Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Real Threat Of Fascism In Europe

The threat of fascism is rearing its hideously ugly head in Europe once more. However, this threat doesn't come from members of the British National Party, the English Defence League, or any of their continental equivalents. That's not to say that such people won't get swept up in it - they may well - but they seem unlikely instigators. No, the real danger is from the military of countries facing grassroots working class fightback - as they have done in Greece and Spain since the summer.

Back in August, Greek truckers struck against the 'centre-left' government of Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou, as he tried to impose European Union and International Monetary fund diktats, 'liberalising' the truck licensing system. Fearing that the new system would cost them tens of thousands of euros, thirty-three thousand truckers brought the economy to near standstill, by striking for six days. On day three, the government effectively conscripted the truckers into the army, making the strike illegal. But still it continued, and five hundred truckers fought riot police who were defending the Transport Ministry. At this stage, the president of the truckers union began efforts to shut down the strike, claiming that truckers "had to consider the difficulties their actions have caused for society at large". When truckers still refused to return to work, the real army were deployed to break the strike, and supply airports and power stations. This in a country ruled by a military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974.

There was a similar story in Spain this week, when 'centre-left' Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero ordered that the military take over ten airports, where air traffic controllers were staging a 'sick-out' against the privatisation of the national airport system, the imposition of dramatically increased working hours, and almost totalitarian sick leave checkups. As controllers called in sick at 5pm on Friday, union bureaucrats condemned the action, and insisted that workers should "calm tensions" by returning to "normalcy". Zapatero responded by signing a special decree, giving the Defence Ministry temporary control of Spanish airspace. Controllers were forced back to work at gunpoint. As in Greece, the union tops uttered not a word in protest. Of course, General Francisco Franco was the Spanish head of state from 1936 to 1975.

Throughout Europe and much of the world, governing politicians of all parties are imposing the burden of the financial crisis on the working class, following the demands of international financiers. Unions have organised marches, rallies and even one day general strikes, but these have been of a symbolic nature, and merely intended to allow workers to 'let off steam'. On the occasions when workers have begun to break free of union constraints, the army has been allowed to restore "normalcy" by any means necessary. We can expect ever more draconian state repression in 2011, as resistance to cuts spreads, and union leaders lose control.

There are other aspects to the new fascist threat. Right-wing politicians in Italy, Hungary, France and Holland have been inciting racial hatred against Muslims, Roma and others. Also, with tensions between states intensifying, the potential for even greater militarism certainly exists.

Just like in the 1920s and 30s, economic strife is prompting working class resistance. And just like in the 1920s, the ruling class is turning to brutally repressive methods to enforce its rule. The treatment meted out to young people by police in London on Thursday is surely just a sickening taster of what's being prepared by our political masters. Yet again, in the words of Rosa Luxemburg, we face a stark choice: socialism or barbarism.
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