Socialist Worker

Cuts create a crisis for rulers in Greece and Portugal

European rulers continue to target the poor as they try to escape the eurozone crisis, writes Dave Sewell

Issue No. 2361

local government workers in Greece on strike in Attica on Monday

local government workers in Greece on strike in Attica on Monday (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


Thousands were set to protest on the streets of Athens on Tuesday of this week in outrage over yet another round of cuts.

Greece has suffered three years of austerity to satisfy its “Troika” of international creditors—the European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund.

But the government agreed to present an urgent bill to parliament for more cuts on Monday of this week—or risk having its next round of bailout money withheld.

It is already in crisis over opposition to the last set of measures. Local government workers in the Attica region struck and marched against job cuts on Monday.

Cement workers threatened with the sack also demonstrated in front of the state broadcaster ERT. It has been under workers’ occupation for four weeks against plans to close it. 

New polls reveal that 1.7 million Greeks have been tuning in to watch their work-in online. And only one in five Greeks believes that the coalition government can survive until the next planned elections.

It has already had to reconstitute itself after the ERT crisis caused a split.

The Portuguese coalition government is also hanging on by the skin of its teeth. It spent last week mired in political crisis after losing two of its most prominent ministers.

Architect

The first was finance minister Vitor Gaspar, the architect of the government’s cuts and austerity measures since its bailout in 2011.

His role had won him praise from Portugal’s international creditors. But he has missed debt targets due to the country’s deepening recession. 

And his cuts have provoked strikes, mass protests and even court rulings against the government. 

The last straw was a general strike the week before—the biggest since the bailout, according to the UGT and CGTP union federations.

The minister in charge of privatisation is set to take his place. But after the foreign minister resigned too, speculation that the government was on the verge of collapse grew. The cost at which the government can borrow money shot up.

A new deal last weekend seemed to have averted a split—for now. But with its old austerity plans in tatters, it’s far from certain the government will succeed in drawing up and forcing through new ones.

Greece and Portugal between them account for less than 7 percent of the eurozone’s population and less than 3 percent of its shrinking economy. But the entire strategy of the European ruling class relies on driving through austerity on these peripheral economies.

That means that resistance there can send shockwaves across the continent.


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