The streets of Matamoros’s Ciudad Industrial were alive with activity. The northeastern border city sits on the banks of the Rio Grande, directly across from Brownsville, Texas. Outside the gates of dozens of maquiladora factories arranged in grid-like fashion in this industrial zone, workers crowded in front of white banners with the numbers “20/32” scrawled in black marker, representing the strikers’ demands for a 20% pay hike and an annual $32,000 peso (about $1,578 USD) bonus. Their bodies blocked would-be strikebreakers from entering the factory. Nearby, workers took shelter from the cold, huddling over wood fires beneath tarps rigged to form temporary encampments. Many leaders I spoke with when I visited on February 14 said they hadn’t been home since the work stoppage began a week earlier. Often, they’d slept in their cars.
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The US Neocon-led strategy is increasingly clear: establish a ‘beach-head’ on the Colombian-Venezuelan (and Venezuelan-Brazilian) border under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. Use the aid to get Venezuelans on the border to welcome the US proxy forces to cross over. Set up political and military structures thereafter just inside the Venezuelan borders with Colombia and Brazil, from which to launch further similar efforts deeper into Venezuela. Repeat this province by province, step by step, penetrating Venezuela space until enough local units of the Venezuelan military change sides and convince one or more of the Venezuelan military hierarchy to join them.
At 10 am, February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck, all of them. In doing so they literally took control of the city. The strike was in support of shipyard workers, some 35,000, then in conflict with the city’s shipyards owners and the federal government’s US Shipping Board, the latter still enforcing wartime wage agreements.
Seattle’s Central Labor Council (CLC), representing 110 unions, all affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike. Perhaps as many as 100,000 working people participated; the strikers were joined by unorganized workers, unemployed workers and family members. Silence settled on the city’s streets and waterfront, “nothing moved but the tide.”
Casual dockworkers in the Port of Valparaíso, one of the largest ports in Chile, in December ended a 36-day strike.
The majority of Chile’s fruit exports pass through this port. The strike came at the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere—the height of the season for fruit, one of the biggest export industries in the country.
The Green New Deal narrative risks reproducing the hegemonic ideology of capitalist growth, which has created the problem of climate change in the first place.
The ITUC wants to believe that a “democratic governance” integrating the “just transition” would open up “new opportunities,” that it would create massively “green jobs,” good and “decent.” This is wishful thinking. Capital invested in the “energy transition” in no way derogates from the ruthless capitalist offensive against wages, working conditions and trade unions. Germany is at the forefront of both renewable energy and expanding an underclass of poor workers. In many countries, governments use ecology to dismantle union strongholds in traditional sectors.
Developing a genuine trade union alternative to the class collaboration policy of the ITUC leadership is of strategic importance. The working class occupies a decisive position in industry and services. Without its active participation, an anti-productivist transformation of the economy will remain impossible. But how to win workers to the struggle for the defence of the environment? That is the question. The answer is difficult. All the more difficult because the balance of power is deteriorating and the poison of division is spreading in the working class.
There is an old saying that the economy is too simple for economists to understand. There is plenty of evidence of this all around. After all, almost no economists could see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which gave us the great recession. Back in the stock bubble days of the late 1990s, leading economists in both political parties wanted to put Social Security money in the stock market based on assumptions of returns which were at the least incredibly implausible, if not altogether impossible.
Richard Seymour points out that “To me, it’s straightforward. Class is a social relationship that is structured by race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and a whole range of other determinations. Race is the modality in which millions of people inhabit their class experience. Their “identity politics” will often be the precise way in which they fight a class struggle.”
I think that Seymour is correct.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 on December 10. Governments and civil society organizations around the world commemorated the day with a range of activities.
Over the years, the Declaration has been a global beacon for Africans fighting against colonialism and for inclusive economic equality and sustainable development. Its provisions stand as aspirational goals for nations, and standards that nations are duty-bound to uphold and promote.
Speaking of Capitalism in America and in Europe we first have to be precise about two things. First, what do we mean by countries, by nations such as those in the Americas or those here in Europe? And, second, what do we mean by capitalism? So if we can specify what we mean by these two things, we can reason about the difference in how capitalism relates to the different places.