- Austerity now dominates the economic policies of the advanced capitalist world. In response to a global crisis precipitated by the speculative drive of the big banks, the Western ruling classes have chosen to shift the cost onto the backs of working people and the poor. Slashing public expenditure has trapped the world in slow growth. But it has also provided an opportunity to drive through more of the neoliberal ‘reforms’ that allowed the financial markets to escape control in the first place.
- It is the unhappy fate of the Greece to be the main testing ground for these policies. The eurozone has just agreed a second ‘rescue’ package for Greece. This is a rescue of the mainly French and German banks that lent Greece the money that it now owes. This is made visible by the creation of an escrow account into which the new loans will be paid and from which the banks’ repayments will be made before any money goes to Greece.
- Ordinary Greek people are paying a cruel price for this bank bailout and its predecessor. The economy has shrunk at a pace not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s (7 per cent last year, probably the same in 2012), while unemployment, homelessness, and suicides have soared. Soup kitchens are spreading, while the rich make sure their wealth is safe. The main Greek parties are cooperating in implementing even crueller cuts (the minimum wage slashed by 22 percent and supplementary pensions by 15 percent, and 15,000 civil service jobs to go), with the troika of the European Central Bank, European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund continually tightening the screw.
- Implementing austerity has required a massive erosion of democracy. ‘Technocratic’ governments have been imposed on Greece and Italy, there have been calls by North European politicians for the parliamentary elections due to take place in Greece in April to be postponed, Greece’s economic sovereignty has been effectively suspended as the troika exercises increasingly detailed control of ministries, and riot police viciously attack protesters and strikers. This isn’t just a problem in Greece: in November it emerged that German parliamentarians had been given details of the forthcoming Irish budget long before these had been submitted to the Dail.
- Greece is being made an example in order to weaken opposition to austerity elsewhere. Yet, as the eurozone’s own secret debt sustainability analysis concedes, it is a policy that is bound to fail. Cutting public spending reduces demand for jobs and services and therefore causes the economy to shrink and makes the debt targets harder to meet. Countries that pursue austerity are making the labour of Sisyphus, who in classical legend was doomed to push a boulder up a hill only for it to roll down again.
- Fortunately, Greece has the most militant workers’ movement in Europe. Austerity has been met by general strike after general strike as well as by a succession of very militant mass demonstrations. Rank-and-file workers are pressing their union leaders to take more militant action. The two main parties are in crisis, suffering splits and expelling large numbers of deputies. In opinion polls parties to the left of the social-liberal PASOK are winning around 40 per cent support. A revolutionary anticapitalist left is emerging that supports the rising struggles.
- If this resistance becomes stronger and more focused it can lay the basis for a programme of policies that break with austerity and neoliberalism. These policies would include refusing to pay the debt and leaving the eurozone, not to rescue Greek capitalism, but to create a framework for measures, based on the nationalization of the banks and a programme of public investment, that would give priority to jobs, services, and living standards. They would be part of a broader struggle not simply to defend democracy but to deepen it through workers winning increasing control over the economy. This could open up the broader perspective of democratic socialist planning as the alternative to the chaos and injustice of capitalism.
- The struggle of Greek workers, students, and poor people is our struggle as well. If they win, it will become much harder to implement austerity elsewhere. If they lose, then the plans effectively to make austerity permanent that have been approved by most European Union member states will have a much easier ride. We pledge ourselves to campaign in solidarity with the Greek struggle against austerity. This doesn’t mean simply supporting the Greek resistance. The more effectively we fight austerity in our own countries, the better chance our Greek brothers and sisters have of winning.
The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency
All Together (South Korea)
En Lucha /En Lluita (Spanish state)
International Socialist Organisation (Zimbabwe)
International Socialists (Botswana)
International Socialists (Canada)
International Socialists (Pakistan)
Internationale Socialisten (Netherlands)
Internationale Socialister /ISU (Denmark)
Internationella Socialister (Sweden)
Keep Left (South Africa)
Mlodzi Socjalisci (The Young Socialists, Poland)
Mouvement pour le socialisme/Bewegung für sozialismus (Switzerland)
Pracownicza Demokracja (Workers Democracy, Poland)
Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (Turkey)
Socialist Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Socialist Workers League (Nigeria)
Socialist Workers Party (Britain)
Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)
Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma (Greece)
Turn Left (Thailand)
Workers Democracy Group (Cyprus)