In recent weeks, the signs of anger among the peoples of Europe have been increasing: a general strike in Portugal, the huge September 29 strike in Spain, demonstrations of historic proportions in Ireland, the student movement in England, the enormous protests in Italy by factory workers and students and the growing mass movement against the privatization of water and, hopefully, the beginning of a lasting movement following the mobilizations over pension reforms in France. Though the slogans may vary from one country to the next, the revolt has the same origin: the peoples’ refusal to pay for a crisis they did not cause, to have to put up with austerity measures by themselves, without the capitalists having to pay.The case of Ireland is emblematic – reduced social benefits, staff cuts in the public sector and cuts to public sector workers’ pay, the extension of income tax to those who do not currently pay, the lowest-paid workers. But the government is not touching corporate tax, however, one of the lowest in Europe. The Irish people are refusing to bow down and tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in late November.
In the Spanish State, the Socialist Party government has yielded to the pressure of financial power and has placed itself at the service of big capital, introducing harsh measures that seriously affect the lives and work of the great majority: lowering pensions, withdrawing unemployment benefits, raising retirement age, reforming the collective bargaining system, increased redundancies, excise duties… and this is just the beginning. The opposition – the rightist Popular Party – is making the most of the effects of the crisis and is rising in the polls. The social and trade union Left, where anarchists play an important role, is fighting the government’s anti-social measures and the economic and political Right. September 29th was the beginning of a process of mobilization that the most militant unions are leading, ahead of the cozy union bureaucracy which is closely linked to social democracy.
In Britain and Ireland, university fees have shot up, making access to higher education ever more dependant on having money. Once again, students responded with a particularly combative protest movement. In Italy, students all over the country are staging massive protests against the government’s bill which would see enormous cuts in university staff, more emphasis on scientific subjects to the detriment of humanities and an end to the current grants system, making university much less accessible for the poorer layers of society. And importantly, the reform will also give a boost to private universities, and give the private sector more say in the country’s public universities.
There is also sure to be bad news on 16-17 December, when an EU announcement on Italy’s chronic public debt will probably demand the government finds an extra €20-30 bn in the forthcoming budget, meaning more cuts in the public sector. This will come at a time when the capitalist class, led by FIAT, are launching an all-out attack on private sector workers and their rights, with mechanisms in place to get rid of the collective bargaining system and introduce mass casualization of the workforce, as well as job cuts and factory closures.
Do not be fooled: if the European Union (and the IMF) imposes these austerity plans, it is not only out of economic necessity, since these plans will only serve to plunge countries even more into recession – while enlarging the profits of the bosses; it is because they also see the crisis as an historic opportunity to get rid of the few social rights we have left.
Faced with this situation, we must respond with struggle and solidarity between the workers in affected countries. Faced with attacks like these, internationalism is more necessary than ever: we need a Europe-wide social movement!
We stand in solidarity with all people struggling against austerity measures and the barbarism of capitalism.
Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (Italy)
Alternative Libertaire (France)
Organisation Socialiste Libertaire (Switzerland)
Liberty & Solidarity (UK)
Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland)
Libertære Socialister (Denmark)
Libertäre Aktion Winterthur (Switzerland)
10 December 2010