Greece needs solidarity as elites attack

Demonstration in Athens on February 11 in support of the Greek government and its bid to end austerity policies.

Actions in solidarity with Greece’s anti-austerity government are being planned across Europe and beyond as Greece’s left-wing SYRIZA-led government confronts a European elite determined to destroy its pro-people platform.

Plans for protests to support Greece came as international institutions failed to reach an agreement with the SYRIZA government, TeleSUR English said on February 11. Talks were set to resume on February 16.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis stood firm in talks in Brussels and rejected proposals that would merely extend the southern European country’s bailout, which is due to expire at the end of the month.

Greece’s debt — and bailouts — have been used by the “troika” of the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund to impose brutal austerity measures that have caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for ordinary people in Greece.

Rather than extend its bailout, Greece is seeking a “bridge” program that would buy the government time to renegotiate with creditors. Despite the lack of progress in talks, Varoufakis expressed hope that a deal would be reached in time, TeleSUR English said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been adamant that he would not violate the trust of the Greek electorate and go back on his promise to end austerity policies in Greece, which the troika imposes as a condition of bailout programs.

In its first days in office, the SYRIZA government began reversing austerity policies. It raised the minimum wage, reconnected electricity and blocked planned privatisations.

In a show of defiance before the talks, Tsipras vowed to “put an end once and for all” to the troika-imposed austerity policies, TeleSUR English said on February 6.

Returning from a European tour to seek support for Greece’s call to renegotiate its $270 billion debt, Tsipras told the Greek parliament on February 5 that Athens would no longer be dictated to.

“Greece won’t take orders anymore,” he said. “Greece is no longer the miserable partner who listens to lectures to do its homework. Greece has its own voice.”

Tsipras also re-affirmed on February 11 that his government planned to cancel key terms of Athens’ bailout program, including selling off public assets. Under the terms of the bailout, two of Greece’s biggest public ports were due to be sold to international buyers.

However, Tsipras said his government would stick to plans to halt these sales.

Greece’s defiance comes despite attempts by the ECB to blackmail the new government. On February 4, the ECB announced it would not accept Greek government debt as collateral for loans to Greek private banks.

The biggest opposition to cutting new deal for Greece is coming from Germany, TeleSUR English said. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble appeared to rule out further assistance for Greece or the debt forgiveness it is seeking.

Tsipras’s government, elected on January 25, is backed by popular support. About 10,000 people hit the streets of Athens on February 11 to support the government.

Tsipras tweeted a picture of the rally, with the message: “In the cities of Greece and Europe the people are fighting the negotiation battle. They are our strength.”

With people across Europe, especially in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, also suffering from EU-imposed austerity, the stakes in Greece’s struggle extend across the continent.

In solidarity with Greece, a new campaign has emerged entitled “Let Greece Breathe”, TeleSUR English said on February 11.

Supporters in Greece and around the world have taken to the streets and social media demanding creditors give Greece the space it needs to grow its economy.

With protests planned in Greece to support the government’s stance, the Party of the European Left issued a call for rounds of mass demonstrations across Europe from February 11 to 17 in solidarity.

The European Left unites a range of left-wing parties across Europe, including SYRIZA. In its February 6 statement, European Left President Pierre Laurent said: “Greece urgently needs our solidarity.

“The upcoming days are crucial. The new government of Alexis Tsipras has engaged in negotiation to enforce the mandate of his people.

“By applying its social and economic recovery program as well as democratic restoration, SYRIZA can manage to change Greece and, with us, to change the rules in Europe in order to get out of austerity.

“The troika, [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel … and the financial power know this. They want to close the breach.

“This is the reason why the ECB decided to change the system of loans guarantees in Greek banks. They are trying to create panic.

“This brutality facing the goodwill and negotiation efforts undertaken by the Tsipras government is an attack against all European people, against democracy. It shows to which level the standoff that has been launched will be difficult.

“We must be alongside the Greek government. European citizens must pressure their governments to respect the vote of the Greeks, to change the rules imposed by the troika and let Greece breathe …

“This is our common struggle. All European nations need to come out of austerity and act for European solutions based on solidarity.

“I call all the forces that refuse austerity and the blackmail of the debt to amplify the popular pressure in the different countries of the EU on their government, on central banks and on the ECB by multiplying solidarity actions throughout Europe on February 11, the day of the extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup.

“The mobilisation should keep on all over the week from February 11 to 17; during the European Council on February 12 and 13, until the Eurogroup of February 17.”

[See here for details of a national speaking tour of Green Left's European correspondent Dick Nichols, who was in Athens for SYRIZA's electoral win.]

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