The Syriza government of greece, in its negotiations with the finance ministers of the eurozone countries, is trapped in its own logic of endeavouring to simultaneously preserve capitalist social relations (guaranteeing, for example, the payment of its national debt, in one form or the other) and minimising the suffering of those of its citizens who are forced to carry the burden of the cost of maintaining those relations. What has been put in place in greece, over the last 6 years, is a violent politics of primitive accumulation and intensification of exploitation innocently called “austerity”; and it is the greek people who are offered up as sacrifice.
During this time, the national economy has contracted by 25%, as measured by GDP. Unemployment stands at 25.8%, which translates into 1.2 million people without work. According to Eurostat, the country is ranked third among its european partners for the percentage of its population at risk of falling into poverty; nationally, this represents 23.1% of the population (2013). Since 2008, one in four small and medium sized businesses have closed, some 230,000 in total (Hellenic Confederation of SMEs). Greek employees and pensioners pay seven times more in taxes today than they did in 2009. The general sales tax sits at 23%. (Wall Street Journal)
In parallel, there have been massive cuts in public sector employment, as well as in health, education and other social services. Not surprisingly, greece today has the highest income inequality in the eurozone.
If one could somehow sustain that all of this was “good for the country”, it might be acceptable. But by its own criteria, the politics of austerity is an abysmal failure. If the “greek crisis” is understood as a sovereign debt crisis, that debt in 2009 stood at 279 billion euros, or 115% of the country’s GDP. By the end of 2014, the debt had reached 321.7 billion euros, 175% of GDP, the highest in europe. (Le Monde 11/02/2015) It thus becomes strikingly clear that what is at stake is not the repayment of a debt, but the use of a debt for massive appropriation of public wealth. And successive greek governments, as a local police force for european and global capital, have been largely successful in this theft.
The Syriza government, at the end of last week, agreed with its european “partners” to abide by the commitments of earlier governments in the repayment of its debt. It thereby gained a four month reprieve in new credit, not for public investment, but to pay existing debts. What Syriza is now left with is the task of trying to find the sums necessary, and quickly enough, to pay its debt, while simultaneously shifting the source of these monies, away from its electorate, which had been promised a renunciation of the same debt.
What Syriza now proposes to europe continues to ostensibly seek to protect those most affected by austerity policies (e.g. free electricity to some 300,000 families in need, free access to health for those who can no longer afford medical attention, transportation subsidies for the poor, financial support for pensioners most affected by cut backs), while other reforms seem more uncertain (e.g. an announced increase in the minimum wage, the suspension of home evictions and bank appropriations, the partial annulling of private debt, the suspension of privatisations). (Le Monde 24/02/2015) It it remains uncertain whether greece’s european creditors will accept the new proposals. And the question remains: how can the greek government continue to satisfy its creditors (why should it even do so, when so much of the debt was assumed without the knowledge or consent of the country’s people, a debt that benefited very few in the country) while maintaining any serious aspirations for moving greece towards greater social justice? Manolis Glezos, Syriza’s most senior politician, a 94-year-old war hero and member of the european parliament, answered this question in the following statement …
Before it’s too late:
The fact that the Troika has been renamed ‘the Institutions’, the Memorandum has been renamed the ‘Agreement’, and the creditors have been renamed the ‘partners’ — in the same manner as baptizing meat as fish — does not change the previous situation.
You can’t change the vote of the Greek people in the election of January 25.
The Greek people voted for what SYRIZA promised: that we abolish the regime of austerity, which is the strategy not only of the oligarchies of Germany and the other creditor countries but also of the Greek oligarchy; that we abrogate the Memorandum and the Troika and all the austerity legislation; that the next day, with one law, we abolish the Troika and its consequences.
A month has passed and this promise has yet to become action.
It is a pity indeed.
From my part I APOLOGIZE to the Greek people for having assisted in this illusion.
Before we continue in the wrong direction, before it’s too late, let’s react.
Above all, the members, the friends and supporters of SYRIZA, in urgent meetings at all levels of the organization, have to decide if they accept this situation.
Some people say that in an agreement you also have to make some concessions. But as a matter of principle, between the oppressor and the oppressed there can be no compromise, as there can be no compromise between the slave and the tyrant. Freedom is the only solution.
But even if we accept this absurdity, the concessions that have already been made by the previous pro-memoranda government with unemployment, poverty and suicide, are beyond any limit of concession…