Socialist Worker

Austerity backfires on Europe's rulers

Issue No. 2300

The political crisis faced by the ruling classes of Europe deepened this week.

Our rulers are years into an economic crisis which refuses to go away. Every attempt to solve their problems seems to make them worse.

This week the Dutch government became the latest victim. It had been an enthusiastic supporter of the imposition of austerity measures in Greece.

But it was unable to force through £13.1 billion worth of cuts at home.

The Dutch politicians are not alone. In Britain the Tories face a dip in popularity as they try to impose cuts and privatisation.

The technocratic governments imposed on Greece and Italy have not succeeded in crushing resistance to their attacks. Workers have fought back with mass demonstrations and strikes across Europe.

Now the results of the first round of the French election show that arch-neoliberal Nicolas Sarkozy may face defeat.

The issue of austerity was central to the election campaign. The Labour-style Socialist Party is benefiting from being seen to offer at least some opposition to the assault on public spending.

The result will have an impact beyond France. Sarkozy formed an alliance with Germany’s leader Angela Merkel, intent on imposing austerity on the weaker economies in the eurozone.

Merkel was so concerned at the prospect of losing her key ally that she helped in Sarkozy’s electoral campaign.

The stakes are high.

In his desperation to hang on to power Sarkozy has inflamed racism and shifted mainstream politics onto the territory of the far right.

He gave legitimacy to the fascist Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen. This dangerous strategy could rebound on France’s ruling class and cause deeper instability.

There is an alternative. It is the struggles and aspirations of millions of ordinary people to fight to defend their living conditions and the concept of social responsibility for the most vulnerable in society.

Everything comes back to the same contradiction. The only way the ruling class has of getting out of this crisis is to make the mass of ordinary people pay the price.

Workers across Europe have a common interest—to make sure they don’t succeed.

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What We Think
Tue 24 Apr 2012, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2300
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