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“The poor South” against the “rich North”?

Article of Elisseos Vagenas
Member of the CC of the KKE
Responsible for the International Relations Section of the CC
First published in "Rizospastis" 4/5/2013

"Blame our bloody fate!
Blame the God that hates us!
Blame our stupid heads!
Blame, more than anything else, the wine!
Who is to blame? Who is to blame?…no mouth
has answered this yet."
Kostas Varnalis

But they found the guilty party! At least if we believe Mr Tsipras [President of the SYRIZA party], Mr Kammenos [President of the"Independent Greeks"], the newspaper “Pontiki”, the fascist “hornets’ nest” of Golden Dawn and the many others who point it out to us. The guilty party is Ms Angela Merkel, our evil “demon”, the Prime Minister of Germany and the Eurozone as a whole. The modern Kaiser of Europe, who hates us, who torments us…

This is interpretation is so … “classic” that it reminds us of a poet, Konstantinos Kavafis, and his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians”:

“What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.”

Of course, this time the “barbarians”, as Tsipras, Kammenos etc. explain to us are not only hostile to the Greeks, but to the whole South. And this may have made our lives unbearable, but it also includes in itself, according to these very same people, our hope and salvation: we must coalesce in a “front of the poor South, against the rich North”. And then we will overthrow the “Kaiser” and the EU will be transformed from “wolf” into a lamb. The much-desired “EU solidarity” will be expressed and basically the rivers will flow with honey and the mountains will become rice! Indeed we will probably then find the streets paves with gold that they had promised us when the country joined the EEC in 1981.

What do they want to conceal?

But this is a really convenient explanation for those who managed and manage the fates of millions of toiling people in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain. For all those who hold the real power in their hands! According to this rationale the capitalist system, which forces all society to produce goods and to provide services in order to benefit a handful of people from all this activity, i.e. those who own the means of production, bears no responsibility! Those who live in luxury without knowing how and what the various businesses produce, whose shares they buy and sell, bear no responsibility. The European Union and its 4 “freedoms” (movement of capital, commodities, services, labour power) are not at all to blame, which have been institutionalized and constitute the cornerstone of all the reactionary restructurings of the last two decades, expanding everywhere the commercialization of education, health, the abolition of social gains, unemployment and destitution.

How nice! How convenient! For those who want to “democratize”, to “sanitize” capitalism and the capitalist inter-state union in Europe, the EU. It is very easy to describe only Ms Merkel as being the “obstacle” to the prosperity of the workers and the pro-people transformation of the EU.

They want to hide the barbarity of the capitalist system itself behind the “veil” of Ms Merkel. They want to hide the basic contradiction, the contradiction between capital and labour! The workers must not fall into this trap of the system. They must not believe the allegedly “patriotic” “resistance” and “anti-occupation” sloganeering, which these political forces indulge in, competing as to who will manage the system better.

What is the reality?

Maybe someone can say as a counterargument to us that Germany “has gained” from the crisis, while the countries of the South are losing. The reality is that Germany, due to uneven capitalist development, is still in a phase of capitalist growth. Not because Ms Merkel has some kind of magic wand, but because capitalism has objective laws. So, for example, capital is going to those countries that can more easily and securely produce profits for their capitalist owners.

Relations of uneven interdependence are formed in the imperialist unions and in the global capitalist system as a whole, on the basis of the economic and political-military strength of each country. This is also occurring in the EU, where Germany is playing the role of the “motor force” of capitalist integration in the old continent.

This does not mean that all Germans are winning! There is also now in Germany an increase of relative and absolute destitution of the workers. It is calculated that 16 million Germans live in poverty, i.e. 15.1% of the population. The unemployed are 2.9 million and workers, mainly young workers, with salaries of 300-400 euros number more than 7.3 million.

And in Germany a handful of capitalists are winning, as in the rest of the capitalist world. At the same time, the anti-worker agenda is being implemented in the other EU countries, with or without memoranda.

The impasses of the capitalist mode of production are expressed with greater intensity in the countries of the South: unemployment, poverty, destitution etc, because the capitalist crisis has manifested itself here, the cause of which are not of course the “thieves” and the “crooks” (who are just the icing on the cake of the system), but the nature of capitalism itself, which now is capable only of giving rise to crises and wars.

Of course the phase of the recession, which the countries of the EU’s South are experiencing today, brings about the destruction of the productive forces, in the form of devaluation of commodities and above all the first productive force, the human being. This is expressed via the sudden increase of unemployment, the reduction of salaries-wages, with more negative conditions as a whole for the reproduction of labour power. The capitalists seek to thrust the burdens of the crisis, as far as possible, onto the salaried employees, i.e. to increase the level of exploitation, to gain greater surplus value per time unit.

At the same time, a section of the capitalists is being destroyed by the crisis, while another section is winning. The section which is losing is promoting another formula for the management of capitalism, so that it can escape destruction. It is trying to win over the largest possible section of workers to this project. But the workers must not allow them to haul them under a false flag! Because capitalism, whatever section of capital wins, does not change. The workers, in North and South, must promote their own flag: the socialization of the means of production, central planning, workers’-people’s control. The contemporary and real needs of the workers can only be satisfied under this flag.

On the so-called “Front of the South”

This nonsense must thrown out with the garbage at some point. In the beginning they told us that a “wind will blow from the South” with the election of Hollande. What was demonstrated? That it was all empty talk! Hollande continued the same anti-people political line, both in internal and external affairs (e.g. Mali, Syria). Really, what is his stance on the Cyprus issue? Did he not join the EU’s “front”? Did he also not demand sacrifices of the workers, pensioners and youth of Cyprus, in order to salvage capitalism and the so-called “European Prospect”.

No stable “alliance” can exist amongst the “countries of the South”, where uneven capitalist development is also dominant, as well as the strongest conflicts and competition within capital in these countries and inside capital in each country.

Let us suppose, theoretically, that such a “front” is created, what would the result be? Maybe the Eurozone, for example, will split and we may have two euros or some countries will return to a national currency. In the best case, which they are describing for us, another management formula will be followed, like Obama’s in the USA, for example, which Mr Tsipras is promoting for Greece. Life has demonstrated that there will be absolutely no benefit for the people’s interests. Unemployment is also a serious problem in the USA (it is on the increase, 7.6% according to official statistics and 14 % according to more substantial studies), over 10% of the people survive thanks to the soup kitchens, while 46 million people in the USA (15%) live under the poverty line and 42% on the poverty line. 1 in 7 children in the USA live in conditions of poverty and destitution. Everywhere health, education and social security are commercialized. 15% have no medical cover and 30% have rudimentary cover, which in essence does not meet even the most basic things. The state retirement age is 67 for men and women, and the poor people are up to their neck in debt to the banks and the bourgeois state…

The old tricks of the bourgeois class

The division between the “poor South” and the “rich North” is an old trick of the bourgeois class and the opportunists. To begin with, it did not always refer to the EU itself, but to the world as a whole, through the comparison of the countries of the North (or otherwise the countries of the “Golden Billion”, which includes the entire population of Greece) with the world’s poorest countries. This division between “rich” and “poor” countries focuses on the GDP numbers, the data of the population’s consumption, but it cannot be detached from the following facts:

    • That even in the worlds poorest countries there is accumulated wealth in the hands of the few, who indeed live in a particularly provocative way in comparison to the rest of the population.
    • That even the richest countries of the world, there is enormous poverty.
    • That the rich in the poor countries and the rich in the rich countries have a common front against the workers. They are creating their own unions and mechanisms in order to maintain and reinforce their power. NATO and the EU are such unions.
    • That the workers, regardless of whether they live in poor countries (where water can be scarce) or in rich countries (where they can wash themselves two or three times a day) have common interests in overthrowing the power of capital.

The bourgeois and opportunist parties, in the name of the interests of the “nation” and the “national economy” are calling on the working class in the developed countries to “consensus” and sacrifices in order to keep a leading position in competitiveness, while in the less developed countries to “consensus” and sacrifices in order to upgrade and develop the country, so that the economy becomes more “competitive” etc And in both instances capital keeps the whole cake for itself.

This is the reason why the level of the development of the countries is posed as the basic dividing line of our era, this will only lead the workers and the moments if they follow this rationale to align on every occasion with the “national political line”, which is formed by the staff of the bourgeois class, i.e. the goals set by the bourgeois class of their countries. A goal of the capitalists of every country is the enhancement of their position in the global imperialist “pyramid” so that their businesses can gain larger shares of the markets through the exploitation of the natural resources and labour force. Their goal has nothing to offer to the workers, except a very small section of them, the “labour aristocracy”, which like the Hyena waits to eat the leftovers of the Lions of capitalism, the strong monopoly businesses.

Those who talk of the “Front of the South”, about “the country’s occupation by Germany” about an exit from the euro or the EU, but remaining in capitalism, are asking the workers, in essence, to continue to toil for the bourgeois class or a section of it, which wants another management “formula” and other international alliances. Indeed, facilitating those sections of the bourgeois class of other countries, which seek a smaller Eurozone for their own interests, with the withdrawal from it of certain countries.

They have bombarded us with the childish analysis that “Merkel is to blame for everything” and the “evil North”, because it is an excellent solution which is convenient for them in order to conceal the capitalist barbarity, the responsibilities of capitalism, the need for its overthrow. To confuse people about what alliances we need today.

Cavafis in the poem we mentioned, when it was proved that the barbarians were not coming, wondered:

“And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.”

So those who are now pointing at Merkel will wonder if the people understand who is really to blame for the sufferings they are experiencing, and what kind of alliance is needed to overturn the current unacceptable situation.

“Alliance of the South” or the People’s Alliance?

Those who propose the formation of “an Alliance of the South” to the workers as an alleged “solution” to today’s impasses, muddying the waters for another reason as well. Because, in essence, they are calling on us to believe that the bourgeois governments of the countries of the South can ally together and defend the working class-people’s interests. It would be a terrible mistake for the workers in the countries of the South to expect anything from this. They will wait in vain! The capitalist barbarity cannot be overthrown by the governments which emerge from the bourgeois mechanisms and represent the interests of capital, whether these are rightwing or call themselves “leftwing” or “centre-left”. Life has demonstrated this!

The alliance we need today is the People’s Alliance of the working class, the other urban and rural popular strata. This alliance will come into rupture and overthrow with capitalism and the monopolies. It will socialize the means of production, it will organize the central planning of the economy, it will form the institutions of working class power and control. It will take the country out of every imperialist union and will throw off the relations of unequal interdependence, which exist in the framework of the imperialist system. It will organize the solidarity and coordination of the struggle against capitalism and the monopolies not only in the South, but in Europe as a whole, all over the world, with the other movements and peoples which are rising up!

Explanation of the photograph

World map of the average annual consumption of electricity per person

The countries of the South are in red, the countries of the North in green,. Based on this indicator, our country belongs to the “North” and the Greek people along with the other peoples of the “North” are amongst those who are “tyrannizing” the “poor South”. Nevertheless, the same forces which classify Greece in the “North”, based on this and other data (e.g. average consumption of water per person, electrical appliances per person etc), when there is talk about the EU, they classify it as being in the “poor South” which the “rich North” “is tyrannizing”.

The division between the “North” and the “South” is an old ideological-political “tool” in the hands of the bourgeois class and the opportunists, which is being used all over the world. Its goal is to inculcate the workers with the rationale of “social consensus” with the bourgeois class or a section of it, which seeks a better position for itself in the global capitalist system.

But the issue for the working class and the other popular strata is not a better position for their country in the global capitalist market, a better management of capitalism, but the overthrow of capitalist barbarity and the socialist construction, which will also throw off the relations of uneven interdependence, which are formed in the framework of the imperialist “pyramid” and will create the preconditions for the satisfaction of the contemporary needs of the people. On this path it has as its weapon Proletarian Internationalism, the class unity of the working class, regardless of the level of the development of the productive forces in each country.


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