deutsch |  english |  español  |  français  |  italiano  |  nederlands  |  polski  |  português  |  svenska  |  türkçe  |  中文  |  عربي  |  русский

latest news

Greece
Bus cleaners renew strike after management’s broken promises

29/05/2016: "Triple-oppressed workers - immigrants, women and low-paid – show way forward"

  Greece

Congo
Day of Protest 26 May

28/05/2016: New massacres in mineral-rich region

  Congo

 Kazakhstan
Embassy protests in solidarity with struggle against land privatisation and for democratic rights

27/05/2016: Soldarity actions take place internationally against Nazarbayev regime

  Kazakhstan, Solidarity

Brazil
Mass protests against new government begin

27/05/2016: LSR (CWI) forces participation highlighted

  Brazil

 Solidarity
Brutal bosses attack striking Lisbon Dockers

25/05/2016: Protest and solidarity messages needed

  Solidarity

Austria
Only 31,026 votes prevent far right’s Hofer becoming president

24/05/2016: ‘Breathing space’ offers chance to build a fighting, democratic left alternative

  Austria

Britain
EU referendum exposes gaping political fault-lines

24/05/2016: New road can open up for labour movement if working class relies on its own forces

  Britain

Kazakhstan
Massive police operation confronts demonstrators

23/05/2016: Nazarbayev regime faces mounting opposition

  Kazakhstan

Australia
Federal election looming

21/05/2016: How should the labour and social movements respond?

  Australia

Kazakhstan
 Anger against Nazarbayev expressed on the streets

20/05/2016: ‘Illegal’ protests planned for Saturday 21 May

  Kazakhstan

Brazil
Fall of President Dilma Rousseff unleashes offensive against working class

19/05/2016: The impeachment process and historic crisis of the PT (Workers’ Party)

  Brazil

Britain
Brexit, the EU and the economy

19/05/2016: Remain or Leave, workers must fight for socialist change

  Britain

Nigeria
General strike begins

18/05/2016: Determined leadership and clear strategy needed to succeed

  Nigeria

Ireland
‘Jobstown trials’ to go ahead

18/05/2016: Government loses battle on water charges but wages war on Left

  Ireland Republic

Greece
Striking Athens bus cleaners continue their struggle

17/05/2016: Court declares strike ‘lawful’

  Greece

Canada
Fire devastates Fort McMurray

16/05/2016: Capitalism equals environmental destruction

  Canada

Saudi Arabia
Gathering storms over the House of Saud

13/05/2016: Collapse of oil prices expose fragile foundations of oil Gulf monarchies

  Middle East, Qatar, Saudi Arabia

France
New stage in battle over labour law

12/05/2016: Hollande’s decision to over-rule parliament provokes another round of struggle

  France

Kazakhstan
Protests erupt

12/05/2016: Phoney elections have not brought stability

  Kazakhstan

Sweden
Successful Congress for CWI forces

12/05/2016: Political foundations laid for new branches and growth in other Nordic countries

  Sweden

Ireland
100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly

12/05/2016: Revolutionary socialist, militant workers' leader and internationalist

  Ireland Republic

Northern Ireland
Main parties win Assembly elections…

11/05/2016: But positive moves against sectarian politics

  Ireland North

Belgium
Trade unions announce new plan of action

11/05/2016: Call for two national demonstrations, building towards general strikes

  Belgium

Quebec
The fight for $15 shows true colors of Parti Québecois

10/05/2016: No to an all-class pro-independence alliance

  Quebec

Britain
Elections show anger and fragmentation

10/05/2016: Mobilise the anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement to defeat the right

  Britain

Scotland
SNP win elections

09/05/2016: New openings for a socialist left alternative emerge

  Scotland

Ireland
How long can Kenny’s government last?

07/05/2016: Minority government supported by two main parties and “Independents” formed

  Ireland Republic

 Video
Paul Murphy sets record straight on "legal aid"

06/05/2016: Socialist MP threatened with jail for protesting against water charges responds to attacks in Irish parliament

  Video

South Africa
Zuma must go!

06/05/2016: Build a socialist mass workers’ party for a government of the working class

  South Africa

 Solidarity
Portuguese dock workers’ indefinite strike

05/05/2016: What we cannot do: leave the dockers alone

  Solidarity

Britain
90th anniversary of epochal general strike

05/05/2016: When workers tasted power

  Britain

Hong Kong
Racist smear campaign against refugees

05/05/2016: Socialist Action (CWI) initiates successful anti-racist march

  Aceh

May Day 2016
Rallies and marches mark international workers' day

04/05/2016: Photo gallery of CWI's global May Day participation

  May Day

Ireland
Water charges suspended

03/05/2016: Protest movement and boycott force huge Establishment parties climb down

  Ireland Republic

Teamster Rebellion

70th anniversary of Labor’s historic victory in Minneapolis

www.socialistworld.net, 23/01/2005
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Seventy years ago, a small mid-western city was shaken to its very foundations. The 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike is one of the greatest labor battles in U.S. history. For two months, the working class owned the streets.

Canyon Lalama, Minneapolis

With the emergence of a daring socialist leadership, the workers of Teamsters Local 574 were able to win massive improvements in their conditions. The average union truck driver went from earning 28 cents per hour to 52 cents per hour.

After years of bitter defeats for the union movement, in 1934 three major strikes - in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Toledo - changed everything. Led by socialists who understood the necessity of militant mass action against the bosses and the anti-union laws, these strikes sparked the colossal uprising of the American working class over the following decade, forcing through many of the benefits working people enjoy to this day.

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression was in full swing. Businesses cut wages and laid off workers in order to maintain high profits. Workers faced sweatshop conditions, low wages, long hours, and the constant threat of being laid off.

The conditions of the coal industry in Minneapolis were typical for the time. In his extraordinary book, Teamster Rebellion, Farrell Dobbs (a leader of the 1934 strike) describes his own situation: "We were just squeaking by when I was cut to forty-eight hours a week. It was a welcome physical relief since coal heavers had to work like mules, but there was also a two-dollar cut in weekly pay…. The thin flesh of mere subsistence was being scraped down to the bare bones of outright poverty…. On top of all that, I could expect to be laid off in the spring…. And I could be fired at any time without recourse merely at the employer’s whim."

These conditions led to massive anger. Workers were joining the American Federation of Labor in growing numbers, seeking a solution to their difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the AFL leadership had abandoned the idea of real struggle. Instead, they tried to win favor with the bosses by siding with them and rigging union structures to maintain their privileged positions. This "business unionism" led to massive defeats.

Workers in Minneapolis also faced the deceptively named Citizens Alliance, an association of employers dominated by the wealthiest local capitalists that specialized in strike breaking. It had the full support of the police force, local newspapers, and politicians. The Citizens Alliance declared an open-shop policy in the city, and issued a decree to all businesses that "no union was needed, in any form, for bargaining with the labor force."

The socialist union activists believed, in contrast with the AFL leaders, that the working class, when mobilized and conscious of itself as a class, is the most powerful force in society. They also recognized that even the most basic benefits for workers have only been obtained through uncompromising struggle against the bosses and their politicians.

In Local 574, union activists with the Communist League of America came to the forefront. The League was organized around the ideas of Leon Trotsky and others who rejected the rotten politics of Stalinism in favor of genuine Marxism and workers’ democracy.

These organizers mounted an audacious organizing drive around a clear program of demands worked out through extensive discussion with the workers. Instead of limiting themselves to what the employers said they could afford, the Minneapolis Teamsters fought for what the workers needed to achieve a decent standard of living. Organized around these demands, Local 574 quickly grew from only 75 members in 1933 to over 7,000 only one year later.

The Teamsters International union was ruled by a cynical, corrupt president, Daniel Tobin, who boasted that the Teamsters were "not the rubbish that have come into other organizations." The union didn’t want people to join, he added, "if they are going on strike tomorrow."

The socialist activists quickly changed this. Local 574 was transformed from a mountain of red tape and bureaucracy into a highly democratic, fighting organization. All major decisions were made during mass meetings, rather than being dictated from above. The membership also elected a strike committee of 100 rank-and-file members to prepare for the struggles ahead.

The Battle Begins

In January of 1934, the first shots of the class war were fired. Local 574 voted to take strike action for a living wage and shorter working hours. Militant mass picketing took place immediately, and all coal transportation in the city was shut down.

The timing was perfect. Minnesota is known for its cold winters, and the public was soon clamoring for a quick settlement. The bosses were forced to settle. They gave in to a few wage increase demands and officially recognized the union.

Union members throughout the region gained confidence. Unorganized workers looked toward the union movement with hope. A strike had been won in Minneapolis for the first time in years. But to achieve a decent standard of living, Local 574 needed to organize the entire regional trucking industry, or their bargaining power would be undercut by other workers willing to work cheaper. Plans were drawn up for an industry-wide organizing drive and a walkout.

The Citizens Alliance prepared to fight tooth and nail against the union. They strengthened their ties with the mayor and police force and organized a massive propaganda campaign in the local papers against the growing "communist plot."

The old guard union leaders feared that a walkout would be spoiled by unemployed workers. There were about 30,000 jobless in Minneapolis at the time, almost a third of the population, trying to get by on the stingy government dole.

The socialists in the union, however, saw those out of work as allies rather than enemies. Local 574 adopted a strategy of organizing an unemployed section of the union and fought for public relief for needy members. This helped raise the level of class-consciousness among the jobless workers, turning them into pickets rather than scabs.

Women at the time were generally relegated to unpaid housework and economic dependence on men, so the strike severely affected the working-class women. The socialist union leaders tapped into the women’s skills by setting up a women’s auxiliary of the union, which helped their struggle immensely.

The women helped staff strike headquarters, ensured that workers and their families were well fed, and provided necessary first aid in the coming battles with the police. Women also reinforced the picket lines and participated in street fights that later occurred. Secretaries for the bosses and politicians acted as spies for the union, secretly duplicating letters and memos that often allowed Local 574 to stay one step ahead of the employers.

The women’s auxiliary also had a profound effect on the consciousness of the men, many of whom had seen union activity as "a night out with the boys." These sexist attitudes quickly changed when they saw the badly needed support that their wives and girlfriends brought to the movement.

Walkout

By May 16, 1934, the bosses were still refusing to meet most workers’ demands, and a walkout began. Thousands of workers poured into the street, and the strike headquarters was buzzing with activity. Due to the careful planning and preparation, the entire trucking industry was shut down. Nothing moved without union permission.

The rank and file developed the ingenious idea of cruising pickets in order to achieve a total shutdown of the trucking industry. Strikers were stationed at payphones throughout the city. Whenever a truck was seen driving without a union sign, a cruising squad filled with pickets quickly moved to the spot and blocked the scabs from making their delivery.

Local 574 produced a daily strike newspaper called The Organizer. This was the first daily strike paper in the country, and it helped counteract the corporate newspapers’ propaganda and re-enforce the consciousness of the city’s working class. It revealed the true role of the police, the Democrats and Republicans, and the legal system in defending the bosses’ interests.

The frustrated Citizens Alliance used its connections with the capitalist politicians of both parties to issue legal injunctions against the union to stop the strike. These were promptly ignored by the strikers, who realized it was necessary to break the bosses’ law in order to win.

Police and deputies armed with clubs attempted to break up picket lines and enforce the injunctions. However, the strikers and their supporters vastly outnumbered them. On more than one occasion, workers armed with sticks were able to defeat the police in the streets.

On July 20, known as "Bloody Friday," the Citizens Alliance lured cruising picket squads into a corner with a scab truck, where over 100 policemen with full riot gear and guns were waiting. Without warning, the cops opened fire. Sixty-seven were wounded and one union member, sh:Henry Ness, was killed.

It became clear to all that naked class warfare was being fought in the streets. Bloody Friday, instead of scaring the workers into submission, angered and further mobilized not only members of Local 574 but also the entire working class of Minneapolis. Other unions donated money and resources and held solidarity walkouts. Henry Ness’s funeral drew over 20,000 into the streets in a solemn procession that turned into a mass protest.

Realizing that the police had been rendered ineffective, the Governor called in the National Guard on behalf of the employers. Democratic President Roosevelt, a supposed friend of labor, sent about 4,000 troops into Minneapolis.

The National Guard set up a prison camp on the state fair grounds and patrolled the streets armed with machine guns. They arrested the socialist leaders in hopes of cutting off the union’s head, but thanks to the involvement and education of the rank and file to rely on their own independent strength, this tactic failed miserably. A new leadership was quickly elected, and the strike continued in full force.

After seven weeks, the employers finally gave in. The demands of the workers were accepted, and Minneapolis was transformed into a union town. The workers not only won their demands for decent wages and union recognition but also established new traditions of solidarity and struggle, which showed the way forward for other workers in Minneapolis and around the country.

Lessons for Today

Today we are faced with disillusionment in the union movement. Less than 13% of the workforce in the U.S. is unionized, down from 35% in 1955. In this period of economic downturn and stagnation, workers face cutbacks in wages and benefits in all sectors, and there is the constant threat of layoffs and outsourcing. Over 47 million workers make under $10 per hour, pushed into poverty by ruthless corporations like Wal-Mart.

Workers are being told to limit their demands to what corporations say they can afford in the "competitive global marketplace," and most union leaders buy into this logic. But the experience of 1934 shows that militant, class-conscious leadership, fighting for far-reaching demands that promise to transform the lives of working people, can mobilize workers’ collective strength to overcome any obstacle.

If today’s unions, potentially far more powerful than the labor movement of 1934, launched a bold struggle to organize the unorganized, to fight for a living wage for all and national healthcare, these "impossible" demands could be achieved. Like in 1934, even a few local victories can show the way forward. To quote Farrell Dobbs: "The tinder of discontent begins to pile up. Any spark can light it, and once lit, the fire can spread rapidly."

But we also need to ensure that the fire, once re-lit, does not go out again. The constant back and forth between workers and the bosses cannot be solved within the capitalist system. The only way that workers will be guaranteed security in jobs, healthcare, and living standards is by not only fighting the bosses, but their system as a whole. It is essential to connect struggles for reforms today with the broader struggle against capitalism and for democratic socialism.



Europe

 video

Video: Paul Murphy sets record straight on "legal aid", 06/05/2016

 further videos

CWI - get involved


solidarity

tamil solidarity campaign kazakhstan

featured links

Socialist Party Ireland

cwi links

Marxist.net, CWI marxist archive

cwi comment & analysis

world economic crisis

analysis and commentary


cwi publications

marxism in today's world che

Che Guevara: Símbolo de Lucha

Por Tony Saunois

A socialist world is possible, the history of the cwi with new introduction by Peter Planning green growth, a contribution to the debate on enviromental sustainability

NEWS

Greece: Bus cleaners renew strike after management’s broken promises
29/05/2016, Interview with Apostolis Kassimeris, member of Xekinima and of Executive of OASA Workers’ Union (Athens bus drivers' union) :
"Triple-oppressed workers - immigrants, women and low-paid – show way forward"

Congo: Day of Protest 26 May
28/05/2016, Per-Åke Westerlund, Jose Nsimba-Lobela and Congo Moko, Offensiv, weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
New massacres in mineral-rich region

Kazakhstan: Embassy protests in solidarity with struggle against land privatisation and for democratic rights
27/05/2016, Campaign Kazakhstan:
Soldarity actions take place internationally against Nazarbayev regime

Brazil: Mass protests against new government begin
27/05/2016, socialistworld.net:
LSR (CWI) forces participation highlighted

Solidarity: Brutal bosses attack striking Lisbon Dockers
25/05/2016, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal) reporters:
Protest and solidarity messages needed

Britain: EU referendum exposes gaping political fault-lines
24/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
New road can open up for labour movement if working class relies on its own forces

Kazakhstan: Massive police operation confronts demonstrators
23/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Nazarbayev regime faces mounting opposition

Australia: Federal election looming
21/05/2016, Editorial from May 2016 edition of ‘The Socialist’ (paper of the Socialist Party – CWI Australia) :
How should the labour and social movements respond?

Kazakhstan: Anger against Nazarbayev expressed on the streets
20/05/2016, socialistworld.net :
‘Illegal’ protests planned for Saturday 21 May

Britain: Brexit, the EU and the economy
19/05/2016, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales) :
Remain or Leave, workers must fight for socialist change

Nigeria: General strike begins
18/05/2016, HT Soweto, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria):
Determined leadership and clear strategy needed to succeed

Greece: Striking Athens bus cleaners continue their struggle
17/05/2016, Articles from Xekinima (CWI Greece) website :
Court declares strike ‘lawful’

Canada: Fire devastates Fort McMurray
16/05/2016, Bill Hopwood, Socialist Alternative (CWI Canada) Vancouver :
Capitalism equals environmental destruction

Kazakhstan: Protests erupt
12/05/2016, Sergei Skobelev, CWI Russia:
Phoney elections have not brought stability

Sweden: Successful Congress for CWI forces
12/05/2016, Kristofer Lundberg, Rättvisepartiet Socialistern:
Political foundations laid for new branches and growth in other Nordic countries

Northern Ireland: Main parties win Assembly elections…
11/05/2016, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast:
But positive moves against sectarian politics

Quebec: The fight for $15 shows true colors of Parti Québecois
10/05/2016, Bruno, Alternative Socialiste (CWI in Quebec):
No to an all-class pro-independence alliance

Britain: Elections show anger and fragmentation
10/05/2016, Hannah Sell, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party, CWI England & Wales):
Mobilise the anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement to defeat the right

Scotland: SNP win elections
09/05/2016, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
New openings for a socialist left alternative emerge

Ireland: How long can Kenny’s government last?
07/05/2016, By Kevin McLoughlin, Socialist Party (CWI in Irelnd):
Minority government supported by two main parties and “Independents” formed

Video: Paul Murphy sets record straight on "legal aid"
06/05/2016, socialistworld.net:
Socialist MP threatened with jail for protesting against water charges responds to attacks in Irish parliament

South Africa: Zuma must go!
06/05/2016, Editorial from Izwi Labasebenzi (WASP - CWI South Africa) :
Build a socialist mass workers’ party for a government of the working class

Solidarity: Portuguese dock workers’ indefinite strike
05/05/2016, Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal) Statement:
What we cannot do: leave the dockers alone

Hong Kong: Racist smear campaign against refugees
05/05/2016, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong):
Socialist Action (CWI) initiates successful anti-racist march

France: Striking workers join students and youth in mass demonstrations
04/05/2016, Naomi Byron, Paris (first published in The Socialist):
Build a general strike movement!

May Day 2016: Rallies and marches mark international workers' day
04/05/2016, socialistworld.net :
Photo gallery of CWI's global May Day participation

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Austria: Only 31,026 votes prevent far right’s Hofer becoming president
24/05/2016, Sonja Grusch, SLP (the Austrian section of the CWI):
‘Breathing space’ offers chance to build a fighting, democratic left alternative

Brazil: Fall of President Dilma Rousseff unleashes offensive against working class
19/05/2016, André Ferrari, LSR (‘Freedom, Socialism and Revolution’ - CWI Brazil):
The impeachment process and historic crisis of the PT (Workers’ Party)

Ireland: ‘Jobstown trials’ to go ahead
18/05/2016, Kieran Mahon, Anti-Austerity Alliance / Socialist Party Councillor, Dublin:
Government loses battle on water charges but wages war on Left

Saudi Arabia: Gathering storms over the House of Saud
13/05/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Collapse of oil prices expose fragile foundations of oil Gulf monarchies

France: New stage in battle over labour law
12/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Hollande’s decision to over-rule parliament provokes another round of struggle

Ireland: 100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly
12/05/2016, Three articles on Connolly’s life and ideas :
Revolutionary socialist, militant workers' leader and internationalist

Belgium: Trade unions announce new plan of action
11/05/2016, LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium) Reporters:
Call for two national demonstrations, building towards general strikes

Britain: 90th anniversary of epochal general strike
05/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) general secretary:
When workers tasted power

Israel/Palestine: The Marxist left, the national conflict and the
Palestinian struggle

29/04/2016, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
The necessity of a class approach and a socialist alternative

France: One-day strike set for 28 April
26/04/2016, Alex Rouillard, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
A final stage before indefinite action against Hollande’s government?

US: The un-Democratic Primary
22/04/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative Seattle, originally published on counterpunch.org:
Why we need new party of the 99%

Capitalism: a failing system
18/04/2016, Peter Taaffe, from May edition of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
A new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, analyses the downward course of the US economy – and the limits of the whole capitalist system

Review: ’Militant’ by Michael Crick
14/04/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary:
Lessons of Militant vital for anti-austerity struggles today

US election turmoil
01/04/2016, By Tony Saunois (CWI Secretary) who recently visited the US for meetings of Socialist Alternative:
Bernie Sanders campaign - an opportunity to build a new party of the 99%

Britain: A new moment
28/03/2016, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales), published in April 2016 issue of Socialism Today:
Extracts from a statement discussed at the Socialist Party’s recent congress

Ireland: 100th anniversary of Easter 1916 Rising
26/03/2016, Cillian Gillespie, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
A revolt against imperial power and war

History: When Khrushchev denounced Stalin
26/03/2016, Niall Mulholland, from Socialism Today (April 2016 issue of the monthly journal of Socialist Party, England & Wales):
1956 ‘secret speech’ a devastating blow to Stalinist regimes

11th CWI World Congress: World Perspectives
22/03/2016, socialistworld.net:
Amended agreed version of the World Perspectives document agreed by the CWI’s 11th World Congress

Germany: Big gains for right-wing, nationalist, AfD in state elections
22/03/2016, Sascha Stanicic, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
DIE LINKE (Left Party) urgently needs to change course

US: Sanders needs to run as an independent in November
18/03/2016, Calvin Priest, Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in USA):
Continuing the Political Revolution

European Union: Alliance with Turkey to close borders
09/03/2016, Per-Ãke Westerlund, from Offensiv - the weekly paper of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden):
Crises for refugees - and the EU – continues

Germany: Between hatred and solidarity
08/03/2016, By Sascha Stanicic, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
The situation in Germany

Turkey: No intervention in Syria! Stop the war on the Kurds!
01/03/2016, By Murat Karin, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey) and Paula Mitchell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Two articles on the current situation in Turkey and Kurdistan

US: Nevada Goes to Clinton – Sanders Looks to Super Tuesday
26/02/2016, Calvin Priest, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the USA):
Huge enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution leads to serious challenge to Hillary Clinton

Five years on from the “Arab Spring”
20/02/2016, Serge Jordan (CWI), article to be published in the March 2016 edition of Socialism Today, No.196.:
The “Arab Spring” revolutionary wave brought dictators in Tunisia and Egypt crashing down. It swept through the Middle East, inspiring workers and youth the world over. It has since ebbed, however, leaving the region wracked with war and sectarian conflict.