Spreading the victory of Visteon workers
The victorious occupations at Waterford Glass, Prisme and Visteon, have made real what seemed like a fantasy a few months ago. As the jobs massacre continues, the challenge is to spread what they have achieved.
Part of this has to be organising solidarity with struggles on a bigger scale. One important way to do this is to re-establish the tradition of delegation work.
Over the last two months in Manchester we have been able to get a Waterford Glass worker and three workers from Visteon to come for a total of three visits.
The workers spoke at our May Day rally, going on to do a meeting on “Organising an occupation”. They visited the Exide battery plant in Bolton, where there is a threat of closure, to talk to the stewards committee.
They also spoke at the Disability Benefits Centre, which is similarly threatened, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission where helpline jobs are on the line.
The workers attended the Unite union Manchester area activists’ meeting, a Unison union meeting in Wigan of accommodation workers under attack, a briefing for 30 Bolton Unison shop stewards, as well as going to see reps in all three local bus garages.
The FBU regional committee donated £500 to their fight. Bolton, Salford & Trafford Mental Health Unison gave a magnificent £1000. There were also workplace collections.
Solidarity works both ways. Not only is it essential for those fighting, it also helps build the organisation of those who will fight tomorrow. And that includes all of us.
Geoff Brown, Secretary, Manchester Trades Council
For too many years, the working class in Britain has learnt how to lose. Socialist Worker rightly argued last week that the victory at Visteon changes everything – fighting pays.
There can’t be many times in history when the employers have been so divided on how to restore their lost fortunes.
I recently watched a TV programme examining the causes of the recession, where for many of the bankers the collapse of the financial system had destroyed their world view.
Ford bosses looked at how Chrysler was heading towards bankruptcy and at the occupations at Visteon. They wisely decided to give in to the workers’ demands out of fear that the dispute would spread.
Socialists need to act fast to generalise the victory at Visteon and organise resistance to job losses now while the employers are not united.
More victories such as the one at Doncaster college are likely. This will lay the basis for a confident organised working class movement to develop that can put forward its own solutions to the crisis. To do this we need to continue to fight and at the same time learn how to win.
Sean Vernell, North London
Croatian students occupy
A wave of student occupations over tuition fees has swept Croatia in the last two weeks. The movement started when 300 students seized the philosophy faculty of the University of Zagreb.
Their demand for a free education electrified students across the country. Mass assemblies sprung up in institutions of higher education in another seven cities. Eighteen colleges are now under student control.
The centre of the protest is still the philosophy faculty in Zagreb where thousands of students and non-students alike participate in the running of an alternative curriculum comprising lectures, film showings, workshops and events.
Each evening, students fill the main lecture hall of the faculty, which seats 1,000 people, to attend the daily “plenary” session. This is the decision-making body of the protest.
For a week now, plenaries have heard from the leading figures of the trade union movement. Students also have widespread support from the university staff.
So confident are they of their strength that they predict they will be able to hold out at least until this Tuesday when a mass march organised by the trade union movement will hit the streets of Zagreb in defence of jobs and conditions.
They hope for a synthesis and escalation of both movements. With this in mind, student activists are looking for ways to reach a wider audience in the face of a hostile media campaign by the establishment.
They are sending out teams to organise mass assemblies in other faculties, maintaining multimedia blogs, and distributing leaflets inviting members of the public to attend their events.
Tens of thousands have signed petitions in their support.
The students say they will not negotiate with the ministry and that the only outcome they will accept is the complete fulfilment of all their demands.
Vlad Unkovski-Korica, by email
US union’s car deals won’t help workers
It was with a mixture of disbelief and dismay that I read that the United Auto Workers union (UAW) in the US has bought a stake in Chrysler and done a similar deal with General Motors.
The UAW was formed in the first half of the last century as a fighting alternative to the “business unionism” of Samuel Gompers and the AFL union.
The UAW condemned the collaborationist approach of the exclusively craft unions.
How sad to see the children of that generation facing the same arguments all over again.
The employing class wants to make our class pay for the crisis.
How does investing millions of members’ dues and pensions help? It mortgages workers’ futures to a firm whose success depends on how much extra profit it can squeeze from its workforce.
Doesn’t this place the union in the contradictory position of representing both the workforce and the employers?
UAW members should look across the Atlantic!
Visteon and Waterford workers got results by fighting back and winning solidarity. Relying on the logic of the boss-class is a recipe for disaster.
The enemy is the system itself and our class interests and theirs are not only different, but irrevocably opposed.
I will be proud to be at the conference to organise resistance planned for 13 June in London.
Richard Allday, Harwich
Nepal shows us where power lies
The dangers that await socialists who rely on parliament to deliver radical change have been highlighted by recent events in Nepal.
Having won a ten-year guerrilla war against the monarchy, the Maoist Communist party won elections last year and formed a government with some smaller parties of the left.
Part of the deal which re-established parliament was that Maoist fighters would be incorporated into the regular army.
This would act as a check against the royalist right wing generals.
When the military leadership refused to honour the deal the prime minister, who is a Maoist, ordered the head of the army sacked.
Since then the entire forces of the state and ruling class have been ranged against the prime minister. Last week both he and his party were driven from office.
It is possible to be elected to the highest positions of government only to find that real power does not reside there.
Our power is to be found among the students, workers and peasants who bravely fought for social change.
Dariya Nakkady, Kerala, India
No welcome for the BNP
You mentioned that the fascist British National Party (BNP) is peddling its hate at St George’s Day parades.
In Downham Market in Norfolk there was a St George’s Day celebration.
Last year the event was marred by the BNP handing out their propaganda, so a group of local people were determined that the fascists would not get away with it again.
We got together our own leaflet with the headline “Celebrate, don’t hate!” and took it down to the market square where we got a really warm welcome.
We handed out over 300 leaflets. Stallholders came and asked us for them.
People told us how upset they were to see the BNP turn up, and how they had thought there was nothing they could do about it.
We plan to follow this up by leafleting against the BNP during the coming elections.
UAF members, Norfolk
Murdoch has new web ploy
Rupert Murdoch is thinking of charging for access to his newspapers’ websites.
People could have to pay to read the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World online.
Murdoch sees this as trailblazing a new era for the web.
This shows how capitalists are looking for new ways to make money in the recession.
Many popular sites could soon be charging. Capitalists love to make us pay for things that used to be free.
Simone Murray, Carlisle
Will we have Iraq inquiry?
British troops have finally left Iraq after six agonising years.
The government assures us they did a wonderful job and that Iraq is a better place – despite the fact that a million Iraqi civilians have died, the infrastructure of the country has been destroyed and most Iraqis say that life was better even under Saddam Hussein.
Will Gordon Brown hold a proper inquiry into the lies that led to the war, or will we be offered another whitewash?
Will we learn how to restrain a government that thinks it is OK set fire to other people’s countries while privatising and stealing their resources?
And what of other conflicts like the US’s effective war on Pakistan which has so destabilised the country that the Taliban may take over a nuclear-armed state?
Mark Holt, Merseyside
We would like to apologise to Samantha Rigg-David for misquoting some of her comments or taking them out of context in last week’s Socialist Worker (» ‘The police think they can walk all over people’ [report has been updated], 9 May).
We should have made it clear that Samantha is campaigning for justice over all deaths in custody, not just for Ian Tomlinson.
Samantha did not call on people specifically to join the United Campaign Against Police Violence, but rather to come out and march in solidarity and to stand up for the truth.
Samantha would like to add that she is saddened at the fact her brother’s life has been cut short so needlessly.
She points out it would be a victory for Ian Tomlinson’s family to get the justice they deserve, but if other families – especially black families – do not get justice, and their cases get swept under the carpet, then there will be serious questions for those in authority to answer.
Justice for Ian Tomlinson should open the door for all the other cases – even past cases – to be treated with the same scrutiny and robustness.
Socialist Worker has a proud record of highlighting deaths in custody and we would like to restate our support for all those families fighting for justice.
Socialist Worker last week (9 May) inadvertently miscredited two photographs.
The picture of the Nottingham May Day march on page 4 was taken by Pete Jenkins.
The Faslane protest picture on page 7 was taken by Ray Smith.
Socialist Worker apologises to both Pete and Ray for this errors.