Mass protests in Greece and Spain against fresh austerity measures

The last week of September witnessed mass protests on the streets of Athens and Madrid, against the new round of austerity measures proposed to be imposed on Greece and Spain, two of the euro zone's economies which are currently in the grips of an acute financial crisis.

On September 26, thousands of working people, across all sectors of the economy participated in a general strike in Athens, the capital of Greece, against further budget cuts being demanded by foreign money lenders, as a condition to bail out the Greek economy. In what was reported to be the country's biggest protest in more than a year, nearly 70,000 people marched to the Greek parliament chanting "EU, IMF Out!".

Two of the country's biggest trade unions called a 24 hour strike, severely crippling services across the country. Ships stayed in port, museums and monuments were shut and air traffic controllers stopped work. Trains and flights were suspended, public offices and shops were shut, and hospitals provided a reduced service.

The anger of the Greek people is directed against budget cuts worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) over the next two years that the Greek government has promised the European Union and International Monetary Fund in order to secure the next round of aid to bail out the economy.

The bulk of these cuts is expected in working people's wages, pensions and welfare benefits. These are likely to cause a new wave of misery for the people of Greece, who are already reeling under repeated rounds of austerity measures that have devastated them and failed to transform the country's economy in favour of the working people.

These protests are taking place at a time when the Greek government is under huge pressure to carry out these austerity measures facing certain bankruptcy and the possibly of having to exit the euro zone, unless it is able to get more aid.

In Madrid, the capital of Spain, thousands of workers took to the streets on September 25, protesting against the tougher austerity measures that are likely to be included in the 2013 budget, particularly in the form of freeze in pensions.

Spain is already facing a deep recession and 25 % unemployment. The Spanish government is facing intense pressure from euro zone policymakers to take tougher measures in terms of cut-back in public spending, in order to receive a bail-out aid package for the euro zone's fourth biggest economy - a condition for European Central Bank intervention to cut Spain's borrowing costs.

The Spanish government's move to cut back in regional expenditure, as part of its austerity measures, has prompted a popular movement for national independence in Catalonia, the northeastern region that generates one-fifth of Spain's economic output. Catalonia needs a 5 billion-euro bailout from the central government to meet debt payments this year. People in Catalonia are protesting against what they perceive as an unfairly large share of the country's tax burden that they have to bear, and the regional government has proposed holding a referendum on independence, a move which the central government has opposed as unconstitutional.

The recent protest actions in Greece and Spain are a reflection of the intense anger of the working people against this man-eating capitalist system. Across the world, people are increasingly realizing that the capitalist system can only go from one crisis to another and has no other solution but to further attack the livelihood and rights of the working people in order to safeguard the super profits of the biggest monopolies.

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Oct 16-31 2012    Struggle for Rights    Popular Movements     Political Process     Rights    

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