EU set to push Greece to its knees

Submitted by AWL on 14 April, 2015 - 4:55 Author: Theodora Polenta

After the re-invigoration of the squares movement with mobilisations in support of the Syriza-led government and against the Troika (EU-ECB-IMF) blackmail, the movement is slowly starting to intervene with mobilisations which are not anti-government (except those of the anarchist groups) but seek to “remind” the government of its election commitments and to counter the lTroika’s ultimatums.

The process is slow, but we can see the first steps of it. There were demonstrations of 10,000 in Thessaloniki / Skouries-Chalkidiki against the gold mining activities of Eldorado Gold and to “remind” the government of its pledges to kick Eldorado Gold out of Chalikidiki.

Workers in the mobile phone companies Vodafone and Wind have mobilised, demanding ollective agreements (as promised by Syriza before the election) and an end to workers being employed via subcontractors.

During the weekend 3-6 April, the BIOME workers, the ERT-3 workers, cement Chalkidas workers, and the Ministry of Finance cleaners, staged a caravan from Thessaloniki to Athens with a series of intermediate stations.

This is the hope for Greece: the activation of the militant rank and file working-class and social movements.

They demand that Syriza carry out the programme on which it was elected by the Greek people, that it allow working-class people a chance to breathe, and that it not submit to the cynical blackmail of the financiers and the Troika.

If the Syriza-led government concludes an agreement with the lenders in the current political climate and correlation of class forces, it will mean not just abandoning the great visions of the left, but also abandoning the very modest “Thessaloniki declaration”.

If the Syriza-led government submits to the EU leaders’ pressure, then it will be implementing a new austerity, only a little more elastic and less brutal than the previous one. The effect for the whole of the left (including the anti-capitalist revolutionary left) wwill be detrimental: massive disappointment, and a shift to the right and the far right.

If the Syriza government refuses to be blackmailed and implements the Thessaloniki declaration, then Greece will most probably be kicked out of the eurozone with the agreement not only of Germany but also of Greece’s supposed allies in the USA, France, and Italy. But there is no alternative for the radical forces within and outside Syriza.

It is not the currency that determines the state of the economy but the economic system itself.

Against the sloganeering of a government of “all Greeks”, we must fight for a class-based working-class government of the left! For a progressive taxation system! Make the rich pay for the crisis! For a Memorandum for the rich!

The permanent chorus of the blackmail from “our partners” is that we must choose euro or drachma. But more than half of the population of the country have no euros in their pocket. They do not care whether the currency is euro or ruble or drachma or dinar, as long as they can live a decent life.

That is what the “European institutions” deny them. The “institutions” tell the Greek working class that the resources for a decent life can be found only if we expropriate those who have been stealing our lives, if only rebuild the economy on new social foundations for the social needs of the vast majority of the people and not for the profit of a few, with the nationalisation of strategic sectors of the economy under workers’ control.

Time is running out. Ahead of the crucial meeting of the eurozone finance ministers on 24 April, the Syriza government is preparing to send another list of “reforms” — the fourth in a row — raising the fiscal adjustments to €10 billion (above the €8.5 billion of the previous list).

The Troika is demanding permanent austerity measures and not the “emergency” one-off measures preferred by the Syriza-led government. The government has been attempting to fill the budget gap with measures such as the “closure” of pending tax-arrears cases.

Reuters reports that in the opinion of the ECB, the Greek draft law on the protection of primary residences exceeds the limits of the protection of persons with low incomes and probably encourage some to make a deliberate decision not to repay their loans.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has called for further cuts to pensions. “The pension system is doomed to bankrupt the Greek economy is unsustainable and must be reformed”.

Reported demands include the abolition of so-called “early retirement”, further consolidations of pension funds, phasing-out of “charges for third parties” (which in a number of cases constitute the substantive employer’s contribution), and a closer connection between pension contributions and incomes.

Troika demands are reported to include the further expansion of VAT on mass popular consumption goods and the elimination of “exemptions” and tax reliefs for working-class and worse-off households.

The government is trying to shift these issues into the next “big deal”, which will follow the end of the four-month extension based on eurozone finance ministers’ decision of 20 February but still not completed sufficiently to get new credits released to Greece.

The Troika says that if the current government wishes to “replace” the regressive property tax of the previous regime, then it needs to implement other unpopular measures of “equivalent performance”. It demands that revenue aims from privatisation be confirmed.

There is clear evidence that the rest of the port of Piraeus will be given over to privatisation, regional airports the same.

The concessions already made by the Syriza-led government are not theoretical and abstract. All the pro-working-class measures announced in the first days of the government have been postponed - even the simplest, such as the abolition of the €5 fee to visit hospitals. The abolition of the property tax has been postponed. Gold-mining activities continue at Eldorado Gold at Skouries/Chalkidiki…

In its 20 February agreement with the eurozone finance ministers, Syriza committed itself not to proceed to any “unilateral action”, meaning that every important bill that the government wants to pass must have the approval of the EU leaders.

There is no longer a request for cancellation of any part of the debt. There is no longer a request for a European conference on the debt.

Instead of bringing in a Bill re-instating the minimum wage and collective bargaining agreements, the Minister of Labour has prioritised “dialogue with social partners.” A tripartite meeting, with the bosses’ organisations and the unions has been called for 15 April to discuss the minimum wage and collective bargaining. It was the representatives of the bosses that the Minister of Labour met first as he took over.

The plan now is that in October 2015 the minimum wage will increase to €650, and then in July 2016 the minimum wage will be €751.

Greece paid €450 million to the IMF on 9 April. It had already paid the IMF €1.5 billion at the end of March. To scrape together the money to pay the IMF, the government had borrowed large sums from the pension fund; requested a pay-out from the state healthcare insurer of €50 million; asked the Athens Metro and other companies, including the electricity and water providers, to lend the state money; retained €120 million intended to finance hospitals.

These loans have a very short time frame, and are aimed at avoiding a budget crisis while the government is in talks with the so-called troika of the IMF, European Central Bank and European Union (EU) commission.

Meanwhile €26 billion have been withdrawn from the Greek banks in the last two or three months.

Further payments totaling around €6 billion are due for repayment by the end of May. Greece will be able to make them only with the help of external loans. Otherwise, state bankruptcy looms and potential exclusion from the eurozone.

However, along with the police, the military has been excluded from budget cuts. On 15 March, Tsipras signed a contract for the modernisation of five surveillance aircraft at a cost to the state of €500 million. Defence Minister Panos Kammenos of the right-wing Independent Greeks (Anel) demanded the expenditure in order to be able to meet NATO requirements.

The militant wing of the labour movement and the unions must reject the logic of “social dialogue”, which has cost the labour movement dear in the past. We must fight for the “here and now”.

Since the day Syriza was elected on 25 January, the EU and the ECB have pushed the Greek economy towards suffocation. Their aim is to transform Syriza into a “systemic party”. In a party that will not threaten in any way the big interests and the basic structures and functioning of the capitalist system. The programme of Syriza, as depicted in the Thessaloniki declarations, does not constitute any kind of radical or revolutionary program. It includes neither nationalisation, nor measures for social and workers’ control and management, let alone... socialism.

It is just a series of proposals to deal with the worst effects of the crisis and the effects of the five years of Memoranda imposed by the EU “partners”. But those EU “partners” are not allowing the government to implement even these minimal measures.

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