Friday, 11 May 2012

The European Crisis - Time to resist!

I have not posted here for some time, partly because I was away in Ireland last month but also as I have been very involved in the anti-cuts movement here (Coalition of Resistance) as well as attending meetings to establish a new group supporting the people of Greece in their hour of need, called the Greek Solidarity Campaign. I have also been busy with my voluntary work as Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, attending an all day event last Saturday around preparations for the Olympics by the various ambulance services around the country and visiting the new Olympic Deployment Centre in Docklands, from where the ambulance service will service the various Olympic and Paralympic sites.

COR has been pushing for a national demonstration against the cuts, spearheaded by the unions, for some time. We were enormously encouraged when UNITE took the lead on this, after a series of meetings with COR, and these regular meetings are continuing, and the TUC finally decided to act. It now looks as if the national demonstration will happen in October. Initially it seems that it would be branded by the TUC as a march to "save the NHS". While I agree that saving the NHS is a vital political issue, I also think it vital, and I have said this at COR meetings, that the other cuts, resulting from the Welfare Reform Act etc, are not overlooked. This is especially important at a time when several million disabled people are about to be fed into the mincing machine operated by Atos, G4S and others, in multimillion pound contracts awarded by this government, and which will lead to many living in destitution, resulting in many suicides etc. Also at a time when one London borough after another is announcing the removal of its poor and homeless to areas in the Midlands or the North. The latest I have heard about is the very wealthy Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is considering exporting its homeless applicants and others to Stoke on Trent. Cromwell's cry of "To hell or to Connacht" issued to the Irish Catholics deprived of their land has echoed down the centuries but the Tories and Lib Dems equivalent "to hell or to Hull" looks like following it into the accounts of the dark and inhuman actions from English history.

The strikes yesterday against cuts and the removal of pension rights are a foretaste of what is to come in the autumn and it is high time that the unions, and the TUC in particular, got down and fought the dismantling of the welfare state and the driving of millions of people into penury.

The elections in Greece and France have opened a window of light on to the eternal gloom of austerity which has been the prevailing condition in Europe for the last few years. The delegation from COR which went to Athens recently were shocked by what they found. Suicides had multiplied, as they have in all of the states covered by austerity plans, including Ireland. During my recent visit to Dublin, I visited my brother and his family who live in Howth, a former fishing village which is a suburb of Dublin. He and his wife told me that there had been a series of suicides there, including a pregnant woman who had jumped from the cliffs and anothe woman with several small children who drowned herself in the harbour. The real rate of unemployment in Ireland is estimated to be 30% if you take into account the large numbers of young people who are being forced to emigrate to Canada and Australia.

The Irish government, who are acting as the agents for the austerity agenda, are trying to push through support for the Austerity Pact, the only country in Europe being given a choice on this issue. The Irish Green Party, who were part of the government which got the country into the mess in the first place, are about to take a position on the Austerity Pact and their position re the referendum. It can safely be assumed that they will take a pro line, as they are now totally bankrupt, both politically and financially, and are taking their lead from their funders in the Berlin and the German Green Party. They are attempting to relaunch themselves this summer and detoxify their reputation and change their brand. Unfortunately, like New Democracy and Pasok in Greece, they are totally associated with the mess in Ireland and the attempt to force the Irish taxpayer to prop up toxic banks for years to come and pay for bondholders in the UK and elsewhere.

The acerbic and campaigning Irish journalist, Vincent Browne, has on two occasions recently demolished the case for the bailout and the enslavement of the Irish people for a generation. Here he questions why Irish taxpayers should continue to pay for a bank which is defunct. It almost reminds one of the famous Monthy Python dead parrot sketch - dead, defunct, finished.

And here Browne demolishes the arguments of the right wing Fine Gael minister, Leo Varadkar, on the Fiscal Compact and the referendum.

The only way out of this is default and the people of Ireland and of Europe need to loudly tell the bankers and the spivs, and those who politically represent them, where to get off.