People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 26, 2010


Worldwide Working Class Action on Sept 7


 R Arun Kumar


THE general strike organised on September 7 was a huge success in India and was an indication of the working class' angst against the economic policies pursued by the government. Many reports were carried in earlier issues that had dealt in depth about the response of the people of our country. While the working class of our country rose in unison to register their protest, on the same day, their brethren across the world too rose in protest to make their fury known.




In response to the call of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), workers came out on the streets protesting the policies of their respective governments that are placing increasing burdens on their shoulders. Many protest demonstrations and mobilisations have taken place on that day in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Palestine, Congo, South Africa, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and many others apart from our country. Hundreds of thousands of workers all over the world united their voices demanding a way out of the economic crisis – not at the cost of the working class but by punishing the capitalists responsible for this crisis. Working class of the socialist Vietnam and DPR Korea too expressed their solidarity with the protesting workers.


The WFTU called upon all the trade unions and progressive organisations of the world to participate in the International Action Day, September 7. Calling for coordinated, cooperative, international solidarity and action against the global economic crisis, WFTU had put out its demands: workers should not be made to pay for the crisis, retrenchment of employees and workers to be stopped, to stop the expenditure on military equipments and this money to be granted to the unemployed and the poor, to take immediate action on writing-off the debts of Third World countries, free and public health, education, food and water for all, public investment for the creation of jobs and taking immediate measures to satisfy the needs of the workers. Apart from these general demands, the working class of each country had its own particular demands based on the concrete conditions they are facing in their countries.


In France, one of the advanced capitalist countries, the right-wing Sarkozy government had launched a severe offensive on the working class and other common people of the country to 'bring the country out of the economic crisis'. It proposed a series of measures that are intended to withdraw many social welfare measures won by the working class through relentless struggles in the past. Protesting these attacks on their rights, more than 2.5 million workers participated in the protest demonstrations in the country held in more than 220 centres. This, in fact, ranks one among the big mobilisations of the working class in the recent periods, even topping the mobilisations in the month of June by more than 500,000. The country was brought to a standstill by the mass strike organised by the different sections of the working class.


The French strikes cut national rail services by about 50 per cent and disrupted underground train services in Paris. One in four flights at Paris airports was cancelled, a tenth of France's electricity output has been shut down, many schools and public buildings were shut for the day and even private-sector firms also reported a depleted workforce, with staff from the banking, car industry, oil and retail sectors taking part in the strike.


Immediately following this day of action, Sarkozy announced some concessions – broadening the categories of workers who will be 'exceptions', that is, able to keep their retirement age at 60. This includes workers who started work before the age of 18, as well as workers who can prove 10 per cent incapacity because of physically demanding jobs (earlier, it was 20 per cent). It was an attempt made under pressure of the mass turnout to show that the government is supposedly ‘open to negotiate’. Following this success, six of the eight French trade union federations (CGT, CFDT, CFE-CGC, CFTC, UNSA, FSU) decided to go for another 'day of strikes and demonstrations' on  September 23.


Working class actions in other countries too had a similar impact. In London, the strike of the metro workers brought the movement in the 'tube' to a virtual halt. The services of the Eurostar, the train connecting many countries of Europe, were also severely affected. Workers in Greece continued their protests against the IMF prescribed 'austerity' measures and against the increase in VAT, electricity and oil rates. Similarly, in many countries across the world, the working class continued its protests against the recent onslaught launched by the ruling classes in the name of the global economic crisis.




The public sector employees of South Africa struck work for more than three weeks demanding better working conditions and an increase in pay. The resoluteness of the striking workers forced the president of the country, Jacob Zuma to intervene and initiate measures for meeting the demands of the workers. Teachers in Saudi Arabia, 'a conservative kingdom', rallied against the increasing unemployment in the country. Miners in Russia, Poland, Spain, airport employees of Israel and England, transport workers in Kuwait, Greece, factory workers in South Africa, New Zealand, England, Spain, Portugal and many other countries have registered their protests in the first ten days of this month. All these protests reiterate the fact that the ruling classes are imposing more and more burdens on the toiling sections of the world.


Along with attempts to cut down social welfare measures, the ruling classes are trying to divide the working class on chauvinist lines. The expulsion of Roma immigrants from France is an example of such attempts. Though these measures are in contravention to the declared policy of European Union, there is no real attempt to stop France from implementing it, except for issuing an official condemnation. The real intention of the French government is to divert the attention of the working class from analysing the real causes for their present hardships and also to break their unity. The failure of the ruling classes in Europe to learn from the lessons of history (the rise of fascism and Hitler) show to what extent they are ready to go to protect their hegemony.


The ruling classes that are actively encouraging the growth of extreme right-wing forces in their countries are on the other initiating steps to curb the growth of communist parties and their popularity. It is a fact that communist parties in many of the European countries are not the same force as they once had been. During this period of economic crisis, people are coming out in protest actions at their own initiative and at times are even pushing the trade unions to announce militant protest demonstrations against the offensive of the ruling classes. Among the workers, there is a visible sense of discontent against the social-democrat leadership of the various trade unions and confederations for their failure to lead militant protests.




In this conjuncture, once again people are showing a growing interest upon communist parties and Marxist theory. The ruling classes afraid of this growth of revolutionary ideas and sensing danger immediately resorted to ban the usage of communist symbols, as in Poland and Hungary, and the parties themselves, as in Czech Republic. There are also efforts to place severe restrictions on the functioning of the communist parties as can be discerned from the moves initiated against the Communist Party of Greece by the Socialist government there.


It is in this context that the protest demonstrations witnessed on September 7 assume their importance. The demonstrations worldwide once again point to the extent of discontentment that is rising among the working class against the attacks on their rights. One of the many positive features emanating is that the working class is not ready to rest on the success of one-day action – a call was given to organise demonstrations once again on September 29. The working class is realising the importance of organising sustained struggles. The demonstrations held in France show that it is not that easy to break the ranks of the working class. They also show that history will not forgive us, if we fail to give a proper direction to these struggles: prepare them to struggle not only for their economic demands but for a systemic change.