Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Global capitalism waging a political war on Union rights in the EU

Lisbon general Strike in March: The right idea
A good crisis should never go to waste to paraphrase Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago.  And global capital is ensuring that they take every opportunity in the aftermath of the historical capitalist crisis that hit in 2007.  For years, the US bourgeois has been trying to push their European counterparts to take the bull by the horns and implement some economic reforms.  Reforms form the capitalists points of view of course means curbing the power of Unions.

The US and British governments have long complained of those pesky Europeans and their shorter workweeks, vacations and the barriers to employers having the ability to hire and fire at will, "Labor flexibility" they call it.  But the crisis in Europe is accomplishing far more in this regard than the dreamed of "Full Spectrum Dominance" that was advocated after the collapse of Stalinism and the period of euphoria that gripped US capitalism after what it thought was a swift victory in Iraq.

We have seen the heroic struggle of the Greek workers as well as in Spain where a near civil war has been going on in Asturius between striking miners and the police.  The battles are not yet over and the theater may well shift to Italy but a pre-revolutionary situation as developed in Greece cannot last for ever just like general strikes.  At some point, a victor must emerge and state power becomes an issue.

It is not possible from afar to have a clear understanding of the situation on the ground but it does appear that, for the moment at least, things have subsided a bit in Greece.  As with strikes, despite the European working class having a powerful tradition of trade unionism and independent political parties, workers in individual countries have faced alone what is a global offensive of capital.  Last year laws were introduced in Greece that allowed individual companies to negotiate directly with their employees as opposed to prior to the crisis when Unions in a certain sector, retail for example, negotiated with retailers associations on behalf of all workers.

This law was introduced "at the behest of Greece's international creditors" says the Wall Street Journal.  What is known as the Troika, the European Commission which is the executive arm of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF, are directing national policy and installing functionaries and former bankers in office. The functionaries in these three institutions in their capacity as representatives of the interests of global capitalism are successfully introducing legislation  that will "Dilute the influence of Labor Unions" because as they see it, the "root cause of the European crisis" is a "rise in wages".

It's interesting to read the views of the theoreticians of the 1% and how they describe the world as they see it.  The raises the Troika are talking about are in the poorer countries on the periphery of Europe, "Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy". This increase in wages , "soaring"  increase as the WSJ  puts it, has meant that these countries cannot compete  with the richer northern EU members. So any thought of joining the EU to raise your living standard is clearly not on the cards, there are two Europe's with the east and south being handy sources of cheap labor and profits.  It is the collective wage deals that the Unions have negotiated in these countries that have increased wages and caused this mess.

The Troika wants to decentralize wage negotiations so all employers can negotiate directly with their individual employees and "and pay them according to their productivity." says the Journal. The US and British capitalists are very encouraged by these developments as the workers in the US have no political party of our own and the Unions have no real say in wage negotiations at the national level.

These developments don't bode well for workers in Europe or here in the US.  Apologists for capitalism from Libertarians, Tea Baggers and other opponents of "big government" will welcome these US style freedoms being legislated (by government) in Europe.  That individual employers are backed up by the state through laws their political representatives pass, the police to enforce them, the media to lie for them, matters not.  Big government is OK when it comes to defending the interests of capital; it just bailed them out and saved their system from collapse.  The next step will be bargaining with individual workers going back a hundred years when one worker never knew what the other earned. The ideal though for all bosses is no independent Unions at all. But what good a Union that doesn't increase pay?  One of the reasons the rank and file of organized Labor here in the US have negative feelings about their organizations is that they don't increase pay, in fact the leadership of organized Labor here in the US support reducing pay in order to make workers more competitive.

Turning German workers against Greeks for costing them money and Greek workers against immigrants for the Greek crisis has had some success but these legislative obstacles to workers' unity and action that have, as the WSJ says, "Crept across the crisis hit periphery of the euro zone over the past two years" pushed by the Troika, will undermine German workers too. Workers built Unions to protect us from the savagery of the market not to help us compete with each other which is what the bosses want.  How will lower wages in Portugal of Hungary help German or French workers, it will force them to have to compete too driving down their wages, weakening their rights and influence on the job.

When I look at the huge battles and struggles that have taken place in Greece and in Spain it pains me that the obvious does not occur, a Europe-wide struggle against global capital; a Europe wide General Strike against austerity and for the nationalization of the financial institutions and banks under workers' control and management with appeals to workers and our organizations throughout the world to build a global opposition to the capitalist offensive. The leadership that is there could but won't organize this. They are afraid where it will lead, after all, there is no alternative to capitalism is there?

On the heels of the Libor scandal (read more about Libor here) which has yet to be fully understood or its repercussions felt, there is more and more talk of the nationalization of the banks by the strategists of capital themselves in the light of continued crisis and corruption in the financial sector . More scandal is yet to come.

As I say above it is not possible to understand all the details being so far away from events, especially in the US where we have a very closed and censored mass media. Perhaps there is more of an effort to coordinate a continent-wide response in Europe, I for sure do not know enough about it.  

The battles are not over, I am confident of that. 

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