the international conference
29-30.10 2010 in Stuttgart
The first day (29 of October) of the conference was opened with the International Forum of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation named “Auto.Labour.Solidarity”. The chief problems of discussions were dedicated to situation in car industry of the presented countries and to automobile trade unions’ struggles. Firstly it was noticed about reduction of automobile sales in European market, at the same time there is the boom of sales in China. The loss of around 1 million worker places in all economy sectors took place in South Africa for 2008-2009 as noticed J. Fortuin (NUMSA, South Africa). 80 thousands - were lost in the automobile industry, that’s why struggle is directed to save work places. H. Arslan (Metallgewerkschaft, Turkey) underlined that 45% of automobile production in Turkey is exported to the EU. There is a great hope for the progressive production. Meanwhile there is huge losses of work places; all the more, 44% of workers are out of formal sector of economy. In H. Arslan’s opinion, in that situation much attention should be paid to the structure of trade unions. In Turkey there is a competition between main trade unions of metal workers, - as a rule that is supported which more approached to company management. Also since for 20 years trade union movement in Turkey was forbidden, now actual requirements are (1) struggle for recognition; (2) enforcement of collective agreements system; (3) need for shift to neutrality of company management in trade union development. The situation in India was presented by A. Roy (NTUI). In particular, there is a crisis of stability which not to less extent is connected with the situation when 60% of population live in the rural area. Around 80% of workers are hired for temporary period, not having collective agreements. Moreover, most problems come from difference of work movement when trade unions are stratified on account of differences of religions; castes. L. Henriksson (Volvo, Sweden) noticed the change in capital structure in Sweden; at the same reduction of local struggle.
The conference continued with the Session: “Conversion instead of crisis? Good Work.Nature.Mobility”. H.-J. Urban (Executive Board IG Metall) described several points of situation in German car industry. In particular, the importance of car industry for Germany is connected with the fact that around 2 million of people are engaged there. Meanwhile, such problems as the high level of CO2 concentration in atmosphere, the lack of sustainability derive from autoculture. In that case discussions can be dedicated to points how to reduce emissions; improve car-recycling. Electricity can’t be an answer since it’s necessary to take into consideration methods of its production for cars. Moreover, H.-J. Urban rose problems (1) of necessity to reduce work time, to make shift to sovereignty of the time; (2) to integrate developing countries into process of transformation of automobile industry’s background, - in other words, to achieve win-win sustainability.
Session: Ways out of the Crisis – democracy and conversion.
Elmar Altvater largely dedicated his intervention to the main aspects of transformation of auto-consciousness. He underlined that (1) capitalism of today, and in particular car industry greatly depends on oil production, raw materials; and connected with that a car mode of life have been responsible for the contemporary climate collapse. Earlier an automobile was associated with social status; but now it’s the object of consumption.
The chief alternative to get out from the car-dependence is based on the change of mode of life. To his opinion, society should define limitations of autosociety. The only possibility is to find substitutes of a car. Cars have a difficult decision, that is to become less: less driving4 a car of modest size; and all the more there is need in reasonable transport systems. As E. Altvater noticed such a construction requires intervention in “laws” of capital existence, - it means hard conflicts with automobile industry. However, there is no another way.
30 of October 2010.
Catherine Lutz spoke on the contemporary backgrounds of autoculture. In her intervention called “The United States of Automobiles” she marked several myths of car popularity in the USA. But first it should be said that the US takes the 4th place in the world car-production, but it is the first world consumer of a car industry. The most spread myths about cars are the following:
Car makes financial sense;
Car is comfortable;
Car is connected with status and individuality. In that point car makes more condition for individualization of the American society;
Cars are safe;
Cars make me an individual.
“Prison of a car” is a concept that is closely linked with the creation of extra conditions for enlargement of car-functions (e.g. introducing of internet technology). That is already beyond the direct car utility for human being.
Seminar “International. Conversion. Mobilisation” was mostly dedicated to discussions about social activity and struggle in the world automobile industry. Herman Rosenfeld (eh. CAW/Canada) in his report “Crisis of tradeunionism, struggle and conversion” noticed that the main consequences of the world crisis are taken by workers. That’s why trade unions of UAW, Ford face pressure presented as a policy to keep their labour places. In that case most urgent problems are connected with absence of strategy how to make concessions. Meanwhile there are a few groups of activists in automobile industry of the US that endeavor to challenge to UAW’ leadership and make reorientation of trade unions. Moreover there is the tendency of small movements in the US. In particular the struggle of trade unions of medical workers, teachers, city-workers against unpaid leave; reduction of pension rights. In H. Rosenfeld’s opinion special role here plays internal solidarity of the society: if internal struggle isn’t considered to be real, it can be compensated by international solidarity. Solidarity should be connected with a current struggle.
Thad Williamson’s (University of Maryland) report was dedicated to “Democratic planning and labour control”. In particular he underlined that the US traditionally have close connection with automobile. Car industry and erecting of automobile infrastructure (roads) were a leading driver of the capitalist development in the XX century. Mostly that orientation on automobile in American society has formed new mode of life when cars used not only as a means to go to work but also for daily purposes. However, the XXI has faced two main obstacles: (1) capital implosion of the car industry in the whole; (2) ecological necessity to reduce CO2 emissions.
Enrike Gomez told about trade union struggle in the Mexican tire company “Euzkadi”.
The main contradictions of the conference are between:
huge fields of discussions and necessity to concentrate on more urgent problems linked with automobile crisis;
representation of different countries and absence of dialogue how to integrate of car-crisis resolutions into backgrounds of actions in developed and developing societies.
that format of seminars with reports of participants and necessity to discuss and change opinions of common struggle; to elaborate methodologically integrating approach to overcome limits of existing automobile industry.
1 Postgraduate Student of the Institute of Philosophy,Academic Secretary of “Alternatives” Foundation
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