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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Shame On Europe For Betraying Greece

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Sat, 18 Feb 2012 15:32:13 -0500

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Shame On Europe For Betraying Greece

    Capitalism is triumphant as EU states sacrifice
    the Greek people in a desperate attempt to
    appease the gods of speculation

By William Wall
The Independent (UK)
February 14, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/14/europe-betraying-greece?INTCMP=SRCH

'We condemn Greece to misery and poverty to keep
Standard & Poor's off our backs. But we have
miscalculated.' Photograph: Argyropoulos/Sipa/Rex
Features

The behaviour of the EU states towards Greece is
inexplicable in the terms in which the EU defines
itself. It is, first and foremost, a failure of
solidarity.

The "austerity package", as the newspapers like to call
it, seeks to impose on Greece terms that no people can
accept. Even now the schools are running out of books.
There were 40% cuts in the public health budget in 2010
- I can't find the present figure. Greece's EU
"partners" are demanding a 32% cut in the minimum wage
for those under 25, a 22% cut for the over 25s. Already
unemployment for 15-24-year-olds is 48% - it will have
risen considerably since then. Overall unemployment has
increased to over 20%. The sacking of public sector
workers will add to it. The recession predicted to
follow the imposition of the package will cause
unbearable levels of unemployment at every level.

In addition the "package" demands cuts to pensions and
public service pay, wholesale privatisation of state
assets - a fire-sale, since the global market is close
to rock bottom - and cuts to public services including
health, social welfare and education. The whole to be
supervised by people other than the Greeks. An entire
disciplinary and punishment system.

When we casually use a term like "bailout", it is
important to remember that it is not people who are
being bailed out, or at least not the Greek people. The
bailout will not save a single Greek life. The opposite
is the case. What is being "bailed out" is the global
financial system, including the banks, hedge funds and
pension funds of the other EU member states, and it is
the Greek people who are being ordered to pay - in
money, time, physical pain, hopelessness and missed
educational opportunities. The relatively neutral, even
stoic, term "austerity", is a gross insult to the Greek
people. This is not austerity; at best it is
callousness.

On top of this callousness, we must remember that the
strategy itself is nonsense. Every intelligent observer
is agreed that cuts do not produce growth. The highest
rate of growth in the EU at present is in Poland where
massive public investment is driving the economy. GDP
is declining or barely moving among the "austerity"
nations, including the UK.

In essence, this crisis is a failure of the EU states
to show solidarity in the face of an onslaught from the
financial markets. At first glance this seems to be a
very simple fight. In one corner you have nation
states, which have the wellbeing of their citizens as
their raison d'ĂȘtre; in the other you have global
capitalism as represented by the financial markets,
which has the wealth of a tiny few as its raison
d'ĂȘtre. But the nation state has, for a considerable
time, identified itself with those same markets. States
have agreed to see themselves as economies rather than
societies. More recently we have been led to believe
that the market alone can provide everything the
citizen needs and much more efficiently than the
structures that the citizens normally rely on and which
they have, over generations, erected as protections
against the revenge of the market.

This is the triumph of capitalism, that it has
persuaded the world that capitalism is the world.

It has led to the undoing of 200 years of struggle
between ordinary people and the super-rich. Trade
unions didn't appear overnight, they were a response to
exploitation. Their defeat has led to the ubiquity of
precarious, and now free, labour. Workers are not
protected in their workplace by capitalists, they are
protected by the laws won by struggle against the
capitalist. A sweatshop in China is a direct assault
not just on the rights of the Chinese worker but on
those of workers in, for example, the UK. Socialist
internationalism and solidarity were conceived as a way
of defeating that ploy. Old people do not die in the
streets not because charity has saved them but because
200 years of struggle has brought us the old age
pension and public health. The privatisation of those
services is a return to the 19th century. None of this
public good would have been won if people had
identified with the super-rich of 1812. Now that we
have been brought to such an identification, we stand
to lose them all over again.

Now we see capitalism at its most triumphant. Greek
police beat Greek people in order to impose the will of
the banks and hedge funds. The EU member states,
including Ireland, are the middleman, the quislings of
capital. Rather than reach out a hand of solidarity, we
say, "better them than us". As if the global markets
will choose to pass on Ireland once Greece has been
destroyed. Solidarity is not just compassion for one's
fellow man; it is also materialist self-interest. One
for all and all for one. We stand or fall together.
There is strength in unity.

Instead we have decided to sacrifice the Greek people
to the market in the hope that our sacrifice will
appease the gods of speculation. We condemn them to
misery and poverty to keep Standard & Poor's off our
backs. But we have miscalculated. Firstly, the
communist left currently stands at 42% in the polls,
Pasok at 8%. Pasok (the leading party in government)
will vanish and a combination of real leftwing parties
will win the next election. They will not bend the knee
and put their necks on our block.

It seems to me now that Greece will withdraw from the
euro and default on its debt. Who knows what will
happen to it then, but it can hardly be much worse than
what we want from them, and at least it will be
something of their own choosing. The speculators will
then take a little time to consider which of the other
economies to bet on. Perhaps then the Irish government
will regret its lack of solidarity. Whatever happens,
our behaviour and that of our EU compatriots has been
shameful.

    c 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its
    affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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