Europe: the working class overheats the winter

The new year has begun with mobilizations and strikes that need to be supported. Also with cuts and announcements of new adjustments. New union and political leaders are needed to turn everything around.

By Ruben Tzanoff

2023 ended with the European streets occupied by massive demonstrations of support for the Palestinian people and with actions to boycott the shipment of weapons to Israel, carried out by port workers and unions in Barcelona, Greece, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and other countries. It is a solidarity process that continues and challenges the governments complicit in the genocidal Zionist State. And 2024 began with strikes and complaints from workers for different reasons, mainly due to the loss of purchasing power aggravated by inflation and the deterioration of working conditions.

Another historic strike in the United Kingdom

After a year of great mobilizations, historic struggles continue. Since January 3, resident doctors have been involved in pickets, demonstrations and a six-day strike, the longest since 1948, the year the National Health Service (NHS) was founded. The sector made up of recently graduated professionals and those in the process of studying higher degrees demands better salary conditions. Over the summer, the reactionary Conservative Party government wanted to negotiate with the British Medical Association (BMA) for an 8.8% pay rise, but was rejected as workers need a 35% rise to make up for the loss of a quarter of their purchasing power since 2008. In Wales, residents plan to carry out a 72-hour strike starting January 15 and in Northern Ireland they are also considering going on strike. Different transport sectors will also undertake actions, starting with the Metro.

Claims spread

Just to take some examples, in Germany, where we have been pointing out the growing discontent, there were demonstrations by farmers and Deutsche Bahn train drivers have called for a three-day strike and its staggered continuation. In Catalonia there are two struggles that challenge the government of Pere Aragonès (ERC): the indefinite strike of nurses and technical health personnel for improvements in salaries and working conditions. As the workers say: “If we hang up our robe, we can’t take it anymore” with work overload and collapse situations, currently aggravated by the resurgence of Covid-19, flu and bronchiolitis. Iberia workers have also gone on strike in response to company changes due to “handling” (essential ground services for passengers and luggage), which have caused uncertainty about the future of their jobs and the sectoral agreement. It is not about “lightnings in a clear sky” but about the continuity of a process of struggles that already had great expressions in France and in the recomposition of the mobilizations and strikes in the United Kingdom.

New ads for old recipes

When the consequences of Covid 19 worsened in 2020, the EU relaxed the strictest scope of the stability and growth pact, allocated millions of euros to its members and made concessions in the form of “aid”, to avoid an economic and social collapse. In the extreme of lies, they went so far as to say that it was a new “Marshall Plan” that would practically get the EU out of the crisis. Once the initial false furor had passed, since January 1, the demands for austerity returned, which, according to the European Commission, will lead to adjustment plans tailored to each country in a gradual process.

From “aid” to “belt tightening”

The announcements imply the application of “structural reforms” and the recovery through different means of part of the “aid” granted. In other words, there will be “belt tightening” for the workers and the people, without economic recovery, with salaries devalued by inflation, very expensive rents and rates, in deficit and indebted countries. The governments of the imperialist Bloc have already begun to obey the orders of Brussels by applying the cancellation of VAT reductions, the elimination of social subsidies, the collection of taxes and the increase in electricity and gas rates, among other anti-popular measure

Let’s actively support the struggles

The claims with which the year began herald a perspective of extension and deepening of the actions. Governments do not care about the living conditions of the neediest, nor the health of patients, nor the salaries and working conditions of workers; they only take measures to guarantee the millionaire profits of employers, banks and the privileges of the rich. Therefore, it is essential to actively support the struggles and show solidarity with the demands of the working class so that the crisis is paid for by those who generated it, that is, the capitalists.

May the new make its way

We must demand that the majority union leaders abandon passivity and complicity with governments, that they call assemblies to debate their own agenda of workers’ demands. With plans of struggle, mobilizations and general strike to achieve the most urgent needs. The young workers who are leading the health strike in England are pointing the way for new democratic and combative leaders to emerge. At the same time and in this process, it is necessary to establish new radical left political alternatives, to combat the right and the reformist defenders of capitalism, on the path to a socialist solution.