The struggle of the
steel workers taught, in today's conditions, valuable lessons of
labour history, which is full of sacrifices.
Each moment of
their struggle was a significant lesson for the working class, so it can draw useful conclusions for the class struggle.
• It taught heroism and self-sacrifice. The striking steel workers had to face not only the owner of the Greek steel industry, Mr. Manesis, but also all the other exploiters, the politicians of the ruling class, and the repressive mechanisms. All this time, they showed exemplary strength and faith in the rights of the working class, against all the powers of heaven and hell.
• It taught the nature of class solidarity. It made the seemingly impossible, possible because it accomplished a nine- month workers' strike so that their colleagues who were dismissed could return to their jobs. It showed that workers' solidarity is an irreplaceable weapon of the class confrontation with capital. Comradeship was cultivated against the common enemy. Life itself tested the slogan "one for all and all for one".
• It highlighted the content of the many-sided conflict. This struggle was developed against the complex attack of the employer, against fatalism and compromise. It helped to discern the difficulties of the path of insubordination and disobedience against the laws that make people's lives hell. The slogan "all Greece must become like the steel industry" thundered several times in strike demonstrations against the brutal policy.
• It highlighted the need for organized struggle. The role of the trade union as the center of struggle was underlined, away from the grasp of the employers and the governmental trade unionism. It did this through grassroots initiatives through the formation of organized support committees, and through decisions of the general assemblies run by open procedures.
• It showed the never-ending struggle that exists between capital and labour. It revealed who the real producers of wealth are. The slogan "workers, you can be without bosses" took life. It disclosed the reality hidden behind the hell of the chimneys, the parasitic life of industrialists with their villas and yachts acquired by the sweat, blood and lives of workers. The struggle of the steel workers suspended, even temporarily, the tactics and the broader plans of industrialists. The strike began at the time when the directives of "job rotation" and of the most generalized attack were ready and waiting in the plans of several factories.
• It verified that only the line of class struggle, the conflict with the employers, government and the imperialist organizations can lead such struggles.
In contrast to the line of "social dialogue," "social partnership," the line of compromise and supposed "realism," not only does not break the aggressiveness of the capitalists, but on the contrary, turns the trade unions into their puppets. In this connection, the struggle of the steel workers was valuable because it helped to strengthen the belief in the need to cast off the chains of the governmental and employers' trade unionism.
The struggle of the steel workers challenged and opposed to the so-called realism of the governmental and employers' trade unionism. In these circumstances, this struggle pushed employers' Federations and Regional Trade Union Centres to go on strike and carry out work stoppages.
We are proud of the steel workers that gave this struggle and all of us who supported it. Their raised fists for nine months will empower the struggles to follow. The General Assembly of the Trade Union of workers in the steel industry considered that now is the right time to complete this great strike.
The conditions created - the immediate intervention of the government led by the Prime Minister and the choice to break the struggle in order to send a strong message to the whole working class and to those who struggle, the permanent presence of the repressive mechanism etc – imposed the suspension of the struggle to prevent its degeneration, as the employers and the state that serves them, aimed.
The union can face the new situation united, organized in the same way it collectively faced dozens of difficult and crucial moments in these months. The steadfast position of the striking steel workers forced the class enemy to forego appearances and use its last weapon, repression.
Thus, this struggle also revealed to the Greek people the brutal face of the "salvation" coalition government. It showed to the workers that as long as they will not yield to the plans of those who want them impoverished for the benefit of the profits of the plutocracy, the bigger, more brutal, more barbaric the attack against them.
So, this struggle makes us to consider the need for rapid development of a powerful labour movement ready to face the many-sided attack of capital – European Union, one capable of crushing every repressive mechanism. The workers of the steel industry are already winners.
The victory of the struggle of the steel workers is reflected in the tremendous legacy it leaves for the future. The seed planted will grow in the "new steel industries" that will spring up in the near future. A new storm of anti-labour measures is coming.
Some people wore the mask of the fighter. Some others played the role of a firefighter, dousing the flames of the radicalization of the labour consciousness, always looking for flaws in the strike struggle, trying to isolate and denigrate the steel workers union. They are now trying to pose as prophets after the fact.
But such struggles are not a ticking clock, predictably knowing what will happen in the next second. The struggle of the steel workers showed that when the working class decides to resist, nothing moves. When the furnace of the factory remains cold, every capitalist owner, such as Mr. Manesis, amounts to nothing.
This struggle highlighted the inexhaustible and hidden power that workers have, if they believe in their power and decide to fight. Life itself has, already, marked out this struggle among the brilliant, tough class battles, a brick in the wall of the long struggle of the workers against their exploitation.
August 2, 2012