Leaflet about the credit crisis, its impact on workers and how workers can respond to it being distributed outside factories in Germany.
The struggle against unemployment begins at the work-place
[pun in German: "Arbeit - slosigkeit" - the struggle against work and unemployment]
Do you remember the good old times of the boom? Right, the times when we would still be at work behind the Tesco cashier as late as 10 pm, or was it when we used to spend our Sunday mornings doing our shift in the call center? The drivers of the BVG [local transport company Berlin] and the commuter trains had to increase their driving times in order to allow people to take part in the boom as much as possible. The workers at Gillette or at Mercedes-Benz were chasing extra-shifts - the same for teachers, the workers in nurseries, the shopping-malls and offices. It doesn´t matter who you ask - we were all stuffed with the boom. We had work to our ears, but the pay did not increase. Many of us were only hired on temp contracts: the cashier workers from Adecco, the assembly line workers from ZAL...
And now shit has hit the fan. Production is crashing on a global scale, the exports of the world export champion Germany hitting rock bottom. In all bigger factories production is down by 50 percent. The production at car manufacturer Daimler in Berlin-Brandenburg will come down to 25 percent in March and April 2009. Many people still try to convince themselves that the crisis is just a bad dream which will pass soon enough. In Germany they get rid of us piecemeal, one by one: the permanent workers are melting down their working time accounts, they take their annual holiday for 2009 now, they are appeased by being put on short-time work. 300,000 temp workers - from check-out or assembly lines - have already disappeared into the pool of unemployment. Those on temp contracts are pushed individually; once their contract runs out, they are gone. Why hasn't there been any major resistance? Partly because many people still think that ducking and waiting is still the best strategy. But where do we stand right now? The official forcasts are getting grimmer and grimmer. Meanwhile it's about whole plants and companies shutting down, affecting whole sectors and regions.
The Rescue is coming...
500,000,000,000 Euro for the banks, stimulus packages, bail-outs, take-over of bankrupt companies by the state - all of a sudden there is plenty of money for the rescue of the economy. These astronomic financial packages will only aggravate the situation. We know how things turned out when they tried to save the Berliner Bankgesellschaft eight years ago: we bailed the bank out by swallowing job cuts and closures of public swimming pools, and all that is left now are further debts! The same is happening now: the state wants to bail out the banks by using credit which the state draws from the very same banks. In decades to come the state is supposed to use tax money to pay back the interest - if the whole madness hasn't already collapsed by then...
At the same time these rescue packages are vehicles for the next attack on us. In the US the automobile workers are supposed to renounce their right to strike and to accept pension cuts in return for being "rescued". In Germany the first wage cuts have been announced in the chemical and electrical sector and social benefits will see the same fate in the near future.
The governments and bosses don't know how capitalism is supposed to 'function' either. Production is not profitable anymore - this is why some of the capitalists have ventured into financial businesses. But this has now collapsed. They know that it won't be enough to pump evermore money into the financial sector. In the long run they will have to manage to squeeze us further.
But how will they be able to sell this to us?
In the past they were able to promise us that they won't re-locate call centres or car factories to China, Poland or India - if we accept pay cuts and higher work loads. Now factories and companies are closed down in these countries, too. The rat-race for the better production location has lost its basis. In the past only certain sections of the workforce were affected by redundancies: the women, the migrant workers, the temps - all the others were left untroubled. This is not possible any longer - they are not able to promise safe jobs for anyone anymore! Instead of clutching at straws and swallowing every deterioration it is now time to say:
We won't accept any further cuts!
We have to deal with a collapsing system. This crisis affects everyone everywhere. Many people think relentlessly about how they - on a personal level - can prevent their living standards from going down the drain. They are afraid of poverty, the bailiffs, thier electricity being cut off, foreclosure and soup kitchens. In contrast to these nightmares of impoverishment we could also start thinking about the wealth which we have been able to and are able to produce together on a global scale. We don't need any bosses in order to produce this wealth, the opposite is true: we can turn this society into something much better.
But where do we start? Crisis could also mean: "We won't pay the rent anymore" or "We go on strike"! In Iceland people stormed the central bank. In Greece people take the streets, occupy union offices and organise mass assemblies even before the official announcement of state bankruptcies. In the UK workers of a refinery go on wildcat strike and they are immediately joined by workers all over the country. In Italy FIAT workers occupy the highway in protest against lay-offs and short-time work.
Organise assemblies, meet with your colleagues, neighbours and friends, get active! We have to start making many of such steps! One of such steps is a monthly meeting we have been organising since May 2008 in Berlin: a meeting of factory workers, call center employees, railway workers, teachers, self-employed and unemployed people. We discuss what's going on in our area, what potential we see and our experiences. We discovered that a factory employee might learn a lot from talking to a call center worker and the other way round, once the conversation is not taking the detour via political or union head-quarters.