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

latest news

Latin America
The end of one cycle and the beginning of another

17/12/2014: Document on Latin America, agreed by CWI International Executive Committee

  Latin America

Taiwan
Kuomintang’s landslide election defeat redraws the political map

17/12/2014: Taiwan’s ‘Sunflower Movement’ and democracy protests in Hong Kong fuel massive rejection of ruling party

  Taiwan

 World Perspectives
A turbulent period in history

15/12/2014: Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

  CWI

Ireland
Mass water charges protest on 10 December

15/12/2014: Dublin City centre came to a standstill as different marches made their way to the Dáil

  Ireland Republic

Sweden
Political crisis and new elections

15/12/2014: Right-wing alliance relied on racist party to defeat budget

  Sweden

Greece
Government brings forward presidential election

12/12/2014: Kick out the austerity government and Troika! For a Syriza government with bold socialist policies!

  Greece

Sri Lanka
Presidential Election January 8, 2015

11/12/2014: Socialist candidate challenges all other forces

  Sri Lanka

 Video
Paul Murphy speaks at mass Dublin water charges protest

11/12/2014: For a new political movement to bring the "mob" to power

  Ireland Republic, Video

Greece
Violent clashes over prisoner hunger strike

09/12/2014: Cruel and vengeful actions by the State and ruling elite

  Greece

 Video
All out on 10 December against water charges!

09/12/2014: Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger speak in Irish parliament

  Ireland Republic, Video

Australia
Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road

08/12/2014: Socialist Party leads successful campaign against Toll Road and for investment in public transport

  Australia

US
An Uprising Against Police Violence

08/12/2014: From Ferguson to Staten Island

  US

Philippines
‘Economic miracle’ – a neo-liberal nightmare for the masses

30/11/2014: Forced evictions, poverty wages and repression is the reality for millions

  Philippines

 World Perspectives
A turbulent period in history

27/11/2014: Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

  CWI

Britain
Right wing, populist UKIP wins second Parliament seat

26/11/2014: Labour’s pro-austerity ‘opposition’ no alternative

  Britain

South Africa
Metalworkers’ union expelled from COSATU

25/11/2014: Rebuild the trade union movement on socialist principles!

  Africa, South Africa

Catalonia
9 November “consultation” on independence

22/11/2014: Another show of strength for independence - fight for a Socialist Catalonia

  Spain

Greece
Workers’ victory at Diamant telesales company

21/11/2014: Xekinima (CWI) member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

  Greece

Israel-Palestine
Netanyahu threatens “heavy hand” response to synagogue attacks

19/11/2014: New rounds of repression answered by new wave of rage and protest

  Israel / Palestine

US
Mid-term elections do not mean a turn to the right in society

19/11/2014: Big Gains for Republicans while Voters Support Progressive Ballot Measures

  US

 Video
Socialist TD defends anti-water charges protests

18/11/2014: Ruth Coppinger, Socialist Party TD (MP) appears on ‘Prime Time’

  Ireland Republic, Video

Vital lessons of Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’

18/11/2014: Mass struggle needs genuine internal democracy and fighting working class programme to defeat dictatorship

  Hong Kong

 Video
Water tax revolt continues in Ireland

17/11/2014: Tanaiste (Deputy PM) trapped by protestors; AAA TD (MP) and Socialist Party member, Paul Murphy, assaulted

  Ireland Republic, Video

Indonesia
"New Hope" president faces intense pressures

16/11/2014: Initiative to build mass party of working class and rural poor urgently needed

  Indonesia

Ukraine
Competing ’elections’ deepen divisions

15/11/2014: Working people need socialist alternative to warring oligarchs and outside powers

  Ukraine

Scotland
SNP government announces £500 million cuts

14/11/2014: Majority of ‘Yes’ voters want end to austerity - anti-cuts candidates needed!

  Scotland

Afghanistan
British combat troops pull out

13/11/2014: A legacy of death and destruction

  Afghanistan, Britain, US

 Germany
Highly politicised train drivers’ strike

12/11/2014: Last week German train drivers and on-board staff went on strike for four days, shaking and polarising the country

  Germany, Solidarity

Greece
Mayors refuse to make job cuts

12/11/2014: Lefts, local authority workers and communities’ united can resist Troika’s policies

  Greece

Britain
Over 1,000 attend largest ever ‘Socialism’ event

11/11/2014: Socialism 2014 - infused with contagious confidence

  Britain

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 speaks at mass Dublin water charges protest, 11/12/2014

 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

Taiwan : Kuomintang’s landslide election defeat redraws the political map
17/12/2014, Vincent Kolo and CWI Taiwan reporters:
Taiwan’s ‘Sunflower Movement’ and democracy protests in Hong Kong fuel massive rejection of ruling party

Italy: Mass support for general strike expresses anger at PD government
15/12/2014, Chris Thomas, ControCorrente (CWI Italy):
New political voice vitally needed

Ireland: Mass water charges protest on 10 December
15/12/2014, Cillian Gillespie, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Dublin City centre came to a standstill as different marches made their way to the Dáil

Sweden: Political crisis and new elections
15/12/2014, From articles in Offensiv, weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
Right-wing alliance relied on racist party to defeat budget

Greece: Government brings forward presidential election
12/12/2014, Slightly edited article from the current issue of Xekinima newspaper (CWI in Greece):
Kick out the austerity government and Troika! For a Syriza government with bold socialist policies!

Video: Paul Murphy speaks at mass Dublin water charges protest
11/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
For a new political movement to bring the "mob" to power

Greece: Violent clashes over prisoner hunger strike
09/12/2014, Xekinima Reporters:
Cruel and vengeful actions by the State and ruling elite

Video: All out on 10 December against water charges!
09/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger speak in Irish parliament

US: An Uprising Against Police Violence
08/12/2014, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative:
From Ferguson to Staten Island

Mexico: Anger grows over missing Mexican students
04/12/2014, Led by the families of the 43 students who disappeared two months ago, thousands of protesters marched through Mexico City on 20 November to demand answers and action from the government.:
Dave Carr

Philippines: ‘Economic miracle’ – a neo-liberal nightmare for the masses
30/11/2014, By a CWI correspondent in Philippines:
Forced evictions, poverty wages and repression is the reality for millions

Britain: Right wing, populist UKIP wins second Parliament seat
26/11/2014, Editorial from The Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (England & Wales):
Labour’s pro-austerity ‘opposition’ no alternative

South Africa: Metalworkers’ union expelled from COSATU
25/11/2014, WASP Reporters:
Rebuild the trade union movement on socialist principles!

Catalonia: 9 November “consultation” on independence
22/11/2014, Rob MacDonald Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) Barcelona:
Another show of strength for independence - fight for a Socialist Catalonia

Greece: Workers’ victory at Diamant telesales company
21/11/2014, Xekinima Reporters:
Xekinima (CWI) member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

Video: Joe Higgins denounces Irish government’s water charge trickery
20/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Mass boycott will defeat water charges

US: Mid-term elections do not mean a turn to the right in society
19/11/2014, Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative:
Big Gains for Republicans while Voters Support Progressive Ballot Measures

Video: Socialist TD defends anti-water charges protests
18/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Ruth Coppinger, Socialist Party TD (MP) appears on ‘Prime Time’

Venezuela: Scarcity and speculation - whose fault is it?
18/11/2014, Gabriela Sánchez. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Venezuela):
Who is sabotaging who?

Vital lessons of Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’
18/11/2014, chinaworker.info:
Mass struggle needs genuine internal democracy and fighting working class programme to defeat dictatorship

Video: Water tax revolt continues in Ireland
17/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Tanaiste (Deputy PM) trapped by protestors; AAA TD (MP) and Socialist Party member, Paul Murphy, assaulted

Indonesia: "New Hope" president faces intense pressures
16/11/2014, Iyan, CWI Malaysia:
Initiative to build mass party of working class and rural poor urgently needed

Scotland: SNP government announces £500 million cuts
14/11/2014, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
Majority of ‘Yes’ voters want end to austerity - anti-cuts candidates needed!

Afghanistan: British combat troops pull out
13/11/2014, Niall Mulholland, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
A legacy of death and destruction

Germany: Highly politicised train drivers’ strike
12/11/2014, Sascha Stanicic, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Last week German train drivers and on-board staff went on strike for four days, shaking and polarising the country

Greece: Mayors refuse to make job cuts
12/11/2014, Eleni Mitsou, Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Lefts, local authority workers and communities’ united can resist Troika’s policies

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Latin America: The end of one cycle and the beginning of another
17/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Document on Latin America, agreed by CWI International Executive Committee

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
15/12/2014, CWI International Executive Committee:
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Sri Lanka: Presidential Election January 8, 2015
11/12/2014, Interview with Siritunga Jayasuriya, USP (CWI Sri Lanka):
Socialist candidate challenges all other forces

Australia: Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road
08/12/2014, By Socialist Party (CWI Australia) reporters, Melbourne:
Socialist Party leads successful campaign against Toll Road and for investment in public transport

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
27/11/2014, International Secretariat of the CWI :
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Ireland: Lies and distortions against community protests, the AAA and the Socialist Party
21/11/2014, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) reporters:
Government and Water Charges completely undermined

Israel-Palestine: Netanyahu threatens “heavy hand” response to synagogue attacks
19/11/2014, Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (SSM):
New rounds of repression answered by new wave of rage and protest

Ukraine: Competing ’elections’ deepen divisions
15/11/2014, Rob Jones, CWI Moscow:
Working people need socialist alternative to warring oligarchs and outside powers

Northern Ireland: 20 years after the ceasefires
10/11/2014, Ciaran Mulholland, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
In 1994, the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries called ceasefires. Four years later the Good Friday agreement was declared to mark the end of the ‘Troubles’…

Germany: 25 years since November 9
09/11/2014, By Robert Bechert, CWI, who was living in Berlin in 1989:
Berlin Wall brought down by mass revolutionary movement

Elections in Brazil
07/11/2014, Andre Ferrari, LSR (CWI in Brazil):
Narrow win for Dilma sets scene for more crisis and instability

Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2014, Clare Doyle, CWI:
November 7th anniversary of workers taking power

Ireland: Stunning Dublin by-election victory, huge water protests…new chapter for working class resistance
04/11/2014, Kevin McLoughlin, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
How the Anti Austerity Alliance won a parliamentary seat and the way forward for the Left

Kurdistan: Battle for Kobanê at a crossroads
31/10/2014, Serge Jordan, CWI:
What does US military ‘assistance’ mean for the Kurdish struggle?

A ‘third industrial revolution’
28/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
New technological innovations are having a huge impact on the capitalist system, a subject explored in a new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

Britain: Anniversary of first issue of Militant newspaper
24/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, from this week’s Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
50 years of socialist ideas and workers’ struggle

Spain: Death knells of "Transition" regime
23/10/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Catalonia; ’Podemos’, and the left

Kazakhstan: Brutal repression in imperialism’s interests
20/10/2014, Mike Whale, Secretary of Campaign Kazakhstan (first published in October 2014 issue of Socialism Today):
Workers pay the price for crony capitalism

Is the US promoting a “colour revolution” in Hong Kong?
18/10/2014, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong):
Beijing’s scare propaganda doesn’t stand up to examination

Britain: Workers need a pay rise - how can we pay for it?
17/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
End poverty, inequality and capitalism

Ireland: Byelection triumph marks turning point in anti-austerity struggle
14/10/2014, Eddie McCabe, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Paul Murphy wins parliamentary seat as 100,000 march against water charges

Middle East: US-led policy of air attacks on Islamic State lies in ruins
13/10/2014, Tony Saunois, CWI:
As battle for Kobane rages, IS forces make major gains in Iraq

Ireland: Paul Murphy elected to Irish parliament in stunning byelection victory
12/10/2014, socialistworld.net:
Anti-Austerity Alliance victory shocks political establishment, reflects mass revolt against water charges and austerity

South Africa: "A workers’ party must emerge"
11/10/2014, John Malanga, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI South Africa):
Dire position of South African capitalism and inequality adds momentum towards creation of workers’ party

Israel/Palestine: After the Gaza war
07/10/2014, Shahar Benhorin, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
No justice for Palestinians and no peace for the region - For a socialist solution!