No, not here but in Greece. The Guardian reports:
Greece is facing major disruption on Tuesday as unions begin a 48-hour general strike before a parliamentary vote on harsh austerity measures demanded in return for international rescue loans. Protest rallies in Athens are due to converge on parliament as industrial action called in protest against tax hikes was expected to disrupt or halt most public services. More than 5,000 police have been deployed to guard central Athens where anti-austerity demonstrations earlier this month ended in scenes of violence as protesters clashed with riot officers.
“We expect a dynamic and massive participation in the strike and the march to the centre of Athens. We will have 48 hours of working people, unemployed, young people in the streets,” Spyros Papaspyros, leader of public sector union ADEDY, told Reuters. Doctors, paramedics, journalists, postal workers and private sector employees were all expected to join the protest. Stoppages by Greek air traffic controllers are likely to disrupt flights and ferry departures from Athens are also expected to be hit. The unions are angry that the proposed austerity package would raise taxes on minimum wage earners and other Greeks in addition to earlier cuts that have driven unemployment past 16%.
Parliament must approve and implement the programme this week if Greece is to receive a scheduled bailout loan of €110bn from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Without the loan Greece risks becoming the first eurozone country to default on its debts – an event that could trigger a crisis in other economically weak European countries and have major global consequences. “These measures are a massacre for workers’ rights. It will truly be hell for the working man. The strike must bring everything to a standstill,” Thanassis Pafilis, a member of parliament for the pro-strike Greek Communist party, told Associated Press.
The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack. The threat of bank overlordship is not the kind of economy-killing policy that affords opportunities for heroism in armed battle, to be sure. Destructive financial policies are more like an exercise in the banality of evil – in this case, the pro-creditor assumptions of the European Central Bank (ECB), EU and IMF (egged on by the U.S. Treasury).
As Vladimir Putin pointed out some years ago, the neoliberal reforms put in Boris Yeltsin’s hands by the Harvard Boys in the 1990s caused Russia to suffer lower birth rates, shortening life spans and emigration – the greatest loss in population growth since World War II. Capital flight is another consequence of financial austerity. The ECB’s proposed “solution” to Greece’s debt problem is thus self-defeating. It only buys time for the ECB to take on yet more Greek government debt, leaving all EU taxpayers to get the bill. It is to avoid this shift of bank losses onto taxpayers that Angela Merkel in Germany has insisted that private bondholders must absorb some of the loss resulting from their bad investments.
The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect.
The Greek crowds demonstrating before Parliament in Syntagma Square are providing their counterpart to “Arab spring.” But what really can they do, short of violence – as long as the police and military side with the government that itself is siding with foreign creditors?
The most effective tactic is to demand a national referendum on whether to accept the ECB’s terms for austerity, tax increases, public spending cutbacks and selloffs. This is how Iceland’s President stopped his country’s Social Democratic leadership from committing the economy to ruinous (and legally unnecessary) payments to Gordon Brown’s Labour Party demands and those of the Dutch for the Icesave and even the Kaupthing bailouts.
The only legal basis for demanding payment of the EU’s bailout of French and German banks – and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s demand that debts be sacrosanct, not the lives of citizens – is public acceptance and acquiescence in such policy. Otherwise the imposition of debt may be treated simply as an act of financial warfare.
National economies have the right to defend themselves against such aggression. The crowd’s leaders can insist that in the absence of a referendum, they intend to elect a political slate committed to outright debt annulment. Across the board, including the Greek banks as well as foreign banks, the IMF and EU central planners. International law prohibits nations from treating their own nationals differently from foreigners, so all debts in specified categories would have to be annulled to create a Clean Slate. (The German Monetary Reform of 1947 imposed by the Allied Powers was the most successful Clean Slate in modern times. Freeing the German economy from debt, it became the basis of that nation’s economic miracle.)
48 hours on the streets – the whole country will be at Syntagma Square!
Our meetings to protest are on 28 and 29 June.
We are now only a few hours apart from the 48-hour nationwide mobilization of 28 and 29 June. Everything indicates that the 48-hour General Strike could form part of a nation-wide uprising that would ultimately bury the notorious Medium-term Austerity Programme. This struggle is not only critical for our future, but also a beacon of hope for all the peoples of the world who want to take their lives into their own hands. The demonstration at Syntagma Square marks the beginning of a new direction.
On June 28 at 9:00 am we are gathering at Syntagma Square to protest and wait for the strike protesters to join us. At 6:00 pm a big popular concert will begin, which will last until late at night.
On June 29 we will coordinate all our forces in order to completely surround the Parliament. The People’s Assemblies from the northern suburbs will meet at 8:00 am at the Evangelismos metro station. Amongst others, the People’s Assemblies of Agia Paraskevi, Halandri, Holargos, Papagos, Zografos, Glyka Nera, Pallini, Galatsi, Maroussi, Heraklion, N. Ionia, Patisia, N. Philadelphia, Gizi, Piraeus and Ambelokipi-Erythros Stavros-Polygono will be there. The People’s Assemblies from the southern and eastern suburbs will gather at 8:00 am at Panathinaiko Stadium. These include, amongst others, the People’s Assemblies of N. Smyrni, Byron, Agios Dimitrios, Voula-Vari, Neos Kosmos, Petralona-Thissio-Koukaki and Hellenicon. The People’s Assemblies from the western suburbs will gather at Syntagma Square (Amalias Street & V. Sofias Street). These include, amongst others, the People’s Assemblies of Petroupoli, Egaleo, Peristeri, Haidari and Ag. Anargyri-Kamatero. The primary unions and People’s Assemblies from all over Greece, are also gathering at various spots.
Accommodation for the people coming from across the country has been arranged.
For all the people who, for whatever reason, cannot be on foot at blockades, it is very important that you help with the encirclement of the Parliament by participating in a peaceful traffic demonstration starting at 8 am: Several hundred cars running continuously at speeds of 10-20 kph on Kifissias Street, Mesogion Street and Michalakopoulou Street returning from alternative routes whenever the police divert them will create a huge difficulty for the Members of the Parliament to access the House.
Once again, just as we have done ever since May 25, we insist that the character of our struggle be massive and decisive. We call upon everyone to respect and guard our decision.
We warn the government and the commissioners of the troika to not even consider the possibility that repression can break our resistance.
To Mr. Pangalos’ dilemma “Mid-term Programme or tanks”, we answer: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Be proud of your grandfather!”
We are not leaving unless they and their dilemmas leave first!
The squares belong to us. We have the right on our side. We assert the obvious:
Faith in our powers. It is us or them!
We are condemned to victory! The Mid-term Programme SHALL NOT PASS!
Direct Democracy Now!
The People’s Assembly of Syntagma Square, 26 June 2011
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