Europe: 19 March – workers and youth march against Iraqi occupation and EU social cuts

Today, the Belgian Youth March for Work, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and the European Social Forum are jointly protesting against growing unemployment, against insecure jobs, against the Iraq war and imperialist occupation and against the policies of the European Union.

On 19 March, marches take place in Brussels and other European cities against social cuts in the European Union and also against the continuing imperialist occupation of Iraq. 19 March is the second anniversary of the US-led war on Iraq. Since the occupation of the country, it is estimated that 100,000 Iraqis and 1,500 US troops have been killed, with many more thousands injured. Many thousands of Iraqis are held in US-run prison camps.
This ‘liberation’ (read: brutal occupation) has nothing to do with bringing ‘democracy’ to Iraq or the Middle East, as the Bush Administration claims. It is to further the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism in the region.
The marches on 19 March are also to protest against attempts by the European powers to attack workers’ living standards and democratic rights. The bosses’ EU wants to erode workers’ conditions even more in the hope that they can compete with the US and other world economic power blocs. But, as the 19 March protests and the growing number of strikes in Europe show, working people will resist these attacks.
To be successful, these struggles need militant leadership to unite workers and youth on an independent socialist programme. The following text is from a CWI leaflet that will be distributed on the Brussels protest. Next week, we will carry reports from Brussels, London and other EU cities’ protest.

19 March
workers and youth march against Iraqi occupation and EU social cuts

Defeat the bosses’ offensive.
Unite and build an international, socialist alternative!

Tens of thousands will show their opposition to the the bosses’ and governments’ attempt to drive down living standards even further.

But how will this be done most effectively? The Belgian Youth March for Work and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) – which has members from Belgium (LSP-MAS), France (Gauche Révolutionnaire), Germany (SAV), the Netherlands (Offensief), and Britain (Socialist Party) protesting today – believe that we need to organise, on an international scale, the growing resistance of workers and youth to capitalist policies.

A “social Europe” on a capitalist basis?

It is positive that the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is demonstrating today against the ‘Bolkestein Directive’. The aim of this Directive is to ‘liberalise’ services in Europe. This would make it possible for a company from a low wage country to employ workers in another EU country on the same low wages and terrible working conditions as in the country where the company is based.

The Bolkestein Directive is a vicious assault, in all European countries, against wages and social security. It is aimed at driving down workers’ conditions and living standards, which have been under attack for years by successive neo-liberal governments.

A common struggle by all workers in Europe is necessary to resist attempts by the bosses to divide and rule. That is why we call, across the EU, for decent wages and workers’ rights for all.

In many countries, such as Britain and Germany, parties that once represented working people have led attacks on workers’ conditions. This means that in most countries we need to build new, broad workers’ parties that can unite the struggles that are taking place.

Workers may sometimes vote for the “lesser evil”, but this is no lasting solution. New parties that really stand for workers’ interests are needed. In Germany, a discussion on this has started with the creation of the broad initiative, the WASG, that is starting to run in elections. Forming new parties is a necessary step for workers, as the social democratic parties no longer attract workers and, in fact, act on behalf of the bosses. The social democrats only discuss and differ about the timing of social cuts, not about whether cuts should take place or not.

Unfortunately, the European trade union leaders have illusions in the possibility of a ‘social Europe’ on a capitalist basis. In fact, they say that they support the ‘Lisbon Agenda’, the EU’s neo-liberal plan. The policies of the EU and the national governments are the result of the capitalist crisis of over-production and sharpening competition. The current governments defend the interests of the bosses. They are at the service of a capitalist system in crisis.

Under the flag of the Lisbon Agenda, the bosses’ EU wants to make Europe more “competitive” by 2010. This means, concretely, working longer, lower wages, privatisations, and attacks on the social security system. Only a socialist programme that breaks with the logic of capitalism can put an end to this.

No to the neo-liberal EU Constitution!

The major French union, the CGT, which has 700,000 members, recently discussed the EU Constitution. The Constitution is a “democratic” facade for the pro-big business EU, as well as making it easier for the big powers to dominate the smaller EU states. The national leadership of the CGT wanted to abstain from taking a position on the Constitution. But the union leaders were defeated by the CGT membership at a national conference, when they voted 81 against, 18 for and 17 abstained on the issue. This shows that the revolt against the bosses’ EU is growing at the rank and file level.

In many countries, the CWI is in the front line of shop floor resistance. Fight together with us for an international, socialist alternative! For a voluntary federation of socialist states – a socialist Europe – instead of the bosses’EU!

Youth march for Work: Decent work for a decent wage

The ETUC demonstration will be preceded by the Youth March for Work. Before summer 2004, the LSP-MAS (the Belgian section of the CWI), called on the youth organisations of the big Belgian unions (the social democrat ABVV and Christian ACV) to organise a new ‘Youth March for Work’. We proposed a programme of demands: against low-paid, part-time jobs; for secure jobs on a decent wage; attack unemployment – not the unemployed; and for a 32-hour working week, without loss of pay.

This campaign has started resistance against the government and the bosses. Now we will have to build, step by step, the fight-back in the workplaces and amongst the youth.

Last week’s successful strike in France, in both the public and private sectors, has already begun to weaken the French government’s offensive. The French example should be followed up with a European Day of Action to demand an end to cuts and for decent living standards. After today’s demo, this would be an important next step in uniting the struggles of working people across all Europe.

In Belgium, big movements of the working class are on the agenda. The health workers’ strike is only a small foretaste of the industrial battles to come. Build a powerful alternative for workers and youth in Belgium! Join the real socialists, the LSP!

Against war and imperialist slavery

The European Social Forum will also demonstrate against the war in Iraq. The CWI has always condemned the intervention and occupation of Iraq by US imperialism and demands the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops. It is the working people of the Middle East who have to rid themselves of corrupt and bloody dictators, which are very often the same brutal rulers that Bush supports. The recent elections in Iraq can hardly be called “democratic”.

The elections took place under imperialist occupation, candidates hardly dared to make themselves known because of widespread violence, there were no international observers, many people did not vote out of fear of attacks or reprisals, and – most importantly – there was no party that represented the interests of the Iraqi working people.

The hopes amongst the Shia and Kurdish population in a regime formed by their own leaders will quickly be undermined. On the basis of imperialist plundering and domination, living standards will remain atrocious for the majority of the population. Only a tiny elite will enrich itself at the cost of the workers, poor peasants and youth of the country. As long as there is no alternative based on the working class, there is the danger of ethnic and religious struggles that can be exploited by pro-capitalist parties.

The Iraqi workers’ movement needs to be rebuilt so that it can defeat imperialism, stop sectarian attacks, defend the right to self determination for the Kurds, promote full democratic rights for all minorities, and fight for a workers’ and poor peasants’ government that can start to build a socialist Iraq, setting an example for the entire Middle-East.

An alternative to capitalism

Capitalism, the profit system of chaos and regular crisis, cannot guarantee humanity a decent future. In fact, the drive for profit threatens to ruin the planet.

The workers’ movement needs to, once again, adopt the aim of taking control of the commanding heights of the economy and to democratically plan its development. Democratic control, the key safeguard against privilege and bureaucracy, should be based upon all representatives being subject to regular election and immediate recall, and ensuring that elected representatives do not earn more than the wage of a skilled worker.

In many countries, in Europe and around the world, CWI members actively fight on issues facing working people. The CWI links these struggles to the need to fight for a socialist future.

Join us in this struggle, join the cwi!


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March 2005