Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Further thoughts on the Greek vote

Angela Bismarck?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The Greek vote has caused turmoil among the European and global ruling class.  Before the vote, Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s (He's worth 30 billion) economic writer Peter Coy writes in the July 7th issue of BW that “Greece, Tsipras and Varoufakis responded (to the Troika) with Hubris. Now Greece stands at the center of its own drama, surrounded by a wailing chorus, as erstwhile allies prepare to say goodbye." 

Coy also accuses Tsipras as being “detached for reality” bourgeois reality he means, the reality of austerity, poverty, declining living standards and social services.  “The rest of Europe doesn’t want to hear what Greece has to say anymore”, he adds, referring to the bankers, investors and financiers that have bled the Greeks and the rest of us dry.

Not so fast Pete. Merkel rushed to France to try to keep that relationship afloat as the Greeks have forced the ball back in to the Troika’s court. The Italian populist leader Beppe Grillo comments that, “Now Merkel and bankers will have food for thought.”  No matter what the outcome, or the weaknesses of Tsipras and the Syriza leadership, the dangers for the European bourgeois is that the Greek vote might energize the working class of the other poorer European nations that have had the austerity agenda forced on them by their national governments.  The Greeks have altered the playing field and put a mighty opponent on the defensive, that opponent being global capital.

Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research called the Greek vote a, ”…defeat for Germany, especially, far more than for any other country,”. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the power of the German economy and the country becoming the clear leader of Europe has led to many Europeans accusing Merkel of building a, “Fourth Reich” dominated by German capitalism. According to the WSJ a French poll last week found that half of the French population “disapproved” of Merkel’s handling of the Greek situation, and in a similar poll last year, last December, 74% said Germany had “too much sway in European Union politics.” We must not forget German’s European history----Europeans haven’t.

It would be foolish not to think that the Greek vote has increased already existing tensions between EU states.  But when Peter Coy comments writes, “It’s not just Germans who are tired of Greece. The leaders of Spain, Ireland, and Portugal who might have been natural allies, have been some of the Greeks toughest critics.”, he is talking of a small minority of the European population, the capitalist class of these countries and their politicians including so-called socialist politicians in the workers or former worker’s parties whichever way one looks at it 

It’s been clear that Tsipras has been trying to make a deal and is using the vote to do so. He also asked his left wing Finance Minister to resign at the behest of the EU finance ministers claiming a deal will be easier to get according to the media. But it is a volatile situation and I have long passed the time where I can say this or that will definitely occur. Here in the US is an explosion waiting to happen.

The Irish government is hated by its own population and has faced numerous calls to stand up to the bankers. There is no party there that can take up the call. Sinn Fein is in power in the North of the country where it is supporting austerity. There are ongoing protests in Ireland against austerity and the same in Spain. It is likely that the vast majority of European workers support the Greeks or at least are sympathetic. How could they not be? They too have suffered savage cuts.

Prostrating himself before the Troika, Bulgarian President came at it from a different angle whining to them from the pages of the NYT that, “We are much poorer than the Greeks but we have performed reforms.”.  He doesn’t include himself in the “we” of course.  As a willing Bulgarian agent of international capital, like the policeman responsible for keeping discipline on the bread line during famine, he will make sure his family is fed first. It’s the same thing we hear when workers blame other workers for not taking cuts they have taken to help out the bosses, A divisive strategy advocated and applied by the labor hierarchy as an alternative to mobilizing an offensive of our own.

The concern of the European bourgeois is that these national governments, as well as the leaders of the workers’ organizations in these countries might be faced with a movement.
resulting form the Greek actions that they can’t suppress. I am not in any way saying that there is the beginning of a European wide revolt although this would be made more likely were Syriiza taking a more aggressive approach reaching out to workers and workers organizations throughout the continent. 

For those of us that are not on the ground in Greece it is not easy to determine exactly how this will play out but it is clearly a major crisis for Merkel, Germany and Europe. As the WSJ pointed out this morning, “The pushback against German power in Europe is likely to grow if the eurozone crisis worsens or if Berlin’s policies grow more assertive.”

The attention has shifted now to the east to the south. The situation in the Ukraine also placed tremendous stress on intra European relations as sections of the German capitalist class have not been overly keen on the pressure US capitalism has been putting on Germany to confront Russia including stationing troops and military equipment on its borders with eastern European states and intensifying sanctions. Destabilizing Russia is clearly not in the best interests of its neighbors but US capitalism can benefit from it up to a point although Putin must be having a bit of a laugh at the moment.

Unlike in other countries, only 10% of Germans supported further concessions for Greece in another poll last week according to media reports.  This mood would have to be countered and could be countered if a united Europe wide campaign against austerity was launched and if Syriza took up this strategy in a serious way sending workers throughout Europe as we have said before on this blog.  The problem is that the leadership of the European unions like those here in the US although perhaps not quite as bad, also support austerity. They also believe that there is no alternative to capitalism. (TINA, Thatcher’s famous phrase). 

Michael Roberts, whose analysis we feature regularly on this blog has raised the alternatives to capitulation like nationalizing the banks, currency controls, etc and we agree with him when he writes: “The third option is a socialist one. This recognises that Greek capitalism cannot recover to restore living standards for the majority, whether inside the euro in a Troika programme or outside with its own currency and no Eurozone support. The socialist solution is to replace Greek capitalism with a planned economy where the Greek banks and major companies are publicly owned and controlled and the drive for profit is replaced with the drive for efficiency, investment and growth.”

I personally do not see the option of Greece being kicked out of the EU a likely one.  As far as I know there is no set structure for doing that but it will also begin to seriously threaten the survival of the EU itself. It appears likely that some deal will be struck, some half measure, it’s hard to say what. What I am sure about is that the Greek vote was an heroic act of historic significance in the light of the strength of the enemy and the massive campaign of blackmail and threats.

It was the Finnish European Parliament member Jussi Halla-aho, who offered his solution to Greek resistance back in 2011, saying that the country needed a junta, “To rein in the strikers and demonstrators….. with tanks..”.  I was in Greece in 1967 during the military dictatorship and this Finn’s comments were made with that history in mind. One thing about the class struggle being forced in to the open (when we fight back) is that it forces the spokespersons of the capitalist class to reveal their true opinions rather than the normal diplomatic tripe that is regurgitated on a daily basis for the likes of you and me.

These are just some thoughts on this situation from someone who isn’t there and trying to stay abreast of things.  Heck, what does a retired backhoe operator living 8000 miles know away.

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