Israel: “This strike is only the begining”

Text of a leaflet distributed to workers on strike on Monday 12 August 2002, by members of Maavak Sozialisti (Socialist Struggle)

[A three hours strike took place Monday 12 August in the public sector and parts of the private sector (12/08/02) throughout Israel. The shut down was sparked off following failure to reach agreement between the Histadrut union and employers over the ‘cost of living allowances’.

The online Israeli news agency, reported that at a convention of Histadrut district heads on 11 August, "dozens of participants demanded a one to three day strike and criticised the restraint shown by the Histadrut".

The leaders were forced to warn employers that without progress towards fulfilling union demands, workers would intensify industrial action, which would culminate with a "popular battle" on 1 September, the first day of the new school year.

A small and medium sized business organisation calculated the three-hour strike would cost the economy NIS 760 million, which is probably a conservative estimate.

Below is a translation of the text of a leaflet handed out by Maavak Sozialisti (CWI) members in Israel to striking workers].

The government and the bosses tell us that now is not the time – that we must stand together during wartime – that this is not the right time for internal conflicts.

But all these moving patriotic sentiments do not prevent them from declaring a one sided war against us: a massive third round of cuts within a year, price rises everywhere, mass redundancies, factory closures, cuts in welfare health and education budgets, and a war against the unemployed instead of against unemployment.

It is time that we, the workers, the unemployed, youth and pensioners told the government and the capitalists: we won’t eat your bullshit any more. We are fighting for our daily bread and the right to earn a living wage. If you cannot even provide our most basic needs, then hand us the keys and step aside!

They tell us that the cuts are necessary to preserve "economic stability", but even the finance ministry know that these cuts will only worsen the recession. They tell us that there is no-where to take the money from (while the government continues its subsidies and tax breaks to the capitalists), and that everything is due to the Intifada, as if there was no world economic crisis.

The economic crisis at home and abroad is not a natural disaster, but a crisis of the capitalist system-the capitalists who live from the exploitation of our labour and who do not pay us enough to buy back the goods and services which we produce, and when their profits are harmed, they rush to transfer the cost to us, via redundancies, factory closures and pay cuts.

But together with the crisis develops opposition: in South America the masses bring down governments and force them to cancel privatisations. In Greece, Italy and Spain, millions of workers came out in militant general strikes, which forced the governments to retreat. If the government here refuse to even negotiate on the question of a compensation for inflation, we need to show them that we are not their suckers.

This strike must be won!

In order to achieve victory, we must actively mobilise and not just sit at home; we must control the strike democratically and not rely on the Histadruth leadership with closed eyes. A strike committee should be elected by a general meeting of all workers (including contract and manpower staff) in each work place, which should include in addition to the existing workers committee, rank and file members who have shown their ability to struggle.

A three-hour strike can only be a prelude. The bureaucratic leadership of the Histadruth were forced to call this strike after they failed to block the anger from below, but they limit the demands of the strike to a 3% pay rise, which is half the erosion of pay in the last two years. 3% may be enough for the bureaucrats in the Histadruth who do not live on our wages levels, but for us it is not enough to live on, and not enough to embark on a serious struggle for.

The fact that we are fighting for our daily bread does not mean that we will be satisfied with the crumbs. We must force the leadership of the Histadruth to raise the demands. We know that this struggle will not end in 3 hours. What is needed is a full and active general strike of 24 hours as a first stage, with mass meetings, demonstrations and picket lines in order to prevent the management from breaking us. Only essential services will be operated in order to minimize the harm to working people, and the selective harm to private and state companies must be maximised. If this is not sufficient, we will go to an open-ended general strike.

We know that the government and the millionaires control the media, and that they will use every opportunity to vilify the strikers. This means that we must organise our own independent propaganda to win over the wider layers of society and convince them that we are fighting for everyone (except the bosses and the politicians).

It is important that we do not allow the Histadruth leadership to call off the strike without significant gains, as in the past. In every workplace worker must vote for or against any agreement reached. If there is not a majority in favour of the agreement, we must remain out on strike.

The reason for the rotten compromises of the Histadruth leadership in past strikes is their acceptance of the limitations of what the capitalist system can provide, instead of a struggle for what the workers require for a decent existence. Especially today, the capitalist system cannot provide our most minimal needs, so we cannot allow this system to continue to exist.

In order to permanently end the poverty, unemployment and wars, which are an inseparable part of capitalism, and to guarantee that any gains won are not taken away via inflation, taxes and cuts, we need to replace the bosses’ government with a workers’ government which will be elected by workers’ committees, neighbourhood committees and organisations of the unemployed.

Instead of the capitalist system, which exploits us all for the sake of a small minority, we need a socialist society in which we the working class will run the economy democratically for the needs of us all.

· For a general strike until victory, without fearing the labour courts

· Cancel all the cuts

· Immediate linking of wages to inflation, for full compensation for pay erosion in recent years in addition to a real pay rise

· For a $1000 minimum wage, including youth, soldiers, and foreign workers

· Fight unemployment by cutting the length of the working week without loss of pay, and by a programme of useful public works (building and repairing public housing, laying an efficient railway network)

· Cancel all the privatisation plans, which enrich the millionaires and harm us

· Transfer all contractor and manpower staff to the direct labour force, with membership of the workers’ committees

· Seize control of any company which sacks workers or threatens to close, and transfer it to public ownership and workers’ control

· A common struggle of workers, youth and unemployed to bring down the failing capitalist system, which brings only poverty and war, and for the establishment of a socialist society, rule of the workers by the workers for the workers!

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August 2002