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Austerity against the workers: who will rule in Greece?

12 June 2012

Dave Stockton looks at why the formation of a workers’ government in Greece is necessary to mobilise the popular forces to strike the decisive blow against austerity regimes in Greece, in Europe and in every country where capital insists that workers, youth and the unemployed must be made to pay for its crisis
On 17 June the election in Greece could give Syriza, a coalition of left reformist and smaller, far left organisations, a popular mandate to form a government pledged to reject the austerity programme laid out in the Memorandum imposed on Greece by the ‘Troika’– the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB).
This will throw the entire European Union into another spiral of its crisis. Already, a combination of economic and political factors is threatening the future development of Europe.
Globally, even the supposed engines of economic revival such as Brazil, India and China are seeing growth rates decline. In Europe itself, the banking crisis in Spain puts in question the viability of the single currency. On top of this comes the Greek election.
This combination of events would put unprecedented strains on the entire institutional structure of the EU and bring to a head a crisis that has been developing ever since the global financial crash of 2008. Although no country in the EU will be unaffected, it is in Greece that it will immediately pose the most fundamental issues, summed up in the question: who is to rule and in whose interests?
The question of power
Syriza, it is reported, may achieve as much as 35 per cent of the vote and could be able to form a government. What would it do?  It has spelt out the key measures that would constitute a clear mandate:
• Cancellation of pending bailout measures that require further cuts to private sector wages and pensions.
• Cancellation of laws abolishing collective labour agreements.
• Abolition of MPs’ special privileges and immunity from prosecution as well as reform of electoral law.
• Immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking system by BlackRock.
• An international auditing committee to account for public sector over-indebtedness, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the publication of the audit findings.
The rulers of Europe have issued the direst warnings of what their response would be.
The Troika has threatened to pull the plug on the whole €130bn (£100bn) Greek bailout, potentially forcing the country to exit the Euro. Of course such actions would be risky for our rulers too. Economists have warned that a “disorderly exit” would spread the contagion to Spain, Portugal and Italy and put the survival of the euro itself into question.
That, in turn, could trigger a new European banking crisis that would throw the continent into an even deeper depression and drag the global economy back into recession.
The potential election of a government really willing to defy the naked blackmail of the Troika and the arrogant threats of Merkel or Cameron, has electrified Europe. This is hardly surprising, given that Syriza openly blames capitalism for this crisis and talks of the need for the “nationalisation/socialisation of banks, and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers’ control”; for “large capitalist property … to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria”; for the “restoration of a strong welfare state” and for “disengagement from NATO”.
If Syriza is elected and then sticks to its promise to reverse the austerity measures, tears up the Memorandum with the Troika, halts the sale of the country’s assets and public services and reverses the sacking of hundreds of thousands of state employees, thereby restoring their wage levels and pensions, this will create a revolutionary situation such as we have not seen in capitalist Europe since Portugal in 1974.
Of course there is a real danger of counter-revolution against such a government, orchestrated from Berlin, Brussels, Paris and London and carried out by the Greek elite and their judiciary, police and army.
Defiant Greeks show the way for the anti-austerity movement
The threats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are well known, but politicians from most states inside and outside the Eurozone have joined her.  The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was even blunter than Merkel, arrogantly declaring that the election on 17 June was actually a referendum on the euro: “We now have to send a very clear message to people in Greece: there is a choice: you can either vote to stay in the euro, with all the commitments you’ve made or, if you vote another way, you’re effectively voting to leave.”
Tory Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, underlined the consequences would be “serious” if the Greek people elected “cranky extremists” and defaulted on their debts as a result. The Economist, the voice of the City of London, referred to Syriza’s young leader, Alexis Tsipras, as “an upstart.”
On the other hand, an example of defiance by Greece could inspire renewed mass resistance in the countries most affected by the crisis.
It will place enormous responsibilities on the left right cross Europe to come to the aid of Greece and to break any blockade of the new government by our own exploiters and to force the withdrawal of any sanctions.

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