General strikes sweep Europe

By on November 14, 2012

The people of Europe are angry, very angry — and they’re doing something about it.

On Nov. 14, a European day of “action and solidarity” will take place, called by the European Trade Union Confederation. Unions from 15 countries have already announced strikes, demonstrations and other types of protest, including an unprecedented joint general strike in Spain and Portugal that plans to shut down the entire Iberian Peninsula.

According to the organizers, the protests are directed not only against the governments of each country, but also against institutions of the European Union, which is forcing crushing economic policies on its member nations.

A prelude to what’s coming was shown in Greece on Nov. 6-7. A two-day general strike to protest new austerity measures proposed by the Greek Parliament shut down most of the country, and despite pouring rain and police use of tear gas and water cannons, the strike was accompanied by massive demonstrations, especially by the PAME union confederation, in Athens’ central Syntagma Square.

Nevertheless, the Greek Parliament narrowly passed the newest round of austerity measures, but there are signs that this may be the last such approval. As the debate went on, parliamentary employees themselves found out that they had not been spared from the “reforms,” and they were about to be subject to the wage and allowance cuts introduced for other public sector employees.

An impromptu rebellion followed as one such employee interrupted lawmakers debating the measures and announced that the workers were going on strike. Workers tasked with recording the proceedings stopped taking notes while other Parliament staff filled the house’s hallways shouting protests against the planned changes. One of them called on the lawmakers to get out of the building while others tried to get the attention of pro-capitalist lawmakers as they walked into the building, demanding that they block the amendment.

Following this rebellious display, several members of the ruling coalition expressed doubts that their slim parliamentary majority would survive the elections called for April of next year.

Greek communists call for ‘disobedience’

Aleka Papariga, the general secretary of the Greek Communist Party, has urged members to take up civil disobedience against the country’s government, in an attempt to block its ongoing austerity programs. From the podium in the Parliament, she denounced the state’s repression. Greek workers will participate in the European-wide protests on Nov 14.

Trade union confederations in Italy are also planning actions. The Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) has called a general strike for four hours in the private sector, which will be accompanied by a 24-hour strike in the public sector. General strikes are also expected in Cyprus and Malta.

In France, five trade union confederations have called for mass participation in demonstrations called for 95 regions of the country.

In Belgium, in addition to countrywide symbolic actions, work stoppages are planned in certain areas. According to the Belgian Workers’ Party newspaper, the FGTB trade union confederation will call a general strike in Wallonia, the predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium.

National actions have also been announced in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Croatia, and the German Trade Union Confederation joined the Europewide call, so there will also be demonstrations in Germany.

European workers have good reason to be angry. Within the European Union, 24 million workers are unemployed as the EU economies slog through a disastrous double dip recession initially brought on by the financial crisis of 2008, and exacerbated by the austerity programs forced on workers by the “Troika”: the European Commission (EC), which is the EU’s executive arm; the International Monetary Fund; and the European Central Bank. Still, the EU’s subservient capitalist governments continue to pass crushing austerity measures.

European workers are making it clear that this capitalist crisis is not of their making, and that they will resist the big banks’ offensive aimed at solving the crisis on the backs of the workers.

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