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Germany
‘Brexit’ and the German Left

30/07/2016: Reject the bosses’ EU! For a Europe of working people - a voluntary socialist federation

  Germany

US
Most contentious Democratic Convention since 1968

29/07/2016: We need a new party of the 99% to defeat the billionaire class

  US

 Cameroon
Free jailed Buea activists!

28/07/2016: 100 protest outside the court demanding release of the 15

  Cameroon, Solidarity

Cote d’Ivoire
Protests against electricity prices

28/07/2016: The straw that broke the camel’s back!

  Ivory Coast

US
A call to action

27/07/2016: Walk out from the Democratic National Convention!

  US

Chile
One million protest against private pension fund

26/07/2016: After student protests, working class returns to streets

  Chile

 CWI Summer School
Europe in the aftermath of the Brexit shock

26/07/2016: Continent enters new phase of political and economic crises

  CWI

Britain
Westminster renews Trident weapons of mass destruction

25/07/2016: Debate exposes Labour as two parties

  Britain

Belgium
Brutal repression against Hong Kong socialist at Brussels Airport

18/07/2016: Chinese methods against Marxists copied by Belgian authorities

  Belgium

Turkey
Attempted coup failed

16/07/2016: No to military rule, no to Erdogan’s rule! For a workers’ alternative!

  Turkey

France
In the face of terror in Nice we will not be intimidated !

16/07/2016: No to hatred, suspicion and racism : don’t let us be divided !

  France

US
Bernie Abandons 'the Revolution’

14/07/2016: Time to back Green candidate Jill Stein

  US

Spain
Disappointment for Left in re-run elections

12/07/2016: Mass mobilisation and struggle necessary for real change

  Spain

Greece
Rise in support for Grexit; fall in support for SYRIZA

11/07/2016: Highest levels recorded against Eurozone and EU membership following Brexit

  Greece

China’s economy
‘Dead panda bounce’

10/07/2016: Has China’s economy turned a corner?

  China

Egypt
Third anniversary of coming to power of military regime

09/07/2016: Rebuilding Workers’ and youth struggles

  Egypt

Britain
Chilcot's damning findings on Iraq war

08/07/2016: More piles of evidence against the blood-soaked war for oil

  Britain

Australia
Close election result - A crisis for the establishment

08/07/2016: To fight anti-working class measures, we must build a socialist alternative

  Australia

Austria
Presidential elections re-run

08/07/2016: Court order to re-run elections sends shockwaves through establishment

  Austria

Netherlands
After Brexit, are we heading towards ‘Nexit’?

07/07/2016: Right populist Geert Wilders promises: “Our turn is next”

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History
1936 - Spain’s revolutionary promise

06/07/2016: Working class and peasants rose up against capitalist exploitation, poverty and fascism

  Spain

Britain
Stand firm and organise against the Blairite coup

06/07/2016: No compromise possible in Labour’s civil war

  Britain

 Video
#KeepCorbyn solidarity from Irish parliament

06/07/2016: Socialist MPs - Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy - speak in support of Jeremy Corbyn against Blairite coup in Irish parliament

  Britain, Video

Turkey
Terrorist attack at İstanbul Atatürk Airport kills dozens

01/07/2016: No to war and terror! Yes to workers’ unity and solidarity!

  Turkey

Iran
Gold Miners Lashed, jailed workers on hunger strike

01/07/2016: Iranian workers need solidarity

  Iran

US
Beyond Bernie

01/07/2016: Still not with her

  US

 Video
Defend Jeremy Corbyn

30/06/2016: Fight the Blairite coup

  Britain, Video

Britain
Blairite coup against Jeremy Corbyn

29/06/2016: Defend anti-austerity struggle

  Britain

Mexico
Teachers continue strike despite extreme repression

28/06/2016: Working people in Mexico need fighting unions, an independent left party, and socialism

  Mexico

Britain
Referendum revolt

27/06/2016: Capitalist establishment shattered

  Britain

Scotland
After Brexit, SNP government threaten second Indy referendum

27/06/2016: Leave vote higher than average in many working class areas

  Scotland

History

Northern Ireland - 1907 Dockers and Carters’ strike

www.socialistworld.net, 11/05/2007
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Belfast workers in revolt

Peter Hadden, Socialist Party, Belfast, Northern Ireland

THIS YEAR the working class of Northern Ireland can celebrate one of the proudest moments in its history. One hundred years ago the city of Belfast was gripped by a revolt of the low paid and the exploited. For three months in the summer of 1907 the working class communities across the city stood firm and united in support of the historic strike by dockers and carters.

ALTHOUGH THE numbers directly involved in this dispute were not large - at the high point of the struggle in July just over 2,300 workers were on strike or had been locked out - the dispute galvanised the working class of the city, Catholic and Protestant, in active support. This was vividly demonstrated on 26 July when a massive 100,000 strong demonstration wove its way around the city, ending with a huge support rally at the City Hall.

The discontent which erupted in 1907 had been simmering for some time. Rapid industrialisation saw Belfast grow faster than any other city in Britain in the second half of the 19th century. By the turn of the century it was - by some way - the pre-dominant industrial centre in Ireland.

Growth of the shipyards, of heavy industry, of the linen mills and the huge expansion in trade created enormous wealth - but not for the army of unskilled and semi skilled workers who slaved to keep the looms and presses turning and who moved the raw materials and finished goods in and out of the city.

Trade unions at this time were overwhelmingly confined to skilled workers, those employed in the various trades, and were mostly organised along craft lines. Belfast had been affected by the wave of strikes in Britain in the 1880s and 1890s that led to the building of general unions for the unskilled and semi skilled, but not to the same extent as in other cities.

1907 marked the real birth of this "New Unionism" in Ireland. The Belfast strike and lock out prefaced the bitter struggle by the unskilled for union rights that culminated - in its first phase at least - in the 1913 Dublin lock out.

Two thirds of the city’s 3,000 dockers were hourly paid casual workers. The majority of the 1,500 carters worked either for a handful of shipping companies or else for small carting companies, mostly for pitiful wages.

Larkin’s arrival in Belfast at the start of 1907 as an organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) provided a catalyst allowing the anger at these conditions to surface. Very quickly he succeeded in recruiting Belfast dockers and setting up a local NUDL branch. The employers too were organised in their own bodies and were determined to resist unionisation and the disease that would become known as "Larkinism". Class lines were being clearly drawn.

At the end of April there was a dress rehearsal for the mightier battle to come when Samuel Kelly’s coal merchants locked out 400 workers declaring that "a union should not embrace such a class of employment." Although scabs were brought in from England, Larkin this time succeeded in resolving the dispute, winning reinstatement and union recognition.

The next dispute, which began just a few days later on 6 May, was not so easily resolved. 70 casual dockers working for the Belfast Steamship Company walked out, refusing to work with two non-union men. The Company Chairman, Thomas Gallagher, owner of Gallagher’s tobacco factory, sacked the strikers along with another 90 permanent dockers. Scabs were again brought in. The strike and lockout had begun in earnest.

Strike spreads

Although most of the workers involved at this stage - and in the earlier Kelly’s dispute - were Protestants, Larkin’s leadership position was accepted without difficulty, despite the fact that he was a Catholic. His response to the lockout imposed by Thomas Gallagher was to go on the offensive, mobilising support for the workers and attempting to spread the dispute. On 16 May 1,000 women workers walked out of Gallagher’s Tobacco plant although the strike quickly crumbled and they went back to work after a day.

Meanwhile nightly meetings were held in the docks, mass pickets were organised and street collections held to raise funds to maintain the dispute. Thousands became involved in this support activity.

As the dispute dragged on through June, dockers working for other companies began to raise their own demands mainly on wages with their employers. Larkin seized the opportunity to broaden the dispute by demanding wage increases from all the cross channel shipping companies and threatening to bring the whole docks to a standstill if they didn’t comply.

The dispute escalated sharply from this point. On 26 June 300 dockers working for a number of cross channel companies, most of them owned by the big British railway magnates, came out. At the same time the employers, rather than cave in, met in the chamber of commerce to form an Employers’ Protection Association. More scabs were brought in, some from Dublin and other ports in Ireland.

The next day 129 carters in two local firms came out in sympathy, but also with their own demands. A meeting of almost 1,000 carters decided to black the Belfast Steamship Company and the cross channel companies whose dockers had walked out. Larkin went further - on 3 July he threatened a general strike in the port.

The response of the employers was to significantly up the ante - the following day the Master Carters Association joined the fray by locking out 800 carters. Then, on 15 July, there was a further escalation when coal firms locked out a further 880 carters.

In the first weeks of the dispute the strike meetings, pickets and other activity were mainly confined to the docks area. With the involvement of the carters the focus of the dispute changed abruptly. The scabs who had been brought in to replace the locked out carters had to drive through the city and immediately became a target for the strikers and their supporters.

What then developed was an early example of "flying pickets". Pickets went from area to area to try to physically block the vans. Confrontations took place all over the city. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, gathered to confront and physically block the scabs.

The state - which is a class society is never neutral but in the last analysis will come down on the side of the ruling class - intervened on the side of the employers. Police were used round the clock to escort the scab vans.

Workers’ unity

Larkin and other leaders such as Alex Boyd, head of the Municipal Workers’ Union and also a prominent member of the Independent Orange Order, understood the need to build on the support that existed in the working class communities. They organised nightly meetings in working class districts all over the city. Thousands turned out to show their support.

With class issues to the fore across the city, the old sectarian divisions that had kept working class people apart began to soften and diminish. On 12 July the strike meetings were "suspended for one day" to make way for the Orange Order annual celebrations.

A request that a collection for the strike fund be held during their parade was turned down by the bigwigs at the head of the Orange Order. The breakaway Independent Orange Order, which had started out as an even more hard line Protestant organisation, but which had a working class leadership some of whom were heavily involved in the strike, did, however, take up a collection. They also passed an unusual resolution for a 12 July parade condemning employers who did not recognise trade unions.

With the momentum of the dispute developing, pressure was really starting to mount on the employers. Ewarts mill had to lay off workers because they could not get grain. Coal supplies to industry began to dry up as the impact of the lockout of the coal carters began to bite. Linen bosses across the city were facing the prospect of a general closure. Meanwhile an unrelated dispute involving ironmongers was forcing mass layoffs in the huge Harland & Wolfe shipyard. The dispute was rapidly escalating towards an all out confrontation between the forces of Capital and Labour across the city.

Then, in one of the most dramatic and historically significant developments of the dispute, the infectious "contagion" of Larkinism spread to the police. At the time of the carters’ lock out Larkin had made an appeal to the police by referring to the long hours they were forced to work escorting scabs for "not a penny extra".

A few days later one RIC officer, Constable Barrett, refused to escort a scab carter. He was suspended but managed to call two meetings in Musgrave Street Barracks which around 800 of the 1,000 strong RIC force attended. Demands were drawn up on pay and pensions and presented as an ultimatum to the senior officers. But instead of coming out on strike immediately the potential mutineers gave the RIC chiefs a ultimatum - either meet their demands by 6 August or they would strike.

At this point an historic victory was in sight for the strikers. Much of industry in Belfast was about to grind to a halt, with an overstretched and now mutinous police force unable - or unwilling - to protect the scabs. With workers in Britain blacking goods from Belfast the ruling class faced the possibility that the turmoil in Belfast could spread.

Rotten role of national union leaders

What stood in the way of escalation and likely victory was the cautious role played by the national trade union leadership. Obviously concerned at the potentially revolutionary implications of what was happening in Belfast, NUDL leader James Sexton came over from Liverpool to intervene. He arrived on 19 July along with two leaders of the General Federation of Trade Unions. Their aim, as was recorded at a GFTU meeting, was to "promote industrial peace".

Sexton opened negotiations with the coal merchants over the head of Larkin and the local leaders. He reached a rotten deal whereby the locked out coal carters would be taken back but would have to work alongside non-union labour. There was opposition on the strike committee to this deal but, nonetheless, the coal carters went back to work on 26 July. The Ironmongers dispute was also settled with union leaders pressurising reluctant workers to return to work.

This was a turning point in the dispute. The relentless pressure that had been building on the employers was eased as coal supplies to the factories of the city were restored.

This return to work came just as the dispute had reached its high point. Ironically the coal carters went back to work just as the massive 100,000 strong support demonstration organised under the banner of the Trades Council was about to take place.

The weakening of the strike, courtesy of Sexton and the GFTU leaders, allowed the employers and the establishment to take the offensive. The heads of the RIC took pre-emptive action ahead of the strike deadline set by the police meetings to crush this mutiny. Barrett was kicked out of the force and a quarter of the Belfast RIC were transferred out of the city.

1,200 extra troops were brought in at the end of July to take their place bringing total troop numbers up to around 6,000 and a military clampdown was instituted across the city. Efforts were also made to whip up sectarian division. The Belfast Telegraph issued black propaganda claiming the strike committee was favouring Catholics, making it more difficult for Protestants to get strike pay - a charge that was answered by Larkin and the strike committee.

The heavy troop presence led to riots, mainly in Catholic areas. West Belfast was saturated with troops. In one incident on 12 August, troops opened fire indiscriminately on a crowd during extensive riots in the Falls Road area. Two people were shot dead. There was a danger incidents like this could provoke a sectarian backlash.

The strike leaders, rather than fold their arms in the face of the threat of sectarian division, took the offensive. The strike committee issued hand bills which appealed to workers to stand firm against sectarianism: "Not as Catholics or Protestants, as Nationalists or Unionists, but as Belfast men and workers stand together and don’t be misled by the employers’ game of dividing Catholic and Protestant."

By and large the intervention of the strike leaders prevented sectarian violence from developing and workers across the city stood together in condemning these killings.

However the momentum of the strike was clearly waning. An agreement reached with the Master Carters’ Association was accepted by a mass meeting of the locked out carters on 15 August. There was to be a wage increase but crucially the employers retained the right to employ non-union labour.

This left the original strikers, employed by Gallagher and the English railway magnates, isolated. Over the course of the next weeks they were starved back more or less on the employers’ terms. The strike was defeated but it left a never to be forgotten legacy of working class unity and of militant struggle. n



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NEWS

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29/07/2016, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative (US):
We need a new party of the 99% to defeat the billionaire class

Cameroon: Free jailed Buea activists!
28/07/2016, CWI reporters:
100 protest outside the court demanding release of the 15

Cote d’Ivoire: Protests against electricity prices
28/07/2016, CWI in Cote d’Ivoire:
The straw that broke the camel’s back!

Britain: No compromise with Labour right wing
28/07/2016, Editorial of the Socialist, newspaper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
#Keep Corbyn

Chile: One million protest against private pension fund
26/07/2016, Celso Calfullan and Patricio Guzman Socialism Revolucionario (CIT/CWI Chile):
After student protests, working class returns to streets

Britain: Westminster renews Trident weapons of mass destruction
25/07/2016, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) Reporters:
Debate exposes Labour as two parties

Belgium: Brutal repression against Hong Kong socialist at Brussels Airport
18/07/2016, CWI reporters :
Chinese methods against Marxists copied by Belgian authorities

Turkey: Attempted coup failed
16/07/2016, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey) :
No to military rule, no to Erdogan’s rule! For a workers’ alternative!

France: In the face of terror in Nice we will not be intimidated !
16/07/2016, Statement by Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France), 15.07.16 :
No to hatred, suspicion and racism : don’t let us be divided !

China: Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) verdict on South China Sea a major diplomatic blow to China
15/07/2016, From ChinaWorker.info:
Only winner from tribunal’s ruling is arms industry

Malaysia: Scandal-ridden prime minister launches crackdown on dissent
13/07/2016, Ravichandren, CWI Malaysia:
Opposition weak and divided

Spain: Disappointment for Left in re-run elections
12/07/2016, Viki Lara, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain):
Mass mobilisation and struggle necessary for real change

Greece: Rise in support for Grexit; fall in support for SYRIZA
11/07/2016, Kyriakos Halaris (translated from the Xekinima website of the Greek section of the CWI):
Highest levels recorded against Eurozone and EU membership following Brexit

China’s economy: ‘Dead panda bounce’
10/07/2016, Analysis by chinaworker.info:
Has China’s economy turned a corner?

Egypt: Third anniversary of coming to power of military regime
09/07/2016, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
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Britain: Chilcot's damning findings on Iraq war
08/07/2016, Judy Beishon, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) :
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Austria: Presidential elections re-run
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Netherlands: After Brexit, are we heading towards ‘Nexit’?
07/07/2016, Pieter Brans, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Netherlands), Amsterdam:
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Britain: Stand firm and organise against the Blairite coup
06/07/2016, Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
No compromise possible in Labour’s civil war

Video: #KeepCorbyn solidarity from Irish parliament
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Nigeria:  Oyo State workers' indefinite strike
04/07/2016, CWI Reporters, Nigeria:
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Turkey: Terrorist attack at İstanbul Atatürk Airport kills dozens
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Iran:Gold Miners Lashed, jailed workers on hunger strike
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CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Germany: ‘Brexit’ and the German Left
30/07/2016, Sascha Stanicic, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Reject the bosses’ EU! For a Europe of working people - a voluntary socialist federation

US: A call to action
27/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US):
Walk out from the Democratic National Convention!

CWI Summer School: Europe in the aftermath of the Brexit shock
26/07/2016, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Continent enters new phase of political and economic crises

US: Bernie Abandons 'the Revolution’
14/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist councillor Seattle City :
Time to back Green candidate Jill Stein

Australia: Close election result - A crisis for the establishment
08/07/2016, Socialist Party (CWI Australia) statement :
To fight anti-working class measures, we must build a socialist alternative

History: 1936 - Spain’s revolutionary promise
06/07/2016, Tony Saunois, from Socialism Today (July/August 2016):
Working class and peasants rose up against capitalist exploitation, poverty and fascism

US: Beyond Bernie
01/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the USA):
Still not with her

Britain: Referendum revolt
27/06/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (issue No.200, July-August 2016):
Capitalist establishment shattered

Asia: Conflict in the South China Sea
16/06/2016, This is an abridged version of an article by Vincent Kolo, originally published on chinaworker.info.:
Territorial disputes resemble pieces on a ‘geopolitical chessboard’ as the US and China struggle for hegemony in Asia

Middle East: ISIS under pressure on several fronts
15/06/2016, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
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EU: Left parties turning against bosses’ Europe
10/06/2016, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Progress in Portugal and Spain, confusion in Britain

Muhammad Ali: A fighter who inspired millions
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Establishment forced to incorporate his legend into re-writing of history

Review: The working-class case against the EU
08/06/2016, Hannah Sell, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Review of ‘And The Weak Must Suffer What They Must?’ by Yanis Varoufakis

France: Fight against Valls/Hollande government intensifies
31/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Gauche Revolutionnaire statement underlines vital need for political alternative

Austria: Only 31,026 votes prevent far right’s Hofer becoming president
24/05/2016, Sonja Grusch, SLP (the Austrian section of the CWI):
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Britain: EU referendum exposes gaping political fault-lines
24/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
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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:
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France: New stage in battle over labour law
12/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
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Ireland: 100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly
12/05/2016, Three articles on Connolly’s life and ideas :
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Belgium: Trade unions announce new plan of action
11/05/2016, LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium) Reporters:
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Britain: 90th anniversary of epochal general strike
05/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) general secretary:
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Israel/Palestine: The Marxist left, the national conflict and the
Palestinian struggle

29/04/2016, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
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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?