Austerity is a form of political repression by means of the economy. Across Europe, people have begun to reject the notion that the fiscal crisis caused by the banks should be solved by cuts in social services and redistribution of wealth to the rich, whether that be rich nations or rich individuals. Ireland and Greece have decisions to make in the weeks ahead. Much may turn on whether the protests in Spain and worldwide planned for the anniversary of the May 15 movement continue to give momentum to anti-austerity.
We were told that a Greek election that did not endorse austerity would be a market disaster. In fact, the euro is stable at around $1.29, making it still a strong currency as evidenced by the unrelenting hordes of Franco-German euro-laden shoppers in New York. Stock market traders punished the Greek market, driving it down about 8%, but left global prices only mildly diminished.
Today, European Union figures show that austerity does not work, even as a debt reduction policy. Spain’s budget deficit will actually rise to 6.4% of GDP this year compared with a previous forecast of 5.9%. The Portuguese deficit will be 4.7% (was 4.5%), while Greece goes from worst to worst with its deficit predicted to be 7.3% (was 7%). Given these self-evident failures, also clear in the US economy, we have to conclude that the stakes in austerity are political: keeping the populations of the EU periphery in deprivation so that the global one percent can continue to flourish without restraint.
Yesterday in New York, OWS activists were pleasantly surprised to see that it was not in fact the usual suspects who turned up for the launch of NYC solidarity actions for the M15 events. A spontaneous orientation about Occupy was held. There are actions all weekend, including a Granny Peace Brigade and a Stroller March for Mother’s Day. Doing exams or stressed out by too many protests? Head to the May 15 rally in Times Square at 6pm, organizers request.
In Spain, unemployment is predicted to rise to over 25% next year. Another bank has had to be bailed out. More banks are in trouble. So every effort at state level goes into restraining popular protest. Events begin tomorrow in Madrid with marches setting out from four cardinal points to their destination in Puerta del Sol.
As you can see from the poster, the plan is to hold assemblies in the squares from May 12 to May 15 on topics ranging from the economy to feminism, health, water and migration. While the camp has been permitted in Barcelona, in Madrid riot police are set to contest the streets. The conservative government does not want its population discussing such matters.
In Greece, the election has failed to produce a pro-austerity coalition and Syriza failed to create an anti-austerity formation. A second round of elections in June now appears likely, with Syriza today predicted to win with 24% over the conservative New Democracy, down to 17%. Greeks appear to have gone on tax strike since the election, according to the Guardian, with public revenues falling from an average €40m per day to less than €25m. And the E.U. has withheld one billion euros of its “aid” to the bondholders of Europe in order to punish Greek voters for having the temerity to have an opinion about their own lives. Somehow this seems unlikely to swing people to a pro-austerity position.
In Ireland, there is a referendum on March 31 on the fiscal treaty, which is in effect a vote on austerity. While opinion polls in April had a yes vote ahead, 20% were not decided. If anti-austerity continues to grow, Greece and Ireland can take the electoral lead if Spain can push the political agenda. There’s going to be a media downplay of the events in the U.S., so it’s up to us to use social media, blogs, and our presence in the streets to make this known. Go to an action as well: Tome la calle!