Resisting mass joblessness, social cuts and the far right
The following speech (slightly edited) by Athina Kariati (Youth Against Nationalism – CWI in Cyprus), was given at the start of the third ‘Anti-Fascist Festival, on 24 June 2010, in Cyprus. The event attracted around 300 participants.
“The third anti-fascist festival is being organised during the biggest capitalist crisis since the 1930s.
“The 1930s crisis meant unemployment, poverty and misery for millions of people all over the world.
“It created the economic and social conditions for the rise of nationalism, fascism and Nazism, which consequently led to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War and to catastrophe and millions of dead.
“Once again, we are facing the rise of unemployment, poverty and the bankruptcy of countries, and the rise of the ultra right, nationalist, racist and neo-fascist groups and parties that attack immigrants, workers, youth and left activists.
“The governments in all the European countries are heading towards a series of attacks on workers’ living standards.
“Greek working people, in particular, are in the front line of these attacks. They face a 20 to 30% cut in wages and benefits, reduction in public spending, an increased retirement age, VAT increases and the reduction of pensions, even those which are less than 500 euros per month.
“The same goes for the working people in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy, as they have also faced and continue to face severe attacks on their living standards and against their rights.
“These attacks will not be confined to workers in the so-called “peripheral” European economies.
“Workers in all countries in Europe are set to have pension rights further eroded; downward pressure on wages; cutbacks in social services and social welfare and continuing large scale unemployment.
“These attacks are in line with the broader strategy of the European Union, as outlined in the ‘EU 2020’ strategy paper, which alludes to the need to increase the pension age together with the number of hours worked by European workers and a strict return to the ‘Growth and Stability’ pact, which will require a slashing on public spending in many countries.
“These attacks are also combined with the poisonous attempt to divide workers along national lines. For example, the media in Germany, as far as the workers in Greece are concerned, but also elsewhere, are in the front line in creating nationalist divisions amongst the workers.
“They are consciously lying about the conditions of workers in Greece, to create the impression that they are the ones responsible for the crisis and must pay for it.
“On a national level, these attacks in all countries involve immigrants, ethnic minorities and people from neighbouring countries.
“We have the duty to fight back against this war of propaganda with facts and statistics. For example, contrary to the myth of the ‘lazy Greek workers that retire early’, the average retirement age in Greece is 61.4 years – which is higher than the European average!
Answering right wing myths and propaganda
“Also, contrary to the myth that immigrants ‘take our jobs’ in Cyprus, unemployment has been doubled over the last 2 years, without a significant increase in the number of immigrants, but because of the sackings being done by businesses to ensure their profits!
“So, in comparison with last year, unemployment has risen for May by 35.8% and keeps on rising. At the same time, one quarter of the unemployed is tertiary education graduates and not unskilled workers.
“All that their lies can do is enforce the ultra right and neo-fascist parties. They give an excuse for the use of Nazi slogans, such as “One foreign worker=one Cypriot unemployed” that was used by ELAM on the 27 December. They give a pretext for physical attacks, such as the one at the Palestinian Centre in Larnaca.
“For Cyprus, fascism is not something new. Cyprus has been the victim of fascism in the past as well! The results of fascism are obvious even today: war, death, missing people, refugees and the division of the island. Fascism must never become strong again!
“The struggle to overcome the crisis is not national, as the [economic and social] attacks are not happening to just one country. Our struggle is international; our solidarity goes beyond the boundaries of our island.
“At this moment, this week, workers in various countries are getting activated in the context of the week of action and solidarity for the workers of Greece, an initiative taken by the MEP of the Socialist Party in Ireland, comrade Joe Higgins, and which is being signed by the majority of and the most important left wing parties in Europe.
“Therefore from this festival we want to express our solidarity to the Greek workers and we would also like to call, as well, for the unity of workers throughout Europe.
“Our solidarity reaches the Greek workers and all the European workers who are on the streets struggling for a better present and a better future.
“Let us unite our voices today with the voices of the European workers!
To the crisis, we answer: the crisis is not ours; we will not pay for it! The crisis should be paid by those who created it- the bankers and the capitalists!
“The [national and anti-immigrant] hatred that they try to impose on us is destructive and to try to ensure we will not understand who is really responsible for this worsening of our lives!
“United, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and migrants, we say: no to cutbacks, wage cuts, unemployment and increase in the retirement age; no to privatisation of public services; no more money to the banks-– they should not use our deposits to speculate and cause financial crises and catastrophes; struggle to end the dictatorship of the financial markets, the EU and the IMF; struggle to overthrow the power of multinationals and the big business; struggle for an economy that works for the needs of the society and not for the profits of the big capital; struggle for a workers’ democracy! For a socialist society, without wars and nationalism, where workers will determine their future under conditions of total freedom, multi-party democracy, and workers’ democracy
“On behalf of Youth against Nationalism, Welcome to this anti-fascist festival!”