The banks are exerting heavy pressure on Greece again, demanding more austerity and privatization before they will come through with any credit.
Who has given bankers the power to tell governments, which are supposed to represent the people, that they must shut down social services and lay off hundreds of thousands of workers?
It’s important to understand what governments do in a capitalist democracy. Yes, most officials are appointed by parties elected in what seems like a popular vote. But they are beholden to the capitalist class in a thousand different ways and are expected to jump when the rich and powerful say so.
For politicians to be allowed to govern, they must accept the laws of capitalism. What does this mean first and foremost? They must respect the property laws, which allow a tiny and shrinking minority of the population to own and control the vast means of production. And the most compelling law of capitalism, which all capitalist governments must respect, is that the owners of capital must be able to maximize their profits, which take precedence over every human need.
Millions can be laid off from their jobs if the capitalists can’t make a profit off their labor. Millions can then starve if they lack the money to buy food. Millions can become homeless if they can’t pay their mortgages or their rent. It’s all legal in a capitalist democracy.
But what the capitalists won’t allow is for the banks, their supreme financial institutions, to show a loss. When that happens, they tell the politicians that the governments have to pay up.
The politicians know without even being asked that they have to squeeze the money from the workers — the people who have taxes deducted from their paychecks to cover whatever the capitalist government decides is important.
Interest payments to banks? Most important. Wars? Very important for capitalist profits. Police and prisons? Very important for suppressing opposition at home.
But everything else can go on the chopping block.
Most Greek workers are very political. They know they have to fight the capitalist system to save their jobs, schools and pensions. They have mobilized, held general strikes, conducted occupations and told the Greek government, “No justice, no peace!” In response, the big capitalist powers of Europe, especially Germany, France and Britain, have growled at the Greek government, “No austerity, no loans!”
Capital is international, and so is the working class. The struggle of workers, youth and the oppressed communities for a decent life is increasingly becoming one against the capitalist system itself.
The next time you get charged $5 for using a debit card or are informed by “your” bank that they’ll charge you $15 or $20 a month if you can’t keep thousands of dollars in your checking account — new rules that banks are imposing with no government regulations to stop them — think of what the Greek workers are doing and what Occupy Wall Street is doing. And join the struggle.