How transformative was the strike that the United Auto Workers concluded in November 2023, when it shut down factories at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, which now incorporates Chrysler? The UAW has been in existence for nearly 90 years, during which three contests with capital have defined the character of the union and–because of its vanguard role–the expectations and standards for millions of other workers. Should we add last Fall’s brilliantly led and highly successful “stand-up” strike to that list? The great sit-down strikes of 1937 founded the UAW and ensured that, for more than a decade, shop militancy and leftwing politics would define a union representing upwards of a million workers in America’s most important industry.
Just this year, we’ve seen UPS Teamsters secure a historic $30 billion new contract that abolishes tiers and substantially raises wages. We’ve seen the UAW successfully strike for contracts that boost pay, protect benefits, and crystallize the prospect of a green auto industry. Now, building cleaners across the country are next up to negotiate equitable deals and notch new victories for a labor movement confronting an uncertain future. On the line? Their ability to keep living and working in their home cities with ease and dignity. All told, contracts covering more than 134,000 SEIU cleaners nationwide are up for renegotiation over the next year with different SEIU locals, over half of whom belong to 32BJ SEIU locals on the east coast.
10,000 people took to the streets on Sunday, November 12 to protest the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meetings taking place in San Francisco this week. The APEC summit will run from November 11 to 17. The protest took place following a 1,000-person APEC counter-summit on November 11. The mobilizations have been organized by the No to APEC Coalition, which represents almost 150 organizations across the United States. “APEC is the epitome of all that is wicked and corrupt in our society today,” said Simon Ma, a family doctor and member of the anti-imperialist Korean-American organization Nodutdol. He described APEC as a “cabal of billionaires and politicians scheming behind closed doors, trying to come up with new and innovative ways to further exploit the working class of our planet.”
For the fourth time in ten years, the government is about to shut down ( prior to the 2013 shutdown, the last shutdown was in 1996). This shutdown, if it isn’t averted through last-minute maneuvering, would mean that roughly four million government employees — including police officers and the military — would have their paychecks delayed, be furloughed, or otherwise impacted. The chaotic process of trying to keep the government open reveals, again, the deeply undemocratic nature of the U.S. regime. That a small sector of the far-right, elected by a tiny segment of the U.S. population, can hold necessary social programs hostage and demand new cuts in order to prevent an incredibly disruptive government shutdown is a sign that the U.S. government doesn’t represent the masses.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have a long history of plunging Global South nations into unsustainable cycles of debt. For Argentina, this process has been ongoing for decades, and is now reaching a breaking point. Since 2015, the Argentine peso has lost 80% of its value against the US dollar, leading to a cost of living crisis affecting a wide swath of society. The economic shock of the pandemic and the latest $44 billion IMF loan package delivered in 2022 have only made matters worse. In the second half of 2020, more than 40% of Argentinians were in poverty.
Vincent Quiles, a 28-year-old father and union organizer in Philadelphia, is part of a fledgling labor effort to support the months-long protests against construction of the notorious Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, popularly known as “Cop City.” For Quiles, this also means speaking out against his former employer: Home Depot. When he was fired from a Home Depot store in northeastern Philadelphia in February, Quiles was already struggling to support his toddler son on his salary, which he says never felt like enough, given the meager benefits. He says he was forced to lean on his “very strong support system.”
In late 2022, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released a fascinating report entitled Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World, in large part encouraged by a slew of initiatives across India to extend the workday. The report accumulated global data on the time spent at work in 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ILO found that ‘approximately one third of the global workforce (35.4 percent) worked more than 48 hours per week’ and ‘one fifth of global employment (20.3 percent) consists of short (or part-time) hours of work of less than 35 hours per week’, such as gig work.
Capital organises globally yet workers do not. As the US-led NATO powers escalate the Ukraine conflict into a new world war, this imbalance is becoming intolerable. This paper presents the case for a worldwide anti-imperialist Left, representing ordinary people committed to a just and peaceful multipolar world order. This will serve both the national interest of every country, and the general interest of humanity. We base our case on an historical assessment of the last such organization, the Communist International or Comintern for short, founded in 1919 and dissolved in 1943.
International Workers Day, also known as May Day, reminds us of an anecdote about the 1917 Russian Revolution regarding the working class. At the time, the Bolshevik Party, trained and led by V.I. Lenin was in the process of seizing power. An anti-Bolshevik intellectual was arguing with a Bolshevik worker and bringing up all the complexities of running a government and of deserting Russia’s allies in the great slaughter of World War I. “I see it this way,” said the Bolshevik worker. “The bosses are on one side. We’re on the other side. If we don’t take power, they will.” The worker was right. Bosses, that is capitalists, are on one side. Workers are on the other side.
“We need to ask ourselves,” Leo Panitch and Donald Swartz stated in the third edition of From Consent to Coercion, “whether free pertains to those who do business or whether it pertains also to the majority of Canadians who do not do business.” Their book, now a classic, focused on a critical expression of the tension between liberal democratic principles and capitalist realities: the substantive right of workers to strike. Canadian workers were officially granted the basic democratic right to form unions, but the substance of that right – the withdrawal by workers of their labour power – was regularly suspended when workers successfully used it.
Democracy has a dream-like character. It sweeps into the world, carried forward by an immense desire by humans to overcome the barriers of indignity and social suffering. When confronted by hunger or the death of their children, earlier communities might have reflexively blamed nature or divinity, and indeed those explanations remain with us today. But the ability of human beings to generate massive surpluses through social production, alongside the cruelty of the capitalist class to deny the vast majority of humankind access to that surplus, generates new kinds of ideas and new frustrations. This frustration, spurred by the awareness of plenty amidst a reality of deprivation, is the source of many movements for democracy. Habits of colonial thought mislead many to assume that democracy originated in Europe, either in ancient Greece (which gives us the word ‘democracy’ from demos, ‘the people’, and kratos, ‘rule’) or through the emergence of a rights tradition, from the English Petition of Right in 1628 to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789.