Greece: An attack against the whole working class!

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As the Greek government – almost immediately after the victory of the ‘No vote’ which it had campaigned for -  agreed to the intensification of austerity measures, there was genuine sympathy from workers internationally for their Greek comrades.  The extent of the attacks on jobs, incomes, pensions and a whole range of essential services has struck a chord because this is not something restricted to the workers in Greece. But at the same time every part of the bourgeoisie’s political spectrum felt confident to use the situation for its own benefit, and against the consciousness of the working class, above all by distorting the real meaning of class solidarity.

The various right wing factions try to show how harmful the EU is for the defence of national interests and demonise the German government, while others continue to blame the ‘lazy Greeks’ for living beyond their means. The left, after supporting Syriza and the No vote in the referendum, still claims that capitalism can function without austerity and that their campaigns will have a different outcome to Syriza’s. At the same time they tell us that solidarity with the Greek workers means solidarity with the Syriza government against the EU.

In fact the ‘Greek crisis’ is part of a crisis facing the whole working class and is indicative of the future for all of us. Instead of following the nationalists of right and left, workers need to grasp that their interests come up against all factions of the bourgeoisie, and their struggles can only develop if they take on an internationalist, and therefore revolutionary perspective.

The soap opera which has gone on since the latest cycle of negotiations began in February has partly obscured a situation of economic catastrophe and increasingly terrible living conditions for the proletariat in Greece. The brutal pauperisation, mass unemployment and the mind-boggling fall of wages and pensions, the delays and threats of non-payments, the terrible decline of hospitals, the collapse of care and services, the drastic rationing of medicines, the proliferation of suicides and depression, the nervous tension, the dramatic spread of homelessness and even hunger and rationing following the closure of banks, all this feeds a terrible backdrop, that of the descent of capitalism into its ultimate phase, the phase  of decomposition.

On the basis of the chronic economic crisis, where for the first time a western state finds itself in default of payment, we see the use of this event indecently transformed into a great theatrical spectacle with multiple twists and turns. We are once again held in suspense over this famous ‘Greek debt’ where the rivalries of the great powers are further strained and where each country tries to defend its own sordid national interests. All TV channels drag out the suspense about the possibility of ‘Grexit’ up to the fateful moment, that of the symbolic hour when the great clock is going to strike midnight: Tuesday June 30. And afterwards? Is the Greek fairy godmother going to turn into a pumpkin? No! The IMF has ‘learned’ that the Greek state could not repay 1.5 billion euros demanded of it.  More acrobatics and it’s then necessary to spice up the drama even more with the referendum initiated by Tsipras and his government: are the Greeks going to vote Yes or No?

Finally, on Sunday July 5, after a series of polls carefully staged before the count, it’s No that has it.

A bourgeoisie that is prepared faced with events

Contrary to the exaggerations of a ‘storm of panic’ conjured up by some elements of the media in order to try to frighten the population, the better to enslave them and carry forward the attacks, the reality is rather that of a degradation of the Greek economy that’s already been bled dry for years, aggravated by the anti-working class measures of the Syriza government itself.

The result of the referendum changed nothing about that. It is for this reason that the game of the negotiations engaged in on the basis of the crisis between on the one side, the IMF, the political forces of the EU, the ECB, and on the other, the Greek government (defending its national interests) was reminiscent of the arm-wrestling which accompanies such politico-media circuses that go beyond the sphere of the economy. Faced with the gravity of the situation, the bourgeoisie has already been led to adapt and organise itself by anticipating the economic difficulties of Greece and the euro zone, as it had to do faced with the shocks and consequences of the preceding financial and banking crisis, the so-called ‘sub-primes’ of 2008. It had to react in a concerted manner so as to avoid the worse consequences of the fall of the markets.

By taking measures at the level of capitalist states and the central banks (European Central Bank or the US Fed), they supported the markets and avoided a too brutal drying up of liquidity. In fact, they are well on top of the situation of Greece. It is evident that the banks (notably the ECB) and the capitalist states have very largely anticipated events in order to organise themselves and take measures faced with the difficulties of Greece. Tsipras didn’t so much see a break with the past in the No vote as the strengthening of our negotiating position.

The historic decline of capitalism has, for a century now, generated a universal tendency to state capitalism, pushing this latter to the central stage at the heart of the economy. This tendency, initiated both by the necessities to face up to the growing contradictions of the system and to the need to mobilise for total war, was strongly accentuatedafter the stock market crash of 1930 and has never let up since. A whole experience has been accumulated by the setting up of Keynesian measures and perfected during the great economic convulsions of the twentieth century. Since the 1980s, 1990s and ‘globalisation’, still more complex mechanisms are put to work and all sorts of palliatives and trickeries with the law of value have allowed the most powerful capitalist states to slow down the most disastrous effects of the economic crisis and, above all, to push back the most devastating effects onto weaker rival capitalist states.

In some ways Greece is already on the periphery of the EU. It is situated on the southern margins of Europe and shows all the weaknesses paradoxically and hypocritically exploited by their predatory rival states that are looking out for themselves. Well before the case of Greece, the IMF had already faced up to other catastrophic situations, as was the case in Argentina at the beginning of 2000. Let’s add however that preoccupying as the case of Greece it is, in reality it has only 1.8% of the GDP of the euro zone, which limits the ‘risks of contagion’. Moreover the private banks are largely relieved of the burden of this ‘Greek debt’ to the profit of the ECB and of the principal public actors that are the capitalist states. All this shows that the essential stakes in this whole set up have quite another political dimension.

A political set up against the proletariat

The main reason for all the media masquerade exploiting the gravity of the situation is essentially to mystify the proletariat, to cloud its consciousness, notably to try and mask the bourgeois and nationalist nature of Syriza and the Tsipras government. It is also to give credence to the idea of a possible credible ‘alternative’ of the ‘radical left’ which is gradually emerging in Europe (the examples of Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany, the NPA and the Left Front in France, etc.). This is offered as an alternative to the traditional Socialist Parties, judged as ‘traitors’ who have supposedly abandoned the ‘the values of the left’. Also the essential aim is naturally to facilitate the swallowing of the pill of austerity and the attacks on all the workers, and not only in Greece! To bring to power a fraction as ‘radical’ as the extreme left of the bourgeois political apparatus can only bring discredit to the leftist ideologies necessary for the political  control of the proletariat. Much more so now that these ideologies have already been weakened since the collapse of the Berlin Wall by virtue of their support, over several decades,  for the Stalinist regimes (certainly in a “critical” but none the less zealous manner for all that).

The whole set up, expressing in passing some real divergences and rivalries between the protagonists involved in the negotiations, constitutes in essence a means to preserve the radical left image of Syriza. Even if that appears paradoxical, the attitude of all involved has only consolidated the ‘intransigent’ image of the Greek government and established its will to ‘refuse the diktats of Brussels’ – an image which is also strengthened by the victory of the No. The very firm position of Angela Merkel contrasted to the will to maintain more open negotiations on the part of those European authorities with a more ‘understanding’ attitude, such as President Hollande, more ‘open to the left’ regarding Greece while remaining firm, ultimately allows the Greek government to be presented as ‘faithful to the people, categorically refusing ‘austerity’.  In short, Syriza and Tsipras are confirmed as ‘heroes’ and ‘victims’ of the ex-Troika which is presented as ‘wicked capitalists’[1].

Thus, despite the brutal and growing attacks directly led by the Greek state, they are made to appear as if imposed from the ‘outside’. The Greek government which represses and pressures the proletarians as ever, this real hangman at the head of the bourgeoisie state, here finds the status of a real ‘fighter’ standing toe to toe with the capitalists to supposedly limit the ‘suffering of the Greek people’. Syriza, strengthened by this helping hand and its ‘popular support’, can thus benefits from a ‘working class’ image. And this mystification is much more efficient in that it’s been largely disseminated and supported by leftists of all types in Europe who applaud the victory of the “No” in order to back up their arguments about a so-called possible alternative to austerity: “Since January 25 2015 and the electoral victory of Syriza in Greece, the EU/ECB/IMF Troika has used unprecedented brutality in order to make the government of Tsipras capitulate, so that the popular choice to finish with austerity is ridiculed”[2].

Another major consequence of all these ideological manipulations is the accentuation of divisions within the working class. Firstly by presenting Greek proletarians as pariahs and victims, whose fate is ‘foreign’ to the other ‘well off’ workers in Europe, the media try to cut off the Greek workers from the rest of the working class. In this analysis, only the Greek workers have a ‘valid reason’ to struggle, although they are strongly recommended to accept the ‘necessary sacrifices’ in order ‘to come out of the crisis’. This perversion is all the more potent when it’s accompanied by the completely noxious addition of solidarity by the leftists who reduce the question to a simple electoral support in favour of No: “Massive mobilisations of solidarity are needed in order that confidence is increased so that a No is secured in Greece” (ibid). Such is the ‘solidarity’ of the leftists, nothing more nor less than support for the Greek government, a government which defends its sordid, capitalist, national interests! Finally, through this democratic ideology the referendum is framed and motivated; the divisions within the Greek proletariat are strengthened through the Yes/No division, even if the No carries a majority.

In the final account, as we said in one of our preceding articles:

“For the leftists to depict Syriza as some sort of alternative is utterly fraudulent. Just before the election, a group of 18 distinguished economists (including two Nobel Prize winners and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee) wrote to the Financial Times endorsing aspects of Syriza’s economic policies … As a commentator in the New Statesman (29/1/15) put it: Syriza’s programme … is mainstream macroeconomics. The party is merely planning to do what the textbooks suggest.And so, following the textbooks, Syriza negotiated with Greece’s European creditors, in the first instance to extend the bailout and its conditions”

Syriza and the leftists who defend it, the famous Troika and its consorts, the media setting the scene, all of them are continuing their mystifications after the referendum. They all belong to the same world and that world is that of decadent capitalism. They are the political commissars, defenders of the state, and defenders of bourgeois order at the service of the most brutal exploitation.

WH.  6/7/15



[1] Ex-minister Varoufakis accused the bankers of being “terrorists”! In quitting following the referendum despite the No victory, he allowed the political apparatus to preserve a left wing faced with inevitable new measures of austerity from the Tsipras government, which makes it possible to build up its ‘real’ radicalism.

[2] According to the French leftist group the New Anti-capitalist Party