To Throw a Wrench in the Bosses' Plans, We Need to Take Control of the Struggle!

IWG flyer for distribution during the auto-workers’ strike.

Utilizing deceit and dirty tricks, the individuals that are supposed to defend the auto-workers’ interests are the first to betray them…

The “stand up strike” is not new. It is simply a new name for the “rotation” strikes that are practiced in Europe and at odd times in the USA. This type of strike—whose identification by the UAW as “new” is one of two lies concocted to sabotage the workers’ struggle—always leaves the initiative with the bosses. By alerting the auto-makers to a strike in advance, therefore losing the element of surprise, it averts the paralysis of production that necessarily accompanies effective action.

This is no less debilitating than the fact it quarantines workers in one plant from workers in another. Whereas the unity of the workers is their strength, in practice the “stand up” strike dismembers the workers’ unity, as they are prevented from going out at the same time. It led to defeat for the British and French workers in 2022 and 2023—among tacticians, it is known that “force concentration” wins the battle, not the dismemberment of one’s forces! And in this case, our forces have been abandoned to their fate: every week, striking auto-workers receive $500 in strike pay, while the UAW strike fund is nearly $1 billion—a disgrace.

But the union knows it is leading the strike to defeat, so it prefers not to release the strike fund for its stated purpose. To release it is to squander the money extorted from workers, placing a bet on a struggle the union does not support, but sabotages (the rats take as much as they can, before leaving a sinking ship…). The only movement that can “grab” this money is the one that, by defying union directives, terrifies union bosses into submission. Greater pay-outs must be demanded. The dismissals of 600 at a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, and of 2,000 at a GM plant in Fairfax, Kansas, reveal that “standing up” allows the auto-makers to impose a slimming-down treatment no less severe than the exhaustion of the strike fund.

Lie two is that the state—the police, the courts, the legislature—is “on our side”. A UAW Local 900 functionary says “the police are on our side”, in order to justify the directive passed down by the union: workers cannot be permitted to block plant entrances… Via the unions (that are linked by a million threads to the state and the bosses’ parties), the workers’ hands are tied; the strike is shackled to the legal framework of the National Labor Relations Board, which prohibits resolute and autonomous action. These institutions are not neutral arbiters. Their purpose is to contain workers’ struggle, and we cannot have faith in any of them—in the exploiters’ carrot-and-stick game, when the “carrot” (lies, union deception) fails, the state has no qualms about using the “stick” (simple repression of workers’ movements) to discipline the exploited. The past police repression of auto-workers in México, South Korea, China, etc…, demonstrates that all governments attack the workers.

The struggle exhibits this and other international dimensions. As the cities of Turin and Billancourt—sites of large pockets of Italian and French autoworkers at Fiat and Renault—suffer the same fate as Detroit, it is known that since the 1970s all states engage in “restructuring” industry and attacking auto-workers (and all workers, regardless of sector). To refuse these attacks, we need to refuse the “rotating” strike, instead preparing an “unlimited” strike in defense of our interests. For too long the pace of workers’ struggle has been set by the unions; we need to set it ourselves, transcending quarantines erected between workers in different plants and sectors. This means outpacing the official calendar, by expanding the strike to plants in different “waves” ahead of time (as French hospital-workers did successfully in 2019); blocking plant entrances; sending delegations to workers in other sectors, to gain their support; and organizing these actions ourselves, in workers’ assemblies that are not directed by UAW functionaries, but in which all workers have an equal voice. Putting past defeats behind us, we can become one contingent in an international struggle, against the social system whose existence is at odds with the workers’ interests (and for whom the workers are, at most, expendable sources of profit, and cannon fodder for the Third World War): capitalism.

To Break the Union Quarantine, Prepare an Unlimited Struggle!

Internationalist Workers’ Group
Affiliate of the Internationalist Communist Tendency in the USA
Thursday, September 21, 2023