Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Protests and strikes are mounting throughout Europe as governments begin to carry out the austerity measures required to attract the investment funds needed to postpone state bankruptcy.

Mounting civil unrest is undermining investors’ confidence in European governments’ ability to impose the brutal measures on their populations.

It is patently clear that agreement on a €750 bailout package to prevent the collapse of the euro is hopelessly adequate to stem the attack on the currency.

Panic moves in the USA, Germany and Venezuela yesterday against speculative investment markets are adding to the global instability as hedge funds look to move their headquarters and activities to the less-regulated East.

The German government banned “naked shorting” – the selling of shares and bonds that the sellers neither own nor have borrowed.

In the US, Chris Dodd, the Senate banking committee chairman, proposed letting regulators decide whether banks should be banned from dealing in all derivatives in a last-minute amendment to the financial regulation bill

Venezuela's Chavez-led government took control of foreign currency trading in an attempt to prevent further attacks on the bolivar.

The International Monetary Fund has forced Romania’s six-month old centrist government to promise cuts to state wages of 25% and to pensions of 15% as part of an effort to meet the requirements for the release of the next tranche of loans in a 20 billion-euro bailout package. This scale of attacks on living standards will prove to be just the down payment.

Trade unions in Romania have called a mass demonstration in Bucharest today. If their forecast turnout of 60,000 proves correct, the protest outside government headquarters will be one of the biggest since the revolutionary overthrow and execution of the Stalinist Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena in 1989.

Greek unions have called the fourth in a series of general strikes for tomorrow against a 10% cut in wages and spending in the public sector, an increased retirement age, VAT increases and the freezing of pensions.

A group of left-leaning members of the European Parliament – the United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) – are attempting organise co-ordinated protests in the week of 21 to 26 June against the power of the financial markets.

The MEPs have put together a series of left-sounding demands:

Workers must not pay for the crisis - Make the super rich and bankers pay

Solidarity with the Greek workers and for the unity of working people across Europe

No to cutbacks, wage cuts, unemployment and increases in the retirement age

No to privatisation of public services

End the dictatorship of the financial markets, credit ratings institutions and the IMF

Stop the bailouts of the banks - nationalise the banks and financial institutions in the interests of working people

But their intention to send use these protests to send “a clear message to the European establishments” and “building a European-wide resistance to the ongoing neo-liberal agenda” is wholly inadequate.

Financial markets are not susceptible to protest or even actions of the German state, representing the most powerful economy in Europe. Shares on European markets tumbled further, as did the euro, after Germany’s attempts to ban short-selling.

One London-based bond trader commented: "Nobody ever thought they'd do this in a million years and it raises the long-term question of who is now going to want to buy their debt."

A World to Win has a different set of aspirations to the MEPs. We’ll be discussing our plans to replace the dictatorship of financial market and the for-profit capitalist system with collectively owned, democratically managed not-for-profit system at our conference on Saturday.

Gerry Gold

Economics editor

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