Before we proceed to the economic and political developments in Greece during the last 6 years, it would be useful to see how the Greek economy has been formed during the last 40 years.
After the Second World War and the 50s- 60s Greece enters a circle of relative economic recovery, characterized by the development of the domestic manufacture, the organization of the agriculture and the mass concentration of the population to the urban centers. The bourgeoisie, always west- oriented towards the USA, the NATO and, a bit later, the European Communities, supports the American- driven dictatorship of 1967- 1974, in an attempt to hold the growing power of the left. The fight against the Junta played an important role and contributed to the radicalization of the youth and the people.
After the defeat of the dictatorship a series of powerful labor fights start to develop. There is an increase of the power of left both among the labor force and within the universities. There comes a period of numerous strikes and labor and youth fights, which face the suppression of the right wing government.
PASOK manages to benefit from the political climate and raises to power in 1981. A few months before, the Greek bourgeoisie and its political parties (New Democracy and Pasok) made the strategic choice to join the European Communities. The imminent result of the labor fights of the last years along with the raise of PASOK is the building of a welfare state. The implementation of a series of important social gains affects every field: education, health, social insurance, labor rights, democratic freedoms etc. Greece seems to have entered a new phase.
The results of the entrance of Greece to the European Economic Community have not been visible yet. Some years later, in the mid- 80s’, starts the implementation of the first decisions of the EEC regarding the Greek economy. From the side of the EEC the plan is quite clear: the Greek economy should change its character and role, which practically means the minimization of the Greek agricultural production within just a few years, accompanied by the closing down or move abroad of a big number of manufactures under the directives of the EEC (for example the shipyards). The new economy is directed towards services and construction.
In just a few years the unemployment rates raise, as a result of the productive reform of the country, and the public debt grows larger, as a result of the numerous benefits that the domestic bourgeoisie and the multinational capital enjoy while dealing with the state their big construction pacts and contracts.
Since the beginning of the 90s’ a neoliberal wind blows at the official Greek political scene, beginning with the government of New Democracy (a pure right wing one), followed by the one of PASOK, which in the meantime has changed its character and has only minor and unimportant differences with New Democracy.
Since the middle of the 90s’ the vision of the Greek bourgeoisie has 3 main pillars:
- To enter the country at the ECU- Eurozone.
- To expand to the Balkans, benefiting from the fall of the socialist regimes and having the full support of the EU and the USA.
- To organize the Olympic Games of 2004 in Greece.
These three pillars mark the change at the role and the character of the Greek economy. Greece turns gradually but steadily from a country with a powerful, export- oriented agricultural sector and a growing manufacture to a country of services. At the same time a “corruption Party” takes place on the back of the big construction projects. The already problematic developmental model becomes even worse after the admission of the country to the Eurozone. The bourgeois “benefit-party” grows bigger and stronger and the money from the cheap borrowing isn’t spent on new investments for the destroyed productive base but it is used to tone up the domestic consumption and to provide the people with housing loans, so as to keep the economy alive. At the same time the unemployment rates keep increasing (from 2,3% in 1975, 2,7% in 1980, 7% in 1990, 10,9% in 1998- steadily over the European average since the beginning of the 90s’). They fall slightly around 2004 and stabilize relatively after 2007, to start raising dramatically during the years of the economic crisis and the implementation of the memoranda, reaching the rate of 28%. It is obvious that the increase in unemployment becomes a huge problem for the social security system and its funding.
The public debt has followed a parallel path. From 1,5 billion in 1980, to 31 billion in 1990, 87 billion in 1995, 105 billion in 1997, 183 billion in 2004, 263 billion in 2008, 355 billion in 2011, to fall only slightly in 2014, when it was around 349 billion, regardless of the numerous measures and cuts against the public needs.
The story ends up to the admission of Greece to the memoranda mechanism, after the government of Pasok requested in 2010 the contribution of the Troika (the IMF, the ECB and the EU) through public borrowing.
From 2010 and on, starting from the government of PASOK to be followed by the coalition government of New Democracy and PASOK, the government of New Democracy in 2012 and the government of Syriza since the beginning of 2015, Greece has entered a fatal circle: new loans to repay the former debt followed by vote and implementation of memoranda and recessional, anti- labor policies. Since 2010 we have 3 memoranda and hundreds of complementary legislations that target the fiscal adaptation- reformation of Greece, the drop of the labor cost and the destruction of the welfare state. The mass media and the governing parties hold the, supposed to be huge, public sector, the social provisions and the welfare state responsible for the crisis. We need to mention here that Greece had always been close to the European average in the number of its civil servants.
From the very first days of the first memorandum, a media propaganda mechanism is organized to defend the legislative initiatives that have destroyed the state. The salaries and the purchase power of the workers and employees have dropped almost 1/3 of its initial, the unemployment, as we said before, has reached rates higher than 25%, the “black” labor with no health or social insurance, underwork and unpaid work became the rule for the majority of the workplaces. One out of five employees survives with less than 400 euros per month, one out of two works part- time or flexibly.
Through a series of legislative interventions, sometimes ordered by the Troika and sometimes initiated by the domestic bourgeoisie and the governing parties, a series of labor and worker gains have been taken back, regardless of the mighty popular struggles of 2010- 2012.
The pension age has risen, pensions, like salaries, have followed a dropping path, a series of benefits have been awarded to the employers for the pumping up of the competitiveness and development, in the name of the recovery of the Greek economy. Thousands of schools and hospitals have either merged or closed down, while the policy of null recruitment has caused the domination of flexibility and precarity.
The public property has been sold to foreign investors for nothing. Since the neoliberal model has dominated, the logic of privatizations has prevailed and has been a basic pillar for the memoranda governments.
Though, the development hasn’t yet come, on the contrary the Greek economy has been sinking every day, deeper and deeper into the crisis, without no visible, imminent solution, favorable to the people.
It had already been known that the program would have all these terrible consequences, the greatest recession that the country has ever faced in a period of peace. It has already been confessed through various IMF reports,but the logic that has dominated is the one of the interests of the big European banks, willing to gain some time to sell the Greek derivatives they possessed, in order to prevent the virus of the crisis to spread all over the European banking system. “It is the implementation, you stupid” as Scheauble has said for those programs that destroyed my country and not the other way round. Maybe it would be an exaggeration to use the term “enslavement”, but Greece is a meta- modern, contemporary colony of the German dominated EU and the banks. Our public property, even our islands, belong to a hyper fund, controlled by the quartet. The public income belongs to the quartet. The parliament votes what the quartet says, usually for legislative texts, never read by the MPs.
The mighty popular struggles of 2010- 2012 and the disappointment of the wide popular masses by the parties of the old, bipolar party system (New Democracy and Pasok), have brought SYRIZA on the surface, the only party that, at the time, has been promising an imminent solution by the abolishment of the memoranda. Thousands of people gather around SYRIZA, which at the 2012 election manages to come second and becomes the opposition. Though, it has to face its own dead ends and ambivalences and its shallow and unclear politic. In January 2015 SYRIZA becomes the government, but it becomes soon clear that it has nothing different to offer.
During the summer of 2015 the refugee issue amplifies. Tsipras accepts the racist EU agreement, which sees Greece as a storage of human souls, hunted by the war. Greece has no place for negotiation or unilateral movements against the unilateral actions of various EU countries, which build up walls and fence their borders against the Geneva Chart for Human Rights. Tsipras does what Merkel says. But in any case, how could he act differently, being dependent on the ECB and on the loan agreements with the quartet? A Veto, for example, to the EU agreement, could possibly mean once gain a financial suffocation.
The institutional and economic meltdown of the country is such that makes the dominant classes even more dangerous. Venizelos (the former minister of economics) was screaming in 2013 for the participation of Greece at the bombing of Syria against Asad. Kamenos, the minister of defense, following the situation in Turkey, has called the US to leave their base on Instirlik and turn Karpathos, a relatively big island, into a NATO base. The bourgeoisie has gradually turned the country into a protectorate and a colony of debt, causing the mass proletarization of the people. This way of memoranda and the loan agreements has reached a dangerous point.
The solution for LAE (the Popular Unity) is a democratic anti- memorandum overthrow, though a series of imminent measures, for the denial to pay the debt, the exit of the Eurozone, the nationalization of the banks, the cancellation of the memorandum legislations, the re-appropriation of the popular sovereignty of our country, the re- appropriation of the public property and the productive re- organization of the economic, having the working people as its main force, so that our country will be able to stand on its own feet, independent and sovereign, equal to the other at the international scene.
The above text was the declamation of Stathis Katsoulas, member of Popular Unity, Greece, at the NO EURO International Forum