Today, Wednesday the 23rd of February, Greece was paralyzed by a nationwide general strike as hundreds of thousands of workers, shop keepers and civil servants walked off the job in a 24-hour protest over the so-called ‘Socialist’ government’s ongoing ‘austerity’ program.  Sound familiar?  Wisconsin is considering a general strike as well, now that Governor Walker seems unwilling to stop his union busting for the corporate class under the same guise of ‘austerity’.

The general strike comes as data show that Greece’s recession has worsened, with the economy contracting a worse-than-expected 4.5% last year.  There is little good news on the horizon.  Joblessness has risen to an official 13.9%, while youth unemployment is a staggering 35.6% or more.  Meanwhile the Greek working people continue to suffer.

Greece’s retailers association, ESEE, estimates that 120,000 small businesses will be declared bankrupt this year alone.  All of this due to the forced austerity by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank, entities that helped ‘bail out the banks’ and corrupt financial sector, as we have seen throughout Europe.  The same is to be said for the US where  banks considered too big to fail received more than $650 billion dollars which they refuse to lend while they pay huge bonuses and engage in merger and acquisition activity all driving up the Dow Jones. Shifting the cost of capitalist crimes on the back of working people is the agenda worldwide.

The general strike is the response by workers to the financial solution by the Greek government which represents the transnational ruling class: ‘austerity’.  The austerity measures the government and banisters have imposed, along with a series of other economic reforms, are part of a deal reached last May between Greece and the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $110 billion Euro bailout.  But this was not a deal acquiesced to by the Greek people, as shown today and in past revolts since the bailout.

A spokesperson for the public sector umbrella union in Greece, ADEDY said in a statement:

“Workers today are living through the most barbaric attack at the expense of their rights and their lives.  We have a collective and personal responsibility to ourselves and to our children to succeed in our struggle (Greece’s Paralyzing General Strike Turns Violent In Central Athens, February 23, 2011, ).
Today’s general strike in Greece — the first such strike this year — has also now drawn support from the business community, with ESEE calling on its members to close their shops and join the protest.   Private doctors, pharmacists and journalists also walked off the job.

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal noted that in the center of Athens, a protest by thousands of workers, leftists and civil servants outside parliament in Syntagma Square turned violent as several hundred youths hurled projectiles, fire crackers and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades.  According to police estimates the total number of protesters in the capital at about 30,000.

The uprisings were not contained in one location but spread to other locations around the city center with the police and protesters fighting in the streets near the University of Athens campus and in parts of the central business district.  Protesters also set up road blocks, attacked shops and set small fires in garbage bins.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou insultingly said Wednesday he feels the pain of the people protesting, but he indicated that protest itself wasn’t enough to stop his government from redistributing wealth upward and forcing the cost of the world wide failure of capitalism on the backs of working people.

Police spokesman Papapetropoulos said about 3,000 security officers are at the ready in the streets of Athens to prevent the demonstrations from sliding into destructive violence.

A police spokesman, Panagiotis Papapetropoulos, told Dow Jones Newswires:

“We have made one arrest of a man who had in his possession an archer’s bow and arrows, as well as an axe. We hadn’t seen anything like that before (ibid).”

the Greek general strike could be prescient as Governor Walker of Wisconsin has threatened to use the National Guard in the Wisconsin worker’s uprising as a result of corporate union busting.  Walker even has sent the National Guard to the prison system in Wisconsin to survey what might happen if the current prison guards, themselves public workers, refuse to go back to work.  With the repeal of Posse Comitatas by the Bush administration, one is sadly left thinking that perhaps the US military, mostly working class people, would be called into Wisconsin to quell dissent and protect corporate interests, no doubt in the interest of fighting terrorism all, of course, in the name of freedom.