General Strikes in Spain & Portugal to Combat Austerity Regimes
Within the next two weeks, workers in Portugal and Spain will initiate general strikes to combat the policies of impoverishment undertaken by right-wing governments in both Lisbon and Madrid. While these mobilizations of workers are not coordinated, the policies of austerity in both countries are, polices coordinated by international financial powers eroding the sovereignty and economic viability of all crisis hit countries.
The response made uniform by the Troika (European Union & IMF) across Europe’s so called periphery is to worsen labor conditions and living standards to make the public endure the full weight of the financial crisis. What are portrayed as emergency measures by politicians are later revealed as part of a continuing policy to extract wages through cuts and tax increases. This has been witnessed most intensely in Greece when just weeks after savage minimum wage cuts there are repeated calls for yet another round of austerity.
It is with this prospect of perpetual and unending waves of austerity that Spanish and Portuguese workers will drop their tools and seize protest banners. Inaction carries the consequence of the political elite understanding the absence of opposition to be complicity or even support. This is a notion that can’t be afforded to the right-wing parliaments in Lisbon and Madrid. Their program isn’t concentrated on making either country more efficient or modern. The program is entirely based on squeezing the entire working public out of their income, income that is to be used to extend the life of a corrupt financial system.
For all the complexity that can clutter issues like government deficits and the financial system, the simple reality for people is that they are seeing taxes, food and gas prices rise while their paychecks are slashed. This is as paychecks are threatened by rising double digit unemployment in both Iberian countries. There’s talk by economists like Paul Krugman that Portugal will have to reduce wages across the board by 20 to 30%. Meanwhile, there’s no such expectation that landlords will have to slash rent by a similar amount, a measure that would match slashed waged with slashed living expenses.
These policies have resulted in a sharp injustice within Portuguese and Spanish societies. It is a present and future confiscated by a political and economic system without any hesitancy in repeating the disaster in Greece, a disaster in Greece of unemployment rising from 8% to 21%, a disaster of Greeks working for free for two and a half years just to avoid unemployment. It is a social catastrophe that governments in Spain and Portugal are thrusting their people toward. The general strike and wider struggle of the people is merely an act of survival, an act to escape the hands of politicians, hands that leave the public unsafe as the indignant youths of Spain repeatedly warn.
Portuguese and Spanish opponents of austerity are correct in stating that they are subject to a laboratory experiment. It is a laboratory in which the Spanish and Portuguese experiment subjects can see the previous test subject, that of Greece, near death with the same lethal doses being readied for further use. It is a laboratory which Iceland escaped to find renewed health and vigor outside the confines of the policies demanded by foreign creditors. These general strikes are doors through which Spanish and Portuguese people can exit from the laboratory. As was said in France during May 1968: the blockade closes the street but opens the way.