Eurozone crisis, capitalist conflicts and class struggles

The European Bureau of the CWI, 13 to 15 April 2010, discussed the potential for explosions, given the curent economic, social and political instability and the tasks facing socialists and the working class. Below, we publish a resolution arising from a very successful meeting in which representatives from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czeck Republic, England and Wales, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland (North and South), Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, and from outside Europe – Pakistan and Israel – participated.

European Bureau of the CWI, 13 to 15 April 2010

Since the meeting of the IEC in December 2009 the CWI’s general analysis of the world situation and developments in the world economy have been borne out. Other material has been produced covering the general situation in the world economy and it is not necessary to repeat this in detail in this brief statement. The developments in the world economic and political situation form the back-ground to the crisis facing the European ruling classes epitomised in the worst crisis to hit the Euro-zone since the Euro was launched. The world economy has experienced a very limited “recovery” which remains extremely tenuous and fragile. The massive stimulus packages that were applied especially in the USA, China and the European economies have had some effect in preventing a complete collapse into a “depression” in the world economy. However, the stimulus packages have been limited and have not resolved the underlying crisis which exists.

The “recovery” has not resulted in a substantial growth in the “real economy” and threatens to give way to a “double dip” in the world economy. The recent figures published by economists refer to an increase in “growth” in the US and Europe but they do not represent a real growth in capacity and do not take production back to the levels recorded in the past prior to the onset of the crisis. The World Trade Organisation is predicting that world trade will expand this year by 9.5%. But even if it does achieve this increase then it will not fully make up for 2009’s 12.2% drop in world trade. The “recoveries” following the stimulus packages were based on such schemes as the “cars for clunkers” and for example, in Britain, a reduction in VAT. These are one-off temporary measures and do not represent a return to real economic growth and recovery. Investment continues to stagnate or decline. In February Euro-zone unemployment was officially 10%. Most of the growth at this stage arises from restocking of goods with the creation of further “bubbles” arising from the increased liquidity pumped into the system and especially the financial sector by the state. China and Germany have been able to boost their exports recently but the decisive question facing world capitalism is the “dearth in demand” and the absence of new markets. In the case of Germany the growth in its exports has been done at the expense of its rivals with no real expansion in its domestic market. Now the IMF has revised downwards its 2010 economic growth forecast for Germany from 1.5% to 1.2% citing the weak financial sector and global trade as its main concerns.

The few “bright spots” which exist for capitalism such as China, Brazil and to a lesser extent India could still be hit late by the crisis and be plunged into recession. China, which is experiencing a ‘property bubble’, could see an economic contraction which would provoke a social explosion which the regime is desperate to avoid. Even if the world economy is able to return to a period of absolute growth, which is inevitable at a certain stage, it is important to stress that this would not be sufficient to resolve the social horrors and deprivations, arising from the crisis, facing the mass of the world’s population or the political consequences which flow from this.

This conjuncture so far is therefore not a “recovery” in the real sense but largely a “job-loss recovery” in which mass unemployment remains even where there is some limited “growth” and internationally the ruling classes seek to drive down further living standards, wages and conditions. The last thirty years of capitalism has witnessed an underlying “depressionary” period as we have explained in the previous documents and articles produced by the CWI. This was partially masked by the credit-fuelled consumer booms and a series of speculative bubbles which were built up. These have now largely burst.

Each crisis of capitalism contains within it some period of growth and partial recovery which will give way at a certain stage to a new crisis, recession or stagnation. A chain of crises is what we have seen unfolding and this is still developing. The onset of the crisis three years ago represented a huge ideological blow against capitalism. This compelled the ruling classes to respond with emergency measures of a “state capitalist” character with the state compelled to intervene in the “free market” to prop it up and save it. This is entirely different to the “post-war settlement” and the development of the “mixed economy”, which followed World War II. This meant that the bourgeoisie accepted for a whole historical period a minority but quite a large element of state ownership and economic intervention which was accompanied by the introduction of radical and significant social reforms. In contrast, today, intervention and nationalisations are short term in character – immediate attempts to stave off imminent collapse – followed by fairly rapid proposals for privatisation combined with brutal counter-reforms and attacks on living standards.

Euro-zone crisis
The most significant development of the crisis so far in 2010 in Europe has been in the drama which erupted as a consequence of the debt crisis in Greece. This has had international repercussions and triggered a major crisis in the Euro-zone and EU countries. The crisis has brought to the fore sharp national antagonisms between Germany and Greece and also France and other EU powers.

This has revealed the relative weakness of the Euro and has brought into question its future survival. The uncertainty this has produced represents a serious set-back for the ruling classes of Europe. Germany, in order to defend its own national interests, refused to simply bail out Greece. The “hard-line” adopted by Merkel reflects the fear of German imperialism that by bailing out Greece a precedent would be set to also bail out other countries, as the impending crises erupts in Spain, Portugal and elsewhere. Showing a new German assertiveness Merkel threatened that countries which run into crisis could be thrown out of the Euro-zone. This in turn reflects the depth of the crisis facing the European ruling classes. On the other hand simply to allow Greece to default ran the risk of triggering not only a major political crisis but also another financial fire-storm.

The reaction of the other European powers, especially France, and the conflict which has developed between them, turned Greece’s crisis into a European one with immense pressure exerted on Germany to modify its position. The decision to include the IMF in bailing out Greece represents a blow to the prestige of the Euro-zone bourgeoisies and ECB. One of the initial ideas behind the formation of the Euro and the ECB was to establish a counter-weight to US imperialism and the IMF. These recent developments however, are a far cry from the halcyon days of triumphant European capitalism when the Euro was launched with high expectations of economic growth, a strong Euro and a smooth path towards greater and greater European integration. Some argued that this process would result in the over-coming of national antagonisms in Europe and the end of national bourgeois states in the EU.

We opposed these pipe-dreams which have now been exposed, as the CWI anticipated, with a sharp rise in national antagonisms during this crisis. It has revealed the impediments to real European integration and a failure to overcome the limits of the nation state and of the national interests of the ruling class in each country. The degree of European capitalist integration has now probably reached its limits in this period, with the process stagnating and even thrown into reverse.

The crisis of the Euro will not mean that it will simply be abandoned by the ruling classes. Rather, in the coming crisis, some countries may fall out of the straight-jacket it imposes on the national governments. The degree of national antagonism, provoked by Germany’s insistence on defending its own interests, was reflected in reference being made to German imperialism’s role in Greece during World War II. This was then echoed by Sarkozy, according to Le Monde, which quoted him as commentating to a friend that “it has not changed” (German imperialism). This conflict between French and German interests clearly represents a departure from the previous period when France and Germany tended to act as allies at least within the context of the EU. At the same time it leaves French imperialism in a precarious situation. France would want to avoid trying to ally itself with British or US imperialism. German capitalism has been able to exploit the exchange rate to its advantage. German imperialism was eventually able to use its power to compel an unwilling France to eventually accept the imposition of its position. Germany, despite its growth in exports, is the motor for European growth. But faced with this crisis, is trying to put the rest of Europe “on rations”, demanding that especially the weaker European economies impose drastic austerity programmes.

A ferocious nationalist campaign has been conducted by the German ruling class against the Greek people. At the same time the Greek ruling class has also tried to whip up Greek nationalism. This indicates, as we have argued, that nationalist sentiments can develop and be encouraged by the ruling classes of Europe as the crisis unfolds. It is important that we counteract this and wage a struggle for workers’ unity. The European sections should undertake a campaign to strengthen the idea of the need for a united struggle by all European workers against cut-backs and attacks. While at this stage it maybe premature to raise the demand for an all-European 24 hour general strike, the idea of a European-wide protest against cuts and attacks on living standards is something we should energetically take up.

The crisis has also been devastating for central and Eastern Europe. The high hopes that came on the back of capitalist restoration have not materialised for the masses. The devastating melt-down of the economies in countries like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are on a par with the great depression experienced during the 1930s. Hungary is currently faring little better. Although Poland appears to be the exception, the accumulation of a growing public debt, which threatens to breach 55% of GDP next year and is likely to reach 60% soon after, will force cuts and attacks on the working class. To this must be added the catastrophe which is unfolding in Russia. Unemployment is probably currently higher than in 1994 when production collapsed following the collapse of the USSR. The regime is beginning to split and a social eruption is now a serious prospect in a relatively short period of time.

The emergence of national antagonisms within Europe as the crisis develops can also be manifested in a resurgence of the national question and tensions in some countries such as Spain and Belgium. In Northern Ireland the impossibility of solving the national question under capitalism is reflected in a growth of sectarian conflict in the communities despite the continuation of the “peace process” at the top. As the crisis has hit Spain extremely hard, so the wave of struggle by the working class has rapidly developed. At the same time there has also been a growth of regional and particularly national sentiments especially in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and other areas. 40% of state expenditure is administered in the different regions and provinces. This can also become a crucial focal point of conflict with the national government. The CWI needs to defend the national rights of the different peoples in Spain while at the same time fighting for a Socialist confederation and struggling for a united working class throughout the Spanish state.

Disparaging Greek workers – the ‘PIGS’ and ‘STUPIID’
The threat of a default by Greece in a sense brings some elements of Latin America in the 1980s to Europe – including in the demands raised by the CWI section in Greece of non-payment of the debt! Significant and important as this crisis with Greece is, it is an anticipation of the even bigger crisis waiting to erupt in Portugal and especially Spain. With nearly 20% unemployment and up to 40% youth unemployment in Spain a social revolt at least as strong as in Greece is posed. The effects and depth of the crisis internationally and in Europe have not been uniform. Generally a depression has so far been avoided. But Spain, Portugal and Ireland, together with Greece have been devastated by the depth of the crisis and show some features of a depression comparable with the 1930s. The economy in the Irish Republic is still contracting. These countries, under the disparaging acronym of ‘PIGS’, are now widened, to ‘STUPIID’- Spain, Turkey, UK (Britain), Portugal, Ireland, Iceland and Dubai!

Social and political consequences
For the CWI and its sections the political and social consequences and their effects on the class struggle are the decisive issues arising from this crisis. The questions of perspectives and tasks have never been more intertwined. The full impact of the crisis on the class struggle in general has still to be fully felt. Yet already important mass movements have erupted in some European countries – especially in Greece, Spain and Portugal. In other countries the struggles of the working class would have gone a lot further already but for the cowardly role of the trade union leaders in general who have reflected the interests and pressure from the employers rather than fight to defend the working class. To this must also be added the crucial question of the currently limited level of political consciousness of the working class, inherited from the previous period, taken together with the absence of a powerful combative political socialist alternative. The failure of the official workers leaders to offer a real socialist alternative has hindered the development of the political consciousness of workers and young people. These weaknesses mean the crisis will be of a complex protracted character. However, despite this, massive social explosions have already taken place in some countries and will develop throughout Europe. The movements that have taken place so far are only an anticipation of what is yet to come. Industrial and political struggles will unfold that can allow the CWI sections in Europe to experience rapid leaps in membership and influence if we intervene with the right slogans, tactics and general explanation of socialist propaganda. This will not be an even process nor will it be automatic or straightforward. The rhythm of the struggle and the development of political consciousness will vary from country to country.

Added to this economic and political crisis must be the crisis in the environment and global warming. The statement agreed at the IEC still retains all its validity. The consequences of global warming need to be factored into our economic and political perspectives. It is also increasingly becoming an issue amongst the working class as its consequences are being felt mainly by the workers and the poor. Even in Europe this has been the case. The movements in Spain which have taken place over water supplies in Andalucia are an example of this. A section of the bourgeoisie has raised the prospect of the new “eco industries” offering a solution to the crisis. However, it is highly unlikely that this will offer a rapid short-term road to economic recovery or new markets for the bourgeois to sell their products.

Industrial struggles and the trades unions
Despite the contradictions in political consciousness which exist amongst big sections of the working class and youth it would be a mistake for us to under-estimate the underlying bitterness and anger which is already present. This is not, in the main, reflected in the official trade unions or their structures.

There have already been significant industrial movements of workers in many countries in response to the crisis and attacks on the working class. In the main these have been of a defensive character. The first half of 2009 in Ireland saw important strikes and protests by workers. The public sector strikes and three massive general strikes in Greece graphically illustrate how the working class has been compelled to struggle when faced with such savage attacks. The public sector strikes in Portugal and the threat of a general strike illustrate the desperation of the situation faced by workers. The massive demonstrations in Spain and the overwhelming demand of the workers for the calling of a general strike have terrified the ruling class not only in Spain but also in Europe as a whole. Although Turkey is not geographically fully a part of Europe it has increasingly become socially and politically a part of a discussion on Europe. The tremendous TEKEL strike which has taken place represents a crucial change in the situation.

Spain, with a larger economy, and more powerful working class than Greece, can be thrust to the centre of the crisis in Europe in the next period of time. The fear of such an explosion has significantly compelled the government to withdraw some of its proposals to extend the age of retirement which provoked outrage amongst the masses. There were elements of a pre-revolutionary situation present during the height of the movement in Greece. The failure of the official leaders of the workers to offer an alternative together with the more limited level of political consciousness and organisation from below were the main obstacles which existed. Yet the masses are more radical and further to the left than the leadership. Social eruptions like we have already seen in Greece can explode in a series of European countries and could go even further than Greece has at this stage. This is especially true in southern Europe. Events in Greece have revealed elements of a pre-revolutionary situation which can develop in this new era in a number of European countries in the coming months and years. This period will be more complex and protracted precisely because of the absence of mass workers’ organizations.

Now in Britain, following last year’s industrial struggles at Lindsey, Linamar, Vestas, and amongst postal workers, 2010 has seen a series of national strikes by workers at BA, government workers and possibly railway workers that indicate a new situation. France also saw the calling of a national strike on March 23. In Belgium, some strikes have taken place, initiated from below.

These movements, and others, have taken place despite the trade union leaders who have been terrified by the crisis and have sought to play the role of “arbitrators” rather than defenders of the working class. In France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden rather than fight the government, they have sought to re-establish a “social dialogue” and “social contracts” and avoided calling serious national actions. They have argued in favor of wage cuts to stave off unemployment and acted as “arbitrators” between the employers and their governments and the working class. When the trade union leaders have called protest actions, it has generally been as a means of “letting off steam” rather than with the objective of conducting a serious struggle. The willingness of some workers to struggle was reflected in Ireland by the 83% vote for action in the CPSU – government employees union. A similarly high vote for action was seen amongst the workers at British Airways.

The general strike
In Italy, despite a growing wave of opposition to Berlusconi, reflected again in massive demonstrations in Rome and Milan, the CGIL, was only prepared to call a general strike of four hours. As we have commented previously, the question of the general strike is now objectively present through out Europe. We need to ensure that this question is included in our propaganda and, when relevant, advanced as one of our main slogans. In countries like Greece, where a series of general strikes have been called but have not been pursued with a clear programme of action and a political alternative, we need to go further with the call for a 24 or 48 hour general strike. If that does not compel the government to retreat then more decisive and protracted action – including an all out strike – could be posed.

The question of a general strike is now an important issue facing the working class and the CWI in most of the countries of Europe. The question of a general strike, in one form or another is now objectively present in most European countries. It forms a part of our programme. At different times, depending on the concrete situation we need to bring it forward as one of our main slogans and propaganda. However, it is more complex today than in the past because of the character of the trade union leaders and the more limited level of political consciousness of the working class. The general strikes, or partial general strikes, which have taken place in the recent period, have assumed the role of protest actions – more comparable to the protest general strikes which took place in some European countries prior to World War I. An indefinite general strike will ultimately pose the question of power. Yet at this stage the political consciousness of the working class is lagging behind the tasks which are posed by this. Further action, perhaps of a lengthier period of time than 24 or 48 hours, together with the election of action committees, is also an issue we need to take up where relevant. The Greek comrades have done this and linked it to the question of the working class fighting for SYRIZA and the KKE to face up to the crisis and fight for socialism and workers’ democracy.

The specific, concrete proposals we make when intervening in industrial struggles – about how to organise them and what action to take – is especially important in this period due to the lack of experience in struggle by a new generation of workers. Timely proposals for action and initiatives can enormously enhance our authority and standing and distinguish us from some other ultra-left or opportunist groups.

The balance between us intervening in the official trade union structures and proposing, where appropriate, the formation of unofficial democratically elected action committees outside the official structures is especially important. This has been re-enforced during the present crisis. The decline in the number of unionised workers throughout Europe, especially young workers, and the role of the union bureaucracy, make this particularly important. The growing number of younger workers who have temporary jobs without permanent or fixed contracts is also an issue we need to address.

The significant industrial movements which have taken place still only represent the first reaction to the impact of the crisis. There have also been different phases in the development of political consciousness and outlook of workers. Initially, a certain radicalisation took place amongst many. Following an outburst of anger and anti-banker, anti-rich awareness in some countries – including Greece for a period and Ireland – there has also been a certain stunning effect at the depth of crisis. “What can we do but accept some belt-tightening?” In others there has been a hope against hope that the crisis and its consequences would be short term. This was also followed by a certain expectation that the stimulus packages would solve the problem and then “life would return to normal”.

In Ireland the cowardly role of the trade union leaders has compounded the problems of political consciousness and confidence amongst the working class. After more than twenty years of economic growth the working class has been faced with an economic tsunami. A bitter, reluctant acceptance that cuts are “inevitable” – that there is “no alternative” when faced with such an economic collapse – and the absence of a mass alternative has thus far prevented a movement from below developing. We, of course seek to counter this but our voice is as yet too small to change the masses’ outlook. However, this can rapidly change and give way to a massive social explosion.

It is important that we understand such moods as they develop and address them in our propaganda, analysis and perspectives. At the same time it is important we also recognise that moods of reluctant acceptance are temporary and can change very radically and rapidly. Sometimes such a change in mood can be triggered by a relatively small attack following a series of harsher measures.

Lack of strong socialist alternative and its’ consequences
The absence of a clearly defined and powerful socialist alternative and consciousness is the main obstacle which exists to a mobilisation of the masses for a socialist change in the current situation. The bourgeoisie can count itself lucky that at this stage they have not had to encounter even a powerful left-reformist or centrist force with roots amongst the working class as existed in the past. The absence of a mass socialist alternative is reflected in a higher rate of abstentions in elections in many European countries.

Hardly a single government in Europe is to be regarded as stable at the present time. The instability of the situation is even reflected in Merkel’s government with open clashes taking place between CDU, CSU and FDP government ministers. In Italy, the resurgence in opposition to Berlusconi and the fall in his approval ratings, is a further measure of this. Although the expected collapse of the centre-right in the regional elections has not taken place. The Italian ruling class is clearly concerned about Berlusconi. The existence of a powerful left force in most countries would have simply swept the existing governments or parties from power. Faced with this situation, the emergence of “lesser evilism” has marked out the situation in many countries in Europe. As we commented in the document agreed at the IEC, this was reflected for a period in Greece with the re-election of PASOK. Recent regional elections in France have also revealed this with the proportional electoral growth in the Socialist Party’s vote. In Ireland this is reflected in the growth of the Irish Labour Party in the polls. Even in Britain, after thirteen years of New Labour in power, the fear of what a new Tory government will signify means that Brown could get a better result than appeared to be likely a few months ago. This could even result in a minority Labour Government, possibly with an unofficial “coalition” with the Liberals at a certain stage. A minority Tory government also remains a possibility but such is the inflamed social situation such a government could be extremely short term.

Proportional increases in electoral support for the former traditional parties of the working class in some countries however, are not on the same basis as in the past. They have far weaker social roots and the expectations in them are far less. The parties which proportionally have grown electorally have not experienced an upturn in active membership from amongst the working class. One of the striking features of this period is the volatility which exists. There can be extremely rapid changes in mood with growth in electoral support for a political party evaporating and turning into bitter opposition.

Most graphically this was reflected in Iceland following the election of the Social Democratic-Left-Green Alliance. Within a few months, the hopes and illusions which existed in this government – the first time a Social Democratic government has been in power in Iceland – were dashed. The government proposal to accept the terms of repayment demanded by the British government met with fierce opposition. Even the President was compelled to reflect this mood and refused to sign the agreement which was adopted by parliament. This opened the way for the referendum in which 93% rejected the deal.

New left parties/alliances
It remains the case that generally the new left alliances/parties, where they exist, have failed to fill the vacuum and the future of them is precarious and unclear. Faced with an historic crisis of capitalism they have generally moved further to the right and a further ideological collapse has taken place. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why these new parties/alliances have not developed in the recent period. In both France and Greece, the NPA and SYRIZA, have fallen back from opinion poll high points as the crisis has developed. The recent election result of the NPA (2.5%) and the Dutch Socialist Party were in marked contrast to our tremendous electoral victory in Ireland with the election of Joe Higgins obtained in the European elections.

In Germany, Die Linke, despite taking a marked shift to the left in words in its recent “Draft Programme” has remained static in the polls at around eleven percent. However, according to recent opinion polls, it may succeed in entering Germany’s largest regional parliament, North Rhine Westphalia, for the first time. This will be seen as a success. At this stage the new left parties/alliances have not attracted large numbers of workers into their ranks. This partly reflects their failure to offer a clear, consistent socialist alternative to the crisis and also an inability by the leadership to combine election work with intervention in the struggles of workers and youth that have taken place. In part it also reflects a general “anti-party” sentiment by many workers and youth who as yet do not see why they should get involved in activity and membership of a political party.

This will change at a certain stage as workers, though a combination of their own experience in struggle, the continuation of the crisis, and aided by the intervention of socialists, especially the CWI, conclude that they have no alternative but to build their own political voice. This is not an easy or straightforward process. It may still require a series of struggles before such a powerful left force is built in any European country with a substantial active participation by workers. It remains unclear if the existing forces will still develop in this way or if new organisations will emerge. However, it is still important that we continue to participate in those organisations which exist and try to shape how they develop as we are doing in SYRIZA in Greece. The emergence of various left-groupings in SYRIZA represents an important step forward and may shape how SYRIZA and a mass left-wing socialist party of the Greek working class develops. We need to be ready for many twists and turns in these developments and be prepared to rapidly adjust our tactics accordingly.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the impact we can have in such developments as we have already seen in SYRIZA and P-SOL. The platform which the section in England and Wales is building together with the RMT in TUSC is extremely significant. It has partly resulted from the effective intervention the section has made in industrial struggles.

The formation of the new parties is not an end in and of itself but a lever for safeguarding and improving the rights and conditions of the working class. Even once they are formed as powerful parties involving important sections of the working class and youth, as the experience of the PRC in Italy demonstrates, if strong Marxist forces do not exist to help shape their development then the reformist or even centrist elements in them, through a wrong programme, tactics and methods can undermine or destroy them. Where this is allowed to happen, the disappointment which follows can make the building of a new force even more complicated. This is clearly shown in Italy where the vote of the ‘Left Federation’ – a block of the PRC, PDCI (Italian Communists) and other left forces in recent regional elections – averaged a mere 3%. The failure of the PRC, combined with the Democratic Party’s ineffectiveness, has opened the way for the emergence of such phenomena as the ‘Purple People’ movement. Similarly confused and amorphous developments can emerge in other countries if powerful socialist left workers’ parties are not built.

While the formation of new broad workers’ parties is an important task for the working class and ourselves the absence of such formations is not a barrier to us significantly strengthening our own parties and sections. While a larger layer of the working class would be drawn into new broad parties, an important layer of workers and young people can also be drawn directly into membership of our sections if we work correctly.

One of the issues which has emerged in Die Linke, SYRIZA, PRC, PSOL and the NPA is the question of coalitions and alliances with the former Social Democratic parties. This is an important issue for the working class and our sections. We need to engage in this debate where it emerges, arguing a principled position but skillfully explaining our position taking into account the illusions which exist in such coalitions. In the past, this question was more readily understood by left-wing activists than it is today; this is a further reflection of how consciousness has been thrown back during the 1990s following the collapse of the former Stalinist states.

The far right and racism
The absence of a left alternative has resulted in the growth of the far right in some countries. This is a crucial question for the working class and the CWI. The renewed growth of the FPOe in Austria, the possibility of a strong vote for the BNP in Britain in the forthcoming election, Le Pen’s recent electoral resurgence in local elections in France (on average winning 17% in the regions where they stood) and the gains of the far-right in the Netherlands and Hungary together with the growth of the Northern League in the Italian elections illustrate the danger which exists. One of the features of the far right in some countries has been its use of “anti-capitalist” or “anti-rich” populist propaganda. This needs to be answered by the workers’ movement, The growth of the far right reflects the vacuum which exists and the impact of the crisis is reflected in a negative reactionary way in the growth of racist, anti-immigrant anti-Islamic sentiment amongst some layers. The far-right and right-wing forces have frequently used right-wing populist rhetoric as a means of winning electoral support. We need to be at the forefront of anti-racist activity, especially in our youth work. We also need to develop our programme and demands on this question to oppose racism and fight for class unity in such a way that we can engage in a dialogue with all sections and layers of the working class.

Radicalised youth
We need also to ensure that in addressing different sections of the working class we take into account the mood developing amongst a significant layer of youth in many European countries. With the attacks on education and the rapid growth of unemployment (21% of young workers are unemployed who want to work across the Euro-zone, according to the OECD), an explosive situation is unfolding. The movements on education in Germany, Austria and Spain are an anticipation of the struggles which can develop in a majority of European countries or on an all-European basis. The attacks arising from the Bologna agreement are having devastating consequences on education and can provoke even bigger protests than those we have seen so far. It is important that we raise the need for these and other mobilizations of the youth to turn towards the working class and raise the need for a united struggle of the workers, students and young people in general. The youth act as the light-cavalry and are an anticipation of the more powerful movements of the working class which often follow them. They are however very important for us. A significant layer of young people, are entirely opposed to the existing parties and, in some countries, the establishment and system as a whole. Many are in a constant struggle with the police and state machine. Some are becoming increasingly aliened from society.

A layer have been drawn towards anarchistic organisations and ideas. We must ensure that we find a road to the best of these youth and that we reflect the anger and bitterness they feel towards the system. While not succumbing to ultra-leftism, it is also important that our political approach towards the youth is not too timid. The degree of alienation of some youth is already reflected in Greece with the emergence of some terrorist groupings. This negative reaction, with all its consequences, can also develop in other countries – including in northern Europe.

The new, favourable situation in Europe provides us with opportunities for interventions and growth in membership and influence. It opens the prospect for us to strengthen our forces from which more substantial Marxist parties can be built in and around the CWI.

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