THIS week a headline in one of the bourgeois papers declared ‘Europe Grinds to a Halt’ and for once the hyperbole was justified as a wave of strikes by public sector workers engulfed France and Germany effectively closing down airports and transport in both countries.
In Germany, Ver.di, the biggest union for public sector workers, and other trade unions called a two-day strike on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the increasingly bitter pay dispute. The unions are demanding a 6% pay rise which equates to a minimum increase of nearly £200 a month.
Hardest hit by this strike was the national airline Lufthansa when airport staff walked out causing the cancellation of 800 flights from airports around the country. These airport workers were joined by public sector workers across the entire country hitting, amongst others, state nurseries, rubbish collection and closing down swimming pools.
According to the trade unions, over 60,000 workers joined the strike, with rallies and demonstrations taking place in cities across Germany. This latest strike wave follows massive strikes over pay by IG Metall, one of the biggest unions in Europe, at the beginning of the year for a similar pay increase of 6%.
Now public sector workers are rising up demanding an end to the pitifully low pay rises imposed on them, pay increases that have seen real wages only increasing by 0.8% in the ten years since the world banking crash in 2008. This mass wave of strikes against austerity is sweeping Europe as German workers were joined by French workers.
In France, airport workers also came out as pilots, cabin crew and ground staff walked out on the sixth day of strike action on Monday after rejecting a 1% pay increase offer from Air France – an absolute insult given that their wages have been frozen since 2011 while the company is recording massive profits.
They joined in the mass demonstrations that have shaken France by workers and youth led by rail workers striking against the plans by president Macron to privatise the railways as part of his war to smash up state-owned companies and destroy the employment rights of French workers. There can be no doubt that Macron’s war against the working class, a war dictated by the EU central bank which is demanding huge austerity attacks to keep the sinking eurozone from going under completely, is revolutionising the entire working class of France.
This can be seen in the massive support that railway workers, engaged in three months of rolling anti-government strikes, have received from the public who have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to support the strikers. At the same time, students across France are occupying universities to defend the principle of free education and in solidarity with workers fighting the Macron government.
Yesterday, the brutal French riot police were unleashed to clear out these occupations, raising the spectre of the 1968 May/June uprising when riot police stormed students occupying the Sorbonne and the French workers responded with a general strike that brought down the government of Charles de Gaulle, bringing the country to the brink of revolution.
Today is not just a re-run of 1968; then capitalism internationally still had some residual strength. Today it is a bankrupt system that cannot afford to make any compromises in the class war to impose its historic crisis on the backs of every single worker and young person across the continent.
The capitalist class cannot back down and neither can the working class.
This crisis can only be resolved by the working class using the enormous power it has to close down not just Europe for days but to seize the power through socialist revolution. Workers must demand the unions organise indefinite general strikes in France, Germany, Britain and every country to kick out their bourgeois governments and go forward to workers governments that will expropriate the banks and industry and place them under the management and control of the working class. This demands the building of revolutionary sections of the Fourth International in every country to lead the fast developing socialist revolution to victory.