Ronald Reagan And The Venezuelan Strikes
Ronald Reagan And The Venezuelan Strikes
Translated by JosÃ© Luna
On August 3, 1981 around 13,000 air controllers in the U.S. went to strike after failed negotiations with the federal government. The strike aimed at an improvement in wages as well as reductions on working hours. That same day, President Ronald Reagan declared the strike illegal and threatened all those involved in it with contractual termination if they did not return to work within 48 hours. Robert Pole, president of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), was fined with USD$ 1,000 a day by a federal judge while the strike was on.
On August 5, Ronald Reagan made effective his threats and fired 11,359 air controllers who continued with the walkout. Moreover, the President imposed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a lifetime prohibition to re-hire any of the dismissed air controllers. On August 17, the FAA started to receive job applications to fill the 11,359 vacancies and on October 22 the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) declared void the legal status of PATCO. Meanwhile, Reagan ordered military air controllers to take over the duties of their dismissed civil colleagues thereby, converting the former in scabs.
Margaret Thatcher became British Prime Minister in 1979, after the British elite summoned her to reverse the economic dusk of the empire. According to the â€œiron ladyâ€ who was intimate friend of Augusto Pinochet and a loyal enthusiast of her idol Reagan â€“ â€œRonnieâ€™s poodleâ€, the British press sarcastically called her â€“ this economic dusk had two main reasons: â€œthe monopoly of nationalized industry and the monopoly of unionsâ€. To move forward the economy meant to finish with both.
The privatization of the large national industries â€“ an idea that the Conservatives had copied to the neoliberal propagandist Peter Drucker from the U.S. â€“ removed the first hurdle to â€˜progressâ€™. The coal minersâ€™ strike in March 1984, on the other hand, brought the opportunity to destroy the power of unions, just as Reagan did three years before.
The unions wanted to substitute the rule of law for â€œthe rule of the mobâ€, declared the Prime Minister and thus determined to begin a war against the rabble. She ordered to State authorities to accumulate vast coal reserves to preclude that the walkout affected the economy and used massively starvation, police and military force, and the judicial system to break the strike. The mounted police charged brutally against the demonstrators and road closures organized by workers, and thousands and thousands were prosecuted. After a year of heroic resistance, economic harshness and State power finished with the strike.
The action of the Reagan and Thatcher governments in the two most representative and ancient Western democracies is not an exception to the treatment that bourgeois governments usually give to workers who pursue legitimate interests within their constitutional rights, but a pattern of recurring behavior. U.S. democracy, for example, has an ample legislation over the repressive regulation of labor relations (Labor-Management Relations Act), which governments in office, whether republican or democrats, use abundantly to hold back or break strikes in the style of the instances mentioned above.
George W. Bush, a paladin of the neoliberal doctrine whereby the State must not intervene in the economy, has made use of this legislation to break strikes in several occasions during his short tenure. The last example of this was provided by the New York mayor, the multimillionaire Michael Bloomberg, during the Christmas period. Accusing the union of public service workers to â€œattempt to destroy the cityâ€ with a strike planned for the subway, he forced 30,000 workers to cancel the strike under the threat of $USD 25,000 per head fines if they violated the law that prohibits strikes by public service employees.
Two questions arise when comparing the above practices from the rulers in developed democracies as they confront legitimate strike actions of workers - that is, those pursuing improvement in job conditions and remuneration - with the practices of the Venezuelan government confronted by a political strike, which has as declared aim the subversion of public order and status quo of a constitutional and legitimate government.
The first one is, what would Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg and the U.S. justice do if facing a subversive strike which causes economic losses in the tens of millions of dollars to the State and an immense deterioration in the quality of life of the majority, including real danger to life and health of many citizens?
Would they also recommend â€œdialogueâ€ and â€œdemocratic solutionsâ€ as Bush and his political employee, Cesar Gaviria do with the assault from the subversion on strike against the government of Venezuela, or would they apply the law to defend the State and national interests? The question is, of course, a rhetoric one. Under Bush, Thatcher, Reagan or Bloomberg, jails would be full of strikers trying to substitute the rule of law for â€œthe rule of the mobâ€, and attempting to destroy, not a city, but a nation.
The second question is related to the Venezuelan government policy towards those which it has described in numerous occasions as coup dâ€™etat organizers, disguised as oil strikers. Compared to the policy from Reagan, Thatcher and Bush, the Venezuelan State action resembles more to the practice of Jesus to that of a government which defends a social transformation confronting a neocolonial subversion.
Be Godâ€™s will that the Bolivarian reform does not end as that of the Nazarene: on the cross of the oligarchy and the (new) Romans.