We need a strong and united Left against the domination of finance capital
A central issue for all communist and Left movements at present is to draw conclusions on the current situation in Europe and the Eurozone. Greece is one facet of the class struggle in Europe, and as such it is important.
The bourgeois media in Finland in particular has intentionally blamed Greece and the Greek people, while in reality the Greek situation is predominantly a question of the EU and the Euro system, the domination of the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and of neoliberalism and finance capitalism and the crisis of democracy.
The main document of the CPF’s 2010 congress, the Way Out of the Crisis, described the situation at the time as the generation of multiple overlapping crises. Also, the Greek situation this summer is partly a question of the line chosen in dealing with the financial crisis, and particularly the Eurozone crisis, where private commercial banks and speculators were bailed out generously while demands were placed on ordinary people for increasingly stringent “adaptation” and on governments for more extensive privatisation and spending cuts.
The recent developments in the Greek crisis have prompted many on the Left to reconsider their position towards the EU, but also right-wing forces in Europe have been surprised at the German-led humiliation of Greece.
When joining the EU the Finnish people were promised peace, freedom and economic growth. These promises now appear grotesque as the EU elite dictates what policies European countries are permitted to exercise and are more concerned about the welfare of investors in the Union than about the overall national economy.
In Finland the summer negotiations have exposed the government’s right-wing policy. All the government party leaders were enthusiastic in demanding tough austerity measures by Greece, and, like their European counterparts, angered by the referendum held in Greece. The Centre Party, the party of the Prime Minister, is fully committed to EU diktat and austerity, as is the leader of the National Coalition Party, the Minister of Finance Alexander Stubb. The collaboration within government has also exposed the vacuous nature of the Finns Party’s critique of the EU. When it came to the crunch, the party agreed to what was decided in Brussels and called for no structural changes. Finland was Germany’s enthusiastic comrade in arms in demanding Greece’s humiliation. Among the opposition parties too the leaders of the Greens and Social Democrats have supported the government line.
Those who caused the crisis should pay for it
In the Nordic countries the media has inflated the support given to Greece and has accused Greeks of being lazy. In reality, 90% of the support Greece received has gone straight to the central European banks. The remaining 10% has disappeared into the pockets of wealthy Greeks. This funding has been conditional on Greece agreeing to widespread public spending cuts and privatization.
The compulsory cuts demanded by the Troika have done nothing for the health of the Greek economy, neither is there any reason to think that the austerity measures now decided upon will do so. The Greek people have roundly opposed the loan conditions imposed on them, which impedes their implementation. It is inconceivable that Greece will be able to comply with all the measures demanded of it.
The first important objective for a change of direction for Greece and the EU is for the country’s debt to be cut, as it cannot cope with its current debt burden. The debt taboo must be eliminated and its inviolability eradicated. The debts of Greece and other countries must be able to be reduced and repayment schedules extended. The domination of the banks must change to the domination of democracy. Instead of bailing out the banks and major investors, debt arrangements must make those who have caused the crisis pay for it
It is also necessary to abandon the predominant policy in Europe of slashing public services. Investment in public sector production would create new jobs and prosperity, and could put Europe onto a new growth path. The context of austerity and redundancies, which is neoliberal ideology, must be fundamentally called into question.
Observations on democracy
The contempt shown by the Troika for democracy has caused widespread astonishment. Greece’s creditors ignored the policy of the political party that won the elections and were angered when the country held a national referendum on the prospective loan conditions.
Throughout the spring, the bourgeois media alleged that Greece’s left-wing government was being uncooperative. In reality, though, the Troika displayed a complete lack of will to negotiate with the Greeks. Syriza made numerous compromise proposals during the spring, but the Troika representatives refused even to discuss them.
The ECB used its own powers for political ends. It hampered the activities of the Greek government by tightening the conditions for funding. During the previous right-wing government funding was fixed through the purchase of government bonds, but when Syrizan came to power, these bonds no longer sufficed. The ECB had begun granting emergency loans at higher rates of interest, but these were stopped altogether the day after Alexis Tsipras announced the holding of the referendum. The ECB’s activities have deliberately caused the collapse of the Greek economy.
Europe’s social democratic parties stuck with their countries’ right-wing parties and did not alter their positions in light of the January elections in Greece. These parties have been enthusiastic promoters of the EU and have been party to the adoption of austerity policies in their own countries. One reason for the outcome of the Greek negotiations is the fragmentation of and divisions among the Left, and the zeal with which many stand together with the bourgeois parties in their countries.
The Troika attacked the left-wing Syrizan in an attempt to completely humiliate it and at the same time send out a warning to the rest of Europe. This exposes the class struggle, the attack by the right on the workers movements, civil society movements and their goals of confronting political hegemony. Because the Troika’s actions constitute attacks against democracy, it is important that within the Left there is also an understanding of the need for broader, pro-democracy struggles that are not only of the left but also the goal of wider groups of people.
The CPF stands in solidarity with the struggle of the Greek people against cuts and economic austerity. We are in solidarity with everyone involved in this struggles and we stress that winning it requires wide-ranging cooperation between the Greek Left and communists.
The Euro crisis and the way it has been managed has clearly shown the class nature of the EU and how the struggle must be radical and structurally far-reaching. The CPF is also previously highlighted the role of the EU as an engine of right-wing class struggle and in the structural problems of the eurozone. It is important that the issue of leaving the euro is raised more clearly in the discussions within the European Left. The situation in Greece clearly shows that the European Left needs a plan in the event that one or more countries end up outside the eurozone.
The struggle of the European Left and civil society against the Troika, the EU’s oppressive structures, neoliberalism and austerity is the most crucial issue of all. It’s unity and power will determine the outcome of future struggles: will we remain subordinate to the Troika or will we manage to change the direction of policy. We need greater and more robust cooperation among communists and other progressive forces – mass movements, radical leftists, the trade union movement and the environmental movement. Only in this way will it be possible to built a different Europe, one that upholds the rights of workers, gives people broad democratic empowerment, safeguards extensive welfare services for all and is able to respond to mounting environmental problems.
The EU Stability and Growth Pact and other undemocratic structures, TTIP treaty-style programmes and forming of a military alliance, as well as such things as mass surveillance using the information technology we use, are threats to democracy. To stop this development requires not only cooperation among the Left but also with the wider sphere of civil society. A successful struggle for democracy, however, a strong Left movement at its core.
For the CPF, the situation in Greece is not some local oddity, but is a matter of the international struggle. It cannot be resolved within just a single country, but instead requires extensive cooperation and a broad front. What happened in Greece could reoccur elsewhere in Europe and with increasingly drastic variations. The direction of Europe cannot be altered unless there is a determined class struggle waged by the Left and the labour movement.