Greece: New austerity measures imposed on working class

GreekPoliceEditorial comment from the current edition ‘Xekinima’ (fortnightly journal of the Greek section of the CWI, ‘Xekinima – Internationalist Socialist Organisation)

When New Democracy (Greece’s traditional right-wing party) and PASOK (the so-called “socialists”) were applying austerity policies, arguing that these were the way to a new period of prosperity, the mass of working class people were furious  and turned to SYRIZA to get rid of these ruling parties. Today the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the rest of the SYRIZA’s leadership are doing exactly the same thing as their austerity-making predecessors.

Despite SYRIZA’s grand words about “tough negotiations” and “red lines” that they shall not cross, the government once again agreed on harsh anti-social and anti-working class measures. The measures signed on 1 May (in the “updated Memorandum”) include among others:

  • From January 1st 2019, pensions will be cut by up to 18%. The measure concerns 900,000 pensioners who receive pensions of over 700 euros
  • Reduction of the annual, gross tax-free income by € 3,000 (from € 8,636 to € 5,681.) This means that workers who earn less than 400 euros per month (take home) will be taxed! This will be applied from January 1, 2020 (or 1/1/2019 if the financial and budget targets are not met)
  • Abolition of Sunday work-free days in tourist areas of the country. Given that most of Greece is a “tourist area”, it is clear that this leads to a general abolition of Sunday’s holiday
  • Legislation based on OECD recommendations on the liberalization of the food, beverage and tourism markets. Non-prescription drugs will also be sold at supermarkets
  • During out-of-court settlements, electronic auctions and protect bank executives, bosses’ can use measures to prevent any legal action being taken against them
  • Accelerate privatizations

These are measures that will further crush the living standards of the working and middle classes and will further deepen the crisis.

Challenging statements

The total amount of money that will be taken out of working class family budgets, as a result of these new measures corresponds to between 4.5 and 5 billion euros for the next three years (2018, 2019 and 2020). Yet leading members of SYRIZA, like Member of European Parliament, Papadimoulis, make provocative statements:

“… This agreement is a discharge note from the intensive care unit of the memorandum …”

Even Prime Minister Tsipras, in a recent interview on ANT1 TV Channel, had the audacity to say that the Greek people are not taking to the streets in protest and this is because they understand and accept the policies of his government!

This is a shameless attitude! The mass of the working class turned to SYRIZA on the basis of this party’s promises that they would abolish austerity. Instead they ended up tinkering one “red line” after another, causing deep disappointment among the masses. Now the leader of SYRIZA claims that this demoralization is an “agreement with their policies”!

Deficiencies of the Left – the need of a “united front”

At the same time, the mass or semi-mass Left parties (KKE (Greek communist party), LAE (Popular Unity), ANTARSYA (anti-capitalist left)) appear incapable of taking the necessary steps to organize resistance against the leveling of social rights and the continuing attacks. It is very characteristic of this incapacity, that they are unable even to organize a joint demonstration! This is not only true for the usual suspect, the KKE, but in regard to the LAE and ANTARSYA!

However, the common, unifying struggle of all the parties and organizations of the Left is one of the most important issues of the present period. Against the constant attacks of the government and the Troika, broad unity in the action, the cooperation of the whole of the Left and all organisations involved in the mass movement, is absolutely vital.

… and the coiling of the “revolutionary left”

At the same time, it is necessary for those organizations that agree that the answer to the crisis we are experiencing, alongside a united struggle against all new attacks, can only be the overall struggle to overthrow the capitalist system to coordinate their efforts. The building of a new, mass, revolutionary and internationalist new Left formation, appealing to fresh forces, is the historical task of our time. This task may seem difficult and distant at the moment, but there is no other way.

We live at a time when the accumulated defeats of the previous period are so heavy and the approach of mass and semi-mass parties of the Left is so disgraceful that the combination of these two factors keeps the movement back and paralyzed. This situation is temporary. Sooner or later the working class will be back with new waves of struggle. Faced with the great battles that will loom ahead, it is important to draw the necessary political conclusions about what was missing in the previous period. The answer is nothing less than a Left worthy of its name and of the revolutionary traditions of the Greek working class and mass movement.

Posted in: Greece, International