Common man the Greek : Story of the working class in this debt stricken world
Millions of Greeks have been crushed under draconian measures imposed by an evil capitalism. Greece is on the verge of a social explosion. Athenians nurse immense pride about their great Mediterranean legacy. Their forefathers forayed all over the world and through their spectacular life, made cultural imprints everywhere. Ancient Athens is considered to be the cradle of European democracy. Modern Athens is threatening to become the grave of capitalism. If one regards democracy to be the right of the broad masses to determine their own destiny, or the composition of the government, then there is no democracy in Athens. There is no longer the pretense that the sovereign power is the people. It’s rather the 'troika', consisting of European Union (EU), International Monetary Frong (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB). They are trying to impose their own austerity measures on Greece, transforming it into a test site for an extreme case of neoliberal social engineering. The social cost of this transformation is going to be immense. For the first time since WW2, large parts of Greek society are facing the danger of extreme pauperism. Athenians are losing homes and forced to run to soup kitchens and a new wave of people are emigrating from the country in search of employment. It’s obvious that most of the measures have little or nothing to do with increased debt. Indeed, private sector wage reductions are reducing pension contributions.
Survival requires “new measures” at the expense of the Greek population, supposedly living beyond their means,”exacerbating the recession” and so on to create a perfect infinite suffering loop, a spiral into the abyss.
A bird’s eye view of the Greek economy: A background for the Great Greek tragedy
The economy of Greece is the 32nd or 37th largest in the world at $312 or $309 billion by nominal Gross Domestic Product or Purchasing Power Parity respectively. Greece's main industries are tourism, shipping, industrial products, food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products, mining and petroleum. Greece's GDP growth has also, as an average, since the early 1990s been higher than the EU average. However, the Greek economy faced significant problems, including rapidly rising unemployment levels, an inefficient public sector bureaucracy, tax evasion, corruption and low global competitiveness.
Greece has the EU's second worst Corruption Perceptions Index and lowest Index of Economic Freedom and Global Competitiveness Index, ranking 119th and 90th respectively. Corruption, together with the associated issue of poor standards of tax collection, is widely regarded as both a key cause of the current troubles in the economy and a key hurdle in terms of overcoming the country's debt problem.
Greece was accepted into the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union by the European Council on 19 June 2000, based on the criteria that the ratio of loans to savings exceeded 100% during the first half of the year. But after 14 consecutive years of economic growth, Greece slid into recession in 2008.
By the end of 2009, as a result of a combination of international and local factors (respectively, the world financial crisis and uncontrolled government spending), the Greek economy faced its most-severe crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1974 as the Greek government revised its deficit from a prediction of 3.7% in early 2009 and 6% in September 2009, to 12.7% of GDP.
In early 2010, it was revealed that successive Greek governments had been found to have consistently and deliberately misreported the country's official economic statistics to keep within the monetary union guidelines. This had enabled Greek governments to spend beyond their means, while hiding the actual deficit from the EU overseers.
In May 2010, the Greek government deficit was again revised and estimated to be 13.6% for the year, which was one of the highest in the world relative to GDP. Total public debt was forecast, according to some estimates, to hit 120% of GDP during 2010, one of the highest rates in the world.
As a consequence, there was a crisis in international confidence in Greece's ability to repay its sovereign debt. In order to avert such a default, in May 2010 the other Eurozone countries, and the IMF, agreed to a rescue package which involved giving Greece an immediate €45 billion in bailout loans, with more funds to follow, totaling €110 billion. In order to secure the funding, Greece was required to adopt harsh austerity measures to bring its deficit under control.
Greece from despair to resistance
Unconditional European Union funding in the 1980s and early 1990s, and easy international borrowing in the 2000s helped both the left and right finance unsustainable patronage politics. According to Eurostat, the EU's statistical agency, public payroll expenses (salaries and pensions of civil servants) rose in Greece from 38 percent of state revenue in 2000 to 55 percent in 2009.
Greece was the first country in the Eurozone to collapse with the crisis of 2008- 2009. Since then the Troika has been imposing insane neoliberal prescriptions which led the country off the deep end. Bailout plans are followed further by more additions, which only have deepened the recession and increased the country’s indebtedness.
The country has also completely lost its sovereignty and is subjected to constant humiliation from the part of finance capital. In fact, Greece is on the verge of a social explosion, a default and exit from the Euro appears almost inevitable. The very own existence of eurozone is in danger.
The bailout package, was more a promise for future salvation than an immediate, practical solution. It’s very often applauded as a good deal for banks and a raw deal for the Greek Economy.
In the conditions of a very deep crisis which can last for over a decade, there is no room for slow social reforms. Governments that do not challenge the very basis of the system will end up implementing counter reforms and attack on the living standards of people. So it’s no surprise that in Greece, Spain and Portugal, the Social Democratic Parties are doing the job of bosses instead of the working class.
Since September, it is clear to everyone that the memorandum politics - allegedly aimed not only at the rescue of the banking system but also protecting Greece from bankruptcy and insolvency is at a bottom pit. It means nothing but endless bloodletting of workers and serves as a kind of grave robbery of the greek economy. Only the parties of the ruling system, who at most are beneficiaries of the rapid intensification of exploitation and redistribution of wealth from bottom to the top, along with the rich who hold $560 billion deposited in foreign accounts are exempt from the effects of the crisis and manage largely to increase their income. The Austerity policy has proven to be evil, as the recession causes falling tax revenues and thus more national debt. This in turn requires new measures.The approval of the new austerity package imposes new attack on the workers.The public responds with outrage on the streets of Athens. The approval of the new austerity package by the Greek Parliament on February 2012, was another dramatic chapter of a nation plundered by capital, the new bailout deal includes cut of $3.3 billion. The resources would come out of monumental attacks on the worker’s social rights. The minimum wages in the country will be reduced by at least 22%, as well as cutting 150,000 public jobs by 2015 and reduce the amount of the pensions.
However the plan was not approved without resistance and crisis, a lof of crisis. While the bailout terms were being voted in the parliament, a crowd of more than 2000 people took to the streets of Athens, thousands gathered on Syntagma square in front of the Parliament, singing songs of resistance.
In last November, Prime Minister Papandreou resigned after going back on the proposal of carrying out a referendum on the austerity plans. Blackmailed by Germany and France, Papandreou suspended the referendum. The he was replaced as he was a rotten orange that no longer served the purpose of finance capital by Lucas Papademos. But humiliation had not reached an end yet. The Troika asked the candidates for this April’s election, to sign a letter committing themselves to future austerity policies!
Greece is headed for fresh elections on June 17, after an inconclusive vote earlier this month which left the country without a stable government. The elections next month are being viewed as a de facto referendum on Greece's future inside the eurozone, pitting Syriza, the radical left party against New Democracy and the Socialist Pasok party, who together support the reform programme Greece has pledged its European and international creditors in exchange for a recent EUR 130 billion bailout.
In other words, the vast majority of the population has come to the conclusion that no compromise with the government and its rules are possible anymore. What matters to them is to prevent the implementation of all measures performed above. This may be possible by legal protests and demonstrations or by illegal resistance such as non-payment of the poll tax on real estate- through civil disobedience.Thus tensions between, the entire political system on the one side and the great mass of the governed population on the other, has become an unbridgeable labyrinth. This follows inexorably from the logic of the government of national unity, declaring its austerity programme to be an expression of national interests, the government will denounce all resistance as treason to be forcibly suppressed.
Property taxes, were announced making the situation unbearable, for an approximate 100 square meter apartment, around EUR 700 must be paid in order to satisfy the appetite of of the creditor lenders. This property tax will be assessed along with electricity bills, and in case of non-payment the electricity of the household will switched off.
Many experts argue that an orderly default and exit from the euro, although inevitably imposing extreme hardship on the Greek working class for a small period would be preferable to the slow disorderly implosion of the greek economy and society. Default on the country’s debt and exit from the eurozone would not provide a solution to the working class of Greece, as in Argentina 1999-2002, the Greek ruling class would throw the burden of crisis onto the working class. In the conditions of the deepest crisis of Capitalism for decades, there is no room for slow social reforms. Governments that do not challenge the very basis of the system will end up implementing counter-reforms and attacks on the living standards of the people.
Epilogue: Cradle for a Socialist world
What a mess for European capitalism. Here comes socialism Could there not be a better opportunity for a socialist alternative to this nightmare? Apparently socialist leaders in Europe can not see one. But there is. The new Greek government should never have agreed to pay back its debts to the bankers in full. If they don’t pay back then banks around Europe would collapse. Then they should be taken into public ownership and recapitalized with government funds.
Democracy instead of dictatorship of the banks In all Greek neighbourhood and workplaces, action committee should be formed to elect delegates to a centralised national committee and this centralised national committee should get a larger role in determining the country’s public finances distribution.
Workers are not responsible for this debt The rich, who deposited their money on safe foreign accounts need to bring back that money to their country. The onus of restoring Greece is not on the working class. A collective effort is necessary to fight this peril. The working class is no longer obliged to bear the brunt of crisis.
End game for Euro zone Greece needs to come out of Euro zone and needs to bring back its old currency Drachma. A new currency will restore the nation’s pride and it will pave the way to plan its own destiny.
Greece owns the great legacy to be the birthplace of many great spectacles, be it is democracy or olympics or great tragedy. All of them originated in that great country and spread to the rest of the world. We could wish from our hearts that - let this debt crisis pave the way for a socialist government in Greece and then to the entire Europe. In two weeks, Greeks will not only determine their own future, perhaps they would do that of capitalism as well.