The international significance of the Greek general strike

Published on WSWS, by Alex Lantier, May 10, 2010.

… The international significance of the Greek strikes is now widely acknowledged. Citing the Greek protests, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman warned: “Nothing to do with us, right? Well, I’d pay attention to the drama playing out here. It may be coming to a theater near you.” He added that, as in Greece, US workers “will have to accept deep cuts to their benefits and pensions.”

As in the US and other European countries, much of Greece’s state debt comes from the €28 billion bailout Athens voted for its banks. Now, while the Greek ruling class aims to extract €30 billion in yearly cuts from workers, governments throughout Europe and in the US are preparing to cut tens or hundreds of billions from their budgets. 

This winter, the banks bid up interest rates on Greek debt, hoping to make large profits from interest payments while giving Papandreou an excuse for the social cuts he aimed to carry out. This plan has now backfired, however.

As workers protested the cuts and European powers clashed over the terms of a bailout, interest rates climbed so high that the banks for all practical purposes bankrupted Greece. Even if Greece adhered to the three-year, €110-billion European-IMF bailout, it would be shattered—by some estimates, the European-IMF cuts would collapse its economy by 30 percent. By then, however, it would owe even more than the roughly €300 billion it owes today … //

… By promoting a perspective of influencing Papandreou’s social-democratic PASOK party, these layers—like their counterparts elsewhere—consciously seek to subordinate workers to the state, to nationalist politics, and to the banks’ austerity program.

The rising risk of state bankruptcy poses stark alternatives: either the ruling class will keep its riches by impoverishing the workers, or the workers will expropriate the ruling class. The challenge facing workers is to grasp the full political and historical implications of the struggles they now face.

Banks must become public utilities, so their funds pass under the control of the working class and serve social need, not private profit. This directly raises the question of revolutionary socialism, for it spells the end of private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, the profit principle, and the nation-state system.

The political task facing workers in Europe is not to pressure bourgeois governments determined to implement social cuts, but to bring them down and replace them instead with the United Socialist States of Europe. (full text).

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