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A Europe of Domination or of Solidarity?

29/06/2015 17:15 BST | Updated 29/06/2016 10:59 BST

You cannot divorce politics from economics or vice versa. The tragedy unfolding in Greece has been long in the making, with mistakes made by successive Greek governments, international banks, and more recently the Troika (the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank).

Since the advent of democracy, there has always been a clash between democratic will of the people and the accumulated power of the military or financiers. I was in Greece at the time of the previous election, when Syriza narrowly lost, but was amazed at the breadth of their support and the hope that they engendered in many people who saw a new corrupt free open politics - and it was an honour to speak alongside Alexis Tsipras.

Even January's democratic election of an anti-austerity government in Greece feels like a lifetime ago. Syriza was elected to power with a mandate to end the imposed austerity that has provoked a humanitarian crisis - over a quarter unemployed (including over 50% of young people), austerity has wiped 25% from economic output, and thousands are struggling to be fed or pay for electricity.

To many Greeks Syriza felt like a lifeboat in the storm, but the Troika seems determined to navigate that lifeboat against the rocks, for daring to vote for a better future.

Where can we apportion blame? Yes, to the endemic corruption and tax-dodging in Greece that successive governments failed to address. The Syriza government has simply not been given the time to put in place the necessary architecture to put this right, though they are making huge efforts to collect taxes from the wealthy elite. The EU taking action to close down the tax havens aligned to its member states would be a big help too.

You cannot blame Greece alone. What about the creditors who gleefully lent? As Polonius warned in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry"

There is a real risk that Greece leaves both the eurozone and the EU. Its future would be uncertain, but at least it could be its own. But in this scenario the loan and the friend might be lost. There is no future for a usurious Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage.

They know their policies are destructive - both to Greece and to themselves. No people has ever stayed peaceful in such conditions for long; no economy can recover when it pays more in debt interest than it can produce. The Greek debt is simply not repayable, the terms are unsustainable, and the continued insistence that the unpayable be paid extends both the humanitarian crisis in Greece and the risks to all of Europe.

The great economist John Maynard Keynes foresaw this 70 years ago. Representing Britain at the Bretton Woods conference, which established the post-war economic architecture, proposed that risk and obligations should be shared by creditor and borrower alike. Lenders would have a mutual interest in ensuring their borrowers' success. Keynes was no idealist but foresaw the pragmatic value in a more stable and solidaristic system.

This week I signed a letter with 18 fellow Labour MPs, economists and campaigners to redress this balance. It said:

"We urge the creation of UN rules to deal with government debt crises promptly, fairly and with respect for human rights, and to signal to the banks and financiers that we won't keep bailing them out for reckless lending."

The only sensible way forward is to cancel the Greek debt (or at least substantial swathes of it) and for the international community to support Greece's democratically elected government to rebuild its society and its economy. I ask my fellow Labour leadership candidates to echo this call to the Prime Minister, and for him to heed this call. It is in our own interests to do so.

Let's use this as an opportunity to remake a Europe of solidarity.

Jeremy Corbyn is the Labour MP for North Islington, and is standing to be the next Labour Party leader - for more information, visit his campaign site: jeremyforlabour.com