Global Working Class (long read)

Often, we only realise in hindsight if and when a qualitative shift took place. In 2004 the first “global traffic jam” was reported. The strikes in the Chinese Pearl River delta in 2004 at the peak of the boom marked the first big cycle of struggles in the “new factories”. Through offensive struggles they gained significant wage increases and had an effect on the situation in factories in the whole of East Asia. In Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, workers’ strikes erupted and with the bus drivers’ dispute in Iran in 2006, the first important strike since 1979 took place! A worldwide groundswell of workers’ struggles can be retraced from 2006, meaning before the global economic crash. This groundswell transformed into a wave reaching its peak in 2010, when strikes took place in nearly every country in the world, and which opened the way for the political revolutions and protest movements on the streets to come. The latter attracted more media attention, but without the strikes in the phosphate industry in Tunisia and the mass strikes in the textile industry in Mahalla in Egypt between 2006 and 2008, the uprisings in these countries would not have taken place (…) Their strikes have many things in common: they mostly happen in the central sectors of the respective economy, the affected companies operate on a multinational level, in their struggles workers get into confrontation with existing unions, they look for alternative unions or make use of their own forms of organisation. In many cases the state attacks the strikers violently, at the same time workers use violence against managers or strike-breakers. In 2014 these strikes continued, although in the case of India, against the background of a massive devaluation of the local currency and a decrease in sales in the automobile sector. Since 2013 a lot of capital has been withdrawn from the BRICS states and transferred to the so-called MINTS-states Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey and South Korea – these states, as well, have a large and very young population and at least some of them have been sites of huge protest movements during recent years. In June 2013 an uprising took place in Turkey (‘Gezi Park protests’) and in May 2015 the entire automobile sector was shaken by a strike wave, in the course of which workers chased away their old trade unions.

Wildcat in Global Working Class (Wildcat)