Sunday, 9 May 2010
The heat on the street in Greece is rising towards red-hot as the social democratic PASOK government moves towards harsh austerity measures to save rich financiers from their own crisis.
Major cities in Greece are starting to see semi-spontaneous convulsions from below. These are the type of mass actions which just might turn into popular insurrection.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, says that “Europe’s future is at stake” in Greece. The destiny of the European Union, and Germany’s place in the EU, depended on the outcome of the Greek crisis, she added. (”Three killed as Greek austerity protest turns violent”, Times Online, 5 May 2010.)
So the geopolitical stakes are being raised in tandem with the escalating anger on the streets of Greece.
Citizens of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Britain and other European countries on the brink of financial crisis will be following Greek events very closely. They know their own governments are leaning towards austerity measures to bail out the bankers.
Many European states have already seen mass protests and strikes by workers, students and other grassroots folk over recent months.
The economics editor of The Independent newspaper in Britain has pointed towards “the start of the greatest demonstration of public unrest seen on the continent since the revolutionary fervour of 1968”. (Sean O’Grady, “Greece leads Europe’s winter of discontent”, The Independent, 24 February 2010.)
In my essay on the looming collapse of global capitalism, I ended the section on the profitability crisis with these words:
“The obscenity of governments protecting the rich at great cost to the poor is stirring up a social contagion. What cannot be foreseen is how far and how fast the contagion will spread around the globe.” (“Beware! The end is nigh! Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future”, UNITY journal, March 2010, http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2010/03/grant-morgan-beware-end-is-nigh.html.)
The mass convulsions in Greece, and the upswing of popular protest across other European states, are signs that the social contagion is spreading at a fast rate across rich countries as well as poor ones.
Here, in far-away New Zealand, most people may think such events are a foreign phenomenon. Yet Kiwis are facing a rise in GST to 15%, which will blow many family budgets to bits so that the rich can be awarded massive tax breaks.
And Jayati Ghosh, an Indian professor of economics, forecasts the intervention of big financiers into the international food market as the driver for another gigantic bubble in global food prices. That too will badly hurt the grassroots of Aotearoa. (See Jayati’s video interview on The Real News, 5 May 2010, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=5067.)
Financialisation, the central pillar of neoliberal capitalism, has been driving government measures which soak the poor in order to bail out financial speculators. New Zealand is no exception, as we will see from the National-led government’s tax changes on 20 May that blatantly favour the wealthiest few percent at the expense of everyone else.
What we need in New Zealand is a popular campaign to roll back financialisation. Watch this space for more news about what we can do!
[Picture shows Greek demonstration from March 2010]