recession and the rank-and-file

14 12 2009

Sheila Cohen explores the relation of capitalist crisis to upturns in working-class struggle

Clearly, it’s difficult in the midst of the current “double dip” recession to predict whether further key struggles will follow the Vestas and Visteon occupations, or indeed the less obviously recession-related struggles of engineering construction workers, Leeds refuse collectors and postal workers – not to mention current disputes affecting airline employees, tube workers and bus drivers. The list could go on, and indeed has spurred recent thoughts of a “mini-upsurge” – but are these struggles symptomatic of recession or simply of the general (and grim) rigours of an unrelenting neo-liberal capitalism?

It has never been straightforward, historically, to work out whether recessions spark resistance or dampen it. The arguments are obvious on both sides of the coin – capitalist crisis, with its persistent tendency to dump the effects on the working class, can spur struggle through anger and desperation (the nothing-to-lose syndrome) or suppress it through the terrible fear of job loss, a disaster for working-class families. To use a wise old footballing adage, “It could go either way” – but which way will it go? Read the rest of this entry »





paris undocumented workers on strike: so where next?

21 11 2009

from Où va la CGT: see here for an interview with migrant worker reps and report on the occupation of the Pompidou centre’s restaurant

A month on strike for 5,000 undocumented workers in the Paris region: a month of mobilising people, strikes, pickets in the cold and in the rain. Their determination is unfailing, even if some are starting to tire.

But there is a problem with the direction of this massive, multi-site strike. Many reps are starting to question the manner in which the CGT union federation is guiding it.

Read the rest of this entry »





interview with migrant cleaners’ reps involved in 4,200-strong paris strike movement

1 11 2009

The strike by migrant workers in Paris demanding regularisation has now spread to over forty workplaces, and as it heads into its fourth week it now involves some 4,200 strikers. The latest headline-catching turn in the dispute has been the occupation of part of the French capital’s Pompidou arts centre by restaurant staff.

pompidou

Libération reports that the flash sixth floor restaurant has now been occupied for over a week, with forty people staying day and night “to show that even behind the decor of chic Parisian restaurants, undocumented workers are running things behind the scenes”. Below appears an interview with Seni cleaners about the issues underlying the strike wave in the city. Read the rest of this entry »





4,000 undocumented migrant workers strike and occupy in paris

27 10 2009

by Antoine Boulangé

A new wave of strikes by undocumented migrant workers began on 12th October. The striking workers, greater in number than in April 2008, are determined to win regularisation for all. But to do that, they need solidarity from all workers.

“Colonised yesterday – exploited today  - tomorrow regularised”

oct09frstrikecgt

That is the slogan of the thousands of undocumented migrant workers who are taking part in the new strike wave, initiated by the unions (CGT, CFDT, SUD, FSU and UNSA) and  associations (Ligue des droits de l’homme, Cimade, RESF [Education Without Borders Network], Femmes Égalité, Autremonde, Droits devant!! etc.) Since 12th October the movement has not stopped growing, from 1,000 on the first day to 3,000 a week later. There has been a qualitative and quantitative leap from the strike wave of April 2008, which involved 600 workers and won 2,000 regularisations. Read the rest of this entry »





a communist revival?

13 10 2009

by Nathan Coombs

One of the remarkable things about the manifesto of the recent University of California Santa Cruz student occupation, the Communiqué from an Absent Future, was the emphatic use of the word communism to describe their project to “demand not a free university but a free society”.

santacruzwearethecrisis

This re-appropriation of the word communism marks a new direction after numerous attempts to refigure a certain spirit, while avoiding the specific content, of communism under such concepts as “the common” or “communisation” in various brands of leftwing, post-cold war political activism. Communism itself had been more or less abandoned to the dwindling base of old far-left political groups and Maoist movements. Read the rest of this entry »





‘the take’: argentina’s worker-managed enterprises

13 09 2009

Here we present Naomi Klein’s 2004 documentary The Take which looks at the actions of Argentinian workers during that country’s economic crisis earlier this decade. Hundreds of factories were occupied in resistance to mass redundancy: but further still, workers seized their workplaces restarted production under their own control.

A number of these enterprises are still going: indeed, last month the Argentinian state was forced to accept a permanent legal status for the $100m Zanón/FaSinPat (factory without bosses) ceramic tiles plant in Neuquén, which had been ‘stolen’ from its former owner by its four hundred workers. The film, reproduced in full below, features interesting interviews with the workers involved in these inspiring struggles.

Read the rest of this entry »





the commune issue 7 – out now!

1 09 2009

The September issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

thecommune7cover

troops out of afghanistan! – editorial of The Commune

wildcats show how to fight royal mail bosses – by Paul Haste

government pressure on civil service: crunch time for pcs left – by Steve Ryan

wind turbine occupation ends, but struggle continues – by Gerry Emmett

purnell’s new ‘old labour’ is just new ‘new labour’ – by David Broder

resisting redundancy and recession: reappraising the tactic of occupation – by Gregor Gall

amey struggle: burn your bridges, save your dignity – by Mónica del Pilar Uribe Marin

latin american migrants: organising against racism and exploitation – by an Ecuadorian migrant worker

exposed: soas unison, rmt and unite cleaner activists in the pay of the bosses – by Chris Kane

update on the activities of the commune around britain

afghan women bear brunt of hypocritical ‘war on terror’ – by members of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

yes, chris ann, obama is punking us – by Ernie Haberkern

beyond props for capital – by Allan Armstrong

liberalism, citizenship and democracy – by Mark Ellingsen

the workers’ self-management alternative – by Chris Kane

review of the july/august left press – by Nathan Coombs

building from below: the case for working in residents’ groups – by Dave Spencer

latin america’s future is being played out in honduras – by Roberto Sáenz





resisting redundancy and recession: appraising the tactic of occupation

18 08 2009

by Gregor Gall

In times of recession and restructuring, the occupation or sit-in tactic is potentially a powerful tool when workers are faced with redundancy because it provides leverage that strikes often cannot. Yet, since late 2007 when the global downturn began, we have witnessed very few examples of occupation – certainly far fewer than might have been expected given the depth and extent of recession.

vestas

So to date the numerical roll call of occupations has been: Australia (2), Britain (7), Canada (4), Eire (7), France (28) and the US (1). It is worth bearing in mind the relative context of the size of the labour forces of each of these countries. Respectively, these are 11m, 31m, 18m, 2m, 28m, and 153m. Read the rest of this entry »





ssangyong motors strike in south korea ends in defeat and heavy repression

17 08 2009

by Loren Goldner

The Ssangyong Motor Company strike and plant occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, ended after 77 days on Aug. 5. For the 976 workers who seized the small auto plant on May 22 and held it against repeated quasi-military assault, the settlement signed by Ssangyong court receivership manager Park Young-tae and local union president Han Sang-kyun represented a near-total defeat. Worse still, the surrender was followed by detention and interrogation of dozens of strikers by police, possibly to be followed by felony charges, as well by a massive ($45 million) lawsuit against the Korean Metal Workers’ Union and probable further lawsuits against individual strikers for damages incurred during the strike. The hard-right Korean government of Lee Myong Bak is signaling with these measures-its latest and most dramatic “take no prisoners” victory over popular protest in the past year and a half– its intention to steamroller any potential future resistance to its unabashed rule on behalf of big capital. Read the rest of this entry »





radio interview with loren goldner on ssangyong factory occupation in south korea

12 08 2009

ssangyong

Click here to hear an interesting radio interview with American left communist Loren Goldner, who lives in South Korea, on the factory occupation at a Ssangyong car plant in Pyeongtaek which has been maintained for two months in response to huge job cuts. See below for footage of the violent police attempts to smash the mass-sit-in, which workers have organised to resist. Read the rest of this entry »





urgent: vestas eviction due tomorrow, solidarity needed, free transport from london

6 08 2009

An eviction of Vestas is planned for mid-day tomorrow (Friday), if you can drop stuff and come then meet at Waterloo station tonight at 22.00pm. Transport will be fully paid for. If the 600 jobs and Britain ’s only onshore wind turbine factory are to be saved then the factory needs to be occupied and defended. Experience at Visteon, the SOAS occupation and Lewisham Bridge has shown that solidarity is needed for successful occupations, and that victory is possible. With more people defending the factory it will be much more difficult for the bailiffs to evict the occupiers, or for the Vestas bosses to remove the blades and equipment. Eviction is pending, the workers inside are under huge pressure, if you can show support then please do… Read the rest of this entry »





victory at lewisham bridge

1 08 2009

A message from the occupiers.  For our previous coverage see here and here.

On Thursday 30th July Ben Bradshaw´s (secretary of State at the Department of Culture Media and Sport) secretary called Hands Off Lewisham Bridge with “a very important message”; that the English Heritage Grade II listing awarded to Lewisham Bridge Primary School remains in place. This is a great victory for the campaign as it means that Lewisham Council must return the children and staff to the school in September as Chris Threlfall promised. We expect the return to school should not subject to any delay that will cause staff and parents further disruption. For example we understand that the school kitchen needs to be refurbished as parts of it were dismantled for the move to the Mornington Centre. So we expect any necessary works to start as soon as possible (cleaning, refurbishment of the kitchen and health and safety checks). Read the rest of this entry »





all quiet on the vestas front

29 07 2009

by Adam Ford

It was an oddly relaxed mid-afternoon on the seventh day of the Vestas wind turbine factory occupation yesterday [Tuesday 27th July], as demonstrators in the roundabout solidarity camp listened to a couple of musicians in the Isle of Wight sunshine.

vestas1

With Vestas going to court on Wednesday in an attempt to get legal backing for an eviction, it was very much a case of the calm before the storm. In the meantime there was apparently little for people to do except lounge around in their tents, and occasionally shout their support to the occupiers when they came out on the balcony. Read the rest of this entry »





vestas occupied!

21 07 2009

Workers at the Vestas wind turbine blade plant on the Isle of Wight have occupied their factory in Newport in an attempt to prevent its closure, which was scheduled for the end of this month. Their brave fight in is an example of what workers can do when they get together and take militant action to save jobs and sustainable industries.

We call upon everyone around the country to send whatever support they can to the workers at Vestas. We all have an interest in a sustainable future, and we all have a responsibility to show solidarity to workers in struggle.

We have already reported on the significance of this struggle, both in terms of its concrete objectives, and in terms of how it came about.  The occupation has occured against a background of non-unionised workers, and activists from Workers’ Climate Action appear to have made a significant contribution to the organisation so far, including introducing the idea of an occupation.

More news will follow when we have it.  A list of resources, events, and things you can to do help follows. Read the rest of this entry »








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