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Europe: Solidarity with the resistance of the Greek workers (updated May 9)

Greek workers stage general strike, March 2010.

April 30, 2010

1. The global economic crisis continues. Massive amounts of money have been injected into the financial system – US$14 trillion in bailouts in the United States, Britain and the eurozone, $1.4 trillion in new bank loans in China last year – in an effort to restabilise the world economy. But it remains an open question whether or not these efforts will be enough to produce a sustainable recovery. Growth remains very sluggish in the advanced economies, while unemployment continues to rise. There are fears that a new financial bubble centred this time on China is developing. The protracted character of the crisis – which is the most severe since the Great Depression – reflects its roots in the very nature of capitalism as a system.

2. After a harsh wave of job cuts, in Europe the focus on the crisis is now on the public sector and social welfare system. The very financial markets that have been rescued thanks to the bailouts are now up in arms about the increase in government borrowing this has involved. They are demanding massive cuts in public expenditure. This amounts to a class attempt to shift the costs of the crisis from those who precipitated it – above all, the banks – to working people – not just those employed in the public sector but also all those who consume public services. The demands for austerity and public sector "reform" are the clearest sign that neoliberalism, intellectually discredited by the crisis, nevertheless continues to dominate policy making.

3. Greece is currently in the eye of the storm. It is one of several European economies that are particularly vulnerable, partly because of a buildup of debt during the boom, partly because Greece finds it hard to compete with Germany, the giant of the eurozone. Under pressure from the financial markets, the European Commission and the German government, the government of George Papandreou has torn up its election promises and announced cuts amounting to 4 per cent of national income.

4. Fortunately Greece has a magnificent history of social resistance running back to the 1970s. Following on from the youth revolt of December 2008, the Greek workers’ movement has responded to the government’s cuts packages with a wave of strikes and demonstrations.

We also welcome the example of the Iceland referendum in which people rejected debt refunding imposed by the banks.

5. Greek workers need the solidarity of socialists, trade unionists and anti-capitalists everywhere. Greece is simply the first European country to have been targeted by the financial markets, but they have plenty of others in their sights, first of all, Spain and Portugal.

6. We need a program of measures that can lift the economy out of crisis on the basis of giving priority to people’s needs rather than profits and imposing democratic control over the market. We need to stand for an anti-capitalist answer: our life, our health, our jobs before profits.

• All cuts in domestic public expenditure to be halted or reversed: stop pensions ‘reform’; health and education are not for sale;

• A guaranteed right to work and a program of public investment in green jobs – public transport, renewable energy industries, and adapting private and public buildings to reduce carbon dioxide emissions;

• For a public banking service and financial system under public control;

• No scapegoating of immigrants and refugees: legalise them!;

• No to military expenditure: withdrawal of Western troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, drastic cuts in military spending, and the dissolution of NATO.

7. We resolve to organise European solidarity activities again cuts and capitalist attacks. A victory for Greek workers will strengthen resistance to the cuts elsewhere.

Signed by:

Greece: Aristeri Anasynthes, Aristeri Antikapitalistiki Syspirosi, Organosi Kommuniston Diethniston Elladas-Spartakos, Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma, Synaspismos Rizospastikis Aristeras, Syriza

Austria: Linkswende 

Belgium: Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire - Socialistische arbeiderspartij

Britain: Socialist Resistance, Socialist Workers Party

Croatia: Radnička borba

Cyprus: Ergatiki Dimokratia, Yeni Kıbrıs Partisi (YKP)

France: Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste

Germany: internationale sozialistische linke, marx21, Revolutionär Sozialistischen Bund

Italy: Sinistra Critica

Ireland: People Before Profit Alliance, Socialist Workers Party

Netherlands: Internationale Socialisten, Socialistische Arbeiderspartij

Poland: Polska Partia Pracy, Pracownicza Demokracja

Portugal: Bloco de Esquerda

Russia: Vpered

Serbia: marks21

Spanish state: En lucha/En lluita, Izquierda Anticapitalista, Partido Obrero Revolucionario

Switzerland: Gauche anticapitaliste, Mouvement pour le socialisme/Bewegung für Sozialismus, SolidaritéS

Turkey : Devrimci Sosyalist İşçi Partisi, Özgürlük ve Dayanışma Partisi

Syriza: `International solidarity and joint action ... is timely and imperative'

By Syriza

Dear comrades,

We welcome with satisfaction and endorse your initiative. We state that we are availiable and we will participate in any event organised in the near future. The international solidarity and joint action of the European left and the worker and popular resistance movements at this time of crisis is timely and imperative.

For workers and youth in Greece and for political parties and organisations of the left who are struggling against the unprecedented attack launched on labour and social rights by the Greek government, the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), solidarity initiatives such as yours illustrate an important moral and political support and we thank you for that. It is absolutely necessary to organise resistance across Europe, as the crisis of neoliberal capitalism in the way it is manifested today in the EU exacerbates the growing attacks on the working class, leading millions in poverty and misery. SYRIZA responded to this situation with the positions adopted on March 15 stating that:

All of these hard, neoliberal measures are directed by and serve the European Stability Pact and the Lisbon Treaty.

The crisis should be paid by those who created it. The rich. The profits of large enterprises, banks and speculators. This can be achieved if we present in all its aspects, clearly but also as demands the following political points:

A. Increase tax rate to 45% on big capital, increase taxes on large real estate and stock transactions. Taxation of church property. VAT increase in luxury products/services and reduce VAT on the basic necessities.

B. Slash military spending by 50%.

C. Public and social control of the financial system with a perspective to nationalising banks.

D. Recovery and nationalising businesses and utilities of strategic importance, with public and social control.

E. Increase in health spending, education, unemployment relief and spending on social infrastructure. Exclusion of education and health from the processes of commercialisation and market development.

F. Increase salaries and pensions. No increase in the retirement age. Increase recruitment and freeze layoffs. Preserve the universal and redistributing character of the social insurance system.

G. At the same time SYRIZA is urged to deepen discussion on the left -- radical answers on the fundamental questions of addressing the debt. The secretariat -- in principle -- makes the call “to renegotiate the debt”, but recognising the need to follow the discussion on building an integrated view.

SYRIZA will lead at the European level, with parties and organisations of the European left, with forces and organisations of the labour movement and social movements, to create a front against the Stability Pact and the Treaty of Lisbon. Based on the above guidelines we are preparing a European meeting of all the forces of the European Left in the autumn in Athens.

For the secretariat of SYRIZA

Ntavanelos A. (Coordinator of the secretariat),
Mastrogianopoulos T., Sapounas G. (European Initiative of SYRIZA)

SYRIZA
(Synaspismos Rizospastikis Aristeras)
Coalition of Radical Left
39, Valtetsiou str
10681 Athens –Greece
Tel. +30210 3829910, fax. +30 210 3829911
e-mail: grafeia@syriza.gr
web site: www.syriza.gr

[These statements were first posted at the ESSF website.]

Support to the Greek people’s resistance against the dictatorship of creditors!

By Committee of the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) international, translated by Christine Pignoulle

May 5, 2010 -- The new austerity plan released on May 2, 2010, is a disaster for the Greek population: for workers in the private as well as the public sector, retired people, or the unemployed, i.e. those deprived of a job. Here are some of the measures it involves:

- Freezing of wages and retirement pensions in the public sector for five years;
- Suppression of the equivalent of two months of wages for civil servants;
- The main VAT rate has moved up to 23% after 19% and 21%;
- The other VAT rates have also increased (5% to 5.5% and 10% to 11%);
- Taxes on fuel, spirits and tobacco have been raised by 10% for the second time within a month;
- Early retirements (related to stressful work) are prohibited under 60;
- The legal age for women’s retirement will be raised from 60 to 65 by 2013;
- The legal age for men’s retirement will depend on life expectancy;
- 40 full years at work (instead of 37, outside study periods and unemployment) will be required to be entitled to a full retirement pension;
- This pension will be calculated on the worker’s average salary over the years instead of the last salary (which means a net curtailing of 45% to 60%)
- The government will reduce its operating expenditures by EUR 1.5 billion (which means less money for education and health care);
- Public investments will also be reduced by EUR 1.5 billion;
- A new minimum salary for youth and long-term unemployed is set up (i.e. the equivalent of the ‘CPE’ that trade unions and young people rejected in France).

This is a windfall for financial markets!

- Transport, energy and some services will be liberalised and opened to privatisation;
- The financial sector (mainly banks) will benefit from a funds set up with the help of the EU and the IMF;
- Flexibility of work will be increased;
- Layoffs will become easier;
- The Greek economy is now controlled by the IMF.

Since Greece is part of the euro zone, it can neither devalue its currency nor play on interest rates. Its debt cannot be restructured either since European financial institutions hold 2/3 of it. These same banks will further borrow from the European Central Bank (ECB) at a 1% rate in order to make loans to govenments (against interests). As a counterpart to the above measures, countries in the euro zone will lend on an individual basis some EUR 100 to 135 billion over 3 years to Greece at a rate of 5% (45 billion in 2010). Rich countries and banks will thus make money on the Greek people. Christine Lagarde, French minister of finance, forecasts a profit of EUR 150 millions a year. This will increase the public debt of the Greek state so that it can pay back its speculating creditors !

The Greek crisis is an illustration of the danger represented by the IMF, the EU and finacial markets.

Rightly disparaged for its disastrous structural adjustment programs, the IMF resurfaces in the euro zone euro after wrecking the economy of several Eastern European countries for two years. It uses the same methods as before, still adapted to the same partners: financial markets and transnational corporations. Today, like yesterday, its true nature of arsonist fireman is highlighted. The EU and its commission too have reasserted their paradigms in the service of an open and undistorted competition. The ECB does not serve the peoples of Europe but banks and financial institutions. After precipitating the Greek crisis via rating agencies payed by major US banks, the financial markets try to derive even larger profits from their speculative strategies. The PASOK government, the European Union and the IMF provide them with a golden opportunity.

Behind the financial industry we find manufacturing, trading and services transnational companies.

While we rightly condemn speculative funds, rating agencies and the financial industry, we keep in mind that they are but part of a greater whole. This unbridled speculation that chokes deprived populations has only been possible for two major reasons:

-  successive deregulation of financial markets since the 1980s;
-  the choice made by the management of large companies to ‘invest’ their profits in speculation instead of production and employment. Such accumulation of profits originates in a new distribution of wealth that benefits shareholders to the expense of wage earners. Over 25 years their respective share diminished by an average of about 10% of the GDP in developed countries. This economic trend, which corresponds to the neoliberal ideology, is the main cause of the economic and financial crisis we experience today.

The various governments that have succeeded each other over the past 30 years in Greece as in other countries of the global North, also bear a heavy part of responsibility in the increasing public debts. Tax policies in favour of more affluent households and corporations (taxes on income, fortunes and corporations) have significantly reduced budget revenues and increased public deficits, which has led the states to go into more debts.

Those who organised the crisis are spared while the people must pay the bill.

In the PASOK–EU-IMF austerity plan imposed on the Greek people, we only find ludicrous inefficient measures towards some tax justice and no measure whatsoever to counter tax evasion of corporation benefits. The so-called solutions set forward by PASOK, EU and IMF push Greece towards an ever deeper crisis. A minimal recession amounting to 4 points of the GDP has already been predicted for 2010. Small craftspeople and traders as well as small companies will be faced with bankruptcy. Unemployment will explode, and the purchasing power of lower and middle classes will plummet. Inequalities will increase and basic human rights (access to water, energy, health care, education…) are under threat for the more deprived portion of the population.

The Greek people’s anger is ours too. CADTM fully supports all mobilisations against the austerity plan.

Alternative solutions are possible!

- The repayment of Greece’s public debt must be immediately suspended and a public audit must be organised to determine whether it is legitimate or not.
- Cancellation measures must be taken and the financial return on the debt must be taxed at the maximum income tax rate.
- Tax measures can be taken immediately to restore tax justice and fight tax evasion. According to the accounts of the Greek teasury civil servants (pointed out as scapegoats) and workers declare higher incomes than such professions as chemists, lawyers, GPs, or than bank managers! Almost all corporations (including shipowners) declare their benefits in countries with a more favourable tax system (such as Cyprus) or hide them in tax havens. The Orthodox Church still benefits from exorbitant tax cuts on its movable and immovable property. There is money in Greece, but not where the austerity plan wants to find it!

At CADTM we declare our solidarity with the Greek people who will go on strike on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Everywhere in Greece, as in other European countries, solidarity through mobilisation must become more manifest. Greece is under attack today but we all know that tomorrow it will be Portugal, Ireland or Spain, and the day after all the euro zone may be affected, including its "richer" countries.

We rejoice at the first declarations of solidarity and the first support mobilisations in front of Greek embassies. We must go further!

The whole European social movement must stand next to the Greek people! European populations can only win from a common protest! CADTM will be part of it!

[Visit the CADTM website.]

Solidarity with the Greek people against financial markets

By members of the World Social Forum International Council

May 6, 2010 -- The financial markets have been targeting Greece for several months. In order to “reassure the markets” and “restore trust”, the European Union and the IMF have imposed a drastic austerity “cure” on the Greek people. Retirement age will be postponed to 67 years and pensions will freeze. Public sector wages will be reduced by 15% and layoffs in the private sector will be made easier. The value added tax (VAT) will rise from 19 to 21%. Other measures of this kind are planned. This austerity plan will plunge Greece’s economy into depression and will lead to a social disaster.

We know this from experience: the crisis in Greece is just one more example of decades of financial turmoil, which has devastated and further indebted countries across the globe, particularly in the global South, including the debt crisis of the 1980s, which has permanently indebted many countries in Africa and Latin America, the Mexican, Asian and Russian financial crises of the late 1990s, the Argentina crisis of
2001-02. These are not isolated events but the result of the actions of unregulated and voracious financial markets.

After Iceland and Greece, financial markets already have other European countries in their sights: Portugal and Spain are in the firing line, Ireland and France already face threats. In fact, the financial gifts to bail-out the banks, the “crisis plans” and tax cuts for the richest have created huge holes in budgets everywhere. Our governments have saved banks from bankruptcy without asking for any compensation. Now, those very same banks are leaning on those countries, and have carte blanche to speculate on bad ratings. They are coming back to profit from the people all over again.

The challenge is simple: who will pay for the bill? Who will pay for the bank bailouts? Who will pay for the public deficits? The European Union has announced a “Greece rescue plan” but the loans will only benefit the speculators, not the Greek people. Furthermore, these loans will not provide a long-term solution.

Social rights are at stake everywhere. If people do not react strongly and immediately, they will be drawn one against the other, as it is already happening with the Greeks, who are being painted as “cheaters” and “irresponsible”. No one knows where this will end. In order to stop this downward spiral, we have to mobilise and stand with the Greeks. Yesterday (May 5, 2010), the Greek trade unions and movements have organised a general strike and called for solidarity from international social movements, networks and organisations.

We, from movements and organisations that are members of the International Council of the World Social Forum, take advantage of our meeting in Mexico to express our solidarity with the Greek and European movements and support their demands for strong measures against financial speculation, and the elaboration of a real financial solidarity plan benefiting the Greek people rather than the financial markets and the speculators. The crisis in Greece reinforces our determination to oppose neoliberal financial policies and to reassert peoples sovereignty over their economies, in the South and in the North.

Signatures:

Rita Freire, CIRANDA, Brazil

Viriato Tamele, CJE, Mozambique

Gustave Massiah, CRID, France

Ryu Mikyung, KCTU, Korea

Christope Aguiton, ATTAC, France

Geneviève Azam, ATTAC, France

Nicola Bullard, Focus on the Global South, Thailand

Edward Oyugi, SODNET, Kenya

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, Fondation Frantz Fanon

Allam Jarrar, Palestinian NGO network, Palestine

Chico Whitaker, Brazilian Commission Justice and Peace, Brazil

Moema Miranda, Ibase, Brazil

Virginie Vargas, Articulacion Feminista Marcosur, Peru

Taoufik Ben Abdallah, Enda, Sénégal

Abbé Antoine Ambroise Tine, Italie

Babacar Diop, ICAE-PALAE, Sénégal

Demba Moussa, Forum Africain des Alternatives, Sénégal

Dan Baron, IDEA, Brazil-Wales

Celina Valadez, Dinamismo Juvenil, Mexico

Diana Senghor, PANOS, SénégalAlexandre Bento, CUT, Brazil

Salete Valesan, IPF, Brazil

Jason Nardi, Social Watch, Italy

Hélène Cabioc’h, AITEC, France

Nicolas Haeringer, ATTAC, France

Nathalie Péré-Marzano, CRID, France

Azril Bacal, Uppsala Social Forum, Sweden/Peru

Francine Mestrum, Global Social Justice, Belgium

Hector-Leon Moncayo, Alianza Social Continental, Colombia

Leo Gabriel, Austrian Social Forum, Austria

Wilhelmina Trout, World March of Women, South Africa

Bheki Ntshalintshali, COSATU, South Africa

Ivette Lacaba, COMCAUSA, Mexico

Samir Abi, ATTAC Togo/ROAD, Togo

Olivier Bonfond, CADTM, Belgium

Walter Baier, Transform!, Austria

Diego Azzi, CSA, Brazil

Marco A. Velazquez N., RMALC, Mexico

Miguel Santibanez, ALOP, Chile

Hector de la Cueva, Alianza Social Continental

Jennifer Cox, PPEHRC, USA

Jorge Lopez, CAMBIOS, Mexico

Ana Esther Cecena, Red en Defensa de la Humanidad, Mexico

Lorena Zarate, HIC-AL, Mexico

Refaat Sabbah, Alternatives International, Palestine

José Miguel Hernandez, CCFSM, Cuba

Maria Atilano, World March of Women, Mexico

Monica Di Sisto, FAIR, Italy

Yoko Kitazawa, Japan Network on Debt & Poverty, Japan

Marcela Escribano, Alternatives

Vinod Raina, Alternatives Asia, India

Njoki Njoroge Njehu, Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center, Kenya

Ali Karamat, Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC)/Pakistan Institute of Labour

Education and Research, Karachi (PILER), Pakistan

Piero Bernocchi, Italian Coordination for ESF and WSF, Italy

Ana Prestes, OCLAE

Feroz Mehdi, Alternatives International

Amit Sengupta, Peoples Health Movement, India

Osvaldo Leon, Agencia Latinoamericana de Información

Comments

L'Humanite on Greece

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE:
Thibault compare les agences de notation à des milices privées (http://www.humanite.fr/article2765408,2765408)

French Union Leader Compares Rating Agencies to Private Militias
(http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article1518)

Translated Sunday 2 May 2010, by Isabelle Metral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Current speculative attitudes on the markets that target Greece, for instance, « no longer jeopardize companies or branches of activity, they now target States, on the basis of the opinions of rating agencies no one knows anything about, which I would personally call private militias,” Bernard Thibault, general secretary of the main French Labour Confederation yesterday declared on radio BFM.

****************

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Détermination grecque contre un système malade
(http://www.humanite.fr/article2765353,2765353)
by Fabien Perrier

The Greeks Are Up in Arms Against an "Ailing System"
http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article1522
Translated Sunday 2 May 2010, by Isabelle Metral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

No one day goes by without a demonstration being staged in the streets of Athens. Another general strike on May 5th is probable.

From our special correspondent in Athens

“Those that robbed us must pay!” This sentence is on the lips of all salaried precarious workers these days, distraught as they are at having to pay the full price for the financial crisis that has hit their country. More than two thousand five hundred transport workers made this their slogan and chanted it yesterday, together with “transport is a public service that belongs to the people”. They demonstrated in the morning against the austerity plan and the cuts imposed upon them.

“I get 1,490 euro a month,” explains Nicolas Fragoulis, a 35-year-old bus driver with three children. “How am I supposed to cope?”, he asks. “I must pay 900 euro a month for my lodging, my children’s schooling, and food. My wife gets only 320 euro for four hours a day!” And yet, puts in Alexandros Comitis, an OASA (public transport) union delegate, “we have already lost 10% of our pay, and 30% of our Christmas, Easter and vacation bonuses.” Such are the daily straits with which many Greek salaried workers are confronted.

It was essential to Alexandros Comitis to be out on the streets, to march with all the various unions, to put up a united front. “We are going through a crucial moment. The unions are going to resist at all political and institutional levels.” He himself leans to the Dake, the right-wing union tendency. Today, division is out of the question: the main objective is to put up a united front against the measures that deteriorate the workers’ living conditions. Vasilis Dimitropoulos, a member of Paske (Pasok’s union branch) says about the same thing: “We’re out in the street because the government wants to cut our wages. They are going to attack our system of social security, increase the age of retirement, and lower our pensions." Pensions are what worried them particularly. Last Monday the unions boycotted a meeting with the Labour minister, being aware that the draft for reforming social security that was about to be presented to them was exceedingly dangerous, to judge by the first information that had filtered through. “In two years’ time it will be too late. We must all fight together against it now,” says Zogas Nektarios, also a bus driver, to justify his presence among the demonstrators. “What can I expect from this ailing system,” he explains, being aware of what is at stake in this struggle, including for his two four-year-old and seven-year-old children.

Yesterday in Pireaus, all seamen were still blocking the harbour. In the late evening, the territorial public servants and employees answered the public sector union Adedy’s call and marched with the same slogan: down with austerity and social regression, the destruction of public services, the degradation of living conditions. Even the right-wing daily Apogevmatini spread across its front page that "The IMF demands the closing down of several hospitals."

As to the Greek Bank’s president he warned that "the public deficit must decrease by 5% (instead of the 4% initially recommended) and that unemployment is going to increase because of the decline of production. 67,4% of those polled think that a social explosion is going to take place in Greece. So much so that the influent labour confederation GSEE (for workers in the private sector) led by Yannis Panogopoulos (Pasok), has decided to call for a general strike on May 5th. It had until now seemed to keep its foot on the brake pedal. But the work force has been pressing hard, and is pressing harder by the day.
Three rating agencies, he further explained, “ which were set up by multinationals in the first place, enjoy worldwide supremacy and now usurp a prerogative far superior to any authority the international institutions may have, namely that of rating the behaviour of governmental policies, or even of jeopardizing them through their ratings and the speculations they give rise to.” Standard and Poor’s lowered the rating of the Greek debt last Thursday and thus made it harder for the Greek government to levy funds.

KKE message of counterattack from the Acropolis rock

With a symbolic action on 4 May 2010 the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) sends to the peoples of Europe a message of resistance and counterattack against the anti-labour measures taken in Greece and in other countries under the pretext of the exit from the capitalist crisis.

Tens of members of KKE proceeded early in the morning of 4 May in a symbolic occupation of the Acropolis rock. With red flags and two enormous banners bearing the slogan ³Peoples of Europe rise up² written in Greek and in English they called for the further development of the class struggle just a few hours after the great demonstrations for the May Day organised by the All Workers¹ Militant Front (PAME) in 75 cities throughout Greece and just before the 24hour nationwide strike on 5th May against the anti-peoples and anti-workers measures promoted by the social-democrat government of PASOK, the EU and the IMF. At the same time, the civil servants went on strike on May 4.

See protest at http://inter.kke.gr

The Greeks and Angela Merkel

The Greeks and Angela Merkel
May 4, 2010 17:58 | Victor Grossman

Pity poor Angela! The rock is Greece and its economic woes. The hard place is North Rhine-Westphalia, where an extremely crucial election is due on May 9th -- very soon but not soon enough! And Chancellor Merkel is caught directly in the middle!

Europe and the world have been waiting for Germany to commit itself to aiding the Greek economy before it slips into total bankruptcy -- and perhaps chaos. It needs a big dose of financial support, and with its credit rating plummeting, it needs it fast. A big share of the promised credit must come from Germany, economically the strongest country in Europe and a wannabe leader on the continent and beyond. The original sum in discussion was 8 billion euros, but it is now clear that this would only be a small down payment. Almost hourly, even that is getting more and more urgent. Every delay can unsettle the whole Euro zone, encompassing much of Europe and even affecting markets as distant as Hong Kong and Wall Street.

But Angela Merkel, despite years of heart-moving support for the European Union, of almost teary-eyed hymns to European harmony and solidarity, has thus far done nothing but make excuses and think up conditions for aid, none of them convincing. Her tactics became so transparent, malodorous, and disastrous that the top leaders of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank visited Berlin to appeal to Angela for approval. The economic calamity which has befallen Greece now threatens Portugal, Spain, maybe even Ireland and other countries, but still Merkel remains adamant.

The solution to this mystery requires neither Poirot nor Miss Marple. It is that election on May 9th. Most of the media, but especially the boulevard rag Bild, have been waging a merciless war of words against Greece. The main tenor was that Greeks were lazy, received much too high pensions much too soon, and Germany had better not throw its hard-earned, badly needed money to that useless, coddled bunch. Some politicians suggested that Greece should first sell a few islands -- or even the Parthenon. Most Bild readers, not reputed as brilliant theoreticians, swallowed this chauvinism whole. Few of the media made clear that foreign banks, not least of all the Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, helped push the Greek government into the mess it is in, just like countless other victims of their conniving greed. Of course, the upper class of Greece will not have suffered much. But the media bashing was directed mostly at the working people, now fighting in the streets to maintain a halfway decent livelihood against growing odds. What Bild never says is that if the European Union, with the current right-wing German government in the lead, can force down working conditions and living standards in Greece, this can make it more attractive to runaway German companies. It can certainly lead to more unemployment and worse living standards all over Europe, including Germany. Which brings us to North Rhine-Westphalia.

The coming election will not only be crucial because this is the largest German state in population, with 18 million of Germany's 82 million people. Once the main industrial region, with Ruhr Valley coal and steel and urban centres like Essen, Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Bonn, it is currently a rust belt, rivalled in economic troubles only by the five East German states. Its cities and towns are increasingly unable to maintain even basic public services.

For decades it was a bastion of the Social Democrats, but in 2005, thanks to the abandonment by Gerhard Schroeder's national government of most social policies, they were ousted by the Christian Democrats (CDU), Angela Merkel's party, and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), the same duo which now rules nationally. But this team also failed to meet people's needs. The CDU was caught up in too many scandals, while the Free Democrats kept losing ground, especially after their boss in Berlin, Foreign Minister Westerwelle, implied that workers on jobless insurance were often parasites; he used the term "Rome-like decadence" to describe some of their life styles.

The chances for a renewed coalition of the two right-wing parties do not look rosy. A loss would be painfully embarrassing; the same two parties now run the federal government in Berlin. Worse yet, in the Upper House, the Bundesrat, states are represented, not election districts, and more populous states have more seats than smaller ones. A loss in North Rhine-Westphalia would cost the government its majority and create hurdles too high for even the agile Merkel, who is facing increasing snapping at her heels within her own party.

The media have misrepresented the credit, implying it would be a multi-billion Euro gift to unworthy Greece (it would actually be a repayable credit at a high interest rate). But inflamed nationalist passions could mean the ruling parties losing even more votes than previously predicted. So Merkel, still hoping to beat the odds, dragged her feet and tried to wait with the money until May 9th.

The elections are crucial to all the parties. The Free Democrats, thanks to the eloquent persuasiveness and lofty promises of Westerwelle, won an unprecedented 14 percent of the vote last year; their hopes soared to the skies. But the hangover, also thanks to Westerwelle, has dropped it back down and a serious loss on May 9th would severely cut its newfound anti-social haughtiness. The Social Democrats, who suffered a crushing defeat in last year's federal elections, dream of a comeback. Like their favourite partners the Greens, their demotion to opposition status inspired them to speak out once again from the left side of their mouth, hoping that voters will forget their sellout to the super wealthy when they held power. They skirt carefully around the Greek issue; it is safer to perch on the fence, mouth platitudes, and let government parties take the knocks.

What about Die Linke (The Left)? For it, too, the vote is very crucial. If it wins 5 percent or more it will get seats in the legislature of Germany's largest state, greatly expanding its influence in the west, with only three states to go. This could strengthen its self-assurance, at a time when leadership changes, inner problems, and quarrels have occupied too much of both time and energy. Its hopes and fears may also explain why it too has seemingly avoided much stress on the Greek question. Aside from calling for a hardly realistic moratorium on Greek debt to Germany, it, too, may have decided to let Angela face the music, especially since it can do little to affect such decisions.

If The Left does make it into the legislature (polls now give it just over the needed 5 percent), the existence of a fifth party can means reshuffling lots of cards. The CDU and the FDP will hardly have enough to keep their present majority. The Social Democrats and Greens would love to return to their old power-sharing combination, but 50 percent is no easy goal for them either. Joining with The Left would seem a natural solution, but the red-baiting of the right-wing parties caused the Social Democrats to tremble in advance before even the slightest toleration of those "wild communists." Since the Greens reject joining either the Free Democrats or The Left, this could mean that the Greens join with the Christian Democrats. Such a step, already taken in the much smaller states of Hamburg and Saarland, would mean, for many members of this once leftish party, another move towards total sellout. Nasty decisions are in the offing. Will they go along?

The old Rhine River faces days of great suspense. It is sad that those who are at the very bottom will most likely be living far away, at the sun-baked Mediterranean shores of in Greece. To their credit, they have been fighting back, hard!

Victor Grossman, American journalist and author, has been a resident of East Berlin for many years. He is the author of Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). This article first appeared on MRZine

Statements from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)

Massive class response to plutocracyand the anti-people policy of the social-democrat government, the EU and the IMF

By the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)

May 5, 2010 -- Massive class response to plutocracy  and the anti-people policy of the social-democrat government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Unprecedented participation of tens of thousands of people in the demonstrations of PAME in Athens and 68 cities.

KKE denounces the provocations that sought to strike a blow at the people's struggle for the death of 3 people On 5th of May the nationwide strike of All Workers Militant Front (PAME) froze every productive activity in the country. Factories, construction sites and stores, ports and airports, universities and schools paralysed.
In the early morning thousands of workers and young people were outside the workplaces defending the right of the workers to go on strike, against employers' intimidation. Hundreds of thousands of people protested at the demonstration organised by PAME in 68 cities throughout Greece.

At the same time, provocative groups tried to undermine the strike demonstration. Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the CC of KKE, highlighted the importance of the organised political struggle and denounced also in her speech at the parliament the efforts of the provocateurs that led to the death of three young people who died of suffocation after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a bank.

In Athens the central strike demonstration of PAME took place at Omonoia Square, at the centre of Athens. Giorgos Perros, member of the Executive secretariat of PAME delivered the main speech stressing:

"No more sacrifices for the bankers, for the industrialists, for the monopolies. We will make sacrifices so as to defend, all together and united, our rights, our life; so as to defend the life of our children, not hand them over to the most brutal exploitation bound hand and foot. We do not give up our gains.

"They lie when they argue about a rescue bailout package for the country; it is a rescue bailout package for the employers, the banks, the ship-owners, the ones who have been benefited from the previous rescue bailout packages; likewise for the foreign creditors, who along with the parasites of plutocracy will plunder the wealth produced by our people for the next decades.

"They have elaborated and gradually implemented these measures since many years. These measures are outlined in the Treaty of Maastricht, in the White Paper; they are included in all decisions of the EU Summits; they were included in the programmes of PASOK and ND; likewise in the 9-point agreement between GSEE and Federation of the Greek Industrialists".

G. Perros underlined:

"We deserve our own Greece, which is far better than theirs, and we will struggle for it. Even if they pass these measures, we will never legitimate them in our consciousness, we will never obey the laws that impose those measures. Day by day, month by month we will gather forces to block the implementation of these measures, till the overthrow of them and their measures."

The representative of PAME closed his speech stressing:

"We, the workers, the self-employed, the craftsmen, the small tradesmen, the small and medium sized farmers, the young people, we are the majority.

"We will become stronger as long as we build our front, our own alliance. And once we will have built our own people's front we will not be merely strong, we will be almighty; because we will have created the body of our own state power; we will have created the tool in order to plan and produce according to our needs; we will have created the basic mechanism in order to stop the minority of parasites who plunder our wealth, who live off our labour which is suffice in order to build our life, the life of our children and the next generation.

"This is our patriotic duty and our great responsibility, this is our `one-way road' and we do not give up not matter how many sacrifices we will have to make."

Following the speech, a march of PAME took place rallying against the line of concession, namely the line of GSEE and ADEDY which aids this policy with their stance. Apart from the forces of PAME, forces of Áll Greek Antimonopoly Rally of the self-employed and the small tradesman (PASEVE) and Students' Militant Front (MAS) also participated in the mass rally and the demonstration.

At the head of the march was a delegation of the CC of KKE lead by Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the CC of KKE.

The protesters of PAME marched through the central streets of the city to the parliament, where the social democrat government has tabled the bill with the anti-labour measures seeking to pass it through under emergency procedures. We should note that the parliamentary group of KKE utilised the parliamentary regulation asking to follow the article that requires qualified (180 MEPS out of
300) and not simple majority for the approval of the anti-people bill.

The position of KKE on the incidents

The massive and protected demonstration of PAME gave a dynamic response to the provocative action organised by several provocative groups and mechanisms in order to disorient the people, to reduce the importance of the massive mobilization, to slander KKE, to stop the dynamic of the struggles and intimidate the working people.

In her speech at the parliament, right after the announcement of the death of three people, Aleka Papariga made the following statement:

"The working people, who suffer an unprecedented attack, the worst after 1974, are able to distinguish the systematic political struggle for the defense of their rights, for their protest, a struggle that can take many forms according to the conditions at each time. They can clearly tell the difference between this struggle and every plan aiming at the subversion of the struggles, every provocative action that causes innocent victims and aids all those who want to create a scenery in order to slander the struggles.

"People should not only defy the provocations but they should also take all the measures to protect their struggles which should start from the workplaces. They should hit where it hurts. the starting point of the battle must be the workplace and lead to a nationwide struggle.

"I should also stress the following: stop putting the blame on the people. People are blamed for the crisis, for everything. The responsible organised people's movement cannot be blamed for actions planned backstage. This provocation will not pass. We will continue our struggles".

In addition the general secretary of the CC of KKE gave a resolute response to the president of the nationalist party LAOS who resorted to vile anticommunism and launched a provocative attack against KKE.

When the march of PAME arrived at the parliament, there was a group of members of "Xrisi Avgi" (ultra-right nationalist group), the so-called the known-unknowns, who in 1994 set the Polytechnic School on fire and they were saying "burn the parliament down".

We disarmed them and we took them away the flags of PAME. We denounced them, we marched with linked arms and not a single incident occurred while we were at Syntagma square. I do not know whether this group outside the parliament has blood ties, permanent or temporary with Mr. Karatzaferis but honestly Mr Karatzaferis is playing the role of a provocateur at service in order to impose the anti-people measures.

People have the right to create the conditions through the process of mass political struggle, for the revision till the radical change of the Constitution.
Was the parliament not changing the constitution all those years?

Of course, we have condemned this constitution and we are telling the people that they should struggle for its change. Telling openly and clearly that the Constitution has an anti-people and anti-labor character is different from being a professional –not even motivated by emotional reasons- provocateur".

May 5, 2010

International Section of the CC of KKE
http://inter.kke.gr/News/2010news/2010-05-05-strike

 

New demonstrations against slaughter of people's gains

By the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)

May 7, 2010 -- On Thursday May 6, one day after the massive strike demonstrations, PAME organised new dynamic demonstrations across the country.

The measures that slaughter the workers' and people's gains were passed by PASOK and LAOS. Without raising any substantial objection, ND voted against the measures, only in order to appear as an opposition party, while it called PASOK and LAOS to a united action against KKE.

The only solution is the escalation of the class struggle of workers, self-employed poor farmers, women and young people for the rupture and the overthrow of monopolies¹ policy and power, declared thousands of people who participated in the demonstrations of PAME.

Once again, the international and Greek media broadcast the provocative actions and the prearranged riots in a provocative way, trying to bury the mass participation in the demonstrations of PAME and the content of the slogans.

"For us the only guarantee for democracy is the people, organised and with a programme of struggle having a specific direction and endurance in the struggle for the change of the class in power.

It is the majority of the people that can change the laws. Nevertheless the establishment of laws requires the change of the laws in society; laws do not change from the top. And do not threaten us. I should tell you that we are used to struggle under such conditions.

"I would also like to clarify the following: we are more experienced than ever and we continue drawing lessons from our contribution, our shortcomings and our mistakes. There is one thing that you will never manage to do: to drive us to the wall; to hinder our action. Do not even think about it. It will be a boomerang. Be sure about it. Because after 92 years we know very well whom we are fighting against", stressed Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the CC of KKE in her intervention during the parliament's session on the measures.

[http://inter.kke.gr, email to: cpg@int.kke.gr]

Statements from KOE, Marxistiki Foni, Greek Communist Party (ML)

On today's huge demonstrations and the death of three bank employees

Press statement of the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE)

May 5, 2010 -- The Communist Organization of Greece condemns the IMF-EU's government for its policy of annihilation of the society and the orgy of repression unleashed against the people. The death of the three bank employees because of fully condemnable acts provokes sorrow and anger, which are added to the wrath felt by the whole society against the government of the Quisling Papandreou.

This cynical government, assisted by the mainstream Media that remind us of the dictatorship's TV, has the cheekiness to put the responsibility for the death of the three employees on the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, on the mass movement and more concretely on the Left. It is Papandreou himself who is igniting the tension and the violence because of the measures adopted by his government. No matter how many excuses he will invent in the Parliament, no matter how many appeals for social consent he will make, Papandreou will remain in history as the would-be gravedigger of the Greek people.

Athens and the whole country lived the biggest demonstrations of the last 30 years, with half million marching for six hours in Athens alone. The people demands that Papandreou and those MPs who intend to vote in favor of transforming the society into a human waste bank, account for their crimes. Those who handed over the country and the people to the hyenas of the capital and of the markets, those who attempt to condemn the workers and the youth to extermination, will account to the people.

The police attacked brutally the biggest demonstrations of the last 30 years; it transformed Athens into a huge gas chamber, and also attacked brutally the marches in Thessaloniki and Patras. The Minister of Repression shall account for this!

We hold accountable as well the owner of Marfin Bank, this unsolicited "savior of the Nation" who obliged his employees to remain inside the concrete branch, despite the fact that he knew the danger was imminent. Obviously, human life is cheaper for the capital than the daily profits of a bank branch.

The coordinated effort of the government, of the right-wing opposition and of the extreme right-wing to exploit the death of the three employees in order to stop the torrent of the popular anger, will not go unanswered. The wrath and the despair that coexist in society will send to hell Papandreou and any MP who will vote in favor of the Greek people's annihilation.

Athens, 5 May 2010

http://international.koel.gr/

 

Greece: An earth shattering strike while reaction takes advantage of three murders

By Marxistiki Foni Editorial Board

May 6, 2010 -- The constant attacks on the Greek working class over recent months have finally brought the situation to boiling point. The workers have had enough! They are not prepared to pay for a crisis which is not of their making. Yesterday Greece was totally paralysed as the workers and youth came out massively in protest. The tragic killing of three bank workers, however, is being used to distract attention away from this impressive show of strength by the Greek working class.
Yesterday, Greece officially entered a new era of class struggle. The incessant attacks against the living standards of the working class on the part of the capitalists have provoked a massive and militant movement.

Yesterday's general strike was the first act of this movement. Greece was paralyzed, but not only in the public sector as in the previous general strikes of February and March, but also in the private sector. Over 150,000 workers participated in the strike in Athens, which was characterized by a great feeling of radicalisation and anger. Many of those taking part in the Athens strike said that this mobilisation was equalled only by the great general strike against the "Yiannitsi measures" (in 2001, the PASOK government proposed a law against social security, which was ultimately withdrawn due to a massive general strike). Huge and militant demonstrations took place in 68 cities in total, of which the demonstrations in Thessaloniki, Patras, Herakleion and Ioannina were especially massive.

The immense anger towards the latest offensive against the living standards of the working class was expressed in the mobilisations organised by GSEE-ADEDY (the main trade union confederations) and by PAME (the Communist Party's faction in the trade unions) in slogans such as "No sacrifices for the plutocracy" and "PASOK-New Democracy: austerity – unemployment – terrorism". The growing anger against the trade union bureaucracy was reflected in the constant and intense booing during the speech given by the GSEE president, Õannis Panagopoulos, during the GSEE-ADEDY rally in central Athens. It is also to be noted that during the protests, we witnessed a spontaneous, aggressive mood against the oppressive police forces, the banks and public buildings among many protesters, which clearly shows that "boiling point" has been reached in the mass consciousness.

However, unfortunately, this decisive fact of massive and militant demonstrations in Athens and all over the country was overshadowed by the tragic killing of three employees, a man and two women, in a branch of the "MARFIN" bank due to arson caused by "Molotov cocktails". This was a criminal act against young white-collar workers, working in a branch where the bosses' terror is huge and where the workers are forced to work under the fear of losing their jobs. These unfortunate workers could not get out of the building, due to the criminal indifference of the bank manager, who did not guarantee either fire safety measures or an emergency exit. Moreover, questions have been asked as to the reason for the passive stance of the police which, despite its large presence in the demonstration, did not take measures to stop the burning of a bank, which was working normally in the centre of Athens and was situated near the route of a demonstration mainly directed against the predatory role of the banks.

No one can say with absolute certainty whether this act of arson was an expression of blind, criminal and desperate violence on the part of the anarchists or a well organised provocation by the forces of state oppression, in order to slander the workers' movement. If we take account of the general make up of the demonstrations, together with the tragic deaths in "MARFIN", the many attacks on stores in Thessaloniki and the accusations made by the General Secretary of the KKE (the Communist Party) about provocation by members of the fascist "Chrysi Avgi", organisation who were holding PAME banners, it is possible that an extensive plan of provocations was orchestrated by the State.

However, even if these events were not an organised act of provocation, they objectively acted as one. They catastrophically undermine a grand movement at its birth, because they serve to overshadow the event of the mass general strike, they terrorise workers, preventing them from participating in the movement, while at the same time sanctifying the forthcoming escalation of police violence.

The government and the bourgeois media were eager to exploit this "manna from heaven". They brought up again the issue of "a general condemnation of violence and chaos", incriminating, indirectly but clearly, the movement itself and the Left. The government, as a means of isolating the movement, re-proposed the immediate calling of a conference of the leaders of the political parties due to this "critical moment of the motherland", as it had done a few days ago, but which was cancelled due to public wrath.

The leaderships of the Left should not fall for this bourgeois trap and should not attend any conference with the government and the right-wing parties, which support the government's measures. The participation of the KKE or the SYRIZA leadership in such a conference would be an act of subversion against this mighty workers' and youth movement. On the contrary, they must concentrate their power in order to escalate the struggle. The message that yesterday's protesters sent was that the workers want to fight and this message must be heard by every left party leadership.

Yesterday's general strike must become the first step towards a plan of struggle, which will be discussed in every workplace and should escalate to a 48-hour general strike during the following days, followed by the perspective of an all out strike until the government backs off.

At the same time, these events tragically underline the imperative need to disassociate the workers' movement and the Left from the anarchists, who with their irresponsible and desperate actions become the breeding ground for provocations of every type whose aim is the undermining of the real mass movement. Every anarchist group which practices blind and desperate violence, must be kept away from the mass workers' and youth movement through decisive and organised measures.

 

Statement of the Greek Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

May 5, 2010 -- The Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist) salutes the hundreds of thousands workers, youth, unemployed and pensioners who demonstrated their wrath against the barbarity of the measures promoted by the government and the imperialist European Union and IMF mechanisms, all over Greece.

We stress on the unprecedented mass anger and determination of the workers to fight in order to overthrow the measures and oust the IMF and EU criminals who along with the local capital attempt to eliminate the social majority and the future of the country and its people.

Once again various provocatsia, undermining, disorientation and terror mechanisms were mobilized in front of the justified people's wrath that flooded the streets in every city in Greece. The apparent goal is to intimidate the people and block the flood of anger and struggle.

Along with the media propaganda that lasted for months and miserably failed to persuade the people, along with threats and directives concerning the bourgeois legitimacy, at the same time with a huge police operation and threats there were also mobilized the undermining practice by actions totally alien to the spirit of today's great demonstrations.

Every time that our people and the workers are attempting to rise and take their fate in their hands, to get rid from the political paternalism of bourgeois parties and stand independently defending their interests, forces and actions either blind or provocative provide a leg up or even the salvation pretext to the dominants, the government and the establishment. Already the government and the media are taking brutally advantage of the tragic death of three people in order to set up scenery of concert, fear and coercion.

They will not succeed! Workers and youth, by safeguarding their mobilizations will continue and escalate their struggles, strikes and demonstrations. They will not be disorientated by the provocations, they will not submit to the calls of national concert and the so called smoothness; they will not be dragged by the spirit of submission of the political leaders' council. They will mass the lines of struggle for the overall overthrow of the brutal measures and policies of the government, EU and IMF.

http://cpgml-news.blogspot.com/2010/05/press-statement.html
 

KKE: Their measures aim at 
reducing the price of labor

Translated Saturday 8 May 2010, by Hervé Fuyet and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Interview with

Eliseos Vagenas, member of the Central Committee and head of the International Affairs Section of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

L’Humanité: What is your strategy to counter the adoption of the extreme austerity plan imposed by the UE and the IMF.

Eliseos Vagenas: The action taken by the government of PASOK (Social Democrats) is a form of war to crush the working people, a war that will drive a large part of the "lower" classes to an even wider impoverishment, with a dramatic reduction in their income and reduction of what remains of their rights to social security and protection by labor laws. These measures focus on two areas: a) Further reducing the price of the labor force to ensure that the capitalists will have cheap labor.
b) Find capital, through loans that the Greek people will pay again and again, to fund and support the banks, industrialists and shipowners. But they will face a powerful wave of popular resistance and struggle. What is important for us, Communists, is that the struggle against anti-people actions creates conditions for contest, rupture and the overthrow of the capitalist system of exploitation.

Eliseos Vagenas: Our party believes that Lenin was right when he wrote in 1915 in his article "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe" http://www.marxists.org/archive/len..., that such a union would be impossible, or reactionary. Indeed, the European Economic Community (EEC) and then the European Union (EU), with the Maastricht Treaty (All parties voted for it in Greece except the KKE), have proved to be a union of capital, which aims to attack workers’ rights and preserve the profits of the capitalists! One of its tools is also the European Central Bank. We are not supposed to cultivate the illusion among workers that the imperialist nature of the EU can change. Still less so than that we can put "people before profits." In reality, what matters is to create a system where there will be no capitalist profits! That is why our Party insisted on our country leaving NATO and the EU and calls for the establishment in Greece of a front of struggle for people power, an economy for people, and socialism.

Eliseos Vagenas: KKE proposes specific measures in the current crisis of capitalism. Measures that aim to relieve the workers and the unemployed : taxation of big capital with a tax of 45% instead of 20% today. We offer a complete set of revendications based on the needs of modern workers. But in the capitalist system, there may be some victories obtainable only through the development of class struggle. We constantly strive for immediate victories and we will continue to struggle for measures that will be imposed by the power of the Movement, measures that reduce the severity of problems, and bring a relief to the working people. We support the Pame union front, which includes all class unions of Greece. In addition, we present openly to the people our alternative proposal, that of an economy of socialization of the means of production, central planning and worker’s control , with a fully public health system, with a system of education, health and Social Security, which will be unified and free for all. An economy that is based on another power which will overthrow the power of monopolies and build new people’s institutions.

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