Tag Archives: General Strike

Guadeloupe General Strike Spreads to Martinique

FORT-DE-FRANCE, MARTINIQUE, February 7 — The general strike which began January 20 in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe spread February 5 to neighboring Martinique, 122 miles to the South. These workers — 90% African or African-white-Indian mixture (Indian from India) — are refusing to pay for the world capitalist crisis.

Over 20,000 people demonstrated here February 5, completely halting public transport. The marchers included all job categories from dockers to Catholic schoolteachers. They chanted, “Sarko [French President], Fillon [Prime Minister], we want jobs!” and “Jobs, yes! Precarity [poverty], no!” The twelve unions calling the strike united in a Collective, welcoming other unions and associations to join.

The Martinique strikers are demanding price cuts and higher wages for all, especially those in low-paying jobs. A Collective study shows milk costs 44.7% more and noodles almost 80% more on this island than in mainland France.

On Guadeloupe, the junior minister for the overseas departments, Yves Jégo, claimed agreement on about one-third of the 146 demands advanced by Lyiannaj kont pwofitasyon (Link Against Extreme Profiteering – LKP). In a clear maneuver to pressure LKP and Guadeloupe’s workers to end their strike, French interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie immediately released a lying communiqué claiming “an agreement has been found on most of the questions raised.”

The people of Guadeloupe are super-exploited by capitalist monopolies and the Guadeloupe wealthy class. This island’s population of 405,000 is 69% African or African-white-Indian mixture.

A trade unionist told French radio that four or five families control imports to the island, so rice is almost twice as expensive here as on mainland France; a toothbrush costs four euros ($5.14).

Gasoline and diesel fuel distribution is effectively monopolized by the Caribbean Refinery Inc. (SARA), owned 50% by France’s Total company, with Exxon and Texaco also holding a stake.

Jégo claims to have obtained a one-year 10% price reduction for 100 staple goods in 60 supermarkets. He says he’ll “put heavy pressure” on the bosses to grant demands for higher wages. LKP wants an across-the-board, 200-euro-a-month wage hike. Jégo said before negotiations even opened that all workers would get at least a 2% raise. If accepted, a percentage-based raise would widen the gap between the highest- and lowest-paid workers, potentially dividing workers when the bosses inevitably move to eliminate the increase.

LKP is also demanding a rent freeze, improved health care, permanent jobs for all temporary workers and no racism in hiring. “The high rate of unemployment on Guadeloupe [35%] has to be taken into account,” said Jean-Marie Brissac, CGTG trade union general secretary. “Even though our young people are highly qualified, they can’t get a job here. The big corporations get their job applicants through Paris job agencies in order to exclude Guadeloupe youth.”

Jégo claimed LKP has asked him to be the “moderator” in negotiations.  Posing as a “neutral mediator,” Jégo has induced the strikers to lower their guard. All gas stations were to re-open February 5, and two hypermarkets and a large number of shops have re-opened.
Meanwhile, in this good-cop-bad-cop routine, Guadeloupe bosses are dragging their heels at throwing any crumbs to the strikers. “Have a thought for the companies!” one local boss is said to have shouted at Jégo.

On the other hand, LKP called for a demonstration on Feb. 4 to shut the hypermarket and shopping center in Baie-Mahault, which had re-opened.

This apparent indecisiveness is reflected in the LKP platform: “People of Guadeloupe, workers, farmers, artisans, retirees, unemployed, entrepreneurs, young people, Lyiannaj kont pwofitasyon is our organization, our idea, our tool, our consciousness.” The inclusion of “entrepreneurs” — capitalists — in the Collective indicates confusion about the nature of the struggle. LKP apparently believes in unity with some bosses on a nationalist basis, because these bosses form part of “the people of Guadeloupe.” Such illusions are fatal in the class struggle.
It’s the job of communists worldwide to explain that the government is never “neutral” — it is always on the bosses’ side. The working class can obtain justice only by overthrowing the bosses’ government with communist revolution, in order to institute workers’ rule.

Tagged ,

France: Workers Must Unite Immigrants, Youth in Looming General Strike

le che au dessus des travailleurs de l'automobilePARIS, January 24 — A 24-hour general strike called by eight trade union confederations is set to rock France. Both government and private-sector workers are likely to participate in large numbers. Demands include: limiting job cuts; reducing income from stocks and bonds to increase wages; changing European Union policy to bolster consumption, the welfare state, and social housing; and regulating international finance.

These tepid reformist demands show that, in the name of “unity,” the most radical confederations are once again lining up behind the lowest common denominator acceptable to the right-wing unions. Even in their independent position statements, the radical unions go no further than calling for renewing the general strike, day by day, and “refusing to pay for the capitalist crisis.”

All this is a far cry from what workers here really need: revolutionary leadership to overthrow capitalism and establish communist workers’ rule.
In addition to private-sector workers in the metal trades, mining, banking, telecommunications and retailing, public workers in health, rail and urban transport, the post office, gas and electricity and education will join the strike.

The January 29 walkout will also hit the campuses, where teachers and researchers are feeling the lash of an increasingly authoritarian government. In December, French president Nicolas Sarkozy increased his control over the broadcast media. This month he shattered illusions of “judicial impartiality” by eliminating the examining magistrates who supposedly counter-balance executive power. Now he’s moving to bring the education system under greater autocratic control.

This constitutes a three-pronged attack: (1) changing the status of faculty, (2) changing the recruitment of primary and secondary school teachers, and (3) reinforcing religious education.

Previously, all faculty pursued research and teaching in equal measure. Now university presidents will use their new powers under last year’s LRU law to give the “best minds” more time for research and administrative tasks, while the others take up the slack and teach longer hours. Thus the presidents will be able to advance teachers who side with the bosses.

In the past, many teaching positions were filled by national competitive exams. Successful candidates were then paid during one year of teacher training. Now, three roadblocks will make it harder for working-class people to become teachers: (1)candidates will have to write a master’s thesis while studying for the competitive exam (difficult if you’re working to pay your way through school — as do 70% of the students in the working-class Paris suburbs, many of whom are of North or sub-Saharan African origin); (2) candidates’ “files” (their social background), will become a selection criterion, in addition to exam results; and (3) there will be no paid year of teacher training.

Before, the French government did not recognize diplomas awarded by Vatican-controlled universities on a par with those from state universities. Now a treaty with the Vatican will allow conservative Catholic institutions to play a bigger role in shaping the French “meritocracy.”

The situation on the campuses is a microcosm of French society. With inter-imperialist rivalry mounting in recent years, the French bosses have steadily increased their state’s capacity to regiment and control society. This accelerated with the May 2007 election of President Sarkozy. Now the financial and economic crises are pushing the bosses to move even faster, with full-blown fascism becoming an increasingly probable outcome.

In the past, the union leaders and many workers have looked the other way while immigrant workers and youth from the former French colonies in Africa suffered police terror and racist super-exploitation. The lack of anti-racist unity with these immigrant workers and youth has weakened ALL workers. The best outcome that can emerge from this general strike and many other struggles is the building of an anti-racist, multi-ethnic revolutionary leadership to fight the sharper attacks the working class is facing. That’s the road that will lead to building a society without any racist bosses: communism!

Tagged , ,

Killer Cops Spark Youth Rebellion, Strikes Across Greece

ATHENS, GREECE, December 9 — For three consecutive days, police and protesters have clashed nationwide following a Special Forces cop’s fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6 in this city’s central district. The cops claimed Alexandros and other youths were throwing rocks at police cars. But the youth were just shouting anti-police slogans.

The arrest of two cops for this murder has not calmed the masses’ anger. Hundreds of students battled police in Thessaloniki, while protests also turned violent in Trikala, the port of Piraeus, and on the island of Corfu. Major mass marches were planned for today.

The rebellion and mass anger against this police murder reflect the hatred of many workers and youth for the cops. During the “colonels’ dictatorship” of 1967-74, cops were particularly brutal against those opposing the military junta. And in recent years under the right-wing government, police brutality has intensified. The cops have especially brutalized immigrant workers, particularly in Athens’ police stations. The national government has been trying to divert the anger of workers and youth by attacking immigrant workers and refugees here.

The protests are not just the actions of a “few hothead vandals” as right-wing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on national television. After the killing, students have occupied a majority of schools nationwide. The High School Teachers’ Union has already called a 3-day strike and the Primary School teachers were set to walk out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in Germany a dozen demonstrators occupied the Greek consulate in Berlin, replacing the Greek flag with a banner proclaiming Greece “a murderer state.”

There have been recent mass strikes opposing the government plan attacking pensions and job security, under orders from the European Union to cut the budget deficit. The government also gave billions in bailouts to local banks growing out of the current worldwide financial meltdown.

While workers were being attacked, a scandal erupted involving a land swap between an Orthodox monastery and government officials in Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’ New Democracy Party. A land scandal had further tarnished the government’s political standing. Even recent wildfires have been linked to speculators who want to build hotels in protected forest land.

The opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) and the reformist “Communist” Party, both with lots of influence in the union movement, are using the rebellions — the biggest since World War II here — to push for an electoral defeat of the right-wing New Democracy government, but without changing the capitalist essence of Greek society.

Amid the growing capitalist economic crisis and sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry leading to wider wars, reformist electoral politics won’t extricate workers and youth from the hole into which capitalism has driven us. The lesson from these rebellions and strikes is to fight for a revolutionary communist leadership, capable of uniting workers Europe-wide and globally, to transform society into a world without any bosses, police terror or economic crises in which workers pay for the bankers’ bailouts.

Tagged , , ,

Belgian General Strike Blasts Bailout Assault on Workers

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, October 6 — The financial meltdown of world capitalism is prompting workers to fight back, refusing to pay for the bosses’ crisis. Today’s general strike here was “a warning to the government and the bosses.” Workers paid no heed to rulers’ pleas “not to aggravate” the shaky economic situation. Instead, workers here set an example for workers internationally by taking the offensive.

Workers are demanding no wage-cuts, a higher minimum wage, equal benefits for young workers, government action to reduce the cost of trips between home and the workplace, higher welfare benefits, and lower taxes on workers and higher taxes on the rich and the corporations.

The strike shut the country’s major factories, such as Audi (auto) and Sonaca (aeronautics) in the Brussels area and the Charleroi steel mills. Work stoppages and workers’ on-the-job mass assemblies hit banks and superstores. Teachers struck nation-wide, as did postal workers and workers in national and local governments. Some cities (like Sambreville) decided to close “in a show of solidarity” rather than be shut by municipal workers.

Antwerp and Bruges, in Flemish-speaking regions, ground to a halt, as did Charleroi and Liège in French-speaking areas. The subway, trams and buses in Brussels — Belgium’s capital and the seat of the major European Union institutions — were all at a standstill. Practically no trains were running, disrupting both domestic traffic and travel to Amsterdam, Cologne and Paris.

On June 6, 100,000 workers had demonstrated in Brussels demanding the government take emergency measures to defend their purchasing power. Since then only prices have risen: food up 7.9%; electricity up 20%; natural gas up 50%; and heating oil up 59%.

The Belgian bosses’ answer to that demonstration was a new round of downsizing, repeated attacks on such public services as education, transport and health care, an attempt to impose a wage freeze and to make any improvement in welfare benefits dependent on a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

However, the power of the workers is being derailed by the leadership of the three major unions, the socialist FGTB, the Christian CSC, and the liberal CGSLB, which only want to influence the government’s proposed budget, scheduled for October 14.

In this period of global crisis and endless wars, the bosses — even if they give workers some crumbs — will try to take them away as soon as possible. The best victory workers can gain from these struggles is to turn them into schools for communism, forging the revolutionary leadership needed to fight for real workers’ power: communism.

Tagged ,

South Africa General Strike Shows Power of Workers

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, Aug. 6 — A massive general strike shut down this country’s economy today as tens of thousands of workers marched against rising fuel and food prices. Today’s nationwide strike, which followed several regional ones, was called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), under pressure from nearly two million members.

The Mail and Guardian (8/7) said, “The South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union…reported that 93% of its members had not gone to work….Gold mining operations…were affected substantially, with AngloGold Ashanti saying no shafts were operating while Harmony and Gold Fields said its operations were limited. Volkswagen’s…factory in Uitenhage…halted production, and Toyota South Africa closed its Durban plant for the day, as did Mercedes-Benz…in East London. Many…schools had been closed…”

Masses marched in many cities. In Pretoria, thousands marched to the Union Buildings, giving a memorandum of grievance against soaring electricity prices to Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana. Some 6,000 workers marched in East London, while about 5,000 took to the streets in Mthatha. The closure of Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant and other automotive factories in the province had the most obvious impact on the Eastern Cape economy.

This massive strike again showed the power workers have to shut down any modern economy. It is the road workers and their allies worldwide must follow to fight the bosses’ growing attacks in this age of economic meltdown and wars. Such an action is also one way to counter the recent racist pogrom fueled by lies blaming immigrant workers from Zimbawe, Mozambique, and elsewhere for the rise in prices and lack of jobs for all.

But much more is needed. The plight of workers won’t be solved by changing one politician or union misleader for another. For many years the COSATU leadership supported the African National Congress (ANC) government led by Mbeki and whose IMF-imposed austerity measures worsened workers’ lives here. COSATU, along with its allies in the “Communist” Party, which also supported Mbeki, are now backing the presidency of Jacob Zuma, who until 2005 was one of Mbeki’s deputy vice-presidents.

Zuma supported the privatization of Eskom, the government-owned electric utility. The recent electricity price rises are supposed to help Eskom, whose failing system has caused blackouts affecting capitalist operations like the gold mines. Privatization didn’t go through because investors realized that Eskom’s current sad state won’t be profitable.

The power struggle between different factions of the ruling ANC for control of state power, and the fruits of their being the main servants of local and international capitalists, again show that workers’ fight-back cannot limit itself to backing one set of bosses (such as African nationalists like the ANC) as the past militant anti-apartheid struggle did.

Many workers and youth in South Africa consider themselves pro-communist and revolutionary, but they must realize that the ANC-“C”P-COSATU leaders are far from that. The best lesson to draw from general strikes like today’s is to turn them into schools for communism, and rebuild a red-led workers movement. But this time it must break with all capitalists and fight for the only society capable of freeing workers from capitalism and its racism — communism.

Tagged , , ,

Two Million Strikers Battle Sellouts, French Gov’t

<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>PARIS, Nov. 23 — The class struggle tests the mettle of organizations and individuals. Over the past two weeks, three simultaneous, interconnected battles have offered workers and students in France and around the world an assessment of their friends and foes.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>SPECIAL PENSION PLANS</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 13, 202,000 rail, energy and Paris commuter train workers struck a second time to defend their special pension plans, which allow them to retire at 50 or 55. On Oct. 18, a 24-hour strike by 247,600 couldn’t force the government to abandon plans to increase retirement age by five years.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>This attack on pensions is the first battle in the bosses’ effort to make all workers work longer for smaller pensions. The MEDEF — the French bosses’ association — wants to force everyone to work 41 or more years to be eligible for retirement. By attacking the transport and energy workers, the bosses hope to break the working-class unity needed to defend and extend existing retirement plans.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The bosses’ media, especially television, accused transport workers of “holding passengers hostage” and regularly said the strike was over. Socialist Party leader Emmanuel Valls attacked the special retirement plans as “unfair.” In October, labor faker François Chérèque, CFDT union head, said that “a long strike doesn’t lead anywhere” and on Nov. 16, the CFDT advocated ending the strike.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Worse yet, hours after the strike began, Bernard Thibault of the CGT union, the leader of the three-week 1995 strike that successfully defended special pension plans, abandoned maintaining the plans intact, offering to “negotiate” their “reform.” Thibault — a top member of the French “Communist” Party — also stooped to red-baiting, warning workers not to allow “political organizations” to hijack their strike. The CFDT and UNSA unions and the Socialist Party immediately supported Thibault’s sellout. Only the SUD union refused to downsize the workers’ pensions.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Negotiations began on Nov. 21 after French President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped ending the strike as a precondition. </p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The union hacks in France and Germany also did nothing to build international solidarity, although train drivers in Germany were simultaneously striking for higher wages.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Despite these attacks, a minority of transport and energy workers held out for nine days. On Nov. 22, Anissa, a Paris rail ticket agent, said “a gulf is opening up between the CGT and rail workers.” In Marseilles, a striker declared: “We should have blocked traffic! No trains moving. We know how to play cat-and-mouse with the CRS [the national riot police].”</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS </p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 20, 1.7 million public sector workers (out of 5.2 million) struck and 700,000 demonstrated in cities nationwide, demanding higher wages, job creation and better public services. In particular, 454,000 of the country’s 739,000 school teachers struck; 40,000 university and high school students joined them. It was a golden opportunity to unite civil servants, rail and energy workers and students.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The bosses’ friends made sure that didn’t happen. When the strike was announced on Oct. 23, Chérèque declared that “if there is a combination of strike movements between the special retirement plans, civil servants, and I don’t know what else,” the CFDT would not participate. The UNSA union also insisted that each industrial sector remain separate.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 20, Alain Olive, UNSA union general secretary, condemned rail and energy workers for defending special retirement plans, and thus “cannibalizing” civil servants’ demands. And President Sarkozy red-baited, saying “the majority must prevail over a very small minority, even if that minority is violent” — as if 1.7 million workers were “a small, violent minority.”</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Paris workers refused to let Chérèque demonstrate with them, showing they’ve seen through that faker. But they allowed Thibault, who’s no better, to lead the march.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The leaders of the public workers’ unions are threatening another 24-hour strike in early December if the government does not announce measures to increase purchasing power by Nov. 30. But the rail and energy workers’ experience shows that only long, earnest strikes have a chance to win some demands.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>STUDENTS AND TEACHERS</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Students have been striking for three weeks against the Pécresse law, which gives private business an even bigger say in running public universities and gives university presidents despotic power. Of 80 universities, 30 have been shut down and another 20 are severely disrupted. The movement has spread to high schools, where 80 have been disrupted or shut down. The CRS riot police have brutally attacked students on many campuses.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Although teaching loads will increase dramatically under the Pécresse law, university teachers have been slow to support the student movement. The SNESUP-FSU, the main university teachers’ union, and the CGT and SUD-Education unions have finally called for a teachers’ strike on Nov. 27 to demand abrogation of the Pécresse law.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>COMMUNISTS NEEDED</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The sharpening class struggle in France is exposing the union hacks’ and fakers’ treachery. These class traitors’ reformism puts them even more on the enemy’s side of the class struggle, in this age of fierce inter-imperialist rivalry, based on pushing racism and lowering workers’ standard of living still more to make us pay for their economic crisis and endless wars.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>But, as Chérèque’s and Thibault’s betrayals show, exposure’s not enough. To avoid the pitfalls of discouragement and cynicism, workers need to build a revolutionary communist party. Only such leadership can move past these traitorous union misleaders and turn these class struggles into schools for communist revolution to eliminate the profit system.</p>

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: