the working class have been most of the trade union leadership.  There is now real hatred in working class communities for the Irish Labour Party and for many of the trade union leaderships, leaderships who have done their damnedest to obstruct and prevent the working class fighting back.

As long-time revolutionary Cork city activist James McBarron noted in a comment on Redline, these working class communities provided massive majorities in support of same-sex marriage in the recent referendum, indicating the depth of solidarity with all the oppressed and discriminated against.

images (2)In the north, too, there has been an increase in struggle, with rising protests against austerity, despite the attempts of trade union leaders to prevent and corral strike action.

One of the products of the growth of working class militancy has been the growth of socialist-republicanism in the tradition of working class leaders like James Larkin and James Connolly.  For instance, nine years old this year, is éirígí which has grown from a campaigns group of half a dozen people in Dublin into a militant socialist-republican party with circles across the island.

I had the privilege of being invited to speak at their 2011 ard fheis (national conference), and have returned since. I have been struck by the totally working class nature of the organisation and its embededness in core working class areas of Dublin and Belfast and other places.

James Connolly polo

James Connolly polo

One indication of how the political and economic establishment both sides of Britain’s border in Ireland fear the growth of socialist-republicanism is that the organisation is subject to continual harassment by the political police of the southern state, while in the north a whole panoply of repressive laws and practices remain largely in place from ‘the troubles’.

A number of éirígí comrades have been imprisoned at different times for their forthright leadership in working class communities.

As a movement largely of the poorest sections of the working class, éirígí is always broke and in need of funds to carry out political work.  One way that people in other countries can show solidarity with the struggle for national liberation and socialism in Ireland in general, and éirígí in particular, is to buy stuff at the party’s on-line shop: http://www.siopaeirigi.org/

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Leila Khaled poster

Here are just a few examples of what can be bought: (more…)

Turkish car workers battle for better wages and conditions; photo: Cihan

Turkish car workers battle for better wages and conditions; photo: Cihan

by Esen Uslu

Bursa, the heartland of the car industry in Turkey, has once more become the centre of working class resistance against the domination of transnational companies – a domination maintained through anti-trade union laws, through crooked industrial inspectorates and courts, and through Türk-Metal, the fascist-dominated yellow union forced upon workers by the state. Despite the intervention of union bosses and their thugs, 14,000 workers have resigned from Türk-Metal and gone on strike in key plants, including the assembly units of the local Renault and Fiat subsidiaries, as well as suppliers of components.

A similar movement ripped through the nascent automotive industry in the early 70s when Maden-İş, the union affiliated to DİSK (Revolutionary Trade Union Confederation), broke the domination of Türk-Metal and other yellow unions, and began to win recognition. Despite the attacks of Türk-Metal thugs, which included shooting down workers at the factory gates under the benign eyes of the ‘security’ services, the DİSK Maden-İş snowball has continued to roll on. The strikes in the 70s ended in substantial gains and a sea change in industrial relations.

The 1980 fascist military coup suppressed the organised working class movement with brute force. As the long-time president of the chamber of employers said at the time, “Up to now we have been crying and the workers were laughing at our expense; now (more…)

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by Philip Ferguson

The south of Ireland has given a resounding ‘yes’ to equal marriage rights.  The vote has gone roughly 62% for, 38% against.  In Dublin the vote is more like 70-30 and in some of the big working class areas voting booths have even shown support as high as 80%.  The working class and young people voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality.

Indeed, the socialist-republican organisation éirígí noted the day after the referendum: “Tallies have revealed that the YES vote is highest amongst working class communities in cities and towns across the Twenty-Six Counties.

“In Dublin the people of areas like Tallaght, Ballymun, Ballyfermot, Coolock and the South Inner City have voted for equality by margins of up to four to one.

“Many of these same communities are also hotbeds of resistance to the water tax and austerity. All indicators of the growing levels of political awareness and mobilisation – of the potential strength of an organised working class.

“Yesterday we broke the chains of church domination. Tomorrow we break the chains of (more…)

After the level of US casualties in Vietnam, the ruling class changed their war strategy

After the level of US casualties in Vietnam, the ruling class changed their war strategy

by Sean Bresnahan

Forty years from the liberation of South Vietnam, to those of us with an interest in the ongoing situation in our world at present, a reflection on events leading up to the American evacuation, in the final days of April 1975, can help us map the shift from full-scale imperialist interventions, through ‘Vietnamisation’ under the Presidency of Richard Nixon, to the use of proxy-forces in the Middle East today.

The connection can be found in the importance of public opinion on the ‘Home Front’.

Proxies

Because of public abhorrence at crimes such as the infamous Mỹ Lai massacre – where more than 500 unarmed civilians were raped, tortured and murdered by US Army soldiers – never again could the reputation of the ‘shining light and beacon of truth and justice’ be exposed and brought into question in this manner. In future, either the natives would do the fighting themselves, as far as possible, or the atrocities would be committed by (more…)

The article below was written in 2006, so some of the stats are a bit dated.  However the fundamental argument remains.  For instance, NZ productivity growth continues to be poor and NZ capitalists remain behind most of the OECD in investment in new plant, machinery, technology and R&D.  In addition, NZ workers continue to work longer hours than most workers in the OECD, while a chunk of the working class has had to contend with zero-hours contracts and/or unemployment.

tpp-08-001by Philip Ferguson

At present two of the most interesting statistics about the workplace in New Zealand are that proportionately NZ is at the top end of the OECD when it comes to the length of time workers spend working each week and the bottom end of the OECD in terms of investment by employers in plant, machinery and equipment (PME) and research and development (R&D). This is not accidental. Over the past 20 years, capitalists operating in this country – both domestic and foreign – have tried to increase profits by making workers work harder and longer, rather than by improving workers’ productivity through investing in more efficient machinery and technology.

The NZ Herald, for instance, has noted that most of the increase in labour productivity in recent years has come from labour itself rather than from capital investment making workers more efficient (see Brian Fallows and Liam Dann, “Working data offer a ray of hope in the gloom”, NZ Herald, March 29, 2006).

This tallies with the NZ Ministry of Economic Development finding that PME (plant, machinery and equipment) investment in NZ has been nearly 25 percent lower than the average in OECD countries in recent years. Total investment, excluding residential investment, as a proportion of GDP has also been nearly a fifth lower in NZ than the OECD average. (See http://www.med.govt.nz/irdev/econ_dev/growth-innovation/progress-2003/benchmark/benchmark-08.html#P419_80590)

In a capitalist society productivity gains generally lead to negative consequences for (more…)

Zero-hours contracts have taken on something of a pariah status in New Zealand, due largely to the Campbell Live show and the fact that a chunk of business figures and political commentators oppose them, and partly because of the campaign by Unite trade union.  In Britain, however, zero-hours contracts along with removal of penal rates have become increasingly common.  The following is a piece from the Irish blog The Cedar Lounge Revolution by one of its founders who uses the blog-name World by Storm. We’ve added the tables, which we’ve taken from http://www.thelegalpartners.com/ 

Zero-Hours-Contracts2-295x300A great deadpan analysis in the Observer Business leader (always worth reading) at the weekend on the living wage:

Most company boards want to “do the right thing” on pay and conditions for their workers, according to the amply remunerated Lord Rose, chairman of Ocado.
If that’s true, then they seem to be going about it in an unusual way. Only about a quarter of FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the living wage, a measure of the amount required for people to live with dignity, based on research by the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Guardian and Observer are in the process of applying to be accredited.

74549270_zero_hour_worker_contracts_624-01And yet, the Observer notes that for all the touchy feely rhetoric…

Some of the UK’s most respected companies are missing from that list, including all the major retailers. Sports Direct has been vilified for (more…)

“What is happening today in Yemen is a complete failure of the Saudi and US plans to restore a puppet regime that serves their interests.”  – Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and activist.

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Khaled Barakat

Addressing the role of the US in the aggression on Yemen, he says, “the US imperial strategy under Obama – as differentiated from the US imperial strategy under George W. Bush – is one that considers that Arab regimes should do the actual fighting, rather than US soldiers. Internally, Obama and the US government do not have the political support to send US soldiers to Yemen; indeed, his election was primarily based on exploiting popular sentiment against US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The US strategy today is for Arab regimes to conduct the fighting themselves – but using the same F-16s, missiles, drones and technology, produced and supplied by the US, to exert their destructive force against the people of the region. Their Saudi puppets that are, armed with US weaponry, the strongest military among the Arab Gulf states will be backed completely by US technology, logistics and support, including intelligence, in order to restore their dominace – and reassert the role of Al-Qaeda and other right-wing forces in Yemen.

“The US strategy is to use (more…)