General strikes sweep Europe
By Gene Clancy
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
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
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
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.