with summaries and quotes from articles recommended for study and discussion
Workers’ struggles in Canada, USA, Italy, France, German elections, anti-work and market self-management
Leaflet distributed by Klasbatalo during the CPE daycare workers’ strike in Quebec, 21-10-2021
The Generalized Crisis Requires a Generalized Struggle
“The present situation is one of deep capitalist crisis, wherein every worker faces a decimation of their real wages, brought on by a higher cost of living. Speculation in the housing market has seen rent shoot up 20% in the neighbourhood of Verdun alone, and this is no isolated incident. Decades of stretching supply chains to their limit has seen a shock to commodity prices, including at the grocery store which workers enter with no increase in their paychecks. The state’s response to the crisis was to protect capital at the expense of the working class.
In response to capital’s continued need to attack the conditions of our class, workers’ struggles have intensified in quantity and quality over the past year. Next to the 11,000 CPE workers, who have rejected a ridiculous “concession” by the province, the workers of 20 hotels across Quebec took strike action in September. Unfortunately, despite the initial size of this struggle, the workers at DoubleTree hotel in Montreal now find themselves striking alone and combatting scab labor. A strike wave has become felt across Canada and the United States. Nonetheless, whether it’s Kellogg’s’ workers in Pennsylvania or nurses in Alberta, our class has only faced this generalized crisis on an isolated, sectoral basis rather than a generalized struggle, as a class as a whole facing capital as a whole. Without a generalization in the struggle of our class, each sector will face the state and the bosses with a stark disadvantage. …”
ICP (Florence), 24-10-2021
IATSE: Kill the Proposal!
The struggle for better working and living conditions is crucial, not only in production but in all sectors of the economy. As workers, we have enormous power when acting collectively and in a concerted manner. The bosses are afraid of what we are capable of if we stand in solidarity with our fellow workers and comrades.
The strike presents us with a unique opportunity to connect with other workers and comrades. The union leadership wants to roll out a lengthy and compromising agreement with the AMPTP, but we don’t have to wait! for them to make decisions that will affect our livelihoods.
We are facing nearly unprecedented adversities at work and home. There is a pandemic, unemployment, homelessness, uncertainty and generalized insecurity. When we work together, we are stronger. When workers organize within their industry, but also with the rest of the labor force at large, we are capable of accomplishing more. We call this the class union.
The leadership has shown itself unable to protect the interests and gains of the rank and file. Why else would they immediately call to go back to work? Do they really have our interests in mind? Rushing into an agreement with the AMPTP risks compromising our safety and a steadfast position at the bargaining table.
The recent death on set of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury of director Joel Souza is a tragedy and illuminates the need for better protections of film crews. While many employees had walked off that very set earlier that day over, among other things, these exact concerns shows that production companies and the bosses will do whatever they can to increase their profit margins at the expense of workers. Rather than meet with the union’s reasonable demands, producers would rather hire scabs. The bosses would rather cut corners than prevent injuries. Sadly, this unacceptable violation of workplace safety is not an isolated incident, but a link in a very long chain of injuries and deaths in the industry.
Across the US, and indeed the world, workers have attempted to create better working and living conditions for themselves; yet, at every step of the way, our bosses, their lackeys in state and federal governments and the bureaucrats in the regime unions, all work together to keep us down.
We need to expand our struggle. Vote NO on compromising with the bosses. It’s time to STRIKE!
There are also other IATSE members who are inspired by your threatened strike actions because they endure similar conditions to yours. Bring them with you! Make the industry a better one.
In deciding that we no longer need to put up with being put down, we are part of what workers everywhere are realizing: we don’t have to stand for this treatment. We are the ones that create the wealth of this world, and we deserve fair and safe working and living conditions. Hold strong, and broaden the struggle!
We have a world to win!
*) Wikipedia on IATSE, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
Complete text of leaflet
ICP (Programma), 19/10/202
Due pesi e due misure: come sempre
Double standards: as always
On October 9 (two days before the general strike called by the grassroots trade unionism), during a demonstration against the green pass in the workplace, a handful of fascist elements belonging to the low labor force involved in the dirty business of Italian armored democracy attacks the Roman headquarters of the CGIL, while the “forces of order” pretend to react.
On October 11 (during the above-mentioned general strike of the grassroots unionism), in Prato, a squad of scabs treacherously attacked a garrison of workers who were fighting against black labor and poorly paid, with the indifference of the “forces of order”.
On October 18th (the day in which the umpteenth electoral carousel closes with a ballot), the “forces of law and order” clear out the Port of Trieste with batons, tear gas and water cannons. The Port of Trieste had been occupied for days by the dockworkers and various “solidarity” groups, mobilized against the green pass in the workplace.
As always, double standards: predictable and expected by those who have no illusions about the role of the State, the armed wing of National Capital.
Months ago we had already written about it, defining this measure as “a gracious gift to the bosses who, by resorting to it, can select and cut the workforce at will, implementing at the same time very useful divisions within it, without always having to resort to ‘unpopular’ tests of strength” (“Ideological preparation for the next war”, the communist program, n.4/2021) – a measure that goes along with the flurry of closures and relocations underway for months and destined to intensify in the near future.
We are not interested in the motivations that push individuals belonging to dazed, frightened, angry middle classes to take to the streets for the progressive erosion of privileges and social status, except in the sense that these mobilizations drown in a petty-bourgeois slime much more concrete and dramatic proletarian conditions, in free fall even before the pandemic exploded and even more devastating today, between the release of layoffs and repressive and divisive measures in the workplace, such as the green pass.
We are interested in the fact that, in a more and more decisive and less episodic way, the sense of their own potential strength, the refusal to submit to the “superior interests” of Capital and of the Nation, the need to delimit themselves with respect to all the forces, political and trade union, that operate in defense of those “interests”, will come back to the proletariat, the vigilance towards both the open provocations and the confused and confusing suggestions coming from social strata and groups that, more or less unconsciously, are the interpreters and bearers of those “interests”, even and above all when they proclaim themselves “victims and opponents” of those same “interests” by ranting without any construction.
The urgency of such a perspective in this direction is felt more strongly day after day and must be filled again with class content (objectives, methods, organization). We communists are aware of this and, within the limits of our forces, we work for it, strengthening and rooting the revolutionary party internationally, so that it can really and not just with words finally lead a renewed and combative class movement.
Complete text of leaflet
ICP (Le Prolétaire), 22-10-2021
Sullo sciopero dei portuali (Clpt) di Trieste e Monfalcone contro l’obbligo del green pass per i lavoratori
“… From the experience of the struggle of the workers in the port, and not only in Trieste, as well as the struggle of the logistics workers, riders, multinational companies that dismiss with extreme ease, and all situations in which workers in the name of economic recovery, productivity, competitiveness, are exploited even more bestially than before, from these experiences we must draw lessons that apply to all proletarians.
1) It is necessary to organize independently and not only from the state and institutional apparatuses, but also from the collaborating trade union and political apparatuses, on platforms of struggle that exclusively defend the immediate proletarian interests. This means going towards proletarian economic associations that do not distinguish between natives and immigrants, between specialists and unskilled, and that place among their demands those that are primarily unifying for all wage-earners, such as the drastic decrease of daily working hours, the increase of wages for the worst paid categories, the full wage for the laid-off, the laid-off and the unemployed.
2) The means of the struggle to defend the working conditions and the existence of the proletariat must certainly correspond to the real proletarian force that is mobilized, but they must be above and against the demands of the economic activity of the companies; the struggle against harmfulness, the increase in the pace of work, the increase in the tasks to be performed, overtime, the struggle for security measures, must be part of the basic demands of the proletarians; the struggle against scabs is part of the proletarian class struggle because scabs are one more weapon of the capitalists against the workers’ struggle. Workers’ assemblies must once again become the main means of direct participation of all proletarians in the defense of their interests, through which they decide objectives and means of struggle. The “right to strike” if it is not supported by the force of the struggle is worth nothing, as the strike of the Trieste dockers has shown; negotiations and “bargaining” with the “counterparts” must be carried on with the struggle continuing. And in order not to suffocate in isolation, corporate claims and general silence, the struggle must be taken outside the workplace, to the proletarians of other companies, in street demonstrations.
3) The workers’ struggle must be defended not only against the work and activity of the collaborationist trade unions and political organizations which have the task of deepening the competition between workers, but also against all the manifestations of solidarity which in reality have the task of belittling and diverting the struggle for the defense of the workers’ conditions of work and struggle in order to direct it towards interclass political ends and, therefore, in fact, anti-proletarian. Proletarian solidarity is class solidarity if it fully and exclusively shares the proletarian defense claims; it is a falsified, insidious, intoxicating solidarity, in any case to be kept away and separated from the proletarian struggle if its purpose is not to strengthen the proletarian struggle, but to use the weight and strength of the proletarian struggle to strengthen the shopkeeping interests of this or that popular movement. “
The antivaccine movement and the trade unions
“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
- Antivax and trade unions in Italy
- The anti-vaccine drift of the petty bourgeoisie…
- …find the union petty bourgeoisie…
- …and is nourished by the transition from precarization to atomization”
Karel Ludenhoff, 20-10-2021
Where is Germany Going? What ‘Awakening’? What Renewal?
Summary: Some considerations about the recent German elections and a remarkable election result in Austria. – Editors.
“While the negotiations about the constitution of a new government in Germany are just beginning and are expected to be lengthy and drawn out, there are two reasons for us, the Left, to look closer to the recent elections in Germany at the federal level on September 26. Firstly, when we talk about Germany, we are talking about a country that is the dominating economic and political power within Europe and, because of its domination, carries the most weight for the political and economic role of the European Union in the world(-market). Secondly, we can observe a tendency in the German political domain (in which there is a lot of talk about “awakening” and “renewal”) a tendency we see everywhere in all election campaigns nowadays and, connected with this, a misunderstanding of the concept of a “turn to the left”. …”
Larry Cohen, 23-102-021
Letter from a Comrade in France
You asked me whether the strength of the current protest movement against France’s “health pass” is above all attributable to anti-statist sentiment. Before I respond, here is some background, along with a few significant facts and figures. …”
Isadora de Andrade Guerreiro, 24-10-2021
Autogestão de mercado
It is about asking, again, how to take the political leap towards collective autonomy, beyond managing the urgencies of entrepreneurship, whose logic seems to be disputing hegemony and brings bad omens.
The new post-covid businesses – justified by the deepening of emergency management – seem to be supported by “innovations” to increase productivity and reach popular layers (as workers, consumers, or investors): precarization, financialization, and use of technology. In this combo, the so-called “solutionism” goes beyond the technological field: by bypassing politics and any possibility of universality, it defuses conflicts through focalization, individualization, control, and consensus – promise of success with extinction of autonomy, especially collective autonomy. Neo-Lula-ism sold as “post-apocalyptic” should not escape these assumptions, that is, it will be the zombie phase of the apocalypse itself. About the multiplication of the undead by the pandemic, I wrote here and here – a next phase might be to write about the future management of this size.
I already started talking about the new faces of “solutionist” entrepreneurship when I addressed the new wave of Social Impact. It is worth revisiting some of the issues raised in that text, which have been developed and are proving to be the spearheads of “innovation” in the struggles of the coming period. Besides the MST-S.A. financing model – which changes the place of the collectivization of production in the age of finance – it is also worth looking at the place that solidarity networks, collective care and self-discipline can acquire within “solutionism”. One should be concerned about the perverse slippages between self-management and entrepreneurship
It is up to the militants today to reflect on all this. Beyond the right or wrong side of history – which is only a moral judgment – the popular “change” is permanent and historical in our periphery. What is happening is a productive capture of the turn-over, politically directing it to its most perverse aspect. Maybe someone will correct me: “but this is not self-management, it is pure heteronomy”! It may even be, but the key here is not to point the finger, but to reflect on the forms of appropriation of the lexicon of solidarity and self-management, which empty their emancipating contents and redirect them in the name of “market freedom” – or the possibility of survival.
This form of mercantilized autonomy is also close to the logic of militia practices. It differs only in the degree of extortion through violence, but not in the business itself – which is also not concerned with the formality of relations, only with the flow of resources generated. If such social businesses achieve a certain degree of monopoly within a community, the degree of submission of the residents may approach that of militia practices.
The alternative historically constructed by the progressive left – state action via rights – appears, in this scenario, as one more (among several) of the possibilities for overcoming urgencies, activated by specific agents – social movements, for example – within the logic of “solutionism”. In other ways, the State appears only as an instrument of repression and dispossession. The framework of “rights,” however, exists, but it is modulated according to the language of a market that is not exactly concerned with the institutionalization and universalization of its services, but with monopolizable market niches. The lexicon that progressivism uses, therefore, doesn’t make much sense, except as one of several temporary and precarious ways out of the situation, in competition with so many others that are perhaps much more “efficient”.
It is about asking, again, how to make the political leap towards collective autonomy, beyond the management of the urgencies of entrepreneurship, whose logic seems to be disputing hegemony and brings bad omens. How to give meaning to self-management without sliding into semantic slippage, in a context that will increasingly appropriate this field of action?”
Passa Palavra, 26-10-2021
Greves e recusa ao trabalho nos EUA e no mundo: novo ciclo de lutas?
“Strikes and refusal to work in the US and around the world: a new cycle of struggles?
The United States has this year witnessed the largest nationwide wave of strikes in decades. And now there is also a new phenomenon, dubbed The Great Resignation, characterized by mass layoffs or refusal to return to work as the covid-19 epidemic comes to an end, leaving the nation’s capitalists facing a labor shortage. Since April of this year, 20 million workers have resigned, 4.3 million in August alone – a monthly record that represents about 2.9% of the American workforce. In addition, workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic have refused to return to their old jobs, characterized by low wages and poor working conditions. Some of the hardest hit sectors are small retailers and the hotel, restaurant, and leisure industries. And to add to this scenario, there is a large increase in the number of retirements: by the third quarter of 2020, some 3.2 million Americans from the “Baby Boomers” generation (born between 1946 and 1964) have retired from the labor force, an increase of more than 100 percent over 2019.
To bring back the workers, employers have been forced to meet their demands and offer significantly higher wages, and this is occurring both in states where emergency relief continued to be paid by the government and in states where it was canceled, contrary to Republicans, for whom paying relief would encourage refusal to work. The situation is further exacerbated by the current economic upturn, with labor shortages preventing companies from meeting demand. Fear of the pandemic is certainly a factor, as is the fact that in many places schools and day care centers remain closed, but for Paul Krugman the real explanation lies in the fact that “the labor disruption created by the pandemic was a learning experience. Many of the people fortunate enough to be able to work from home realized how much they hated going from home to work each day; some of the people who worked in the leisure and hospitality sector realized, in their months of enforced inactivity, how much they hated their old jobs.” Furthermore, according to Danny Nelms, president of the consulting firm Work Institute, “the pandemic has lasted so long that it is affecting people mentally and physically. And these things are causing people to start rethinking their lives, careers, and work. Add to that the fact that there are 10 million new companies opening, and it’s not that hard to change jobs if you want to. There is also another factor. For decades the labor market has been reshaped in the sense of increasing informality and precariousness, and inflation has eroded wages and labor benefits.
In this context, a curious phenomenon arises in the Reddit social network: the great growth of a “sub” (community/forum) called “Antiwork” , which proposes to be a space for promoting ideas for the abolition of work under capitalism and to encourage and support struggles in workplaces. The self-description of the “sub” is this: “a subreddit for those who want to stop working, who are interested in the end of work, who want to get a life as free from work as possible, want information about anti-work ideas and need help in their own jobs or struggles related to employment”. And its index contains more details , where the community summarizes its objective: “the objective of r/antiwork is to start a discussion, problematize the work as we know it today”.
Despite all this, it is necessary to observe events with caution, for, first of all, social networks seem to have turned everything, including fights, into fashions: it is true that fashions can be more or less lasting, but what essentially characterizes them is their superficiality, which is why they spread quickly and have free transit between social classes. Are mass layoffs a passing fad? And are the workers, in the current rise of strikes, capable of overcoming the direction and obstacles imposed by the union bureaucracies, or by other bureaucracies that may replace them? It is worth considering, in this sense, that only 12% of the American labor force is unionized.
Secondly, there seems to be an exacerbated focus on oppressive relations, much to the taste of identitarianism, for example when the justification for dismissal is the existence of “toxic” bosses and work environments, in a personalization of the problem. Now, the struggles exclusively focused on oppressions, on the personalization of problems and on denunciationism, instead of consisting in a rupture with capitalism, through autonomous struggles properly speaking, tending to break with the relations of exploitation and focused on the self-management of economic production, are, in fact, an improvement of the mechanisms of competition by the workers themselves, which is seen as a form of militancy. This seems to be an offshoot of toyotism, which has assimilated the workers’ capacity for initiative and creativity, and now has as a byproduct the perfecting of competition among workers by the workers themselves. Will mass layoffs be engulfed by a wave of denouement and intra-working class conflict? Moreover, there currently seems to be an obsession with the free redesignation and reallocation of self (even if this reallocation is to some extent an objective fact of contemporary capitalism), and with an ultra-individualistic self-determination that is averse to collaboration in potentially conflictual relationships, which ultimately leads to an infantilization of the adult When faced with conflict situations, they find an escape valve in redesigning themselves (through identities) or relocating themselves (circumscribing their activities to spaces apparently free of contradictions, where they relate to themselves or to others with whom they identify). Are workers not only renouncing precarious and poorly paid work, but also the conflict, precisely in those spaces where it manifests itself most directly? In this aspect, we can also consider these tendencies as reflections of the decrease in struggles and strikes in workplaces in recent decades in the United States, which means that a very significant portion of the workers, especially the younger ones, have little or no experience in collective struggles in the world of work.
From the capitalists’ point of view, some are looking positively at the phenomenon of increased layoffs and shared criticism of jobs as a continuation of the restructuring currently taking place in workplaces: “Both managers and employees are reimagining the way we work. It’s a time where everyone is rethinking everything,” says Daniel Shapero, COO of LinkedIn, when commenting on the large wave of layoffs.
In the sense of the assimilation of struggles, the problem of social networks is also deeply related to toyotism, because it is no longer about physical barriers and frenetic rhythms preventing the organization of workers, as in Fordism, but rather a seduction, of mobilizing for other things, or for none, but with the logic of occupying dead time and making room for intellectual creation. So even conspiracy can be a pastime, something to talk about, to create an aesthetic, a whole production that inhabits the individual mind of each user and nothing else. Is it not possible that in this new mode of antisocial environment the emergence of disruptive behavior that radically questions work processes is possible?
Another element to be considered is the denial of work, which takes the place of the denial of exploitative relations at work, which turns left-wing activists, especially in the libertarian milieu, into apologists for leisure. Now, the apology of idleness constitutes one of the obstacles to struggles, insofar as it spreads among militants the notion that struggles are autonomous when they can freely decide when they will (or will not) take on tasks and responsibilities, when they will (or will) mobilize and act. Unable to exercise autonomy through self-management in the sphere of the economy and through unrestricted political participation through direct democracy, not only in decision-making bodies linked to the State, but also in institutions controlled by the bureaucratic left, and often facing serious difficulties for stable insertion in the labor market, workers may end up facing as the only possibility of autonomy the “autonomous” refusal to work, both in the sphere of companies and in the sphere of militancy, introducing a factor of permanent demobilization. Is this the fate of this massive movement of strikes and layoffs?
Finally, a feeling (or rather resentment) of “enough is enough” seems to be very present in this wave of refusal to work, something that both the identitarians and the fascist far right know how to exploit very well. Will workers be able to avoid this trap?”
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