It is Europe’s working class and young people that have become the victims of the worst economic crisis that has gripped the continent since the end of the Second World War.
Unemployment in the Eurozone stands at its highest level since the introduction of the euro itself in 1999. In countries such as Greece and Spain unemployment amongst young people stands at a staggering 50%.
These figures, combined with the uniform implementation of austerity at the behest of Europe’s banks and finance houses, expose the myth that the European Union project represents the construction of a “social Europe” where the rights of workers are protected. As the Socialist Party has consistently pointed out, the EU is run in the interests of privately owned banks and big business.
The human consequences of austerity policies are a shameful indictment of European capitalism. In January and February the mounting cost of receiving healthcare in Portugal because of cutbacks resulted in a rise of the death rate in that country. Such horror stories have been replicated in Greece as suicide, prostitution and drug addiction have risen dramatically.
This stands in stark contrast to the situation confronted by Europe’s super rich given the enormous wealth they have amassed. A report published by Merrill Lynch in 2011 found that the continent’s “High Net Worth Individuals” possessed more than €7.5 trillion! This is more than twice the size of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Germany, the EU’s largest economy.
Throughout Europe workers have engaged in courageous battles against their governments who have slavishly implemented cutbacks and bank bailouts. Where the EU establishment and financial markets have not been happy with the pace of austerity measures being implemented, they have seen fit to replace democratically elected governments with governments of technocrats unashamedly dominated and tied to Europe’s bankers. This is exactly what took place in Greece and Italy in late 2011.
A Europe for the millions, not the millionaires
There needs to be a united struggle of working class people to replace these governments with those that will genuinely represent their interests and will implement democratic socialist policies. Such workers governments would refuse to pay for the bad gambling debts of private billionaire bondholders. By linking together it could use Europe’s resources to implement a real bailout for ordinary people not its privately owned banking system.
A real bailout would involve the creation of an emergency job creation programme. A programme that would involve investing to develop Europe’s infrastructure and investing in health, education and other necessary social services. It would also mean providing free education, training and skills for unemployed people.
A socialist Europe would stand in polar opposition to the manner in which the European Union is run. A socialist Europe would be based on the nationalisation of the banks, financial institutions and big business under democratic working class control, with the implementation of a democratic plan to ensure that the needs of the majority in society were met. Such planning would be geared towards matching the real needs of working class people as well as creating a far more productive economy.
Across Europe at the moment a massive “strike of capital” is taking place, as capitalists are refusing to invest as they cannot find profitable outlets. Today in Britain the top companies are sitting on profits of over £700 billion. Over the past three decades whole sections of traditional manufacturing have been destroyed by de-industrialisation. Yet it is this sector of the economy which is crucial to the creation of real wealth within society which in turn can be used to fund public services.
On this basis of co-ordinated democratic socialist planning the resources of Europe could be invested in manufacturing, and research and development across the continent. This would result in real sustainable economic growth as opposed to the booms based on the credit fuelled property bubbles in countries such as Ireland and Spain.
Socialist planning would also end the waste of capitalist competition, as well creating an environmentally sustainable economy. For example, on the basis of public ownership of Europe’s car industry it would be possible to pool its resources and workforce and retool its factories to build trains and other environmentally friendly modes of transport.
A socialist Europe would be based on real democracy with maximum power devolved at local level. It would end the ability of unelected institutions such as the Troika to dictate programmes of austerity to workers and young people in Europe. Real socialism would be based on an equality of European states, with decisions made by democratically elected workers’ representatives, who are subject to immediate recall by those who elect them.
Austerity and unemployment are inevitable under a system where the wealth of society is abused by an economy run for the profits of a small minority. European workers have a vested interest in uniting together to rid the continent of this system once and for all.