Seldom, these last years, the attack leaded against the living conditions of the workers have been so massive, violent, brutal. In a few weeks, streams of threats of redundancies fell down on hundreds, thousands of workers ; the wages and the rhythms of work, everywhere, are made more difficult, more unacceptable, more intolerable ; all the sectors are the target of a colossal attack on behalf of all the capitalist States, and that on all the continents, from Africa (Guinea, Zambia…) to Europe or America.
The accumulation of the blows carried since years, to which the brutal acceleration of these last months is added, can only encourage and develop the germs of the working class' anger.
In several countries, this working class anger takes the form of open struggles, of more or less massive strikes, more or less spread.
There would be a lot to say about the weaknesses of these movements, their dispersion and the still strong confidence, among the workers, towards the established saboteurs of the struggle that are the trade unions. Weaknesses which, in comparison with the stakes and the determination with which the bourgeoisie conducts its attacks, testify of the still long way to cover before a significant relation of forces can be drawn up so as it becomes possible to make the bourgeoisie moving back, or at the very least to slow down its offensive.
However, the censorship exerted by all the international medias about these multiple centres of struggle, testifies of the fear that has today the dominant class that the workers' anger and combativeness gain ground, the fear that these still isolated centres are used as example to be followed.
In spite of that, the reality of these recent expressions of combativeness and of struggles is quite present and must be clearly brought out. It confirms that we are really in a context of revival of the working class fights at the international level, such as we developed it on several occasions in our bulletin ; revival whose the strongest moments crystallized in the workers' reactions in winter 2001-2002 in Argentina - which, in spite of their limits, initiated this workers' revival -, in those of spring 2003 in France, in particular in the teachers sector, around the question of the retirements, in the strike of October 2003 amongst the British post-office workers, in the urban transport in Italy end 2003-beginning 2004, in those of the workers of the car industry, during the summer and in October 2004, in Germany (in OPEL-Bochum), in that of the employees of transport of the town of New York in December 2005, etc.
"Next to the need for escape ahead towards the war imposed by the crisis on the capitalist class, thus develops, at the same time, in parallel and inevitably, the need for the proletariat to develop its fights, its unit, its class consciousness. And, whatever is the consciousness that the two protagonist classes have about it today, these two needs contradict, collide with each other and conflict. None will be able to triumph of the other without the two classes violently launched at one against the other, in what the CCI called and that we continue to call the decisive class confrontations" (Bulletin 5, January 8, 2002: Vis-a-vis the crisis and vis-a-vis the militarist response of the bourgeoisie, the struggles in Argentina confirm the prospect for the decisive confrontations between the classes).
The vast plan of attacks that the bourgeoisie is carrying, everywhere in the world, against the workers testify of its clearly displayed will to pass by force. The sacrifices already imposed yesterday under the pretext of an hypothetical future clearing have been useless. Today, no more promise, no more flourish. No more vein of feeling for the bourgeoisie when it announces the real hecatombs it intends to inflict to the workers.
At the foreground of this generalized attack, the dismissals and removals of jobs appear. To quote only some among the last announced and planned on a massive way: 10.000 at Airbus, 12.500 at Alcatel-Lucent. Ford envisages to remove 44.000 jobs and to close 16 plants up to 2012. At Deutsche Telekom, where 32.000 removals of jobs had already been planned last year, has just been added a new plan of "reorganization" with transfer of 55.000 workers towards a new subsidiary company in which the employees will have to work 40,5 hours a week instead of 34,5. The Bayer group announced, on March 2, 6.100 reductions of jobs in the world (out of 60.000 employees at the end of 2005) and the closing of sites. 13.000 jobs are to be removed at Daimsler-Chrysler in North America while the number of employment suppressed in the United States in 2006, in the car and spare industries, exceeds the 150.000. And the list is going more imposing each day.
On a second plan, it's to be noticed that this attack takes place in vital sectors of the world economy such as chemistry, car industry, aeronautics, communications. Sectors which are vitals as well as concerning the economic competition in which the different states devote as at the strategic level. Thus, the stakes are clearly settled and the sacrifices are bound to multiply and to spread even more in the near future. Otherwise, and in most of the cases, they are multinational firms, exploiting tens and even hundreds of thousands of workers around the world, which carry these attacks (Renault, Airbus, Ford, Bayer, etc.). No sector escapes the measures under way, so that today not any wage-earning can claim any longer "to be under cover". If he escapes the dismissal, these are the schedules of work which increase, his working conditions which become harder, and his wages which decrease.
It's, above all, directly and massively the workers of the industrial sectors who are the target of the same kind of attacks. Those who have a decisive weight in economy. But they are, as well, the strongest workers' concentrations, those who have the richest experience of struggle to their credit, on which the bourgeoisie is obliged (due to the depth of the crisis of its system) to carry its blows.
While attacking so roughly and on a so generalised way the very heart of the working class, the bourgeoisie takes an important risk : that of seeing the increase of the centres of struggle, that of a blazing up of the social front.
The small place (when it's not simply an utter silence) given by the bourgeois medias to the working class' struggles, specifically those which emerged, recently, everywhere in the world cannot mask the reality of an international working class able to react and still determined not to remain passive. The working class' revival, initiated since several years, is gradually confirmed.
In this context, general tendencies and common characteristics appear more and more clearly in the struggles in spite of their dispersal, and that as well in their form that in their contents ; they are the sign of an in-depth dynamics which participates of the reinforcement of the general revival. It is important here, because it is our responsibility, as a vanguard of our class, to highlight these tendencies and characteristics.
One of the first marking features of the struggles which increase these last weeks, and whose we will quote only a few, consists in the convergence, and even in the identity of the claims for wage increases, against the dismissals and other removals of posts or against increasingly unbearable work conditions.
It is by their determination to involve in an unlimited strike that the workers of Ford-Saint-Petersburg in Russia obtained an increase of 20% of their wages, the maintain of the job in the case of occupational disease and the end of the short time contracts which were imposed to them till then (see the insert published on last 18 February on our Internet site).
In Bucharest (Romania) the workers of Dacia-Renault mobilized themselves and obtained, after only one day of strike, a 20,2% progressive revaluation of the wages up to next July as well as a monthly bonus, whereas the direction "proposed" only 5% at the beginning. On February 27, they are the workers of the Bucharest subway to which the direction had to concede an immediate increase of 21% of the wages.
Even if the noticed spectacular increase and the rapidity for the workers to give the case has to be curbed, given the particularly low level of the wages in these two areas (the monthly wage of a worker of Ford-Russia was before the strike of 551 € and the minimum wages in Romania are among low of Europe - 90€ a month -), it remains true, nevertheless, that these struggles have to be used as an encouragement for the combat everywhere. It's only by their capacity of mobilization and by their determination that these workers obtained this success, even relative, in front of a bourgeoisie who, everywhere and more and more, attempt to "reduce the costs of production". And that all the more since the crisis is acute, specifically in the car sector, and that it dictates to it a policy of drastic restrictions of the working class wages.
In Zambia, 7000 minors of the 2nd more significant copper mine of the country, by setting down their working tools, obtained an increase of 30% of their wages whereas the direction wanted to limit this one to 16%.
The mobilization of the workers on the question of the wages and their will to tear off, by the struggle, consistent increases is not an isolated phenomenon, or reserved for certain disadvantaged geographical areas.
In Iran, from 2000 to 3000 teachers drove several street demonstrations, during the first week of March, to claim for an increase of their wage : this one doesn't exceed 200 or 300 dollars a month and constraints them to exert a second job so as they can survive.
In Belgium, at Volkswagen Forest on last 26 February, it is the fear of having their wages reduced (whereas they already underwent, a short time ago, a series of attacks), which made the workers start on strike again, and spontaneously. This time again, the direction received the support of the trade unions which misled the movement by the mean of the organization, as of the following day, of a true joke taking the form of a pseudo "democratic" referendum which asked the workers: "Do you agree to continue the activities with Audi, or don't you ?", and which, especially, moved them away from their initial concerns and claims.
In Germany, 13 000 worker of Deutsche Telekom demonstrated on February 28 against the new plan of reorganisation that the direction attempted to impose.
In Canada, the chiefs of train, shunting and other agents of operations of the National Canadian (rail transport) have, on February 10, started a strike around the questions of wages.
In York (USA), the workers of the company Harley Davidson (3.200 employees) entered in unlimited strike on February 5, always for wage increases.
In France, several struggles are on the way, motivated on wage demands but also against the bad working conditions.
- At the Post office, some sorting centers and some parcel platforms have known movements of struggle, since four months, in various forms, either around a revaluation of the rate of the schedules of night, or against removals of jobs etc.
- In Le Havre, on February 28, several thousands of employees of Renault, Total, Plastic Omnium, of the Foundry of Cléon and other companies of the area have demonstrated against the reductions of jobs in industry and in particular in the car; the demonstration was accompanied by stoppages of several hours for the workers of Renault Sandouville where 400 annual departures in retirement are not replaced any longer, what increases by as much the workload of the 4200 employees of the plant.
- In Renault Le Mans, stoppages took place in the night of March 6 and the workers continued the strike the following day against a project of the direction which envisages the lengthening of the daily working time, the suppression of pauses and the obligation to work 10 Saturdays per annum
- The workers of PSA Peugeot-Citroen, in Aulnay-sous-Bois (Paris area), have been fighting since February 28 and all along March , for an increase of the wages of 300€, for the right of retirement for the more than 55 years' old workers and for the definite recruiting of 700 temporary workers of the plant. The strike broke out after the workers of Magnetto – a sub-contracting company situated in the core of the site of Aulnay, near PSA – had obtain, after 3 days of conflict, a 10% wage increase as well as the recruiting of ten temporary workers and 5 more days off. This success, even temporary, inspired the workers of PSA who, in general assemblies, elected a strike committee including some union members and some not members. A delegation of 150 strikers went to the company Gefco (Survilliers) by solidarity with the workers of this very close company, on strike them too. Stoppages of support took place in the other plants of the PSA group : In Poissy, Mulhouse, Saint-Ouen, Sochaux ; but the movement did not manage to really extend and to unify. If the return to work, April 11, happened on the basis of a failure on the claiming level, the workers, nevertheless, posed, consciously, in the heart of their struggle, the wages' question, the question of the extension as a priority for the future struggles.
If the number is not a sufficient factor to guarantee the success of the working class' struggles, it constitute, nevertheless, an indispensable element so as these one can impose a relation of forces and can oppose to the bourgeoisie attacks.
And if, despite the multiplication of these conflicts, the workers remain isolated and cannot meet up in the struggle yet, all under the same banner in the streets, we can nevertheless retain the example of the manifestation of the workers of PSA of Aulnay in France, demonstrating side by side in the streets of Paris with the strikers of Clear Channel (a firm ensuring the posting of the electoral panels) behind the same claim of wage increase and the banderole "PSA, Clear Channel, same combat ". They are workers who, with the wire of the demonstration, exchanged their points of view: "This movement, it is a training, we learn how to fight, so as to be respected. And that, it is already a victory. " … We all have the same problems ". (quoted from the AFP agency)
The current struggles go beyond the specific questions of such or such category of employees, of such or such sector. Objectively they pose the problem of the common conditions of all the proletarians, beyond the professional categories, beyond the companies and even beyond the national borders.
However the multiplication of the conflicts, the growing number of the workers who imply in them, the stimulating effect of certain conflicts on the workers of other companies, all that remain insufficient in the construction of a relation of forces able to make the bourgeoisie moving back.
The reality of the struggles such those carried out by the workers of Airbus or Alcatel, testify of the significant limits of the present revival.
The conflicts which broke out in these two transnational mastodons are obviously revealing a rising anger and combativeness within the working class. All the more so as the attack that the proletarians underwent is savage : 12.500 suppressions of jobs at Alcatel-Lucent which employs 79.000 people in the world and 10.000 at Airbus out of 50.000 employees; as much to say that the haemorrhage is dramatic. Without forgetting that, for Alcatel, this new anti-workers' plan followed a reduction of workforce of 10% which had already been programmed at the time of the fusion of the two equipment suppliers ; the French (Alcatel) and the American (Lucent) in April 2006.
However, these 2 conflicts are particularly revealing of the heavy weaknesses that the proletarians show, as well as of capacity of the bourgeoisie to control their movement, to manipulate and to sterilise it. Thus it is not by chance if, contrary to what occurs for the majority of the other working class struggles, the bourgeois medias relayed them particularly well.
As from the announcement of these plans, thousands of employees, on various sites, engaged the retort. At Alcatel-Lucent, stoppages and strikes exploded at once in France (Nantes, Rennes, Lannion) as well as in Spain (Barcelona).
At Airbus, the employees reacted also immediately to the announcement of the plan Power8. Several threats of outflanking took place in Germany where the workers, in 3 factories (Varel, Nordenham and Laupheim), gave up their work station and went back home. In France, on the site of Méaulte, after having spontaneously let the work in the afternoon of the announcement, 150 of the 1300 people that the company include, refused to go back to work the next morning. A union representative (CFDT) went until denouncing the strikers: "They are in the illegality since no movement of strike was launched by the trade unions " (quoted by the AFP). On the site of Saint-Nazaire, 90% of the 2.400 employees stopped work at once.
All these spontaneous angry outbursts of the workers were perfectly necessary and legitimate ; but, as sharp as they could be, they were, unfortunately, amply insufficient as a response - on behalf of the workers – in front of the unacceptable policy of the capital. The working class pressure can be effective only if all the centers, scattered and isolated from each other, meet in time and space. For this reason any working class struggle must immediately give to itself, as a first objective, to avoid the insulation which is the main cause of the defeat and to oppose to all that drives in this direction. But the workers will never be able to avoid this trap if they do not assume themselves the collective control of their struggle and if they let it to the trade unions which lock up them in the factory or the corporation, which isolated them from the other struggles under the pretext that "the claims are not the same ones" and which bury them in unwinding demonstrations, "perfectly tied up" and without a future. It is the fate that all the recent struggles knew and especially those which shook Alcatel-Lucent and Airbus. The most combative workers of these 2 large companies have perhaps reacted immediately and strongly but they stopped there while remaining locked up in their factory or, hardly better, while returning home.
Didn't they have, at this very moment, an other alternative ? They had, without waiting the "unions' instructions" (which, every time they follow them, cost them a lot), the possibility of gathering, discussing, and deciding all together actions to be taken, particularly to move in massive delegations toward the neighbouring companies to obtain the active solidarity of the workers who were there ; and in this action, vital for the struggle, they could call for the unification of the combat those who are already on strike, to urge on those who are not yet in the combat to stop work on their turn because they basically live the same unbearable condition of life and of work ; they could, finally, jointly determine actions to carry out, so as to drive back the attacks of the employers and of the bourgeois State and to impose by force the common claims.
Unfortunately, the anger and the determination which existed at the beginning didn't lead to such a widening of the struggle, on such a collective taking in hands. They did not lead to a will, even minority, to dispute to the trade unions the concrete, real, i.e. political direction of the struggle. This one was then condemned to be smothered and to die out quickly in the distress and confusion.
In these two conflicts in particular, the trade unions, at first, took advantage of the indecision of the workers to canalize their anger and to lock up it in dead ends.
While the working class potentialities still existed at the moment of the demonstration of the employees of Airbus on March 6 - what was confirmed by the number of participants (between 12 and 15.000 demonstrators in Toulouse and still 90% of strikers on the plant of Saint-Nazaire, what is to say the same percentage that the day of the announcement of the plan Power 8) -, they just go to decline as the days go by because of the systematic sabotage operated by the forces on the service of the bourgeoisie. Thus the trade unions acted on the forefront, on the ground, against the struggle:
- while breathing, in the ranks of the strikers and during the demonstrations, a good amount of jingoistic nationalism, this essential ideological weapon of the ruling classes to divide the working ranks and to point up the defense of the national capital: what affected the political and trade-union world, they are not the thousands of suppressions of jobs (which will make new masses of unemployed among the workers) it is that those ones are badly distributed between the factories of France and Germany, that this distribution is "unjust" for the French or German capital, depending of which national union ;
- while programming and proposing "radical" pseudo-actions and new carry-about-demonstrations, going as to the point of making gleam hypothetical "international demonstrations" which were supposedly to bring together the workers of the various sites beyond the borders1. The reality of these trade-union' "proposals", it is that each one will remain behind its plant, Airbus for the ones, Alcatel for the others, each one in its area, on its site, each one marching on different dates; and thus, the workers will be trotted and exhausted.
In France, specifically, the political leaders of any side are invited at the feast. With the presidential elections coming soon, all the candidates have filed past on the sites on strike, in the demonstrations; they all declared that they "were scandalized" by the "bad management" carried out by the owners of these companies in difficulty; they all sang a song of solidarity with the workers, a song of their solutions when they are elected. And they are primarily these bourgeois politicians who were on the front page of the media. Toward an increasingly dissatisfied working class they all beat up the same sweet talk on the "" present and to come benefits of the "democracy" and, with the aim of diverting it of its ground of class, they worn out to it more or less explicitly the message: "do not fight, vote!"
One finds, in very many countries, from the part of the dominant class and of its State, this same use of the elections and other productions of the "bourgeois democracy", this same intensive diffusion of this ideological poison intended, essentially, to the working class.
Everywhere, in this moment, and under the falsest pretexts like the "modernisation of the economy" or its "necessary adaptation" to the "globalisation", the bourgeoisie carries wild attacks against the working class. According to it, the sacrifices made by the proletarians today will be paying tomorrow. The reality is firstly that, for several decades, world capitalism has been plunging, with violent jolts but inexorably, in a mortal crisis; the reality is, as well and above all, that the only policy that the exploiting class can follow to face it, is to make the working class support all the weight of this crisis, even to go until requiring of it the supreme sacrifice in one 3rd world war (it is the only exit for the capitalism in crisis).
Therefore, today, when the bourgeois State, the bosses, the politicians, the media and even the trade unions come to put forward and to defend the interests of the national economy and its companies, as being the very interest of the workers, it is a coarse mystification and an attempt of ideological poisoning that they try. In an immediate way, all of them seek, at the very least, to make their policy of attacks against the living conditions of the proletarians pass without clashes
But the point is that, these latter, in their huge majority, are obviously not ready "to swallow these lies" As one can note, in a lot of places on the planet, specifically in the countries of the heart of the capitalism, the indispensable and legitimate response of the workers is present and clearly present and that demonstrates that these workers are far from assimilating their own interest and those of the companies and of the capital.
However, it appears more en more clearly that, globally, the workers' riposte, as it is going on today, is not able to thwart the bourgeoisie's plans, at least its politics of massive dismissals, of wage reduction, of degradation of the working conditions, in one word of repeated attacks against the working class conditions. The balance of forces that the present struggles impose on the dominant class is thus insufficient and this situation is bound, as we underlined higher, to the weaknesses which are specific at the workers – particularly when these ones limit themselves to struggle at the only framework of their plant or, at the best, of their company and for specific claims – as well as to the capacity of the bourgeois forces to manoeuvre them, to divide them and to drive them in dead ends.
That's the reason why, as soon as the workers start up the struggle, they must immediately give themselves the prospect to widen this one. And this enlargement has to be posed at the same time to convince the workers of the company of the necessity of the struggle and, at the same time, to look for the unity with the workers of the surrounding companies. There are not two different options, excluding each other ; it is the same movement which has to be implemented and that the workers have to defend an to take in their own hands. It's to them, still and always, to take the initiative.
"But in order to carry through a direct political struggle as a mass, the proletariat must first be assembled as a mass, and for this purpose they must come out of the factory and workshop, mine and foundry, must overcome the atomisation and decay to which they are condemned under the daily yoke of capitalism." (Rosa Luxemburg; The mass strike. 1906)
A regarding to the revolutionary minorities, their responsibilities in the accuracy and precision of the analysis of the situation and its stakes are of primary importance, just like is their intervention.
For us, the base principles which have to dictate their behaviour are always the ones that our organisation, the (true) ICC, already posed in 1985, reinforced by a matured context and by clearer stakes :
"It is on the revolutionaries that falls «the duty, as always, of preceding the course of things, to try and precipitate it, said Rosa Luxemburg, because they are summon to take more and more the politic direction of it. That's the reason why the more militant workers, the communist groups have to lead this daily political battle in the factories, in the assemblies, in the committees, in the demonstrations. That's the reason why they have to impose themselves against the unions' maneuvers. That's the reason why they have to put forward and defend the claims and concrete and immediate means of action which are going in the direction of the extension, of the regrouping and of the unification of the struggles.
On the outcome of this battle depends the capacity of the proletariat 'to accomplish a political mass action' which makes the bourgeoisie temporarily move back its attacks against the proletariat and, above all, which opens, thanks to the internationalisation of its struggle, the prospect of the revolutionary assault of the proletariat against capitalism, of its destruction, and of the advent of communism. Not less" (International Review n°42 : Simultaneity of the working class struggles and trade-union obstacle. We translate).
1. : The pseudo big working class demonstrations, on the "international" level, which were envisaged at the beginning, concerning the workers of Airbus, never came" to the world under pretext that "one cannot concentrate populations on one only place, either Brussels or Paris" (declaration of a trade-union leader quoted by the AFP on last 7 March). We will see, on the contrary, in Paris and Toulouse, the ridiculous procession of a handle of convinced trade unionists from Germany, from Spain and even… a delegate from Australia. It is obviously this parody of "working class' internationalism" which will be exposed on the television channels.
Internal Fraction of ICC - Communist Bulletin (Nš 39)