THE German and French ruling classes are aghast that the worldwide financial collapse and deepening slump has resulted in an eruption of the class struggle, at such an intensity, and with so little room for manoeuvre, that they are suddenly being confronted by revolution.
The spectre of revolution is now definitively stalking Western Europe.
It began in France where students have been resisting the attacks of the Sarkozy regime since it was elected and whose struggle has been joined by the big battalions of the working class.
Workers are now engaging in ‘bossnapping’, holding their managers and employers in protest at the attempts being made to close factories.
At Continental AG, workers occupied their plant and when a court refused to rule that the employer must halt the scheduled 2010 closure, took direct action to smash up the companies offices and equipment.
Twice in a week blackouts have hit the Paris region as striking gas and electricity workers took action to support their call for a ten per cent pay rise and an end to outsourcing jobs.
Redundancy plans have caused violent protests in private sector companies, left-wing students have blocked universities and unions are planning a mass demonstration on May 1.
Last Thursday, 66,500 EDF customers lost their electricity supply, some for several hours, in Douai, northern France. while this week, the militant workers sought to win public support by switching 350,000 customers from peak to off-peak tariffs – a 50 per cent saving. They also restored power to hundreds of households that were cut off by EDF because they had failed to pay their bills.
‘There is a risk of revolution,’ blurted out Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, on Thursday.
The German Social Democratic Party presidential candidate Gesine Schwan spoke up on Wednesday to warn that the developing economic catastrophe could also unleash violent reactions from an angry and desperate German population.
‘I can well imagine that in two or three months, people’s anger will grow considerably,’ said Schwan, referring to the fact that the German government’s measures to cushion the blows from the recession are due to run out.
‘If there is no sign of hope for things to improve, then the mood can turn explosive,’ she continued.
Michael Sommer, the President of the Federation of German Trade Unions, commented on the historical implications of the crisis.
Sommer compared the present situation to the 1930s when the world crisis led to Hitler taking power.
He pointed out that the projected economic contraction of up to six per cent is comparable with data from the years 1930, 1931 and 1932.
Sommer added that mass layoffs will be ‘a provocation for workers and the unions.’
The revolutionary wave is beginning to sweep through western Europe and there is no doubt that it will sweep cross the Channel.
The lesson from the 1930s is that the German revolution was betrayed when the Stalinist leaders of the huge German Communist Party refused to form a United Front with the Social Democrats, coining the slogan ‘After Hitler our Turn’.
In fact what came after Hitler was concentration camps for trade unionists.
In France, the Stalinists formed a Popular Front, dominated by bourgeois radical policies, that betrayed the revolutionary struggle of the working class.
The major lesson from the 1930s is that the revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International must be built in every country, to lead the socialist revolutions that are developing to victory, and to prevent them being betrayed by the Stalinists and Social Democrats.