The new 48-hour general strike in Greece on 10 and 11 February also points to the massive class battles and confrontations which this war will meet with. We, the sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain, supported by the other European sections of the CWI including in France and Germany wish to make the following statement as an answer to the class war waged upon the working people and youth in our countries, an answer to the blackmail of the markets and EU, and an answer to the mantra that no alternative road other than that of craven capitulation to the markets and bondholders can be considered.
In Europe, currently the epicentre of the economic crisis, workers and youth have been hit by wave after wave of crisis and worsening prospects. In the Eurozone “periphery” in particular – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland – a panorama of mass unemployment, especially for young people, a prolonged recession and growing impoverishment, is the dominant one.
The policies of austerity, born out of the determination to make workers pay for the crisis, serve only to further depress the economy.
The new “market-friendly” governments, such as the Popular Party in Spain and the so-called “technocrat” governments imposed by the speculators on the peoples of Italy and Greece, have, as expected, failed spectacularly to reverse these tendencies.
We see the inevitability of a process of contagion, with the ongoing freezing out of Italy and Spain by the debt markets. This is accompanied even by the widening out of the debt crisis to engulf “core” countries, including France losing its “Triple A” along with Austria, whose fortunes are linked to the devastating financial crisis in Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania. This all points to the eventuality of a financial storm the likes of which the Euro cannot survive, in its present form
Kicked out of Euro?
We are confronted, with the return of an open colonial-style agenda on the part of the stronger European imperialist powers, German capitalism in particular, with the so far obedient and servile collaboration of national ruling classes in the economically-weaker countries. The outrageous proposal by the German government, to abolish Greek budgetary control, instead installing a special EU commissioner to oversee Greek economic policy, is an example.
One of the features of the current stage of the crisis has been the willingness by the ‘lords’ of the system to bypass the so-called democratic “norms”, giving the dictatorship of the banks and corporations a much more clearly exposed form. Politicians and governments which defend the rotten capitalist system, confine themselves to the role of puppets implementing the diktats of the markets and Troika. The new inter-governmental treaty agreed at the most recent European summit, which further enshrines in legal terms the dominance of austerity policies, further underlines this.
The desperate attempts of the capitalist leaders, especially in Ireland, to avoid a referendum on this issue is a further expression of their anti-democratic approach, forcing through the will of capitalism internationally. However, in other cases, such as in Greece under Papandreou this autumn, we have seen how capitalist governments can attempt to use referenda, constructing a campaign of blackmail and fear around the ‘catastrophic eventuality’ of economic collapse following a NO vote.
Ultimately, only the mobilisation of the power of the workers and youth armed with an alternative to the catastrophic plans of capitalism, can be depended upon. However, we support fully the right of the people to reject through fully democratically organised referenda, the payment of the debt, the social cuts etc. We join with the millions of workers and youth who will demand a say on this austerity deal through referenda, in which we would advocate a clear and unambiguous NO vote.
Fight fear-mongering and blackmail
2011 saw the intervention of the mass of working people onto the scene in a series of European countries. Greece saw 7 general strikes (including 2 of 48-hours) in 2011, in addition to another seven in 2010, while 2012 has began with another wave of general strike in early February, rapidly announced as government parties discussed new brutal measures. This shows the depth of the anger and determination to resist of the Greek workers, faced with a desperate situation. Portugal saw a general strike in November, and Italy has seen waves of strikes and protests. Portugal, along with Spain, saw the explosion onto the surface of the movement of “Indignados”, articulating a rage against the bankers’ dictatorship. The entry of the masses onto the streets of Bucharest and other cities brought down the Romanian government this week.
The response of the establishment, alongside increased brutal state repression, has been a campaign of fear-mongering and blackmail, in which the prospect of exit from the Euro and EU is suspended above working people like a guillotine, capitalising on the legitimate fears of workers. On the basis of remaining within the confines of the capitalist system, an exit of a number of countries from the Euro would indeed provoke a period of deeper economic crisis for the whole of the eurozone, with rising unemployment, poverty and immiseration, affecting millions of working people, above all in the “peripheral” countries – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Therefore the working class and social movements, with the assistance of mass left parties, where they exist, have the duty to develop a programme to overcome this crisis which challenges and goes beyond the framework and logic of the euro-zone and the current market system.
This must begin with an unambiguous rejection of the payment of the national debt to market vultures and states, as well as European institutions like the ECB. These huge debts, racked up on the basis of capitalist speculation, criminal mismanagement and cronyism by successive neo-liberal governments, including those previously made up of misnamed “socialist” parties in Spain, Greece, Portugal and elsewhere, multiplied by the bank bailouts to which there is huge public opposition, are not our responsibility.
While the genuine investments of working people, like pension funds, must be protected, the siphoning off of society’s resources towards paying this criminal burden must be resolutely opposed. Outside of the insane logic of the ruling elites, implementing the Troika’s diktats, these resources could be put to work, creating millions of jobs, establishing dignified welfare systems, public health and education, and organise productive economic activity, through huge programmes of public investment. On the basis of then nationalising the banks and financial sector, as well as the resources and key sectors of the economy under the democratic control and management of working people, an emergency plan could be developed to invest in the mass creation of jobs and restoration of living standards. We could then see genuine socialist policies put into place which could begin to overcome the fundamental problems imposed on workers and the unemployed.
We are told, that such measures would lead to countries being ejected from the Euro-zone. However, under the current austerity offensive and the dead end into which the powers are driving the weaker economies, such an outcome (default and ejection from the Euro) appears a near certainty anyway! True, on the basis of the continuation of capitalism and remaining outside the Euro, the nightmare for working people would continue or indeed worsen, as devaluation slashed their living standards and savings under the attacks of Greek capitalism, despite so-called “independence” from the EU. But the way to avoid the economic disaster for working class people is not to accept any further attacks on our rights and conditions in order to be kicked out of the Euro-zone just a little bit later on! From the point of the capitalists the alternative we are facing now seems to be: a) remaining in the Eurozone, accepting the complete demolition of welfare state or b) leaving the Euro and facing economic isolation, a severe decline and unprecedented poverty.
The working people of Europe have nevertheless a third option: this begins with organising to defend living conditions and workers’ rights and to break with the capitalist system. This will need to be extended to united struggles of the international working class, especially in the countries most affected by the crisis. The unity in struggle of the workers of Greece, Portugal, Ireland Italy and Spain, to overturn the rotten “bailout” deals and austerity is a key requisite step towards the building of such an alternative.
We of course do not share in the narrow nationalist vision of those who advocate leaving the Euro as a solution in itself. The national tensions which have been hiked up in the course of the crisis, particularly seen in the barrage of anti-Greek propaganda spewed out by representatives of capitalism in Germany, France, Austria and other countries, give rise to the danger of divisive and nationalist sentiments. These sentiments can be played on by sinister far right and populist forces, which given the vacuum in working class political representation on the left, can make dangerous gains, as seen in Hungary, Austria and elsewhere.
And, of course, we would never expect the national governments, in the service of the ruling class, ever to agree, never mind to implement, the policies we advocate. Such a way out can only be achieved on the basis of an internationalist anti-capitalist struggle and perspective and by a government representing and serving the interests of the working people.
Initially confronted with ejection from the Euro, a working people’s government could implement an emergency programme including state control over imports and exports and the imposition of capital controls to stop the “flight of capital” by profit-hungry property-holders and multinationals, under the democratic control of elected representatives, such a stand would have to be emulated and fought for throughout the continent.
On such a basis, the genuine integration of the European economy and society, to which the policies of the bosses’ governments and the capitalist system itself have been a barrier, could be advanced towards.
On the basis of an appeal to the allies of the working class in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Greece and Italy, but also the key advanced economies of Germany, France, the UK etc, this struggle could win massive support quickly across Europe.
Countries ejected from the EU forming a federation on a socialist basis, could begin with the international democratic planning and co-ordination of the economy, as part of a fight for a full Socialist confederation of independent workers’ states in Europe, on a free and equal basis.
Internationalist alternative to end the misery of crisis
Various international days of action which have been organised over the past year, have given powerful glimpses of the strength which workers and youth mobilised across borders can wield. On 15 October 2011, the indignados / occupy movement brought millions onto the streets worldwide. The European TUC has organised different protests, the latest is planned for 29 February, this has a potential to mobilise, but token protests are not enough. We support the further building of such initiatives, towards a first 24-hour general strike across Europe. National general strikes in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy should be coordinated and simultaneous, in opposition to the Troika bailout deals and austerity policies, as a powerful initial show of unity and strength.
However, we have seen from the behaviour of the ETUC leaders in their home countries that their intention is not to lead a serious struggle to the end against the capitalist crisis. Lamentably, the working class in many countries confronts the crisis with a trade union leadership unworthy of the name, who have systematically refused to mobilise the full power of the majority to resist the markets’ onslaught.
Workers and youth in Greece and Portugal have given an indication as to how mass pressure and organisation from below has been effective in pushing these leaders into action. The CWI fights for the democratic transformation of the trade unions, for the building of left oppositions, for the replacement of the right-wing leaders by those who are willing to struggle and are fully accountable and controlled by trade union members, paid the average wage of their members. The general strikes of the coming period will have to be democratically controlled and built from below through mass assemblies in workplaces and communities and committees of action, to ensure that struggles achieve victories and are not sold out from above.
We are confident that, armed with such organisations and policies, a positive alternative can be popularised and fought for. But an essential part of this process must also be the forging of mass political organisations, democratically controlled by mass memberships of workers, youth and the poor, to build support and campaign for an alternative to cuts and capitalism. Such a new movement of the left must be capable of channelling the anger of those disgusted with the political establishment into the building of forces which are totally distinct from those which have betrayed them.
Join with the CWI in the struggle to bring workers and youth together in struggle around this perspective.
End the dictatorship of the 1%! For real democracy now! Working people and the unemployed should decide, not the markets!
No to the dead end of austerity! For massive investment in jobs, housing, education and society instead of cuts! End the nightmare of youth unemployment!
For a way out based on international struggle! For co-ordinated general strikes! Towards a 24-hour all-European General strike!
For democratic and fighting trade unions! Build struggles from below through assemblies and committees of action! Build genuine mass left political instruments of the working class and youth!
Reject the blackmail of the Troika and markets! Only mass struggle can stop the straitjacket of austerity! No to the anti-democratic “technocrat” governments! Referenda to stop the EU’s new austerity deal!
For a workers’ Europe! Oppose the capitalist EU! Fight for an alternative Socialist con-Federation of free and independent states, in Europe!
Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal)
ControCorrente (CWI supporters in Italy)
Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland)
Xekinima (CWI in Greece)
Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain)