“Greece – a country being bled white by those who claim to save it”

This contribution from Sonia Mitralia, in the opening session of the “Europe against Austerity” Conference, organized by the Coalition of Resistance in October 2011, was greeted by a standing ovation.

I come from Greece, a country being bled white and destroyed by those who claim to save it, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. After the adoption, application and above all the failure of the four shock treatments known as the Memoranda, and the current application of the fifth, which is the toughest and most inhuman, Greece is no longer the country that we knew: now, the streets are empty after sunset, restaurants are desperately seeking clients and the stores on the deserted shopping streets fall into ruins.The reason for this transformation is given by these facts and figures: wage earners and pensioners have already lost 30%-50% and sometimes even more of their purchasing power. Which has the effect that approximately 30% of stores and 35% of fuel pumps have closed forever. That unemployment will probably hit 30% next year. That there will be 40% less hospitals and hospital beds, or that the Greek state was a few days ago unable to provide school books to its school children, who were asked to make photocopies, and so on and on. In short, that hunger, yes hunger, begins to make its appearance in the major cities while suicides are growing in a country thrown into stress and despair.

However, Greeks are not only desperate. They are also combative, they resist, and they struggle. Especially, after the appearance at the end of May 2011 of the movement of the Aganaktismeni, the Greek indignad@s, who filled the squares of hundreds of Greek cities with huge radicalized crowds with two key slogans: “we owe nothing, we sell nothing, we pay nothing.” And “all of them must go”.

But beware: to resist in Greece in the epoch of the barbaric austerity of the Memoranda is not easy. First, due to the repression which is terrible, systematic, and inhumane. Then, because of the importance of the issue: Greece is currently a world test case, a true global laboratory in which the capacity of resistance of peoples to structural adjustment plans is tested during the great crisis of public debt. In sum, all eyes, whether of those at the top or those at the bottom, are now turned to this small European country which has the misfortune of becoming the global guinea pig of the most cynical neoliberalism. The result is that to win the least demand practically means overthrowing the government and, neither more nor less, the revolution!

The lesson that we draw from this totally unprecedented situation is that, today more than yesterday, there is no salvation within national boundaries. Faced with the Sacred Alliance of governments and those at the top, coordination and networking of the resistances of those at the bottom is the sine qua non of any hope of success! In simpler words, in order for the Greek test not to run to the benefit of our executioners of the infamous troika, i.e. the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, we must unite our forces as quickly as possible, to form the Sacred Alliance of those at the bottom!

It was not a coincidence that the first international conference against debt and austerity measures was organized in Athens in early May 2011, by the Greek Initiative for an International Commission of Audit of Public Debt, a movement of which I am a founding member. The great success of this first International Conference had surprised us pleasantly but, in reality, it was doubly premonitory: first, because only two weeks later, the movement of the Greek indignant burst on the social and political scene with the occupation of Syntagma square in Athens. Then, because it became increasingly clear not only that the issue of public debt is was at the root of all the major issues of our time, but that the independent mobilization around the demand for an audit of the public debt was more than possible, because it met a true popular demand!

I think that the lesson that can be drawn from the experience of the Greek Initiative for a Commission of Audit of Public Debt is no longer valid only for the Greece. It is also valid for all other countries attacked by the financial markets, the troika and capital: the audit of public debt may, at first glance, appear a thankless activity, not very attractive and reserved for specialists, but in reality it is able to inspire and mobilise large crowds on two conditions: first, that it is totally independent of the institutions and supported by citizens mobilized in their neighbourhoods, their places of work and study. And then, that it seeks clearly to identify the illegitimate part of the debt to cancel and not pay!

Five months after this first international conference in Athens against austerity measures and the debt, we can measure the ground covered: the Greek initiative is being emulated almost everywhere in Europe, south and north, in western and in eastern Europe. The task that this situation imposes on us all is clear: these movements and campaigns on the audit of public debt should soon meet and establish networks. And this so as to make their action more effective and the meet expectations of the peoples, before it’s too late for everyone.

It is exactly this task that has been taken on by the CADTM, the Committee for Cancellation of the Third World Debt, of which I am also a member, and which combines its expertise – the result of twenty years of struggle alongside the poor in the South of the planet – with its presence in the field of struggles in several European countries. The theoretical and practical contribution of the CADTM in the development of the movement against the debt and austerity in Greece and other countries has been and remains very important. But I fear that in order to meet the new challenges thrown up by a situation of a veritable war to the death between rich and poor, we need much more than the CADTM, or all the other international networks that are fighting courageously against the debt and austerity. We need many more activist forces, much more programmatic development and especially much more coordination across national boundaries.

I would now like to finish with something close to my heart: autonomous organization, or rather the self-organization and the struggle of women against the debt and austerity. If women are the first victims of the current neoliberal aggression against wage earners and all of society, it is not only because they are laid off en masse and as a priority. It is mainly because a cornerstone of this aggression, namely the destruction and privatization of public services, has as a direct result that women are forced to assume within the family public utility tasks assumed until yesterday by the state. In sum, women are now called on to provide at home, in private, the services once offered by kindergartens, hospitals, hospices for the elderly, unemployment funds, psychiatric establishments, and even social security. And all absolutely free of charge! And more, all this in the ideological packaging of a forced return to home and family by a so-called “nature” of woman accepted only as the obedient slave of others! In short by a return to the most abject patriarchy, which is combined with a frontal attack against the few rights that we women retain.

My conclusion will be categorical: that is why women need to organize independently to combat debt and austerity. If they do not, there is no one who will do it in their place.

Thank you.

Sonia Mitralia is a feminist activist in Greece and member of CADTM Greece.

Common Appeal for the Rescue of the Peoples of Europe

Mikis Theodorakis
amd Manolis Glezos have issued this Appeal to the peoples of Europe

65 years after the defeat of nazism and fascism, European people are today confronting a dramatic threat, this time not military, but a financial, social and political one. A new “Empire of Money” has been systematically attacking one European country after another in the last 18 months, without facing any substantial resistance.

European governments not only fail to organize a collective defence of European people against the markets, but, instead, try to “calm” the markets by imposing policies that remind us of the way governments tried to confront nazism in the ’30s.

They organize “debt wars” between the peoples of Europe, just like when they were driven from the belle époque to World War 1. The offensive of the markets initiated a war against Greece, an EU member-state, whose people have played a decisive role in the resistance against barbarity and the liberation of European World War 2. In the beginning, this war was a communicative war, which reminded us of the campaigns against hostile, outcast countries, like Iraq or Yugoslavia. This campaign presented Greece as a country of lazy and corrupted citizens, while attempting to blame the “PIIGS” of Europe and not the international banks for the debt crisis.

Shortly, this offensive evolved into a financial one, which caused the submission of Greece under a status of limited sovereignty and the intervention of the IMF to the internal affairs of the Eurozone.

When they got what they wanted fromGreece, the markets targeted the other, smaller or larger countries of the European periphery. The aim is one and common in all cases: The full guarantee of the interests of the banks against the states, the demolition of the European welfare state, which has been a cornerstone of European democracy and culture, the demolition of European states and the submission of the remaining state structures to the new “International of Money”.

The EU, which was presented to its peoples as a means for collective progress and democracy, tends to become the means for terminating prosperity and democracy. It was introduced as a means of resistance to globalization, but the markets wish it to be an instrument of this globalization.

It was introduced to German and other European peoples as a means of peaceful increase of their power and prosperity, but the way that all peoples are abandoned to be the pray of financial markets, destroys the image of Europe and turns the markets into actors of a new financial totalitarianism, into the new bosses of Europe.

We are facing the danger of repeating the financial equivalent of World War 1 and World War 2 in our continent and be dissolved into chaos and decomposition, in favor of an international Empire of Money and Weapons, in the economic epicentre of which lies the power of the markets.

The peoples of Europe and the world are facing a historically unprecedented concentration of financial but also political and media power by the international financial capital, ie by a handful of financial institutes, rating agencies and a political and media class redeemed by them, with more centers outside, than inside Europe. These are the markets that attack today in one European country after another, using the leverage of debt to demolish the European welfare state and democracy.

The “Empire of Money” now requires a fast, violent, brutal transformation of a Eurozone country, Greece, into a country of the third world, with a so-called program of “rescue”, in fact the “rescue” of banks who lent the country. In Greece, the alliance of banks and the political leaderships imposed -through the EU, the ECB and the IMF – a program that equals to “economic and social murder” of the country and its democracy, and organizes the looting of the country before the bankruptcy to which it leads, wishing to make it the scapegoat of the global financial crisis and use it as a “paradigm” to terrorize all European peoples.

The policy that is currently conducted in Greece and attempts to spread, is the same applied in Pinochet’s Chile, Yeltsin’s Russia or Argentina and will have the same results, if not discontinued immediately. As a result of a program that supposedly intended to help the country,Greeceis now on the verge of economic and social disaster; it is used as a guinea pig to study people’s reactions to social Darwinism and terrify the entire European Union, with what can happen to one of its members.

The markets may also be pushing and using the leadership of Germany in actions of destruction of the European Union. But it constitutes an act of extreme political and historical blindness for the dominant forces of the EU and first of all, forGermany, to think that there can be any project of European integration or even simple cooperation, on the ruins of one or moremembers of the Eurozone.

The planned demolition of major, globally significant political and social achievements of the European peoples, can not establish any kind of European Union. It will lead to chaos and disintegration and it will promote the emergence of fascist solutions in our continent.

In 2008 private banking giants of Wall Street forced the states and state banks to bail them out of the crisis they themselves created, by paying with the taxpayers’ money the cost of their enormous fraud, such as mortgages, but also the operational cost of an unregulated casino-capitalism, imposed in the last twenty years. They turned their own crisis into a public debt crisis.

Now they are using the crisis and debt, which they themselves created, to deprive the states and the citizens of the few powers they still hold.

This is one part of the debt crisis. The other is that financial capital, together with the political forces supporting it globally, imposed an agenda of neoliberal globalization, which inevitably leads to the relocation of production outside Europe and the downward convergence of social and ecological standards of Europe with those of the Third World. For many years they hid this process behind loans, but now they use the loans to complete it.

The “International of Money”, that wishes to eliminate any notion of state in Europe, threatens Greece today, Italy or Portugal tomorrow; it encourages the confrontation among European peoples and puts the European Union before the dilemma whether to transform into a dictatorship of the markets or to dissolve. It aims at makingEuropeand the world to regress in a state like the one before 1945, or even before the French Revolution and the Enlightenment

In ancient times, the abolition, by Solon, of the debts which forced the poor to be slaves of the rich, the so-called Seisachtheia reform, laid the foundations for the birth, in ancientGreece, of the ideas of democracy, citizenship, politics andEurope, the foundations of European and world culture.

Struggling against the class of wealth, the citizens of Athens led the way in the constitution of Pericles and the political philosophy of Protagoras, who declared that “Man is the measure above all money”.

Today, the wealthy classes are attempting to avenge this spirit of man: “The markets are the measure above all men” is the motto that our political leaderships willingly embrace, in alliance with the devil of money, as Faust did.

A handful of international banks, rating agencies, investment funds, a global

concentration of financial capital without historical precedent, claims power in

Europe and the world and prepares to abolish the states and our democracy, using the weapon of debt to enslave the peoples of Europe, putting in place of the incomplete democracy we have, the dictatorship of Money and Banks; the power of a totalitarian empire of globalization, the political center of which is outside continental Europe, despite the presence of powerful European banks at the heart of the empire.

They started fromGreece, using it as a guinea pig, to move then to the other countries of the European periphery, and gradually to the center. The hope of some European countries to eventually escape, just proves that today’s European leaders face the threat of a new “financial fascism”, not better than the way they faced the threat of Hitler during the inter-war period.

It is not by accident that a big part of the media controlled by bankers chose to attack against the European periphery, by naming these countries as “pigs”, and also turned to a contemptuous, sadistic, racist campaign of the media they own, not only against the Greeks, but against the ancient Greek heritage and the ancient Greek civilization.

This choice shows the deeper, underlying goals of the ideology and the values of financial capital, which promotes capitalism of destruction.

The attempt of a part of the German media to humiliate symbols such as the

Acropolis or the Venus de Milo, monuments which were respected even by Hitler’s officers, is nothing but an expression of the deep disdain of bankers, who control these media, not so much against the Greeks, but mainly against the ideas of freedom and democracy, which were born in this country.

The financial monster produced four decades of tax exemption for the capital, all kinds of “market liberalization”, widespread deregulation, abolition of all barriers to the flows of capital and commodities, constant attacks against the state, massive acquisition of political parties and media, ownership of the global surplus from a handful of vampire-banks of Wall Street. Now, this monster, a true “state behind the States”, is revealed claiming the completion of the financial and political “permanent coup d’ etat”, carried out for over than four decades.

Facing this attack, the political forces of the European right-wing and social democracy seem compromised after decades of “entryism” by financial capital, the most important centers of which are non-European. On the other hand, trade-unions and social movements are still not strong enough to block this attack decisively, like they repeatedly did in the past. The new financial totalitarianism seeks to take advantage of this situation, in order to impose finite, irreversible conditions across Europe.

There is an urgent need for an immediate, cross-border coordination of action by intellectuals, people of the arts and literature, spontaneous movements, social forces and personalities who comprehend the importance of the stakes; we need to create a powerful front of resistance against the advancing “totalitarian empire of globalization”, before it is too late.

Europecan survive only if we promote a united response against the markets, a challenge bigger than theirs, a new European «New Deal».

  • We must immediately stop the attack againstGreeceand other countries of the EU periphery; we must stop the irresponsible and criminal policy of austerity and privatization, which leads directly to a crisis deeper than the one of 1929.
  •  Public debts must be radically restructured across the Eurozone, particularly on the expense of the private banking giants. Banks must be re-controlled and the financing of European economy must be under national and European social control. It is not possible to let the financial keys ofEuropein the hands of banks like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, UBS, the Deutsche Bank etc. We must ban the uncontrolled financial derivatives, which are the spearhead of the destructive financial capitalism, and create real economic development, instead of speculative profits.
  • The present architecture, based on the Maastricht Treaty and the WTO rules, has established a debt production machine inEurope. We need a radical change of all Treaties, the submission of the ECB under political control by the European peoples, a “golden rule” for minimum social, fiscal, environmental standards inEurope. We urgently need a change of paradigm; a return to the stimulation of growth through the stimulation of demand, via new European investment programs, a new regulation, taxation and control of international capital and commodities flows; a new form of smart and reasonable protectionism in an independent Europe, which will be the protagonist in the fight for a multipolar, democratic, ecological, social planet.

We appeal to the forces and individuals who share these ideas, to converge into a broad, European front of action as soon as possible; to produce a European transitional program, to coordinate our international action, so as to mobilize the forces of the popular movement, to reverse the current balance of power and overthrow the current historically irresponsible leaderships of our countries, in order to save our people and our societies before it is too late for Europe.

Athens, October 2011


Stop the destruction of social gains: march separately, strike together!

In every country in Europe, working people are hit by drastic and very similar austerity measures and plans inflicted by the various bourgeois governments, writes Balazs Nagy, from the Workers International. Obviously people in other continents are not exempt from effects of the deep crisis of capitalism either, but it takes on its most significant and vicious dimensions here in Europe. This is the cradle of capitalism and therefore of the workers’ movement which, with the support of all working people, succeeded in the past in winning significant rights and advantages in more than a century of bitter, stubborn struggle. Whatever the  soothing words from those in government and their legions of propagandists, this crisis is far from over. The resolute frontal attacks on the gains and rights workers have won will increase in number and ferocity. It is therefore highly important to know what they really represent and where they come from.

Thirty (not so) glorious years
These bourgeois attacks did not just start with the present crisis. In fact the material, social, political and cultural rights working people enjoy are incompatible with capitalism-imperialism, particularly in its current senile state of decrepitude. They were never freely given, but all of them were taken from the system by force in heroic struggles by working people over many years, not just during and after World War II, but also well before then.  But it was at that point that the balance of forces, internationally and within almost every country, swung clearly in favour of the working class. Terrified by the underlying support for the powerful revolutionary wave in Europe, the destitute bourgeoisie was only able to defuse the revolution through ready assistance from the general staffs of parties that called themselves socialist and communist. But willy-nilly, they had to pay a price for this. That was how the series of measures and reforms started which culminated in what became known as “welfare states” or “social market economy” (in Germany) and the so-called “thirty glorious years”. But the rot had already set in right from the word go…

Read more here http://workersinternational.org/?p=10