Greece has a new government. It has been imposed on the country by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF). It’s headed up by a former banker. And it includes open fascists as ministers.
The new government will present its outline plans to the Greek parliament. It is talking about deep austerity measures and cuts right through to 2016.
This is supposed to be a temporary government. It is meant to last for three or four months before elections are called. But whoever wins the election will have the cuts programme imposed on them. So much for democracy.
So far we’ve been told that Greece is a special case—that if the Greek people make sacrifices then the euro will stabilise.
But what’s happened in Italy has blown that argument out of the water. We are now looking at instability on an even greater scale and for an even longer period.
That fact hasn’t prevented a lot of talk in the media about how much better things are now that we have a “responsible” government. This line plays into the idea that politicians are to blame for the crisis, not bankers.
But people see through this. They know the “sacrifices” we are being ordered to make are to pay off the banks. So the notion that a new government will help diffuse popular anger is wishful thinking.
People demonstrated and went on strike throughout October. That was the context of the new government. It was cobbled together in a panic at the scale of opposition on the streets of Greece.
And this government will face immediate opposition the moment it tries to implement its cuts programme. People will not give up fighting just because the new prime minister Lucas Papademos is a “respected” banker.
The previous Greek government, headed by George Papandreou, put us under the heel of the IMF and the European Central Bank. Workers’ action brought it down.
Papandreou’s last act was to propose a referendum on the bailout. Every stock market plunged in fear that workers would vote no.
But people are also anxious about what’s round the corner. The current crisis exploded four years ago in the US banking system. We were told that European banks weren’t exposed to such debts. That was a lie.
Then the crisis moved on to engulf government-backed bond markets. We were told this would be confined to a few southern European countries that weren’t productive or competitive enough. That too turned out to be a lie.
So we can have no confidence that this time we have a solution. The scale of cuts they are talking about is staggering and would involve tremendous sacrifice from workers. Some 60,000 civil service jobs are under threat.
Greece is looking at paying out 20 billion euros each year to the banks to cover interest alone. This is double what the Greek economy was paying ten years ago.
Over the last 20 years Greece has paid the equivalent of twice its GDP in servicing its debt. So we worked two out of the last 20 years just to pay back bankers. Now they’re saying we’ll have to double that. It’s not on.
Now the left is seen as the official opposition. The only three political parties that are not in government are the Communist Party, Synaspismos and the anti-capitalist left.
The opposition to austerity in Greece has now become an international issue. Bosses everywhere fear the contagion of crisis and resistance. The Greek example can help spread resistance.
Panos Garganas is editor of Workers Solidarity, our sister paper in Greece