Protest mobilization in Vienna. (Photo: via KJO Steiermark)
Europe has been experiencing a prolonged spell of crises, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by the ongoing wars, austerity social policies, and ruthless profiteering by business corporations. Several countries across Europe are witnessing double digit inflation rates, energy shortages, widespread social unrest, and deepening inequality. Far-right groups have been exploiting the popular outrage against the policies of neoliberal governments in the region by escalating hate mongering against refugees and minorities.
Working class people across Europe have been taking to the streets to demand solutions to the crises. Workers are calling for a hike in wages and pensions at par with the soaring inflation, an immediate end to ongoing wars, the abolition of VAT on energy and essential food items, and added taxes on multinational corporations indulging in crony profiteering even amid the crisis.
Organizations of the youth across Europe have been at the forefront of recent mobilizations in response to the crises and the challenges faced by the youth and the larger public.
“Neither land nor water to the murderers of the people”
On Tuesday, February 21, the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) organized parallel mobilizations in the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki to protest the two-day visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken from February 20 to 21. According to reports, Blinken visited Greece to launch the 4th Greece-US Strategic Dialogue. The protesters marched to the US embassy in Athens and the US consulate in Thessaloniki, raising slogans like “Neither land nor water to the murderers of the people.” They demanded that the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government end Greece’s participation in the imperialist war in Ukraine and disengage from the militaristic ventures of the US and NATO.
Greece has become a major strategic partner of the US in the region and many Greek ports have been turned into strategic stopover points for NATO warships. On multiple occasions, Greek communists have protested against the entry of warships into Greek waters and also denounced the transit of arms and ammunition destined for Ukraine through Greek territory.
Florence is anti-fascist!
A massive anti-fascist rally took place in the Italian city of Florence on Tuesday evening, at which student-youth groups including the Communist Youth Front (FGC) and communist-leftist parties like Potere al Popolo (Power to People), protested the attack on students of the Pascoli and Michelangelo schools by a group of fascists.
On February 18, members of Student Action (AS)—affiliated to the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI), the party of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni—had brutally attacked three students at the Michelangelo School gate. Protesters on Tuesday demanded action against the perpetrators and a ban on neo-fascist groups in the country.
The FGC said that attacks on students and other, similar fascist attacks were only possible due the ruling right-wing government, which resorts to war-mongering, continues to ostracize refugees, and tries to suppress the struggles of the working class.
Eat the Rich!
On February 16, the Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) and other radical working class groups in Austria protested at the Vienna State Opera House in the capital, which hosted the Vienna Opera Ball 2023, an elitist annual cultural event attended exclusively by affluent people, including business people and politicians. According to the KJO, “while 90% of the Austrian population suffer from inflation, the elites are celebrating by spending an average annual salary in one evening. The Opera Ball is used to do business, among others by and with senior members of government. We set a clear sign against it. #EatTheRich.”
Meanwhile, the Jugend Front, a youth group affiliated to the Austrian Party of Labor (PdA), has been organizing a lecture series as well as campaigns across major Austrian cities on the theme ‘Not freezing for their wars!’ in protest against the war and profiteering by energy monopolies, which have pushed Europe into an energy crisis.
Up against the pension reforms!
In France, left-wing youth groups like the Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF) and the Rebellious Youth are busy organizing and mobilizing to continue the working class protests against the controversial pension reforms proposed by Emmanuel Macron’s government. Massive demonstrations and strikes began across France on January 19 against a controversial bill that would raise the legal retirement age in the country from 62 to 64. Since then, over a million people have participated in the mobilizations organized against the bill. The protests have also seen a huge turnout from the youth. The MJCF and others are now mobilizing for upcoming protests on March 7.
Resist the falsification of history!
Amidst these crises, neo-Nazi groups have been actively organizing events glorifying Nazi criminals and collaborators by falsifying history. These groups have attempted to manipulate the memory of the collateral damage suffered during World War II by equating the Nazi terror with fatalities inflicted by the Allied Forces, including the Soviet Union. On February 11, 12, and 13, members of the Socialist German Workers Youth (SDAJ) protested the neo-Nazi ‘mourning’ for the victims of the Dresden bombing during World War II, undertaken by the Allied forces to disrupt one of the key hubs supplying the Nazi war engine. The SDAJ also hosted an anti-fascist city tour in Dresden, commemorating resistance fighters who opposed Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
On February 10, the Communist Youth Front (FGC) from Italy, the Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) from Serbia, and the Young Socialists in Croatia (MSH) had issued a joint statement protesting bids by hyper-nationalist sections in Italy to propagate a narrative of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Italians by Yugoslav partisans in the then Italian territories of Istria and Dalmatia during World War II.
Solidarity is in our blood
In Greece, in response to a call by communist trade union All Workers Militant Front (PAME), hundreds of young Greeks donated blood at the Hall of the Association of Commercial Employees of Athens on February 13, to be sent to people of Turkey and Syria injured in the deadly earthquake.
Various left-wing youth groups across Europe had given calls to provide relief and support to the victims of the earthquake, and demanded the lifting of all sanctions imposed on Syria. Young volunteers from the Greek working class have already reached Turkey to deliver aid and relief material collected from cities across the country.
Young cadres from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and leftist youth groups like the Syrian Democratic Youth Union (SDYU), the Syrian Communist Youth Union-Khalid Bakdash, and the youth wing of the People’s Will Party are also actively engaged in rescue and relief activities in Turkey and Syria. Young communists in Jordan and volunteers from the Lebanese Democratic Youth Union (UJDL) are also organizing drives to collect relief material to send to Syria and Turkey.