Socialist Worker

New Greek deal turns the screws on Syriza

As a European Union deal locks Greece into austerity, workers plan more protests, writes Dave Sewell

Issue No. 2442

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble negotiates with Syrizas Yanis Varoufakis

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble negotiates with Syriza's Yanis Varoufakis (Pic: Day Donaldson/Flickr)


Europe’s finance ministers have imposed a deal on Greece that locks it into austerity under its creditors’ control for another four months. 

The “Troika”—the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—has imposed austerity for the last five years after bailing out the bankers.  

The radical left party Syriza was elected last month to get rid of the Troika and austerity. 

But the agreement signed on Friday of last week gives these three institutions a veto over any reforms that would begin to roll back the austerity regime. 

Bargaining 

They were considering a list of reforms as Socialist Worker went to press. 

This includes taxing the rich, and increasing the minimum wage, but also pushing ahead with privatisation. 

But the deal stands in the way of Syriza’s promises to workers. It can keep some only at the expense of others—such as rehiring sacked cleaners but leaving positions in already understaffed hospitals unfilled. 

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras said in a TV address, “We won a battle, but not the war.” 

But German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble gloated that they would have “a hard time explaining the deal to Greek voters”.

The Greek government was under immense pressure, with £5 billion of debt repayments due at the end of this month.

This is when its bailout agreement was due to end—and a run on Greek banks gave the deadline extra force.

Now the Greek government has until June to reach a new deal on its debt. 

Syriza supporters say this has bought them some time. But it has bought the Troika time too—and with Syriza on the defensive it can be expected to make use of it.

There were two calls to protest against the deal made on Thursday.Activists linked to the Indignados movement called one, while the anti-capitalist left coalition Antarsya called another. 

Protests 

Panos Garganas, editor of Socialist Worker’s Greek sister paper Workers’ Solidarity, said, “The main demand is to reject the deal, and Antarsya links this with defaulting on the debt, leaving the EU and taking over the banks.

“It’s not clear if everyone from previous protests will be there, or if those most loyal to Syriza will abstain.”

University workers last week said they would call a strike on the day of their union’s first meeting with the new education minister.

Manolis Stathoupolos from Thessalonica, northern Greece, is one of over 2,000 school guards sacked by the last government. He told Socialist Worker, “I think we will get our jobs back. 

“If everything we’ve heard is true, then I think this is the first victory against the EU.

“But the people expect a lot more—and we will keep protesting. We can’t live without money, and we want to tell the people of Europe, ‘we want our freedom’.”

Panos said, “Workers’ struggles for their demands are what can beat austerity.  The left—including the critics inside Syriza—must unite behind them.”


Syriza MEP slams new deal

Syriza MEP and well-known anti-Nazi resistance veteran Manolis Glezos was the first to slam the deal.

In a withering statement he wrote, “Renaming the ‘Troika’ as the ‘institutions’, their ‘memorandum of understanding’ as an ‘agreement’ and the ‘lenders’ into ‘partners’ doesn’t change the situation.”

Glezos called for urgent opposition inside the party. He wrote, “The people voted in favour of what Syriza promised—to remove austerity.

“There can be no compromise between oppressor and oppressed.”

Syriza MEP Sofia Sakorafa—the first MP to quit the Labour-type Pasok party over its support for austerity—and leading Syriza economist John Milios quickly endorsed Glezos’ statement. 


Migrants march on parliament

by Katerina  Thoidou,  Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat

Migrants marching on parliament

Migrants marching on parliament (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


Hundreds of Greeks and migrants marched on parliament chanting “close the camps, open the factories” on Thursday of last week. 

There were other protests around Greece.

More than 4,000 prisoners are locked up in Guantanamo-type prison camps in Greece.

They face torture and there are also allegations of rape. 

Their only “crime” is that they’re migrants and refugees. 

These prisoners hoped the new government would free them. They have revolted twice since the election. 

Two prisoners have died, one from illness and another from suicide.

But the new police minister said they will only give “supervised” freedom—the kind normally given to criminals—to those inmates who have served six months.

Pushing for the closure of the camps and other migrant rights will be one of the main demands on the anti-racist demonstration on Saturday 21 March.

We are also demanding an end to the European Union’s “Frontex” border control system. 

Activists are pushing for the fascist Golden Dawn’s leaders to be tried and jailed, and for its supporters to be purged from the police and judiciary.


Workers’ struggle has power to defy bankers

Politicians claim that ordinary people in other countries will suffer if Greece doesn’t pay the debt. 

But they’ve slashed jobs and services all over Europe. Even in Germany 12 million people live in poverty thanks to a vicious wage squeeze. 

The bankers who lent money to Greece in pursuit of profit before the crisis have already been paid back.

Yet Syriza finance minister Yanis Varoufakis went into the “Eurogroup” finance ministers meeting pledging to pay it back in full—just not too quickly.

He hoped this compromise would win allies. But Dutch Labour-type social democrat Jeroen Dijsselbloem was as relentless as the German Tories.

The Spanish, Portuguese and Irish governments face difficult elections. They couldn’t stand Greece showing that there’s an alternative to the austerity that they’ve been imposing.

Social democratic governments in France and Italy are attacking workers’ rights. 

While there was little hope of a break with austerity inside the meetings, millions oppose it outside.

In Greece, strikes and occupations have blocked job cuts, kept hospitals open and stopped electricity being cut off to the poor. Mass protests brought governments down.

If those working class struggles deepen, they represent a power far greater than the bankers and bureaucrats.


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