29 June, 2015
All eyes are on Greece as its citizens prepare to vote in a referendum on the Troika austerity ‘offer’ that will dramatically shape the course of the wider European resistance to austerity.
The consequences of rejection – No – should not be underestimated and cannot be entirely predicted. Nevertheless it is right to reject the capitalist blackmail, not least because this will encourage the anti-austerity forces in the southern European countries suffering most acutely from the Troika’s ‘medicine’.
The Troika insists this is a referendum on Greece’s future in the Eurozone; in reality it is a referendum on whether the Greek people should accept the humiliating terms dictated by the Troika and serve as a warning to others that resistance to austerity is futile.
The referendum is a chance for the Greek working class to reject the bosses’ ultimatum with the contempt it deserves.
But to vote in the ballot box is not enough – now is the time for the left and workers’ movement to prepare the working class to resist the attacks to come and organise to implement their own demands.
Everyone in Europe fighting to defend their health and education systems, their homes and jobs, has a common interest in helping the Greek working class resist the political threats and economic assault that the European capitalist class will unleash during and after the referendum.
Our task is to mobilise the potential power of the European working class to the common goal – forcing the tyrants of the IMF and the EU to cancel the debt and abandon their punitive attacks on wages, pensions and basic public services.
More than that, the capitalists whose obscene wealth has grown spectacularly through the crisis must be forced to pay for the social catastrophe they have inflicted on Greek society.
Can we do this? Yes! But we can only do this by breaking with the complacency and routinism that led us to defeat in so many battles against our own government. There is no more time to lose. Like tonight in Trafalgar Square we need to get out onto the streets and squares in every town and city this week with one simple message: IMF/EU – stop torturing Greece – Cancel the Debt, End the Austerity!
We need meetings and assemblies to organise action and educate people in workplaces, colleges and schools. Trade unions, students’ unions, anti-cuts groups should organise protests, sit-ins and walkouts to spread the message that we stand with the working class in Greece – against the capitalist class of Britain and Europe.
Syriza was catapulted into leadership because it dared say No to Austerity. It said ordinary people did not contract this obscene debt. It said the rich, the oligarchs, the capitalist parasites and their hired politicians who run Greece sold their country into this debt slavery.
They were encouraged to do so by the bankers in Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich and the City of London. Like the odious debt forced on the poor by loan sharks, this was and is a criminal act carried out on an industrial scale.
When the Greek economy was tanked by the Global Recession and the grinding economic depression which ensued, the ECB and IMF lent them ever more money. Not to spend on Greek pensioners – some of the poorest in the EU – but to pay the interest on previous loans. FACT
The austerity attached as strings to these loans ensured the debt became a burden impossible to repay. The vast bulk of the money ‘loaned’ to Greece simply went directly into the coffers of West European banks who stand to lose hundreds of billions of euros if Greece defaults.
‘End austerity’. ‘Break the memorandum’. ‘No more sacrifices’. These were the slogans that rallied millions to Syriza’s banner in every election since 2012.
But faced with the prospect of government, Syriza adopted a misguided strategy. It believed it could string out negotiations and agree a deal which linked debt repayment to economic growth.
To this end it focused on persuading Europe’s rulers – particularly France and Italy – of the ‘European values’ of solidarity, rather than mobilising the working class of Greece to appeal for the solidarity of the European working class on the basis of a united struggle against their common exploiters – European capital.
Syriza’s decision – which was part of their popular mandate – to insist on retaining membership of the EU and Eurozone was not a mistake as some claim. Syriza was right to insist on an end to austerity within the EU – to make the EU responsible for the social catastrophe unfolding in Greece.
It was wrong to delay or reject appealing to the only social force that can end austerity – the working class of Greece and Europe combined in a common struggle to seize power from the capitalist class.
There is no viable alternative – whatever the illusions of some of the left in Syriza and outside it; illusions also shared by some on the international left.
A voluntary Grexit and return to the Drachma would not deliver economic sovereignty – it would abandon the field of a common Europe-wide struggle against the austerity dictated by the Eurocrats and bankers.
A capitalist Greece isolated on the world market would have no more genuine sovereignty than any other small country. Once a new currency devalued massively, when shops and companies hit the wall, Syriza and the proponents of economic autarky would be sovereigns of a junk yard.
But, say these “Marxist” economists, Greek exports would be more competitive. What exactly would it export and to who? Where would the capital come from to create new industries? Russia and China are not known for their charitable good works. They want to invest in Europe – they want access to the EU markets, they have little interest in the slim pickings on the wrong side of its tariff barriers.
No, this was not the mistake. The real illusion of the Tsipras leadership was that they could avoid a life and death struggle with the EU and negotiate an end to austerity and a write-down of the debt on the basis that the consequences of a Grexit would be worse.
For five months they courted various European capitalists and their representatives and were met with insults and intransigence. Each extension of the bailout was conditional on cuts and a budget surplus.
Tsipras and Varoufakis met their interlocutors well beyond half way; concession after concession was demanded and conceded. They abandoned cancelling or halving the debt. They abandoned reversing the privatisation of Piraeus and hiked VAT on food and services to 23 per cent.
But on 25 June, Schäuble and Lagarde demanded Syriza cross its ‘red lines’ – benefits for low-income pensioners (around 50 per cent are in this bracket) were to be completely eliminated by 2017 and labour market reforms imposed.
At this, even Syriza’s leaders could sustain the illusion no longer. Whatever they conceded, the vultures returned for more – and for a simple reason too. The Troika had no intention of striking a deal with Syriza; their aim was to bring down the government and install a more pliable regime willing to submit to their diktats.
To grant Syriza any sort of concession would encourage the growth of anti-austerity parties in Europe and delegitimise and destabilise the various governments in Eastern Europe, Ireland, Portugal and above all Spain and Italy that have imposed punishing cuts in accordance with Troika policy.
Fortunately, the expectation of the masses who voted for Syriza and those who backed its refusal to totally capitulate faced with the sheer brutality of the EU negotiators, combined with the growing left within Syriza, alongside the KKE and Antarsya, made surrender if not unthinkable at least undoable.
To reject the ‘offer’ was necessary and correct; ending the farce of negotiations was long overdue. Calling the referendum – a political manoeuvre to expose the bankrupt democratic credentials of the Troika – has now provoked a final crisis.
What can Syriza do?
What Syriza should do: it should transform itself into a workers’ government, preparing to resist the economic sabotage of the capitalist class by placing itself in the hands of democratic councils elected in workplaces, schools, and working class communities.
It should appeal to the militant rank and file members of the KKE to get their party to break from its sectarian passivity, and with PAME, contribute to the struggle for workers’ power.
Workers’ councils must form and prepare to take on the urgent functions of organising society; taking over the major food distribution networks, media, transport and energy infrastructure.
Such a government should draw up an emergency programme to address the immediate needs of the working class: nationalising the banks and putting them under workers’ control, with no compensation to the shareholders but safeguarding the savings of ordinary people.
It should open up the accounts of the oligarchs to inspection and threaten all who have shifted large amounts of capital abroad that unless they return it all their physical property will be confiscated.
To do this it will be necessary to break with ANEL and demand that Antarsya and the KKE join a government that rests on the mobilised democratic power of the working class and breaks with the institutions of the Greek capitalist state.
It should appeal to the trade unions, to the workers in all countries of Europe suffering from austerity to follow their example and attack the big banks, the rich who have multiplied their wealth during crisis and depression whilst millions have seen their living standards slashed.
It should proclaim that it is not against a united Europe – in fact it can justly claim that it is the rulers of the EU who are leading it to destruction by imposing austerity and putting the interests of the rich before the interests of the people.
Socialists in Greece and across Europe must seize this confrontation with capital to help the working class become agents of their own emancipation.
The working class in Greece has a chance to break decisively with austerity, but it can only do that by seizing control of the wealth and means of production in society. That itself will only be possible with the active solidarity of the European working class.
The only hope for a European economy democratically controlled and directed by all those who produce, for the wellbeing of all, is a Socialist United States of Europe.
Hands off Greece!
Down with the Troika!
Seize the banks and property of the rich under a workers’ government!
Fight for a socialist united states of Europe!