On behalf of PAME and the delegation of the European countries, we welcome the 2nd Youth Conference of WFTU. We speak with confidence on the millions of young workers, the young unemployed, the children of workers, and we invite them to get organized in their unions, so that the struggle against the measures which condemn the youth to “half-unemployment”, work for a piece of bread, insecure work, poverty and misery will flare up in each factory, business and neighborhood. As the workers’ and poor popular stratas’ counterattack as well as the slogan “Law is the right of the worker” strengthens in each country and each branch and workplace, it will become more difficult for the monopoly groups and the large businesses to pass measures together with their political staff that strike labor and social rights which were won by our grandfathers and fathers, by the global working class in hard and bloody class struggles.
In just a few days our class, the working class, celebrates May Day. The messages of May Day are timelier than ever. Let’s remember the words of Spies in his apology in Chicago the year of 1886: “If you seriously think that you can stop the struggle of millions of workers who revolt even if they are on their knees from oppression, with gallows, you are truly poor in spirit. Expect the end. If you do not expect it, I am announcing it to you. Around you, besides you, on you, from all sides a fire is growing. You can ignore it but you can not avoid it. A time will come when our silence in the grave will be more powerful than the voices strangled today”.
The capitalist crisis in Greece and in other EU countries is widening, as in Italy, Spain etc. During the crises, the great contrast which splits society in two, the contradiction between social production and capitalist property, erupts violently. The accumulation of wealth by one pole of society – the monopolies – means accumulation of poverty for the opposite pole – the working class – which produces the products.
Only in Greece and Italy one in two young people are unemployed. One in four workers in the Netherlands, Germany and other countries work part-time, millions of working class families in Europe can not meet their basic needs such as housing, water, heating, health, education. In the EU they are processing apprenticeship programs for young people (Leonardo Da Vinci, Erasmus, etc). They are securing very cheap labor force for the businesses, so flexible that it can be transferred from one country to another so that they can meet their needs while making use of young workers as a battering ram for the sweeping of all working rights. They try to teach young people from an early age to be subjected to the interests of the employers, to get used to working for 2-3 months a year for a piece of bread.
A new trade of hope is in erected in the midst of crisis, where poverty and unemployment are rapidly increasing. The NGOs are undertaking the dirty work at this stage. They are handsomely paid by governments and big business groups, to promote “voluntary work”, low expectations for “little work”, “little food” and “little health”.
The wealth produced by workers is immeasurably greater than every other period. We need to reflect upon: Why they are leading, especially the young workers, towards a new “working middle age” while all the preconditions exist on the basis of the achievements of science and technology for full and stable work for all, with full pension rights, for a decisive shortening of the work day, increased leisure time. Why the production incentive is to safeguard the profits of the monopolies.
The inhuman system of exploitation of the working class can only handle the crisis in favor of big business in one way: by making the price of labor cheaper, with mass unemployment. The workers must work for less money and more hours and the unemployed must be ready for the same or even greater exploitation. The governments of EU countries are in a race to make the European monopolies more competitive in relation to the Chinese, the American etc. But they are also competing with each other within the EU on which bourgeoisie class will be stronger than the other, for example the German or the French. Today, as the monopolies are growing larger, as the unequal development, the contradictions in the imperialist camp are growing bigger they do not have the same ability to manage the crisis as earlier for the interests of the capitalists. They lead towards a new crisis. They will not hesitate to once more bloodshed the peoples to gain a larger slice of the global market. Workers in every country have no interest in fighting for the interests of the bourgeoisie of their countries.
The EU member states have a single strategy against the working class, the people of each country. In Greece they were delayed in the breaking of labor, social rights through measures such as wage cuts, the elimination of collective bargaining agreements, the release of layoffs, the overthrow of working relations, because the labor movement with the decisive contribution of the class oriented forces, the All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), exerted pressure in workplaces and branches. Centers of resistance, fronts of counter-attack were developed in a number of workplaces where employers announced a violent attack, such as in the steelworks, the shipbuilding zone, the Food and Beverage branch, the textile industry, the building industry.
Struggles developed in conflict with the interests of the employers, based on the current needs of workers. PAME’s line of struggle is opposite to the logic of the “lesser evil” which is cultivated by the government forces and the employer syndicalism in the unions. The experience from trade unions in Germany, which signed salary reductions to avoid redundancies, proves that the logic of class consensus, of compromise with the requirements of the employers does not prevent either layoffs or closures of businesses.
There is another way for the working class. The layoffs, the closures of factories, mass poverty, are just another proof that there is no way out of the crisis friendly to the peoples. No submission, no indulgence towards this barbarism.
The Federations which are part of the WFTU need to take initiatives, to give all our power to transform the anger and frustration of young workers in to organization in the unions, clash with the employers and their mechanisms, with their political personnel, the EU. The class orientation of the labor movement in each country, in Europe and worldwide, needs to be strengthened. The governments of the EU countries did not get scared by the “square movements”, by the “Indignants” etc. They fear the struggles of the labor movement, the strikes which are in conflict with the interests and the blackmail of the industrialists, such as the strike of the steel workers in Greece that has now been going on for more than 6 months. The steel workers, the hundreds of workers mobilized in tens of workplaces against them not getting paid at all or enough are resistant because they have the class solidarity of many unions, federations, messages of solidarity from dozens of organizations of the WFTU. The employers fear the aggressive struggles which have the meeting of the modern needs of the working class and the people with the wealth they produce as an epicenter, because they reveal the inexhaustible power of the workers. They are terrified by the fact that they can lose their power, their profits; they are trembling when they hear about the workers´ power.
As PAME we are working and struggling hard for as many young people and workers as possible to organize in unions which have this orientation. For example, alongside with the radical organizations of the self-employed, the farmers, the women and the students, PAME organized protests so that all young people can enjoy free medical care, free transportation passes, for the acception of all children of unemployed in nursery schools. Some unions organized events for children of redundant workers, theatrical plays for the unemployed. This year the May Day rally of PAME in Greece will take place in the steelworks sending a sign of defiance and disobedience, class unity and solidarity to all workers in Greece and worldwide.
Yes, this path has a cost, this option requires sacrifices. This is not an easy path, but neither unachievable. Besides this road is already followed by hundreds of thousands of workers. And we must not forget as we are moving towards May Day – that everything so far won by the working class and which is now so brutally removed, was not won through the “realism” of compromise.