Anti-austerity anger sweeps Europe

2012-05-01 19:00

Madrid - Fed up with high unemployment and austerity, May Day protesters took to the streets across Europe on Tuesday in a wave of anger that threatens to topple leaders in Paris and Athens.

From the eye of the eurozone debt storm in Madrid to the streets of Paris and Athens, where tottering governments face elections within days, marchers spoke of job losses, spending cuts and hard times.

More than two years after the eurozone sovereign debt crisis erupted, frustration with austerity is boiling over across the continent as voters wait in vain for signs of the economic pay-off.

Spain, Greece

In Spain - suffering the industrialised world's highest jobless rate of 24.4% in the first quarter of 2012 - major unions called protests in about 80 cities.

Tens of thousands massed in central Madrid's Neptuno square, decrying the jobless queue, new labour reforms that make it easier and cheaper to fire workers, and a budget squeeze in health care and education.

"They are going to destroy more jobs with the labour reform," complained 28-year-old graphic designer Sonia Calles.

"Already in Spain almost everyone is an intern up to the age of 30. And now employment insecurity is going to hit those in their 30s and 40s," she said in the capital.

Thousands more rallied in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities around Greece, five days ahead of cliffhanger general elections with voters fed up with years of austerity.

"No-one Alone, Together We Will Get There!" read a banner draped on a stage in Athens' central Kotzia square.

Polls indicate that Greeks are fleeing the main parties for smaller groups in revenge over a European Union-IMF economic recovery plan that has brought repeated waves of pay and pension cuts.

French elections

In Paris, the French presidential election race overcast the day as three powerful political movements battled for attention with competing rallies five days before polling day.

Marine Le Pen's anti-immigrant far-right National Front kicked off the May Day events with several thousand supporters marching through central Paris in memory of Joan of Arc, who has become a far-right icon.

Le Pen, who scored a record 18% in the April 22 first round, led the march and urged supporters to abstain rather than back President Nicolas Sarkozy or Socialist Francois Hollande in the run-off.

Sarkozy's right-wing supporters were gathering at the Place du Trocadero in Paris's posh 16th arrondissement to hear their champion give his last major speech in the capital before the vote.

And, on the left, trade unions organised their traditional march to the historic Place de la Bastille.

With the latest poll predicting an Hollande win on Sunday by 53 to 47%, Sarkozy is anxious to gain some momentum from the rally.

In contrast to Western European rallies, more than 100 000 people held a Soviet-style march through Moscow to celebrate labour day and show support for president-elect Vladimir Putin ahead of his inauguration.

Accompanied by kitsch brass music and surrounded by multi-coloured balloons, Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev led the march through a central Moscow avenue.

Police said around 120 000 people took part in the "Holiday of Labour and Spring" march in Moscow.


Elsewhere in Europe, people showed growing frustration with an era of crushing economic hardship.

Across Poland and in the Czech Republic's capital Prague, people protested against unemployment, homelessness, and the dogged pursuit of austerity policies.

Some 100 000 Social Democratic Party supporters rallied in Vienna for better education and a fairer distribution of wealth, and some 2 000 packed Bulgaria's capital Sofia urging the conservative government to resign.

In Turkey, tens of thousands from all political parties packed the emblematic Taksim Square in Istanbul. Some 20 000 police mobilised in the city to ensure security in the marches.

  • Roche - 2012-05-01 19:53

    The problem in Europe is the same as in the rest of the world. Debt interest and the entire debt based banking system. The central banks of the world drive the core problem and the politicians are ignorant pawns in the central bankers debt games for wealth and power.

      rory.short1 - 2012-05-01 20:44

      you are absolutely right

      Fidel - 2012-05-02 10:38

      Well said Roche. I find it strange that people are against slavery in general but seems impotent to do anything about debt slavery. What's even worse is that this debt we are being sold is created out of thin air,i.e. printing money or fractional reserve banking. The financial free lunchers have taken over the political system.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-05-02 11:16

      Politicians are not ignorant pawns but the direct problem , promising the world of social services when they cannot provide it and thus loan the cash via the central banks (govt banker) , bond sales ect to fund these projects which have zero return and you end up with the situation they have. Its called passing the buck ,who is going to vote for the guy saying we need to reduce(Austerity)govt spending (social services) and reduce national debt as oppossed to the populist , more spending , more services even tho they cannot afford it ?

      Fidel - 2012-05-02 11:39

      The ex Greek Prime Minister wanted to hold a referendum to ask his countrymen and woman if they agreed with the austerity measures being imposed by the IMF. The intl bankers threatened his country with all kinds of nastiness amd he ended up risigning and was replaced by an ex banker. The politicians were powerless in this instance to do anything. It is the money men who run western democracies!

      Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-05-02 19:17

      Fidel. Italy was the same, berlusconi was replaced by trilateral commission big wig ex Goldman Sachs exec. Mario monti. These are government take overs banker style!!!

  • Lacrimose - 2012-05-01 20:20

    Nothing has changed in 300+ years. The peasants/serfs are still paying for the excesses of the lords and kings. All they've done is couch it much nicer terms, fed you the illusion of democracy and carried on their merry way. Now the wheel has turned yet again, the lords have more income and debt and so you, serfs, will pay. They will not change their lifestyles one jot. Until we can truly democratise the economies we live in, we are doomed to live this cycle over and over. Only the names of people and places will change to protect the very guilty involved.

      rory.short1 - 2012-05-01 20:57

      At the root of these so called economic problems lies an almighty con that is pulled on the public and that is that it is okay for banks, or the State, to create credit from thin air and sell it as interest bearing debt to the gullible public. If you or I created money from thin air we would go to gaol for counterfeiting and rightly so. Anybody who produces money from thin air should be goaled because it is fraudulent but the banks do it on a massive scale. Economies cannot survive fraud on such a massive scale.

      Lacrimose - 2012-05-01 21:15

      @rory.short1 - correct. The last 300 years (and probably further back) have demonstrated this over and over. From the Hapsburgs all the way through to the 'new' royalty - too-big-to-fail JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup. As in the times of European royalty when they became 'too big to fail', they simply carved up Europe, divvied up the Kingdoms, Duchy's and Principalities. Never mind the people who lived there or the artificial divides created that led to more wars later on. They were out to preserve themselves, their way of life and their undeniable right to rule. So yes, until we can democratise finance we are the ones who are in gaol - in perpetual servitude to gods with clay feet.

      DSBennie - 2012-05-02 07:37

      The excess in Europe is the result of your so called peasants/serfs sitting on their backside all day living off welfare to lazy to do any work, they all want loans for cars and houses that they cannot afford, the entitlement mentality of the lower classes are to blame

      Fidel - 2012-05-02 10:51

      @Rory It is gangsterism, it is fraud run by crooks. Savings of people are looted by crooks by creating fractional banking system. People with capital are not rewarded. Their capital is laundered by crooks. While workers have to work for every penny they earn, crooks in banking system create money out of nothing. Their fake money trickles into the economy and blends with real money. Ongoing counterfeiting of money by banks devalues the real money owned by real economy. The money men are telling the Plebs to tighten their belts so that they don't have to tighten theirs.

      Fidel - 2012-05-02 11:00

      @Bennie Modern serfs or slaves are socialised into believing they are better off than the unfortunate souls who lived on the margins, in the dark hollows of Europe, in the jungles of Africa, or in the wilds of the American frontier. The current economic growth is generating financial industry booty, not jobs. Economists assure us that the financial sector's role is to prudently move excess savings into investment. But that's not how Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, the largest private equity funds and the largest hedge funds are raking in their billions. Their real cash cow is their secretive daily practice of "proprietary trading" -- the equivalent of gambling in a rigged casino.

      Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-05-02 17:41

      Or derivatives Fidel

  • dave.prinsloo - 2012-05-01 22:28

    the start of a European Spring maybe? With croissants and peaceful disobedience instead of tanks and guns. Solidarity!

  • pages:
  • 1