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Right now, in what might be the largest coordinated actions yet, the people of Southern Europe are engaged in an international general strike against ongoing austerity measures. Action today centred on a near-total shut-down of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) along with several-hour national shut-downs in Greece and Italy. Workers in France, Belgium, Germany and others are also supporting and participating. Air travel, trains, industry and services have all been affected by actions, and massive demonstrations have taken to the streets of countless cities. Clashes with police have been reported in Spain (81 reported arrested in Madrid so far) and several Italian cities.

Guardian – Live Coverage
BBC Coverage
Democracy Now Coverage
Libcom – Live Updates

Since last year, Europe has been gripped by an enduring debt crisis. With southern nations like Spain and Greece failing to recover from the collapse of 2008, they’re requiring large bailouts to keep making their payments on national debt to wealthier (northern) nations. In exchange central bankers have demanded harsh spending cuts (“austerity”). Unfortunately, the cuts have only further devastated economies while bailout uncertainty during bargaining sessions has driven interest rates on their debt far higher, driving a cycle of more cuts, bailouts and recessions which has infuriated the continent.

In response, Europe has been witnessing some of the largest and most intense protests in a generation. Town squares were occupied, hundreds of thousands took to the streets and pitched battles were fought with riot police. There’s been several general strikes now in each of the nations afflicted by the crisis and a growing list of fallen governments. Last week’s two-day general strike in Greece, for instance, saw 80 000 in the streets of Athens and a particularly fierce battle outside the parliament, awaiting the latest austerity vote.

Today’s actions are a landmark for organizing across borders, and for the participation of large traditional labour groups like the European Trade Union Confederation who don’t usually get involved in such actions. An accurate number of participants isn’t available, but it’s likely to be in the millions. Today’s actions show a growing rejection of austerity which is beginning to connect across the continent.

This issue isn’t going away, and the protests are only getting larger.

Later this month, officials meet in Brussels to attempt (again) to sort out this mess. As the consensus grows, even in capitalist circles, that austerity has failed, Europe is starting to run out of options. Greece has been pushed the brink of total economic, social and political collapse, with Spain and Italy not far behind. More cuts, at this point, only invite disaster. Millions of people sent a message today, and unless it’s received soon, we’re going to witness a much larger, longer shut-down.

...and always bring a towel.

Good advice from a stencil on the Jackson Square rooftop, Hamilton, Ontario.

Once again, the European Union is spiraling toward oblivion. Not only are Greece’s re-elections a week away, but Spain is now in need of another bailout and Italy is beginning to sputter again. As the dangers involve swing once again from “quagmire” to “clusterfuck”, even the Toronto Stock Exchange is feeling the brunt of it. In response, one very clever graffiti artist has decorated the roof of Jackson Square with two choice words which would serve the EU’s leaders and bankers very well right now: “don’t panic”.

No, that’s not deja-vu you’re feeling, this really has been happening every couple of weeks for over a year now. At the core of the problem lies the way national debt is traded on bond markets, much like stocks or futures. Demand in these auctions and markets determines the interest rate on the debt, therefore fear of a debt-crisis-spiral (like seen in Greece) can easily drive a country’s interest rates through the roof (as they did to Spain and Italy today). The standard response is to cut debt and deficits (“austerity”), but since it’s far easier for interest rates to double than to cut a national debt in half, this usually does a lot more harm than good (as it has in Greece, Spain, Britain, and most of the Third World). Worst of all, the only thing really needed to kick off this cycle is to announce that you’re planning a bailout or austerity measures to send investors panicking, even if the national economy in question is relatively “healthy”.

They will, of course, panic, sooner or later. There is no way out of this crisis without a “correction” of some kind or another. Economies will topple like a row of dominos line up around the globe. When this happens, and it will, we’ll have one task that’s more important than any other: not panicking.

Good luck with that.

What a week. The fallout of Chris Hedges’ rantings continues to spread, uniting the anarchist world in a ways we haven’t seen in decades. The constant flow of replies to Hedges’ rantings has now moved from bloggers and activists to some of the the best known names in anarchism today, and spreading all over the radical sectors of the internet. Ironically, Hedges may have inadvertently proven his point – poorly constructed attacks only serve to benefit the intended target.

I don’t really know what would constitute an “official response” from the anarchist movement, but if you’ve managed to become the subject of essays by David Graeber, Peter Gelderloos and Kevin Carson within a few days of each other, that’s got to count for something. John Zerzan’s radio show has replied (though he’s off in India at the moment), Occupy Oakland has weighed in, as have a great many other radicals.

Chris Hedges’ Epic Fail – Solidarity with Anarchists – Occupy Oakland
Concerning the Violent Peace Police – David Graeber
The Surgeons of Occupy – Peter Gelderloos
Should Occupy Use Violence? (I Dunno, Should the Cops?) – Kevin Carson
Anarchy Radio (John Zerzan’s show) Responds
Violence Begets Defeat or Too Much Pacifism? – Michael Albert (not an anarchist, but Chomsky couldn’t be reached for comment)

All of these should make clear the profound and visceral reaction to Hedges’ writings. In light of this, and the large-scale debate which has ensued, he clarified his comments in an interview, or at least attempted to. This piece confirms, without a doubt, that the man has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, but we’re assured that he suffered through several entire hours of Anarchy Radio for the purposes of research. He also makes very dubious claims about the Civil Rights movement, and still seems totally unaware that Derrick Jensen is a member of the nasty “anti-civilization” crowd he’s describing.

Interview – Chris Hedges About the Black Bloc

A number of things have become clear from the many responses. First would be that he grossly overstates the role of property destruction as a tactic in anything remotely Occupy-related, as well as overstating the black bloc’s role in those events. The coffee shop he mentions was in fact part of a chain, smashed by an individual wearing neither black nor a mask. More recent actions in Oakland, numerous participants have stated, followed a similar pattern with the black bloc as a part of the shield wall, and those who vandalized city hall part of a plain-clothed group who’d just escaped from an attempted mass arrest. In all of these cases, as well as recent actions in Portland and elsewhere, the scale of this destruction has been extremely minor – even the G20 in Toronto was fairly tame compared to more recent hockey riots, and none of these actions even approach that scale.

The next thing that has become clear is that while opinions differ on the effectiveness of various tactics in specific cases (and always will), solidarity is more important and many of us are willing to defend that. Many personal accounts from Oakland and elsewhere of people involved in these events have come out, and it’s pretty clear many have been deeply offended by these mis-characterizations. Hopefully the Occupy movement will take the word of those involved, but if much of the chatter I’ve witnessed on comment pages is any indication, the battle is far from over.

Occupy Oakland Move-In-Day Account

I will never say that I support every act of vandalism which comes along with a black mask or circle-A in spray paint. As I said the other day (and admittedly, I was a dick about it), even I have my issues with property destruction. However, I’d never go so far as to attempt to use force in my objection, and turning people over to the police is a fundamentally violent act. Collaboration with the authorities to publicly denounce or arrest those we organize with has consequences which go way beyond throwing rocks, both in terms of landing people in jail and shattering any hope of building a movement.

This discussion could not have come at a better time. Europe is erupting, again, threatening to throw a wrench into the gears of this year’s sudden dramatic surge in stock markets. Greek politicians have been struggling to pass austerity measures demanded by European bankers in exchange for continuing bailouts, prompting massive unrest (again). But while the black block attacked riot cops guarding the parliament with molotov cocktails, what response came from the police? Their unions are now threatening to side with the protesters and arrest IMF officials. Elsewhere in Belgium, striking firefighters refused to resort to such fiery tactics, and instead broke police lines with their hoses. Fighting has also broken out in Madrid. Obviously, in the fight against austerity programs in Europe, there’s still a place for a diversity of tactics.

Today another austerity bill hits the Greek parliament, amidst another general strike. It threatens to cut a fifth from the minimum wage and cut 15000 public sector jobs in an already collapsing economy, and the newly installed Prime Minister Papademos is threatening national ruin if it doesn’t pass. The question is, what tactics, if any, can stand in its way?

Over the past few days, there have been a number of developments in Spain. First, on Friday, police attacked demonstrator in several cities, clearing them from the Barcelona square and injuring over a hundred and twenty people. These crackdowns came under the pretense of a Saturday soccer game in London which authorities feared would inflame the crowds.Protesters have held their ground or since returned, and at a series of large assemblies yesterday night decided to stay on “indefinitely”.

Protests have also begun to spread across Europe, expressing solidarity with the Spanish M-15 movement, and calling for “real democracy” across Europe.. Around a thousand demonstrators gathered in Paris’ Bastille square, only to be later disbursed by police last night. In Athens, 20 000 gathered at Syntagma Square.

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