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Political situation in the EU and Euro-zone after the elections in Greece and France

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The elections in Greece and France, and also the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, reflect a move to the left in Europe and a growing polarisation in all countries. In all three cases, the parties that won the elections either oppose the fiscal pact and the implementation of the EU-programmes (SYRIZA in Greece) or call for “amending it” with a Keynesian “growth programme” and a transaction tax on financial markets (Hollande, SPD in Germany). In Greece, the left reformist SYRIZA was the main beneficiary of this, in France the Front de Gauche and Hollande, in Germany the SPD. At the same time, the growth of the fascists in Greece and of the FN in France also demonstrates the real dangers of fascism and racism, if the workers' movement is not able to impose its own solution to the crisis.

This move to the left is a result of the failure of the ruling class to “solve” the economic, social and political crisis facing the whole continent, itself an integral part of the crisis of the global capitalist system which opened up in 2008/9 and remains similarly “unsolved”. Indeed, the measures that the US, European and other imperialist bourgeoisies used to prevent a break down of the system as a whole, massive bail outs of banks and the rescuing of large scale monopoly capital, have not removed the cause of the crisis, over-accumulation of capital of historic dimensions and falling rates of profit , but rather increased their explosive character. The speculative waves against the Euro and state debts are an expression of this. Under capitalism these fundamental problems can only be solved “violently”, via a massive destruction of “excess”, superfluous capital.

Because of the very nature of imperialist capitalism as a system of competing capitals and nation states, it is impossible to resolve the crisis in a “harmonious” way. It can only be resolved via struggle, a struggle between capitals and national bourgeoisies on the one hand, each aiming to “solve” its crisis by exporting it to others, and, on the other, by the struggle for a re-division of the global economy itself. This is linked to the struggle to make the working class, the poor, even the “middle classes” (different sectors of the petit-bourgeoisie and the middle strata) pay.

The current crisis in the EU has to be understood against this background. Europe has become the focal point of the crisis because the EU, despite a number of steps to harmonise it as an economic and political entity, is still essentially a federation of national states. German imperialism wants to reorganise Europe (the EU, Eurozone) as a block under its control, as its “back-yard”. This, however, requires the subordination of the other countries as semi-colonies or imperialist junior partners. The key for this is the relationship to France, which claims an equal role in “ruling” over the EU.

Within the Euro-zone, southern Europe is hit by a deep and lasting recession. In France, GDP stagnates. On the other hand, in Germany and a number Euro-countries in central and northern Europe, a recession is unlikely, although a massive crisis of the Euro could change that. In other words, the global recession has led to greater unevenness throughout Europe – and this is only likely to increase.

This is the context within which the German government, with the aid of Sarkozy’s government and acting through the EU's institutions, has imposed draconian austerity packages and demands to “deregulate the labour market” on Southern Europe in particular. They have also achieved much more direct political control of Greece and Italy by imposing EU-approved governments (Papademos and Monti, respectively), a certain semi-colonisation. Such measures have to be understood within the strategic framework of German (and French) imperialism's aim to turn the EU (or, more precisely, the Euro-zone) into a block under its economic and political control. This explains Merkel’s intransigence, the German government's insistence on harsh austerity, but also its determination to keep the Euro and the Euro-zone.

The “fiscal pact” has become the price that German imperialism demands from Southern Europe. It is both a savage austerity programme and a programme to institutionalise more direct control of the countries' budgets by EU-institutions – resulting in a more direct German imperial control within this framework.

However, the pact is far from being the “solution” to the crisis. Firstly, whilst it benefits German capital in particular, it throws Southern Europe into even deeper economic crisis and dependence. This will push the unevenness in the EU and Euro-zone to its limits and even, potentially, beyond them, resulting in “uncontrolled bankruptcy” and the exit of Greece and possibly other countries from the Euro and a massive speculative wave against Spain and Italy. Secondly, the “fiscal pact” is still organised within the current EU-institutions, which, in the longer term, German and other imperialist powers need to overcome and replace by more direct forms of control and rule in order to make the EU a political and military power on the global level. The introduction of EU-bonds would also be a major step in this direction but is opposed by Germany at present, ostensibly for constitutional reasons but, more fundamentally, because Berlin wants to see “greater integration” to ensure longer term control first.

These deep inner contradictions of the EU and Euro-zone are not a result just of “greed” and “shortsightedness” – rampant as these vices are amongst the continent's capitalists - but ultimately express the deep rivalries between the European imperialist bourgeoisies, the inability of the large ruling classes to unify Europe. The European imperialists from Germany, France etc. can only “unify” Europe by subordination of the weaker countries and by massive onslaughts on the mass of the working class, that is, they can only impose steps to “unity” that are riven with future tensions and the threat of break-down and disintegration.

This policy has roused mass resistance and mobilisation in many European countries – in Southern Europe in particular, but also in France, Ireland and the Czech Republic. In Greece, it has opened a revolutionary period.

In Germany and some other countries, the introduction of the Euro acted as a stimulant to growth by making their exports cheaper and this has allowed some concessions to be made to the working class and to the labour aristocracy in particular. As a result, the trade union bureaucrats and traditional social-democratic parties have been able to contain and derail struggles and, at the same time, re-gain some credit amongst unionised and better off workers.

Whilst Merkel and the German government present themselves as “hard-core” and “intransigent” on the “fiscal pact”, they will not avoid having to make some concessions. Hollande’s demand for a “growth package” is not only shared by most of European social democracy and the large trade union federations, but also reflects the interests of a number of European governments and capitalists who need increased state-sponsored demand in the current recessions. Some such concessions are needed even for French imperialism. Even Merkel needs to make concessions in order to ensure that both chambers of the German parliament support the signing of the treaty – which means she needs to get the support of the SPD. Otherwise, Germany itself will not be in position to sign the “fiscal pact”.

Hollande has promised voters an “end to austerity”, the SPD-leaders have been calling for “growth packages”, the ITUC calls for wage increases across Europe. But these reformist leaders have done nothing to mobilise the workers outside the framework of elections and symbolic “days of action” by a few tens of thousands. For them, the call to “amend the fiscal” pact or “complement” it by some tax reforms and a stimulus package are primarily calls for negotiation over the terms of the imperialist programmes of the bourgeois governments of the EU and of German and French imperialism in particular. At the same time, however, their demands also reflect the expectations of large sections of the working class, be it for some protection and social measures, or to get a share of the economic growth in the more prosperous countries, thereby demonstrating that social democracy is not a bourgeois party like the CDU or the Tories, but a reformist, bourgeois workers' party, with still strong roots in the labour movement.

Hollande, the German SPD and other reformist leaders of the official labour movements are fully prepared to make a deal with Merkel over the “fiscal pact”. It is likely that they will not make a final agreement before the French and Greek parliamentary elections and the European Summit, hoping that these will improve their position at the negotiation table, but also hoping that they will not alienate the Greek people further.

In this situation, the left and the workers' movement have to avoid two mistakes with regard to the Social Democracy. One would be political accommodation to reformists who seemed for the better part of a decade so closely attuned to the neoliberal “reforms” that they could almost be discounted as part of the labour movement. We must not forget their record on this. We must not forget that Hollande governs for the French bourgeoisie, not the working class, that he defends the interests of its imperialist state. Despite his anti-austerity rhetoric and the measures he promises, he is no friend of the working classes in Southern Europe. His call for “Euro bonds” is not a call for a “working class” or “popular” solution – but rather a potentially more farsighted bourgeois policy. Just like the French (and German) ruling class, Hollande fears the formation in Greece of even a government like his own – a bourgeois workers' government or a “fake workers' government” as the Comintern put it in 1922.
Under the dire conditions facing Greeks, even such a government would be under pressure from the expectations of millions to resist the masters of the EU. Even more alarming is the possible development flowing from a big Syriza victory. It is possible that a Syriza-led coalition could come under the control of the organised and mobilised Greek workers. The emergence of organs of workers' control in the factories, assemblies and councils of action in the cities, towns and villages, defended against the police and the Golden Dawn fascists by a workers' militia, could create a genuine workers' government, representing a transitional phase towards a full-scale socialist revolution. Such a development has not been a concrete possibility in capitalist Europe since the 1960s and 70s (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece) and is a testimony to the sheer depth and prolongation of the social and economic crisis.

François Hollande, as a loyal servant of European capital, will do everything in his power to prevent such a scenario from happening. His disagreements with Merkel stem precisely from the fear that her provocative intransigence over austerity could bring it closer. The treacherous role of reformism as the fire brigade, rushing to the aid of the burning house of capitalism must not be forgotten for an instant.

However, an equal mistake would be to dilute ones own demands to make them compatible with the labour bureaucracy (and ultimately hoping for a “progressive” wing of the ruling class itself) – for example by dropping the demand for the cancellation of the state debts in favour of an “audit”, as has been done by left reformist organisations and even by so-called revolutionaries such as large parts of the “United Secratariat of the Fourth International”.

The other mistake would be to content oneself with denunciations and “warnings”. Such an approach only appears to be intransigent. As Marxists, we know, that the likes of Hollande in all countries defend the capitalist system. They will not only fight against any revolutionary solution, they will not even fight consistently for the reforms they promise. But the millions who have voted for Hollande or other social-democratic parties, will not be convinced of the need to break with their reformist leaders just by denunciations and critiques. These masses, without whom a socialist revolution is a utopia, cannot be disillusioned by arguments alone, even if such arguments could actually reach the vast majority. However fierce the denunciations, they remain passive if we do not combine criticism with demands on these leaders to fight and mobilise to fulfil their promises.

Therefore, it is necessary to address the call for common, European wide struggle and action against the attacks in all countries, for solidarity with the Greek revolution and the mass movements in other countries, not only to the “left” parties, left unions or “independent” movements, but to the members and leaders of the mass trade union and reformist parties as well.

At the same time, whilst putting demands on these leaders, we have to build-up a European movement against the cuts packages of the EU and ECB and in solidarity with the Greek and other southern European movements.

In the recent elections, the “traditional” reformist parties, or left reformist parties, gained massively because the more militant, anti-capitalist forces of the workers and social movements failed to build up vibrant co-ordinations of struggle in most countries. They failed completely on a European level. The reformist, European Left Party-dominated ESF has not been heard of outside its e-group since Istanbul. The left reformists and autonomist-libertarian forces either blocked any attempt for a European co-ordination or, “at best”, set up “co-ordinations”, which were just fronts for their own political currents. This failure, itself an act of political criminality, is not only confined to left-reformists, petit-bourgeois radicals or autonomists and libertarians. It is also true of sizeable, anti-capitalist parties and fronts in a number of European countries, such as the NPA in France, the left Bloc in Portugal, Antarsya and the left wing of Syriza in Greece or the more militant trade unions like COBAS and FIOM in Italy or SUD in France none of whom took a single serious initiative, despite the fact that their forces, particularly if combined, could have made a crucial difference.

Therefore, on a European level, the movement is facing the same problems as it did at the beginning of the crisis. But it does so in a situation where the enemy has actually started to transform the terrain of struggle, where the German and French governments have succeeded in changing some of the European institutions, where the class struggles and political lives of all the EU and Euro-zone countries has become more integrated with each other.

This means that the tasks set by the struggle have become even more urgent. A movement against the cuts should be built around the following slogans:

- Scrap all cuts packages, down with the fiscal pact!
- Cancel the debts of the European states! Expropriate the banks and financial institutions without compensation and unite them into a single bank under workers' control!
- Nationalise all companies who refuse to pay wages, threatened closures or mass lay-offs, without compensation under workers' control!
- No to the “deregulation” of the labour market. Full contracts covered by the trade unions for all workers.
- Reduction of the working week to 30 hours without loss of pay throughout the EU!
- No to the attacks on pensions and social security. No to the extension of the age of retirement. For a retirement age of 60 years throughout the European Union.
- For a minimum wage, unemployment benefits and pensions set by the labour movements of the European countries.
- No to privatisations! For a European wide programme of public works to improve education, infrastructure, the environment and social services and to bring back millions into work under workers' control and financed by the massive taxation of profits and the wealth of the rich!
- For working class and community self-defence against fascist and racist attacks! Against all immigration controls! Regularisation, freedom of movement and papers for all who live in the EU! For equal rights for all who work and live in the EU!
- Support the Greek class struggle! No to all blackmail of the Greek people!

In order to impose such measures, we call for action committees in all towns and their co-ordination on a national and European level. We call on the unions and all working class parties and organisations to back this and to work out a plan of action to impose the above measures: by direct mass mobilisations, demonstrations and blockades, culminating in a European wide general strike.

In Greece, we face a revolutionary situation. In the EU, the crisis is moving into another round. A determined fight back for key demands against the crisis and to impose a working class solution against the capitalists will be met with outright hostility and all means by the ruling classes and their state apparatuses. Even if some reforms are pushed through by struggle and/or left governments under the pressure from the working class and poor, these will not lead to a period of stability, but to even sharper clashes with the bourgeoisie. In the end, only a socialist revolution, the creation of a United Socialist States of Europe, can solve the crisis of the whole European continent.

Such a struggle requires leadership, a revolutionary force to show the way from the united front against the cuts of today, to the struggle for power, a struggle we already face in Greece and which we might face in Spain or Portugal in the coming period. To meet this challenge, the European anti-capitalist left forces must change themselves dramatically. They do not only need to take the initiative to build co-ordinations of struggle, anti-crisis committees, European-wide joint struggles and support for those like the Greek workers who are on the front line of today’s battles. They must also take the initiative to build a viable, revolutionary, anti-capitalist force on the European level. Over the last year, the NPA and other centrists failed to provide a revolutionary answer not only on the national level but even more miserably on a European and international level. Since the beginning of the historic crisis period, no serious attempt has been made to unite the revolutionary forces of Europe on a common action programme, no conference, no initiative has been taken apart from a yearly statements by the EAL. This has to be changed. We call on all those forces to organise a European conference to combine forces for a mass campaign of solidarity with the Greek working class, to set up action committees against the crisis and for a joint European fight back and to open a discussion to unite their forces around an action programme to solve the European crisis, to fight for a United Socialist States of Europe.

The European crisis is an integral part of the global capitalist crisis. Only a socialist revolution, only the working class seizing power, smashing the bourgeois state apparatus and replacing it with a semi-state based on workers' councils and militias, can open the path to a socialist transformation of society. Whilst this can start on a national level, it can only be completed globally. There is no “national” solution to the crisis. But, in order to lead the working class on this path, there has to be a global, political organisation, a new party of socialist revolution, a new revolutionary international, a Fifth International.