Socialist Worker

Protests at EU Greek cuts deal

by Panos Garganas in Athens
Issue No. 2459

Thousands of people joined trade union demonstrations outside the Greek parliament last Sunday

Thousands of people joined trade union demonstrations outside the Greek parliament last Sunday (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


The European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continued their brutish blackmail of the Greek government this week. 

Negotiations between the government and its creditors were entering their final stage. A deal was set to go through the Eurogroup of finance ministers on Wednesday of this week and an EU summit on Thursday. Then the German and Greek parliaments must ratify it by next Tuesday.

The EU and IMF had been withholding the last £5 billion of Greece’s bailout loan until the government, led by left party Syriza, agreed to their conditions. 

Under the deal there will be an extension of the bailout programme and the austerity that was imposed with it.

Greece is to make “savings” of £5.7 billion a year. The government is trying to present the burden as falling on the better-off, with an increase in tax for profitable companies. But that is a tiny aspect of their plans compared to the burden on ordinary people.

An increase in VAT will mean further bitter hardship for the more vulnerable. 

Pensions and wages will be cut through an increase in national security contributions after years of attacks that have cut wages by more than a third on average.

Syriza was elected in January on the back of waves of struggle. 

Trapped

It promised to end austerity. But trapped by the EU’s rules and the power of the market it has made concessions.

All talk of raising the minimum wage and reversing a pension cut for the poorest has disappeared.

Already recent figures show that all forms of state expenditure are down in the first months of this year compared to last year. The EU and IMF put pressure on Greece with a series of loan deadlines. 

And after £4 billion was withdrawn from Greek banks last week, German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble added the threat of freezing people’s bank accounts.

This pressure has produced a backlash to the left.

Most Syriza voters thought there could be a fair deal with the EU. Now they see that fairness is not on the agenda of the powerful.

Thousands of people, including delegations of workers, joined a trade union demonstration outside parliament last Sunday. 

The ADEDY public sector union federation called it on a platform of opposition to the deal. But that didn’t stop people with Syriza banners coming. 

ADEDY called for funding and staff for public services, reversal of all the cuts, cancellation of Greece’s debt and public control of the banks. And it resolved to call strikes if the deal goes ahead.

Meanwhile at a pro-austerity demonstration on Monday night, the main organisers were the Tory party New Democracy and support came mainly from the upper classes.

The government is now trying to blackmail the left wing of Syriza into voting for the deal in parliament.

Leadership figures have threatened to take MPs’ seats off them, which the Greek electoral system allows. 

Oppose

But the main argument is, don’t oppose what this government is doing or you will get another government from the right.

The same argument has already been put to health workers by their union leaders. But it failed to stop them striking—including Syriza supporters.

Whatever the splits in Syriza the deal is likely to go through, possibly with support from parties to Syriza’s right. But there will be demonstrations and strikes.

The port workers have already been striking against privatisation, and health workers against cuts. Autumn could bring big battles with the teachers and electricity workers.

In economic terms the EU and IMF have got their way and imposed a new round of austerity. 

But politically, this has radicalised Syriza voters and sympathisers into harder opposition to austerity.

So the “Greek experiment” is by no means over.


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