Genoa mood spans globe
By Paul McGarr
THE PROTESTS in Genoa and across Italy were only the most visible signs of global resistance to capitalism last week. In India and South Africa workers held strikes and protests against the effects of globalisation.
It exposes the nonsense put out last week by Clare Short, New Labour’s development secretary, that such protests are the preserve of the “white, privileged and middle class”.
Some nine million workers joined a one-day general strike in India on Wednesday of last week against the same neo-liberal policies that drove people to march against the G8 in Genoa.
The Hindu newspaper reported the issues behind the protest in terms that could find an echo among people the world over: “The strike was to protest against privatisation, downsizing, curtailment of existing benefits. It was to demand the reversal of economic policies being followed at the behest of the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.”
The Indian government admitted that in the western state of Maharashtra, centred on Bombay, over two million workers joined the strike, with schools, colleges, government offices and hospitals deserted. “Striking employees staged massive rallies,” reported the Hindu, and added that “reports from various centres indicated that the strike was successful in major cities and towns”.
“The biggest ever strike against the government’s meek surrender to the anti-worker dictates of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank,” was how union leader Sukomal Sen described the protest.
“If today’s strike, coming in the backdrop of the anti-globalisation protests in Genoa, doesn’t serve as a lesson to the government it had better steel itself to face a mass upsurge.” Nervous financiers in South Africa fear an upsurge of workers’ protests could be looming there too.
The stock market slid last week as electricity workers began a major strike, and on news that the powerful mine workers were to begin their first major national strike for 14 years on Sunday. Car workers, petrol station attendants, and tyre and rubber workers also threatened strikes.
The COSATU trade union federation is meanwhile threatening a general strike over the government’s plans to push through a massive privatisation programme. Over 20,000 electricity workers walked out on indefinite strike last week over wages. The fight is linked to government plans to prepare the Eskom electricity company for privatisation.
The strikers returned to work this week with union leaders claiming victory. Some 200,000 miners in coal and gold mines were also due to strike from Sunday, after a 98 percent vote for action.
As well as wages the mine workers are fighting for the right of workers with AIDS and cancer to get medical benefits. Most of the miners’ strikes were called off at the weekend after union leaders claimed the mining companies had made a series of major concessions. As Socialist Worker went to press strikes were still planned for Wednesday at some gold mining companies which had refused to back down.
Struggles such as those in India and South Africa inspire anti-capitalist protesters around the world. A major protest is already planned from 28 September to 4 October in the US capital, Washington, at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
In November protests are planned against the World Trade Organisation’s next meeting, despite it being held in Qatar in the Middle East to make demonstrating as difficult as possible.
And on Thursday 13 December a major demonstration is already set for Brussels in Belgium at the next European Union leaders’ summit.
The Brussels march, like the 100,000-strong march at the EU summit in Nice last December, is backed by the CES European trade union federation. The Belgian FGTB union federation says it wants “a mass demonstration” and has already issued targets for the numbers of demonstrators it wants each of its local branches to bring.
All such protests are vital to keep up the revolt against global capitalism. But so too is linking the protests with the strikes and struggles against the effects of global capitalism by workers in India, South Africa, Argentina and elsewhere.
This is the key to building a big movement powerful enough to both beat state repression and make the slogan “Another world is possible” a reality.
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