Against a Global Capitalist Crisis, the Struggle has to be International

In the ideological world-view of the bourgeoisie the crisis is the fault of greedy bankers who took unnecessary risks which did not turn out as they wished. In reality, the bankers played a crucial role in hiding the underlying problem of capitalism, the falling rate of profit, by manufacturing fictitious profit to replace the real thing. The recycling and repackaging of debt is central to this process, but is always vulnerable to the real world rudely butting in and exposing the fiction, when debtors default en masse on impossible loans. The whole system didn’t come tumbling down this time, and capitalism still needs the bankers to play their role in the game. Which is why, at most, individual bankers have been “punished” by having to resign on very preferential terms, but banking, as a sector, has been let off by the intervention of the capitalist state.

While capitalism ponders the problem of blaming the bankers without punishing the bankers, it gets on with the necessity of making “someone” pay. And this time, surprise, surprise, it’s the working class. Across the global, the capitalists have attacked the working class, and, in some places the working class has fought back, usually accompanied by a deafening silence on the part of the international media. Here are some examples that did not make the mainstream news.


On 2nd February, around 1000 Finnish port workers launched a strike without notice, following the collapse of negotiations over a new contract. Another three and a half thousand, including temporary workers, banned overtime. The wildcat strike affected the goods traffic at Helsinki, Turku and Kotka, cutting the flow of goods in and out of Finland by about 50% (only 70% of imports and 90% of exports are exposed to the effects of a port strike, the rest coming in overland or by air), and was declared “illegal” by the government.

Prior to this, in January, several hundred shipbuilding workers employed by STX at Turku, (part of an international group employing 16 000 in shipyards in Norway, France, Romania, Finland, Brazil and Vietnam), struck against a management restructuring plan which had already cost 320 jobs in November and envisioned another 370 redundancies and the subcontracting out of work. (1)


Again on 2nd February, more than a thousand coalminers at the state-owned mine of Barapukuria went on indefinite strike, demanding an increase in their productivity bonuses. The miners had issued their demands in November, without response, and the strike is reducing output by 60%. (2)


The one place that has had some official media coverage is Greece. The crisis has been biting particularly hard in Greece in recent times. Just as everywhere else, though, it is the working class that is being asked to pay the price. The “socialist” Papandreou government asked for “moderation” among the unions, saying that the “country” (i.e., the bosses) could not afford strikes. Of course, the unions lined up behind him, following their role in modern capitalist society. But, when the government announced its austerity programme involving tax reforms and the increasing of the average retirement age by two years, the Greek workers began a 24-hour general strike, affecting both the public and private sectors, on 9th February. The airports were stopped from working, the tax and social security departments were hit, together with local government offices and hospitals (excluding the emergency service). Schools and archaeological sites, trains and local transport were all affected. (3)

In addition, the customs workers’ actions against the austerity measures, which began on 16th February, have lead to severe petrol shortages across the cities of Greece. There have been many protests, some of which have escaped the control of the unions. In Athens, for example, there was a tense demonstration in which the protestors tried to break the line of police in riot gear by using a dustcart as a battering ram.

In an attempt to damp down the workers’ anger, the unions called a further strike for 24th February. However, it seems that they were not entirely successful in this aim, at least in the short-term, as this saw protests all over the country. In Athens again, there were battles between the police and demonstrators. The hostility of the Greek populace towards the police has been magnified by their recent “accidental” killing of a 25-year old plumber, complete with public celebration by the officers involved, and following on from their murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. (4)


Against a background of massive inflation, the UGTA trade union confederation signed an agreement with the government and employers which not only did not take into account the price rises workers face in buying the means of existence, but also added ten years to the amount of time a worker doing arduous work must do the job before getting the right to retire. Thousands of workers engaged in heavy vehicle production in the Rouiba industrial zone went on strike on 3rd January, and, when they tried to march on the centre of the town of Rouiba, a part of Algiers, they were attacked by the police, who prevented them from proceeding.

The reaction of UGTA was to simply ignore the workers’ actions and issue a communiqué praising their own efforts in saving some of the companies (that this was at the expense of the workers was presumably omitted from the account).

The workers denounced the UGTA, and decided to continue the strike indefinitely. (5)


Australia is seeing several important class battles. From council workers in Geelong and smelter workers in South Australia to egg-grading workers, postal workers and teachers and lecturers in New South Wales, workers are making a stand against job cuts, wage-freezes and the worsening of working conditions.

In particular, the Sydney bus workers have struck against the bosses’ plans for new timetables, drawn up with the connivance of the unions, which undermine public safety by shortening journey times to the point where speed limits have to be broken, as well as worsening the conditions of the drivers. In addition, rest times will be eroded through the inevitable failure of busses to complete the journeys on time, and the time difference between the timetabled trip and the actual journey being subtracted from non-driving time. The response of the union to the strike was to denounce the workers involved, and to return to negotiations in order to persuade the bus workers to go back to work. This the workers did, but they promised to come out again if the unions and management do not drop the new “flexibility”. In the meantime, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has banned further strikes, and the new talks between the management and the union have resulted in… the same plan, but with a promise by the company to review procedures once they are in place (a cynical and transparent manoeuvre to present the workers with a fait accompli when the review concludes that everything is ok). (6)

Also in New South Wales, on 19th February workers at the Tahmoor colliery went back to work after the conclusion of a three-day strike with the intention to strike again. Xstrata, the owners of the mine, are trying to push through “flexibility”, offering in compensation a pay package, according to them, worth 25-37% over four years. However, workers calculate that the package is worth only 5.5%, i.e., an annual increase of 1.3%. Australia’s inflation rate is 2.6% (7). And official inflation rates almost always underestimate the effect of inflation on workers. The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), has systematically attempted to divide the workers on a pit-by-pit basis, as this will obviously critically weaken the struggle. They have used as an excuse the “Labour” Party’s legislation banning solidarity. In return for its service to capitalism, the CFMEU (and other unions) have been rewarded by being given a central role in the government’s industrial relations strategy, and they have used this role… to essentially agree with the bosses over what is needed to increase exploitation.

In order to struggle effectively, the Tahmoor workers need to overcome their isolation by organising outside and against the CFMEU, to break their isolation from other pits (e.g., for example, there is a similar dispute between workers at Xstrata’s Bulga mine in Hunter Valley, NSW), and to link up with workers in other sectors.


The Turkish state is attempting to impose its “4C” conditions on the working class. These conditions enable employers to treat present wages, already much reduced from their former level, as a maximum below which they are free to pay as they see fit. In addition, fixed working hours will be abolished, and workers will have to work until they finish the tasks the bosses set for them to complete, without any overtime being paid, and the bosses can employ the workers for part of the year only, with the workers being unpaid and unable to take alternative employment during the remainder of the year whilst having no rights to social security or health benefits. On top of all that, compensation for redundancy will be abolished, together with any right to appeal against it. (8)

Unsurprisingly, the state has shied away from imposing these reforms (“reformism” should really have died a death! - since “reforms” of this nature are all today’s capitalism has to offer) on the whole working class simultaneously, and selected the Tekel[ix] workers for the honour of being the first to “benefit”. On 5th December, while Prime Minister and leader of the Justice and Development Party (JDP), Tayyip Erdoğan, was making a speech, Tekel workers asked him when he was going to give them good news. He basically called them layabouts and said that the government had the agreement of their trade union (the Türk-İş union federation) for the 4-C conditions of employment. Although many of the workers had voted or even worked for Erdoğan’s party, the natural outcome was that the workers were enraged with him, with party cards being torn up. But the workers went much further than this. In workplace discussions, they decided to defend themselves against 4-C.

Whether or not Türk-İş had agreed with the government, it had done very little against the 4-C conditions, but it now called for a gathering in Ankara, and Tekel workers from all over the country, from the West and Mediterranean areas to the central Anatolian area and thence to Kurdistan decided to attend this.

Thwarting an attempt by the police to divide them along ethnic lines, by resisting their efforts to prevent Kurdish workers from entering the capital, the Tekel workers arrived in Ankara together.

On 15th December, there was a 5000-strong demonstration against 4-C outside the offices of the JDP. Following several attacks on them by riot police, they were dispersed on 17th December, but autonomously reassembled in front of the Türk-İş headquarters. As a result of this pressure on the union, two workers from each of the cities represented among the Tekel workers were admitted to the negotiations between Türk-İş, Tek Gıda-İş[x]and the government over 4-C.

Although the union successfully insisted that a committee for strike action organised by the workers be shut down, the workers nevertheless managed to gain the solidarity of a significant section of the Ankara proletariat and of the students of proletarian background, who provided material support allowing the demonstration in front of the Türk-İş building. Significantly, they also begin to develop links with the sugar workers, who are next in line for the 4-C reforms.

Under the pressure of the demonstration, Türk-İş announced a series of strikes starting with a one-hour strike, followed by a two-hour strike the week after, followed by a four-hour strike, etc. But, when the first strike attracted a 30% participation rate, Türk-İş, terrified by the possibility of generalisation that this represented, called the series off, and replaced it with the idea of hunger strikes.

For a while, the Tekel workers were split on whether to follow the union-inspired plan for hunger strikes or to generalise the struggle, but have come down in favour of generalisation.This puts the idea of a strike involving all workers against the “reforms” of the government, which would be an enormous step towards the emergence of the Turkish section of the working class as a political entity, which would be an example to the workers of the world. As we go to press 6000 workers are still camped in the centre of Ankara outside the Türk-İş headquarters but rumours that they are about to be attacked by the forces of the state persist.

International Struggle is the Only Way Forward

So far the bourgeoisie everywhere is relieved that the resistance to its plans to make us pay has not been greater. The episodes we have detailed here remain just episodes. Even in Greece the support for strikes and demonstrations has been surprisingly small. The ruling class there are grateful that they can get opinion polls to show that most Greeks (53% in the latest one) are ready for some austerity measures. Whether workers will still feel that in one or two years more of this is another matter. And there will be more of this for years ahead as this crisis will not go away. This survey shows that there are signs are that the most affected workers are beginning to respond, to the attacks that are launched against them. However workers in a single sector, in a single country, face enormous pressure. Only when they unite with others (for example why no solidarity between Lufthansa pilots and BA cabin crew?) beyond their own area and country can they really halt the system’s attacks. Only when they adopt their own organisational expressions ( mass meetings, strike committees and coordinating bodies) outside of any state organs of mediation will they begin to act for themselves. Only then will they contain the seeds of their self-transformation into a single struggle, a first step in the growth of class consciousness. Ultimately workers will have to realize that under this system only further deprivation is guaranteed and this will pose the eventual transformation of their ideas into a revolutionary, communist consciousness. This transformation, if it does take place, will be seen in the creation of a permanent, international organisational expression. The resulting class party will be essential for the revolutionary transformation of society.


(1) See Battaglia Comunista 3/2010

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid, and the Greek section of

(4) See Revolutionary Perspectives 49

(5) Information from L’Humanité, 11th January:

(6) Information taken from an article by the Left Communists of Sydney, and published on the ICC’s site:

(7) According to Business Week: ; other information on the Australian miner’s struggle from

(8) See the excellent article “Turkey: Solidarity with Tekel workers’ resistance against government and unions”, produced by the International Communist Current:

(9) The ex-state monopoly for tobacco and alcohol

(10) The tobacco industry member union of Türk-İş

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