The courageous stand of the people of Greece in the July 5 referendum on the creditors’ demands for further austerity, in the face of widespread scaremongering and brutal financial intervention, was an inspiration to and of significance for all in Europe.
The decisiveness of the result, 61% voting No, drew a line in the sand. It was both a decisive No to austerity and a No to the dictate of the institutions of the Europe of the Monopolies and their associates the IMF. The stand taken by the Greek people has changed the political situation.
The role of the European Union in its attempt to usurp monopoly right over public right by force, with no regard for people’s basic human rights, and to orchestrate a coup to carry out its aims, lies exposed for all to see. The fact that the Greek people stood up to blackmail is therefore highly significant and has inspired the anti-austerity movement far beyond Greece.
It was therefore key for the EU and IMF to retaliate, to limit this victory and present it as empty. The financial siege, combined with scaremongering and disinformation, continued after the vote in an attempt to steal back the initiative from the Greek people. The troika has remained on the offensive, declaring that it will not back down, that exercising economic sovereignty means disaster and that Greeks must accept their fate lies in the hands of these institutions.
Faced with immanent financial collapse, Athens put forward a proposal last week making many concessions to the institutions’ demands. Various commentators immediately labelled this as a capitulation by the Greek government, while much of the media helped create an image of an incompetent government taking its people through a pointless exercise to arrive back where they started.
However, it is important to understand that there has been no possibility of negotiation. The demand has simply been for submission. Following the referendum, the European Central Bank (ECB) would not even assist in keeping the Greek banking system afloat for a week while negotiations took place. Instead, they intensified the siege. On Tuesday, the ECB actually orderedGreek banks to provide even more collateral for their existing emergency loans, further squeezing them of money and shortening the timescale to their collapse so as to force the hand of the Greek government.
In such conditions of dictate, it is no small thing that the Greeks asserted their right to say No. The right to say No is connected with the right to be. The EU of the Monopolies is set on denying this right of the Greek people to be, both through denying the right to say No and by denying the basic necessities of life. By opening up the front over rights, the Greeks have opened up a front that, in the end, the institutions of the monopolies cannot win. It is not for nothing that, overnight, OXI became the battle cry of the anti-austerity movement across Europe.
It has changed the conditions and terms of the debate. The institutions that represent monopoly right can no longer have it all their own way. They can only get their way by enforcing dictate, which is itself not to have it their way; ruling through such overt force can only weaken them. The perception of the EU has been changed irrevocably.
So even the Greek proposal was deemed unacceptable. On Sunday night, the leaders of the Eurozone presented Greece with an ultimatum. In the deal eventually made, Greece is to receive a loan package in the region of €84bn over three years, mainly from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with a contribution from the IMF. This will be combined with a bridging loan of €12bn separate from the ESM to prevent the country’s immediate bankruptcy. Emergency loans from the ECB will resume, allowing the banks to reopen. In addition, the European Commission will attempt to raise €35bn.
The attached conditions are truly draconian, tying the hands of the entire Greek decision-making process and leaving the economy of the country at the whims of the EU institutions. The Greek government must push legislation through the parliament in just 48 hours for further austerity measures including pension cuts and tax increases. They also include an asset privatisation fund to service its bailout loan, into which Greece is to place €50bn of its national assets to be privatised or managed under European supervision. There is no provision for the hard-fought request for debt reduction, though it keeps open the possibility of payment rescheduling.
In short, the plan is for nation-wrecking and annexation and is a blatant violation of sovereignty. It insists on commitments for further labour liberalisation and privatisation, such as of the electricity network. In other words, it is enforcing that the elected government roll back all of the main content of its legislation enacted since it came to power. It even deals with the detailed operation of national life such as extending shop opening hours.
The institutions’ plan, as far as it can be called such, is to humiliate the Greek government as part of the continued aim for regime change. The attempt is to throw the population into disarray and confusion, to create political havoc alongside the economic destruction. It is to either force the government to submit or to take the country back to the status quo through a regroupment of the old forces, possibly through imposing a technocratic government, with the threat of overt reaction seizing power if that were to fail. It seeks to achieve this by dividing the population, splitting and discrediting the government, to bring down the government.
Yet the No vote has also split the EU powers, with divisions apparent between Paris and Berlin. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, Chair of France’s governing party, stated in the wake of the referendum result that it was directed “against the austerity that has shrivelled Greece’s GDP and driven a large number of Greeks into poverty”.
Further, it is reported that Gianni Pittella, the Italian who chairs the Social Democratic Group of the European Parliament, condemned the “unacceptable rigidity” and “selfishness” of certain member states and called for new negotiations with Greece “in a new atmosphere of solidarity and cooperation”.
Thus the situation is not the same. The EU has made abundantly clear what are the consequences of such a stand as taken by the Greek people, and this has consequences for the opposition to austerity. All issues and contradictions have now sharpened. We have not seen the end of this, and indeed, the EU may yet force Greek exit from the eurozone.
This historic battle continues. The No vote was an assertion of a people who are fighting for the right to govern themselves, for a new, sovereign and pro-social direction for their economy. Ultimately, it is for the Greek people to decide whether they are ready and prepared to take things further or whether to accept concessions at this point. They are in a very difficult position and will not accept lectures from outside. For the moment, they have made their stand known. The issue for the working class is to stand as one with the Greek people, condemn the dictate of the troika, build the resistance to austerity and elaborate and organise for an alternative to the Europe of the Monopolies.