Enormous inflation rates are burdening workers and employees , as well as small self-employed producers, not only in Austria, but in many parts of Europe. In Austria, the official inflation rate is just under nine percent. Since wages are not rising, this is the most drastic loss of wages in decades!
With often ridiculous alibi measures (like one-time payments) various governments want to escape responsibility, the word wage increases can hardly be found in mainstream media and out of the mouths of the rulers anyway. Just as inflation is presented as "inevitable," massive indirect wage cuts are also titled as "necessary." For the workers and employees, however, it is a matter of exposing this fraud and fighting against the devaluation of the wages for their work.
For months now, workers in many countries have been fighting against inflation. A particularly impressive example is the strikes by railroad workers in Great Britain, which have paralyzed large parts of the country since the end of June. Over 40,000 workers and employees took part in the strikes and in demonstrations. One of their most important demands: an increase in wages . The bosses of the rail workers (since the privatization of British Rail in the early 1990s, British rail transport has been run by several private companies) want to pay a wage "increase" of three percent maximum. Given the official inflation rate of almost ten percent (and rising), this represents a precipitous drop in wages. The RMT union leadership, which is leading the strike, is demanding an eight percent wage increase. The british Rail workers, even with an eight percent wage increase, will thus be cheated out of part of their wages. It was the largest rail workers' strike in Britain in more than 30 years. As the employers continue to oppose the workers' demands, they will resort to further measures of struggle. One result of the first days of strike action in June, which was not insignificant, was that it set an example for other industries: Now public sector employees are also on strike, as are workers at the British postal service.
Great Britain is not the only example where strikes are being used to fight wage cuts. In Turkey, workers have been fighting for months against the consequences of 70% inflation. In Germany, dockworkers at the main ports are now on strike for wage increases, among other things. In Sri Lanka, a country where massive inflation has caused supply shortages, protesters in their tens of thousands overthrew the president and occupied his palace.
It should be emphasized with regard to the issue of wages that many governments in Europe have introduced so-called "price caps" for individual goods or energy sources, while strikes for wage demands are usually vehemently rejected. Even voices in the ÖVP are now calling for a price cap on energy.
Why is a "price cap" more acceptable to the rulers than, say, wage increases? Inflation does not fall from the sky, but develops from the laws of capitalism itself (not without reason there has not been a period without inflation in the last 70 years!). Contrary to the claims of the rulers and their economists, it is not a question of whether there is "too much" of goods and commodities. Inflation is mainly a question of overproduction of capital, an accumulation of capital seeking investment opportunities. If price caps are introduced on individual products, these laws do not become superfluous, but result in the "compensation" being paid out of tax money, or in prices then exploding when the price cap is lifted again. A price cap can also result in even more rapid price increases in areas where no cap is introduced, i.e. other goods become even more expensive. Wages, on the other hand, are the part where capitalists and entrepreneurs can "save" the most, because they are the most "flexible". Inflation means cheating workers and employees out of part of their wages. The wage question is thus a main lever for the immediate demands of the workers to beat back this fraud and not to accept any lowering of their living standards.
However, even wage demands and successful struggles of the working class against this fraud will not be able to eliminate inflation, because it is a product of the capitalist mode of economy. For workers and employees, the struggle against inflation and expensiveness is therefore closely linked to the struggle for socialist revolution, and they must also fight for political power in the state. Otherwise, inflation and expensiveness will always be used as an instrument to deepen the exploitation of the masses.
Image source: Anti-Tory demonstration in London on June 18th (Photo: via Stíofán Uí Néill), DD BY-SA 4.0 peoplesdispatch.org