Working Class Struggle of Today: Possibilities and Challenges

The international conference of ISp took place between the 9th and 13th of March in Athens and had very extensive and fruitful discussions on the geopolitical situation; class struggles internationally; the rise of the Far Right; developments in Latin America, Asia and Africa; as well as on internal issues, like building the forces of revolutionary socialism, the statutes, relations with other organisations etc.

We continue publishing the documents agreed at the conference, after the amendments presented and the discussion that took place were taken into consideration.

Today we publish the document on Working Class Struggles. You can read our Positions on Palestine here.

The rest of the documents will be presented over the next days and couple of weeks.

  1. With the collapse of Stalinism and the rise of neoliberalism, which gradually asserted its dominance as the main capitalist economic model since the 1980s, the organisational power of labour has been weakened by attacks which led to more precarity, less social welfare, less job stability, less union rights,less housing affordability, etc. In an interconnected process with these developments, class consciousness also subtracted, especially after the capitalist restoration in the Eastern Bloc and the direct capitulationof Social Democracyto the interests of capital and the establishment.
  2. The 2007-09 economic crisis which was the most severe worldwide economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 crushed the hopes for “continuous growth” that prevailed in bourgeois analysts after the collapse of Stalinism. According to ILO’s Global Employment Trends Report, between 2007 and 2009, the number of the world’s unemployed increased by about 34 million, the number of the working poor rose by 111 million, and informal employment also increased significantly. Especially in the so-called developing and underdeveloped countries, the crisis further intensified inequality to the detriment of the working classes.
  3. Income (and wealth) inequality continue to grow. According to a 2023 Brookings report, “Over the past four decades, there has been a broad trend of rising income inequality across countries. Income inequality has risen in most advanced economies and major emerging economies, which together account for about two-thirds of the world’s population and 85 percent of global GDP.” According to the World Inequality Report, the share of the richest 10 percent in each country’s income has been increasing all over the world since the 1990’s. As of the latest data in 2016, the top 10% income share was 37% in Europe, 41% in China, 46% in Russia, 47% in US-Canada, and around 55% in Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, and India. Real wages are falling worldwide, except for China, Mexico and the Russian Federation (ILO; World Employment and Social Outlook; Trends 2024 Report, p.21)
  4. According to World Bank data, the number of people living below the poverty line is increasing day by day. Some examples are

In all African countries, more than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (Angola 78%, Benin 84%, Burkina Faso 87%, Kenya 96%, Nigeria 81%, etc.).

  1. The COVID 19 pandemic caused more deaths among the working class who were often forced to work under harsh conditions and, due to their living conditions, were limited in taking countermeasures like social distancing. The pandemic was also used by the capitalists to stretch working relations in various forms, especially promoting working from home and further increasing the exploitation of the working class.
  2. The rush toprivatize swathes of public assets is also a blow to the working class, as a) it is forced to pay for services which were previously free or affordable, b) the state is being robbed of its wealth, thus justifying more austerity, c) public sector unions are being dismantled. At the same time, privatizations are used as an ideological tool to discredit the idea of public ownership. During the pandemic there was a short-lived break in this trend, which forcefully resumed right after. For example, Milei in Argentina plans to “privatize everything” if he gets his way as in many other countries.
  3. At the same time, while unemployment naturally skyrocketed during lockdowns, it currently remains particularly low even when economies are facing a downturn. The downward trend in unemployment rates continued in 2023. Unemployment rates decreased by 0.2 percentage points globally, to 5.1 percent in 2023. This average, of course, hides important differences. According to the ILO “important differences persist between higher and lower income countries. While the jobs gap rate (all persons without employment that are interested in finding a job) in 2023 was 8.2 per cent in high-income countries, it stood at 20.5 per cent in the low-income group. Similarly, while the 2023 unemployment rate persisted at 4.5 per cent in high-income countries, it was 5.7 per cent in low-income countries.” Relatively low unemployment has played its role in strengthening workers’ self-confidence to struggle, as people feel that they have more bargaining power over the bosses.These averages also hide the fact that new jobs created are low paid precarious jobs, compared to the stable better jobs that are being lost. In fact, the same number of jobs is divided among a bigger number of workers with lower pay, thus artificially pushing unemployment rates down.
  4. Housing is one of the most important problems that working class people face internationally, in both high- and low-income countries, being a central pillar of financialized capitalism. Income inequality results in housing inequalities under conditions in which the state withdraws from the production of public housing and the costs on the unregulated housing market continuously increase to the benefit of property owners and, most importantly, institutional developers and landlords. The high housing cost overburden rates alongside the number of households living in deprived conditions and overcrowded homes or with arrears on mortgage, rent, or utility bills continued increasingin capitalism both during periods of economic growth and recession. Working class people are forced to spend an escalating percentage of wages on rents, interest rates, or utility bills which feed the profits of capitalist corporations. Housing is an area of massive speculation and profiteering for developers, investors, and financial institutions. The 2007-09 economic crisis was rooted in the financial crisis that was triggered by the burst of the housing bubble in the US. In turn, the housing bubble resulted from the policies of very low interest rates by central and commercial banks coupled with the political power promoting homeownership as an ideal type of tenure – to the benefit of bankers and construction companies. The states “solved” this crisis by creating even more opportunities for investment fundsand free movement of (real estate and financial capital) across borders. COVID-19 raised awareness about the centrality of housing in people’s everyday lives. For those who could afford to work from home, homes became their offices, and this trend increased the costs of utilities – to the benefit of the employers. For those living in deprived homeswithout running water, it was even more difficult to protect themselves against infectionwhile doing the “essential works” that could not stop during the lockdowns. Migrant workers face even more housing deprivation and stigmatisation than “native” labourers. This means that they not only often live in inadequate conditions, but are also used to being blamed for the increasing housing market prices. Companies are eager to gain profit from reconstructing the housing stock of countries destroyed by the wars. The housing question cannot be solved in capitalism. The internationalism of working-class struggle can be strengthened by collaboration with the grassroots housing movements, which are quite advanced in organizing and demands in severalcountries. The fight against the exploitation of housing needs has to be taken beyond national borders. Mobilizing workers around housing needs, as workers-tenants or tenants-workers, could help pointout the unified needs of the property-less working class people.
  5. Under capitalism, women’s participation rate in the labour force is generally lower than men’s in all countries, including high-income countries. Women’s wages are also lower than men’s, with important variations from country to country. Women are also working in the most precarious jobs and are the bulk of part-time workers. Since a home is a place where the labour force is reproduced, in patriarchal households,women’s unpaid labour plays a crucial role in this process. The exploitation of women’s unpaid labour, which has already deepened with the abolishmentof social welfare practices, is increasing. The exploitation throughcare work after the COVID 19 pandemic has been significantly heightened. According to an OXFAM report, women in local communities and low-income countries undertake care work for up to 14 hours a day. This is more than five times the care work undertaken by men in the same communities. The capitalist class also looks on all maternity leave and pregnancy-related medical appointments and so on as costs, aiming to minimize and abolish them.
  6. According to an ILO Report, there are around 169 million migrant workers in the world and these workers constitute approximately 5% of the workforce. Migrant workers generally work in poor working conditions, with low earnings and without security. In many “developing”countries, such as Turkey, migrant workers are employed for much cheaper wages in poor, precarious and dangerous jobs such as illegal mining, construction, seasonal agricultural labour, shepherding, garbage collection, etc. – jobs that the local working class would refuse under such conditions.In Iran, the regime tries to blame socio-economic problems like unemployment and low wages on Afghan refugees, while denying them and their children basic services. In the Republic ofCyprus, migrant workers are officially excluded from the minimum wage order, offering more legitimisation to their employment with conditions that can be compared to modern slavery. Their residence permit is connected with their boss, who provides them accommodation and food and gives them almost a third of the legal minimum wage, an amount that is determined by bilateral state agreements and the ministry of internal affairs rather than the ministry of labor.In high income economies migrant workers are being used in many sectorsto undercut wages. They, of course, also face problems such as racism, discrimination, lack of recognition of their professional qualifications, cultural difficulties, language barriers, barriers in the labour market and lack of health support. In most cases, migrant workers are marginalised and union leaderships are usually not trying to include them. This way, the workers’ movement loses significant firepower, while the bosses find ways to “divide and rule” leading to a race to the bottom. The strikes and protests of migrant workers prior to the Qatar Men’s World Cup 2022 were hugely symbolic in this respect.
  7. Union membership is decreasing on a global scale. Although there are successful examples, such as the UAW and the TESLA strikes, against the backdrop of an increase in flexible, precarious and individualized work, in general terms, traditional unionism, which focuses on blue-collar workers in large industrial enterprises, cannot cope with the current needs,demands and make-upof the working class. In conjunction, the weakness of the working-class movement is used by the union bureaucrats as an excuse to push unions into a more bureaucratic and careerist position. This has led to a shift in power relations in the workplaces, and a union leadership which does not correspond to the needs of workers.
  8. At the same time, it is important to note that this is not a uniform process. In the UK for example there is evidence that membership in unions that engaged in strike action increased in 2023, even though overall union membership decreased in 2022. (Figures for union membership in 2023 are not yet available). The National Education Union (NEU), for example, increased its membership by between 20,000 and 30, 000 during just three months of strikes between May and July 2023. In countries and workplaces that unions put up a fight, union membership is going up. In the US, although total union membership is still falling, according to, “Nearly half of workers say they would like to join a union, and more than two-thirds of the public support unions. Growing numbers of workers are trying to form unions; indeed, there was more than a 50 percent jump in union petitions from 2021 to 2022 and a continued increase in 2023. Strike activity has also jumped significantly since 2020, with more than 420 strikes in 2023.”
  9. The power of unions against the “anti-union trend” is exemplified in the current TESLA strike in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. A series of actions were carried out in the Swedish factories of Elon Musk, due to Tesla’s refusal to sign a collective agreement. The strike at Tesla needs to be seen and understood in a broader context. First, it is a struggle against the aggressive and anti-union corporate culture of the United States that has been takingroot in Europe and Sweden. At the same time, it is about the future of the practice of determining the minimum wage by collective agreement, called the “Swedish model” in the labor market. This model was a win that came after almost two decades of intense labor conflicts in Sweden. An additional crucial dimension of the strike is the extensive support it garnered through solidarity actions and strikes across various sectors. Port and transportation workers, electrical workers, painters, building maintenance personnel, service industry employees, and communication workers all rallied behind the cause. But also Danish, Finnish and Norwegian port and transportation workers support the struggle and Tesla had to halt the production at Grünheide gigafactory (Berlin) in view of a solidarity action by the German union IG Metall (the official excuse was delays in deliveries of parts because of attacks on ships in the Red Sea). This broad and united struggle, reaching beyond the confines of individual workplaces, stands out as one of the most exemplary instances of solidarity within the working class in recent memory. This collective effort underscores the interconnectedness of various sectors and highlights the need for a unified front in the face of common challenges.The strike’s resonance across diverse professions underscores the shared understanding among workers about the broader issues at stake, making it a powerful manifestation of collective strength and unity (for more detailed information about the strike, you can refer to the article available here).
  10. An example of how the pressure of the rank and file pushed “traditional” unions to take up action was the teachers’ strike in Romania. Although the strike ended with “success” in terms of gains when compared to other European countries, the support and participation in this three-week strike was so massive that a much better deal could have been achieved. This picture showed the fighting teachers and other sections of the society who are in solidarity with them, that the union bureaucracies have a material interest in compromising the interests of labour and capital. There is no will to advance the class struggle, but to pacify it.
  11. In Italy, there have been some small defensive but successful grassroots struggles and judiciary initiatives among logistics, e-commerce (Amazon), and food distribution workers, which have compelled both large and small unions to adopt a more militant stance. The desire to fight and win in these local defensive struggles can be seen as the initial stages of the mobilization of the Italian working class, but the issue of the lack of a trade union strategy remains unsolved.
  12. The work we conducted on platform workers last year enabled us to see the problem more clearly and approach solutions. We observe that in countries like Cyprus, Russia, and Turkey, organized union struggles have begun regarding platform workers, who constitute one of the most precarious and unorganized segments of the working class. Additionally, significant efforts in this regard are underway in countries like Romania.
  13. In Turkey, since February of 2022, more than a hundred strikes and fightbacksoccurred, primarily in major cities like Istanbul, Izmir and Antep. Notably, most of these struggleswere not led by traditional trade unions. Even in unionized settings, resistances emerged independently of theunion leadership. It is anticipated that wage-related actions will become more widespread in the coming period, though the extent to which this evolves into a lasting organized struggle remains uncertain. This outcome depends on the trajectory of the labor movement and how unions respond to these developments. Several factors, including the unions’ failures in past workers’ struggles, bureaucratism, the prevalence of unions aligned with the government, legal restrictions, and inertia, have given rise to the formation of independent and more militant unions. In February 2022, for instance, around 12,000 workers in 34 factories in Antep engaged in a brief work stoppage led by the independent union Birtek Sen. Within a short period, the Private Teachers’ Union surpassed the membership figures of many other unions in the sector. Tarım-Sen, notable for its 150-day resistance at Agrobay, Europe’s largest greenhouse, is among the newly established unions organizing agricultural workers. This recent surge in independent unionism is expanding day-by-day.
  14. There is a general global trend to enforce new anti-union laws and strong legal/administrative obstacles to unionization such as workplace and industry thresholds and strike bans, the discarding of collective bargaining, ect. These measures objectively reduce the ability of unions to act. In authoritarian regimes, the governments’ tactic of establishing yellow unions further undermines union activity. The arbitrariness and inactivity of union bureaucracies also results in the working class remaining dispersed and unorganized in the struggle for their demands. In the UK, there is a new anti-union law that adds up to the already draconian Thatcher-era legislation. In Greece, strikes have almost always in the last years been declared illegal. There is a continuous effort to attack union and workers’ rights with laws or lawsuits which aim to financially drain all those involved.
  15. Sometimes, the attempt to silence unions takes a more brutal form. In Nigeria, thugs attacked the Nigerian Labour Conference (NLC) leader, who was subsequently arrested! This is a sign that the Nigerian regime does not tolerate even moderate forces which claim to represent the workers. The NLC and the TUC (Trade Union Congress) have actually failed to put forward a plan to mobilize workers even though there is huge anger with rising fuel prices, the destruction of infrastructure, corruption and security issues.
  16. The capitalist crisis is creating the background for important struggles all over the globe, both in the so-called developing and underdeveloped countries but also in industrially developed countries. In previous documents we emphasized the revolutionary explosions in many countries like Iran, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Iraq, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, etc as well as the massive protests in China against the pandemic lockdowns. We also took note of the radicalisation of movements all over the Latin American continent. In the same document we predicted heightened class struggle in industrially developed countries, specifically triggered by the rise of inflation, which would erode living standards. This observation remains valid today. There were strikes that had a significant impact initially in France, Germany, UK, Belgium and Greece and at a later stage in the US, Sweden etc.
  17. The wave of strikes experienced in the United Kingdom last year was exceptional and of historical significance. Although the impact of the strike wave hasdiminished in the recent period, a significant number of workers are still on strike. This includes transportation workers and junior doctors who have been on strike during the Christmas period and into the New Year of 2024. Many of the long-standing disputes have been at least temporarily resolved; however, there is still anger towards the level of compromiseby the trade union leaderships planned for the upcoming year, and it is likely that a large number of workers will go on strike in 2024. For instance, the government proposed a 1% increase for teachers in 2024, leading to calls from unions for a new strike vote in 2024. Nurses, who were persuaded into an early agreement by the union leadership, are increasingly frustrated at the offer made to them because it falls below those made to workers in other sectors, and doctors are likely to receive higher increases. While some groups have performed better than others during this wave of strikes, it is important not to perceive wage agreements as defeats. The general trend suggests that unions putting up the strongest resistance have obtained the best deals and all groups on strike have received more than initially offered.
  18. Although inflation pushes workers to fight, their ability to organise strike action is hindered by thesituation not only in the unions, but also inthe Left. For example, Italy remains the only major European economy where we have not seen significant mobilisation regarding rising prices. There are many reasons for that. In terms of the objective situation, the Italian economy is affected by several weaknesses, such as the dominance of SMEs and a vast process of deindustrialization. Most of the factories in Northern Italy have become suppliers of the German auto industry. Stellantis (ex-FIAT) is led by French shareholders. The nationalist government led by Giorgia Meloni is dismantling the steel industry, after having sold off Alitalia (airlines)to Lufthansa and TIM(telecoms) landline grid to the US fund KKR and plans to sell € 2 billion ENI (energy)stakes to reduce debt. The Italian labor movement needsa strong leadership with a clear strategy. But the trade union bureaucracy seems to be not aware that even reformist trade unions sometimes should say “no” to bosses in order to survive. Especially the CGIL leadership seems to be incapable/unwilling of taking advantage of the vast discredit of the right-wing government among workers. In this context the deep crisis of the Italian far-left does not help. Italy is also the only European country where average realwages declined from 1990 to 2020, and one of the five EU27 countries without a legal minimum wage. Meanwhile, both centre-right and centre-left governments have, without significant union opposition since the 1990s, implemented labor market deregulation and suppression of workers’ rights. These two factors have made inflation a central issue for the Italian working class today. Recently, major trade union federations in Italy signed a collective agreement accepting wholly inadequate wage increases for private security workers, who have been receiving constitutionally questionable wages for the past few years, according to several court rulings. A few weeks later, a judicial investigation revealed that private security companies were making significant profits by exploiting their employees and even violating super business-friendly labor market rules, forcing employers to restart negotiations with unions and declare readiness to acknowledge higher wage increases.
  19. In Greece, the capitulation of SYRIZA and the mass disillusionment that followed 2015 meant that for several years class struggle fell to very low levels by Greek standards. Fewer strikes and struggles were taking place, and the prevailing mood was one of pessimism. This began to changewith the entry of the current decade. The November ’22 general strike showed that in a number of important workplaces and sectors, the mood had started to change. The March ’23 train crash (with 57 dead, in their vast majority youth)and the public outrage that followed added up to this change. March 8th was marked by what was in fact a general strike imposed from below. GSEE (the national trade union confederation) refused to officially call for a general strike (with the pretext that they had a… “conference already arranged on those dates…”!) but lower rank unions did and the response of the popular masses could only be compared to some of the strikes of the Memoranda years (especially 2010-13). In Athens 100,000 demonstrated, 30,000 in Thessaloniki and thousands more in all major Greek cities. The movement did not develop because the GSEE tried to sabotage the movement and the Stalinist KKE, which first played a role in initiating the strike from below, provided no plan for the development and escalation of the movement and subsequentlycalled it off. The other forces of the anticapitalist left were not in a position to influence the situation politically and organizationally. The May/June elections, where the right and the far-right made gains, were a blow to the mood of working-class people, who felt that New Democracy had a firm grip on the situation. But this has already started to change again with important mobilisations of students and farmers with the entry of 2024.
  20. In France, millions of people, mostly young, responded to Macron’s agenda to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, with 14 generalstrikes over the past year. In the first strike on January 19, 2023, according to the unions, 2 million people took part in the demonstrations with 400,000 of them participating in the Paris demo. Reforming was a significant part of Macron’s 2017 election platform, with initial protests and transport strikes in late 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw Macron delay the implementing his “reforms”. After he announced that he would introduce legislation to gradually raise the retirement age in 2023, by-passing Parliament, there were 10 more generalstrikes. 2.8 million people took part in the protests on January 31, according to the CGT union confederation. The demonstrations continued until June. The law could not be prevented from passing, but the coordination of the strikes by all of France’s trade unions has been labeled a “rare show of unity” between transport and energy workers, teachers, dockers and public sector workers. The unity of the movement was crucial in gathering support from workers. Despite engaging in one of the most impressive struggles in recent times, the French working class did not achieve complete success. It is essential for us to evaluate the reasons for both our successes and failures adequately, so that we can provide sufficient preparation to respond to the next rise.
  21. Another example of the role of trade union leaderships was the National Day of Action in Belgium on 20th to 22nd March 2023. This was to protest against the law to introduce a cap on wage increases. There are 2.7 million trade union members in Belgium. This is a high level of trade union membership in a country with a population of 11 million. Migrant workers as well as Belgian workers belong to trade unions in large numbers. More than 80,000 workers participated in the Day of Action. Even though the workers had been asking for a national strike, the trade unions collectively decided to name it an “action” instead of a “strike”, therefore implicitly undermining the dynamic of the protest.
  22. In Argentinathe crisis in the economy is combined with the presence of FIT-U, the biggest anticapitalist coalition internationally, today. The country’s economic crisis has led to inflation of up to 211% last year and a rapiderosion of purchasing power. The authoritarian, far-right,populist Milei, also dubbed “mini-Trump”, is trying to make the poor pay for the crisis by further impoverishing them. After his election on December 10, he issued a 366-article decree. The content of the decree consists of articles that aim to eradicate the rights that workers across the country have gained over the years and to funnel the country’s resources towards international capital. In addition, he devalued the peso, the country’s currency, by 50% relative to the dollar. This means that the purchasing power of the working class has abruptly been severely reduced. The decree includes provisions that would reduce the penalties for bosses in cases of flexible working, prevent union work during working hours, make it harder to strike in some key sectors, give bosses the right to fire workers who strike or occupy workplaces, restrict strike funds for unions, cancel the law on rent increase restrictions, and pave the way for the privatization of public enterprises. Other factors include attacks on the right to abortion, which the women’s movement has won by taking to the streets in recent years, and the facilitation of foreign debt. Argentine working people, called by the Front of Workers and the Left-United (FIT-U) and struggling trade union currents, occupied the front of the Congress building during the handover ceremony to protest against Milei.Grassroots pressure led the bureaucratic leadership of theCGT to call a general strike for January 24th. The strike caused disruption in several sectors, including transportation, banking and health care. This strike alone reminds us once again of the potential of a relatively strong, organized structure, like the Front of Workers and the Left(FIT-U) and the presence of combative unions.
  23. At the same time, the reproduction of the status quo in the political arena has become more difficult and fragile. Especially after the ’07-’09 crisis, we see huge political upheavals and the strengthening of structural authoritarian tendencies. Authoritarian regimes and practices have become widespread, especially in the so-called “developing” and underdeveloped countries. There are, of course, important variations depending on each country’s historical path, how the dominant bourgeois bloc was formed, its position on the international political conjuncture, the level of consolidation in the global market, the relative power of the working class, etc. These regimes serve to strengthen “law and order”, oppress the working classes in order to increase profits for “national capitalists”.
  24. But definitely this tendency does not mean an end to struggles. Turkey is currently experiencing a deepening economic downturn and a simultaneous deepening of authoritarianism since the early 2010s. This trend has resulted in a general decline in the number of protests, activists, and legal strikes. However, developments in 2021 and the beginning of 2022 have shown a reversal of this downward trend. The worsening working conditions in numerous workplaces during the pandemic, coupled with the increased importance and structural power of workers such as couriers and healthcare workers, has led to an accumulation of grievances, manifesting in various strikes and protests in 2021 and early 2022.
  25. In Iran, four and a half decades of repression by a brutally repressive regime has not browbeaten the workers. During the past few years, Iranian workers have been reviving the militant methods and slogans of the 1979 revolution. Workers’ control, taking over a plant, opening the books, and so on are slogans that are becoming more common as each struggle and strike exposes state ownership and asset-stripping privatization for what they really are: capitalist exploitation in a different guise. As well as clandestine committees that direct strikes in Khuzestan’s oil, gas, steel and other heavy industries, many other groups of workers have held protests demanding pay rises, release of jailed colleagues (like teachers), and other economic and social demands. There are also weekly protests by pensioners for higher pensions throughout the country. However, given the way the regime has crushed the moves to create open trade unions, the key to the next stage of struggles depends on building and linking the clandestine action committees.
  26. It is clear that some of the most important developments in the working class movement are taking place in the United States. In the course of 2023, nearly 500,000 workers went on strike, including bus drivers, nurses, actors, screenwriters, brewery workers, book sellers, lawyers, locomotive manufacturer workers, hotel housekeepers, and restaurant waiters. This surge in labor action follows a relative lull in strikes in the US and a decline in union membership that began in the 1970s. Unions in the US are still a pale shadow of their mid-century glorious dayswith union membership, today, down to 1 in 10. Workers, however, are beginning to shake off the dead weightin a number of sectors. This flow did not start overnight, as the worker’s movement has been on the rise for the past few years. In 2021, the number of workers who joined strikes was close to 150,000, and in 2022 nearly 250,000 workers walked off their workplace. Two of the highlights in 2022 were the 50,000 University of California workers (represented by the UAW) strike along with other academic workers across the country. A tentative agreement was signed just before nearly 17,000 rail workers went on strike, with the intervention of USpresident J. Biden. These worker push backs have been lively in the past 5-6 years, including official union strikes as well as wild-cat strikes. In 2023, more than 75,000 health-care workers went on strike; about 170,000 Hollywood actors with some 12,000 screenwriters also went on strike; and about 340,000 UPS workers walked off the job until they reached a tentative agreement with their employer, which included the biggest wage gains in decades. In 2023 for the first time Amazon’s union-busting strategy was defeated by warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, and ALU (Amazon Labor Union) became the first trade union to be recognised by the company.
  27. While the examples, sectors, and locations are myriad, the most outstanding win was the United Auto Workers strike against “The Big Three” car manufacturing companies: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. 50,000 workers went on strike for 41 days, resulting in an historic tentative agreement which included increased wages, job security, retirement benefits, and last but not least, COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). Considering the economic climate in the US, which was gravely impacted by theCOVID-19 pandemic and inflation, COLA is of exceptional importance for workers’ life conditions. The strikes mentioned above did not manage to acquire COLA, which lasts several years, until the contract ends and gives reassurance to the workers that their income will rise correspondingly, as their fundamental expenditures such as rent, food, bills and gas also increase due to inflation. This is crucial for millions of workers in the US. The leadership of UAW argues that what was achieved in 4.5 years exceeds gains made in more than 22 years combined. However, it is important to note that, there was a significant percentage of the workforce that voted down the tentative agreement.
  28. Workers’ movements are contagiousand fearsome in the eyes of employers. For instance, Toyota workers got a raise without any concrete demand, in spite of the fact that the workers are not unionized. The main reason for this is not that the members of the board of Toyota decided to be altruistic overnight, but they know that union power is coming strongly for them (seealso here).
  29. The feeling ofinternationalismand the contagion of struggles is a crucial aspect that Marxistsshould try to promote as much as possible. At the time of writing, we see important farmer mobilisations in Germany, France, Belgium, Romania, Spain, Italy, Poland, Greece and other countries. These mobilisations feed on each other, but are by no means consciously coordinated by the leadership of the farmers’ unions. If that would be the case, their power would significantly multiply. We should make everyeffortpossible to extend working classand otherstruggles to neighborhoods and the general population, campaigning for support and solidarityat the same time asfulfilling the task ofstrengthening our organization.
  30. This is also the case withtrain strikes in Europe. Train workers in Germany staged a three-day warning strike on January 10-12. The strike, led by the GDL, brought thousands of both cargo and passenger trains, operated by the state-owned Deutsche Bahn, to a standstill. The train workers’ union is fighting to reduce working hours from 38 to 35 with full pay. If these issues are not agreed upon during the new collective bargaining period starting in January, the union has announced an “open ended strike”. The protests, which have brought 80% of long-distance trains to a standstill, add to the pressure on Chancellor Scholz at a time when Germany is also facing serious economic problems. Similarly, a nationwide 24-hour public transport strike hit Italy on January 24. On January 18 we also saw a strike by transport workers in Northern Ireland. UK transport workers have announced one-day strikes and an overtime ban from January 30 to February 5. These strikes, which will mean a severe restriction of commodity mobility as well as people, are spreading from country to country across Europe. But they are uncoordinated. If union leaderships made an effort to coordinate these strikes around common demands, they could raise the fighting spirit of the whole of the working class in the respective countries and on a continental basis and score important victories.
  31. A model approach for organizing immigrant workers has emerged fromScandinavia. Due to theinertia among the officialtrade unions in organizing migrant workers, Polish construction, agricultural and environmental workers (3F BJMF) in Copenhagen established their own union in 2007 called Polski Klub Zwiazkowy (Polish Trade Union) which is affiliated with an inter-union body in Copenhagen known as ByggefagenesSamvirke. Along with this experience, Portuguese, Lithuanian, and Romanianworkers also have their own trade unions aiming to organize and assist their compatriots working in Denmark. In early 2021, 3F BJMF launched a website in Romanian to inform workers from Romania about their rights. Organizing immigrant workers against the specific discriminations they face is of utmost importance for working-class unity.
  32. Unions and workers organizations in general are, potentially,the only forces that canconsistentlycounter therise of national and religious divides. This is certainly the case in Northern Ireland (we have extensive material on this οn the ISp website) but also Sri Lanka. Just over a year since a mass uprising ousted Sri Lanka’s President Gotabhaya Rajapakse in 2022, the working class now faces a new president, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Half a million workers, including oil, electricity, water and health workers, joined a one-day general strike to protest the Wickremesinghe government’s brutal austerity program and sweeping attacks on democratic rights. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and other public sector workers also took part in lunchtime strikes and other protests, demonstrating against the IMF’s austerity policies. The president canceled local elections, saying that elections should wait for “economic recovery” and that “economic recovery” requires “public order”. Initially, Wickremesinghe was able to exploit the confusion and disillusionment among large sections of working people after last year’s four-month mass uprising –despite its militancy and breadth– failed to bring about any fundamental change. The unions in Sri Lanka are the only structures where Sinhala and Tamil workers can act together, but this potential is not fully exploited due to the role of the trade union bureaucracy. The creation of a revolutionary political party is a necessary condition, in order to push the unions in a fighting direction, uniting the two main nationalities of the country and developing the struggle in an anticapitalist direction.
  33. There are contradictory elements regarding the role of unions, as is evident in the examples discussed above. The vast majority of trade union leaderships particularly on a national level are bureaucratized and present a huge obstacle in the development of class struggles. But in manycircumstances unions still remain effective tools of struggle, as we saw with the TESLA and UAW strikes,as we saw in the British strike movement, in France, etc. Where the working class is strong and determined, it can mobilise its unions through pressure from below. Unions are historical and unique class organizations created by the working class itself as a result of its own struggleand work within the unions in one form or another will always be imperative. Advanced workersshould try to use them in any way theycan and aim tocreate more democratic and accountable internalstructures. At the same time, when the leadership of traditional unions become absolute fetters in the development of class struggle, Marxistsshould aim to new ways of organising the struggles through grassroots initiatives which, however, should continue to put demands on the general trade union movement.
  34. Asa result of developments like the onesmentioned above, in different parts of the world, sections of the workingclass such as platform workers,agricultural workers, andsections ofwhite-collar workers, are beginning to establish their own new union organizations, often called “independent unions”. These represent an important development which shows the willingness of some of the most combative sections of the working class to overcome the obstacle of the official leaderships. Marxistshave a duty to carefully monitor the progress of these organizations, and intervene in them to assist in their development as fighting tools in the hands of the working class.
  35. As the objective conditions are brewing for bigger movements of the working class internationally, traditional unions have shown that they are not prepared to respond to the needs and demands of this new era. Unions that are unable to adapt to this new era need to be transformed from the bottom up. The working class will always seek new ways to develop its struggles, in its attempt to bypass the obstacles raised on its way by the trade union leaderships. Marxists need to be vocal about the need to rebuild the trade union movement on a healthy, fighting basis, linking this to real internal democracy and control from below. These great tasks however, are inextricably linked to the task of building sizeable revolutionary Marxist organisations on a national and international level. The emergence of powerful Marxist organisations will have a catalytical impact on the trade union structures and will push many of them towards a left radical, and even a revolutionary, at a later stage, direction. Building the forces of Marxism and intervening in the trade union movement to transform it are key tasks for Marxists in the period that we are going through.

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