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latest news

New Zealand
Victory over zero-contract hours

24/05/2015: ‘Cotton On’ clothes retailer workers defeat attempt to remove rest and meal breaks

  New Zealand

Iraq/Syria
ISIS rout national armies at Ramadi and Palmyra

23/05/2015: United working class movement needed to sweep away sectarian militias and reactionary politicians

  Iraq, Syria

Britain
Labour leadership contest - appealing to big business

22/05/2015: The Labour leadership contest begs the question: what is the point of the Labour Party?

  Britain

Ireland North
Election marks growing rejection of sectarian status quo

21/05/2015: Opportunities to build new anti-sectarian political voice for working class and youth

  Ireland Republic

Spain
Is Podemos in crisis?

20/05/2015: Left and social movements in a state of flux, as key elections loom

  Spain

Britain
Build a movement to defeat Tories’ cuts savagery

20/05/2015: For massive union demonstrations, linked to a 24-hour general strike

  Britain

Ireland South
Vote ‘Yes’ to marriage equality!

19/05/2015: Referendum a product of long-waged campaign of struggle from below

  Ireland Republic

Greece
Subordination to Troika or rupture with austerity?

18/05/2015: The choices before the Greek working class

  Greece

North Cyprus
‘Moderate leftist’ wins presidential election on peace ticket

16/05/2015: Workers’ common front, north and south, can find solution to island’s division

  Cyprus

Chile
Huge demonstrations call for free education

15/05/2015: New chapter opens in country’s political and ‘moral’ crisis

  Chile

Australia
East-West toll road dispute concluded

15/05/2015: Local community direct action secures victory

  Australia

Ireland
Parliament suspended after PM tells Socialist MPs “where to go”

14/05/2015: Contemptuous remarks reflect government concerns over non-payment of water charges

  Ireland Republic

Britain
Organising against Tory austerity starts now

14/05/2015: Potential for industrial response to cuts but needs determined leadership and campaigning

  Britain

 Video
Joe Higgins TD questions former ECB president Jean Claude Trichet

13/05/2015: "When bankers and bondholders’ gambles crashed, their massive burden of private debt was placed onto the shoulders of the Irish people"

  Ireland Republic, Video

Sudan
Mass apathy towards elections

12/05/2015: Renewed struggle from below needed to put an end to Bashir’s rule

  Sudan

USA
Presidential candidate declares "political revolution" against billionaires

12/05/2015: Campaign needs to build independent political power

  US

Britain
Fight against "five more damned years" of Tory rule

12/05/2015: Labour leader’s ’responsible capitalism’ shows its bankruptcy

  Britain

China
“In a hard landing now”

11/05/2015: Stock market frenzy and fabricated GDP figures cannot hide the reality of an economy in deep trouble

  China

Scotland
Labour annihilated

11/05/2015: SNP sweeps to victory by posing as an anti-austerity alternative

  Scotland

Britain
With the votes of 24% of the electorate, Tories have no mandate for more savage cuts

11/05/2015: Labour’s failure puts centre stage the need for new mass anti-austerity force

  Britain

Poland
65,000 workers demonstrate against governments’ policies

07/05/2015: Plan of action for a general strike needed

  Poland

Ireland North
Socialist Party replies to leading Sinn Fein councillor’s attacks

06/05/2015: How to fight cuts, sectarianism and to build workers’ unity

  Ireland North

Britain
Russell Brand mistaken to sow illusions in Labour

06/05/2015: Russell Brand calls on people to elect a Labour government, saying Ed Miliband will ’listen’ and wants pressure from below

  Britain

May Day 2015
International workers’ day marked by marches and rallies

05/05/2015: Photo gallery of the CWI taking part in May Day event across the world

  May Day

Iceland
Fighting for better wages

05/05/2015: General strike called for 26 May

  Iceland

May Day 2015
Socialist plan or capitalist chaos

01/05/2015: What sort of new society are we struggling for?

  May Day

Nepal
Disaster in Nepal –amplified by capitalism

30/04/2015: Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the south Asian region has been further devastated by the recent earthquake.

  Nepal

US
Rage in Baltimore

29/04/2015: The aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death

  US

Book review
’No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance state’

29/04/2015: What the 1% will do to defend their class interests

  Review, US

 May Day 2015
Resisting austerity, exploitation, wars and oppression

28/04/2015: 125 years since first May Day – Build a united workers’ movement for socialism!

  CWI, May Day

Italy
Migrant disasters - the human cost of budget cuts

27/04/2015: From Mare Nostrum to Triton

  Italy

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

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

New Zealand: Victory over zero-contract hours
24/05/2015, Joe Kelly, CWI NZ/Aotearoa:
‘Cotton On’ clothes retailer workers defeat attempt to remove rest and meal breaks

Britain: Labour leadership contest - appealing to big business
22/05/2015, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The Labour leadership contest begs the question: what is the point of the Labour Party?

Britain: Build a movement to defeat Tories’ cuts savagery
20/05/2015, Editorial from The Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
For massive union demonstrations, linked to a 24-hour general strike

Ireland South: Vote ‘Yes’ to marriage equality!
19/05/2015, From the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) website:
Referendum a product of long-waged campaign of struggle from below

Greece: Subordination to Troika or rupture with austerity?
18/05/2015, Editorial from Xekinima (no. 410, 6-20 May 2015), fortnightly newspaper of CWI Greece:
The choices before the Greek working class

Pakistan: Jawad Ahmad speaking at May Day rally held by International Youth and Workers Movement
18/05/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Video of May Day Rally and concert in Lahore

North Cyprus: ‘Moderate leftist’ wins presidential election on peace ticket
16/05/2015, Athina Kariati, New Internationalist Left (CWI in Cyprus):
Workers’ common front, north and south, can find solution to island’s division

Chile: Huge demonstrations call for free education
15/05/2015, Patricio Guzman, Socialismo Revolcuionario (CWI in Chile):
New chapter opens in country’s political and ‘moral’ crisis

Australia: East-West toll road dispute concluded
15/05/2015, Socialist Party (CWI Australia) Reporters:
Local community direct action secures victory

Ireland: Parliament suspended after PM tells Socialist MPs “where to go”
14/05/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Contemptuous remarks reflect government concerns over non-payment of water charges

Britain: Organising against Tory austerity starts now
14/05/2015, John McInally, Public and Commercial Services Union national Vice-President (personal capacity), from the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) website:
Potential for industrial response to cuts but needs determined leadership and campaigning

Video: Joe Higgins TD questions former ECB president Jean Claude Trichet
13/05/2015, Socialistworld.net:
"When bankers and bondholders’ gambles crashed, their massive burden of private debt was placed onto the shoulders of the Irish people"

Sudan: Mass apathy towards elections
12/05/2015, Sudanese CWI supporter:
Renewed struggle from below needed to put an end to Bashir’s rule

Scotland: Labour annihilated
11/05/2015, :
SNP sweeps to victory by posing as an anti-austerity alternative

Britain: With the votes of 24% of the electorate, Tories have no mandate for more savage cuts
11/05/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Labour’s failure puts centre stage the need for new mass anti-austerity force

Poland: 65,000 workers demonstrate against governments’ policies
07/05/2015, Alternatywa Socjalistyczna (CWI Poland) Reporters:
Plan of action for a general strike needed

Britain: Russell Brand mistaken to sow illusions in Labour
06/05/2015, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Russell Brand calls on people to elect a Labour government, saying Ed Miliband will ’listen’ and wants pressure from below

May Day 2015: International workers’ day marked by marches and rallies
05/05/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Photo gallery of the CWI taking part in May Day event across the world

Iceland: Fighting for better wages
05/05/2015, Per-Åke Westerlund, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
General strike called for 26 May

US: Rage in Baltimore
29/04/2015, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative, New York:
The aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death

Book review: ’No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance state’
29/04/2015, Reviewed by Tony Saunois, CWI:
What the 1% will do to defend their class interests

Kazakhstan: Presidential ‘election’ - Nazarbayev’s overwhelming victory no surprise
28/04/2015, Elizabeth Clarke, CWI:
Workers need to build mass opposition

Ireland North: Health Minister forced to resign after making homophobic remarks
27/04/2015, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
LGBT and women’s rights campaigners boosted

Italy: Migrant disasters - the human cost of budget cuts
27/04/2015, From web-site of ControCorrente (CWI in Italy):
From Mare Nostrum to Triton

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

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Iraq/Syria: ISIS rout national armies at Ramadi and Palmyra
23/05/2015, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
United working class movement needed to sweep away sectarian militias and reactionary politicians

Ireland North: Election marks growing rejection of sectarian status quo
21/05/2015, Daniel Waldron and Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast:
Opportunities to build new anti-sectarian political voice for working class and youth

Spain: Is Podemos in crisis?
20/05/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Left and social movements in a state of flux, as key elections loom

USA: Presidential candidate declares "political revolution" against billionaires
12/05/2015, Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative, Seattle:
Campaign needs to build independent political power

Britain: Fight against "five more damned years" of Tory rule
12/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party )CWI England & Wales) General Secretary:
Labour leader’s ’responsible capitalism’ shows its bankruptcy

China: “In a hard landing now”
11/05/2015, Dikang, chinaworker.info:
Stock market frenzy and fabricated GDP figures cannot hide the reality of an economy in deep trouble

Ireland North: Socialist Party replies to leading Sinn Fein councillor’s attacks
06/05/2015, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) Statement:
How to fight cuts, sectarianism and to build workers’ unity

May Day 2015: Socialist plan or capitalist chaos
01/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party General Secretary, (CWI England & Wales):
What sort of new society are we struggling for?

Nepal: Disaster in Nepal –amplified by capitalism
30/04/2015, TU Senan, CWI:
Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the south Asian region has been further devastated by the recent earthquake.

May Day 2015: Resisting austerity, exploitation, wars and oppression
28/04/2015, CWI:
125 years since first May Day – Build a united workers’ movement for socialism!

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