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A serious public transport strike in the Netherlands

Sunday, 1 July, 2018

First published on Libcom.org, here: http://libcom.org/blog/serious-public-transport-strike-netherlands-01072018 Edited a bit.

A serious public transport strike in the Netherlands

There is some serious strike action going on in the Netherlands. Regional public transport – mainly bus, but also some regional train lines – has seens substantial strikes. Also, there have been strikes of metal workers. Both are organized through the main trade unions. However, especially the public transport strikes have been relatively militant. They are like a breath of fresh air in a country where the Right is on the rampage and workers’ struggles have been quite subdued for much too long.

Public transport workers – mainly bus drivers, but some train drivers as well – fight for a new labour contract. They demand higher wages: a 3.5 persent rise, while the bosses offer just two. They demand measures against work pressure that has been rising all the time. In particular, toilet breaks have become an issue of more than symbolic importance. The trade unions demand a toilet break every 2.5 hours. The bosses say they need more time to calculate the costs. Trade unionist patience, however, has worn thin, and with reason. The first strike on this issue was on January 4. The second one was on 31 April and (yes!) May First. There have been regional strikes since. A risky move away from all-out action by the trade unions, this shift away from nationwide strikes: it takes some of the pressure out of the conflict., while the other side did not show many signs of moving at all.

However, after postponing it a few days after announcing it for 25 June, last Wednesday, 27 June, trade unions finally started a nationwide strike, for a three days duration as far as the christian CNV federation was concerned, while the main union federation FNV called for a strike for an indefinite time. This seriously raised the temperature. The FNV claimed that at least 80 percent of the 12.000 workers involved were ons strike. Even if that may be an exaggeration, there must haven been several thousands of strikers. After the three days, negotioations did not resume. The strike went on. However, the union federatuions decided to sustend strike action during rush hours, while still calling for s continuation ot the strikes during the rest of the day. A sad, but sadly characteristic, trade union step back from all-out confrontation.

There were strike rallies and meetings at the places where buses unually start their services. This is not just a ‘stay-at-home-while negotiators do their job’ strike. Groups of workers tried to block strikebreakers’ efforts to drive some buses. Bosses’ efforts to continue limited services were only partly succesful. There have been complaints from the bosses’ side of ‘intimidation’ of strike breakers by strikers. There is considerable anger amongst the striking workers. Earlier remarks from managements’ side thart workers ‘should drink less’, so that they don’t need to go to the toilet that often, probably added fuel to the fire. Bosses refuse to restart negotiations while the strike continues.

Now, in other countries, all this would hardly be news. This is a regular strike, organized through regular trade unions and under regular union control. For the Netherlands, however, this is still quite a big thing. Strikes of indefinite duration are quite rare in this country. The scenes of militancy, with strikers trying to block strikebreakers, are quite unusual too. Besides, this is a high-profile strike: everyone notices this strike: at the very least all those workers and students and school children needing to take the bus or visiting somebody at the hospital or whatever. Of course, some of these people are annoyed. But everyone can understand how awful workers feel who are presurised to continue driving while badly needing to go to the toilet. This strike is less impopular, I think, than similar strikes in the past. This strike could end in victory – if at the very least the unions don’t take more steps back, or if workers start to move beyond what unions propose. Signs of the latter happening, however, are not really to be seen. Militancy? Yes. Autonomous workes organisation? A very big question mark.

The context is important too. Last year saw quite high numbers of strike hours. This year will probably see even higher numbers. The workers’ movement in the Netherlands is still extremely weak. Its militancy leaves much to be desired. But there are stirrings. Life on the front lines of the class struggle is much more exciting than it has been in years.

Not that organizations in the radical movements take notice, by the way. There has hardly been any attention in both marxist and anarchist circles for the current public transport strikes. This, at the very least as far as class struggle anarchism/ libertarian communism is concerned, needs to change quickly. When workers move, class-struggle anarchists/ libertarian communists should at least take note. Even when, due to our limited numebers, we may not be able to do much more.

A few English-language sources from mainstream media:

https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/06/regional-bus-drivers-go-on-strike-some-80-of-services-cancelled/

https://nltimes.nl/2018/06/26/nationwide-strike-regional-public-transit-starts-wednesday-unions-confirm

I wrote an article on the strike on my website, in Dutch: https://www.ravotr.nl/2018/06/27/de-grote-staking-het-streekvervoer-en-de-solidariteit/

Peter Storm

Anarchism: basic concepts – Rotterdam lecture notes, more or less

Saturday, 29 October 2016

On 27 October, I did a talk in Rotterdam on ‘Anarchism: basic concepts’. It is the first talk in a series of five. A written version of the talk – not the exact words, but the braod outline of the story, and some additions – follow below.

Anarchism- Basic concepts

Introduction

Anarchism comes in as much varieties as there are and have been anarchists. Yet, we do have concepts in common, even if not all of us do use the same words. I will try to introduce what I think are the main concepts, using words as they have generally been used within the historical anarchist movement.

Anarchism is a movement of resistance. Anarchists resist the state. Anarchists resist oppression, class exploitation and the most diverse forms of domination and imposed power relations that restrict and violate our freedom as individuals. We – yes, I am one of them – want to replace all thes structures of unfreedom with a society of freedom, equality and voluntary cooperation. And we have a specific methodology opf social change, in which the end to be fought for is already visible in the means we use. Together, the critique, the goal and the road from here to there, form a recognizable whole. As historian George Woodcock formulates it:

There is a definable anarchist philosophy, just as there is a recognizable anarchist temperament. It involves three elements – a criticism of society as it is, a vision of a desirable alternative society, and a way of proceeding from one to the other.” (1)

Now, let us make vision into visions, and plan in to plans, and you have a very usable framework for presenting anarchism as a current of social and political thought and action. Continue reading “Anarchism: basic concepts – Rotterdam lecture notes, more or less” »

Nicer ways to do it? Bolivian miners fighting back

vrijdag 26 augustus 2016

First published on my blog on Libcom.org. The article has problems, als I mention in the edit at the beginning. But I will let it stand.

Struggle, repression and contradictions in Bolivia

Edit, 18 47 hour on 26 August, fine-tuned 2034 hour: I have seen information that these cooperative miners’federation also is against union recognition and so is somewhat more reactionary than I thought. I still think we should never be on the side of government and its repression. My basic position has not changed. But the article below is defective. I will let it stand as it is, however; it was my honest effort, and it is dishonest to pretend that I thought otherwise than I did.

“There are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail”. That was what I found myself thinking (and humming) after I heard about the killing of a deputy minister by miners in action in Bolivia. The quote is from a Malvbina Reynolds civil rights song, It Isn’t Nice(1). The anger behind the ministers’ death has reasons. And nicer ways to make their point had not led to very noticeable results. What is the fight about? Continue reading “Nicer ways to do it? Bolivian miners fighting back” »

Sanders campaign reaches its climax

donderdag 14 juli 2016

This article was written for my Libcom blog. You can find it there already.

Bernie Sanders finally announced his support for Hillary Clinton as Democratic candidate for the US presidency. That was what he was supposed to do all along. Working through the Democratic party demands support for the candidate that wins the primaries.of that party, whoever it turns out to be.. That support – almost guaranteed beforehand – functions as a sign of loyalty and trustworthiness towards that party. It was also what he was expected to do by all but the most credulous. The whole Sanders operation was an effort to help restore something of the progressive mass base of the Democrats, in support for one of the two capitalist parties, and for the political system itself. In that sense, the Sanders phenomenon was business as usual, albeit in a somehat unusual fashion. The announcement shows both what is usual and what is unusual about Sanders and his fanhood. Continue reading “Sanders campaign reaches its climax” »

Racist tide in the Netherlands encounters opposition

Wednesday, 6 januari 2016

This article was written for Doorbraak, where it is published already in an illustrated version and with even more hyperlinks. It is also a blog piece on Libcom. By the way, happy and subversive new year to all of you 🙂

The Netherlands is experiencing a wave of racist, sometimes openly violent, actions and street mobilizations, mainly against refugees and the sheltering of refugees. Street mobilizations of an intimidatory character have occured where municipal councils debate whether to establish an AZC (Asielzoekerscentrum, centre for asylum seekers) or an emergency refugee shelter in their city or town. Small scale violence against houses where refugees live occur repeatedly. Meanwhile, official politics talks about the issue of refugees in a way that portrays them, not als people trying to escape the horrors of war and persecution, but mainly as ‘fortune-hunters’ who only come to the Netherlands to find jobs and social security. Continue reading “Racist tide in the Netherlands encounters opposition” »

The Hague, Netherlands: the heat is on

Thursday, 2 July, 2015/ donderdag 2  juli 2015

Below is an article I just wrote for Libcom.org and posted there.

The police killing of Mitch Henriquez has led to three nights of protest and anti-police resistance in The Hague, Several hundreds of young people were out on the hot streets, confronting the cops.

The police killing of Mitch Henriquez has led to three nights of protest and sometimes surprisingly serious anti-police resistance in the Schilderswijk, a poor neighbourhood where the majority of the people living there is of migrant background. Serveral hundreds of youn people confronted the cops for hours on Monday night and again on Wednesday night. But streets in the neighbourhood were not exacty quiet on Tuesday night either. Continue reading “The Hague, Netherlands: the heat is on” »

Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism

Saturday, 4 April, 2015

Written for Libcom, and just published on my blog there.

In Rojava, in the North of Syria, Kurdish fighters are struggling against IS, Islamic State. That struggle deserves out interest, because it is not just a fight between armed groups fighting for territory but at the same time a struggle for a different social and political order, called Democratic Confederalism. Direct democracy, a central rol of women in the fight and in the running of society, space for people of different ethnic backgound to express themselves and co-determine their own fate, libertarian socialist inspiration and a clear break with the Marxist-Leninist and nationalist orthodoxies of the Kurdish movements involved , the PYD in Syria, the PKK in Turkey with which the PYD is connected… all this gives many people reason to cheer the events as an important revolution – the Rojava Revolution. Others, however, are less convinced, some – myself not excluded – have serious reservations. Exchanges of opinions, sometimes furious ones, have been going on for months now. What follows is a contribution to this polemic.

Continue reading “Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism” »

Europe in Ukraine: many things to many people

Sunday, 8 December, 2013

Article, written for Libcom where it also can be read.

Again, on the protests in Ukraine; this time mostly on the attitude towards ‘Europe’ among the several forces within the protest.

Again, there is mass protest in Ukraine. On Sunday, 8 December, hundreds of thousands have been gathering in Kiev, the capital. Demonstrators torn down a statue of Lenin, still seen as symbol of Russian domination. Opposition politicians are announcing that the protests will continue till government and president are gone. One opposituion leader is giving president Yanukovych 48 hours to resign. Otherwise, his “residence will be blocked”. The demands of the rally, according to an English-language announcement : “Current Ukrainian President and government must resign”; new elections and the forming of a new goivernment should follow; “Stop persecution of innocent people who participated in the peaceful protests”; freedom of assembly and of speech should be guaranteed; “Sign the Association Agreement with the European Union”. Yanukovych ’s refusal to do so triggered the protests. What makes people so angry about this deciosion, and so insistently ‘pro-European’? Continue reading “Europe in Ukraine: many things to many people” »

Ukraine: what’s going on, and what does it mean?

Tuesday, 3 December, 2013

My Libcom piece on Ukraine, posted there this evening

Some thoughts on the protests happening in Ukraine. Things are not completely what they may seem.

The mass protests unfolding in Ukraine are raising a few eyebrows here and there, as well as the usual hyped-up talk of people’s revolt and even revolution. The eyebrows are justified. Mass demonstrations of many hundreds of thousands in the winter cold, people blockading government buildings, attacking a presidential palace and occupying the city government office, calls for president and government to resign, talk of a general strike…all in support of closer ties to the EU? It all seems a bit odd. Add to the strange brew a strong element of extreme nationalism, and the picture of a movement that is right wing, reactionary and unsupportable from a radical, libertarian communist point of view becomes even clearer. What has been going on? I think there are at least three elements to all this. Continue reading “Ukraine: what’s going on, and what does it mean?” »

Romania: resistance against corporate environmental destruction and politics-as-usual

Thursday 12 September 2013

This article, on insistent protests against an environmentallt destructive mining project in Romania, was written for ROARmag.org, where a slightly differently edited version can already be found, together with a very useful comment on the article.

For 8 consecutive days, people in Romania have been protesting a planned mining project in Rosia Montana, a mountain village. The protest is directed against threatened environmental destruction. But protests also express distrust of the government, of parties and the political establishment in general. There is already talk of a “Romanian Autumn”. The worldwide struggle against corporate domination and the political assistance it is getting has opened a new front. Continue reading “Romania: resistance against corporate environmental destruction and politics-as-usual” »