Greece: So Close, So Far Away

First, a prime specimen of reactionary brainwashing, on the Russian state channel’s news broadcast:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=361326

Greece is again on strike and for the fourth time this year saying no to its government. In any case, today’s strike will not change anything. Wages in the country have been cut, taxes raised. Moreover, by socialists. And this is happening not only in Greece. R0mania, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain: leftist governments as one are doing what is not at all characteristic for them. The financial crisis has dealt a painful blow to the ideas of European socialism. The principle of “work less, make as much money as everyone else” no longer functions.

Along with the economic crisis, Europe is undergoing a crisis of the socialist idea. Several thousand students rioted in the capital of Slovenia. They threw eggs at the police and broke windows at the parliament because, in order to save money, the ruling socialists are taking away their tax breaks and deprived them of free meals.

On the streets of Bucharest, Romanian trade unions brought 60,000 people plus one sheep to protest the centrist government’s plans to slash the pensions and wages of public sector workers, including those of the police who guard the biggest state palace in the world, built by Ceauşescu. “We have ‘enormous’ salaries,” ironically notes a policeman who took part in the demonstrations. “So the government wants to cut them by a quarter. It would be better if the ministers cut their own pay because theirs is enormous. We work day and night, we work overtime, but these hours are not paid. Police from around the country are here today, and we will come back if that is what it takes,” he promised.

Cutting the budget deficit is a condition of the 20 billion euro loan provided by the IMF. And there is every indication that Romania will see a repeat of the Greek scenario, which in Athens today lead to more demonstrations and everything shutting down. “The policies that Greek society has been confronted with are barbaric,” says a participant in the demonstrations in Athens.

All this is being said to Greek’s leftist government. Headed by hereditary socialist Papandreou, it is following the orders it receives from European and international capital. In the very same way Portugal’s socialist prime minister José Sócrates refuses to turn off this path. “The country needs these measures. They are essential and necessary. When a politician does what he should do and takes measures only to alleviate a difficult situation, people should realize that all the efforts that all the people of Portugal will have to make are absolutely necessary.”

“Those who earn more should have to pay more,” declared José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero when commenting on the decision to raise the income tax for rich people. At that moment the Spanish prime minister was speaking in his capacity as leader of the Socialist Workers Party. But trade unions are threatening him with a general strike all the same because at another press conference the very same Zapatero announced that the wages of public sector workers would be cut.

Socialism, after all, is not the name of a party. It is genuine where the economic conditions exist for it. The right is in power in Sweden, but it has not ceased to be the showcase of European socialism. At the municipal level there, it is now being discussed whether to cut welfare payments to chronic alcoholics who refuse treatment.

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A kind of response to this taxpayer-financed televised malarkey, here is the Vpered Socialist Movement’s preface to an essay by Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond (excerpted below):

It is surprising, but the events now under way in Greece, where hundreds of thousands of workers are demonstrating and striking in order to fight back against the harshest attack on their rights and livelihoods in recent decades, provokes only the slightest interest in Russian society. Kremlin talking heads and experts from the ranks of the liberal opposition gloat in unison as they applaud the liquidation of the last remnants of the European social state and pay their respects to courage of the Greek government, which has decided to take necessary “unpopular measures.” The silent [Russian] majority remains silent as always, assuming that the events in distant Greece have nothing to do with them. In fact, today’s Greece is closer to us than ever before. Since the beginning of this year, the Russian government’s menu practically wholly consists of “unpopular measures” prepared according to Greek recipes. Hence the [new] law that will radically cut subsidies to the public sector, and the transition to a new system of wage payments in the state sector, and the ever more persistent declarations about the need to raise the retirement age. Just as in Greece, working people in Russia are being made to foot the bill to save the banks and corporations. Like the Greeks, we turn out to be the main culprits of overblown budget deficits. We are also Greek workers in the sense that we are forced to pay for a crisis caused by the rich.

Today, as never before, we need to feel solidarity — not because it is a noble and beautiful feeling, but simply because we live in one world. A world that is strikingly insane, cruel, and unjust. A world where only the poor suffer. A world that so needs our will to resistance and protest.

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An excerpt from Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond, “We are all Greek workers”:

The Greek measures overwhelmingly approved by EU governments are an attack on social rights. According to the rules of globalised capitalism applied by these governments, Europe is losing ground in its global competition with the United States and emerging countries. Their solution is to regain competitiveness by attacking the standard of living and social protection won in Europe through decades of mobilisation by the workers’ movement.

This means a never-ending race to the bottom. And to think that they promoted the Maastricht Treaty, the EU Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty as the building blocks of a Europe based on social justice and social welfare! What utter nonsense, when we compare this rhetoric to the bleeding imposed on the Greeks – at 5% interest, no less! The European banks can continue to grow rich on the Greek austerity plan, although they are the ones most responsible for the global economic chaos. There is nothing humanitarian about the “assistance plan” that has been adopted by the National Assembly. By supporting the government, the French Socialist Party has lined up on the side of finance and not the oppressed.

Though incapable of organising solidarity of any kind, the European Union certainly knows how to profit from a people’s misery. Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have jointly declared that they will rescue the Eurozone by strengthening “budgetary oversight” of states that fail to meet the criteria of the EU Stability Pact. Apparently, in a neoliberal Europe, governments are only allowed to contravene the Stability Pact when they are pumping public money into the banks. Humanity will just have to wait.

Yet, never has there been such an urgent need for a social, ecological and anti-capitalist Europe based on solidarity. None of the current problems can be solved within national borders. We are all Greek workers subject to the same logic. Government debt is the product of 25 years of neoliberalism and tax cuts for the rich – on corporate incomes, capital and shareholder dividends. For 25 years these taxes have been constantly lowered, and yet we are still told that they represent an unbearable burden for employers and the well heeled. No, this crisis is not ours. In Greece, as elsewhere in Europe, we shouldn’t have to pay for it.

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Chris Hedges, “The Greeks Get It”:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

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Filed under activism, critical thought, film and video, international affairs, protests

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