Despite the European approval of a loan to Greece as November ended based on a Greek national austerity budget, more suffering for Greece’s workers and poor is assured, as is a mobilization to fight these austerity policies.
Allegedly, austerity will cut the Greek debt to 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, when its economy is supposed to finally begin to grow. In the short term, however, economists expect the Greek debt, currently 175 percent of GDP, to grow to 200 percent by 2014.
The Greek economy has contracted by 25 percent in the past five years, impacted by the 2007-2008 capitalist economic recession and subsequent austerity plans, and the new austerity measures are expected to cause a contraction of 5 percent more.
The August unemployment rate for Greece was 25.4 percent, and the rate for young people under 25 was 55 percent, which means fewer than half the youth in Greece have a job. In December 2007, the overall unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. (Data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority.)
There is an argument among bourgeois economists and financial experts as to whether or not the austerity, which the European bourgeoisie has imposed on Greece, will solve its debt crisis. Or would a policy of stimulus and growth — now recommended by the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook Report — work better?
There’s no doubt, in any case, that the Greek workers and the mass of the population face immense human suffering and despair from austerity. Medical care for the long-term unemployed is no longer provided — people live in agony or die because they can’t afford medicine or a doctor’s visit. Even as of last January some hospitals were running out of basic drugs like blood thinners or even aspirin.
Homelessness, mortgage foreclosures and evictions are a major problem in the cities. Suicides have grown more common, especially among middle-class professionals who have lost a business or practice or who have never before faced destitution.
A food distribution in Athens organized by farmers from Crete drew thousands of people Dec. 2, especially since fresh fruit and vegetables were being provided. (Daily Mail, Dec. 3)
Even the $56 billion loan, finally approved Nov. 30 when the German Parliament unblocked the loan package that the IMF and eurozone ministers had approved a few days earlier, comes in three parts. Greece must meet austerity targets to continue receiving it.
Austerity breeds protests
Greece’s working class has met every turn of the screws of austerity with protests — general strikes, massive demonstrations and protests in Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building, including some as the bailout deal was taking place.
The election on May 6 saw Syriza, a coalition of left-wing and social democratic parties, come in second. Syriza, or the Coalition of the Radical Left, had run on a program that rejected the bailout plan and called for perhaps leaving the eurozone as well as repudiating its debt.
Current polling results have Syriza coming in first, solidly ahead of New Democracy, if elections were to be held.
The Greek Communist Party (KKE), which is not a part of Syriza, also won seats in Parliament. Elisseos Vagenas, the leader of the KKE in charge of international relations, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Evrensel shortly after the election, said there is “a need for working class-people’s power and economy, with disengagement from the EU and unilateral cancellation of the debt, with the socialization of the concentrated means of production, the people’s producer cooperatives, nationwide planning for the full utilization of the production potential of the country, with working class and people’s control which will operate from the bottom up.” (inter.kke.gr)