Debt means having the same enemy

What do working people in Greece, Ghana, Detroit and Puerto Rico have in common?

They are all exploited by imperialist finance capital. Now, in 2015, all are targets of big capital’s class war. From Wall Street to London, Paris and Frankfurt, the banks and the national states that ride shotgun for their interests are using the debt crisis to squeeze every last ounce of profit out of workers’ labor power.

Workers all over the capitalist globe face severe cutbacks in whatever social programs still exist. At the same time, workers still feel the economic disaster of the capitalist crisis that exploded during 2007 and 2008 and continues without relief. This means high unemployment rates and an increase of those living in extreme poverty.

In each of the four places named above, the workers face both class and national oppression, the latter taking the form of a lack of both national sovereignty and economic self-determination.

According to on July 8, the International Monetary Fund insisted that Ghana’s government reduce spending for salaries of public workers. Health workers who had successfully completed two- and three-year education programs and served for a year in the national health service are now unemployed. Dictating that decision to Ghana hurts both the health workers and most of the 27 million people living there.

The United States is the major decider in the IMF — which makes up one-third of the European Union’s “Troika” that has been persecuting Greek workers.

Detroit was once the model for a working-class city in the U.S., home to the country’s automobile industry where the United Auto Workers set the tone for the best union contracts. Since restructuring and outsourcing, a weakened UAW and the “Great Recession,” this now 83 percent Black city has lost half its population, plunging it into poverty. Unable to repay the debt that predatory banks foisted on it and headed toward bankruptcy, Detroit’s city government was forced to cede rule to a state-appointed manager. His role was to assure that repaying the banks had priority over saving pensions, city jobs, education and social services.

As Berta Joubert-Ceci wrote in the July 16 issue of this newspaper, workers in Puerto Rico — a country that has been a colony of U.S. imperialism for the past 117 years — face a similar debt attack to that haunting Greece, Ghana and Detroit, despite its different political status. Puerto Rico now owes $72 billion to its creditors, and its colonial governor admits the country is unable to pay it.

The colonial laws controlling Puerto Rico forbid it from declaring bankruptcy. That means it can’t even do what Detroit did to write down some of the debt — not that this helped Detroit’s workers. Those who would “manage” Puerto Rico’s debt have more or less the same recipe as those imposing “austerity” all over the globe: Lower the $7.25 minimum wage; privatize public property; cut education, health care and social services; and prioritize paying the predatory banks. Puerto Rico is tied to the dollar like Greece is to the euro — unable to control its own currency. Additionally, it has the added burden of U.S. political domination.

Greece has been the focus of attention worldwide these past few weeks. An announced deal — which hasn’t yet been ratified in either Athens or Berlin — imposes even more sacrifices and hardships on the Greek working class. As in the other areas, this is done with the collaboration of the local ruling class, which is as anti-worker as are the foreign banks.

These four examples in four different parts of the world clearly show that the bosses and bankers have used the debt to wage war on the working class. The first step toward a successful fightback is the realization that workers all over the world face the same enemy and have the same interests in defeating that enemy.