Austerity in Greece shows the future facing the working class everywhere
The Greek state is on the edge of a precipice. The international media talk non-stop about its bankruptcy. The journalists like talking about the ‘Greek tragedy'. But the dramatic reality of the situation is being felt most cruelly by the workers, the unemployed, pensioners, young people who have precarious jobs or are trying to gain their qualifications...in short, the working class.
The Greek proletariat is facing a massive attack on its living standards. The latest austerity package, aimed at cutting Greece's public deficit to less than 3% by 2014 (it currently stands at 13.6%), is a precondition for Greece receiving the massive injection of euros it needs from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Among the measures contained in the package: a pay freeze for all public sector workers, accompanied by pay cuts for some and redundancies for others. A cap on annual bonus payments, but the ceiling raised for the number of workers that companies can lay off every month. Retirement age put off from 61 to 65 for men. VAT increased by 2%. Indirect taxes - including those on alcohol, fuel and cigarettes - to go up by 10%.
And the big fear of all the political leaders and economic experts is that the situation in Greece will spread throughout Europe. On May 10 The Guardian reported that European governments "approved a 500 billion euro deal to save the euro after 11 hours of talks that took place against the prospect of the single currency drowning in a tidal wave of debt and default fears, and even a question mark over the whole European Union".
Because Greece is anything but an isolated case. Portugal and Spain are next in line, their capacity to deal with their public debt seen as highly uncertain. The Portuguese government has just announced a new austerity plan, with similar ‘remedies' to those in Greece: wage cuts, pension cuts, benefit cuts. Rumania has just announced a 25% reduction in wages for public sector workers. Italy and Ireland are in growing difficulties, as is France. And the fact that Britain is outside the euro zone is not going to spare it from the need for drastic cuts - all the parties standing in the election were united on that point and the desperate need to reduce the public deficit is the first item on the new coalition government's agenda.
So much for all the talk about Greece's problems being down to its particularly dishonest politicians, or their spoilt, privileged public sector workers - in short, to problems specific to Greece or the ‘Greek character'. Greece is cracking up because the world economy is stuck in a profound, a historic crisis. All the states on the planet are groaning under huge piles of debt, and the most powerful economy in the world, the USA, has the most gigantic debts of all. Faced with a global crisis of overproduction which burst to the surface at the end of the 60s but which has deepened in the most spectacular manner since 2007, the ruling class has more and more resorted to the drug of credit to keep the world economy on its feet.
The whole world bourgeoisie is very afraid. It is seeing its system going under, and it is running out of political and economic options. And it afraid not only of economic collapse, but also of its social consequences: that the exploited will refuse to make the sacrifices they are demanding, that they will resist, that they will reject the whole logic of capitalism in crisis. Greece is a particular concern for them because not only is it leading the way towards economic disaster, but its working class is setting a very bad example by openly protesting against the austerity measures in a series of general strikes and massive street demonstrations.
But the working class - and this also applies to the workers of Greece, whose struggles also face many difficulties and obstacles (see the article on p4) - also experiences a great deal of fear when it sees the disastrous state of the world economy. How are we to resist, how can we win our demands, when not only this or that company, but entire states are succumbing to bankruptcy? Problems on this scale can have a paralysing effect. But they also make it clear that capitalism has no future, that this system of exploitation is irrational and inhuman. And above all they reveal that the state - whatever colour it paints itself, whether blue, yellow, red or green, is the worst enemy of the working class. It's the state which is imposing all these austerity attacks, and which sends in its repressive forces when people fight back, as we have seen time after time in Greece.
The future belongs to the class struggle!
Confronted with this state monster, which expresses the power and political unity of the bourgeoisie as a class, an isolated worker can only feel powerless.
What can a handful of individuals do when their school, hospital, or factory closes? Nothing, if they remain isolated! But today, the entire working class is being hit at the same time - in all countries, in the private sector as well as the public sector, among the employed as well as the unemployed, the young as well as the retired. All of us are facing a future of poverty not because there is not the means to produce the necessities of life for everyone, but because the laws of capitalism, its drive to compete, to sell, to make a profit, have become a deadly obstacle to the rational use of humanity's productive powers.
The whole working class has the same interests and the same enemy - the bourgeoisie and its state. It is only by fighting as a class, through organising and extending our struggles on a massive scale, that we can resist the attacks of the ruling class and develop the perspective of a new society where there will be no more ‘national debt crisis' because there will be no more need for markets, money or nation states. Pawel 29/4/10