The Occupy movement has been triggered not only by the economic crisis itself, but, more importantly, by the way that ruling classes around the world have pushed to make workers and poor people pay for the crisis. Organizers of the march are saying that it is time to make the 1%, who control the political and economic system, to pay for their crisis. The march begins this Saturday, June 16 at 12:30 beginning at Dewey Square in Boston. Bryan K, one of the march’s organizers, said “We want this march to be an educational tour of austerity throughout Boston.”
In Massachusetts, austerity measures are seen clearest in relation to the MBTA. The MBTA is going to implement fare increases and service cuts which will penalize workers, seniors, students and the disabled. At the same, the MBTA is burdened with the debt resulting from the Big Dig and banks such as JP Morgan (which were bailed out by the government in 2008). Currently 25% of the T’s operating costs go to servicing the interest on its debt. Currently, the MBTA’s fare hikes and service cuts are due to take effect on July 1.
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who recently survived a recall vote, has carried out austerity measures. After entering office in 2011 he pushed through a bill that effectively took away the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, claiming that union rights needed to be curbed in order to cut a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. Though unions in Wisconsin attempted to replace him with the Democrat Tom Barrett, Walker ended up holding onto the governorship on June 5 with 54% of the vote.
The march against austerity is further evidence of local activists linking their struggles to those abroad. Throughout the world, austerity measures have been imposed on workers. This has a meant a steep decline in living standards for workers and poor in countries such as Greece and Spain. On June 9, Spain’s banks received more than $125 billion in bailouts. At the same time, unemployment in Spain is the highest in Europe, 24% with more cutbacks in social services promised by the government.
Greece has been the showcase of austerity in Europe. Greek banks who made out well loaning to the government were in trouble after the economic collapse of 2008. The banks were bailed out to the tune of $160 billion. In turn, the Greek government cut back on government spending, wages and benefits to workers and imposed major tax increases. Greek workers have rallied and staged general strikes throughout the country in response to the harsh austerity measures.
On June 17, the Coalition of the Radical Left (known by its Greek acronym SYRIZA) could potentially win in the elections. Currently SYRIZA is polling at SYRIZA is composed of various socialist and communist parties who have vowed to stop paying debts to the European Union banks, nationalize the banks, raise taxes on the wealthiest along with freezing wage and pension cuts.
Organizers from endorsing groups such as Occupy Boston, the Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Alternative, Common Struggle want “The March Against Austerity” to let the 99% of Boston to make its voice heard as part of the growing global resistance to austerity.