Continuing our series on the post-crash political situation in other countries, Giannis Banias explains how the focus on the violent street protests in Greece have been used to disguise the real political terrorism of the IMF.
There is more than one side to the crisis today’s world is facing, financial, social, cultural and political, a deep turmoil of values and morals. Most of all, it is capitalism that suffers, leading humanity to a modern barbaric state, great social and ecological deadlocks. A novel, radically different social and political map of Europe is currently under formation, originating from the EU countries but affecting the entire world. Its shape alters according to problem solving policies and their consequences as well as social resistance coming from the working class. The international crisis in question results from capitalism, in its most extreme, aggressive and neoliberal version: unconditional and non-stop competitiveness, market speculation, consumerism, banks and the entire financial system mercilessly profiteering, their motto being “money over people”. The aim has been maximizing profit while minimizing labor cost in order for speculators to dominate.
The Greek financial crisis, extremely intense as a result of the administration of the two political parties that have monopolized power in Greece since 1974, is connected to the international one, but is also unique in its characteristics: an unorthodox form of development lacking a solid productive base, debt escalating due to deficit and a combination of constant loans without productive investments, consumerism, political parties and their clientele ruling the state, an oversized public sector, profiteering, corruption, selling off and embezzlement of national resources, high-level government officials involved in various scandals. Consequently, Greece was neither ready to handle this crisis nor strong enough to resist capitalistic greed.
The strategy chosen to fight the crisis actually uses the same logic and tools that triggered it in the first place, only now neoliberal tactics, against the working class, against the masses are much more intense. Public funds are used once more to support private banks, without any guarantee whatsoever that development will also be supported. In fact, the people have to pay for a crisis they have not caused in any way. Measures that the Greek government has chosen to take, the infamous Memorandum as well as the EU, the European Central Bank and the National Monetary Fund have turned the country into a pioneering guinea pig, testing the limits of the lower class, the size and strength of their will to resist. Other European countries have of course also been targeted, but the European South remains a priority.
Taking the measures in question and allowing the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to sponsor the country has been the choice of a government, fully aware of its actions, in total compliance with the internationally dominant financial forces. George Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister, absolutely refuses to renegotiate the country’s debt, arguing that paying off the loans challenges the country’s credibility while proclaiming that the measures his government took are the only solution. Here is the characteristic of the measures mentioned above and the Memorandum in general: the total destruction of social services. The working class, farmers, average size businesses and the majority of social groups will be charged for the crisis. Minimizing labor cost, reducing salaries and pensions, unemployment on the rise, already affecting young people, is the cornerstone of the new philosophy. Also, alternative forms of labor, freedom to dismiss as many workers as desired, no more collective agreements, no more social security, not to mention the increase of VAT causing prices to rise. Consequently, while the working class bleeds the capital secures its profit and the banking system reigns secure. Meanwhile, with loan rates on the rise, wealth is accumulated at the expense of workers and so is income in general. To make matters worse, the Government is finalizing a series of privatizations regarding national resources, public utility corporations and the wider public sector.
All of the above mentioned rescue measures and the Memorandum in general will only cause the country to plunge into recession, which is already in progress, while a new pack of even more hideous measures is to be expected together with greater sacrifices. The IMF is showing the way with the full co-operation of the Greek government. Another interesting aspect is the question of whether the measures are in accordance with the country’s constitution – some of them have already been declared unconstitutional – as well as whether the government has violated basic democratic principles, since they had been presented with the country’s and the economy’s actual problems before national election day – nevertheless, they systematically lied to the Greek people, handing out untrue promises and declarations. The application of the above mentioned measures also causes outbursts of absolutism as well as terrorism of information and ideas, mostly orchestrated by electronic media. What about national and popular dominance for countries sponsored by the IMF? Is there a new model under construction for the EU countries?
The system is on a desperate quest for government solutions to absorb social and political tremors against this multiform crisis with the least possible cost for the wealthy and their political representatives, the two largest Greek political parties, PASOK (The Panhellenic Socialistic Movement, now governing) and Nea Dimokratia or ND for short (New Democracy, the right wing opposition). The two most popular scenarios include governments of a wider political scale, since political party division is already in the air as well as governments including technocrats from the area of business, the media and higher education. A combination of the two is also under consideration.
Union leaders and the left parties have not been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the current situation. The leading party also controls the working class unions, making sure that any reaction does not get out of hand. Meanwhile, the left parties are faced with the burden of their own choices, different strategies, a serious lack of coordination and ultimately each other, failing to actually rise up to the occasion. That poses a grave problem for the next phase of social resistance. During this fall, we could be witnessing an even greater social turmoil, with the wider participation of young people that could escalate even further. Government propaganda for the Memorandum is also escalating with the support of the opposition together with the media, attempting to undermine any counteraction. There is also an outburst of blind force aiming to smear any backlash; for example the murder of three Marfin Bank employees during a massive anti-government demonstration in the center of Athens on May 5, 2010.
According to the Greek Media and the George Papandreou government this is the only approach to the crisis. This conscious lie only applies to their followers, who also support capitalism and the general system. What’s even worse, these recent changes are here to stay as part of a wider financial and social model of absolutism, promoted by those who control capitalism and attempt to fight the masses, the working class and their right to say no.
On the other hand, what the left parties have to offer, especially SYRIZA (Greek Coalition of the Radical Left), in order to permanently come out of the crisis, is a radically different approach as part of an alternative financial and social model, characterized by entirely different values, structures and human relations, an entirely different equation between man, nature and the environment. Greece has already paid off more than twice the amount of money it owes. So, what we can do now is deal with a number of specific problems by putting forward some alternative suggestions, which could also, under certain circumstances, take form within the present system, such as:
- a renegotiation of the country’s debt
- a refusal to pay part of the debt owed to speculation
- different loan rates and other European countries offering their solidarity, engaging in negotiations on a wider level
- high taxes for the wealthy, the church, banking revenues and off-shore corporations
- a cut back on military expenses of at least 50 per cent
- a state-controlled financial system and no more public utility corporations going private
- a different development policy, based on production and making use of the country’s advantages
- wages, salaries and pensions increased, no more unemployment
- prioritize public health, education and the environment.
Unfortunately, the majority of those changes are hindered by the existing social and political forces. Only when left-wing parties and the working movement both in Greece and Europe come together, determined to work hard and promote the necessary ruptures, will actual change take place. A useful tool to promote unity around the movement’s goals could be a referendum to officially reject measures that support the Memorandum and International Treaties such as those of Maastricht and Lisbon. A major goal should be the formation of a strong social and political front, aiming to cause the fall of the George Papandreou government, put an end to the reign of the two largest political parties and strengthen the left ideology.
Striving to promote common action and substantial unity for all Left Ideology representatives in Greece and Europe, SYRIZA is neither a single political party nor an alliance, but an original political configuration, characterized by its radical, social role. Standing out within the Greek society, it was founded six and a half years ago, comprising eleven minor political parties, representing the Left or Radical Ecology, as well as independent members of a similar ideology. It holds nine MPs and one MEP. Its primary goal is to organize and fortify social and political resistance against government measures and the Memorandum as well as the unity of the Left and Radical Ecology representatives. Its vision, socialism and democracy, freedom, people above all else and a totally new balance between man, nature and the environment.
SYRIZA achieved a major social impact, which is why it has been targeted by the media and the system. As a result, its social and political stigma has ultimately weakened, having also to deal with internal problems that arose on the way. Recently, its largest component, a political party by the name of SYNASPISMOS, withdrew, together with four SYRIZA members, elected MPs after the 2009 national elections. They all formed a new political party, of center-left ideology, an ally to the two largest already existing ones. In order to face this new reality, SYRIZA is regrouping, reinforcing and getting ready for those initiatives that will have a more decisive impact on the country’s imminent social and political agenda.