NO ONE can have any illusions about how the European Union works and what it serves after reading the details of the latest “rescue” package for the Cypriot banks. The deal includes the usual draconian mass privatisations and the slashing of state welfare. But this time there’s going to be a new arbitrary levy on individual savings that could easily be imposed on other member states when they next come crawling to the “troika” of the European Central Bank, the EU and the International Monetary Fund for another loan.
The “troika” want a tax of 6.75 per cent on every individual who’s got less than €100,000 in the bank rising to almost 10 per cent for those who cross that threshold. The newly elected conservative Cypriot president has closed the banks while he fights to hold his own supporters in line and tries to reach a compromise with the opposition which is led by AKEL, the island’s communist party, and stave off mounting anger on the streets.
The island’s TUC, the Pancyprian Federation of Labour, says it will fight the €1.4 billion privatisation programme that is part of the package, which they say will destroy what has been built on over decades while AKEL says it will not agree or consent to measures that will condemn the whole of the Cypriot people, and in particular the workers, unemployed, the young generation or the pensioners to dead ends and poverty, just as other peoples in southern Europe have been led to.
Whether that pressure will be enough to force a renegotiation of the terms much favoured by German imperialism remains to be seen. What is clear is that only force that can stop the relentless attack on the Cypriot working class is the mass movement of organised labour.
Build the resistance!
What’s true for Cyprus is also true for us facing another rich man’s budget from a Tory-led coalition determined to make workers’ pay through the nose for the slump that has swept the entire capitalist world.
At last year’s TUC the unions pledged to fight austerity and defend the interests of the millions of their members forced to work longer hours for less pay while what was once known as the “social wage” disappears in a new wave of privatisations designed to line the pockets of rich whose lives’ are barely touched by the crisis all around them.
There’s been plenty of talk about co-ordinated strike action to save jobs and defend what’s left of the “welfare state” but little or nothing has been done apart from a few protest actions by public sector unions. Support for new pressure groups and forums, worthy in themselves, have mobilised activists and on some occasions they have been able to build mass movements in defence of local hospitals and other amenities facing cutback or closure.
But the national anti-austerity campaign that can get millions on the street is still on the drawing board. The mass movement needed to force Miliband & Co into defending working people whose union subs pay for over 90 per cent of Labour’s income has yet to be built.
Communists have a crucial role in arguing for the socialist answer to the crisis and raising the communist ideal. Communists have a vital role in helping to mobilise and unite the fight-back to bring the Cameron government down.
Labour’s leaders may think they’ve got the next election in the bag and that they can simply ignore the demands of organised labour that they don’t agree with. They’re wrong and we must show that they are wrong.