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Issue #1686      May 27, 2015

Austerity measures in Greece

The need for change in the class structure of society

Presentation by Takis Sarelis at the Cypriot Club May Day Forum, Sydney, May 3, 2015.

On May Day, we honour the struggles of the world’s working class for a better society.

The gains that make for a better society have had to be won by the working class. They have never been given as gifts to workers. The working class, the working people have only ever won them through hard struggle and rivers of spilled blood.

These gains worldwide, wherever they have been made, the capitalist class of each separate country now wants to take back. If the people do not understand this, then surely, the peoples of the whole world will embark on the road to misery.

How did we get into this situation? Why this crisis?

Many analyses blame the working people for the “opulent life” they are living, others blame the Germans, the Zionists, “illegal migrants” and so on. Through the global media, the ruling capitalist class spreads confusion, to prevent working people distinguishing the real “parties” in this crisis.

Every working person needs to understand events from their class side, the working class point of view, to develop a class conscience, to learn and know who their enemy is and who is their friend.

Our starting point is – Greece is a class society. We cannot properly analyse its problems without recognising this. It is not very helpful to talk about “Greeks” in general when assessing the current situation.

In the class system there are the workers – those who produce goods and services for a wage: in the factories, on the ports, on the ships, in the mines and in transport; in food processing, in supermarkets and in banks and offices; workers in government administration, in health and welfare services and so on.

There are the small businesses – people who have family-owned bakeries and other small shops. There are trade contractors, people who own small factories and trucks and taxis; the owners of souvenir shops who rely on scraps from tourists while airlines, shipping companies and big hotels rake in the big money.

There are the small farmers in the villages, in rural areas and on the islands, and the fishermen.

There are professional people like self-employed lawyers, accountants, etc.

There is the army and the police.

There are young people – students and trainees not yet in the workforce; then those who have retired from the workforce and of course the unemployed who can’t get into the workforce.

Then there is the dominant class, the capitalist class who owns and runs the private companies. The biggest companies are the monopolies.

With this “class approach”, we try to see events in Greece, not from the point of the interests of the European Union, NATO or the Americans and Russians.

At first look we see the distribution and redistribution of global wealth is in fewer and fewer hands – trusts – monopolies. We are talking about one percent of the population (the capitalist class), who owns 80 percent of the global wealth.

So, we should not see the Greek issue cut off from the international situation and the interests and character of the Greek capitalist class and Greek monopolies.

Certainly in Greece people live in difficult times with unemployment officially at 28 percent and among young people 60 percent; with reduced wages and with thousands of small businesses shut down, with thousands looking in the garbage to find food and more suicides than ever before.

Hospitals are underperforming and there is reduced expenditure for social welfare, education, etc ...

This crisis in Greece is paid for by workers, the retired, small shop owners and the farmers, but not by the local and transnational monopolies and the capitalists.

Big business and Greek monopolies do not have a crisis. They continue to avoid taxes and receive government subsidies, while transferring their funds to foreign banks with secret accounts. Wealthy Greek capitalists are the best customers in the property market in London, Brussels and elsewhere.

As a class they dominate the whole economy and have a powerful influence over government.

They influence government to the extent it pursues economic objectives, such as borrowing money from other countries, if the monopolies approve. Government lets foreign companies set up business in Greece if the Greek monopolies approve. Irrespective of what foreign companies or foreign capital do in Greece, Greek monopolies retain the dominant role in the economy.

The people, as our great poet Varnalis says, “Coward – fatalistic – and inconsiderate, expect some miracle”.

Most possibly they expect it from the Syriza government elected in January, with its program of “rupture”, promises to abolish the European Union “memoranda” and to restore wages. All this however, with the belief that at the same time there is a continuity of the State, therefore continuity of the unpopular laws of all previous governments; and balanced accounts of the State, that is, outlays not to exceed revenues.

This is impossible where the State debt is more than 180 percent of gross national income.

If you enter into discussion with your executioners, you will reach the point where you say you agree with at least 70 percent of your debt, and chat about the measures covering the other 30 percent. You come to say you do not want conflict with your lenders. So there is no way out except for the debt to grow instead of decline and to accept the pressure for further cuts to wages, pensions, education and health and facilitating monopolies and bosses to sack workers whenever and as many as they want.

We should also see that in Greece, compared with other capitalist countries, monopolistic development is still far behind, so there is pressure for reforms that benefit monopoly development and belief that this growth will bring jobs and prosperity. This is why people give their “blessings” to a reformist Government such as Syriza.

So we ask, when the government borrowed 350 billion euros over the years, who got this money? Who benefited? Which class benefited?

Who got the benefit of billions spent on construction for the Olympics? The monopolies got the cream.

Modern day capitalist theory says if the monopolies are thriving, the system is going OK. If the monopolies are producing and selling their products, the whole economy is going well. This is the theory of “trickle down” effect – that the profits the wealthy elite make will trickle down to other classes of people.

But it hasn’t worked like that! The economy is in crisis and has been for more than five years, with production at a very low level. Greece’s GDP is around 250 billion euros and existing loans are nearly 400 billion euros.

The solution of the previous and present governments is that the monopolies must be given even more favours!

If the system hasn’t worked, if national production levels are low, that means the monopolies haven’t been helped enough! This is what they say!

This is the solution Greek governments put forward and it is the solution the EU chiefs, the European Bank and International Monetary Fund put forward.

Their solution is to increase monopoly domination of the economy – by giving more favours to them in the form of subsidies, tax concessions, handing over government enterprises, providing them with infrastructure to conduct their operations, and giving them land, natural resources and other public assets.

On top of this, they want to decrease workers’ wages so there is more profit for monopolies. They are not concerned about the unemployed and people begging in the streets and on the metro because unemployment helps keep wages low.

They want to cut government spending on pensions and welfare – they want people to provide for themselves – because that is the capitalist ethic. What should be done about it? Will the strategy of the EU and the Greek government succeed?

Some commentators say it will not work – they say production levels will not increase in Greece, Greece will not be able to re-pay loans or even pay interest on the loans and the country will go bankrupt.

Well, the new Greek government says it will go along with EU demands in order to get the EU to pay the interest on the loans every few months. The new government goes along with the idea of bolstering the monopolies as the key to increasing national production.

And recently the government introduced the idea of a “Social Dialogue” between government, employers and unions so that they all go along with this economic strategy.

We recall in Australia, Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s Prices and Incomes Accord, which resulted in a considerable weakening of the trade union movement.

Which is what they want in Greece – because they know that only the power of the workers and the oppressed classes can turn things around in Greece. And it is true. Society only changes through mass actions and struggle.

Prior to the last national elections, Dimitri Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of KKE (Communist Party of Greece) said that regardless of who wins, the day after the elections people will be in the streets fighting for their rights. He was correct.

Day by day workers are waging industrial campaigns, students are protesting, pensioners getting organised, small shop keepers are running public campaigns, hospital workers, teachers and many other groups are in struggle.

The future of Greece – and the way out of the economic mess – depends on the successful struggle of the workers and oppressed people leading to change in the class structure of society.

It is a question of ownership. So long as an elite, privileged class own these big monopolies, they use this to get power over the whole economy and power over the whole of society. In doing so they bring misery to the rest of the people.

So we give our solidarity and support to these struggles and in the Communist Party of Australia we express our solidarity with our fraternal party, the Communist Party of Greece.

What solution does the class oriented workers’ movement and its Party propose?

The debt, created from loans to banks and Greek monopolies, is not the people’s debt; the people do not recognise it and it should be cancelled.

Greece should leave the European Union and the euro, because in “a pit of lions” there is no solution for the Greek people and for the people of Europe.

The people must take hold of their fate for themselves and nationalise all monopolies, airports, ports, etc. (everything sold to private ownership); make the national wealth the estate of the people; have free public health and education; restore all those gains workers have lost to capitalist governments and “to revenge the dreams – for progress and social justice”.

The Greek people, all people, must arrive at the conclusion that capitalism is a “tight corset”. They must place themselves on the anti-capitalistic road, which is the labour movement, to escape from the “utopia” that a “humanised capitalism” can be introduced or created and recognise there can be no “good” administration of the capitalist system. It must be abolished!

Long live the class oriented labour movement! Long live the Working Class!

Next article – The dilemma of soy

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