Huge truck drivers strike in Brazil in May 2018

Photo by Disparadora

Initially, capitalists of the freight sector tried to use the strike to bargain in the name of their interests in the inter-capitalist competition against the oil companies and the government. There was doubt whether it was lockout or strike. But then the strike went out of control. When the capitalists of the freight sector made an agreement with the government to end it, the workers continued it and the strike increased even more.

WHAT HAPPENED

The initial reason for the strike was the increases caused by the price policy of diesel oil, which became directly linked to the speculative volatility of the oil in the international market (that is, the price variation seemed to be a bitcoin) and also the exchange rate of the Dollar against the Real.

The truck drivers (46% self-employed and 53% employed) have been brutally affected, because the oil supply to the trucks is paid out of their pocket. The strike is gigantic, it affects the whole country, literally. It's stopping the whole economy.

But at the outset, carrier businessmen participated or even led the strike because they also have interests in inter-capitalist competition with oil companies and with government. So there was a lot of doubt whether it was a lockout or a strike, also because strangely the bourgeois media and the police even seemed to support it, unlike any other type of strike, which is always presented on television as vandalism or even crime. The strike was then manipulated as an object of bargaining to serve the interests of businessmen (eg. employers' claims regarding paying less labor rights, como a "reoneração da folha de pagamento").

Until May 24, when the employers unions (or the workers' unions sold off) made an agreement with the government to end the strike, winning some demands (such as price readjustment per month and no more at any moment, and a reduction of oil 10%).

But with the agreement, the businessmen could not stop the strike, because the workers decided to continue it (it seems the strike increased even more). Although there are still some businessmen who continue to participate, now it has become predominantly a struggle against bosses, class struggle. For example, the claims are about the very low price of freight paid to workers by carriers, by employers. And then the bourgeois media now presents the strike as vandalism and crime, and the government is mobilizing the armed forces against the strike, etc.

OUR POSITIONS

Of course we support any autonomous struggle of the workers for improving their conditions. What we can contribute is a perspective on the likely effects on society, evaluating them with the criterion of whether or not it affirms solidarity among all workers, oppressed, proletarians against the ruling class, not only in the country but in the world.

In this evaluation the strikes in the service and transport sector strongly affect other proletarians who use these services, and not only the bosses and the government, who often do not suffer at all because they practice "investment diversification" (for example, often the capitalists are shareholders of several companies from various sectors, even from several countries, etc.). Thus, in the case of this strike of truck drivers, the proletariat everywhere suffers from the lack of food, and is left with many fundamental needs not met, due to the increase in prices, which rise to the heights in these situations. In order to get out of this impasse that ultimately leads to a conflict between workers, the logical solution is to replace the strike with free production, which affirms the satisfaction of human needs against capital, money and the State, impelling solidarity of class everywhere. This has the potential of generalizing to the world to the point of creating a new mode of production in which the productive forces are subjected to human desires, needs and capacities, and no longer to profit or class domination. For more details on this proposal, see the text strike and free production.

humanaesfera, May 26, 2018

Update of May 28:

THE ATTRACTION OF TRUCK DRIVERS FOR BONAPARTISM

The claim for "military intervention" 1 that apparently occurs very often in this truckers' strike is disturbing. But it is important to note that this request seems to have become prevalent when the federal government called the armed forces against the strike. So, in this particular circumstance, it seems to have the rather pragmatic sense of fraternization between soldiers and truckers. But nothing is clear about that.

The category of the truck drivers is ambiguous, because, especially among the self-employed, who own their trucks (or even more trucks, exploiting other workers), the petty-bourgeois aspect entails a vacillation between bourgeois and proletarian positions, even if precarious labor prevails among them. This means that this category, while their struggle is isolated, is incapable of asserting an autonomous social project, which generally translates into the appeal to some external, extraterrestrial power, some kind of Bonapartism or Caudillism that would bring "order" by force. Hence the attraction for the rhetoric of the far-right, nostalgic of the military dictatorship. The same petty-bourgeois aspect occurs in taxi drivers, and, to a lesser degree, Uber workers ...

This will remain so long as the struggle does not spread. If all the rest of the proletariat begins to struggle in a generalized manner - and the very impact of the shortage and the worsening of the conditions of life that it entails can impel to it -, the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy (including military) will clearly reveal themselves as enemies. In this, the fraternization of the class against the ruling class will render nonsense the corporatist or petty-bourgeois defense of prefabricated identities in capitalist society. In this situation, it is very probable that there will be a general inflection to affirm the fraternization by the autonomous fight: to constitute, for example, "soviets of soldiers, truck drivers and workers," in which no power is conceded unconditionally to anyone, and where the mandates are revocable at any time by the assemblies.

But while the proletariat as a whole watches only passively what is happening, the truckers' strike is doomed to serve the factions of the ruling class competing for exploit the proletariat.

humanaesfera, May 28, 2018

  • 1. Which refers to the desire to reinstall a military dictatorship like the one that settled in 1964 in Brazil.

Comments

Spikymike
May 26 2018 17:41

Are the 'self-employed' in practice only nominally self-employed as elsewhere in this category out of no choice and as such and in-hock to the capitalists for leasing or renting their trucks and controlled by those that monopolise their work schedules? Either way not sure how the recommended strategy of operating 'free production' would be effective because of the significance of this sector of truck drivers?

Joaos
May 26 2018 19:46

The information I have is that the self-employed truckers own the truck (perhaps about half still paying the financing installments of the vehicle).

The free production tactic is only possible if the struggle rapidly overflows the boundaries of this or that category of workers, becoming widespread in society as a whole, including industry, agriculture, supply chains (also maritime and air transport), telecommunications, freeing all workers from this or of that pre-established identity, work, etc.

We can passively contemplate and observe the movement repeating the same script of all strikes in history, in which, in the end, the ruling class always wins. But as Communists we find it fundamental to present the Communist perspective, the perspective in which the proletariat fraternizes and overcomes capital and the state.

Steven.
May 27 2018 20:33

Interesting stuff. It sounds like there are quite a lot of parallels with the UK truck drivers blockades of oil depots in protest at high fuel prices in the 2000s – especially in terms of many of the drivers being self-employed, and in terms of the media supporting the dispute, as it was being used by parts of the capitalist class.

I guess a key difference is probably that in the UK when you buy petrol at the pump, a big majority of what you pay is just tax.

Anyway this was an article written about it at the time by a participant: https://libcom.org/library/fuel-blockades-wildkat

Blesk
May 28 2018 15:30

Not only in Brazil but also in Iran truck-drivers are waging a strong strike since several days to improve their working and living conditions.

Quote:
Iran’s truckers continue nationwide strike into seventh day
IRAN NEWS 5/28/2018

Truckers are continuing their nationwide protest and general strike
Reported by PMOI/MEK

May 28, 2018 - Reports from a variety of Iran’s cities on Monday indicate truckers are continuing their nationwide protests and a growing general strike. These protests have expanded to 242 cities in all of Iran’s 31 provinces.
Bus drivers in various cities are also joining this expanding movement and expressing their solidarity.
Minibus drivers in Yazd, central Iran, were seen rallying in support of the truck drivers, holding a gathering outside the city’s Road & Transportation Dept.
Iran’s truck drivers are protesting low wages, skyrocketing prices of spare parts and other fees in this profession. […]
People from all walks of life are also protesting and seeking their demands.
Taxi drivers in Tehran and Isfahan are also on strike and express solidarity with their fellow truck driver colleagues.
Students of Tehran’s Art University rallied yesterday, protesting the transfer of their school to another location.
Such protests are becoming a major strain for Iran’s authorities.
Iranian regime security forces intend to “resolutely confront” protests, according to a judiciary spokesman on Sunday. Rallies and demonstrations are expanding as waves across the country with people raising major economic issues and fuel the protests into gaining political nature.

Source: https://english.mojahedin.org/i/irans-truckers-continue-nationwide-strike-into-seventh-day

I don’t agree with humanaesfera position relativizing on one hand the importance of strike actions in specific sectors (service, distribution, transport, etc.) because they would more affect and impact the working class than the ruling class of exploiters, and promoting on the other hand “free production” as an alternative.

It’s somehow true that strike action also impact most of the time our class but it’s the only way and possibility (precisely because of this impact) to mobilize “the rest of the class” who is not yet moving and stay confined in their role of value producers.

The proletariat is not suffering from the lack of foods because of the strike; it is more globally suffering because of the general capitalist social relations, including shortages of basic goods, penury of a real and genuine human life, development at all levels possible of capitalist war and peace, suicidal tendencies, in one word: a huge shortage of human relations.

When the objective conditions are globally met for the necessary class struggle to be developed and spread, the only way then to involve those who are not yet struggling is not to convince them politely about the validity to fight back capital but to convince them by exemplarity and force while pushing them to overcome their own fear and laziness and apathy.

Of course this strike action has to be strong, autonomous, without compromising with all the forces of capital (government, police, trade unions, social democracy, political parties, etc.), not fearing to use class violence (with clear class criteria) against strike-breakers of any kind.

If there are no foods, no gasoline, no basic goods anymore at our disposal (“because” of the strike), it doesn’t mean that there are none anywhere. The bourgeoisie in such case has absolutely no problem to provide itself with everything necessary and even more. In this case the only way to do for our class is to spread the offensive and to loot the stocks, the warehouses, the depots, the bourgeois districts and to expropriate in a collective mass protest movement.

The only acceptable alternative to strike action is insurrectional strike and dynamics as a moment in a generalized revolutionary process putting into question the whole of the present state of things.

Cris Oliveira
May 28 2018 18:52

There's been coopting of the strike by the far right, pushing for military intervention. I haven't been able to go to the sites, but there is already news of drivers being coerced into setting banners demanding military intervention. The initial demands are legitimate ones from a labour movement, but most people have poor political information and demagogues find a fertile soil in the present political crisis in Brazil. A sense of nostalgia for dictatorial period has been fomented and some strikers have come publicly stating they wish for the military to oust the current government in hope of a transitional state of exception. Other strikers, as I've said, won't challenge such stance out of fear. I received news that left leaning individuals have been kick out violently of some sites. Left-wing organizations have failed to build a presence in the strike and are now shunned.

I have some links, but they are all in Portuguese:

Banners read: "Military intervention now!!"

Article: How did the strike begin?

Video -- far-right demonstrator:
--Would you be allowed to strike under a military regime?
--Under the military, we would have a reason to strike.

Article: Truck drivers defend military intervention as guideline

Truckers resent how they've been treated by society, market and state. It should be a fertile soil for the left, but they resent past leftist governments as well as any politician. President is sending the army against the strike, but strikers think soldiers will come with open arms to side with them against their corrupt commander-in-chief.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eminFKxXtsE

More interventionist demands from the state of Bahia:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vVUF6Lr4_0

Brazilian Truck Drivers Association has been ambiguous on the subject. Association president Fonseca condemned such demand, but spokesperson Rangel approves any political position the drivers may as she claims the association is independent from political organizations.

Fonseca: "On the demands for military intervention"

Rangel's note at the end of the article: "Right-wing extremists try to influence strike's future"

Neoliberal economics magazine Exame published an article remembering how a truck drivers strike in Chile preceded the ousting of Salvador Allende. Far-right in Brazil claims last governments have been communist (haha!) and those ones nostalgic for the military regime believe the present conservative government is not conservative enough. So this publication by Exame doesn't look like just coincidence.
Article: "In Chile, truck drivers strike lasted 26 day -- and overthrew a government"

What anarchists can do now? What do I know? Both left and right have been accusing us of being criminals, terrorists and paid agents of Soros/CIA! They both encourage hostility towards anarchists. I have friends who are afraid to go back to the strikers' site. And although the dissatisfaction toward political class could develop into an anarchist sentiment, it won't so soon, as they strongly believe in patriotism and hierarchy -- seeing no contradiction in believing the military is the answer because of their strong sense of hierarchy while also believing they would turn against their commander-in-chief in spite of the hierarchy. They simply believe the military are an unsullied category of people who will clean the mess made by the politicians and leave the rest untouched. Unlike anarchists, they want to take care of our masters by putting other masters, ruthless ones, in their place.

I think we lost the right moment to do something.

EDIT: I want to be wrong about my worrying. I hope I'm exaggerating and such far-right inclinations can be reverted.

Joaos
May 28 2018 21:39

As Cris Oliveira pointed out, unfortunately, now the petty-bourgeois, far-right aspect seems to become hegemonic in this trucker strike. Everywhere one sees banners of "intervenção militar" (military intervention), which refers to the desire to reinstall a military dictatorship like the one that settled in 1964 in Brazil. But it can also express a desire to fraternize with the soldiers that the government has sent to end the blockades.

Steven, interesting information.

Blesk, a curious coincidence that this is also happening in Iran.
Very good your observations. But I do not agree. If suffering can be a spur to the struggle, however this shows that the class is not acting as the protagonist of the history, but only reacting. To become a protagonist, the class must create a situation that carries a positive project or program of global transformation of society. Suffering only leads to a reaction to suffering, which never transforms anything. The class becomes protagonist of history through class solidarity, which affirms the satisfaction of needs and the development of human faculties as ends in themselves. For example, loots are relatively routine in countries like Brazil, but they do not imply any class protagonism, nor does it imply an attempt to transform society. Only if this is linked to the struggle of the proletariat in production, transportation, and distribution does it carry a revolutionary implication.

Joaos
May 29 2018 01:25

Update of May 28:

THE ATTRACTION OF TRUCK DRIVERS FOR BONAPARTISM

The claim for "military intervention" that apparently occurs very often in this truckers' strike is disturbing. But it is important to note that this request seems to have become prevalent when the federal government called the armed forces against the strike. So, in this particular circumstance, it seems to have the rather pragmatic sense of fraternization between soldiers and truckers. But nothing is clear about that.

The category of the truck drivers is ambiguous, because, especially among the self-employed, who own their trucks (or even more trucks, exploiting other workers), the petty-bourgeois aspect entails a vacillation between bourgeois and proletarian positions, even if precarious labor prevails among them. This means that this category, while their struggle is isolated, is incapable of asserting an autonomous social project, which generally translates into the appeal to some external, extraterrestrial power, some kind of Bonapartism or Caudillism that would bring "order" by force. Hence the attraction for the rhetoric of the far-right, nostalgic of the military dictatorship. The same petty-bourgeois aspect occurs in taxi drivers, and, to a lesser degree, Uber workers ...

This will remain so long as the struggle does not spread. If all the rest of the proletariat begins to struggle in a generalized manner - and the very impact of the shortage and the worsening of the conditions of life that it entails can impel to it -, the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy (including military) will clearly reveal themselves as enemies. In this, the fraternization of the class against the ruling class will render nonsense the corporatist or petty-bourgeois defense of prefabricated identities in capitalist society. In this situation, it is very probable that there will be a general inflection to affirm the fraternization by the autonomous fight: to constitute, for example, "soviets of soldiers, truck drivers and workers," in which no power is conceded unconditionally to anyone, and where the mandates are revocable at any time by the assemblies.

But while the proletariat as a whole watches only passively what is happening, the truckers' strike is doomed to serve the factions of the ruling class competing for exploit the proletariat.

humanaesfera, May 28, 2018

Blesk
Jun 5 2018 17:00

The rebellion of truck drivers at a crossroads - Iniciativa Revolução Universal

We translate from Spanish this material originally published in Portuguese by comrades from Brazil organized around Universal Revolution Initiative. It’s a leaflet distributed during the struggles that are currently taking place, in the spring of 2018, in the region dominated by the Brazilian State.

https://libcom.org/news/rebellion-truck-drivers-crossroads-iniciativa-revolu-ao-universal-05062018