I’ve decided to do a weekly update entitled “Tracking the Global Financial Crisis” in order to track how states and non-state actors are reacting to the current global financial crisis. A birds eye perspective is needed as economies are inextricably linked through a global banking and business system. How one part of the world reacts may very well effect people on the other side of the world. This series is inspired by Professor David Harvey’s theory that capitalism doesn’t solve its problems, it merely spreads them around.
If you’d like to help out with this project either by submitting links or volunteering to write, shoot me an e-mail.
The Crisis of Global Capitalism
In “The Enigma of Capital”, Professor Harvey argues that capitalism necessitates the accumulation of capital and one of the ways it manifests itself is by ensuring a constant flow of capital across the globe. This is done in order to seek out new consumer markets, force wage repression in certain countries by seeking out cheap labor in other countries, and avoiding state regulation wherever possible. This flow of capital results is followed, in turn, by crises that are caused by the inherent flaws within capitalism.
He points out that “There have been hundreds of financial crises around the world since 1973…” (p 8 ) Professor Harvey argues that these crises are not isolated events, but intertwined and merely the transfer of the crisis from one geographical area to another. Each crisis is more intense and destructive then the previous one.
Resistance Movements Popping Up Everywhere
What is interesting about Professor Harvey’s description of the global crisis is his analysis of the reactions by non-state actors:
“The crisis cascaded from one sphere to another and from one geographical location to another, with all manner of knock-on and feedback effects that seemed almost impossible to bring under control, let alone halt and turn back. While populations appeared initially stunned by the turn of events, popular protests against the ways of international capital, which had surfaced and escalated after the Seattle protests of 1999 but diminished after 9/11, suddenly resurfaced, though this time with a sharpened target and again with a lot of geographical unevenness. Strikes erupted in France, along with protests in China, rural uprisings in India and student unrest in Greece. In the United States, a movement of the displaced to occupy foreclosed and abandoned housing began to take shape.” (p 38)
Professor Harvey seems to be correct – protests, strikes, and general unrest are manifesting all over the globe – as will be shown below. These reactions are spontaneous and grass-roots but they are interconnected by the global financial crisis. This logically entails that local grass roots movements must form a global solidarity movement in order to ensure that the interests of the common people are defended against the power and control of elites and elite institutions.
Brief Timeline of the Global Crisis
- Housing Bubble in the US burst in 2008, over $1 trillion in toxic assets and bad loans lost by US and European banks from January 2007 to September 2009
- Over 100 mortgage lenders went bankrupt during 2007 and 2008
- Sept/Oct 2008 Several major financial institutions (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, and AIG) either failed, were acquired under duress, or were subject to government takeover
- The crisis spread to Europe resulting in a number of bank failures, declines in various stock indexes, and large reductions in the market value of equities and commodities. In 2010, European states faced sovereign debt crisis, especially Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Iceland’s government declared bankruptcy.
(Source: “Timeline: Global Economy in Crisis” by the Council on Foreign Relations)
Quick Facts About the Global Crisis:
- Since the crisis started in 2007, some 30-35 million jobs have been lost worldwide
- Global unemployment will hit 213 million this year, a rate of 6.5%
- Many countries that experienced employment growth at the end of 2009 are now seeing the jobs recovery weaken
- Young people are disproportionately hit by unemployment
(Source: The Guardian UK)
- UN REPORT: Social Unrest Related to Crisis in over 25 Countries (Source: Guardian)
- SUMMER OF DISCONTENT: Here’s a great article that documents major protests, strikes, and civil unrest across Europe from May 2010 to the end of September 2010 (Source: Telegraph)
- EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Warns euro zone countries of multi-billion fines if they did not hold firm on budget cuts (Source: The Telegraph)
- Workers protest austerity plans across Europe (Source: Star Telegram)
- Greek doctors and railway employees walked out
- Spanish workers shut down trains and buses
- One man drove a cement truck into the gates of the Irish parliament to decry the country’s enormous bank bailouts.
- Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Brussels toward European Union buildings
- Strikes or protests were also held in Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia and Lithuania, all aimed at the budget-slashing, tax-hiking, pension-cutting austerity plans that European governments have implemented to try to control their debt.
- ICELAND: Politicians forced to flee from angry protestors (Source: The Guardian)
- “Thousands take to the streets of Reykjavik as anger erupts over the impact of the financial crisis . Witnesses said up to 2,000 people caused chaos at the state opening of the Icelandic parliament, with politicians forced to race to the back door of the building because of the large number of protesters at the front. Eggs were said to have hit the prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, other MPs and the wife of the Icelandic president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.”
- SPAIN: 10 million people go on strike in Spain (Source: Telegraph)
- Spanish unions said 10 million people, or more than half the workforce, had joined the action and claimed the first general strike in eight years was an “unquestionable success”.
- 2/3 of all flights to and from Spanish airports disrupted
- 80% of Spain’s high-speed train trips were canceled
- 100% of mid-distance trains were cancelled
- 25% of commuter trains were running
- Taxi drivers went on strike across the country, with 90% observing the stoppage in Barcelona alone.
- Picketers blockaded wholesale markets in Madrid, Barcelona and other regional capitals in the early hours of Wednesday, and threw eggs and vegetables at lorries attempting to deliver produce.
- Spain is struggling with 20 per cent unemployment – twice the EU average – that has hit Spain’s youth particularly hard. One in every three unemployed are under 30 years old leading them to be dubbed “the lost generation”.
- More than half of Spaniards in their thirties are still not financially independent and rely on their parents for support.
- GREECE: Thousands Protest in Greece
- Unions represented Greek truck drivers have voted overwhelmingly to continue protests that have made it harder for businesses to get supplies delivered. (Source: Business Week)
- “Contract workers join Greek labor protests: More than 1,000 public service contract workers have demonstrated outside Greece’s parliament and Supreme Court in the latest protest against a labor shake-up in the crisis-hit country. Protesters at Thursday’s peaceful rally are demanding permanent contracts and full employment benefits, despite a 2010 state hiring freeze. Contract workers’ groups are currently fighting the government in court, with the Supreme Court due to hear a landmark case on Jan. 20.” (Source: Business Week)
- PORTUGAL: Portugal’s 750,000 strong main union calls for general strike Nov. 24, protesting against wage cuts, tax hikes. (Source: Reuters)
- IRELAND: Cement truck painted with the words “Toxic Bank” was driven into the gates of the Irish parliament.
- “The truck was swiftly removed and its driver detained, but a few hours later, as politicians tried to return to parliament after their summer break, the same fury was articulated by a noisy trade union march crowding the streets outside, the protesters shouting through loud speakers that “455,000 of our fellow citizens have been thrown on the scrap heap”.” (Source: The Guardian)
- The Anglo Irish Bank, which was nationalized last year to save it from collapse, owes $97 billion to depositors worldwide, leaving Irish taxpayers with the bill. (Source: Star Telegram)
- FINLAND: Thousands strike in Finnish forest sector (Source: Business Week)
- “More than 4,000 workers have gone on strike in Finland’s forest industry after labor talks broke down between unions and management.”
- “Negotiators say they could not accept the national conciliator’s mediation proposal that hinges on pay and annual benefits. No further details of the dispute were given.”
- 39 sawmills and plywood plants closed nationwide, including at major producers UPM-Kymmene Corp. and Stora Enso Oyj.
- Union leaders have threatened to expand the action next week to include 18,000 members in the industry if no agreement is reached in the talks.
- NETHERLANDS: Violent protests after Dutch outlaw squatting (Source: MSNBC)
- “A study published this year by Amsterdam’s Free University estimated the number of squatters at roughly 1,500 in the Dutch capital, a city of 750,000.
- Most squatters are migrants from eastern and southern Europe who want a cheap place to live
- “Historically, squatting has provided an alternative to mainstream Dutch lifestyles and has acted as a wellspring for leftist activism. It reached a peak on April 30, 1980, the day of Queen Beatrix’s accession to the throne. Thousands of squatters and sympathizers fought riot police throughout Amsterdam, trying to disrupt her coronation. Their motto: “No housing, no crowning.”
- “Still, affordable housing remains a huge problem. Van Dalen says the city now plans to convert unused office buildings into low-rent housing.”
- CZECH REPUBLIC: 40,000 public sector workers protest against job and wage cuts (Source: Reuters)
- “Around 40,000 nurses, police officers, firefighters, teachers and clerks rallied against austerity measures this month.”
- “The government offered compromises on pay structures but not the overall goal, and a day after the protests approved a tighter budget that includes a 10 percent across-the-board cut in most operating spending which will also slash the wage bill.”
- “A September poll showed 55.8 percent of Czechs said planned budget cuts were rather harsh or too harsh; 30.2 percent said called them adequate or not sufficient.”
- BELGIUM: 100,000 trade union demonstrators from 24 countries protest against European Commission’s austerity measures (Source: Telegraph)
- ROMANIA: Romanian govt in uproar amid austerity protests (Source: Google News)
- “The Romanian government was in an uproar Monday over austerity protests — the interior minister resigned, the opposition demanded the prime minister go as well and top police officials held emergency talks with the president.”
- “The chaos reflected social fallout from the sharp wage cuts, tax hikes and other austerity measures the government has taken to fight its budget deficit amid a deep recession.”
- “Romanians took to the streets of Bucharest, the capital, several times last week in protest but the government was most shocked when 6,000 police angry over a 25 percent wage cut marched Friday to the presidential palace and threw eggs at it. Some shouted “Get out, you miserable dog!””
- “The Romanian president had dismissed his police protection, saying Friday’s protest had undermined state authority. Boc had followed suit. Both are now relying instead on security paid for by the presidential budget, one of the few areas of government not cut.”
- BULGARIA: Tens of Thousands of workers to engage in national protest on October 7th (Source: Novinite)
- “Workers from Bulgarian manufacturing industries are expected to join forces with doctors and medical staff in a national protest rally in Sofia on October 7, 2010.”
- “About 20 000 workers from the processing industry will rally in Sofia against the government’s intentions for pension reform, announced the deputy head of the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates (KNSB), Plamen Dimitrov.”
- “The trade unions are firmly against the adoption of the current draft pension reform law, which will be raising the minimum retirement age, among other unpopular provisions.”
- “The workers’ protest rally is supposed to merge with the planned national protest on October 7, announced last week by the Bulgarian Doctors’ Union.”
- “The medics will be protesting against the cuts of state financing for the health care, and the generally unclear reform situation in the sector.”
- SLOVENIA: Thousands of public workers strike and protest against plans to freeze their salaries for two years (Source: Google News)
- FRANCE: 1 million protest against increasing retirement age (Source: Bloomberg)
- “Sarkozy’s pension bill raises the retirement age to 62 from 60 and the age for a full pension to 67 from 65. Unions want the retirement age to stay at 60. The government says it has made enough concessions, including allowing people who started work as teenagers to still retire at 60. The Senate begins debating the proposal on Oct. 5.”
- “French unions chose to hold marches on Saturday to avoid penalizing workers who don’t get paid for strike days and to encourage participation. Labor unions said about 220 marches are planned across the country.”
- Stocks Slip as European protests worsen debt fears (Source: Google News)
- “Stocks slipped in muted trading Wednesday as traders held back ahead of corporate earnings announcements, which start to roll in next week. Protests in Europe against austerity measures renewed worries about the region’s finances and helped keep buyers at bay.”
- “The dollar fell further against other currencies as traders anticipate more action by the Federal Reserve to push U.S. interest rates down. Gold climbed past $1,300.”
- “Most sectors fell on the stock market except for energy, which rose after crude oil prices gained. Schlumberger Ltd., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and other companies rose after the price of crude oil jumped on news that inventories fell last week. Benchmark crude for November delivery rose $1.68 to settle at $77.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.”
- JAPAN: Japan eyes new 58 billion dollar stimulus (Source: Google News)
- “The package would feature measures intended to secure stable supplies of rare-earth metals and to develop substitutes for them, as well as a new subsidy to revitalize regional economies by financing public works projects, it said.”
- “Japan presently secures the bulk of its rare-earth metals from China, but an apparent block on the supply during a territorial spat with Beijing has sent chills through parts of Japan’s electronics industry.”
- Japan PM warns on debt, seeks multiparty tax talks: Japan’s prime minister warned on Friday that the country’s huge public debt made its fiscal situation unsustainable and called for multi-party tax reform talks as he struggles with a fragile economy and a divided parliament. (Source: Reuters)
- SOUTH KOREA: S.Korea activists to stage anti-G20 protests (Source: Google News)
- “South Korean labour and civic groups will join with international activists to stage a wave of protests against this autumn’s G20 summit in Seoul, a union group said Monday.”
- “The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said it would launch an umbrella protest organisation with about 50 other groups Wednesday to oppose the meeting on November 11-12 of leaders from the Group of 20 leading world economies.”
- “”The organisation will begin a campaign from October 1 to oppose the agenda of the G20 summit, which has taken measures forcing workers to sweat more than before,” KCTU spokesman Lee Chang-Geun told AFP.”
- “The KCTU, a militant union group that claims about 700,000 members, has led a series of anti-globalisation protests in the past.”
- PHILIPPINES: Labor party, PAL ground crew union back flight attendants’ strike (Source, Source 2)
- “A labor group and the Philippine Airlines ground crew labor union have expressed support for the planned strike of the flag carrier’s Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP).”
- “ALEA also has a pending notice of strike but the dispute over the planned retrenchment of some 3,000 ground personnel has been assumed by the Labor department. In the comments the PALEA submitted to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz last September 14, it called on her to declare the mass layoff as illegal and to find PAL guilty of unfair labor practice. [See story: PALEA marks 64th anniv amid threats of mass layoffs]”
- “The government has called both sides to attend a meeting on October 5 in a last-ditch effort to avoid a strike, but the union said it was still preparing for a strike because it expected PAL to take a hardline stance.”
- “The planned strike is the latest in a string of labour problems to hit the airline. In August, 25 pilots and first officers on PAL’s short-haul aircraft suddenly quit for higher paying jobs abroad, forcing the abrupt cancellation of several flights.”
- ECUADOR: Ecuadorian army rescues captive President from his own police protesting about budget cuts (Source: Daily Mail, Fox News)
- “Correa has had a mixed relationship with the armed forces since he assumed office, and Thursday’s unrest could force him to take a more delicate line in handling the military, which has previously played a role in toppling governments. Army troops rescued him from the hospital, but at least one group of soldiers had earlier joined the police protests, shutting downQuito’s main airport.”
- “In the early part of his presidency, Correa won over military chiefs with salary hikes and appointments to cushy state jobs. If Thursday’s protests blow over, Correa will likely be forced to negotiate to keep the ranks calm.”
- “The protests erupted just as Correa considered dissolving Congress and ruling by decree because of a deadlock over some of his legislative reforms. He might now seek a deal on some form of popular elections to end the impasse if the protests linger and intensify.”
- “Correa is still popular among the poor for spending oilcash on welfare programs and taking a firm stance with foreign investors. The protests could spur him to boost public spending and seek alternative sources of credit, as Ecuador was shut out of global capital markets following a 2008 default on around $3 billion in global bonds.”
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- CONGRESS: US China Tis for Tat Measures Might Lead to Trade War (Source: CNN)
- “President Barack Obama says an undervalued currency is giving Chinese companies an unfair advantage in selling products, and this week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would let the United States put tariffs on goods from China. China has retaliated against earlier trade sanctions by the United States and strongly opposes the bill passed by the House.”
- CALIFORNIA: Child Care Shuts Down in Budget Protest (Source: NBC)
- “Workers and their supporters marched in Fremont and held a rally in downtown Oakland to call for a state budget agreement that secures funding for child care services. The Oakland rally was bigger than expected and had to be moved across the street from its original location.”
- “Child care centers shut down their business in order to make their point.An agency based in Fremont called Kidango organized the day. It also shut down for the day leaving 2,500 children without a place to go.”
- PENNSYLVANIA: Longshoremen Go on Strike (Source: Savanna Now)
- “Picket lines by longshoremen in Philadelphia protesting a shipper’s move of 75 ship calls to a non-union terminal spilled over to the New York-New Jersey ports Tuesday morning as members of the International Longshoremen’s Association refused to cross the union picket lines.”