Greeks are fighting for us too

24 May 2015

Greeks are fighting for us too

Today it was announced that Greece does not expect to be able to find the €1.6 billion it must pay to the International Monetary Fund in June in respect of past borrowing. This could end in bankruptcy. So the Greeks are playing for high stakes, but they’re not doing this for no reason. They reject the neoliberal agenda imposed by the Troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) and when the media assert that the Greeks are ‘dawdling’, they are refusing to acknowledge that they are waging a fundamental struggle. And in this it’s certainly the case that their struggle is our struggle.

This week I received a letter from Syriza’s party secretariat. We work together with Syriza, which is now in government in Greece, in the European Parliament. Although the negotiations aren’t public, Syriza describes what for them is the unbreachable red line: restoration of the right to make official agreements concerning wages and working conditions, similar to what are known in the Netherlands as ‘CAOs’ (Collective Labour Agreements), a real minimum wage, protection of workers against mass redundancy, no further austerity measures affecting pensions and social security and no more rushed privatisations.

All in all the Greek demands are certainly not revolutionary. Rather they are things for which even the social democrats once stood. Yet the Eurogroup, headed by social democrat Jeroen Dijsselbloem, sees this sort of demand as irritating. The aim was to use the weaker eurozone countries as proving grounds for a harsh neoliberal society lacking any kind of solidarity and where the government is reduced to a kind of managerial body. Where it can, Syriza is now trying to put obstacles in the way of this.

In the weeks to come we will see whether either party will give way. Will Greece, now it is desperately in need of money, agree after all with the Troika’s demands; or would Syriza rather leave the eurozone? Will the Troika, for fear that the eurozone could fall apart, become more flexible? Or have the richer eurozone countries been surreptitiously taking Greece’s departure into account all along?

Personally I expect that still other scenarios exist, such as bankruptcy for Greece within the eurozone, with a new drachma being introduced for domestic payments, while the euro remains as the means of making payments externally. That would also be complicated and could in time still lead to departure from the single currency, but it would at least prevent Greece from having to give up the euro overnight, resulting in maximum financial instability both within Greece and beyond. A great deal of media attention will no doubt be given to this sort of question during the coming days and weeks. So as SP members and supporters we should keep in mind that while the Greeks might have made many mistakes, Syriza is as things stand fighting hard for our values: human dignity, equality and solidarity. And for that reason, whatever else, they deserve our full and, where possible, visible support in this struggle.

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