Syriza’s struggle is our struggle
The Greek Syriza government is still locked in crisis negotiations with ‘the group formerly known as the Troika’ (the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission) over releasing the money the Greek state needs to meet its obligations to creditors and also to its people.
But it isn’t only about debt: Syriza is demanding the right to restore collective bargaining, as well as fair wages and fair pensions. And it isn’t only about Greece, as the rights Syriza are demanding are rights we would want every government to exercise.
Those points explain why the former Troika institutions are so intransigent. What they are demanding of Greece certainly isn’t justified on economic grounds – everyone knows that Greece’s debt is unsustainable, and everyone knows what ‘unsustainable’ means, even if they pretend not to in public. And Syriza isn’t just demanding the right to restore collective bargaining because they are left-wing ideologues, it’s because their vision of economic development is based on quality jobs and quality wages, and both need the effective partnership between workers and managers that collective bargaining delivers.
The IMF has, periodically, accepted that it forced Greece further into recession, making those debts even less repayable. But it hasn’t changed course.
The reason why the IMF, ECB and Commission are dead set against collective bargaining, wage rises and the restoration of a decent pension is because of what might happen elsewhere if they gave up fighting these in Greece. The former Troika, all unelected institutions, are answerable at a convenient arm’s length to national politicians in France, Germany, Italy and Spain (and to some extent the UK and the USA) who fear the rise of similar parties to Syriza, or social movements like trade unions, who could demand the same things in their own countries if Greece ‘got away with it’.
So this is a power struggle, plain and simple, and we have to be on the side of Syriza, the Greek unions and the Greek people. As ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said yesterday:
“After five years of destructive austerity and structural adjustment, the IMF and other international lenders should stop their obstructionism, make loan disbursements on the previously agreed extensions and support the Greek people’s efforts to rebuild their economy through policies that give priority to employment creation.
“We call on the IMF to desist in its mindless attack on workers’ wages, rights and pensions.”