A common practice in our internal meetings is for a comrade to prepare a report on current events and present it in a 10 or 15 minute agenda point. This post was prepared from the report made in our last meeting.
Five IWW organizers were fired from Chicago-Lake Liquors in Minneapolis after a large group of workers there delivered a set of demands for higher wages to the bosses. They have held 2 informational pickets and are distributing fliers to customers in an attempt to get their jobs back. On May 4th, 2013, they held a hard picket and turned away ninety per cent of customers despite attempts by security and management to break the picket. There will be another big picket on the 24th of May. This seems to be the best possible way to deal with a situation of salts getting fired, short of a strike of the remaining workers or an occupation of the workplace.
Well-known Russian anti-fascist, Alexey Gaskarov, was arrested April 28th, just days before he was set to lead large protests. He is a member of the Coordination Council of Russian Opposition. The arrest came just days before he was going to be the head of a leftist, anti-fascist, block at protests marking the one year anniversary of the very large demonstrations last year against electoral fraud, which were violently repressed by the police. This is important in light of the large growth of fascist groups in Russia in recent years.
On April 25th, about 3000 anarchists marched in solidarity to Athens Indymedia and 98 FM that have been censored by the Greek State since April 11th. Six of the arrested protestors were charged with offending the Greek national flag by replacing it with the red and black flag of anarchism. The State censorship was carried out under the banner of combating terrorism, when in fact this censorship is simply an attack on independent media that has served as a center for organizing actions against the capitalist agenda in Greece. These protests are important because there have not been many large mobilizations against state censorship of the internet and media such as this one.
Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike in Bangladesh on April 26th following the collapse of a garment factory there that claimed the lives of 1127 workers, making it the largest industrial disaster since the Bhopal incident. The plant’s workers were evacuated after cracks in the building were discovered, but then managers ordered them back to work the next day. Then the building collapsed with everyone inside. The building was owned by Sohel Rana, leader of the local Jubo League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League political party. This suggests a close relationship between the bureaucracy of the state and the worst aspects of capitalism in Dhaka. Hundreds of thousands of workers protested and struck following the collapse, forcing factory bosses to declare a day’s holiday. Factories that tried to operate the day following the collapse were attacked by striking workers. Protesters smashed windows and destroyed cars at the headquarters of the main manufacturers’ association, demanding justice. A coalition of 18 parties led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party called for general strikes on May 2nd, following large protests and strikes on International Workers Day. It is problematic that a political party based on religion and nationalism is leading this co-optation of the workers struggle. Communists should support the development of internationalist, Marxist, revolutionary parties in Bangladesh that can lead a struggle for the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of the wage system. In recent years there has been a rising tide of worker militancy in Bangladesh where groups like the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity have faced brutal repression as they try unionize some of the 3.6 million garment workers employed in Bangladesh’s 5,000 garment factories. Research suggests that their average wages of 38$ US per month are not enough to provide adequate nutrition for even the one worker who receives them, let alone a whole family. Communists over seas should attempt to connect with embryonic workers organizations in Bangladesh to develop unity around an internationalist communist program, and find ways to materially support each other’s struggles.
Workers in England have been hit with a new bedroom tax and a cut in the council tax rebate. The Huddersfield Anarchist League made front page news after they had a protest at the town hall on the 21st of March, demanding answers from Labour party officials about whether the local Labour Council would haul people through the courts and evict people as a result of the policies. The policies mean that people on the dole (welfare) would have to pay 270 pounds sterling more per year, from the council tax rebate cuts alone. The bedroom tax has reduced the housing benefit for people with vacant rooms by an average of 23 $ US per week (1200$/year), driving some people to despair. In April, the Huddersfield group staged a protest in a Barclays bank. The bank manager set off the alarm and police came. Protesters staged an impromptu rally outside and had a positive response from the public, who actively participated in de-arresting two protesters that were targeted by the police during the rally. This shows some resonance in the working class for the program of this anarchist group. These worsening attacks on the working class highlight the need for organization that unites serious revolutionaries around the world to abolish the capitalist dictatorship that forces us to sell our labor as a commodity. The dispossession of workers from the means of subsistence by state protected private property forces us to sell our labor to capitalists in order to afford the necessities of life and alienates us from decisions about production, preventing us from rationally addressing issues such as disease, homelessness, starvation, or anthropogenic climate change.
In South Africa, the new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is winning over membership in the platinum and coal mining sectors. Senzeni Zokwana, the head of the Communist Party (CP), called the union a group of, “vigilantes and liars”. He also accused the AMCU of business unionism, saying that the AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa owned five companies (the crowd greeted this assertion with shock and disbelief). Basically, the CP and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) feel threatened by the new union and don’t like its critical stance towards the ANC. The CP leader said that the NUM needs to serve its members more effectively to combat the new union. This is likely empty rhetoric, but it could indicate that the AMCU is pushing the NUM and CP to the left in some way. The growing AMCU just took a blow with the murder of the regional organizer of Amcu in the Rustenburg platinum belt who was shot 4 times in the back at a tavern on May 12th. He was just about to testify at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry about the massacre of 44 striking miners by police forces last year.
There will be a wildcat strike in South Africa by the Amplats miners on Monday May 20th by the same miners that struck for 2 months at the end of last year. These latest strikes are a response to the announcement of the layoff (retrenchment) of 14,000 workers made by Amplats in January, which was revised down to 6,000 after outrage from COSATU and the NUM. A leading member of the workers’ committee, Evans Ramokga, explained that the workers had been promised wage increases following their strike at the end of last year, but instead of wage increases they were greeted in January with news of these layoffs.
In Morelia, Mexico, on May 16th, students training to become teachers returned to the State four state police officers that they had held captive for 11 days. This returning of the officers was a precondition for the state to enter into negotiations with the students regarding their demands for the opening up of 1200 new teaching jobs. The students blocked streets on the 29th of April and took control of many buses and vehicles. They took the food and other necessities from the trucks and distributed them to the people. Apparently, the buses are being used by the students to transport themselves to the capital of the State. It seems that the buses were taken by the students from “la escuela normal indígena de Cherán”. Some of the issues that are decried in the pronouncement of the Organización de Normales Oficiales del Estado de Michoacán, which is a leading force to some extent in these protests and actions, are the following: reforms to the curriculum of the normal schools; the elimination of the telebachilleratos (a radio and TV educational program); and the current situation of diminution of matriculation in the universities due to the imposition of a new CENEVAL exam.
In their analysis the educational reforms are actually economic, labor, and political attacks whose only goal is the privatization of education. The curricular reform in the normal schools that the State wants to impose in 2012 completes the cycle of reforms that they have been imposing over the last 9 years.
This rough translation of some of the pronouncement gives an idea of their politics: (We reject the study plans based in competitions with competitive and productivist focuses, because they impede the harmonious development of education, and in their place we pose formative projects of teachers, that surge from the social necessities based in the linking of theory and practice, the discovery and construction of knowledge by way of creating climates of constant critique of inequality, strengthening capacities, abilities, skills and values of the human being needed to live with plenitude, coexistence…)
There were protests of about 10,000 people on the 15th of May against the education reforms that had a contingent of 200 electrical workers (who have been militant in recent years) and other workers joining the protest in solidarity. The protests were in the Zocalo in DF (Mexico City) and went towards the installations of Televisa Chapultepec where dozens of police formed lines against the protesters.
On the same day as the protests, the president had a big celebration of the primary school teachers of Mexico where he met with Juan Díaz de la Torre, president of the teachers union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE) and 400 other teachers in attendance. That their union leader would meet with the president as such is a slap in the face to the movement against the educational reforms.
There were also strikes in the education sector in Spain, supported by Juventudes Socialistas de Martos among others, against “(the most conservative education reform that has been given in Europe)”. The reforms want to: segregate schools from a young age based on performance; eliminate Educación para la Ciudadanía which is a political / values education component in high schools that was created by the ‘socialist’ government of Rodriguez Zapatero; permit gender segregation in the classroom; and give greater emphasis to religion in education.
There has been a general strike in Bolivia for 10 days with the miners, teachers, health workers and factory workers at the head, with road blockages across the country. The strike is against the law of Pensions of the government of Evo Morales. The law, La Ley de Pensiones 065, requires workers to pay 97% of their rent, bosses to pay 3% and the government to pay nothing. Workers criticize the law because it would require the workers to be practically the sole financier of their pensions, which would come out to only 70% of the monthly salary they received while working. The law would also maintain 100% of salary pensions for military and police officers, a policy remaining from the Banzer dictatorship. Pensions in Bolivia currently range from 21$ to 29$ per month. 4,000 mine workers from Huanuni were at the head of the protests in the Plaza Murillo. The Church has called for the workers and government to end their ‘intransigence’ and come to some settlement, failing to clearly support the workers’ demands. Socialists from the Liga Obrera Revolucionaria-Cuarta Internacional are calling for the formation of a national strike committee to ensure the democratic participation of all the participating sectors and organizations in deciding how to overcome any obstacles to victory.