Portugal: Bloco de Esquerda votes for Greek bailout loan

A reader from Portugal wrote to us asking our opinion on the vote of the BE members of parliament in favour of the European Union bailout loan for Greece. In our opinion this position is scandalous.

Just today in the Portuguese parliament it was voted to support the bailout loan to Greece. The Socialist Party voted for the loan the Communist party against. The Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) voted for it. together with the Socialist Party and all the right wing parties.

In your opinion, what should be the Marxist position?

Gonçalo E.

Dear Gonçalo,

You write to us to report that the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block) voted in the Portuguese Parliament in favour of the European Union bailout loan for Greece, and you ask us our opinion. As you say, the law allowing the participation of Portugal in the EU financial plan for Greece was passed with the votes, not only of the ruling (Social Democratic) Socialist Party (PS), the right wing PSD and the CDS-PP, but also those of the 16 deputies of the Bloco de Esquerda. The Communist Party and the Greens voted against. This was reported in the bourgeois media.

In our opinion this position adopted by the BE members of parliament is scandalous. In attempting to explain their vote, Cecilia Honório, the vice-president of the BE parliamentary group said:

“we will vote in favour of this proposal for one reason and for none other, to reject the loan, in the current circumstances would be to impose bankruptcy on Greece, and this would be the worst option. It would be a policy of scorched earth. It would be to answer the crisis with an economic calamity, and we do not accept a policy of scorched earth.” (esquerda.net)

She then proceeded to criticize the European Commission and the IMF for imposing austerity policies on Greece.

This is sophistry of the worst sort. One cannot separate the loan to Greece from the conditions which are attached to it and which have been worked out by the IMF and the EU. These conditions had to be met by the Greek government before the loan could be approved, as it is clear to everyone. The conditions represent an all out assault on the Greek workers: postponement of the retirement age, wage freezes and cuts, privatizations, increase in indirect taxation, etc.

By voting in favour of the loan, the BE deputies have, de facto, given support to the same measures that the Greek working class and youth have been courageously fighting in the streets and the work places with general strikes and mass demonstrations.

To make matters worse, in his summary of the parliamentary week, BE member of parliament José Soeiro tries to use some other “arguments” to justify the conduct of the BE’s parliamentary group. He starts by saying that the loan was passed in order to “prevent the bankruptcy of a country massacred by the liberal policies and victim of a speculative attack on the part of the financial markets and the rating agencies.”

He argues that “Europe must answer this attack with solidarity. The Bloco defends European solidarity with Greece, and it because we are in solidarity that, while we support the loan, we oppose the conditions imposed”, which he then correctly describes as “draconian measures against the workers and the disaggregation of public services which will destroy the Greek economy”. (esquerda.net)

This argument is false from start to finish. “Europe” is a synonym for the bankers and capitalists and their governments that really control Europe. The very idea that this Europe could defend the interests of the people of Greece, or any other country, is laughable. The bankers and capitalists of Europe will defend their own interests and nothing else. To expect “solidarity” from a capitalist Europe is to ask pears from an elm tree.

This loan has nothing to do with “solidarity” with Greece against “the financial markets and rating agencies”. As a matter of fact, the loan is designed to protect the interests of the banks, Greek and European, by preventing the default of Greece and ensuring repayment to, precisely, financial speculators! The money for the bankers will, as usual, be squeezed from the workers of Europe.

In a statement to Sol magazine, the BE leader Francisco Louça, explained how the EU “help” for Greece was important and that it should be done “in conditions which help European interests and those of the Greek and Portuguese economies”. (sol.sapo.pt)

This is a completely wrong way of posing the question. There is not an atom of class content in it. There is no such thing as “European interests” or the interests of the “Greek and Portuguese economies”. We must approach everything from a class point of view. The crisis in Greece is not about some evil “financial markets” and “credit rating agencies” attacking the poor “Greek economy” which needs solidarity from “Europe”.

The crisis in Greece is part of the general crisis of capitalism and the severe recession it has gone through. The capitalist class, in Greece, at a European level and worldwide, wants to make the working class pay the price for this crisis, through wage cuts, attacks on living standards, privatization and cuts in public services, etc. On the one hand there are the interests of the Greek, European and world workers, on the other the interests of the Greek, European and world capitalists and bankers. The two are mutually irreconcilable.

If you abandon a class point of view you will very rapidly drift into the camp of the ruling class and will end up supporting the bail out of Greek and European capitalists at the expense of the Greek workers, in this case. This is dangerous, because tomorrow the same arguments can be put forward to justify austerity measures in Portugal “in the national interest”.

The Communist Party deputies in the Portuguese parliament voted against the EU loan. That was correct. The leader of the Communist group of deputies, Bernardino Soares, explained that what is being proposed for Greece “is a huge dose of the same policy, with wage and pension freezes, the destruction of rights and privatizations”.

He said that they would not vote in favour of the implementation of measures for Greece which they oppose for Portugal. The Portuguese government of the Socialist Party is in fact proposing a so-called “Programme of Stability and Growth” (PEC) which is a brutal package of austerity measures designed, again, to make the workers bear the brunt of the crisis. How can one vote for the EU bailout of Greece (which is conditional on the carrying out of austerity measures) and then oppose the same measures in Portugal?

What makes the vote of the 16 Bloco deputies even more criminal is the fact that the law that allows the Greek loan would have passed without their votes. There was no real need for them to vote in favour except the pressure of bourgeois public opinion and their own ideological confusion.

What about the argument that the alternative to this loan would mean bankruptcy for Greece? What is the alternative? The truth is, there is no alternative within the limits of capitalism. If one accepts the capitalist system, then one is forced to accept it with all its consequences. But there is an alternative. First of all, there should be no cuts in working conditions or wages for Greek workers and pensioners, and no cuts in public services. The banks and big companies should be nationalized and their resources put under democratic workers’ control and used in the benefit of the Greek working people, not the banks and capitalists (Greek and European).

Some may argue that this is not a “realistic” policy, but what is “realistic” about the policies of the leaders of the Bloco? By directly voting for the policies of the IMF and the EU against the Greek workers, they have done a favour to the capitalists and their political representatives in Europe. This may get the applause of the bourgeois and the right wing, but there are surely many members and supporters of the Bloco de Esquerda who will be dismayed and angered by it.

Many of the leaders and deputies of the Bloco belong to the Association for a Socialist Revolutionary Policy (APSR) which organises the supporters of the Mandelite “IV International” in Portugal. A socialist revolutionary policy would have demanded that they voted against the Greek loan, not in favour. We are entitled to ask them what they are playing at?

The BE doubled their number of deputies at the last election because tens of thousands of workers and youth saw the Bloco as a left wing alternative. Many of those who voted for the Bloco consider themselves socialists and revolutionaries. They did not vote for the BE in order that it should vote together with the right wing for reactionary legislation. They should bring their members of parliament to account

Comradely,

Jorge Martin
International Marxist Tendency