[Marxism] Greece: money for military(1), not health care(2)?

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Sun Apr 26 20:53:29 MDT 2015

Greek Gov’t Signs $500 Million Contract With U.S. Company for
Modernization of P-3B Orion Planes
by Aggelos Skordas
The Greek Reporter, April 5

The leftist led Greek government has signed its first major armament
deal with the U.S. contractor Lockheed Martin for the modernization of
five aged naval support jets. The deal, worth 500 million dollars, is
the first major deal in the last 10 years and was signed after the
recommendation of Defense Minister and coalition government junior
partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos. The agreement
was also signed by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Alternate Minister
of Citizen Protection Giannis Panousis as well as Alternate Economy,
Infrastructure, Maritime and Tourism Minister Thodoris Dritsas.

According to the Greek Sunday newspaper Proto Thema that published the
story first, the SYRIZA-led government has already authorized a down
payment of 45 million dollars to the U.S. colossal multinational
company as a first installment so that the upgrade can begin. The deal
comes at a time when state coffers are running low, while speculation
over whether Greece will manage to pay its next installment to the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the coming Thursday, April 9, as
well as pensions and public sector wages is topping Greek and
international media.

The modernization plan is a 7-year program and includes the
maintenance and support of five of the six P-3B Orion turbo-prop
aircraft granted to Greece by the United States during 1991 and 1992.
The Greek government hopes to extend their life span for another
15,000 flight hours. They had been in the service of the Hellenic Navy
until 2009 but were withdrawn as their modernization had been
considered too costly.

It should be noted that Mr. Dritsas, who is among those signing the
agreement, was a fierce critic of weapons expenditures during the past
years, when New Democracy and PASOK were in power. The deal has caused
the reaction of opposition parties and especially of the centrist To
Potami and its leader Stavros Theodorakis. “Two hundred million euros
for dealing with the humanitarian crisis but 500 million dollars for
arms,” Mr. Theodorakis is quoted as saying in regards to the contract.
“It is the largest weapons program over the last years, at a time when
the economic crisis is at its worst and state funds are literally
empty,” he added, recalling the outrage that SYRIZA Maritime Minister
Thodoris Dritsas showed when his party was in opposition, and when
referring to defense related expenditures for the 2015 state budget.

2)  Austerity, the destruction of the health system and the urgency of
a debt moratorium
by Charles-André Udry, April 26
Charles-Andre Udry, economist, is a member of the Movement for
Socialism (MPS, Switzerland).

A meeting of the Red Network was held in Athens on April 4, 2015. One
of the three workshops brought together about a hundred people who are
active to varying degrees in the health sector: doctors, nurses,
paramedics, those responsible for hospital pharmacies, cleaners,
members of local committees who have prevented the closure of a
primary care centre, one of the doctors responsible for the social
dispensary at Hellinikon. The discussion combined testimony, analysis
and initiatives. A common thread ran through all the interventions: we
should stop waiting for the results of the permanent and
highly-mediatized negotiations of the government, which maintain the
population in a passive attitude; we must build initiatives that
ensure the connection between caregivers, population, the trade-union
structure (META) influenced by Syriza and the members and supporters
of Syriza. Given the massive and continuous state of decay of the
health system, a slogan has to be put forward: immediate refusal to
pay the interest on the debt and repayments that are presented as
unavoidable, and the immediate use of these funds for the health

The decision of the Tsipras government to abolish the €5 charge for
medical visits is largely illusory, because the sums represented by
the one euro to be paid by patients when buying medicine are much
greater. In the interventions of caregivers, one fact stood out: the
vast majority of managers in the health system and the hospitals have
not been changed. The bureaucratic and clientelist apparatus of New
Democracy and PASOK remains in place. Ministers can always make
statements - they do so every day and in every way – but changing a
structure depends on having a real plan and on social mobilization. No
new model of effective control of hospitals has been established. The
government, of course, does not support any mobilization. The
acceptance of the so-called European constraints forms the corset that
holds together the different elements of this government, who each
play their cards, sometimes in conformity with their convictions. This
helps to create illusions among observers about the possible effects
of so-called internal contradictions. We witnessed the same illusions
at the time of the first government, called "in dispute", of Lula in
2003, although the government structure of the PT was more solid.

The leadership of Syriza in its formal majority can make a
declaration, but it does not take any initiative that would make the
link between the crucial issues of the health system and the payment
of the debt. However, the social emergency is starting to be used –
admittedly for the moment in a propagandist way – by the Right,
indicating that the government is not only failing to keep its
promises, but it is allowing the situation to deteriorate.

In contrast, all the experience of open meetings of the local
structures of Syriza show the interest and the readiness of the
population to reopen a primary care centre, to prevent a hospital
closure, to increase the number of doctors, to create the conditions
for a return of doctors who experience their expatriation as a
deportation. One after the other, people recount how in such and such
a department the number of doctors has gone down from twelve to four
and the number of nurses from has fallen from ten to two. Moreover, a
survey is going to be published concerning the situation of the major
hospitals in the Athens area and of primary care facilities. A
neurosurgeon who has worked in the two main hospitals described the
sharp increase in nosocomial infections (infections contracted in a
health establishment) and indicated the effects over the long-term
(two, three generations) of this situation. What he said was
reinforced by the intervention of a pediatrician.

The debates on the illegitimate debt and its origins are admittedly
very important. But the question is posed within another human
temporal framework: today, tens of thousands of men and women, Greeks
and migrants, are starving, are sick, and are not cared for. The
answer cannot be that the government spends €300 million for so-called
humanitarian measures (reconnection of electricity, distribution of
food stamps), in the style of World Bank safety nets, at the same time
as it votes to spend €500 million to renovate the anti-submarine air
force, a proposal pushed forward by its Minister of Defence.

Admittedly, this minister, Panos Kammenos, of the Independent Greeks,
did not confine himself to only this task, a priority for him. He was
present on April 4, when the establishment of an audit committee on
the debt was presented. An initiative that deserves all our interest.
Moreover, the President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos,
stressed its importance. He expects the results in several months.
Prokopis Pavlopoulos, given his record in New Democracy and in various
governments, in particular from 2004 to 2009, is aware of the
explosion of debt in the 2000s, as illustrated by the recent article
by Michel Husson. Something that, out of pure opportunism,
representatives of the Democratic Left (DIMAR) took the opportunity of
recalling, highlighting the career of the President during the period
of indebtedness under Karamanlis.

As Antonis Davanellos pointed out in a recent article for the really
radical left, faced with the disastrous record of the government,
initiatives to change as far as possible the relationship of forces
within Syriza - and also in the trade union movement, in its militant
sectors - are paramount. This is in view of deadlines that are coming
up in the short term (June 2015). This battle to change more clearly
the relationship of forces, primarily in Syriza, must be combined with
massively putting forward concrete demands whose implementation is
only possible to the extent that a moratorium on the payment of
interest on the debt is decided on immediately. The forces of the Left
(from Syriza to Antarsya, including those members of the Greek
Communist Party (KKE) who appreciate the acuteness of the social
crisis), who want the immediate implementation of the programme of
Thessaloniki agenda, presented on behalf of Syriza by Tsipras on
September 14, 2014
<http://links.org.au/node/4209>] expressed this in multiple forms
during the meeting on April 4, when the radiograph of the health
system was in fact that of Greek society.

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