Socialist Worker

Protests in Germany as rulers try to beat Greece

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2446

Protesters in Frankfurt last week

Protesters in Frankfurt last week (Pic: Montecruz Foto on Flickr)


The latest standoff between Europe’s rulers and the Greek government began this week. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel held crunch talks in Berlin. 

Last month’s deal granted Greece a four-month bailout extension. Yet both its debt crisis and blackmail from its creditors continues. 

More than £1 billion was pulled out of Greek banks last week. 

The Greek government is struggling to pay £1.1 billion in pensions and salaries this month. It also has £4.3 billion in loan repayments due over two weeks.

But European institutions refused to release the bailout money they agreed. 

They accused the Greek government of not imposing free market “reforms” quickly enough. 

Tsipras’ radical left Syriza party, elected in January, still pushed ahead last week with a “humanitarian crisis bill” and a debt relief bill to aid the poorest. 

Tsipras wrote to Merkel. He urged her “not to allow a small cash flow issue” to “turn into a large problem for Greece and for Europe.”

But his pleas fell on deaf ears—whether they were addressed to Merkel or the European Central Bank (ECB) and France and Italy’s leaders who he hopes to split from her austerity project.

Europe’s rulers are determined to entrench austerity and attack workers’ rights. 

They’re hoping this will restore their profits and get them out of the crisis. Pushing Greece into bankruptcy is a small price for them to pay.

Opposition

But there is opposition within the European Union (EU) from its periphery to its core.

Thousands of protesters spoiled the fanfare at the opening of the ECB’s new offices in Frankfurt on Thursday of last week. 

More than 5,000 people blocked roads during the day. And up to 30,000 people joined a march and rally in the evening called by the Blockupy coalition.

Much of the media coverage focused on protesters’ “violence”—as if setting a few cars on fire compares to the lives wrecked by austerity in Greece and elsewhere.

Delegations of trade unionists from all over Europe joined the march, as did workers from across Germany.

Germany’s bosses have benefitted from being the EU’s high export economic powerhouse. 

But its workers haven’t. The same politicians who are out to humiliate Greece have pushed their wages down and rolled back their workplace rights. 

Students from ten student unions marched on the Greek ministry of education on Thursday of last week.

They chanted “Cancel the debt” and “Money for health and education, not banks”.

They brought the student movement’s demands to the new minister Aristides Baltas. 

He said their demands were just, but couldn’t be met because of Greece’s debt commitments.

To beat austerity, it will mean taking the movements and their demands forward. 

It also means reaching out to angry German workers—not telling protesters to wait for the mercy of the German ruling class. 


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