Archive for the ‘Workers history’ Category

by Phil Duncan

With Winston Peters announcing that his New Zealand First party is going with Labour and not with National, it looks like the Tories are out and the Xenophobes are in. We’ll now have the two most xenophobic of the four main parties in coalition government (Labour and NZ First). Although the last Labour government was pretty racist in relation to immigration, a Labour-NZF coalition may well be the most xenophobic government since Muldoon in the late 1970s (and the pre-Muldoon Labour government which began the dawn raids on Pacific Islands immigrants).

Watch out immigrants, especially poor people who want to migrate here to make a better life for themselves!

While no-one is under any illusion about Winston Peters’ xenophobia, given that for the last several decades he has made a career out of anti-immigrant – especially anti-Asian immigrant – policies, the liberal left prefers to turn a blind eye to Labour’s anti-Asian racism.  In fact, much of the liberal or centre-left shares  (more…)

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In the early 2000s, in response to capitalist austerity, especially workplace closures, a wave of factory takeovers by their workers occured in Argentina.  Factory occupations in that country have continued and provide useful and practical examples how to fight redundancies and closures.  In the article below, Sonja Krieger, of US-based Left Voice, writes about a factory she visited as part of a Left Voice delegation to Argentina.

by Sonja Krieger

Many are familiar with the story of Zanon, the ceramic tile factory in Neuquén Province in Southern Argentina that was taken over by the workers in 2001/2002. The reason why Zanon – now FaSinPat, Fábrica Sin Patrones (Factory Without Bosses) – has become well-known all over the world is because of the 2004 documentary The Take by Naomi Klein, a film about the “recovery” of closed or abandoned factories in Argentina in the context of the 2001 economic crisis and its aftermath. The film is about the fábricas recuperadas (recuperated factories) movement in Argentina and shows the struggles of workers to save their workplaces by occupying them and continuing production under workers’ control. Many of these cooperatives continue to run and to be self-managed by the people who work in them, and they represent a significant social phenomenon that proves that the working class can not only effectively respond to the attacks and the failures of capital, it can also organize work collectively, democratically, and without bosses and managers.

The Take tells the story of the workers’ struggles at Zanon, as well as those at the Forja auto parts factory outside of Buenos Aires and the textile factory Brukman in the city, but there are many more workplaces that have been under worker self-management for as much as a decade and longer. There are also hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that are run as cooperatives, including in areas like media and education, construction and transportation, and even health care and trash collection.

Madygraf takeover

A more recent example of the Argentinian workers’ fight to “reclaim” their workplaces is the print shop Madygraf, which our delegation had a chance to visit on its three-year anniversary in August. The experience of listening to the workers there talk about how they fought for better working conditions, for their jobs, and ultimately for their plant was a powerful one.

Now in its fourth year as a cooperative, the (more…)

Police violence against locked-out workers sparked the formation of a workers’ militia

Constance Markievicz, founder of first republican paramilitary organisation of 1900s and a founding leader of the workers’ militia

 

by Philip Ferguson*

Described by Lenin as the world’s first Red Army, the Irish Citizen Army was formed by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and other trade unionists in Dublin in August 1913.  Socialist and therefore also republican, the ICA was not, however, the first working class paramilitary organisation to be formed in Ireland in Ireland in the early 1900s.  That honour goes to Fianna Eireann, a predominantly working class youth organisation founded by Constance, Countess Markievicz who would go on to be a key figure in the workers’ militia.

James Larkin and James Connolly

The Fianna

Markievicz, a militant left-wing republican, was moved to form the Fianna in August 1909 for two reasons.  One was that, while new to Irish republicanism – she had thrown herself into it just the year before – she had already decided that any serious political movement for Irish freedom would, sooner or later, have to confront Britain in arms.  Her reading of Irish history had taught her that if you built a serious political movement, at some point the British state would confront you with its military force.  Unless you were armed and prepared to fight, your movement would end in ignominy, confusion and demoralisation.

The other – and this was the immediate factor in the formation of the Fianna – was the arrival of Baden-Powell in Ireland to start an Irish wing of his boy scouts movement.  Markievicz noted that his aim was to get Irish youth to support the British empire and oppose the liberation of their own country and their own class, the working class.  Her and friends such as Helena Moloney went recruiting for na Fianna in working class areas of Dublin.

Having come from the aristocracy, Markievicz knew about shooting and had a great interest in things military.  She wrote the Fianna handbook, taught the boys to drill and to shoot and, later, how to blow things up.  The Fianna were also sent out to rough up the Boy Scouts.  This ‘ruffianism’ was guided by two ideas: (more…)

Bosses, not robots, lay off workers

The article below is taken from the French revolutionary workers’ journal Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle).  It was translated by members of the US revolutionary group The Spark.

French Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoît Hamon justified his proposal for a universal guaranteed income by citing the “inevitable disappearance of work.” Referencing the growing role of digital technology and robots, which he believes are going to cause the destruction “of hundreds of thousands of jobs in Western economies,” he also proposed to create a tax on robots. The deputies of the European Parliament, for their part, debated last January about the need to require businesses to “publish the extent and the share of the contributions of robotics… to their financial outcomes, for the purposes of taxation and determining the amount of their social security contributions” (Les Échos, January 13, 2017).

The idea that human labor will be replaced by machines and robots, and that we are heading toward the inevitable end of work, has recently come into fashion. Does this reflect reality or the ranting of pseudo-experts, good news for humanity or the chronicle of a catastrophe foretold? All of the discussions around this question make no sense if the heart of the matter is not taken into consideration: all of the means of production, which are set in motion in a social and collective manner through a vast international division of labor, remain the private property of a tiny minority of capitalists.

In order to justify their propositions, Hamon and the European deputies rely on a range of studies, such as one made by the think tank France Stratégie, according to which 3.4 million jobs in France are in danger of disappearing over the next ten years. In 2013, two researchers at the University of Oxford, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, maintained that 47% of U.S. jobs are at “high risk,” meaning that they “could be automated relatively soon, perhaps over the next decade or two.” They base their arguments on the progress that has apparently been achieved in the fields of robotics and machine learning, which would allow machines to carry out (more…)

Camilo Mones

Camilo Mones worked and organized for decades at the PepsiCo plant in Buenos Aires until this past June, when the corporation abruptly closed it and about 700 workers were fired. Today, he continues to fight alongside other dismissed workers for the factory’s reopening.

In the following, Camilo describes their struggle, the crisis of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), politics and opposition within the national unions, and the need to fight for a class-struggle perspective within the labour movement.  

The interview was conducted by Left Voice and translated by Nicolas Daneri. 

Left Voice: The media is saying that, apart from the CGT, the PepsiCo workers were one of the main participants in the rally on August 22.

Camilo Mones: We managed to gather a broad range of organizations under the PepsiCo banner that represented the fight against the layoffs, the demand for the appearance of Santiago Maldonado (a political “desaparecido” during a repression against indigenous Mapuches in the south of the country) and the motto, “For a general strike.” There were people from other food factories, the tyre factories workers’ union, the Buenos Aires province teachers’ union, delegates and shop stewards from the subway, railroad workers, airport, left-wing parties, and a delegation of workers from MadyGraf–a printing company under workers’ control.

Although the bureaucracy did not want us to go to the rally, we decided to go in full force. There, we planted our banners with the demand for a general strike, which we chanted throughout the speech. This and our early morning demonstration that blocked 9 de Julio Avenida (one of the most important avenues in Buenos Aires City) led the media to highlight our participation.

LV: Did the CGT’s call to action and their speeches at the rally seem a bit soft?

CM: Completely. The rally–among the smallest in recent years–revealed the crisis within the federation and its leadership. Most of the unions did not take part and some of them only sent small delegations. This crisis is partly a result of 19 months of inaction, when unions had no policy to oppose the austerity measures of (more…)

ILWU Local 10 taking part in protest against police killings of black Americans.

In New Zealand, industrial law supported by National and Labour alike bans political strikes.  Both parties are aware of the criplling effect this has on working class politics.  Without engaging in political strikes, NZ workers simply can’t press their interests as members of a global class.  And without acting as part of the global working class, workers here can’t develop a genuinely radical consciousness.

In the past, unions here did engage in political strikes.  For instance, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the early 1970s, the seafarers would take industrial action against the imperialist intervention in Vietnam on the same day that national protests against the war would take place.

In many other countries, political strikes are an important feature of working class politics and industrial action.  Below is an example from a few days ago in the United States. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in San Francisco have passed a motion to stop work and march on the site of a white nationalist gathering later this week.

The rally has been organised by the far-right Patriot Prayer group, whose leader Joey Gibson has a history of organising rallies attended by white nationalists and violent racists such as Jeremy Christian, the man who stabbed two men to death on a Portland MAX train as they intervened to stop him racially abusing and threatening two teenage girls.

Gibson has made pains to distance himself from more explicit neo-nazis in the fallout following the Charlottesville protests, where a white nationalist drove his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators.

However, Gibson’s sincerity has been questioned particularly has it has come to light that the Oath Keepers, a heavily-armed far-right militia composed largely of ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel, will be providing security for the event.

To combat this, a rank-and-file union meeting of ILWU Local 10 has resolved to stop work on Saturday 26th August, the day of the rally, and march to Crissy Fields, where the rally is due to take place.

In a statement, the ILWU Local 10 declares (more…)

Even in the US there is greater awareness of the importance of opposing immigration controls

by Phil Duncan

In New Zealand, working class struggle remains – as it has been for a couple of decades now – at an historic low.  In fact, abject surrender to exploitation and acceptance of the contempt of the employers and their political representatives in National and Labour seems to be thoroughly normal now.  Occasionally a group of workers will struggle, but these workers are a tiny minority and their struggles are limited to immediate conditions and take place entirely within narrowly-prescribed industrial law.

The share of wealth going to workers, meanwhile, continues to decline.  For instance, official figures show that business operating profits have grown from $NZ47 billion in 2009 to just over $NZ65 billion in the latest financial year, an increase of about 38 percent.  But the median-average hourly wage grew by less than 20 percent.   Large numbers of workers simply haven’t received wage rises in the past couple of years.

Mourning sickness

Even when faced with workplace closures, and a possible future of unemployment, the tendency of the employees generally is to look (more…)