Europe: Workers’ unity needed to fight attacks on workers

The dictatorship of the financial markets continues apace and those currently being crushed by its dictat are the workers, the pensioners and the poor of Greece.

For months now, the dictatorship’s hit squads – Hedge Funds, predatory investment banks and bondholders, aided and abetted by their scouts in the Rating Agencies – have laid siege to the Greek economy. The battle plan was simple enough – create sufficient uncertainty, suspicion and instability to enable them to gouge the Greek Government with levels of interest on their loans that massively increases their usurious profits which is, of course, the main object of the siege in the first place.

In all wars, it is the civilian population which suffers most and this is no exception. Hence the massive booty being accumulated by the aggressors is to be paid for by savage cuts in public sector wages, in pensions and tax increases.

The observation that truth is the first casualty of war also holds true here. And so we have splashed across the European media gross distortions and downright lies. Numerous articles would have us believe that Greek workers can retire on full pension at 53 or thereabouts and that public sector workers are living in clover as they receive fourteen months pay in every twelve months period. The truth is quite different.

The so called “thirteenth” and “fourteenth month” are two extra annual payments to Greek public workers. They were designed to raise very low wages to something more realistic, rather like somebody on the miserable minimum wage in Ireland relying on a shift allowance or a Christmas bonus, to make things a bit better.

The distortion about the retirement age arises from the fact that tens of thousands of Greek workers have been made redundant in privatisations and “rationalisations” over the last ten years. Very many of these workers will not work again because the jobs are not there for them, and so it was enforced retirement. This, however, has been spun as being the same as voluntary retirement on a state pension at a relatively low age. In fact ,the official male retirement age in Greece is 65 now and rising to 67 as part of the current onslaught.

Some of this misrepresentation is lazy journalism but some arises from a deliberate distortion of the truth with the aim of creating a belief throughout the EU that the savage programme of cuts now being inflicted is deserved and necessary. Low paid public sector workers in Ireland will readily understand the nature of the propaganda campaign being employed against their Greek counterparts since they have been the butt of something very similar themselves.

Certainly successive Greek governments share responsibility for the current situation. They railroaded the Greek people into the Eurozone, distorting the economic realities to do so. They have presided over massive tax evasion by Greek big business and allowed the wealthiest institution in Greece, the Orthodox Church, a completely tax free status. But these were not the responsibility of the Greek working class which is now presented with the bill.

The utter capitulation to the “markets” of the EU Commission and all the governments of the Member States gives the lie to their high flowing rhetoric about the EU being a tireless champion of democracy, justice and fairness, so called “European values.” In fact, governments that are supposed to be sovereign, bend in abject submission to the financial sharks, satisfying their economic bloodlust. Greek Prime Minister Papandreou, even as he denounced their speculation, was running up the white flag of surrender as he caved in to their demands that the ordinary people of Greece must be hammered to pay for their profits.

The EU Council of Finance Ministers and the EU Commission, rather than being champions of democratic rights, have acted as enforcers for the markets. They are the ones demanding that the most savage programme of cuts in services and living standards is implemented by the Greek government. The €110 billion ‘bail out’ package is being portrayed as a gift to Greece. In fact as the EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn pointed out the interest paid by the Greek people will in all cases ‘be higher than the interest paid’ by the lending country where it borrows the loan.

And so “the markets” hope to enjoy three years of super profits sweated from the Greek people. Now they will move on to Portugal, to Spain and, yes, to Ireland. Which is another reason why we should not let the Greek working people be isolated in their fight back. Only a few days ago on May 1st, international workers’ day, in many European cities the banners proclaimed “workers unite.” It really is time we began to give that slogan a concrete expression in challenging the dictatorship of the markets.

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