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Posted on 30 June 2015 at 18:19 GMT

Solidarity with Greek workers

Reject EU austerity!

Oxi, oxi, oxi!" (no, no, no) chanted tens of thousands of Greek workers in Athens on 29 June. Solidarity rallies around the world, including in London, sent support and hope for a 'no' vote in the upcoming Greek referendum - a vote against the austerity demanded by the European Union elite.

The cuts and privatisation imposed in Greece have already devastated living standards. Unemployment officially stands at 26% (50% for, young people) and suicides are up 35% in two years.

In Britain as well, where another Tory cuts, budget is approaching, working class and young people will await the result of the referendum with baited breath. If Greece rejects the latest 'deal' of more austerity measures demanded by its creditors, it could unleash a powerful wave of anti-austerity movements across Europe. But this movement needs clear socialist policies to deal with the crisis.

Greece: No to Troika tyranny

Greek anti-austerity demonstration in 2012, photo by Piazza del Popolo (Creative Commons)

Greek anti-austerity demonstration in 2012, photo by Piazza del Popolo (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Andreas Payiatsos and Niall Mulholland

Events in Greece have thrown the entire eurozone into crisis and threaten its very existence. Greek banks were closed on 29 June after the European Central Bank (ECB) stopped the liquidity lifeline that kept Greek banks afloat. It seems likely that the debt payment due to the IMF on 30 June will be missed, making it more likely that Greece is heading for a default.

This came 48 hours after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, on behalf of the Greek cabinet, called a referendum for 5 July proposing a 'no' vote - against the demands of the creditors (the Troika: ECB, European Commission and IMF).

The referendum shocked the Troika, which had expected Tsipras to give even more concessions and to capitulate to its latest draconian austerity demands. It wanted to humiliate Syriza and the Greek people and to send a clear message that anti-austerity movements will not be tolerated by the EU elite.

But the arrogant, autocratic Troika overplayed its hand. Tsipras was under enormous pressure from the Greek working class and the left wing of Syriza not to make more u-turns or cave in to the Troika. If Tsipras had agreed to the Troika's terms it could have led to a split in Syriza and the fall of the government.

Announcing the referendum, Tsipras said: "The proposal of the institutions includes: measures leading to further deregulation of the labour market, pension cuts, further reductions in public sector wages and an increase in VAT on food, dining and tourism, while eliminating tax breaks for the Greek islands."

Reasons

The Troika was incensed by Syriza's proposal to increase taxes on the richest in Greece and to raise corporation taxes. Even these relatively mild taxes were too much for the bosses' eurozone to stomach.

Some Troika spokespeople threatened that the referendum means the end, in effect, of Greece's eurozone membership. But EU governments are fearful that despite their much vaunted 'firewall' preparation for a 'Grexit', a forced departure of Greece, will have incalculable financial, economic and political repercussions.

Which country would be next to potentially follow Greece out of the euro - Portugal, Spain, Ireland, or even Italy?

On top of that, the Obama administration is concerned about the economic and geo-strategic fall out of a Grexit. The White House is calling on Brussels to compromise to keep Greece, a Nato member, in the eurozone, lest the Putin regime takes advantage of the situation.

Since Syriza was elected, Xekinima (sister organisation in Greece of the Socialist Party) has called on it to consistently carry out the anti-austerity mandate given to it by Greek voters.

This means refusing to pay the debt, imposing capital controls against the markets, and nationalising the key sectors of the economy under democratic workers' control and management. In light of the new crisis, the Syriza government should stop capital flight by seizing the property and assets of the big capitalists and companies.

Instead Tsipras engaged in months of fruitless 'talks' with the Troika, which only wants to impose more of its anti-working class, austerity programme. This policy ended in failure.

Xekinima called on Tsipras to walk away from the latest round of 'negotiations' and appeal to the Greek people by telling the truth about what is taking place in Brussels.

He should have explained that the 'institutions' (Troika) are blackmailing the government to either accept a new memorandum of massive austerity or be kicked out of the euro.

On that basis Syriza should take a clear-cut position of leaving the eurozone and link this to a socialist programme to put the economy back on the path of growth, in the interests of working people. Xekinima explained that by taking such a bold, fighting position, Syriza would be able to win huge support.

Limitations

Unfortunately Tsipras once again refused to totally reject austerity and neo-liberal policies. He called a referendum on the latest Troika austerity package 'offer' and made clear that Syriza supports a 'no' vote.

However, he made no positive proposal to the Greek people about what could replace the Troika's proposals. On the contrary, he never tires of explaining that a 'no' vote is only a bargaining tool to force the Troika to make more sensitive proposals to the Greek government.

Capital controls should have been introduced in February and the banks immediately nationalised.

While many Greeks see the vote as a way of allowing them a democratic say in events and a chance to hit back at the Troika, the referendum holds real dangers.

The right-wing and mass media will try to cajole, blackmail and terrify people away from voting 'no'. 'Better to stick with the devil you know' (another Troika cuts package), they will threaten, 'rather than the devil you don't' (default and be kicked out of the eurozone and possibly the EU, followed by further impoverishment).

This can influence some Greeks but can also repel others even more.

After the referendum

The Syriza leadership's policy is still one of negotiating with the Troika, rather than making a clear breach with the endless cuts. Tsipras hopes he can return to Brussels with a massive 'no' mandate and, with a stronger negotiating position, win more concessions from the Troika, including a debt write-down.

But even assuming the Troika is still prepared to negotiate with Syriza after the referendum, any deal will still mean more austerity in Greece. There is already a mass scare campaign underway. The mass media, controlled by the Greek ship owners, bankers and industrialists, claim that there will be no money for pensions and wages at the end of the month. If Syriza continues not to present a clear plan of action and struggle there is the threat that the campaign of fear could result in the 'no' vote being defeated.

Notwithstanding these criticisms, Xekinima has entered into a fully-fledged campaign for a 'no' vote on Sunday. It has printed 150,000 leaflets and 3,500 copies of a new edition of its paper for the week leading up to the referendum.

At the same time Xekinima is heavily involved in the attempt to build rank-and-file 'no' committes in the neighbourhoods. Interestingly, Antarsya (Anti-capitalist Left Alliance) which traditionally has a sectarian approach towards Syriza and the rest of the left, is now energetically involved in this attempt too.

Unfortunately this is not the case with the KKE (Greek Communist Party). It has taken an absolutely sectarian approach, calling on voters to spoil their ballots. Given that the KKE still commands significant support among workers, this could help pave the way to a 'yes' majority if the vote is close.

A 'yes' victory would probably see the Syriza government fall and a new right wing-dominated coalition emerge that would be willing to make a brutal austerity deal with the Troika.

But a 'no' vote on its own is not enough. A mass campaign on the streets and in the workplaces is needed to actively involve the working class in opposing the Troika. The huge Athens demonstrations called on 29 June by Syriza shows the potential for mass resistance. Committees of action in communities and workplaces can lead the struggle against the Troika.

A decisive rupture with the Troika, and a programme of socialist policies would win enormous support from the long-suffering Greek working and middle classes. An appeal to the working class of other indebted eurozone countries to show solidarity, including by holding mass protests in their own countries, would get an immediate and powerful response. The only real alternative to austerity and the bosses' EU is a socialist confederation of Europe, on a free and equal basis.


Below is an extract from a statement published by Xekinima on 29 June. See full version at www.socialistworld.net:

Greek anti-austerity demonstration in 2012, photo Piazza del Popolo (Creative Commons)

Greek anti-austerity demonstration in 2012, photo Piazza del Popolo (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

The government of Syriza has finally taken the right decision! It will appeal to the will of the Greek people on the question of the 'deal' with the lenders and propose its rejection through a referendum.

The initial retreats by the government led the 'institutions' to become arrogant beyond all proportions. They wanted to transform the new government into a replica of past ones and force it to apply the exact same policies.

They sought to force Syriza to its knees, to ridicule it and to ridicule and subjugate the whole of the Greek people. In this way, they seek to make an example out of Greece and threaten any other peoples in Europe who might dare to question their dictates.

The Greek people - workers, unemployed, poor, small businesses, and all those destroyed by the capitalist crisis - must fight for a 'no' vote with all their strength.

On the opposite side, the bankers, ship owners, industrialists, big constructors, mass media, EU establishment, international organisations and multinationals, will try to convince us that we will be faced with catastrophe.

Real catastrophe would be to vote 'yes' to the measures that the lenders want to impose. These measures would mean the continuation of the same policies applied for the past five years, which have destroyed the economy and caused a social catastrophe.

These same liars from the very beginning claimed that their policies would bring growth and development. On top of this, they humiliated and scorned us by calling us 'lazy' and 'corrupt'.

At the same time, we have to be clear that voting 'no' to the lenders will mean exit from the eurozone.

The transition from a strong, international currency like the euro to the drachma, the currency of a small economy, contains dangers. But these dangers can be met if the correct policies are applied. The propaganda that a return to the drachma equals 'entry into hell' is a huge lie.

Through a series of measures the Greek economy can stand back up on its feet, grow and begin to serve the interests of society instead of the profits of the plutocracy. Capital controls must be immediately imposed to stop big capital exporting its money and profits abroad. There must be a limit put on weekly bank withdrawals, sufficient to cover the needs of working class families and small businesses, but to prevent the capitalists emptying bank reserves.

On 30 June, when we're supposed to pay the IMF an additional 1.5 billion, we must say we have paid enough, this debt is not ours, we will not pay!

There is no doubt that big capital will sabotage every attempt to put the economy back on its feet. Therefore it's absolutely essential and urgent to nationalise the banking system and the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers' control and management. In this way, we could plan production and distribution for the needs of the working class.

With such bold socialist measures, we can bring back hope. We can become a catalyst for the peoples of Europe and the whole world.

The 'institutions' want regime change in Greece. They correctly fear that resistance in Greece will inspire similar movements throughout Europe. That is why the Irish, Portuguese and Spanish governments are so especially hostile to the Greek people: they fear for their own futures.


NSSN conference, Saturday 4th July 2015, London

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/txt/369.pdf

Special guest: Greek trade union activist Harris Sideris, a member of the trade union rank and file committee of the contract workers, sacked by Vodafone.


An earlier version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 June 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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