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Hospital strikes in Germany, GB: wildcat strikes, USA, Argentine, Kosovo, Ukraine, and more

Updated: 17-8-2022

AWW, 13-8-2022
After the strike… A few updates after recent staffing disputes at hospitals in Germany

“Here in the UK, we’re looking at another gruelling effort to mobilise enough of our NHS co-workers to vote against the recent, government imposed wage cut. It would definitely be easier to motivate colleagues if the issue of pay was combined with the problem of stress at work due to chronic understaffing. You can read this insightful interview with a nurse from the UK, which can hopefully help get the ball rolling in terms of discussion and organising. 

In Germany we have seen hospital workers going on strike over staffing levels – initially in the two biggest hospitals in Berlin, then more recently in six university clinics in North-Rhine Westphalia. The main demand of the strikers was to implement a new collective contract, which would guarantee hospital workers who work on understaffed shifts extra time off in compensation. Both series of strikes were successful in the sense that the day-to-day divisions between different wards and groups of workers in the hospital were undermined through collective action and that new staffing-related contracts could be introduced. 

A few months after the strikes, however, the struggle to enforce the details of the contracts is continuing. As long as a collective mass of workers is on the move, management feels that they have to agree to changes. As soon as they only face a few union or works council negotiators, they think that they can go back on their word or find loopholes. Below you can find short updates from Berlin and from North Rhine Westfalia. …”

Dyjbas, CWO, 14-8-2022
Wildcat Strikes in the UK: Getting Ready for a Hot Autumn

“The climate crisis may have brought record heat to the UK this summer but it is not the only way temperatures are rising. After more than ten years of austerity in which real wages have been slashed, after more than four decades in which workers’ earnings as a share of the wealth their labour creates have fallen, there are a few signs that the latest attempt to make us pay is the last straw. The current situation, characterised by rising costs of living, stagnating wages and intensification of exploitation is only set to get worse. The class war is heating up.

The global capitalist economic crisis which has been with us since the post-war boom ended in the 1970s has never gone away, and workers have faced one attack after another ever since. The pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine have – as ever – all been trotted out as alibis for the failure of the system. While these are certainly contributing factors, behind the inflation, skyrocketing prices and supply disruptions ultimately lies the systemic failure of world capitalism. This is a theme we have explored in the recent issues of Aurora and Revolutionary Perspectives.

And now, at last, the frontal assaults on labour are provoking the beginnings of a new resistance in which workers have taken the conduct of their struggle into their own hands. In tandem with official strike actions on the rail, airports, buses and in telecoms, there has been a growing wave of unofficial, or wildcat, strike actions across the UK. Many of these struggles are about wages, but not all. Some are over labour discipline and against bullying at work. In short, workers are once again beginning to dispute bosses’ control over production and such wildcat struggles represent an elemental response to the latest phase of the capitalist crisis.

In the UK news about these wildcat strikes is mostly scattered across local news, leftist sites, and social media. Here we only list a few typical examples:

10 May: some 100 refuse collectors in Welwyn Hatfield walked out in protest against a manager accused of sexism, racism and bullying.

11 May: some 300 construction workers at a refinery in Hull went on strike because of wage payments being delayed or incomplete.

17 May: over a thousand offshore oil workers in the North Sea walked out across 19 rigs demanding their wages match inflation.

27 July: some 100 workers at a food plant in Bury walked out in response to not being allowed proper breaks at work.

3 August: hundreds of Amazon workers at various sites in Tilbury, Rugeley, Coventry, Bristol, Dartford and Coalville have staged walkouts and slowdowns in response to a pay “rise” of only 35p more per hour.

10 August: hundreds of contract workers, including scaffolders and maintenance workers, at refineries, chemical plants and other facilities in Teesside, Grangemouth, Pembroke, Fife, Fawley and Drax walked out in a fight over pay, picketing motorists entering and leaving the facilities.

These may be still few and far between and unconnected for now, but after decades of class retreat they are a start. They hold out the promise of more action against making us pay yet again for the bosses’ crisis. They also give the lie to those who say that we need a union in order to organise resistance. Such people are usually nostalgic for the 1970s and 1980s. In those days workers were in huge production units and most were in unions. This, so the myth goes, gave the workers more power to fight back.

….”

R. Totale, 7-8-2022
National construction wildcat on the way as strike wave spreads

Construction and engineering employers have begun warning their workforce against taking part in a wildcat strike over pay on Wednesday 10th August, as strike action has spread from unionised workplaces into new areas such as Amazon warehouses.

Recent weeks have seen industrial action across the UK, as official strikes called by unions such as the RMT, Unite and CWU have been joined by unofficial wildcat actions. The wave of wildcat actions started with a strike at Cranswick Continental Foods in Pilsworth, and has now spread to Amazon warehouses, with workers at sites in Tilbury, Rugeley, Coventry, Bristol, Dartford and Coalville walking off the job or staging unofficial slowdowns over pay, and reports of the action spreading to Belvedere, Hemel Hempstead and Chesterfield.

Wednesday 10th August could see an even more dramatic escalation, as rumours are spreading of a national wildcat strike among engineering and construction workers planned for that day. Nothing seems to have appeared in the national media yet, but the Teesside Gazette has warned of the disruption that could be caused by roads being blocked near site entrances, and STV has mentioned that the Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk is likely to see hundreds of maintenance workers walking off the job.

In a bid to scare workers out of taking part in the action, the Engineering Construction Industry Association has issued a communique to workers across the industry, stressing that the action planned for August 10th is unofficial and not endorsed by any trade unions. It remains to be seen how widespread the action will be, but it seems like the “hot strike summer” could be set to reach dramatic new heights.

(Complete article, followed by links to updates)

ICP (Florence), The Communist Party, August 2022
For the class union

– Intervention at Labor Notes – UK government introduces Scabs’ Charter – Trucker activity in the US – Updates on the struggles of port workers and railroad workers – UAW constitutional convention – Illegal educators’ strike in Massachusetts – Correction to the Starbucks article from TCP no.42 – Chicago quarry strike

AE, 18-7-2022
Alcune considerazioni sul salario minimo

“The European minimum wage directive.

The agreement reached in the European Parliament on “adequate minimum wages in the European Union”[1] represents, in the face of the problem of the vertical collapse of wages, one of the bourgeoisie’s attempts to guarantee at least the bare minimum for the survival of workers in European states.

Contrary to what has often been heard in recent times, this will not be a measure that necessarily requires Italy to adopt an expressed value per hour of work, (i.e., an amount predefined by law, for example: 8 euros per hour) since the directive leaves free those states that lack a legal system regulating collective bargaining. (such as, e.g., Scandinavian countries) to adopt measures, yet to be defined in detail, simply aimed at promoting national collective bargaining.”[2]

The main objective of this directive is to seek greater uniformity of wage policies in the Union, and to ensure at least minimum subsistence levels for labor sellers. 

…”

Fragment translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Primo Jonas, 17-8-2022
Os sindicatos dos pobres na crise argentina

A significant part of the population understands social plans as privileges operated through the patronage networks of political organizations.

In these troubled days in the Argentine Republic, the social organizations called “piqueteras” seem to be the only hope of much of the left. The economic and monetary crisis experienced in the country pushes a huge part of the population to fight against impoverishment .

We can describe the imbroglio of the Peronist government, in summary, in the following terms: Cristina Kirchner did not have enough votes to return to the presidency after the failure of the Macri government, so, in a move that at the time was understood as “genius” , it launched as deputy of a character without protagonism, Alberto Fernandez. This one, with a more orthodox profile and distanced from the sectarianism of political organizations faithful to la jefa , first managed the disaster of the pandemic with apparent sobriety, but then, in the aftermath of the same, he began to be pressured by all sides, especially by the vice itself. -President and his followers. Peronism’s vocation for internal struggle has reached the point of public boycottof several officials who responded to Cristina, undermining the president’s economic policies. When this conflict reached its peak, it was necessary to summon Sergio Massa, a kind of Peronist third way, who had already contested presidential elections in opposition to Kirchnerism (when he received a significant amount of votes, 21%).

The social organizations called “piqueteras”, which inherited this name because they represent the same social base that, in the 1990s, became famous for their methods of struggle, are currently divided. During the Macri government (2016-2019) there was a certain political confluence, given that the spirit of the time was to “endure”: expressing political rejection whenever possible , but at the same time demonstrating a great capacity for negotiation with the government . There was no other option. It was more important than ever to present themselves as true unions of the poor , which had no political objectives other than representing and achieving improvements for their members.

However, with the arrival of Alberto to the presidency, the board was organized with much less unity. The so-called “piquetera CGT”, in allusion to the country’s official trade union central [ Confederación General del Trabajo ], groups the three main organizations that today are aligned with the government: Movimiento Evita , Corriente Clasista y Combativa and Somos Barrios de Pie . The Movimiento de Trabajadores Excluídos is also part of the governing base, but with greater distance and fewer positions. Their distance has already been marked recently, when they threatened to “disembark” from the government (which would possibly leave the government without a majority in Congress) and participated in protests against the country’s economic direction. Finally, the front calledUnidad Piquetera , which has hegemony from the Partido Obrero (Trotskyist) and is made up of a large number of small organizations more to the left, acts in open opposition to the government (or perhaps it would be more correct to say opposition to the IMF, given that they believe that the fund who really governs the country).

When Nestor Kirchner took over a country already detonated by the crisis, his proposal was to leave behind all aspects of the 90s, especially the main slogan of the time, the famous (and limited) ¡Que se vayan todos! , a popular expression of rejection of all politicians. His strategy, ni palos ni planes [1], sought to integrate social organizations in the creation of jobs, and thus fight the most radicalized organizations without resorting to repression. This objective, however, was not fully achievable. If, on the one hand, it was not difficult to appease the social bases, which found themselves with an economic scenario very different from that of the last decade, on the other hand, the inability to carry out a true economic transformation in the country and the commitments assumed with the leaders of the movements , aimed at managers and employees, forced the Kirchnerist governments to maintain the funding of organizations through the management of social plans.

The transformation of social movements into “unions of the poor” began to exert greater pressure on the State as a particular type of employer, which must negotiate the value of social plans, their extension, in addition to other benefits. The problem, or one of the problems, is that the caudillist tradition translated social victories into victories of this or that organization, and added to the “revolving door”, through which social leaders become state officials and vice versa, produces a profound fragmentation of what that once was the picket movement. Each union must carry out its own negotiation with the State to guarantee its members greater amounts of social plans, food pockets for popular kitchens, etc. This reality is even more disheartening to know thatless than a quarter of the population with informal jobs receives some form of social plan , which helps a significant part of the population understand social plans as privileges operated through the patronage networks of political organizations. Will they be very wrong?

In this context, complicated debates about social assistance policies also occur. The sectors closest to Cristina Kirchner ask for a Universal Basic Salary . Trotskyist social organizations criticize this proposal because the value of this salary would even be lower than the worst current social plans . Another trend that frightens many is the transfer of management of social plans to the municipalities, which has gained more strength with pressure from the Christian sector . At the beginning of Alberto’s administration, some signs had been given in this sense ., but in arranging his alliances to face the onslaughts of “hard” Kirchnerism he had to back off on this issue. On the other hand is the entire sector of work cooperatives, which are a form of low-productivity entrepreneurship financed by the State. While some of these cooperatives actually carry out democratic forms of work and manage to become real productive units (especially in the service sectors), it is also true that many of them are strictly vertically controlled by political organizations, functioning as financial boxes and tools. clientelism in poor territories.

As they are more present on the streets, these organizations seem to be leading the social struggles in Argentina today. But it is not difficult to see that there is no concrete direction on the table for a broad and generalizable struggle by the rest of society. It is to fill this void that the nationalist slogans against the IMF , against price makers , against speculation , etc., appear.

At the same time, but with less visibility, some important struggles are also taking place in other sectors of the working class. Perhaps the most important example at the moment is the struggle of workers in the rubber industry . Other important unions in the country are also being forced to mobilize the rank and file, such as the UOM metalworkers . The union leaders gathered at the CGT try to settle their differences and do not seem to point to any clear direction, between public support for the fiscal adjustment plan of the new “superminister” Massa, a mobilization “against inflation” , or opposition to the government . Can workers, on their own, point in some other direction in this crisis?

Note

[1] Planes sociales are, in general terms, the different types of social assistance provided in the form of basic income in Argentina. They began to be implemented in the 1990s, but it was after the 2001 crisis that they took on significant dimensions. His story can be seen in this Wikipedia entry .

(Complete article by Google Translate)

CWO, 14-8-2022
The Cost-of-Living Crisis is a Capitalist Crisis

“It is easy to forget that when COVID-19 restrictions were first relaxed economists were eagerly awaiting a bounce back of the economy. There was a general clamour among business owners, landlords, and Tory backbenchers to ‘let the economy breathe’. Almost a year after these restrictions began to be reduced to a minimal level in Western countries, the economy still has a hacking cough. There is only doom and gloom from professional economists and central bankers as the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ has become the inescapable backdrop to the current political scene, leading to plummeting approval ratings for most leaders in the capitalist heartlands and food riots in the periphery. Given the centrality of the cost-of-living crisis to current political discourse it is important to be clear about what exactly it entails, what is causing it, and why the purported solutions of the bourgeois class have nothing to offer the working class against whom the cost-of-living crisis is primarily an assault.

…”

Communia, 9-8-2022
The rift

US, locomotive of the global recession 

The Federal Reserve is already announcing new rate hikes without any apparent concern for the fact that in reality the US is already in recession. Its only goal now is to curb inflation and it does not seem to be bothered about opening the door to a long period of destruction of productive capacities and stagnant accumulation.

The rise in prices is caused by China’s and Russia’s strategy of isolation from the US itself. A long-running strategy whose consequences on the prices of industrial components, food and essential raw materials have accelerated with the war in Ukraine and the growing military tensions in Taiwan.

But in order to tackle inflation and reset the system, the Fed has only one tool at its disposal: to increase the financial costs of companies so they invest less, hire less and pay lower wages, producing a fall in consumption in parallel to that of investment.

Thus, the decisive data that seems to be guiding central bankers towards even more recessionary policies was an exceedingly good employment figures in July: the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, a twenty-year low… and consumption, especially of durable goods, is still on the rise.

And here’s the apparently odd thing. Although overall wages have risen by 7.1% since the beginning of the year, when inflation is taken into account, real wages have fallen by 3.1%. In other words, wage earners have less purchasing power. But… How can it be that despite earning less and less, they consume more and more?

Social classes at work again 

The keys to understand this lead us time and again to class division and the evolution of the situation of the working class during the last years.

…”

MC/KPK, 2-8-2022
2022 elections in France: a victory for plebiscitary democracy

“The double-headed election (Presidential and Legislative) of the year 2022 marks a stage in the involution of democracy from its classic representative and liberal form towards its plebiscitary form1. The three main political coalitions, led by Macron, Mélenchon and Le Pen, have similar andcompatible objectives to various degrees. This victory for plebiscitary democracy is certainly facilitated by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic and the weakening of intermediate bodies, and, in the case of the historical political parties (the Republicans, the Socialists and the French Communist Party), their almost complete disappearance from the national scene.

It is also the demonstration through the ballot box of the consequences of the growing concentration of political power by the executive. The gap between the voter turnout in the first rounds of each of the elections (72% in the Presidential as opposed to 42.7% in the Legislatives) cannot be explained just by the demobilisation of the opposition electorates after the defeat of their champion in the Presidential elections: the alliance supporting the Presidential programme in the Legislative elections lost, in proportion, more or less as many votes as the others. This consensus, around the “presidentialisation” of political power, is in some ways a political victory for the Gilets jaunes – the isolated citizen seeks a means of addressing themselves to the chief directly 2, treating the intermediate bodies and other instances of democracy with disdain. This presidentialisation of power is logically accompanied by a personalisation of politics with the consequence of giving the vote a plebiscitary orientation. You express yourself as being for or againstPresident Macron.

…”

Communia, 11-8-2022
Will Kosovo become the new european war?

“The European press is sounding the alarm bells. Russia would be trying to turn the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo into open war. This is more than just propaganda. Less than two weeks ago, Russia took advantage of a new gesture of harassment by the Kosovar government against its Serb minority to launch a disinformation campaign that put the Serbian government on the ropes and placed its own ally on the brink of war. …”

Kon-flikt, 15-8-2022
The situation of Ukrainian migrants in Bulgaria

The military refugees from Ukraine Today there are about 80 000 refugees from the war in Ukraine on Bulgarian soil.

Many of them work legally and integrate easily thanks to their own will and the unprecedented assistance systems (hotel accommodation, fast-track administrative procedures…) developed for migrants on European territory.

After almost unanimously supporting the Ukrainian migrants, Bulgarian public opinion seems to have changed its tone and position. More and more comments on anecdotal, individual, often fantastic storries, fuel the feeling of distrust and rejection of Ukrainians. To this must be added the pro-Russian sentiment, which is not at all small in Bulgaria.

The image is created of a capricious, lazy Ukrainian who does not want to leave the pool of the four-star hotel where he is staying for free to go and study Bulgarian in a three-star hotel in Bansko. Or that of the Ukrainian thief who, not out of necessity but because he believes that as a refugee “everything is his due”, fills his luxury jeep with fuel and refuses to pay for it.

They have been compared to Syrian refugees, heroes of immigration, who have received no help and have not complained.

It should not be forgotten that when the Syrian refugees arrived in Bulgaria, the same people were happy for Dinko to tie them up at the border.

Each migrant is worse than the last. He is always one more. If he is poor, he is too poor, if he is a little richer, he is too rich. If he is helped, then he is helped too much…l 

Looking at the history of migration, these reactions are both disturbing and predictable. Recent arrivals in a territory are rarely welcomed without problems.

Negative reactions against migrants are fueled both by existing trends in society of distrust and hostility towards foreigners and by targeted campaigns by sections of the ruling class. Through these campaigns, nationalist circles within the ruling class aim to capitalise on social discontent by directing people’s anger against convenient victims, and the political expression of that anger to the ballot box.

Regardless of the source of the negative reactions against migrants, they have the same effect – a political restriction of the civil and labour rights of migrant workers, which means that they are forced to work in less secure jobs, for less money. In turn, the exploitation of migrant labour has a direct impact on the labour market in general, putting pressure on the wages of all workers. Anti-migrant sentiment is thus directed not only against migrants, but also against the majority of people who share this sentiment. The only ones who benefit from this situation are the businessmen who get cheap and docile workers and the nationalist faction of the ruling elite who get the political dividends.

What can the workers do to resist the division being fomented by businessmen and politicians?

What action can be taken to neutralise the pressure on wages, especially in sectors dominated by migrant labour (tourism, restaurants)?

(Complete article)

Class War, 31-7-2022
Internationalist Manifesto against capitalist war and peace in Ukraine…

“…  if we strongly oppose the support of any side in the current war, which is nothing but an interstate war, if we refuse to take sides with one or the other of the bourgeois belligerents, both the “occupied” Ukrainian “aggressed” and the “occupying” Russian “aggressor”, our judgement is different and even antagonistic when analyzing the events that took place just a few weeks before the beginning of the war in Ukraine. We are talking about the military repression in Kazakhstan and the “occupation” of this country by elite troops of the Russian army: one “occupation” is not necessarily equal to another! …”

La Oveja Negra, 18-7-2022
Contra el liberalismo y sus falsos críticos

“It generates stir and discomfort, if not anger and disgust, the presence of what we could hastily call “liberal right” in Argentina. We are referring to Milei and the supporters of “Freedom Advances”, the reactionary youtubers who mix economics with anti-feminist taunts. Quite peculiarly, liberal premises are combined with reactionary critiques of current debates, such as the abortion question. Thus, certain defenders of extreme liberalism have linked directly or indirectly with other sectors that deal more expressly with issues such as nationalism, the family, “gender ideology”, “cultural Marxism”, all with a good dose of conspiracy.

The spokespersons for this phenomenon argue about economic issues, presenting themselves as “experts”, endlessly repeating their moral, political and cultural preconceptions, without which their economic theories lose meaning. They defend notions regarding the individual, private property and freedom that they seek to treat as natural to humanity . In this way, they open the way to an entire ideological conception of society that translates into statements such as: “the poor are poor because they want to”, “the boss is the one who risks the most”, etc., etc. The answers are not better, a FITU deputy described Milei as “lazy” for not doing her parliamentary work as she considers it should be done.

Faced with the social situation of permanent adjustment that we are experiencing, with disproportionate inflation and devaluation, uncontrollable rental prices, totally falling real wages, growing poverty, unemployment and precariousness, economic policies are presented as both responsible and possible saviors. Liberal economists set the bar high, they speak of a real adjustment, of sharply reducing public spending, they accuse the government of being communist, as well as the “lukewarm” members of the majority opposition. Those who govern limit themselves to preventing the situation from exploding, and feed on their liberal detractors to present themselves as benevolent while they progressively adjust. The brutal liberal adjustment promises to revitalize the economy and a great national take-off.If it is important to understand the dynamics of capitalist society and the competition between exploiters, it is not to show them any path , but rather to avoid falling into their discussions and the proposals they make to us. To understand that the struggle for a true transformation of our living conditions is opposed to capitalist development, in its more or less statist versions.

Going back to the curious liberal-conservative amalgamation that in its local manifestation seems to have libertarianism in the lead, it is difficult to find a coherence that goes beyond electoral opportunism, which is nourished by opposition to the policies implemented in recent decades in the region. These, for their part, have shown themselves powerless in the face of growing social problems. In this way, everything that adds up in that sense is used: liberalism, constitutionalism, conspiracy, anticommunism, anticorruption, antipicketing, antifeminism

…”

Fragment by Google Translate

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