Nationalize big banks and key industries under workers control! The struggle for socialism is the only way out!

On the 24th of March the German parliament has hastily decided how to deal with the “Corona-crisis” and taken far reaching steps: with the support of all parliamentary parties apart from the AfD a supplementary budget including a rescue fund of 600 billion € was passed, already exceeding the first governmental “rescue package” of 2008 (480 billion €).

With this decision the debt limit inscribed in the German constitution is suspended. Together with the suspension of the deficit limits by the EU Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen and the reactivation of the "Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization" (Soffin) of 2008/9, which allows partial nationalizations and state financing of large companies to save the capitalists, the German bourgeoisie is switching to crisis mode at a furious pace and on a historic scale.

A program of social cuts

The suspension of the debt limit and in addition the supplementary budget is no “social reform”, as it is said. What they are really showing is the capitalist state acting according to the principle of “privatizing profits and collectivizing loses”, as they did in the crisis of 2007-2008. The deficit limit is lifted to free the capitalist class of having to pay the price for the economical crisis and of the costs to organize public life during the health crisis. Through the state, these costs are put on the shoulders of the workers. In a few months, as it has happened in the last crisis, they will use the grown state deficit to again justify austerity and cuts against the working class.

This, and the attempt not to increase the dependence on China any further, is the reason why Jens Spahn (CDU, minister for health) is coordinating the production of protective equipment in disused parts of the car industry and neoliberals like Olaf Scholz (SPD) speak of partial nationalizations for a limited period of time.

We know this kind of state interventions, as we have seen it through the 2008 crisis. Back then, the German KfW bank – which now got responsible for granting the loans to large corporations – bought up bankrupt banks like the IKB for several billion euros (1.2 billion of which was taxpayers' money), only to sell them to the US investment company Lone Star for the ridiculous price of 137 million euros after the crisis!

The little measures adopted for the working class and poor, such as the simplified application for housing benefit that has to be paid back, or the idea of maybe increasing the wage of short-time work with the help of state funds and no obligations for the bosses, are tiny breadcrumbs. They adopt these measures too to try to avoid a social explosion, at the same time giving most of the state money to save the capitalist profits. While hundreds of billions are being mobilized for big banks and corporations, short-time work (i.e. wage cuts subsidized by taxpayers' money) has been drastically extended in companies, impoverishing the workers. In order to make this possible, the German government has further deregulated the conditions for applying for short-time work in its "rescue package", and has even made it possible for corporations to apply for short-time work for temporary workers. On the other hand, while they are reducing working hours and wages, they decided to extend the limit of the working week to 60 hours and of the daily working day to 12 hours, also taking away the benefits for working on Sundays and on legal holidays.A contradiction that under capitalism makes sense: to increase corporate profits at the cost of increasing the exploitation of the working class.

The results are alarming: while official estimations assume just over 2.3 million short-time workers in 2020, in March alone 470,000 companies announced short-time work – 20 times more than at the record high in the last global economic crisis. The reason why short work and wage cuts are extended is to ensure that while production capacities are reduced, the profits of corporations do not flow into the wages of workers but into the dividends of owners. Only this month 44 billion Euro dividends will be paid out to the owners of the 100 leading German corporations!

Until now, there is no attempt of real social investments. Instead, the ideology of "flatten the curve" has been adopted to manage the corona pandemic without qualitatively expanding health care capacities and reinforcing a 100% public health system to guarantee equality in the attention to the population. In an internal paper of the Ministry of the Interior, published at the end of March, it is proposed "to keep the finances of the municipalities stable [at the present time]", meaning to continue with an austerity course in the health system and the social services at the same time they give thousands of millions to the banks and big capitalists.

There is also no change in the general trend of reducing hospital beds and privatizing hospitals and all the services associated to them (cleaning, cocking, etc.) to make profitable business as it has happened for many years now under the governments of CDU, SPD, FDP and the Greens. Instead, the Schön-Klinik hospital in Hamburg has just on the 27th of March announced short-time work for its staff! Society needs all this resources, but they don’t have any problem to continue cutting.

It is not a Corona crisis, but a capitalist crisis!

In the recent weeks we could observe how the direct consequences of the epidemic (the collapse of demand due to the restrictions on public life, the blockage of production chains, the piecemeal closure of international trade centres) have hit a seriously sick capitalist system. Even when Corona was "only" a small, local virus in the Chinese province of Hubei, large parts of the world economy were already stagnating and pointing to a new capitalist crisis. Germany practically plunged back into recession as early as 2019.

The problem is that the capitalist system has been incapable to solve the overproduction crisis of 2007-2008. Productive investment in Germany has been low since 2008 and the financial markets and real estate sector have again been massively overvalued, developing new and bigger speculative bubbles. At the same time, the wealth of the rich has continued to grow. The parasitic character of capitalism today is becoming increasingly apparent.

With the collapse of the world market, the crisis of the German economy will deepen. In recent years, the German foreign export quota has been over 70 percent. Of the approximately 1.3 trillion euros worth of goods that Germany exported in 2018, goods worth over 900 billion went to Europe, 778.64 billion of which went to the EU. German exports had already fallen noticeably last summer. The massive economic slump in the US, the weakening of Chinese economy compared to the last crisis and the possibility of a disintegration of the EU will place Germany in a more difficult situation than in 2008.

German imperialism

For many years German politicians have been talking about expanding Germany's military capacities. One day after the parliament decided on the rescue package, it was also decided to expand the deployment of German soldiers in Iraq for an additional 54.3 million euros. Allegedly, this is to further curb the "growth of the IS". In reality, this decision is an expression of the fact that the German government is also preparing itself for an increasing competition for military and geostrategic influence worldwide.

On a world scale, Germany is lurching between the interests of China and the US. Although Germany is still much closer economically to the United States, a conflict over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline developed even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, which the US government wanted to prevent by all means. The permanent tensions with the Trump government are a clear reflection of this situation; a tendency that will intensify with the deep crisis in which the capitalist system is entering and with China's rise against declining US imperialism. The strong decline of Europe in the international scene reflects all this weakness.

Where are DIE LINKE and the unions heading?

We are witnessing the attempt of the bosses to shift their crisis onto the shoulders of the working class. They are taking advantage of the political situation that has developed with the Corona pandemic. From the car industry to Airbus, thousands of jobs were to be cut even before the crash. ThyssenKrupp, where the official representatives of IG Metall have now agreed with the bosses to cut 3,000 jobs, is now the first example of job cuts in the "corona crisis". It will not be the last. Millions will have to adjust to wage losses, short-time work and unemployment.

This is the background to the shameful surrender policy and concessions that the union leaders have put forward, signing with the federal government and employers' representatives agreements in recent weeks to save the profits of the capitalists with the cost of impoverishing massively the working class. At the local level we are also observing how the union leaderships are handling one collective bargaining conflict after another, in an isolated way, wanting to nip struggles in the bud.

In the metals sector, with hundreds of thousands of jobs in Germany, already before the pandemic the union announced that they would be going into the collective bargaining, only demanding jobs not to be cut and no raise of wages. Now, in the end of March, the representatives of the IG Metall in Northrhine-Westphalia have already agreed with the bosses on a “crisis package” of a wage increase of 0%, which will not even compensate for inflation, and of extra money for the short-workers, which is paid out of the Christmas and holiday bonuses of the workers plus 350€ paid by the company for each fulltime worker as a “solidarity fund”. Instead of using their huge corporate profits of all these years to guarantee these subsidies, they put most of them on the shoulders of the workers salaries, freeing the big corporations of assuming this responsibility. While the nationwide collective bargaining in the metals sector was halted “due to the corona pandemia”, the other regions of Germany are now orientating their agreements on the result of Northrine-Westphalia. The leadership of the unions didn’t put forward any battle against all these cuts against the working class, assuming the logic of the government and the bosses, and acting as mere administrators of the plans of the companies. However, as job cuts and short-time work increase, dissatisfaction and anger with this policy will increase amongst the workforce.

No less responsibility is held by the leadership of DIE LINKE. In the face of the biggest economic crisis since 1929 and a worldwide pandemic that is hitting a health care system that was destroyed by the massive austerity measures of the German bourgeoisie, the leadership of DIE LINKE declared its support and voted for the measures of the federal government in favor of the banks and the big corporations. Arguing that DIE LINKE would later negotiate on its social content and that the “rescue package” would also benefit small businesses and people working in the cultural scene is a mock and a gross lie. Instead of launching a fundamental attack on the class struggle from above, denouncing that the plan is designed to save capitalist profits, they have decided to adopt the speech of national unity endorsing the actions of the government, leaving space for the extreme right demagogy of the AfD, that voted against the package and is preparing to benefit of the rising social anger in the future.

The growth of class struggle and political polarization

We’re not facing a normal economic crisis. In the coming years, political polarization – driven by the growing intensity of class contradiction – will reach a new quality. Large sections of the middle classes impoverished by the crisis will oscillate between left and right, and even more importantly, in the face of the threat of job cuts, the core workforces of German industry may also start moving. We have to prepare for a great shock between the classes. The support that the German government could build, with the help of the leaders of the unions and DIE LINKE through a national unity policy, like in 1914 with the SPD, will not last and will give way to rage and class struggle.
The fact that the ruling elites know this is the only reason why they increasingly have to resort to bonapartist measures. We saw this in the last police laws and the shift to the right within the CDU, and we can see it now, where due to the "fight against Corona" the tracking of mobile phone data is expanded and 32,000 soldiers have been made available to the municipalities.

“In great battles, a revolutionary does not ask what will happen in case of defeat, but what must be done to achieve victory.”

Socialism is the only way out!

The economic depression and the corona pandemic inevitably put a profit-oriented economic system before a debacle – which will be saved: working class and their livelihood, or the profits of the ruling class? The bourgeois state and its institutions serve the banks and big corporations, worrying only, as we see, about saving their profits. Instead of seeking compromise with them, as the leadership of DIE LINKE and trade unions do, we must rely on our own strength in the organization and fight of the working class and the oppressed. Only we can take it into our hands to assert our interests and to organize society in favor of its majority, fighting for a class and combative unionism, that does not assume the capitalist logic of austerity and cuts; for the preservation of all jobs and the implementation of all necessary safety measures against corona, as well as a production stop in all areas not relevant for the urgent supply with full wage compensation.

A profit-oriented economic system will always stand in our way. The current economic and health crisis proves that only a democratically planned and socialist economy can ensure that our interests and needs are fulfilled. In order to regain control of the economy and confront the social catastrophe, we need a Marxist programme for the nationalisation of the large key industries and banks under democratic control of the workers and a socialist plan of production that puts the living conditions of the working population and youth first. That is why we are building and we have to build a revolutionary Marxist party of the working class which will enter the struggles ahead.

There has never been a better time to get into Marxism and become active! Get organized in the ranks of “Marxistische Organisation Offensiv” and the International Revolutionary Left!