Thursday, 7 May 2009

Aspects of Financialisation in Greece: what’s next?

by George Lambrinidis

In 2008, there were 360.000 unemployed workers, 350.000 in temporary employment, 270.000 part-time workers, 400.000 in employment with very low, if any, rights and 600.000 were working without insurance. At the same time, 400.000 workers have to have a second job or cover basic needs through borrowing under burdensome terms[1]. Just for the record, the labor force of the country is no more than 3.9 million.

Following the gist of our previous posts, the unemployment situation sketched above can be partly attributed to the capitalist restructure and reformation of the 1990s, as well as to the political dominance of the social democrats. Both processes tipped the scales in the interests of the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, this would not be possible had it not been for an underlying ideological process. This is no other than the process of destroying ideologically the belief that solutions for the working class can come about only through collective action. It cannot be ascribed solely to the social democratic party, but the latter undertook successfully its political realization and overview. This very process is quite significant for financialisation.

Still, a major break was needed for any savings of the wage earners to be swept up and to damage seriously the ability of the social network to provide solutions at times of difficulty. Operation “stock market”, orchestrated by the social democrats, sold by them as the arrival of “popular capitalism” climaxed in 1999 and channeled savings of over one million people to the pockets of the capitalists. Apart from the direct effect on the latter’s profitability, the operation exposed workers, mostly, and low income self employed to the grip of the banks.

The entering of Greece in the EMU accelerated these processes. Capitalist restructuring was driven now through integrated competition and new opportunities. As for the latter, one has only to take a look at the position of Greek investments in the newcomers of the EU, and especially those in the neighborhood. In the same spirit, one may understand Greek foreign policy toward the entering of Turkey in the EU. Further, the EMU provided the framework as well as the political alibi for those ventures to flourish.
It is now evident that the individual seeking of solutions is a dead end. The alternative though is still misty. It seems that there is a turn to collective action, while the bourgeoisie is turning to the militarization of everyday life. This is also one of the major pillars of the political crisis that accompanies the economic one and the events of December should be understood under this light.

I would risk arguing that processes in Greece were not slow, its not logn since the early 1990s when most banks were unable to accomplish their role in the era of financialisation and under state – although never public – ownership. Greece had to run through all the evolution of financialisation in much less than half the time of the leading capitalist countries. This hardly implies that Greek capitalists didn’t do well, it’s just that the situation is now very complicated and not easy for them to manage politically, let alone economically.

To return to where we started and the events of December, it is evident that these scenes will be repeated: the time for elections is approaching, with the ability of the two identical parties – the social democrats and the new liberals – to switch government strongly contested and the workers movement is rising, despite its recent weakness.. Another December will inevitably be provoked to justify the violent imposition of the political power of the bourgeoisie. The ground is ready for the next round, the margins are much tighter and each will be ready for the fight.

[1] Interest rates for credit cards are no less than 17% and, recently,banks were obliged to stop charging interest on a loan when customers have been paid 3 times the value of original loan.