Today, in reaction to a call from Southern Europe, workers across Europe in all sectors are striking and demonstrating in protest at massive social cuts and the Fiscal Compact: teachers, transport workers, nurses, the unemployed, students, school pupils and pensioners. What is at stake here is the future, jobs, wages and pensions. We stand together with those on strike and protesting against the austerity diktat imposed by the Troika – and against German Chancellor Merkel. She is using the Fiscal Compact’s austerity diktat to impose massive social cuts on behalf of the banks and large companies in Europe.
Only recently, on her visit to Portugal, Merkel praised the government’s “courageous reforms”. Currently, around 1000 people are losing their jobs every day. Wages, unemployment benefit and pensions are being slashed. VAT is being raised to 35 per cent. Savings are being made in the education and health sector, for patients with chronic illnesses like HIV and cancer. This is not “courageous”, it is scandalous, Ms Merkel! Huge numbers of people are demonstrating in Lisbon under the slogan “out with the Troika and the government! We want our lives!”
In Spain, 600 doctors have expressed in a manifesto their anger at the fact that public hospitals are no longer allowed to treat immigrants. Leave entitlement has been cut and Christmas bonuses scrapped for the whole of the public sector. Mass layoffs are to take place in schools, hospitals, airports and local-government offices. Hundreds of thousands of families have been forcibly evicted from their homes on behalf of the banks since the beginning of the crisis. These are the same banks to which Merkel and the eurozone countries gave 100bn euros with the support of the CDU, FDP, SPD and Greens. Rightly, protesters in Spain are marching under the slogans “Bail out people, not banks” and “We won’t pay your debts!”
Merkel has authorised billions of euros in the Bundestag so that Greece can continue to pay money to German and European banks. What is known as “help for Greece” does not, however, help the Greeks, but only the banks: 80 of this “help” flows directly back to the creditors – to Greek and international banks, insurance companies and financial investors. Pensioners and workers in Greece do not see a single cent. Instead, on Sunday night, in the face of massive resistance, the Greek government slashed a further 7.6bn euro from wages and pensions. The Left Party, in contrast, is calling for an obligation on banks, hedge funds and other private creditors to write off immediately every cent of the remaining debts owed to them by this completely over indebted country.
Greece, Spain and Portugal provide a taste of the massive cuts to the social system which may take place in Germany, too. The Fiscal Compact was ratified by a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag. This Compact imposes an austerity diktat. The signatories pledge not to incur debt and to reduce existing debt. It replaces the sovereign powers of the national parliaments to take decisions on budgetary matters with an automatic “correction” mechanism, which was successfully imposed by the austerity commissioners. Yet, already, Germany lacks funding in many areas for the necessary investment in education and on social spending. The Left Party was the only party to vote against the Fiscal Compact.
In Germany, the number of millionaires has risen despite the financial crisis. The Left Party is therefore calling for a wealth tax and a millionaires’ tax across Europe to cover the costs of the crisis on the financial markets. The banks must be stripped of their power and subjected to public control. We need living wages. Instead of workers, the unemployed and pensioners, the rich and superrich should be made to foot the bill.
Today’s strikes and action demonstrate the strength of the workers’ movement, which is organised in international networks. This is to be only the first in a series of struggles organised from the bottom up. It serves as an inspiration to us in Germany and reminds us of the duty we have to expand resistance and ensure that the activities planned by the Umfairteilen alliance and the days of action under the slogan “Blockupy” next year are a success.
We will fight, we will win, Athens, London, Rome, Berlin!