Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What the Capitalist Economic Crisis in Greece has taught us

By Nikos Mottas.

It was six years ago, on May 2010, when the then Prime Minister George Papandreou, in a televised message from the picturesque island of Kastelorizo, was announcing Greece's entry to the support mechanism of the IMF and the EU – the 'memorandum phase'. The economic crisis in Greece had manifested itself a year earlier, in 2009, when it entered in a phase of rapid recession, following the outbreak of global financial crisis in 2007-2008. Today, after four bourgeois governments (Papandreou, Papademos, Samaras, Tsipras) and three memorandums of harsh austerity packages, we can draw some significant conslusions. What did the Capitalist Economic Crisis in Greece teach us?

1. The Source of the Crisis.

Contrary to various bourgeois interpretations and theories of the economic crisis (over-consumption, casino-capitalism, etc.), there is one clear, scientifically proven, reality: Capitalism itself contains in it's DNA the inevitability of crises. Capitalist production, with it's contradictory character and anarchy, contains the seed of such crises. In Capitalist economy lies the motive to push capitalist reproduction to extremes levels, to accumulate immense profits, thus giving a monetary speculative form to the appropriation of surplus value from the working class labour. The devaluation of capital (either commercial or financial) and the devaluation of labour power (as a commodity), has occurred repeatedly in the past and will certainly occur in the future for as long as the exploitative system called 'Capitalism' exists.

The bourgeoisie and it's political representatives have tried any possible method in order to hide from the people the source of the crisis. Certain theories, such as the “over-consumption”, the “mis-management” theory, the “casino-capitalism”, have been consciously promoted in order to disorientate the people from the real issue and revamp Capitalism in public conciousness. In the Greek political scene, social-democrats (SYRIZA, PASOK) and conservatives (New Democracy) have done anything in order to obfuscate the real source of the crisis. In this game of people's disorientation, SYRIZA played a major role by spreading illusions about a “humane capitalism” where- supposedly- people will be over profits. The Greek bourgeoisie and it's european allies managed to limit the public discussion of Greece's crisis on specific boundaries, completely harmless for the capitalist system: neoliberalism versus social-democracy, monetary versus keynesian policies, memorandum versus anti-memorandum, structural reforms, debt restructuring, debt hair-cut, privatizations, etc.

"As capitalist, he is only capital personified.
His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one single life impulse,
the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant factor,
the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour.
Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks" -
Karl Marx, Capital, Vol.1, Ch.10.
With the only exception being the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)- which from the very first time talked about “the deepest and lengthiest crisis of capital over-accumulation since the 1950s” which “highlighted even more intensely the historical limits of the capitalist system”- the rest of the country's political powers promoted theories quite convenient for the capitalist establishment, as long as they weren't touching the heart of the problem. Three of these theories were:

a) “Greece should exit from the EU”, mainly advocated by opportunist and ultra-leftist powers, such as the 'Popular Unity' (ex-SYRIZA members) and 'Antarsya'. This argument supports that Greece should exit the EU, adopt a national currency and nationalize banks and major sectors of the economy. However, the major question still exists: Who will have the keys of the economy? Who will be the owner of the means of production, the bourgeoisie of the working class?

b) “Greece is under occupation; Germany's domination, etc.”, advocated by various nationalistic (including the fascist-criminal 'Golden Dawn') and populist, both left and right-wing, powers. Such arguments- blaming the “Germans” and the country's “conquerors” in general- were convenient for the Greek bourgeoisie and the Greek capitalists who have been profited from the crisis. As an opposition power, SYRIZA (as well as their current right-wing governmental allies, the “Independent Greeks”-ANEL Party), used this theory in order to pose as the liberation force from “memorandums” and “austerity's occupation”. The above argument tried to divert the blame for the crisis from the capitalist system to a convenient “enemy”- by doing so it was obfuscating the roots of the problem.

c) “Corruption and mismanagement of public economics”. There is no doubt that the corruption within the Greek governments in the previous decades submitted significantly to the amplification of the economic crisis. Numerous financial scandals of PASOK and New Democracy governments have been exposed. However, corruption isn't the cause for the crisis, but a symptom of the capitalist crisis. It is not true that Greece's huge debt and deficits consist a result of “corruption” and “mismanagement”. The debt was increased as a result of bourgeois parties' policy which was funding enterpreneurs and large business groups in order to invest and cultivate their profits. There lies the vicious circle of the country's debt- in the connection between the political system and the capitalist establishment.

Both the above two theories (b & c) were systematically cultivated within the so-called “square movements” of 2010-2011. The “indignant citizens movement”- the “15-M Movement” as it's known in Spain- with it's non-party, apolitical character, fostered the aversion towards the organised labor-movement. Focusing on persons (“politicians are thieves”!) rather than on the heart of the class-oriented policies, such movements cultivated the ideological and political ground for far-right, even fascist voices, such as the one of the Nazi-criminal 'Golden Dawn'.

2. Crisis and austerity for the people, profits for the Capital

In a period of seven years (2009-2016) the Greek people faced multiple austerity packages, cut-backs in salaries and pensions, losing a huge proportion of their income. It is estimated that during the 2009-2013 period, Greeks lost approximately €17,000 per person (Source: ECB). Between 2010-2014, the purchasing power of the average wage was decreased by 16.5%, while the unemployment rate reached (according to official data) 27% in 2013.

However, not everyone was damaged from crisis. In 2011, in the midst of the financial turmoil, the 500 most profitable Greek industries saw a 18.2% increase of the profits! According to a research by Stat Bank (2012), these 500 businesses increased their profits by €25 billion within a year, from 2010 to 2011.

The crisis certainly affected a part of Greece's big capital. However, another- quite significant- part gained profits, taking advantage from the decrease of labour's value and the various tax-privileges. An example of this is the Greek shipping industy, one of the largest in the world. At least €140 billion of shipping industry money has gone untaxed since 2002 (Der Spiegel, 2014), while up to €60 billion, mostly belonging to shipping giants, are estimated to be the Greek funds in Switzerland. In first half of 2011, the 16% of the total capital given for ship-building internationally, was belonging to Greek-owned companies.

The SYRIZA-ANEL government, like it's predecessors, continues and even amplifies a policy in favor of large corporations and businesses' profitability. Proving it's role as a political puppet of the big Capital, the current Greek government managed to pass law through which it gives new tax-privileges to large companies and free state-funding for “strategic investments” in various sectors. All these, in the name of the country's “development”...

3. The bourgeois political system reformed. 
PM Alexis Tsipras (left) and the current
opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis
(New Democracy).
During the seven years of the capitalist economic crisis in Greece, the bourgeois political establishment was reformed. Certain changes took place and new parties emerged, as a result of the bourgeois class to 'revamp' the political system and adjust it's choices to the new european and global environment. We point out three major issues in the reformation process: a) The formation of a new bi-polar system (with SYRIZA replacing Pasok a the centre-left pole and New Demoracy as the center-right one), b) The effort to deceive the working class through the populist illusions and false promises of SYRIZA, c) The electoral rise of a political 'Frankenstein'; the fascist-Neonazi 'Golden Dawn'.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) had analysed on time the tendency of this reform. In the 19th Congress Political Resolution (2013) KKE was stating: “The differences between the liberal and Keynesian model are expressed in our country by the controversy over the alternation of the bourgeois governments, they are used to trap the popular masses inside the framework of the system, in the attempt to reform the bourgeois political system, so that it can provide a variety of alternate bourgeois parties for the governance, on the basis of the cooperation amongst them” […] (The bourgeois class) takes into account which government can control the labour movement, prevent the rise of class struggle and ensure that the escalating offensive on the working class and popular income and the consequences of the crisis in general, which are characterised chiefly by the large percentage of unemployment, will take place with the least possible reactions either with memoranda inside the euro or with the bankruptcy, either controlled or uncontrolled with the exit from the Euro”.

Indeed, the rapid electoral decline of PASOK (the dominant center-left party which governed the country for over 20 years) in the 2012 elections marked the rise of SYRIZA. In a period of three years, from 2012 until it's electoral victory on January 2015, SYRIZA was rapidly transformed from a small opportunist party of the Left (a coalition of social-democratic, maoist, trotskyist, ecologist and other groups) into the major pillar of Greece's Social-democracy. The bi-pollar system of PASOK-New Democracy was replaced by the SYRIZA-New Democracy one. Through this change, the Greek bourgeoisie was able to trap into the system's boundaries a wide part of working, low-income masses.

In order to disorientate the people from the real issue (the capitalist, exploitative system which creates the crises), the new bi-pollar political system was constructed on a new fake dilemma: “Pro-Memorandum and against Memorandum”. As we will see in the following lines, the memoradums consisted the peak of a broader anti-people policy, implemented by the EU and the bourgeois governments for the interest of the monopolies.

The rise of 'Golden Dawn'- a fascist, Neo-nazi party which is responsible for numerous criminal actions, including the murder of musician Pavlos Fyssas in 2013- proves that fascism emerges from the roteness of Capitalism. Although 'Golden Dawn' has tried to pose itself as an anti-systemic power – with a racist, populist demagoguery- it has been clear that it consists the 'guard-dog' of Capitalism. The numerous murderous attacks on immigrants, trade unionists and workers consist another proof of this criminal organisation's role.

4. Austerity memorandums as the peak of anti-people policy

SYRIZA's president - then opposition leader-
 Alexis Tsipras, being a keynote speaker
at the Greek Federation of Industrialists and US Brookings
Since the outbreak of the crisis, Greece has face three “memorandums of austerity” (Papandreou 2010, Samaras 2012, Tsipras 2015). These memorandums, signed by the Greek governments, the IMF and the EU, came as measures which aimed in overcoming the financial crisis. But, for whose interests? The bourgeois governments, from Papandreou to Tsipras, claimed that the painful austerity packages were the needed remedy in order to overcome the crisis and pass in a phase of development. Here, the question rises again: Development for whose interests? The answer is more than obvious: For the interests of the big Capital, of the large businesses and corporations.

The beginning of the recession marked also the beginning of new, inter-bourgeois struggles and contradictions – both in Greece and the EU- about the policy that the country should follow in order to overcome the crisis with the less possible loses for the capitalist establishment. These contradictions were mirrored in the political level and the fight- in both Greece and EU level- about an “internal devaluation” (austerity, strict monetary policy, cutbacks, taxation increase etc.) or an “external devaluation” (mainly devaluation of the currency which would mean Greece's exit from the Eurozone). In both cases, people would play the price through bloody sacrifices.

As an opposition power, SYRIZA spread to the masses the illusion that a- supposedly- better negotiation with the creditors, the EU and the IMF, could bring more positive results for the people's interests. The party of Alexis Tsipras deceived the voters by promising to overcome the crisis through a- supposedly- pro-people policy without memorandums and austerity, within the boundaries of the capitalist system.

KKE had multiple times warned about the nature of SYRIZA's perception of the crisis. In 2014, while Mr.Tsipras was posing as the 'saviour' of the country, KKE was stating: 

"SYRIZA is fishing in the “muddy waters” of the parties of the so-called “anti-memorandum arc”, of “anti-Merkelism”, and “anti-banking” version of the EU and Eurozone, of parties that condemn merely the troika and particularly Germany. Nevertheless, it conceals the fact that the outbreak of the capitalist crisis preceded the memorandum. It overlooks the fact that the EU is a component of the Troika. The memorandum that the Greek government has signed with the troika of the lenders, is nothing other than the specialization of the general political line of the EU in the conditions of crisis in Greece. Consequently the opposition of SYRIZA to the memorandum is dust to the people’s eyes given that this party does not oppose the EU but supports it. But why is SYRIZA only blaming the troika or Germany? Because, in this way it conceals its essential support for the EU of capital, of the monopolies. It is fostering illusions to the people that the EU can change through “a front of the countries of the South”. Nevertheless, the international allies and support that are invoked, such as the governments of the USA, France, Italy, the Mediterranean South, are enemies of the people, they steamroller the people’s rights in their countries, just as the German government does. The EU is a hell for all its peoples. Τhe truth is that the anti-people measures concern the working class and popular strata of all the countries, regardless of memoranda and debts” (Elisseos Vagenas, SYRIZA: “The left reserve force” of Capitalism,

What followed SYRIZA's rise in power is, more or less, known: the referendum-farce of July 5th 2015 (when the Tsipras' government shamelessly transformed a 61% “No” vote into a “Yes” to new austerity), imposition of capital controls, a new austerity memorandum with extremely harsh measures, a monstrous law against social security rights, tax-plundering of the working people, new benefits for the big Capital, etc.

The memorandums of austerity in Greece were bourgeoisie's effort to overcome the crisis with the less possible loss. But, the memorandums were only the peak of an anti-people, anti-workers policy that takes place for decades now. The anti-workers reforms, the privatizations, the opening of new sectors in the free market (e.g. energy, telecommunications etc.) are measures which consist a core part of EU policy – the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the subsequent EU treaties (Lisbon, Amsterdam, Nice, etc) put the basis of a permanent anti-people policy. Therefore, we see countries without “memorandums of agreement”, like France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others to implement policies of austerity, reforms that strengthen the capitalist development and restrict workers' rights.

5. One solution- One realistic exit from Capitalism's crises.

Massive rally by PAME (All-Workers Militant
Front) in Athens.
The years of the crisis proved that there is no bourgeois government (neoliberal, conservative or social-democratic) that can provide a solution for the people's interests. All mixtures of policies within the bourgeois political establishment- from the strict monetary to the Keynesian one- have been proved disastrous for the working class and the low-income people. The rise of SYRIZA in the country's government proved that, no matter how good your intentions are, you can't change the system from within. The Eurocommunist, social-democratic theories, aimed in managing the Capitalist system in a more “humane” way, utterly failed. Newly-formed parties, created by former SYRIZA ministers (like Yanis Varoufakis, Zoe Konstantopoulou, Panagiotis Lafazanis), have the same aim: each of them wants to become SYRIZA in SYRIZA's position, to replace Tsipras' social-democratic illusions with new ones. To offer an supposed "alternative" solution within the capitalist boundaries. People must not be trapped in such fake promises.

The case of Greece teaches us that you can't place “people above profits” within the framework of capitalist economy. 

The crisis highlighted the historical and permanent contrast between the bourgeois-class' interests (economic, geopolitical ones etc.) and the interests of the working people, of the masses. The danger of Greece's participation in a NATO-led imperialist war (Syria, Libya) became more and more apparent, as far as the Greek bourgeoisie actively participates in the inter-imperialist antagonisms that take place in the broader region.

The formation of a powerful workers-people's alliance and the regroupment of the working class movement towards is the only positive scenario for the masses. Towards this direction, the political line and activity of KKE, as the organised leadership of the proletariat, consists the only alternative to capitalist barbarity. For the victorious outcome of the struggle, the overthrow of the monopolies' authority and the construction of a new society; of Socialism-Communism. 

In Defense of Communism ©.