What follows is a translation of an article originally published yesterday in PopPol magazine, by various authors, on the subject of the general strike now underway in Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, with protests in support across most European countries, including Ireland at 1pm in Central Bank Plaza.
Esther Vivas, activist and militant in Revolta Global-Esquerra Anticapitalista:
There are an abundance of reasons: unemployment, poverty, precarity, cutbacks…Current policies merely increase the reasons for outrage and unrest. That’s why it’s so important to go on strike, since it’s the main instrument those of us at the bottom have for challenging power. A general strike is meaningful if it occurs within a sustained mobilisation over time and is not a mere one day hiatus.
This coming 14N, not only do workplaces and public services have to come to a halt, but we also have to bring about a social and citizen strike with strike committees in every neighbourhood and city, in which the unemployed, the precarious, the retired and immigrants can have an active and important role.The international dimension of 14N is one of its most important aspects. A general strike taking place in the main countries of the European periphery. The response to austerity policies must be cross-border. We will not defeat them country by country in an isolated manner. A spectre is beginning to haunt a Europe hit by crisis, adjustments, debt and austerity. @esthervivas
Jorge Moruno, sociologist and author of the La Revuelta de las Neuronas blog:
Not only are strikes ineffective, according to the regime, but they can also become what prevents us from getting out of the shithole in which we find ourselves, since it is their fault that we give such a bad image to the outside world, one of instability, which causes a lack of trust among so-called investors. The fairy tale about how the dismantling of public services is a desert crossing in order to recover an already mystified past is claptrap at least. We are not taking the rap for our excesses, but rather maintaining the viability of the profits of the 1%; before and now. First with the massive expansion of credit and the ideology of property-owning capitalism in place of wages. Ensuring a fictitious ability to consume, the cornerstone of the process of accumulation, was the priority. Now, by contrast, we are all obliged to pay a debt that for the most part was generated by the same people who profited from the lowering of wages, sub-contracting, and temporary work. Now they are still at it, marketising public services and condemning us to neo-slavery. Debt, more than an economic relation, is a form of political and psycho-social domination, which paralyses us and wipes out any democratic perspective. The priority, therefore, is to guarantee the profitability of the same financial institutions and modus operandi that profited in times of ‘bonanza’. Their way out of the crisis? More crisis, neo-slavery or unemployment, precarity or barbarism: a tourism colony.
So, why so much throat grabbing and foaming at the mouth by debate panellists, mass media and bosses’ groups? Not just because of the strike itself, but above all because of what it might give rise to in the future. Those on top have money, contacts and businesspeople at their disposal for practising politics, those at the bottom have as our only power the fact of being many. The strike is the expression of dignity, of how ‘worthy’ the human being must prove in defence of her life. Without disobedience there can be no rupture, without rupture there can be no movement, without movement there is no autonomy, without autonomy there is no alternative, without an alternative there is no democracy. Mobilisations are a means of forcing a vacuum in the sovereign power, whilst we go about filling it with the politics of the multitude. It is from this point on that we must discover the step from declaration to constitution. Syriza would be unthinkable in Greece without a broad cycle of protests in the streets. That is what really scares them, our potential ability to become the people of the many, those who deal out the cards that seek different rules of the game. Democracy always makes its way amid embraces and punches.
Íñigo Errejón, political scientist and post-doctoral researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid:
Because no-one in their right mind trusts the traditional elites, who are leading us straight to Greece, or the lost Latin American decades of the 80s and 90s. The same prescriptions produce the same results, though to a different degree depending on the starting point. The cuts and the austerity discourse are basically a political offensive aimed at redistributing income and collective power even more towards privileged minorities, and to relocate Spain in a position of impoverished periphery. On this journey, we are undergoing a de facto constitutional modification and an oligarchical reordering of the regime of 78, one that excludes certain progressive agents who were crucial for its establishment back then.Certain members of the Government party have tried to smear this strike by saying that it is ‘political’. They know very well it cannot be anything else. The elites have tied their fate and that of the entire political edifice to submissive compliance with the debt-adjustments spiral decreed by the Troika. The slightest protest clashes with the lockdown of an autistic caste. In this phase, they have drastically narrowed the margins for social dialogue or the recognition of any other most urgent social demands, amid a situation of accelerated impoverishment of the popular and middle strata. This is a dramatic but fertile terrain for the articulation of every social suffering, for political polarisation and the isolation of those who still rule. This General Strike thus inscribes itself within an incipient destituent movement, first of all against a Government which in a year has already squandered its original legitimacy, which is a lot weaker than it pretends. It is furthermore interlinked with an international mobilisation of the entire south of Europe, in a dynamic that will continue to grow against the financial diktat that is suffocating its peoples.
Raimundo Viejo, lecturer in Political Science at the University of Girona:
Perhaps the right question would be: why should there not be a strike on 14N? There are so many reasons for having one that it would take pages and pages to name them all. For me, one sticks out above all: to overwhelm the regime democratically, to overcome the framework of the Moncloa Pacts, to cause the institutional design that has legitimated three decades of neoliberal policies to implode. And this solely to continue moving along in the destituent process that the 15M began and which continues to drive us on to shout that they do not represent us.But at the same time, within the frame of this mobilisation, a constituent horizon must be opened; the expressive phase has to give rise to an instituent phase, to a new stage that produces the institutions that lay claim to the establishment of the political regime of the commons. If the trade unionism of the Moncloa Pacts was a response to the recomposition of power with regard to the implementation of the neoliberal project, the #14N ought to give us, through the path of praxis, the response to the recomposition of an antagonist bloc able to think, promote and establish the political regime of the commons. An alternative for recovering control over the world of life. @_Mundus
Segundo González, activist in Juventud Sin Futuro:
This strike can be the expression of the desperation of the 400,000 people evicted who from 2007 have witnessed the consummation of the mortgages trap designed by the same banking institutions who are now being bailed out with money that is being cut from health, education and the rest of social spending.This strike can be the expression of rage from the 53% of young people who are unemployed and from all those who accept miserable wages and conditions because we are left with no alternative. The cry of all those who have left, who are leaving and who are thinking of leaving in search of a decent life far from this wasteland of unemployment and precarity. The voice of those who are witnessing how public education is being destroyed and how university is being turned into a privilege.
This strike can give a voice to those of us who see how our living standards are becoming more expensive at the same time as our purchasing power is being reduced. Those of us who suffer the rise in the price of public transport, prescriptions and increases in VAT. Those of us who suffer cuts in wages, benefits and grants. All those who are being deprived of care allowance and who have to work unpaid to maintain it.This strike is also for those of us who see and suffer the way poverty is on the rise whilst the rich are becoming richer and richer. Those of us who are spectators to a game in which the elites rule for themselves and condemn the 99% of the population. Those of us who see how the spokespersons for the parties of the regime (PP and PSOE), of the CEOE [the employers’ organisation] and of the Troika request us to tighten our belts unto death, whilst they continue to live beyond our means.
This strike is the opportunity to hold all those strikes in common, all those motives that cause us direct harm or induce our rage. This strike can be a major opportunity to tear away at financial dictatorship and make an enormous contribution towards generating a collective identity capable of confronting it in a united way.
This exercise of dignity can lay the psychological foundations for the building of a political alternative with a transformative will that emanates from the different subjectivities that oppose the handling of this crisis. An alternative based in the distribution of wealth and power that makes those responsible for our despair to pay dearly and, at the same time, that lays the basis for a society in which the repetition of a catastrophe similar to the one we suffer today would be inconceivable.
This 14-N, let’s not work, let’s not consume, and let’s get out on the streets. On 15-N let’s stay mobilised and participate in building the alternative. Together we can do it all.