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How we can fight back against the crisis

In the face of a huge crisis many trade union and labour leaders are unwilling to fight back against the rich and the banks. Dave Stockton outlines how we can fight back against the austerity onslaught

FOR FIFTEEN years or more it has not just been the Conservative children of Thatcher and Reagan but the Labour and Socialist Parties of Europe that have sung the virtues of the markets as the sole criterion of rationality and progress.
While in power in 2008, those so-called socialists– like Gordon Brown, José Zapatero and Georgios Papandreou – handed over taxpayers’ money to take the banks’ toxic debts off their books. Then many of the same leaders actually initiated the austerity programmes to pay off the state debts they incurred by saving the banking system.
In Britain Brown set going the private finance cancer, which has grown into full scale privatisation of our education system and our health service. No wonder the likes of Ed Miliband roundly condemn strikes against the cuts as “irresponsible”. Eds Balls tells the Labour party conference that it must not promise to reverse any of the coalition cuts.
In Greece and Spain the parties of the Socialist International are taking the lead in imposing the cuts, while the big union leaders closest to them are delaying, fracturing and stifling resistance.
We will only be able to resist the bosses’ onslaught when the straightjacket of these false socialist parties is ripped off.
The idea that occupying public squares alone – of an apolitical “indignation” – is enough to answer the crisis is yet another illusion. It is made none the better by claiming it is new or postmodern.

Internationalism is key
We need to solve this crisis at a European level – not retreat into nationalist isolation. We need to coordinate our struggles across the borders and defend all those picked on and persecuted, like the workers and poor farmers, the youth and the unemployed in Greece.
We need to stop them dividing us by fighting for our own European Union – a union of the wealth creators, the working people, a United Socialist States of Europe.
To solve the historic crisis, which capitalism entered four years ago, and stop it extending into another Great Depression with millions more unemployed and the rise of fascism as a mass force, will requires a hard political struggle. But this must be a politics radically different to mere electioneering – the chase after the lowest common denominator.
It must be the politics of direct action, of bringing millions out onto the streets who were politicised with popular anticapitalist, socialist ideas and goals. In 2008 hundreds of thousands demonstrated in defiance.
But, as Piero Bernocchi of Cobas says, “‘As the crisis broke three years ago, here in Italy we said, “We won’t pay for the crisis”. But up to now, we – the weakest and more unprotected classes – have paid for it all.”We did, because we did not have an alternative, one known to millions and supported by them. That is what has to change. We need to popularise our own answer to the crisis. We must:
• Refuse to pay off the debts – nationalise the banks without compensation and under workers’ control
• Reject all the cuts – for a massive programme of work to rebuild our services and communities
• Tax the rich, not the poor – for huge taxes on private wealth and corporate profits.
It means mobilising not a struggle for governmental office but a struggle for power. Central to the direct action must be political strikes, culminating in a general strike. We have seen in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal several – many – general strikes.
On 30 November in Britain we could see 3 million on strike and on the streets. In and of itself this represents a great step forward – and every socialist and worker should strive to make it as big and bold as possible. But in Greece more than a dozen one or two day general strikes have been called over the last 12 months but they not stopped the attacks.
Imagine if all these days of action had taken place one after the other. What this would represent – and is necessary today – is an all out general strike to drive the cutting governments from power.

New parties
To open up this perspective means a struggle against the “socialist” or “labour” parties that block our path. It means rallying the rank and file of the unions for mass action independently of the union leaders who sabotage and betray action.
The militants in the unions, alongside the young activists in the schools, on campuses and among the great mass of unemployed, need to get together in new political organisations, new anticapitalist parties, welded together in a new Fifth International.
The youth and workers of the Arab world have shown us what a wave of revolutions can do. We need to imitate them in Europe with a transcontinental wave of struggle. A starting point can be the European Conference Against Austerity on 1 October, called by the Coalition of Resistance.
The best part of the draft declaration of this conference is contained in its last two clauses, which should not only be passed with acclaim but with a determination to see them acted upon:
“This conference resolves to build on the links developed in preparing this conference and to establish an ongoing European co-ordination to organise and support resistance to austerity.
“We pledge to support the mobilisations of the Indignados on 15 October and the G20 in Nice in November. We also pledge to work towards a common day of action against austerity in 2012 and call on the ETUC to prepare a European-wide day of action against austerity.”
We should name a date for a Europe wide day of mass strike action and return to our countries to build support for it, declaring our intention to launch joint action with the big union leaders if possible, but without them if necessary.
A similar conference, in Florence in 2002, met and launched a campaign for a mass demonstration to stop the war on Iraq. Up to 18 million people across the world marched on that day. Potentially far more could be mobilised to stop the bosses and their politicians launching a war on the poor.
But we also have to learn the lessons from ten years ago. The 15 February march was not followed through. This time we should use any day of action to mobilise millions and be in turn a launch pad for mass strikes, occupations and civil disobedience to drive the austerity capitalists from power and prepare for a revolutionary struggle for socialism.

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