THE GREEK CRISIS
THE GREEK CRISIS
By Victor Osakwe
While the bulk of the world’s capitalist economies are in crisis, the Greek economy is in one of the most severe situations of all.
Greece, with a population of 12 million, is facing an economic crisis that makes the government unable to pay a debt owed to big banks and other creditors. It borrowed a sum of â‚¬110billion a year ago with the hope that after implementing its austerity measures which include wage cuts, welfare spending cuts, pension cuts and increased taxes it would be able to pay back. Rather than the drastic cuts leading to financial stability, it has contracted the economy by 4.4% last year alone and it is estimated by at least a further 4.5% this year. It is therefore been estimated that the Greek economy will need nothing less than â‚¬50billion more this year to cover its borrowing needs. In order to qualify for this extra loan, the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and IMF demanded the Greek government carry out further severe cuts by privatizing over 900 government enterprises or partially owned businesses which include the partly owned electricity company, docks, ferries This has angered the Greek people who have seen their living standard drop lower and only to be faced by any round of cuts, etc.
The economic crisis which has hit the world since 2008 is yet to subside, despite the billions of dollars of bailouts given to private banks and industries. Many banks and industries are still unable to meet the production or profit levels attained before the crisis while those that saw a limited ‘recovery’ are now facing a new downturn or stagnation at best. Some international companies face collapse, the SAAB auto company in Sweden recently announced that it will be unable to meet the wages of its workers in a few months as a result of the falling demands of its products.
Instead of attacking the banks and the speculators who brought about this crisis in the first place, the governments prefer to attack the working class, the poor and the small holders who depend on their small income for survival.
Greece, which is a member of the European Union (EU) and also the euro currency union, is increasingly gripped with nationalist sentiments which demand that it should pull out of the euro and go back to the Drachma (its currency before the advent of the euro). This they believe will make it possible to tackle the crisis better. But under the present order, a pull out of the common currency under a capitalist framework will not produce any fundamental change for the Greek working class and other oppressed strata of the society and neither will staying under the union. Those who are raising the idea of a Greece without the euro are only doing so in order to give the impression that the resolution of the crisis can be done by using Greek methods rather than the foreign imposition of austerity and cuts in order for the foreign bankers to make more out of them.
In reality, the measures to be carried whether by the government or by nationalists are one and the same under a capitalist ruled economy. If Greece eventually decides to leave the euro, it would mean the breakup of the eurozone in its current form and heavily impact on the EU itself. It has a potential to attract other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Ireland, who are also in the same conditions and have initially borrowed heavily to keep afloat in the mean time. In the words of Xekinima (the CWI in Greece), as long as the question is just posed as a “choice” between the euro dominated by the strong imperialist powers of Europe and a return to the Drachma on a capitalist basis-still dominated by the big capitalist economies it is a hard choice between two evils. For a lasting solution there is need for a European wide, workers and youth resistance against capitalist EU and all its institutions that could open the way for socialist cooperation on all levels as part of a voluntary socialist confederation of workers states of Europe.
There is a constant lie from all sections of the capitalist and imperialist leaders and their supporters in Greece that there is no alternative to the neo-liberal attacks and cuts. First, the privatization of public enterprises is nothing but a brazen looting of the country by a few individuals and their government backers. After all, so many private enterprises have either gone under or about to, due to bad management and looting. It will not stop the potential collapse of the economy when another economic crisis hit the world again. So why not nationalize the commanding height of the economy and put the enterprises to be privatized under democratic workers control and management so that these enterprises are well looked into by those workers who have a stake in them?
Secondly, the initial cuts and austerity imposed on the economy of Greece did not improve the economy. It rather depressed further and led to the second round of cuts and austerity. What is the likelihood that this second round will not depress the economy more than it is presently? This means that if there is no eventual overthrow of the capitalist system in Greece and eventual socialist replacement of the system combined with the extension of the socialist system to all other parts of the EU first and later a word socialist federation, the Greeks will continue to reel under the crisis and be an appendage of the imperialist in Europe and elsewhere.
Today a central issue in Greece is how to fight back. There have been 11 general strikes since the beginning of 2010, aside other mass protests and occupations. Earlier this year there was the movement of the “enraged”, a protest led by youth which attracted wide support. But despite these protests the onslaught against living standards has continued. A key issue has been that, as in other countries, the main trade union leaders have been forced by their rank and file to call protest strikes but they are not willing to confront the PASOK government. This is because many of them are still tied to PASOK which once was a “left” party but today is carrying out this brutal driving down of living standards.
Today, the working people Greece have seen the true role of the establishment parties like the once “left” PASOK and New Democracy (ND) who are helping the imperialist countries and institutions impose their profit-first, anti-poor agenda on the Greek economy and its people. Our sister organization in Greece, Xekinima, is fighting for the building of united, democratic mass resistance that can both defend living standards and win support for the struggle to bring about socialist change.
(See more details and analyses of development in Greece on the CWI website, www.socialistworld.net).