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Conflict between Syriza and EU escalates
'This is not negotiation, it's war'
Statement by the Editorial Board of Xekinima (Greek sister party of the Socialist Party)
Syriza's first days in government has brought back, at last, smiles, optimism and pride to millions of workers in Greece. The new government's public commitments are not small issues. They include the first steps to the restoration of the minimum wage to €750; the abolition of anti-working class legislation; the reinstatement of collective bargaining; the reinstatement of the Christmas bonus for those on a low pension; the ending of mortgage foreclosures; the re-employment of the ERT (public TV broadcaster that was shut down by the previous government) workers; the ending of privatisation; the re-employment of sacked public sector workers; the abolition of the so-called 'evaluation' of public sector workers (by which 15% are automatically liable to layoff); the abolition of hospital charges. For a society that has been through the destructive whirlwind of pro-austerity governments, these announced reforms mark a big change. They are the beginning of the workers' counter offensive, to take back what we have been deprived of in the last few years.
But some appear determined to wipe out the smile from the face of the Greek workers. The decisions of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the stance of the German government 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. The government's effort is focused on ensuring that instead of having about 4% of GDP every year going towards the repayment of the debt, a smaller amount will be given back to the lenders. It aims to do this by extending the payment of the Greek debt and reducing debt rates,
This translates to just three to four billion euros a year. This is a small amount. 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, Brussels says 'no'.
Too many concessions
The Syriza-led government has made too many concessions already in its effort to strike a deal with the European Union (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 on 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. Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis went as far as to claim that all investments are welcomed, such as Cosco (a Chinese company) buying Piraeus port because they "modernise the economy" and "increase competition". Varoufakis said that all of the Greek debt will be paid off "indeed with interest". Ministers have made clear that the government will not touch the running of the major banking conglomerates (even though the banks belong to the state, since it owns the majority of the shares, but their administration is 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 German finance minister Schäuble, with the same ease that they were hugging Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (below) the previous day declaring their 'understanding' and 'solidarity' with Greek claims! If you have such friends you don't need any enemies!
The Greek government says that 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, 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.
Brussels and the ruling classes of Europe are not willing to tolerate the Greek workers' refusal to submit! They demand we continue to pay for decades 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.
The 'weapon' of the Troika (the ECB, EU and International Monetary Fund) is, once again, threatening that Greece will be kicked out of the eurozone, ending the 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 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 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 eurozone and for Greece to remain in it but under the condition that the Greek people submit to their demands!
In other words, they want us within the eurozone but on our knees. They aim to pressurise the Syriza government 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 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 financial asphyxiation, then our answer cannot be any other but this: the euro is not the 'sacred cow' that Brussels thinks it is.
Varoufakis recently stated what everyone in Greece knows: more than 90% of the euros that the Troika give to Greece go 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 getting the payment instalments for it.
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 (president of the ECB) and Schäuble. At the same time, we should seek 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 European countries and worldwide.
The Syriza leadership believes that it can reform the EU of the bosses and the multinationals, that it can be made democratic and humane through 'negotiations'. They are wrong!
It is an outright reactionary, undemocratic structure, only capable of imposing brutal, anti-working class policies. It has to be thrown into the dustbin of history. This is the task of the working class. And we can achieve 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.
In The Socialist 11 February 2015:
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