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News :: Globalization
Down With the European Union! No Support to Syriza! Greece Votes No to EU Austerity
14 Jul 2015
JULY 6—Last night, millions of Greek working people celebrated a landslide victory in the country’s referendum on a bailout deal with the imperialists of the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Asked whether they would accept yet more grinding austerity as the price for a new “rescue package” (in reality a bailout of Greek and international banks), more than 60 percent of voters responded with a decisive “NO!” With this result, the Greek population has justly delivered a slap in the face to the imperialist leaders of the EU. As our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece wrote in their July 1 statement calling for a “no” vote in the referendum (reprinted below), the victory of a “no” vote would “help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their blood-sucking banks.”

The referendum was called by the government coalition led by Syriza, following months of negotiations with its EU/IMF creditors. Syriza called for a “no” vote with the declared intention of using popular rejection of the EU/IMF extortion as a bargaining chip to secure a slightly less onerous austerity package. Syriza is a bourgeois party, supports the EU and is determined that Greece should remain within the euro currency zone. That is why the TGG said “no vote to Syriza!” in the January general election. The Greek workers should use the powerful rejection of EU/IMF austerity in the referendum as a platform for a class-struggle fight against the Syriza government with the aim of canceling the debt and smashing the capitalists’ austerity programs.

The proponents of a “yes” vote, along with Germany’s Merkel, France’s Hollande, Britain’s Cameron & Co., sought to panic the Greek population into capitulating to the EU/IMF diktat with the threat that, following a “no” vote, “Grexit” (Greek exit from the eurozone) and a return to its previous national currency, the drachma, would trigger rampant inflation, mass defaults and bankruptcies as well as further deprivation and political unrest. But for working-class Greeks the past several years of economic crisis have been an ongoing catastrophe that has left them with little more to lose. The threats of the Greek capitalists and their imperialist patrons rebounded against them as more people were driven to vote “no” out of fury at being blackmailed.

While the Greek working people have clearly rejected the EU’s vicious austerity, polls have consistently shown that around three-quarters of the Greek population are in favor of remaining inside the eurozone and there are still widespread fears about what exit from the euro and EU might bring. But exiting from the euro and recovering the barest minimum of sovereignty over its currency is a precondition for the country to begin to recover. In the short term, life will likely be harsh for Greek workers following “Grexit,” but in the longer term there will indeed be the possibility of “life after default” as U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz put it (Huffington Post, 30 June). Moreover, the Greek working class would be in a better position to struggle for its class interests.

The International Communist League has always insisted that in the long term a common European currency is not viable, something that is being driven home today with the events surrounding Greece. Capitalism is based on nation-states with conflicting interests (making the EU itself inherently unstable), and ordinarily each country has its own currency. When it operates with its own currency—the drachma in the case of Greece—a debtor country can get some relief and regain competitiveness by devaluing the currency. But this is not possible in a currency union like the eurozone.

The example of Argentina (or Iceland) graphically shows that Greece might be much better off if it defaulted on its debts and left the eurozone, reinstating its own currency. After Argentina pegged its peso to the U.S. dollar in 1991, its economy went into a deep recession and the country defaulted in 2001. In response, Argentina stopped pegging its currency to the dollar and the economy recovered. Average wages initially dropped 30 percent, but within a year unemployment fell and wages rose. But for Greece to exercise the option of devaluing its currency, it must first break from the euro, which is under the control of the far more powerful German bourgeoisie. Leaving the eurozone and repudiating the debt will not in itself insulate the Greek proletariat from the world economic downturn and capitalist devastation wrought by the imperialists and the Greek capitalist ruling class. The only answer to that is sweeping away capitalist rule through the seizure of power in Greece and extending proletarian rule internationally.

We were unique on the left in calling for a “no” vote while giving no support to the Syriza government and drawing a clear class line against the pro-Syriza camp. As the TGG leaflet notes, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) called on its supporters to cast an invalid ballot with its own slogans opposing the EU and the Syriza government. The KKE claimed that a “no” vote in the referendum was equivalent to a “yes” vote to Syriza’s own austerity measures. The KKE leadership’s treacherous “tactic,” which objectively bolstered the pro-EU “yes” vote, backfired when large numbers of the KKE’s own membership rebelled and voted “no.”

Comrades of the TGG, along with comrades from other ICL sections, distributed thousands of leaflets—at rallies called by the KKE and by Syriza, in working-class neighborhoods and on campuses. Our leaflet was very well received by many. However, TGG comrades distributing at the final “no” rally were physically driven out by pro-Syriza Greek nationalists who understood clearly enough that our “no” vote in the referendum was certainly not a “yes” vote for Syriza.

Those KKE members who wish to oppose the EU and fight the Syriza government should consider the lessons of their leadership’s attempted sabotage of the “no” vote. The Stalinist politics of the KKE leadership are inherently nationalist and can only lead to a dead end in a situation like the current sharp crisis in Greece, which calls out for an internationalist appeal to workers throughout Europe to unite in struggle against their capitalist rulers. For that reason, the KKE has not been able to offer any road forward for the Greek working class, including in this referendum. The TGG seeks to build a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party—at once revolutionary, proletarian and internationalist—as a section of the reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.

*   *   *

In the Referendum We Say:

Vote NO!
Down With the EU!

No Support to the Syriza Government!

The Trotskyist Group of Greece calls for a NO vote in the July 5 referendum. A resounding “no” vote would be an important blow against the imperialist-dominated EU and its savage austerity programs. A “yes” vote would be a victory for the imperialist rulers and the Greek bourgeoisie and a terrible defeat for the working people of Greece and throughout Europe. It would be used by the EU to further devastate the conditions of life for millions. A “no” vote would help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their bloodsucking banks. Down with the EU!

The International Communist League, of which the TGG is a section, has opposed the EU on principle from its inception. The EU is an unstable consortium, dominated by German imperialism, aimed at driving down the living standards of working people throughout Europe, including in Germany itself and not least in East Europe. The euro is an instrument for economic domination of the major powers over the poorer states. The only way out of the nightmare of recurrent capitalist crises is to unite the workers throughout Europe in struggle to sweep away the imperialist EU through the fight for socialist revolutions here and internationally. For a Socialist United States of Europe!

The TGG opposed a vote to Syriza in the January election and stands in irreconcilable opposition to the capitalist Syriza government. The Syriza-led coalition has bent over backward to appease the Troika [the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF], seeking merely to haggle over how much austerity should be implemented, while fostering illusions that the EU can be reformed into a “democratic and social Europe.” The Syriza-ANEL [right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks] coalition has whipped up Greek nationalism, which fuels anti-immigrant racism. The reformist ANTARSYA coalition seeks to pressure the capitalist Syriza party to break with the EU and IMF. In contrast, we call upon the working class of Greece to struggle against the Syriza government and the entire capitalist ruling class.

The KKE leadership is asking working people to throw away their vote by casting an invalid ballot with the KKE’s own slogans. The KKE’s refusal to mobilize for a victory for the “no” vote is in complete contradiction with its stated opposition to the EU. The KKE leaders claim that to vote down the Troika’s deal is an implicit vote for Syriza’s own rotten austerity package. No! Voting down the Troika’s deal is just that: telling the imperialist rulers of the EU to get lost! If the “yes” vote wins, the downfall of the Syriza government will come at the hands of the EU imperialists and their Greek lackeys. This will strengthen the hand of the Troika for even more vicious attacks on the working class and oppressed.

In practice, the KKE’s call to cast invalid ballots will reduce the number of people voting “no” and could help the “yes” vote win. Anything but a clear “no” in this referendum is a betrayal of the interests of workers here and internationally. Our opposition to the EU is from the standpoint of revolutionary internationalism, not Greek nationalism. The KKE opposes the EU on a nationalist basis. This is demonstrated by the fact that the KKE leadership posits that socialism can be achieved within the borders of Greece alone, without an international extension of workers revolution.

The imperialist governments are trying to blackmail the Greek people into voting “yes” with the spectre of unspeakable suffering if Greece ends up outside the eurozone/EU. A Greek exit from the EU as a result of militant workers struggle would be a step forward, but not a solution in itself. The situation in Greece is part of a global capitalist economic crisis, which cannot be resolved within the borders of any single country, particularly a small dependent country such as Greece with its low level of industry and resources. The only way forward is a series of socialist revolutions that will expropriate the bourgeoisies, including in the imperialist centers, and establish a global collectivized, planned economy under workers rule.

The TGG stands counterposed to the perspective of the opportunist Greek left, who all dissolve the working class into the “people” and promote Greek nationalism (see our most recent article, “Syriza: Class Enemy of Workers and Oppressed,” 22 April 2015 [reprinted in WV No. 1068, 15 May]). A concrete example of our party’s internationalism is that our German section, the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, calls for the cancellation of Greece’s debt in opposition to its own bourgeoisie. Our goal is to build a revolutionary, internationalist workers party like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. Such a party can be built only as part of a reforged Fourth International, the necessary instrument to lead the working class to power internationally. For new October Revolutions!

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Re: Down With the European Union! No Support to Syriza! Greece Votes No to EU Austerity
14 Jul 2015
Greek bailout deal highlights monumental scale of Syriza’s betrayal
By Chris Marsden
14 July 2015

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has signed up to an agreement that transforms Greece into a de facto colony of the European Union and places the country under the dictates of Germany.

What remains of the Greek economy, above all its most valuable assets, is to be pillaged so that Athens can continue to pay back loans from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece is to be placed under the direct control of EU officials. The function of Greece’s parliament will be to rubber-stamp the transfer of real authority to Brussels and Berlin. It has until Wednesday to pass a series of laws implementing the demands of German imperialism and the EU.

Syriza, elected just six months ago on the basis of a pledge to end austerity, is set to endorse by a large majority of its parliamentary deputies measures that go far beyond those agreed by the New Democracy and PASOK government it replaced.

Only days after he called a referendum and secured the support of two-thirds of the electorate for a “no” to further cuts, Tsipras is making plans to form an alliance with the parties that spearheaded the “yes” campaign in order to place the Greek people at the mercy of German imperialism. He will go down in history as the early 21st century equivalent of the World War II collaborationist leaders Petain and Quisling.

In return for imposing permanent and more savage austerity on millions of working people who have already suffered terribly under the dictates of the EU and the banks for which it speaks, Tsipras has secured nothing more than the reality of financial dictatorship today and promises of jam tomorrow.

The document of the euro zone leaders makes extraordinary reading. It took 17 hours to formulate, not because Tsipras was mounting a last-minute fight-back, but because Germany insisted that every dot and comma of the surrender terms be set out.

A proposal for “de-politicising the Greek administration” means that all decision-making on austerity measures and privatisations will fall under the remit of EU-appointed overseers. These enforcers will be able to veto all future legislation, while legislation passed by Syriza since it took office that is deemed contrary to the terms of the new austerity agreement will be rescinded.

There is, in any case, nothing left of Syriza’s “red lines” on taxation, pensions, the labour market and privatisation.

A “significantly scaled-up privatisation programme with improved governance” means that “Valuable Greek assets will be transferred to an independent fund that will monetise (i.e., sell off) the assets…” The fund will be run from Athens but “under the supervision of the relevant European institutions.”

The document also calls for “quasi-automatic spending cuts in case of deviations from ambitious primary surplus targets”—meaning Greece will have to raise more in revenues than the government spends each and every year, even after paying interest on its debt.

The detailing of the economic measures expected is extraordinary and includes stipulations for “Sunday trade, sales periods, pharmacy ownership, milk and bakeries… over-the-counter pharmaceutical products,” opening up “macro-critical closed professions (e.g., ferry transportation),” “the privatisation of the electricity transmission network operator (ADMIE),” and more.

Measures directly attacking the working class, including restrictions on collective bargaining and strikes and the gutting of protections against layoffs, are grouped under the heading “Labour market liberalisation.” They include “rigorous reviews and modernisation of collective bargaining, industrial action and, in line with the relevant EU directive and best practice, collective dismissals.”

The parliament must also agree to “the streamlining of the VAT system and the broadening of the tax base to increase revenue,” and a rise in the pension retirement age to 67 by 2022 and the phasing out of aid to the poorest pensioners by the end of 2019.

Germany’s original proposal was for the new privatisation fund to be administered from Luxembourg, through a German-controlled investment bank. The other supposed “concession” to Greece is that a specified figure of €50 billion for the value of the fund will be divided up so that 50 percent goes towards recapitalising Greece’s banks, 25 percent to pay back Greece’s creditors, and 25 percent for investments in Greece.

This is being hailed by Tsipras as proof that his was “a fight which, at the end of the day, will be vindicated.” He went on to claim that “we prevented the transfer of public property abroad, we prevented the financial asphyxiation and the collapse of the financial system [and] we managed to gain the restructuring of the debt and a financing process for the medium-term.”

This is all lies.

Assets will still be transferred out of the country, only the location of the criminal enterprise has been changed. Moreover, to date the only thing that has been agreed is that Greece will fund its own debt through privatisations. No external funding has been laid out, only the promise of negotiations for a third bailout.

The euro zone government heads’ statement “stresses that nominal haircuts on the debt cannot be undertaken,” and that “the Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to their creditors fully and in a timely manner.”

All that is actually promised by the euro zone leaders is to “consider, if necessary, possible additional measures” such as “longer grace and payment periods.”

The statement “takes note of the possible programme financing needs of between €82bn and €86bn, as assessed by the Institutions.” But having done so, it then “invites the Institutions to explore possibilities to reduce the financing envelope, through an alternative fiscal path or higher privatisation proceeds.”

In other words, the present round of asset-stripping is only the beginning. As Larry Elliott notes in the Guardian, “In truth, there is not the remotest prospect of Greece raising €50bn through privatisations in the next three years. The €50bn target was first announced back in 2011, since when the value of the Greek stock market has fallen by 40 percent, making its assets far less valuable. In the past four years, privatisation proceeds have raised just over €3bn.”

The document also “takes note” of Greece’s “urgent financing needs” of €7 billion by July 20 and €5 billion more in August. It is in return for this initial sum that Tsipras has been charged with either whipping his government into line, or, what is more likely, initiating a struggle that will end in the formation of a government of national unity.

His deadline for doing so, and for parliament agreeing to VAT increases, pension changes, the independence of the country’s national statistics institute and measures of “fiscal consolidation” is Wednesday night. Before then, the European Central Bank has agreed only to maintain the Greek banks’ existing €89 billion lifeline, keeping Greek banks closed and the country on rations until it does as it is told.

Should an agreement be reached on these terms, Greece’s overall debt will rise to around €400 billion, 200 percent of gross domestic product as compared to its present level of 175 percent. The International Monetary Fund admitted earlier this month that even the previous debt was unsustainable and could never be repaid.

Tsipras has already lost his parliamentary majority once. In coalition with the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks, he had 162 seats in the 300-seat parliament. But eight Syriza MPs abstained, two voted “no,” and seven absented themselves in the vote taken Friday to approve the just-concluded negotiations.

The Independent Greeks have now said they will not support the agreement but will remain in government. However, this could change.

In addition, in an attempt to rescue their tattered reputation, sections or all of Syriza’s Left Platform may feel it prudent to vote against the proposals, which would likely lead to their expulsion by Tsipras. Under such circumstances, Tsipras may offer to form a new government with To Potami and PASOK, or form a full-scale national unity administration that includes New Democracy, prior to fresh elections.

Parliamentary arithmetic aside, the sheer scale of the assault on working people involved will inevitably provoke mass opposition directed against Syriza’s betrayal. In anticipation of the backlash that will develop, Adedy, the civil servants union confederation, has called a 24-hour strike for Wednesday against the economic reforms parliament is to vote on that day.