On the “settlement” of the struggle against the dismissal of 1047 national railway workers
30 October 2008

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(Union News "Daily DORO CHIBA" No.6699,)(Japanes)

On the “settlement” of the struggle against the dismissal of 1047 national railway workers
Doro-Chiba (National Railway Motive Power Union of Chiba)

What is going on with the attempt of political settlement by the “Four Parties and Four Organizations”

(1) The struggle against the dismissal of 1047 national railway workers stands now at a decisive crossroad. An attempt to reach a political settlement has been going on by the “Four Parties and Four Organizations” since Minami, the presiding judge of Tokyo High Court, made a proposition on July 14 “to settle the dispute outside the court”, endorsed immediately by Fuyushiba, then Transport Minister, and it was followed by a propaganda that the dispute was approaching to a final stage. We are seriously concerned about this development.

The most important problems of this movement for a “political settlement” are the fundamental demand of the struggle to withdraw the unjust dismissal of 1047 workers is dropped and the dismissed workers group of Doro-Chiba, one of the parties concerned, is excluded. Actually, “the petition paper for signature to demand an overall settlement of the dispute” openly declares that the issue of the unfair labor practice (concerning the mass dismissal) doesn’t necessary constitute the precondition of the settlement, and further it insists that it is totally stupid to refuse a settlement, clinging to the demand of withdrawal of dismissal, and to rush into a battle.

(2) Let’s look at what is actually being practiced to reach a “political settlement”: they, the “Four Parties and Four Organizations”, wrote “a letter of apology” to the government and the JR company; entrusted and gave a carte blanche to the Democratic Party, dropped all the suits on the unfair labor practice in order to reach “an exhaustive settlement” with the JR company, and finally abandoned to collecting money for a reserve fund of strike. All of these activities are nothing but a total surrender to the government and capital.

National Convention of Kokuro (Japan National Railway Workers Union) was held at the end of July adopted a defeatist and obedient policy toward the government, capital and Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), which is expressed in the following speeches and resolutions on the convention: “The statement of the transport Minister is for us just like a rising sun in the midsummer morning, heralding a bright day ” “We are now determined to carry out a fundamental change in our labor-capital relations for the last 20 years ” “The cooperation and coordinating efforts should be strengthened with Rengo both on the central and local levels”. It is now evident that there will be no victory for the struggle to withdraw unjust mass dismissal when the movement is running in this direction. We strongly oppose against the movement for a political settlement in such an outrageous way.

(3) The recent move of the government and railway companies to put an end to the struggle of dismissed 1047 national railway workers is a major offensive to promote further neo-liberal policy in a critical moment through “completing” the Division and Privatization of National Railway, an attempt since 1987. The reactionary coalition government of Liberal Democratic Party and Komei Party on the verge of a collapse is intent on launching a mass dismissal of 2 million public service workers through enforcing privatization. The Japan Railway (JR) companies are also beginning a “Second Wave of the Division and Privatization”. On the other hand, in face of mounting number of working poor, anger of workers is boiling up. For the ruling class, alarmed by the current situation of the class struggle, there is no more room to tolerate the existence and development of the struggle of dismissed 1047 national railway workers that kept fighting for decades.

What is at issue now?

(1) There is an argument: “The dismissed workers groups can no longer endure. The struggle of 1047 railway workers is becoming out of date. In this reality we have to give in”. Have we, however, to accept the seemingly unfavorable reality and to surrender? No, we should change the adverse reality in front of us by the united power of working class. It is a decisive point of departure for labor movement which way to go. The reality of “poverty and disparity” before us is no doubt an inevitable result of the concession and compromise of labor movement for years. Apparently the Division and Privatization of National Railway was a starting point of this historical development. Labor movement in Japan has many times suffered bitter experiences: labor leaders very often evaded their responsibility for their surrender and failure to confront hardship squarely and shifted the blame on the union members, or rank and file workers, as well as on the difficult situation. It is always the leadership itself that should take full responsibility and bear the test of the time. 1047 railway workers who have kept fighting courageously against unjust dismissal for 22 years, however, are remarkably tough and not ready to give in. It is the headquarters of the “Four Parties and Four Organizations” that is to be questioned as the proverb says, “Fishes go rotten from the head”. What is at issue in the struggle of 1047 railway workers, in fact, concerns the whole labor movement as a universal problem of political line.

(2) Somebody argues that it is the problem of the parties concerned and that it’s OK when they say OK, even if it means defeat. Is it, however, so simple? No, in this way, that is, by such an attempt to seek a “political settlement”, we can never strengthen labor solidarity or gain a step forward not only for 1047 railway workers and Kokuro but also for Japanese workers and labor unions as a whole. Proposed condition of the railway companies is to limit the issue only on money problem, and to offer 5 million Yen for each with a certain amount of deduction and no mention on other issues (such as unfair labor practice). This is quite an outrageous and humiliating answer for 1047 workers! They would be driven into poverty and even to suicide. As a national union, KOKURO would turn over to Rengo’s side who supports privatization and succumbs to union busting, delivering working class to severe capital’s offensive.

(3) Meanwhile, Doro-Chiba is accused by them, “Four Parties and Four Organizations”, as “a union who sticks to fight forever while there is apparently no other solution than to reach a political settlement”.

In the long history of Japanese labor movement, we have witnessed a lot of dispute and struggle over dismissal, some of which got victory and other ended in defeat of workers. Of course there were various forms of settlement. But it is quite exceptional that one of the parties of dispute, that is, the labor union, begging for a settlement, proposes to drop its demand on dismissal as a condition of negotiation even before the other party, the capital agrees to sit at the table of settlement. Could “a reasonable solution” be attained in this way? Absolutely no! Everybody knows it in labor movement. The current movement for a political settlement is practiced by those people, who don’t understand what labor movement really is and who, in desperate hurry, rely only on the illusion on the government, railway companies and the court. Only when labor unity is strengthened and fighting rank is widened, “political settlement” is possible. The reality is, however, official labor movement is losing unity and stepping back.

Doro-Chiba has won a suit on the issue of unjust dismissal of 28 union members because of the strike against the Division and Privatization. The result was a victorious settlement. It was gained through an uncompromising struggle sticking to the principle: “We never admit any settlement that doesn’t withdraw dismissal, the vital issue.”

Let’s start once again from the original standpoint of the struggle of the dismissed 1047 National Railway Workers

(1) It is now imperative to return to the original standpoint again and make clear the meanings of the 1047 workers’ struggle. Division and privatization of National Railway (NR) starting from the early 1980’s was the major offensive after World War II to break up labor movement. It was also a decisive step to carry out the neo-liberal policy throughout the society. In reality, within only 6 years, 200,000 of NR workers were dismissed and 200 were forced to commit suicide. The power relations of classes were forced to suffer a historical change in favor of capital through dissolution of Sohyo (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan) and Japan Socialist Party (JSP). Doro (Motive Power Union) ran away from Sohyo and became an agent of privatization. Kokuro could not work out a plan for an effective struggle, while its union membership was reduced from 200,000 to 40,000 in a few years. We faced then a new situation, in which existing labor movement could not work like before.

(2) Confronting this adverse situation, however, National Railway workers have never surrendered and continued the struggle for withdrawal of dismissal of 1047 workers since then. It is an unprecedented great achievement of Japanese labor movement that the dismissed 1047 railway workers have kept fighting for over 20 years, and workers throughout the country, possibly one million in number, mostly under the influence of Rengo, also continued to support their struggle trusting their own future in the struggle. In spite of surrender and retreat of union leaders, the struggle against the dismissal of 1047 railway workers has succeeded and crystallized all the accumulation of experiences of the struggle of national railway workers and workers across Japan in the years after World War II.

(3) On the other hand, wages, rights and working conditions of workers in Japan have been undermined and deteriorated for 20 years under neo-liberal offensive. Particularly, through radical revision of labor law system in a reactionary direction, such as the legislation of the temporary labor law, one third of all employees have been driven into irregular employment and working poor. The 1047 workers’ struggle has been significant counter power against such situation. In spite of the forced general retreat, workers have continued to fight in workplace in direct confrontation with capital. It has also played an important role in preventing the attempt of reactionary revision of the constitution by ex-prime minister Nakasone, who declared, ‘Clean the drawing room by the administrative reform, and set the revised constitution in a right place’.

(4) The most serious problem of the movement for a political solution by “Four Parties and Four Organizations” is that the movement is carried on without having any relation with class implication of the 1047 workers’ struggle. Workers who commit their own life in the struggle are aware and proud of the meaning of struggle. There is no victory where workers abandon their pride by their own hand.

The struggle and the standpoint of Doro-Chiba

(1) Doro-Chiba waged the decisive strikes twice against the division and privatization of National Railways and defended unity through fighting back unjust dismissal of 40 union members. Our struggle has got later an encouraging appraisal of US and Korean workers: “It is internationally an unparalleled struggle to defend labor unity against privatization and neo-liberalism. The precious experience of Doro-Chiba is what the fighting workers want to share.” Our struggle is not special. We have only fought out sticking to the principle of labor movement: “Power of united workers alone can change the society and make a history”. We are proud of our own struggle that has contributed to support the very basis of National Railway workers’ struggle even though our force may be still small.

(2) Neo-liberalism as the last resort of capitalism for survival has now gone into bankruptcy and a worldwide financial crisis broke out. In face of depression and inflation assaulting on workers, anger against neo-liberalism is spreading throughout the world with a pressing cry, “We must live”, and strikes, demonstrations and riots are raging everywhere. Prime ministers Abe and Fukuda abandoned their job one after another and the rule of LDP is closing to an end. Time is changing and labor movement is reviving vigorously after a forced retreat for years.

(3) The situation around JR has come into a new phase. Rail safety has broken down and succession of technology has failed. The fact is that basic technical ability to control railway is going to collapse completely. In reality, chronic vacancy occurs in every work place, and business is operating barely by working on holidays and by severer control of workers in work place. JR authority is trying to get through the crisis of business by overall outsourcing. However, it is aggravating contradiction and endangering rail safety further.

A drastic reorganization of management’s personnel policy is under way, while they are faced with the fall of the system of controlling workers through the alliance of conspiracy of the JR management and JR Soren Kakumaru formed during JR division and privatization offensive.

Under such circumstances, young workers employed after the division and privatization of NR, that is, newcomers, are joining Doro-Chiba one after another. It is possible now to gain a victory of the struggle of 1047 railway workers through crushing the privatized system of JR company and reversing the power relations if we concentrate our attack on the contradictions of the enemy camp and continue to fight sticking to the principle.

(4) New situation urges us to launch a fresh struggle to fight out the 1047 workers’ struggle to the end. The struggle of 1047 workers indicates the future of Japanese workers and labor movement as well for victory. It is no exaggeration to say that we have been fighting for 22 years longing for such situation. The situation is ripe. An excellent opportunity has come for the victory of the 1047 workers’ struggle. When the 1047 workers’ struggle stands at the forefront of the struggle of all the workers and succeeds in getting the voice of anger rallying around it, then an explosive development of the class struggle surely takes place. What is imperative for the 1047 workers’ struggle is to establish firmly a class standpoint. In other words, realize your own position and role in the current class struggle of Japan and have trust in unity of working class and concentrate all power to develop it. Thus the victory of the 1047 workers’ struggle will be realized.

“Four Parties and Four Organizations” calls for ‘Oct 24 Central Meeting’. Leaving as it is, it will be a meeting where the end of struggle is publicly confirmed, all labor movement are organized to submit to the present situation, and neo-liberalism and privatization line is admitted. We, from a viewpoint above, oppose the movement promoting political solution, and call out to rebuild the principled struggle.

September 2008

DORO-CHIBA (DC): National Railway Motive Power Union of CHIBA
Email: doro-chiba@doro-chiba.org
Web: https://doro-chiba.org/