Fire in Greece: a ‘natural’ disaster fuelled by the drive for profit

greece fire
People in Mati were forced into the sea to escape the deadly fire.

On 23 July the deadliest wildfire of the past decade worldwide swept through parts of eastern Attica, causing one of the worst tragedies in the modern history of Greece. More than 80 people are known to have died, with dozens still missing, and many others injured; hundreds of homes have been burned along with thousands of acres of forest. Livestock has been devastated. GIANNIS, a Greek comrade from the New Left Current (NAR) for the Communist Liberation and the ANTARSYA coalition, reports.

 

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Deepening austerity breeds greater resistance in Greece

The ‘radical left’ Syriza government in Greece is continuing on its right-wing trajectory as it prepares to intensify attacks on living standards on behalf of European imperialism. After the Eurogroup meeting on 20 February, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared that an ‘honourable compromise’ had been reached between the Syriza-ANEL coalition and the creditors of the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) over further action towards the €86bn (£73bn) bailout of Greece. This compromise paves the way for further ‘reforms’ – a euphemistic term referring to changes in pensions and labour legislation that equate to yet another wave of brutal austerity enforced on the long-suffering people of Greece.

 

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Greece: Open the Borders - An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

Broken by the brutal enforcement of the European Union's austerity measures, Greece has been left to police the massive migrant crisis erupting now in the eastern Mediterranean. Around a million migrants landed on mainland Greece or its islands in 2015, and up to a further 50,000 in January 2016, despite appalling weather in the Aegean Sea, the route they are forced to take from Turkey and the Middle East. Over 850,000 refugees crossed Greece and into the northern European Union countries, seeking safety, homes and work. Greek islands struggled to cope with up to 5,000 refugees per day; thousands have drowned, among them over a hundred children.

 

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Greece: the people will win!

The inevitable resistance to Syriza's sell-out has started. Across Greece, school students, pensioners, workers, the unemployed and migrants have responded. A general strike on 11 November, the first since Syriza's re-election in late September, saw hundreds of thousands march and protest. Since the beginning of November, ferry workers, transport staff and school and university students have all challenged a third round of austerity: cuts to workers’ rights, pensions, education budgets and privatisations.

Ironically, Syriza representatives have voiced support for the protests, prompting a resident of Athens to remark that: 'Syriza wants to take ownership of the protests but not the reforms.' The scale of austerity mean that more and more sectors of Greek society are mobilising themselves: small shopkeepers and businesses joined the general strike as they see their own livelihoods now directly undermined by the structural reform programme of the Troika of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The Troika has staff in Greece permanently to ensure programme compliance and has demanded that a specific number of preparatory actions take place before the end of this year. Deregulation of businesses and professions is underway as the multinationals slaver at the prospects of increased profits and ownership. From corner shops to local bakeries, to the international ports of Piraeus and Thessalonika - everything must go, according to the third bailout agreement. The Chairman of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, Kostas Michalos stated: 'We are likely to see thousands more small companies suspending operations and going under during the next six months’. In effect the Troika has now expanded to a foursome which directly includes the Syriza government. Syriza may bleat about the tough measures but it has signed up to fully implement them.

 

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Austerity in Greece: battles lie ahead

On Sunday 20 September Syriza won the Greek general election, gaining 145 seats, four fewer than in the previous election in January; its share of votes fell from 36.3% to 35.5%. With six seats short of an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament, Syriza has resumed its coalition with the Independent Greeks Party (ANEL), which won 10 seats. The right-wing New Democracy party gained 75 seats with a 28.1% of the vote, a very slight increase in its share compared to January 2015.

The fascist Golden Dawn remained the third largest party in the Greek parliament having gained 7.1% of votes and an extra MP. Exit polls suggested that it was the party of preference amongst voters who were unemployed. Golden Dawn claims to be ‘a party on the ascent, a party of governance, a party of power’. It will fully exploit the migrant crisis in Greece and the wider area. So far in 2015, 260,000 migrants have arrived in Greece, crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey as they flee imperialist-sponsored wars in the Middle East. Ilias Kasidiaris of Golden Dawn has declared that the Greek people ‘have not experienced the worst effects of the memorandum or illegal immigration. When that happens, you will see, Golden Dawn will have a radical increase in support’. The Popular Unity electoral initiative, formed by 25 Syriza MPs who opposed the austerity deal cut by the government in July, failed to get a single seat, winning less than 3% of votes. The Greek Communist Party – the KKE – held on to its 15 seats with 5.5% of vote share.

 

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Greece: Syriza capitulates all along the line

On 14 July, the Greek parliament agreed to the bail-out austerity terms imposed by the Troika (European Central Bank, European Union and the IMF) which are even more oppressive than those which Syriza had opposed when it won the January 2015 general election. 32 Syriza MPs voted against the deal and seven abstained, forcing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to rely on the votes of open supporters of austerity: the former governing party of New Democracy, Pasok and To Potami. This capitulation was the more abject because in a referendum just over a week earlier on 5 July the Greek people by an overwhelming majority – 61% to 39% – had signalled their complete opposition to the terms on offer.

In the days that followed, 25 Syriza MPs, together with a large number of members and officials opposed to the Party’s capitulation, broke away to form a new organisation, Popular Unity. With his parliamentary majority gone, Tsipras announced his resignation on 21 August, triggering a new general election on 20 September. This election will be a test of the extent of Popular Unity’s base within the Greek working class, and whether it can mobilise the sort of real opposition to austerity that Tsipras and his government signally failed to do during all the negotiations with the Troika.

 

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Greece: Syriza government capitulates to austerity

On Thursday 16 July, Greece’s Syriza government capitulated to the austerity demands of German-led European imperialism. In a referendum held 11 days earlier on 5 July, 61% of the Greek electorate had signalled their complete opposition to further concessions to their European creditors. However, democracy counts for nothing as far as imperialism is concerned, and the referendum result merely hardened the position of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Union (EU). They were determined to punish the Greek people for their audacity in defying the imperialists’ edicts. Now Greece is tied into a third bailout agreement whose terms even the IMF thinks are impossible to meet.

 

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Greece: fighting an economic coup d’etat

Update 6 July: Greece votes No to austerity

The Greek people have overwhelmingly rejected the austerity agenda of their European creditors. In a 61.31% ‘No’ vote on a turnout of 62.5%, the Greek people convincingly threw out the latest demands of the Troika. The result is an insubordinate two fingers up to the powerful and wealthy which will be welcomed by working class and oppressed peoples everywhere. Given the serious economic and media operation to secure a ‘Yes’ vote, including non-stop lying about the closeness of the vote, the shortness of preparation for the referendum and the fact that under Greek electoral law voting must take place in a voter’s home area, the Greek people are to be applauded for their bold stance against austerity. It is an important victory for all those fighting austerity and imperialism throughout Europe: the attempted economic coup failed.

 

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Greece: Bankruptcy imminent

Greece is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. A repayment to the IMF of €305m is due on Friday 5 June. US Treasury spokesperson Jack Lew phoned Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on 27 May to tell him that: ‘Greece is going to have to do some very tough things’. The possibility of Greece’s exit from the eurozone looms closer. Those sections of the European imperialists who regard this as an acceptable outcome of the long drawn-out negotiations between the Greek government and the Troika – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) – seem to be in the ascendancy. They are nervous that concessions to Syriza may fuel demands for similar treatment by the other PIGS governments – Portugal, Italy and Spain. They are less bothered about the risks of a ‘Grexit’ since Greece represents just 2% of the eurozone economy. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

 

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Greece: Syriza on the rack

Greece’s newly-elected Syriza government is on the rack. European imperialism is determined to tear it apart. That is the clear message from the agreement that an alliance of eurozone ministers, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF imposed on Syriza on 22 February extending the existing bailout arrangements until the end of June. Syriza had to make the agreement to secure the release of the remaining €7.2bn from the European bail-out fund. Without this money it could not repay €1.6bn to the IMF in March and a further €800m interest in April let alone mitigate the impact of the capital flight that took place during the negotiations. The agreement – a starting point as far as European imperialism is concerned, and in reality a diktat – requires the new government to:

 

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The assassination of Greece – article by James Petras

We are publishing this article by James Petras since we think it makes the essential points in assessing the Syriza government’s retreat in the face of EU and Troika intransigence. As Petras argues, the key question is now how Syriza’s social base responds to the government’s request to extend its loan agreement and any move to curtail its anti-austerity programme. We would use different terminology from Petras in describing the EU – we characterise it as an alliance of European imperialist powers established to stand up to US imperialism – but we do not disagree with his analysis of the issues now at stake.

 

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Greece: Syriza victory sparks hope

The significance of Syriza’s victory in the Greek general election of 25 January cannot be over-estimated. For the first time in Europe since the beginning of the current crisis, an explicitly anti-austerity party is in government. The Greek people will no longer put up with plunging living standards and empty promises of a rosy future from the ruling class. The fight is on. Syriza will be under intense pressure from European imperialism to meet Greece’s debt repayments and continue where the last government left off. However, within 48 hours of taking office, the new government enacted several key anti-austerity measures which will undoubtedly provoke imperialist opposition. Across Europe, anti-austerity movements will gain heart: our message of resistance and struggle can win the support of the working class and oppressed to become a real force. Robert Clough and Michael McGregor report.

 

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Will Syriza's challenge be real?

With the anti-austerity party Syriza taking power in Greece on 26 January, socialists, communists and progressives all over the world are looking to the party to see whether they will deliver on their promises to 'cancel austerity' - to target the Greek bourgeoisie and alleviate the poverty of the working class. An article analysing the current situation in Greece and direction of Syriza will appear shortly in FRFI 243, and on the website. Meanwhile, below, we republish an article we first published in June/July 2014 analysing Syriza's performance in the last Greek election.

 

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Greece: Will Syriza’s challenge be real?

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

As we go to press, the results of the first round votes in the 18 May local and regional elections show success for the Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza. In Athens and its region of Attica (which includes 40% of Greece’s electorate) Syriza candidates are leading, while New Democracy and PASOK candidates, representing the governing coalition, have failed to reach the second round of voting on 25 May. Continuing advances for Syriza in second-round votes and European elections on the same day may create serious instability, given the government’s parliamentary majority is only two.

 

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Greece: Austerity makes the poor pay

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

The devastating social consequences of austerity in Greece are plummeting incomes, massive unemployment, malnutrition and disease, with rising levels racism and fascism. A recent survey by the organisation representing Greek small businesses and professionals showed that 95% of all families had suffered from the effects of six successive years of recession. In the face of this, workers and youth have maintained their fight for a decent future. In January police banned demonstrations during the ceremony when Greece took over the EU Presidency. The defiant crowds were beaten and tear gassed. School students have occupied hundreds of schools to protest at lack of heating and teacher redundancies. The police are approaching school heads for names of those involved and arrests and interrogations have followed.

 

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Greece: hunger stalks the land

The coalition government of Greece does not lose an opportunity to point out that its austerity programme is working, having achieved a surplus in its current account of almost one billion euros for 2013, the first such surplus in 12 years. But at what human cost? The result of the savage cuts imposed on Greece by the Troika of the European Union, IMF and European Central Banks is a bleak spiral of deteriorating conditions for the Greek people. Access to the basics of life: food, housing, heating and health care, is constantly cut back and restricted. These are deliberate economic policies designed to reduce costs, restore profitability and so shift wealth from the working class to the ruling class.

 

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Greece: Golden Dawn – down but not out

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

On 1 November, two Golden Dawn fascists were assassinated in a drive-by shooting outside the party offices in Athens. The action was claimed by a hitherto-unknown organisation called the Militant People’s Revolutionary Forces (MPRF) as a direct response to the murder of left-wing hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas on 18 September. The MPRF announcement declared that the commemoration of students who had died in an uprising against the military dictatorship in November 1973 was an appropriate moment to publicly launch an armed campaign to destroy the fascist organisation. The action highlighted the fears of both the Greek ruling class and European imperialism that the fight against Golden Dawn might spiral out of control and take on a revolutionary character. Such concerns forced the New Democracy government to crack down on Golden Dawn following Fyssas’s murder to ensure that it could not be tarred with a fascist brush when Greece assumes the EU presidency in January 2014.

 

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Greece: Fight against fascism and austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Large protests at the brutal murder of anti-fascist hip hop musician Pavlos Fyssas in Athens on 18 September by a member of the fascist Golden Dawn party has forced the Greek state to take action against the organisation. Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, an MP, has been arrested on charges of forming a criminal organisation. Five more Golden Dawn MPs, a party leader in an Athens suburb and 12 other people have also been arrested.

There have been widespread revelations about collusion between Golden Dawn and the police: one of those arrested was a policeman who was acting as a bodyguard for the fascists. Five heads of police divisions covering special forces, internal security, organised crime, firearms and explosives, and rapid response have been suspended. Regional police commanders in central and southern Greece have resigned following disclosure of their forces’ failure to arrest Golden Dawn members involved in attacks on immigrants and protesters. Army special forces have been involved in training Golden Dawn hit squads. Others who have left the organisation have spoken about its military structures and police co-operation.

 

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Greece: Troika demands more state cuts

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Karl Marx described the British parliament as nothing more than an executive committee for conducting the affairs of the bourgeoisie. This holds true for all parliaments. On 17 July the Greek parliament passed a multi-bill which was clearly a direct response to the urgent dictates of finance capital – the banks. The Troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – functions as the ruthless executive of the ruling classes, who are determined that the working class will pay for the capitalist crisis.

 

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Greece: Austerity means death

‘The strategy of the European Commission over the past year and a half or two has been to reduce the labour costs in all European countries in order to improve the competitiveness of European companies over the rivals from Eastern Europe and Asia’

Greek representative to the European Commission, Maria Damanaki

‘What I am afraid of is the tsunami of poor and homeless people who flood the hospital clinics every night, and you don’t have enough time to treat them. And most of all, they don’t have free medical care ... It is unacceptable and I cannot accept the idea that a person cannot have free medical care.’

Nurse Zoe Florou

As reports from Greece have consistently demonstrated, there is a deepening gulf between the interests of the capitalist banks and the interests of the Greek working class. The monthly tranches of the troika's bailout loan are not signed off until after the visits of its ‘tough supervision missions’, as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble calls them. Greece is now the only EU country so far to deliver a fall in hourly labour costs in the private sector, driven down by 6.8% since 2011. 60% of under-25s are unemployed. Those fortunate enough to have a job face a 25% cut in the minimum wage from 740 euros to 510 euros per month. The rate for over-25s has been cut by 22.2%. There have been calls by Greek business leaders to abandon any minimum wage and consideration of a flat rate 250 euros per month for part-time work. And yet this is not enough. At the start of the European summit in Dublin in mid-March the president of the Eurozone’s group of finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, stated that Greece must 'speed up its efforts' to meet troika targets.

 

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Ruling class prepares to crush the Greek working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

Presenting the Bank of Greece’s annual report at the end of February, its chair George Provopoulos declared that ‘we ought to intensify efforts, to quicken our pace to cover the final stretch... Extreme and unreasonable demands from social groups do not contribute towards this goal.’ ‘Unreasonable’ demands are those which seek to defend the living standards of the working class. Humanitarian organisations attest to the explosion of child poverty in Greece, meaning malnutrition and hunger for the children living with the 31% of families below the official poverty line. But it is the bankers’ report that gets to the heart of the matter – the capitalists’ pockets.

 

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Capitalist barbarity faces Greek working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 10 January Greece’s unemployment rate at 26.8% became the highest ever in the European Union, surpassing that of Spain. These figures are the result of the conscious, directed and accelerating policy of the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The troika agreed its first bailout to Greece in 2010. Since then the unemployment rate has doubled. More people lost their jobs in 2012 than in any other year in the past two decades. 83% of people have seen their incomes decline, on average, by 17% and some incomes have fallen by up to 60%. This is not enough for the ruling class. A recent IMF assessment concluded that more public sector lay-offs, more reductions in benefits to the unemployed and families with children, and more sell-offs of state assets were necessary, and that unemployment would continue to rise through to 2014. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

 

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Greece: Fight fascism

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

Fascism is once again raising its fists and boots in Greece as the capitalist crisis delivers unemployment and savage poverty to the people. Conditions of acute economic crisis are creating space for the state and its unofficial fascist allies to begin to violently police and terrorise vulnerable sections of the working class. It will not end there. Fascism will be used to enforce the bankers’ agenda and physically crush all resistance to austerity. Anti-fascist defence must become central to the defence of the Greek working class. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

 

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Greece: Operation Xenios Zeus – racist state attack

On 6 August Nikos Dendias, the Public Order minister of the pro-austerity governing coalition of Greece, spoke of ‘an invasion of immigrants’ and declared that ‘the immigration problem is maybe even bigger than the financial one’. His speech was an attempt to justify Operation Xenios Zeus, a massive state racist attack on immigrants which had been launched days before, in which over 7,000 people were rounded up in a sweep operation in a single weekend in Athens alone. Thousands are to be deported – to where, no one knows, as Greece shares no border with any other EU state, so ex-army bases are being turned into mass detention camps. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

 

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Greece and the United Front

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

The deepening crisis of European imperialism present major political challenges for communists as the working class fights to defend its living standards against ruling class austerity programmes. This is most evident where the struggle is most intense: above all at present in Greece, where the working class has experienced unprecedented levels of unemployment over the last 3-4 years, where state welfare has been slashed, where poverty levels have risen from 15% to 40%, and where food handouts have become the norm as many face starvation.

 

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Greece: no let up in austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

‘We will save ourselves from hunger. We will throw out our enemies!’ Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, 1 July 2012.

The 17 June general election in Greece offered some temporary relief for European imperialism as the pro-austerity party New Democracy won the largest share of votes, enabling it to lead the formation of a new bourgeois government. Its nightmare scenario, a victory for Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, was narrowly averted. The new government coalition is pressing ahead with imperialism’s austerity programme, but there is little chance that it will survive very long in the face of renewed resistance from the Greek working class. Michael McGregor reports.

 

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Greek elections: For a united front against austerity!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

‘The Greek people has expressed in the elections its strength and radicalism, sweeping away the pro-troika political forces, provoking an earthquake in the political system, sending a resounding message of rebellion to Europe. The Coalition of the Radical Left – Syriza – is the political force which best expressed the will for the overthrow of the pro-troika regime and the opening of a way out for the country.’

(Statement of the Communist Organisation of Greece – KOE, constituent organisation of the Coalition of the Radical Left – Syriza).

 

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Greek resistance stalls European imperialist agenda

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

Greek resistance stalls European imperialist agenda

The failure of the reactionary pro-austerity political parties in Greece to form a government endorsing the European imperialist agenda after the 6 May elections sent shock waves through European capitals and international financial markets. Syriza, a coalition of radical left organisations committed to halting the brutal austerity programme imposed on Greece as the condition for their last bailout package, took 16.8% of the vote, coming second only to the right-wing New Democracy party with 18.9% and well ahead of the other ruling class party, PASOK, with 13.2%. Anti-austerity left-wing parties got, in total, 27% of the vote. Further gains are expected for Syriza in the new election on 17 June. The long, courageous resistance of the Greek masses against austerity has been given political expression.* This is a development that threatens to stall the process of consolidation of European imperialism throughout the eurozone. DAVID YAFFE reports.

 

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Greece: fighting disaster

Greece: fighting disaster

‘This is a war against the people, the entire community. Those who claim that the public debt of Greece is a debt of the Greek people are lying. It is not a debt owned by the people. It was amassed by the governments, in cooperation with the banks, with the aim of enslaving the people. The loans toward Greece are not used to pay wages, pensions or public healthcare. The exact opposite is happening: wages, pensions and health care cuts are used to pay the bankers.' Open Letter from the Kilkis Hospital Occupation.

 

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‘It’s either them or us!’ – Greek workers fight back

By Michael MacGregor

‘It’s either them or us!’ – Greek workers fight back

'It's either them or us! ... We ask for the solidarity of the people and workers from all fields, the collaboration of all workers' unions and progressive organisations ... universal labour and popular resistance and uprising, until our final victory against the economic and political elite that today oppresses our country and the whole world.' (Appeal from Kilkis General Hospital workers, northern Greece)

The statement of workers who have taken control of Kilkis General Hospital in Greece since 5 February directly addresses the Greek working class and the Greek people. The sovereign debt crisis which followed the 2008 crisis is devastating Greek society. Now the troika of the European Community, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund direct the operation to bleed a country dry. Since 2008:

 

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Greek economic crisis deepens

grecia_protest

The resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on 9 November was stark proof that it is European capital, not bourgeois democracy, that holds sway in the eurozone.

Greece needed an 8 billion euro installment from its 110 billion euro bailout agreed in May 2010, without which the country will default before Christmas. The government was also negotiating a second bailout worth 130 billion euros which would allow banks and other private holders of Greek bonds to write off 50 percent of their Greek debt. However, such bailouts involve massive austerity measures, including huge cuts in welfare, such as a overhaul of the state pension system as well as cuts in health, housing and education.

 

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