A Greek Tragedy for our Times
- February 11, 2012
Whenever I listen to economists and politicians talk about ‘austerity’ cuts and fiscal ‘medicine’, I’m always amazed by their complete indifference to the human and social impact of the measures they seek to impose and their arrogant assumption that the victims of these measures will passively put up with whatever is done to them.
Take the latest development in the ongoing humiliation of Greece. This is a country where official unemployment is now running at 20 percent, rising to 49 percent amongst Greek youth, where tens of thousands of businesses have already gone bankrupt, where the Greek Orthodox Church is feeding 250,000 people a day in soup kitchens, where 20,000 people have become homeless since the 2008 crisis.
But the EU/IMF Troika has now demanded that the Greek government identify further cuts of 325 million euros, in return for a 130 billion debt ‘bailout’ according to the principle ‘no disbursement without implementation.’
Yesterday the Athens News published a draft memorandum agreement between Greece and the IMF, in which the former promised to cut 150,000 public sector jobs, liberalise labour laws, reduce the minimum wage by 20 percent reduction in the minimum wage from 750 to 600 euros per month, cut pensions, social and health spending – all of which was intended to boost ‘competitiveness’ and ‘reduce the footprint of government in the economy through structural fiscal reform and by privatising public assets.’
As the Athens News notes, the reduction in the minimum wage means that young people aged 25 or under are liable to see their wages drop to 510 euros before tax. No wonder Greek trade unions are describing this agreement as the ‘tombstone of Greek society’, and no wonder the Greeks are revolting and their despised politicians are resigning. Because what we are witnessing is the systematic unravelling of a whole society, solely in order to satisfy ‘the markets’.
That ‘markets’ behave like this is not surprising: this is what they will always do when given the opportunity. But Europe’s politicians seem only too willing to give them that opportunity, and remain resolutely locked into a knuckledragging economic model based on the idea that ‘bad’ countries like Greece must be starved and shrunk till they can barely stand in order to make them walk or run.
And make no mistake about it: the demands being made on Greece will also be imposed on Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and throughout the whole of the eurozone, if necessary – and if possible. As Peter Schwartz writes at the World Socialist Website:
What the financial aristocracy is doing to Greece is what they intend for the whole of Europe. A social counter-revolution is taking place which was barely conceivable a few years ago. Broad layers of the population are being condemned to poverty, unemployment, sickness and even death to secure the profit demands of the international financial aristocracy.
Can’t disagree with that, and the only to prevent this from taking place is for other countries to do what the Greeks are doing, and make it impossible for their politicians to implement this program.
The European Union always talks about solidarity between its members as the linking principle of European unity. So I want to express my solidarity with Greece, not with the inept politicians who have done so much to bring about the current crisis, but with the tens of thousands of ordinary Greeks whose lives are being ripped apart by the new austerity regime, and to those who are currently fighting it.