3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference, Athens, July 18-20, 2015
Greece: a turning point in the world capitalist crisis
The dramatic escalation of the political and economic crisis in the Eurozone centered on Greece in June-July 2015 marks a new stage in the global crisis of capitalism that erupted in 2007/08.
The feverish shifts of the situation and sharp zigzags, right and left, manifest the abrupt deterioration of the crisis and the rapid acceleration of the confrontation between irreconcilable class forces. What we have experienced over the last month (and it is still continuing) is a total class war ferociously waged by the imperialist EU headed by the Germany of Merkel and Schäuble, by the ECB and the IMF against the impoverished Greek popular masses, as the first battle against the peoples all over Europe, West and East.
In this on-going class war the Syriza leadership and government, wrongly portrayed , praised or demonized as the “radical left”, responded by raising the flag of class compromise and class peace both with the EU and the Greek ruling class, the white flag of surrender. By accepting beforehand the terms of the enemy to stay in the Eurozone and the EU, defeat was absolutely predictable from the start.
Crucial moments of this social war in its denouement are:
- the collapse, in June, of the five-month farce of “negotiations” between the troika and the Greek coalition government of Syriza with the right wing Independent Greeks elected to end austerity and social catastrophe;
- the popular pressure that imposed the turn to a Referendum on July 5 over the ultimatum posed by the troika of EU/ECB /IMF on June 25 for more draconian “austerity”;
- the unexpected huge anti-troika mass mobilization in Syntagma Square on July 3;
- the equally unexpected tremendous victory of the NO of the Greek people in the Referendum on July 5, amidst an unprecedented intimidation campaign, nationally and internationally, with all the banks closed by order of the ECB, and all the mass media in an orgy of misinformation;
- immediately after, the miserable capitulation of the Tsipras government to the same troika on an even worse “austerity program”, condemned, politically and economically, to fail. Now on the agenda are after the initial shock and confusion, new social upheavals and complete political destabilization- not only in Greece but also in Europe and internationally.
- a majority of government deputies with the vital support by the pro-imperialist bourgeois opposition vote in the Greek parliament, on July 15, the treaty of surrender demanded by the EU against the will of the Greek people, against the majority of the Central Committee of Syriza itself and 39 of its deputies, while the riot police, under governmental orders, launched a brutal repression with massive use of tear gas against a powerful popular rally of tens of thousands of protestors in front of the parliament.
This political- financial coup d’ état manifests clearly the imperialistic nature of the European Union and deepens the process of disintegration of the EU itself as well as of the declining bourgeois democracy.
Even the protagonist of this European counter-revolution, imperialist Germany, with the demonstration of all its extreme political and social sadism, supported by its satellites in Northern and Eastern Europe and the complicity of the other imperialist countries in the West, cannot be satisfied or secure by its Pyrrhic victory. To crush a weak Greek prime minister ready to surrender is not the same as to break the potential of social resistance or the fighting capacity of an oppressed but still proud, defiant and brave people, as quite recently the Greek people, on July 3 and 5, has proven, humiliating the troika and the ruling classes in Greece and in Europe.
The main target of German imperialist ferocity was precisely this potential of social resistance of the people in Greece and the danger of a political contagion of this manifestation of defiance and fighting capacity all over Europe. Even mainstream analysts such as George Friedman of ‘Stratfor” recognize it: “ It was not the [Greek] government’s position that troubled Germany the most, but the Greek referendum. If Germany forced the Greek government to capitulate, it was a conventional international negotiation. If it forced the Greek government to capitulate in the face of the electoral mandate of the Greek public , it was in many ways an attack on national sovereignty forcing a settlement not in opposition to the government but a direct confrontation with the electorate. ” ( George Friedman , The Empire strikes back: Germany and the Greek crisis, Stratfor, 14 July 2015). To condemn to eternal starvation and submission the resisting Greek people as a scaring example for all European peoples, Germany has included in this “agreement” of surrender special terms transforming Greece into a protectorate of German-led EU.
The head of the European Council Donald Tusk has summarized perfectly all the fears of the German and European bourgeoisie. As he is quoted by Financial Times (see Interview: Donald Tusk, Risk of “political contagion” tops financial fallout 17/7/2105):
“The febrile rhetoric from far-left leaders, coupled with high youth unemployment in several countries, could be an explosive combination.
“For me, the atmosphere is a little similar to the time after 1968 in Europe,” he said.
“I can feel, maybe not a revolutionary mood, but something like widespread impatience. When impatience becomes not an individual but a social experience of feeling, this is the introduction for revolutions.”
This fear was shared by Tsipras himself and his close leading circle, as former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis reveals in his interview to the Australian ABC news on the reaction of the Greek prime minister on July 5, the moment of the popular celebrations for the triumph of the NO: “ I entered the prime minister’s office elated. I was traveling on a beautiful cloud pushed by beautiful winds of the public’s enthusiasm for the victory of Greek democracy in the referendum. The moment I entered the prime ministerial office, I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation—a negatively charged atmosphere. I was confronted with an air of defeat, which was completely at odds with what was happening outside.” (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/greek-bailout-deal-a-new-versailles-treaty-yanis-varoufakis/6616532 )
Signing a treaty of capitulation by Tsipras, which is characterized even by the German magazine Der Spiegel as “a list of horrors” cannot be celebrated as the “end of history”, particularly as we live now the end of the late “end of History” proclaimed by imperialism in 1991. New and unexpected surprises are on the road.
The German bourgeoisie fully supported by Social Democracy “ succeeded” to sharpen all the inter-imperialist rivalries within and outside Europe.
Outside Europe, it was expressed but not limited to the sharp conflict between the IMF and the EU- actually between the US and Germany- on the unsustainable Greek debt and the need for “debt relief”, although the IMF was and is, even more than the EU, demanding the most draconian austerity in Greece. The Obama Administration has not hidden its fears for the “global systemic risk” ( Jack Lew) involved in a Grexit, particularly with a US economy still struggling with crisis and preparing for a possible rise of its interest rates.
The updated report of the IMF, on July 14, after the forced “agreement” reached in Brussels, blowing it up, actually, by rejecting it as increasing the Greek debt to 200 per cent of the GDP and demanding a “30-year moratorium of payments to make it sustainable” is a tremendous manifestation of the sharp conflict between Europe and America.
Within Europe, the hypocritical protests by Matteo Renzi in the Euro-Summit manifest the anxiety of over-indebted capitalist Italy to be the next target of Berlin.
The same applies, in a different form, to imperialist France. The old French-German axis of European capitalist integration based on the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 was broken long ago by the post-2008 crisis, as France has plunged into over-indebtedness, de-industrialization, and generalized social discontent. Although François Hollande and his (anti-)“socialist” neoliberal government functioned as another instrument of imperialist pressure and black mail on Greece, despite the illusions nurtured by Tsipras and Syriza, they had to take their distances at a certain point of the torture of the Greek delegation imposed by Schäuble, demanding a “temporary Grexit”.
The Euro as a common currency was from the beginning a project advanced by the French bourgeoisie and Germany only reluctantly accepted it on the basis of its re-unification , taking advantage of a free trade zone absolutely necessary to a basically export economy. Now, the French saw Schäuble advancing aggressively a “Grexit” as a first step to the dismantling of monetary union itself, while keeping the EU as a free trade zone. Apparently, under the shocks of the world crisis and a new wave of world recession , Germany is going back to Schäuble ‘s old plan for “ a Europe of multiple speeds” around a hard core on the north of the Alps- a German Europe unacceptable to its imperialist rivals. In such conditions, French government circles have spoken for the most brutal clash in the last Euro-group and Euro-Summit meetings between French and German interests for decades, namely from 1991 when Germany had promoted the unilateral separation of Croatia and Slovenia from Yugoslavia, opening Pandora’s box.
Even the incident between Schäuble shouting at Mario Draghi of the ECB shows that tensions are rapidly building up and centrifugal forces are tearing apart the entire EU project. Wolfgang Münchau quite aptly titled his commentary in the Financial Times(3/7/15) “ Greece’ s brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project”.
Actually, it is the entire EU project under demolition. This project, after the epochal event of the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, had as its strategic goal the expansion into Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the re-colonization of the entire former Soviet space, and thus the capitalist integration of Europe around the French-German axis to make the EU able to fight for hegemony in the chaotic post-Cold War world. Monetary unification of countries with very different and unequal social economic national structures was a necessary instrument to this strategy.
The implosion of finance capital globalization in 2007/08 has exploded all the accumulated internal contradictions within this project and historical space, including all the flaws of the architecture of the Euro reflecting, in the last instance, the fundamental contradiction between the internationalization of the economy and the National States, insoluble on capitalist bases.
In the Southern part of the EU and in its Eastern border, the Greek and Ukrainian tragedies are signaling the shipwreck of the grandiose project of European imperialism.
In every aspect, posited into the global picture, the Greek crisis reaching its climax now, is the manifestation of a new stage that the world capitalist crisis is entering.
The former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers , who has revived the notion of “secular stagnation”, directly connects the three main events of the recent financial drama internationally: the Greek-Eurozone crisis, the bursting of the Chinese stock market bubble, and the bankruptcy of Puerto Rico, “ the largest municipal bond default in American history” (Complacency and incrementalism are traps to avoid,Financial Times, July 13, 2015).
It is clear that the tactics and policies followed in the post-Lehman Brothers debacle by all the central governments and central banks, the injection of rivers of liquidity plus draconian austerity to make the people pay for the capitalist crisis to save the banks with their blood, have not only failed, but also prepared the conditions for new, more catastrophic explosions. The political implications for bourgeois rule in conditions of regime crisis are enormous.
Lawrence Summers makes a parallel between the short-term tactics used by all capitalist governments during the on-going crisis without any real strategy for a way out of the impasse and the US experience in the Vietnam war: “ At every step policymakers did enough to avoid disaster but not enough to offer a prospect of success- until the moment when helicopters left the Saigon embassy and US policy ended in failure ”
Probably it will be the Greek government that would try to escape by the legendary helicopter first, but the coalition of Merkel-Schäuble-Gabriel could, finally, not survive in their bunker in Berlin either.
What next? What do the working class and the pauperized masses in Greece and in Europe have to do immediately in the escalating social warfare? That’s the crucial question.
Overcoming the initial shock, confusion, and overwhelming feelings of betrayal by their leaders, feelings even of despair, the most combative contingents of the proletariat in Greece have to take the lead, but not alone; what is more than ever needed and vital is the active support and participation in a united struggle of all sections destroyed by the crisis and austerity in Greece and all over Europe, West and East, as well as in the wider region, first of all in the Balkans, former Soviet Union countries, and the Middle East. This is the message of this 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference.
The lessons of Greece have to be learned by the entire international workers and revolutionary movement, by all popular movements of the planet fighting for emancipation from imperialist capitalist barbarism.
To avoid defeat and capitulation , it becomes crystal clear that there is no reformist road to change the imperialist European Union and its institutions. This iron cage of capital, this prison of the peoples has to be smashed by the mass mobilization of all the oppressed and replaced by a real , socialist unification of the Continent from Lisbon to Vladivostok .
To avoid defeat, to advance towards victory and social emancipation, it is clear that today there is no possibility for a class compromise with capital in crisis to “humanize capitalism” ; there is no national, peaceful, parliamentary, reformist road for a way out of the social cannibalism of “austerity”- the only road forward is a united class front of the oppressed, organization, social revolution, workers power without bureaucrats, and international Socialism.
We appeal to all those fighters against imperialism and capitalism, coming from different political traditions but uncompromising in their struggle against the exploiters and oppressors, all those who refuse to follow an accommodating Left sinking into hollow verbalism, abstract propagandism, electoralism, sectarian self-proclamation, or apolitical syndicalism: Let us join ranks into a common international struggle to open a revolutionary way out of social disaster feeding despair but also strengthening State authoritarianism and brutality, the threat of fascism, xenophobia,and all forms of racism.
We have to collectively elaborate a program of social liberation and a plan of action to organize and implement it. From our part, now more than ever we passionately propose the following main lines
- the people has to tear to pieces all treaties of surrender to permanent “austerity” to save the banks and global capital
- the so-called “debt relief” or “restructuring” proposed by the IMF or Tsipras is a trap. For unilateral abolition of the debt!
- against the terrorism of the banks – nationalization of the banking system under workers control into a public bank independent from Draghi’s ECB
- Expropriate the expropriators! The capitalists and oligarchs have to pay for the crisis of their system. All production in the hands of the workers!
- Down with all capitalist governments in the EU, the instruments of the troika! Down with the bourgeois government of capitulators in Greece! Down with the Renzi, Hollande/Vals, Rajoy, Coelo, Cameron etc governments! Break the Police state machine and all repression apparatuses- all political power to the workers based on workers and people’s councils and assemblies!
- Down with “Fortress Europe” exterminating the migrants that its wars and starvation policies produce, down with all forms of racism, far right populism and fascism! Exploited and oppressed of all the world unite and fight for freedom and justice!
- Down with the US /EU imperialists, NATO, and imperialist wars! For bread, jobs, peace and freedom!
- Let’s build revolutionary organizations among the masses, independent from all bureaucrats, and reformist class collaborationists! Let’s build a real revolutionary International of the workers and all oppressed!
Forward for world Socialism, for universal human emancipation, a humankind without exploitation, oppression, humiliation of human beings by human beings!