A European wide general strike – realism or fantasy?

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BY JOHN MILLINGTON
In Brighton

LEADING member of the Greek civil service union ADEDY Despina Spanou brought PCS activists to their feet today after she called for European wide general strike against austerity.

Such talk just a couple of years ago would have been easily dismissed as madness by even those the most hardened activist.

Yet with the seemingly never-ending political and economic crisis engulfing the Eurozone, such talk cannot be simply ignored.

The response to austerity from the trade union and progressive movements in many EU states has been heartening.

In Greece primarily under the banner of the militant front PAME, workers have taken part in over 15 general strikes in recent years.

The strikes, which have mobilised millions of workers, students and even sympathetic small business holders, may have not brought down the government but have certainly changed the political landscape forever.

Spain, Portugal and Italy have also seen strikes and demonstrations directly opposing austerity with varying levels of effectiveness.

For frontline activists at the PCS and elsewhere keen to get a piece of the government and rattle the cage of finance capital, the perceived fatalism and timid response to the cuts by the TUC leadership is a source of gnawing frustration.

Taking inspiration from other countries is at the heart of trade union internationalism.

But how would one begin to organise a general strike across Europe and what would the role of the British trade union movement be?

General strikes in this country are illegal and only a few pockets of workers in specific disputes over terms and conditions have dared to defy the anti trade union balloting laws.

And workers live and operate in different countries and therefore have different national conditions and national ruling classes who at different times are at once in unity and in conflict with each other.

PCS insiders have talked more realistically about coordinated protests in every major city on the same day.

Although still a logistical and political nightmare, the message it would send out would be that Europe’s workers would not take austerity lying down, could rattle a few cages in the EU halls of power.

Whether labour movements settling the score with their own respective governments within the in the EU or joining workers up regardless of national conditions is the most effective, the debate about the next phase of action has begun.

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