Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Italian Longshoremen Stand with Human Rights Activists against the War in Yemen

The Dockworkers’ strike shows the real political power of unions and organized labor to fight imperialism and to protect the interests of working people around the world.

James Dennis Hoff

May 21, 2019
Facebook Twitter Share
Dock Workers and anti-War Activists in Genoa (Storyful).

In the ongoing saga of the Saudi-Arabian cargo ship the Bahri-Yanbu, Italian dockworkers in Genoa are still refusing to load cargo onto the vessel, which they say is carrying European Union manufactured weapons destined for the war in Yemen. The ship, which docked in the port of Genoa on Monday, is purported to have picked up weapons in Antwerp, Belgium, and other cargo in Spain before arriving in Genoa. According to documents leaked by the French NGO Disclose, the same boat attempted to pick up an additional cache of Caesar Howitzer cannons in Le Havre, France. The ship, however, was successfully prevented from doing so by human rights protesters at the French port who filed a legal suit claiming that the cargo violated United Nations arms treaty regulations.

The Bahri-Yanbu arrived in Genoa on May 20 to pick up a shipment of generators, which human rights activists also claim are intended for use in the war against Yemen. The Italian Dockworkers union (CGIL), which has a history of such resistance, have refused to load the generators, stating “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen.” In response to the strike, port officials declared that only civilian cargo would be loaded onto the ship, but even that has yet to happen, thanks to ongoing protests by anti-fascist and human rights activists at the port. As of Tuesday, May 21st, the ship was still docked and unloaded in Genoa.

By successfully preventing and delaying the arrival of such weapons of war, the CGIL and protesters have potentially saved the lives of many innocent Yemenis, but they have also set an inspiring and important precedent that should and must be taken up by other trade unions across the globe. Like dockworkers in Oakland, who in 2010 refused to offload Israeli cargo after the country’s attacks on the humanitarian aid vessel the Mavi Marmara, The CGIL’s refusal to allow themselves and their labor to be made complicit in the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent workers in Yemen shows the true political power of labor unions to effect real change in the world beyond the usual economic give and take that has defined so much bureaucratic union activity in the 21st century. Indeed, port workers, truck drivers, and warehouse workers seem especially well-suited to political strike actions such as these.

As the logistics revolution and just in time models of production and redistribution have spread across the globe, corporations and companies have become increasingly vulnerable to strike actions that target the logistics sector. As Kim Moody has argued:

The major ‘nodes’ in this backbone of production and circulation are not only key points of transshipment, but also huge concentrations of workers. If the pressures of today’s faster-moving production of goods and services are an incentive to resistance and to some extent the means of effective action, the new concentration of workers in massive “logistics clusters” has provided potential sites for a major rebellion.

In other words, warehouse workers, truckers and port workers are on the front lines of the war with capital and represent some of the most powerful weapons at the disposal of the working class. Continuing to unionize, organize and radicalize these workers, bringing them into greater and greater contact with working class political activists and other rank and file unionists, and helping them build rank and file democracy within their unions can set the ground for further massive strike actions that could hit capital where it is most vulnerable.  

All workers who are able have the responsibility to use their collective power to refuse to be complicit in imperialist murder, environmental destruction, or political or economic oppression everywhere. In the world we live in now such actions will be more and more necessary as the environment continues to degenerate, wars proliferate, and far-right xenophobia, nationalism and racism continue to gain influence. This is why we applaud and stand in solidarity with the dockworkers of Genoa.

Facebook Twitter Share

James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.



Thousands of Police Deployed to Shut Down Congress on Palestine in Berlin

This weekend, a Palestine Congress was supposed to take place in the German capital. But 2,500 police were mobilized and shut down the event before the first speech could be held. Multiple Jewish comrades were arrested.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 12, 2024

Fired by a German University for Solidarity with Palestine — Interview with Nancy Fraser

The University of Cologne canceled a guest professorship with the philosophy professor from The New School. In this interview, she speaks about Germany dividing between "Good Jews" and "Bad Jews," her politicization in the civil rights movement, and her time in an Israeli kibbutz.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 10, 2024

Pro-Palestine Activists in France Get Summons from Anti-Terrorist Police

As part of a repressive campaign against the movement for Palestine in France activists have gotten summons from “anti-terrorist” police. The movement for Palestine in the United States must oppose all repression of our movement here and in Europe.

Samuel Karlin

April 9, 2024

Berlin’s Mayor Loves Antisemites

Kai Wegner denounces the “antisemitism” of left-wing Jews — while he embraces the most high-profile antisemitic conspiracy theorist in the world.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 22, 2024


Left Voice Magazine for April 2024 — Labor Notes Edition!

In this issue, we delve into the state and future of the labor movement today. We take a look at the prospects for Palestinian liberation through the lens of Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, and discuss the way that Amazon has created new conditions of exploitation and how workers across the world are fighting back.

Left Voice

April 20, 2024
Image: Joshua Briz/AP

All Eyes on Columbia: We Must Build a National Campaign to Defend the Right to Protest for Palestine

After suspending and evicting students and ordering the repression of a student occupation, Columbia University has become the ground zero for attacks against the pro-Palestine movement. What happens at Columbia in the coming days has implications for our basic democratic rights, such as the right to protest.

Maryam Alaniz

April 19, 2024
NYPD officers load Pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia onto police buses

Student Workers of Columbia Union Call for Solidarity Against Repression and in Defense of the Right to Protest

In response to the suspensions and arrests of students at Columbia, the Student Workers of Columbia is circulating a call for solidarity against the repression. We re-publish their statement here and urge organizations, unions, and intellectuals to sign.

The New Labor Movement and the Need for Anti-Imperialist and Class Independent Politics

The rise of labor in the US has put the working class at the center of national politics. It deserves class-independent politics free of the capitalist constraints of the Democratic Party.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 19, 2024