Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Workers' Fightback - Czech Wildcats/Greece On Fire Again/California Fighting

Many people are getting ready to celebrate the season of 'peace on earth and good will to all men', but that doesn't mean there's any let-up in the class war. Instead, it is business as usual for 2009, with sporadic outbreaks of working class resistance meeting fierce resolve from the ruling establishment.

One group of car workers in the Czech Republic seem to have made a temporary gain, although Hyundai bosses are regrouping for a new year counter-attack. By all accounts, management have been cranking up the pressure on employees at the Nošovice factory this year, and a statement by a worker's husband on a Czech newspaper forum is surely reminiscent of what many have been feeling worldwide, as corporations and governments have turned the screw:
"The other day my wife came home, locked herself in a room and cried. When I came to her and asked what had happened, she told me little by little how things work there and what they have to endure. She’s been bottling it up inside her heroically for almost 7 months. I can’t understand how something like this is possible in our country. When I read statements of [Czech Hyundai spokesman] Petr Vaňek I feel like I’m about to vomit. Chicanery, humiliation, threats = this is where Mr Rakovský and Mr Vaněk are heading to."
On 1st December, the pressure erupted, and twenty workers left the welding shop, taking unofficial wildcat action against compulsory overtime, cuts to bonuses, and workplace harassment. The next day, staff at the nearby Hyundai subcontractor struck ever hour in solidarity. There was a much larger one hour strike on the 9th.

At the time of writing, it appears that Hyundai have abandoned the practice of compulsory overtime for the rest of the month. However, the company want to victimise those who struck on the 9th, and the whole contract will be renegotiated with union bureaucrats next month. Watch this space...

Twelve months ago, large areas of urban Greece were ablaze, as a spontaneous uprising of young people saw massive fights with police. It was touched off by the police killing of fifteen year old Alex Grigoropolous, but the movement had its roots in the desperate conditions facing many working class Greek youths. The 6th December anniversary of Alex's death saw more conflict, and massive police retaliation.

The 'conservative' government of Kostas Karamanlis did not survive the aftermath of the uprising, and was forced into an early general election. This was largely because the Greek elite did not believe his party could implement the drastic cuts needed to balance the budget in one of the economies worst hit by the economic collapse. Now 'socialist' PM George Papandréou has allowed the European Union to dictate a drastic austerity programme, which will ferociously tear into jobs, wages and conditions. Much more conflict is inevitable in the year ahead.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking tough on student resistance to his cuts agenda, and has labelled students' behaviour as "terrorism". This may be the first time the label has been applied to domestic opponents of the American ruling class since the 'war on terror' was declared in 2001. Having 'terminated' much of the California education budget, he has allowed universities to dramatically increase tuition fees, pricing many working class students out of higher education.

As has been reported previously, students have staged numerous protests and occupations. Last Friday however, up to seventy-five demonstrators are said to have surrounded Berkeley Chancellor Robert Bergenau’s mansion following a violent campus eviction, and eight were arrested for allegedly causing property damage, as well as fighting police. At least one activist disputes this version of events, but whatever the truth, Schwarzenegger denounced the attack on a rich man's property in the strongest terms, declaring: "California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders, including educators."

This provocative use of the 'T-word' has inflamed press coverage of a relatively minor incident, obscuring the reality that his policies - and those of elites around the world - are part of an unprecedented attack on working class living standards. If the beginnings of a global rebellion this year are any guide, it will not go unanswered in 2010.
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