Governments across Europe are set on imposing cuts that will wreck lives, slash jobs and destroy services. But resistance is spreading.
Protesters repeatedly took to the streets of Romania over the past week calling on the government to resign. It’s the latest European Union (EU) country to erupt in rage against austerity.
EU leaders claim austerity will end the crisis. Yet wherever austerity measures have been rammed through, the crisis has grown deeper.
Europe’s stock markets fell on Tuesday of this week after eurozone ministers refused to accept a proposal to restructure Greece’s debt (see A new wave of fightback).
Spain is on the verge of another recession. Portugal may need a new bailout—since the last one coupled with austerity failed to stem the crisis.
Meanwhile in Britain, figures due out this week are expected to show that there is negative economic growth. If this happens for two quarters in a row, Britain will officially be back in recession.
But for all their attacks on the working class, EU leaders are in a panic. They fear that the entire eurozone could be heading for recession—and that resistance to their cuts could get out of control.
In Italy, workers are fighting privatisation and cuts imposed by the technocratic government of prime minister Mario Monti.
One truck driver was run over and killed this week while protesting against government plans to privatise transport.
Taxi drivers have also struck against the plans—and have thrown union officials who negotiated cuts with the government out of their meetings.
Rail workers were set to strike on Friday. Pharmacists, lawyers and others are also preparing to strike.
In Romania, protests sparked by government plans to privatise the health service quickly spiralled into demos against the government.
Romania took an IMF loan in 2009—with cuts attached.
The government has slashed public sector workers’ wages by 25 percent. It has cut benefits and services, and raised taxes on sales.
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants have been sacked. And pensions were frozen last year—even though the IMF said Romania could actually afford to raise them.
The official opposition parties have called several protests and attracted thousands to them.
But many have also held independent protests—and denounced both the government and the opposition as corrupt.
At a protest in the capital Bucharest last Thursday, protesters faced down riot police and tear gas. They lit fires, built barricades in the streets and threw bottles and bins.
As protester Maria Alexandru put it, “We are here because we are fed up with the political class as a whole, be it the opposition or the ruling parties.”
Trade unions plan to hold a rally this week.
World rulers and bosses were set to meet for a World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday of this week. They will agree to force ordinary people to pay for the crisis.
But the scale of the crisis and resistance has got them worried.