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Greece stands humiliated at the hands of neoliberal fanatics

We must continue to stand with the people of Greece as European leaders bully the Greek government into submission, writes Nick Dearden

July 16, 2015
4 min read

Nick DeardenNick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign

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Photo: Global Justice Now Photo: Global Justice Now

No-one will be able to blame Alexis Tsipras for the destruction of the eurozone. Far from the militant leftist portrayed in the media, Tspiras has shown himself to be excessively cautious, making concession after concession in his desire to protect the Greek people from further impoverishment.

Unfortunately he has been negotiating with fanatics. Leaders of the Eurogroup, European Commission and European Central Bank have dogmatically followed economic prescriptions which have nothing to do with making people’s lives better or even in basic democratic principles, but are rather concerned with protecting the interests of their own financial sectors.

In so doing, European leaders have employed the myth that Europe’s taxpayers are funding the unsustainable lives of the Greeks. But this is rubbish. Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC) has shown that at least 90% of the ‘bailout’ funds to Greece have not gone to Greece at all, but to shore up the reckless European banks that lent the money in the first place.

What’s more, this is profitable activity for the European Central Bank and national central banks. Last week, JDC showed how they stand to make between €10 billion and €22 billion profit out of lending to Greece and JDC’s Tim Jones said:

“The European Central Bank has acted exactly like a vulture fund, buying up debts cheaply during the crisis, refusing to take part in a necessary restructuring of the debt, and demanding to be repaid at a large profit.”

So much for this package being about the Greek people. Esteemed economist Paul Krugman has been outspoken on the impact of the package agreed on Monday, and believes it will be a catastrophe for Greece. What’s more, it exposes the fundamental nature of the eurozone, which has become a mechanism for enforcing this destructive form of economics:

“Once inside [the eurozone] you are at the mercy of those who can pull your financing and crash your banking system unless you toe the line.”

The new Greek package means never ending depression in Greece, and the selling off of the Greek public sector. The rank hypocrisy of the negotiators is best exposed by them forcing Greece to liberalise Sunday business hours – something which countries like Germany won’t do themselves.

But what’s even more shocking about the last few weeks is the extent to which European leaders have been hell bent on humiliating and destroying a government which has dared to expose them. Their utter indifference to democracy or to questioning their own economic ideology is perfectly demonstrated in a recently published interview with former finance minister Yannis Varoufakis:

“To have very powerful figures look at you in the eye and say ‘You’re right in what you’re saying, but we’re going to crunch you anyway.’”

In the interview, Varoufakis clearly says that he tried to start moving on important reforms, like improving taxation, but was told he couldn’t do so without an agreement. But criticism of Syriza’s failure to undertake such reforms has now been used by these same governments to show why they are ‘not trustworthy’.

The total humiliation of the Greek government was the number one priority of Europe’s leaders. How else can you read the demand that Greek assets totalling €50 billion be held as a hostage to ensure the Greek government will carry out the massive privatisation programme? This demand should affront everyone who believes in even the most basic form of democracy, whatever you feel about the Greek government.

These attitudes will be familiar to those who have campaigned on debt in recent decades, where countries have been bullied and governments forced onto their knees by their ‘creditors’. The so-called ‘lost decades of development’ directly flow from similar debt enforcement policies. They should by now be so discredited that we consider these policies in the same breath as slavery and apartheid. Instead, they are being enforced in the heart of Europe.

In coming days we will see whether the Greek parliament has been terrified into accepting this package or not. Either way, we should be under no illusion that it has been freely accepted by the Greek people. And either way we must continue to stand with Greece’s people. We cannot and will not allow the behaviour of Europe’s leaders in recent days to define our future.

This article is republished from the Global Justice Now blog.

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Nick DeardenNick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign

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