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|WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY–The line
running from Marx to Lenin to the foundation
of the Third International and the birth
of the Communist Party of Italy in Leghorn
(Livorno) 1921, and from there to the struggle
of the Italian Communist Left
against the degeneration in Moscow
and to the rejection of popular fronts
and coalition of resistance groups
–The tough work of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and the party organ, in contact with the working class, outside the realm of personal politics and electoralist manoevrings
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The violent mass protests where proletarians confront the repressive forces of the capitalist regime called the Islamic Republic are no longer episodic in Iran, a country with extremely high inflation rates where most workers already live in poverty.
Most recently, rising prices of medicine, gasoline and especially wheat triggered what have been dubbed “food protests”.
Our party has always paid close attention to the unrest and its causes. Especially workers’ protests and the struggle movements of recent years, for example: “Communism and the proletariat in Iran have no allies within national borders” (Il Partito Comunista No. 336); “Where the proletariat rebels” (No. 387); “The recent proletarian uprising in Iran” (No. 389); “Iraq-Iran-Jordan may explode post‑social war” (No. 390); “Social situation in Iran” (No. 396); “Iraq and Iran riots harshly suppressed” (No. 398); and “Military provocations to deflect Iranian proletarian rebellion” (No. 399).
The mass movements across Iran in 2018 and 2019 differed from the June‑July 2009 movement. 2009 stemmed from alleged electoral fraud and was led by the middle classes, the intelligentsia, students, and the so‑called civil society; it had as its main arena the center of Tehran with organizational cores in the universities and mosques. It was not accompanied by strikes, with workers standing by.
These movements still retained a cross-class character – due to the fact that the Iranian proletariat has not yet managed to form for itself class-based trade union organizations, nor is the class linked with its party – but we saw the participation of the proletarian masses from the peripheries of the large urban centers, including many young people.
Decisive participation of the proletariat can be confirmed in these struggles by the given causes for the protests (economic needs); by the theater of the demonstrations (the working class suburbs); by many of these suburbs participating in the struggles; by numerous strikes; and by which buildings were targeted in the riots – often police stations, as well as the headquarters of the Islamic militias of the Pasdaran and Basiji, and the offices of Islamic foundations.
These characteristics are what kept much of the non‑proletarian elements of the 2009 social movement on the sidelines and guaranteed that the current movement would be ignored by the international bourgeois press, which is always so diligent in neglecting any movement that is not an expression of a fraction of the bourgeoisie and in devaluing any expression of economic needs that cannot be traced back to the worn‑out bourgeois idealizations.
Autumn of 2019 saw the culmination of those protests with the Iranian capitalist regime’s State repression that killed 1,500 protesters.
The summer of 2020 saw several Iranian labor sectors call significant strikes over their working and living conditions. Workers in municipalities, hospitals, oil and gas fields, heavy machinery factories, sugar mills, steel mills, power plants, and mines were among those who participated in these significant strikes.
The largest strike wave in three decades, the movement spread to some 50 factories across Iran; however, it failed to last and achieved only a few small gains in some workplaces, fizzling out with a series of isolated strikes during the fall.
In the summer of 2021, oil and petrochemical workers took to the streets alone, but in much greater numbers than before. In less than a month, the strike had spread to more than 100 plants and fields, while the vast majority of workers in the industry participated. Repression and layoffs were not enough to end the strike.
Refusing to organize in the Islamic Labor Councils (Shora‑ye Eslami) and other regime‑linked labor organizations, the strikers coordinated their activities with an Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers, composed of combative workers and union militants. Although they tried to carry on the strike for months, they were unable to prevent the movement from suffering the same fate as that of the previous year, ultimately failing to achieve any significant results.
Even with their limitations, the 2020 and 2021 struggles were important for Iran’s working class and will be remembered for years, if not decades, to come, by combative workers in that country and beyond.
In February, thousands of teachers across the country went on strike for one day after three consecutive days of protests. On May Day, nearly 40 were arrested, many from the coordination leading the mobilization. Railroad workers also went on strike. On the same day, the Iranian government halted subsidy support for several imported commodities, especially essential foods such as cooking oil, eggs and milk.
Despite President Raisi’s promise that «grain, medicine and gasoline prices will not increase under any circumstances», in the short term they multiplied by 5, a phenomenon exacerbated by the rise in grain prices caused by the war in Ukraine, while the price of flour rose to 160,000 rials from the average of 27,000 rials.
Protests began in the oil‑rich province of Khuzestan, where on at least one occasion police fired on protesters and grain stores were looted.
Since May 12, the movement has spread beyond the province. Demonstrations have occurred in major cities, such as Tehran, Tabriz and Isfahan; in total, 19 cities and a dozen of the 31 provinces showed signs of unrest. Casualties of State repression so far are reported to be six.
Bourgeois media outlets were quick to report not only slogans against Ayatollah Khomeini and President Raisi, but especially those in favor of Reza Shah, Iran’s brutal pro‑Western monarch who was overthrown in 1979. The latter slogans, coupled with the fact that social strata other than the working class are affected by the food crisis in Iran, suggest that the current protests still have an inter-class character. Both the bourgeois domestic opposition and especially its many exiled and outlawed organizations will undoubtedly try to use this movement to extend their influence in the country.
However, the inter-class character of the malaise should not hide the fact that it is the Iranian proletariat, more than any other sector of society, that is suffering the devastating effects of the country’s food crisis.
Iranian workers must seize this opportunity to defend themselves against the food crisis through their trade union struggle actions and by forming for this purpose their own organizations, that is, their own class unions, independent of the influence of the bourgeois parties, and outside and against the regime’s existing unions.
In this struggle they will only be able to link up with their party, the International Communist Party, heir to the Communist International to which the first Communist Party of Iran belonged.
The strike wave that has engulfed the United Kingdom shows no signs of abating. With inflation now above 10% and workers experiencing a 3% cut in real wages (the biggest drop on record), the regime trade unions affiliated to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are struggling to contain militancy within. In addition to official strikes, following the slow process of consultations, balloting and then negotiations, there have been a number of wildcat strikes as well.
Rail workers other than train drivers are represented by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA). They have been taking part in a long series of one‑day strikes. National rail strikes took place on Thursday, 18 and Saturday, 20 August. London‑wide strikes affecting Underground, Overground and bus services took place on Friday, 19 August.
Train drivers, members of the ASLEF union, struck for 24 hours on Saturday, 13 August. The rail employers are seeking to impose wage rises well below the rate of inflation, together with redundancies and changes in working conditions.
More than 100,000 Royal Mail workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted to strike on 26 and 31 August and 8 and 9 September. 50,000 CWU workers with the telecommunications giant BT voted to strike on 30 and 31 August.
As an island economy, the UK is especially vulnerable to strike action at the ports. Around 1,900 workers at Felixstowe, which accounts for 40% of Britain’s container freight, mainly consumer goods and canned food, voted to start eight days of strike action on Sunday, 21 August. The dockers, members of the Unite union, rejected an offer of 7% plus a one‑off payment of £500. There has not been a strike at Felixstowe port, which is now owned by a Hong Kong conglomerate, since 1989. 500 dockworkers in Liverpool also voted to strike.
The cost-of-living crisis is also impacting the so‑called professional classes, who must take industrial action in the current crisis. As Marx and Engels wrote in the Manifesto, «[t]he bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers».
More than 6,000 court hearings were disrupted by the first 19 days (between 27 June and 5 August) of a strike by members of the Criminal Bar Association (court lawyers). Junior barristers are expected to work long hours for very little pay, and even below the minimum wage in some instances. A second week of strike action commenced 16 August.
There is continuing unrest at airports, where bosses have attempted to use the pandemic to reset pay and conditions. Unite and GMB members at Heathrow, employed by British Airways, voted to strike after a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic was not reinstated. The strike was called off at the last minute when the unions recommended an 8% pay offer.
Refueling staff accepted a similar offer. Most UK airports are understaffed, and many are cutting flights.
Anger is reaching boiling point in education and the National Health Service, both grossly underfunded as the government seeks to deal with the debt crisis while promising tax cuts to its supporters. Together, these sectors employ about two million workers, many of whom have voted to strike when given the opportunity. This is being delayed by the trade unions through extended “consultation” processes. At the time of writing, the NASUWT teachers’ union was being balloted on strike action if the employers’ offer of 5% is not increased substantially. Other union leaders, quite pathetically, are writing letters to government ministers begging! In the NHS, strikes by junior doctors and nurses are on the cards for later in the year.
On 26 September the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is scheduled to hold a national strike ballot over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms. This follows a derisory 2% pay offer and the announcement of 91,000 job cuts – a fifth of the Civil Service. And as if that wasn’t enough, the government is proposing to cut redundancy packages by an estimated 25.9%.
A couple of years ago the union headed off proposals for a 33% reduction in the work force with a judicial review, and currently the union leadership is focused on talks with the government about «delaying any decision until the new prime minister is in place», etc. The vote for industrial action must be carried to back up any negotiations and extend solidarity to other categories of workers, especially in the public sector, who are under threat of further massive attacks.
A series of wildcat actions by both unionized and non‑unionized workers has been less well reported in the bourgeois press. But they are evidence that the official union hierarchies are struggling to keep disputes under their control.
At the Grangemouth oil refinery, near Falkirk, an estimated 250 workers blocked roads in early August to prevent any access to the site. Similar actions took place at the Fawley refinery in Hampshire and workers at the Valero refinery in Pembrokeshire are also taking part.
Hundreds of workers, nominally represented by the Unite union, walked out at the Drax Power Station, near Selby in Yorkshire. The plant generates around 6% of UK electrical capacity.
Finally, there has been a series of strikes at Amazon distribution centers, including walkouts in Swindon and Tilbury. Workers were infuriated when the company made a derisory offer of a 35p (40 cents) increase in the hourly rate. A shop‑floor worker said, «[i]n reaction to the news that Amazon would only give us a 35p pay rise, many of us stopped working on Wednesday afternoon. We hadn’t planned to walk out beforehand, but the news… encouraged many people to do something. I think people in every department joined, with at least 200 workers involved… The next shift – the night shift –joined us with a massive strike».
Amazon imposes inhuman working conditions on staff. At the time of writing, the Amazon workers were continuing to take industrial action by working at their own pace, not the pace dictated by their bosses.
By uniting and generalizing these struggles, British workers would have an opportunity not only to unseat the current government but also to extend the power and self‑confidence of the class. But that is the last thing the TUC and its affiliated unions want. Even the more “militant” union leaders, such as Mick Lynch of the RMT, which is affiliated neither to the TUC nor the Labour Party, have brushed aside any talk of a general strike.
The Mapuches are the most numerous indigenous people in Chile. With nearly a million people considering themselves members of that culture. The country’s history is inseparable from Mapuche history. The Spaniards called them Araucanos and the word became famous in the poem “La Araucana”, by the poet Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga.
At the arrival of the Spaniards, they inhabited an enormous territory from the valleys to the north of where is now the capital of Chile, Santiago, to where the southern islands begin, the Chiloé Archipelago. Today, they live in rural communities in southern Chile and to a lesser extent in southern Argentina, and many have migrated to the cities. They are a people with a strong identity that keeps most of its traditions and language alive.
The Mapuche are considered direct descendants of the pre‑Hispanic archaeological cultures Pitrén (AD 100‑1100) and El Vergel (1100‑1450), which developed in the region, between the Bío Bío River and the middle of Reloncaví. However, when the Spaniards arrived, their language, Mapudungun, was spread from the Choapa River to Chiloé, which does not mean a cultural homogeneity of the different groups that inhabited this extensive territory.
The Hispanic arrival in the 16th century was apparently the trigger for different populations to group together and strengthen their social and cultural ties, forming the historically known Mapuche identity. In a generic way, Mapuches are all the peoples who spoke or speak the Mapuche or Mapudungún language, expanded to the east of the Andes mountain range, present‑day Argentina.
Upon the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, they lived between the Aconcagua Valley and the center of the Big Island of Chiloé, in what is now Chilean territory.
The northern groups, called picunches by historians, were partially under the rule or influence of the Incan Empire. The invasion of the Inca Huáscar to the Mapuche territory in 1480, stopped by the tenacious resistance in the Bío‑Bío river, made it possible for the Mapuche people to assimilate cultural traits of the “children of the sun”, incorporating, among other elements, garments such as shirts, ponchos, waist bands and headbands. The Incas used the Punchan Paccu, a brownish green poncho, similar to the one later adopted by the policemen of Chile and which earned them the nickname Pacos.
The picunches were mostly subsumed to the Spanish. But those who lived in the territory south of the Maule River had a military tradition and successfully faced the Incas in the Battle of Maule and then the Spaniards in the Arauco War, where they showed outstanding command of the horse, which was an important factor in the development of their culture. From the middle of the 17th century, borders and periodic peace agreements endorsed in “parliaments” were established.
The Mapuche economy has varied over time. Until the 16th century, it was focused on hunting and gathering, complemented by the semi‑domestication of camelids and non‑intensive horticultural production, which consisted mainly of clearing fields by burning forests to alternate arable land (what is known as conuco towards the north of Latin America). Its economy was one of subsistence, that is, with little productive accumulation. Women were in charge of housework and ceramic and textile manufacturing (düwekafe/weaver).
The Arauco War, held during Colonial times, determined an economy typical of war, in which assaults and malocas (surprise assaults on towns and houses) were a source of income. At this same time the incorporation of the horse takes place, without which the traditional Mapuche economy cannot be understood.
The Mapuches made silverware, pottery, leatherwork, and loom work, especially ponchos and matras (wool-based fabric or cloth) for bartering or conventional exchange. From beyond the mountain range, the Ranqueles or Pampas brought salt, rhea feathers, and equine or bovine cattle. A matra was exchanged for a dozen horses and a poncho was worth sixteen.
In the second half of the 16th century, the cotton cloth replaced the coin in the Río de la Plata, Paraguay, Tucumán and Chile. The work of the aborigines and Creole peons, the rental of land, the tasks, the tithes of the Church, the purchase of properties and the salary of the governors were paid with rods of this cloth. Commercial exchange also included dyes, e.g., indigo.
In the Pampas on the Atlantic side of the Andes Mountains, a gigantic mass of cattle and horses had multiplied in the wild. The traffic of animals, cattle and horses from the Argentine Pampas, transformed the Mapuche into merchants not only between Argentina and Chile but also to other parts of the world. They herded thousands of animals to the fairs that had been established on the Bío Bío border. These animals were converted into dried meat, charqui, and were shipped in order to supply the markets of the Pacific and then to California, French Polynesia, Australia and the rest of the Pacific Ocean.
From this “globalized mercantile” period, belongs the enormous and beautiful “Araucana silverware”, an expression of the wealth that this indigenous society reached. Textile work also increased, both for use and for sale, as well as basketry, ceramics and especially silverware, a male occupation (ngutrafe or retrafe/jeweler), which reached its greatest development in the 19th century.
Everything changed radically with the Conquest. The Spanish conquerors demonstrated a vertiginous impetus. In a few decades they crossed from the Caribbean Sea to the Strait of Magellan in the southern Americas. In the south of Chile lived a population close to a million people. In less than forty years the Mapuche population was decimated and reduced to less than two hundred thousand. They would not rise above that figure until the end of the twentieth century.
The losses on the Hispanic side were not few and among them was the Governor and Conqueror of Chile himself, Pedro de Valdivia, who succumbed to his defeat. The young warrior, known as Lautaro, defeated him in Tucapel, in the south of the territory. The history of battles and wars is endless. A century passed and a new governor rode to the Quilín plains in 1641 and for the first time signed a peace treaty, in which the King of Spain agreed to recognize the borders and respect the independent life of the indigenous society. The Spanish colony was unable to penetrate the territories occupied by the Mapuche peoples with either the cross or the sword.
The peace endorsed in Parliament meant a very long period of independence for the Mapuche. From 1598 to 1881 they lived without being dominated by an external government and would be governed by their own rules and laws. Their territory extended from the Bío Bío River in the north to the Chiloé Islands in the south and, crossing the mountain range through the Argentine Pampas, they dominated a territory that extended to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mapuche, ranchers and merchants, had been generally very wealthy until the emergence and consolidation of the republican States of Chile and Argentina. Between 1881 and 1927 indigenous lands were expropriated and “reductions” were created, equivalent to reservations for indigenous people in North America.
The 1950s saw the most important Mapuche movement towards integration into Chilean society. Venancio Coñoepán, an indigenous leader, became a minister to President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and numerous Mapuche leaders were elected to the National Congress. This movement would join the Chilean political right. Not much would be accomplished; nor would it be able to stop the dispossession of land, the so‑called “usurpations”, or the impoverishment of their communities.
At the end of the 1960s and in the years of President Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular government, there was a massive occupation of large estates by Mapuche communities, lands that had been taken from them forty years earlier. At that time, especially in 1971, there was an insurrection of the Mapuche communities in southern Chile, who saw an ally in the so‑called “left” and in the Allende government a possibility of realizing their historic territorial claims.
The military coup of 1973 was extremely hard for the Mapuche world, many were detained, disappeared or exiled. After a period of brutal repression, in 1978 the dictatorship proceeded to distribute common goods to the indigenous peoples. All communal lands were divided up and assigned to families with a “private property” certificate. It was thought that with the liquidation of the communities and the introduction of private property, Mapuche society would weaken and lose its energy and combativeness. But exactly the opposite happened. In the 1980s, in the midst of the dictatorship, new organizations and political currents were born that affirmed the Mapuche identity on the basis of their ethnicity and culture, separate from the Chilean.
The transition to democracy in the indigenous sector took place within the political framework of the Agreement between the Coalition of Parties for Democracy and the representative organizations of indigenous peoples, solemnly signed in 1989 in Nueva Imperial, a small town in the middle of Mapuche territory, by then presidential candidate Patricio Aylwin, the first president of the post‑Pinochet period. With the Agreement, the indigenous peoples accepted submission to the rites of democracy, which was being “rebuilt”, that is, to channel their demands through institutional channels, and not de facto, such as the occupation of lands. The new government promised to reform the Constitution of the Republic to recognize the existence of the Indigenous Peoples of Chile and pass new legislation.
As of 1990 there were many expectations among the Mapuche that the return of democratic governments to Chile would open a space for indigenous claims and for a new relationship between the Mapuche and the State. In 1993 the new indigenous law was approved, but constitutional reform was rejected by the National Congress.
A bitter battle ensued over the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Ralco for which hundreds of Mapuche families were evicted from their land. The expansion of the forestry companies in the territories inhabited by the Mapuche communities opened another conflict that led in 1997 to a drastic break in the “institutional route” agreed upon in Nueva Imperial. Numerous new indigenous organizations left the institutional framework provided for by the Agreement and began a period of mobilizations, confrontations and State repression.
This is the current state of the Mapuche conflict.
Social relationships within Mapuche society were based on the family, on a preferably endogenous kinship system with marriage between cousins.
In the 19th century, marital unions between families had given rise to the rich (ulmenes), caciques (loncos) and captains (nidol-loncos) who constituted territorial identities that played on their political balance. The more extensive the kinship network and the greater the number of relationships that were formed within it, the more it was possible to maintain warriors (conas) who defended the territory and formed armies following the different tribal chiefs. Thus, patrilineage (a group of unilineal affiliations in which all members are considered descendants, exclusively through the male line, of the same ancestor, real or mythical) and patriarchy formed social groups that responded to external aggression and ensured control and domination of the territory and its livestock resources.
With the expansion of capitalist productive relations, especially in the postcolonial and republican era, the Mapuche population became peasants or were proletarianized, as a concrete expression of their “inclusion” in Chilean society, while maintaining their own ethnic and cultural identity. It was a forced change that collided with Mapuche culture: a culture closely associated with the control of a specific territory, land now lost and passed into the hands of landowners.
The process of peasantization led to the transformation of the peasant domestic economic unit into a nuclear family system, unable to maintain its former size within the reduced territorial space. Additionally, as families lost their influence as an economic and political unit, patriarchal authority, unable to fulfill its political and social functions, weakened. This has caused the impoverishment, migration and aging of the communities, accentuated by the subdivision of the ownership of communal Mapuche lands under the military government’s Decree Law 2,568.
As a further consequence, men who did not have a patrimony of land on which to settle their families were forced to migrate to cities to join the work force, or to remain in the community depending on the family and in celibacy for life. In effect, male domination over Mapuche society and the family has been strongly weakened. Poverty makes it impossible to fulfill the roles assigned to the Mapuche men normally required by tradition and customs. The family unit is also altered by the migration of women from communal land to cities, producing instability in communities where elderly and unmarried men are unable to feed their families.
Young intellectuals began to take up old ideas with new words, such as self‑government, autonomy and self‑determination for indigenous peoples. The conflicts of the land and the territorial claims are confusedly mixed with proposals for autonomy that arise from the most diverse sources, both from the past and from other experiences now present everywhere.
A confrontation began with the Chilean bourgeois State based on the defense and vindication of its territories, linked to the recovery of a lost social and family structure, and with it the political and hierarchical role of the lonco and men in general, in nostalgia for its pre‑Republican wealth.
The political movements that rose up against the Chilean State, whether by peaceful and legal or armed and illegal means, clung to their ethnic and cultural conditions, to remain integrated in and be vindicated over the rest of Chilean society.
The “Mapuche question” is the term used to indicate the ethnic conflict between the Chilean State and the Mapuche community, coalescing around the effects of the aforementioned Decree 2568 on the Mapuche and their ability to integrate within bourgeois Chilean society.
Therefore, the struggle of the Mapuche movement, which emerged in the first decades of the 20th century, as an expression of an organized action of that ethnic group within Chile, is a political struggle. It is part of the so‑called “social movements”, a movement that has its own identity of ideas, which brings together peasants, proletarians and petty bourgeois, mostly impoverished, who claim a past that no longer corresponds to the historical development of capitalist society, in Chile and beyond.
The clash of the Mapuches with the Chilean bourgeois State does not arise from the capital‑work contradiction or from the class struggle of the proletariat.
Within this movement various organizations coexist, an assemblage or association of an ethnic and peasant nature, grouped by community. Some of the organizations that make it up were born as a response to a specific problem and do not last over time. Generally, the Mapuche organizations maintain their autonomy, some even opposing each other; some act without asking for the support of the others, while others have only a local scope; and some are, by constitution, in open conflict with others.
As a whole, the movement seeks to resolve the material misery and social marginalization of the Mapuche people in Chile by obtaining special political rights for their minority ethnicity. For the most part, the various organizations have limited themselves to acting as pressure groups, seeking the mediation of State institutions, parties and churches to intercede with governments in order to obtain legislation to protect indigenous people.
Among the objectives pursued we list: 1. The right to self‑determination, an autonomous legislation on the property regime of the land, the territory and its resources; 2. The constitutional recognition of the pre‑existence of the Mapuche “nation” at the creation of the State and its right to self‑determination, to land and territory (including the use of land and subsoil); 3. The right to democratic participation, positive discrimination in Congress that guarantees two Mapuche parliamentarians per chamber; 4. Recognition of an autonomous Mapuche parliament made up of representatives elected according to their own culture; 5. Restitution of lands, reserve and ancestral; 6. Ratification of international conventions applicable to indigenous peoples, in particular ILO Convention 169; 7. Respect for the Mapuche legal system through a reform of the criminal procedure code that includes substantial aspects of Mapuche culture. 8. Recognition of Mapuche sovereignty and cultural structures.
The background of this organization dates back to 1996, when, in the midst of territorial struggles, Mapuche from various communities from the Arauco area formed the Lafkenche Territorial Coordinator as an alternative to the existing organizations.
For the first time, the traditional request for land restitution, abandoning the criterion of Merced Titles, is made from the memory of the elderly, from what they remembered as belonging to this or that family.
In addition, from this moment on, «the elaboration of the territorial demand and the struggle around it will go beyond the existing legality, not only because of the demand that was made there or because of the political content expressed, it will also imply a higher quality mobilization and decision, more confrontational» (Weftun 2001).
The rupture with the institutional order materialized with the burning of the trucks of a forestry company on December 1, 1997.
At the Tranakepe meeting in February 1998, the first agreements were reached between all the Mapuche organizations. In the second meeting, also in 1998, two visions for the future came in confrontation: one more “autonomous”, led by the Lafkenche Coordination Committee, and another more “official”, led by the mayor of Tirua, Adolfo Millabur, giving rise to a fracture within the movement.
From a new meeting in Tranakepe with only the Mapuche communities in conflict, the Mapuche Coordinator of the Arauco-Malleco Conflict Communities (CAM) was formed, with the support of the two organizations in the capital, Meli Wixan Mapu and the Mapuche Coordinator of Santiago. At the time of its constitution, a commitment was assumed to support all the communities in conflict and incorporate them into the CAM if the community and its lonco so wished. The first work meeting of the Coordinator was held in 1999 in the forest workers’ union in the city of Concepción.
One of the initial actions of the CAM was to seek a unified approach within the Mapuche movement. To this end, the communities were invited to attend meetings.
The CAM tried to spread the concept of a “Mapuche nation”. «That is where our goal points, so that in a year or two we practice and develop this concept of Nation… which will lead at some point to the stage that we call rebellion, once we have massified the concept. That is why we claim our ancestral forms of organization, where the authorities have the capacity to act and think autonomously, exercising real power in their own territories» (Antileo 1999).
Along with all this, the CAM exposes its utopian vision: «The restructuring of all the aspects of the Mapuche People is sought, from a philosophical-religious order, ideology, values, until it is reconstructed ideologically and politically… to sustain our own way of life. As the Mapuche Nation People» which «…involves the exercise of community, ceremonial and organizational practices such as the mingako, guillanmawun, guillatun, machitun, palin, trawun, kamarikun, nutram, among others, and above all the Mapudungun as a concrete expression of our own identity and life project». They also get into the details of the society they are trying to build. «At the same time, rescuing and strengthening our traditional organizational structure and the roles played by certain people within the Mapuche world, such as the lonco, werken, machi, weupive, cona, dugumachife, genpin, among others» (Arauco-Malleco Coordinator, 2000).
They define their struggle as “national liberation”, “anti-colonial” and claim the so‑called self‑determination of peoples. This conflict occurs through two paths: the institutional one, which seeks to achieve reforms in the Chilean Constitution and laws favorable to the Mapuche people, which is represented by participation in the Constituent Assembly underway in Chile; and that of some organizations that have formed armed groups who aim to recover Mapuche lands and their territorial autonomy from the Chilean State.
Within the framework of the armed struggle undertaken by a sector of the Mapuche movement, recently, on April 3, 2022, the CAM issued a statement in which it rejects «the new assimilationist and indigenist tactics of the elites and of Chilean President Gabriel Boric» and condemned the indigenous presence in the Constituent Assembly. «What the government is looking for is not to advance in the resolution of the conflict, but to legitimize its assimilationist apparatus at all costs, mainly with co‑opted and servile Mapuche sectors». He calls for a struggle for “Mapuche national liberation”. «It is for a reason that we have defined ourselves as revolutionary Mapuche and we have fought for years the territorial expressions of the capitalist and colonial State. It is for the same reason that our actions will continue to strike at the reproduction of capital that operates with blood and fire in our Wallmapu and we will strengthen territorial control as the basic and only platform to transform the reality created by genocidal extractivism. As CAM, we are not going to have a dialogue with those whose ultimate goal is the annihilation of our people, like Monsalve and company».
«In the midst of so much confusion, we reaffirm our weychan’s political-military path, just as Leftraru, Pelontraro and our fallen in combat weychafe did at the time, which is not focused on obtaining bureaucratic crumbs from the enemy but rather on laying the foundations of our proposal of Mapuche national liberation, for which the expulsion of all capitalist and colonial expression of the Wallmapu is necessary».
The Mapuche guerrillas adopted a self‑contradictory approach, declaring that they fight against capitalism and end up claiming the utopia of an autonomous Mapuche State, which would end up assuming the production and commercialization of goods anyway, as in the past, that they intended to revive.
Communist society will not be a “society of nations”. The national claim is an exclusively bourgeois historical transition.
The proletariat will have to undertake the task of destroying bourgeois rule and conquering political power in each country in which it manages to accumulate the forces necessary to achieve its aim. «From here onwards, and from the contingent and formal legal-constitutional perspective, the proletariat must establish itself in a class State (dictatorship), all transitory in nature» (Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory, 1953).
There is no other State to constitute in the fight against capitalism than the State of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and only temporarily, for the implementation of the communist program and to advance towards the extinction of social classes and of all forms of the State.
And in this context there is no historical space for the struggle for a Mapuche State.
The program of proletarian socialism supersedes the nation; it does not organize it in new ways. The survival of ethnic and cultural differences in the same territory cannot be a reason to demand a return to phases of historical development already surpassed by capitalism, which would distance the proletariat from the struggle for communism.
The Chilean proletariat – while not remaining indifferent to the armed resistance of the Mapuche and certainly not taking sides in solidarity with the bourgeois Chilean State – must concentrate its energies on the struggle against capitalist exploitation, with changes such as rising wages and the reduction of the working day, organizing class unions and confronting any artificial, non‑proletarian division based on ethnicity or nationality.
In the practice of the general strike, the workers will also have to confront the capitalists of the countryside and of the lumber companies, but they must be confronted by the proletariat.
In Chile, the Mapuche struggle is not a national liberation struggle: ethnic and cultural differences are not enough to justify it. The struggle imposed by history throughout Chile is now only the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeois regime, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the implementation of the communist program.
Workers of Mapuche origin will have to join the struggles of the working class and eliminate from their demands those based on reminiscences of an ancestral past no longer possible.
The middle classes of indigenous origin, crushed and impoverished by the advance of capitalism, have only two paths ahead of them: either join the proletariat in the struggle for communist revolution, or side with the big bourgeoisie and the landlords as forces fighting to preserve the regime of capital. The class struggle today presents no other options.
Approximately 1,100 miners at Warrior Met Coal, a large private firm that operates several facilities across the State of Alabama, have now been on strike for over 16 months since negotiations over a new contract reached a deadlock on wages and working conditions in April 2021. Engaging in a strike that is unlimited in duration, these workers show the way to victory for the rest of the working class.
On July 22, 2022, the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), using company estimates as a basis, assessed the damages of the strike thus far at $13.3 million – hardly a dent in their skyrocketing net income, reported as $297 million in the last quarter alone – and ordered the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which represents the strikers, to pay. The decision was rightly met with ridicule by the union president, Cecil Roberts, who has committed to a legal challenge: «[w]hat is the purpose of a strike if not to impact the operations of the employer, including production? Is it now the policy of the federal government that unions be required to pay a company’s losses as a consequence of their members exercising their rights as working people? This is outrageous and effectively negates workers’ right to strike».
By the same principle, a union that truly aims to empower its members should do everything in its ability to maximize the impact the strike has on the operations of the employer – but the UMWA has not done this. Shortly following the beginning of the strike, the operator was granted a court order against pickets «interfering, hindering, or obstructing ingress and egress to the company’s properties». The union has apparently encouraged its members to respect the ruling by clearing the entrances and exits whenever the sheriff’s officer, who is posted outside the facility to enforce the injunction, requests it, which hasn’t stopped them being hit and injured while picketing by vehicles moving scabs into and out of the mines with impunity. Perhaps President Roberts should ask himself what the purpose of a picket line is if not to obstruct the flow of labor and goods!
There are more opportunities for the union to substantially improve its support for its members’ struggle. On its website, the company offers some useful information about itself: «Warrior Met Coal is a leading producer and exporter of metallurgical coal for the global steel industry from underground mines located in Brookwood, Alabama, southwest of Birmingham and near Tuscaloosa… Metallurgical coal mined from the Blue Creek coal seam contains very low sulfur and has strong coking properties, making it ideally suited for steel makers. Warrior Met Coal’s cost‑efficient operations serve markets in the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America via convenient barge and rail access to the Port of Mobile». The striking coal miners should look to amplify the effects of their action through association with the workers of other companies that either transport or productively consume coal: to begin with, the miners can track coal extracted by scabs and communicate with port, barge, and rail workers to prevent the company from completing shipments; if Warrior Met succeeds in delivering the forbidden coal to a steel mill, then the miners can inform the workers there of its origins and ask them to withhold their labor in solidarity.
Currently, the mine workers’ union in many ways acts in the interests of the employers, whether it is conscious of it or not, contributing to the collapse of the union sector. (Note: The coal mining industry used to be totally unionized in the United States, but now only 15% of all the coal in the nation is mined by union workers). But this situation is not inevitable; workers both inside and outside the existing trade unions can and should cooperate to oppose weak or opportunistic leaders and rebuild the labor movement.
Labor Notes – a reformist and trade-unionist organization with ties to the progressive wing of the union leadership (e.g. Teamsters for a Democratic Union) as well as Trotskyist groups like Solidarity – has reported on the strike in multiple articles freely available online. They are also planning a «Troublemakers’ School – on October 15 in Alabama – to strategize, share skills, and learn ways to organize to win», including workshops on «Beating Apathy and Turning an Issue into a Campaign», with the striking coal miners evidently being their target audience. From a materialist perspective, making action conditional on successfully raising consciousness beforehand is putting the cart before the horse: there is no better teacher than experience – in this case, of class struggle. More importantly, the miners in question have already realized the necessity of fighting capital in their workplace; what they need is critical-scientific analysis so they can overcome the different obstacles they run into in the course of their struggle.
Only a union that promotes the militancy of its members, refuses to submit to the State at their expense, and seeks to extend their struggles beyond company and national boundaries – in other words, a class union – can guarantee lasting satisfaction for the workers. Only an international party of the working class with a clear vision and independent of the State and the bosses can provide adequate leadership for such an organization.
In Marion, VA, a town of only a few thousand residents nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, 270 manufacturing workers at General Dynamics, a major military equipment contractor for the US military, have been on strike for over a month. The plant produces lightweight, mobile shelters that are important for protecting soldiers and other equipment in varying, often harsh, natural conditions, in addition to radar and structural components for aircraft. Many of General Dynamics’ products are now being sent to Ukraine to bolster the war effort. The strikers’ complaints include declining real wages and the recently (in 2008) introduced two‑tier system.
Meanwhile, 30‑40 auto technicians at a Mercedes‑Benz dealership in San Diego, CA went on strike in mid June over the company’s wage proposal for the next contract. About one month in, 20 of the strikers were fired by the company in retaliation.
Despite the fact that the falling purchasing power of wages, multi‑tier contracts, and the right to organize and strike are hot issues for virtually all industrial workers in the union, only a small fraction of its total membership is presently being mobilized. Demands common to all the industries covered by the union, like wage increases across the board and equal pay for equal work should be advanced and directly fought for on the shop floor with the financial and organizational backing of the international union.
Judging from the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) – the union representing the strikers – and Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) – a popular reform caucus within the union – international websites, there is no sign that these strikes are even taking place; the only reports on the action come from external news sources and the regional UAW office. It is certainly odd that the union is not doing more to promote the event and link up various workers’ struggles with the resources it has at its disposal, let alone staging an apparent information blackout on the few existing sites of resistance.
A large part of the union’s attention remains fixed on the Constitutional Convention which just closed in early August without any major changes to the sclerotic union structure. Although the rising internal opposition of UAWD indicates an uptick in combativeness among members, both factions vying for union leadership have effectively channeled rank-and-file energy into the relatively innocuous avenue of voting for reforms of their own organization, as opposed to organizing and supporting action in the workplace.
Another contributing factor is the evolving composition of the union. Non‑union manufacturing has rapidly overtaken its union counterpart since the 1970s, with the free flow of capital – from urban union strongholds in the east and north to more rural areas with lax labor regulations in the south and west, from the US to foreign countries, and from foreign countries to the US (as it’s mainly the domestic auto companies that are bound to collective bargaining agreements with American workers) – playing a crucial role in the latter’s decline. But UAW has done little to counteract the trend, for instance by expanding its territory to organize non‑union workers and striking to prevent manufacturers from exploiting more vulnerable labor pools; instead, they have offered a number of concessions to the employers over the years so that union workers can compete in a race to the bottom with non‑union workers.
Naturally, this has led to a drastic loss of members in the auto industry, which the union is attempting to compensate for by recruiting white collar workers like graduate students, who disproportionately belong to the activist left. Several other unions have used the same tactic of organizing outside their jurisdiction, especially among the middle classes, to shore up their collapsing organizations, so they compete against one another for potential recruits and exhibit remarkable redundancies rather than rationally dividing up their tasks in cooperation to prepare the working class for struggle.
The proletariat is the only class capable of opposing the efforts of capital and its State to depress the living and working conditions of the vast majority of the population – because it alone, by its labor in the industrial core of the economy (e.g., manufacturing, construction, maintenance, transportation, agriculture and natural resource extraction), is responsible for creating the surplus-value which is the exclusive purpose of capitalist production. We communists focus on organizing the industrial proletariat into class unions so that workers can control the most strategically-important sectors and exercise maximal power when they take militant action.
A plan to consolidate the operations of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has rankled workers across the nation. In the hopes of reducing the costs of doing business and making US mail a financially viable enterprise, the top management has decreed the opening of new, large facilities specializing in sorting and delivery covering an extensive geographical area, taking over and centralizing the duties that were once distributed over many post offices scattered across the same region. This move is supposed to save on both equipment and labor expenses, making a great deal of post office employees redundant and enabling staff reductions.
The postal service is designed to bear the burden of meeting the needs of capitalism which promise the least profit. One illustration of this fact is that the USPS is legally required to deliver to and from everyone in the country at a uniform low price, regardless of how difficult it is to actually provide service and despite falling demand (including, for example, a mailbox at the bottom of the Grand Canyon which is only accessible by mule). Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon, UPS, and Nordstrom are granted de facto government subsidies in the form of USPS contracts to complete their most inconvenient orders for pennies on the dollar, throwing absurd workloads on the broken backs of postal workers. As a result, the USPS lost $87 billion in the period 2007‑20, including around $10 billion annually in recent years, a deficit that has been filled by immense emergency loans from Congress that merely prolong the crisis.
Due to ballooning debt and the desire to remain competitive on the world market, the US government has over a long period of time progressively reduced real wages as well as the quantity and quality of services provided by the USPS. Postal managers at the plant level are notoriously abusive as they drive employees into the ground, contributing to the apparently immense challenge of retaining employees. Chronic staff shortages and overwork (entry-level positions often entail 72 hour work weeks – six days a week, 12 hours per day of mind‑numbing manual labor!) are then added to the factory despotism, which helps explain the shockingly high number of suicides and mass shootings committed by current and former postal workers – a phenomenon charmingly named “going postal” in American slang.
Postal unions only won collective bargaining rights in 1970 after a massive and extremely effective illegal national wildcat strike organized clandestinely by rank-and-file associations. However, this remains the only notable example of a postal strike in the entire history of the United States, and the freedom to strike is still denied in this critical branch of industry. Thus, the only officially-recognized recourse workers have is grievance, mediation, and arbitration procedures, leaving many problems unresolved while dissipating tension with the bosses and asphyxiating any independent militancy. Further, the unions are divided into four separate crafts, each of which usually asserts its own sectional interests rather than their common interests against the exploiting employer: clerks, mail handlers, rural and non‑rural letter carriers. Worse yet, the union leadership adopts the interests of the employer by endorsing Democratic Party politicians who are slightly more generous with support and campaigning to prevent the privatization of the USPS, if not blatantly pursuing co‑management.
It means little to postal workers whether the boot that steps on their neck is public or private. Whoever is in office, no matter their ideology or party affiliation, will be compelled by economic competition and strategic concerns to run the State machinery as efficiently – and therefore as ruthlessly with respect to the lower-level workers it employs – as possible. The USPS cannot help but bleed money and deteriorate due to the nature of the services it is obliged to provide and the prevailing economic conditions, although the experience of working there demonstrates that it is hardly an institution worth conserving anyways. Postal workers can only save themselves through autonomous organization and combative action, whether legal or not, that rises above craft and company divisions, striving to extend their association until it encompasses not just all the workers of the supply chain but the entire working class – a real class union front.