The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

European Workers under the Yoke of Austerity

Apr 30, 2012

Austerity plans are spreading throughout Europe. Supposedly, they are needed to let the nation states pay back the loans they took out from the banks in 2008 and 2009 – loans they immediately handed right back to the banks as “bailouts.”

The banks pocketed the money, but the workers are now paying for it.

The workers are paying most heavily in Greece, Ireland and above all Portugal, but also, more recently, in Italy and Spain. But no state and no population is spared, nor are they protected from going through the same thing.

The same measures have been applied practically everywhere, with more or less severity, according to the situation, by left wing administrations as well as right wing ones. These measures include lowering or freezing wages; cutting the number of public workers; increasing the value-added tax (the national sales tax, the tax that weighs most heavily on the poorest layers); increasing the number of years of work before workers can get full retirement; increasing health care costs.

No matter what the form, no European state and no population escapes these plans. The result is that the banks continue to receive interest on their loans, but the European economies are sunk in recession and the population is hit with unemployment and growing poverty. It’s no different in the U.S.

Today, the recession seems to be worsening. Almost all the European states are affected – including those, like Holland, which appeared up to now to escape it. Some economists call in the media for “limiting the brutality of these austerity plans.”

But, in fact for political reasons, this “brutality,” this policy of “generalized austerity” is nothing other than the struggle led by the rich classes, by the bourgeoisie of finance and industry, to make the poor classes, the workers, pay for their crisis. Meanwhile they continue to get rich, despite the crisis, and even thanks to the crisis.