Military, not Welfare, Spending at Root of Greek Crisis

Some international tax resistance news:

  • Current affairs in Greece are often described by American commentators as being about a spoiled populace that wants to keep a generous welfare state doling out pensions and plum jobs but won’t pay taxes to pay off the creditors who have sustained the party. But the Workers World reminds us there’s another side to the story:

    …austerity and unemployment in Greece have brought the proportion of people living under the poverty line from 3 percent in 2010 to 44 percent today.…

    Why did this austerity hit Greece with the most devastating blow?

    The Wall Street Journal of , answered this question for its business audience: “Greece, with a population of just 11 million, is the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe — and ranks fifth in the world behind China, India, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. Its military spending is the highest in the European Union as a percentage of gross domestic product. That spending was one of the factors behind Greece’s stratospheric national debt.”

    An article in the , British newspaper the Guardian explained the impact of the years of weapons purchases:

    “According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute… , Greece was the world’s fourth biggest importer of conventional weapons. It is now the 10th.

    “ ‘As a proportion of GDP, Greece spends twice as much as any other EU member on defense.… Well after the economic crisis had begun, Germany and France were trying to seal lucrative weapons deals even as they were pushing us to make deep cuts in areas like health,’ said Dimitris Papadimoulis, who now represents Syriza in the European Parliament.”

    For many years, Greece was the biggest customer in Europe for German military corporations and also a major purchaser of French weapons. These are the two imperialist countries that hold the largest share of Greek debt.

    The contracts for these weapons purchases and decades of maintenance and parts supplies are provided by bank loans from the countries supplying the weapons — Germany, France and the United States. The incentive for the huge unneeded purchases is a network of bribes from the military corporations, especially to the generals and top political leaders.

    Angelos Philippides, a prominent Greek economist, explained: “For a long time Greece spent 7 percent of its GDP on defense when other European countries spent an average 2.2 percent. If you were to add up that compound 5 percent , there would be no debt at all.

    “ ‘If Athens had cut defense spending to levels similar to other EU states over the past decade, economists claim it would have saved around €150bn — more than its last bailout. Instead, Greece dedicates up to €7bn a year to military expenditure — down from a high of €10bn in 2009.” (Guardian, )

  • The government of Venezuela is cracking down on tax resistance there. The legislature created a set of new tax crimes, including the crime of publicly inciting tax non-compliance or organizing collective tax refusal which can earn a one- to five-year sentence.
  • Foes of a new value-added tax in Puerto Rico have launched consumer and business strikes there.
  • The General Confederation of Labor has launched its annual war tax resistance campaign in Spain.
  • Merchants at the Polatsk marketplace in Vitebsk, Belarus have gone on strike and are refusing to pay taxes.

The Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes started on , and a number of Rebeccaite cases were on the agenda. In an address to the Grand Jury, “His Lordship” (the judge? the prosecutor?) explained:

…although there were a great number of cases in the calendar, it was probable that, with regard to a considerable portion of them, the jury would not be at all troubled. The offences to which he referred were those arising out of the late disturbed state of some parts of the county. He was glad to see that, although there were a great many of that kind, yet there were none of a very recent date, and he was therefore induced to believe that peace and tranquillity were again restored.

The calendar for the county contains the names of thirty-nine prisoners, twenty-three of whom are charged with being concerned in the Rebecca Riots that took place last Summer in the neighbourhood of Fishguard. These cases were respited from the late Winter Assize to the present, but it is now understood that no further proceedings are to be taken in them, and that the prisoners will, before the close of the sittings, be discharged from their recognizances.

The calendar for the town [of Haverfordwest] contains the names of two persons only, who are charged with a riot at the Prendergast Toll-gate, in . A true bill was to-day found against them.

These excerpts come from the issue of the Cambrian. Another account of the Assizes is given in the issue of the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser.