On 10 November, Greece’s two main parliamentary parties, Pasok (roughly similar to Labour) and ND (equivalent of the Tories), agreed after marathon negotiations to appoint Lucas Papademos as prime minister.
LAOS, the ultra-right populist party, and DHSY, a split from ND, enthusiastically supported him. The Green Party and DHMAR (a centre-left split from the Eurocommunists) discreetly supported him.
All the above parties form a “black coalition” to meet the demands of the EU-ECB-IMF Troika, the financial speculators, and the asset strippers, and make the majority of the Greek population pay for the crisis.
Politicians from all the mainstream political parties (including the majority of Pasok MPs) have denounced former Pasok prime minister George Papandreou’s decision on 31 October to call for a referendum on the EU’s new 27 October package. They claim that it compromised Greece’s position in the eurozone, almost brought Greece to bankruptcy, and caused Europe and even world-wide turmoil in the markets.
Theodoros Pangalos (Pasok, and vice president of the government) said that the referendum should not have been called because it clashes with EU rules, and the issues at stake are too complicated to be reduced to a referendum question and too complicated for the Greek people to be able to make an informed decision!
In other words, the very last thing that the capitalist class minority wants is for the Greek people to have a say over the policies that are ruining their lives.
The fact that the new prime minister is a former central banker who has never been elected to anything is cited by all media pundits as an advantage. He is not electorally responsive to the people, so he cannot break any electoral promises. On the contrary, he is appointed to keep the promises to the Troika.
The “new” government is anything but new. The cabinet ministers of the Pasok government are still there, except former minister of state Kastanidis, who has been punished for supporting and encouraging Papandreou to go for the referendum. The only shifts are in a more reactionary, more neoliberal, more anti-working-class direction.
Four MPs from the ultra-right LAOS party are part of the government of technocrats. This shows the convergence of the ultra neo-liberal tendencies of the political establishment with the ultra-right nationalistic and populist tendencies.
As a lot of discussion has taken place about the threat of a military coup in Greece, it is interesting to mention the history of the newly appointed LAOS minister of transportation, Makis Boridis.
Before joining LAOS party in 2005, he was the youth secretary of EPEN, a party that was created from prison by the 1967-73 military dictator Georgios Papadopoulos. EPEN was the party where Michaloliakos, the current secretary of Xrysi Aygi, the Greek BNP, started his political career.
As a student, Boridis participated in violent attacks on anarchists. There are pictures with him posing alongside French fascist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
This man is part of the unelected, but uniformly approved, government, and none of his social democratic fellow cabinet members have stated their concern.
The French Socialist Party (Pasok sister party), despite its endorsement of neo-liberal policies, has declared: “The French socialists express their shock at the entry of the ultra-right party LAOS into the Greek Government... President Sarkozy has congratulated the Lucas Papademos government. The French socialists refuse to do so”.
LAOS leader George Karatzaferis stated his conditions for backing the new government. He wants the very limited legislation of the Pasok government on immigrants’ rights and their right to apply for a Greek citizenship and electoral rights after ten years in Greece to be withdrawn.
The mission of the new government is to push through even more vicious austerity measures, an even more tougher 2012 budget, more attacks on the working class and workers’ rights.
Papademos’s motto is that Greece’s position within the eurozone is at stake, and thus any sacrifice from the Greek population should be acceptable. Papademos has stated the following targets:
• Take the necessary measures to accomplish the aims set by the 2011 budget. Submit the 2012 budget before 20 November and vote it through by the end of December, with a target of collecting €11 billion from the Greek population.
• Speed up the austerity measures which have not been implemented due to the workers’ resistance. 30,000 public sector workers should be placed in efedreia (“reserve employment”) by the end of December. 30% of public organisations are to shut down or merge by the end of December, adding a further 4,000 to 5,000 public sector workers to the “reserve”. Those workers’ wages will be slashed by 50% to 60% and eventually (within a year) they will be sacked.
• More public sector organisations are to be closed or merged in 2012. A further 70,000 public sector workers being placed in “reserve”. Legislation to allow the recruitment of new public sector workers with reduced wages and restricted rights and conditions. Cut down wages and pensions via the “homogeneous salary scheme” for all public sector, utility sector, and council workers.
• Further reductions in pensions; increase in retirement age; an increase in contributions and a reduction in health and other social benefits. These reductions will be on the top of the already implemented reductions in pensions of 20% and up to 40% reductions for younger pensioners.
• The further enforcement and collection of taxation via the utility bills. The new property tax to become permanent, not a two-year emergency measure. The abolition or significant reduction of tax reliefs for money spent on rent, health, education, food.
• The implementation of laws to open up “closed” professions such as taxi drivers, lorry drivers, pharmacists, etc.
• Speed-up of the privatisation programme. Sell off €1.5 billion of public property and public services by the end of 2011, €11 billion by the end of 2012, and a total of €50 billion by the end of 2015.
• Get the sixth instalment of the bailout (€8 billion) by 15 December. Ratify in parliament, as soon as possible, the new Troika bailout fund of €130 billion and the 50% haircut on Greek debt.
• Initiate and conclude negotiations with Troika for a new austerity package by 15 of December.
Even the creditors are already calculating on the failure of these austerity measures. A recent study by the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch says that “the governments of the eurozone are getting prepared for Greece’s disorderly bankruptcy”.
Amid a crisis and regression, the response by the government and the Troika is more and more extensive attacks on the working class. Those will further reduce tax contributions from workers and make more workers unemployed and dependent on the benefit system, with reduced purchasing power. As the vicious circle turns, it sucks workers’ pensions and wages into the bankers’ black hole.
Already 908,000 people are unemployed, or 18.4 %. Unemployment exceeds 20% in the north of Greece (e.g., 23% in the west of Macedonia), 43.5% among under-25s, and 22% among women. Within one year the unemployment rate has risen 50%. In other words, the 300,000 jobs that were created in 10 years of growth were destroyed by one year of the austerity measures.
The threat of unemployment has led a lot of workers to sign individual agreements rather than collective bargaining agreements, cutting their wages from the meagre 760 euros per month to 560 euros. Some 320,000 workers receiving a monthly income of 456 euros per month (below the 460 euros per month of unemployment benefit).
GSEE, the union organisation for private sector workers, and ADEDY (public sector) are in a state of paralysis. Detached from the workers’ lives and conditions, the bureaucrats are driven solely by their attempt to secure their funds, their legal status, their offices, and their own wages.
Before the final coalition agreement, ADEDY, under Pasok influence, decided to call off strikes planned for Thursday 10 November, on the grounds that they did not want to disrupt the attempts being made for the formation of a national government.
The president of GSEE said: “No specific date for action has been decided yet as the current political situation is fluid and our country in a very compromised position”.
Both KKE (the diehard-Stalinist Greek Communist Party) and Syriza (a coalition around the former Eurocommunist faction) have rightly refused direct or indirect participation in the national government, and have resisted the hysterical calls for national unity in the name of Greece’s “European Road” and remaining in the eurozone.
However, their reaction to Papandreou’s call for a referendum was at most that of numbness. They fell far behind the fighting mood of the workers and youth. They did not expose the move to call off the referendum for what it was: the taken away from 99% of the population by the 1 per cent of their democratic right to have a say over the policies that are running their lives.
Both KKE and Syriza are calling for elections now and the escalation of the workers’ struggle. KKE is calling rallies all around Greece to organise the resistance, but they resemble pre-election rallies, directing most of the workers’ anger to the expression of their discontent via the ballot box and an electorally strengthened KKE.
Syriza is still stuck with its Euro-Keynesian response to the crisis, advocating Eurobonds and productive investments as part of a progressive democratisation of the European Union and eurozone. Its legalistic roots were revealed when Syriza’s leader requested to meet the president of Greece after 28 October protests to discuss how to restore the smooth and democratic functioning of society.
KKE is stuck with a policy of seeking an “anti-monopoly” popular people’s government and a theory of stages. It has put forward a nationalistic version of Keynesian policies, through Greek exit from the eurozone and the EU, without any direct connection to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. KKE refuses to raise aggressive transitional demands and reduces itself to raising defensive slogans (for the working class to secure its current wages and working conditions).
KKE’s refusal to participate in a united front against austerity measures front shows its sectarian and isolationist politics. Using revolutionary lingo and talking about the need to form an anti-monopoly people’s front, KKE is still refusing to form a united front with the majority of workers who are leaving the Pasok party and are losing their faith upon their trade union leaders.
The workers’ movement cannot afford to restrict itself to lukewarm actions or to place itself to a defensive waiting state. It is imperative to organise general meetings, coordinate the struggle of different sections of the workers’ movement, link with the community movement, and occupy every public sector organisation that threats to place even one worker in “reserve” and every private company that makes even one worker redundant.
It is the duty of the revolutionary left to speed up the process by not only participating and observing the struggles but organising and being the vanguard.
The hell that the working people of Greece are currently experiencing is due to the rotten, decaying, and disastrous capitalist system.
That is why the slogan of exit from the eurozone and the European Union cannot offer an exit from the crisis as long as the capitalist system remains intact.
Greek workers should aim at a continuous general strike alongside the poor peasants, the ruined small shop-owners, the pensioners, the unemployed, the school and university students and the neighbourhood community movements who are resisting the degradation of services and quality of life in their communities. It is important for the workers to form, in every workplace, workers’ committees to organise and direct their struggle from below. It is important for the rank and file movement to be in control of their struggles.
A central organ that supports, organises, coordinates and promotes committees of self-defence for every struggle should be formed.
The solution lies in the power of workers’ struggles. As the struggles evolve and escalate the workers are looking for solutions, to defend their lives and rights, outside the “whole system” and its laws and structures.
• Overthrow the national unity government. No to the dictatorship of the bankers.
• Refuse to pay for the crisis, in euros or in drachmas.
• No sacrifice for the euro.
• Abolish the debt. Not a penny to the creditors.
• Freeze and abolish any workers’ debts.
• Civil disobedience and refusal to pay government-imposed taxes.
• Nationalisation under workers’ control of the banks and big business, with no compensation.
• Workers’ control of prices, wage increases, reduction in working hours, work for all.
• Pension increases in line with wages, reduction in the age of retirement.
• Ban redundancies. Unemployment benefit in line with wages.
• Open borders. Legalise all migrant workers. Equal pay, equal workers’ rights — Greek and migrant workers united against racism.
• For a public sector in the service of the people and society’s needs. For an extension of education, health, transport and welfare.
• Lucas Papademos was a prominent manager of the Bank of Greece in 1985, when Andreas Papandreou, then prime minister of a Pasok government, initiated the first package of austerity measures.
• In 1989 he was an adviser of the then coalition government and contributed to the establishment (via supplying with licences) of the private mobile phone companies.
• He was for eight years to 2002 the director of the Bank of Greece, and a special advisor to the then Pasok prime minister Simitis. He contributed to the cooking of the statistics and the fiddling of the books which enabled Greece to enter the eurozone. Sarkozy’s and Merkel’s outrage, 10 years later, about Greece’s fake statistics, is exposed as hypocritical.
• During the 1999-2001 stock market scandal, he was the director of the Bank of Greece.
• From 2002 to 2010 he was the vice president of the ECB.
• From 2010 onwards he was a special economic advisor to George Papandreou and his discredited government.
• Last but not least, he is still a member and a lobbyist for the Trilateral Commission. The Trilateral Commission is an organisation formed in the 1970s by the multinational corporations from the then three major imperialist centres (USA, Western Europe, Japan).
Papademos is not the solution to the problem. On the contrary he is at the very heart of the problem.