The fall of 2016 shows the beginning of a hard year in Europe. The refugees’ crisis takes immense proportions, the Brexit generates a growing uncertainty, the negotiations for the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) stall and the social conflict is so high in countries like Greece and France (which recently featured several strikes and general mobilizations), but also in Poland, where the shocking demonstration against the total ban of abortion took hundreds of thousands women (all dressed in black) to the streets in Warsaw and other cities. The economy, on the other hand, cannot start, and the situation of stagnation continues despite the innumerable liquidity programs of the ECB (European Central Bank), injecting Euros in the market and buying public debts from the countries.
By Gabriel Huland.
Tsipras follows the EU orders and implements a non precedent attack to the Greek people
Little over a year ago, in July 2015, most of the participants (62%) of the referendum called by Tsipras’ government for the third memorandum with the European Union voted against, rejecting the austerity policies. Some weeks later, Tsipras was signing the memorandum anyway, and committing to implement the plan of privatizations and “structural” reforms demanded by the Troika (European Commission, ECB and IMF). It was a great betrayal to the people who elected him precisely to fight the austerity policies and the EU.
Since then, Tsipras has been fully complying with the neo-liberal policies, brutally attacking the life conditions and selling the country, which has become in fact a semi-colony of Germany. He complied but confronting a strong resistance on the streets. The Greek workers featured 4 general strikes and countless protests and demonstrations, many of which suffered a hard police repression. The last important protest took place some weeks ago, in Athens, when the pensioners went on the streets against the Pension Reform.
The popular rejection to Syriza’s government, the party that emerged over the last years as the main “anti-austerity” reference in Europe, continues to grow. The last electoral polls show a difference of more than 11% between New Democracy, the old party of the traditional Greek oligarchies, and Syriza, in second place. The inflexion point from Syriza’s boom to its decline was the post-referendum betrayal.
The Greek parliament has privatized, in December, 14 regional airports, bought by the German company Fraport by $1.200 Euros. The Chinese company Cosco, already owner of one terminal of the Port of Piraeus since 2009, made an agreement to buy the rest of the port complex for $370 millions of Euros. The idea is to make Greece the point of entrance of all the Chinese products to Europe. The Greek trains company Trainoise will possibly be sell to the Italian trains’ company, just like the water company, Athens’ subway and part of the electrical system, as part of the government’s privatization plan. What they are doing in Greece is a true pillage of the country, through the hand-over of most part of its public patrimony to the international capitals.
The economic crisis is devastating. The public debt reached 180% of the GDP, the unemployment rate is 23%, and the economy will reduce 0.5% this year. Since 2009, the economy goes in accelerated downhill, except in 2014 when it grew less than 1%. Increasing the seriousness of the situation, the government approved a hard Pension Reform (previously mentioned), lowered the minimum wage, attacked the collective agreements and increased the taxes for the families with lower incomes.
The El Khomri Act ends historical rights of the French workers
France is one of the most important economies of the world, the second one of the Euro Zone and also the EU, recently outgrowing the UK –suffering the first economic effects of the Brexit. The French capital has been taking enormous advantage of the European common market, although in a clearly secondary position regarding Germany.
Over 2015 we have seen harsh confrontations of the French workers with Hollande and the bosses. The struggle against the very retrograde reform of the Labour Code, attacking historical rights of the French working class, conquered after decades and decades of struggles and general strikes, reached the headlines of the international press. Pictures and videos of the workers’ mobilization in several points of the country called the attention of the activism all over the world. The France of the Resistance against Nazism and of May ‘68 came back to life in the collective memory of thousands of people. The El Khomri Act, based on the Spanish Labour Reform, implies the primacy of the companies’ agreements over the law and the end of branches’ collective agreements, plus the possibility of layoffs without precedents, an open road for dismissals, and the end of permanent contracts. It is the destruction of one of the foundations of the French Welfare State.
The French workers featured, since the beginning of the year, 9 strikes, with a high participation of the salaried workers in the country, headed by the oil, rail and transportation workers. The methods of struggle were the pickets, the blockade of rails and stations, and the stoppage of production, plus great masses’ demonstrations.
The role of the CGT bureaucracy, which lost more than 100 thousand members over the last years by not unifying the movement, not organizing the general strike and not taking the struggle all the way to the last consequences, has worn-out and tired the vanguard sectors, which was essential for the approval of the reform to pass. Hollande made use of one of the most anti-democratic mechanisms of the French constitution, an article that allows the approval of a law without passing through the National Assembly first.
The government’s repression has no precedents in the history of the last 70 years in the country, according to the opinion of the members of Solidaires, organization that is actively participating of the struggle. Other elements must be considered too, like the lack of participation of the students and professors’ movements.
The struggle is not over yet, but the formal annulment of the Act is hard to achieve, at least for now. The struggle now must transfer to every workplace along with the concretion of the legislation changes, company by company, day by day.
France and Greece: the EU imposes policies that attack the social rights
France and Greece are very different countries, yet they have something in common: the essential role of the EU in the attacks to the working class’ rights. In Greece, the government is the main representative of the “new left”, “neo-reformist”, which not long ago raised the illusions of the vanguard of the entire continent, and now is the neo-colonial agent of the EU and, more specifically, Germany. In France, the government is in hands of the French Socialist Party –a party that long ago lost its working class’ and does not even defend a reformist program but represents directly the interests of the great French capital linked to the EU.
The EU is a financial capital war machine against the working class and the peoples in Europe. The attacks are brutal, and in a continental scale, so the resistance must be so too. The solidarity among the workers of the continent must increase in the same scale of the attacks. We must re-engage the mobilization, as it is the only solution.
Translation: Sofia Ballack.