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latest news

Latin America
A new turn?

25/04/2015: Historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, turmoil in Venezuela, and stalled reforms in Bolivia – as well as crises in Brazil – symbolise a new turn in Latin America and the Caribbean

  Latin America

Finland
Worst ever election result for traditional Left

24/04/2015: Finns Party second biggest in parliament

  Finland

Iran
Proposed nuclear deal reflects transformed Middle East

24/04/2015: In aftermath of disastrous Iraq occupation, Obama administration balancing between region’s forces

  Iran, Middle East

Scotland
Labour face annihilation as millions seek an answer to austerity

23/04/2015: The SNP, according to the polls, will win 53 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster MPs

  Scotland

 Video
Paul Murphy speaking at anti-water charges demo in Dublin

23/04/2015: Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks at march of tens of thosuands against water charges on April 18

  Ireland Republic, Video

 Video
Interview with Jawad Ahmed, famous Pakistani singer and activist

22/04/2015: Jawad Ahmed, Singer and central committee member of International Youth and Workers Movement (IYWM) from Pakistan spoke to CWI about the work of IYWM.

  Pakistan, Video

South Africa
Organise against xenophobia – a programme for our communities

21/04/2015: Build a country-wide socialist civic movement. Fight for jobs, houses and services for all

  Africa, South Africa

 Video
TUSC 100% anti-austerity election broadcast

20/04/2015: Broadcast goes out on all 5 national terrestrial channels

  Britain, Video

Britain
Labour - party of cuts

19/04/2015: Oppose the ’logic of capitalism’

  Britain

Tunisia
After the Bardo terrorist attack

18/04/2015: New class battles loom

  Tunisia

 Video
Paul Murphy attacks bosses’ victimisation of strikers

17/04/2015: Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks in Irish Parliament

  Ireland Republic, Video

US
National day of strikes and protests for $15

17/04/2015: Snapshot of the movement – the fight for $15 in 7 major cities

  US

 Video
Kshama Sawant on Democracy Now

16/04/2015: Socialist Seattle councillor debates Hillary Clinton run for President

  US, Video

Ireland North
Hundreds protest against racist arson attack

15/04/2015: Build a united mass movement to challenge racism, sectarianism and all forms of bigotry

  Ireland North

Yemen
Brutal onslaught on country’s poor

15/04/2015: For unity of workers and poor against imperialism and sectarianism

  Yemen

Québec
A hot spring in the making?

14/04/2015: Students take strike action against austerity

  Quebec

China’s feminists
A victory for protests in China and worldwide

14/04/2015: Five women activists released in rare climb down by Beijing regime

  China

France
First one-day strike against austerity gets big response

13/04/2015: 300, 000 people marched on demonstrations across France on Thursday 9 April

  France

Australia
Budget - Who should pay for the economic crisis?

13/04/2015: Federal government preparing the ground for their second budget

  Australia

Britain
UKIP blame immigration for problems facing working class

12/04/2015: Workers’ unity to defend pay jobs and services

  Britain

Panama 2015 Trade Union and Social Alternative Summit

11/04/2015: For an end to imperialism and capitalism, long live socialist and revolutionary united solidarity in our Americas!

  Latin America

Kenya
The Garissa massacre, Al-Shabaab and US imperialism

10/04/2015: Growing regional destabilisation

  Kenya, US

US
40,000 Seattle workers get pay rise

08/04/2015: Coalition of students and workers demand $15 minimum wage at University of Washington

  US

Australia
Anti-racist protesters vastly outnumber ‘Reclaim Australia’ Melbourne rally

07/04/2015: Only ‘minority’ to blame for society’s problems is ultra-rich 1%

  Australia

Climate change
Looking for a cheap fix

06/04/2015: The cyclone that devastated the Pacific island of Vanuatu in March, the most severe ever recorded in the region, highlighted again the very likely connection between extreme weather events and global warming.

  Environment

Nigeria
Ruling party crumbles in historic election

05/04/2015: But only mass struggle can guarantee the interests of workers and poor masses under buhari’s presidency

  Nigeria

Scotland
Is the SNP: a threat to the political establishment?

04/04/2015: The SNP (Scottish National Party) looks set to win the majority of Scottish seats in the general election

  Scotland

Economy
What low oil prices cost the world economy

03/04/2015: The sudden plunge of oil and gas prices has underlined the volatility in the world capitalist economy

  World Economy

 Video
Paul Murphy speaks in support of striking workers

02/04/2015: Socialist MP challenges Labour Deputy Prime Minister in parliament

  Ireland Republic, Video

Scotland
Indefinite strike by Glasgow Council Homeless workers

01/04/2015: Workers treated unfairly by council for years

  Scotland

South Africa
Cosatu splits as ‘Vavi’ expelled

01/04/2015: Expulsion opens new chapter in working class struggle

  Africa, South Africa

Singapore
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew dies

31/03/2015: Apologist for neo-liberalism and autocracy

  Singapore

France
Elections punish Valls and Hollande

31/03/2015: Department results show need for fightback against austerity and racism

  France

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.



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NEWS

Finland: Worst ever election result for traditional Left
24/04/2015, Jonas Brännberg and Juha Tapio for CWI in Finland:
Finns Party second biggest in parliament

Scotland: Labour face annihilation as millions seek an answer to austerity
23/04/2015, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI in Scotland):
The SNP, according to the polls, will win 53 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster MPs

Video: Paul Murphy speaking at anti-water charges demo in Dublin
23/04/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks at march of tens of thosuands against water charges on April 18

Video: Interview with Jawad Ahmed, famous Pakistani singer and activist
22/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Jawad Ahmed, Singer and central committee member of International Youth and Workers Movement (IYWM) from Pakistan spoke to CWI about the work of IYWM.

South Africa: Organise against xenophobia – a programme for our communities
21/04/2015, Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) leaflet text:
Build a country-wide socialist civic movement. Fight for jobs, houses and services for all

Video: TUSC 100% anti-austerity election broadcast
20/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Broadcast goes out on all 5 national terrestrial channels

Britain: Labour - party of cuts
19/04/2015, Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Oppose the ’logic of capitalism’

Video: Paul Murphy attacks bosses’ victimisation of strikers
17/04/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks in Irish Parliament

US: National day of strikes and protests for $15
17/04/2015, Socialist Alternative (CWI in US) reporters:
Snapshot of the movement – the fight for $15 in 7 major cities

Video: Kshama Sawant on Democracy Now
16/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist Seattle councillor debates Hillary Clinton run for President

Ireland North: Hundreds protest against racist arson attack
15/04/2015, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI), Belfast:
Build a united mass movement to challenge racism, sectarianism and all forms of bigotry

Québec: A hot spring in the making?
14/04/2015, Deirdre Grégoire, Alternative Socialiste (CWI in Quebec):
Students take strike action against austerity

China’s feminists: A victory for protests in China and worldwide
14/04/2015, chinaworker.info reporters:
Five women activists released in rare climb down by Beijing regime

France: First one-day strike against austerity gets big response
13/04/2015, Report from website of Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
300, 000 people marched on demonstrations across France on Thursday 9 April

Australia: Budget - Who should pay for the economic crisis?
13/04/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in Australia) editorial:
Federal government preparing the ground for their second budget

Britain: UKIP blame immigration for problems facing working class
12/04/2015, Editorial of The Socialist (issue 851), weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Workers’ unity to defend pay jobs and services

Panama 2015 Trade Union and Social Alternative Summit
11/04/2015, The Committee for a Worker’s International, via its Venezuelan Section Socialismo Revolucionario, greets the Panama 2015 Trade Union and Social Alternative Summit.:
For an end to imperialism and capitalism, long live socialist and revolutionary united solidarity in our Americas!

Kenya: The Garissa massacre, Al-Shabaab and US imperialism
10/04/2015, Shaun Arendse, CWI South Africa:
Growing regional destabilisation

US: 40,000 Seattle workers get pay rise
08/04/2015, Kailyn Nicholson, republished from 15Now.org:
Coalition of students and workers demand $15 minimum wage at University of Washington

Scotland: Dundee porters and Glasgow council workers on indefinite strike
08/04/2015, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) Reporters:
Build solidarity now!

Australia: Anti-racist protesters vastly outnumber ‘Reclaim Australia’ Melbourne rally
07/04/2015, Socialist Party (CWI Australia) Reporters:
Only ‘minority’ to blame for society’s problems is ultra-rich 1%

Climate change: Looking for a cheap fix
06/04/2015, Pete Dickenson, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The cyclone that devastated the Pacific island of Vanuatu in March, the most severe ever recorded in the region, highlighted again the very likely connection between extreme weather events and global warming.

Nigeria: Ruling party crumbles in historic election
05/04/2015, By National Executive Committee Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM – CWI in Nigeria):
But only mass struggle can guarantee the interests of workers and poor masses under buhari’s presidency

Scotland: Is the SNP: a threat to the political establishment?
04/04/2015, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
The SNP (Scottish National Party) looks set to win the majority of Scottish seats in the general election

Video: Paul Murphy speaks in support of striking workers
02/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist MP challenges Labour Deputy Prime Minister in parliament

Australia: Counter-protests set for ’Reclaim Australia’ rallies
02/04/2015, Mel Gregson, from The Socialist (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party - CWI Australia):
Stand against racism & Islamophobia!

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Latin America: A new turn?
25/04/2015, Tony Saunois, article from May issue of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, turmoil in Venezuela, and stalled reforms in Bolivia – as well as crises in Brazil – symbolise a new turn in Latin America and the Caribbean

Iran: Proposed nuclear deal reflects transformed Middle East
24/04/2015, Robert Bechert, CWI:
In aftermath of disastrous Iraq occupation, Obama administration balancing between region’s forces

Tunisia: After the Bardo terrorist attack
18/04/2015, Serge Jordan:
New class battles loom

Yemen: Brutal onslaught on country’s poor
15/04/2015, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the CWI England & Wales):
For unity of workers and poor against imperialism and sectarianism

Economy: What low oil prices cost the world economy
03/04/2015, Lynn Walsh, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The sudden plunge of oil and gas prices has underlined the volatility in the world capitalist economy

Israel: Netanyahu mobilises far right to win election
25/03/2015, Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement, Israel-Palestine:
New coalition will face unresolved crises and bitter struggles

Italy: The instability of domestic capitalism
24/03/2015, Marco Veruggio, ControCorrente (CWI Italy):
Political vacuum pushes FIOM to take initiative

Greece: Varoufakis’ “erratic Marxism” is not the answer
23/03/2015, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
Necessary to clarify ideas upon which successful struggles of European working class will be conducted

Belgium: No agreement reached between unions and government over austerity
20/03/2015, Eric Byl, LSP/PSL (Belgian section of the CWI), Brussels:
New action plan against right wing government takes off

Ukraine: Conflict unresolved after ’Minsk-2’ agreement
18/03/2015, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
Only independent working-class mass movement can remove the region’s authoritarian rulers

Greece: Syriza’s first months in power
07/03/2015, Andreas Payiatsos, from Xekinima (newspaper of the CWI Greece):
The working class and social movements must enter the struggle for their rights

Quebec: Towards a hot spring
02/03/2015, Deirdre and Bruno, Socialist Alternative (CWI Quebec):
Disrupt them like they disrupt us!

Greece showdown
26/02/2015, Article to be published in the March issue of Socialism Today (magazine of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales):
Niall Mulholland interviewed NICOS ANASTASIADES, of Xekinima (CWI Greece), just as Syriza leaders agreed a four-month bail-out extension with the EU.

Libya: War-torn country becoming new hub for IS activities
25/02/2015, Serge Jordan (CWI):
Libyan people bearing the brunt of NATO’s fiasco

Europe: Eurozone time-bomb
25/02/2015, Lynn Walsh, article from Socialism Today (magazine of the Socialist Party of England and Wales):
Mired in recession, the eurozone is haunted by the spectre of stagnation

Greece: Syriza retreats under Troika threats
24/02/2015, Nicos Anastasiades, Xekinima (CWI Greece), Thessaloniki:
Popular mood shows anti-austerity, socialist policies would win huge support

History: The political legacy of Malcolm X
21/02/2015, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative:
50 years after his assassination

Spain: Is ‘Podemos’ the Spanish Syriza?
16/02/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Dangers of “moderation” and domestication

Egypt: Regime brutality on fourth anniversary of revolution
10/02/2015, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Masses will regain confidence and willingness to fight

Greece: Not a single step back!
08/02/2015, Statement by the Editorial Board of Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Conflict between SYRIZA government and EU escalates

Kurdistan: ‘Islamic State’ driven out of Kobanê
02/02/2015, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Will the end of Kobanê’s siege turn the tide against IS?

Greece: Why did Syriza and the KKE fail to reach agreement?
29/01/2015, Article from Xekhinima (CWI Greece) website [dated 26 January 2015] translated and slightly edited:
For socialist policies to end austerity nightmare!

Greece: Syriza comes to power, as old ruling parties collapse
27/01/2015, Niall Mulholland, socialistworld.net, interviews Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Left parties fail to form government - Syriza goes into coalition with populist right Independent Greeks

Cuba: Diplomatic relations with US restored, embargo eased
24/01/2015, Tony Saunois, CWI:
Threat of capitalist restoration accelerates