Tag Archives: Strategy

What can the Ssangyong strike in South Korea teach us?

SsangyongOne of the most militant strikes in the current crisis has been the occupation of Ssangyong Motors in South Korea.
The strike failed to win its main demand of no lay-offs, however, it blazed a light in a murky time of reactionary offensives by the rulers and defensiveness by the oppressed that characterizes much of the current moment. There is a lot that we can learn from these heroic auto-workers.

Loren Goldner, who was in South Korea during the occupation, has a comprehensive interview here about the strike.

Also, here is a summary of Goldner’s conclusions taken from the Libcom archive.

Ssangyong motors strike in South Korea ends in defeat and heavy repression

by Loren Goldner

The Ssangyong Motor Company strike and plant occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, ended after 77 days on Aug. 5. For the 976 workers who seized the small auto plant on May 22 and held it against repeated quasi-military assault, the settlement signed by Ssangyong court receivership manager Park Young-tae and local union president Han Sang-kyun represented a near-total defeat. Worse still, the surrender was followed by detention and interrogation of dozens of strikers by police, possibly to be followed by felony charges, as well by a massive ($45 million) lawsuit against the Korean Metal Workers’ Union and probable further lawsuits against individual strikers for damages incurred during the strike. The hard-right Korean government of Lee Myong Bak is signaling with these measures—its latest and most dramatic “take no prisoners” victory over popular protest in the past year and a half– its intention to steamroller any potential future resistance to its unabashed rule on behalf of big capital.

The Ssangyong strike echoed in many ways the dynamic seen in the recent Visteon struggle in the UK and in battles over auto industry restructuring around the world. Involving, on the other hand, an outright factory seizure and occupation, and subsequent violent defense of the plant against the police, thugs and scabs, it was the first struggle of its kind in South Korea for years. Its defeat—one in a long series of defeats extending over years—does not bode well for future resistance.
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The “Twin Pitfalls of Tailism and Adventurism”: on the campus movement in California

Advance the Struggle has produced a very good assessment of the strategic and tactical debate inside the 9/24 walkout in California, and some key ideas and questions about where things need to go.

check it out.

they write:

“Some organizers at UC Berkeley stated that an occupation at that time would have been premature, and would not have advanced the anti-budget cut movement. It is defeatist and conservative to assert that an occupation would be “premature,” “out of place,” or “detrimental” to the movement. On the other hand, springing it on the general assembly by trying to lock down Wheeler Hall was straight-up reckless strategy……..Two days later at an anti-budget cut conference at SF State SUP was vilified by an alliance of Trotskyist groups, and other liberals, for being “undemocratic” for its perceived support of the failed occupation. This misconception was reconciled after a long discussion, but unfortunately obscured the real point of contention: the twin pitfalls of tailism (following behind proposals for petitions and legalistic protests) on the one hand, and adventurism (isolated militant action) on the other. Both of these approaches sidestep the political consciousness of the masses.”

and

“The strategic question faced is should there simply be legalistic mass protest in Sacramento, or can there be simultaneous “illegal” statewide shutdowns of numerous educational institutions and workplaces? Unions might engage in legal one-hour pickets, but union members should take this struggle into their own hands beyond the legalism of union politics. If a statewide strike is going to take place, we must think about what type of statewide organizational formation needs to exist for such a massive strike wave to take place. Politically, such a statewide network should see the bankruptcy of petitions, and of the general approach of petitioning power in a “respectable” and legalistic way. It should also not limit itself to advocating mass assemblies, but think a political step further about what to propose at mass assemblies in order to deepen the consciousness of the participants and advance the struggle.”