Europe Against Austerity brought together hundreds of activists from across the continent to discuss the crisis, alternatives, and co-ordinated resistance to cuts. Alex Snowdon reports.
Saturday's Europe Against Austerity conference launched a call for international anti-cuts co-ordination. The event at London's Camden Centre, organised by Coalition of Resistance, was addressed by speakers from a wide range of left wing, anti-capitalist and labour movement groups from across Europe. 681 people attended, including 150 international delegates.
The conference took place against the backdrop of a worsening crisis in the Eurozone, with contagion in the continent's financial system and the prospect of imminent debt default in Greece. Governments are committed to cuts and privatisation to make the vast majority of people pay for this crisis.
Greek trade union activists spoke of the social misery inflicted on their country, but also the explosive resistance in the form of demonstrations and strikes. There were speeches from leading activists in Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere. This was the first major event to bring together anti-cuts groups from across the continent to discuss the crisis we face, alternative solutions, and how to build effective resistance.
UK activists talked about 30 November as a chance for a festival of resistance, a day for the whole movement which unites trade unionists with everyone else who is affected by cuts. Other speakers, including from Spain, talked about the experience of mass protests by 'the indignant' and the need to connect such street demonstrations and occupations with the union movement.
Olivier Besancenot, leading New Anticapitalist Party member and a former French presidential candidate, said: "The movements must converge - we must make solidarity with the struggles of the indignant. Today creates new possibilities. Be more radical than we can imagine because the stakes are so high."
Participants agreed a statement which stresses that the current crisis affects the whole of Europe and the need for an alternative economic strategy. It also pledges support for a number of upcoming demonstrations, plus a co-ordinated day of action in early 2012. It calls on European trade unions to co-ordinate strike action.
Workshops throughout the afternoon addressed a wide range of topics, from the roots of the crisis to imperialism and austerity, from youth movements to the defence of public health care. The level of political discussion was strikingly high, with international perspectives and numerous connections between different campaigns and issues. A recurring theme was the need to articulate alternative economic demands, such as a people's debt audit for countries threatened with default and - across Europe - greater public investment to create jobs and growth.
The conference was an important part of a landmark weekend for the anti-cuts movement, with 15,000 demonstrating in Glasgow and at least 35,000 outside Tory Party Conference in Manchester. As we face a deepening international crisis, the need for co-ordination of mass action becomes more urgent.
Video of speeches at the conference will follow.
Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union. He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).
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