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European Days of Solidarity and Protest
Saturday May 15, 2010 22:17 by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWI
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP from Ireland and member of the Committee for a Workers´ International initiated a meeting with fellow MEPs with the intention of countering both, the nationalist slanders of the international media and European leaders against the Greek workers and youth; as well as to counter the illusion that the huge bail-out package of €750 billion which was agreed by the European Commission, the euro zone member states and the IMF represents the beginning of a solid recovery.
Nikolaos Chountis, MEP for the Greek Syriza Party thanked Joe for taking the initiative for a European Day of Protest against the crisis. Nikolaos explained the grave consequences the austerity measures will have on the Greek working class and youth. He also alluded to the possible reshaping of Greece’s political landscape as a result of the draconian measures that will be implemented by the so-called socialist PASOK government. Correctly, Nikolaos pointed out that the protest should not only aim at organising solidarity with the Greek workers and youth. He explained that striving to reinforce the Growth and Stability by the European leaders will affect the whole of the European working class and that this needs to be countered by joint acts of the European working class.
Søren Bo Søndergaard, a Danish MEP from the Red Green Alliance also expressed support for Joe Higgins’ initiative. Søren added another important point to the discussion by saying that the Danish media and probably the media in other countries that are not yet directly affected by the devaluation by the ratings agencies and the dictate to implement huge cuts, have spread lies about Greek workers and Greek living standards which need to be exposed in order to mobilise people in support of the Greek workers. Søren also made the point that the idea of letting the rich pay for their crisis should be incorporated in our material.
Kyriacos Trianthaphyllides from the Cypriot AKEL Party stressed the necessity of having a “real” mobilisation for such a protest. He said we need to mobilise through the trade unions and bring our people onto the streets. He also explained that Greek wages are already very low and that the so-called “prestigious” 13th and 14th month of wages which have been used to outline the “luxury” life of the Greek workers are in fact essential for Greek workers to make ends meet.
Carmen Hilario represented the Left Bloc from Portugal in this meeting. Carmen started her contribution by sending the apologies of the three Left Bloc MEP´s, Miguel Portas, Rui Tavares and Marisa Matias. They were not able to attend the meeting due to other commitments but they nevertheless give support to the initiative and the idea of an active protest. Carmen explained that the Portuguese government has recently adapted its own Stability and Growth Programme for Portugal which includes very detailed proposals of cuts. The Left Bloc has published a document “15 measures for a decent economy” which counter the government’s proposals and explain that different policies are possible.
Many other valuable contributions were made about the various aspects of the crisis. The meeting took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere. Agreement was reached about the central idea of “We will not pay for the crisis” as a starting point for the mobilisations. This was added by basic demands for Workers´ Unity across Europe, the need to reject cuts in wages and attacks on living standards and to say no to privatisations. The idea to break the dictatorship of the markets and financial institutions by putting them under public control in order to save the interests of the people was also widely agreed.
Joe Higgins made the point that the “markets” (in reality, a small number of tremendously wealthy individuals, hedge funds, speculators and banks) are being accorded a dictatorship-like power by the media and many governments. The savage assaults on the living standards of working people are being justified as necessary to “satisfy the markets” as if they were a god-like creature whose existence and powers are almighty and not be questioned.
Furthermore, terminology such “fiscal consolidation” and “internal devaluation” are being used to disguise their real meaning, namely: attacks on the working class.
The meeting agreed to propose the week of June 21 – 26 as dates for European protests and for those dates to be discussed in our respective organisations and parties, as well as the trade unions, social movements and other left organisations.
A next meeting has been called for next week in order to finalise the proposals and ideas. This will allow time to get more GUE/NGL MEPs on board.
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Initiative for a European-wide "Week of Protest & Solidarity" from Left MEPs
We write to you as elected representatives of working people across Europe, members of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament. It is clear that the massive financial package agreed at the weekend will only increase the pace of attacks on working people, young people and pensioners that is taking place across Europe.
At this stage, Greek workers, in particular are in the front line of these attacks. They face a 10% cut in wages and spending in the public sector, an increased retirement age, VAT increases and the freezing of pensions. But workers in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy have also faced and continue to face severe attacks on their living standards. It is also clear that these attacks will not be confined to workers in the so-called "peripheral" European economies - workers in all of the countries across Europe are set to have pension rights further eroded, downward pressure on wages, cutbacks in social services and social welfare as well as the continuation of large-scale unemployment.
These attacks are in line with the broader strategy of the European establishment, as outlined in the "EU 2020" strategy paper - which alludes to the need to increase the pension age together with the number of hours worked by European workers and a strict return to the "Growth and Stability" pact, which will require a slashing of public spending in many countries.
These attacks are also combined with a poisonous attempt to divide workers along national lines. This has been particularly evident in the media in Germany and many other countries. 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!
The Greek workers have demonstrated an heroic willingness to struggle against these attacks in the last weeks. Portuguese and Spanish workers have indicated the same willingness to fight.
Important critical statements have been made by European trade union and Left organisations against the attacks on working people. We now feel that there is a need for an active joint response across Europe - to cut across the attempts to divide workers and to give people confidence to fight back. We propose to initiate a "Week of Protest & Solidarity" for the week of 21 to 26 June. What we envisage is political parties, trade unions, social movements and activists coming together and discussing holding a major protest in their country in that week.
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 respectfully invite your organisation to discuss the possibility of supporting this initiative and committing to build significant European-wide protests on that date. For us, the key questions are clearly solidarity with Greek workers, but also taking up the issues of the attacks in the various countries where the demonstrations take place.
We understand of course that the details and precise slogans will have to be worked out to take into account the political situation in the country where the protests take place. However, we propose that the following basic demands could form the basis of the discussion across Europe:
Workers must not pay for the crisis - Make the super rich and bankers pay
Solidarity with the Greek workers 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
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.
Obviously time is moving very quickly. We want to build a broad coalition on a European wide basis to build for these protests, to be matched with broad coalitions on a national basis to build for these protests. We would be very much obliged if you could get back to us as soon as possible with your response.
We hope that you might look positively on these proposals and that your organisation can assist in building for European-wide protest toward the end of June. Please spread the call to your contacts and contact us to let us know your thoughts and we would be happy to meet to discuss progressing this issue further.
The below signatories are an initial list. We are confident of receiving the support of many more GUE/NGL MEPs.
Yours in solidarity,
Joe Higgins MEP (Socialist Party - Ireland) firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikolaos Chountis (Syriza - Greece) email@example.com
Søren Bo Søndergaard (Folkebevægelsen mod EU - Denmark) firstname.lastname@example.org
Eva-Britt Svensson (Left Party - Sweden) email@example.com
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (AKEL - Cyprus) firstname.lastname@example.org
Marisa Matias (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal) email@example.com
Miguel Portas (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rui Tavares (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal) email@example.com
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Député Front de Gauche) firstname.lastname@example.org
it was great to see a good spat on TV3 Tonight with Vincent Browne last night.
Matt Cooper kept sniping at Kieran Allen and all of a sudden Kieran replied -
'you Matt (Irish Independent) work for a Tax EXILE (Sir Tony O'Reilly)'
Cooper was floored.
Well done Kieran
Good luck with peaceful march tonight!
At a central meeting of SYRIZA in Athens last Friday, 14 May, Joe Higgins, MEP for the Socialist Party in Ireland, spoke, along with Alexis Tsipras (chair of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group), Manolis Glezos (member of SYRIZA’s secretariat), Marisa Matias (Bloco de Esquerda / Left Block - Portugal) and Jean Pierre Brar (Parti Communiste Franais - French CP).
By Harris Sideris, Xekinima (CWI in Greece), Athens
The gathering was very successful, attended by between 2,000 and 2,500 members and friends of SYRIZA.
Joe made a very powerful speech, which hit the heart of nearly everyone there, bringing a message of class solidarity to the Greek workers and raising the need for all-European struggle to counteract the attacks of the bosses.
Joe saluted the struggles of the Greek working class and SYRIZA and emphatically said.
“They are asking you to follow the example of Ireland. My advice to the workers in Greece is: do not accept the policy of cuts and attacks imposed by the Irish government against the Irish workers. And my advice to the Irish workers in Dublin, who voted me into the European parliament is: follow the example of struggle and resistance provided by the Greek workers!”
In relation to the debt crisis, he said:
"We must refuse to pay for the crisis caused by the bosses. We fight alongside workers in Greece. We say no to the dictatorship of the IMF and the markets”
He then proceeded to announce the initiative of left MEPs for a Europe-wide week of action against the new austerity, with particular reference to the solidarity that is now needed for the Greek working class. This is an initiative undertaken by Joe himself, now involving MEPs from left parties in Greece, Cyprus, France, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden. He explained that:
"We call for a week of solidarity action, from 21-26 June and we call for the left parties, social organisations and trade unions to mobilise during this week, in solidarity with the working class in Greece and all European workers who face similar problems”
He also explained that:
"the present crisis in Europe has not been provoked by the Greek debt, but is the result of the crisis that the global capitalist system faces..."
Regarding the tasks of the Left parties countering the capitalist crisis, Joe emphasised:
"We need to break the domination of markets, to re-nationalise the banking system under the control of workers and society, so that we can steer investment towards the needs of society, ensure pensions, create social services and bring thousands of workers back into work “
The gathering broke into loud applause when Joe commented on the role of markets with regard to the debt:
"It’s neither the Irish workers, nor the Greek workers that borrowed billions. Let the markets go to hell, erase the debts! They are speculators anyway, they’ve played and they’ve lost.”
Joe’s dynamic contribution intrigued and won the praise of many comrades and friends. It is not an accident that Joe received the applause of the audience each time he completed a sentence, demonstrating in practice the power and the appeal of the ideas and proposals of revolutionary Marxism, particularly in today’s conditions of severe capitalist crisis.