Europe: Momentum gathers for 14 November

Opening towards an all-European strike

A powerful momentum is gathering around the trade unions’ call for a European day of struggle against austerity on November 14. In an increasing number of countries decisions are being made for strikes and protests on what will be a significant event, the first ever co-ordinated European strike action. Millions in different countries will join together in protest against the international drive to solve the crisis of the capitalist system at the expense of the working class, poor, youth and many sections of the middle class.

In our last CWI statement on the European day of struggle we said that the announcement of N14, to include at least an Iberian-wide general strike, was an historic development, a potential turning point in the situation in Europe, and the fightback of the working class majority against the unfolding disaster. This immense importance of the announcement has been reflected and proven in the impact it has had, in the few days since its announcement.

A catalyst throughout Europe

We have seen how as well as uniting the explosive struggles of the Spanish and Portuguese workers in a powerful united blow, such international action can also serve as a catalyst to drive union leaders into action in other countries. The boost of confidence and militancy that the announcement of this, the most advanced expression of organised workers action seen for decades, has given an impulse to workers in numerous countries to push for serious mobilisations, in some cases with important results.

In Italy, after initial hesitation by the majority CGIL confederation, it has come out for general strike action, although only of half a day, while the smaller CO.BAS confederation has come out for a 24 hour strike. In Greece, fresh from the immense paralysis of a 48-hour strike on 6/7 November, leaders of GSEE have also indicated that a general strike could be called. If realised, this would give way to a coordinated general strike of the South of Europe in all but name.

However, as well as this, the call for European-wide action has had an impact outside of the "periphery". In Belgium, a series of job cuts including the complete closure of the Ford plant in Genk has produced a mighty surge of pressure from below has brought a general strike within reach. Regional and sectorial union organizations from all major federations have announced coordinated strikes, including a general strike of the Liege region, as well as important strikes in the transport and metal workers’’ sectors, with the late calling of a general strike not to be ruled out. In France, an united platform of unions including the CGT have announced a day of “mass mobilisations” although to which extent they are built for remains to be seen.

Towards an all-European strike

In many countries at least symbolic or limited actions are being planned for N14. Alongside these in Britain, the campaign set in motion by the British National Shop Stewards’’ Network for a 24 hour general strike, which the TUC is currently “considering”, is gathering momentum. In France, the Hollande government is turning towards its own austerity offensive, with the announcement of new tax rises and spending cuts. Even in the "AAA" countries, events are taking a turn. Along with the sudden upturn in struggle in Belgium, these developments, show how following N14, the path towards an intensification of coordinated action, with strikes taking place in more and more countries in a coordinated manner, would be opened up.

As the CWI has previously outlined, the catalyst of international mobilisations, along with the extension of the misery of the capitalist crisis towards the core countries, opens the way for a general strike of the whole of Europe. However, for this to be made a reality, N14 needs to be followed up with a serious plan of sustained and escalating actions to both fight the attacks in each country and link them internationally. Following the mobilisations on November 14 plans needs to be laid now for follow up action. November 14 must only be the start. Pressure needs to be built now for calling a European wide 24 hour general strike in early 2013. The announcement of savage austerity packages in a series of countries means such a call is certain to get an echo.

The ETUC has called this action which is to be welcomed. However, to struggle for it to be followed up with even bolder action workers need to establish direct links in the work places across the national boundaries especially in multi-national companies like Ford to co-ordinate and organise solidarity action and struggles.

The struggle of workers at home against the austerity packages also means, fighting for an intensification of the struggle following next week’s general strikes that socialists will strive to link to a programme to bring down the pro-capitalist governments, replacing them with left, genuinely socialist governments that will break with capitalism.

At the same time the workers’ movement internationally must link these struggles up, work to escalate coordinated action, extend its geographical scope in future days of action building towards a European general strike of 24 hours. The CWI will work to ensure that such a plan is fought for, and linked to the struggle for a socialist Europe of the workers, youth and unemployed, over the bones of the capitalist EU and the rivalries of the competing European ruling classes.

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November 2012