Workers should seize the time

A WEEK after its elections Greece still has no government. Those parties willing to enforce the extreme austerity measures demanded by the requirements of the defence of the Eurozone, and in particular the German government, have no mandate to govern. And those that could have a mandate refuse to inflict more suffering on the Greek people.

Western economic pundits tut tut and imply that the Greeks are a lazy, ill-disciplined lot who refuse to take their bad medicine as they should. They are scared that when Greece defaults on its debts and has to drop out of the Eurozone it will be followed quite quickly by Spain, Italy and others and that the Euro as a currency will collapse.

But the workers of Greece, Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe are not feckless idlers. They have been thrown out of their jobs by the banking crisis of 2008/9. Their bankers and ruling classes — along with all the rest in the western world — are responsible for the crisis but they are expected to endure the austerity measures that are being forced on the workers.

These austerity measures are not just a matter of a little belt-tightening and going without a few luxuries. Millions of people are losing not just their jobs but also their homes and their health and welfare benefits. For the elderly, those with long-term illnesses and disabilities and families with young children this means destitution — becoming dependent on family and friends who are also desperate or taking to the streets to beg to survive. For those who need long-term expensive medication to survive it is a death sentence.

And it is not just the workers of southern Europe who are refusing to take this bitter pill. The workers of France voted to reject austerity when they elected left-wing President Hollande a couple of weeks ago. And even the workers of Germany — Europe’s dominant economic powerhouse — voted in local elections last week to reject Angela Merkel’s austerity policies.

European workers have defied the capitalists. How will the capitalists respond? There will be no doubt further propaganda campaigns against “lazy and feckless” workers which might fool the middle classes but will not fool most of the workers. There will attempts at a curtailment of our democratic rights. Already in Greece the spectre of a return to fascism has been summoned from the grave to scare the workers into compliance.

In Britain we have seen rights to health and safety at work, freedom from discrimination on grounds of race or gender and from unjust dismissal undermined by the cutting of legal aid.

But the Greek workers, led by the Greek Communists (KKE), are leading the way in defying the ruling class threats and calling for the end of capitalism and steps towards socialism as the only way out of the crisis.

The workers and the ruling classes of Europe are heading for a full-on, no-holds-barred confrontation.

The inevitable approach of heightened conflict makes both sides nervous of the outcome. But the ruling class have much more to lose than we do.

The austerity cuts are already stripping the workers of the familiar, stable, albeit unequal status quo. We are being returned to a condition where we really do have nothing more to lose except our chains.

And the ruling classes have made a serious mistake in including the police and armed forces rank and file among those to suffer austerity cuts.

They may order the angry workers off the streets but who will make this happen?

The outcome is not certain; it depends on the workers getting organised and mobilised; it may not be completely decisive but it could be an advance for the workers. We must make the best of it.