[by Andrew Pollack]
February not only saw a new stage to the crisis, but also a new level of fightback among workers worldwide.
On February 26th, 60,000 General Motors workers struck at 14 factories across Europe, including at its rapidly failing Opel subsidiary in Germany (but not, tellingly, in the US).
Just as Iceland’s government fell after mass protests at year’s end, Latvia’s government fell on February 20th as a result of large demonstrations and riots against government failure to address the crisis.
In the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, demonstrators took to the streets and truckers blocked roads in late February and early March as depositors rushed to pull their money out of local banks.
Several thousand attended rallies in Moscow and Vladivostok on January 31, demanding the government resign.
A million workers downed tools in a nationwide strike in France on January 29th.
A general strike began in the French colony of Guadeloupe on January 20th and spread to Martinique on February 5th.
In late January strikes broke out at power plants around the United Kingdom over the use of Italian and Portuguese contract employees. Socialists intervened to encourage strikers to focus on demands for jobs and union rights for all, rather than the widespread chauvinistic “British Jobs for British Workers” demand. Such interventions will have to be repeated elsewhere – especially in the US – as immigrant workers are increasingly scapegoated for the crisis.
Bulgarian farmers blocked a major border crossing with Romania on February 4th and held rallies across the country to press the government to cut cheap agricultural imports and set a minimum price for milk. This followed a large late-January demonstration in the capital, Sofia.
Two hundred thousand rallied in Dublin on February 21st against government plans to impose a pension levy on public sector workers and freeze their pay.
For years Ireland – like the Eastern European countries – was hailed as proof that lesser-developed European countries could leapfrog to prosperity by opening their doors wide to foreign capital. Now it, like all of Eastern Europe, is falling faster than its more industrialized neighbors.
The example of all these actions – especially that of Guadeloupe, where workers have not only struck for weeks but have repeatedly mobilized at street barricades in the face of employer and government repression – needs to be taken to heart by workers in the US. The broadly-sponsored multi-union rally in New York on March 5th was the first mass action of any consequence in the US since the crisis began. Rallies like it need to occur across the country. To ensure this, union militants in every town and city need to meet to discuss how to pressure unions to call such rallies. And such meetings can discuss how to agitate for a national Congress of Labor calling together representatives of every US union and labor federation, as well as representatives of immigrants, oppressed nationalities, women, etc