Thursday, April 23, 2009

The following article, describing a demonstration held last Friday in Belfast, the capital of Ulster, comes from the Anarkismo website. Molly's comments follow below the article.
Belfast rallies against job cuts- Lions led by Donkeys:
by Sean - WSM Belfast (personal capacity)
Belfast City Centre was brought to a standstill last Friday lunchtime in a rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) against the latest job losses in the manufacturing and textile industry.

Around 200 people turned out including trade union representatives and workers from FG Wilson, Bombardier and a majority contingent from the Visteon workplace occupation. Around 30 Bus drivers in the city centre temporarily left their placement in a show of solidarity and support. Banners displayed at the march included ‘Your Job could be next’ and ‘One Solution, Revolution’.
Addressing the rally outside the City Hall, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting demanded action from the Stormont administration such as setting up a Workers’ Protection Fund to give financial help to the recent unemployed.“It is perfectly within their powers to pass laws which can protect those workers at risk of redundancy,” he said.
Last week, Visteon workers rejected an insulting offer from their former bosses, providing employees a cash payment equivalent to 16 weeks pay. Adding to insult has been the exclusion of Belfast union representatives from talks taking place between national union officials and the owners. This is not the first time, top union officials are shafted workers. Remember the Gate Gourmet strike in 2005 and recent hunger strike by the Belfast airport workers outside Transport House.
We must remain in control of our own struggles until demands are met, independent and not reliant on politicians and the union bureaucracy. In the face of company attempts to evict the workers occupation, we need to mobilise our communities and workers at home and across borders, both unionised and not in a show of defiance and solidarity. A victory for Visteon workers is a victory for workers everywhere.
An international day of action suggested by Organise! comrades is a practical step in defence of the occupation. In the long- term, we must move beyond occupations towards removing the entire foundation of the status-quo resting on the antagonistic interest between capital and labour. The viable and practical vision of workers' control of industry is the only lasting solution.
For too long we have listened to sterile and boring speeches from top union officials who have more in common with the bosses than the rank and file. Our local administration on the hill a long time ago nailed their colours to flag of capital and turned their backs on us to face the brunt of dole ques, poverty wages and house evictions. The Visteon workplace occupations and 'boss-nappings' in France are leading by example.
We need to take the struggle of the Visteon workers back to our workplaces’ and communities, to strike and to occupy. Direct action sends a powerful message to the sound bites and betrayals from above, and is the most effective means we have to force concessions from the bosses. In the process building links of solidarity and support between unionised, non-unionised and unwaged. Bringing together occupations and sit-ins from Belfast and Glasgow to France and Greece, as their crisis is global and so is our resistance.
While I hate to rain on the parade of a person with whom I am likely in substantial political agreement with, the article above demonstrates, in my opinion, some grievous defects.
First of all, it is written in a triumphalist style that, while it may be useful at times, far too often exposes the authors to nothing more than ridicule. To be blunt, a turnout of 200 people is not exactly a widespread "movement". I am sure that this did not bring Belfast City Centre to a Halt. I am equally sure that this sort of turnout would be dwarfed by almost every sectarian demonstration in said city. I am not happy about this fact, but it is a fact.
Similarly, I see more than a little tendency to "get ahead of oneself" here. Yeah, I'll agree that union officials can be pretty treacherous bastards. I've had my own experience with it. But, and it's a big but, referring this problem to some mythical "second-coming" such as the slogan "No Solution But Revolution" or advancing something that means the same thing ie saying that only a whole society under workers' control can have any real effect is imagining that one can skip whole stages of history that may span decades !!! To my mind the problem now is not to "go beyond" occupations but rather to make them more effective. Despite the hopes (and illusions) of revolutionaries defeats are just as likely to breed cynicism and resignation as they are to breed radicalism.
Understand that I DON'T say that we should act like Trotskyists and hide our ultimate goals beneath a subterfuge of some "transitional program". What I do say is that, unless we can contrive ways in which the workplace occupations that are occurring and will probably occur with increasing frequency in the near future can win a little bit more than what the social democrats within the union bureaucracies think is "possible" then all calls to 'revolution" will be futile.
No doubt the comrade who wrote the article above actually has such ideas. He has pretty well said it when he spoke of mobilizations. What I say is that there must be a more fleshed out plan for such things. I also say that presenting the "ultimate program" as the only real solution is counterproductive in the times in which we live.
Finally...Belfast. This is off the point, but I have to say here that this was the one place in Ireland when the wife and I visited last year that reminded me of home here in Winnipeg. The same ever present aura of decline and grime, which was pretty well omnipresent outside of the city centre. I have to say that I've seen worse, but it struck me as a very sad city. The saddest thing was that the old sectarian animosities, though toned down, were still present. Belfast still has a long way to go before non-sectarian movements of the working class will gather 20,000 participants rather than 200. I will admit, however, that 200 is at least a start.

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