This Week in History: January 3-9


Milosevic rejects election results in Serbia

On January 3, 1997, the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic declared that it rejected the report of a group of observers led by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, which called for recognition of the opposition’s victories in the elections. municipal authorities in 19 of the largest cities in Serbia.

Slobodan Milosevic

Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic rejected the report, filed with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has 54 countries, claiming that the Zajedno opposition coalition won only three smaller towns, as well as nine of Belgrade’s 16 district councils, but not the more powerful city council. On the same day, the regime ordered the resumption of elections in Nis, the second largest city, rather than concede defeat to the opposition.

Demonstrations continued daily against Milosevic’s regime, despite an order from the police. Forty thousand people demonstrated in Republic Square the day the government announced it was rejecting the Gonzalez report. There was a suggestion of weakening in Milosevic’s inner circle, with the report that the mayor of Belgrade, Nebojsa Covic, had decided to resign rather than continue to be silent over the electoral defeat in the capital.

The vote and the protests showed that social opposition was growing against Milosevic and his bankrupt Serbian nationalism, which descended from the Yugoslav variant of Stalinism. However, the Serbian opposition, as well as the European intervention led by Gonzalez, were entirely subordinated to the imperatives of imperialism and global finance – the same forces that had targeted Yugoslavia for destruction and led to its shattering into a series of fratricidal wars. from 1991.

50 years ago: British miners start nationwide strike

On January 9, 1972, 280,000 coal miners across the UK began a two-month strike against the Conservative government of Edward Heath. The strike was the first national strike by British miners since 1926, when a miners’ walkout quickly spread to become a general strike that threatened the capitalist regime.

The main demand of the miners during the strike of 1972 was an increase in wages. While in the 1950s and early 1960s the pay of a British miner was still higher than that of an average industrial worker, over the next decade that number changed dramatically, so that in In 1970, the incomes of miners were much lower than those of workers in other industrial sectors.

Young coal miners in South Wales. Photo from January 17, 1972, Bulletin edition

The production of coal itself had become considerably more efficient and more exploitative. In 1956, 700,000 workers were needed to produce the 207 million tonnes collected that year. In 1971, when only 280,000 mining jobs still existed, they produced 133 million tonnes of coal. In other words, in 1971 each miner produced on average one and a half times more coal than the 1956 miners, but for less.

British workers intended to fight the Conservative government and win. The recent passage of the Labor Relations Act threatened to criminalize strikes and prison workers. British workers generally refused to recognize the law.

Jack Stone, a laborer speaking to Workers’ press, the newspaper of the Socialist Labor League (the British Trotskyist movement at the time), said: “This strike aims to give miners a fair share of the profits created and a standard of living comparable to that of other workers. Stone continued, “Our main enemy in this area is the Conservative government and our union, national and regional leaders. Too much right [in the union leadership] were ready to sell. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are now.

The strike immediately called into question not only the immediate standard of living of the miners, but the control of coal production itself. The government claimed there was no money for miners’ pay increases as the industry only reported a profit of around £ 500,000 in 1971. However, this was only after paying millions of dollars in compensation to former mine owners.

While in 1946 the United Kingdom had nationalized the coal mines, supposedly making the government the owner of the coal deposits, the agreement provided that the owners of the mines were entitled to receive substantial compensation, including included as government coal stock. This essentially allowed wealthy capitalist miners to control the mines, albeit reorganized under the National Coal Board, which determined the wages of miners.

The strike enjoyed immense support across the working class, with many workers from different sections refusing to haul coal or other scabs onto the striking miners. The intensity of the strike proved the determination and revolutionary potential of the working class.

The workers organized a mass picket line that shut down all coal mines in the country. They picketed not only at their own sites, but also at power stations and fuel storage depots where their coal was used and stored.

75 years ago: London truck drivers go on wildcat strike

On January 6, 1947, some 5,000 truck drivers in London quit their jobs in an indefinite wildcat strike that broke out outside the control of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) and quickly turned into a confrontation with the government Labor supported by unions. .

The shutdown was prompted by anger over a series of demands that had gone unfulfilled during nine months of industry negotiations. Chief among them was a mandatory 44-hour week, with many drivers being forced to work dozens of hours longer than that.

Clement Attlee

The Labor government led by Clement Attlee had been brought to power at the end of World War II in 1945, over a wave of working class determination that there would be no return to the social misery of the 1930s. He enacted a number of reforms, including the nationalization of the coal industry and several other key sectors, and the creation of the National Health Service.

The government, however, was fiercely hostile to any movement of the working class. Shortly after the national elections, he mobilized troops against the striking dockers. January 11, Time reported: “Despite the fact that the Minister of Labor has announced his intention to break the strike, the men are unhappy that he has not given them any assurances that he will take action to modify or improve in any way. it is the bargaining mechanism of the Central Wages Board, which unions and men agree is obsolete and cumbersome.

On January 15, Labor followed through on the threat, sending hundreds of troops to Smithfield Market and carrying out scab operations. The attack prompted sympathy strikes among 10,000 dockworkers, as well as market workers across London, while the number of jobless truck drivers rose to around 30,000.

Labor and the union bureaucracy, fearing the growing movement, have changed course. By this point the strikers had established their own grassroots committee, while the capitalist press warned that the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party was gaining an audience among the workers. On January 15, Labor Minister George Isaacs, with the support of the TGWU leadership, activated a Joint Industrial Council, which had been dormant since its formation in 1945. Arbitration was used to defuse the strike movement, who stopped. The drivers would be granted a number of their demands, including reduced hours.

100 years ago: French troops begin their withdrawal from Turkey

On January 3, 1922, French troops began to withdraw from the province of Mersin in southern Turkey. The withdrawal from the region was complete on January 7.

The withdrawal of French troops was a key provision of the Ankara Treaty, signed in October 1921 by the Turkish National Movement led by Kemal Atatürk and the French government of Raymond Poincaré, which ended the Franco-Turkish war of 1918-1921. . The French also withdrew from their positions in the Dardanelles, the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, in October 1922, which effectively marked the end of the Allied imperialist intervention in Turkey in the aftermath of the First World War. .

Soldiers of the Armenian Legion in the French army, WWI

The French presence in Turkey began after Mudros’ armistice in October 1918 which marked the surrender of the Ottoman Empire to French and British imperialism, ending hostilities in the Middle Eastern theater of World War I. Under the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between the British and the French (first made public by the fledgling Soviet government), France was allocated territories in southern Anatolia (modern Turkey) in addition to the Ottoman territories which include modern Syria and Lebanon. French troops, mainly colonial units and the French Armenian Legion, occupied southern Turkey.

The main strategic objective was the control of coal mines in the region. Along with French, Italian and British imperialisms, they also attempted to divide Anatolia into spheres of influence, and the capital Constantinople was occupied by a coalition of imperialist troops. The imperialist powers and their Greek proxies were driven out in 1923 by the Turkish nationalist movement during the Turkish liberation war.


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