STATEMENT of European housing movements on the clash of the European austerity regime with the Greek people
The Greek government has called for a national referendum on Sunday, 5th July, for the new ‘bailout’ terms presented by the EU, the ECB and the IMF on June 15. These terms include an extension of high VAT and a reduction of pensions, and go even further on the liberalisation of labour, while the programme again fails to write off or cut the extraordinary debt. Under conditions of increased and unpayable sovereign debt, growing unemployment and mass poverty, produced over the past years of the Troika-crisis-regime, the Greek state will stand no chance of running a functioning welfare system, recovering the economy or indeed introducing democratic reforms of taxation.
One of the results of this will be the failure to ensure secure, decent housing for all. It is therefore most likely that the new programme presented by EU, ECB and IMF will only serve to worsen the economy and exacerbate the situation of the majority of people in Greece. These people include all those who may lose their homes after private mortgage default or tax debts, and those who cannot find decent and affordable homes, including many refugees and other migrants.
We view the Troika program and austerity as part of a continued attack on the working class, labour conditions and the rights of people to land and housing. Everywhere these attacks aim to increase exploitation, private accumulation of capital, and the extraction of rents.
We, the undersigning groups and individuals, declare our solidarity with the referendum initiative. Under very difficult conditions it tries to reclaim democracy in a process which already seems to be almost totally controlled by financial markets and non-democratic institutions like the ECB and the IMF.
We believe that the Greek people are not responsible for this disaster. It is primarily produced by both the neoliberal monetary policy of the EU and the financialisation of global capitalism which, not only in this case, appears as an immoral collaboration of governments with large international private banks.
The construction of a common currency was enforced before the necessary foundation was built: a political and social union based on the principles of equal rights, one which attempts to achieve equal wages and living conditions in all states of the common currency. Under the conditions of a common currency it was not possible to keep and develop the competitiveness of Greek products in the European and domestic markets. Today the industrial basis of Greece is mostly destroyed and even domestic agricultural products have been replaced by imports.
The German trade balance is a main beneficiary of the Euro and its current crisis management. Only the bare minimum of the previous bailouts was directed to the people of the crisis countries. Most of it rescued private banks from their own toxic products, being replaced by national debt.
Most of the demands of the Troika, like the privatisations of remaining public infrastructures, the extraction of natural resources or the high taxation on consumption and land are totally the opposite to what would be needed for any economic recovery. In contrast to the “medicine” of the Troika the Greek economy needs stronger public infrastructures, the strengthening of peoples’ purchasing power, a public employment sector and the development of a sustainable use of its natural resources for the needs of its people. A real recovery programme would necessarily include state interventions protecting homes against foreclosure, the building of a social rental housing infrastructure and the fundamental strengthening of municipal capacities.
We strongly believe that it is totally illegitimate to force the Greek people into another loop of debt, social deconstruction, impoverishment and immiseration. As the Truth Committee on Public Debt has demonstrated, the debt enforced on Greece is both illegal and illegitimate, and the state has the right to repudiate it both for its inconsistency with international law, and for the coercive way in which it forces the state to fail in its duties towards its citizens.
What the “Troika” is currently attempting is nothing less than the eviction of a whole people from basic European standards of living, and from democratic inclusion.
While the situation in Greece is dramatic, the day-to-day mechanisms of exclusion and eviction through financialized European regimes are very well known to hundreds of millions of people across the continent. For increasing numbers of people across Europe, incomes are low and very insecure, while unemployment rates are high. At the same time rent controls hardly exist and social/public housing is being reduced. Both developments are partly the result of neoliberal European trends and policies, which systematically replace welfare with precarious workfare, privatise public housing, support real estate speculation and – through EU fiscal regimes – heavily reduce the capacities of states to meet housing and other social needs.
As a consequence, housing shortage, housing precarity and homelessness is widespread across Europe. In most cities across Europe it is common for working class people to be in impossible debt for housing, whether through mortgages or high rents. Scandalous evictions seem to become a European norm. Under these conditions the “right to housing” is a meaningless phrase if we do not understand it as a permanent call for resistance against all the political and economical structures which violate it.
The financialisation of housing markets was one of the main reasons for the global crash of 2007/2008, one of the origins of the Greek crisis. Though housing today does not seem to be at the heart of the ongoing dramatic conflict between European austerity and the Greek government, we know that these days will impact on our lives across Europe, not at least on housing and the future of our cities.
The referendum next Sunday in Greece is not about voting pro EU or against the EU. It is not about Greece and the Troika and the future of the Euro alone. The referendum is part of a growing transnational resistance against the neoliberal block, which has been in power in European states and in European institutions for far too long. The aim is a return to economic democracy, where financial markets are controlled by the people and not the opposite.
Let’s say NO to the interests of capital owners, big banks and landlords which rule our cities and neighbourhoods across Europe! These are not the interests of those who live in them, who produce them. The implementation of the Troika plans in Greece could bury many hopes for an alternative to the European crisis regime. On the other hand, a NO to the Troika plans in Greece could improve our conditions in the struggle for cities for all across Europe.
On announcing the referendum, Tsipras quoted Roosevelt saying “The only thing to fear is fear itself”. We recognise the power of this fear and the havoc that a return to the drachma could cause, at least in the short term. Staying in the Euro or leaving it: alternative economic plans are urgently needed in both cases. The centre of the EU cannot escape from its responsibilities. Acceptable social conditions and an economic recovery in Greece in any case will require new structures at a national and European level. The public financing and ownership of housing is one of them. But a fundamental change in the long run is not realistic without breaking the fiscal and regulatory dogmas of the EU. We all are condemned to find new solutions in solidarity. The Greek struggle is our struggle. And the struggle goes on.
If we cannot stop them they will continue to evict us whether it be in Athens, Barcelone, Belgrade, Lisbon, London, Paris, Genève, Rome, the Ruhr or Zagreb.
LET’S STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE GREEK PEOPLE!
NO TO THE FISCAL REGIME, NO TO EVICTIONS, NO TO THE TROIKA!
DECENT HOUSING AND DEMOCRATIC CITIES FOR ALL! EVERYWHERE!
We call everybody to join the solidarity actions which will take place today in many European cities! Or find your personal way to express your Οχι!
European housing activists against austerity,
including (first signatures):
Habitat Netz e.V., Germany
Droit au Logement/NO VOX, France
Right to the city, Zagreb, Croatia
International Alliance of Inhabitants, Unione Inquilini, Italy
Trade Unionists For Housing, London
MieterInnenverein Witten (tenants association), Germany
Lewisham People Before Profit, London
Habita – Associação para o Direito à Habitação e à Cidade, Lisboa
Radical Housing Network, London
Encounter Athens, Athens
International Committee of Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), Spain
Housing Action Now Ireland
Pat Turnbull, social housing tenant, London