In Europe, the capitalist crisis has hit the working class much harder than it has so far in New Zealand. But in many countries, the victims are fighting back. A single slogan has found universal appeal - “We won’t pay for their crisis!” Here follows a brief survey of some of the highlights of the past few months:
Britain has seen its biggest upsurge in class struggle since the start of the Great Miners Strike, 25 years ago. Waves of unofficial strikes over union-agreement coverage on construction projects spread through power station and refinery sites across the country in early February. The strikes were in defiance of the anti-union laws, and not under the control of union leaders. At the early stages of the dispute there was a worrying element of nationalism, with the slogan “British jobs for British workers” appearing on some picket lines, and picked up gleefully by the bourgeois media.
However, as the movement gained coherence, more class-based demands came to the fore, such as: for all workers on site to be under the national union agreement for the engineering construction industry. The debate is still raging on the British left as to how much of a role anti-migrant worker sentiment played in spreading the dispute, but revolutionaries clearly have a vital task of confronting an undercurrent of nationalism, whilst relating positively to a spontaneous outpouring of working class rage.
More recently, workers in a packaging factory in Dundee have occupied their factory after being told that the company would cease trading without paying any of their entitlements. In echoes of the recent Republic Windows occupation in Chicago, the strikers initially demanded only what they were legally owed. But as the occupation gained momentum, it looks as though they may win what they at first they did not even dare demand, the reopening of the factory (as a workers cooperative).
France was brought to a standstill by nationwide strikes for the second time this year when workers took to the streets in March in opposition to Government austerity measures. Protests also paralyzed the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe and spread to its Indian Ocean territory of Reunion in recent weeks.
Iceland - Protests against the government and the central bank have become regular fixtures in the once-tranquil capital Reykjavik since the currency fell sharply and the financial system collapsed in October due to billions of dollars of foreign debt incurred by banks. Unemployment, previously close to zero is set to soar, and a delegation took a petition to the British Parliament to protest against the use of anti-terror laws to freeze the tiny island nation’s UK assets.
Greece erupted in wide-scale revolt in December, following the fatal police shooting of a 15 year old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos. Protests rapidly mushroomed into a mass movement behind the slogan “Down with this government of thieves and murderers!” Striking workers staged demonstrations across the country, students took over TV stations to broadcast counterpropaganda, and luxury stores burned in fierce riots.
Anger against the corruption of police and politicians has been simmering for years. Youth have faced increased economic insecurity. This has been the revolt of the “700-euros generation”, who (if they manage to find a job at all) typically earn under €700 ($1600) a month, regardless of their qualifications. Illegal long working hours and bad conditions are commonplace.
While the student and worker protests had quietened down somewhat in the New Year, it was not long before farmers began demonstrating because government promises of subsidies had been broken. The farmers barricaded several major roads across the country, and even blocked the border crossing with Bulgaria.
Ireland - workers at Waterford Wedgwood staged a sit in protest on 30 January after the luxury tableware manufacturer announced they would cease manufacturing at the plant, costing 480 jobs. The occupation finally ended on 22 March when workers voted to accept a plan by the receivers that would retain 176 jobs and provide workers made redundant €10 million in addition to statutory redundancy. One of the occupiers put it this way: “The gun was put to our head. But we had no choice but to fight back and occupy.”