Europe against austerity

Luke, a participant at the Marxism Festival writes

At a meeting of a thousand people at Friends Meeting House tonight leading activists from across Europe discussed the fight against savage austerity cuts. Richard Boyd Barrett, an Irish MP for United Left Alliance, described how Irish people were being “bled” by the “vice grip” of austerity and that 200,000 persons were now in poverty. He described how over 50% of the population was refusing to pay a new Household Tax imposed by the IMF. Christine Bucholz, a radical MP of the Die Linke in Germany, described how the cuts Merkel was imposing across Europe had previously been applied on German workers, and how her party had helped mobilise many thousands against the ECB in Frankfurt. Greek revolutionary leader Maria Styllou celebrated how Greek workers had refused to be scared by threats by the major parties, the EU and union bureaucracies, and had continued to bring down governments with General Strikes.

In the Netherlands and Spain savage attacks on workers and the welfare state had sparked political crises (including the collapse of the Dutch government) and mass struggles (the 15th May movement in Spain.) Other participants spoke of the advance of the far right in several countries and the need to fight racism and fascism. A recent united anti-fascist demonstration of the Greek left saw immigrants join confrontations with Nazis in their local areas for the first time.

Alex Callinicos, of the British SWP, celebrated the electoral advances of left-reformist organisations outside the traditional left in France, Greece and also with George Galloway’s victory in Bradford. These were a “political backlash against austerity”, he said, “in which masses of workers are turning left”. Yet he warned of the danger of such parties making “utopian” appeals to Europe’s rulers to stop austerity, as the leader of Syriza has done.

It was agreed that Europe’s leaders have no intention of stopping their assault, and that revolutionaries need to work in and with the broad coalitions while remaining independently organised. That way we can push for bigger workers’ struggles and win people to an anti-capitalist alternative. In the words of Styllou, “we have to seize the moment!”

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