(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 13, 2012
On Elections in Europe
THE results of the recent elections in France and Greece should come as no surprise. The intense global capitalist economic crisis has imposed severe hardships on the people. Last few years had seen widespread protests against the manner in which global capitalism and international finance capital was seeking ways out of the crisis. Every effort they made in this direction had laid their seeds for a fresh crisis which had graver consequences on people’s livelihood. The latest efforts to overcome the crisis by imposing `austerity measures’ has worsened the situation. These results are the natural angry reaction of the people whose livelihood status is gravely eroding.
Ten countries of Europe are officially in recession today, suffering two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth. These are Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, the Netherlands (seven out of the seventeen Euro zone countries) and United Kingdom, Denmark and the Czech Republic. As a consequence, frightening data on unemployment is emerging. 51 per cent of the youth between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed in Greece and Spain, 36 per cent in Italy and Portugal, 30 per cent in Ireland, over 20 per cent in France etc. The situation is similar in other countries.
Nicolas Sarkozy is the ninth head of the government (apart from Britain, Italy, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Latvia, Ireland and Switzerland) in Europe to have lost an election. The other half of the Franco-German axis that leads the Euro zone has not gone for a national election yet. However, chancellor Angela Merkel’s party received a lower vote share in one of the German States (Schleswig-Holstein) than in any poll since 1950.
As analysed by the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), the unsustainability of international finance capital led imperialist globalisation is pushing global capitalism into a cycle of serious crises. To overcome the crisis caused by the sharp shrinkage in the purchasing power in the hands of the majority of the world’s peoples due to profit maximisation and aggressive capital accumulation through the primitive accumulation methods, cheap credit was offered to boost demand. This allowed temporarily to continue profit maximisation. This, however, resulted in the `sub prime’ crisis leading to the global financial meltdown. This crisis was sought to be overcome by offering huge bailout packages to resurrect those very financial corporates which caused the meltdown in the first place. These bailout packages, financed by the governments through borrowings led, in turn, to unmanageable governmental deficits in many countries. Corporate insolvencies were, thus, converted into sovereign insolvencies. When these threatened sovereign bankruptcies, it became necessary to sharply reduce governmental expenditures. This, in turn, could only be done by imposing severe cuts on social expenditures and by imposing heavier burdens on the working people by freezing their wages, increasing the working hours, halving retirement benefits etc - `austerity measures’. The current wave of electoral defeats of incumbent governments is the manifestation of popular anger against these unbearable burdens.
Such `austerity measures’ will lead to a further shrinkage of the purchasing power amongst the people laying the basis for yet another crisis that will deepen the current recessionary trend. This, in turn, will lead to lower governmental revenues because of lower rates of economic growth. This crisis is bound to get further accentuated in 2014 when many of these countries currently bailed out by the European Central Bank will have to start repaying over $ 1.3 trillion worth of credit packages that they have received. Clearly, with this continuing recession, all, if not most, of these countries will simply not be in a position to do so.
Clearly, this is a systemic crisis of capitalism and no lasting solutions can be found within the system. The anti-Wall Street protest movements going on the world over have questioned the system itself. Banners say “It is not faults within the system but it is a faulty system – capitalism”. What is needed is a strong political force that can bring about a revolutionary replacement of the capitalist system by socialism.
These election results, however, have not thrown up such a political alternative. After seventeen years of rightwing domination, France will now have a socialist president. He, however, offers no socialist alternative to the people of France. It must be recollected that the last socialist president of France, Francois Mitterand was among the first to sign the Maastricht treaty that paved the way for the emergence of the European Union and the Euro.
In Greece, no party or a combination of parties has won the majority of the vote to form a government. Post election hurried confabulations are on to muster a majority through post-poll alliances amongst various parties. The Communist Party of Greece which led huge popular protests against the impact of the economic crisis on the people gained a marginal one per cent increase in its vote share (8.5 per cent). It, however, declined the offer made by Syriza (which won 16.8 per cent of the vote) to join a coalition government and declared that it shall not join or support any government but will continue to intensify the people’s struggles as all other parties are committed, in one way or another, to further the neo-liberal agenda and the interests of finance capital.
What must be of concern is the rise in the vote share of the rightwing nationalist parties in these elections in Europe. It needs to be recollected that a rabid anti-Communist ideological offensive has been unleashed during the last two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union all over Europe. The European Union and all its member States individually have adopted resolutions equating fascism with Communism. They, thus, seek to rewrite the glorious history of the Communist resistance to fascism and the decisive role played by the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism. They seek to erase from people’s memory the fact that it was the Soviet flag that flew over Hitler’s Reichstag declaring to the world the victory over fascism.
It must also be recollected that one of the political reactions that emerged in the period of the great depression of the 1930s was the rise of fascism. Such anti-Communist propaganda of today combined with the continuing crisis and growing unemployment is bound to feed fascistic demagogy that the people must be forewarned about.
In the final analysis, therefore, it is only the strength of the political alternative to capitalism that can protect the people from further economic onslaughts and prevent the rise of demonic fascist forces. The Communist parties in Europe that had consistently opposed and struggled against the formation of the European Union and the common currency Euro anticipating such onslaughts of Capital on people’s livelihood will, surely, take the lead in strengthening the political alternative of socialism in the coming future.
(May 9, 2012)