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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

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