Eastern strike anniversary
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Airlines strike. The big majority of the members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) who fought this 22-month-long labor battle remain proud of the stand we took against union busting and for decent working conditions and living standards, as are the flight attendants and pilots who joined us in the first nine months of the fight.
Frank Lorenzo was the darling of big business at the time because he had successfully broken the unions at Continental Airlines and slashed wages in half. The members of the IAM decided that we would not let him do this at Eastern. The union ranks reached out to unionists, other strikers, students, and working people everywhere. We explained that the stakes in this fight affected all workers. And in the course of the strike we stood up to Lorenzo, the federal government, the courts, cops, bankruptcy judges, and union officials who had little heart for a long fight.
Our accomplishments included not only "lasting one day longer" than Lorenzo but stopping him and his government backers from creating another major nonunion airline. This made other bosses think twice before attempting to dismantle our unions and cut wages and benefits. The closing of "nonunion" Eastern was a victory for all working people.
There has been very little coverage of this important anniversary by the big-business press who don't want to point to the example that the Eastern strikers set. This is especially true today as we see the labor movement coming out of the retreat we have been on since the Eastern strike. More and more workers are deciding to fight the bosses attacks on our rights and living standards and join up with each other to become even more effective.
There have been important strikes at UPS and General Motors. Today there are fights by unionists either locked out or on strike, including at Crown Central Petroleum in Texas, Titan Tire and Catfish workers in Mississippi, Kaiser Aluminum workers in Washington, and others. Black farmers are also setting an example in their fight to keep their land. The American Airlines pilots recently and the Miami Goya workers today are showing that we will use our unions to defend ourselves.
Those of us who gave ourselves to the fight at Eastern welcome the new fightback mood growing among working people and we look forward to being part of the coming battles.
Developments in Ecuador
The wave of strikes against the austerity measures organized by working people in Ecuador, I think it is important to follow up closely. Ecuador is one of the weakest economies in Latin America, although it is the number one exporter of bananas and shrimp in the world and has an important oil industry. Since the administration of Abdala Bucaram up to the present administration of Jamil Mahuad, the government has been facing a great deal of resistance from the toilers in their efforts to implement the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund, policies which only benefit a handful of oligarchs and the imperialists banks that take 41 percent of Ecuador's national budget.
First came the ousting of Bucaram by demonstrations of unprecedented number in recent history. The new government of Jamil Mahuad, has been facing protest actions since October of 1998. The government has tried to sell off to the "private sector." It wants to allow the United Sates to open a military base. Add to this situation the killing three weeks ago of the head of the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD, a Maoist political party) Jaime Hurtado, a deputy in congress, and two other deputies. Everything points to right-wing death squads.
To every single move of the government there have been protests. The general strike of February 5 paralyzed the country completely. The government has not been able to fire any of the 100,000 teachers on strike, and now there will be a two-day general strike planned for March 10 and 11. I don't know if there is a communist leadership in any of the groups fighting the government, I hope some communists come out of these fights.
Los Angeles, California
A translation question...
I just read the Militant reprint of Mary-Alice Waters's preface to El rostro cambiante de la política en Estados Unidos: la política obrera y los sindicatos [in the March 1 issue]. As one who is essentially monolingual I thought the serious considerations of political translations was very important.
I have a question, though, about the translation of worker. In the Militant, the paragraphs concerning this word appear cheek-by-jowl to the Pathfinder advertisement for the book. This is why I was drawn to the cover of the book where the subtitle is "la politíca obrera..."
People do indeed judge a book by its cover. It seems to me it creates just that wrong impression on the cover that the retranslation of the body of the text was done to clarify.
If, on the other hand, there's a good reason for the subtitle's use of obrera, it would have been helpful to make mention of this in the discussion in the preface on the use of the terms for "workers."
...and editor's reply
In the letter above, Michael Pennock raises a question about the subtitle of the Spanish translation of The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes. Why is política obrera used for working-class politics, he asks, when the preface to the new second edition points out that worker was translated in most cases as trabajador instead of obrero?
The preface notes that the new edition corrects the translation of worker, using trabajador, which refers to all wage workers, and employs obrero only when referring specifically to industrial workers. "The first Spanish edition had generally used obrero, a translation that inadvertently narrowed and distorted the class forces referred to" in the book, Waters pointed out. This is a break from the prevalent tendency in the workers movement in Latin America and Europe especially - a petty-bourgeois prejudice among most of the left - to identify the working class as its organized, better- paid sections rather than the class as a whole.
It is for this reason, in fact, that the Socialist Workers Party, in continuity with the Bolsheviks' class orientation, translates its name as Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores.
Unlike the noun "worker," the adjective "working-class" has only one form in Spanish - obrero. For example, working class is clase obrera and working-class movement is movimiento obrero. Thus, working-class politics is política obrera.
Editor, El rostro cambiante de la política en Estados Unidos
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