Neocolonial Subjugation of Greece

What are the driving factors for the German imperialism’s campaign against Greece ?

In the media it can be heard and read everywhere, and the campaign is heavy and loud, that Greece is a terrible crisis. Above all, public debt would be exceeding any limits. For years, the “Greek” would have been living “far beyond their possibilities”. To the extent that now “even the Euro is under threat” and maybe “all of Europe” would be “carried away by their crisis”. It has primarily been in Germany, but not only there, that the smear campaign was openly launching chauvinistic and even racist views against the “Greek”. From time to time, similar atrocities can be heard about Spain and Portugal, sometimes also about Italy, however, less frequently and to a lesser extent. In all of those cases, the media speak about the “PIGS”, i.e. Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, and we all are well aware of the meaning of the English word “pig” in this respect. In other words: one might want to get rid of all those lazy and corrupt Southern Europeans, it would be best if they left the Euro zone as quickly as possible and maybe even the EU; at any rate, “we are not at all disposed to pay for them”.

Why is it that the European finance bourgeoisie, and in their forefront the German, focus on Greece[1] in their present wild attack? What arouses their concern as regards Greece (apart from the fact that the rabble who have “for years been living far beyond their possibilities” now dare to take to the streets and protest against the government)?

It is Greek public debt which is the prime topic and it is said to be enormous. In 2008, it was 21.100 € per capita. Let us compare that to other European countries: for Austria, in 2008, it was… the very same level of 21.200 € per capita. The same applies to the Netherlands. In Belgium, it was 28.900 € p.c., in Italy 27.800 € p.c.. As regards Germany, and this is important as we will need to come back this very country later on, public debt in 2008 accounted for 20.000 € per capita, in France for 20.800 € p.c. Why though is it that the media are not campaigning against Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, nor, quite, why not against Germany?

Perhaps it is not so much about public debt per capita that they are concerned about but the amount of public debt in relation to GDP (gross domestic product)? From this angle, it is true that the level of public debt in Greece with 112,6% of annual GDP is quite high. However, for Italy this very figure is 114,6%, for Belgium 97,2% and for Germany no less than 73,1%. For Japan it even is 189,8%. So, why the media don’t they launch a fierce campaign against Japan nor against Italy?

We should be noting, by the way, that Spain presently ranks second – after Greece – in terms of target of a chauvinistic campaign. The well-renowned US Nobel prize winner Krugman wrote just lately: “Forget Greece! The real time bomb is Spain!” Why Spain? Public debt per capita in Spain accounts for 9.500 €, by far less than half the level of Austria. A year ago, this very same Mr Krugman predicted Austria’s imminent “bankruptcy” – excusing himself a little later stating he had committed an error in his calculations. From time to time Hungary, too, finds itself under threat of being regarded as prone to imminent “bankruptcy”, public debt, however, accounts for no more than 7.200 € per capita, a third of Austria’s level only. By the way, in Japan, public debt per capita is 52.500 €. And even in Switzerland, this “super sound” country, it is 19.700 € p.c. Obviously, it is not about any “analyses”, nor any real figures. First of all the aim is to launch a chauvinistic campaign of propaganda against very specific countries, and secondly, in doing so, to contribute to and exacerbate the pressure exerted onto the working class and the masses in those countries whose movement tries to fight back government policy which is meant to make them pay for the costs of the crisis. Thirdly, and simultaneously, to expand their propaganda of cracking down on the working class and the masses in other countries, too, wherever protest may rise, as the ultimate means of “exit” to their own crisis, and fourthly, this same propaganda prepares and accompanies yet another wave of refreshed speculation launched by finance capital. That’s what it is about. Anybody, who holds justified this negative campaign in fact becomes a collaborator of imperialist interests.

In Europe, such imperialist campaign presently focuses on Greece and it departs mainly from Germany. It is not without attention that the French newspaper “Le Monde”, a “liberal” voice of French imperialism, notes Germany to be at the source of this negative campaign against the “PIGS” countries, above all against Greece. Why Germany?

Germany is the number 1 exporting country to Greece, in 2008, 11,9% of all Greek imports came from Germany. (No 2 was Italy with 11,4% of all Greek imports). Germany represented the second largest export market for Greek products, it received 10,2% of all Greek exports, just after Italy which, in 2008, held no. 1 in Greek imports with 11,5% of total. In absolute figures Germany’s exports to Greece in 2008 amounted to 8,3 billion € whilst its imports from Greece amounted to 1,9 bn € only. A similar relation applied to Italy. In total, the trade balance deficit of Greece in 2008 amounted to 44 bn €, 15% of that regards Germany alone. By means of external trade, however, we know that surplus value is being redistributed from less productive capital to the more productive ones, therefore from Greece to, for instance, Germany[2].

Apart from merchandise exports, there is capital exports, in first place, so called direct investment. In 2008 foreign direct investment in Greece accounted for 3,1 billion € (acc. to UNCTAD). How much of that came from Germany? 2,9 billion € ! This has not been so for long. In 2006, for instance, France was by far holding the no.1 position with 2,3 bn €. Obviously, Germany has made a big leap, a leap in an effort to subjugate Greece to neocolonial German rule. Not amazing that France is not amused about this and hence, the big “debate” within the EU how Greece could best be “saved”.

Apart from foreign direct investment the total of which for Greece amounted to 36,9 bn € by the end of the 3rd quarter of 2009, we need to look at foreign bank loans and financial “investment” in Greek securities whereby Greece becomes a debtor and therefore prone to dependence. By the end of the 3rd quarter of 2009, respective total financial debt was 247 bn €, 149 bn of which accounted for foreign bank loans, from an imperialist stand point, a dangerous issue. Greece as a country, the government in first place, is highly indebted to debtors abroad. Who are they? Foreign bank loans of 32 bn € alone have come from Germany, i.e. one fifth of total. Major creditor has been Hypo Real Estate, now nearly bankrupt, however, kept alive by means of over 107 bn € of government aid. Now we know what was meant when the German government justified their aid by saying that HRE was “relevant to the banking system”. Had it gone bust Greek debtors might now have much less difficulty with the bankruptcy’s estate in getting along than it now has with the German state. Second comes German Commerzbank with 3,1 bn €. (According to “Le Monde”, dated 6/03/2010,  60% of all foreign bank loans to the “PIGS” countries have been extended by German and French banks.)

Today Greece is a country depending on the major European imperialists. Their aim is to further increase the country’s neocolonial dependence. In first place, this refers to Germany, whilst France does not have a pole position, but still wants to interfere. As regards the view of German imperialism, it is well expressed by Hans Werner Sinn, president of the Institute for Economic Research WIFO in Munich). He may be somewhat eccentric, however, he is a very sharp protagonist of the most reactionary faction of German monopoly capital. He just lately made a lot of noise with his demand that Greece should or would have “to quit the Euro”. However, as late as 16 Feb 2010, in his interview with the German broadcasting radio “Deutschlandfunk” this very same guy puts things a little differently. It is about the question: “Germany as the savior of Greece”. The German bourgeois radio asks him “but would we be strong enough to save Greece all on our own?”  and Mr. Sinn’s answer is: “Oh, yes, I think we would be, Greece is not that big, you know,” while adding “of course, we would need to appoint a financial controller to work with them alongside and who would have the right to veto any planning of expenditures”.  By early March, strategy has apparently undergone some change. Maybe partly that change was due to the Greek government’s own unhappiness about the envisaged European, and especially German led “aid”; although thoroughly corrupt and reactionary, this government still tries to maintain a minimum level of independence thus launching “the idea” Greece might just as well turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) instead of to the EU – an idea which was not at all well received, neither in the EU nor in Germany. In the meantime, Mr. Sinn has changed

g/th 15/03/2010

his mind. If one succeeded in driving the Greek economy[3] further into desaster, it would be available at an even nicer price. The only thing is it must not be an outright sovereign bankruptcy of the Greek state, the “economy”, however, might well be an item of interest. All of a sudden therefore, Mr. Sinn is an ardent critic against foreign “aid”, Greece should by all means quit the Euro, the result of which – i.e. a massive depreciation of the reinstalled Greek currency “Drachme” – would highly facilitate and reduce in price a subsequent potential cheap acquisition of Greek industrial and other assets by German capital. Could well be that this might trigger another crisis for the Euro and some more problems for Spain and Portugal, but that’s life. A conquest of Greece by German finance capital is more important. From this angle, Greek memories of Hitler’s fascism are not completely without any grounds, although everybody tends to call them “exaggerated”, but what if they even were not memories, but actual fears? Is it amazing though that the Greek head of government, a social democrat, is named “Berlin’s Gauleiter”? Having said this, there still is a big question mark behind German endeavors to subjugate Greece – due to conflicting interests amongst the European finance capital and their bourgeoisie.

Whilst the campaign against Greece is headed by Germany, it is less focused in Austria – where economic and political interests are less directly involved. For other EU imperialists the German rush attack does not quite fit into the overall EU imperialist strategy, in the least for France where the impact of the campaign is much weaker.

However, there is one common aim for all imperialists and reactionary forces: the mass movement of the working class and the people of Greece has to be defeated. Because there is no such strong movement against capitalism anywhere else in Europe today. Not even in France where there is not a single day without strikes, occupation of sites, managers locked up in their offices, but as yet there is no such broad, unified and militant class movement as in Greece. This movement must be a thorn in the eye of each and any bourgeoisie, not only of the Greek. Because it may become a spark igniting Europe’s working class and masses everywhere. Therefore they cannot spare any means to crack down on it. Therefore all European governments, the EU institutions, the IMF etc. have teamed up to build a unified front by imposing upon Greece the inevitable “austerity program” to be, in case of emergency, implemented by force – and, as their prime issue, by defeat of the anti-capitalist movement.

The “measures” of the program, partly already implemented, partly further envisaged, result in a tremendous cut back in salaries and social welfare. The French magazine “Le Monde” published a

website blog amongst Greek workers and employees. They have faced or will still face cut backs in their wages and salaries of 30% and more and this although they range amongst the poor in European

average terms. On top of that a brutal cut in social services and welfare. The youth in Greece call themselves the “700€ generation”. A wave of poverty and misery has been sweeping over the country for the past few years and is now exacerbated further[4]. It is the main task of the Greek government and the Greek bourgeoisie to implement this program in order to make the country even more attractive for neocolonial subjugation, especially to German finance capital.

But the battle is not over yet. Those plans might be jeopardized by the Greek workers and masses movement. With an enormous impact on Europe and beyond. Our task therefore in Europe and in Austria, too, is to do all we can in support of the class struggle in Greece. By unmasking the imperialist campaign against Greece we will strengthen and develop class struggle in our countries as well.

[1] Of course, „Greece“, like Germany or Austria, consists of antagonistic classes. There is the Greek bourgeoisie on the one side, and the Greek working class and the Greek people on the other side. The Greek bourgeoisie is exploiting the Greek working class, oppresses them politically and knocks them down whilst squeezing and robbing out the masses.  This is the basis for all sorts of corruption and mismanagement (without, by the way, any major difference to what happens in Austria, too, – see one of the most recent examples, the “Hospital Vienna North” project (City Council of Vienna, companies PORR, SIEMENS, VAMED), the realization of which – due to undeniable corruption – has just been stopped, at least until the municipal elections.) The international bourgeois class is presently launching their fierce attack against the Greek working class who is an encouraging example to the European working class and may in the near future be even more than that. There is a contradiction between the different bourgeois classes, of course, however, their contradiction is a relative one, it is a contradiction between more or less powerful imperialists, it is nothing but internal capitalist competition and its only aim is to work towards defeating the Greek bourgeoisie. However, in their class struggle against the Greek working class all the bourgeois classes are unanimous.

[2] Such redistribution of surplus value develops, firstly, in a unified market and, secondly, by means of equalization of the profit rates of capital.  Firstly, there is the issue of different levels of labor productivity: where capital A is producing something in 4 hours, whilst capital B is doing so in 6 hours only, the market value will be the equivalent of 5 hours. Hence, everybody will sell his goods at 5 whereby capital A will gain an additional surplus of 1, at the detriment of capital B. In addition, the equalization of profit rates will result in a distribution of total profit in proportion to total capital employed. Without going into too much detail this, in turn, results in a redistribution of surplus value from those capitals the “organic composition” of which is lower (i.e. employing a lot of human labor and, hence, creation of surplus value and less machinery etc) to those with  higher organic composition. Both factors result in surplus value redistribution from Greece to, for instance, Germany.

[3] By the way, the Greek economy is far from what is conceived by so-called “public opinion”. Productivity may be lower than in Austria, but on the other hand, it is only 20% lower than the EU 27-average – and this in spite of an essentially different structural economy (relatively high portion of agriculture and tourism). GDP per capita is lower, but only by 10%, and only by 1% if calculated in terms of purchasing power parity. “The Greek” do not only live on Sirtaki and Ouzo, not at all. In terms of external balance of payments, Greek merchandise exports in 2008 accounted for not less than 19,8 bn € compared to receipts from the services balance of 34,1 bn €.  Only 60% of this latter refers to tourism, 40% come from sea transportation, IT and other industrial services. So, Greece may well be a treat, you see. It is not about aid, though, but about conquest. Otherwise, the massive interest of German and other large imperialists in subjugating the country to their neocolonial rule would be difficult to explain, at least with regard to outright economic interests.

[4] Details on this program may be found on the homepage of the Communist Organization of Greece, KOE, one of the two revolutionary communist organizations in Greece. Important details are: 8-10% cut back on wages and salaries in the public sector, in certain areas up to 30%, a 30% cut back of special remunerations (comparable to the 13th and 14th monthly wage in Austria), a freeze and often even reduction in pensions (-7 to 10% in the public sector), increase of the value added tax rate from 19 to 21%, of the mineral tax by 15%, of electricity prices by 8%, reduction of public spending , for education, for instance, by 600 million € etc. And this is said to be only the “first step” in the “recovery program”, mainly “proposed” by German imperialism  – yet, looking at the class struggle of the working class and the masses in Greek the perspective of this program is dim.