A warning to the global working class
Europe’s rulers discipline Greeks
Luma Nichol
volume 36
issue 5
October 2015

On July 5, Greeks celebrate as the austerity referendum is overwhelmingly rejected by the populace. The government capitulated anyway. Photo: Konstatinos Tsakalidis / Bloomberg

Imagine a power so callous that with a stroke of a pen it degrades millions of people, mandating Sundays a day of work, increasing retirement from 62 to 67 years, and ordering the privatization of national assets. This is what European Union capitalists did, backed by their U.S. brethren, to ruthlessly bring Greece to her knees in debt negotiations this July.

What did an already impoverished Greece do to draw the ire of world imperialism? It voted NO to austerity. It threatened to cancel part of its debt and elected a ‘Left’ party that claimed it would tax the rich.

And it openly challenged neoliberalism, an economic system designed to make the workers and poor pay for the crimes of capitalism exposed by the 2008 economic crisis.

What we are witnessing in this corner of Europe is another instance of cold-blooded, gloves-off, take-no-losers class war. And it impacts every would-be rebel, for what they do to Greece, they would do to us.

Greece not the culprit. Financial debt under capitalism is about politics. Rich countries prey on poorer nations by imposing impossible debt deals on them. The U.S. debt is $18 trillion (12 zeros). By 2014, Greece’s debt was a mere €240 billion ($264 billion), with payment on the bulk not due until 2023. So, what’s the problem? Why threaten to bankrupt Greece and not the U.S.?

According to the European Union (EU) propaganda, Greece brought its debt on itself because Greeks workers are lazy. But the real villains of this story are the super-privileged 1 percent — European banksters in collusion with Wall Street.

To gain entry into the European Union (EU) in 2001, Greek officials hid the country’s true national debt with a Wall Street slight-of-hand devised by Goldman Sachs, an American multinational banking investment firm. This secret, sub prime-type loan benefited Goldman Sachs to the tune of €450 million.

When the world economy tanked in 2008, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal faced bankruptcy. In stepped the infamous Troika — the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) — with, wait for it, more loans, meaning more debt for the debt-ridden and more profit for the profiteers. The loans came with conditions for deep budget cuts and steep tax increases on the population. By 2014, after two such deals, the Greek people were in a humanitarian crisis, 25 percent of them jobless.

Then, in January 2015, Greece elected Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) on an anti-austerity platform. You could almost see smoke pouring from the ears of EU economists.

They put Greece in a strangle-hold: the ECB quit sending funds to Greek banks; wealthy Greeks moved their money out of the country; and the nation was threatened with being cast out of the EU.

Greeks are particularly incensed because Germany leads the pack of austerity predators. After World War II Germany’s massive debt to Greece and other victors was cancelled.

When 61 percent of Greeks rejected EU’s austerity loans with a resounding ”No!” in a July referendum, the EU replied with yet another crippling loan: Greece must bow to IMF inspections, taxes would increase and pensions decrease dramatically. Banks and businesses could run free of oversight, and union collective bargaining would be restricted.

On July 13, with the urging of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Syriza, the Greek parliament approved the €86 billion bailout deal. The loan will primarily pay debts, not help the people. The terms are so punishing that even the IMF initially refused to participate.

Fear of revolution. What motivated the EU to train their bulldozers on Greece? In one word — fear.

As August’s stock market roller-coaster revealed, the “economic recovery” since the crash of 2008 is fragile. World capitalism is afraid that were Greece to cancel its debt, the populist Podemos party in Spain may demand the same, then other debt-ridden nations. Greeks pulling the no-austerity thread could unravel the entire cloth.

And that fabric is threadbare, because the capitalists are making a mess of the world. Neoliberal economic policies have created an enormous gap in wealth — among individuals and nations — angering 99 percent of humanity. The insatiable drive for profits has created war and ecological disaster. Europe is faced with millions of refugees fleeing violence and poverty, many landing on Greek shores. The hopeful Arab Spring has been stalled by warfare and police-state violence, which contributes to the refugee crisis.

Greek defiance could engender a new wave of revolt. And the rulers know this.

The only solution. The Greek working class has put up a heroic fight, only to be betrayed by the leader of Syriza. Alexis Tsipras used the Oxi (No) austerity vote like union bureaucrats often do with a strike vote — as a bargaining chip with no intent to follow through. Now Syriza, a supposedly leftist party, is in the absurd position of running one of capitalism’s nastiest regimes.

Like those labor bureaucrats, Tsipras represents the middle caste, that layer dependent on the working class for its power, but who do the bidding of the ruling class. Tsipras resigned Aug. 20, setting elections for mid-September.

Vying against Tsipras is Popular Unity, a new “left front” that vows to uphold Syriza’s original anti-austerity platform. Although it calls for partial cancellation of the debt, it doesn’t demand nationalization of key industries, among other radical measures. Also running is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party which polled third in the Jan. 2015 elections.

Greece cannot win playing the capitalist shell game. Neither can any other country. Revolution that overthrows capitalism is the only practical solution. And that requires bold, radical leadership and a revolutionary party, not only in Greece but throughout Europe. What’s needed is a socialist federation of European states, not the European Union, owned and operated by decadent banks and corporations.

The struggle for such a socialist federation demands international solidarity to survive the fury of the global 1 percent, which intends to discipline militant working people around the world. Greeks were the first to directly challenge the scourge of neoliberal economics in the 21st century. Their fight is ours.

Cancel the debt, nationalize the banks, and restore privatized resources.

Build a united front to defeat fascism.

Contact the author at: lumapat6@gmail.com.

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