Palestine Strike

Arabs and Jews Unite

By T. Cliff
Our Middle East Correspondent

(May 1946)

From Socialist Appeal, Mid-May 1946, p3.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The biggest strikes in the history of Palestine far surpassing any other which have taken place, broke out last month. 32,000 workers came out, of which 26,000 were Arabs and 6,000 Jews.

The biggest strikes in the history of Palestine On the 9th April 500 Arab and Jewish workers in the Post and Telegraph Services in Tel Aviv and Jaffa came out on strike. On the 10th the strike spread to the Post and Telegraph Services in all other parts of the country encompassing altogether 2,000 workers and employees. On the 15th Government employees of the 2nd Division – the lower paid employees constituting 20,000 strong, which is more than 90% of all Civil Servants, came out on strike. On the same day the railway workers of the whole country and the workers of Haifa and Jaffa ports joined the strike.

The strike awakened response in many other places and workers of three big factories came out on strike with tens of thousands of workers and employees standing solidly behind the strikers, waiting to join them if they should be called upon to do so.

To understand what gave the impetus to this wave of strikes one must know the conditions and low standard of living forced upon the workers and government employees through the low wages in face of a constantly rising cost of living. According to the Government index, the cost of living rose to 258 in comparison with 100 before the war: but the cost of living allowances of the workers and employees did not rise anywhere near this figure.

To given an indication of the cost of living, butter is 6/- a lb. A cake 30/-, a suit £45, shoes £5. The postal employees get from £6 to £16 a month.

2/7d. a Day

The daily workers in the Post and Telegraph Services receive about 2s 7d a day. The employees receive a basic salary of £6 a month and the maximum of £15 after 14 years of service. The maximum wages for a postman is £9. The basic wages in the railways is 3/- a day; in the ports 2/6; and in the Public Works Dept. 2/6. A family of 5 or 6 have to live on £3 to £4 a month.

The most important demands of the railway Workers were an increase of the basic minimum wage of 6s 5d a day and a proportional increase for all other grades; annual holidays with pay, cost of living allowances on the whole basic wage; 8 hours a day and payment for overtime. The demand of the 2nd Division Civil Servants was similar to those of the Post and Telegraph Employees but somewhat greater.

Arab and Jewish Workers Unite

The Government attempted to break the strike by recruiting strike-breakers, but despite promises of high payment no scabs could be found. The Government also tried to divide the united ranks of Arab and Jewish workers, but again without any success whatsoever. Large demonstrations were held throughout the period of the strike and it was most encouraging to see immense processions of strikers making their way through the Arab and Jewish quarters carrying slogans in Arabic and Hebrew calling on the population for support of their just demands.

The Revolutionary Communist League, Palestine Section of the Fourth International, issued a leaflet in support of the strikers.

Fearing that the strikes and demonstrations would spread to the neighbouring countries and receive more and more an anti-imperialist character, British imperialism had to give way and grant the workers and employees some concessions. It is not yet clear what the actual results of the strike will be, as many points have not yet been confirmed by the Colonial office in London. The outcome of some of the demands is, however, known. The minimum salaries in the 2nd Division in the Post and Telegraph was increased from £6 to £8, a change was made in grading to the workers advantage; a cost of living allowance of 80% of the official index was agreed upon for the first £10 of basic pay, and 40% of the £5 above that. The Railway Workers also received a rise in the minimum basic pay from 3/- to 4/- a day and a corresponding rise I other grades. Two weeks paid holidays and overtime pay.

High Commissioner Demands “No Strike” Pledge

Three days after the resumption of work, the High Commissioner declared that he “cannot consider the matter further until he is given adequate safeguards by the Association that the 2nd Division Civil Service will in future use the machinery which exists within the government for the adjustment f grievances.” in other words, until they pledge not to strike in future. But the government will not find it so easy to break its promises.

The strike gave the big lie to the fable which imperialism, Zionism and the reactionary Arab leadership try to bolster up that unity of the Arab and Jewish masses is impossible to achieve. It proved that while there are not a dozen Arabs who support Zionism, there are tens of thousands of Arab workers who are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Jewish class fellows for the defence of their common class interests.

Last updated on 20.10.2006