Accelerating chaos, evolving struggles

24 April, 2020 · News> Global situation> Weekly Report

European videossummit yesterday

This week we published on the contradictions of the EU, the development of authoritarianism and social surveillance, the caída del petróleoslump in oil prices and the strikes in the Mexican maquilas. A rather vivid picture of the acceleration of the chaos we are experiencing, the scale of which has only begun to be seen in the media when the UN started to warn about the coming famine, which will affect more than 136 million people.

Europe is moving… towards disintegration

If one were to listen to the Spanish economic press this morning, both the government-aligned and conservative press, the EU would have launched a programme of historic dimensions based on Sánchez’s idea of an increase in EU spending of 1.5 trillion euros financed by “eternal debt”. But one only needed to go check out the German public TV to find out that, in the words of a German diplomat, “the Spanish have always had a lot of imagination”. Austria, the Netherlands and others insist that the money must be returned, Germany that it cannot go to “dying industries” Such as tourism? France, whose leading press headlines say the EU is further away from an agreement than ever before, stresses with Macron that “transfers, not credits, are necessary”. In the Italian press it is clear that all the presidents and prime ministers have done is to hand over the hot potato to Von der Leyen without having come close to a common position; and that, in the best case scenario, not a single euro will be seen for the rest of the year.

Fiscal responses by country.

With GDP falling by 9-15% in 2020, it is clear what “kicking the can down the road” means and why all sources claim Macron was “depressed”. The volume of national rescue plans so far has not reflected, when ordered by country, the different health and economic impact of the covid on each. On the contrary, it has drawn the line between beneficiaries and victims of the euro system. The longer it takes for the measures to be approved and implemented, the greater the relative effects will be. In other words, the “Nordist” countries are in no hurry. A few months of waiting will consolidate their power in the EU and if state indebtedness is finally imposed, this gap will be widened. Let’s not even talk about the “details” such as taxation or the definition of sectors to benefit, whose impact on workers in the countries of the South can be dramatic in terms of both purchasing power and unemployment.

Macron’s admonitions issued from the Financial Times a week ago now seem even more realistic. The EU will, in one way or another, accelerate its disintegration. The interests of the various national capitals are simply moving from conflicting to antagonistic. And the ongoing recession can only aggravate the result.

Turkey regains prominence

“Yavuz”, Turkish gas exploration ship now in waters in conflict with Cyprus.

A topic also covered by the video summit and “curiously” only reflected in the Cypriot and Greek press is the request by both countries for the EU to send “a clear message to Turkey”. In January, when Turkey announced that it would put out to tender the exploitation of extraction platforms in waters also claimed by Cyprus and Greece, Mitzotakis threatened a military response. Now it is Erdogan who is increasing the military pressure while doubling the presence of his exploration ships.

Tripoli government troops celebrate gaining 500km2 from Haftar’s army.

The fact is that Erdogan is succeeding in getting out of the internal crisis to which the bottleneck in his imperialist policy had led, using the Covid shutdown to move it forward. Just when it seemed that Haftar was about to conquer Tripoli, the tables began to turn to the surprise of Berlin and Paris. Not even the sending of Syrian troops through Russia could stop the sudden advance of the Muslim Brotherhood government.

The miracle? Turkish air support and the ability of its navy and merchant marine to, with Italian help, overcome the European blockade. Today Turkey is the clear winner and there is already speculation of a withdrawal of Haftar to its bases in Cyrenaica. But under the more or less passive Italian help a greater threat lies hidden: that the intra-European conflict will be increasingly projected into the wars that surround the continent. The withdrawal of Italian troops from the NATO force in Lithuania and the new messages from Russian diplomacy seem to indicate that Russia is aware of the opportunity this would present for its interests in the East.

The decomposition of Bolsonarism

Bolsonaro harangues a pro-coup demonstration.

In Brazil the “soft coup” of the military faction is unfolding on a daily basis as Bolsonaro wastes away in confrontations with the heart of the state apparatus and the judiciary.

At this point, the only space for the president to assert himself, relegated to a decorative function by the military itself, are… the demonstrations of those in favor of handing over power to the army. In other words, every attempt to assert himself politically ties Bolsonaro even more to the main force that erodes his power. Thus the dismissal of the Minister of Health could only end with the handing over of health management to the military commanders.

But the coup de grâce came with the fall of the real. The military took command of the economic shock plan without even consulting Guedes, the minister who represents at the same time the pro-US core of the government and its program of direct attack on working conditions. With Guedes marginalized and his evangelical bases thrown into the arms of the military, all that remained for Bolsonaro was to appeal to the urban petty bourgeoisie mobilized at the time against the corruptions of Lula and the PT. The problem is that Judge Moro, the one who jailed Lula, who has now become Minister of Justice, openly threatens to resign after Bolsonaro dismissed the chief of police… who was investigating his sons.

But if anyone thought that the covert military government that is consolidating power could somehow mean a softening of Bolsonaro’s attacks on the living conditions of the workers, the new commanders have been in a hurry to prove him wrong. The federal government will no longer anticipate the emergency assistance that states provide to informal workers during confinement… so as not to increase their indebtedness. The immediate result is predictable. The catastrophic situation in Manaus, “on the verge of barbarism” as the mayor said, crying to the press while Bolsonaro mocked the gravediggers of the Amazon capital, provides an example. It was of little use to the mayor to make his requests directly to the vice president, General Mourao, nor that the new chief of the health department is the former military chief of the Amazon. The military, now that they have the economy in their hands and a headwind of falling oil prices, are no less anti-human than the state and the Brazilian capital they defend.

Acceleration of chaos, evolution of struggles



But as chaos accelerated around the world, workers’ struggles also multiplied and gained strength, as we see in the map above.

Where, as in Brazil or Mexico, the epidemic is still in its upward phase, the slogans affirm first and foremost the need to save lives, not investments. In countries where the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed, strikes are incorporating wage demands and facing layoffs from the previous stage. A continuity is therefore beginning to emerge between the “covid strikes” and the struggles against the “recovery measures” to come.

An important fact: never in the last twenty years have we seen such an accumulation in time of “wildcat strikes”, that is to say, struggles that, in order to assert themselves, break with union control. Never either, had the extension and coordination of struggles across borders been so urgent. The example of Mexico, once again, must be kept in mind. A few years of crucial and intense struggles are coming. And we must be useful to their advancement.

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