Greek economic crisis deepens


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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Greece defaults amid protests

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

On 21 July, after years of struggling with spiralling debt, the Greek economy defaulted in all but name as it agreed to a huge debt-restructuring package financed by the European Union. The default has come about amid nationwide protests against severe austerity measures. Throughout June and into July hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated on the capital’s streets to a chorus of ‘Can’t pay! Won’t pay!’

On 15 June Greece had its tenth general strike in two years, bringing much of the country to a standstill. This was followed on 29 June by thousands of angry protesters congregating outside Parliament, where the Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government, led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, pushed through a vote for further austerity measures. The package approved envisages €28bn in tax hikes and spending cuts by 2015.


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Greece: Protests intensify as financial crisis deepens


In the face of severe public sector cuts the Greek people have taken to the streets of Athens and other major cities. On 6 June between 300,000 to 500,000 people demonstrated on the capital’s streets to the chorus of ‘Can’t pay! Wont pay!’ and on 15 June Greece had its tenth general strike in two years, bringing much of the country to a standstill. Many protestors congregated outside the Parliament building where the Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government, led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, sought to push through further austerity measures. The government is on its knees, with party resignations leaving PASOK a parliamentary majority of only four. On 17 June, Papandreou reshuffled his cabinet and appointed a new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos. This new cabinet includes so-called ‘anti-cuts’ members of PASOK and is expected to survive a confidence vote on 21 June. After this vote it will approve a package which envisages €28bn in tax hikes and spending cuts by 2015.


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Support migrant hunger strikers in Greece!


Up to 300 migrants, mostly from North Africa, are currently on hunger strike in the two main Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. As of 5 March the migrants had been on hunger strike for 40 days. This means that the critical threshold beyond which health damage is non-reversible has been crossed. So far 100 protesters have been hospitalised, with many now refusing to drink water. Many are on the brink of death.


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Unite against the racism of the Greek state

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

Greece is in the middle of its worse economic crisis since the end of the Second World War. It has just received €30bn from the EU to help stabilise the economy – in return for cutbacks on public spending, pay cuts and a rise in the pension age. Unemployment is over 10%. In response, the Greek people have taken to the streets in mass protests. The ruling class is on the back foot. It is seeking to split the working class and to divert blame for the economic turmoil from itself. Racism is spreading as the poorest in society, most notably economic migrants and asylum seekers, are targeted.

Micro-imperialist ambitions

Between 1991 and 2001 immigrant numbers in Greece rose from 1.6% to 7% of the population; by 2005 the figure was 8.6%. The embattled Greek state has been quick to capitalise on this sharp increase.


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Greece: workers rise up against austerity measures

FRFI 215 June/July 2010

‘Peoples of Europe, rise up!’ read the huge banner of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), hung from the ancient walls of the Acropolis. This was a call to the workers of Europe to follow the example of the Greek working class as it takes to the streets in protest against austerity measures imposed to pay for the capitalist crisis. We should follow their example as the European imperialist project enters a new and unstable phase.

Andrew Alexander reports.

Europe in crisis

In the words of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Greece is ‘on the brink of an abyss’. His words were echoed by European leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As we stated in the last issue of FRFI, European imperialism was clear about the implications of the Greek crisis for the whole of Europe. So, on 9 May, an historic deal was reached as the European Central Bank agreed emergency measures worth €750bn (£650bn) to prevent the Greek debt crisis from affecting other euro zone countries, most notably Spain and Portugal. The 16 members of the single currency bloc will have access to €440bn of loan guarantees and €60bn of emergency European Commission funding. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will also contribute up to €250bn.


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Greek workers rise up

A protestor gestures to police near the parliament building in the center of athens on may 5 2010

For days now Greek workers have shown their contempt and anger at the austerity measures their government is imposing to meet EU and IMF requirements that it cut its public debt. In the words of the Prime Minister George Papandreou, Greece is ‘on the brink of an abyss.’ The Greek working class is telling the world that it will not pay for the country’s financial crisis. Its actions are showing the way for others: soon Spain and Portugal will also have to implement severe cuts in state spending and the revolt may spread to these countries as well.

On 27 April Greece almost defaulted on its debt as its public deficit rose to 13.6% of GDP, far higher than previously declared. Credit rating agencies downgraded its debt to ‘junk’ status, making it impossible for the Greek government to get further credit through the normal international markets to finance its debt as well as unable to get insurance against default. Papandreou was forced to ask the EU and IMF to activate a loan negotiated in April. On 2 May they agreed a bail out of 110bn Euros.


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Greece: Economy on the brink of collapse

FRFI 214 April / May 2010

On 11 March, over 60,000 demonstrators in Athens marched in protest against the crippling austerity measures imposed by the social democratic PASOK government. Along with the demonstration in the capital, there were at least 68 other protests around the country, many breaking out into clashes with the police. Coinciding with the protests was a 24-hour general strike, the second that week, which brought the country to a standstill. The only public transport working was the rail system that operated for a few hours to allow workers to take part in the demonstrations. News broadcasts were also suspended as crucial media workers walked off the job. Strikers and protesters banged drums and chanted slogans such as ‘no sacrifice for plutocracy’ and ‘real jobs, higher pay’. People draped banners from apartment buildings reading: ‘No more sacrifices, war against war’ (The Guardian 11 March). The Greek people have made it clear that they will not quietly submit to this onslaught by the ruling class.


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Greek austerity measures spark resistance

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

Greece is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since the end of the Second World War. In the post-war period, the US Marshall Plan brought Greece, then reeling from the impact of civil war and famine, under the economic management of imperialist countries and destroyed the Greek revolutionary movement. Now imperialism is once again determined to maintain control over Greece as it is wracked by economic and political crisis.

Trouble in Euroland

The Greek economy is broke; public debt is expected to rise this year to over 120% of GDP while the annual budget deficit stands at 12.7% of GDP. Unemployment is 7.7% and looks set to rise. The situation is aggravated by Greece’s membership of the euro. Poor EU countries such as Greece struggle to maintain a currency that is levelled with much wealthier, imperialist countries like France and Germany. Some economic analysts suggest that Greece and other weak states could be expelled from the eurozone, but in reality European imperialism will not allow Greece to leave the euro. To do this would seriously undermine the EU.


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Greece: Greek protesters lead the way for Europe

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

Protests continue following the uprising that consumed the country in December 2008, triggered by the murder of a 15-year-old boy, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead by police in Athens on 6 December. Riots then quickly spread to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, to the northern cities of Komotini and Ioannina, to Crete and other islands and towns. The two police officers involved in the shooting were arrested on 8 December and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party wrote to the boy’s parents expressing his profound sorrow in a desperate and failed attempt to stop the dissent from spreading.

The majority of those demonstrating were students and school pupils who expressed their sadness and anger about his death but it quickly became clear that behind the protests lay widespread discontent with intolerable social and political conditions. Greece is being buffeted hard by the economic global crisis. Around a quarter of under 20-year-olds in Greece are unemployed and live below the poverty level. For university graduates the rate of unemployment is 28%. Having studied for years many are then forced to take poorly-paid work. The shooting was the spark that lit the tinderbox and the rioting in Greece was the first mass action in Europe against the current capitalist crisis.


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