Tagged: crisis

Greek People Turn Out to Refuse Merkel's 'Tough Path'


Police try to disperse protesters during (Reuters/Grigoris Siamidis)

Greek protesters came out in full force in the streets of Athens today as German Chancellor Angela Merkel came and went to discuss further „painful“ budget cuts the country will now endure to win favor with EU bankers. Modest estimates put the number of anti-austerity, anti-Merkel protesters at 50,000, who marched throughout the city, some facing clashes with riot police throughout the day.

In Merkel’s first visit to Greece since its debt crisis erupted three years ago, she met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to finalize a $17.45 billion austerity program including pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions

Meanwhile, protesters who filled Syntagma Square across from Parliament held signs that read „You are not welcome, Imperialisten Raus“ (Imperialists out) and „No to the Fourth Reich.“ Police fired teargas and stun grenades into the increasingly restless crowd who chanted anti-austerity slogans, while Samaras welcomed Merkel as a „friend“ of Greece.

Merkel has continually pushed for the extreme austerity measures in the recession torn country before the Troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) will give a $38.8 billion installment of bank bailout loans as well as a pending second bailout of $173 billion.

Merkel stated today, „I am deeply convinced that this tough path is worth it and Germany wants to be a good partner.“ And Samaras added, „The Greek people are bleeding right now, but they are determined to win the battle of competitiveness.“

Speaking to the rally in Syntagma Square, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said, “Merkel is here to support the ‘Merkelites’ of Greece: Samaras, Venizelos and Kouvelis,” Tsipras said. He added that, “The Europe of peoples will triumph over the Europe of memorandums and barbarism…The democratic tradition of Europe will not allow a European people, the Greek people, to become a guinea pig of the crisis and to turn Greece into a vast social graveyard.”

As the protest grew throughout the day clashes between protesters and police lead to at least 30 protester injuries and about 300 arrests, police said.

Some 7,000 police officers were deployed for the six-hour visit, including anti-terrorist units and rooftop snipers.

Riot police arrest a demonstrator during clashes in front of the parliament in Athens,

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)


Confronting the EU “Oligarchy of Governments”. Joining Forces for Another Europe

By Tommaso Fattori

In Europe we are living in particularly dramatic times. Democracy is in death-agony and we are witnessing post-democratic processes taking over at the national and supranational level. EU leaders have further concentrated decision-making power on public and fiscal policies in the hands of an oligarchy of governments, technocrats and the European Central Bank (ECB), which are subject to the dictates of the financial markets. Neoliberalism, the real cause of the crisis, not only is not dead, but it appears to be in perfect health: it uses the crisis to destroy social rights and workers’ rights and to privatize commons, public goods and public services.

Finally, the most incredible propaganda operation of our times is in full swing, in which states and ‘markets’ try to make people believe that public debt was caused by excessive social spending and high salaries. In fact the financial sector caused the crisis and the fiscal deficit in the EU is the result of the crisis, not its cause.

A moment like this needs a strong social answer: it is urgent to act now, uniting our forces, creating the conditions for a common social response, for a pan-European mobilization. There is an objective need to build a European space of ‘strategic alliances’: in order to elaborate common strategies and initiatives and to rebuild solidarity. When the attack on Greece by the great economic powers and the ‘troika’ [the International Monetary Fund, the European commission and the ECB] began, we, in Europe, were unable to organize a social response. Rather, each stayed wrapped up in their own crisis and their own national dimension, leaving the Greeks alone. It must never happen again.

Beyond Fragmentation

We must go beyond the current fragmentation of our forces. Most of the time, we agree on analysis and proposals – now in Europe we have hundreds of similar documents, calls, statements which are a good basis for a common platform – but we need to join forces.

Firenze 10+10 is only a contribution to a more general process [November 8-11, 2012]. The European space today is the minimum space necessary if we are to build a credible social and economic alternative. To underestimate the global dimension of the clash between capital and labour, capital and nature, capital and the commons is a mistake. In Firenze we want to provide to the real social actors with a useful space for alliances and strategy at the European level, linking up the local resistance and struggles.

We must also break down the wall between eastern and western Europe by getting the east and the Balkans fully involved. And of course we must build bridges toward the southern Mediterranean, where the next WSF will be held in 2013.

Finally, it is necessary to have a long-term vision. That’s why the name is 10+10: Ten years after the 2002 European Social Forum (ESF), but above all ‘plus ten’: which shows the need to build a common strategy and vision for the next ten years and not limit our horizons to tomorrow, to the next political elections. It is a question of understanding which way we want to go.

Not the ESF

Firenze 10+10 is an experiment, building on previous experiences and processes: a space for reconnecting, in an action-oriented way. It is not a European Social Forum (ESF), despite the fact that the ‘excuse’ for setting the process in motion was precisely the tenth anniversary of the first ESF. The ESF constituted an extraordinary moment in the construction of a continent-wide demos, which presented analyses, proposals and solutions which – had they been translated into policies – would have avoided Europe and the world crashing into the terrible economic, environmental, social and democratic crisis in which it is now mired.

“For sure it is no longer the time for spreading ourselves out over thousands of workshops and seminars, but time to produce a nucleus of strong, shared actions and initiatives. ”

Ten years on, there is no desire to celebrate what we had then and even less do we intend today to repeat paths which belong to that time and that stage of development. The social movements have changed, new actors have emerged, there have been defeats but also victories, such as that of the water and commons movement in the Italian referendum one year ago. For sure it is no longer the time for spreading ourselves out over thousands of workshops and seminars, but time to produce a nucleus of strong, shared actions and initiatives.

That’s why the programme for Firenze 10+10 is not simply a space to be filled up with hundreds of disconnected initiatives (nor a sort of ‘Summer Academy’ for social movements). On the contrary, we have together identified, during the preparatory international Milan meeting, five key ‘alliance spheres’ (or focus areas), starting from the subjects which networks and coalitions are already working on in Europe.

Five Key Spheres

1) Democracy

Networks, social movements and organizations from all over Europe intend to oppose the top-down constituent process with a grassroots approach, in order to build a democratic Citizens’ Pact (the foundation for a democratic Europe based on respect for the dignity of everyone, native and non-native, and on guarantee of individual, collective, labour and social rights). It is also a question of building a democratic floodwall against the right, against xenophobia, against the breaking up solidarity: democracy also means rebuilding social solidarity.

2) Finance/debt/austerity

During Firenze 10+10, we will discuss both public and private debt with the purpose of formulating new proposals for another European economic model, free from financial markets and debt dictatorships and based on the solidarity and participation of people into the decisions that determine our future. This will bring together campaigns against austerity, the European fiscal compact, and for debt audits and tribunals.

3) Labour and social rights

Labour rights cannot be separated from social rights in general and there is a need to propose concrete alternatives to give everyone a life in dignity and jobs with a future. Many different proposals are to be discussed, including a universal basic minimum income.

4) Commons and public services

This ‘alliance sphere’ brings together many issues in relation to our natural, social, digital commons and public services, such as land, food, water, energy but also social rights, education, and knowledge. It will also tackle and refute the post-Rio agenda covering the green economy, financialization of nature and unnecessary large-scale infrastructures which are supposed to help us out of the crisis. The aim is to find mutual ground and strategic joint actions as well as concrete solidarity solutions for those fighting right now on the ground to protect their public services and commons from privatization and commodification.

5) Europe in the Mediterranean and the world

This sphere of alliance rests on some fundamental elements: the necessary inclusiveness of Europe; cooperation, solidarity and fair trade; peace and social justice; the support for the struggles for democracy and human rights (the Arab revolutions, the struggles against the occupation – Palestinian territories, Western Sahara – and rights of entire peoples like the Kurds). Strategies against the militarization of the Mediterranean will also be discussed.

Concrete Outcomes

In the best-case scenario Firenze 10+10 could produce a hard core of proposals for action, which are the fruit of the five ‘alliance spheres’ when we converge, and launch a sort of grand common European mobilization for the beginning of 2013: a continent-wide demonstration? An international rally in Brussels? A European strike? We should at least try to identify something which we can all do together.

At the same time, we aim to build a third level: to start together a process for the medium-long term. One of the main ideas and proposals is the launch of the ‘Alter Summit’ as a process that will start in November and have several stages including various mobilizations and a culmination point for 2013 in late spring, probably in Athens.

A huge range of social actors are now behind the initiative: social movements, trade unions, citizens’ groups and associations (environmental, cultural), student organizations, feminist groups, individual activists.

In Firenze many existing processes will flow together: the first gathering of the European Water Commons Movement; a big assembly on democracy, which will bring together very different actors (including 15M in Spain and Blockupy Frankfurt); the meeting of the different coalitions working on finance and debt; the meeting of critical economists, just to mention some examples.

Firenze 10+10 is an opportunity and a contribution. It is not a process in itself: it’s a crossroad part of more extended process. Maybe this process is not perfect and November is just round the corner, but our enemies – the economic-financial powers, the technocrats – are very fast, while at the moment we’re too slow and fragmented. •

Tommaso Fattori is an Italian anti-privatization activist and member of the Firenze 10+10 organizing committee. For more on Firenze 10+10 go to www.firenze1010.eu.


Barcelona’s unemployed detail social tragedy engulfing Spain

By our reporters
5 October 2012

Since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008, unemployment in Spain has risen from 8 percent to nearly 25 percent, over double the European Union average. Amongst young people it has risen from 22 percent to 53 percent. In the poorer regions, including Extremadura, the Canary Islands and southern Andalucia, the unemployment rate is approaching 35 percent.

The number of people emigrating from Spain, mainly to other European Union countries and Latin America, has risen from 400,000 in 2010 to over 500,000 in 2011.

Particularly badly hit is employment in the construction industry as a result of the collapse of the housing boom. Government spending cuts have increased job losses dramatically in the public sector.

This week, Popular Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had discussions with the leaders of Spain’s 17 regional governments and told them to carry out further cuts. The government is making it easier and cheaper for employers to fire workers and is seeking to rollback collective bargaining agreements.

In order to receive unemployment benefits, a person must have worked at least 360 days in the last six years and be registered as available for work. An unemployed worker receives 70 percent of his/her wage for six months, thereafter 60 percent, for a maximum of 24 months. But the maximum benefit for a single person is just over €1,000 ($1,300) a month and for someone with two children, €1,400 ($1,800).


Joaquin, 60, explained, “I was a car salesman but I have been unemployed for two years. My unemployment benefit is ending but there is a subsidy for people over 55 of around €400 ($520).

“My mother died a year ago so I take care of my father. I tried to get a new job but it is difficult; it is almost impossible. Age is a big problem. The crisis has had deep effects. It is just a starting point of a longer process. It’s getting worse. The economic situation will not be fixed soon.

“The political parties are miles away from people and they don’t feel what is happening. I don’t think they can do anything and also don’t want to change things. The unions haven’t done anything in the last years. They are there, but nothing else. I don’t believe in the unions.”

Elisa, 59, said, “I used to work in an insurance company but I have been unemployed for two years and the unemployment benefit is being phased out. The future is pretty bad at my age and in my situation. I have no expectation of finding a new job.

“One of my three children, the oldest one, left the country to work in Belgium. For all of them I only see a future outside Spain.

“The others have almost finished their education. They are preparing an Erasmus exchange [European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students]. Maybe they will find work elsewhere, but I don’t know. The cuts in education and health care are fatal. Both are the basic fundamentals of society.”

GinaGina, 28, told us, “I come from Cadiz, but live here. Now I am looking for work. To be honest, I am sceptical of finding work. I am doing course after course. I have a master’s degree in marine biology and spent many years studying. But then I had to work as a waitress. As a waitress I don’t earn enough to rent my own apartment. So probably I will go back home to start again.

“Lots of time I have worked free because I need practice to find a job in my profession. I also think about leaving this country, but language is a problem. Another possibility could be even more study, but another masters costs me around 2,000 or 3,000 euros.

“I know a lot of people in the same situation, without a job, especially my classmates. We are educated but cannot work. One of them left Spain for Scotland.

“At the moment I don’t see any solution to the crisis. There is no political party I would vote for. For me the most important thing is to find work to earn money, it doesn’t matter what kind of job.”

José Maria, 36, said, “Today I had to sort out my unemployment status. For people the effects of the crisis are awful. I have six children. I worked as a manager of a company with four shops in Barcelona. From my own perspective it is necessary to look forward optimistically, but reality shows another face. I do not see any future for young people. My wife works as a teacher and she also has to suffer cuts.


“They talk about long-term solutions, but I personally don’t see them. I think the unions are something important in our society but the present unions are lamentable.”

Sebastian, 26, said, “Originally I come from Argentina, but I have lived here for 10 years. I work as a theatre lighting technician but now I don’t have any job. The cuts, especially in the cultural sector, are enormous. For example, the IVA [sales tax] on cultural products increased from 8 to 21 percent and subsidies were reduced. Before it was already difficult to pay monthly salaries, but now it has become worse.

“I don’t think the situation will get better for years. There is no party that represents the people. They act in the interests of the banks with all the bailouts. At your workplace there is nobody defending you no matter if you are on a permanent contract or if you are paid less.”


Gimena, 36, said, “I have worked in different jobs, the last time as a babysitter. I see my future as quite bad. The crisis has deeply affected all of us.

“I am a single mum with one kid who goes to a subsidised school, but it is hard to cover all costs. The cuts in education and health care are really fatal. Before, in theory, everybody had the right to free health care. Now we have to contribute a lot of money. It’s the same with education.”


Antonio stated: “With the idea that the banks have to keep the economy running, they have come out of this crisis rather well, thanks to the bailouts, at the expense of everything, including evictions!

“I think that banks have to exist, but they should provide credit to industry and consumers and not use bailouts to cover their bad debts and fill their black holes or ‘toxic assets’. This I consider completely out of place.”