Mon Apr 22, 2024
April 22, 2024

The New Industrial Restructuring and the “Utopian” Way Out

The Alcoa conflict in defense of jobs has uncovered the new industrial reconversion that is taking place. The destruction of the electro-intensive industry that affects 5000 direct workers in Galiza (Alcoa, Ferroatlántica, ENCE, thermoelectric, …), adds to the lay-off announced by the automaker’s industry: 600 workers in Nissan and 800 in Citroen.

By Roberto Laxe


As in the restructuring of the 80s, when the PSOE destroyed the Spanish industry to be accepted into the EEC (current EU), the struggle is facing two limitations that can only lead to an “every man for himself” situation. One, the goal is not the nationalization of companies to guarantee all jobs; two, isolating the mobilizations in each company as if they were independent problems.

Nationalization under workers control

The trade union leaders at that time (the UGT and especially CCOO leaders) did not promote the unification of the struggles to achieve a general strike in defense of all jobs, and, above all, they inaugurated the method of demobilization that is now the norm: the fight ended up by turning it into a negotiation policy to get “compensation/retirement in advance”.

Today as yesterday, the struggle for the nationalization of all companies that make lay-offs, as well as strategic industries (the electric ones!), is a key point to defend jobs. Not the kind of nationalization in which the state takes charge of the companies and, once bailed out, return them to private ownership; but under the control of the workers, at the service of social needs and as part of a social and national emergency plan that drives the country to a workers’ and people’s solution to the crisis.

This perspective for nationalization is not only silenced, but no political or union organization puts it on the table: the Economy minister, once that measure was insinuated, labeled it “communist.” Right, we communists are the only ones who defend it! This, of course, goes against the sacrosanct private property of the means of production.

Any measure other than taking them out of private hands and of the market is like having “bread for today but hunger for tomorrow.” The situation of Alcoa is paradigmatic. The trade union leaders obtained two extensions to keep the jobs. In January, with the deal for its sale to other companies – in October of last year they were already negotiating compensations for workers -, and now with the offer of investment funds, which only guarantee jobs for 10 years in the best case, if they are profitable (sic), and 2 if they are not.

Accepting these conditions is the same as going to the negotiation table with hands tied since the sword of Damocles of the industry shutdown will always be on the workers’ heads.

Breaking the isolation of struggles

Beyond symbolic “united” mobilizations, the fact is that a general phenomenon is answered with partial negotiations. The “every man for himself” policy will only guarantee that “even God will not be saved.”

Under the cover of the “green economy”, a new industrial restructuring is taking place in the EU, as if closing coal thermoelectric, lumber, aluminum companies, … and move them to other places like Saudi Arabia or Africa, where environment control is non-existent, wouldn’t keep polluting the very world in which we live.

What multinationals seek is to increase their profits based on low wages, poor working conditions or directly from slave labor; in addition to the lack of pollution control. In the end, European workers lose their jobs, and the planet continues to be contaminated exactly in the same way.

The nationalization under workers control implies the defense of labor conditions and therefore of production, according to social needs, merging social interests with those of the working class. By isolating the struggles one from another this goal is seen as something utopian, outside of reality.

The trade union leaders take advantage of that thought to justify their deal of “incentive to quit/retirement in advance.” As another way out is “utopian,” let’s negotiate the change of owner or 40/30/20 compensation days per year.

The way to victory is just the opposite, to unite the struggles of all companies in crisis all over Europe, for their nationalization under workers’ control, facing the plans of capital and its governments.

We may win or lose, but it is the only non-utopian perspective to defend all jobs. Indeed, the trade union bureaucracy’ current policy is the utopian one: reality says that under the capitalist system in crisis there is no guarantee of stability and dignified working conditions.

While the immense majority of those leaders admit the limits imposed by the system as the “lesser evil,” the building of new organizations whose central point is the struggle to break them is imposed.

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