June 7, 2012

Unions and the West: The Scott Walker Affair

Posted in Class Struggle, Communism, Economics, Europe, Fascism, Imperialism, Politics, Social-Democracy, Theory, Trade, United States tagged , , , , , , , , at 23:19 by Matthijs Krul

Following a headlong confrontation over the Governor of Wisconsin, the reactionary Scott Walker, and his direct assaults on the public sector unions and their legislative achievements, much of the US left is now abuzz with the resounding failure of the campaign to recall him. In what had been seen as one of the last great revivals of the labor movement in the United States, workers officially and unofficially organized against Walker, even going so far as to occupy the Capitol building and to make the functioning of the Wisconsin legislature impossible. There were massive campaigns for opposition against the anti-union onslaught, and it was seen by many in organized labor as a decisive battle on whether the fight for union rights could be won in America. Laws undermining the public sector unions had already passed without much difficulty in Indiana and Missouri, but were defeated in Ohio. In this way, Wisconsin became something of a battleground, befitting a state which has a reputation for supplying leading politicians of both the left wing and the right wing, relative to American standards. But the Democratic Party took the leadership of the campaign together with the unions, and supplied a weak centrist called Tom Barrett against Walker – a candidate who, as mayor of Milwaukee, failed to even endorse unequivocally the union position, and who had lost the election against Walker in the first place. In the end, Barrett added about 150.000 extra votes, but Walker added 200.000 extra votes, and therefore won by a larger margin than before. For all the union efforts, the Democratic Party nationally put in no real support for the campaign, and President Obama could not be bothered to do more than post a Tweet about it. This despite his pledge, during his own campaigning, that in case of an attack on union organizing he’d “put on a pair of comfortable shoes and join them on the picket line”. Read the rest of this entry »

October 30, 2010

All is not gold that glitters… New Zealand unions rebel over Hobbit film

Posted in Class Struggle tagged , , , , at 00:27 by Matthijs Krul

It may sound like light-hearted news from the ‘human interest’ section of the newspapers, but for the unions and film industry in New Zealand it is a serious affair: the struggle over the unionization and contractual terms of the workers who are to work on the new Hobbit movies for fabled ‘Kiwi’ filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson. For a long time the movie plans were dormant due to the bankruptcy of would-be producer Metro Goldwyn Mayer, leading among other things to the prospective film director Guillermo Del Toro giving up on it, but Jackson himself has taken on the film production project and the whole thing seems to have been given the green light. Now, however, a full-blown industrial and legislative dispute has arisen over the plans by Sir Peter Jackson to employ most of the technical workers as well as minor actors as freelance contractors rather than full employees, meaning they would not be entitled to sick leave and similar workers’ rights. Due to the nature of film production, with cycles of little activity followed by period of intense and long work days to get shooting, prop and technical work done on time, the common ‘worker bees’ in the film industry are already subject to relatively harsh conditions compared to most skilled labor in Western countries. Read the rest of this entry »

October 16, 2010

A New Winter of Discontent?

Posted in Class Struggle, Europe tagged , , , at 20:02 by Matthijs Krul

It seems there will still be no end to the resistance movements against the depredations of capital that have sprung up in the wake of the economic crisis. Things are coming to a head in France, where hundreds of thousands have gone on strikes and demonstrations against the attempts of the Sarkozy government to raise the pension age across the board. In a brilliant move reminiscent of the powerful miners’ strikes in Britain in the 1970s, the majority of which were won by the unions, the demonstrators are now blockading petrol depots and stations in addition to gathering for protests. The French government has already been forced to admit that it only has a couple days’ worth of stockpiles to supply Charles de Gaulle airport and other major transport hubs with petrol, and it is seeking to prevent panic buying which would further diminish the flow of this lifeblood for industrialized economies.(1) If the protests do succeed at blockading the government’s access to the coal equivalent of the contemporary world, prospects of victory look good: repeated conflicts with the miners in Britain forced governments of both the Conservatives (Heath and Thatcher in ’82) and Labour (Wilson and Callaghan) to cede to the workers’ demands. Read the rest of this entry »

September 29, 2010

European Strikes Confront the Assault of Capital

Posted in Class Struggle, Europe tagged , , , , , at 23:03 by Matthijs Krul

All throughout Europe the organized peoples have been on strikes and protest actions against the massive assault of capital against the so-called ‘welfare state’. Governments from the United Kingdom to Greece have sought to greatly reduce the meaning and scope of the variegated systems of protection that exist in Europe against the depredations of the ‘free market’, using the great financial crisis produced by that same ‘free market’ as an excuse. They seek to support private capitalists such as banks and insurance companies by aiding them with enormous loans, while at the same time using the state debt this entails as a pretext for declaring insolvency in the face of popular demands for relief against the effects of the crisis and the rising unemployment. In so doing, they have however been forced to show their true face more than in these days most liberal governments like to do: they have brazenly and openly declared the maintenance of the profit system to be of greater importance than the well-being of the citizens whom they supposedly represent. This is the true ‘dictatorship of capital’, and more and more the peoples of Europe are seeing it for what it is. Read the rest of this entry »

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