WSWS on East German strike

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Thu Jul 17 05:00:12 MDT 2003

Union leaders call off crucial strike
Lessons of the German metalworkers' struggle
By Ulrich Rippert
17 July 2003

Sometimes there are events which occupy the headlines for just a day or two,
but which nevertheless mark a fundamental political turning point. Only
later is the full historical significance of the event clearly evident.

The July 6 decision by the executive of the German trade union IG Metall to
declare the collapse of its four-week strike in the east German steel and
electrical industry is just such an event. It is the biggest defeat for the
trade unions for decades. For the first time since 1954 the trade union has
totally capitulated to the terms of the employers and called off the strike
after four weeks, in which the union achieved nothing.

The calling off of the strike does not only affect those concerned but also
represents the opening shot in an all-round offensive against the entire
working class. As if bursting a dam, employers organisations and the
government will proceed even more aggressively to strip away all the social
gains made by the working class over the past 50 years. At the same time,
the defeat represents a milestone in the decay of the trade unions
themselves. The myth, that by relying on its relatively high level of
organisation and extensive participation in management decision-making the
German trade unions would be able to repel the introduction of American-type
conditions in Germany and prevent the dismantling of the welfare state, has
been finally laid to rest.


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