By Brian Jones
The working class of Greece obviously still faces a huge uphill fight against the savage austerity measures being imposed on them to pay for the crisis created by the Greek capitalist class. The new ‘bailout’ package for Greece agreed by the Eurozone countries only represents the mildest of ameliorations of the terms of the previous such package – 21 per cent effective reduction in the size of debt on Greece’s bonds, reduction of interest rate for bailout funds from 5.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, and extension of the period of repayment. But nevertheless it contains a crucial lesson – struggle pays.
There should be no doubt that the renewed wave of financial crisis would have been settled by even more severe cuts in Greek living standards if it had not been for the sustained and powerful mobilisation shown by the Greek working class in recent weeks. It is only because of this struggle that even a small reduction has been achieved in the burden placed on the Greek people. A long fight lies ahead against the onerous and life ruining conditions still in place. But nevertheless by their struggle the Greek working class forced a tiny part of the burden that would have been placed on them to be borne by the international banks and by EU governments. The Greek people’s future is slightly better as a result.
That struggle also resulted in gains for others – for which the population of different countries should be deeply grateful. The reduction of the interest rates on bailout funds to Ireland and Portugal to 3.5 per cent directly aids those countries. Already in Ireland a discussion has started on how best to use the partial benefit derived from the interest rate reduction. The Irish and Portuguese working classes in particular therefore have reason to thank the Greek working class. The key lesson they, and every other European working class movement, should draw is that nothing will be gained by appealing to reason and sacrifice. The truth remains that the only (very partially more) civilised capitalist is a scared capitalist.
This represents a crucial lesson throughout Europe for the prolonged struggle against cuts in living standards and welfare protection which is already taking place and which will continue. Nothing will be gained by surrender and passivity – under capitalism those lying on the ground and asking for mercy will merely be kicked by governments and the employers. Only struggle will gain anything in defending living standards. That is the lesson of the first tiny steps forward the Greek working class has achieved for themselves and others. This lesson needs to be deeply absorbed.