False choice in Greece
by Nick Wright
This Morning Star editorial put the issues more clearly than any other paper.
THE Greek government portrays its decision to call a referendum on acceptance or rejection of the demands of the EU-European Central Bank-IMF troika as an act of resistance.
In reality, it is a manoeuvre designed to persuade the Greek people that Syriza and its right-wing coalition ally Anel are fighting to defend their living standards against the bastions of neoliberalism.
But dominant partner Syriza voluntarily tied its own hands even before it began negotiations with the capitalist institutions holding Greece to ransom.
By insisting that any solution must entail Greece remaining a member of the EU, its eurozone and of the aggressive imperialist military organisation Nato, it guaranteed that final terms would be dictated by international banks and their political representatives.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has bent over backwards to seek agreement with the financial institutions, citing his party's belief in the notion of EU "solidarity."
Tsipras claims to have adhered to election commitments not to raise taxes or to attack pensions, but his most recent proposals involve both, including higher VAT which falls most heavily on low-income families and raising the pensionable age to 67.
This is on top of previous retreats on public spending and privatisation.
The fact that his EU and IMF "partners" adjudge his last-ditch efforts as inadequate, demanding that the tax rises be weighted more against workers than companies, emphasises their ruthlessness.
Harsh lessons delivered to Syriza and its supporters are also directed at working people throughout the rest of the EU.
Whatever the differences between individual EU member states, they have closed ranks behind the troika demands, united in their insistence that bankers' interests should prevail over working-class living standards.
They leave no-one in doubt that any challenge to EU free-market orthodoxy, no matter how confused and inconsistent, will attract the full force of financial and political institutions.
The logic of this situation is, as the Greek Communist Party (KKE) insists, to reject a system that prioritises transnational corporations' profits over workers' jobs, living standards and pensions.
That means a decisive break with both the European Union and Nato.
Syriza claims that this choice does not have to be made. It maintains that the popular demands thrown up during years of opposition to attacks on living standards by successive governments can be achieved within the EU straitjacket.
Even though growing numbers of Greeks are opting for an exit from the eurozone, the majority continue to hold mutually contradictory positions - pro-EU and anti-austerity.
That is understandable given their government's misleading position that eurozone membership is compatible with defence of working people's living standards.
Greeks will be invited next weekend to surrender to the troika's anti-people measures or back government rhetoric against such attacks.
However, even if Greeks vote overwhelmingly against further cuts to their wages and pensions and higher VAT, this will change nothing. They are, in effect, being asked to be complicit in their own impoverishment.
EU and IMF institutions have already shown their contempt for democracy, insisting that Greece bows the knee to capitalist power.
The European Central Bank announced yesterday that it would keep Greek banks on a drip feed so as not to precipitate an even sharper crisis.
This indicates that the troika is planning for a post-referendum deal with Tsipras to involve immediate assaults on the social wage while dangling the carrot of future debt rescheduling.
Such a deal might keep Syriza in office, but it would represent a betrayal of voter trust invested in it at the general election.