Attacks on working people are mounting right across Europe. The so-called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland & Italy, Greece, Spain) countries have been to the forefront of these attacks. In Ireland, we have seen €7 billion of cutbacks, seriously damaging public services, including health and education. In Greece, there has been a 10% cut in wages and spending in the public sector, together with an increased retirement age, VAT increases and the freezing of pensions. Portugal has a plan to cut its deficit by €11bn over four years through a crisis tax on wages and cutbacks in public services. The Spanish Parliament has passed cutbacks worth €15bn on top of €50bn already agreed. Italy is due to implement “emergency-cutbacks” of €24 bn.
These attacks have also spread to Northern Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing €80 billion worth of cuts the new Tory/Lib Dem government launching a so-called “era of austerity” in Britain with cutbacks of €18 bn being implemented this year.
These common cutbacks demonstrate that whatever their disagreements over exactly how to deal with the crisis in the eurozone, the European establishment is united in the belief that workers, young people and the unemployed must pay for the economic crisis. The result of these cutbacks will be a worsening of the economic crisis, with these deep cuts substantially raising the prospect of a double dip recession.
In Ireland, we have seen what these attacks mean for ordinary people, with health and education services being attacked, with unemployment, with over 400,000 people already signing on, worsening. Further cutbacks of €3 bn are planned within months, which will most likely see more attacks on pensioners in particular.
These attacks have not been accepted meekly by workers across Europe. Mass opposition has been the result. Before the disgraceful sell-out by most of the trade union leadership in signing up to and advocating the Croke Park public sector deal, Ireland saw a national demonstration of 120,000 people and regional demonstrations with a total attendance of 80,000 people together with an historic national public sector strike.
Greece has seen three major general strikes since the start of the year. May saw the biggest demonstration since the end of the second world war in Athens – an extremely impressive display of the power of workers in Greece.
Spain and Portugal have experienced massive demonstrations of over 100,000 people as well as public sector strikes. Two weeks ago, around one million people marched across France in opposition to pension counter-reform, with a nationwide strike planned for 24 June. Italy has a general strike scheduled for 25 June.
This fightback is precisely the resistance that is needed to defeat the capitalist establishment across Europe. A crucial question is uniting these movements across Europe and having a strong joint response by workers across Europe against paying the price for the economic crisis.
The need for a Europe-wide response is a demand that has emerged strongly from the movements in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, with workers and young people recognising that the attacks being experienced in their country are replicated across Europe. Numerous statements have circulated in the Left in Europe in relation to the crisis. The crucial thing in my opinion is the need for united action, pointing towards the need for united industrial action by the trade unions across Europe.
As a result, I initiated a call for united action – a “week of protest and solidarity” across Europe, which has been supported by 15 other Left MEPs from Greece, Germany, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Denmark and Sweden, as well as the French New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA – http://www.npa2009.org/) and the sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – www.socialistworld.net).
I argued that there was for united action to ensure workers are not divided along national lines. The danger of this was demonstrated in the media in Germany and many ther countries where lies about the conditions of workers in Greece are spread to create the impression that ordinary Greeks are responsible for the crisis in their country and must pay the price. The Left must counter this disinformation with facts and figures showing the real situation. For example, contrary to the myth of lazy Greek workers retiring early, the average retirement age in Greece is 61.4 years, higher than the European average!
As I outlined in the appeal
The purpose is to proclaim that Left and social organisations reject the policy that it is working people who must pay for the crisis, that we demand an end to the dictatorship of the markets, demand that the financial institutions are taken into public ownership and we declare that European workers stand together in solidarity.”
We feel that successful co-ordinated protests in the week of 21 to 26 June would have a major impact and send a clear message to the European establishments. It would assist the struggles of workers in the various European countries and be a vital step in building a European-wide resistance to the ongoing neo-liberal agenda.”
(Full Appeal availeble here: http://www.indymedia.ie/index.php?obj_id=53&story_id=96…68611
As a result of this appeal being taken up by important sections of the Left across Europe, protests and events will take place across the continent, with two days of protest in Greece against the privatisation of train services and attacks on social services and pension rights as well as a festival of resistance in Athens on Friday night. In Portugal, a day of action is planned by the Left Bloc, who in street activities will distribute 200,000 copies of a pamphlet arguing against the economic crisis. In Germany, die Linke is planning a protest at the European Central Bank. Other protests and meetings will take place in other countries across Europe.
In Ireland, I initiated a meeting of Left organizations to discuss how we could participate in this Week of Protest. The Socialist Party (http://www.socialistparty.net), Workers’ Party (http://www.workerspartyireland.net/), Socialist Workers Party (http://www.swp.ie), People Before Profit Alliance (http://www.people-before-profit.org/), Right to Work, Workers Solidarity Movement (http://www.wsm.ie), éirígí (http://www.eirigi.org/), Irish Socialist Network (http://irishsocialist.net/) and Socialist Democracy (http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/) all agreed to organize a protest in Dublin on Saturday 26 June. This will take the form of a national demonstration beginning at 1pm at the Central Bank Plaza which will proceed to the EU Commission Offices on Molesworth Street before finishing at Anglo Irish bank in Stephen’s Green. For more on the protest, check out this article: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/96862
This initiative has already been endorsed by almost the entire political left in Ireland and a campaign for trade union and trades council endorsement as well as the support of community based campaigns against the cuts is well underway. The Drogheda Trades Council and the OPW and An Post branches of the Civil and Public Service Union have already endorsed this protest and we continue to work to get further endorsements. I urge anybody who supports this initiative to raise it in their union branch or any community based campaigns they are involved in.
The demonstration on Saturday, together with the activities across Europe is an opportunity to send a strong message to the Irish government and European establishment that we oppose workers paying for the economic crisis and will stand together with workers across Europe to resist the attacks. It is an important step in building a strong European-wide response. A crucial further step will be the day of action organised by the European Trade Union Confederation on 29 September, with protests planned in Brussels and across Europe. Where the conditions are appropriate, I will be arguing for industrial action to be organised on this date by trade unions across Europe to really bring the industrial power of the working class to bear on a European level.
The demands which the protests are organised around across Europe are the following:
- Workers, pensioners, the unemployed, students, youth and those socially excluded must not pay for the crisis – Make the super rich and bankers pay
- Solidarity with the working people of Greece and for the unity of working people across Europe.
- No to cutbacks, wage cuts, unemployment and increases in the retirement age
- No to privatisation of public services
- End the dictatorship of the financial markets, credit ratings institutions and the IMF
- Stop the bailouts of the banks – nationalise the banks and financial institutions in the interests of working people
What you can do:
- Attend the demonstration at 1pm Saturday 26 June at Central Bank.
- Get the endorsement of your union branch, campaigning or community organisation for the initiative.
- Contact us to get leaflets and posters advertising the demonstration to distribute. 01 6795030 firstname.lastname@example.org