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
“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
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
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
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