Sunday, January 24, 2010

Turkish Workers vs Thatcher and NACODS

Sungur Savran: Finally, a unionist from the Türk-Is leadership promised to take the demand for a general strike to leadership bodies, to which the crowd duly replied by another slogan: “Kumlu has to come and promise us a general strike!” This paralysed the bureaucrats. But in the end, a clever bureaucrat had the idea of threatening the workers with a police attack – after all, the “official” demonstration was over and the police disposed of the legal right to disperse the crowd. Thus came to an end this unusual public revolt of the workers against the union bureaucracy. Whatever the outcome in the coming days, this single episode has placed the Tekel fight in the annals of class struggle in Turkey. This was the first time when workers openly revolted against the bureaucracy during mass action, which of course will send shivers through every bureaucrat in future actions of a similar dimension.

Whenever I come across yet another attempt of compromising achievement by Turk-is (which has de facto functioned as a yellow union so far), I indulge in the temptation to think that maybe Hayek and British neo-liberals were right and supposedly coercive nature of trade union bureaucracy is one of the major obstacles for working class movement.

Aside from the peculiarity of inter-class war among the bourgeois, Turkish state is an ordinary state striving to accomplish what Thatcher and Reagan did a couple of decades ago: creating an ideological consensus on approval of capitalist injustice with Muslim tints. Being against an ordinary state in an embryonic form, the success of Turkish workers directly depends on the success of their struggle against the past of full-fledged modern states, as Marx said for Germany long time ago. See:

If Tekel workers fail against the coalition of Teatcher and flag waving trade union bureaucracy once again, the most possible outcome will be exactly what D. Harvey described in his "A Brief History of Neoliberalism":

"Alan Budd, an economic adviser to Thatcher, later suggested that ‘the 1980s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending were a cover to bash the workers’. Britain created what Marx called ‘an industrial reserve army’, he went on to observe, the effect of which was to undermine the power of labour and permit capitalists to make easy profits thereafter. And in an action that paralleled Reagan’s provocation of PATCO in 1981, Thatcher provoked a miners’ strike in 1984 by announcing a wave of redundancies and pit closures (imported coal was cheaper). The strike lasted for almost a year, and, in spite of a great deal of public sympathy and support, the miners lost. The back of a core element of the British labour movement had been broken. Thatcher further reduced union power by opening up the UK to foreign competition and foreign investment. Foreign competition demolished much of traditional British industry in the 1980s––the steel industry (Sheffield) and shipbuilding (Glasgow) more or less totally disappeared within a few years, and with them a good deal of trade union power. Thatcher effectively destroyed the indigenous nationalized UK automobile industry, with its strong unions and militant labour traditions, instead offering the UK as an offshore platform for Japanese automobile companies seeking access to Europe. These built on greenfield sites and recruited non-union workers who would submit to Japanese-style labour relations. The overall effect was to transform the UK into a country of relatively low wages and a largely compliant labour force (relative to the rest of Europe) within ten years. By the time Thatcher left office, strike activity had fallen to one-tenth of its former levels. She had eradicated inflation, curbed union power, tamed the labour force, and built middle-class consent for her policies in the process."

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