Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Worker restiveness in Europe

As Mayday's distinguished (albeit unpaid) foreign correspondent in Europe, I suppose I should cite this article in today's Independent:

A wave of industrial and social unrest is building across Europe as workers
resist attempts by governments and private companies to impose austerity
policies, drive down wages and rescue some nations from near-bankruptcy.

Huge protest rallies took place in cities across Spain last night; today
a general strike could paralyse Greece while industrial action at French
airports and oil plants as well as the narrowly averted stoppage at Germany's
Lufthansa promise to be just the start of the greatest demonstration of public
unrest seen on the continent since the revolutionary fervour of 1968. Europe's
industrial economy is not clear of recession yet either and with unemployment
rising and demands for austerity growing, Europe's workers are becoming
increasingly restive.
I don't want to do an extensive copy-and-paste but I recommend the article be read in full to grasp the dimensions of the European crisis. The political arrangements that lie at the foundations of the capitalist system at any point in time tend to be makeshift and ad-hoc, jettisoned when they no longer work. This applies to Europe with the same strength as it does to the US. As I see it, there are two aspects. The first is how Europe will fit into a fluid and changing global economy -- one which incidentally it's crucially dependent on for trade. The second is what will happen (and is happening) in Europe itself. My humble opinion is that the "Club Med" countries -- the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) -- will leave the Eurozone (but not the EU). The inner core will be "Mitteleuropa": Germany, France, Benelux, Scandinavia, Austria. The eurozone was built on a dream of a united Europe -- a fairytale. The present strains between Northern Europe and Mediterranean Europe show how absurd the dream was. Worker restiveness in Spain and Greece is a symptom both of the unworkability of that dream and the global economic crisis that has demonstrated the flaws of the conception of Europe.


Red Frog said...

Thanks for keeping us informed, AA.

The capitalists are taking advantage of this crisis by cutting wages, jobs, pushing speedup, freezing or dropping benefits - etc. It is not only the unemployed who are paying - it is the whole society. The system is very fragile right now.

AA said...

An article in yesterday's Daily Mail, with some pictures of the confrontations between workers and pensioners on the one hand and riot police on the other.