National Sections of the L5I:

May Day 2010 in Europe

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Statement of the League for the Fifth International

Don’t Pay for their Crisis
No to all the Capitalist Austerity Plans

This is the third May Day we have celebrated since the eruption of the worst capitalist crisis since the Second World War. In those three years, millions have been condemned to unemployment, poverty and even homelessness as factories closed around the world. But they did not surrender without a fight – the first impact of the crisis was met by a wave of class struggle around the world. Not only strikes and demonstrations but factory occupations, city blockades and general strikes were mounted from the USA to China, in France, India, South Africa, Italy, Indonesia to name only some of the most dramatic

The leaders of trade unions and parties that claim to be socialist and communist sabotaged that first wave of workers’ resistance. The scale and militancy of the fightback and the increasing popularity of anticapitalist slogans scared the leaders of the big unions and federations – IG Metall in Germany, UNITE in Britain, the CGT in France and the CGiL in Italy. They failed the test of struggle because they lacked any strategy against the crisis. Indeed, most actually accepted the bosses’ arguments that there was no alternative to closures and wage cuts if the economy was to be “rescued”. At best, they limited themselves to negotiating compromises that gave a little protection to the most organised and highly skilled workers while ignoring millions in smaller companies with less security. At worst, they argued against any resistance in the belief that the downturn would pass, the economy would pick up again in a matter of months.

A historic period of capitalist crisis is beginning

Millions of workers are certainly still suffering the blows we expect in every capitalist crisis: workplace closures, mass job losses, wage cuts and insecurity even for those who have kept their jobs. But this crisis is not the usual 8-10 year business downturn. By last year’s May Day, it was clear that we were facing a historically severe crisis. In September 2008, a complete meltdown of the global finance system - which holds national and international capitalist production and trade together - was only hours away. Half of US banks faced closure.

Terrified, the White House, US Treasury and Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into the banks to avoid a collapse of the world trading system. Even then, from August 2008 to January 2009, US imports and exports shrank by 18 percent and 22 percent respectively. Markets collapsed, leading to mass closures and layoffs by producers and retailers. In the same period, US manufacturing fell 10.8 percent. The whole US auto industry came close to bankruptcy and unemployment soared to 9.5 per cent, even according to the doctored official figures.

Young workers, between 18 and 24 years old, have been particularly hard hit. Official (OECD) figures for the ‘developed’ countries show unemployment at 18.8 per cent in this age group. In Spain, the figure is 40 per cent. Women, too, will bear the brunt of the crisis. In South Asia, women textile workers have already been driven out of their jobs and it will be women who face heavy job losses as the public sector comes under attack. Everywhere, women will be expected to take on the extra burden of caring for the young, the sick and the old as the state abandons its responsibilities to save money.

Now, despite a limited recovery in bank profits, share prices and industrial production, a further crisis is looming, a crisis caused by massive state debts. In addition, government anti-crisis measures, like the German short-time working scheme and investment projects from the USA to China, are coming to an end. Encouraged by the immobility and retreats of the big union battalions, the capitalists have overcome their panic and regrouped. The top banking parasites have even begun to pay themselves huge bonuses once again. Now, capitalist governments are planning to make savage cuts in services and impose huge wage cuts and job losses on public sector workers. Why? To pay back the trillions they borrowed to bail out the banks!

First in the firing line for this second wave of capitalist attacks is Greece. Greece’s state debt stands at 800 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP.) In order to pay that debt down, the Greek government is planning the most vicious cuts across all government programmes. They are backed up by EU authorities and international institutions such as the IMF who threaten to withhold any further finance if the cuts are not made. The Greek workers have fought back against this threat: a one day general strike mobilised two million on February 24 and a second, bigger, on March 11 closed 90% of the public sector and major private companies. Days of action and huge demonstrations, by sector after sector, are weekly events in Athens and other cities.

Political leaders and the millionaire media across the continent have directed a vile chauvinist propaganda campaign against ordinary Greek people. Greeks are supposed to be “profligate”, “undisciplined”, “lazy” “always looking for handouts.” Worst of all, for the yellow press, they seem unwilling to accept that they must “tighten their belts” and stop striking against cuts that are “inevitable.”

The attempt by the big powers within the European Union, with the aid of the IMF, to impose years of social decline on the Greeks must be resisted. The rest of Europe’s workers need to demonstrate their solidarity with their Greek brothers and sisters and demand their governments stop this torture. If the Greek workers were forced to accept huge cuts in pay, jobs, welfare services and public provision of health and education then bosses and governments across the EU, and beyond, would demand the same.

Where Greece goes today, many other countries will go tomorrow. Greece’s debt is not totally out of proportion to those of the major economies. For the US and France, the debt to GDP ratio is 550, for the UK and Germany, 400, for Italy, 350 and Spain, 250. The horrific cuts in public sector jobs, wages, pensions, education and healthcare provision will spread from Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal to other European Union countries in the year ahead. That is why Europe’s workers must call a halt to the attacks on their brothers and sisters in Greece.

We must remember the slogan of the May Day Marches in 2009: WE WILL NOT PAY FOR THEIR CRISIS.

Leaders who won’t fight - a rank and file who must

The impact of the failure of the official movement to defend jobs, wages and services is felt far beyond the ranks of the workers directly affected. As always in capitalist crises, especially where resistance by the official Labour movement is weak, the arch-reactionary forces of fascism emerge from the sewers. In Europe, this can be seen in the electoral growth of the far right in France (Front National), in Hungary (Jobbik) in Italy (Lega Nord) and in Britain (BNP-English Defence League). In a number of these cases, they have taken to the streets and attacked migrant communities or racial minorities. The fight back against these forces must have two objectives: to show to all those driven to despair by the crisis that hope lies in resistance and, at the same time, to forcibly scatter the street gangs that the fascists launch to attack migrants and workers in struggle.

The pressure of growing mass unemployment, month by month, can also fragment resistance and increase a sense of hopelessness amongst the whole working class. But this is not inevitable. If union leaders and so-called socialists and communists refused to accept a single job loss, if they said NO! to every austerity package, if they demanded that those who caused the crisis must be made to pay for it, the great majority would respond. But no such call for mass resistance is made. Our leaders are perplexed, clueless. Faced with capitalist crisis, they can do no more than mumble that sacrifices will have to be made, that there is no alternative. It is a lie.

There is an alternative

Oh yes, there is an alternative. SOCIALISM. But how can we get it and how does it connect to meeting our burning needs today? We should start by confiscating the enormous private wealth of the billionaires, the bosses and the bankers, massively taxing their profits and incomes and taking over their “bankrupt” companies without compensation. We should immediately end the waste of billions on wars and occupations like those of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a penny for the defence of the capitalist system!

With these resources we can give all the millions of unemployed socially valuable work at full union rates - building, equipping and staffing schools, hospitals, publicly owned housing projects and improved transport systems - “greening” energy generation and industrial production. We can lower the working week and increase time for leisure and education.

Of course, we cannot leave such an emergency plan of anti-crisis measures in the hands of the bosses, the bankers, the state bureaucrats. It needs to be firmly under the control of the workers in every sphere. The account books and the computer databases of the corporations and the state need to be opened up to our inspection. Where did their profits come from; and where have they been hidden? With production distribution and finance under the control of those who work in these sectors, we can demand jobs at full union rates for all, pensions at levels set by the unions and pensioners’ organisations, and a huge programme of publicly funded works. We can say this is the alternative to your miserable austerity plans.

But such humane and reasonable alternatives will be greeted with rage and rejection by all our rulers. Therefore, we will have to enforce our will. We need to go on from enforcing our immediate demands on the existing capitalist governments, including those that call themselves socialist, to expropriating the capitalists, disarming them and their replacing their state with our own.

For this we need more than trade unions, even after we have put them back into the hands of the rank and file by enforcing democratic control and putting their overpaid officials on the average pay of their own members. Trade Unions, vital as they are, are not enough to win power for the workers.

To lead a growing and unstoppable resistance to the crisis, a resistance that passes over into an offensive against the capitalist system, we need a political leadership, a party and not one that restricts itself to electioneering.

We need a party with tens of thousands of militants who can democratically win the leadership of every front of struggle, by their courage, self-sacrifice, tactical skill and devotion to the goal of ending capitalism. Nor can such parties be isolated national bodies. From the beginning, they must be welded together in an International- a world party of socialist revolution – a Fifth International.

The Greek crisis illustrates that the big imperialist powers of the continent, particularly Germany, are using it to increase the grip of their banks and companies on the so-called peripheral states, achieving by these means what they failed to do with their neoliberal European Constitution. But we must resist the siren calls of the far right, such as the Hungarian Jobbik and the Stalinist Left like the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) to leave the EU, to “regain national independence.” A Europe of “independent” capitalist states and national currencies is both utopian and reactionary.

In a world of global markets and multinational corporations to return to national isolation is a pipe dream. If such measures were realised on a capitalist basis they would cause even more severe economic collapse turning into a reactionary nightmare. We would be crippled in our fight back if we united with the smaller and more backward sections of “our” national capital and forget the unity we really need - with our fellow workers across Europe and beyond it. No we must through our international struggle lay the basis for a socialist Europe on the road to world socialism.

Today, on May Day, we must pledge that in the coming year we will -

• Mobilise international solidarity with every workers’ movement fighting back - starting with our Greek comrades.

• Organise the unemployed to fight for jobs, to support the employed in defence of their jobs, to fight against capitalism and the slump politicians.

• Launch strikes, occupations, establish workers’ control over management, to check the scourge of mass unemployment and say no to all austerity plans.

• Stop the scapegoating and harassment of minorities such as Muslims and Roma in Europe - Organise a mass workers’ united front against the fascists and racists with disciplined workers’ and migrants’ defence forces, to halt their terror attacks and pogroms.

• Fight for a plan of socially valuable public works at union rates and under the control of unions and unemployed workers’ organisations,

• Defend women’s jobs, right to work, equal pay and rights and ensure the social costs of the crisis do not fall on their shoulders in the isolation of the home.

• End the imperialist wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Get all US-Nato-• EU forces and bases out of the Middle East and Central Asia, out of Colombia, out of Africa . Stop the US and EU backed Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine and break its inhuman blockade of Gaza .

• Support the struggles for self-determination of all oppressed nations (the Kurds, the Tamils, the Basques, the Chechens) and indigenous peoples.

• Defend all countries - Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia - under threat of US and EU military intervention, naval blockade or coup attempts.

• Fight for a United Socialist States of Europe on the road to a United Socialist World

Workers and Oppressed People of all Countries Unite!

One Solution – Socialist Revolution!