The protests that have shaken Greece are a sign of things to come. Initially over the shooting of a teenager by police in Athens, demonstrations and riots spread across the country, threatening the future of the government and crystallising the depth of bitterness and anger among working class people.
A deep economic crisis of the sort not seen in most of our lifetimes, following from a credit fuelled boom which failed to deliver for many people, creates a highly explosive situation. Inequality has grown, workers are under greater pressure of exploitation, and there is an ideology which repeatedly blames those at the bottom for everything that goes wrong in their lives.
Around the world, governments are bailing out the bankers and the rich while doing little to help working people who are expected to shoulder the consequences of the crisis in the forms of unemployment and house repossessions. There are signs that this is being met with increasing opposition.
In the US a group of mainly Latino workers occupied their factory in Chicago in the face of closure. Occupations of factories and workplaces are a well tried tactic from the past. Managements who refuse to pay wages and deny workers any rights find that they are met by workers taking over their assets of plant and machinery. Occupations can then become centres of organising not just to resist the immediate attacks on those particular workers but to provide a focus for everyone who wants to fight against unemployment.
Unemployment is now hitting very hard and will get worse before it gets better. Every day now there are announcements of job losses and dire predictions for what lies ahead. This January it is expected that many companies, especially in retail, will go under as banks pull the plugs on them after Xmas. Even before then companies such as Woolworths (famous for doing well in previous economic crises) and MFI found that they could not survive.
Gordon Brown's government, in the face of this, has been forced to junk some of its dearest values. First we saw the end of the cherished free market as billions were poured into propping up the banks. Then we saw the abandonment of New Labour's defence of the super-rich as Alistair Darling announced a higher rate of tax for them. There is also talk about protecting those with mortgages who lose jobs or large income.
But we should look at some of the small print. Tax will go up by 5p in the pound (still to only 45p) and those paying this earn over £150,000. It will not happen until after the next election, so the 180,000 people concerned have plenty of time to get used to it.
Meanwhile those on benefits will have very different treatment. The government has announced the introduction of lie detector tests to root out "benefit cheats". It's unlikely that this method will be extended to government ministers, tax evaders, short sellers or bankers.
Single mothers on benefits will have to look for work when their children are at a younger age. Council tenants are now being threatened that their security of tenure will go - just at a time when the collapse of the housing market has thrown the inadequacy of social housing into sharp relief.
Labour is hoping that calls to tax the rich, cuts in VAT and talking a little bit tough to the bankers will help it win the next election, possibly this year. It certainly appears that many people faced with economic crisis are fearful of the Tories and Labour has risen in the polls in recent months.
But a huge government debt crisis looms beyond that election. There is already talk of cutting public spending then, with further unemployment and wage cuts. It is a stark choice: whether workers pay the price for this crisis or whether they fight against it and in the process try to challenge a rotten system which cannot deliver for most people. The key to this is resistance.
One form this can take is mobilising against the governments who are united in protecting the capitalist system and imposing policies which will harm working people. On 2 April the leaders of the G20 will meet to discuss their policies in London. Their most likely prescription will be further doses of war, unemployment, bailouts for the rich and more suffering for the poor. They will be met with a demonstration which hopefully can mobilise on a mass scale.
All over the world people are suffering the effects of the crisis, and many more are dreading its future effects. Socialists can win some of them directly to our ideas, but initially those people will be in a minority. We can also lead the resistance which is already taking place and which will take place in the future, if we take up every issue which arises and if we can show that we are relevant to the concerns of working people.