Sunday, 17 April 2011

Greece and the need for "organised lawlessness"

Since last March, workers in Greece have faced crippling austerity measures on the back of a €147bn IMF bailout package. A year later, despite fears it could bring down the Eurozone, calls among the country's elites to default are growing. The reason is one the global working class should take heed of.

Since the austerity measures began, Greece has seen eight one-day general strikes. However, although on the day these strikes have had a severe economic impact, their limited span meant that the bosses were able to weather the storm. As with all single-day industrial actions, they amounted to little more than token gestures by union tops wanting to give the appearence of militancy as the ruling class decimated people's lives and livelihoods.

Far more important has been the "can't pay, won't pay" campaign. As inflation rose and wages to declined, making it harder to cover living costs, more and more people refused to pay hospital fees, public transport  costs and road tolls.

The Guardian reports that the level of anger that the campaign has channelled means that "the ruling socialists will announce reductions of up to 50% in road toll fees." This comes after "a man shot a bus inspector hired to crack down on fare dodgers" and "protesters stormed a police station, snatched hundreds of confiscated number plates and set light to thousands of fines."

Elsewhere, health minister Antonis Loverdos was attacked and residents of the suburb of Keratea dug up roads to stop a new landfill site being built.

The effects of this are clear. Greek political analyst Takis Michas notes that "there is clearly a breakdown of the rule of law, and without the rule of law there can be no economic development." So this "organised lawlessness spearheaded by the hard left" is clearly having the desired effect.

Indeed, it is no coincidence that "a growing chorus of voices is urging the Greek government to restructure its debt" now. Elites are getting anxious as they "wonder if Greece is becoming ungovernable." We should take heed of this. If the Greek working class were taking austerity lying down, or discontent were confined to safe channels, there would be no problem for the markets.

Greece has long proven - for those willing to pay attention - that socialists in power are indistinguishable from neoliberals when they have to balance the books of capitalism. Now, it is reinforcing the message that if you want the state to back down you have to make the country ungovernable.