Amaia Engana didn't wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain's Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week's general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe.
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Wednesday marks a breakthrough in the struggle against austerity in Europe. There will be co-ordinated general strikes in Portugal, Greece and Spain and significant strikes and solidarity actions in many other countries. The CGIL union in Italy, for example, an organisation of nearly six million, has announced a strike of all its members around the country.
This is a historic and crucial development. There have been other European days of action and joint protests in Brussels and elsewhere, but this will be the first time since the great anti-war protests nearly ten years ago that this level of co-ordination has taken place across borders. It is the first time that general strikes have been organised simultaneously.
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Social Democracy After the Cold War
Anyone who has followed the current economic and financial crisis in Europe knows that social democratic governments and parties have consistently lined up on the side of the banks and the rich in the ongoing political conflict. The policies they have implemented while in government have been nearly identical to those advanced by the traditional right-wing parties and governments. In several counties, the social democrats have formed political alliances to govern with the right wing parties. What is going on here?
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What to do next is the policy question every government must face. In Canada, like elsewhere, more of the same -- a.k.a. nothing at all -- is a popular answer. Radical change is seldom a preferred course of action. And yet, for over 30 years, neoliberal radical change is what has been on the world agenda. We are now grappling with the unhappy results. The bleak outlook for the future is unlikely to improve unless a new and equally radical policy orientation is chosen.