Notes From the Margins…

Europe against austerity

  • November 14, 2012
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Solidarity is often invoked by European politicians as one of the essential principles of European unity.    In practice it tends to refer to  solidarity with banks and financial institutions, or between governments intent on slashing living standards  in the name of austerity rather than the victims of the new economic brutalism.

This was what Angela Merkel meant when she declared her ‘solidarity and friendship’ with Greece during a visit to Athens last month, at a time when the Greek government was preparing to impose another vicious round of cuts on a population that is already being bled white.

Today millions of trade unionists, students and workers across Europe are demonstrating a different concept of solidarity   in a pan-European day of action against austerity.    40 unions in 23 countries have taken part in strikes and protests across the continent, in an unprecedented display of common purpose that will undoubtedly give some governments pause for thought.

In Greece, one trade unionist declared:

‘We are a small country and so there is only so much that we can achieve. Greece is no longer alone. Other countries in Europe are suffering from these terrible neo-liberal policies. This is the best way of getting our message heard.’

Indeed it is.   And without actions like these these, there will be no change of direction, no new policies, nothing but more cuts and more austerity, regardless of the consequences.   For Europe’s politicians and the financial institutions that have presided over the euro-debacle are not likely to be moved by moral arguments or social conscience.

On the contrary, their actions over the last few years have demonstrated again and again that they will do what they think they can get away with, and these last few years they’ve been able to get away with a hell of a lot.

So at a time when so many politicians have become nothing more than facilitators for ‘the markets’,  let’s hope today’s events mark a turning point – and also the beginning of a new kind of European unity, not between governments and markets, but between the people who have been on the receiving end of their disastrous policies for too long and are now saying loudly and clearly: Enough!


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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