Belgian Worker’s Benefits Shredded by Capitalist Rulers

100k Protest Austerity in Brussels, Police Repression Sparks Riot

11/06/2014 —  Brussels, Belgium

Belgian riot police fired tear gas and water cannon’s repressing the demonstrators on Thursday, at the first of what’s to be a series of anti-austerity demonstrations and strikes planned for the coming weeks. More than 100,000 people were on the streets of Brussels where they marched peacefully for almost two hours before violence broke out.

Car windows were smashed, other vehicles were overturned or set alight, and protsetors threw paving stones and fireworks. There were also reports of serious injuries among police as well as demonstrators. 14 demonstrators were reportedly taken to area hospitals, Brussels newspaper De Morgen reports.

B1ww7eCIYAAedFSFor two hours, the demonstrators peacefully marched down the main thoroughfares of central Brussels to protest government policies that will raise the pension age, contain wages and cut into public services.
“They are hitting the workers, the unemployed. They are not looking for money where it is, I mean, people with a lot of money,” said Philippe Dubois, who came from the industrial rust belt of Liege.
B1w_44NCcAEcrvu
Belgium has a long postwar tradition of collective bargaining between employers and workers, and successive coalition governments representing a full scale of public opinion often have been able to contain social disagreements. But the current coalition, made up of three pro-business parties and the centrist Christian Democrats, is the first in decades that has been able to set such a clear free-market agenda.

Continue reading

Greece: Bloated military and economic collapse

[Some may suggest that Greece pay back its creditors in rusty tanks and leaky submarines–not Euros. — Frontlines ed.]
——————————
February 21, 2012

Sell Them Tanks, Then Call Them Profligate

Germans, French Were Keen to Sell Arms to Greece

by PATRICK COCKBURN, writing for Counterpunch

Athens — As Greeks waited for a second eurozone rescue package to finally be agreed in Brussels today, many were blaming Germany and France for encouraging and benefiting from some of the much-criticized profligate spending that reduced Greece to near bankruptcy.

About 1000 protesters gathered in front of the Greek Parliament in central Athens yesterday, while riot police waited to see if there would be a fresh confrontation. But, in general, Greeks are resigned to the new package of austerity measures which will cut jobs in public service and slash pensions and the minimum wage.

Hopes are high that the eurozone ministers’ meeting today will agree to the €130 billion bailout after Athens detailed the new budget cuts.

While most Greeks are critical of the reforms on which the troika of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are insisting, many also feel that Germany and France share some of the blame for Greece’s overspending.

Over much of the past decade, Greece – which has a population of 11 million – has been one of the top five arms importers in the world. Continue reading

Another 11 Million Foreclosures in the United States?

Foreclosure Crisis Goes Global

by MIKE WHITNEY, Counterpunch

Even though housing is in terrible shape in the US, it’s not nearly as bad as Ireland. Irish real estate is in freefall. Prices have plunged 60 percent across the country and 65 percent in Dublin. Austerity measures have sent unemployment soaring (18 percent) and housing into the doldrums. According to the Guardian, prices dipped 8 percent in the last quarter alone, “the largest ever quarterly fall in house prices in Ireland.” (“Ireland’s house prices at lowest levels since 2000″, The Guardian)

And things aren’t so hot in neighboring Spain either where housing prices slumped 7.4 percent in the third quarter year-over-year, “the fourteenth straight quarter of falls.” (Reuters) The wreckage from Spain’s housing bubble is visible everywhere, from the dysfunctional, underwater banking system, to the skyhigh unemployment (22 percent), to the droopy state revenues. The country’s dreary finances have led to the ousting of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his Socialist government to be replaced by rightwing hardliner Mariano Rajoy. (Rajoy promises to slash government spending wherever possible, even if it means rolling back popular social programs.) Here’s more on Spains’ housing bubble from Reuters:

“House prices have dropped around 24 percent in real terms since their peak in 2007 and are expected to decline between 35 and 40 percent over a 10-year period, with demand hit by high unemployment and low population growth.” (“Spain housing prices fall 7.4 pct in long slump”, Reuters)

In the US, homeowners have seen their equity vanish in a matter of a few years. According to the benchmark S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, housing prices have slipped 32 percent from their peak in 2006, wiping out roughly $8 trillion in home equity. The price-reversal has caused a sharp decline in consumer spending as nearly $500 billion per year had been drawn from Home Equity Withdrawals (HEW) during the bubble years.

So, how far will prices fall in the US, and is there any chance that the US follows Ireland’s lead and lobs off another 30 percent or so?

That seems unlikely, mainly because the big banks appear to be working with the Fed to control the amount of supply that comes online. So, for example, (according to Calculated Risk) “Existing home inventory declined 18 percent year-over-year in December” (2011) whereas, the “shadow inventory” of homes barely budged. Here’s how Calculated Risk defines shadow inventory:

Housing inventory “that is currently not on the market, but is expected to be listed in the next few years. Shadow inventory could include bank owned properties (REO: Real Estate Owned), properties in the foreclosure process, other properties with delinquent mortgages (both serious delinquencies of over 90+ days, and less serious), condos that were converted to apartments (and will be converted back), investor owned rental properties, and homeowners “waiting for a better market”, and a few other categories – as long as the properties are not currently listed for sale.”

So, while existing home inventory is back to about 2005 levels (2.5 million units); shadow inventory adds another 3 million to that sum. If that shadow supply was suddenly dumped onto the market, prices would fall precipitously. So, my guess, is that the Big Boys are colluding with our friends at the Fed to maintain pricing by releasing the backlog in dribs and drabs. Even so, the downward pressure on prices is impressive. For example, the banks reduced supply by roughly 18 percent y-o-y, and yet, prices STILL went down nearly 4 percent! Normally, you’d think that if that much supply was kept off the market, prices would rise, but that’s not the case.  This just shows that the attitude towards owning a home has changed dramatically. Even with historic low interest rates, people are shunning home ownership in droves. Continue reading

Greek police use tear gas on anti-austerity march

Students carry a blood-stained Greek flag during a rally in Athens marking the anniversary of a 1973 students uprising against the dictatorship then ruling Greece November 17, 2011. REUTERS-Yiorgos Karahalis

Students carry a blood-stained Greek flag during a rally in Athens marking the anniversary of a 1973 students uprising against the dictatorship then ruling Greece November 17, 2011. REUTERS-Yiorgos Karahalis

by Renee Maltezou and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS | Thu Nov 17, 2011–Youths protesting against austerity on Thursday, one day after a national unity government took office charged with imposing painful tax rises and spending cuts to save Greece from bankruptcy.

More than 30,000 people marched past shuttered shops in central Athens beating drums, waving red flags and chanting “EU, IMF out!” in the first public test for technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and his quarrelsome, three-party coalition.

The annual November 17 march commemorates a bloody student uprising against Greece’s military junta in 1973 but often becomes a focal point for anti-government protesters. Continue reading

Europe: No pretense of democracy when the bankers of empire slash and burn the people

[TIME magazine has detailed what amounts to a bourgeois confession about the class nature of the state.  Often wrapped in theatrical “democratic” disguise, the modern capitalist state is always the loyal servant of capitalism, and the enemy of the working class and the majority of society.  The reality of bourgeois rule is usually concealed behind populist rhetoric, selective privileges, corruption, xenophobia, and media deceptions which create an ongoing  culture of confusion.  But times of severe crisis rip this veil and expose the reality, as seen this week in the events in Greece and Italy. — Frontlines ed.]

————————–

Regime Change in Europe: Do Greece and Italy Amount to a Bankers’ Coup?

By Stephan Faris,  TIME magazine, Friday, Nov. 11, 2011

The voice of the people isn’t something the markets seem to want to hear these days. First there was Greece, the cradle of democracy itself, where early this month, the merest mention of a referendum offering its citizens a say in a series of severe austerity measures was enough to send the markets into a tailspin. The ultimate result: the collapse of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s ruling coalition, the rejection of any notion of bringing the proposal before the people, and the installation of a caretaker government under the leadership of Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank and, until earlier this week, a visiting professor at Harvard.

Then came Italy. As Athens threatened to go under, Rome found itself under pressure not so much for its level of debt — which though high is generally considered within the limits of sustainability — as much as for the erratic behavior of its flamboyant prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. On Monday, investors seemed to make the collective decision that he could no longer be trusted at the helm of the euro zone’s third largest economy and sent Italy’s cost of borrowing up towards crisis levels. By the end of the week, not only was Berlusconi finished, so was the very idea of holding a vote to replace him. The markets had spoken, and they didn’t like the idea of going to the electorate. “The country needs reforms, not elections,” said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council on a visit to Rome Friday.

Indeed both Papandreou and Berlusconi had been respectively berated and belittled by Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France. It is almost as if Franco-German displeasure combined with the disapproval of the markets was enough to bring about regime-change. As in Athens, the plan in Rome is to replace the outgoing prime minister with somebody from outside the political class. Mario Monti, a neo-liberal economist and former EU commissioner who seems designed with the idea of calming the markets in mind, is expected to take over from Berlusconi after he resigns Saturday. For many in the two battle-scarred capitals, the fact that Papademos and Monti aren’t directly accountable to the public isn’t a problem. It’s the reason they’re being called in. Continue reading

Greek protesters call president “traitor”, halt parade

Protesters pull police barricades during a protest against austerity policies in Thessaloniki, in northern Greece October 28, 2011. REUTERS/Grigoris Siamidis

[In the midst of ever-growing crisis, national celebrations are widely seen as bourgeois extravagances undeserving of popular support. — Frontlines ed.]

By George Georgiopoulos and Daniel Flynn, Reuters

ATHENS | Fri Oct 28, 2011

(Reuters) – Greeks protesting at austerity measures demanded by foreign lenders blocked a major national parade on Friday to commemorate Greek resistance in World War Two, shouting “traitors” at President Karolos Papoulias and other officials.

The protest in Thessaloniki was echoed at smaller parades across Greece, including in Athens where marchers held black ribbons. It showed the extent of anger at the higher taxes and wage cuts sought by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for funds to avert a debt default.

The annual military parade in the northern city is one of the most symbolic events in Greece’s political calendar and commemorates the rejection of Italy’s ultimatum to surrender in 1940. It was the first time it had been cancelled. Continue reading

Greece: KKE(m-l) on the strike wave, general strike and protests

Communist Party of Greece (marxist-leninist)

People’s wrath flooded the whole country!

The determination of the people and the workers must block the brutal attack, state terror and provocateurs!

Thursday,  20/10/2011

Communist Party of Greece (ML) banner: "They exterminate us!" "They are selling the country!" "We are not looking for 'saviors'!" "Participate in the Massive Uprising!" (October 20, 2011)

The Communist Party of Greece (m-l) salutes the hundreds of thousands of strikers who for two days have flooded the streets and the squares in Athens and every city all over the country against the new law – that concerns new austerity measures and abolition of workers’ rights.

This 2-day general strike was the result of the pressure exercised on the sold out leadership of the two workers’ confederations ( in public and private sector). During the last weeks there were a lot of mobilizations in the public sector, hospitals, ministries etc. This strike has shown – once more – that the workers and the people in our country are determined to fight and overthrow the barbarism imposed by the government’s policies and to oust the Troica, the IMF and the European imperialists. They have managed to surpass the obstacles set forth by the sold out leadership of the union with their participation in mass assemblies and militant resolutions in work places and unions.

The Communist Party of Greece (m-l) denounces the state terror that was launched-–particularly the second day, 20/10, in Syntagma Square in Athens through a sweeping operation using chemical gas against the demonstrators. Continue reading