20 Days Remaining

Saturday 20th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IN CHRIS MULLIN’S novel and TV series A Very British Coup, left-wing Labour Party prime minister Harry Perkins finds himself besieged on all sides.

Senior figures in the security service, the military, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the US embassy, the Conservative Party and the City of London — and in his own party — plot to destabilise his democratically elected government. Among other things, a financial crisis is engineered as capitalists go on strike and refuse to buy government bonds.

Then, suddenly, Perkins pulls a white rabbit out of the hat to save the day — a massive aid-and-trade deal with the Soviet Union, negotiated in total secrecy.

Well, the 1980s which made such a scenario credible are now a world away. Today, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is no Harry Perkins and Russia is not the Soviet Union.

But it should come as no surprise that Tsipras has been to Moscow to discuss financial and economic relations with President Vladimir Putin.

His Syriza government is under enormous pressure from the EU, IMF and right-wing elements in Greece to meet the conditions being demanded in return for further so-called bailout funds.

Previous Athens regimes ran up debts to German, French, Italian and Greek banks, EU member states, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF totalling more than €322 billion (£230bn). The EU and US bankers Goldman Sachs even colluded in concealing the scale of the initial deficits and debt, so that Greece could meet the criteria for joining the eurozone.

Much of that money was spent on armaments and corrupt prestige projects such as the Athens Olympics, as well as on essential social programmes, while the rich and big business took advantage of lax tax and regulatory systems to dodge their own financial responsibilities.

The ordinary people of Greece have since paid the price, as public services have been slashed or privatised, pensions and welfare benefits cut to the bone and taxes driven up remorselessly, as demanded by lenders and creditors as the conditions for new or restructured loans.

As a result of this austerity programme, the Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter. Employment remains at 26 per cent, 50 per cent for young people.

These vicious policies have been inflicted so that the holders of Greek government bonds (mostly governments, the ECB and IMF since the debt was largely “nationalised”) can get their money back.

So far, it’s the bankers and speculators who have been bailed out — not the ordinary people of Greece, who rejected their country’s corrupt elite in January.

Now the EU and ECB jackals want more cuts and privatisations before they will release funds to help Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis meet loan repayments of €1.6bn (£1.1bn) due at the end of this month.

However, a Russian loan will merely postpone the final resolution of this Greek tragedy. Greece may have to reject the euro and even the EU altogether, and strengthen mutually beneficial relations with Russia, China and India, if its people are to emerge with any prospect of building a free, civilised and socially just society.

The lessons for us in Britain are clear enough.

The Greek people need our solidarity. The EU is no friend of public services, the welfare state, democratic self-government or the working class and the people in general.

And austerity is a medicine which enriches those who dispense it while destroying those compelled to swallow it.