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Some lessons from the Strike at Nexen Tire



There was a strike in the Czech Republic. For workers and comrades abroad such information may seem trivial, because strikes are quite common elsewhere, but in the Czech Republic it was the first strike in the full meaning of the word in 8 years. That is why, when the four-year dispute over the conclusion of the collective agreement at the Nexen Tire factory culminated on January 31, 2023, with the announcement of a strike, some described it as a breakthrough.

When the strike ended in a deal after seven days (7 February 2023), some spoke of the strike as a trigger that could set off a wave of other strikes and restart years of stagnant economic struggles. To expect such a strike to change the balance of power between the proletariat and the bourgeois conservative forces in a country where there are hardly any strikes is clearly exaggerated.

However, if we look at what preceded the strike and how it was conducted, we cannot share all that enthusiasm. Certainly, seven consecutive days of strike action in a large factory like Nexen Tire was no small thing, although it also showed, as it would not have been otherwise, given the overall situation in which the proletariat finds itself, how much power the trade unions still have; the power that can only be imparted to organizations that pretend to represent the interests of the working class, but in reality defending the interests of the companies and the bourgeois state in every situation, thanks to class collaboration (see below). This constitutes the main obstacle that wage workers must and will have to overcome if they want to defend even the most elementary economic interests. In any case, what the largest trade union in industry, OS KOVO, has failed to achieve in four years of so-called bargaining, the workers have managed to recover - albeit only very partially compared to the demands made a year ago - by finally going on an indefinite strike.




Nexen Tire operates four factories; in Asia, two in Korea, one in China; in Europe, one in the Czech Republic, near Žatec in Bohemia, in the so-called Triangle Strategic Industrial Zone, from where it can supply tyres to at least 30 car manufacturers within a radius of 400 kilometres and where it employs 1,100 people. The latter was completed in 2017 after receiving a generous investment incentive (the second largest ever granted) from the Czech state to kick-start its business: CZK 3.6 billion (€152,000,000), land at a symbolic price of €1 per square metre, a tax rebate of CZK 2 billion (€85,000,000) and CZK 200,000 (€8,500) for every job it creates.

Yet wages there have hardly risen since production started in 2018. Today, the starting wage for a warehouse worker is just CZK 22,700 (i.e. €960), just above the minimum wage of CZK 17,300 (i.e. €724) and well below the average wage in the region of CZK 37,300 (i.e. €1,580).




The first observation is how long it took for the strike to happen.

The largest trade union in the metalworking industry, OS KOVO, only went on strike after 4 years of unsuccessful negotiations and 1 year after the strike alert was declared with the aim of concluding a new collective agreement.

And even though enough votes were gathered to start a strike action in October 2022 (620 workers out of a total of 1,100 voted in favour), the trade union waited another four months, made further evasive manoeuvres, held further negotiations with management, and even proposed to back down from the 8.3% wage increase demanded by yielding and accepting the mediator's compromise proposal of a rise of only 2.3%! All this, the trade union bosses argued, so that they would not be accused of not having used all their options and of not wanting to… comply with the law.

These trade unions want the strike to be perceived “always as the ultimate tool in the enforcement of the rights of employees”, as the trade union head of OS KOVO Roman Ďurčo said, because, as they themselves endlessly mention, they are the defenders of social peace!

The fact that the strike is “the ultimate tool” is also facilitated by the strict laws adopted by the bourgeoisie – against which there was never any opposition from the trade unions – which regulate the organization of strikes. In short, a strike can only be called in the Czech Republic if the parties fail to conclude a collective contract. But it can no longer be called if the employer does not respect the collective contract or deliberately prolongs the bargaining.

In fact, the trade union must fulfil several obligations before it can call a strike:


- It must try to resolve the dispute through a so-called mediator.

- It must call a strike vote at least 50 percent of all employees must participate in the vote and at least two-thirds of the voters must vote for the strike.

- It must announce the strike 3 working days in advance, including the list of the workplaces affected and the total number of employees involved.


Failure to comply with any of these conditions will expose the union if it still organizes the strike to liability for financial damage to the enterprise caused by the strike. In contrast, the employer faces no risk for dragging out bargaining endlessly.

The law in the Czech Republic also remembers the “solidarity strike”. However, the rules for its realization are so strict that it is completely inapplicable. It can only be done in support of other workers already on strike, it must be agreed to by enough workers, and it must only take place if the employer can actually influence the course or outcome of the strike of those workers in whose support the solidarity strike was called.




On the first day, 31 January, 191 of the 1,100 employees went on strike. Throughout the strike, little information got out it was not known how many workers were on strike, whether production was standing still, or whether the strikers were able to win more of their colleagues to their side.

The trade union strategy in relation to the strike was as follows: instead of all those in favour of the strike striking together, instead of all demonstrating in front of the factory to affirm the collective strength and unity of the workers, they decided that only one particular shift was to interrupt work, always at a given time, so as to “cripple” production. Other workers, even those supporting the strike, were to go to work as usual. The trade union thus intended to reduce the number of days when a worker is on strike, days that are, of course, unpaid. The class unions would organize themselves to support the striking workers financially, out of a portion of the dues received and out of a “strike fund” which each workers' union would have to set up precisely with a view to the necessary days of struggle in which workers would lose wages, and precisely with a view to making the strike as long as possible; but the OS KOVO, like every other collaborationist trade union, is set up not to support the workers' struggle, but to prevent it from happening, and, if it cannot be avoided due to the pressure of the workers, to isolate it, to paralyse it, to fragment it, in short, to sabotage it. Of course, all the talk that the trade union uses is in line with the desire to make the proletarians take as few risks as possible, both in terms of wages and in terms of the law; but behind the talk there are facts, and these facts demonstrate that every act or action of the trade union is in favour of the interests of the bosses and against the interests of the workers.

Nexen Tire, of course, from the beginning did everything it could to break even the slightest will of the workers to struggle. It tried to prevent the strike through an application for an interim measure, which was rejected by the regional court (the bourgeois justice also has a duty to show that it cares about legality, even vis-à-vis the big capitalists); it tried to bribe the workers with generously paid overtime; it issued internal documents informing them that the strike was illegal; it prevented workers on strike pickets from entering the factory so that they could not encourage other workers to join the strike. In fact, nor did it worry about breaking the law by calling in scabs to fill positions not occupied by strikers and offering them higher wages. In the words of one worker who was outside the factory during the strike: “I know that some came from the yellow shift, that they went to do extra work. I saw the managers themselves starting the assembly line when no one came to work…” (1) Of course the trade union, faced with these episodes, had to save its face: it called the police once during the strike because of the management's actions; but no legal follow-up appears to have taken place.




The union made the following demands: a wage increase of 8.3%, retroactive compensation for the entire previous year and the first months of 2023, which were not covered by the increase, extra pay for night and weekend shifts, and the immediate signing of a collective contract retroactive to 2022.

After seven days of strike action, the trade union reached a deal with the management and ended the strike: the trade union accepted that wages would be increased by 8% (a reduction of 0.3% may be negligible, but it is the management that has demonstrated that it holds the reins of the deal even with this trivial percentage reduction), that the employees would receive a ridiculous lump sum of 20,000 CZK (858 euros) instead of being fully compensated for last year's lost wages. Other demands are postponed for later bargaining and will be part of the coveted collective contract, which is not expected to be concluded until the end of June at the earliest!

This is the result despite the strong words of the trade union chairman who said that he had no intention of negotiating a compromise and that they would “strike until the company agrees to our proposal”. According to Ďurčo, “the agreement reflects what the workers wanted to achieve”, which is ridiculous, just because the trade unions' original demands, which they put on the table 12 months ago, are largely outdated: the living conditions of the workers have deteriorated dramatically in a year, mainly due to average annual inflation, which has risen from 3.8% to 15.1% and is still rising.

Nexen Tire employees went on strike, lasted seven days in a row, but did not win the “something extra”, i.e. a real wage increase. Their action only slowed the decline in real wages from 13.6% to 6.4% (this is a comparison of January 2023 data with January 2019, when collective bargaining began). Moreover, wages will continue to fall as inflation continues to rise, while the government has announced big cuts in a series of social benefits and a shift of many VAT items to a higher level.

Yet the trade unions, along with representatives of the bourgeois left and even some on the extreme left, immediately gave an ovation and congratulated the outcome of the strike as a “successful struggle”. The president of the OS KOVO trade union himself specifically thanked not the workers, but Labour Minister Marian Jurečka and Korean Ambassador Kim Te-chin, who he said had “contributed significantly to the deal”. In Trotskyist circles, for example, there was no shortage of praise for the strike, which they consider to be already a sharp turnaround among Czech workers; indeed, they believe that the working masses are reviving and terrifying both the helmsmen of big capital and their government, as well as the parasites in the union leadership All it takes is the rustling of leaves and they see the coming revolution

The imaginary icing on the cake is the joint statement issued by the OS KOVO trade union and Nexen Tire management after the end of the strike, in which they downplay the strike as being a mere “misunderstanding between the parties”. Moreover, in the text, the trade union subscribes to “mutual cooperation so that the company, the workplace of all employees, becomes a stable and respected company (... ), to restore the honor and name of the company and its employees”, and it emphasizes that “trade union and the company will actively participate in the ongoing second phase of the expansion and will do everything possible to stabilize it”, that the trade union will “encourage employees to comply with regulations and to work conscientiously without absenteeism” because, as the text states, “the company and its employees are no different and share the same goal”: to build a successful company.




In fact, more than the strength of the local workers, the Nexen Tire strike highlighted the many obstacles they must overcome on the road to the resumption of classist struggle.

The Czech labour movement lacks historical tradition, it lacks direct experience of real classist struggle, an experience which Czech workers must in fact build from scratch The above-mentioned trade unions are in fact the heirs of the trade unions of the pre-November 1989 regime, a regime which, although it pretended to be “socialist”, was no different from the capitalist regimes in the West. These trade unions have done nothing but fully assume the role of managers of the workforce, guarantors of social peace and advocates of cooperation between the classes. Today there is not a single union body that can even remotely be described as combative, using the methods and means of classist struggle, i.e. the struggle that promotes exclusively the economic and immediate interests of the workers.

Another aspect that characterizes the Czech labor movement is a kind of defeatism towards the workers' struggle in general; the roots of this defeatism must be sought in the long series of defeats and unsuccessful protests that the workers went through under the collaborationist trade union leadership. The strike, therefore, is not considered a weapon of the workers' struggle, but only the last instrument that can be used, and that too according to the rules imposed from above.




We live in a time of general deterioration across the whole spectrum of workers’ conditions – workers’ living conditions are deteriorating regardless of their gender, age, occupation, nationality… This is happening in the wake of the crisis of the capitalist economy, amidst a growing ideological backlash and blows of repression against potential “dissidents” who oppose the ruling bourgeois class and the dismantling of existing social absorbers that the crisis requires, or who oppose the Czech Republic’s belligerent involvement in the US/NATO/Russia conflict on the territory of Ukraine and the general prospect of armaments in the light of another war conflict looming on the horizon.

Such a situation could admittedly be objectively favourable for the unification of workers' demands on an immediate unitary basis (defence of living and working conditions) against a single enemy (the capitalist class and its state). But the workers enter this period woefully unprepared, unorganized, without experience and without the germs even if in the economic field of microscopic organized workers’ combativity. Moreover, they are completely cut off from the historical tradition of proletarian class struggle and its revolutionary political leadership, which in the 1920s represented a powerful pole of attraction in the aftermath of the October Revolution. If with the German or Russian proletariat one can refer to the past and its formidable classist and revolutionary struggles, the same cannot be said of the Czech proletariat, nor of the proletariat of many other countries, especially in Eastern Europe, which, on the other hand, cannot be faulted. The Stalinist counter-revolution, by its theorization of socialism in one country and by its quite concrete repression of any surviving revolutionary tendencies in the interests of the victory of the bourgeois counter-revolution on a world scale, has contributed substantially to setting back not only the proletarian revolutionary struggle but also the immediate elementary workers' defensive struggle by a hundred years. What the bourgeois counter-revolution of that time has bequeathed to the bourgeoisie of today is, above all, a policy of inter-class collaboration, at all levels economic, political, union, cultural and, of course, military. The strength of today's trade unions which we call class collaborationist for the reasons they themselves subscribe to, and whose aim is to inculcate in the proletarians that they and the companies have the same objective, to tie the workers to the prosperity of "their" company in the competition contest in the market -, is asserted by enforcing every deal with the maximum subjugation of the workers to the demands of the company, by streamlining the labour tasks (labour drill), by drifting even the smallest protest activity and reaction of the workers towards negotiation and compromise through the labyrinths of state bodies, lawyers, and so rendering the workers completely defenceless and defeated from the outset.

Expecting these trade unions would play even a slight positive role e.g. to achieve an improvement in the economic struggle that would not at the same time represent a bigger ball on the foot of the employees themselves in the future, as for example the aforementioned joint statement or the general maintenance or increase of performance and attendance bonuses is a big illusion, which on the other hand the employees experience first-hand.

The effective defence of the living and working conditions of the working class is not possible without unfunctioning the lever of interest for preserving the current capitalist society based on the exploitation of the workers, i.e. preserving the inter-class collaboration represented by trade union collaborationism. The effective and lasting defence of proletarian interests, even on the immediate terrain, consists in the recognition of the incompatibility of the interests of proletarians and capitalists and in the mobilization of proletarian forces towards exclusively proletarian goals, which means struggle by classist means and methods (indefinite strikes in support of economic and immediate demands, bargaining under continued active struggle, pickets against scabs, solidarity demonstrations by workers in other factories, wildcat strikes, etc. ); means and methods which only class, i.e. non-collaborationist organizations can put into practice in the preparation of the struggle, its conduct and its termination. Class organisations, strengthened by the struggle itself, have as their primary task to defend their independence, because it is this independence from any bourgeois institution that enables them to represent proletarian interests not only in this particular struggle, not only at this particular moment or in this particular sector, but prospectively in the overall broader context where the proletarian class is divided by the fact that the workers have been pitted against each other. The class organisation must add the relentless struggle against competition between workers in the interests of organizational continuity and in the partial or more general objectives of the workers’ struggle to independence from any bourgeois institution. Worker competition is one of the most insidious and effective weapons the bourgeoisie has used since its rise in history to control and subordinate the masses of the proletariat to its demands. And it is no accident that the collaborationist trade unions (and with them the so-called left parties, but in reality also collaborationist) are the champions of the use of competition among the workers to keep them subjugated to the “superior” exigencies of the company economy and the national economy.

In the words of the classic: “The stronger reformist influence is among the workers the weaker they are, the greater their dependence on the bourgeoisie, and the easier it is for the bourgeoisie to nulify reforms by various subterfuges. The more independent the working-class movement, the deeper and broader in its aims, and the freer it is from reformist narrowness the easier it is for the workers to retain and utilise improvements.” (2)

A strong classist movement will not be able to emerge on the basis of the spontaneity of the workers alone, but needs and will need the constant and unyielding work of genuine revolutionary communists, both as bearers of class consciousness organized in the party and as defenders of the future of the class and revolutionary movement. It will also need the constant and unyielding work of the most combative and receptive proletarians to the cause of their class, who will have to take on the task of creating the backbone of the new independent proletarian organizational network.



(1) https:// byznys/ prumysl-a-energeti ka/ stavka-v-nexenu-po-tydnu-konci-odborum-se-podarilo-vyjednat-zvyseni-mezd-1396466

(2) Cf. Lenin V. I., Marxism and reformism, Collected Works, Vol. 19, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977


April, 14th 2023



International Communist Party

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