GM’s axe comes down on the workers of Antwerp - Workers in other GM plants must unite and resist the onslaught

General Motors has announced that it will cut 8,300 jobs in Europe alone in a bid to reduce its overcapacity. The first plant to go was in Antwerp, Belgium. Workers in other GM plants, and in the whole industry, must now unite and resist in order to defend their jobs and living standards.

We reported back in June 2009 on one of the world’s largest car manufacturer, General Motors, filing for bankruptcy. Now GM, implementing its restructuring programme has commenced a brutal campaign of plant closures and job cuts in Europe. The first to go was the plant in Antwerp, Belgium where 2,600 are employed at the Vauxhall/Opel plant. The plant, producing the Vectra and Astra models, will be closing down over the next few weeks and the production of those models will be allocated to other plants across Europe.

GM has announced that it will cut 8,300 jobs in Europe alone in a bid to reduce its capacity by 20% due to the collapse in demand following the onset of the recession. Antwerp with its 2,600 workers was the first plant to go in a long line of other cuts to follow in the coming months.

Nick Reilly, Opel’s chief executive said “We have to take a plant out and, unfortunately, it is Antwerp” but he also added that the restructuring programme would affect all plants across Europe. GM also operates in the UK, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria and Hungary where the future of workers has been uncertain since the company declared bankruptcy and announced it would reduce its production. German workers are especially anxious because around 4,000 are expected to lose their jobs there.

Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, CSC general secretary Walter Cnop said that the plant closure was a disaster for Belgian workers. “To close a productive factory like this is a crime”. Unions have raised concern about the way GM has conducted its affairs. The closure of the Antwerp plant was not even discussed with unions or the Belgian government. This demonstrates that under capitalism, those who own the means of production, the capitalist class have ultimate power, even over the state itself.

Once again, the Marxist concept of over-production is vividly and blindingly made obvious. The productive capacity under capitalism becomes too great for the purchasing power of the masses. In other words, the earnings of the population as a whole is not enough to buy the whole of the commodities produced. This is due to the fact that a minority owns the means of production and siphon a large amount of the value produced as profit. This is the cause of all capitalist crises, including the one we are in now.

The fall in car sales world wide has made a huge dent in the car industry. GM is one of many companies that have commenced savage attacks on worker’s jobs and conditions in a bid to reduce their losses and become profitable again. But there lies a curious contradiction; when the UK government was subsidizing the car industry with the “Scrappage Scheme” the industry saw a temporary revival. This is an indication that there is a demand for cars. But people cannot afford to buy without subsidies. Again, this is further affirmation that profit siphoning is inhibiting the purchasing of commodities by the general population.

Bourgeois economists have claimed that most of the world has now come out of recession. Indeed, there are signs of recovery in some sectors and the GDPs of some countries have started to grow again. But who is benefiting from this recovery? Unemployment is rising and public spending cuts are on the agenda. While the bosses start to make profit again, working class people’s suffering deepens.

The bosses of GM have declared open warfare against their very own workers. Misery, austerity and idleness are heading the way of the GM workforce in Europe. There is only one solution; the workers need to organise in their trade unions and resist this onslaught with every means at their disposal. We are passing through an epoch where the ruling class has come to the realisation that their privileged position in society is under threat. They are aiming to consolidate their power by attacking worker’s pay and conditions. Many militant struggles have erupted across Europe and the GM workers must see that the only way to defend their jobs and living standards is to struggle. But victory can only be achieved if workers unite; we are only strong together.