ON Sunday a mass movement of workers led by young people took to the streets of cities across Europe in a powerful demonstration of the anti-austerity movement that is gripping the continent.
Thousands of workers and youth answered the call issued by the French youth-led ‘Nuit Debout’ movement to protest against the savage austerity measures imposed by governments as they strive to dump the entire crisis of capitalism on the backs of the working class.
Nuit Debout translates as ‘Rise up at night’, the word Debout being particularly significant as the first word (‘arise’) in the French version of the anthem of the Paris Commune ‘The Internationale’.
Young workers across Europe have been the most severely affected section with youth unemployment reaching astronomical levels within the EU. According to official EU statistics, which by no means reveal the real extent of unemployment, the levels of unemployment for under 25s is over 50% in Greece, 46% Spain, 40% Italy, 30% Portugal and 25% in France. Even relatively prosperous Belgium has 25% youth unemployment.
Youth have clearly had enough of seeing their lives smashed up by a decaying capitalist system that can offer no future except unending and increasing austerity measures and are rising up in a revolutionary wave that is sweeping across Europe.
The Nuit Debout movement arose amongst French youth on March 31 this year out of the protests that saw 400,000 French workers demonstrate against the government’s proposed labour ‘reforms’.
These reforms destroy the right of French workers to a legal 35 hour week – extending the working week up to 47 hours – while at the same time making it legal for employers to sack workers at will. At the same time they cut benefits to the unemployed in a move cynically portrayed as an attempt to bring down youth unemployment – forcing young people to work in low paid jobs from which they can be dismissed at a moment’s notice.
The fight by workers and youth against the labour reforms has been raging across France for over two months with strikes and mass demonstrations in cities throughout the country. These protests have been met with escalating police violence with the French state turning loose the notorious para-military CRS riot police.
All attempts to intimidate the workers and youth with CS gas and baton charges have failed to stem the uprising against these reforms and all the austerity attacks carried out by the ‘socialist’ government of Francoise Hollande.
So great is the crisis that faces the French government, as a result of the mass opposition, that Hollande was unable to get his reforms though the French parliament and last week he was forced to resort to a constitutional trick to by-pass parliament completely and impose them by diktat.
This in turn has enraged the working class and youth who are now stepping up the action and broadening it across the whole of Europe. This call by the organisers to ‘occupy public spaces worldwide, to gather together, express themselves and take back politics into their own hands’ was answered in 266 towns in France along with 130 cities in Europe and worldwide who responded to the call for a ‘global day of action’.
In Madrid, thousands gathered in the main square in solidarity with the French youth and their call for international action against unemployment and austerity and also to commemorate and celebrate the mass rallies in Spain’s capital in 2011 that led to the creation of the left anti-austerity party, Podemos, now the third largest party in the country.
What is clear is that a mass movement with a revolutionary content, and led by young people, is sweeping Europe. It is a movement that is uniting the working class across borders against the common enemy, world capitalism.
It is a movement that demands a new revolutionary leadership prepared to take it from a struggle against austerity forward into a struggle for power, to overthrow capitalism through the socialist revolution. It demands building sections of the Fourth International in every country and establishing the Socialist United States of Europe.