Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Greek DEBT is paid (in other words Written Off)

The Greek DEBT is paid (in other words Written Off)

Everybody realises that Greece cannot repay its debts” Soros said last week in an interview in Spiegel. “No” says the government, the “debt is viable” we will pay it. But only this give us an extension until… 2064!
As they told us how far the fairytale goes let us summarise: Apparently everything that is being suffered by the Greek people so as to reduce the debt we are in reality experiencing the following:
In 2009 the public debt was 129% of GDP, but in 2014 (in accordance with the  budget) after four years of ceaseless barbarity, after two MoU, after endless laws and measures of brigandry, after taxes, thefts and ‘haircuts’ the debt is to explode to 177.5% of GDP.
In other words 50 points more as a percentage of GDP than when they allegedly started to reduce it!

 Chart showing the debt after four years of the MoU and the Troika
This downward spiral is not about to stop. It won’t be stopped by the Memorandums. The Memorandums and the Troika don’t reduce the debt. They never had this aim. They ‘feed’ the debt.
The govt’s allege they take out loans (create MoU) as the country has debts. Lies! The plutocracy gets the loans. The always increasing loans are burdened on the people.
This isn’t a Greek peculiarity as according to Stiglitz via this process, the indebted countries gave to their creditors for the repayment of older debts in the period between 1984-2000 the astromomic amount of $4.6trillion
Characteristic example which comes from the 1980’s decade and is shown by accounts from the World Bank: In the beginning of 1980 the debt which 109 “indebted” countries had was $430billion dollars. Despite the fact that until 1986 they had paid interest of $336billion dollars at the end of the same year and they had ended up owing more than $880billion. During a six year period they owed a number double what they had originally borrowed, whilst at the same time they had paid back in interest 4/5 of the original debt.
As such, in every previous accounting of debts we had “interest collecting mechanisms which were paid over and over at least 20 times”

Development of Debt in the Eurozone as a % of GDP

As shown by yesterday’s Eurostat report, the politics of the reduction of the debt has led to an increase in the debt of all the states, members of the Eurozone.
The politics of austerity, with MoU and Troikas or without, utilises the debt as an excuse for new reductions in wages, for new reductions in pensions, for new increases in taxes, for a general sellout, for the abolition of every understanding of workers rights. Continuing (with or without MoU) the same politics, the politics of the MoU, they don’t minimise the debt. They increase it, they multiply it.
The above aren’t a result of some ‘mistake’. In the case of Greece there has been no ‘mistake’…
The debts and deficits (or the surpluses) are part of the public wealth which is produced by the sweat of many. They are, in other words, part of the complete public wealth which a selected few take constantly. The loans which provoke the debts (they never went) to wages and pensions of workers, as ridiculously asserted “that we all ate together”. They return almost in totality to the creditors and usurors! They never go (they never went) to Health and Education. They go to the banksters, the shipowners and the capitalists who use it for their businesses and recapitalisations. The loans never went to the non existent Welfare State. They go to cover the gaping holes of tax avoidance, tax breaks, subsidies towards the oligarchy. They are going for a massive party which is otherwise known as the Olympiad, otherwise known as submarines which permanently bend and is constantly known as NATOist armaments.
The overindebtedness constitutes (usual for capitalism) tactic of the oligarchy via which capital secures sources for its own liquidity, and consequently continues to add its own borrowings on the people.
That’s where the loans went. That’s where they originate from. That is what the Greek people pay. They pay for it indefinitely.


The above facts and relative graphs which show the costs and the imposition of interest, for the maturity of bonds debts etc were in the budget of 2013 (page 133)

1.      From Maastricht onwards, in other words in the last 20 years, the Greek people has paid to domestic and foreign usurers and profikteers the astronomic amount of E772.9b
2.      Only in 2000 and forward after the entrance of Greece into the Eurozone the Greek people had paid interest for long term loans the amazing amount of E400 billion. In the same period for the maturity debt interest of bonds we have paid E240b. In total E640billion
On the one hand, the state and governments are borrowing astronomic amounts with which the activity of the capitalists is secured. On the other side the people are paying for the activity of the capitalists and the state over and over again. With interest!
It is clear what is happening:
The Greek people so as to make ‘viable the debt’ a debt which was provoked and ‘eaten’ by others have paid in the last 20 years interest in the region around One Trillion Euros and now for the viability of the debt must live without wages and pensions, without work, without rights so until 2020 will have paid the same as much. Even when this is paid – in 2020 – they will ‘owe’ even more (if the scenario of Mr Stournaras for a 50 year bond) will be paying this until 2064. Then they will tell him they owe that much more.
Therefore from the previous if something originates as a debt from the people is the following:
The actual ‘debt’ of the people is identical with its existence, to be organised to resist and write off the debt which has been paid not only twice but thrice and they ask for it to be paid by our children and our grandchildren and that this already paid debt will never finish!
If something originates as a political conclusion is that this endless horror will never cease with an extension of the debt nor with haircuts nor with accounting tricks as to which is the good and which is the bad debt, which is odious and which not. The whole of the debt is odious and primarily it is already PAID. From a peoples that didn’t benefit but paid it!
It’s up to the people therefore to impose the political decisions which will ensure the paid debt is written off.
If our view is ‘dogmatic’ we will then quote a paragraph from an article (of the non-dogmatic) ‘Kathimerini’ of the last Sunday:
“Two famous economists who were associated in particular with the crisis in the Eurozone, the Belgian professor of the LSE Paul De Grawe and the Chinese lecturer of the University College of London Ms Yuemei Ji in a joint work, studied the facts and ended with this conclusion:

“An inheritance of poverty will be the non-viability of debts (…) Amongst the cases which they use to defend their conclusion is Italy Portugal Spain and naturally as you have understood our country. If we assume that Greece pays interest not greater that the rhythm of annual economic growth for the debt to be reduced to 90% of GDP they will require between 22 to 50 years depending on the annual budget surpluses. They will require 50 years for the budget surplus to be 2% annually, for 30 years for it to be 3% and for 22 years for it to be 4%. This will mean the imposition of extreme austerity for 22 years or heavy austerity for 30 years (but nevertheless austerity) or less extreme austerity for half a century for 50 years…”
Nikos Bogiopoulos

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Assassination of Greece James Petras

The Assassination of Greece

02.20.2015 :: Analysis

Introduction: The Greek government is currently locked in a life and death struggle with the elite which dominate the banks and political decision-making centers of the European Union. What are at stake are the livelihoods of 11 million Greek workers, employees and small business people and the viability of the European Union.

If the ruling Syriza government capitulates to the demands of the EU bankers and agrees to continue the austerity programs, Greece will be condemned to decades of regression, destitution and colonial rule. If Greece decides to resist, and is forced to exit the EU, it will need to repudiate its 270 billion Euro foreign debts, sending the international financial markets crashing and causing the EU to collapse.

The leadership of the EU is counting on Syriza leaders abandoning their commitments to the Greek electorate, which as of early February 2015, is overwhelmingly (over 70%) in favor of ending austerity and debt payments and moving forward toward state investment in national economic and social development (Financial Times 7-8/2/15, p. 3). The choices are stark; the consequences have world-historical significance. The issues go far beyond local or even regional, time-bound, impacts. The entire global financial system will be affected (FT 10/2/15, p. 2).

The default will ripple to all creditors and debtors, far beyond Europe; investor confidence in the entire western financial empire will be shaken. First and foremost all western banks have direct and indirect ties to the Greek banks (FT 2/6/15, p. 3). When the latter collapse, they will be profoundly affected beyond what their governments can sustain. Massive state intervention will be the order of the day. The Greek government will have no choice but to take over the entire financial system . . . the domino effect will first and foremost effect Southern Europe and spread to the 'dominant regions' in the North and then across to England and North America (FT 9/2/15, p. 2).

To understand the origins of this crises and alternatives facing Greece and the EU, it is necessary to briefly survey the political and economic developments of the past three decades. We will proceed by examining Greek and EU relations between 1980 - 2000 and then proceed to the current collapse and EU intervention in the Greek economy. In the final section we will discuss the rise and election of Syriza, and its growing submissiveness in the context of EU dominance, and intransigence, highlighting the need for a radical break with the past relationship of 'lord and vassal'.

Ancient History: The Making of the European Empire

In 1980 Greece was admitted to the European Economic Council as a vassal state of the emerging Franco-German Empire. With the election of Andreas Papandreou, leader of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party, with an absolute majority in Parliament, hope arose that radical changes in domestic and foreign policy would ensue.1/ In particular, during the election campaign, Papandreou promised a break with NATO and the EEC, the revoking of the US military base agreement and an economy based on 'social ownership' of the means of production. After being elected, Papandreou immediately assured the EEC and Washington that his regime would remain within the EEC and NATO, and renewed the US military base agreement. Studies in the early 1980's commissioned by the government which documented the medium and long-term adverse results of Greece remaining in the EEU, especially the loss of control of trade, budgets and markets, were ignored by Papandreou who chose to sacrifice political independence and economic autonomy in favor of large scale transfers of funds, loans and credit from the EEC. Papandreou spoke from the balcony to the masses of independence and social justice while retaining ties to the European bankers and Greek shipping and banking oligarchs. The European elite in Brussels and Greek oligarchs in Athens retained a stranglehold on the commanding heights of the Greek political and economic system.

Papandreou retained the clientelistic political practices put in place by the previous right-wing regimes - only replacing the rightist functionaries with PASOK party loyalists.

The EEC brushed off Papandreou' phony radical rhetoric and focused on the the fact they were buying control and subservience of the Greek state by financing a corrupt, clientelistic regime which was deflecting funds for development projects to upgrade Greek economic competitiveness into building a patronage machine based on increased consumption.

The EEC elite ultimately knew that its financial stranglehold over the economy would enable it to dictate Greek policy and keep it within the boundaries of the emerging European empire.

Papandreou's demagogic "third world" rhetoric notwithstanding, Greece was deeply ensconced in the EU and NATO. Between 1981-85, Papandreou discarded his socialist rhetoric in favor of increased social spending for welfare reforms, raising wages, pensions and health coverage, while refinancing bankrupt economic firms run into the ground by kleptocratic capitalists. As a result while living standards rose, Greece's economic structure still resembled a vassal state heavily dependent on EEC finance, European tourists and a rentier economy based on real estate, finance and tourism.

Papandreou solidified Greece's role as a vassal outpost of NATO; a military platform for US military intervention in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean; and market for German and northern European manufactured goods.

From October 1981 to July 1989 Greek consumption rose while productivity stagnated; Papandreou won elections in 1985 using EEC funds. Meanwhile Greek debt to Europe took off ... EEC leaders chastised the misallocation of funds by Papandreou's vast army of kleptocrats but not too loudly. Brussels recognized that Papandreou and PASOK were the most effective forces in muzzling the radical Greek electorate and keeping Greece under EEC tutelage and as a loyal vassal of NATO.

Lessons for Syriza: PASOK's Short-term Reforms and Strategic Vassalage

Whether in government or out, PASOK followed in the footsteps of its rightwing adversary (New Democracy) by embracing the NATO-EEC strait-jacket.

Greece continued to maintain the highest per capita military expenditure of any European NATO member. As a result, it received loans and credits to finance short-term social reforms and large scale, long-term corruption, while enlarging the party-state political apparatus.

With the ascent of the openly neoliberal Prime Minister Costas Simitis in 2002, the PASOK regime "cooked the books", fabricated government data on its budget deficit, with the aid of Wall Street investment banks, and became a member of the European Monetary Union. By adopting the euro, Simitis furthered deepened Greece's financial subordination to the non-elected European officials in Brussels, dominated by the German finance ministry and banks.

The oligarchs in Greece made room at the top for a new breed of PASOK kleptocratic elite, which skimmed millions of military purchases, committed bank frauds and engaged in massive tax evasion.

The Brussels elite allowed the Greek middle class to live their illusions of being 'prosperous Europeans' because they retained decisive leverage through loans and accumulating debts.

Large scale bank fraud involving three hundred million euros even reached ex-Prime Minister Papandreou's office.

The clientele relations within Greece were matched by the clientele relations between Brussels and Athens.

Even prior to the crash of 2008 the EU creditors, private bankers and official lenders, set the parameters of Greek politics. The global crash revealed the fragile foundations of the Greek state - and led directly to the crude, direct interventions of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission - the infamous "Troika". The latter dictated the 'austerity' policies as a condition for the "bail-out" which devastated the economy, provoking a major depression; impoverishing over forty percent of the population, reducing incomes by 25% and resulting in 28% unemployment.

Greece: Captivity by Invitation

Greece as a political and economic captive of the EU had no political party response. Apart from the trade unions which launched thirty general strikes between 2009 - 2014, the two major parties, PASOK and New Democracy, invited the EU takeover. The degeneration of PASOK into an appendage of oligarchs and vassal collaborator of the EU emptied the 'socialist' rhetoric of any meaning. The right wing New Democracy Party reinforced and deepened the stranglehold of the EU over the Greek economy. The troika lent the Greek vassal state funds("bail-out") which was used to pay back German, French and English financial oligarchs and to buttress private Greek banks. The Greek population was 'starved' by 'austerity' policies to keep the debt payments flowing-outward and upward.

Europe: Union or Empire?

The European economic crash of 2008/09 resounded worst on its weakest links - Southern Europe and Ireland. The true nature of the European Union as a hierarchical empire, in which the powerful states - Germany and France - could openly and directly control investment, trade, monetary and financial policy was revealed. The much vaunted EU "bailout" of Greece was in fact the pretext for the imposition of deep structural changes. These included the denationalization and privatization of all strategic economic sectors; perpetual debt payments; foreign dictates of incomes and investment policy. Greece ceased to be an independent state: it was totally and absolutely colonized.

Greece's Perpetual Crises: The End of the "European Illusion"

The Greek elite and, for at least 5 years, most of the electorate, believed that the regressive ("austerity") measures adopted - the firings, the budget cuts, the privatizations etc. were short-term harsh medicine, that would soon lead to debt reduction, balanced budgets, new investments, growth and recovery. At least that is what they were told by the economic experts and leaders in Brussels.

In fact the debt increased, the downward economic spiral continued, unemployment multiplied, the depression deepened. 'Austerity' was a class based policy designed by Brussels to enrich overseas bankers and to plunder the Greek public sector.

The key to EU pillage and plunder was the loss of Greek sovereignty. The two major parties ,New Democracy and PASOK, were willing accomplices. Despite a 55% youth (16 - 30 years old) unemployment rate, the cut-off of electricity to 300,000 households and large scale out-migration (over 175,000), the EU (as was to be expected) refused to concede that the 'austerity' formula was a failure in recovering the Greek economy. The reason the EU dogmatically stuck to a 'failed policy' was because the EU benefited from the power, privilege and profits of pillage and imperial primacy.

Moreover, for the Brussels elite to acknowledge failure in Greece would likely result in the demand to recognize failure in the rest of Southern Europe and beyond, including in France Italy and other key members of the EU (Economist 1/17/15, p. 53). The ruling financial and business elites in Europe and the US prospered through the crises and depression, by imposing cuts in social budgets and wages and salaries. To concede failure in Greece, would reverberate throughout North America and Europe, calling into question their economic policies, ideology and the legitimacy of the ruling powers. The reason that all the EU regimes back the EU insistence that Greece must continue to abide by an obviously perverse and regressive 'austerity' policy and impose reactionary "structural reforms" is because these very same rulers have sacrificed the living standards of their own labor force during the economic crises (FT 2/13/15, p. 2).

The economic crises spanning 2008/9 to the present (2015), still requires harsh sacrifices to perpetuate ruling class profits and to finance state subsidies to the private banks. Every major financial institution - the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF - toes the line: no dissent or deviation is allowed. Greece must accept EU dictates or face major financial reprisals. "Economic strangulation or perpetual debt peonage" is the lesson which Brussels tends to all member states of the EU. While ostensibly speaking to Greece - it is a message directed to all states, opposition movements and trade unions who call into question the dictates of the Brussels oligarchy and its Berlin overlords.

All the major media and leading economic pundits have served as megaphones for the Brussel oligarchs. The message, which is repeated countless times, by liberals, conservatives and social democrats to the victimized nations and downwardly mobile wage and salaried workers, and small businesspeople, is that they have no choice but to accept regressive measure, slashing living conditions ("reforms") if they hope for 'economic recovery' - which, of course, has not happened after five years!

Greece has become the central target of the economic elites in Europe because, the Greek people have gone from inconsequential protests to political powers. The election of Syriza on a platform of recovering sovereignty, discarding austerity and redefining its relations with creditors to favor national development has set the stage for a possible continent-wide confrontation.

The Rise of Syriza: Dubious Legacies, Mass Struggles and Radical (Broken) Promises

The growth of Syriza from an alliance of small Marxist sects into a mass electoral party is largely because of the incorporation of millions of lower middle class public employees, pensioners and small businesspeople. Many previously supported PASOK. They voted Syriza in order to recover the living conditions and job security of the earlier period of "prosperity" (2000-2007) which they achieved within the EU. Their radical rejection of PASOK and New Democracy came after 5 years of acute suffering which might have provoked a revolution in some other country. Their radicalism began with protests, marches and strikes were attempts to pressure the rightwing regimes to alter the EU's course, to end the austerity while retaining membership in the EU.

This sector of SYRIZA is 'radical' in what it opposes today and conformist with its nostalgia for the past. -the time of euro funded vacation trips to London and Paris, easy credit to purchase imported cars and foodstuffs, to 'feel modern' and 'European' and speak English!

The politics of Syriza reflects, in part, this ambiguous sector of its electorate. In contrast Syriza also secured the vote of the radical unemployed youth and workers who never were part of the consumer society and didn't identify with "Europe". Syriza has emerged as a mass electoral party in the course of less than five years and its supporters and leadership reflects a high degree of heterogeneity.

The most radical sector, ideologically, is drawn mostly from the Marxist groups which originally came together to form the party. The unemployed youth sector joined, following the anti-police riots, which resulted from the police assassination of a young activist during the early years of the crisis. The third wave is largely made up of thousands of public workers, who were fired, and retired employees who suffered big cuts in their pensions by order of the troika in 2012. The fourth wave is ex PASOK members who fled the sinking ship of a bankrupt party.

The Syriza Left is concentrated at the mass base and among local and middle level leaders of local movements. The top leaders of Syriza in power positions are academics, some from overseas. Many are recent members or are not even party members. Few have been involved in the mass struggles - and many have few ties with the rank and file militants. They are most eager to sign a "deal" selling out the impoverished Greeks

As Syriza moved toward electoral victory in 2015, it began to shed its original program of radical structural changes (socialism) and adopt measures aimed at accommodating Greek business interests. Tsipras talked about "negotiating an agreement" within the framework of the German dominated European Union. Tsipras and his Finance Minister proposed to re-negotiate the debt, the obligation to pay and 70% of the "reforms"! When an agreement was signed they totally capitulated!

For a brief time Syriza maintained a dual position of 'opposing' austerity and coming to agreement with its creditors. It's "realist" policies reflected the positions of the new academic ministers, former PASOK members and downwardly mobile middle class. Syriza's radical gestures and rhetoric reflected the pressure of the unemployed, the youth and the mass poor who stood to lose, if a deal to pay the creditors was negotiated.

EU - SYRIZA: Concessions before Struggle Led to Surrender and Defeat

The "Greek debt" is really not a debt of the Greek people. The institutional creditors and the Euro-banks knowingly lent money to high risk kleptocrats, oligarchs and bankers who siphoned most of the euros into overseas Swiss accounts, high end real estate in London and Paris, activity devoid of any capacity to generate income to pay back the debt. In other words, the debt, in large part, is illegitimate and was falsely foisted on the Greek people.

Syriza, from the beginning of 'negotiations', did not call into question the legitimacy of the debt nor identified the particular classes and enterprise who should pay it.

Secondly, while Syriza challenged "austerity" policies it did not question the Euro organizations and EU institutions who impose it.

From its beginning Syriza has accepted membership in the EU. In the name of "realism" the Syriza government accepted to pay the debt or a portion of it, as the basis of negotiation.

Structurally, Syriza has developed a highly centralized leadership in which all major decisions are taken by Alexis Tsipras. His personalistic leadership limits the influence of the radicalized rank and file. It facilitated "compromises" with the Brussels oligarchy which go contrary to the campaign promises and may lead to the perpetual dependence of Greece on EU centered policymakers and creditors.

Moreover, Tsipras has tightened party discipline in the aftermath of his election, ensuring that any dubious compromises will not lead to any public debate or extra-parliamentary revolt.

The Empire against Greece's Democratic Outcome

The EU elite have, from the moment in which Syriza received a democratic mandate, followed the typical authoritarian course of all imperial rulers. It has demanded from Syriza (1) unconditional surrender (2) the continuation of the structures, policies and practices of the previous vassal coalition party-regimes (PASOK-New Democracy) (3) that Syriza shelve all social reforms, (raising the minimum wage, increasing pension, health, education and unemployment spending (4) that SYRIZA follow the strict economic directives and oversight formulated by the "troika" (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) (5) that SYRIZA retain the current primary budget surplus target of 4.5 percent of economic output in 2015-2017.

To enforce its strategy of strangulating the new government, Brussels threatened to abruptly cut off all present and future credit facilities, call in all debt payments, end access to emergency funds and refuse to back Greek bank bonds - that provide financial loans to local businesses.

Brussels presents Syriza with the fateful "choice", of committing political suicide by accepting its dictates and alienating its electoral supporters. By betraying its mandate, Syriza will confront angry mass demonstrations. Rejecting Brussels' dictates and proceeding to mobilize its mass base, Syriza could seek new sources of financing, imposing capital controls and moving toward a radical "emergency economy".

Brussel has "stone-walled" and turned a deaf ear to the early concessions which Syriza offered. Instead Brussels sees concessions as 'steps' toward complete capitulation, instead of as efforts to reach a "compromise".

Syriza has already dropped calls for large scale debt write-offs, in favor of extending the time frame for paying the debt. Syriza has agreed to continue debt payments, provided they are linked to the rate of economic growth. Syriza accepts European oversight, provided it is not conducted by the hated "troika", which has poisonous connotations for most Greeks. However, semantic changes do not change the substance of "limited sovereignty".

Syriza has already agreed to long and middle term structural dependency in order to secure time and leeway in financing its short-term popular impact programs. All that Syriza asks is minimum fiscal flexibility under supervision of the German finance minister-some "radicals"!

Syriza has temporarily suspended on-going privatization of key infrastructure (sea- ports and airport facilities) energy and telecommunication sectors. But is has not terminated them, nor revised the past privatization. But for Brussels "sell-off" of Greek lucrative strategic sectors is an essential part of its "structural reform" agenda.

Syriza's moderate proposals and its effort to operate within the EU framework established by the previous vassal regimes was rebuffed by Germany and its 27 stooges in the EU.

The EU's dogmatic affirmation of extremist, ultra neo-liberal policies, including the practice of dismantling Greece's national economy and transferring the most lucrative sectors into the hands of imperial investors, is echoed in the pages of all the major print media. The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Le Monde are propaganda arms of EU extremism. Faced with Brussel's intransigence and confronting the 'historic choice' of capitulation or radicalization, Syriza tried persuasion of key regimes. Syriza held numerous meetings with EU ministers. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Vardoulakis traveled to Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and Rome seeking a "compromise" agreement. This was to no avail. The Brussels elite repeatedly insisted:

Debts would have to be paid in full and on time.

Greece should restrict spending to accumulate a 4.5% surplus that would ensure payments to creditors, investors, speculators and kleptocrats.

The EU's lack of any economic flexibility or willingness to accept even a minimum compromise is a political decision: to humble and destroy the credibility of SYRIZA as an anti-austerity government in the eyes of its domestic supporters and potential overseas imitators in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland (Economist 1/17/15, p. 53).


The strangulation of Syriza is part and parcel of the decade long process of the EU's assassination of Greece. A savage response to a heroic attempt by an entire people, hurled into destitution, condemned to be ruled by kleptocratic conservatives and social democrats.

Empires do not surrender their colonies through reasonable arguments or by the bankruptcy of their regressive "reforms".

Brussel's attitude toward Greece is guided by the policy of "rule or ruin". "Bail out" is a euphemism for recycling financing through Greece back to Euro-controlled banks, while Greek workers and employees are saddled with greater debt and continued dominance. Brussel's "bail out" is an instrument for control by imperial institutions, whether they are called "troika" or something else.

Brussels and Germany do not want dissenting members; they may offer to make some minor concessions so that Finance Minister Vardoulakis may claim a 'partial victory' - a sham and hollow euphemism for a belly crawl

The "bail out" agreement will be described by Tsipras-Vardoulakis as 'new' and "different' from the past or as a 'temporary' retreat. The Germans may 'allow' Greece to lower its primary budget surplus from 4.5 to 3.5 percent 'next year' - but it will still reduce the funds for economic stimulus and "postpone" raises in pensions, minimum wages etc.

Privatization and other regressive reforms will not be terminated, they will be "renegotiated". The state will retain a minority "share".

Plutocrats will be asked to pay some added taxes but not the billions of taxes evaded over the past decades.

Nor will the PASOK - New Democracy kleptocratic operatives be prosecuted for pillage and theft.

Syriza's compromises demonstrate that the looney right's (the Economist, Financial Times, NY Times, etc.) characterization of Syriza as the "hard left" or the ultra-left have no basis in reality. For the Greek electorate's "hope for the future" could turn to anger in the present. Only mass pressure from below can reverse Syriza's capitulation and Finance Minister Vardoulakis unsavory compromises. Since he lacks any mass base in the party, Tsipras can easily dismiss him, for signing off on "compromise" which sacrifices the basic interests of the people.

However, if in fact, EU dogmatism and intransigence forecloses even the most favorable deals, Tsipras and Syriza, (against their desires) may be forced to exit the Euro Empire and face the challenge of carving out a new truly radical policy and economy as a free and independent country.

A successful Greek exit from the German - Brussels empire would likely lead to the break-up of the EU, as other vassal states rebel and follow the Greek example. They may renounce not only austerity but their foreign debts and eternal interest payments. The entire financial empire - the so-called global financial system could be shaken . . .

Greece could once again become the 'cradle of democracy'.

Post-Script:Thirty years ago, I was an active participant and adviser for three years (1981-84) to Prime Minister Papandreou. He, like Tsipras, began with the promise of radical changes and ended up capitulating to Brussels and NATO and embracing the oligarchs and kleptocrats in the name of "pragmatic compromises". Let us hope, that facing a mass revolt, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Syriza will follow a different path. History need not repeat itself as tragedy or farce.


[1] The account of the Andreas Papandreou regime draws on personal experience, interviews and observations and from my co-authored article "Greek Socialism: The Patrimonial State Revisited" in James Kurth and James Petras, Mediterranean Paradoxes: the Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe (Oxford: Berg Press 1993/ pp. 160 -224)

James Petras was Director of the Center for Mediterranean Studies in Athens (1981-1984) and adviser to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou (1981-84). He resigned in protest over the PM expulsion of leading trade unionists from PASOK for organizing a general strike against his 'stabilization program'.

Petras is co-author of Mediterranean Paradoxes: The Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe. His latest books include Extractive Imperialism in the Americas (with Henry Veltmeyer); and The Politics of Empire: the US, Israel and the Middle East.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Greece: Pressure on Syriza to Deliver

Leo Garib

GAZING across Sytagma Square at the Greek parliament, Despina Kostopoulou explained why her country’s future is hanging in the balance. The 53 year-old office cleaner is not part of Greece’s new Syriza government, which is locked in a titanic battle with Europe’s big powers. She’s not, in fact, a politician at all. But as a leader of one of the most important Greek protests in the last few years, she knows what needs to be done to save her country.
Greece’s new left-leaning Syriza government are eyeball to eyeball with Germany, the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And Greeks have been pouring onto the streets to support Syriza. In Athens, thousands have been packing Syntagma Square urging Syriza to keep its promises and scrap the spending cuts, privatisations and attacks on workers’ rights which have brought Greece to its knees after being forced on the country by the EU, the ECB and IMF.

In the high-stakes diplomacy, Germany, the EU and the ECB are threatening to bankrupt Greece if it ditches the austerity programme.  Syriza warns it will quit the Eurozone of countries using the Euro if it’s not allowed to reverse austerity and invest in jobs and living standards. That could spark a global financial meltdown. The only way to make sure Syriza doesn’t blink first is for Greeks to show their muscle and pour onto the streets, warns Despina.

“Syriza got to power because Greek workers came out onto the streets to support it and put it into power and now we need to keep coming onto the streets to keep it in power,” she said. “If we come onto the streets when Syriza is renegotiating the national debt, and if we come onto the streets when Syrizia looks like it might not deliver its promises – and sometimes it won’t, then things will get better and we’ll win. The future of our country depends on what we do now. It’s up to us, more than ever.”
Despina is one of the thousands of sacked government workers who have been promised their job back by Syriza. A cleaner for the ministry of finance for more than 20 years, she was one of 595 laid off without warning by the last government. She helped lead a 16-month strike, which won the support of Greeks and captured media attention around the world.

As she spoke, she pointed to a display of photographs of the strike. Image after image showed the cleaners – plainly dressed middle-aged women – being manhandled and beaten by armour-clad riot police. In some, the women are being treated for serious injuries and in one, Despina is being carried to safety, her face disfigured and swollen.

“It was just announced on the morning television news that we would be fired. I went to sleep a worker and woke up unemployed,” she recalled. “That’s the way it was then. Workers’ rights were ignored or cancelled by the government. Now we’re going back to work and that’s important for us and our families. But the most important issue isn’t us returning to work, it is for us to help change the whole situation in Greece.”

Even before the strike, the cleaners’ wages had plunged as Greece went into economic meltdown under the austerity programme. After the overnight announcement their jobs were under review as a prelude to redundancy their wages slashed again and the cleaners found themselves on the breadline.
“My family supported me but if it wasn’t for my partner, I would have been on the street,” said Despina, whose wages were cut to just 400 euros-a-month. “But I was one of the lucky ones. Some women were getting less than 300 euros-a-month because they hadn’t worked at the ministry as long as me. They owed so much in rent they were going days without food just to keep their home and were fainting from exhaustion. Some lost their homes and had to move in with their families, some had children who had to quit their studies. It was a social catastrophe. We were kept going because in every area we were supported by solidarity networks, giving us clothes, food and medical help.” That even included children who made soap from olives to raise money for the cleaners.

A political awakening for the women, their strike also won the backing of millions of Greeks fed up with austerity.
“I was never involved in politics on this level before and it’s been huge for me to have taken part in this struggle,” said Despina, who regularly slept on the 24-hour picket line outside the ministry in Athens, and was among the strikers invited to speak at anti-austerity protests across Europe. “Not many of us had the chance to go to university but we learned a lot in that struggle, it was a real education. It has shown me how strong the Greek people can be and why we need to keep going.”

The scars of the austerity economics are everywhere. In Athens, shops are boarded up and walls daubed with angry political graffiti, while the sight of a mother and her children scavenging in bins for food no longer turns heads. For some the unprecedented decline is simply too much and suicide rates have rocketed.

After five years of austerity, the economy has shrunk by at least 25%, unemployment has soared to almost 2 million and millions more work only a few days a year and among young Greeks the jobless rate is at least 50%. Employers were given a green light to hire workers from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa on low wages. State-owned assets were sold cheaply amid a storm of corruption scandals. Pensions have been slashed and there has been a bonfire of workers’ rights and social protection. Hospitals and clinics have been shut while doctors and nurses run volunteer services, sometimes using veterinary equipment. Stripped of unemployment insurance, millions of Greeks rely on soup kitchens or the charity of their families.

Greek author and political commentator Van Gelis said if Syriza is to survive it simply must ditch the hated austerity programme and deliver on its promises to invest in the country.
“If Syriza just folds and continues implementing the policies of the last government, even some kind of austerity-light programme, then there would have been no point in the elections last month,” he said. “Voters completely turned their backs on the old parties of Pasok and New Democracy, which traditionally formed governments. They rejected them for implementing policies forced on Greece by the EU – in particular Germany, the ECB and the IMF, known collectively as the Troika and hated by Greeks. For Syriza to go back to those same policies would be to completely ignore the will of the Greek people, to deny the election, and condemn Syriza to the dustbin of history. Syriza would simply fragment into the different groups that came together to form the party.”

And he expects Greeks to go on packing Syntagma Square, piling the pressure on Syriza.  He continued: “There have already been rumblings over statements by Syriza’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis over his alleged statements agreeing to implement some of the Troika’s austerity programme in exchange for a cash injection. I saw tens of thousands packing Syntagma Square calling on Syriza not to make that kind of deal.” But, he warned, Syriza will need a “workable Plan B” in the event it is ejected from the Eurozone. Like a growing number of Greeks, Van Gelis would welcome a return to Greece’s old currency, the Drachma, and more trade with Russia and China.

The biggest China deal is also one of the most controversial, however. The sale of part of the Piraeus shipyard to a Chinese industrial giant was a main plank of the austerity economics. But it was bitterly opposed by many Greeks, including the shipyard workers who warned against lower wages and the dilution of labour rights.

Now the deal is back under the microscope with development minister Panyiotis Lafazanis suggesting the last government’s plans for a privatisation of the rest of the shipyard may be reviewed, a position in line with Syriza policy. In the background, Beijing has been lobbying for Cosco, Washington pressing for a US giant to be given the port and Germany and the EU for Greece to stick to the austerity policy of privatisations. The battle over Piraeus illustrates exactly the kind of difficulty Syriza faces as its anti-austerity pledges come face to face with realpolitik, said Van Gelis.

The docks are in Piraeus, an industrial area just a short train ride from Athens. The metro trains serving Piraeus are older and dirtier than those running through the rest of Athens, and as they slip through the suburbs, past the home of Greek football champions Olympiakos and into solidly working class districts, the stations and the streets show the scars of decay. By the time the trains reach Piraeus, the evidence of decline is everywhere. Struggling hotels offering rock bottom discounts, migrant workers hawking cheap goods, and everywhere in its narrow streets the jobless and penniless scour bins with specially adapted hooks, or huddle near markets waiting for leftover food.

The largest port in the Mediterraneam, Piraeus had been the jewel in Greece’s industrial crown. Its decline began in the 1980s with the imposition of EU free trade rules but it has been utterly devastated by the social and industrial blitzkrieg of the last five years.

In 2010, half the port was sold for 500 million euros to Chinese state-owned Cosco – a record foreign investment in Greece but a snip for the shipping giant with plans to open a new Silk Route to Europe.

The Cosco-owned Pier II is humming with activity. Towering cranes heave giant containers off the ships, trucks weave down roadways. Business has risen three-fold since the privatisation.
But it has come at a heavy price. The EU parliament was warned Cosco has imposed sweatshop conditions, trying to ban union membership among its workforce of more than 500. Reports surfaced of workers earning less than half the wages paid to those in the neighbouring Greek state-owned pier, of workers being forced to gruelling eight-hour shifts without a break for food or to use the bathroom, and of exhausted workers on 24-hour, seven day-a-week standby for shift work at the risk of losing their jobs. Workers reported taking containers into their vehicles to urinate in.

“The privatisation has accelerated the race to the bottom – a sharp deterioration of conditions, union-bashing and the under-cutting of labour protection,” said Yannis Deliyannis, local official of the dock workers union, OMYLE.

The union office is a converted container at the entrance to the state-owned pier. Inside, its walls are plastered with posters demanding an end to austerity, warning against the rise of Greek fascism and for the country to quit the EU.

But the state-owned pier is a shadow of its old self. The tarmac is cracked and in places swims with stagnant water. Small groups of men are at work but the towering cranes stand idle, the wind whistling through their rusting cantilevers.

In the last 30 years, the number working in the dockyards has plunged from 25,000 to fewer than 2,500, with just 500 working on any day. The work is shared out, meaning most work fewer than 30 days a year, explained Deliyannis. Just 10% of workers reach the threshold of 50 days of work a year to qualify for free state health care. And with workers paid between 75 and 125 euros for a seven-hour day, they are struggling to reach the breadline.

“This was once a beautiful shipyard with enough work for us all to live but the EU has systematically taken the work. Now we just can’t survive,” added Deliyannis. “Now workers have to rely on their family or their parents, if their parents are pensioners. Families are breaking up because of the economic crisis, people are committing suicide and homes are being repossessed.”
The union has also found itself thrust into the battle against the effects of austerity in the communities where its members live. When the last government introduced laws making it easier to seize people’s homes, the local union helped organise protests to physically confront officials.

“We can’t just fight for ourselves now, we have to fight for the communities too,” continued Deliyannis. “Our job is to protect all workers – to stop repossessions, stop electricity from being cut-off. We are organising to stop the policies of economic genocide. And we will organise against the Syriza government, if we have to. We will demand a rational economic plan under which the state will intervene to rebuild the ports and rebuild the economy, and restore worker’s rights. Greece is a shipping nation so we want proper rights for workers, regular work, health and safety rules, health cover and laws to stop people working too many hours. We are wary the Syriza government will continue along the same path as the previous governments and if they do, we will organise to stop them. But if they do things that are good for us, if they keep their promises, we’ll support them all the way.”

Nearby a statue of a ship worker – muscular and defiant – appears to survey the wreckage of the docks. Underneath it a small knot of men share a cigarette, their hands in their pockets, their collars turned up against the wind.

One, a welder in his late 50s with a battered face and the gait of an old boxer, has been out of work for five years. He preferred not to give his name and said the union has not done enough to confront austerity and said he voted Syriza. He lives in Perama, a suburb of Piraeus, with three children who are also jobless. They survive on food hand-outs. His wife recently died, he confided.
“We have no money, no pensions, no health care,” he said. “All we have are the solidarity clinics for basic food. I have friends who have divorced because of the pressure. Some people commit suicide. But the communities have tried to support each other. There hasn’t been an increase in crimes and we’ve organised to stop people having their electricity cut for not paying taxes or having their homes repossessed. A lot of people feel Syriza is our last hope, and we’ll fight like hell to stop them going back to austerity.”

Living conditions in Perama have deteriorated so sharply in the last few years that the area is dubbed “Ground Zero” by many of the shipyard workers. Most live in homes they built from breeze blocks with neither heating nor electricity. More than three-quarters are jobless or underemployed, almost half survive on food hand-outs from community-run soup kitchens, and almost none have access to hospital care. Health services are provided by volunteer doctors.

The collapse of Greek health provision under austerity has been devastating. An work related insurance system, the rise in unemployment and deep cuts to health budgets has left millions of Greeks without cover. Hospitals are trying to cope with zero budgets for drugs and equipment, while nurses have to care for up to 40 patients each. Vaccination programmes have almost halted and HIV infection has risen up to 200%.

Last year a study for the respected British medical journal, the Lancet, discovered government hospital spending collapsed by 26% between 2009 and 2011, and what was left was slashed by more than half between 2010 and 2014 to just 2 billion euros. Pregnant mothers have been left without any medical care, there has been a 43% rise in infant mortality, a 21% rise in stillbirths, sharp increases in rates of tuberculosis and clinical depression.
For 32 year-old Maria Gianopoulos the new Syriza government is a lifeline. A leading member of a national lobby group for sufferers of the crippling condition myasthenia gravis, the Hellenic Myasthenia Gravis Association, she said the new government is must transform Greek health care.

A former court clerk who was made redundant under the government cuts, Gianopoulos explained prohibitive charges for prescriptions and attending hospitals have been introduced since 2010. Last year the government tightened its rules so that at a stroke thousands of disabled Greeks found themselves stripped of essential benefits. Disabled protesters were met with police violence.

“One member of our society had to pay more than 200 euros for his medicine and there have been even more extreme cases. Some patients have to pay as much as 500 euros for their medicine. I regularly had to pay 40 or 50 euros a month for prescriptions and 25 euros when I attend hospital for treatment. The last year was the worst. For me it was the worst in my whole life.”

She added: “When we protested in Syntagma Square against the old government the police pushed us back. With Syriza we demand that things improve. They’ve promised to reduce the costs of medicine and restore health budgets. That’s what has been promised to the Greek people and they must deliver. It doesn’t matter how tough it is for them to deliver, they must stand strong. And we’ll be back in Syntagma Square to make sure they do.”

22nd February 2015