November 2012        

European labour prepares a fight-back
—Will Ireland be the odd one out?


At least a dozen European countries will adhere to the massive mobilisations, spearheaded by the working class of Spain and Portugal, planned for 14 November. Rejection of the policies of austerity enforced by Germany through the international institutions it influences and a demand for a socially responsible exit from the present crisis of capitalism will be the common denominator of these protests.
      This first joint response of European workers to the austerity measures being imposed on them is being promoted by the European Trade Union Confederation, which has called for a day of “action and solidarity for a European social contract.” However, the November mobilisations are the result of constant communication between trade union representatives of the various European countries.
      On 14 November a 24-hour general strike will be held in Spain and Portugal, two countries almost as badly affected by the crisis as Ireland. It will be supported by the majority trade union organisation in Italy, the Italian General Confederation of Labour, which has called for a stoppage of four hours on that date in protest against the budgetary measures for 2013 introduced by the Monti government, which contemplates further severe cuts and increases in VAT that will plunge increasing sections of the working class into abject poverty.
      The French trade unions have also called for mobilisation on 14 November. However, they have not called for a strike, as these organisations—encouraged by François Hollande’s “tax the rich” policy—still hope that he may yet significantly alleviate the burden on the working class.
      In France the rejection of reductions in social spending, and solidarity with the countries of the South (Ireland doesn’t feature), will be expressed by marches and demonstrations. In Germany, trade union sources say that solidarity will be expressed through meetings in work-places.
      Belgian labour will respond to the call for mobilisation with a massive demonstration in Brussels.
      The highly combative Greek unions have called for a 48-hour strike on 6 and 7 November, whose objective is to fight against the €13½ billion in budget cuts announced by the government of Antónis Samarás, to be applied in the 2013 budget, together with a series of structural reforms and labour “flexibilisation” practices designed to further facilitate capitalist exploitation of labour. The major Greek trade union organisations, representing workers in both the public and the private sectors, which organised five huge strikes in 2012, have said that they will also respond to the ETUC’s call for action on 14 November.
      The organised European working class has woken up to the implications for its future of the massive attack of capital on labour and is mobilising internationally.
      The Irish working class, already badly mauled by this attack, must do likewise or face some yet more disagreeable consequences. Supporting the call for mobilisation on 14 November would be a good starting point. Failing that, the demonstration on 24 November organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions must serve as a rallying point for workers at which to demonstrate that working-class unity of purpose is possible—and to remind ourselves again that against a united working class, capital cannot prevail.
[TMS]

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