Europe

International Food Workers’ Union Opposes Greek Austerity

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) has made a strong statement opposing austerity in Greece. “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of a democratic alternative to austerity. The Syriza government of Greece incarnates that alternative, which is why the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) have allied with the IMF to exorcise the challenge it represents. With few exceptions, political parties of every persuasion have tacitly or actively supported the anti-Syriza coalition,” they write.

They explain the unbending approach of “the institutions”, (Formerly known as the troika, and made up of the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Commission, their name was changed to “the institutions” because the troika’s mere name was so hated in Greece.)

German post-war debt

The statement points out “In 1953, the London conference of Germany’s creditors agreed to write off half of Germany’s sizeable pre-war debt and made payment of the remainder contingent on Germany’s ability to pay by running a trade surplus. No surplus, no payments. The London Agreement was political; it was intended to fortify Germany’s position in the Cold War. The decision to undermine a government of the left in Greece is equally political. The assertion, endlessly repeated during 6 months of negotiations, that Europe can weather a Greek default and exit from the euro, can be turned on its head. Europe can digest a substantial write-down of Greek debt – in fact it would be beneficial to everyone – but the ‘institutions’ are determined to deliver a political lesson, and not just to Greece.”

Meanwhile, Greece has defaulted on paying $1.73 billion to the International Monetary Fund. This is the largest loan default in IMF history.

“Voters” must bow to “economic reality”

The Wall St. Journal editors confirmed this two days ago, when they wrote: “Appeasing Syriza’s demands could spread political contagion to Spain, Portugal and other countries that might think they too can avoid reform and still be rescued. A last-minute reprieve is possible, but if not the Greeks will have committed suicide by ignoring economic reality. Voters in Europe, Japan and the U.S., take note.” In other words, what this is really all about is intimidating workers (“voters”) into accepting cuts, more cuts, and still more cuts.

Opinion polls

Clearly, a “no” vote would show that workers are not intimidated.

So far, opinion poll results vary. One poll reported in the Wall St. Journal had the “yes” votes clearly ahead. Most other polls, however, show the “no” vote leading. In the key EU country – Germany – opinion is strongly anti-Greek.

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece.

This is much more than a matter of “democracy” and “dignity.” We are reminded of the reported exchanges during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in which republican forces were defeated by fascist General Franco. During a lull in the fighting, the republican propagandists shouted to the fascist troops, “come over to our side, where democracy is!” The return answer was, “and what does democracy give you to eat?” 

That is the issue in both Greece and Germany.

Meanwhile, there is a bit of a strike wave in Germany, including both postal workers and hospital workers. As a first step, Syriza could organize to send Greek workers to those strikers in Germany to offer support and to explain that “austerity” in Greece simply means more of what these German workers are striking against. Now that would put real pressure on Merkel and the rest of the troika!

Update

We got the following update from Greece: The german unions of Bosch, Volkswagen, hospital Charite, Alstrom, MAN,Amazon, IG Metall Salzgitter-Peine sent their solidarity and support to the greek workers and greek goverment, and called the greek workers to vote no, today. The bad news are that the General Confederation of Greek Workers asked from the goverment to take back the referendum. Some bureaucrats stand to the side of capitalists in the name of workers… We have some unfinished business with them to close after the referendum…”

Categories: Europe, workers' struggles

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