Socialist Worker

Austerity provokes a summer of resistance across Europe

The economic crisis is accelerating across Europe, but so is the fightback as workers in Greece, France and Italy take action, writes Matthew Cookson

Issue No. 2208

Workers in France demonstrating in Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris on Thursday of last week (Pic: Phototheque Rouge/JMB)

Workers in France demonstrating in Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris on Thursday of last week (Pic: Phototheque Rouge/JMB)

A general strike brought Greece to a halt on Tuesday.

Public and private sector unions struck against the pension reform bill being brought to parliament. This is part of the Labour-type Pasok government’s austerity measures to cut public spending, which are severely hitting workers’ living standards.

It was the fifth one-day general strike this year.

The resistance to the attacks is creating a deep crisis in Greek politics.

“The press is debating how many Pasok MPs will refuse to vote for the pension bill in parliament next week,” said Panos Garganas, editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper.

­“There are signs of revolt in Pasok. The party secretary was forced to leave a meeting with trade unionists, which he had organised, after they criticised and booed him.

“The usually loyal Left Initiative current inside the party held a meeting at which everyone attacked the government and called for it to oppose the measures.

“There has also been a split on the left with the right wing of the Synaspismos group, which has MPs, setting up a new Democratic Left party because they believe that it is ultra-left to oppose the government’s policies.

“This comes at a crucial moment. With the government wavering they have moved to fight the left.

“George Papandreou, the prime minister, set the tone for this when he attacked the left in parliament, saying that you cannot destroy capitalism by destroying Greece.


“People are now demanding another general strike when parliament votes next week. As yet, the unions have not announced more action. They are hesitant because they fear the government may fall.

“But they are also under pressure as the Communist Party and the left will call action if they fail to.”

In France around two million people took to the streets in 200 towns and cities on Thursday of last week – also over attacks on pensions.The demonstrations were about twice as large as the last day of action on 27 May – and the strikes were bigger too.

Christine Poupin from the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) says, “This was a turning point. The mobilisation against the pension attacks has taken a step forwards.

“The scale of the government assault acted as a shock which spurred workers into action.”

Workers in Italy poured onto the streets during a general strike organised by the CGIL union federation on Friday of last week.

They struck against the policies of right wing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Private sector workers took four hours of strike action, including airport staff, train, tram and bus drivers as well as about 130,000 electricity, gas and water workers. Metal workers struck all day.


In the public sector, teachers, civil servants and others walked out for the whole day.

Some groups of workers, including airport staff, took additional action in the run up to the strike.

A huge rally of 100,000 people was held in the centre of Bolonga, while 50,000 marched in Milan.

In Rome metal workers chanted, “No to Fiat blackmail.” Fiat is trying to force through a deal attacking jobs and conditions – with the threat of closure if the changes don’t go through.

Europe’s hot summer of resistance looks set to continue.

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Tue 29 Jun 2010, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2208
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