“Let’s Unite against the Austerity Programmes!”

Joint Social Conference and Coalition of Resistance gathered in London

On 30 September, a seminar entitled “The Public Debt Trap – Is there a Democratic Way out of it?”, which was organised by the Joint Social Conference in co-operation with the British Coalition of Resistance (CoR), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Transnational Institute (TNI), took place on the premises of the London New Economic Foundation. 

The Joint Social Conference is an initiative founded in the context of the European Social Forum in Malmoe (2008). Its objective is to bring together representatives of trade unions and social movements to develop common demands and strategies. transform! europe has since the beginnings of the Joint Social Conference been an integral part of its Initiative Committee. For the London seminar it was responsible for the organisation of the first work unit about the general assessment of the current crisis in Europe. Johannes Jaeger (Fachhochschule of the BFI Wien / College of the Institute for the Advancement in Professional Life Vienna) held a speech about the general theoretical assessment of the crisis, Steffen Lehndorff (University of Duisburg-Essen) spoke about Germany’s special role in the crisis and Walter Baier (transform! europe) talked about “Debt, Austerity and Nationalism”.

In the second work unit trade unionists (among them the General Secretary of CGTP-Intersindical, Portugal), academics (among them Elena Papadopoulou, Nicos Poulantzas Institute, Greece) and representatives of social movements from Spain, Italy, Ireland, Poland and the UK reported on forthcoming mobilisations.
The seminar was concluded with a work unit dedicated to alternatives and strategies which was introduced with a speech by Roland Jansen (ETUC/ ETUI) on the assessment of the austerity programmes on behalf of the European trade unions. In this context, also Myriam Bourgy (Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt / CADTM) presented the CADTM’s campaign for auditing the public debt of Greece and other countries. The day was concluded with a speech by Michel Husson, member of the Scientific Advisory Council of ATTAC-France, on the question “Is the Debt a National Issue or a Social one?”
The continuation to these debates is scheduled for the second annual convention of the Joint Social Conference which will take place in Bucharest on 22 October.

On the initiative of the Coalition of Resistance, 500 people came together on 1 October for the Conference against Austerity and Cut-Backs. This conference was all about the preparation of the strike in the UK on 30 November which is so far supported by 22 British trade unions.

The final declaration of the seminar reflects what had already been the gist of a series of panel discussions and workshops: “Throughout Europe people are fighting back. They are determined to defend their societies and to overturn the barbarism of austerity. Our aim is to help unite these struggles. We need a common European front to defend the peoples of Europe. We are committed to opposing all cuts, privatization and attacks on the welfare state and to build solidarity with resistance to these attacks. We also pledge to work towards a common day of action against austerity in 2012 and call on the trade union movement across Europe to prepare a day of industrial action against austerity.”

Find on the right side the powerpoint presentation of Johannes Jaeger (Fachhochschule of the BFI Wien / College of the Institute for the Advancement in Professional Life Vienna) and Steffen Lehndorff (University of Duisburg-Essen)