Archive for the ‘Mass resistance’ Category

West Virginia school workers defied the authorities and their own union leaders – as a result they won an important victory

by The Spark

Over 20,000 West Virginia public school teachers and 13,000 school employees will get 5 percent raises, starting in July of 2018. How did this happen?

A strike that started in a few southern coal mining counties caught fire. It was joined by other workers and became a state-wide strike. Every public school in West Virginia was closed for 9 days.

In this state where public employees have no collective bargaining rights, over 30,000 people “bargained” by not going to work. They gathered by the thousands each day at the state capitol and decided together when they would go back to work.

Rank-and-file teachers made sure their strike was well organized. When union officials announced a tentative “deal” with the governor, teachers organized themselves to not go back to work. They had no trust in the politicians and wanted everything in writing.

Many teachers had not wanted to (more…)


Left, Cyril Ramaphosa; Right, Marikana Massacre

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa has produced a plethora of articles hailing a new dawn for the nation.  The Irish Times published an article written by the South African psychologist and current John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University, Professor Brandon Hamber.  The title of the article was the unimaginative A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland.(1)

But here I want to focus on South Africa.  He is after all from there and Ramaphosa was hailed in Ireland as a champion of peace and an important figure in the decommissioning process.  If his election as president of South Africa is a new dawn, then it will not be long before he is once again held up as an example to us all, which is what Hamber does, in effect.

He acknowledges problems in South Africa, but states that with Ramaphosa’s election, “A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.”  He further states that “South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.”  Were that true it would be a remarkable accomplishment in a matter of days.  The hypebole of people power is overwhelming and nauseating.

To be clear, the new president of South Africa is a mining magnate, a multimillionaire whose fortune is calculated, depending on the source as being between USD 450 and 700 million.  Yes he was once a lawyer and a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  But that is in the past.  How he became rich says more about the South Africa he will build than all the fine words that we expect at inaugurations or the sycophantic faith of academics who should (more…)

South Africans protest the use of administrative detention by the Israeli state, 2016

Among the arsenal of repressive measures used by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom is “administrative detention”.  This is, in essence, internment without trial.  While the Israeli state pretends to be a democracy, measures such as these show it is anything but a democracy in relation to the Palestinians.

The below piece on administrative detention is taken from the site of Addameer, The (Palestinian) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association:

Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Although administrative detention is used almost exclusively to detain Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Israeli citizens and foreign nationals can also be held as administrative detainees by Israel (over the years, only 9 Israeli settlers have been held in administrative detention). Israel uses three separate laws to hold individuals without trial:

  • Article 285 of Military Order 1651, which is part of the military legislation applying in the West Bank;

  • Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (Unlawful Combatants Law), which has been used against residents of the Gaza Strip since 2005;

  • Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law, which applies to Israeli citizens.

Palestinians have been subjected to administrative detention since the beginning of the (more…)

Capitalism Derails (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Every week, the French revolutionary workers’ current Lutte Ouvriere produces workplace bulletins at hundreds of job sites all around the country.  Below is a slightly abridged version of the editorial from the latest round of bulletins, issued February 19.  LO’s site is here

The so-called Spinetta report recommends transforming SNCF (France’s state-run national railway) into a limited liability company, closing down “secondary” lines, opening up to competitors, doing away with the current working conditions of railroad employees and slashing five thousand jobs. In other words, this report is laying the groundwork for the accelerated privatization of SNCF and the destruction of railroad employees’ rights.

This is an outright declaration of war, to which the CGT (France’s major union confederation) replied by calling for a day of protest on March 22.

Railroad employees have every reason to fight back and so do all French workers. Given that the government is proudly boasting about the economic recovery and the return of prosperity, no worker should accept to see his working and living conditions get worse. No worker should accept to be treated as a chip in some casino game.

Many commentators and government officials get all worked up when (more…)

Employees of John Deere Europe and members of German industrial metal workers union IG Metall (IGM) protest at the John Deere factory in Mannheim, Germany, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

by Bastian Schmidt (Feb 8, 2018)

Last Tuesday night, employers in the German metal sector and the IG Metall union announced new labour contract. As part of the agreement, workers will be able to reduce their workweek to 28 hours for a limited period of time. However, this gain came at the cost of several other givebacks. Let’s examine this agreement more closely.

It has been quite a while since IG Metall mobilized this many workers: almost 1.5 million workers throughout the state of Baden-Wurttemberg participated in the strikes over the past weeks. The workers’ tremendous will to fight not only surprised the bosses but attracted the attention of the whole world. This is because, in the context of the current economic situation, the metalworkers’ union not only put forward demands for increased wages but also called for the shortening of the workday.

On Monday night, the negotiations ended with an agreement. Although the deal applies only to Baden-Wurttemberg currently, it will likely be adopted in other states soon. But is the agreement really as groundbreaking as the workers hoped?

More money, but with caveats. . .

The new collective bargaining agreement will be valid until the end of March 2020 — a period of 27 months. Thus, there will be a labour peace in this key sector of the German economy for at least the first two years of the new “Grand Coalition” to be launched between the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union. This is a clear signal the the leadership of IG Metall intends to play a (more…)

Rosa Luxemburg, rallying workers for struggle

by Don Franks

In a February 13th interview in The Listener, Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk makes a valid point: by going on strike, workers may get hurt.

“I remember some strikes. . . and dad losing his job. In the ’90s he was made redundant and survived on his redundancy pay. It terrifies me to think that some people don’t have that backup, so have no way of feeding their families if they lose their jobs. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were. Maybe we are in the mature era and the feminisation of the union movement has changed things. We are not guys coming in and having a punch up any more.”

In New Zealand industrial punch ups have sometimes got quite heated, but not to the extent of some overseas confrontations. For example: “During the night two delegates of the railwaymen were arrested. The strikers immediately demanded their release, and as this was not conceded, they decided not to allow trains leave the town. At the station all the strikers with their wives and families sat down on the railway track-a sea of human beings. They were threatened with rifle salvoes. The workers (more…)

Rio Turbio miners

by Nicolás Daneri (Feb 20, 2018)

In the recent midterm elections in Argentina, the right-wing Cambiemos party of President Mauricio Macri was able to secure the largest share of votes. As a result, the elections were widely interpreted as political support for his austerity program. However, shortly thereafter, his government saw a rapid dwindling in popular support when it passed a major pension reform. The proposed law was met by a major resistance movement this past December. Although it succeeded in passing the pension reform, the government paid a high price for its offensive and had to retreat from its initial plan to pass a labor reform law as well.

20,000 attended election rally of the Left & Workers Front in Nov 2016

During the summer months, when there’s generally very little political activity in Argentina, the government continued to lay off workers in the public sector, and unemployment rose in the private sector as well. This summer though, in almost every industry, workers fought back with strikes, roadblocks, and marches, in stark contrast to the previous year in which the majority of the layoffs were carried out without a fightback from workers. Some of the most important struggles this summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) include the miners’ strike of Rio Turbio and the strike by workers of the Posadas Hospital. These actions point to a growing political unrest among the working class

Because the government wasn’t able to push through a (more…)