Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andreas Kloke: "The third memorandum: Greece before the ordeal"

The Greek tripartite government, consisting of the rightwing New Democracy (ND), the "socialist" PASOK, and the right-wing "left party" DIMAR voted the third memorandum in parliament on November 7. Since the last such vote was in February, this becomes the second time in the present calendar year. This catastrophic decision was accompanied by an angry protest of 100,000 demonstrators around Syntagma square, accompanied by the usual brutal police attack using an unlimited supply of chemicals. On the following Sunday, the new parliamentary coup - in fact a blind confirmation of the dictates of the troika with the agreement of the Greek government and capital—was completed with the approval of a state budget for 2013, which represents nothing less than an outright plundering of the overwhelming majority of the population.

The new catalogue of measures is aimed at collecting public revenues of nearly 14.3 billion euros during the years 2013 to 2016, including 9.4 billion in 2013 and 4.2 billion in 2014. Pension cuts of almost 5.5 billion euros, wage cuts of 1.5 billion, and cuts in the public health system of more than 1.1 billion are projected as the main sources. Drastic austerity measures will be applied in education, in the schools and universities. Thousands of teachers’ jobs will be basically eliminated. Working hours will be increased and salaries will be reduced. Several universities will be “merged" so that fewer young people will have access to a university education. Moreover, massive redundancies are planned in the public services. And a strict limitation of new hiring is being introduced, based on the so-called "1 to 5 – principle," or else it is already in use (and in practice often means that only one new person is hired when 20 or 100 previous employees quit).

Further deterioration of working conditions, including the abolition of tenure of employment in the public sector, easing requirements for dismissals and a lowering of severance pay complete the reactionary steamroller, opening the door to pure arbitrariness on the part of employers. The privatization of state property is projected to reach approximately 9.5 billion euros by the end of 2016. Since the medium-term program estimates a total debt of 340.6 billion euros at the end of 2012, the benefit from the planned privatizations is quite insignificant. It should be clear, therefore, that these are simply gifts for the benefit of big business. Equally drastic tax increases on wages and pensions are imposed, of course, while further tax relief for capital is granted.

The poll taxes, which remain in force even on small real-estate holdings, the reduction or cancellation of unemployment benefits and the high debt of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to the banks complete the impoverishment program. Unemployment has officially reached 25.4% in August—after having climbed from 18.4% in August of 2011 to 24.8% in July 2012. The number of employed workers decreased from August 2011 to August 2012 by almost 328,000, i.e. by 8.1%. (1) The official poverty rate rose to 21.4% and thus affects 2.3 million people. (2) Millions will have to get by in the coming winter virtually without oil, since its price has risen dramatically.

The official aim of the whole catalogue of merciless measures is to bring Greece back to a debt level that corresponds to 120% of GDP by 2020, the same as it was in 2009. But this is the “best case"! It is claimed that the troika—i.e. mainly the economically stronger EU states—would expand credit to cover the Greek debts. Hardly a lie could be more impudent: Since 2010, Greece (which means primarily the Greek banks), has received 156 billion euros in loans including the outstanding rate of 44 billion euro. However, the Greek population has already paid off 202 billion euros to the usurers and to international finance capital. (3) This is the manner in which the alleged aid program for Greece works!

"Saving the euro" and the shift to the right by the SYRIZA leadership

The two and a half years during which Greece has been under the thumb of the memoranda demonstrate how a country can be ruined without war and occupation and fall into a (seemingly unstoppable) decomposition process. It should be emphasized that all this goes on with the full consent of the Greek ruling class, its governments, and the parties that represent it in parliament. They consider that remaining in the euro zone still promises greater benefits than a forced or voluntarily exit from the euro. The extreme right-wing oppositional party "Independent Greeks," (a split from ND in February 2012) and the Nazi horde "Golden Dawn" (GM), reject the memoranda policies in words, but share in principle the pro-euro perspective.

The same is true for the SYRIZA leadership under Tsipras, which is not at all heading towards a confrontation with its own bourgeoisie, but on the contrary promises - and sincerely wants to carry through - a rescue of the national capitalist system through renegotiations and increased pressure on the troika, particularly on Brussels, Paris, and Berlin. The SYRIZA leadership even believes that its recepe for a Keynesian rescue will save not only Greek, but also European capitalism from imminent catastrophe. According to this thinking it's just the neoliberal blindness of Merkel & Co. which has plunged the euro, and the EU as a whole, into crisis. The SYRIZA leadership fails to recognize that the global capitalist system itself has been in serious trouble since 2007-8. Methods like the Marshall Plan and "economic growth while reducing the debt" supposedly succeeded in West Germany in the 1950s, but today it is impossible for anything to be achieved in this way.

In particular, the electoral successes of May and June provoked a clear rightward shift of the SYRIZA leadership, which now hopes that government responsibility will almost automatically fall into its lap in the wake of the expected decay of the tripartite government. Its ambitions are limited to rolling back only the most brutal memoranda measures, saving the banking system through a vague government control, and re-starting economic growth through concessions from the most powerful EU member states. The SYRIZA leadership will attempt to stabilize bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This represents quite a dangerous illusion given the steep decline of democracy with the subordination of the "people's representatives" under the dictates of the creditors, the rise of the Nazi horde, and the increasing repression by the police, army, etc. Thus the SYRIZA leadership confirms its role as a guarantor of the existing system.

At the same time, the ruling class would prefer to prevent the installation of a left-wing government. It would be a big risk to make any concessions to the hopes of broader social layers, since this could in turn manifest itself in the further mobilizations. Both on the national and international level a chain reactions could be initiated, potentially directed against the existence of the exploitive system itself. In this way, a certain balance between the hopes and fears on the part of the rulers and the ruled has emerged. Ultimately this will be resolved one way or the other, reflecting the class interests of the opposing camps.

Undoubtedly, the creditors and the troika, in particular German big business and its government, have major problems with the quantity of the Greek debt, which as such appears not so significant given the relatively small of the Greek economy. The IMF and the US government standing behind it are urging the EU, and especially Berlin, to make the Greek deficit a little more bearable through another and deeper “haircut.” The German government fears, however, that this could also lead to similar procedures for the entire periphery of the euro-zone, including Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy. According to estimates, the losses for German capital could reach a painful 700 billion euros. The result would be a clear and significant deterioration of the German/European position in global competition, especially with the United States.

The German government delayed the disbursement of the next troika installment to Greece, putting additional pressure on the Greek government and banks to rob working people still more. The case of Greece proves that the aim of German polices is to gain control of the economic policy and the banking system of the euro-zone periphery, with the help of the EU institutions. The Greek banking system could virtually be taken over by German/European banks in the not too distant future, and the balance of power in the euro-zone thereby continues shifting in favor of the "center."

New start of the resistance movement

With the 48-hour general strike on Nov 6 and 7, the work stoppage on Nov 14, the day of the European mobilizations, and a powerful demonstration on Nov 17, the anniversary of the Polytechnio uprising of 1973 against the junta, the central actions of resistance have again gained momentum, after a downturn since February 12, when the second memorandum was voted in Parliament as about 800,000 demonstrated outside. The approximately 100,000 demonstrators of Nov 7 represent a relatively low number by comparison, and it is clear that the resistance movement needs a longer period to reach previous levels, especially of the months from June to October 2011. Nevertheless, no one should be fooled about the explosive situation seething just below the surface. When in the winter months the impact of the third memorandum begins to be felt, the social and political conflicts will inevitably increase.

Not only is the large majority of the population facing a precarious situation, but the government is as well. The nervousness of the rulers is reflected, for example, in the fact that state repression is increasingly assuming unrestrained proportions. The reasons are both the fascist infiltration of the police forces and the need felt by government forces to stifle any mass protest in the bud. Meanwhile the police have gone over to torturing arrested demonstrators, a fact also reported by the English newspaper, The Guardian, on Oct 9.

Regarding the political composition of the mass mobilizations, strikes, and demonstrations, the CPG (KKE), SYRIZA, and ANTARSYA, alongside other anti-capitalist or anarcho-autonomous organizations, continue playing the leading role. While it is undeniable that SYRIZA is by far the strongest left force in voter support, and thus dominates the electoral arena due to its favorable results of this year, this factor is so far not decisive concerning the actions and protests in the streets, businesses, schools, universities, and hospitals. Without exaggeration one can say that ANTARSYA and other anti-capitalist organizations belong to the most radical and active wing of the movement, thus constituting the backbone of the strikes and protest actions. KKE is still strongly present in the protests and demonstrations, and seems even to have taken a slight tactical turn towards more united actions with others. Nevertheless, the dominant line of the KKE leadership remains to denounce all other left-wing forces as "pro-capitalist."

Currently the employees of the municipalities—of Athens and elsewhere—as well as of the universities and technical colleges have taken the lead in the protests. A directive of the troika’s "second economic adjustment program" issued on Nov 10 states that 2000 employees of the municipalities should be "made available" (meaning that they should be fired) by the end of 2012, and a total of 25,000 by the end of 2013. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. The vast majority of the mayors refuse to submit lists of employees, for the purpose of "reducing” them, to the responsible "left" DIMAR minister, A. Manitakis. And the employees have seriously taken matters into their hands, transforming their union, POE-OTA, into a fighting organ. Repeated 48-hour strikes, occupations of city halls, and many daily meetings with discussions and decisions on the continuation of the mobilization, have so far stopped the implementation of the redundancy plans. Virtually all are aware that this is a matter of survival.

In the fight against the rise of the Nazi horde, GM, some successes have also been achieved. In all major cities and almost all districts of Athens antifascist action committees have emerged that oppose the spread of the fascist plague on the streets. They demonstrate and organize local or central protests. Wherever this is done with some consistency, the Nazis hardly dare to appear. A particular focus of this work should be given to the schools, as the battle for the hearts and minds of the students begins at a very early age. Nevertheless, the recent opinion polls show that the influence of GM increases. The leftist parties are not strongly present and active (SYRIZA) or else completely absent (KKE) in the antifascist committees. It is expected that with an increasingly discredited government and ND, social and political polarization will increase and a decisive clash will occur between the "extreme right" and the "left." Especially the anti-capitalist and revolutionary left must prepare for these upcoming trials of strength and organize adequately.


1) In August 2012, the total number of employed workers was estimated at almost 3.727 million, the unemployed at nearly 1.268 miliion, and the non-working population at more than 3.375 million people. The data were published by the Greek statistics office.

2) The "poverty line," as defined by the authorities, amounts to an annual income of 6,591 euros or, for a family of four persons, to an annual salary of 13,842 euros. This official definition reveals straight away that the actual poverty is at least twice as high as the estimated minimum! It is also estimated that the 20% best-paid Greeks receive an average income which is six times higher than the poorest 20%.

3) N. Boyiopoulos, We "live" in order to pay interest, Rizospastis (newspaper of the CPG / KKE), Nov 11, 2012

                                                                                     (Andreas Kloke, Athens, 30/11/12)