By Andrew Brady
Yesterday’s European unemployment figures are truly devastating. There’s no other word that can encapsulate the broken dreams and hardships that tens of millions of people across the continent of Europe are enduring.
The Eurozone unemployment rate hit a new record high of 11.8% in November leaving some 18.82 million people out of work just in the euro area. Compared with October 2012, the number of persons unemployed increased by 154 000 in the EU-27 and by 113 000 in the euro area. In early 2000, just less than 20 million persons were unemployed in the EU-27, slightly below 9 % of the work force.
26 million men and women are now out of work across the whole of Europe with the highest rates in Spain (26.6%) and in Greece where the most recent data shows a 26.0% rate in September 2012.
The even more glaring figure is when you actually strip these figures back and look at the youth jobless crisis in Europe. It continues to worsen. The youth unemployment rate in the Eurozone is now 24.4%, up from 23.9% the previous month. The highest rates are in Greece (57.6% in September 2012) and Spain (56.5%). The youth unemployment rate in the EU-27 was around twice as high as the rate for the total population throughout the last decade.
The EU-27 youth unemployment rate was systematically higher than in the euro area between 2000 and early 2008. Since then the two figures were very close until mid-2010, when the EU-27 youth unemployment rate started to increase more strongly than that of the Eurozone. So this isn’t just a Eurozone problem as the elitist Tories and Lib Dem lap-dogs in the UK would have you believe.
Now this can seem like an endless stream of figures and perhaps a desensitizing process can occur as we read these figures month after month and year after year. Perhaps. But as we start a New Year it’s time to get angry – and it includes me – to get angry about the devastation which is being deliberately unleashed in communities and countries across Europe and beyond.
To be angry about the divide and rule tactics pitting worker against workers, public sector against private, and employed against the unemployed. To be angry at the fermentation of the politics of envy in the working classes and underclass by the Right Wing and their acolytes in the slavish unquestioning media (with notable exceptions).
We have heard the General Secretary of Unite the Union, Len McCluskey; previously talk about ‘direct action’ due to the ideological attacks and devastation being unleashed on the labour movement but more importantly poorer communities. As per usual this was completely misconstrued and spun as an attempt to bring chaos to the streets. A diversionary tactic to obfuscate the chaos being brought to young peoples’ hearts, minds and ambitions for the future. They would far rather the working classes and unemployed look inwards and blame each other about who deserves what and how much someone is screwing the benefits system which in the grand scheme of things is inconsequential and they are few rather than concentrating on the rotten and corrupt companies abusing the tax system such Amazon and the elites such as in Greece
The labour movements will be meeting across Europe soon to discuss the responses they have and are formulating and articulating to fight for another way – and we will return to this in the future. But first let’s ensure we (re) stir our own consciences and get angry.
I leave you with the words of Frantz Fanon writing ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ who attempted to awaken the minds of those suffering under the cloak of colonialism and the tactics of the colonial powers to divide and rule. It was a different time in many respects but the words clearly resonate today: “Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organised and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without that struggle, without that knowledge of the practice of action, there’s nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets. There’s nothing save a minimum of readaption, a few reforms at the top, a flag-waving: and down there at the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the Middle Ages, endlessly marking time”.
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