'Wildcat' strikes?

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Devrim
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Jan 2 2010 09:23
'Wildcat' strikes?

A few things recently have got me thinking about the nature of wildcat strikes, and how we portray them.

A few months ago I was chatting with Loren Goldner about the unions, and one of the points that came up was that most unofficial strikes are actually organised by the base of the unions. I just took it as read, and thought that it was something that everybody was aware of. Recent experiences have, however, convinced me that it is not, and that our press, but not just ours but everyone else's as well, can be quite confusing on this issue.

A good example of this could be how we portrayed the recent construction sites in the UK. This was continued with the arguments of Baboon on the BA thread:

Babbon wrote:
If people on here can't see that this was a possibility then the BASSA section of the union most certainly did by disciplining its own members that continued to call for a wildcat. What would you say to the workers of Lindsey Devrim? Go back to work - we're not ready for this type of illegal and mass action?

My reply was this:

Devrim wrote:
There is a more serious issue here though. At the moment as Baboon rightly says according to the statements of the union officials they have been actively discipling people who were pushing for struggle immediatly. Of course, it is very clear to communists which side we have to be on when something like this is happening. When making an overall assessment of the level of struggle though we have to take into account that unlike as Baboon suggests worker's didn't walk off the job immediatly, and we have to ask ourselves why. Baboon counter-poses it with the action taken at Lindsey, and seems to be asking why workers there could take 'wildcat' action, and why workers at BA didn't. I think that the answer is quite simple. The vast majority of what are termed 'wildcat' strikes are organised by the lower levels of the union. In that case shop stewards supported action, in this case they seem not to.

http://libcom.org/forums/news/ba-pilots-vote-strike-action-21022008

The point here is that although the strikes were decide upon in mass meetings, and although there was unofficial solidarity action, they were mass meetings organised by the shop stewards, and the actions were always under their control.

Another example could be the discussion about the recent Exeter Post Office strike:

Quote:
The union played their full role in this. What started as an unoffical strike, spreading without their control, soon became trapped in the union framework. The union did the negociating. They acted radical but in the end they proposed a resolution calling for the end of the strike and for negociations over the new conditions i.e., they would enable the bosses to impose the attacks they want. This was dressed up as a victory,

I think that it is very important to realise that the strike was fully organised by the union. Some of the discussion on this thread is interesting:

http://libcom.org/forums/current-affairs/exeter-wildcat-postal-strike

I think what is important in all of this is whether or not people actually realise what is going on. For people of my generation, who have been involved in a reasonable amount of wildcat strikes in is obvious. However, for some of our younger militants, who don't have that experience, I think they pick up a completely false impression. A recent incident brought this into focus for me.

At the moment members of the ICC in Ankara have been quite involved in supporting the struggle of the TEKEL tobacco workers, and in my opinion have done some good work, built up good relations with the workers and generally managed to do better than we have done in previous struggles. However, before the first time that I went down to their permanent demonstration outside the unions headquarters, I was chatting with one of our younger comrades, and he informed me that the workers had organised it independently of the unions. I was very doubtful about this. To me, the possibility of workers from various factories scattered all over the country organising something completely independent of the unions at the start of a struggle seemed unlikely. Further investigation showed that this was the case, and although the workers were acting against the union confederation, the actions had been organised by their unions through the stewards.

This of course is not to blame the comrade involved. The workers had told him that they had organised it themselves. What he neglected to think of was that workers have a strong identification with their unions especially at branch level, and to think about what they mean when they say 'we'. Of course none of this means that workers struggling to defend their living conditions are any less worthy of our support, just because it is organised through the union. It does bring up problems with our presentation of these sort of struggles and our understanding of them.

To me the idea that the unions entered the struggle completely outside the influence of the unions seems to go against communist ideas about the development of class consciousness. I am not saying that it is impossible for this to happen as history shows us, but generally it happens in places where the unions are more obviously integrated into the state. Surely we believe that workers develop consciousness through struggle, and that the conflict between workers and the unions comes as a part of that development. In all of the 'wildcat' strikes I have been involved in all of them were organised by the base of the unions. Even in the two that I remember when workers spontaneously just walked off the floor, they were following branch policy in the case of workers being suspended. Why then would I expect a struggle to emerge completely outside of union control in a sector with little experience of strikes. More importantly perhaps how could our young comrades expect the same thing if they had not been mislead by communists reporting of strikes, and in this I include things as diverse as 'World Revolution' and the Libcom news service.

Basically, if you are a young revolutionary in a country, which hasn't had a major wave of industrial struggle since 1989, and you read all of these reports about wildcat strikes outside of union control it is not surprising that this can happen. I think that this can also cause serious problems for us. In this case it happened that some comrades came up with what now has been shown to be a mistaken analysis based on the fact that they hadn't understood the dynamics of the situation. In the case of the month and a half long Telekom strike the year before last, I think it lead to one comrade being severely demoralised in that he considered that the strike, which was completely under union control all the way through, was not on the same level as strikes that take place in Europe, and that those things can not happen in Turkey at the moment.

I think that there is a real need to look at the dynamics of struggles and to understand what is actually happening with regards to the unions. Of course we should stress positive things such as mass meetings and workers going against the unions, but it is also important to understand the unions role in these struggles, and that at the moment, in the vast majority of struggles the base of the union is still in control. I think that failing to do so can lead to serious misunderstandings and confusion amongst our comrades.

Devrim

akai
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Jan 2 2010 12:13

I think this idea needs to be examined more deeply using more examples. As for over here in Poland, there are few wildcat strikes and, if they are they are, they are mostly small work stoppages - 20 mins. - 1 hours. But there is also a tendency here for people to misportray not only these types of actions, but workers actions in general in the way Devrim mentioned.

Sometimes however, when there is a wildcat strike, things can be quite complex. What I noticed in Poland is that sometimes there are regular legalized actions combined with elements of wildcat strike.

The example that comes to mind is the postal strike of 2006.

Among anarchists in the end the was some complete mythology about it, even contradicting the account of one anarchist participant at the time. They wrote on their web pages "in Gdansk, mailmen from IP started a wildcat strike that spread to all of Poland". The postal strike, which had elements of a wildcat strike, was far more complex.

There are many, many unions there, and, at the time of the strike, several dozen of them where in "collective conflict' with the PO - some had spoken of strike, some had even had referendums. If you had a referendum on the issue already, the strike is a legal one. So workers all around Poland, coordinated by their local unions and regional and national structures, were talking about strikes.

One anarchist and his colleagues were the first to strike. The anarchist is the chairperson of the union now but the union was formed 2 weeks after the strike ended. So this was a wildcat action.

The strike started on the day that the management of the PO was visiting, which was known in advance. Shortly on the same day the postman started their strike, the union leaders from the local POs had a meeting about making a strike. (Action started at 9AM, meeting with union delegates from all of Gdansk at 12:00.) This was a coordinated action of union reps, shop stewards and even higher people in trade unions.

The strike was in Gdansk lasted 3 days. After the unions had already signed an agreement, strikes started breaking out in other cities. Sometimes this was using the scenario Devrim mentioned with the shop stewards; we heard about such a situation in Zyradow. Other times, there were legal strikes. Some union leadership supported the legal strikes - some not. I don't remember if it was 44 or 45 unions which was in collective bargaining at the time. That's less than half of the unions working in the post office. Some of the unions are too small to be "representative" and they can have some strike referendum amongst their own, but they may not constitute legal strikes if they don't include a certain percentage of the workforce. So, as the strike was spreading, there was a very, very chaotic atmosphere.

We know what happened in our local PO because we were there. The strike was legal, called by the unions. There was an occupation. There was the local shop steward and some higher ups there, because my local PO is the second "main" PO in the capital. One of the higher-ups was even at negotiations with the PO management. So it is hard to speak of "spontaneous action". Later it turned out that rank and file workers were not happy because this higher-up guy was at the negotiations but didn't tell people about it - but this did not inspire workers to do anything by themselves. At most, they held a little protest in front of the PO and complained about union bureaucrats.

In most cases however, the strikes had some legality or were totally legal since referendums were held. This flies in the face of what people later claimed: "Cała akcja strajkowa była spontaniczna i prowadzona w wielu regionach kraju w opozycji do stanowiska związków zawodowych." (The whole action was spontaneous and carried out in many regions in opposition to the trade unions.)

From reading different accounts, it seems that indeed their were a few wildcats, but it is hard to access whether these involved or were "led" by shop stewards or not because usually people do not specify and, it is most typical in Poland to say "the workers protest" even if there is a protest only of paid union activists (shop stewards and higher).

However many activists only know the shortened, mythologized version of this which is that one guy started a wildcat strike that spread through the whole country - which really is a counterproductive myth if we talk about understanding how strikes normally proceed.

I don't have enough first hand information from enough strikes to come to any conclusion if what Devrim supposes is generally true, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't often like that, at least in countries where there are these union structures and no big tradition of self-organized actions - which is probably most places.

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Jan 3 2010 07:56
Quote:
The postal strike, which had elements of a wildcat strike, was far more complex.

That is sort of my point. Things generally are.

Quote:
However many activists only know the shortened, mythologized version of this which is that one guy started a wildcat strike that spread through the whole country - which really is a counterproductive myth if we talk about understanding how strikes normally proceed.

I think this is a good example of what goes on.

Devrim

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Jan 3 2010 12:57

I think Devrims explanation here is spot on and crosses over with the arguements we were having at the tale end of the Thread on the Unions where I was argueing that the situation, in unionsed workplaces in Britain at least, was that strikes more often than not start out within the framework of the Unions (most regularly at local level) and that the point is to push beyond these boundaries where critical issues are at stake.

I can't claim any great experience of strikes but one which I considered significant was the situation many years back when NALGO and NUPE organised separetly in Manchester.

I was in NALGO but came out on strike (voluntarily of course) when NUPE put pickets on our workplace. I joined the pickets and pursuaded some other NALGO members to come out.

We won the right to attend the NUPE general strike meetings and then pushed for decisions to be taken by all strikers irrespective of union membership at these (daily) meetings and won that against some official NUPE opposition.

The strike lasted over a week (possibly 2 not sure now) and helped build good solidarity at office floor level which we developed on later.

I think that was a step forward at the time even though we didn't manage to pull the dispute entirely into our own hands.

On another ocasion I recall that myself and a comrade in the ICC ( both of us members of the Union at that time) published with help our own strike leaflets which we distributed at Union meetings and pickets and which helped encourage independent invasions of the offices to argue directly with non striking workers, an action independent of and disavowed by the Union officials.

Our aim was to push against the Union constraints recognising that at that time totally independent wildcat action was not on the cards.

Outside of my personal experience at my workplace I think there have been many examples of this direction of movement against Union boundaries which have had some partial success.

This movement clearly needs to go much further but failure to recognise its orgins can lead us to ignore the real potential of any new workplace revolt in the future.

The point is to retain this flexibillity of action rather than turn it into a strategy for all places and all times. There are many situations around the world where traditions of militancy or the particular circumstances of Unions make action outside the Union framework much more likely.

posi
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Jan 3 2010 20:05

agree 100% with Devrim. I'd be interested to know how this fits with the whole "revolutionaries can't work through unions thing." Given what Devrim has said, isn't abstention from involvement in unions abstention from the real forms through which industrial action is almost always organised?

Or maybe I'm missing something.

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communal_pie
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Jan 3 2010 20:48

Excellent analysis by Devrim, it's incredibly important to get the full facts about any independent work and how far it goes and how successful it was overall, in painful detail.

posi wrote:
agree 100% with Devrim. I'd be interested to know how this fits with the whole "revolutionaries can't work through unions thing." Given what Devrim has said, isn't abstention from involvement in unions abstention from the real forms through which industrial action is almost always organised?

Or maybe I'm missing something.

I think the ICC's line is that workers must organise themselves essentially, obviously you can meet other workers through theirs and your mutual membership in unions, but that actual organisation should happen independent of the union which is in my opinion a fundamentally correct point.

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Jan 3 2010 23:12

the limits of possibility is not directly determined by the first person observations (thanks god!) but by the historical conditions of class and balance of forces between classes. And these are such things that can not be observed by a single person in a given moment in history, in a specific locality (i.e. with a crude empiricist methodology). An excelent example of what working class is capable of even there is not much "experience" and no actual unions is;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1906/mass-strike/index.htm

In the debate devrim refers to I was the person who defended that the strike was a failure. My arguement was it was finished in orderly fashion by the union (Turk-iş which is anti-communist state organ formed by the help of AFL-CIO) after the fear emerged in the burgeoisie that this might affect state's war efforts. There was a military operation of Turkish Repuplic in south Kurdistan at the time. The workers were happy at the end to see that they were no longer called traitors to homeland and they celebrated it with singing national anthem.

For me a strike do not necessarly have to be a wildcat strike from the beggining to become non-union controlled or to benefit workers in a way. But there are such strikes ESPECIALLY in revolutionary periods. 1905, 1917, 1968 are only some most important examples.

Moreover it is illogical to argue that strikes that are occuring around the world might not be "really wildcat" because nobody that can tell them in first person (or Devrim) did not really see them. Devrim probably do not know, but there are non-union strikes or demo's that are happening, happened in turkey. In zonguldak (a mining, steel industry town) this year workers marched to local union building against its negotioations with the bosses to reduce wages - this could have easily be the spark of a wildcat. I do not think that just because a "young ICC member" in ankara misread the news does not necessarily mean that "young left communists" (!) can not differentiate a wildcat from a union maneouvre

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Jan 4 2010 00:42

akai;

Quote:
What I noticed in Poland is that sometimes there are regular legalized actions combined with elements of wildcat strike.

this is in fact a charactheristic that rosa attributes to mass strikes.

Quote:
Among anarchists in the end the was some complete mythology about it, even contradicting the account of one anarchist participant at the time. They wrote on their web pages "in Gdansk, mailmen from IP started a wildcat strike that spread to all of Poland". The postal strike, which had elements of a wildcat strike, was far more complex.

this is also another point that Rosa raises in her discussion against right wing unions in her discussion.

So I generally agree with these. For me even a wildcat is not "in itself" "substantially" a "good" thing.
--------

what I had in mind while looking to Telekom strike 1-2 years ago, was a perspective that it could create a potential for wider solidarity at least with informal small strikes. Because in turkey there are basically two important sectors;

- Formal sector where workers are unionized, getting squezed day by day. Mostly state sector and big corporation factories; unionized in right wing unions are in this. And probably the majority of the workers are Turkish origined in that.
- Informal sector where worker's are taking a wage around 300 euros. In probably one of the worst conditions that you can imagine. And where worker's mostly are non-unionized or wasted by lefty unions in desperate isolated unionization strikes; that sometimes takes too long for these sectors to be victiorious. And majority of the people who are working in this sector are Kurdish origined, probably migrated to west after forced migration of military in 90'ies.

For me the way to mass strike in turkey pass from the union of these two sectors. I might have exacerated the differences between these sectors a little bit. As the crisis deepens the differences -especially in terms of wages and other conditions- are becoming less and less significant.

In that sense -if I had an optimism in the past, in the beggining of that strike- that was because I thought then that there was a gradual and slow move in the class dynamics. and maybe even towards the emergence of elements of mass strikes. I thought that this, or at least even a gradual increase in the combatitivity of working class was also the analysis of ICC. Maybe I am wrong, maybe ICC has a much more complicated analysis that my young left communist mind could not grasp. But I never fetishised the concept of wildcat strike. I saw so many union led unofficial strike in which worker's are divided and demoralised that I think myself mature enough to not to label anything illegal as "good".

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Jan 4 2010 10:45
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Devrim probably do not know, but there are non-union strikes or demo's that are happening, happened in turkey. In zonguldak (a mining, steel industry town) this year workers marched to local union building against its negotioations with the bosses to reduce wages - this could have easily be the spark of a wildcat.

I think that this really illustrates my point. Workers often protest against unions and more often than not it is organised by different parts of the union itself. My first reaction on hearing about something like this is to presume that it has been organised by the shop stewards if not higher functionaries unless I hear otherwise. A good current example would be the TEKEL workers protesting outside of TÜRK-İŞ, which is completely organised by the union.

I would expect that this demonstration in Zonguldak was organised by the stewards.

An example that I can remember about a 'wildcat' strike against the union in SW2 UCW in 1988 where the workers went on strike against a union decision, not against anything that the management had done, marched down to UCW House, and threw bricks at it. At the time I expected that it had been organised by the branch, and when I was there for a pick up the following week, and chatted to people about it, I discovered I was right. Yet how would people perceive it if they had just read the media, or left wing organisations reports.

Basically it is about understanding the real dynamics that are going on within these things. It is right to stress the positive side of things, but if it leads to a misunderstanding amongst our comrades it becomes problematic.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
For me a strike do not necessarly have to be a wildcat strike from the beggining to become non-union controlled or to benefit workers in a way. But there are such strikes ESPECIALLY in revolutionary periods. 1905, 1917, 1968 are only some most important examples.

Yes, these things do happen in revolutionary periods, but it is important to understand what the situation we are in at the moment is. It is not only a not a revolutionary period, but also the class struggle is not even at the same level as it was in the 1980s, a period of massive defeats, let alone the 1970s. Even today, they can happen, especially in places where the unions are more openly integrated into the state, a good (possible) example would be the strikes at al-Mahalla outside Cairo. It is important to realise though that in the current period these are the exception, not the rule.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
I do not think that just because a "young ICC member" in ankara misread the news does not necessarily mean that "young left communists" (!) can not differentiate a wildcat from a union maneouvre

It wasn't that a young ICC member in Ankara misread the news. It was in fact two young members who came to this conclusion after having talked with strikers, and attended meetings with strikers speaking. In my opinion there is a problem in that these people had false expectations which I think is based on the way these things are reported. My first thought was to be doubtful about what they were saying because I thought it unlikely that workers from various different factories had managed to co-ordinate joint protests outside of union control at the start of a struggle. I didn't think it was impossible, but would have found it very surprising. One of the things that can confuse people is that when workers say "we organised it ourselves", they can actually mean that the branch did it because they identify with the branch.

Nor do I think that just because a strike is organised by shop stewards that it as 'union manoeuvre'. I think that statement shows a real inability to understand the dynamics of these sort of struggles. Also I commented on younger comrades because it was the people concerned. It doesn't imply any contempt for the young, but a recognition that students who have never had a full time permanent job, let alone been in a union member or been on strike can't be expected to understand the dynamics that are going on within these struggles, and have even less of a chance if the way that revolutionaries report them can be misleading. Of course this can also apply to older people who don't have this experience too.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
In the debate devrim refers to I was the person who defended that the strike was a failure. My arguement was it was finished in orderly fashion by the union (Turk-iş which is anti-communist state organ formed by the help of AFL-CIO) after the fear emerged in the burgeoisie that this might affect state's war efforts. There was a military operation of Turkish Repuplic in south Kurdistan at the time. The workers were happy at the end to see that they were no longer called traitors to homeland and they celebrated it with singing national anthem.

This is a question of understanding the period. Even if we go back to the eighties where there were large scale 'wildcat' strikes, they were more often than not 'finished in an orderly fashion by the union'. That after all is their job. The fact that it didn't significantly change nationalist feelings in what after all is a very nationalist country is also unsurprising. I think it is about having realistic expectations about a struggle.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
the limits of possibility is not directly determined by the first person observations (thanks god!) but by the historical conditions of class and balance of forces between classes. And these are such things that can not be observed by a single person in a given moment in history, in a specific locality (i.e. with a crude empiricist methodology).

Yet the balance of class forces must be observed by individuals, and a collective assessment made of them at the time. If you care to take a look at the thread, you will see that people have a generally similar experience. That doesn't mean that it is true at all times, but it is certainly how the trend seems to be at the moment.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
An excelent example of what working class is capable of even there is not much "experience" and no actual unions is;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1906/mass-strike/index.htm

That struggles break outside of the unions where no unions exist is, if we recognise that these struggles happen, a tautology.

Devrim

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Jan 4 2010 10:33
posi wrote:
agree 100% with Devrim. I'd be interested to know how this fits with the whole "revolutionaries can't work through unions thing." Given what Devrim has said, isn't abstention from involvement in unions abstention from the real forms through which industrial action is almost always organised?

Or maybe I'm missing something.

Posi, I will come back to this on another thread as I think it is a bit off topic here. Where the point I want to make is that what we portray as 'wildcat' strikes are at least as often as not organised by the base of the unions.

Devrim

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Jan 4 2010 12:00

The only Israeli "wildcat" strike I managed to get some inside info about was of this form. I think the instigators would be the equivalent of your shop stewards. The result was that they were kicked down from stewards to regular members and had company sanctions approved against them.

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Jan 4 2010 12:18

yes, I agree with what Devrim is saying here.

In terms of mis-reporting by revolutionaries, on libcom news in particular, I would agree that some people do mythologise "wildcat strikes", but I'm not aware of us doing it - do you have any specific examples in mind?

Because one thing that we in the libcom group have often argued, often with ICC members, is that pretty much all "wildcat" strikes are organised by lay union officials such a shop stewards (and others at branch level), and sometimes even with the tacit approval of the National union. This, however does not always mean that they are "union manoeuvres" forwarding the agenda of the state. Often lay union officials will be the most militant workers in a workplace - and in this role they can come into conflict with the National union, in that the union could order wildcat strikers to return to work, could block efforts to get a strike ballot, etc.

I think we have always been quite clear on this issue, and have often argued with ICC members who say that some strikes purely worker organised, outside and possibly against the unions, and support them, but claim that many disputes organised "officially" are union manoeuvres to demobilise the workers - such as in the recent British Airways dispute. I think this is because most of the ICC members have an analysis of the unions which is lacking on nuance and in fact bordering on conspiracy theory.

MT
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Jan 4 2010 13:42

well, I am not sure if all the readers equal wildcats with unions or stewards being out of game. Devrim and others say that some people do, but people do many things... I mean, it is hard to judge if libcom presents the issue in a twisted way.
Nevertheless, I know about organisations which do this indeed, but that is a general "enthusiasm/revolt" problem of especially young activists which can be hardly changed I think.

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Jan 4 2010 13:46

I agree that the term wildcat strike should be used cautiously. In fact some years ago there was a discussion in the ICC which concluded exactly that, and argued that we would not see many struggles which were 'pure' wildcats in the sense of being outside base union control - if I recall rightly it was during the 80s when we were doing a lot of intervention in the struggle and had to fight against a certain schematic view that saw the only alternative as being struggles that were entirely independent of the unions and pure union manoeuvres. I also agree that the important thing is to see the dynamic that leads towards a break with the union framework. But contrary to what Posi is saying we can't push this dynamic forward by working inside the unioin framework, especially if that means accepting positions at the base of the union structure.
I can't see how Steven can claim clarity on this when he is doing exactly that in his day to day practice. And I think you are underestimating the problem of union manoeuvres. If you are in a position of responsibility in the union, you are constantly forced to 'manoeuvre' because you are trying to square the circle between the needs of the struggle and the needs of the union.

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Jan 4 2010 14:05
Steven. wrote:
In terms of mis-reporting by revolutionaries, on libcom news in particular, I would agree that some people do mythologise "wildcat strikes", but I'm not aware of us doing it - do you have any specific examples in mind?
MT wrote:
well, I am not sure if all the readers equal wildcats with unions or stewards being out of game. Devrim and others say that some people do, but people do many things... I mean, it is hard to judge if libcom presents the issue in a twisted way.

I am not suggesting that people are deliberately 'twisting' things at all. I am saying that it can be confusing for people without experience of these things. Would it be possible to go into more depth where the information is available? I think that it could be helpful to people in understanding what is actually going on.

Devrim

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Jan 4 2010 14:46
Quote:
I would expect that this demonstration in Zonguldak was organised by the stewards.

so a union is organising a march against a union building. That shows how you do lack any knowledge about turkish unions. In most local branchs of Turk-İş unions workers even do not know their base level represantatives... You can learn this by reading also... So that struggle has probably occured spontenously. I do not glorify that. But that is a fact anyway.

Quote:
Yes, these things do happen in revolutionary periods, but it is important to understand what the situation we are in at the moment is. It is not only a not a revolutionary period, but also the class struggle is not even at the same level as it was in the 1980s, a period of massive defeats, let alone the 1970s. Even today, they can happen, especially in places where the unions are more openly integrated into the state, a good (possible) example would be the strikes at al-Mahalla outside Cairo. It is important to realise though that in the current period these are the exception, not the rule.

did you really said that to me to counter my arguement?

Quote:
It wasn't that a young ICC member in Ankara misread the news. It was in fact two young members who came to this conclusion after having talked with strikers, and attended meetings with strikers speaking.

It still does not sound strange to me...

Quote:
Nor do I think that just because a strike is organised by shop stewards that it as 'union manoeuvre'.

Please Devrim read a little bit more carefully what I said. I do not say that a strike is a union maneouvre because it was organised by grassroot level union militants.

Quote:
Yet the balance of class forces must be observed by individuals, and a collective assessment made of them at the time. If you care to take a look at the thread, you will see that people have a generally similar experience. That doesn't mean that it is true at all times, but it is certainly how the trend seems to be at the moment.

I do not even know what to say about that. This is shockingly absurd...

----------

Let's be clear about facts;

In TELEKOM strike -correct me if I am wrong- the minority of EKS then supported the idea that the strike was a union maneuvre. Why so? Because it was not even a real strike? Let's be common sensical and check for a wikipedia definition of strike;

Quote:
Strike action, often simply called a strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to perform work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strike_action

1- As it is obvious from the definition work stoppes in a strike. Did the work stop in Telekom Devrim? I went to the telekom office and talked with workers for hours. But it was enough to open your phone to realise that the strike was not effective. Worker's were even feeling guilty -I mean the striking workers- that some repairings were getting late.

Some workers who tried sabotage to really stop telekom to work was even blamed as being traitors by the union then.

2- What was the cause of that? Because Haber-İş (a Turk-İş union) was the organisation that already defeated the workers by dividing them. Previously Telekom was a company hold by government. Between late 90'ies and early 2000's it was privatized. ; with the privatization some workers were promised some rewards in exchange to leave the union by the bosses. Turk-İş as I said was the organization that enabled the state to initiate that privatization and de-unionization process in early 80'ies... Why; simply because there were no strong opposing union after 80 coup and because there was a general de-structuring tendecy all around the world

3- Then here we have a contradiction in an empirical sense; there is a strike that workers do not support massively. There is a strike that is not supported by non-unionized workers and unions did not even care to pull them into strike. This strike is also something that was initiated with nationalist slogans by the unions which itself supported the "selling of national treasures" in the past!
The minority of the EKS responded to that saying that;

A- what the union wanted was not to forge a strike really. To understand that one has to understand the Turk-İş HISTORICALLY, NOT EMPIRICALLY. The leadership of Turk-İş always changed hands with changes in the governing party. When a conservative government came with elections a conservative tendecy came to Turk-İş leadership. When a left-nationalist government came that also happened in turk-iş. And haber-iş (the union which organized telekom strike) was one of those opposition unions in Turk-iş confederation. It was basically alligned with kemalists and fascists. They simply wanted to make bluff not a real strike. It was an inter-state dispute.

B- However the minority in the EKS still did not demoralized with that. Considering the general historical situation as positive - a rise but sure a gradual one in class dynamics- we defended the idea that if the workers can challenge the union control and develop a solidarity at least inside telekom company, than the strike could become more than an inter-state fraction fight.

Unlike you, I did not say that out of blue, relying only on my "experience". It was the workers themselves who told that, who felt the need of solidarity in their bones...

So we knew that the only way for that, was by turning the strike into a wildcat strike. I did not have any illusions about the possibility of that at time, that I knew it was probably impossible. We still supported the strike. That does not mean to say that communists should always work for the advancement of the struggle and discuss the possibilities of this with the workers..

So tell me honestly that this is idealizing wildcat strike, that this is an "infantile disorder" smile)

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mikail firtinaci
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Jan 4 2010 14:24
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Often lay union officials will be the most militant workers in a workplace - and in this role they can come into conflict with the National union, in that the union could order wildcat strikers to return to work, could block efforts to get a strike ballot, etc.

Steven in Turkey, the strongest unions are what leftists called as "yellow" unions. The lay union officials in certain industries are people who union management choose, who are mostly fascists.

In Bursa (an important auto industry town in turkey), lay union officials are specifically people who are relatives or closes of the higher union bureaucrats, mostly coming from middle anatolia... They even learn martial arts to beat workers better in their spare times....

MT
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Jan 4 2010 14:35

As for examples. I would say that the wildcats in Hyundai in Czech was organised by some level of union activists (no direct proof but several posters on different forums and also union officials suggested that it might be that way).

I know of any other wildcats in Slovakia or Czech that would last longer. Even the Huyndai thing was an hourly strike. Still, I think as for for stoppages they do occur even without union stewards presence (at least one example from Czech comes to my mind atm). I am not sure if we can consider such actions wildcat strikes though. Probably yes and the difference in calling an action a work stoppage or wildcat strike is probably what one considers a better headline. But I am not sure if I am not getting offtopic.

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2010 14:37

One issue with reporting of very short wildcat strikes, is that we usually get the information from mainstream/corporate sources, the strike is often very far from anyone who would even post here, and may well have ended a day or so before anyone's heard about it. So all you have (especially once you take out the standard quote from the company and/or union official) is that some people walked off the job without a ballot, and no information beyond that. In terms of mainstream reporting, with big strikes like post and rail, there's obviously a bias. With local news reporting local walk outs, there might be bias, but I've also seen articles where the person reporting clearly doesn't have any idea how to report a strike, and the terminology could be completely random.

We have no way of knowing the circumstances behind strikes like that, in some cases just whether the company is unionised or not, let alone how the strike itself was organised.

Overall I think it's better on balance to report those, even if the information is sketchy/biased, than not - someone might live near there, one of the people on strike might see it and post more detailed information - this happened with the power station strikes a year or so ago. However if you got to http://libcom.org/tags/wildcat-strikes there's nothing to differentiate these.

In terms of mechanics, I'd like to have better differentiation between just quick news re-posts (possibly some kind of automated, but moderated, feed) and proper news articles, but haven't figured out how best to do this.

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Jan 4 2010 14:52
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Quote:
I would expect that this demonstration in Zonguldak was organised by the stewards.

so a union is organising a march against a union building. That shows how you do lack any knowledge about turkish unions.

Well, yes that is it. The base of the unions and even higher levels organise demonstrations outside of union offices just as they are doing outside the TÜRK-İŞ building in Ankara at the moment.

I think everybody else on the thread is aware that this is generally how it works.

Devrim

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Jan 4 2010 14:55

I am really sorry for you Devrim.

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Steven.
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Jan 4 2010 15:11
Devrim wrote:
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Quote:
I would expect that this demonstration in Zonguldak was organised by the stewards.

so a union is organising a march against a union building. That shows how you do lack any knowledge about turkish unions.

Well, yes that is it. The base of the unions and even higher levels organise demonstrations outside of union offices just as they are doing outside the TÜRK-İŞ building in Ankara at the moment.

I think everybody else on the thread is aware that this is generally how it works.

Devrim

in the UK at least, there aren't very many demonstrations against union national offices, but when they are they are pretty much always done by lay union officials themselves, and organised by local branches - for example in my union, Unison, people around the socialist party and left branches have backed demonstrations against witchhunts of left activists outside UNISON's head office.

Mikhail, "lay officials" in British unions are workers who elected to temporary posts in local union branches. They are not appointed by full-time union officials. The vast majority of lay officials, including shop stewards, spend most of their time working on the shop floor with everyone else.

Alf, in my role as a union rep, I have not had to compromise by squaring the needs of the union with the conflicting needs of the members. I am a worker first and foremost, so always try to do what is best for us as workers. This has meant that we have come into minor conflict with the national union - but when this has occurred I have always been on the side of the workers against the national union, for example when we tried to get an official strike ballot and this was denied. I tried to see if we could have some sort of wildcat strike, but there was not the mood for this amongst enough of my colleagues.

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Jan 4 2010 15:50
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Mikhail, "lay officials" in British unions are workers who elected to temporary posts in local union branches. They are not appointed by full-time union officials. The vast majority of lay officials, including shop stewards, spend most of their time working on the shop floor with everyone else.

that is also similar in turkey. The only difference being elections never happen in some cases... In some sectors (where unions are strong) they are basically boss unions. So they just put some relatives of high level union officials into elections where only one candidate exists. It is just a semi-democratic ritual. If an anarchist or even a stalinist would have tried to be represantative in most cases, he/she would have probably beaten to death by the union thugs.

However in some other lefty unions, the situation is different. For instance I remember an anarcho-syndalist working in railroads who was elected into a lefty legal union as a branch represantative in ankara. This was around 2002.

Saying that I am not try to argue that other lefty unions are really fighting for workers. I just want to say that maybe turkish case is different than yours.

By the way;

the example I gave on Zonguldak was not such a thing. In it, workers who realized that union is making negotiations with bosses from their back spontenously walked out. There was no strike at that moment. And they marched to the union building in protest, against the union... There are videos showing workers shouting to the union officials saying that they were basically bastards.

MT
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Jan 4 2010 15:29
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I have always been on the side of the workers against the national union

Just briefly. One comrade, a head of local branch of the trade union in one Czech company, is struggling hard to get the workers to strike in the company and his overall actions makes me thinking how the hell it is possible that the union officials above him still haven't got rid of him yet;)

guadia
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Jan 4 2010 16:18
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ust briefly. One comrade, a head of local branch of the trade union in one Czech company, is struggling hard to get the workers to strike in the company and his overall actions makes me thinking how the hell it is possible that the union officials above him still haven't got rid of him yet;)

well, unions are not always against struggle especialy if it can be under the control of unions. unions can sometimes even lead struggles, even hard ones - just when workers through struggles begin to approach the bosses as "external", political force (in whatever embryonic form) with their own needs independently of conditions of bosses unions are the main enemy of the struggle.

there can be various reasons why union officials have understanding for that guy who we know both... sympathy or just need unions in his factory to became more viable. to be able to play their role unions need be rooted and powerful at the workplace; to be just artificial, paper body isn´t obviously enough.

btw, it was the case in hyundai - after the small struggle unions are in more powerful position both regarding workers and bosses. and to became like that it was their main objective during negotiations.

(and aside note again: what we know from the hyundai worker who we are in touch with, there was one worker in the group which initiated the strike who "flirted" with unions. after the strike he became the member and was a member of negotiation team.)

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Jan 4 2010 16:33
mikail firtinaci wrote:
that is also similar in turkey. The only difference being elections never happen in some cases...

But this again in quite common in England.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
the example I gave on Zonguldak was not such a thing. In it, workers who realized that union is making negotiations with bosses from their back spontenously walked out. There was no strike at that moment. And they marched to the union building in protest, against the union... There are videos showing workers shouting to the union officials saying that they were basically bastards.

Those videos show nothing though. In most strikes organised by unions there are at some point workers shouting abuse about union officials. Unless you have spoken to people who were involved in it in detail, I would presume that it was organised by the base of the union. The alternative isn't less possible, but is much less likely. Phrases like 'spontaneous walkout' are often used in the press, both main stream and leftist, to describe union organised actions.

Devrim

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Jan 4 2010 16:38
guadia wrote:
well, unions are not always against struggle especialy if it can be under the control of unions. unions can sometimes even lead struggles, even hard ones...

Certainly especially when the interests of the union are threatened, management refusal to negotiate is a good example of this. The only official strike that ever took place anywhere I worked, and the first official strike in the industry for 19 years was when management refused to negotiate with the union.

They didn't fight particularly hard, but I can think of cases where they did. The 'Stockport Messenger' dispute in Warrington is one example I can remember. The problem is that the way that they struggle actively works against the struggles extension.

Devrim

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Jan 8 2010 12:00

I think it would be good to give an account of what happened on the TEKEL struggle in Turkey , since it has been referred to on this thread and does, in my opinion, shed light to lots of the issues discussed on this thread on the trade-unions, as well as on wildcat strikes. There is no official strike in TEKEL, but the factories aren’t working at all. It is illegal for workers employed in the public sector to go on a strike in Turkey. In a way, the TEKEL struggle is a ‘wildcat’ strike. On the other hand, officially the workers are coming to Ankara by taking sick days or holidays, so it is not a wildcat strike in the sense of being an illegal strike. Thus I think the analysis of it can aid us in grasping the complicated dynamics of how class struggles develop better. What I will be reporting on TEKEL is for the most part based my or other comrades’ conversations and discussions with the workers, and the accounts the workers gave of the events, the answers they gave to our questions and so forth.

First of all, I think it would be in order to summarize the dispute. TEKEL used to be the state monopoly company of all tobacco and alcohol producing factories. The government has been shutting down these factories for some time and lately decided to go on with shutting all of the remaining factories. The remaining workers of TEKEL, numbering roughly 12 thousand, were offered the possibility of remaining in the public sector, but only with a job guarantee of 10 months (the government mockingly increased this number to 11 months recently) and a massive pay cut from what the workers used to get. This offer is called 4-C and workers from other sectors have been and are to be treated likewise. On the 14th of December 2009, based on what the workers said to us, about half of the remaining workers from all TEKEL factories all over Turkey, gathered in Ankara, and started protesting the government. Before this, on the 25th of November, the leftist trade-unions had organized a one day general strike and this action of the TEKEL workers coincided with the demonstrations of the firemen in Istanbul who were to lose their jobs soon, and the one day strike of railway workers in several different cities, in protest of over a dozen railway workers getting fired because they went on strike on the 25th of November. The response of the state against all these struggles which happened basically at the same time was incredibly brutal. The riot police attacked the workers with tear gas, water cannons, beat up the workers and made arrests. The railway workers strike was heavily crushed, the number of workers who lost their jobs increased to nearly fifty and under the conditions of repression as well as the reactions of the passengers, provoked against the strikers by the management and possibly also the police, prevented the railway workers from doing anything further. The firemen also seemed crushed, and did not have any further demonstrations for a while. The TEKEL workers on the other hand, were further radicalized rather than crushed by the brutal actions of the police. Initially (I think on the first day) they had tried to organize their demonstrations in front of the ruling Justice and Development Party national headquarters where they were attacked, and then (I think on the second day) they had tried to demonstrate in a large park where struggling workers traditionally demonstrate in the center of Ankara where they also were attacked brutally. The police going so far as pushing workers into the pond in the park, which was something pretty dangerous for the health of the workers due to the ice cold winter in Ankara. Following this incident, workers managed to spontaneously regroup in front of the headquarters of Türk-İş, Confederation of Turkish trade-unions, the oldest and largest trade-union confederation in Turkey which has, as other posters noted, quite an infamous history. The workers were to remain outside the Türk-İş headquarters since, demonstrating everyday. This also was when we got involved with the struggle.

Before going into our involvement or what happened next though, I think it would be a good idea to give some information on the nature of TEKEL struggle. Was the TEKEL struggle organized by the trade-union? This question came up here, and was the first question we ourselves inquired. TEKEL is completely unionized. As Devrim said in the initial thread, based on our conversations with the workers, initially we were under the impression that it was not organized by the trade-union. It turned out that this wasn’t really a question as simple as that. Even initially, we thought that the shop stewards were the main organizing force although how the dynamic had worked, we did not know – I will come back to this later. What we mainly failed to understand was how the trade-union bureaucracy itself got involved. This was understandable. Türk-İş as well as even Gıda-İş, the union TEKEL workers are in, as the workers told us, had been telling the government that they had nothing to do with the workers coming to Ankara. They were acting like they had nothing to do with it as well: workers were receiving no money from the trade-union; the trade-union did not allow the workers who came from different cities and who had nowhere to stay to use its facilities to stay at nights. In the first days of the struggle, TEKEL workers were sleeping in the streets, all together. Workers were, and of course rightly so, saying that the union did not have their backs, and was not supporting them. Yet as we later found out, the union leadership had been – and still is – playing a remarkable two-faced game with the workers. The workers, and also the shop stewards initially had pushed for this action on their own. Not the confederation, but the union, of course in order to prevent losing control, had eventually backed the struggle before it happened on the other hand and thus still had some influence among the workers – not an influence as in workers believing that the union are fighting for them, but one as in workers thinking they can force the union to act in their interest. This was at the crux of what we missed, how a trade-union and a trade-union confederation, as hated as it is by the workers, can still maintain some influence. The trade-union has a lot of resources and money; lots of connection; also it seems to be capable of offering at least a basic level of legal protection: the workers have no resources, no money and not even the basic level of legal protection in any sense. Added to this, TEKEL workers are still isolated from the grand mass of the working class in Turkey. Thus the idea, the hope of forcing Türk-İş to call a general strike seem realistic to the workers, despite the fact that they know Türk-İş is an anti-working class organization, despite the fact that they know the history of Türk-İş, despite the fact that they know that Türk-İş is stealing money collected for supporting them, despite the fact that they know Türk-İş is integrated into the state, even despite the fact that they know that Türk-İş would never call for a general strike for them, that it would only call for a general strike for the sake of its own interests, not the interests of the workers, despite the fact that they don’t expect anything from Türk-İş.

The point of confrontations with the unions came up in the thread, and the example of workers in Zonguldak organizing a demonstration against Türk-İş was given. Something very similar happened recently in the TEKEL struggle. Last week, there were physical clashes in front of the Türk-İş building between the workers and the union bureaucrats, workers shouting slogans against Türk-İş and against Mustafa Kumlu, the chairman of Türk-İş. Kumlu, who had been afraid even to show his face to the workers, was escorted by lots of heavies, and the riot police waiting on the streets fully mobilized to protect Kumlu had it been necessary. Kumlu feared that the workers would lynch him had he gone out, he feared for his life. The similarity with the example of workers demonstrating against the union in Zonguldak is striking. We know for a fact that there were shop stewards who were there with the workers and were involved in organizing the protest against the Gıda-İş and Türk-İş leadership, who physically clashed with the bureaucrats in front of Türk-İş last week because one was among the workers who gave us an account of how that developed. Kumlu only managed to go in front of the workers after Türk-İş declared a series of demonstrations and that the weekly 1-hour strikes will continue and the time amount will increase (today there was a 2-hour strike in the morning for example, as opposed to the 1 hour strike that happened two weeks ago in which, from what we have heard, 30% of all trade-unions participated). On the question of the dynamic of shop stewards, we managed to get a grasp of the dynamic of how this dynamic works by talking to the workers and a shop steward about the failed strike committee. Obviously, a shop steward is, in most cases a worker himself as well as a union functionary, and in the struggle there comes a time (or several times even) where the shop steward has to chose a side: that of the workers or that of the trade-union. What happened in the TEKEL struggle was this: the shop stewards from all branches had a meeting and decided to form a strike committee, since they thought it was obvious that the trade-union or the confederation wasn’t likely to do anything. Over thirty shop stewards talked about what to do, and how to react against the union and so forth. When the time to act, to stand up to the union came however, the overwhelming majority of the shop stewards make a u-turn and take the side of the union against the shop steward who gave us an account of what happened, and basically this other guy. This failed experience, of course, did not make the shop stewards who made a u-turn less of workers, nor did it mark a fundamental, a final choosing of sides, but one could say it was one of the numerous incidents leading to a complete break from the union, or a complete alignment with the union on the part of the shop stewards in a struggle. I would predict that something as such would take place within a struggle on the part of shop stewards when the trade-union starts actively calling for workers to go back.

I will go into our interventions a bit. As I said, we managed to get involved in the struggle after the demonstrations had moved to in front of the Türk-İş headquarters. The atmosphere in front of the Türk-İş headquarters is worth mentioning briefly, to give a feel of how the TEKEL struggle is developing and the conditions under which we intervened. The building itself, now decorated with loads of posters, slogans and banners, some of them prepared by the workers themselves, looks a bit like the way the GSEE building looked like after being occupied by the workers in December 2008. There were initially some Turkish flags, but there aren’t anymore. Probably as many Kurdish workers as Turkish workers are involved in the struggle, and one of the slogans the workers had been shouting was “Kurdish and Turkish workers together!” The workers have no mass assembly, but the little street in front of the Türk-İş headquarters is something of an informal but constant mass assembly where workers from different factories all over Turkey, as well as proletarians who came to support the TEKEL workers, and of course revolutionaries are constantly discussing with each other, evaluating the situation, trying to figure out the way to go forward with the struggle. The most frequent topic of discussion is the idea of a general strike. Anyway, as I said, initially the workers were having problems finding places to stay, and lots of proletarians, mostly students from working class backgrounds had started to do their best to host TEKEL workers. This was what we did as well, and by chance we had the honor of hosting workers who are among the most militant and class conscious workers involved in the TEKEL struggle. Also we visited the workers on numerous occasions, talked to them, discussed with them, went to cafes and pubs with them to discuss further and so forth, and we formed good relations with lots of militant workers who we did not have the chance to host as well. As communists but also as revolutionary proletarians, we see all workers struggles as the struggles of the whole class and thus, our struggles also. This perspective we had also helped us form mutual bonds of solidarity and camaraderie with militant workers on a human level. TEKEL workers are very much aware that they are doomed if the rest of the class doesn’t come in their support and they are very happy that at least some people are in solidarity with them, but are also thinking of the best ways to break out of isolation. They are looking for class solidarity, not only in Turkey but internationally. The first TEKEL worker I had a conversation with, for example proudly told me that he saw on the news that there was going to be a strike in Switzerland in support of the TEKEL struggle. Thus a lot of what we discussed with the workers was on the basis of how we can expand the struggle and how we can take the struggle in our hands. Some of the ideas we came up with was organizing a solidarity fund which will be directly under control of the workers and not of the union, and workers going to other struggling. Another idea we discussed with the workers was that of workers trying to expand the struggle themselves and directly, rather than trying to force Türk-İş to do it, and taking steps like forming bonds with the firemen and railway workers as well as other sectors which will soon face the same 4-C conditions, like the sugar industry. Indeed some bonds have been formed between the TEKEL workers and the firemen who, drawing strength from the determination of the TEKEL workers started demonstrating again. Nevertheless, there hasn’t been much action taken on this still, and the discussions are ongoing. We did a leaflet and actually found the chance to discuss it with some of the most militant workers before printing it. The leaflet which we hope to translate eventually, was pretty well taken and some workers talked about it among themselves and decided to ask for a few dozen leaflets after we had stopped distributing them, in order to send it to city of Adıyaman with a worker who was going there, for it to be distributed there among the workers. Regardless of all this which has been very exciting for us, obviously the influence of our intervention in the struggle, considering our limited numerical strength, is minimal.

The TEKEL struggle is still going on, and it is not the time to draw all the lessons of it. Yet we would be making a fatal mistake if we opposed theory to the lessons developed from and the analyses made on the practice, and by doing this we would be missing the fact that communist theory is nothing but a body of analyses made on and lessons and formulations drawn from the living practice of working class struggles. The comment Alf made against seeing the only alternative as being struggles that were entirely independent of the unions and pure union maneuvers is I think at the crux of the problem. A dogmatic and black and white approach as such would only prevent us from correctly analyzing the very complicated dynamics of the process of workers breaking from the trade-unions and acting upon it.

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mikail firtinaci
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Jan 8 2010 14:37

This is interesting Leo and thanks for your account.

However I think you are exaggerating the situation especially in your comparison with GSEE occupation. I did not have chance to go to ankara and see the scene myself. However as far as I could follow the other accounts the situation is;

1- there is a sympathy towards students who are visiting the worker's in front of the union building.
2- there is an open attitude of worker's towards "revolutionary" elements among which propably ICC is only the smallest group. The other stalinist and trotskyist groups are probably more influencial which your account does not talk about at all.
3- The worker's might have hopes towards nationalist and kemalists. Because the initial popularization of the struggle in media started with a demonstration where police attacked workers and also some fascist and kemalist MP's who were present in solidarity with the workers. Your account also does not tell much about that situation which make me think that you are over optimistic in terms of your relation with the workers.

It is higly possible that workers are enthusiastic towards "any" support and in the contemporary general political conjuncture CHP (kemalists) and stalinists would like to radicalize and make their best for the "strike" to continue.

My personal impression about what might be happening around there is that there are various leftist groups trying to influence with the perspective of recruiting some workers and union-Kemalist-Fascist coalition trying to use the misery of workers in the media as a tool against the government. Other than that of course the struggle is very important and of course your activity is probably very important; maybe not momentarily but in the long term and historically.

You say that;

Quote:
A dogmatic and black and white approach as such would only prevent us from correctly analyzing the very complicated dynamics of the process of workers breaking from the trade-unions and acting upon it.

it is a fair point. However there is another problem involved. And this is making simplistic and pragmatic conclusions. Your effort is very important that is for sure. However the problem is do you really see the impact of left on the struggle? Are you considering the general political situation? Turkish burgeois politics is right now in a very decomposed situation. Burgeois parties are using every tool to at hand to damage each others. The very foundational institutions are getting damaged in this inter-dominant class struggles. For instance, military (and even its most secret institutions) which was historically a sacred institution for turkish state is now getting searched and investigated by public prosecuters. The mp's are getting gassed by the police in the streets. Similar to your "optimism" in the case of Iran you might be neglacting the general trend in burgeois politics and approaching the situation in tekel as the way you like to see it...

Afterall accepting the possibility of defeat is not making a rigid and "black and white analysis". It is just about being cautious and not being carried away from the reality by believing your own words. I think this realism which must be bound to an international level of understanding of the struggles is the thing that really connects revolutionaries with the class. I don't think that an empirical level personal bids of subjective experiances and illusionary declarations about your own capacity does provide that connection...

Liliput
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Jan 10 2010 21:30

From aTekel worker to Sugar factory workers

Laborers, honorable Sugar factory worker brothers,

Today, the honorable struggle that Tekel worker have undertaken is a historical chance for those whose rights have been defeated. In order not to miss this chance, your participation in our honorouble struggle would make us happier and stronger.

My friends, I would like especially to indicate that for the time being trade-unionists would promise hope you that ‘ we will take care of this affair’. However, as we have passed through the same process, we know well that they are well-to-do people and have no life-death concern. On the contrary, you are the one whose rights would be grabbed and right to work would be taken from you. If you are not to take part in the struggle today , tomorrow would be too late for you. All in all, this struggle will be victorious whether or not you are in it and we have no doubt or mistrust in ourselves to take care of this. Because we are sure that if the workers become united and act as a body, there remains nothing that they cannot succeed in. With these feelings, I salute you with my deepest intimacy and respect in the name of entire tekel work force.

Tekel worker from Batman.

* This is a letter written by a tekel worker to sugar factory workers that will face the same process of privatization and imposition of poor working conditions in the state sector.
It has been translated directly thus the translation seems a bit strange in English.

Jason Cortez
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Jan 11 2010 16:59

Whilst I think Dev has made an interesting point, about the difference between 'wildcat' or 'unofficial' strikes or lack there of, I think his understanding of base layer union involvement seems to be too formulaic, which in the end reduces down to workers identifying with the union against their own interests. I have always taken 'wildcat' and 'unofficial' to be pretty much interchangable, and that the context and the nature of the struggle, are what defines its character.