Statement by the Editorial Board of Xekinima (CWI Greece)
Syriza’s first days in government have brought back, at last, smiles, optimism and pride to millions of workers in Greece. The new government’s public commitments and the first steps for the restoration of minimum wage to €750; the abolition of anti-working class legislation,; the reinstatement of collective bargaining; the reinstatement of the Christmas bonus for low pension receivers; the ending of foreclosures; the re-employment of the ERT (public TV broadcast that was shut down by the previous government) workers; the ending of privatisations; the re-employment of unlawfully and unconstitutionally sacked public sector workers; the abolition of the so-called “evaluation” of public sector workers (by which 15% have to by necessity be described as “inefficient” and are thus liable to layoff); the abolition of hospital charges (5 euro per visit to any hospital) the restoration of Sunday as a free day (i.e. shops to be closed on Sunday )etc, are not small issues. For a society that has been through the destructive whirlwind of the pro-Troikian governments, these announced reforms mark a big change. They are the beginning of the workers’ “counteroffensive”, to take back what has been deprived of us in the course of the last years.
But some want to wipe out the smile…
But some appear determined to wipe out the smile from the face of the Greek workers. The decisions of the European Central Bank, on 4 February, and the stance of the German government, as it was made clear by Schäuble at his meeting with the Greek Finance Minister, Y. Varoufakis, on 5 February, made things absolutely clear: they are not willing to make any serious concessions to the Greek government in its effort to ensure the most elementary rights for the Greek working class and the poor.
What the Greek government is, in reality, asking from the so-called European “partners” is very “small” in relation to its initial declarations but also not huge in economic terms. The government’s effort is focused on ensuring, by extending the payment of the Greek debt and reducing debt rates, that the primary surplus annually will not be at 4+%, but at 1-1.5% of the Gross Domestic Product. Given that 1-1.5% is an issue of “negotiation”, it means that a deal could end up at around 2-2.5% instead of 4+%. In this way, instead of having about 4% of the GDP every year going towards the repayment of the debt, a smaller amount will be given back to the lenders.
This translates to just a few billion eruo (three to four) on an annual basis. This is a small amount, in reality. But it would allow the government to relieve, a little bit, the burden of poverty and despair on the backs of millions of Greek workers, unemployed and poor. But to even this small concession, the Brussels’ directory says “no”.
Big concessions by SYRIZA
The Syriza-led government has made too many concessions already in its effort to strike a deal with the so called “partners” in the EU. It left aside the issue of reduction of the debt (“cancellation” or “writing off of the biggest part”) as well as the issue of an “all-European conference for the debt” and any reference to the historic precedent of the reduction of the German debt after WW2. Syriza abandoned the issue of renationalising privatised public enterprises. Yianis Varoufakis went as far as to claim that all investments are welcomed, such as the Cosco (a Chinese company) buying Piraeus port because they “modernise the economy” and “increase competition”. Varoufakis also made clear that all of the Greek debt will be paid off and “indeed with interest”. Ministers Dragasakis and Sakellaridis made clear that the government will not touch the administrations of the major banking conglomerates (even though the banks, in terms of ownership belong to the state, since it owns the majority of the shares, while the administrations are in hands of the old private owners).
Despite all these concessions by Syriza, the ECB and the German ruling class said “no”. And not just them! Even the alleged “allies” of Greece, the French President Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Renzi, aligned themselves behind the ECB and Schäuble, with the same ease that they were hugging Tsipras the previous day declaring their “understanding” and “solidarity” with Greek claims! If you have such “friends” you don’t need any enemies!
This is not “negotiation”, it’s “war”
The Greek government says that now “negotiations” have begun. But what began on the first day of Syriza’s electoral victory is not “negotiation”, it’s “war”!
As predicted repeatedly by Xekinima (CWI Greece), in many articles and statements, Brussels’ would not be willing to tolerate the binning of austerity in Greece, particularly as this would set an example to the peoples of the rest of Europe, and especially of the south.
The Brussels Directory and the ruling classes of Europe are not willing to tolerate the Greek workers’ refusal to submit, our refusal to bow our heads! It demands from us to continue to pay for the next decades, for a debt that we did not create and for which we are not responsible, so that those who actually are responsible continue to make profits and get richer on our backs.
Their “weapon”: the threat of exit from the euro zone
Their “weapon” of the Troika is, once again, threatening that Greece will be kicked out of the euro-zone by ending of funding of the budget deficits and the ending of liquidity from the ECB to the Greek banking system.
This does not mean that they want Greece’s exit from the Eurozone, as such. They very well know that this will have a cost and that it contains serious dangers for the stability (actually the very future) of the eurozone and the course of the European economies. But for them it would represent a much bigger cost if a small nation, like Greece, brings about the complete jettisoning of the austerity policies that they have imposed on the entire EU. Therefore, they want to maintain the euro zone and for Greece to remain in the euro zone but under the condition that the Greek people submit to their demands!
In other words, they want us within the euro zone but on our knees! This means that in order for them to accept a new deal with the Syriza government, they will pressurise it so much so as to make it accept a new deal in exchange for peanuts!
What should our answer be?
The Greek working class, the masses and the social movements must demand from the new Greek government; not a single step back!
If Brussels’ answer to the Greek government’s effort to put an end to the hurricane that is wrecking Greek society is the ending of funding and financial asphyxiation, then our answer cannot be any other but this: the euro is not the “sacred cow” that Brussels thinks it is.
As Yianis Varoufakis recently stated and as everyone in Greece knows, more than 90% of the euros that the Troika gives to Greece goes back to its creditors. So the answer is simple; “if you don’t give us the euros that are necessary to pay back the debt, then you won’t be taking the instalments for the payment of this debt”.
We have to raise our voice and boldly say: We won’t pay their debt and we will proceed to nationalise the banking system, i.e. put it in the hands of society and the workers; we will nationalise the commanding heights of the economy; we will implement workers’ and social control and management, i.e. democracy, and end corruption and theft; we will put an end to the games of the speculators through currency controls and through state control of foreign trade; we will move to the planning of the economy for the needs of workers and the masses; we will build democratic structures in society, through assemblies and rank and file committees, in workplaces and local communities, so that we control the decisions that determine our lives.
This is the answer to the threats of Draghi and Schäuble. At the same time, we should seek for our real allies! We will not find them at government level (either in the south or elsewhere in Europe) but amongst the working masses and from the rising forces of the Left, already seen in a number of Europeans countries, south and north, but also internationally.
The SYRIZA leadership believes that it can “reform” the European Union, the EU of the bosses and the multinationals, that it can make it democratic and humane, through “negotiations”. We have to say to them that they are wrong!
The bosses’ EU and the Eurozone, the one we know so well, is an outright reactionary, undemocratic, obsolete structure, only capable of imposing brutal, anti-working class, barbaric policies. It has to be thrown into the dustbin of history. This is the task of the working class. And we can achieved it through common struggles of the working class from all over Europe, with the aim of a Europe that will not be controlled by the bosses and the multinationals but by the workers themselves – a Europe united on a voluntary, democratic and equal basis, a Socialist Europe.