IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO
by Constantinos Dimoulas*
The austerity measures imposed on Greece by the Troika are ravaging the economy, which is now in its fifth consecutive year of recession and has sufffered a reduction in gross domestic product exceeding 17%. Meanwhile, there is an unprecedented social catastrophe.
The unemployment rate exceeds 21%, which means that in a country with less than 11 million inhabitants and a workforce of less than 5 million, over 1.2m people cannot even find a part time job paying 400 euros a month, and among these only 30% are eligible, for a maximum period of 12 months, the miserable unemployment benefit of 300 euros.
In addition, for the same reasons, the country is witnessing the destruction of welfare (health, education, unemployment benefit, pension and health care) and the poor (pensioners, unemployed and underpaid) are being forced to pay for their drugs and medical care, in addition to electricity and water services, just as the Greek Petroleum Company has announced that it has increased its profits by 5% and the [country’s fourth largest lender] Piraeus Bank by 18%.
On 29 May this year the European economic authorities announced the transfer of 18 billion euros to the four largest Greek private banks – which control over 70% of the Hellenic banking industry and whose shares are held mostly by European funds and private institutions – to increase their capital adequacy. These European financial assistance measures did not include the country’s two public banks. The next day (May 30) the National Agency for Health (Eoppy) announced that it was unable to reimburse pharmacists for the money it owed to them for prescription drugs.
Meanwhile, EU officials and their protectors (speculators, bankers and political leaders) have been competing to see who scares the Greek people the most, so they don’t vote against the parties who agreed the ‘austerity’ measures and signed the Memorandum, in exchange for new loans providing liquidity to the Hellenic banking industry.
A memorandum – signed by New Democracy, PASOK and Laos – that instead of promoting a productive reorientation of the Greek economy by reducing the huge tax evasion which benefits the rich and corporations, cuts wages of workers and the lower middle class by at least 30% and cancels employment standards in collective labour agreements as inflation progresses at a rate of 4-5%. They also want to make workers pay a high price for basic, essential goods and services and to use their own money to buy welfare, despite the fact they already pay high social insurance contributions, as well as high income and valued added [sales] taxes.
But there’s more behind these punitive measures: the aim is to make citizens feel guilty if they cannot pay back at high interest rates – whatever the cost, for themselves and their families – debts that the governing classes accumulated to finance imports from Germany, Holland and Italy that have wiped out the domestic Greek products and damaged prospects for employment and growth.
The Greek and European ruling classes, whose domination rests on finance, know very well that under capitalism the restructuring of the European economy requires the destruction of the middle classes who expanded after World War II and the degradation of public services and welfare.
What better and inevitable solution to the Greek riddle than to try to apply the “Procrustean bed”, renamed for this occasion the Financial Assistance Facility Agreement. Under this agreement, the Greek people should pay more money to creditors (over 35 billion annually for the next 30 years) and less for wages, pensions and welfare. Wages and pensions shall be paid only after creditors have obtained their refunds payments, according to the agreement.
In the past, some of these loans were used to boost consumption [spending] and ensured the consent of the middle classes in the Euro project, although most of that money was used to underpin the privileges of the political elite and the comprador [merchant] and financial bourgeoisie.
Over the past twenty years the country has turned into a service economy based on tourism and trade and because of the strong euro the Greek people have lost a significant portion of the country’s productive capacity – but not their human values.
Although European and national elites are asking the Greeks to accept the fate of vassals, the Greeks are resisting, pursuing their desire for freedom and their aspirations for a decent life. It is this alternative future perspective that the European elites fear most, because it can trigger a chain of radical changes in across Europe.
The vote on 6 May this year revealed that the application of the shock doctrine, described authoritatively by Naomi Klein, is not applicable to Europe, where the historical memory and the democratic culture, instead of being deleted, has awakened the consciousness of liberty among the people.
The last elections in Greece showed that Europe is bidding farewell to the era of neoliberalism. But this prospect is not yet clear, because we find ourselves in a precarious balance in which – as Antonio Gramsci would say – ‘the old is resisting and the new not yet born.’
This is why many companies in Greece are distributing questionnaires to their employees asking them to what country they would prefer to move for work, if Syriza become the party of government after elections next June 17.
That is why the ruling classes in Europe are using all their armoury to terrorize the Greek people and convince them not to vote against the parties who signed this violation of a dignified existence.
This testimony from the weakest link in the European chain will be transmitted to progressive Europe, pushing for the legitimacy of an authoritative and responsive European government. Or are we headed towards disintegration and the strengthening of nationalism?
The answer is not ‘blowing in the wind’, but in the sentiments of the people and their aspirations for a decent life.
*Panteion University, Athens
Translation by Revolting Europe