14 November: European unions to strike together

Submitted by Matthew on 26 October, 2012 - 10:11

Trade union federations in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Cyprus have called general strikes on Wednesday 14 November.

Unions in France and Italy are also said to be considering calling mass strikes.

Spanish union federation CCOO said: “Unemployment, cuts, the impoverishment of the majority and the deterioration of public services justify a general strike.”

CCOO and UGT, Spain’s two main union federations, held a “social summit” with working-class community organisations, students’ unions, and smaller trade unions to launch the strike call.

CCOO leader Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said he expected other countries to join in. Unemployment in Spain has reached 25%.

The FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL UILtrasporti, UGLtrasporti and FAISA CISAL unions in Italy already have a transport strike scheduled for 16 November.

The European TUC has called for “a day of action and solidarity on 14 November, including strikes, demonstrations, rallies and other actions”. 14 November will be the 21st day of general strike action in Greece since 2009. Most general strikes have been for a single day, although some have lasted 48 hours.

The step is an important one. The European-wide nature of the crisis and the austerity agenda has always been clear, but until now the response from workers has tended to be national in character.

A day of coordinated strike action will help shift the struggle away from national movements trying to find solutions to “their” crises and towards a European working-class response to a European bosses’ offensive.

14 November will not be a magic bullet. As the Greek experience shows, even a barrage of general strikes does not necessarily topple governments or force them to change course. But it can be a focal point and a platform for fighting for ongoing coordination.

In each country, socialists must organise for the maximum possible rank-and-file control over the strikes.

The direction of the strikes must be responsive to the struggles of workers at workplace level and develop and escalate as necessary. A European general strike as a one-day spectacular, an exercise in letting off steam, will not be good enough.

Revolutionaries in the British labour movement should fight for our unions to be involved. Where possible, live disputes should schedule action for 14 November.

If it’s not logistically possible, or doesn’t make industrial sense within a particular campaign, to strike on that day, other direct actions should be organised.

Stewards should organise workplace meetings to discuss any ongoing disputes, and, in the public sector, building a fightback against the pay freeze.

Lobbying the TUC to call a general strike on that day is unrealistic. Even if by some freak the TUC suddenly decreed a “general strike” on that day, it would not really happen.

Instead, 14 November should be a platform for developing independent rank-and-file organisation that can allow workers to take control of our own struggles.

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