EUROPE has erupted in strikes as workers rise up against raging inflation which is driving down living standards to poverty levels across the EU.
Germany, the biggest economy in the EU, recorded the highest rate of inflation in 29 years with the official figure hitting 4.1% in September.
The other 19 countries in the eurozone overall saw inflation reaching 3.4% – the highest in 13 years – with most economists expecting this figure to rise to 4% by the end of the year – double the target set by the European Central Bank (ECB).
These sharp increases in the official inflation rate, however, mask the true cost of living increases for workers across Europe.
The latest data put inflation in Germany at 5% year-on-year while the energy prices across Europe increased by 17% in September alone.
In Barcelona at the weekend, hundreds marched through the city demanding: ‘Stop the electricity scam’ protesting against rises in the price of electricity as part of a movement that is sweeping Europe.
This massive increase in the cost of energy, food, rent and all the basic necessities of life has been met with a massive wave of strikes and demonstrations by workers demanding wage increases.
In Germany, strikes for wage increases have broken out across the country with Amazon workers the latest to join in with a two-day strike last week.
Unions throughout Germany are making demands in the banking and public sectors as well as motor homes manufacturers that have made huge profits during the lockdown.
Carsten Brzeski, head of macro research at ING, said: ‘Latest announcements show that unions are going into upcoming negotiations with demands linked to current inflation numbers, not to inflation expectations.’
In other words, workers are not basing their demands on official figures for inflation but on the reality of the cost of living experienced every single day by their families.
This is creating fear amongst the employers and bankers with economists now warning of a ‘self-fulfilling inflationary spiral’ in Germany claiming that higher wages push up inflation.
According to a recent article in the Financial Times: ‘As central bankers debate how “transitory” the latest surge in inflation will be, they are watching the progress of wage negotiations in Germany and elsewhere with particular interest.’
The FT goes on to report that Christine Lagarde, head of the ECB, said the bank would ‘look very attentively’ at wage demands.
While the biggest selling German newspaper, Bild, blames the ECB for failing to curb inflation and indeed ramping it up through its programme of low interest rates and Quantitative Easing (pumping vast amounts of worthless euros to prop up bankrupt companies and countries) the ECB is now shifting the blame onto workers’ pay demands.
This is not just an issue of blame shifting however, but a sign that capitalism is going to wage war to fight pay demands on the grounds that wage increases cause inflation.
What is clear is that the determined resistance of the working class to seeing their lives destroyed by inflation has created a huge economic and political crisis across Europe.
Last week, the minority Socialist Party government of Portugal was forced to resign and call a snap general election in the midst of a wave of protests and strikes over pay and conditions.
Strikes by nurses, who came out for two days on November 3rd and 4th, were rapidly followed by teachers and firefighters with a civil service strike scheduled for November 12 infuriated by the government budget proposals for a 0.9% pay increase.
The working class throughout Europe is rising up against a capitalist system determined to inflict its inflationary crisis on their backs.
Drowning in debt and now hit by raging inflation the main issue for the working class in Europe, along with Britain and the US, is to build revolutionary parties prepared to lead this revolutionary upsurge to overthrow capitalism and go forward to the United Socialist States of Europe.
This means building sections of the Fourth International in every country to take the struggle for socialist revolution to victory.