Socialist Worker

Protests and strikes across Europe can beat austerity

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2329

Workers in Spain and Portugal planned to walk out in their first ever joint general strike on Wednesday of this week.

And workers in other European countries were set to join them.

Trade unionists planned a four-hour strike in Italy and in Greece.Transport workers also called strikes in Turkey, Lithuania and Belgium. More than 70 demonstrations are planned in France.

Belgium’s FGTB union stopped just short of calling a general strike—but said it would back any workers who did choose to strike. Elsewhere many union federations called protests in much of the continent’s major cities.

Ordinary people across Europe face crippling austerity. In Portugal youth unemployment stands at 27 percent. The only reason it isn’t higher is because so many people have emigrated.

In Spain, the figure is more than twice as high. More than 400,000 people in Spain have been evicted from their homes since 2008.

Now banks have suspended eviction orders in cases of “extreme hardship” after two of those facing eviction committed suicide—sparking protest.

Just two years ago Spain’s union leaders disillusioned many workers by signing off on attacks on pensions after the first general strike in many years.


But in both Spain and Portugal protest movements have snowballed over the summer. In Spain, this will be the first time since before General Franco’s dictatorship that two general strikes happen in one year.

Even small, right wing unions that rarely strike have said they will back Wednesday’s action. It follows demonstrations over cuts in education and hospital privatisation.

In Portugal hundreds of workplace meetings have passed motions supporting the strike since protests in September reversed a massive tax hike on workers.

Their slogan is “fuck the troika”—the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund that are enforcing brutal austerity in southern Europe.

In Britain, workers have called protests in a number of cities. Electricians organised a blockade of the Crossrail construction site in London while workers in the PCS union were set to hold a three-hour walkout.

The crisis of capitalism has the whole continent staring into the abyss. But, the action across Europe shows that workers have the power to smash austerity.

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