Sunday, 25 January 2015

Greece can lead the fightback against austerity in Europe

Today Greeks go to the polls to vote in one of the most important elections in the country's history. After seven years of grinding austerity imposed by the 'Troika', it looks like Greeks could be about to vote in Syriza, an alliance of radical leftists, who have pledged to write off some of Greece's debt and set the country on a new path. Of course, the media have played this up into some kind of showdown between the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, and the European Union, in which Greece will almost inevitably have to exit the Eurozone.

But exit, or Grexit as the media love to call it, is not inevitable. Given the suffering the Greeks have had to endure with unemployment hitting a high of 28%, 50% youth unemployment and wages falling 12% year on year, it wouldn't be surprising if the Greeks wanted to leave the Eurozone and go back to the Drachma - but they don't. And why should they? They are as much a part of the Eurozone as any other country and still remember having had a currency that was almost worthless.

In simple terms the Greeks are being portrayed as the feckless ne'er-do-wells who are being bankrolled by the industrious, hardworking Germans but this is a false picture. Entry into the Euro for Greece was political not economic, and the Euro was always bound to create problems for the Greek economy. Couple that with a corrupt government and reckless lending by German and French banks - so that Greece could buy German goods - and its not easy to see that Germany did very nicely out of this Euro-arrangement at the expense of the Greeks. All that has now been conveniently forgotten. Thus I heard on The World This Weekend today a half-baked analysis of Greek 'wrongdoing' - essentially Greek bad, German good - as the BBC lined up pundits to criticise Greece and Syriza. With reporting on this level we might as well be living in the Soviet Union.

Its as well to remember that after the Second World War the Germans were mired in debt and struggling economically just as the Greeks are now, that is until 1953 when the London Debt Agreement was reached and half of Germany's debts were written off. This is often credited with starting the 'economic miracle' which transformed the German economy with output doubling between 1953 and 1963.

We know that austerity in Europe is designed to protect banks from going under at the expense of the people. These are the same banks that contributed to the global economic crash of 2008. Its absolutely unacceptable that people should be made to pay for the epic failures of financial capitalism. We need a programme of Green quantitative easing in Europe for investment in energy efficiency, renewables and public transport, getting millions back into meaningful work. That, not debt-driven austerity, must be the future. Here's looking forward to a Syriza majority government and the start of the historic fightback against austerity.