The “trade union celebration” has left its messages: support for the war and celebration of the war capitalism that is being imposed on us and that is beginning with a direct attack on the purchasing power of wages.
What has May 1 become? What is the significance of this “trade union holiday” today? What message do they spread about the working class at this point?
The media continue to broadcast patriotic scenes of the war in Ukraine. One of the latest is the “John Deere Brigade”, a supposedly heartwarming scene where Ukrainian farmers are resisting the invasion by towing abandoned Russian armored vehicles towards Ukrainian forces. All of this while turning the brand new green John Deere tractors into a patriotic “symbol” garnished with light blue-yellow backgrounds and flags. But the war does not mean the same thing to the different social classes.
The ideas and even the expressions of bidenism are beginning to seep into European state propaganda. The most eye-catching one relates to the supposed benefits of “strong trade unions”. According to Biden, the weakness of the unions in the USA made it possible for large automotive companies to convert multi-localization into wage dumping. However, the European experience tells us exactly the opposite: within the EU and even within the same country, in sectors with “strong unions” it is the unions themselves which organize competition between factories of the same company and the downward auctioning of working conditions.
A huge teaching strike has been going on in France since yesterday. It covers elementary schools and middle plus high schools, with both teaching and service staffs taking part together.
The Kellogg’s strike in the US continues after two months despite union attempts to end the strike as soon as possible and threats by the company to fire the strikers. While Biden takes the opportunity to advertise himself once again as the most pro-union president since Roosevelt, the company tries to take the “tiered” agreements signed by the unions to their ultimate consequences and the unions tell workers not to complain about the 12-hour workdays and instead leave things as they were prior to 2015.
The metalworkers’ strike in Cádiz shows us that we need to fight in a different way. And that means, from now on, to take control of the assemblies today monopolized by the unions. And to do so in order to extend the struggles, open the assemblies and make joint demands that go beyond all the divisions by sector, province, region or contract type.
Since last Monday in Italy one can only work with a “Covid passport” (“green pass”). Although 85% of the population is vaccinated there remain some pockets of workers yet to be vaccinated victims of the anti-vax discourse. The “combative” unions like Cobas took a position similar to the one rehearsed by the Sud union and some branches of CGT in France, pitting workers against each other and against everyone’s needs in the name of a supposed “individual freedom” to put co-workers at risk. Unsuccessfully, for this time. But… How do we confront the anti-social alliance of the antivax and the trade unions
In Britain, the shortage of drivers at the wages offered by companies is already affecting 30% of British petrol stations and the government is starting to mobilize military drivers. It is a striking case because of how it reveals the chaos created by this productive system, but it is far from being unique: the entire American and European press complains about an alleged labor shortage. But the British experience and the behavior of the unions throughout this speaks volumes and says a lot about workers, their ethos/morality and the alternatives we face.
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.
The Covid epidemic situation has not only affected struggles in the healthcare system or in education, it has also transformed conditions and exacerbated previous trends in the logistics and retail sectors. Many large companies in this sector have been making huge profits from online sales while keeping their workers on the job without protection against the pandemic. Strikes broke out practically simultaneously in several countries, reflecting the worldwide interconnection of capital and the working class, strikes which were drowned out in small local struggles by the unions. Let’s see what happened and what effects this situation had on the class at the global level.
In this second part, we will critique the ideology used by the detractors of tax-evading youtubers. According to the former, evading taxes would exemplify a lack of solidarity because social spending depends on tax collection and because, in addition, taxes would allow a redistribution of wealth capable of curbing the trend towards the concentration of income in the hands of capital.
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.
For the past 20 days the Argentinean ports of the agro-export sector are paralyzed and with them the exports that sustain all the accumulation in a semicolonial country like Argentina. The reason: a strike by oil and ginning workers who do not accept that the drop in their real wages imposed by inflation be compensated by the companies by less than 70%.
While the government renounce stopping the third wave of Covid sells a law of euthanasia whose social context is really obscene, capital is centralizing, concentrating and assaulting our incomes, which are falling sharply. While the ideological noise covers the changes in the background, the unions “reserve” themselves. For what?
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.
Biden’s “Green New Deal” is presented as the most important change that the new U.S. government will implement. Its consequences for workers will be enormous… and not good.
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.
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?
There is no point in a mass “awakening” in condemnation of racism, because racism is not a problem of “individual consciousness” that can be separated from social structure and class division. Nothing will ever come from the trade unions, the bourgeoisie or the identitarianists bent on maintaining this same class structure. The struggle against all discrimination is inseparable from the social question and therefore inseparable from the centralization and independence of our struggle as workers.
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 year we are not going to make a statement of our own. We adhere to the communiqué of the comrades of “La Antorcha”, an organization of young communists that represents better than any other organization known to us the momentum that our class is already engendering and that is the only hope of our species.
Putting ourselves firmly on our own ground today means moving from discussing pension mechanisms to demanding pensions according to the needs of everyone as well as rejecting trade union representation and parades in order to start organising strike assemblies and coordinating them among themselves.
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.
Text of the brochure distributed on 1 May 2019 by «Emancipation»