Greece after the referendum
I was pleased to be able to sponsor and speak at the Greece Solidarity Campaign/Jubilee Debt Campaign rally in solidarity with Greece at Congress House last night. Here’s what I said:
Greece is the cradle of democracy. It is where a simple, yet profoundly powerful, idea took hold. That not kings, not bankers, not bureaucrats – but citizens who should have the right to control their own destiny.
And yesterday the people of Greece delivered a clear, democratic message to the unelected Troika. No to blackmail. No to poverty. And no to austerity.
Greece – indeed the whole of Europe – now stands at a crossroads. And what happens in the coming days and weeks will shape our continent’s future for generations to come.
I was proud to join union leaders, MPs and debt relief campaigners in signing a letter to the Guardian last week. In it, we called for a radically different approach to the management of Greek debt. For UN rules to protect people’s livelihoods and rights during debt crises. And for action against the speculators who got us into this mess in the first place.
Our aim is simple. To save the people of Greece from cuts, unemployment and destitution. To give Greece the space it needs to restore growth and prosperity for the many, not the few. And to ditch the absurd notion that by making workers poorer we can make any nation richer.
Austerity wrecks lives. It stops growth in its tracks. And makes debt problems worse not better.
Here in Britain, we’ve got our own problems. We’ve seen the damage caused by ideologically driven austerity. We’re going to have our work cut out as the Tories plan another £12 billion of cuts to welfare.
But in Greece, the impact of spending cuts is quite literally a matter of life and death.
We’ve seen clinics shut and medicines run out. Wages in freefall and pensions slashed. Unemployment, especially among the young, at crisis levels. And public services on the brink of collapse.
To cap it all, before the election of the new government, trade unions in Greece saw their collective bargaining rights stripped away, in direct contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and core ILO standards.
Enough is enough. Even the IMF now seems to recognise, Greece needs a fresh start.
It was greed and corruption at the top that got Greece into this mess. Ordinary Greeks must not be made to pay the price. Why should they have to suffer the tax-dodging antics of a super rich and corporate elite who for decades have failed to make a fair contribution to Greek society? They shouldn’t.
To its credit, the Greek government is trying to restore union rights, protect pensioners and give hope to young people. And our movement must continue to extend the hand of friendship to Greek workers and their unions. The need for practical support and solidarity remains overwhelming.
Not just medical aid, vital though that is. Nor just political support, imperative as that may be. But solidarity – borne of the knowledge that as workers and as trade unionists, across borders and frontiers, our fortunes will always rise and fall as one. Make no mistake, more austerity in Greece means more austerity in Spain, Ireland, Britain and right across Europe.
So let’s send a simple message to Greek workers. That their struggle is our struggle. When it comes to fighting austerity and the power of finance capital, we are all in it together.
Now is the time for change. We need a European Union that puts its people before markets. That remembers that markets are here to serve us, not the other way around. That the Troika don’t get to pick and choose who runs a country; it has no right to punish people for the way they vote; that the very essence of democracy means that it is we the people who decide.
No one knows for certain what the future may hold. But if we remain true to our values of equality, justice and solidarity. If we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Greek people. If we fight for a fairer, stronger Europe. Then together we will surely win.