The 6th international Automotive Workers' Counsel took place in Hanover from October 15th to 18th , 2009. 450 participants from 16 countries – among them workers from more than 70 production locations of the automotive and supplier industry, family members, as well as workers from other branches – discussed on how we encounter the new challenges for the struggles of the automotive workers in the world economic crisis and in the face of the global ecological crisis.
Up till now, we actually have only been confronted with the first signs of a comprehensive reorganization of the worldwide automotive industry. There are now worldwide production capacities of 94 million cars, with sales of 55 million cars in the year 2009. From the capitalist point of view, these are overcapacities that are supposed to be dismantled in a mutual battle of annihilation of the corporations on the backs of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families. And so, the enormously increased productivity benefits only maximum profits and the struggle for international market shares instead of benefiting the workers. However, we are the ones who created this productivity with our work. With only a fraction of these values being destroyed in the crisis, hunger and poverty in the world could be eliminated and the worldwide energy requirements could be covered by renewable energies, and new systems of individual and mass transport that are compatible with the environment could be implemented.
In some dependent and oppressed countries and in Eastern Europe, the burdens of the crisis were directly shifted onto the backs of the mass of the population by means of plant closures and wage cuts. In the Western European countries and also partly in the USA, the effects of the crisis were temporarily dampened by means of short-time work, scrap schemes and pay-offs at the expense of the national budgets in order to avoid protests, resistance or even the international unity of the working-class in the large principal factories and cities of the automotive monopolies. So, more than 100 billion US dollars were paid to the car company groups as subsidies worldwide.
Under the slogan of almost all automotive companies to “leave the crisis as a winner”, the workers are supposed to be driven into intensified competition against each other, and social rights and achievements that were obtained over decades are being dismantled.
In the face of this leaping development we also have to make a big step forward in the level, in the development and in the coordination of our solidarity and our struggles.
As a Russian participant said, every leap forward in the struggles is always preceded by a revolution in the minds and in the hearts. We found out that we have to deal with similar challenges everywhere:
· By means of playing off national and international production locations against each other, division is supposed to be spread among the workforces. This division is just a method to weaken our unity and to force us to renounce our demands. A colleague reported: “In Zaragoza they say that colleagues from Eisenach are taking away our jobs. Yesterday I spoke with the colleagues from Eisenach – they did not make this impression on me ...!” At the same time, the unemployment of some intensifies the exploitation of others. It seems unbelievable: People are being dismissed in Spain and in Germany they work additional shifts! “Capital is internationalized, the workers must act on an international scale, so that everything that happens in the world also gets a global answer” - as one participant said.
· In order to reach their objectives, the capitalists try to spread division within the working class - permanent staff against contract workers, workers with a migration background against “native-born” workers, young and old people, colleagues with temporary contracts or colleagues of subcontractors. We are understanding these often complicated manoeuvres more and more! United, we are strong!
· In their offensive of exploitation our rights are undermined, our health attacked, wages cut and working hours and intensity increased – most extremely for contract workers. Contract labor is absolutely terrible slave labor! But the consciousness is growing that Contract labor is only the starting point for attacking the achieved and assured rights of all workers! The unity of contract workers and the permanent workforce is growing! We say no to contract labor!
· From many countries we heard about increasing and intensified methods of open repression, of political oppression going as far as the assassination of leading representatives of the working-class movement and the use of racists and fascists to rage terror against militant and socialist workers. We first have to cope with these intimidations and organize international solidarity. Subtler methods like bullying, intrigues and anticommunism are also more and more becoming a method of class struggle used by the capitalists. This aims at our demoralization, our degradation, at the destruction of our self-confidence!
· There are attacks and dismissals, but also “the carrot and the stick”. They are trying to tempt us with so-called “employee participation”, that actually ties us to the interests of company management and aims at having us comply to wage cuts or other payments. Why should we be satisfied with the smaller evil and worsening conditions anyway?
· Worldwide they are attempting to have the workers identify themselves with the policies of the company. In Germany the Opel workers are supposed to wear T-shirts with the slogan “We are Opel”, in Brazil “We are GM”, and in the USA “Buy only US products”! It is not important where and for which brand you work! It is not important what is printed on your shirt! It doesn’t matter whether you work at GM, Toyota or VW – we are all workers and we belong together!
· Of course, we were able to assert ourselves successfully in various struggles. These are important achievements and signals! Nevertheless, in many issues we represent a minority position in society today. But does that mean that we are wrong? No! We are right! What is right will become stronger and will prevail, because the workers will not let themselves be deterred forever from leading the struggle for their justified interests. Defeats increase our vigilance and our experience. We will become stronger if we do not fear defeat.
· We automotive workers are told that it is in the interest of our jobs to adhere to the present transportation policies and combustion engines in cars. That is only correct on the basis of the logics of profit . For mankind it is a question of survival to prevent the climate catastrophe. Never before in history have we had such excellent preconditions for a fundamental change in transportation and traffic policy! These great achievements also include the chance to preserve jobs and to create new and future promising ones. We must fight for environmental protection and jobs at the expense of the profits!
The media spread massive propaganda saying that renunciation on the part of the workers is inevitable. But we are not the ones who caused this crisis. We workers will leave this crisis as winners if we overcome division and uncertainty and go into the offensive.
The direction taken at the last Automotive Workers’ Counsel proved to be successful. In the international solidarity charters of VW and GM, 22 delegations promised to develop cross-border solidarity and mutual support at all locations sites. These became alive in the exchange of explosive information, mutual visits and consultations of the workers of the individual enterprises, in the mutual support in strikes and struggles, cross-border solidarity actions, worldwide campaigns, common national or international days of action and strikes. In these struggles, discussions and mutual support the spirit of the solidarity charters became a material force! These were important, but only first steps! We are determined to continue this path of cooperation among the enterprises and branches, to develop it further, to include more workforces and to extend it to the struggle against the global environmental catastrophe.
Never before have the prerequisites been so good, the workers so productive and so well- trained, internationally composed and mutually informed. Never before have we been so conscious of the necessity to build up a relation of confidence and a far- going agreement in the basic demands for which we want to struggle for internationally:
· Instead of the lowering of wages, the struggle for higher wages and training compensation – like the colleagues at VW Puebla in Mexico, at GM Sao José de Campos in Brazil or at Seat in Spain, who could push through these demands against threats of plant closures. Equal wages for equal work – within the company and worldwide! Let us put up our own demands for our working and living conditions!
· Our most important economic demand is the demand for the 30-hour week with full wage compensation. Short-time work in almost all countries shows that the shortening of working hours can preserve jobs and also create new ones, as well as that the increased workload can be counteracted. But not at our cost, but at the cost of profits. No extension of working hours, neither on a workday nor by means of raising the retirement age! Solidarity with other social movements!
· Struggle for each and every job and trainee post. Every job bought with severance pay is a job lost for the youth! We demand zero dismissals and we also do not accept any other kind of job annihilation!
· Automotive workers must be atthe head of the militant environmental movement! With thepower of the worldwide working-class we can and must push through the creation of jobs, as well as a radical reverse turn to preserve nature and towards regenerative energies, means of transportation and transportation policy at the expense of profits. A Spanish participant said, “If the 93 million cars cannot be sold then we workers have to do something else, like build cars without emissions, means of mass transportation and ecological products which are beneficial to the environment.”
· Hand in hand, young and old. The Automotive Workers’ Counsel emphasizes the responsibility for the working-class youth. For the protection of the youth! Train them for struggle! Young people are especially rebellious, but they are also easy to influence and are especially hit by unemployment and contract labor. We are strengthening them against division, mobbing and fascist threats.
· Our situation as auto workers also determines the lives of our families. Let us win over our partners and our children for our struggle. Women and children are a strong power in the lead, and the children are our future! At the same time let us support the self-reliance, the equality and the liberation of women in word and deed!
· We demand and make use of our democratic and political rights and liberties. We demand a comprehensive, full and legal right to strike. We need free trade union and political activity in the factories instead of surveillance and disgraceful conditions for trade union work like in Hungary, where the trade union had to be founded in a bus in a parking lot. We bereave and we are angered about the murder of trade unionists in many countries, against dismissals and repression against Toyota workers in the Philippines or trade union members in Brazil and that paramilitary forces are trained in the USA to murder trade unionists in Columbia. Stop the financial support of the Filipino military by other governments!
· We need strong unions as organizations for the struggle. We take up the struggle against all forms of oppression of trade union work. We strengthen the militant trade union basis! We criticize the policy of class collaboration of trade-union leaders, who regard themselves as co-managers of company leaders. These people are on the other side. We demand and promote the emergence of a determined movement of criticism within the trade unions against undemocratic practices of the trade union leadership. In those countries where it possible to remove reactionary trade union leaders from office, we demand that this be done. Oppose the expulsion of revolutionary, left critics and strugglers for socialism from the unions, like in Germany.
· We are searching, discussing and fighting for a societal alternative without exploitation and oppression. We won’t let anyone keep us from thinking beyond the capitalist system! Our counsel itself showed how socialist life could be: how productive and disciplined the cooperation of the international industrial proletariat; how creative a democratic culture of debate; how great our ability to solve problems; how enthusiastic our culture and undivided solidarity!
· We are proud to be workers! We demand acknowledgement and respect in society!
· We are a part of the international working-class movement – the struggling miners, garment workers, the colleagues in the supplier plants, the logistics personnel and our brothers and sisters, as well as all those who are exploited and oppressed.
The Automotive Workers’ Counsel, as a non-party affiliated event which is open in its world-outlook, points out the direction:
· Let us continue on the path of developing international working-class unity!
· Let us develop solidarity charters in more and more companies. Let us put them into practice and fill them with life! Let us develop our coordination to a higher level! Let us organise mutual visits and let us strengthen our language capacities and let us win translators everywhere!
· Let us create lively, up-to-date and explosive websites for millions of auto workers!
· Let us prepare the next Automotive Workers’ Counsel in 2012 on an even broader international basis and through preparatory groups in the various countries.
Long live international solidarity! Workers of the world, Proletarians of all countries – unite!