From the Department of This is What Democracy Looks Like:
Trouble at mill.
A couple of days ago the Greek Parliament passed–by 155 votes to 138–a new wave of austerity measures intended to further bleed the Greek masses dry.
Now an additional €28 billion is to be saved by 2015. This represents 12 percent of the gross domestic product of this country of 11 million people. In Germany, equivalent cuts would amount to €300 billion, and in the US to $1.7 trillion. A further €50 billion will be raised through the privatisation of state enterprises.
The new program will lead to 150,000 job cuts in public services, reductions in social spending and health care, together with huge tax increases for median incomes. The Value Added Tax for pubs and restaurants will be increased from 13 to 23 percent. In Greece, where the economy relies heavily on such small businesses, this will mean ruin for thousands, and will deepen the recession.
Even Wolfgang Münchau, a leading columnist for the Financial Times and, until now, an advocate of austerity has come to the conclusion that such austerity measures are “financially reckless and politically irresponsible.” “The program, as it stands, is politically, morally and economically hard to justify,” he writes.
Nevertheless the European Union has exerted enormous pressure on the Greek parliament to adopt the program. Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn threatened the Greek state with bankruptcy if the austerity package was rejected. “The only way to avoid immediate default is for parliament to endorse the revised economic program,” he said in a statement. “They must be approved if the next tranche of financial assistance is to be released. To those who speculate about other options, let me say this clearly: there is no Plan B to avoid default.”
In response to popular protest, the Greek state and police–in collusion with Greek fascists–have unleashed some fairly savage repression, including the use of asphyxiating gases. So savage, in fact, that Amnesty International has felt compelled to release a statement condemning the crackdown (h/t : Sina).
The events in Greece may well be a foretaste of things to come elsewhere in Europe, as the rollback in social reforms in response to the Global Financial Crisis™ continues. “…the workers of Greece will be on the streets… Workers in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and further afield will be watching them, willing them on and waiting for the day when we too will have to take to the streets to fight peripheralisation itself. Let’s see who swerves first.”