A critical press review
in selfies from internationalist sites (continued)
Since October an international wave of social struggles hit several countries all over the globe. This press review tries to show its reflection in websites that defend proletarian internationalism as understood by the Communist Left in its struggle against the degeneration of the Comintern.
In the first part a balance sheet by the ‘anarcho-communist’ group ‘Barbaria’ is examined in comparison with statements by current groups of the communist Left on Hong Kong’s “pro-Democracy” movement and on the outburst of mass protests in Chili.
This second part examines the statement by a Bordigist splinter on the strike at the Maquiladores in Mexico and at General Motors in the USA, and that of “Faridabad Workers’ News” on the Honda motorcycle factory occupation at Manesar. It concludes with a section on the recent mass protests in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, which highlight the stakes of a proletarian class reply versus increasing war efforts in the Near and Middle East.
3. The strike at General Motors in the USA
An important link between the Maquiladora strikes in Mexico and strikes in the USA has been analyzed by the [Bordigist ICP splinter from Florence in The Strike at General Motors: (1):
“Canada and Mexico play important parts in Auto manufacturing in North America. Mexico makes many of the parts to be assembled in the United States so the finished product can be marketed as ‘American made’. Canadian auto manufacturing is much more integrated into the much larger American market with many parts and assembly plants located in the Canadian [province] of Ontario just across the Windsor River from the center of American production in Detroit, Michigan.”
“48,000 members of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW), the regime union representing Auto Workers in the United States, went on an unexpected strike at General Motors from the 16th of September to the 25th of October. (…) The contract which came out of the strike negated the strikers’ desires articulated on the picket lines above. Multiple tiers of pay continue, temporary work remains temporary rather than permanent, health care costs and risks are being dumped upon the workers. The contract was accepted by a 57% to 43% margin. The success was ensured through a number of bribes such as tying bonuses to yes vote. The failure of the strike is being widely presented as a case of greed and betrayal by the company and union officials.”
The article clearly shows that the UAW is a state trade union – names it a ‘regime union’ – that sabotages the strikers’ efforts to achieve unity of temporary and permanent workers. The two arguments mentioned in the article not to speak of ‘betrayal’ of the trade union are correct. But when the ICP (“Florence”) strives towards a working class union against the state union, we recognize the aspiration of this “Party” (in reality a small group) to get, as they themselves say, “recognition from workers in struggle that they are the real alternative leadership in the struggle and to achieve the possibility of effectively jointly organizing an opposition to regime unionism.” This seems to us an attempt to replace one minority leadership with another. I was even more surprised to read on the ‘working class union’: “This ‘Coordination’ can’t be built on a party basis. It can’t be a united front af parties – of any nature – but a united front of militant workers for class unionism. To keep it’s own nature it has to be open only to workers, employed and unemployed, not to members of other classes or social strata.” Limiting these action committees (or whatever minority organizations calling for struggles are named) to only workers is at best a concession to the aversion to politics. At worst, it is a trick with which these Bordigists try to keep out ‘competing’ international communists. Tragically, the Third International has used this ‘workerism’ to eliminate the international communists around Bordiga in the Communist Party of Italy and to replace them with elements that were willing to follow Moscow at all cost. (2)
4. Factory occupation at Honda Manesar, India
It’s not only the strikes of automobile workers in Mexico and in the United States that have been at the forefront of class struggle. All over the world the fall of automobile sales, combined with the need of huge capital investments in the development of e-cars, have forced enterprises to put pressure on the workers, most dramatically by mass redundancies, like those at the scooter and motorcycle factory Honda Manesar in India. The London-based group Angry Workers of the World published two articles written by Indian comrades of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (“Faridabad Workers’ News”):
“There are in total around 4,000 workers employed, 2,500 of them through contractor. The plant has an annual capacity of 1.5 million units. Output has recently been cut by 50 per cent. The temps are paid around Rs 14,000 per month, while the permanents get four to five times as much. Although this wage gap has proven to be a fairly reliable tool of divide and rule, currently permanent workers are disgruntled due to delayed pay negotiations. They express solidarity with the action of the temps.” At November 5th 1,500 workers with a ‘temporal’ status for years started a sit-in in the factory against their dismissal, that lasted 15 days. See for more the article with a discussion at the Libcom Forum: Factory occupation! Temporary and permanent Honda workers in Manesar, India. An update New Axis, New terrain, New Milieu can be found at Faridabad Workers’ Newspaper. The discussion has been on whether this factory occupation is a tactical means for extending the struggle amongst workers of the gigantic industrial zone near New Delhi, and how effective this could be, or even if it can “deal with the means to produce and find new ways to develop collective knowledge”? Moreover it was about the function of historic experience of the working class, compared to experiences at a more local level, or if you wish ‘programmatic tradition’ versus ‘workerism’. Anyway, my impression after the ‘de-occupation’ is that of a defeat, from which the workers in India and worldwide can learn that a sit-in at work in general is not a means for an extension of struggles. The comrades in India, and may be those in London, may feel different about this. Anyway, something the bourgeoisie is learning of these struggles by workers without permanent contracts, is the need of their containment by trade unionism. The IWW – that Angry Workers has joined – may experience a repetition of their being overtaken by state unionism when, before World War 2 the predecessors of AFL–CIO started to organize workers at the base of industry instead of craft. It would not be surprising when in the present period by state unions start organizing precarious workers, as actually happens in the Netherlands.
5. Middle East, center of energy production,
theater of imperialist war and proletarian struggles
An important struggle took place in November in Iran, which at first glance is similar to the protests in other countries. From South America to the Middle East I see angry masses taking to the streets against rising prices. In Lebanon, joint demonstrations by a large section of the population overcame the religious divisions on which the super-rich upper class bases its power. Striking teachers have played a role in the protests, but the movement has not (yet) taken on a workers’ character. On the other hand, the riots of the unemployed in Iraq are carried by young students without jobs and former volunteers who fought against the ‘Islamic State’ and returned from the battlefield only to find that the proletariat has to make do with less and less money and that the most basic public services, such as water and electricity, are lacking. These revolted young people are turning against their “own” Shiite clergy, against the ruling Shiite politicians and against the Shiite militias supported by neighboring Iran. (3) The demonstrations, the riots and the revolt in Lebanon and Iraq make the Ayatollah regime fear that these protests and riots will continue to spread to Iran itself. This is all the more true as the workers in Iran continue their struggle against non-payment of wages, especially at the Azarab factory in Arak (West Iran), Hepco and Haft Tapeh (known for its workers council). With a rise in fuel prices, the regime in Iran itself has given the starting signal. There was a chance that the struggle in Iran would go beyond the stage of a popular uprising as soon as the workers, like they did before (Workers council at Haft Tapeh), would intervene in the struggle and reorganize it through general and mass workers meetings in the streets, elected committees and workers’ councils to coordinate the mass struggle and focus it on their own proletarian goals.
From the neo-democratic supporters of the Shah to the guerrillas of the Mujaheddin-Khalq, from the (ultra-)left bourgeois to the Neo-liberal and ultra-democratic opposition in exile, everyone argued that the Ayatollah regime must disappear. The left bourgeoisie even demanded strikes to achieve this. But the Iranian working class would do well to ask itself what will replace this regime. If there is a regime change, the answer speaks for itself: Another regime – whether it adorns itself in a democratic, socialist or monarchist cloak or a combination thereof – would be the continuation of the power of capital under the watchful eye of the army leadership, probably also of the corrupt and all-powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps and, in any case, of the torture and a murderous secret service. This was the case with the fall of the Shah regime in 1979, when the striking workers were persuaded to return to work. Meanwhile, the mullahs disarmed the “people”. Then they unleashed their terror, supported by the army, the secret services and the West, which oversaw the subsequent massacre of thousands of socialist and communist-minded proletarians. Never again! (4)
Since December 2017 we have seen five waves of proletarian struggle in the Middle East. (5) The protests, riots and revolts since October 2019 promise a mass movement that can make the world tremble on its foundations. When can these perspectives become reality? On the occasion of the 1905 Russian Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg pointed out that proletarian mass movements can absorb the lessons of the previous movement after each relapse in a new onslaught on the power of the state. The most important slogans for the actual situation are:
Extend the struggle of the unemployed proletarians to the enterprises, to the workers and finally the oil industry.
Understand that the working class is international, against any nationalism, against any division according to religion, gender, language, etc.
End the imperialist wars by directing the weapons against our exploiters and oppressors who are driving the young generation into ever-changing imperialist conflicts.
The riots in Iran have shown again – and I repeat from lessons of the former five waves of struggle the need for a working class answer to confront state repression by arming itself.
“ In such a “situation it is of utmost importance that only the workers organized in councils will be armed and that the workers will not rely on any protection promised by insurgent army units such as the military police COPCON in the Portuguese Carnation ‘revolution’, by ‘socialist’ police forces such as those of Commissioner Eichhorn and the ‘People’s Marine Division’ in the failed German Revolution of 1918-1923.” (6)
It is significant that the growing tensions of inter-imperialist war in the Middle East after the invasion by Turkey in Northern Syria, after the search for another boss by the mercenaries of the Kurdish YPG, the regroupment of the USA to ‘defend’ the oilfields in the North of Syria, the menace of confrontations between Russian troops and Turkish troops – still part of NATO – that all these tensions diminished during the riots in Iran. All imperialists, from China and Russia – the new ‘Axis’ that more and more integrates Iran – to Syria, from the opposite imperialists the USA, Saudi-Arabia and Israel, to a Turkey and a Europe that have not yet decided which side to take, they all held their breath for what could develop into a new February and October 1917, a new November 1918, ending imperialist war. Once the danger for capital was over, the bombardments of Idlib started a new phase in these ever and ever more destructive imperialist confrontations.
F.C., December 19, 2019
Final proofreading and corrections: December 29, 2019
1 “The Communist Party” Issue 16, November - December 2019: http://www.international-communist-party.org/English/TheCPart/PDF/TCP_016.pdf
2 Based on Dutch language comments to the article by ICP (Florence), published in the blog Arbeidersstemmen.
3 See also on Iraq a remarkable text “from the comrades of international struggle, Internationalist Proletarians Middle East, November 2019”, From #Baghdad to #Beirut, no Shia and no Sunni, let’s continue the struggle, that concludes as follows: “From our region the participation of the proletariat in Turkey, Israel and Iran… blocks the possibilities of the capitalist war and pushes our international class war towards a better perspective. Down with exploitation and oppression… Down with war… Down with capitalism… For the continuation of the class war all over the World.”
4 Based on Solidarität mit Protesten und Streiks im Iran on the German language blog Arbeiterstimmen, November 24, 2019. The text has also been distributed as a leaflet in Dutch language.
5 For lessons learned, see Iran: What after the repression of the Haft Tapeh workers and the steelworkers in Ahvaz? (Libcom, December 24, 2018). For an introductory summary see ‘Theses on the 2018 proletarian struggles in the Near and Middle East and their prospects’ on A Free Retrievers’ Digest’s blog.
6 From the conclusion of the balance sheet ‘Iran: What after the repression of the Haft Tapeh workers and the steelworkers in Ahvaz?’, fragment beneath “What freedom? What kind of peace? We want the workers’ revolution!” (See footnote 16) Some corrections of language.