Date: Sun May 22 2005 - 14:37:52 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Prol-Position-News #2 out now! You can download the newsletter as a printable pdf-file from www.prol-position.net (about 330 kB). The contents of this issue: Editorial Going East: Investments in Eastern Europe Investments in the Czech Republic: Boom or Fall? Migrant Workers in the Czech Republic Strike at Skoda Auto, Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic Migration, Industry and Struggles in Poland More Strikes in Poland Romania after the Transition Strike at Michelin (Zalau, Romania) Interview on Solectron (Timisoara, Romania) Wildcat-Preface: Beverly Silver, 'Forces of Labor' Strike at ThyssenKrupp in Terni, Italy Striking Olive Harvest Workers in Spain Chat on the Olive Harvest Strike in Spain A new kind of Strikes in France (CitroŽn etc.) More on the CitroŽn strike France: Leafl et on 35h-Week Leaflet on hotel workers' strike (Accor, France) Students' Struggles All Over Update: Car-Industry ------------------------------------------------ Please circulate this e-mail to others! ------------------------------------------------ EDITORIAL: This issue's main focus is on the class situation in countries in Eastern Europe. The movement of capital and the labor force from the East to the West and vice versa is a decisive element of class re-composition in Europe. Mobilizing a large reserve army of workers from Eastern Europe to supply certain sectors in the West and threatening to re-locate production from Western Europe to the East serve as important levers in intensifying exploitation. The ominous image of 'low wage regions in Eastern Europe' and 'low wage workers' is partly capitalist propaganda; the real picture is much more complicated. Eastern European workers are often hired in sectors of the western labor market (like agriculture and cleaning) where 'local' workers don't work. In early April 2005 German agricultural employers loudly objected to government plans pressuring more German unemployed into working in the fields, instead of hiring Polish contract workers. They complained about the German unemployed 'arriving too late to work, leaving too early, and taking sick leave after two days'. At the same time, more workers from eastern Germany are migrating to the Netherlands to find work in greenhouses. Regarding re-location of production units, the actual re- locations to the East are few compared to new investments in the West itself. Direct investments of western companies mainly consists of buying the formerly state-owned infrastructure or companies in the East, like telecommunications. Other investments are undertaken to supply local markets, meaning that they will not replace production capacities in the West. To unmask the propaganda element in the 'Go East'-hype, we need to organise a deeper inquiry into the actual movements of capital and the class confrontations in Eastern Europe countries. In this newsletter you will find some texts that might serve as a starting point: The article Going East summarizes statistical material on the relation between direct investments and the shifts in production by German companies. It concludes that setting-up production units in the East rarely results in closing sections of the same company in the West. Apart from supplying local markets, the bosses are aiming for a situation where they can, with maximum flexibility, play-off certain production sites against each other. Foreign Investments in the Czech Republic: Boom or Fall analyzes the re-structuring process of capital and the labor market during the last decade, the impact of this restructuring on the Czech Republic as one of the main regions for direct foreign investments in the former Eastern Bloc, and the threat by capital to move on further east. Migrant workers in the Czech Republic sheds light on the situation of Slovakian, Polish and Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic. The article shows how the European labor market extends far beyond the borders of the EU, setting-off chain reactions of work migration. Czech building workers working in the West, for instance, are replaced by Ukrainians slaving away in Czech cities, having to put up with the Czech state's migration policies and the mafia-like structure of Ukrainian temp agencies. Skoda Auto: Inspiration from Mlada Boleslav? is an article about the recent strike at Skoda in the Czech Republic. It argues that although it was the biggest struggle at Skoda so far, the workers - under the union's control - didn't really use their power to win. But the situation at Skoda and in other companies might change: Some of the new plants western companies have set up in the Czech Republic can't find enough workers in the region, undermining the lay-off threat. These new plants are often not unionized, leading the authors to conclude that there is "some possibility for an autonomous struggle in which any union structures would be left behind. We shall see where this inspiration from Skoda will lead...". Behind the Border - Poland describes the history of class struggle in Poland since the 70s, the role of financial policies and state repression, the context of workers' struggles, and the collapse of the socialist regime of exploitation. It also deals with the structure of the Polish agrarian and industrial sectors today and the question of migration. Attached to this text is an update on recent struggles in and around Poland. Promised Land and Class Struggle: Romania after the Transition examines the development of capital and migration in Romania. The main focus is on the textile industry, pointing out the important role of Italian companies in the restructuring process. We added a short interview with a worker from Solectron in Timisoara. Solectron is a US-company producing mobile phones and other electronic equipment for companies like Nokia, Ericsson and Alcatel. Then follows some news on a recent strike in Romania (Michelin) and Solectron in France. After the texts on the class struggle in Eastern Europe, you find the preface of Beverly Silver's book 'Forces of Labor' written by 'Wildcat' people who recently published the book in Germany. Silver investigated the last 130 years of workers' struggles on a worldwide scale, using a database she and her collegues have built up. "The book's particular strength is telling the (hi)story from the perspective of workers in struggle (...) 'Forces of Labor' elaborates on the connection between struggles from below and their effects on ruling class actions and, therefore, capitalism's development as a world system. Workers' struggles chase capital around the globe and from one industrial product to the next. And with every new cycle of hegemonic power, pressure from below had more impact on the shape of the world order." We publish this preface because we think this book can help us in understanding the world-historical development of struggles as well as the course and outcome of certain workers' struggles we want to investigate or take part in ourselves. Some more reports on struggles follow: The first is a report on the strike at the ThyssenKrupp steelmill in Terni, Italy based on several interviews with workers. There was a strike early last year after the German multinational ThyssenKrupp had threatened to close down a certain section of production in Terni/Italy and shift it to other plants elsewhere. ThyssenKrupp backed down - just to re-announce the closure a few months later. Again, the workers went on strike but without success. The tale of Striking Day Laborers in the Spanish Olive Harvest gives an overview on the structure of the Spanish agro-industrial sector and its (migrant) work force, describing the three main front lines on which capital attacks: the changes in unemployment benefit for seasonal workers, the new migration law, and the increasing mechanization. These front lines also defined the reality in a small village near Cordoba/Jaen, where day workers struck for a month in winter of 2005. We added a Chat on the Olive Harvest Strike. The article A new kind of Strikes in France tries to draw a line between the restructuring of the (car-)industry, the effects on wages and work conditions and the new kinds of strikes that make "visible a new offensive attitude against the conditions of exploitation". The strike at CitroŽn, Aulnay (near Paris), serves as the main example. More on CitroŽn is another (shorter) comment on the CitroŽn strike, sent to us by a comrade who has a slightly different viewpoint on that strike. The leaflet on the 35-hours law in France focuses on the French government's late 90s so-called Aubry-law which was praised by the European left as a job creating miracle. The reforms of the right-wing government today are interpreted as a break with the 'workers friendly' legal achievements of the left. The leaflet describes how the much- praised law of the leftist government minister Aubry was a big leap forward to further flexibilisation in working time and a reduction in real wages and that the right-wing government today is only continuing on a path already been paved by the previous left one. The leaflet for Faty, ex-striker at Accor, France, is a call for practical international solidarity with striking workers at the French hotel chain. We want to support this initiative because it tries to overcome 'national' and language boundaries. However, we added some critical comments on the campaign's main focus. We have also summarized some reports from various students' protests in different parts of Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Slovakia) over the last few months. The violent attacks against the students' demonstration in Paris by kids from the suburbs raise political questions concerning not only schools and the youth movement, but the whole class situation in large urban areas with entrenched high unemployment and a parallel economy. For an update on the situation and strikes in the car industry in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Italy we took material from several (leftist and non-leftist) newspapers. The struggle at Dršxlmaier in Bremen/Germany is yet another example of the industrial power post- Fordism puts in workers' hands. Dršxlmeier is one of the main German direct investors in Romania and other Eastern European countries. The (wildcat) strikes at Skoda in the Czech Republic, CitroŽn in France (see the other articles in this newsletter) and the spontaneous protests at Fiat Mirafiori in Italy contrast with the silence surrounding the Rover car factory's closure in Britain.
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