Monday, 20 June 2011

The war of attrition in Greece

Tomorrow, the Greek government will be seeking a vote of confidence in its economic policies. This is directly linked to a new €12bn bailout package from the Eurozone, as the ruling class fights to keep Greece from defaulting on its debts. But in return for the rescue package, they want to escalate the country's class war even further.

The terms of the package, as told by the BBC, are that the vote of confidence pass and - crucially - that a further €28bn of austerity measures are implemented. This has been described as "privatis[ing] a large state-controlled company every 10 days." This has provoked the largest mainstream trade union in Greece to call the first 48-hour strike in many years, whilst the day of the vote of confidence will see an attempted encirclement of parliament.

The reasoning given publicly for the demand continues to be economic. EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn is "certain that Greece will be able to take the decisions needed because the alternative is so much worse." Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, calls this "something that affects me greatly." He recognises that people are "rebelling." But, pushed as to how the country can implement further cuts, he can say only that "they will have to do so." This despite the fact that, even as ordinary people suffer, "no pressure will be put on the financial institutions" - lest we see the dreaded "Greek selective default."

But one does have to wonder how those pondering these actions can continue to be so disdainful of the opposition. Only last Wednesday, the country saw its 11th one-day general strike since the crisis. Tariffs and charges have been rendered ineffective by a highly successful "can't pay, won't pay" campaign. There have been regular riots and running battles on the streets since 2008. All of which has come under the umbrella of "organised lawlessness spearheaded by the hard left."

There are two possibilities as to why, despite of all this, the country's creditors continue to demand that which provokes rebellion against them. One is desperation, the simple fear that a Greek default could bring down the Eurozone translated into a pig-headed pursuit of their own self-preservation. The other is far more dangerous.

The other possibility is that, seeing the present struggle as pan-European if not international, the ruling class are playing war games. Behind the continual demand for austerity, there could be deliberate provocation. By drawing the Greeks out far beyond the constraints of struggle elsewhere in Europe, they are left isolated, and as such unable to win any war of attrition they are forced into. The collapse of their struggle would do for the fight against austerity across Europe much as the crushing of the miners did for the trade union movement in Britain in the 1980s.

Whether or not such a scenario is possible, it is clear that there is desperation on all sides as the Greek struggle ploughs further into unknown territory. Neither side dares to be the first to blink. For our part, though, the hope has to be for the victory of the working class - even if that means the dreaded default. Because if the struggle can be won in Greece, it can be won anywhere.