Amidst a growing fightback against French President Sarkozy’s attack on pensions, activists from Europe’s radical left met in Paris to discuss a united response.

Across Europe, working class people are facing an onslaught on our pension rights, public services and the very fabric of our lives.

The real resistance taking place on the streets in France charged the atmosphere of the meeting: transport workers are striking, taking many of Paris’ commuter trains out of action; young people have taken to the streets in huge, lively protests.

Saturday’s conference was partially suspended so that participants could join the million-strong march in the streets.

The conference began with delegates describing the attacks they are facing in their countries and how the left has been responding. Around 30 activists had come from France, Britain, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Sweeden, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany

The discussion was opened by the Socialist Workers Party’s (Britain) Alex Callinicos who urged that any European-wide project should not relegate itself to ‘cheerleading’, but should seek to initiate and lead struggle.

The French Nouveau Anti-Capitalist Parti’s (NPA) Fran√ßois Sabado pointed out that while some on the left had argued that the economic crisis would create a resurgence of neo-Keynsianism, in fact the right pursued the complete opposite: embracing total neoliberalism even more enthusiastically and seizing the chance to try and break up the whole welfare state.

Many of those attending, including those from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, pointed to the danger of the rise in racism both from the state and far right groups, which is feeding off the despair created by the economic crisis and the politics of austerity.

A Greek activist pointed to an inspiring example of how this can be challenged when they told of the immigrant workers in the orange fields who went on a successful strike against the mass evictions they faced from their homes. They occupied the city and forced the locality to grant them asylum. The general strike in Greece was bolstered by the participation of immigrant workers.

Some activists spoke of the importance of linking the question of cuts to the other questions that have mobilised people. In Germany this applied most to the anti-nuclear movement. A Swiss activist stated the importance of counterposing ‘their cuts’ with ‘our cuts’, and suggested that British campaigners were in a good position to point out that the war in Afghanistan should be ‘cut’, not services.

Yesterday’s national anti-cuts demonstration organised in response to the spending review showed that campaigners in Britain can indeed lead a movement united in resistance against the ConDem governnment’s austerity plans. If this movement can link up with European-wide resistance, it will make our movement stronger.

Katherine Connelly

Kate Connelly is a writer and historian. She led school student strikes in the British anti-war movement in 2003, co-ordinated the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign in 2013 and is a leading member of Counterfire. She wrote the acclaimed biography, 'Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire' and recently edited and introduced 'A Suffragette in America: Reflections on Prisoners, Pickets and Political Change'.