The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Workers in Greece Can Refuse to Pay

Apr 12, 2010

Since January, the world economic crisis has pushed the Greek State to the edge of bankruptcy. The response of the Greek government was to make the workers pay by freezing pensions, increasing sales taxes and reducing government workers’ pay. The bosses of the private sector were quick to pick up on this example, so Olympic Airlines just laid off 8,000 workers. More than half still haven’t received any compensation and the rest will get nothing.

The Greek government and the bosses hope to reassure the other European countries – especially the richest one, Germany – of their capacity to reimburse the short-term loan they hope to get from other countries.

Portugal, Spain and Ireland also hope to get such a loan. The financial circles responsible for the crisis cynically call these four countries PIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain – drawing on the old racist cliche of “lazy, thieving Mediterraneans,” who spend too much money. The truth is that financial speculation caused these failures. Moreover, these countries depend more than other countries on tourism. And tourism has collapsed, since workers in other countries are forced to cut back on leisure travel.

Workers in Greece earn on average some of the lowest pay in the Euro zone. Even before the crisis, hundreds of thousands of workers worked two jobs, one legal and the other under the table, to make ends meet. They certainly have no reason to pay for the bosses’ crisis.

On March 11, 90% of the workforce in Greece took part in a strike, according to the unions, the third one since early February. The union leaders proposed nothing more. But the only way to back off the capitalists of Europe would be to organize a total and unlimited general strike. For the moment, that isn’t happening.

Workers are angry, but not yet organized in the face of these blows. What policy must workers have in the face of attacks by the bosses, the governments and the European Union? This is the problem not only for the working class in Greece.

Workers in Portugal face a government that just decided to reduce its public deficit with an austerity plan – a wage freeze and job cuts for government employees.

What’s happening in Greece also threatens Spain and perhaps France. The financiers everywhere continue to speculate, even as the states bail them out– as they have since the fall of 2008.

Perhaps the mobilization of the working class in Greece will be reinforced and organized. Finance capital has caused the crisis and emptied the pockets of the working class. Workers of all countries face similar problems.