The economy is a gun
25 June 2015
“The economy is a gun, and politics is to know when to pull the trigger.”
This quote, I am afraid, is not from Aristotle, but from The Godfather Part III by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s very descriptive of what has happened to Greece. The economy is a gun, it can kill; and that is exactly what it did in Greece.
Our treasured western institutions did not protect the country, but on the contrary they used the debt crisis in such a way as to further empower banks and corporations, to give them a better shooting chance.
Since 2009, Greece has lost one quarter of its (already modest) GDP and public debt has risen to 185% from 120%. Remember 120% was ‘unviable’ and the reason for the bailout loan. 1,200,000 people lost their jobs, unemployment rose to 27% (60% among young people), 30% of businesses closed down, salaries were reduced by 40%, pensions were reduced by 50%, there was an increase in poverty of 100%, the number of households without electricity rose by 250%, 250,000 young people left the country, while at the same time...
... the wealthy became 56% richer.
The fairy tale is that lazy Greeks took ‘solidarity’ bail out loans from the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU, failed to make it work, and now want to steal European taxpayers’ money.
The truth is that an overwhelming 92% of these bailout loans were used to pay back European banks, as Jubilee Debt Campaign has shown.In return, the Troika (the IMF, EU Commission, and ECB) has insisted that privatisation is needed in order to reduce public debt. The previous government’s privatisation program 2013-2016 (which included the sell-off of all valuable assets of the Greek state), had an estimated income of €9.5 billion. Yet servicing the public debt in 2014 alone amounts to €31 billion (another €24 billion for 2015).
From 2013 until 2030, Greece needs €340 billion just to service its debt. A group of highly skilled experts actually designed this program as a solution!
Somebody pulled the trigger on Greek society. And what did Greek society do? In my view, a lot. 500,000 people protested, overthrew two governments, organised general strikes, and totally changed the political party landscape. But also there was self-organisation: of social clinics and pharmacies, solidarity networks that provided food to unemployed families, and grassroots media groups.
In the January elections, after a lot of patience and fear, after broken promises by the ruling elite that the poison given to the Greek people will soon bear fruit, Greece voted for Syriza.
The first actions by the Syriza government have shown that they are willing to confront European institutions.
Greeks, regardless who they voted for, feel they can breathe again. 80% of the population opposes austerity but nobody is naïve about the very difficult road ahead.
In this time of uncertainty, we are deeply moved by the overwhelming interest and solidarity from citizens around the world which is so necessary in destroying the mechanisms of propaganda. However, Greece is just an example. The promise of a ‘nice life’ is broken for all.
We, the European people, have an ethical obligation based on the millions of deaths in the wars that were fought in this continent, as well as on behalf of our friends in the global south, to protect human life, nature and whatever is truly valuable and truly scarce. We must aim for the stars. We have the historical duty to act together to reinstall democracy in this crazy continent.