Volume 6, No. 3, March 2005


Rising Tide of the Working class Struggle in Germany

{Extracts of a report sent from Germany by the MLPD}


In October 2004 the Opel-strike moved into the focus of public interest.

The seven-day Opel-strike was a landmark development in the class struggle in Germany. It was the interim climax in the development of a growing number of workers in the struggle against the government and monopolies. This development had started on May 1st, 2003. A qualitative leap occurred at the peak of the Opel-strike. This became clear in the following essential elements:

· The Opel-workers combined the strike with blockades of the plant gates and an occupation of the plant. That was an important guarantee for its effectiveness in the entire General Motors production in Europe. The combination of these three forms of struggle expressed the higher development of the class consciousness of the workers, namely that only rigorous class-struggle against the international monopoly of General Motors can push through their interests.

· By linking up the Opel-strike with the nationwide Monday demonstration movement on October 18th and 19th, 2004, the demand to withdraw GM’s horror-catalogue combined with the demand "Down with Hartz IV – We are the people!" This means that the struggle for daily demands and partial slogans against the monopolies and the government was conducted in an offensive way and that the economic struggle was combined with the political struggle.

· In the course of the seven days, the struggle of the Opel-workers developed into a mass struggle, in which finally a hundred thousand participants joined together and millions showed solidarity in the framework of a Europe-wide day of action. The militant and class-conscious spirit of Opel Bochum passed over to the masses.

· The Opel-strike was the present climax of a growing tendency to break through the framework of the existing trade-unions. That occurred on the basis of a growing rejection on the part of the workers of the policy of class collaboration of the right-wing trade union leadership with the monopolies and the Schroeder/Fischer-government.

· The struggle was explicitly conducted with the acceptance of responsibility being taken by the youth. The unity of young and old as the motor of the working-class offensive became a characteristic of the strike and of the mass demonstrations on October 18th and 19th 2004.

· The strike of the Opel-workers called into question the societal organised system of petty-bourgeois thinking and taboos customary of trade union strikes were broken. Self-confident and resolute action of the fighting workers determined the course of events. The forms of proletarian democracy which the workers developed themselves during the strike, like the open microphone, the ballots over the continuation of the strike organised during the shifts, the responsibility taken over for strike-tasks by the production units etc., were suitable to quickly develop the class-consciousness of those in struggle and to retain the initiative at any point of time.

· The entire militant opposition with significant forces from the working-class movement, the youth movement, the militant women’s movement and the international solidarity and aid movement agreed on actively supporting the struggle. It mobilised all the forces and so was able to contribute decisively to the success of the strike, but also to protect it against attacks from the corporate management or by the state power apparatus.

· Finally, the style and method of the strike and its objectives gained broad solidarity among the petty-bourgeois intermediate strata, which are themselves coming more and more into contradiction to ruling policy. That was demonstrated especially by the impact that the strike had on journalists and in their press coverage which has continued to express sympathy till today.

Six weeks after the end of the strike, the results of the negotiations between the corporate leadership of GM and the works council leadership were presented. These results schedule a radical cutback of 9,500 jobs as well as a decrease in wages of at least 15 percent and further means of exploitation. Isn’t this a slap in the face of the Opel-workers who were fighting so impressively in October?

There is no doubt that with this result of the negotiations, the reformist trade union leadership and the leadership of the corporate works council have completely gone down on their knees in the face of the General Motors plans. As a "service in return", GM has given a vague declaration of intent to maintain all Opel production sites in Germany for the time being and to refrain from "dismissals for operational reasons". But these are lies and deceptions.

It was already clear that Opel can’t close down any production site because that would require a certain restructuring of the production structure in Europe and would take at least two years. It is just grotesque to maintain that they are supposedly not planning to "dismiss for operational reasons", because this option is tied to the prerequisite that the workers must voluntarily vacate 6,500 jobs until mid-January and enter an employment service company. If the workers do not leave voluntarily, the "arbitration office" will be called, which can then order dismissals for operational reasons.

Furthermore, massive cuts in wages are being planned and other achievements gained in struggle are going to be attacked. A narrow majority of the works council – and that makes the scandal perfect – agreed to these measures on December 13th, 2004. The cliché of the "avoidance of dismissals for operational reasons" that was taxed more than enough by the reformists in the last years was completely perverted in this foul compromise. The workers themselves are given the responsibility for the decision whether such dismissals for operational reasons will take place or not.

How will the class struggle develop further?

One cannot say that with certainty, because whereas the class struggle is governed by laws which are based on the capitalistic wage system, its concrete development depends on many not foreseeable factors and influences. At the same time, there is no doubt that in the past ten years a lot has happened in the development of class consciousness.

In the relative calm of the class struggle, a mix of a process of ferment, of agitation, destabilization and rebellion has visibly come to light, which seems in its overall development to be irreversible with view to the current economic and political background.

Already in 1996, the class consciousness of the workers arose on a broad scale in connection with the mass strike of 1.1 million workers against the cancellation of the continuation of wage payments in case of illness planned by the former Kohl government.

It is notable that in contrast to the 1980s and early 1990s, the class consciousness arising on a broad scale could not be pushed back in 1996, but instead, by the end of 2004, has developed up to the point that a transition to the working-class offensive on a broad scale has been initiated. Nevertheless, we are still in a process of ferment on the basis of a relative calm, but the transition to a revolutionary ferment is being prepared rapidly.

How is the fascist threat to be evaluated presently?

It is obvious that the failure of the proceedings to ban the NPD has encouraged the neo-fascists. In the elections in the states of Saxony and Brandenburg, the NPD and DVU have even won seats in the state parliaments. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that the media have built up the neo-fascists as "protest parties against the Hartz IV laws". According to a poll conducted by Infratest, 84 per cent of the voters in Saxony voted for a neo-fascist party due to a supposed protest against Hartz IV and the government.

The neo-fascists are presenting themselves under the guise of an anti-capitalist image, with which they disguise their extreme hostility towards the working class. Social-fascist demagogy borrowed from Hitler-fascism is at the center of their efforts to win new supporters. Actually, they are driving a wedge into the working class movement with their division between foreign and German people and they are being supported by the monopolies as a spearhead against revolutionary movements and workers’ struggles. This is connected to the attempt to forge a neo-fascist bloc. In view of the next general elections, this merger of NPD, DVU and some smaller neo-fascist terror organizations should not be underestimated.

For this reason, it is necessary that the antifascist struggle becomes a task of the day for MLPD and mainly for its youth league Rebell, as well as for the youth movement. The anti-fascist attitude of the people in Germany is still very pronounced on the grounds of their painful experience with the terror of Hitler-fascism.

The working-class strikes at Bosch, Siemens, DaimlerChrysler and Opel, as well as the Monday demonstrations and the March on Berlin on October 3rd are examples of the growing tide of the working class struggle in Germany.





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