The Way Forward and the Obstacles for the Anti-Capitalist Fight Back in Europe (Declaration on the Alter Summit in Athens, June 2013)
Declaration on the Alter Summit in Athens, 7th – 8th June 2013
Statement by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 4.6.2013, www.thecommunists.net
1. On 7th and 8th of June, the so-called Alter Summit will take place in Athens. This congress is supposed to “be a first step towards the building of a real European social movement.” The Alter Summit is formally supported by more than 150 organizations, amongst them various petty-bourgeois NGO’s like ATTAC as well as a number of important trade union federations like the German IG-Metall, the Spanish CCOO, the Greek GSEE and ADEDY, the Italian CGIL and FIOM, the British TUC and the European ETUC. The real initiator however is the left-reformist European Left Party (ELP), which unites a number of ex-Stalinist parties like the French PCF and Melenchon’s PdG (who together form the Front de Gauche), the German Linkspartei, Synaspismos (the dominant faction of SYRIZA in Greece), and the Spanish Izquierda Unida. AKEL in Cyprus is one of the parties with observer status.
2. A congress of representatives of mass organizations of the workers movement and social movements in Europe is highly desirable given the endless wave of attacks by the ruling classes in Europe. Unemployment is rising, wages are decreasing, democratic rights are under attack and the racist oppression of migrants is accelerating. The ruling classes of the most powerful imperialist states of the European Union – first and foremost Germany and France – are striving to advance the formation of an imperialist EU super-state and to subordinate the poorer, semi-colonial countries in the South and the East. At the same time France’s colonial attack on Mali and the EU’s support for it demonstrate their aggressive imperialist policy in order to increase the super-exploitation of the South and to strengthen their position in the global rivalry against other imperialist powers like the USA and China.
3. There has been no shortage of class struggles against the ruling class’s offensive in the last three years. We have already seen general strikes in Portugal, Spain, Italy and other countries. In Greece there were already 29 days of national strikes since 2010! On 14.11.2012 we saw the first pan-European day of strikes and actions against the EU’s austerity policy. There have been mass mobilizations close to uprisings in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Slovenia. In addition we saw uprising of the migrant youth in Britain and Sweden. And there have been mass demonstrations against the austerity policy in France, Britain and other countries.
4. However, while the masses have repeatedly proven that they are willing to fight back, the official leaderships of the workers movement have equally proven that they are unwilling and incapable to lead the struggles to victory. In fact the existing leaders of the trade union and reformist parties do everything in their power to limit and derail the struggle. Their main interest is to keep their privileges and positions for which they need to maintain their close alliance with the bosses and the capitalist state. As a result the workers, youth and migrants suffer one defeat after the other.
The ELP Program in Words and Deeds
5. Theoretically the Alter Summit could be an excellent opportunity to elaborate a program and perspective for the fight back against the EU’s capitalist offensive. This is however very unlikely given the dominance of the reformist bureaucrats of the ELP as well as of the trade union. Let us check the ELP leaders’ words and deeds. The Draft Manifesto for the Alter Summit is no guide to action but rather an instrument to saw confusion. In their deeds the ELP parties’ leaderships prove to act as a left cover for the capitalist austerity policy and imperialist colonialism.
6. The ELP leadership claims in the Draft Manifesto that it wants to “end debt slavery”. The only way to end debt slavery is to abolish all public debt as well as private household debt. But the ELP leaders flinch from such a demand because this would frighten the financial oligarchy and therefore minimize the chances of SYRIZA and other ELP parties to get a place in a capitalist government. Hence they only demand – like a number of realistic bourgeois economists – the cancellation of a part of the debt. A practical example how the ELP leadership is willing to serve the interest the banking capitalists could be seen in Cyprus. There AKEL was in power in 2008-2013 and promoted an economic policy which helped the bankers and shareholders to shove millions of Euro into their pockets. Through the AKEL government in Cyprus 2008-13 one could see left-reformism in practice as a servant of the capitalist monopolies.
7. The same type of sawing confusion is the central demand in the Draft Manifesto: “For a democratic economy: make banks serve the public interest”. The ELP leaders talk about “strict regulations over the banks”, “Bailed-out banks must be socialized” and that “the shareholders of failed banks as well as their creditors must take their share of losses.” This is Obama-politics with left-wing rhetoric. Again, AKEL in Cyprus demonstrated that in reality the ELP leaves the power and money of the capitalist banks untouched. There can be no “democratic control” of the banks as long as they are owned by the capitalists and their state. The only possibility to break the power of the financial oligarchy is the expropriation of all banks and financial institutions without compensation and their merging into a single state bank under the control of the working class.
8. Furthermore, the Draft Manifesto calls for a “roll back of austerity” and "“no to poverty and precariousness”. Nice words! But how does it come that the French Front de Gauche supports the Hollande government which is now implementing the biggest national budget cuts since World War II! Even more, while Melenchon verbally denounces austerity, he volunteers to become prime minister under the same neoliberal Hollande! German workers and left-wing activists have also not forgotten that the Linkspartei in Berlin was part of the regional coalition government for eight years and undertook a whole series of neoliberal privatizations – including of municipal housing – for the profit of financial oligarchs. Neither have we forgotten the shameful policy of AKEL in March this year, when the EU-Troika dictated Cyprus a brutal austerity program. The AKEL deputies in parliament, now as an opposition party, even failed to vote against the banking restructuring program. Their abstention saved the Troika/government austerity plan to close Laika, “restructure” the Bank of Cyprus, sack thousands of banking workers and endanger the pension and provident funds. With such friends, who needs enemies?!
9. Finally, the Draft Manifesto warns that “democracy and peace are under threat”. True, but leading forces of the ELP are part of this threat against peace! While these left-reformists preach peace, ELP president Pierre Laurent – who at the same time happens to be the French PCF’s national secretary – supports like the whole Front de Gauche the military assault of French imperialism in Mali! And Melenchon publicly advocates France’s nuclear armament. What a clear demonstration that these so-called leftists and “friends of peace” are social-imperialists and militarists!
10. All this shows that the ELP as well as the trade union leaderships cannot advance the fight back against austerity and war-mongering in Europe. Quite the contrary, they are an obstacle for this. They are enemies within the workers movement. They pretend to advocate the struggle for democracy and peace because they want to utilize the protests to enhance the electoral chances (remember the Elections to the European Parliament in May 2014) and their position as negotiating partners for the ruling class.
A Program of Struggle
11. The workers movement and the oppressed must liberate themselves from these labor bureaucrats and their friends amongst the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. To win our struggle against the EU bosses we need a program of struggle which offers a way to overthrow the power of the rich and replaces it with the power of the working class. The RCIT proposes the following slogans as essential for such a program of struggle since they give answers to the most burning questions of the present situation and tackle the question of capitalist power:
* No lay-offs, no wage cuts! No social cuts!
* No privatization of public enterprises and social services! Nationalize all big enterprises under workers control!
* Immediate reduction of the working week to 35 hours as a first step towards the division of labor on all hands. This means that everyone should have a job and work with fewer hours at unchanged wages!
* No eviction from housing!
* For price control committees of the working class to fight inflation!
* Cancel all debts!
* Nationalize all banks under workers control and centralize them to one state bank!
* Expropriate the super-rich and utilize their wealth to finance an immediate program of public works to renew and extend the infrastructure, housing, social services etc.!
* Equal wage for women! Extend high-quality public child care under control of the working class parents!
* Equal democratic and labor rights for migrants! For the right of mother language! Open the borders!
* No cuts in education! Put the education system under control of the students, teachers and the workers movement!
* French and EU troops – Out of Mali and Afghanistan! Defeat the imperialist invaders – Victory to the resistance struggle without political support for the Islamists!
* Down with the EU commission and council! For a workers government – respective a workers and peasant government in Eastern Europe – based on workers councils and an armed popular militia!
12. Working class activists should put such demands on the reformist trade union and party leaders to pressurize them into action. However no one should have any illusion. These treacherous bureaucrats will only fight under massive pressure and even then they will sabotage the struggle from the first minute onwards. The working class must organize itself independently were it works, lives and undergo education – in factory committees, neighbourhood committees etc. Such committees must meet regularly, elect delegates and build a nation- and European-wide coordination. They must organize armed self-defence to resist against fascist thugs and police violence. Such organizational steps would lay the basis for an independent struggle of the workers and oppressed. For a pan-European coordination of militant rank and file organizations, trade unions and progressive movements to organize a continent-wide struggle!
13. To take our unions back from the control of the corrupt bureaucrats, we must revolutionize them. We must fight to open the unions to the masses – in particular the lower strata, the migrants, the poor and precarious workers. We must build a rank and file movement to organize the struggle against the bureaucrats.
14. When the bureaucrats cannot contain the class struggle, they call for limited one day general strikes. While such a strike can be useful as a starting point, it is a cul-day-sac as a strategy as the workers in Greece see since two years. The RCIT says that the workers movement must organize indefinite general strikes. Only such general strikes could – at least temporary – halt the bosses’ offensive.
15. While such an indefinite general strike would be a tremendous step forward, it only shows the way towards a solution. But it is not the solution in itself. For this the class struggle must be transformed into an armed insurrection led by a revolutionary party rooted in the working class to overthrow and expropriate the ruling class and to smash the capitalist state apparatus.
No to the utopia of “Democratizing the EU”! Forward to the United Socialist States of Europe!
16. The ELP emphasizes in numerous statements that their strategic goal is the “democratization of the EU”. In the Draft Manifesto they write: “We are building a united movement for a democratic, social, ecological and feminist Europe!”. Behind these phrases is in reality the ELP leaderships’ desire to have more power for the bourgeois national and EU parliament in which they are hoping to gain more influence. The RCIT says: A “social, democratic and peaceful Europe” and “fair re-distribution” via taxes for the rich is a hopeless utopia as long as capitalism exists. The parliament and all institutions of capitalism are thoroughly bourgeois and will always – as long as capitalism exists – serve the monopoly capitalists. The practice of the ELP parties themselves demonstrates that they always are stooges for the ruling class wherever they come near governmental power. We can only escape the vicious cycle of poverty and crisis if we overthrow the capitalist system by a socialist revolution.
17. The social democratic and Stalinist view of transforming capitalism peacefully and via parliament was always a pathetic illusion which usually ended in a bloodbath for the working class. To imagine the transformation of capitalism in Europe via the EU institutions is a caricature of the already comedian hope to overcome the bourgeois power on a national level by reformist means.
18. The EU can not be reformed. As a matter of fact, the EU is an imperialist alliance. It is dominated by monopoly capital – the banks and corporations – and the imperialist states closely associated with them. They impose a coordinated offensive against the working class and the poor. Despite their conflicts and rivalry they strive – under the leadership of Germany and France – to build a closer economic, political and military union and a pan-European imperialist state apparatus. (see the recent fiscal and banking union, the ESM etc.) To bolster their rule they systematically build up a police state and the surveillance of the people.
19. The imperialist EU exploits not only the working class but also the oppressed people in the semi-colonial countries. This is true both for the semi-colonial countries which are members of the EU as well as those in the so-called South. The super-exploitation and national oppression of the migrants – who mostly come from these countries – is part of the imperialist system. In addition the ruling classes in the EU are also pressurizing its oppressed national minorities like the Basques and the Catalans in Spain.
20. The reformist trade union and party leaders support the discrimination of migrants and the negation of the national minorities rights of secession. In contrast to them the RCIT fight for full equal rights for migrants – including equal wages and equality of mother languages. We support the opening of the border for migrants. We support the oppressed national minorities struggle for self-determination. In Spain, for example, the RCIT says “For an independent Workers Republic of Catalonia and of the Basque Country!”
21. The left-wing social democrats, the ELP and the Greek SYRIZA claim that the EU can be reformed. Various petty-bourgeois nationalists and Stalinists like the Greek KKE on the other hand call for leaving the EU and a retreat to the capitalist national state. Both are wrong. The EU was an imperialist alliance from the beginning. The system of EU institutions cannot be transformed into an instrument of the working class. Neither is the backward-looking perspective to the “good-old” capitalist national state of any use.
22. We however are aware that in semi-colonial countries like Greece or Cyprus the working class is fighting not only against the exploitation by the capitalists but – in addition to this – also against national oppression and super-exploitation by the imperialist monopolies, the “Troika” and Great power like Germany, France and Britain. In such countries revolutionaries should advocate the Exit from the EU – as part of the anti-imperialist struggle – and combine such a perspective with the struggle for a workers government.
23. The RCIT says: Neither imperialist EU nor capitalist national-state – our perspective can only be: For the United Socialist States of Europe! The road towards such a socialist Europe runs exclusively via the struggle for the socialist revolution with the goal of expropriation of the capitalist class and the construction of working class power. Only such a dictatorship of the proletariat will help us to suppress the resistance of the greedy rich. Such a revolution will most likely first succeed in one country and must then be spread towards other countries. Permanent revolution or degeneration and defeat – this is the lesson of the experience of Stalinist bureaucratic rule in the USSR!
24. The working class in Europe has shown in the past years that it is ready to fight against the bosses’ offensive and the austerity packages. But they are repeatedly betrayed and sold out by the existing treacherous leaderships in the trade unions and the reformist parties. This is why building authentic revolutionary workers parties and a Fifth Workers International based on a communist programme is the major task ahead of all true revolutionaries. In Europe and around the world. Join the RCIT to meet this challenge!