Today, Wednesday 9am in the morning, a general public sector strike began after 3,700 municipality workers who have not been paid for months, some up to two years, demanded to open up the struggle and the Histadruth bureaucracy, which had done everything it could to avoid the struggle, could no longer stand up against the workers' pressure.
The strike has closed all local authorities, except for departments dealing with special education. In addition, all government ministries, with the exception of the Defense Ministry, are closed to the public. The National Insurance Institute, the Employment Service, the Israel Land Administration, the vehicle licensing office, and the land registration office are also shut. There is no train service, nor are planes being allowed to land or take off at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Seaports are also shut down. Bank of Israel employees are also imposing sanctions. There is no greater power than the power of the workers. The workers simply have to understand it.
The Histadruth bureaucracy in its last minute attempt to ditch the strike was ready to go as far as granting loans totalling millions of shekels to 625 employees in 10 local authorities if the government would pay the rest. How bad the situation is we can see from the case of Taibeh, an Arab municipality, where 300 municipal workers, some of whom have not received salaries for two years, formed a new system. According to the rules of this system the residents pay municipal taxes directly to personnel in the tax collection department, rather than the municipality. According to the new scheme, the worker reports the payment to the department, which then marks the resident's bill as paid.
A few weeks ago the Histadruth bureaucracy was able to stop the strike on the grounds that the government had promised to negotiate and settle this issue .This of course was a joke. Today, Eini, the General Secretary of the Histadrut, said that the government "was not willing to say unequivocally that every worker would be paid. We will not agree to less than this. We must put an end to this issue once and for all". So far the government had transferred funds only to 20 local authorities for the purpose of paying employees.
To defeat the general strike, the government went to the National Labour Court, one of the bosses' courts, asking for an injunction against the strike. Unfortunately, the best ally of the government has remained the very same bureaucrats of the Histadruth.
Eini, who is speaking about an unlimited general strike of the public employees, has already revealed what he means by this. All flights from England will be allowed to land in Ben-Gurion Airport, to allow thousands of British to watch the football game that is part of the Euro 2008 Group E qualifier this coming Saturday, in Ramat Gan.
The chairman of the Israel Football Association, Avi Luzon, succeeded on Tuesday in persuading Eini to permit the English fans to land in Israel despite the strike, contrary to the labour federation chief's earlier decision to allow only the English team to land. Not only this, but one of the old tricks of the Histadruth bureaucracy is to open a strike on the eve of a holiday and end it very fast because of “their concern for the public.”
Instead of empty talk about an “unlimited general strike” that Eini does not really intend to organize, a serious approach would be to organize as a first step a 24-hour general strike of the entire economy. To win such a strike it is necessary to organize an action committee in every office and in every factory composed of the best fighters loyal to the workers, both Jews and Arabs, within the framework of a national elected organization controlled democratically by the workers, on demands that can unite the entire class.
The demands should be: Minimum salary of 1000 dollars a month; Real wage raises that will stop the growing number of workers from falling below the poverty line; Re-nationalization under workers’ control of all the public factories, banks and other economic institutions that were transferred to the rich families of this country by their friends in the governments for pennies.
This strike could bring the employers and their government to their knees, and it can and should bring down this unpopular corrupt government acting for the rich families.
It is not a mere accident that this strike is taking place only months after the defeat of the Generals in the dirty war of Lebanon that killed more than a thousand citizens and caused horrible destruction, aimed at strengthening the US imperialist control of the Middle East.
The workers know that the government is very weak. It is not an accident that they want to struggle in this period. The defeat in Lebanon, where the citizens in the north of Israel were deserted and the solders were used as cannon fodder, has caused a political earthquake in Israel where, with every passing day, another bourgeois politician is exposed as a crook. The latest story is that of Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson.
Police are investigating whether Hirchson used NIS 5.65 million embezzled from Nili, a non-profit organization associated with the Histadruth national labour federation, to finance political activity in the Likud Party, of which Hirchson was a member before joining Kadima. Hirchson, a close ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, himself under investigation, and who is supported by less than 3 percent of the population, is a typical character of these gangsters who rule us.
It is not only the ministers who have been exposed as crooks, but who refuse to leave their posts showing the full contempt they feel even for the principles of bourgeois democracy. None other than the President Moshe Katsav, accused of sexual abuse, is refusing to leave office as well. Not only this, but instead of resigning, he claims now that all the evidence that has been accumulated against him should be disqualified because it was illegally collected. And why according to this person was it obtained illegally? According to his lawyers, the president had immunity against any criminal proceedings so long as he was in office, even during the period in which the police were investigating him. In other words they all feel they are above their own laws.
And what about the Labour Party, whose leaders are stabbing each other in the back? They all agree to get rid of Peretz. Now the question is who these right wing leaders of the party will choose to replace Peretz to betray us once again. The competition is between Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon – the first one was already a Prime Minister and the second one the head of the Shin Beth. Neither of them deserves any support.
Until the primaries scheduled for May, the only proper demand to put on the Labour Party is for it to resign from the government and act as a party of the opposition, acting as a real Labour Party and not only by name. To represent the interest of the workers the members of the party must remove the entire right-wing leadership who betrayed the promises they made on the eve of the last elections and elect leaders who want to act on a socialist programme.
Now Peretz, who supported the attempts to bring down the Hamas elected government by force, is trying to save himself by speaking of the need to negotiate with the new Palestinian national unity government made up of Hamas and the Abu Mazen group. In other words, he now supports the European imperialist approach to this government, as partner to the new illusions that the new Palestinian government will be able to end the struggle against the occupation. When military means fail the imperialists turn to diplomacy to achieve the same goals. The Palestinian unity government is happy with their new role in managing the imperialist order. The fact that the imperialists are ready to use their services reflects the weakened position of the Israeli state. However, for the ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers and poor this scheme will only be the continuation of the same misery under a different name.
It is typical of the left in Israel, like the Communist party and its front Hadash, and the Communist parties in the Arab countries, to support the Mecca agreement and to spread the same illusions again and again ignoring the previous illusions and their results since the creation of Israel in all the imperialist "peace" schemes.
The only way to end this nightmare is by removing all the ruling classes in the region, through a socialist revolution. As long as this order remains, the bloodshed, the oppression of the Palestinians and the exploitation of the workers will continue. The imperialists are very good at creating problems but are unable to solve the same problems they created in the first place. The workers at the head of the masses in Latin America show us the way.
The fact that in Israel we have a general strike, in spite of the limitations of the leadership, indicates that the Israeli working class exists and is prepared to struggle. All that is lacking is a genuine fighting leadership.
- Israel in crisis – the beat of the drum changes by Yossi Schwartz (March 6, 2007)
- Class struggle brewing in the Middle East by Fred Weston (March 1, 2007)
- Gaza like Baghdad by Yossi Schwartz (February 7, 2007)
- Massive public sector general strike rocks Israel by Alon L. and Yossi Schwartz (November 30, 2007)
- Israel bombs Gaza but even its own ruling class cannot see a way out by Yossi Schwartz (November 22, 2006)
- Gaza bombed again as Israeli government moves even further right by Yossi Schwartz (November 3, 2006)