Covid and schools continue to be at the center of the class struggle during the pandemic. In the months since the return to school after Christmas, states have striven to enforce the new normality in the education system from Argentina to France at the cost of contagions and through lies refuted even by their own research institutes. Meanwhile, from Brazil to Senegal via Great Britain, teachers are back in the struggle, and in Algeria they broke union control and imposed the payment of salary arrears throughout the country.
The situation in Argentina in recent years has become a laundry list of union and left-wing resorts to divert and prevent the extension of struggles. We saw a first large-scale example in 2019 in Chubut. Then the convergence of struggles in the province around teachers and health workers was neutralized with national union strike calls cutting across the movement. Now in Neuquén we are seeing an alternative -yet no less damaging- strategy. We workers in Argentina and the rest of the world have much to learn from the experience in order to be able to effectively confront the unions and find our own terrain of struggle.
In the midst of Covid’s third wave, attempts to keep schools open — or reopen them where they were closed — are meeting the resistance of teachers, education service workers and students.
After the waves of strikes in French and Portuguese schools this past autumn, the situation has taken a new turn. Unions have tried to harness the movements, a new actor has emerged in Italy, new movements in the US, and vaccination has entered the scene. The slogans have been evolving with the situation and the struggle is still on the rise, sometimes in the form of small isolated strikes and sometimes in spontaneous forms threatening the back-to-school operation in a whole country.
Indian workers have already made it clear that they will not let the unions hold them back when their lives and basic needs depend on the continuation of the struggles.
There are thousands of strikes and a multitude of local struggles, but a good part of them are a response to the global phenomena of the moment, such as the effects of the covid pandemic on health and education systems. Let’s see some samples of the class response at the global level and the reaction of the unions trying to control them.
We are witnessing globally the development of the class struggle, the first consequences of the “green deal”, transformations in the forms of competition and trade conflict and fundamental cultural changes.
The macronite response to the wave of strikes and its synchronization with Brussels, Germany and the Netherlands in increasing the repressive capacities of the states, comes at a time when the most basic contradictions of the system are becoming increasingly violent. It is clear to us that the rules of confrontation of the ruling class and the state are already set: against the affirmation of universal needs, use nationalism; against protests, use repression and impunity.
Most of the strikes that appear in the media are desperate protests against company closures that can achieve little or nothing in isolation. Many times the unions are passive or directly opposed to the prospect of a strike… But strikes actually win many times, even if the media does not count them. Today we will speak of a wave of strikes that is beginning to bear fruit: strikes in schools and nurseries for the health of workers and students.
Argentina is in a new pandemic peak. The schools cannot fulfill the only thing that upheld them as a valuable institution for the state: to be a useful feeding ground and nursery for students on the way to nationalist indoctrination. Teachers are left in a bad situation, forced to choose between those students who resist this bad training and a state that sits idly by in the face of the most urgent needs, supported by the unions that keep the teachers enternained.
This is a global movement that is overcoming the trade divisions within schools, incorporating other workers beyond individual schools into the demands, and organizing on the margins of the unions. All within a global framework of rising struggles.
The Spanish government reported yesterday 156 covid deaths in the last 24 hours. primary care is already overwhelmed. This autumn a fundamental factor will be that the discontent that is beginning to emerge in the educational strikes shall become undeniable, shall be openly manifested and shall set out the firm ground of universal human needs. It is fundamental to stop the upward spiral of slaughter. Fundamental to confront the [[pauperization|mass impoverishment of the workers]] they are demanding in order to revive national capital, its enterprises and its finances.
The protests that began in August in Tripoli have not yet been exhausted as a new wave of protests in Benghazi and its zone of influence has led to the resignation of the rival government in the east of the country. Will these struggles be enough to impose peace in a country torn apart by imperialist conflict?
The increase in hospitalizations, the ongoing strikes and the failure of the Oxford vaccine are not isolated events. What is coming next? An increasingly clear increase in all of these contradictions, with states and media trying to push back the reality of the pandemic and its consequences and making workers’ struggles even more brazenly invisible. And on the horizon, the pressing need for self-centralization and extension of the struggles.
It would be hard to imagine a greater or more heinous cynicism than democrats if the unions were not there to hold that title. The experience across North America reflects the commitment of left wing governments and unions around the world to maintain production in order to save business investment, putting capital above the safety and lives of workers.
The workers have finally appeared on the scene in Belarus, with their own concerns and not under the initial calls of the opposition. They are now presenting themselves as a force during this crisis, but the outcome is not yet decided. Will they be caught up in the incipient popular revolt as the opposition wants, or will they advance their own struggle as a class by adding their own slogans to their own budding movement?
The world’s news programmes depict the elections and protests in Belarus in a completely contradictory way. While the Spanish TV links the electoral fraud to Russia, the BBC recalls the background of recent clashes between the two regimes and the German TV highlights the joint statement of Poland and Lithuania lukewarmly calling for further talks. What lies beneath the political crisis in Belarus?
The struggles continue to spread throughout Iran and now reach 12 provinces but are not yet coordinated among themselves.
The surge of strikes that we are detecting around the world is now reaching Iran, where since December 2017 at least three waves of struggle have taken place.
This strike, which is marketed to the workers as a fight for the improvement of working conditions and against the discrimination of black workers, affirms nevertheless in its demands segregation among workers, amplifies the racialistic guilt and ends up merging everything into the achievement by the unions of a status similar to that of their European or Argentinean equivalents. All well seasoned and limited by the electoral interests of the Democratic Party. Where is the working class potential of the BLM movement of which the American left talks about?
The forces that drove that massive insurrection, capable of defeating the democratic Republic, the military coup leaders and fascism at the same time, are still present and are asserting themselves ever more strongly throughout the world. The Spanish revolution, its lessons and what it means, matter not for what was left behind, but for what lies ahead. It is not memory or history, it is the future.
Tunisia is experiencing a summer of struggles and mass worker mobilizations that draws on the lessons of the January 2018 movements while raising new challenges.
Yesterday, while a general strike of hospitals was taking place in France, strikes proliferated throughout hospitals and nursing homes on all continents.
Amidst repression, torture and militarization, the situation in the Donbass mines remains unsettled but an extension and a move towards mass strike cannot be excluded.
The class struggle is too important a thing to be tied up in “traditions” or obsolete forms. Our lives and the future of our families depend on it. It is enough to recall the experience of the generations that are working today to realize that the isolated struggle in the company, the sector-wide strikes, the “social dialogue”… have only led to a spiral of precarization and impotence in the face of plant and company closures. In order to find alternative forms of struggle that will serve us today to confront the coming one, we need to understand at least in a fundamental way what capital is and how it functions. And when we do, there is no historical fantasy able to withstand it. We have to fight in a different way than the one proposed by the unions. And from now on, fight to extend the struggles over the territory.
While the US media focuses its attention on “racial conflicts” in a not so innocent way, a series of day laborers’ strikes in Washington state this month has shown much more clearly the forms and alternatives of the emergence of workers as a class.
This is the time when workers in the US military industry plants should also break the trade union siege and join the struggle under the same platform, which describes and defines their interests as clearly as it does for their Mexican comrades.
We have to stand up in the workplaces and demand the closure of all non-essential production as long as transport and workplace safety cannot be ensured.
We are placing the “Covid strikes” on an interactive map that we will be updating during the coming days and weeks. Have a look!
We are in the middle of the most synchronous and geographically widespread wave of strikes and struggles in the last century. It shows to what extent universal, human needs can only be defended by the workers as a class, because only to the workers do they present themselves as their immediate and direct objective throughout the world. And what is no less important, it shows that we workers are capable of affirming a global alternative when we break with the subordination of our demands to companies’ profits, in other words, when we break with the discourse that unions have been hammering out for years and that they continue to repeat today
Italy closes non-essential production under the pressure of strikes. The governments of Spain, Portugal, France, Germany… are resisting. Not only they want to impose the criterion of saving investments over saving lives. They know the shape of the post-crisis will depend on the outcome of today’s struggles.
The pandemic has suddenly raised the level of contradictions in the system to the point of exposing at least two fundamental truths: the radical antagonism between human needs and capitalism, and that workers are the only political subject capable of representing and asserting these universal interests throughout the world,
It is time to go on strike in all workplaces not engaged in essential production
We’re entering a critical time. The forces and tensions driving the spread of war in the Mediterranean and North Africa are constantly unfolding, while European workers are close to suffering -thanks to the trade unions- the first serious defeats in the fight for their pensions.
This week demonstrates that we cannot trust the ability of imperialisms to stand still on the edge of the abyss of open warfare, and how the trade unions are bringing all workers to the brink of dismantling the pension system.
We need concrete slogans to advance the struggles, but also to form political groups to accelerate the development of a class programme and party.
In addition to the path of crisis and trade warr, there is now an industrial and transport reconversion -the “green new deal”- and its immediate consequence: a new global impulse towards imperialist conflict.
This week ends with impossible balancing acts in Bolivia and Spain, as well as a new progress in the mobilizations on class demands in France… Before which Macron yields as soon as they gain massiveness and visibility.
The unraveling of the Bolivian situation warn of what is to come in South America. Meanwhile, in Europe, the crisis is fuelling inter-imperialist tensions, putting NATO in the spotlight. And the most important thing of the week: the struggle of the Chatillon railroaders achieved a historic success by getting rid of the union police’s yoke.
Since 21 October, workers at the railway maintenance centre in Châtillon, the high-speed rail network’s linchpin in western France, have been on strike without prior notice independently of the unions. They stand up against the appalling working conditions and union control that led to the disastrous strike of 2018.
This week started with the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook, the first sign of a crisis that is already plunging into recession; the trade war took over the universal postal system – a historic jewel of rising capitalism; it showed the inanity and immorality of the new ideologies of “sacred ecological union” with the bourgeoisie; it exacerbated the battle of the bourgeois factions in the United States; and it made clear the immediate limits that unions and the left impose on the only struggles that can offer a perspective of overcoming the morass that is unfolding before our eyes.
We are starting a new section: a weekly news report that puts into perspective the short term and its relationship with the interests and mobilizations of workers around the world.
Since midnight on Monday, workers at General Motors plants in the U.S. have been called to what could become the largest industrial strike in the country in a decade. 50,000 of them are on strike today.
When workers defend their living standards in each strike, in each company, they show that a new and just world is not only possible but necessary; a world organised in order to satisfy human needs and not for producing profits to pay the bosses and shareholders.