In late October - after more than two years on the picket line - Liverpool dockers once again confirmed their resolve to stand by basic trade union principles. In a ballot on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company's 'final offer' - a ballot forced on the strikers by TGWU General Secretary Bill Morris - the strikers overwhelmingly rejected the bribe being offered by the company (£28,000 each) and vowed to fight on in solidarity with their colleagues in Torside, and to continue the fight for jobs and against casualisation.
Following on this ballot, several regions of the TGWU passed motions calling on the union's General Executive Council (GEC) to fight the dispute with the intention of winning it through a campaign including industrial action by union members and to "immediately invoke the support of the International Transport Federation in support of our sacked Liverpool dockers". However, when the GEC met in early December General Secretary Bill Morris and Chair Andy Smith combined to rule discussion on the dispute out of order, hiding behind the Tories' anti-union legislation (which 'New Labour' has no intention of changing).
The attitude of the leadership of the TGWU in refusing to make this important dispute official and in manoeuvring to make life as difficult as possible for the strikers is in stark contrast to the sort of international solidarity being shown for the dockers' struggle among portworkers throughout the world.
Among the places which have seen solidarity action - largely ignored by the media of course - in recent months have been:
Belfast - 8th September - ATGWU members imposed 5 hour delays on three Coastal Container ships.
Derry - 8th September - go slow and overtime ban.
Dublin - 8th October - 70 Liverpool dockers joined Dublin colleagues at the gates of Dublin port from 6am, causing a massive tailback of heavy goods vehicles. A number of employees from the Coastal Container Line terminal (100% owned by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company) joined the protest and all work came to a standstill for 30 minutes.
Drogheda - 8th October - complete closure of the port from 5pm Monday to 8am Tuesday.
8th September also saw action in:
Sweden - All ports organised by Swedish Dockworkers Union stopped, all trade with Liverpool hit.
Denmark - 24 hour stoppage in Arhus, action also in Copenhagen.
Netherlands - All-day stop-work meetings in Amsterdam. Delegates went to Rotterdam to meet with dockworkers there, a meeting which led to joint action against casualisation on 2nd October, including a strike by 250 Rotterdam workers.
France - 8 hour action in Le Havre on 10th September.
Solidarity actions and stoppages also took place in Spain, Portugal, South Africa, India, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, Brazil, and also in London and in Liverpool itself.
This tremendous display of international solidarity and the massive fight being put up by the dockers in Liverpool and by their support group 'Women of the Waterfront' shows that, despite manipulations and treachery by so-called union 'leaders', the spirit of real trade unionism lives.
Their fight is ours. Every trade unionist and worker needs their victory. Show your solidarity, send messages of support/donations to
J. Davis, Secretary, Merseyside Port Shop Stewards, 19 Scorton Street, Liverpool L6 4AS.
[Note: This dispute was settled shortly after going to press]
The Australian state is worried the unionised workers on the docks may cause it trouble in future. So seventy former and serving Australian army personnel went to Dubai for a three month training program on Dubai's wharfs as stevedoring mercenaries!
It's interesting to note the government's reaction when they are pushed on this question. As far as they are concerned it's all legal and above board to train industrial mercenaries to take over the jobs of Australian workers. Let's not forget the state has a monopoly on legalised violence in our society. As far as the Howard regime is concerned, there's nothing wrong with using the state's military personnel to break the back of a civilian organisation - the Maritime Union of Australia.
The training of these mercenaries is a perfect example of how far the state is willing to go to protect its interests. As far as Howard and his cronies are concerned, there's nothing wrong with using violence to destroy lawful, peaceful civilian organisations in this country. They see nothing wrong with the state spilling blood to win a point. Can you imagine the media and government outcry if maritime workers were willing to meet violence with violence?
from the Anarchist Age Weekly Review
On December 22nd forty five indigenous, civilian members of the Zapatistas were massacred by pro- government paramilitaries in Chiapas, Mexico. This massacre was followed by army raids on many Zapatista communities during which houses were smashed up and food, money and equipment stolen.
WSM members active in the Irish Mexico Group helped organise demonstrations and meetings about the massacre. In Mexico City, Zapatista supporters blockaded the stock exchange on January 5th and threw red paint on its walls. Internationally, by January 11th a list of 122 protest actions in over 60 cities had been reported. The two largest were in Barcelona and Milan where demonstrations of 7,000 people took place. Meanwhile in Chiapas indigenous women had successfully driven the army away from a number of Zapatista communities.
At the time of going to print the situation in Chiapas continues to be very tense. Contact the Irish Mexico Group at LASC, 5 Merrion Row, Dublin 2 for up to date details.
Representatives of the following organisations met during November 1997 in order to establish a permanent international co- ordination of anarchists from Eastern and Western Europe:
- Belorussian Anarchist Federation (FAB) - Anarchist Federation of Eastern Ukrania (AFEU) - Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists (KRAS) - active in Russia/Belorussia - Federation of Social Anarchists (FSA) - active in former Czechoslovakia - Initiative for an Anarchist Federation in Germany (I-AFD/IFA) - Bulgarian Anarchist Federation (FAB)
In our co-ordination we want to concentrate on the practical aspects of the co-operation. Among these are:
- regarding the fact that communication by mail within and between our countries is getting more and more inefficient, we will raise the necessary funds to provide especially Eastern groups with electronic means of communication, such as faxes, computers, printer machines etc.
- all participants agreed to promote as soon as possible a public campaign in favour of Belorussian anarchists, fighting the semifascist dictatorship of president Lukashenko.
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