Greece’s economic turmoil

Given the level of government mismanagement,  an anarchist response is not that surprising

When you put together a $486 billion deficit, sweeping cuts to the public service, fiscal conspiracies with Goldman Sachs, widespread police brutality and wage cuts, the situation is right for a growing movement aimed at anarchist revolution.

This, in short, describes Greece’s political climate today, and it can all be traced to greed and Wall Street collusion. The movement against the economic decisions of the country’s successive governments, which has been loosely termed anarchist, is actually not at all surprising or unjustified.

Anarchy in Greece has played a significant role in shaping Greece’s political landscape and society. Originating in 1860, anarchism has tugged ever since at Greek political, social and economic life. Arguably, it has been vital to Greece retaining its (comparatively) socialist system, as compared to its European counterparts.

However, with its deficit now at 12.7 per cent of its GDP, the government of Greece is facing immense pressure from the European Union to balance its books. Since it abandoned its own currency for the Euro in 2001, Greece is at risk of seriously damaging the value of the currency if it doesn’t soon balance its budget. As a result, it has already pledged to reduce its deficit by 8.7 per cent this year. But this means huge cuts to public services and overall government spending.

Such policies have consistently shown to disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable. An example is the growing gap between the rich and the poor since Canada adopted the same cost-cutting policies in the early 1990s to slash its deficit. The most vulnerable are not protected by enhancing free market economics, yet that is exactly what the Greek government is being told to do if it is going to receive a bailout from its European counterparts.

The Greek public has banded together courageously to prevent its recently elected socialist government from adopting such free market, right-wing policies. Teenagers, students, workers, public servants and even the elderly have banded together to protest the governments cuts to workers’ wages, pensions and the increase in the retirement age.

Just last month, two million Greeks went on strike to protest government austerity measures.

An easy response to the protesters is that the government has no choice besides fiscal prudence. But analysis shows a much deeper story. There are alternatives to cutting benefits for the workers.

Greece’s debt today is the same as it was in the year 2000. Global investment and securities firm Goldman Sachs helped conceal Greece’s debt, which enabled the country to adopt the stronger European single currency. In return, Goldman Sachs collected 192 million Euros in a complex transaction that allowed Athens to borrow one billion Euros without it being marked as a loan.

Since then, Goldman Sachs has paid next to no taxes for its operations in Greece. This means that one of the world’s most powerful banks has nearly free reign to operate in the country while the workers are faced with the threat of wage cuts and tax increases.

Now, a socialist government is forced to pursue fiscal conservatism because previous governments got in bed with a multinational banking firm. Even now, a former Goldman Sachs banker is heading an investigation into the government’s fiscal crisis, even though the firm is largely responsible for the debt crisis.

It is absurd. There are obviously forces of influence operating behind Greece’s decision-makers.

As a result of this utter lack of judgment and a bank’s quest for power, millions of Greeks are being punished.

If they lie down and take it, the government will continue to slash workers’ benefits, wages and pensions. If they lie down and take it, poverty will increase in Greece.

Due to this, the concept of anarchy is uniting many Greeks along a common purpose of fighting a fiscally-conservative ideology.

Matt Austman is a politics student at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 64, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 25, 2010)

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