Written by European Coordination of the IWL-FI Thursday, 05 April 2012 01:15
Against the social war by the EU and the troika’s governments
Down with the cuts and labour reforms!
Not a Euro more for the bankers!
No to the payment of the Public Debt to the bankers!
For a rescue plan for the workers and the people!
For an united European response to the social war!
The European governments have declared a ‘social war’ against workers, youth and the peoples of Europe with the aim of imposing a historical defeat. The social war has the greatest strength in the periphery of the euro zone (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy). The crisis involves the euro and EU as a whole, the political and economical means developed by European imperialisms to serve the banks and the big business corporations. The social war is the answer by European capitalism to the capitalist crisis which began in 2007. This crisis can only be compared to the Great Depression and has its epicentre in Europe.
The EU’s policies express the need of the central imperialisms (French and German) to place the bulk of the crisis on the European periphery in order to prevent it from fully reaching the centre, which would put their interests at risk and plunge the world economy to the abyss. The EU’s policy is also an instrument to consolidate the hegemony of the German bourgeoisie over Europe. The ‘pillage plans’ that attack Greece are the development of a drama that is taking place throughout the European periphery.
The popular and worker’s response to the cuts and counter-reforms can be seen throughout European periphery. With the Greek people and working class as the undisputed head, strikes and demonstrations are taking place in the streets of Portugal, Italy and the Spanish State, in a European wave that also includes the countries in Eastern Europe (Romania) as well as Britain and Belgium.
IN this critical situation the sections of the IWL-FI (International Workers’ League-Fourth International), who met in Lisbon for the founding congress of the Movement for a Socialist Alternative (MAS in Portuguese), fraternally address ourselves to the European militant vanguard in order present our views on the current crisis and the alternatives that are at hand.
The European Union and the Euro are weapons for the war against workers and the peoples
The creation of the European Union and the later creation of the euro, come from an effort which can be traced back to the end of the II World War, expressed the need of the central European imperialisms to have means through which they might achieve a double goal: first, putting into motion a unified plan to destroy the conquests achieved by the European working class in the post-war years thus turning the continent into ‘the most competitive region in the world’. The second goal, linked to this first one, is that of presenting a ‘united front’ to challenge north-American imperialism over the division of the world’s spoils, while dealing with the ’emerging countries’. The EU, whose heart lies in the euro zone, was not, however, a unified state. It was a regional imperialist bloc of states, with German and French capitalisms as central core, in association with the old British power and its specific interests in regards to the City and its ‘special relationship’ with the USA. Around this nucleus second and third-rank imperialisms were grouped such as Italy, the Spanish State, Portugal and Greece, and a further group of the Eastern European countries, ‘annexed’ through the enlargement of the EU and submitting for a long time to a recolonisation process, primarily by German capitalism.
The euro since its creation was a central means to establish German hegemony over Europe. It affirmed the preponderance in the first place of German industry, whose exports to the periphery multiplied while the periphery deindustrialization and whose large trade deficits were largely financed by capital surpluses from German and French banks. They did not hesitate for a moment to generously feed the speculative processes such as the huge Spanish real estate bubble.
As this process developed and the periphery drowned in a sea of debts, their banks and finances – dependent on French and German financing obtained record profits and asserted their dominance over sectors such as construction or energy production, which did not challenge German exports. The parasitic bourgeoisie of the periphery became a beneficiary as well as an agent of submission to the central European imperialisms.
The indebtedness of the European economies and especially those of the periphery, which greatly increased after the adoption of the euro in 2000, formed a part of the general process of private indebtedness and speculation that is developed on a world scale, having as an epicentre the North American financial system (subprimes). When the wave of general indebtedness was no longer enough to postpone the crisis of overproduction and the capitalist crisis finally exploded in 2008, the states raced to save the bankers and the great capitalists and thus started the greatest social war against the working class and popular sectors since the 1930’s. The European banks’ private debt was converted into public debt that saddled the European periphery with great indebtedness. So from 2010 onwards the capitalist crisis took the form of a public debt crisis. The public debt crisis has thus become the great excuse for states to wage the social war and finance capital’s favoured way to reappropriate wealth at the expense of the massive impoverishment of the peoples. It is at the same time the weapon with which the countries in the periphery submit to the central European capitalists and especially to German capitalism.
Public Debt, cuts, counter-reformation and Neocolonisation
Murderous cuts in the public budget are leading to the dismantling and privatisation of basic public services such as health and education and pension funds. This is causing a sharp increase in poverty, while unemployment is on the rise (increased up by the recession which the austerity plans make even worse) that affects millions of households. These cuts in public services go together with privation plans for the few national assets have not yet been sold. With this ‘package’ are the labour counter-reforms, which in Greece, Portugal, the Spanish State or Italy are putting an end to collective bargaining thus leaving the workers at the mercy of the bosses and paving the way for cheap redundancies and widespread reduction of wages.
The bourgeoisie’s way out of the crisis means brutally increasing workers’ exploitation, especially in the euro’s periphery and sending the increased surplus value to German and French banks. In this macabre feast the bankers and great businessmen of the European periphery take part as accomplices and minor partners. But to be able to shackle the countries of the European periphery to the payment of the debt central European imperialism needs to have them under political control. This process which is an integral part of the capitalist offensive has been deepening since the debt crisis started. This is already evident in Greece, a country which is turning from a small partner of the central imperialisms into a neo-colony. This movement develops at an uneven tempo in different countries, but it affects the whole of the European periphery. It is also inseparable from the increase in Bonapartist elements in their political regimes, as the governments become more and more directly subjected to the EU, tending to become more and more autonomous from the parliamentary majorities, while relying more on the state’s coercive apparatus and extending the repressive measures and attacking democratic rights.
This plundering of the European periphery is profoundly intertwined with the tools that the European bourgeoisie used to carry it out that is, the European Union and the euro currency, which is now expanded to include the ‘fiscal union’. This new ‘union’, agreed on the urging of Angela Merkel, simply destroys the sovereignty of the states of the European periphery.
The end of the euro project is not in question for the central European imperialisms, even if Greece or Portugal ends up leaving the eurozone. The euro was a significant step in establishing German hegemony over Europe and is still the cornerstone that guarantees Germany and allows it to compete with the US and Japan.
The European periphery’s bourgeoisie, dominated by financial capital, has no qualms about helping to place their countries under the dictates of German and French capitalism in order to be able to take a small part of the spoils that imperialist capital obtains around the world. They are the scavengers that follow the great predators.
We are at the apex of a long historical process of decay of the European periphery’s bourgeoisies. The EU and the single currency brought the illusion that they could go back to their imperialist and colonial past, while indebtedness seemed to be their entrance ticket to the ‘top’. But the crisis brought these illusions to a sudden end. The European periphery’s bourgeoisies no longer have any room for manoeuvre as their indebtedness became their main problem, their only option now is to impose a historical setback on all social conquests. If they want to remain the central imperialisms’ smaller partners, albeit with a different tempo, they must hand their countries over to the French and German banks and make sure that the larger share of the national wealth goes to them. This is the price to pay to continue with the ‘top table’. For this reason, the struggle against German imperialism must also be a struggle against the bourgeoisies of Europe’s peripheral countries.
For the working class, the popular sectors and the youth of those peripheral countries, there can be no future inside the EU and the euro. The governments under the control of the banks and the EU whether right-wing or social-democratic governments, say that ‘there can be no future outside the EU’ and that ‘abandoning the euro will bring chaos’. But ‘chaos’ is the millions unemployed; the mass redundancies and the closing of workplaces; the miserable wages and pensions with which one cannot survive for a month; the schools without proper heating and with precarised, underpaid teachers; the sharp decline in public health services, which forces those who can afford it to pay for basic healthcare. For the decadent peripheral bourgeoisies staying in the euro and in the EU is a necessity but for most of the people this equates to impoverishment and social ruin.
They are trying to make the working class and the people pay the price of staying in the euro and in the EU with great suffering. Important sectors of the German bourgeoisie and government are ready for Portugal and Greece to leave the single currency. Their question is, in truth, not if, but when and how these countries should leave the euro. They do not want this to take place before they have finished their pillage. More than that, they need this to happen in a controlled, ‘ordered’ manner, since they cannot allow a ‘contagion’ where the Spanish state and Italy could also leave. That would explode the euro zone, causing a financial tsunami in Europe and the world.
The time of the Welfare State is over
This is not a minor change we are facing. This process is, in fact, one of a qualitative change in the relationships between classes inside every country, as well as between the European countries. In this change, public debt, cuts, labour counter reforms and the neocolonisation of the European periphery form the basis with which the central European imperialisms want to secure their hegemony, and set the foundations that might allow them to compete with North American imperialism.
There is no going back to the time before the crisis. No matter how this process unravels, the Welfare State is over, and so is the EU. An important part of the national wealth of the periphery can no longer be nationally distributed and will have to be expatriated to the central European imperialisms. It will no longer be possible to maintain social peace between the classes with the help of public budgets that distribute indirect wages (in the form of education, health services and pensions) between the majority of the people. IN this context, the partial victories of the workers will no longer bring stable gains, but will only be preparation for bloodier struggles. The final outcome of this will be either an historical defeat of the European working class within the framework of an EU under the hegemony of German imperialism, or a rupture with the euro and the EU and the opening of an internationalist and revolutionary road.
Social-democracy and the trade-union bureaucracies
To advance in the struggle to keep their gains and face the governments that are making the cuts workers have to a great obstacle, which is the social-democratic parties, such as in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. These parties, when in government, did not hesitate to attack the rights of workers, under orders from the banks and the EU. Now, in opposition, they do not oppose the right-wing or technocratic governments that replaced them, which are now in charge of imposing these plans, pillaging and empoverishing the working class and the people.
One great challenge that we face is to overcome the great obstacle of the trade-union bureaucracies. While the ferocity of the attacks needs a general unified reply in every country, in the European periphery and in Europe as a whole, the bureaucracies, organized in the European Trade Unions Congress (ETUC) limit themselves to negotiating separately in their countries over the intensity of the attacks. They call for mobilisations but do not question the governments. They do not even set as a goal the defeat of the Labour reforms and the end to the ‘austerity plans’. IN truth they never questioned paying the public debt to the banks, neither the austerity policies as such, nor the participation in the euro and the EU, which they actually defend. Their opposition confines itself to asking for softer cuts and tax reform. Their real worry is to negotiate the continuity of their own privileges, which are now being directly attacked or, at least, diminished and threatened by the reforms and the cuts.
In this moment our countries are going through a complex, rich and uneven process of reorganisation against the trade-union bureaucracies. This process expresses itself, in some cases, in the forming of alternative trade-unions. In others they take the form of trade-union oppositions and in the case of Greece in elected committees and in coordination movements by the rank-and-file. For this process to develop itself it is necessary to break with the old bureaucratic apparatus, but also, to unify this movement of opposition to the bureaucracy under the banners of class independence and of working-class democracy, overcoming the sectarianism of the apparatus and advancing towards the building of a combative and mass trade-union movement that might pose itself as an alternative to the control of the bureaucracies. This struggle demands denouncing the trade-union bureaucracy and demanding, in front of workers that they assume their responsibility in the struggle.
The denial by the bureaucracy to call immediately for unified days of struggle and strikes in the euro periphery and in Europe as a whole is unjustifiable. One cannot understand how, right now, two general strikes were called for, one in Portugal and one in the Spanish state, a week apart from each other. The main strength of our enemies is precisely the division between countries which are united and disciplined under the EU. We will not defeat their plans if we do not combine our forces internationally, just as there cannot be ‘national solutions’ to this crisis. It is for this reason that we must be with this movement, helping it to take effective steps towards a European coordination of combative trade-unionism.
The European left and the Program to face the crisis
This historical crossroad of European history is testing all the left-wing political organisations. The ‘Europeanists’ such as the Left-Wing Block from Portugal see no other option than to support paying the public debt to bankers and calling for its ‘restructuring’. According to Louçã, one of the main leaders of the Block, it is absolutely necessary to remain in the EU and in the euro and it is on this basis that the depth of the austerity measures must be negotiated. This position is also the same as that of the Portuguese Comunist Party, which in turn controls the trade-union bureaucracy of the CGTP (General Confederation of Portuguese Workers). But the continent in which Louçã lives exists only in his dreams. The real Europe, the EU, does not allow any negotiations concerning maintaining parts of the welfare state in the European periphery. The policy of the Block and of the PCP ties the working class to their national bourgeoisies and to the EU, without an alternative to impoverishment and exploitation. In Greece a similar policy is defended by Syriza. They also say that there is a need to ‘restructure the debt’ that is, to reduce it, make it cheaper and extend the due time for paying it… in order to continue paying it.
Those parties refuse to defend no-payment of the debt and even measures such as the immediate suspension of the payment of public debt, because they know those measures would bring about Greece’s departure from the euro and the EU, which in their view, equates to bringing about the complete ruin of the country. But this is a blind, suicidal measure that plays in the hand of French and German imperialisms. Everybody knows that the Greek and Portuguese debts are unpayable, and that the EU seeks only to plunder those countries. While Greece and Portugal sink quickly, those parties dedicate themselves to warning about this sinking, and propose no solution for it (other than to diminish the size of the rope with which the working class and the people are being hung).
The Italian Refundazione Communist party limits itself to a chauvinist criticism to the Monti government for ‘transferring sovereignty to Germany’, but Monti also represents Italian imperialism, which is an accomplice of Angela Merkel. The intention of Refundazione’s leadership is to return to the government for the third time, with the support of the same Italian imperialist bourgeoisie that now sustains Monti.
As for the French NPA (New Anti-capitalist Party), their presidential candidate, Philipe Poutou, states that: ”We believe that the only way to bring an end to the dictates of profitability and competivity[of the EU] is to build a peoples Europe. The real problem is not if we are ‘for’ or ‘against’ Europe. But let us not cover over this matter. The problem is not if we are ‘in favour’ or ‘against’ an abstract Europe but what our position is in regards to the particular, concrete Europe that exists today. This imperialist Europe, the European Union, is tool for the oppression and colonisation of the peoples of Europe that serves the designs of the central European imperialisms.
To the working class from Greece, Portugal, Italy or the Spanish state we cannot say that what we need is an ‘economic and social rupture with the capitalist system’ in general, casting aside the real problem of the plundering of their countries through the euro and the EU. WE cannot be real about an anti-capitalist policy if we avoid facing the concrete form with which the European bourgeoisie attacks the working class and peoples of Europe.
The program of Philipe Poutou is that of the NPA and of the United Secretariat, and it states: ”In Europe, the answer to the crisis is not nationalist protectionism nor leaving the euro. This would take the European countries to an excessive competition against each other and to new attacks against the peoples (…) not to mention the development of chauvinistic and xenophobic movements. The answer we need is that of a Europe that is social, democratic and ecologist that breaks from European policies and institutions.
Of course, we cannot but agree in rebutting nationalist protectionism, but we disagree with lying to the working class. Because what the NPA and the USec are defending in truth is that in breaking from the EU and the euro the only option is bourgeois nationalistic protectionism. And this is not true. This is in truth the dilemma posed for the European bourgeoisie, especially for those in the European periphery, but this is not the only alternative for the working class and the left-wing. The European periphery’s governments and bourgeoisie often threaten that leaving the euro means throwing those countries into the abyss. But what is certain is exactly the opposite: the plans that keep these countries in the eurozone and in the EU condemn the workers and the people to impoverishment and social ruin.
Poutou said that the measures needed for workers to stop paying for capital’s crisis are those that open the way to a ‘social and economic rupture with the capitalist system’, but this means breaking up with the EU and the euro, within a framework of an internationalist way-out from capitalist Europe.
The NPA and their policy mean handing over to the National Front far right the defence of the rupture with the euro and the EU, since it sees only two options: to remain in the euro and the EU (justifying this with increasingly hollow rhetoric about an alleged constitutional process that would reform unreformable institutions, bringing social harmony to the EU from above), or open the way to the National Front and their xenophobic policies. But the NPA casts aside another option, in truth the only one that can offer a favourable way-out of the historical crisis of European capitalism. That is to break apart from the EU and the eurozone, demolish the undemocratic and antisocial control of financial capital that is the essence of the EU, raise the banner of internationalist solidarity and call for a struggle for a new Europe of the working class and the peoples, the United Socialist States of Europe.
A Program to face the catastrophe
The only way to stop the catastrophe raging in Greece, whose weight falls on the working class, the youth and the middle classes of the European peripheral countries is to break with the plundering of these countries and unite our forces. The immediate struggle is, of course, to stop the cuts, the attacks on pensions and labour rights, understanding that this means the unifying the struggles in every country and offering a unified answer from the entire European periphery.
To stop the bleeding of wealth from these countries another immediate measure is to demand the no-payment of the debt to the bankers and speculative funds. Not a single euro from the public budget must go to the bankers, and this money must be used to satisfy social needs! It is essential to unite all the forces willing to fight for this, in every country, coordinating the entire European periphery, having as a goal to turn this demand into a great mass movement.
The pundits under capital’s pay scream against this in the mass media arguing that this measure would bring about a catastrophic break of the banks and with that a catastrophic break of the economy. But this has a simple answer: we must nationalize the banks (expropriating the great shareholders and investors), unifying them and putting them under workers and popular movements’ control, safeguarding the deposits of the small depositors and using the credit to reorganize the economy for the benefit of the great majority of the people.
It is impossible to reconcile the workers’ and people’s basic needs and the banks bailout. Any serious measure to rescue the working class will directly collide with the vital needs of the European periphery’s bourgeoisie and the central imperialisms. Because of this, leaving the euro and rupturing with the EU is an immediate political need if we are to rescue the workers from these attacks.
We know that the country which follows such a way will face a merciless boycott in order to destroy it. Because of this, as basic self-defence measures, and as the necessary means to adequately organize its economy, there must be state monopoly over external trade, and full control over currency movements, as well as the nationalisation of strategic companies, putting them under workers’ control. In the same way, to guarantee work for all and to put an end to precarious work, work must be divided between all (with a sliding scale of work hours), with a wide plan of public works, reorganizing industry and the services’ sector.
The Greek crisis, at the head of the European periphery’s crisis, shows that the only class that can prevent the bankruptcy of the countries, stop the deep anti-democratic trend, as well as putting an end to the plundering of countries is the working class. But for this to happen, the EU’s puppet governments must end, replaced by a workers’ and people’s government, based on the organisations that make the mobilisations in the workplaces and in the streets. Only such a government can take the necessary measures that we have proposed.
This is not, of course, an alternative only for Greece. The struggle and triumph of the working class in one country is only a temporary solution, from an historic point of view, because without the continental and world international workers’ solidarity any revolutionary movement is bound to be defeated. On the other hand (differently from what the KKE – the Greek Communist Party say), there are no material conditions to build a socialist society if it is not done at a European level and, even more, at a world-wide level. Hence the need of raising the struggle for the United Socialist States of Europe, raising once more the banner of the III International before it fell under Stalin’s boots.
This is the commitment of the European organisations of the International Workers’ League (IWL-FI), this is the struggle that we want to undertake together, side by side with militants and activists. We call on workers, youth and people to fight for a working-class way out of the crisis, which requires us to raise the question of political power for the working class. It is within this struggle that we want to build our organisations and rebuild the revolutionary International that we need as badly as the air we breathe.
European Coordination of the IWL-FI a) There will be automatic sanctions to all countries who exceed a determined public deficit limit: b) the european Court of Justice may fine the states who do not aprove the laws that guarantee the budgetary pact; c) the Eurogroup (a council composed by the ministries of economy) will have the final word on the budgets of the states, who shall be subjected to the aproval of Germany before going to vote in Parliament; d) the European commission will dictate the lines of economical policy to the governments SYRIZA (‘Radical Left-Wing Coalition’) is an electoral front launched in 2004 and made of many organizations from the greek left-wing, as well as well-known political individuals. The main organization in this group is called Synapsismos (SYN- Coalition of Left Movements and Ecology). They have nine members in parliament. http://poutou2012.org/L-Europe-fragilise-t-elle-ou  Report aproved by the International Commitee of the Unified Secretariat. 22 of february of 2011. The highlights are ours.