The outcome of the Greek referendum considerably exceeded the expectations of the SYRIZA-led coalition government that called it, as well as most observers. They were painted into a corner by their own conciliation of the neo-liberal leaders of Europe, faced with their humiliating ‘offer’ of a bailout in demand for further massive cuts in pensions and social benefits. The SYRIZA government was faced with what in effect was an attempt to force a recently-elected government out of office; Alexis Tsipras turned to the Greek working-class masses and asked for their backing.
Their courage in resisting the demands of the Troika far exceeds that of their left-reformist leadership. This was shown by the immediate aftermath of the 61% landslide victory of the ‘OXI’ (no) side, despite the NAI (yes) side having the backing of the entire privately-owned news media, with an avalanche of mendacious propaganda and disinformation. The no vote took place in the context of international blackmail, and the squeezing of Greek finances which has led to the closure of banks and a limit of €60 per day on withdrawals from ATMs, on top of the years of ‘financial waterboarding’ austerity and the severe impoverishment of much of the Greek population. This heroic defiance takes place in economic siege conditions whose clear aim is ‘regime change’. But in this case it backfired.
The result is a significant political defeat for the leading bourgeois/imperialist powers of Europe, and puts them on the defensive over the question of democracy versus neo-liberal ‘shock treatment’ – at least for a short while. This needs to be acted on by the working class in the rest of Europe and internationally – we must break the lying imperialist-neoliberal propaganda that seeks to counterpose the peoples of the rest of Europe to the Greek population in a manner that is actually flagrantly racist. We need to smash austerity everywhere, and expressing international solidarity with the Greek working class is a crucial expression of this objective.
Left Reformism in Office – appeasement of the Troika
SYRIZA should not have needed a renewed mandate from the voters to do what it was elected to do barely six months earlier – stand up to the core EU imperialists and fight austerity. The timidity and reformism of Tsipras and co on this occasion was counteracted by the heroism of the Greek masses in defying the Troika, but it is an ongoing problem within the anti-austerity camp that could still lead to unnecessary defeats.
In this vein, immediately after the referendum victory the ‘Marxist’ finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned, apparently at the behest of Tsipras, because his presence and left-reformist combativity was judged to be inimical to ‘negotiations’ with the Troika. This is not the first time Varoufakis has been sidelined in the ‘negotiations’ – rumours to this effect had been circulating months ago. But now this has been given official expression with his apparent departure from the government.
Despite his reformist project to ‘save’ capitalism from its neo-liberal manifestation that in his eyes threatens to destroy the system itself and usher in not socialism but a new barbarism, nevertheless he is an intelligent and hard-nosed reformist cadre whom SYRIZA’s bourgeois opponents feared. His removal from the front line is not a tactical move of finesse, but an act of appeasement of the Troika by Tsipras, and another sign that the leadership of SYRIZA is not to be trusted.
The most immediate issue of the crisis manifested by the referendum victory is the fate of Greek participation in the Euro, and indeed the fate of the Euro itself. Greece has already failed to make one payment of €1.5 billion as part of its bailout package. This partial default, based on the fact that Greece simply could not afford to pay it, led to the restriction of liquidity from the European Central Bank, the creditors’ ultimatum to the SYRIZA/ANEL government, and thereby to the referendum on yes or no to the ultimatum. If the flow of liquidity is not restored soon, the Greek banking system will collapse.
There are two ways to restore it; one is by a deal with the creditors and the ECB to restore the flow of Euros; the other is by printing a new currency as legal tender in place of the Euro. Whatever that may be called, Drachma, Greek Euro or whatever, it would mean a break with the single European currency, and could indeed be the beginning of the end of the Euro. It would set a precedent that could soon spread to other weaker countries in the Eurozone, such as Spain, Portugal or conceivably even Italy. The latter is a middle-ranking imperialist nation that has already suffered the indignity of having had a government of ‘technocrats’ imposed on it by the ECB and its financial consultants, the US-based Goldman Sachs merchant bank.
A break of Greece with the Euro, through a catastrophic default on its debt, while it would produce a great deal of further hardship and austerity for Greece in the short term, would mean that Greece had its own national currency again, which could float freely against other currencies and find its own economic level. Once that happened, at least in purely monetary terms, Greece would be on equal terms to the outside world and the result of breaking with the Euro, which is a massively overvalued currency from the standpoint of Greece, would amount to a massive, delayed devaluation of the Greek currency. Such a devaluation would also amount to a massive stimulus to the Greek economy, far greater, for instance than the stimulus to the British economy when Sterling fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in September 1992. So while Grexit would produce further hardship for Greece, it would also undoubtedly have its compensations. However, from the point of view of the historic interests of the working class, this would not be the best outcome.
The Euro is a project of bourgeois pseudo-internationalism. The imperialist bourgeoisies cannot genuinely transcend their national economic bases and embrace a bourgeois version of internationalism – thus Kautsky’s theory of ‘ultra-imperialism’ was wrong. Rather, the contradiction between the fact that the productive forces of modern capitalism have long outgrown the confines of the national state, and the complete inability of the bourgeois state to abolish the national state, is a deadly contradiction at the heart of the capitalist system itself. One way of attempting to resolve this was the way Hitler tried; to unite Europe by its conquest by a single imperialist power.
But that proved unviable, not least because neither the European workers nor rival world imperialists such as Britain and the USA would tolerate such a thing, as history demonstrated. Indeed, the very attempt could have led to the destruction of the capitalist system itself if the advanced sections of the working class had not at the time been subjected to the stranglehold of Stalinist counterrevolution.
The Euro is another such attempt by the bourgeoisie to transcend national narrowness without overcoming the nation-state. Not by methods of blitzkrieg, but by an incomplete unification of some aspects of capitalist economy that removed some of the obstacles to the productive forces freely developing across national boundaries without removing the imperialist nation state and all the exploitative material relations that go with it. This expression of bourgeois pseudo-internatonalism is not a step forward, as some reformists fondly imagine, but can even produce worse irrationalities than traditionally national-based forms of capitalism. The Euro illustrates that concretely, with Greece at the sharp end.
The role of Goldman Sachs
The involvement of the Jewish-Zionist ‘vampire squid’ Goldman Sachs merchant bank in the Greek debacle, in the broader context of the Eurozone crisis of the last 8 years, not to mention in putting together the Euro itself, is also indicative of how such pseudo-internationalism works. As was noted in a perceptive article in the Independent (18 Nov 2011) at the time of the effective appointment of an Italian Prime Minister by the European Central Bank with Goldman Sachs’ ‘guidance’:
“The ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian prime ministership is remarkable for more reasons than it is possible to count. By replacing the scandal-surfing Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has dislodged the undislodgeable. By imposing rule by unelected technocrats, it has suspended the normal rules of democracy, and maybe democracy itself. And by putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic.
“This is the most remarkable thing of all: a giant leap forward for, or perhaps even the successful culmination of, the Goldman Sachs Project.
“It is not just Mr Monti. The European Central Bank, another crucial player in the sovereign debt drama, is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank’s alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Until Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund’s European division was also run by a Goldman man, Antonio Borges, who just resigned for personal reasons.
“Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as “the Vampire Squid”, and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. The political decisions taken in the coming weeks will determine if the eurozone can and will pay its debts – and Goldman’s interests are intricately tied up with the answer to that question.”
The American left-wing commentator James Petras, in an essay written in 2007, just at the beginning of the financial crisis, made the following observation about Goldman Sachs’ role in what is often called the ‘Israel lobby’ within the United States, in particular with regard to the Iraq War:
“Where finance capital has not been able to fashion a coherent economic strategy is with regard to Washington ’s Middle East wars. Because of the pull of the Zionist Lobby on many of leading lights of Wall Street – including its unofficial mouthpieces – the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times – Paulson has failed to formulate a strategy. He [does] not even pay lip service to the Baker Iraq Study Group report’s proposal to gradually draw down troops for fear of alienating some key senior executives of Goldman Sachs, Stern, Lehman Brothers et al who follow the ‘Israel First’ line. “ (http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=1689)
The point of this being to illustrate that Goldman Sachs is a representative par-excellence of the phenomenon I analysed in my Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism (Sept 2014), of the vanguard role played by the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie in helping the traditional imperialists to partially transcend the national narrowness that led to inter-imperialist conflicts in the early to mid 20th Century, and to embrace bourgeois forms of pseudo-internationalism:
“It is therefore both a powerful imperialist formation, and deeply unstable. In this epoch of declining capitalism, it plays the role of a kind of ‘vanguard of the bourgeoisie’ – not quite the mirror-image of Marxism but with aspirations along those lines. It has been instrumental in pushing the nationally limited imperialist bourgeoisies to partially transcend their own national particularisms. Hence the ‘traditional’ imperialist bourgeoisie, based on the nation-state, having overcome their previous fear of the supposedly proletarian-internationalist role of the Jews as a result of the outcome of WWII, now regards Jewish ‘cosmopolitanism’ and bourgeois semi-internationalism as a good thing, and to a considerable degree defers and follows the leadership of the Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie.”
The unusual role of Goldman Sachs in the Eurozone crisis, not to mention its role in inducting Greece into the Euro in the first place, with the apparent widespread falsification of economic data to give the illusion that Greece satisfied the criteria for membership, is certainly a manifestation of this vanguard role in pushing bourgeois pseudo-internationalist political-economic initiatives such as the Euro. Which have proven ruinous for the working class.
Contradictions of single currency
Without a fiscal union and the flows of funding to equalise economic conditions that implies, a monetary union means that the currency’s value tends to gravitate towards the average value of the (hypothetical) currencies of the nations that make up the monetary union. This therefore means that the strongest component of the monetary union, in this case Germany, has in effect an undervalued currency, making them ultra-competitive on world markets, while the economically weakest components, such as Greece, have a perennially overvalued currency, which is economically crippling. A currency union without a fiscal union is therefore an enhanced mechanism to transfer wealth from the poorer, semi-colonial countries in the union, to the wealthier, imperialist countries.
The Euro is a united currency, one of the hallmarks of state power, without a fiscal union to back it up. The reason for this is very simple; a fiscal union means the sharing of debts, and an economic union that transcends the nation-state. It would mean that Greek debts become German debts, and vice versa. The same would have to be true for all the other weaker and indebted countries in the Eurozone.
Since the bourgeois state is the ‘executive committee of the bourgeoisie’ (Marx) of the respective countries concerned, and public debt is mixed up with corporate and private debt which is also often guaranteed by the state, such a transfer of debt would in effect amount to a massive shift of bourgeois property rights to the detriment of the strongest imperialist bourgeoisies of Europe, the German bourgeoisie, but also to a slightly lesser extent the French. This is anathema to the imperialist masters of Europe.
The contradiction however, is that the German and French bourgeoisies, and some of their smaller client imperialists, such as Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria etc, realise that their individual national currencies as was were no way viable as world currencies, and could not remotely compete with the US dollar, or perhaps in future the Chinese Remnimbi. Thus the Euro project is very important to them. And in natural terms, Europe is (or rather obviously should be) an economic unit, comparable to the United States or Russia.
The fragmentation into petty states appears irrational, and the greater the area of the zone of Europe proper covered by the single currency, arguably the greater the prestige and power of the currency. These are the contradictions of how these things are viewed in bourgeois terms. The Euro is very important to the core imperialists of Europe. If only the Greek government had the programme and understanding to take advantage of this, it could move mountains.
Cancel all the debts, or torpedo the Euro!
The demand of the Greeks regarding the Euro should be for total debt relief, not just for themselves, but for all the poorer, indebted countries of the Eurozone. That means the collectivisation of their debts on a European scale. Since the debt, when compared to the total assets of Germany and the other imperialist countries of the Eurozone, is quite small, this would eliminate the debt at a stroke. It would also amount to a fiscal union, especially when combined with demands for a complete end to austerity, and the reversal of all the anti-working-class attacks made as part of the previous years of financial waterboarding.
In effect, this amounts to a demand for either a complete fiscal union, with the pooling of all European debt, or the dissolution of the Euro. That should be the ultimatum of the working class, and the immediate demand of SYRIZA in the negotiations: either you concede a full fiscal union with full European collectivisation/writeoff of debts, or we use every lever to torpedo the Euro and call on the rest of the European working class to fight for the same.
SYRIZA, which grew out of the Eurocommunist wing of the old Greek Communist Party, and merged with various other leftist and environmental trends, is not a genuine workers party, but a new bourgeois workers party that has grown out of the Greek working class struggle against austerity. It does not have the programme to push forward the European class struggle onto the level at which such questions can be posed.
Its coalition with the right-wing anti-European Independent Greeks is also inimical to such an internationalist perspective. As well as being the bourgeois component of a popular front, and hence a danger to the Greek working class in that sense, it is an obstacle to the necessary genuine internationalist persepective that a government of the left needs to get the proper handle on the crisis. It is therefore doubly essential for the Greek working class to demand that SYRIZA break the coalition with ANEL.
The demand for all-European write off should overarch all other demands of an economic nature, such as a complete end to austerity, the rolling back of all attacks, etc. The demand for fiscal union and the collectivisation of national (and indeed private) debts is, as elaborated earlier, an attack on bourgeois property rights in a way, since bourgeois states are in practice the collective property the bourgeoisie of particularly imperialist nations.
In its logic, it points to a United States of Europe. But for the reasons mentioned above, it is highly improbable that such a thing could ever come about under capitalism. The pseudo-international schemes of the bourgeoisie, and their Jewish-Zionist mentors and handmaidens, do not amount to a genuine transcendence of the imperialist nation state. Therefore this points directly to the need for the working class to take power, overthrowing the bourgeoisie across Europe, to the need for a Socialist United States of Europe.