The 3rd Memorandum debt refinancing pact signed between the Troika (European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank) and the Syriza-led government in Greece will have disastrous effects on the Greek working class and working people. It constitutes a monumental betrayal by the Syriza (social democratic) party of its previous promises to stand up to the European bankers and to end and reverse austerity imposed by previous bourgeois governments. The various attempts by Syriza (or its supporters abroad) to justify or excuse this sell-out agreement – or to deflect responsibility away from the Tsipras government in Athens – fail to alter that basic reality.
As the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) correctly noted in its recent statement, the government is essence is burdening the people with a new loan worth 86 billion € and savage measures that accompany it, such as the further reduction of the people’s income, the new heavy taxes, the maintenance of the new property tax, the significant increase of VAT on items of mass popular consumption, the reduction of pensions, the implementation of a new and worse social-security regime, the gradual abolition of supplementary assistance for poor pensioners, and the wholesale privatization of public assets.
The current crisis is rooted in Greece’s membership in the EU, and especially its entry into the Eurozone. Governmental debt was high even before its entry, but after 2002 the European and Wall St. bankers flooded Greece with ‘easy money’ and extremely generous debt-refinancing arrangements. That, combined with tax evasion by Greek corporations and the super-wealthy, resulted in a huge and unsustainable ‘debt bubble’ (now estimated at almost $400 Billion US). When the global economic crisis hit in 2008, Greece couldn’t meet interest payments to foreign bankers without massive new ‘bridging’ loans – this time with onerous conditions requiring vicious austerity measures imposed on the people. Wages and pensions were cut, public sector workers laid of, and social services slashed, resulting in mass unemployment, poverty and misery on an unprecedented scale.
Although not quite as acute, a number of other European states face similar fiscal debt crises – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, France, and some of the Eastern European states swept up into the EU vortex. Everywhere, vicious austerity measures – imposed by the Troika and private bankers – have exacted a heavy toll on working people who have been made to pay for the capitalist crisis.
All of this stems from the class nature of the European Union itself, which is dominated by the European Capital – the giant monopolies and banks – and which serves its interests. The illusions of social democrats and other “left-wing” reformists that it was possible to transform this imperialist centre into a progressive, democratic and ‘social’ Europe have been dashed on the rocks of this capitalist reality.
It is appropriate to recall Lenin’s sage observation in his famous article penned one hundred years ago, “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” (1915) that:
“From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism – i.e., the export of capital arid the division of the world by the ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ colonial powers – a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.”
Illusions sometimes die hard, however. After years of suffering through austerity-imposed measures, the Greek people had hoped that with the election of Syriza, austerity would end and the crisis would ease. This was not a naïve, erroneous judgment of the masses – it was what Syriza itself promised if elected. But that early enthusiasm quickly dissipated when immediately following the election, Syriza struck a deal with the Party of Independent Greeks (ANEL), as its junior partner in a ruling coalition. ANEL includes extreme right-wingers, with some members having made explicitly anti-Semitic statements and expressed the wish for immigrants in Greece to “go back to their own countries”. Then the new Syriza government sent its finance minister off to Brussels to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s debt enslavement to the European bankers; then it reneged on its promise to rehire sacked government workers; then it offered NATO a new naval base on its soil; etc.
In mid-June – more than a month before this fateful agreement was approved – our Party predicted that Syriza’s “structural and programmatic limitations, aimed at seeking accommodation and an ‘historic compromise’ with EU Capital will invariably lead to defeat, absorption and betrayal of their radical-sounding promises. In our view, genuine working class advance must be based on a complete ‘rupture’ with the logic of capitalist state rule, and a determined revolutionary struggle to supplant its power with working class power, with socialism.”
When the crunch came, and the Troika refused to moderate its demands for conditionalities on a new set of bail-out loans, Syriza called a referendum to gather mass support behind its bargaining position. The 61% “No” vote was a significant popular rejection of austerity policies and the heavy-handed rule of the Troika. The government however was dishonest about the nature and purpose of the referendum. The “No” was in fact a “Yes” to Syriza’s counter offer, which was essentially the same as the EU offer. Only the KKE exposed this truth during the campaign.
By declaring in advance its fidelity to the EU system and to the Euro – and as well to the aggressive NATO alliance – the Syriza government had no negotiating position or alternative, and was destined to fail and be forced to accept the EU-imposed conditions.
By falsely raising the expectations of the Greek people to end austerity, and then to sign and approve the Memorandum, including further pension and social cuts, higher taxes, and forced privatizations, can only be characterized as an abject surrender to the dictates of EU capital, and as a betrayal of the people’s trust and their class interests. There is no question that Germany and other like-minded ‘hard-liners’ prevailed in imposing this savage agreement, but Syriza must also be held accountable for this monumental debacle. For this reason, reference to a ‘coup’ by the Troika is dead-wrong, and is intended to absolve the treachery of the Syriza government, and to place all of the blame on Brussels.
The new situation is one of crisis – a social-economic crisis as the recession and the people’s hardships will intensify, and a political crisis within Syriza itself is it shed ‘critics’ of the agreement within its own ranks, and prepares to find new, willing ‘partners’ among the bourgeois parties in order to cling to power.
It is clear that this drama has played out exactly as the Greek Communists predicted; that the maturation of the crisis in Greece, while obviously greater and deeper than elsewhere in the EU, is by no means unique, and that a “rupture” with the EU, and a cancellation of the entire debt, along with winning mass working class support for a fundamental, revolutionary alternative, now seems to be the only viable alternative to avoid complete collapse and the further resurgence of fascism.
In the meantime, the Greek workers, farmers and ‘middle strata’ (small business, professionals, etc.) – in other words the vast majority of the Greek people who are now burdened with even harsher austerity – have no choice but to unite and fight against the Memorandum and the economic and political forces responsible for thrusting it upon them. In this continuing fight, they deserve our wholehearted solidarity.
Communist Party of Canada
July 21, 2015