Only a socialist Europe can save us from the effects of the economic crisis!
1. The crisis hits Europe
The world economic crisis that began with the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008 is now entering its third year. Although the crisis began in the USA, Europe is now at the center. Several countries of the old continent – both in the Mediterranean and in the East – are on the verge of bankruptcy.
In Greece, Spain and Portugal, the living standards of the working population are being massively reduced: through cuts in pensions, social spending, education and healthcare, as well as increases in consumption taxes. The ruling classes tell us that the Greek workers lived beyond their means – interesting given an average net wage of 550 euros per month! At least the big European banks can enjoy the rain of money that is called “help for Greece”.
Even in the heartland of the EU, Germany – which in recent months has recorded some growth through exports to the semi-colonial world – the the biggest austerity package of the post-war period is being prepared.
The rulers of Europe are following the advice of an Obama advisor to “not waste a serious crisis.” Using the crisis as a justification, the bourgeoisies want to achieve a strategic shift in the balance of power: both between the classes in each country and between the various powers in the EU. They want to strengthen the power of capital in each country at the expense of the workers’ movement, but also to strengthen the major EU powers, especially Germany, at the expense of weaker countries.
With a rescue package of nearly one billion euros, the euro was temporarily saved from collapse. But while bourgeois politicians promise an end of the crisis, we are witnessing only the beginning of the planned attacks in the form of mass layoffs and the elimination of rights won by the workers’ movement in the last decades.
2. Braked resistance
The leaderships of the working class in Europe, the social democratic and Stalinist parties, as well as the trade unions, have nothing to counter the attacks. They want the the costs of the crisis to be spread “fairly” – as if all classes were equally responsible for the crisis of capitalism!
The bureaucratic leaders of the trade unions promised us to organize resistance, but their plans do not go beyond the symbolic plane. Thus, the European day of action on September 29 will only consist of small rallies and demonstrations in most of the 27 EU countries. Necessary, however, would be a strike to paralyze the economy of the entire continent and give a sense of the workers’s power.
Necessary would be solidarity for the people who are being presented as scapegoats. The attacks are being accompanied by racist agitation: against “lazy Southerners”, against “illegal immigrants”, against “gypsies” (Sinti and Roma) and against “muslim parallel societies”.
But the bureaucrats do not even in their dreams consider the possibility of a Europe-wide strike. They live as mediators between labor and capital – and in this mediating role they receive considerable privileges. This kind of strike would at least partially question the system from which they live.
In countries where the pressure of the workers at the greatest, such as in Spain or Greece, the trade unions have had to organize general strikes. As impressive as the six general strikes in Greece in the first half of 2010 were, they are not enough to beat back the cuts.
Thousands of workers and young people in Athens were trying for hours in a street battle against the police to storm the parliament and prevent the vote about the austerity package. This action was justified – but the reformist leaders distanced themselves from it!
3. Expropriate the expropriators!
In many countries it is the social democratic parties themselves that are carrying out the attacks in the interest of the bourgeoisie. But also newer, more left-wing reformist formations such as the Left Party in Germany or SYRIZA in Greece have no real alternative: they participate in the protests only to get a boost for their strategy of contesting elections and joining governments.
Even new projects which have declared themselves “anti-capitalist” have no strategy to end the crisis of the capitalist system by its revolutionary overthrow. The “New Anti-Capitalist Party” (NPA) from France correctly calls for the extension of the strikes, but it is generally open to participation in bourgeois governments. The Left Bloc (BE) from Portugal even went so far as to vote in parliament for the rescue package for the Greek state and the associated attacks on the working population of Greece – because there is supposedly “no alternative”!
But in the workplaces we see the first signs of a real alternative: workers have defended themselves against bearing the costs of the crisis. Especially in France but also in Britain, Ireland and other countries, factories have been occupied to prevent their closure. In the Philips TV factory in Dreux near Paris, the occupiers went so far as to resume production under workers’ control. This small example shows how we can fight against the crisis: by the expropriation of the means of production, which are currently owned by a tiny minority of society.
4. Let’s be realistic!
The capitalists and their reformist helpers say that we have to “tighten our belts.” At the moment, more is produced than ever before in human history – however, the profit logic of capitalism forces the redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. So the idea that crises can be avoided with “reasonable” (reformist) politics is a complete illusion.
These reformists cannot present an alternative to the cuts because there really is no other way to help capitalism out of its crisis except by having the working class pay for it. The only realistic perspective for a dignified future is to expropriate the capitalists, via the workers smashing the state and managing society through their own councils. This requires a generalization of the strikes, workers’ democracy in the struggles and consistent action against all cuts, layoffs and closures!
The European Union was created as an imperialist bloc to help European capital compete more effectively on the world market. The EU, just like the individual member states, is dependent on capital and cannot be governed in the interests of the working population. It must be replaced by a socialist Europe.
To implement this perspective, we need a strong revolutionary Marxist organization based in the schools, the universities and especially the workplaces, organized across borders to unite the struggles and lead them towards the socialist revolution. Such an organization would have to be oriented to the following demands:
- Not a cent for the rescue of the banks and corporations!
- A European-wide general strike to beat back the attacks by the capitalists and their governments!
- An end to precarious employment which dominates lives of millions of workers (especially young workers) across Europe!
- A massive reduction in working hours with full pay, in order to distribute the available all shoulders!
- The occupation of companies which threaten dismissal or closing, and their nationalization under workers’ control!
Statement by RIO, the Revolutionary Internationalist Organization, September 5, 2010, based on a draft by Wladek Flakin, Berlin