The Tour: Some background

After booking what seems like an age ago, I leave for Athens this Sunday.   I’m super-duper excited, and everyone in Glasgow will probably be glad to see the back of me as I’ve gone on about little else for the last month.   My plans are fairly fluid, and although I’ve been reading up a bit on the different issues across different parts of the EU, I’m not entirely sure what to expect.

There are a few issues that I want to look at in general across the different countries, some are coming to the fore far more in different countries than in others but in particular I’d like to look at

    • housing, homelessness and pressure on household finances
    • the situation of women
    • the effects of unemployment
    • alternatives that people are creating while faced with austerity
    • the reactions of the state to the rising movements.
    • national identity, european integration and feelings toward to euro

I also want to look at a number of things within the movement itself, how radical culture across the EU is developing and how they may differ across different counties influenced by the challenges that they are facing influenced by the national culture of the country.  Each country is affected by austerity differently, each has unique histories and cultures and these intersect with the radical movement in the respective countries.  I want to pay particular attention to the role of women, youth and Black radicals within the movement.  Bearing in mind that two of the countries in the front line of austerity measures, Greece and Spain have experience of dictatorship within living memory, I also want to explore how regressive narratives are being handled within the movement, especially in terms of national identity and nationalism.

    • the role of women within the movement
    • alternative living arrangements including squatting
    • generational differences in resisting austerity
    • the methods of organisation coming to the fore
    • the tactics the movement of the country is using to resist austerity
    • the perception within the movement of national identity and the dangers of nationalism.

Athens 29th April – 3rd May

Greece has been in the front line of much of the austerity movements.  There are elections coming up on 6th May, and it is likely that MayDay will be an opportunity for the radical forces to show their strength.  Homelessness is a major and rising issue, and resistance to the austerity being imposed is widespread and deep rooted.  The people have mounted a major challenge to the austerity being imposed, and the situation in Greece is fragile.  There is strong resistance to the euro, which is translating into an anti-european feeling, and a sense of Greece being a scapegoat for wider problems which is feeding nationalism.  At the moment this is contained, but may emerge as a worrying element .  

Dublin 4th – 9th May

In Ireland, protests against austerity have so far been muted, however the Household Tax has proven a particular flashpoint with almost half of all households refusing to pay the tax.  The deadline for payment (31st March) has only just passed and it remains to be seen what measures the state may take against those refusing to pay and what resistance these measures may meet.  The Irish state recently upped the ante with chemical weapons  have been used against protesters recently for the first time in Ireland’s history.

 Paris 11th – 14th May

As the only country outside of the PIIGS that I am visiting on this tour, France has not been in the frontline of austerity.  At the same time, austerity measures are being imposed and the people have electorally punished the Sarkozy government for their attempted to impose them.  There is a strong workers rights movement in France which can mobilised very effectively, but at the same time, the right have been trying to push the blame for the country’s situation onto new citizens which has had some resonance within the populace looking for a scapegoat.  France is one of the major economies of the Eurozone, but is also struggling with debt – a French debt crisis could push the problems of the Eurozone to a whole new level.

Barcelona 19th – 22nd May

Catalonia, as an administrative district of Spain is affected by the difficulties that Spain is facing at the moment.  One of the key flashpoints is housing, as households are faced with enormous rent rises, as developers buy up homes previously rent capped – a practice known as “house sucking”.  The Nou Barris, an area with a high levels of new citizens is a particular interest, where activists have been working with the local population to explore alternatives to capitalism to enable them to survive, including squatting and skip raiding.  With an active national liberation movement which spans left and right, the constitutional situation is also of particular interest.

Rome 26th 29th May

Increased sales taxes and healthcare fees are proving to be particular issues in Italy, and “reforms” designed to make ti easier to fire workers have met with fierce resistance.  At the same time, the workers movement in Italy has been effectively divided with the two largest confederations of labour signing separate agreements, each without consulting their memberships.  

I look forward to learning more about the situations in each of the countries from the comrades on the ground, highlighting issues that I hadn’t considered from a viewpoint within the movement.  It is quite difficult to gain a real sense of what is going on from Scotland, although facts and figures are relatively easy to comeby, how those disembodied numbers translate into people’s experiences, ambitions and resistance is almost impossible to gauge from hundreds of miles away.  I’m really looking forward to gaining a fuller insight into what I have picked up from international coverage and a sense of what austerity means for ordinary people forced to cope with it, and how they are fighting back.

As ever, donations for the trip, however small, are very welcome.

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