The Greek population strangled

30 June 2015

By calling a referendum over the sacrifices demanded by its creditors, the Greek government caused outrage among the leaders of the rich countries.

Of course, calling a referendum over austerity measures, is not the sort of thing that the likes of Cameron and Osborne would ever dream of doing! For them, subjecting to scrutiny the issues which really do affect the population is out of the question!

The response of the US-led IMF and of the EU institutions to the referendum was immediate. They cancelled all the payments which were planned as part of the Greek bailout and stopped the cash drip-feed on which the Greek banks were surviving - forcing the Greek government to order a temporary closure of all banking branches.

By tightening the noose around Greece's neck, the rich countries' leaders knew they would trigger a further crisis. And they did. Share prices went tumbling down across the world. The very same financial speculation which put Greece into the mess where it is today, is back with a vengeance. And who will do anything to stop it? Certainly not the rich countries' governments which have caused it, by putting the knife to the throat of the Greek population!

The rich countries' blackmail

Indeed, despite all the slanders about Greece's "profligacy", its growing public debt was, like in every other country, the result of its government's policy to bail out its banking system, back in 2008.

But because Greece was not as rich as the big European countries, it was brought to its knees by speculation. It was faced with ever rising interest rates and a ballooning debt, while the big international banks were making a killing out of it. It was like being caught in a giant, ever-rising Wonga pay-day loan.

Eventually, the rich countries' governments stepped in with their bailout - not to bail out the population, but to bail out their own big banks.

The Greek population was subjected to austerity measures far more drastic than anything we've seen here. The result has been a social catastrophe: unemployment at 25% (almost 50% among the youth); 2 in 5 children living way below the poverty line; a 45% cut in the annual benefits budget; the collapse of the healthcare system, etc..

It was this catastrophe which resulted in a the Syriza-led coalition being elected to office on an anti-austerity platform. Ever since then, the IMF and EU institutions have been blackmailing Greece to adopt even more stringent austerity measures under threat of being left to go bankrupt - without the means to pay pensions and public sector wages.

The Syriza government has gone a long way towards meeting the demands of the rich countries' leaders by making concessions - to the point of breaking some of its election promises. However, the rich countries made no actual concessions whatsoever!

The dictatorship of big finance

Yet, what is at stake? A repayment of 1.6 billion euros (just over one billion pounds) to the IMF that Greece was meant to make this Tuesday. As if the failure to make this repayment could possibly justify starving millions of pensioners and workers!

What does one billion pounds represent for the rich countries and their big banks? Britain's major banks have paid many times this amount in fines due to their misdeeds in a long series of scandals - and this does not stop them from making huge profits. As to Osborne, he doesn't seem to see any problem in losing 7 times this amount by selling the government's shares in RBS at a rock-bottom price!

But, never mind! The Greek population must pay up this 1.6 billion euros to the very last cent, without any delay. Any right-minded economist would acknowledge the fact that Greece will never be able to repay its debt in full - and the countries' creditors know this. But this one repayment must be made at all costs?

The fact is that the leaders of the rich countries are just not interested in the Greek government making concessions of any kind. They want nothing short of a complete surrender!

What is at stake for them is a principle - that no country should ever be allowed to turn its back on the big international banks - especially not if the working class and poor are given a say on such matters. What is happening against Greece today is a show of strength. The rich capitalist classes are showing to the peoples of the world that they must agree to tighten their belts - and if it comes to that, bleed themselves dry - in order to repay what is owed to big finance by their governments. For them, nothing can possibly come before the profits of capital - neither housing, nor healthcare, nor even food!