Saturday, October 2, 2010

the fightback

Three days ago (29 September), the first general strike in Spain in eight years coincided with a general call-out from the European Trade Union Confederation to protest Eurozone austerity programs. The strike, although limited in time, was evidently strong and effective, and union actions and protest demos took place in many European capitals  - including Brussels, where 100,000 workers took to the streets.

As usual, state and corporate media reports offered a striking demonstration of their own - of their own spectacular biases. Following a Reuters news wire, most media outlets led with the assertion that "tens of thousands" of protesters had demonstrated across Europe. You would have had to work hard to learn that there were 50,000 in Lisbon alone -- or that demos or strike actions or both took place in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

In one of the rare reports that did not go out of its way to discount and dismiss what happened, Deutsche Welle admitted that in Spain the general strike "hit Spanish industry and transportation hard" and that some sectors of industry were "paralyzed." Indeed, Spanish workers refuted repeated predictions from above that turnout to the strike would be poor: in the event, millions of workers - perhaps as many as 10 million - withheld their labor-power. The UGT trade union confederation claims 70 percent of its members participated, and that in the steel and energy sectors "almost all employees had taken part."

In Slovenia, public sector workers continued an open-ended strike in the face of a two-year pay freeze. In Dublin, a cement worker drove his truck into the front gate of Parliament; across the drum was painted TOXIC BANK ANGLO. In Greece striking dockworkers shut down ports, public transport workers shut down the Athens Metro, and public hospitals had to rely on emergency staffing as doctors went out on strike.

This weekend, ports across France will continue to be shut down by strikes that began on Friday (1 October). Demos today will protest pension "reform."

All this despite the message relentlessly broadcast from on high: there is no alternative, there is no alternative, be resigned to it, you really are resigned, everyone else is and so are you, yes you are, repeat after us...

The markets, it is true, did not register much panic. But European workers know that increasing the pressure is the only way to force capital's technocrats to back down. If those targeted for immiseration are resolved and follow up on this good start, they will shift the balance of forces. Then we'll see.

Collective self-defense against planned austerity is the counter-order of the day. Specific concessions are surely winnable. But just as surely, there will be no security for anyone until the whole global context of austerity is called more radically to account. An injury to one, as the black cat knows, is an injury to all...


  1. Really excellent text, and you're totally write about the news blackout - almost nothing was said about the strikes here in the US. Thanks for the big picture.

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