Southern storm hails the start of the European Fall

  • September 28, 2012

Capitalism & Crisis

With storm clouds forming over Athens, Madrid and Lisbon, one thing is now clear: a new season of crisis and protest has begun. This time it’s serious.

This week, as clouds of smoke and teargas descended upon Greek Parliament, and Spanish street cleaners were left washing the blood off the pavement in front of Congress, Europe was once again reminded that its financial, economic, political and social troubles are far from over. A storm is brewing in the South. The European Fall is about to begin. And this time, it’s serious.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of outraged Spaniards besieged Congress in Madrid and were met with a brutal police crackdown. On Wednesday, violent clashes broke out between protesters and riot police during yet another general strike in Athens, with hundreds of thousands marching and petrol bombs and tear gas flying over Syntagma Square in an eerie reminder of last year’s unrest.

On Friday, over 30.000 marched during a strike against Monti’s new spending review in Rome, while just a week ago, Portugal saw its largest street demonstrations since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, with up to a million people marching on the Presidential Palace in a highly unusual expression of popular resistance to austerity — immediately forcing the government to make a dramatic U-turn on some of its most radical social security cuts.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is having trouble keeping his country together. As Rajoy announced the fifth round of draconian austerity measures in just nine months, backtracking on virtually every single election promise he’s made, the regional governor of Catalonia called for early elections that will undoubtedly serve as an unofficial referendum on secession from Spain. For the first time since the Civil War, the majority of Catalans now favors independence. Not just Europe, but its states too are rapidly falling apart.

Oh, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, Spain’s banks apparently suffer a 60bn “black hole“. And Germany, Finland and the Netherlands just refused to stick to their earlier agreement to save them without adding the bill to the Spanish debt. As a result, investors are pulling their hair out of their heads (and their money out of Spain), piling even more pressure on the Spanish government to take a world record 300bn euro bailout from the dreaded Troika.

Spanish borrowing costs shot up to 6 percent for the first time in weeks. Apparently, even the President of the European Central Bank cannot reassure financial markets that he will do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The single currency, it seems, is doomed. Meanwhile, poverty and destitution keep on rising across the continent; and none of our “leaders” seem even the slightest bit concerned about the fact that Southern Europe is steadily being turned into a New Third World at the margins of the European Single Market.

This Saturday, major rallies are planned in Lisbon (with another 1 million expected to take to the streets) and in Madrid (where protests have been taking place every day since Tuesday). Meanwhile, on Sunday, a mass rally is organized in Paris after Socialist President Francois Hollande just announced major austerity measures as part of France’s “harshest budget in 30 years“.

As Bob Dylan legendarily put it, you don’t need a weather man to tell which way the wind blows. With dark clouds forming over Athens, Madrid, Lisbon and Rome, make sure to prepare for months of market and street turmoil. A storm is brewing in the South. The European Fall has begun. This time it’s serious.

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Jerome Roos

Jerome Roos is the founder and editor of ROAR Magazine, and a postdoctoral researcher in political economy at the University of Cambridge. For more on his research and writings, visit jeromeroos.com.

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