|The News Line: Editorial
Saturday, 21 January 2012
MASSIVE PROTESTS IN ROMANIA AND HUNGARY
MASS protests are erupting in the eastern wing of the EU, in Romania and Hungary, against the austerity programmes of EU governments whose countries are not part of the eurozone, but whose currencies are collapsing against the euro, leaving them with massive and growing state debts to be repaid in euros.
Romania is an EU member since 2007, and Hungary joined in 2004.
January has been a month of demonstrations in both countries, where both governments have turned to dictatorship in order to push through savage austerity measures.
Hungary’s mass protests have been peaceful so far and began in earnest on January 2nd when 70,000 people, mobilised by new social movements, gathered in Budapest to protest against the government’s new right-wing constitution.
The masses, however, are railing against a regime that is curtailing media freedoms, criminalising the poor and conducting purges in the administration.
In Romania the protests have been more violent. Throughout January tens of thousands have taken to the streets in cities throughout the country.
Some 60 people have reportedly been injured and over 113 arrested after demonstrators clashed with riot police, hurling stones and petrol bombs, in an outpouring of rage against the government.
The violent rallies began last week over a highly unpopular health bill, to privatise the health service, which has since been withdrawn.
Dr Raed Arafat, a Romanian junior health minister has been reinstated in the health ministry after leading the struggle.
The class explosion came after a live, televised row between President Basescu and junior health minister Arafat, a physician who was born in Nablus, and is well-known and respected for reforming almost single-handedly, largely against the wish of the old medical establishment, the ambulance-paramedics system.
When the president blamed Dr Arafat for blocking an important health care reform law because ‘he was a leftie who didn’t like privatisation and competition’, the public instinctively stood with the doctor.
Night and day, people are coming to the centre of Bucharest to scream their defiance at the president. The draft privatisation law has been withdrawn, but people are continuing to march to protest against growing unemployment, lowering living standards, and rampant price rises as well as corruption and dictatorial measures by the government.
Romanians say that they are the victims of the harshest austerity measures in the EU, notwithstanding next door Greece.
People are now questioning the nature of the Romanian capitalist system and demanding an end to the dictatorship of the EU.
In 2009, shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers at the start of the global financial crisis, Romania accepted a 20 billion euro loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the EU Commission, in exchange for government commitment to austerity measures.
Romania’s government is accused of ignoring any attempt at a social dialogue, and decreeing laws without any consultation or parliamentary debates, rigging elections and splitting opposition parties by using bribery as a tool.
The Romanian working class has been targeted by the regime with mass sackings, privatisation measures, the sponsoring of temporary employment and the removal of trade union leaders.
National collective bargaining and collective work agreements have been abolished, while the government has made it almost impossible to have a legal demonstration. There has been a 25 per cent cut in public sector wages and a 15 per cent pensions cut.
Dictating these measures is President Traian Basescu, the protector of the interests of global capital and free markets, and still fighting against the ‘communist oligarchy’ in the country.
Hungary now faces a full-blown debt crisis and is seeking a further Western loan of 20 billion euros – the same amount requested by Romania in the past.
The EU from east to west and north to south is gripped by a crisis that can only be resolved by the European Socialist Revolution.
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