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.
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
How will the class struggle develop
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
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
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
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.
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.