Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trucker's Strike in Brazil Shows the Power of Labor. Let's Use It.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

It’s West Virginia all over again but this time on a much larger scale.

Brazil’s government has called in the military in order to break a nationwide strike by truckers. The strike which  started on Monday, is mainly over the increasing cost of diesel fuel and truckers unions have been blocking highways throughout the country, a country larger than the USA.

The consequences of the strike are severe. Bosses’ organizations are claiming that as many as 20 million pigs could die over the weekend as pork and poultry plants close down affecting 200,000 workers in that industry. Ten airports are without fuel according to reports in the media.

Prices have risen rapidly due to the cost of oil and also the decline in the Brazilian currency something that was avoided to a significant degree by the previous left of center government that subsidized prices.  The present right wing government removed those subsidies in order to help the employers allowing domestic fuel prices to skyrocket.

In these situations the sheer hypocrisy and blatant lies from the capitalist class and their political representatives is fully exposed. Michel Temer, Brazil’s president has this to say:
“We will not allow consumers to go without products, we will not allow hospitals to go without what they need to save lives, we will not allow children to be harmed by the closure of schools”

How caring they are. Workers are forced by necessity to withdraw their labor power and the bourgeois and their political representatives announce how much they care about humanity. Brazil is an incredibly poor country. Just a few months ago Temer brought in the military to combat what he called a “security” crisis but what is in actuality a poverty crisis.

Here in the US the most powerful and ruthless gang of global capitalism is closing schools left right and center from Chicago to Oakland to Puerto Rico. We just posted some information fromMercedes Martinez, the president of the teachers union in Puerto Rico about that Island’s government under pressure from Washington closing over 200 schools.

When workers are forced to take drastic action, to use our collective power to force the bosses to back off, suddenly they become egalitarian. I was on the picket lines in the great British Miners strike 0f 1984-85. I was on a picket line in Yorkshire outside Barnsley where thousands of workers battled thousands of cops who were escorting scabs to work, I think in this case it was one guy who couldn’t do anything anyway. I recall Thatcher or one of her flunkies talking about a person’s right to work. This only applies to strikebreakers; the unemployed looking for work can starve to death if there’s no surplus value/profits to be extracted from their labor power.

The blockades and the immense power of the truckers has won some small concessions apparently and there was an agreement by some union heads to suspend the strike and withdraw the barricades. But one of the largest of the truckers unions refused and withdrew from negotiations.  The leaders of this union, the Brazilian Association of Truckers (Abcam), did call on its members to free the highways and remove the barricades but the members refused to heed their leaders’ advice.  This is how we win.

We are witnessing here a similar situation that has occurred here in the US with the recent teachers actions, particularly in West Virginia where teachers refused to heed the official leaderships call to return to work, an action that won them and all state workers---- on strike or not----- a 5% increase.  As we have pointed out in previous commentaries (see teachers and education tabs on the right of this blog) the West Virginia teachers struck in a state where strikes are illegal. For decades, bosses, their politicians in both parties and their agents at the head of organized labor, have warned us that violating the law is impossible, we can’t do it, we will fail, we cannot win this way.

It is not surprising we hear little about this huge event in the US mass media. A strike in one of the world’s largest countries. We hear next to nothing about such developments here in the US like the class war that is being fought in Puerto Rico at the moment so it shouldn't surprise us that we hear nothing about what actually happens when workers fight back in other countries.

Not being on the ground in Brazil I am not in a position to say too much about the details of the strike which is in reality a strike against the neo-liberal agenda and world capitalism represented by the IMF and the World Bank.  But there is tremendous potential here to bring down the Temer government and drive back the capitalist offensive in Brazil. The bosses, as seen by Temer’s comments, will try to use the disruption strike action causes against the truckers which is why the trucker's unions must spread the strike, add to their demands to draw in other sectors as well as the poor and most oppressed and build a generalized movement against austerity.

There is also a major struggle taking place in Amazonia as the indigenous community and environmentalist are battling against the agriculture industry. No major struggle can win without spreading the battle across national borders either. The global capitalist class is waging a ferocious assault against any Latin American country that fights back against the neo-liberal agenda. From Greece to Poland, Brazil to Puerto Rico, this war is a global one.

It is important as workers to recognize one important point. When we go on strike, when we go on a strike of labor power, they savage us. Yet they go on strikes of capital as well. We have to recognize that the banks, the financial industry, the ownership of capital is crucial in any struggle. This entire industry, the ownership of capital must come under the ownership and control of the working class. 

No struggle of working people today in any nation can win without an international perspective, and strategy and tactics that reflect that international outlook.

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