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Greece showdown

26/02/2015: Niall Mulholland interviewed NICOS ANASTASIADES, of Xekinima (CWI Greece), just as Syriza leaders agreed a four-month bail-out extension with the EU.

  Greece

Libya
War-torn country becoming new hub for IS activities

25/02/2015: Libyan people bearing the brunt of NATO’s fiasco

  Libya

Europe
Eurozone time-bomb

25/02/2015: Mired in recession, the eurozone is haunted by the spectre of stagnation

  Europe, World Economy

Greece
Syriza retreats under Troika threats

24/02/2015: Popular mood shows anti-austerity, socialist policies would win huge support

  Greece

Britain
Labour MP shows contempt for workers

24/02/2015: Three decades ago he debated with Militant leaders who warned about degeneration of his party

  Britain

Germany
Pegida at an end?

24/02/2015: German racist mobilizations split but danger continues

  Germany

History
The political legacy of Malcolm X

21/02/2015: 50 years after his assassination

  History

 Malaysia
Stop arrests of government opponents!

20/02/2015: Respect the right to freedom of speech!

  Malaysia, Solidarity

 Solidarity
Five Dublin anti-water charge protesters jailed

20/02/2015: International solidarity protests needed!

  Solidarity

Congo
Forty two killed during street protests in January

20/02/2015: Senate quashes Kabila’s plan to extend presidency

  Congo

Greece
What does Tsipras’s endorsement of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President signify?

19/02/2015: Economic and social crisis requires independent pro-worker, socialist policies!

  Greece

Britain
2015 Socialist Party Congress:

19/02/2015: Preparing the forces to fight capitalist austerity

  Britain

Ireland
Socialist questions Taoiseach on political policing

18/02/2015: International solidarity protests continue

  Ireland Republic

Denmark
Terrorist attack in Copenhagen

18/02/2015: United struggle needed against right-wing policies

  Denmark

Spain
Is ‘Podemos’ the Spanish Syriza?

16/02/2015: Dangers of “moderation” and domestication

  Spain

 Ireland
“Dogs of war” unleashed in Jobstown

16/02/2015: The Gardai have simultaneously targeted the community of Jobstown, the anti-water charges movement and the Anti-Austerity Alliance

  Ireland Republic, Video

Malaysia
Opposition leader imprisoned

16/02/2015: Government conspires to quell growing opposition

  Malaysia

Hong Kong
Erwiana’s court victory – now to step up the struggle for migrant rights!

14/02/2015: Hong Kong court finds employer guilty of torture-like crimes

  Hong Kong

Ireland
Interview with Paul Murphy TD following arrest

13/02/2015: Socialist Party (CWI) and AAA TD Paul Murphy speaks following five days of political arrests of anti-water

  Ireland Republic

Greece
If the Troika does not back down?

13/02/2015: Let the Greek people decide!

  Greece

India
Massive defeat for ruling BJP in Delhi election

12/02/2015: Result reflects growing mass discontent

  India

 Video
Brazilian housing movement presents Kshama Sawant with flag

12/02/2015: MTST one of Brazil’s most important social movements

  Brazil, Video

 Video
Ruth Coppinger challenges government over political policing

12/02/2015: Heated exchange in Irish parliament between deputy Prime Minister and Socialist Party (CWI) MP

  Ireland Republic, Video

Brazil
CWI Latin American summer school 2015

12/02/2015: 8th Latin American school largest ever held by the CWI on the continent

  Brazil, Latin America

Poland
Miners’ strikes shake the country

11/02/2015: Biggest workers’ struggle for many years

  Poland

Egypt
Regime brutality on fourth anniversary of revolution

10/02/2015: Masses will regain confidence and willingness to fight

  Egypt

 UPDATE
Paul Murphy and others released from police custody

09/02/2015: Send protests against political policing and repression

  Ireland Republic, Solidarity

Ireland
Paul Murphy and other socialists and anti-water tax activists arrested

09/02/2015: Arrests of Anti Austerity Alliance elected representatives and We Won’t Pay activists is another cheap attempt to denigrate the movement against the water charges

  Ireland Republic

Greece
Not a single step back!

08/02/2015: Conflict between SYRIZA government and EU escalates

  Greece

 Video
For a debt conference to repudiate the debt

06/02/2015: Joe Higgins speaks in Irish parliament

  Video

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



Europe

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Ireland: “Dogs of war” unleashed in Jobstown, 16/02/2015

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NEWS

Britain: Labour MP shows contempt for workers
24/02/2015, :
Three decades ago he debated with Militant leaders who warned about degeneration of his party

Germany: Pegida at an end?
24/02/2015, Michael Koschitzki, SAV (CWI Germany):
German racist mobilizations split but danger continues

Malaysia: Stop arrests of government opponents!
20/02/2015, Statement on arrests from Socialist Alternative (CWI Malaysia):
Respect the right to freedom of speech!

Solidarity: Five Dublin anti-water charge protesters jailed
20/02/2015, Socialistworld.net:
International solidarity protests needed!

Congo: Forty two killed during street protests in January
20/02/2015, Per-Åke Westerlund, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
Senate quashes Kabila’s plan to extend presidency

Greece: What does Tsipras’s endorsement of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President signify?
19/02/2015, Statement by Xekinima (CWI Greece) Editorial Board [edited translation]:
Economic and social crisis requires independent pro-worker, socialist policies!

Britain: 2015 Socialist Party Congress:
19/02/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) reporters:
Preparing the forces to fight capitalist austerity

Ireland: Socialist questions Taoiseach on political policing
18/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
International solidarity protests continue

Denmark: Terrorist attack in Copenhagen
18/02/2015, Arne Johansson, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
United struggle needed against right-wing policies

Ireland: “Dogs of war” unleashed in Jobstown
16/02/2015, Cillian Gillespie and Councillor Mick Barry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
The Gardai have simultaneously targeted the community of Jobstown, the anti-water charges movement and the Anti-Austerity Alliance

Malaysia: Opposition leader imprisoned
16/02/2015, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Malaysia):
Government conspires to quell growing opposition

Hong Kong: Erwiana’s court victory – now to step up the struggle for migrant rights!
14/02/2015, Vincent Kolo, Socialist Action (CWI) in Hong Kong:
Hong Kong court finds employer guilty of torture-like crimes

Ireland: Interview with Paul Murphy TD following arrest
13/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist Party (CWI) and AAA TD Paul Murphy speaks following five days of political arrests of anti-water

Greece: If the Troika does not back down?
13/02/2015, Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Let the Greek people decide!

India: Massive defeat for ruling BJP in Delhi election
12/02/2015, Youvraj B, Pune, New Socialist Alternative (CWI India):
Result reflects growing mass discontent

Video: Brazilian housing movement presents Kshama Sawant with flag
12/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
MTST one of Brazil’s most important social movements

Video: Ruth Coppinger challenges government over political policing
12/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Heated exchange in Irish parliament between deputy Prime Minister and Socialist Party (CWI) MP

Brazil: CWI Latin American summer school 2015
12/02/2015, Socialistworld.net:
8th Latin American school largest ever held by the CWI on the continent

Solidarity: Sweden protest against political policing in Ireland
11/02/2015, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden):
"No more arrests"

UPDATE: Further Dublin arrests as anti-protest clampdown continues
11/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Organise international solidarity!

Poland : Miners’ strikes shake the country
11/02/2015, Wojciech Orowiecki, Alternatywa Socjalistyczna (CWI in Poland):
Biggest workers’ struggle for many years

UPDATE: More dawn arrests of Irish water-tax protestors
10/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Solidarity protests needed

UPDATE: Paul Murphy and others released from police custody
09/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Send protests against political policing and repression

Ireland: Paul Murphy and other socialists and anti-water tax activists arrested
09/02/2015, Anti Austerity Alliance statement:
Arrests of Anti Austerity Alliance elected representatives and We Won’t Pay activists is another cheap attempt to denigrate the movement against the water charges

Video: For a debt conference to repudiate the debt
06/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Joe Higgins speaks in Irish parliament

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Greece showdown
26/02/2015, Socialistworld.net:
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

Russia/Ukraine: Facing a turbulent 2015
21/01/2015, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
As death toll rises, economies plunge into freefall

Greece: Prospect of Syriza victory raises workers’ hopes
20/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
Mass intervention of working class to struggle for socialist policies is vital

Nigeria: The Massacre in Baga
19/01/2015, H.T Soweto, DSM (CWI in Nigeria):
Socialism or Barbarism

Germany: What is behind the ‘PEGIDA’ anti-immigrant demonstrations?
13/01/2015, Wolfram Klein, Socialist Alternative (SAV- CWI Germany):
Unions and Left must organise against racism and for jobs and decent living standards for all

Greece: Towards a Syriza government?
08/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
General elections on 25 January

Northern Ireland: The Stormont House Agreement
05/01/2015, Michael Cleary, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Agreeing Not To Agree, Again

New Year: Political and economic ingredients for volatile 2015
31/12/2014, Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
As crisis of capitalism worsens, vital to organise and continue the struggle

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