Workers Vanguard No. 1071
10 July 2015
Down With the European Union! No Support to Syriza!
Greece Votes No to EU Austerity
JULY 6—Last night, millions of Greek working people celebrated a landslide victory in the country’s referendum on a bailout deal with the imperialists of the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Asked whether they would accept yet more grinding austerity as the price for a new “rescue package” (in reality a bailout of Greek and international banks), more than 60 percent of voters responded with a decisive “NO!” With this result, the Greek population has justly delivered a slap in the face to the imperialist leaders of the EU. As our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece wrote in their July 1 statement calling for a “no” vote in the referendum (reprinted below), the victory of a “no” vote would “help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their blood-sucking banks.”
The referendum was called by the government coalition led by Syriza, following months of negotiations with its EU/IMF creditors. Syriza called for a “no” vote with the declared intention of using popular rejection of the EU/IMF extortion as a bargaining chip to secure a slightly less onerous austerity package. Syriza is a bourgeois party, supports the EU and is determined that Greece should remain within the euro currency zone. That is why the TGG said “no vote to Syriza!” in the January general election. The Greek workers should use the powerful rejection of EU/IMF austerity in the referendum as a platform for a class-struggle fight against the Syriza government with the aim of canceling the debt and smashing the capitalists’ austerity programs.
The proponents of a “yes” vote, along with Germany’s Merkel, France’s Hollande, Britain’s Cameron & Co., sought to panic the Greek population into capitulating to the EU/IMF diktat with the threat that, following a “no” vote, “Grexit” (Greek exit from the eurozone) and a return to its previous national currency, the drachma, would trigger rampant inflation, mass defaults and bankruptcies as well as further deprivation and political unrest. But for working-class Greeks the past several years of economic crisis have been an ongoing catastrophe that has left them with little more to lose. The threats of the Greek capitalists and their imperialist patrons rebounded against them as more people were driven to vote “no” out of fury at being blackmailed.
While the Greek working people have clearly rejected the EU’s vicious austerity, polls have consistently shown that around three-quarters of the Greek population are in favor of remaining inside the eurozone and there are still widespread fears about what exit from the euro and EU might bring. But exiting from the euro and recovering the barest minimum of sovereignty over its currency is a precondition for the country to begin to recover. In the short term, life will likely be harsh for Greek workers following “Grexit,” but in the longer term there will indeed be the possibility of “life after default” as U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz put it (Huffington Post, 30 June). Moreover, the Greek working class would be in a better position to struggle for its class interests.
The International Communist League has always insisted that in the long term a common European currency is not viable, something that is being driven home today with the events surrounding Greece. Capitalism is based on nation-states with conflicting interests (making the EU itself inherently unstable), and ordinarily each country has its own currency. When it operates with its own currency—the drachma in the case of Greece—a debtor country can get some relief and regain competitiveness by devaluing the currency. But this is not possible in a currency union like the eurozone.
The example of Argentina (or Iceland) graphically shows that Greece might be much better off if it defaulted on its debts and left the eurozone, reinstating its own currency. After Argentina pegged its peso to the U.S. dollar in 1991, its economy went into a deep recession and the country defaulted in 2001. In response, Argentina stopped pegging its currency to the dollar and the economy recovered. Average wages initially dropped 30 percent, but within a year unemployment fell and wages rose. But for Greece to exercise the option of devaluing its currency, it must first break from the euro, which is under the control of the far more powerful German bourgeoisie. Leaving the eurozone and repudiating the debt will not in itself insulate the Greek proletariat from the world economic downturn and capitalist devastation wrought by the imperialists and the Greek capitalist ruling class. The only answer to that is sweeping away capitalist rule through the seizure of power in Greece and extending proletarian rule internationally.
We were unique on the left in calling for a “no” vote while giving no support to the Syriza government and drawing a clear class line against the pro-Syriza camp. As the TGG leaflet notes, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) called on its supporters to cast an invalid ballot with its own slogans opposing the EU and the Syriza government. The KKE claimed that a “no” vote in the referendum was equivalent to a “yes” vote to Syriza’s own austerity measures. The KKE leadership’s treacherous “tactic,” which objectively bolstered the pro-EU “yes” vote, backfired when large numbers of the KKE’s own membership rebelled and voted “no.”
Comrades of the TGG, along with comrades from other ICL sections, distributed thousands of leaflets—at rallies called by the KKE and by Syriza, in working-class neighborhoods and on campuses. Our leaflet was very well received by many. However, TGG comrades distributing at the final “no” rally were physically driven out by pro-Syriza Greek nationalists who understood clearly enough that our “no” vote in the referendum was certainly not a “yes” vote for Syriza.
Those KKE members who wish to oppose the EU and fight the Syriza government should consider the lessons of their leadership’s attempted sabotage of the “no” vote. The Stalinist politics of the KKE leadership are inherently nationalist and can only lead to a dead end in a situation like the current sharp crisis in Greece, which calls out for an internationalist appeal to workers throughout Europe to unite in struggle against their capitalist rulers. For that reason, the KKE has not been able to offer any road forward for the Greek working class, including in this referendum. The TGG seeks to build a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party—at once revolutionary, proletarian and internationalist—as a section of the reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.
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In the Referendum We Say:
Down With the EU!
No Support to the Syriza Government!
The Trotskyist Group of Greece calls for a NO vote in the July 5 referendum. A resounding “no” vote would be an important blow against the imperialist-dominated EU and its savage austerity programs. A “yes” vote would be a victory for the imperialist rulers and the Greek bourgeoisie and a terrible defeat for the working people of Greece and throughout Europe. It would be used by the EU to further devastate the conditions of life for millions. A “no” vote would help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their bloodsucking banks. Down with the EU!
The International Communist League, of which the TGG is a section, has opposed the EU on principle from its inception. The EU is an unstable consortium, dominated by German imperialism, aimed at driving down the living standards of working people throughout Europe, including in Germany itself and not least in East Europe. The euro is an instrument for economic domination of the major powers over the poorer states. The only way out of the nightmare of recurrent capitalist crises is to unite the workers throughout Europe in struggle to sweep away the imperialist EU through the fight for socialist revolutions here and internationally. For a Socialist United States of Europe!
The TGG opposed a vote to Syriza in the January election and stands in irreconcilable opposition to the capitalist Syriza government. The Syriza-led coalition has bent over backward to appease the Troika [the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF], seeking merely to haggle over how much austerity should be implemented, while fostering illusions that the EU can be reformed into a “democratic and social Europe.” The Syriza-ANEL [right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks] coalition has whipped up Greek nationalism, which fuels anti-immigrant racism. The reformist ANTARSYA coalition seeks to pressure the capitalist Syriza party to break with the EU and IMF. In contrast, we call upon the working class of Greece to struggle against the Syriza government and the entire capitalist ruling class.
The KKE leadership is asking working people to throw away their vote by casting an invalid ballot with the KKE’s own slogans. The KKE’s refusal to mobilize for a victory for the “no” vote is in complete contradiction with its stated opposition to the EU. The KKE leaders claim that to vote down the Troika’s deal is an implicit vote for Syriza’s own rotten austerity package. No! Voting down the Troika’s deal is just that: telling the imperialist rulers of the EU to get lost! If the “yes” vote wins, the downfall of the Syriza government will come at the hands of the EU imperialists and their Greek lackeys. This will strengthen the hand of the Troika for even more vicious attacks on the working class and oppressed.
In practice, the KKE’s call to cast invalid ballots will reduce the number of people voting “no” and could help the “yes” vote win. Anything but a clear “no” in this referendum is a betrayal of the interests of workers here and internationally. Our opposition to the EU is from the standpoint of revolutionary internationalism, not Greek nationalism. The KKE opposes the EU on a nationalist basis. This is demonstrated by the fact that the KKE leadership posits that socialism can be achieved within the borders of Greece alone, without an international extension of workers revolution.
The imperialist governments are trying to blackmail the Greek people into voting “yes” with the spectre of unspeakable suffering if Greece ends up outside the eurozone/EU. A Greek exit from the EU as a result of militant workers struggle would be a step forward, but not a solution in itself. The situation in Greece is part of a global capitalist economic crisis, which cannot be resolved within the borders of any single country, particularly a small dependent country such as Greece with its low level of industry and resources. The only way forward is a series of socialist revolutions that will expropriate the bourgeoisies, including in the imperialist centers, and establish a global collectivized, planned economy under workers rule.
The TGG stands counterposed to the perspective of the opportunist Greek left, who all dissolve the working class into the “people” and promote Greek nationalism (see our most recent article, “Syriza: Class Enemy of Workers and Oppressed,” 22 April 2015 [reprinted in WV No. 1068, 15 May]). A concrete example of our party’s internationalism is that our German section, the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, calls for the cancellation of Greece’s debt in opposition to its own bourgeoisie. Our goal is to build a revolutionary, internationalist workers party like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. Such a party can be built only as part of a reforged Fourth International, the necessary instrument to lead the working class to power internationally. For new October Revolutions!