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Greece squeezed

Latest Country Blogs: Greece
Blog Date

Defend Greek people against the Troika’s coup d’état

30/06/2015

Greek voters reignite the flame of democracy

26/01/2015

Greek union denounces “coup d’etat”

12/06/2013

Greek state's racism scapegoats migrants

06/06/2013

Divide and rule in Greece and Egypt

18/06/2012

Dracula is alive and well in Brussels

10/02/2012




Defend Greek people against the Troika’s coup d’état

The financial crisis sweeping impoverished Greece alongside the turmoil in global markets, is the outcome of the resistance by an elected anti-austerity government to a political coup plotted by a notorious Troika of undemocratic institutions.

The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission continue to demand unconditional surrender from the Syriza government to their terms for continuing with debt support.

Their refusal to renegotiate an onerous bail-out, which most economists acknowledge Greece can never possibly hope to repay, is a desperate attempt to preserve the European Monetary Union at the expense of an entire country.

Naturally, this is not the first time that the Troika has dictated to other countries. Berlusconi’s government was forced out in Italy when it baulked at the terms of a bail-out. In 2011, when the Pasok government in Greece threatened a referendum, the ECB imposed its own vice-president Lucas Papademos on the country to head a “unity” government instead.

This time the Syriza government left it until the last moment to call a referendum on the Troika’s conditions and the mere decision to consult the people has plunged the markets into chaos. After all, the markets are supposed to rule, not the people.
 
Even right-wing, free market financial commentators are raging at the tyrannical behaviour of the Troika. The Daily Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, says:

The European Central Bank, the EMU bail-out fund, and the International Monetary Fund, among others, are lashing out in fury against an elected government that refuses to do what it is told. They entirely duck their own responsibility for five years of policy blunders that have led to this impasse.

He accuses the ECB  of “consciously and deliberately accelerating a financial crisis in an EMU member state – with possible risks of pan-EMU and broader global contagion – as a negotiating tactic to force Greece to the table” and trying to “destroy an elected government and bring about regime change by financial coercion”.

Evans-Pritchard has published internal IMF documents that show that the original bail-out in 2010 was designed to rescue monetary union and to sacrifice Greece. Although a free market economist, he says he prefers elected governments to “monetary juntas”.

The Greeks have “sacrificed” until there is no more to give. Economic output has plunged 25% and six out of ten young Greeks are out of work. Public services and pension have been wrecked by cuts and the country can barely afford to pay for imported drugs for pharmacies.

Yet the Troika, driven by the insane “logic” of global capitalism and the imperatives of financial markets, wants more when there is clearly nothing more to give. Syriza’s prime minister Alex Tsipras was prepared to meet them halfway, suggesting tax increases alongside other concessions which infuriated some in his Syriza government.

This too was dismissed out of hand by the Troika. So in practice there haven’t been any negotiations because that’s not what the Troika does. It imposes the diktats of the markets and bankers on debtor countries and that’s all it does. The Troika fears that other indebted EU nations like Portugal and Spain would join a queue for concessions if they were made to Greece.

When Tsipras says that driving Greece out of the euro and perhaps even out of the EU itself, would be a blow against solidarity and democracy in Europe, he is imagining a situation that may have once existed on paper but not in practice, certainly not since the 2008 meltdown.

There is nothing remotely democratic about the IMF or the ECB. Throughout its post-war history, the IMF (together with the World Bank) has imposed “structural adjustment programmes” on countries in exchange for loans. SAPs have essentially consisted of privatisation and cuts in public spending.

As for the ECB, it is a creature of the German government and an extension of the eurozone ministerial group. Created ostensibly to prevent another European war, the Common Market morphed into a corporate-driven European Union, alongside a toothless parliament and an all-powerful Commission. Its latest project is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which will strip away vestiges of social protection and place corporations formally above sovereign government. A democratic institution this is not.

Which makes the challenge universal. Greece, the birthplace of democracy, is actually a crony state which functions for a powerful group of rich oligarchs. The state has siphoned off funds and redirected them to its clients. Little wonder that many Greek people have given the state a wide berth.

Some in the Syriza government, like finance minster, Yanis Varoufakis, see the present government’s role as one of modernising a state which in recent memory gave way to military rule. He told Die Zeit: “Why does a kilometre of freeway cost three times as much where we are as it does in Germany? Because we’re dealing with a system of cronyism and corruption. That’s what we have to tackle.”  

Varoufakis is a Keynesian economist who believes in the reform of capitalism and its state bodies, however corrupt and lacking in legitimacy they are. His faith in the system is entirely misplaced and creates illusions where a dose of reality is needed.

The challenge in Greece, as in Britain and throughout Europe, is establishing a democracy worth of the name in place of the hollowed-out system we live under. Added urgency is provided by the deteriorating economic and financial system. The annual report of the Bank for International Settlements, for example, warns that central banks have nothing left in the locker to deal with a second global meltdown.

In these circumstances, democracy and capitalism, in whatever form or international institution, are actually incompatible. Referenda are useful tools for gauging opinion but ultimately real democracy is about power – who has it and who does not. At present the Troika, corporations and banks hold the power in Europe.

Therefore, we have to remake, transform and democratise the social system as a whole. Capitalism is well past its use-by date and is now moving rapidly towards outright corporate, authoritarian rule. So as we show total solidarity with the Syriza government, let’s redouble our efforts to create a movement that puts the Troika out of business for good.

A World to Win editors
29 June 2015

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