Sunday, July 5, 2015

Greeks vote no to more austerity and economic terrorism

Heroic Greeks stand up to global capital.
Stephen Morgan in Brussels.

Here in Europe people have been holding their breath in anticipation of the results from the Greek referendum. Although no analogy is perfect, if you are American it would be something like one of the southern states holding a mass vote to defy the national economic policy from Washington and potentially leave both the dollar and the Union.

The Greek situation has been a major news item for weeks now and it has taken top spot on all news bulletins across Europe for the last seven days. Now the news of the win for the No vote is coming in, I have to say it is literally breathtaking - it sucked the air right out of my chest. The Greek Interior Ministry is even predicting a 61% vote to reject the EU proposals. The Greek people have responded with an unequivocal No to the policies of the European capitalist class, and its blackmail and threats.

The fact is that the Greek people have given the European and international bourgeoisie a mighty bloody nose. They stood up to all the threats in the media from the bankers, bourgeois politicians and the vultures from the IMF told them (excuse the expletive) to f...k off in no uncertain terms.

Facing naked capitalism with its fangs bared, they haven't flinched. They have linked arms and stood firmly and fearlessly against the threats. What an example they have given to the workers of Europe and worldwide about how the working class can stand up to its capitalist enemies at home and abroad.

Let's be honest, many of us thought that Tsipras and the rest of the SYRIZA leaders would have buckled under the pressure of the international bourgeoisie well before now, and would have agreed to play the role of their servants in carrying out their attacks on the Greek working class. But praise must be given where praise is due and that praise should at this moment be unconditional.

The SYRIZA leaders put their faith in the Greek working class and they won. They have empowered the working people of Greece. The Greek people can proudly hold their heads high. They have taken their place at the head of the international working class and have set an example for all oppressed peoples around the world.

The Ancient Greeks gave us democracy. This display of people's democracy is an example of how democratic socialism should work in practice. Even many of those who voted yes, held their noses when they cast the ballot and did so out of fear, many of them also supporting the efforts of SYRIZA to defend them.

This raises again the question of how a mass movement of people can change society. Political sects on the fringes of the labour movement, calling themselves Marxists, have always had a condescending attitude to the working class, believing that they needed to be led by a small clique of elite revolutionaries.

But they ignore what Karl Marx said long ago and that was that the liberation of the working class is the task of the working class itself and not of sects parading as their self-declared leaders.

The Greek vote today shows how working people can take their own destiny into their own hands. The working class now is more than sufficiently conscious and politically aware to challenge and defeat capitalism on its own.

A popular mass movement of the left like SYRIZA which respects the working class, listens to it and has confidence that it can carry through the transformation of society by itself is what is needed, and not vanguardist, elitist grouplets following barren dogmas.

But the battle isn't over and capitalism remains intact in Greece. The No vote will most likely increase divisions in the ruling class in Europe and internationally over how to handle the situation. The hawks will not only want to punish SYRIZA, as they have already tried, but they will want to punish the Greek people for defying them.

Some of them are even looking to the possibility of the Greek military carrying out a coup d'etat, and Greek military leaders have already made a joint statement about protecting the need for “national unity” and “calm” - typical language used by the military when it is planning to justify taking control of government. They would probably try to justify this as a “temporary step” to install a government of “national salvation” based on so-called “experts and technocrats” - something which the head of the European Parliament has said he would like to see in place the left government.

However, the “doves” among the European bourgeoisie fear that if they continue to push the Greek working class into abysmal poverty, that could force SYRIZA to make major inroads into capitalism. If the ECB (European Central Bank) refuses to support the Greek banks and bankruptcy threatens this week, SYRIZA might have no choice but to nationalize the banks.

You can't control what you don't own and this holds true not only for finance capital but of the Greek industrial and agricultural capitalists also. SYRIZA would face a flight of capital abroad and sabotage at home from its own bourgeoisie in an attempt to protect its interests and also create chaos, which would bring the left government down.

Any attempt by the military to intervene would result in civil war. The Greeks are proud of how their youth overthrew the former Greek military junta through a revolution in 1974. They will not go back to dictatorship without a massive fight.

This would rebound on the European bourgeoisie, who would be seen as responsible for such a catastrophe by working people throughout Europe. This is not the same as the civil war in Yugoslavia following the fall of Stalinism. There is virtually no ethnic question in Greece although the Fascist Golden Dawn has tried to whip up fear of im
migration. But in the main it would be seen as a clear cut fight between the working class and the capitalists and their military.

Greece is considered a part of Europe by Europeans in a way that Yugoslavia was not. There would be mass demonstrations and strikes across Europe in defense of the Greek people should civil war erupt and that would also undermine the foundations, not only of the EU, but European capitalism in general.

This wouldn't be the first time that the European and American bourgeoisie has engineered a military coup in Greece. In 1944, the military wing of the Greek Communist Party had driven the Nazis occupiers out of Greece. However, the bourgeoisie feared that this would lead to the overthrow of capitalism and therefore financed and supported the right-wing forces of the Greek military to defeat them. The British RAF (Royal Air Force) even went so far as to bomb the working class areas of Athens and Piraeus.

However, the Greek working class is far stronger today than ever before. Therefore the “doves” among the European bourgeoisie rightly fear that a new civil war could be won by the left forces and could lead to the total abolition of capitalism in Greece. This is what nearly happened in Portugal in 1974, when the Times of London published the headline, “Capitalism is dead in Portugal.”

How things pan out remains to be seen, but I think that the European capitalists will finally bow down to the vote and offer another less painful deal for Greece, in order to avoid the above scenarios.

However, for Europe, the damage is already done. It will give a fillip to workers struggles across the continent and, in particular, it will influence other southern European countries suffering under EU-imposed austerity measures and difficult economic conditions.

In Spain, the left-wing, “SYRIZA-like” Podemos - meaning “We Can” has already made sweeping gains in local elections, taking control of the two biggest cities of Madrid and Barcelona. Similar developments could increase in Portugal, Italy and also Ireland.

But it will also give a huge impetus to nationalist movements in other countries for leaving the EU and the Euro, even if they don't share the terrible economic plight of Greece. Unfortunately, many of these movements are not of a left-wing character, although, as with parties like UKIP (UK Independence Party) in Britain, they do have some working class following and it has forced the ruling Conservative government in Britain to call for a referendum on whether to stay within the EU.

This could now be multiplied in other states or parts of them. It is not accidental that the Belgian Foreign Minister was the first high-ranking government official in Europe to come out tonight and call for concessions to Greece after the vote, demanding new negotiations “within hours.”. He rightly fears a growth in the powerful Flemish separatist movement in Belgium, which could split the country in two.

Many of the “post-Communist” East European countries have gained almost nothing from EU membership, and are facing recession and poverty. This could give rise to new movements there to leave the Union.

Most ironically, it could also give a boost to the growing forces calling in Germany calling for the country to leave the EU and the Euro currency and revert to the old Deutsch Mark.

However, the most important fact is that this heroic vote by the Greek people has fundamentally altered the balance of class forces in Europe in favor of the working class and severely undermined the European bourgeoisie in terms of its judgment and authority.

They have come out of this red-faced with their tails between their legs. They are shamed by this vote. It will inspire people across the continent to stand up to the capitalists in the EU and in their own countries and it will imbue them with confidence in their own power and ability to take on the forces of government. Europe will never be the same again after this vote.

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