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The need for a united European response of workers against the attacks

category national | anti-capitalism | feature author Thursday June 17, 2010 22:49author by Joe Higgins MEP - Socialist Partyauthor email info at joehiggins dot euauthor phone 01-6795030 Report this post to the editors

European-wide "Week of Protest and Solidarity" 21 to 26 June. Ireland: National Protest on Saturday 26 June at 1pm, Central Bank Plaza, Dublin.

featured image
Joe Higgins MEP

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 26juneprotest@gmail.com

Related Link: http://www.joehiggins.eu

There have been 3 general strikes in Greece so far this year
There have been 3 general strikes in Greece so far this year

Poster for the demonstration in Dublin
Poster for the demonstration in Dublin

Joint leaflet for the demo on June 26th
Joint leaflet for the demo on June 26th

Caption: Video Id: 12535829 Type: Vimeo
Joint press conference building for the June 26th Protest

author by Andreaspublication date Thu Jun 17, 2010 23:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Excellent initiative Joe, I will be there.

The moves for the European Council to supervise the budgets of member states should be highlighted - it is a definite attack on basic sovereignty and democracy in the interests of imposing harsher and harsher attacks on workers across Europe. It's vital that we stand together across Europe to say no and build an alternative.

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Fri Jun 18, 2010 13:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Indeed, we have to use the machinery, as we have to try to get back the Irish political machinery from the corporate wrecking crews. That last speaker kept the jargon down, major challenge for the left if it is to penetrate Irish inherent conservatism. Much of the shorthand alienates the very people you need to convince.Last speaker also touched on the deferrence factor, result of the mental retardation of our people due to the church ideology of blind belief and obedience reinforced by national identification since European post-reformation religious wars finally(hopefuly)dying out up above. But its not a new Europe needs driving, its a new globalisation.A euro-solution will be pincered between the emerging corporate China and US reaction. Will trigger the same encirclement as the French rev from the ancien regime and the Russian rev with the White hitback.Just a thought. Europe is the means, possibly.The earth must be the end. We Europeans are still dining high off the global hog that has been plundering less technologically armed societies for centuries.If we forget that we will repeat the soviet state capitalist heirarchical cul-de-sac. Modern economics are just the same war by different(mainly media in the 'developed' corner)means.Sorry, that got a bit long.

author by Con Leepublication date Sat Jun 19, 2010 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ireland needs a Labour-led government, with Richard Bruton with the finance portfolio. Bruton has shown himself to be an able politician, and although he has a rancher background he also has a graduate degree in economics from Cambridge.
George Papandreou, the President of the Socialist International, is dismantling the welfare state in Greece, and has announced a massive privatization programme. Labour is affiliated with the Socialist International, and a Labour-led government will introduce similar neo-liberal policies in Ireland.

author by Diarmuid Breatnach - personal capacity but part of Dublin Basque Solidarity Cmteepublication date Sat Jun 19, 2010 15:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Go raibh maith agat, Joe. Certainly workers need to unite against the attacks, to avoid being used against one another and to strengthen their resistance. I will be there on that demonstration.

The Spanish capitalists are proposing new legislation to severely attack the workers' rights in the state (privatisation, agency working in local authorities, open temporary contracts, right to fire with reduced notice, lower redundancy payments, etc). The Basque trade unions have called for a general strike in the southern (Spanish state) Basque Country against those proposals on the 29th. Those unions, led by ELA and the left-wing LAB, between them account for around 80% of southern Basque unionised workers. Commisiones Obreras and UGT, who have been quite tame in opposition to the PSOE (Spanish Labour Party) Government took part in talks with them from which the Basque unions were excluded. The Basque unions have called not only for the death of this legislation but also to an end to attacks on the workers etc. and for opposition to their social and labour futures being decided in Madrid. They have called for economic measures in the Basque Country to be decided on a national and class basis and have called on the local authorities and regional 'autonomous' parliaments to side with them or to be seen as the enemy.

This is an important issue to be considered when we talk of unity. Does the "unity" which we espouse welcome or even permit the self-determination of oppressed nations? Or are they only to be asked to join in whatever campaign the unions and left organisations of their oppressing state organise? It is often the case too that the unions of oppressed nations are more militant than those based on the oppressing state, as was the case in Ireland and is certainly the case in the Basque Country, where they have already had a public services strike this year and a general strike May last year. More information is available from LAB's website, some of which is available in English language.

The other issue has been raised by me (and also separately by Gregor Kerr) elsewhere in this newspaper, of the need to build the workers' capacity to resist the sell-out of most union leaders by building non-sectarian rank-and-file organisations among the unionised workers. There is no substitute for that and it's hard to see how any resistance can ultimately succeed without it.

Related Link: http://www.labsindikatua.org
author by El Chepublication date Sat Jun 19, 2010 21:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Finally it seems that the "left" are coming together?The mood is there for revolution.If only those on the left could just put their differences aside,and unite,maybe we could bring real change.Hopefully this is the start!
I support Socialist workers party,Joe higgins and Socialist party,People before profit,Eirigi,Sinn fein and anyone who stands up to these fuckers in government.I will gladly march behind any of your parties banners.Come on people let this be the start,put your differences aside!
Ps,i dnt care about karl marx:)
El che

author by Noelpublication date Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Interesting seeing the Workers Party rep Malachy Steenson sharing a platform with the Trots, all for the good I suppose,but was Sinn Fein or Labour invited.

author by Shane Quinlanpublication date Thu Jun 24, 2010 22:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I doubt SF or Labour were invited. Mutual enemies you know.

author by a readerpublication date Fri Jun 25, 2010 00:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I just saw these comments in the newspaper:

"[Prof. Frances Ruane] acknowledged there was a gap in the ESRI, particularly in the banking side of things.

"It was partly on our side a lack of specialist knowledge," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"There is a tendency for people in talking to each other to reinforce each other's thoughts."

That last comment about ESRI, academic economists and newspaper business correspondents hits home. They all make up a rarefied coterie of economic 'experts' who waffle on in public while the lower income thousands bear the brunt of the financial meltdown.

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Fri Jun 25, 2010 13:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And they all have portfolios of shares, so item number one is always to talk up the market.Micro-vested interests.But its not just 'waffle'. They are hidebound in neo-con ideology since college.Chances are they got it with the mother's milk anyway.
Naomi Klein does a good breakdown of the havoc they wreaked(wrought?) over the last half century globally.Its not quite as random as waffle.
Check out her 'Shock Doctrine'. All good bookstores, as the phrase has it.

author by Paul - Socialist Partypublication date Sat Jun 26, 2010 00:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hope to see you all at the protest today.

Just to answer the question re whether SF and Labour were invited to participate. SF was invited as they are a member of the European United Left parliamentary group in the European Parliament. They chose not to participate. Labour was not invited as we do not consider them to be part of the genuine Left. We explain why we think this elsewhere in depth (see a recent article by Joe Higgins here http://www.joehiggins.eu/2010/04/labour-conference-gilm...oric/), for example because they accept the rule of the market, accept the needs for cutbacks in public services and do not fully oppose the attacks on public sector workers - plus the most likely scenario is that they are in government after the next elections with FG implementing their own vicious attacks.

You may disagree with that - that's fine. Here is probably not the place to debate it. But as the initiators of the protest, we chose to invite members of the European United Left (as the week of protest is initiated by MEPs from that group - so therefore we invited SF) and all we felt to be on the Left in a broad sense, as well as trade union, community and campaigning organisations.

author by Patpublication date Wed Jun 30, 2010 23:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SF refused to sign the call for European wide protest againt cuts despite being invited to do so, they also declined invitations to attend ogansing meetings in Dublin. Maybe something to do with them preparing to implement the Tory cuts in the next Stormont budget?

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