After tense negotiations, a deal between the Greek government and European Finance ministers has averted an immediate Greek default. Under the deal, control over state finances will be taken out of Greek government hands and controlled by external monitors, and an "escrow" account will hold three months of debt repayments. Then, the Greek constitution will be changed to ratify this long term servitude. The electorate of Greece might still scupper this deal at the forthcoming general election in April, when a victory for left-wing parties is possible, although no clear or unified opposition programme is currently being proposed.
Not out of the woods yet [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
In countless strikes, demonstrations and riots, the Greek masses have rejected the idea that they should shoulder the cost of balancing the books to bail out European banks. Why did these banks lend the money in the first place? Why can't they take the burden rather than the working classes of Greece?
It appears that a mood of despair is gradually sapping the energy of the masses and nationalist ideas are taking root. Campaigns to "buy Greek" and boycott German goods are increasingly seen as valid and relevant modes of popular expression and action. Some on the left are calling for Greece to default and withdraw from the Eurozone.
It appears that very idea of an increasingly integrated European Union is at stake. It is one thing for one region of a country to transfer resources to another, like the trillions of Euros that West Germany transferred to Eastern Germany since 1990; it is another, for one country to think it is subsidizing the other. This evokes nationalist resentment, distrust and mutual antagonism between the peoples. The colonial like imposition of austerity on the people of Greece will be like throwing petrol on the flames. Old antagonisms will be easily revived under such circumstances.
It is to history that we should look to understand the dangers of the present trajectory of events, and to consider how to create movements and policies that can halt the descent into intensified and dangerous conflicts between the peoples of Europe.
After the First World War, revolutionary unrest burst forth across Europe. The most barbaric suffering shattered the illusionary bonds of "common interest" between the workers and their rulers. Mutiny in the French Army in 1916, led the Generals to shoot their own soldiers. In Russia (1917) and Germany (1918), revolutionary uprisings ended the war. The Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin called for a Socialist United States of Europe and founded a new revolutionary International. It was hoped that this would unite the workers and peasants of the world.
The dreams of peace and international solidarity, which blossomed out of endless lines of millions of graves, soon gave way to a new darkness. Following the 1929 Wall Street crash, socialists, communists and internationalists faced an increasing nationalist reaction as economic collapse provoked desperation. This found its personification in Adolf Hilter and his Nazi hordes. International solidarity was to be replaced by an international union under the Iron heel.
The Anti-Nazi revolutionary internationalist, Harro Schulze-Boysen, propagated the dream of a European Union of the people, socialist and progressive, even in the darkest days of barbarism during the Second World War. He gave his life sustaining a network of revolutionaries who systematically undermined the Nazi war machine from the inside.
The post war European Community and European Union was designed as an instrument of anti-communism. A union of France and Germany was supposed to guarantee an end to warfare between western European powers, but was linked to US military alliances and economic dominance, and was designed to fight the "Soviet threat".
With the collapse of East Europe and the USSR, the raison d'etre for the West European alliance began to wear thin, and the United States became concerned about the increasing economic might of Europe. German capitalism spent 20 years expanding its influence via trade and investment all over Eastern Europe, as the continent's locus of political power shifted to Berlin. The rebirth of a unified Germany, following the collapse of East Germany, was used as a means to hold down the wages of the workers, whilst increasing the intensity of work, in the name of "national solidarity". This involved huge, long-term, state-organized investment in Eastern Germany, designed to enhance the power of German capitalism. Such a powerful nation also "felt obliged to participate" in warfare in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan in order to "help".
With the global boom before 2007, European economies could easily hide their debts, as growth, rising asset prices and incomes, acted to minimize problems, unify countries and peoples, and generate a cycle of rising general prosperity for the majority. So it was natural that entering the Eurozone was a mark of pride and achievement for many countries. There were palpable benefits in terms of the free movement of labor and increasing human intercommunication and exchange. Those states that received large transfers of European funds towards development were very much in favor of the progress brought by the Union.
But the world economic crisis placed the salvation of private banks at the centrepiece of political policy, exposing the true extent of the vulgar marriage between the political class of Europe and its paymasters. The morality of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a parody of the systemic corruption at the top. The politicians act like marionettes in one European parliament after another, as they vote to drive down the living standards of the workers in order to subsidize the capitalists' profits and bailout private banks. The mesmeric effect of this synchronized theatre is supposed to convince the masses that they are responsible for the economic crisis, and must not only accept cuts, but desire them!
Demonstrations, protests, strikes and riots have so far achieved little to change the course of capitalist austerity. The ruling classes of Europe know that even the most militant protest movements eventually wane. It is to the socialist and communist parties all over Europe that we need to look to elaborate a common plan for recovery and development. This should be based on public ownership and democratic control of Europe's major private banks and the most powerful and important companies. The economy and politics of Europe should be made to serve the 99 percent.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/heikokhoo.htm
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn