Spartacist South Africa No. 13
Greece: For Workers Struggle Against EU Starvation Diktat
Down With the EU!
No to Syriza Sellout!
Greek voters decisively rejected the bloodsucking “bailout” of the country pushed by the imperialists of the European Union (EU) and the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a referendum on July 5. Just one week later, the Syriza-led capitalist government trampled on the referendum results and sold out to the imperialists. In exchange for the prospect of 86 billion euros (R1,2 trillion) in new loans, Syriza prime minister Alex Tsipras agreed to punishing austerity measures that are even harsher than those rejected in the referendum.
Even before final agreement on the bailout had been reached, the Greek government hiked the regressive VAT (sales taxes) and pledged to slash pensions and rip up union contracts. Trampling on the remnants of Greece’s national sovereignty, the EU is demanding reorganisation of the judiciary and government administration. Public assets, including utilities, airports and real estate, are to be placed in a trust fund administered by Greece’s imperialist creditors, with the aim of selling them off to raise 50 billion euros to be mainly used to pay off debts and recapitalise the banks.
Since 2010, the EU and the IMF have imposed draconian austerity measures on Greece in exchange for a series of “rescue packages”. Those “rescued” have not been the Greek people, but Greek and international banks: 90 percent of the bailout money has gone to debt repayment. The EU is an unstable consortium of capitalist countries that works to increase profits by squeezing the workers throughout Europe, while its dominant members—Germany and, to a lesser extent, France and Britain—use it to further subordinate the weaker, dependent European countries.
Greece is in a profound economic and political crisis triggered by the 2007-08 global financial meltdown, and Greek working people are being bled white to pay for it. Today, over half of Greek youth are unemployed; 300 000 people have no access to electricity; and an estimated 800 000 have been cut off from medical care due to poverty or lack of insurance. What industry did exist in this country of 11 million people has been decimated by the German-dominated EU “single market”. Factories across the country stand empty.
The fascists of Golden Dawn and other right-wing forces will seek to take advantage of Syriza’s sellout and posture as the populist “saviours” of the nation from the EU. If the ruined petty bourgeoisie and masses of unemployed do not see the working class leading a fight to combat crushing joblessness and poverty, they will be increasingly attracted to the “radical” solutions offered by the fascists. Golden Dawn is known to be supported by large numbers of cops and has historic ties to the military, including the junta that seized power in 1967 and ruled Greece until 1974. Today, two retired army generals are among its Members of the European Parliament. The fascists are a deadly threat to immigrants, gay people and all working-class organisations. Urgently needed are mass, united-front mobilisations centered on the power of the organised proletariat to stop the fascists.
Faced with the ever-worsening economic crisis and the growing menace of fascism, it is vital to unite the toiling masses against the attacks of the imperialists, the Greek bourgeoisie and the Syriza government. To this end, our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece initiated a call on July 17 to build workers action committees to fight for the burning needs of working people and their allies (see “ENOUGH!” page 21). It urges Greek workers and the oppressed to repudiate Syriza’s sellout agreement and the Greek debt as well as to repudiate the EU and the euro currency. Our perspective is premised on the need to imbue the proletariat with the understanding of its own class interests and potential social power. As the TGG-initiated call states, building workers action committees would be a step toward “a government which will act in the interests of the working people and be subordinated to them”. We of the International Communist League seek to foster common class struggle of workers internationally, in this case particularly in the European imperialist centres of Germany, France and Britain, against the bourgeois exploiters.
The TGG aims to mobilise larger forces in this defensive struggle, while recognising that those forces will not share our political outlook. Comrades from the TGG and other ICL sections have distributed thousands of copies of the united-front call to key sectors of the working class in Athens and Thessaloniki (Greece’s second-largest city). We have approached other organisations, including trade unions, leftist and immigrant rights groups, urging them to take up the call themselves and organise workers committees. Our comrades leafleted a massive rally on July 22 in Athens organised by PAME, the trade-union front of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), in opposition to the Greek parliament’s vote that day for further measures dictated by the imperialists, as well as to a smaller rally of other leftists and trade unionists at the same time. The call has been received with interest and sparked debate.
No Support to Syriza!
Syriza was voted into office in January based on its pledge to ease the burden of austerity and to negotiate better terms from the imperialist creditors, while keeping Greece within the EU and maintaining the euro as Greece’s currency. While most left groups either voted for Syriza or enthused over its victory, the TGG opposed any vote to Syriza because of its class character as a bourgeois party. Moreover, we made clear before the election that Syriza’s commitment to keeping Greece in the EU amounted to a pledge to enforce more hunger and joblessness. This is now being demonstrated in practice to many working people who voted for Syriza. (For more on the left and Syriza, see “Syriza Is Class Enemy of Workers!”, reprinted on page 5.)
Within a month of forming a coalition government with the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), Syriza agreed to come up with its own raft of austerity measures, but Greece’s creditors demanded more. With the imperialists and the Greek bourgeoisie whipping up fear of total economic collapse if Greece didn’t accept a new bailout, Syriza organised a July 5 referendum on the latest EU austerity proposal, calling for a “no” vote with the stated intention of using the vote as a bargaining chip to secure better terms from the EU.
Our comrades of the TGG issued a statement for the referendum, “Vote NO! Down With the EU! No Support to the Syriza Government!” (reprinted on page 20). Our comrades explained that “a ‘no’ vote would help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their bloodsucking banks”. At the same time, our statement sharply opposed the Syriza-led government.
In the referendum, the KKE, a mass reformist party, called for casting an invalid ballot, claiming that a “no” vote was an indirect vote for Syriza’s alternative austerity plan. No! The “no” vote was nothing other than a message to the imperialist leaders of the EU and IMF to go to hell. In the January elections, our comrades had given critical support to the KKE, which opposed Syriza and the EU. At the same time, we sharply criticized their nationalist-populist programme, which is a major political obstacle to the struggle for socialist revolution. The KKE leadership’s refusal to mobilise for a victory for the “no” vote in the referendum is in complete contradiction to its stated opposition to the EU.
In fact, many KKE members ignored their leadership and voted “no”, and this was a good thing. In voting against the austerity package, the Greek population delivered a well- deserved slap in the face to the EU imperialists. By rushing after the referendum to lick the imperialists’ boots and agree to more austerity, Syriza now stands far more exposed as lackeys of the EU imperialists than they would have if the “yes” vote had won.
For a Workers Europe!
The struggle against the EU is a question of vital importance for working people throughout Europe. The ICL has stood against the imperialist EU and the euro from the beginning. The common euro currency has allowed the German bourgeoisie to keep its industrial exports cheap throughout the eurozone. At the same time, the German capitalists, with the able assistance of the social-democratic SPD party and the trade-union bureaucracy, have driven down wages in Germany.
The imperialists and the Greek ruling class have stoked fears that exiting the EU and the euro would result in the economic isolation of Greece, a small country that is heavily reliant on imports, including for more than half of its food. The reality is that there is no way out of the spiral of debt and untrammeled imperialist looting of Greece within the framework of the EU. Greece should leave the EU and the euro.
Control over currency is one of the basic prerequisites for national sovereignty. Ordinarily, a debtor country can get some relief and regain economic competitiveness by devaluing its currency. But this is not possible within the euro. As the recent experiences of Argentina and Iceland show, default and currency devaluation, while initially harsh, may lead quickly to economic recovery and a rise in employment as the weakened currency makes exports more competitive.
Bourgeois elements, including the likes of German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, have argued that Greece should leave the eurozone, seeing that as a better way to maintain capitalist profits. In contrast, our opposition to the EU and the euro is based on the interests of the working class internationally. Repudiating the debt and leaving the EU would of course not end the exploitation of the working class by the Greek capitalists, nor would it free this dependent country from the ravages of the global imperialist system. However, it would create more favourable conditions for the working class to struggle in its own interests. Moreover, Greek exit from the EU would undermine that entire imperialist-dominated bloc. What is needed is a Socialist United States of Europe!
The catastrophe in Greece is part of a global capitalist economic crisis, which cannot be resolved within the borders of any single country, particularly one such as Greece with a low level of industry and resources. To build a society free of hunger, want and oppression requires a series of socialist revolutions that will expropriate the capitalist rulers, including in imperialist centers like the US and Germany, and establish an international planned economy based on workers rule. What is needed is the construction of revolutionary workers parties, sections of a reforged Fourth International, to lead the working class to power, sweeping away the rotten capitalist-imperialist system.