Workers Hammer No. 216

Autumn 2011


Greece: mass anger over savage austerity

European crisis and the bankruptcy of capitalism

Workers must rule!

For a Socialist United States of Europe!

In 2007-08, the world was plunged into an economic crisis unrivalled since the days of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Wall Street and City of London bankers whose financial swindles were central to this collapse were bailed out to the tune of trillions of pounds while the working class and the poor, the sick and the elderly have been made to foot the bill, losing their jobs, homes, pensions and virtually anything else that makes life remotely liveable. If there has been a “recovery” in some countries in the past two years, it has passed unnoticed by the vast majority of working people while corporate profits have soared and the richest have seen an enormous increase in their wealth. In the US, Britain and much of Europe the economy is now spiralling towards a double-dip recession.

For the past year Europe has been battered by a sovereign debt crisis which has left whole nations on the edge of bankruptcy. The spring 2010 bailout of Greece — in reality, a bailout of the investments of French and German bankers on the backs of the Greek working class — was quickly followed by similar “rescue packages” for Ireland and Portugal. A year later Greece had to be bailed out again to stave off an imminent debt default which threatened to spread to other eurozone countries, calling into question the continued existence of the euro as a European single currency. When Finland demanded and obtained an agreement from Greece to provide hefty collateral for its contribution to the bailout fund, the Financial Times (25 August) declared the bailout “dead on arrival” while noting: “The bail-out package has one overriding flaw — it was designed more to help European banks maintain the fiction that their exposure to Greece was secure than to provide relief for Athens”. All the negotiations, bailout funds and austerity measures have failed to arrest the eurozone crisis and stop the contagion.

Next it looked like Spain and Italy might go belly-up as rising interest on their government bonds was freezing them out of money to keep their economies afloat. The European Central Bank (ECB) started spending tens of billions of euros to buy up the bonds of Spain and Italy and drive down interest rates, while the governments of those two countries announced even more savage austerity. Spain’s economy is too big to rescue with a Greece-style bailout. Italy’s is even bigger — the third largest economy in the eurozone with debts of €1900 billion (£1650 billion). With the cost of Italian government borrowing approaching record levels, the right-wing government of Silvio Berlusconi responded to demands from the ECB by pushing through measures to lop €45.5 billion (£40 billion) off the budget by 2013 through raising taxes and slashing spending.

The government is not, however, finding it easy to push through its attacks in the face of angry resistance from wide sections of the population. On 6 September the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) held a nationwide strike which shut down transport, industrial plants and government offices. In Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, the workers’ struggles are hampered by a trade union bureaucracy that accepts the bosses’ framework that austerity is inevitable. CGIL leader Susanna Camusso complained only that the measures were “unjust”, “irresponsible” and “put all of the burden on public sector workers”. The Berlusconi government is also under mounting pressure from its EU partners to push through the measures. An article in Spiegel Online (6 September) says that patience is wearing thin at what is perceived in Berlin as Italy’s “foot dragging”. German chancellor Angela Merkel is deeply unpopular and facing opposition within her own coalition government.

Stock markets internationally have been on a roller-coaster ride of buying and selling. The stock market panic was stoked by political wrangling in the US between Democratic president Barack Obama and the right-wing Tea Party faction of the Republicans over raising the legal limit of government debt. Liberal Democrats and others raged that the Republicans were holding America “hostage” by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless they got trillions of dollars in spending cuts and no rise in taxes for the rich. But it was the Democratic Party president himself who manufactured the myth that the “world’s only superpower” was about to default on its debt like some impoverished Third World country. Even if they didn’t have the money — which they do, and plenty of it — they “can always print money”, as former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan put it. Our comrades of the Spartacist League/US noted:

“Obama’s purpose in this charade was not much different from that of the Republicans, as he pushed for a ‘grand bargain’ of massive austerity through slashing more than $4 trillion from so-called ‘entitlement’ programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security over the next decade. His sop of closing a few tax loopholes for the rich was about all the Democrats could choke out to try to maintain the fraud that they are the ‘friends’ of the little guy. And they even caved on that one.”

Workers Vanguard no 985, 2 September 2011

We need an all new ruling class — the workers!

In a 14 August article in the online edition of the Guardian, economics editor Larry Elliott noted:

“Together, the global imbalances, the manic-depressive behaviour of stock markets, the venality of the financial sector, the growing gulf between rich and poor, the high levels of unemployment, the naked consumerism and the riots are telling us something. This is a system in deep trouble and it is waiting to blow.”

Indeed it is. In the Communist Manifesto, written more than 150 years ago, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels identified the key contradiction of capitalist society, which lies at the root of repeated economic crises. On the one hand, under capitalism production is socialised. But the means of production remain the private property of a few, who appropriate the wealth that is produced by workers’ collective labour.

The boom-bust economic cycles are direct products of the capitalist system of production for profit. Capitalists invest in expanding productive capacity on the assumption that the additional output — cars, houses, etc — can be sold at the existing rate of profit, at least. However, during periods of expansion the average rate of profit tends to fall. This situation eventually creates a crisis of overproduction, as capitalists produce more goods and services than can be sold at a satisfactory rate of profit. Thus there is the repeated spectacle of masses of workers losing their jobs and being thrown into destitution because too much has been produced. As described by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto:

“Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce…. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones.”

Marx and Engels underlined that the rise of capitalism and the destruction of the feudal order represented a historic advance in the development of the productive forces — science, industry and technology. Yet capitalism in turn became a fetter on the further development of those productive forces. Out of the destitution and destruction produced by capitalism’s inevitable economic crises, the means of production came to be monopolised by fewer and bigger conglomerates. Their ever-growing need for investment funds and other financing led to the domination of finance capital, that is, of banking goliaths.

By the late 19th century, capitalism reached its ultimate, imperialist stage. The capitalists in the advanced industrial countries were driven to wage wars to redivide the world in order to plunder markets and secure spheres of exploitation in less-developed countries. In their competition for world domination, the imperialist powers engulfed the peoples of the world in the barbarism of World Wars I and II, as well as waging countless wars in colonial and semicolonial countries.

The utter irrationality of capitalism reached new depths in the epoch of imperialism. While industrial capitalists continued to concentrate on the production of goods for sale (commodities), the machinations of the giant financial institutions took on unheard-of proportions. As revolutionary Marxist leader VI Lenin explained in his 1916 study Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism:

“Although commodity production still ‘reigns’ and continues to be regarded as the basis of economic life, it has in reality been undermined and the bulk of the profits go to the ‘geniuses’ of financial manipulation. At the basis of these manipulations and swindles lies socialised production; but the immense progress of mankind which achieved this socialisation, goes to benefit…the speculators.”

The only road out of the misery of capitalist rule is a series of workers revolutions internationally which overthrows the rule of the capitalists and, through a massive expansion of the productive forces, lays the basis for an egalitarian socialist society based on material plenty.

Down with the bosses’ EU!

In Europe, the kind of financial swindles that Lenin described have sharply accentuated the contradictions inherent in the European Union. At the heart of the EU’s contradictions is the fact that the maintenance of a common currency requires a common state power. That is simply not possible under capitalism.

In its very origins the euro as a common European currency expressed the rivalries of the different capitalist states. Following the reunification of Germany through capitalist counterrevolution in East Germany in 1989 French imperialism sought to constrain the ambitions of its stronger German rival. A September 2010 article in Spiegel Online titled “Was the Deutsche Mark sacrificed for Reunification?” describes how then French president François Mitterrand threatened to veto German unity unless the Germans gave up the Deutschmark and opted for monetary union. When German chancellor Helmut Kohl made a 10-point declaration in late November 1989 calling for reunification of Germany, Mitterrand reportedly “threw a small temper tantrum lasting several hours”. The article reports that “German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher rushed to Paris to explain Bonn’s new domestic policy”. It says the secret minutes of that meeting show “more clearly than almost any other historical document how closely Mitterand’s approval of Germany’s reunification was linked to German concessions on monetary union”.

The EU today is an unstable consortium of rival capitalist states, dominated by Germany and France, which seek to increase their competitive edge against their imperialist rivals in the US and Japan through increased exploitation of the working class in Europe. A key concept underpinning the “convergence” of EU economies is the need for “flexible labour markets” which translates as low-paid workers on short-term contracts with little or no protection against being laid off.

The International Communist League (ICL) long ago debunked the illusion that the EU could lay the basis for a capitalist United States of Europe. In a statement on the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the basis for the euro, the ICL wrote:

“Since capitalism is organised on the basis of particular national states, itself the cause of repeated imperialist wars to redivide the world, it is impossible to cohere a stable pan-European bourgeois state. A European imperialist ‘superstate’ can be achieved only by the methods of Adolf Hitler, not those of Jacques Delors, the French social-democratic architect of Maastricht.”

— “For a workers Europe — For socialist revolution!” Workers Hammer, no 157, July/August 1997

Only the conquest of state power by the proletariat can lay the basis for a socialist United States of Europe and a rationally planned economy. For the workers to prevail against their exploiters, they must be armed with a Marxist political programme that links workers’ struggles to the fight to build multiethnic workers parties that will do away with this entire system of wage slavery through socialist revolution. Fight, don’t starve! Those who labour must rule!

The following article is reprinted from Workers Vanguard no 983, 8 July 2011.

* * *

On 29 June, as a two-day general strike virtually shut down the country and tens of thousands protested outside, the Greek parliament approved a new round of brutal austerity measures demanded by the Greek bourgeoisie and its imperialist overlords. The demonstrators — who included, in addition to workers, a broad range of the population from students and other youth to professionals and retirees — were viciously attacked by club-wielding riot police. More than a year of unrelenting attacks on the living standards of the Greek population has resulted in seething unrest across broad layers of society. In the last year alone, there have been at least a dozen one-day general strikes and massive protests. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, homelessness has skyrocketed and many people, especially pensioners, are reliant on soup kitchens for their survival.

Video footage of the wanton violence meted out by the cops has provoked widespread indignation, as has another video documenting collusion between the police and hooded provocateurs who infiltrated the protesters. Police fired endless volleys of tear gas and stun grenades and pummelled protesters with chunks of masonry. At least 38 were reportedly arrested in what was blatantly a cop riot. We demand that all charges be dropped against the anarchists and other anti-austerity protesters, including those arrested during the earlier general strikes!

It is clear for all to see that working people are being fleeced to pay for a crisis they are not responsible for. The economic crisis gripping Greece — a particularly severe expression of the world capitalist crisis — was triggered in the spring of last year as global financial capitalists, fearing that the heavily indebted Greek government would default on its loan obligations, began spurning Greek government bonds. The plummeting price of those bonds threatened European banks, especially in France and Germany — foreign financial institutions are exposed to some 340 billion euros in Greek public and private debt.

To try to head off the crisis, at least temporarily, the European Union (EU) and the IMF agreed last year to a 110 billion euro “rescue package” on condition that Athens impose draconian austerity measures on Greece’s working people. The October 2009 elections replaced the right-wing New Democracy (ND) regime with the bourgeois-populist Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of George Papandreou, with the bourgeoisie calculating that the masses would more readily accept “sacrifice” if demanded by PASOK. The PASOK government answered the EU and IMF’s ultimatum with a year-long campaign of slashing public sector workers’ wages, gutting pensions and ramping up taxes. These attacks hit hardest at the poorest in society, including immigrant workers. In addition, Greek officials, in response to EU/IMF demands that they raise cash by privatising a host of state-owned enterprises, have launched what the bourgeois press describes as a “fire sale”, auctioning off airports, ports and prime land.

European capitalists fear that a default by Greece could immediately pose a similar collapse by other heavily indebted countries such as Ireland and Portugal, which have already received bailouts from the EU and IMF, and Spain, whose economy is larger than that of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined. Fearing the potentially catastrophic effects of such contagion, the EU/IMF hastily agreed last month on a second “rescue package” for Greece, amounting to a further 120 billion euros. Yet hardly anyone believes that these bailouts will do more than delay the inevitable default.

Everyone can see that the fate of the Greek working class, and much of the petty bourgeoisie, will be ever more dire without a radical solution. The working masses have demonstrated their combativity time and again. But the workers’ leaders, whether the despised PASOK-loyal tops of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) or the far more militant-sounding Greek Communist Party (KKE) and its PAME labour front, have thus far succeeded in channelling workers’ anger into what amounts to militant parliamentary lobbying. In effect, they appeal to the Greek capitalists to stand up to their senior partners in Germany and France. This nationalist class collaboration is a recipe for demoralisation and defeat.

The allies of the Greek proletariat are to be found not among its “own” exploiters but among the workers elsewhere in Europe and beyond. A proletarian upheaval in Greece could trigger a wave of class struggle throughout Europe against the ever more brutal and incessant attacks of the capitalists against the jobs, benefits and living standards of all workers on the continent. A workers government in Greece would immediately repudiate the imperialist debt. Such an act would require a direct appeal to the proletariat, from Germany and France to Spain and Portugal, to come to the defence of their Greek class brothers and sisters against the combined forces of the European bourgeoisies.

As long as Greek workers are mobilised primarily against the foreign diktats of the IMF and EU, they will be unable to see that opposing the imperialists is intertwined with overthrowing the Greek bourgeoisie. The Greek government is not simply a tool of the European and other imperialist powers, as some signs in the Athens demonstrations suggest, but of the Greek bourgeoisie that has always exploited, suppressed and bled the working class in the pursuit of profit.

The question that is objectively posed is the need for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist order and the establishment of working-class rule. Yet there is a huge disparity between the objective needs of the Greek working class and oppressed on one side and the political programme of their leadership on the other. The repeated strikes and protests are designed to dissipate the anger of workers, whose militancy is clearly not the issue. The problem is that the working class is hamstrung by a leadership that accepts the need for the working class to bear some degree of austerity to “bail out” capitalism, while objecting that the terms and conditions dictated by the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are too severe.

The programme of the labour bureaucracy — defined by what is “practical” under capitalism — has led to disaster for the working class. To overcome the gulf between the workers’ present consciousness and the necessity for a workers government based on organs of proletarian power, a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party would put forward a series of transitional demands, starting from the felt needs of the masses and pointing the way towards the seizure of state power by the working class and the expropriation of the rapacious capitalist class.

To combat mass unemployment, it is necessary to demand the sharing of available work, with no loss of pay, and a massive programme of public works. To protect even their current living standards — already among the lowest in Europe — workers must demand that wages be indexed to inflation. To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the industrialists and bankers, workers should demand that the capitalists open their (real) books. With the imperialists demanding the dismantling of state enterprises, the proletariat must fight for the expropriation of the productive property of the capitalist class as a whole and the establishment of a planned economy under workers rule, where production would be based on social need, not profit.

Combat national chauvinism!

Throughout Europe, the capitalist press and politicians have been whipping up a chauvinist frenzy against Greeks, who are portrayed as lazy, ungrateful scroungers. Last year the right-wing German Bild (27 October 2010) screamed: “Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks…and the Acropolis too!” A recent Financial Times (9 May) editorial demanded: “Athens must be put under the gun.” For all the talk of bailing out Greece, the only “bailout” that is taking place is that of Europe’s banks. Columnist Martin Wolf noted in the Financial Times (21 June): “It is far less embarrassing to state that one is helping Greece when one is in fact helping one’s own banks.”

With chauvinist arrogance, the European imperialists, led by Germany, are seeking to impose on Greece, an EU member state, the kind of diktat they are accustomed to issuing to neocolonial countries in the Third World. The Financial Times (17 June) reports that officials of the “troika” — the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission — are demanding that “outsiders” be brought in “to make Greece’s privatisation programme happen”, adding that “because Greece seemed incapable of collecting taxes, international experts would come in to do that, too”. The article further reports that Finnish officials were insisting that “Athens assets should be securitised so they could be used as collateral. If Greece defaulted, lenders would gain an airport or some other utility.”

The imperialists’ dismissive attitude to Greece’s sovereignty has in turn fuelled national chauvinism in Greece. Right-wing opponents of the EU/IMF’s bailout include New Democracy, Greece’s main opposition party. ND represents Greek business interests that have no intention of paying the imperialists’ extortion themselves and fear, as BBC economics editor Paul Mason put it, “a tax bill the like of which they have never dreamed, nor indeed paid”. However, ND and PASOK are united in the determination that Greek working people pay for the country’s economic crisis.

Recent months have seen the explosive growth of a new movement, the so-called “indignant citizens” movement. The “Indignados” placed themselves at the head of the mass mobilisations outside parliament, where Greek flags proliferated, the Greek national anthem was sung and anti-American and anti-German sentiment was rife. Protesters have waved EU flags with a swastika at the centre — equating “German” with “Nazi” and invoking the spectre of World War II, when Greece was occupied by German imperialism (followed by rampaging British troops).

In Spain, the Indignados movement arose in response to the austerity measures that were being enforced by the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Party government before its huge defeat in the last elections. In Greece, the petty-bourgeois Indignados emerged in the context of the abject failure of the trade union bureaucracy to present any way forward for the struggles of the working masses. The two main trade union federations, the GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sectors respectively, are controlled by PASOK, which is imposing the austerity measures. Despite the “socialist” reference in its name, and the credentials given to it by opportunist left groups, PASOK is a capitalist party.

Broad layers of the middle class that could be rallied behind an insurgent proletariat struggling for power are instead being drawn into virulently chauvinist, anti-immigrant and anti-working-class movements. Displaying overt hostility to the organisations of the working class and the left, the Indignados present themselves as a “pro-democracy” movement of all classes. As in Spain, all leftist political parties and trade unions, as well as red flags and banners, were banned from the Greek protests at first. Not surprisingly, given the nationalist fervour whipped up by the Indignados, Golden Dawn and other fascist outfits have been seen at the protests.

There has been an ominous rise in racist attacks, as desperately impoverished immigrants are used as scapegoats for the economic devastation. Earlier this year, fascist thugs rampaged through a heavily immigrant area of Athens, killing one person and wounding many more. Golden Dawn got over five per cent of the vote in municipal elections in Athens late last year. According to the London-based Institute of Race Relations, Golden Dawn’s Nikos Michaloliakos, accompanied by eight apparently armed bodyguards, gave a Nazi salute at a council meeting in Athens in January.

The fascists are emboldened by the racist policies of the government. Greece’s border with Turkey is one of the front lines of “Fortress Europe”, with EU border patrols employed to keep immigrants out. The Greek government has announced plans to build a razor-wire fence, equipped with sonar systems and thermal sensors, along the border. The workers movement must fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and to unionise foreign workers. For union/minority mobilisations to stop fascist provocations! For integrated workers defence guards to protect immigrant neighbourhoods!

Communist Party: left face of Greek nationalism

The Stalinist KKE adopts a posture of militant opposition to the PASOK government and promotes PAME as a class-struggle alternative to what it calls the “government- and employer-led” trade unions. But the Greek Stalinists present no fundamental alternative to the betrayals of the GSEE/ADEDY union misleaders. Despite its occasional verbal radicalism, the KKE is hostile to the programme of workers revolution to overthrow Greek capitalism.

The KKE’s political bankruptcy is evident in regard to the Indignados. In an article in Rizospastis (5 June), the KKE correctly noted that “the ‘anonymous’ leaders of the ‘movement of the squares,’ the ‘non-partisan,’ ‘spontaneous,’ ‘non-politicized’ citizens, appear to be politicized, declaring themselves ‘anti-left’”. The article adds that with their slogans “Out with the left”, “Parties out” and “Trade unions out”, the Indignados are “not that democratic, or, to be more accurate, they are undemocratic”. What the KKE cannot challenge, though, is the virulent nationalism of the Indignados, which the KKE itself shares.

Indeed, the KKE has made defence of “national sovereignty” its own calling card, and is particularly virulent in espousing Greek nationalism in relation to Turkey, the traditional enemy of its “own” bourgeoisie. For example, in a speech last year, KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga complained that the EU was not taking account of “our national sovereignty rights” when considering Turkey’s bid for membership. She went on to chastise Papandreou for “trying to cover up the issue by dividing the Aegean, something that will have an adverse effect on the islands’ defense”. Nationalism within the workers movement is the chief obstacle to constructing a genuine revolutionary workers party in Greece.

It is a travesty that the KKE retains a reputation as militant fighters against capitalism based on the Resistance against the Nazi occupation and the subsequent Greek Civil War of 1946-49. In pursuit of its programme of class collaboration with the Greek bourgeoisie, the KKE handed power back to the bourgeoisie following World War II. The working class, backed by the peasantry, was the decisive force in the anti-Nazi Resistance, mounting massive strikes and demonstrations from late 1942 until the withdrawal of German troops in 1944. The working class, arms in hand, had state power in its grasp. But its leaders, the treacherous KKE, actually welcomed the arrival of British troops into Greece, enabling the imperialists to stabilise the situation, bring back the hated monarchy and massacre the workers.

The Greek Stalinists lived up to the terms of the secret Tehran agreement, whereby Stalin granted the imperialists the “right” to preserve capitalist rule in Western Europe and Greece. Politically disarming the proletariat, the Stalinists went so far as to join a “national” government of the bourgeoisie. In February 1945, they signed the Varkiza agreement, which physically disarmed the KKE-led Resistance forces as British troops and the Greek National Guard were preparing to unleash a full-scale wave of terror against the masses. Only in February 1946 did the KKE finally abandon its suicidal policy and take up the “armed struggle” again. In October 1949, after ferocious repression, the Civil War was ended. The KKE ranks had fought heroically. But needless to say, the KKE learned nothing from the tragic consequences of its treachery and continues to pursue its bankrupt programme of subordination to the Greek bourgeoisie.

What the Trotskyists wrote at the end of World War II holds true for the role of the Stalinists throughout the Civil War:

“The Greek masses were burning with revolutionary determination and wished to prepare the overthrow of all their oppressors — Nazi and Greek. Instead of providing the mass movement with a revolutionary program, similar to the Bolshevik program of 1917, and preparing the masses for the seizure of power, the Stalinists steered the movement into the blind alley of People’s Frontism. The Stalinists, who enjoyed virtual hegemony of the mass movement, joined with a lot of petty bourgeois politicians, lawyers, professors, who had neither mass following nor influence, and artificially worked to limit the struggle to the fight for capitalist democracy.”

— “Civil War in Greece”, Fourth International, February 1945

The social-democratic reformists in Greece — such as the Socialist Workers Party (SEK), which is affiliated to the British group of the same name, and Xekinima, the Greek affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) — stand to the right of the KKE in their enthusiasm for the anti-Communist, anti-working-class Indignados. For example, Xekinima calls to “Extend the movement to all work places, workers’ neighbourhoods, and the youth” (, 27 June). The notion of classless “democracy” that these groups promote has long been an anti-Communist code word that actually means support to bourgeois class rule. Thus, both the SEK and Xekinima supported capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union in 1991-92 and hailed counterrevolutionary forces such as Polish Solidarno?? and Boris Yeltsin’s Russian “democrats”.

For workers revolution!

The Trotskyist Group of Greece fights to forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party capable of leading the working class to power. Above all, this means breaking the workers from nationalism and winning them to a revolutionary internationalist perspective. During Round One of the present crisis, the TGG issued a 28 April 2010 leaflet that opposed the widespread Greek nationalism as “poisonous to class consciousness”. Any effective struggle against the bosses’ attacks must begin with the understanding that the workers have no country, until they seize the one they’re in. Our comrades insisted: “What is needed is international workers solidarity across the EU against capital” (see “Workers protests rock Greece”, Workers Hammer no 211, Summer 2010).

The Greek financial crisis has increased the seething national antagonisms in Europe, as seen in the diplomatic spats between France and Germany. German chancellor Angela Merkel, unpopular at home and with a shrinking majority in the Bundestag (parliament), has clashed with French officials and with the ECB over whether the bankers have to accept some losses. Following pressure from the IMF, Merkel agreed to a new bailout package while the French banks have offered to roll over Greek debts for 30 years. Whatever divisions there may be within bourgeois circles over how to deal with the catastrophic financial situation, in Germany, France, Britain and Europe as a whole, each government is determined to make the working masses pay for a crisis that is caused by the capitalist system itself.

The EU is an imperialist trade bloc, centred on a pact between the French and German capitalist rulers to ratchet up the exploitation of the working classes at home while trying to gain advantage over their imperialist rivals as well as the smaller European states. At the same time, the EU is an unstable formation that intensifies national antagonisms and fuels chauvinism.

We Marxists oppose the EU from the perspective of proletarian internationalism. The comrades of our German section, the Spartakist Workers Party, last year published an article titled “Solidarity with the Greek Workers! For Class Struggle Against the German Capitalists!” (Spartakist no 183, May 2010), which noted:

“The chauvinist campaign against Greece is being set in motion so as to prevent the German working class from hitting on the idea of placing blame for the crisis at the feet of the capitalist system and its own rulers. The workers movement in Germany must mobilize in solidarity with Greek workers and all the other victims of the EU imperialists — after all, they’ll be confronted with similar attacks in the immediate future. The witchhunt against Greece also serves to split and weaken the multiethnic working class in Germany.”

Today, despite the relentless bleeding of the Greek working people, the country remains mired in deep recession. The bankrupt capitalist class manifestly does not have any crumbs that it is willing to throw to dampen workers’ anger. Short of a struggle for working-class power, the workers’ struggles will continue to be frustrated. The perspective for Greek workers must be that of common class struggle with their class brothers and sisters — from Turkey to Germany and elsewhere around the world.

As the TGG wrote in its leaflet: “What’s needed is a socialist revolution to overthrow the capitalist state and replace it with a workers state that will lay the basis for building a socialist society. For that, you need to build a revolutionary workers party — a party like Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks — which will fight for a workers government. The TGG, Greek sympathising section of the ICL, seeks to build such a party” (our emphasis).