Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Mayday: north and south. posted by Richard Seymour
Chavez picks Mayday to withdraw from the IMF, increase the minimum wage by 20%, and set up a regional lending organisation that doesn't insist on 'structural adjustment programmes'. Meanwhile, the US prepares excuses for the inevitable coup attempt.
Relatedly, America's immigrants are on the move today, staging "national day of multi-ethnic unity with youth, labor, peace and justice communities in solidarity with immigrant workers". America's leftist movements have traditionally had a strong base in immigrant communities, and it so happens that migrant workers are leading the charge in workplace militancy - they who have the least resources available to them. As the labour author Kim Moody points out, a large part of the stimulus for southern migration to America has been a combination of US covert intervention and IMF-driven destruction of local economies. The IMF's 'structural adjustment programmes' "drove millions from the land and other traditional employment. A series of civil wars and U.S. military interventions throughout this era sent millions more displaced farmers and workers from their homes to many of the wealthier countries of the OECD in search of work." Precisely as the main bulk of migrants during the forties came from war-torn Europe, so the destruction of Latin America and the Carribean resulted in a shifting focus to migration from those countries, especially during the carnage of the 1980s. Wages collapsed in the 'free trade zones' elaborated under US tutelage, and so millions headed north to work for rip-off gringo capitalists. America's system for handling those migrant workers is designed to suit the interests of business communities, so that millions are denied citizenship and have to seek work in conditions of precarity where they can be picked up and taken away at a moment's notice if someone (a disgruntled former handler, perhaps) squeals on them. Those conditions became substantially worse after 9/11, and the rancorous national 'debates' about the issue, usually driven by politicians appealing to white nationalism, has led to a flourishing of racist rightism, while the so-called 'Minutemen' have been able to harrass migrant workers with impunity. Later this year, American trade unionists, migrant rights activists, anti-imperialists and socialists will gather for the US Social Forum, which can hopefully point to a strategy for the American left to organise outside the rubric of the Democrat-affiliated vote-grabbers.
Given the increasingly complicated interconnections between the working classes of advanced capitalist countries, and those in countries that are politically and economically dominated by the capitalist core; given the forms of solidarity and collective thinking that have emerged from the antiwar movement (Cairo Conference) and the anticapitalist movement (World Social Forum); given the ways in which the current flows of capital accumulation necessitate solidarity with workers from the 'global South' whether they are based in Mumbai or London - given all that, it is refreshing to hear that the BBC's industrial correspondent Paul Mason has written a book on How the Working Class Went Global. It is, as the review says, "an idea whose time has come".
Today, the PCS are on strike and manning picket lines up and down the country. But they're doing something more than that. Given the elections this Thursday, and given the bitter disappointment with the Labour government, they have been organising a 'Make Your Vote Count' drive. Serwotka explains that the problems facing workers are not merely industrial - they are political, since the decision of New Labour to embrace a profit-oriented politics, abandoning the imperative of social benefit in the provision of services, has brought about these difficulties. So the PCS are contacting candidates to get their attitudes to "privatisation, job cuts and office closures in their locality, to the fragmented pay system which is failing to match price rises, and will now emphasise regional pay disparities. Having received the candidates' responses, we have passed them on to our members." Serwotka adds: "We are not beholden to any party. We are giving the same opportunities to the Greens, Solidarity, Respect and the Socialist Party as to Labour Party candidates. We are not, however, approaching the fascist right; in fact we are participating in campaigns against them wherever they are standing." If you want to hear more from him, you can always attend tonight's May Day rally.