March sends a message

Wednesday’s huge strike and protest rally sent a clear message: Any change to the social security system without guarantees is viewed as a threat by the masses of the working and middle classes capable of taking to the streets. A similar message was sent in 2001 in reaction to [PASOK Labor Minister] Tassos Yiannitsis’s reform – in fact, many argue that that march marked the first strategic defeat for Costas Simitis’s administration. People were scared then and are scared now. They are scared of losing everything they have gained, the foundations of prosperity and the social contract that has been in operation in Europe for so many years. The division of labor on a global scale is, naturally, not the same today as it was in the past. Low birthrates, the opening of borders and mass population migrations, cheap labor and the deindustrialization of the West have had a dramatic effect on the labor market and on social security. How can the average European possibly accept being put on a par, in terms of salary and social insurance, with a worker from China? The problem, therefore, is not technical in nature. It is not even just financial. It is, first and foremost, political and social, and it cannot be solved in a haphazard manner. The government has addressed the issue off-hand, without any real agenda, without convincing evidence and only in fishing for the views of others and trying to guage the defensive reflexes of workers and employers. There is a good chance the government will split, as was the case in 2001. The second phase may be tactical retreat, assigning the issue to the future: Let someone else solve the problem. Returning to a state of inertia and freezing debate will not benefit anyone, least of all the concerned workers of the country. The country’s social security foundations will not be cured by another spell of rest.