Saturday, 4 July 2015

Scotland Stands with Greece: NO to austerity, democracy will not be blackmailed

Speech for @Peoplesassyscot at today's Edinburgh rally: The Peoples Assembly against Austerity in Scotland is made up of trade unions and campaigning organisations representing over 350,000 people in Scotland. Our founding principle lays out the statement that there is no need for any cuts to public spending; no need to decimate public services; no need for unemployment or pay and pension cuts; no need for austerity and privatisation.

There IS an alternative. An alternative to the economic stupidity of austerity cuts that make people poorer, reduce the money in the economy, stifle growth and lead to a vicious circle of even more cuts.

An alternative that values people. That invests in public services. That creates wealth for the 99% instead of just the 1%.

We need to win that argument on the streets and in the workplaces that there is the money for a fairer society, it is just that it is in the wrong place.

We need build confidence to challenge the lies and myths we are bombarded with day in day out.

But this is not just about economics. It has never been about economics. It is about ideology.

An ideology that hates public services and loves to profit from privatisation. That sees a workforce engaged in caring and educating not as an achievement to be celebrated but a problem to be tackled. Political control through engineered poverty.

That is writ large in Greece today. The Greek government’s opposition to the policies that have created so much inequality across so many countries is a direct challenge to the politicians and banking institutions – and they don’t like it.

As economist Joseph Stiglist said the other day: “They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate."

And the obscenity of it all is that almost none of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks.

That is not without its irony. A colleague sent me a photo this morning of Greece's Finance Minister at the 1953 London Conference of European Nations signing the treaty which agreed to sign off 50% of Germany's debts because, "it was the right thing to do".

Well if it was right to sign off Germany’s debt then, it is right to sign off Greece’s now.

Now, even the mighty International Monetary Fund has admitted it failed to realise the damage austerity would do to Greece One official is reported as saying that massive cuts that hit the poorest hardest was always bound to dive the economy into an economic death spiral.

Now there’s a surprise. Who could have predicted that?

If any local government worker had got something that wrong they would be vilified in the press, no doubt sacked. Whereas the boss of the IMF gets half a million dollars tax free and is allowed to make mistakes that impoverish a country.

At least she admits they might be wrong. Christine Lagarde described 2011 as a "lost year" partly because of miscalculations by the EU and IMF – including a failure to restructure Greece’s debt.

Mind you, she also got something right for the IMF. It has earned itself nearly $4 billion in interest and charges on the Greek program alone.

That just sums it up. The poor get poorer and the rich and their institutions get richer and richer.

This is not about economics. It is about politics.

It is about taking back control of the wealth we create through our labour. It is about taking control of our institutions.

It is about the very basics of democracy and for that if nothing else, Greece deserves our support.

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