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Greek workers light the fuse

The general strike that got under way in Greece today, bringing the country to a standstill, is a foretaste of the struggles to come throughout the capitalist world as the global financial crisis moves from the banking system to debt-ridden sovereign states.

Stock on markets around the world from Europe to Brazil, to the US and Canada fell as the horrible truth dawned on the hedge fund managers that gamble with peoples’ lives. And the truth? It’s a two-headed monster.

Head 1: Greek workers aren’t prepared to accept the pain for a crisis not of their making, including savage wage and pension cuts and tax increases.

Head 2: Greece is just one of the many countries caught up in the consequences of the worsening global crisis and the only “solutions” available will trigger revolt throughout the world.

Spain is reported to be talking to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about its own bail-out. Iceland remains paralysed after a referendum showed its population were overwhelmingly opposed to the terms of the rescue of its banks. None of the major parties contending for votes in Britain’s fraudulent election tomorrow can admit the scale of the assault on the electorate that will follow immediately a government is cobbled together.

According to the Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Munchau, the bailout funds needed for Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and possibly Italy could add up to “somewhere between €500bn ($665bn, £435bn) and €1,000bn”. The demand for new credit from all those countries will drive up interest rates “at a time when they are either in recession or just limping out of one”.

His conclusion? “The private sector in some of those countries is simply not viable at those higher rates.” It’s a prescient conclusion. In other words it means capitalist production is no longer sustainable. But that doesn’t stop them trying to fix it.

The turmoil in Greece began when the Greek government, led by the “socialist” PASOK party, found it impossible to pay the interest on loans made to cover the country’s soaring budget deficit. But even the three-year bail out package totalling nearly £100 billion, funded by the Eurozone countries and the IMF, may be inadequate for the purpose, such is the level of indebtedness.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, looking both ways, said Greece had been called on to make a "basic choice between collapse or salvation". He said: "It is not going to be easy on Greek citizens, despite the efforts that have been made and will continue to be made to protect the weakest in society." But he then acknowledged the real intent – to win back the trust of the lenders: “The whole idea of the programme is … return to markets as soon as possible, so we’re hoping that next year we’ll be doing that.”

New emergency legislation authorising the cuts and tax rises is now being drafted and is due to be put before parliament for approval by the end of the week in time for the IMF’s Board meeting on Sunday to consider Greece’s application for help. It’s there and in the boardrooms of the capitalist corporations and financial markets that the key decisions are made affecting the lives of ordinary people in every country.

No one anywhere in the world voted for the bail-out of the global banking system funded by colossal sums of government debt. The “choice” in the British general election is non-existent. Only pain, pain and more pain is on the ballot form, in the form of the three major capitalist parties. Greek workers have lit the fuse of resistance which will spread like wildfire over the coming months. It’s time for a new kind of democracy. Join us on the revolutionary road. Sign up for our conference on 22 May.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
5 May 2010

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