Thursday, October 31, 2013

Comrades and Cossacks Redux




Mounted strike-breakers, mainly volunteers from country areas, line up across Auckland’s Queen Street during the 1913 waterfront strike. Behind them hundreds of strikers, shouting and throwing stones, try to prevent ships being loaded on the wharves. (Click for image credit)
Strikers and 'police specials' (Cossacks) lined up facing each other in Queen Street, Auckland, 1913
This is not the first time that the history of the 1913 Strike in NZ/Aotearoa has caused controversy. Today, the fuss is about an artwork that features the silhouette of a baton wielding 'Cossack' used to suppress the striking workers on the Auckland wharves in 1913. Ten years ago, the police and some unions collaborated in an academic project that sought to present the 1913 strike as no more than an example of police 'methods'. That is, to be seen as an historical event that is isolated from the class struggle today. In both cases what we have is an attempt to legitimise the role and 'methods' of paramilitary state forces used to smash strikes, outlaw unions, and impose the will of the ruling class upon the fate of the working class. We say NO!


Mike Lee the City Councillor who blew the gaff on the baton wielding thug posturing today on Queens Wharf in Auckland had a grandfather on the blunt end of those batons in 1913. He is right. Putting up a memorial to the 'Cossacks' (farmers recruited as police specials) who broke the strike of the Auckland wharfies and helped set up a scab union in 1913 is a provocation to today’s workers and the Labour Party which evolved out of the Federation of Labour formed in 1909.

That FOL (called the ‘Red Fed’ because of its socialist principles) broke from the Arbitration Court because it refused to increase wages in 1908. The Miners Federation became the FOL and other unions like the wharfies, flaxworkers and shearers joined. Acting as free unions registered under the 1878 Trade Union Act. There was no prohibition on strikes and these workers gained better wages and conditions than under the Arbitration Court.

Also formed in 1909 was the Reform Party led by Bill Massey a small farmer. Small farmers newly settled on land broken up by the Liberal Government in the 1890s and assisted by state loans became a new force for private property opposed to the more progressive wing of the Liberals who favoured state leaseholds over freehold. The prize of capital gain was the main route for the landless out of the working class.

From 1910 the freeholders and business class behind Massey organised to force the FOL back into the Arbitration Court. Reform became the Government in 1912 and the first major fight was at the Waihi gold mines in 1912. The Waihi Miners Union joined the FOL in 1911 and won better wages and conditions. The mine owners used the Arbitration law to form a scab union imposing a wage cut on the FOL miners who where locked out until they agreed.

For six months the miners held out supported by the FOL and overseas unions. Police, scabs and armed thugs attacked the locked out workers. George Evans was killed. 68 of the miners including all of their leaders were jailed for attempting to keep the scab union out of the mine.

This dispute was a dress rehearsal for the 1913 strike which again began as a lockout this time of the Wellington Watersiders by the British shipowners who refused to employ men not in an arbitration union. Now the bosses were emboldened to smash the whole Red Fed and the newly formed Social Democratic party and force all workers into the Arbitration Court. Strikes in support of the locked out Watersiders spread around the country and were faced by police, armed scabs, the Cossacks, and even the army and navy (the latter with permission of the British crown).

According to WB Sutch in ‘Poverty and Progress in NZ” p. 165:

“Young farmers, ‘Massey’s Cossacks’, rode into the main ports as ‘specials’ to intimidate the strikers and the public, to form arbitration unions and take the place of watersiders and seamen…When police and specials took over the Auckland waterfront so that scab labour could work the ships, many other unions (including craft unions) struck in protest. There was almost a general strike in Auckland. Strike leaders were put in jail (there were 169 convictions); at the ports the Employers’ Federation formed new arbitration unions, often based on the young farmers were there partly for this purpose; the ports were worked by these people and other scabs; and the Supreme Court decided that arbitration unions could not contribute strike funds to another union. The arbitration unions formed by the employers were registered, and the watersiders told that if they wanted to work again on the wharves they must join these unions. By 20 December 1913 the strike was over, and Massey was able to give Waikato farmers medals for strike breaking.”

In case anybody thinks that that episode can never be repeated it most certainly was in the 1951 lockout, and will inevitably again when organised labour stands up for its rights against the class that owns the means of production and controls the state to enforce its class rule.

Whose side are you on?

Monday, October 21, 2013

USA: BART Management arrogance kills scabs


The Associated Press A BART police officer covers one of the two people that were struck and killed by a moving BART train along Jones Road in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Mercury News, Dan Rosenstrauch
The Associated Press A BART police officer covers one of the two people that were struck and killed by a moving BART train along Jones Road in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Mercury News, Dan Rosenstrauch)


TRUCK DRIVERS, BUS DRIVERS, BART WORKERS: 
JOIN FORCES TURN THE TIDE! 

MANAGEMENT ARROGANCE KILLS WORKERS!  THIS IS WAR!

WE CAN IGNORE IT AND DIE OR FIGHT AND DEFEAT THEIR MURDERERS BLOODY REIGN!

HOLD MASS MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS THAT 
REJECT TAKE AWAY BARGAINING! 

BART, AC TRANSIT, OUT OF CONTRACT UNIONS AND LOW WAGE WORKERS UNITE TO INITIATE THE INDEFINITE GENERAL STRIKE!

Today the leaders of the Labor Councils, the ATU and SEIU are more defined by their membership in the Democratic Party than by their commitment to workers interests.  Following the deaths at BART yesterday they offer candle light vigils and say MOURN DON’T ORGANIZE!  THIS IS HOW THEY DEMOBILIZE THE POWER OF THE STRIKE!  

THE KILLING OF SCAB WORKERS SHOWS MANAGEMENTS DISREGARD FOR ALL WORKERS BECAUSE THEY ASK YOU ALL TO SCAB!

Working class troubadour Joe Hill is remembered both for his martyrdom in the cause of labor in the face of the firing squad his message was the exact opposite!  DON’T MOURN ORGANIZE! 

Union leaders have negotiated away both catch up COLA’s and the decades definition of pension and medical benefits.   This is not a “blunder” or tactical “mistake” but  the manifestation of their role as adjuncts and cattle herding assistants to the Democratic politicians .  This is where and how the labor leadership enforces the bosses plan.

They claim their alliance with the Democrats is the only strategy because they can not strike and will result in jail time and fines!  We say that is true only if the strike loses!  Any labor leader who does not think they look good in an orange jump suit is not worth the polish on his shoes!  Labor can only win if it is politically independent of the capitalist parties.  Political independence will open the road to the smashing of anti-strike laws  by labor action.

SMASH ANTI-LABOR LAWS THROUGH SOLID UNITED SOLIDARITY STRIKES!
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

Like the AFL-CIO and Change to Win tops our local leaders are Democrats first and union members second and they think this is normal.  This is why they cannot fight the bosses consistently.  ASK: which side are they really on?

They have no intention to fight the anti-labor Taft Hartley laws which bans solidarity and general strikes.  The moment the bosses mention going to the judge to seek injunctions or politicians threatens legislation against essential service strikes they make concessions. Bans on strikes for “essential services” will ultimately be used against nurses, sanitation, transit, firefighters, and even the mighty ILWU at the docks.  THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEND THE RIGHT TO STRIKE IS TO STRIKE!

The Democrats are the party of the bosses lock stock and barrel and the BART strike has them working overtime, their federal mediator got the union leadership in line but the Board of Directors representing local big business needs to make its dictatorial authority felt.  But equity demands the rank and file reject the TAKE AWAYS  Obama’s pawns accepted.  TIME TO HOLD MASS MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS AND RECALL THE LEADERS!

A militant class struggle union is built of necessity and today that necessity is felt more than ever..  To discern what the correct tactic for victories is requires a militant working class independent political program; a program developed in mass workers assemblies and tested in the fire of class war.  The workers need their own party to advance their historic program.  Such a party would draw the  revolutionary implications of the crisis and build its program accordingly.


FOR STRIKE COMMITTEES THAT ESTABLISH LABOR/COMMUNITY WAGE AND PRICE COMMITTEES THAT DEFINE A LIVING WAGE, FIGHT FOR AND ENFORCE A SLIDING SCALE OF WAGES AND PRICES!

The strike was forced upon us by the BART board and the Democratic Party. As a practical matter this necessitates sorting out and removing the professional Democrats from all elected and appointed union and labor council posts.  Make no gamble on leaders with feet in two class camps. Striking locals need strike committee leaders who are elected and recallable and directly responsible to mass meetings of the rank and file. 

The rank and file needs to directly control all negotiations and the strike preparations such as self-defense and legal training for pickets, organization of flying picket squads, and mass public meetings, rallies and marches.  Meetings and marches should be held in all communities of the working class and oppressed.  This will require a frank discussion of defense against victimization of any and all workers’ meetings and actions at the hands of the bosses’ police, including the need to defend working class political prisoners and victimized union militants like Brother George Figueroa.   We need to make the rehiring, reinstatement and retroactive pay for Brother Figueroa non-negotiable!  They made victimizing him their example; we need to make his restitution our example!

Fighting for full employment is the key to self defense through class unity:

The capitalists cannot deliver full employment and as a matter of philosophy in the present day do not want to deliver it.  It is when stock prices soar that it has proved possible to wage their austerity assault against labor because they have the happy circumstance of an official 7.5% unemployment; which plays a major role permitting them to continue their uninterrupted attack on workers. While our class suffers this high unemployment between 2009 and 2011, the richest Americans grabbed an additional 7% of the total wealth of the nation. 

MAKE CAPITAL PAY FOR FREE QUALITY MASS TRANSIT, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE AND PENSIONS!   The bosses make us pay in blood to come to work for them, for the education they require of their workers, for the health care we need to come back to work each day and our pensions as deferred wages either in their plans or social security!  

In this circumstance, unlike those who call for a ‘tax the rich’ campaign which delivers more treasury monies to the bosses pet politicians to spend on the bosses pet projects, we maintain that transit should be free, free and quality health care should be a right as should education, and a pension to guarantee dignity in old age with guaranteed COLA’s.  To achieve the full employment concretized in the demand ‘Jobs for All,’ a movement of the entire class will fight for 30 hours work for 40 hours pay.  This is necessary so as to employ all the able and prevent the erosion of workers’ ability to feed and house themselves and their offspring.  These demands correspond to what would be part of the program of a Fighting Workers’ Labor party.  We advocate such a party.  We know we need it. 

 Fighting Workers’ Labor Party would set as its goal and never be diverted from its historic mission to form a workers government.  This government would break, suppress and utterly replace, in a word, smash the political dictatorship of capital which today gives the BART directors all the power of the state and its institutions to use against you.

Make no mistake we are at war.  This is a class war.  It can only be resolved with the victory of one side or the other.  Our task is to unite our class around our demands and the objective needs of the most oppressed and exploited for their economic, social and political liberation.  This war will not be won in the ballot box or via legislation it will be won in the streets, on the picket line  and mass assemblies of workers and the oppressed or not at all!


Communist Workers Group – USA (CWG-US):
Email: cwgclasswar@gmail.com         Website: http://cwgusa.wordpress.com/
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