AKNY–Greece Solidarity Movement -

Greece, Spain & Puerto Rico: Current Struggles and Building Solidarity


Published on Sep 29, 2015

Vicente Rubio-Pueyo, Rafael Bernabe, and Despina Lalaki, with moderator Ed Morales, discuss the struggles of their countries with debt and austerity in a forum hosted by David Galarza Santa at Camaradas El Barrio in Manhattan September 28, 2015 video by Joe Friendly

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 12.30.41 AM

Follow the link below to watch this panel discussion on Struggling With Austerity.


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“The ongoing dilemma of leaving or not leaving the eurozone, it follows, is not a matter of political principle but of costs and benefits. Although some of our comrades have taken any concessions regarding austerity by the Syriza government as a sign of betrayal and defeat, if the question before us is how can we best and most quickly end austerity and return to economic growth, the conclusion that this can best be achieved through continued agreements within the European Union and not by breaking with the euro is an understandable conclusion. Moving to the Drachma would also entail much austerity, certainly much more in the short run. We must add to such judgment that there are many factors at play and no one can predict today whether a move to a national currency or continuing with the euro will result in a higher level of economic growth in 4 or 5 or 10 years from now. The bet on the euro or the drachma as the better road is a function of measurement and tactics not one of different principles or goals.”

Painting by: Vasilios Fotopoulos

Painting by: Vasilios Fotopoulos

Lessons from Henri Lefebvre, Nicos Poulantzas, and the Greek Crisis

(Talk for conference Democracy Rising, University of Athens, July 2015)

  • Published by: Analyze Greece, September 1st 2015.

Peter Bratsis

The events of the last few years, and especially the last couple of weeks, have made it extremely obvious that we have once again reached a point similar to that in ancient Rome when its great historian Livy declared “In our times we can neither endure our faults nor the means of correcting them.” The existing systems of European cooperation and integration, capitalist regulation and accumulation, and national politics and production can neither continue as they are nor do they seem capable of reforming themselves.

This more general malaise and incapacity is reflected, unfortunately, in the limits within the existing left in Greece and beyond. The sad fact is that all the significant factions within the Greek left (Syriza, KKE, and Antarsya at a minimum) are all caught within a fundamentally liberal standpoint. For all, homo economicus is an explicit given. Economic development and growth (that is, increasing GDP and rates of consumption) are the main goals. Any differences that may exist between various factions within the left are mainly about which road is best for economic growth and wellbeing. Inside the eurozone or out? With or without privatization of public enterprises? And so on. As such, the notion that the Left Platform within Syriza is indeed to the left of the rest or Syriza or that KKE or Antarsya are even more so is not at all based on differing agendas and goals, they only differ in their judgment regarding choice of tactics. Any question of political emancipation or of the radical transformation of society is tragically absent in the debates and squabbles of the left.

The ongoing dilemma of leaving or not leaving the eurozone, it follows, is not a matter of political principle but of costs and benefits. Although some of our comrades have taken any concessions regarding austerity by the Syriza government as a sign of betrayal and defeat, if the question before us is how can we best and most quickly end austerity and return to economic growth, the conclusion that this can best be achieved through continued agreements within the European Union and not by breaking with the euro is an understandable conclusion. Moving to the Drachma would also entail much austerity, certainly much more in the short run. We must add to such judgment that there are many factors at play and no one can predict today whether a move to a national currency or continuing with the euro will result in a higher level of economic growth in 4 or 5 or 10 years from now. The bet on the euro or the drachma as the better road is a function of measurement and tactics not one of different principles or goals.

The sclerosis of left thinking is further evident in many of the slogans and formulas that are popular today. For example, at a time when, for the first time in the history of capitalist societies, in Greece less than half of the population is even active in the labor market, we still find the old workerism and historicism of the past generations in much of the left, such as Antarsya’s position against ‘class collaboration’ and in favor of the giving power to ‘the workers’. Syriza, for its part, with its constant mantra of the ‘humanitarian crisis’ has taken on the imperial gaze, reducing Greeks to ‘bare life’, perhaps worthy of our pity and charity or protection but not political subjects in their own right. From this perspective, as liberal as it gets, Greeks are reduced to their biological substructure, suffering beasts, and recognize themselves as victims in need of charity and saving by the political subjectivity of the capitalist heartlands.

Fortunately, even with such fundamental failures in our thinking and imagination, there is always the capacity and potential to transform ourselves and our communities, to break with the liberal/economistic imaginary that has colonized and vulgarized so much of our political and intellectual lives. Most notably perhaps, the claim that political power is not ‘won’ in elections, that it needs to be produced, to emerge from below, a claim that Alexis Tsipras has often asserted and which is common to Syriza, Podemos, and many other parallel political movements today, presents us with a key and, potentially, very fruitful path of action. For, in opposition to the dominant ways of understanding the political world as a neutral and fixed arena of competition or of political power as something that can be wielded according to one’s will, this formulation builds upon the key insight that runs from Aristotle to Machiavelli, Gramsci, Castoriadis, and many more, that societies are self-created from the ground up, that political power has a materiality and momentum that cannot easily be redirected or undone or wished away but, at the same time, that we are active in the creation of this power and are capable of transforming it precisely because of the ways that we ourselves constitute this very materiality of political power.

Unfortunately, there appears to be little consideration as to what kinds of activity it takes to produce a new political power. What is it that constitutes the materiality of political power and how can new forms and articulations of such power be produced? Is political power produced through protests and demonstrations? Does public opinion have any political efficacy? The remainder of this talk attempts to address these questions and speculate on what types of changes Syriza may need to engender in order to transform political power in Greece and create a new, more democratic, society.

It would appear that for much of Syriza as well as its left supporters and critics the assumption was that people expressing their desires and preferences through protests and demonstrations or, more recently, referendums, constitutes a generation of political power. For example, many left activists have been concerned with the so called demobilization of ‘the movements’ since Syriza was elected; meaning that strikes and public demonstrations waned greatly since the Syriza government came to power. ‘Movements’ in this case, as is obvious, refers to the capacity to mobilize for the purpose of demonstrations and protests. Similarly, many thought that the results of the recent referendum would be a great boost to the power of Syriza and the bargaining position of Greece vis-a-visits creditors. We have learned in recent times, however, that the expression of political preference or opinion in the form of protests and strikes (or even in terms of how one votes in elections or referenda) has little, if any, consequence. Recent times are replete with examples of this insufficiency of protest and resistance, but perhaps mostly tellingly for us here we have the recent history of Greece where 30 plus general strikes and many more demonstrations not only did not derail austerity but failed to even slow it down by one day. This is a testament to how extremely limited these forms of action are when it comes to impacting political power even in Greece, which is certainly not a worst case scenario compared to other capitalist states, and this also underlies how rigid and inflexible the institutions of state power have increasingly become.

It is not true, of course, that the popular classes are irrelevant or inconsequential but that their agency is to be found elsewhere, notably in their social activity; the materiality of their social existence is much more significant than the fleeting expression of opinions. As Nietzsche pointed out long ago, “public opinion private laziness”. Let me remind you of Vaclav Havel’s well known essay from his days as a dissident, “The Power of the Powerless”. There he astutely points out that despite the widespread dissatisfaction and disagreement with the regime in Czechoslovakia it was able to govern quite securely and reproduce itself without much difficulty precisely because where the Czech citizens did have agency, in their everyday routines and actions, they, out of habit, repetition, and self-interest functioned as sinews of state power; from decorating shop windows for national holidays, voting, showing up dutifully for work, pay one’s taxes, and so on, people actively produced and reproduced the power and legitimacy of the state. In a similar way we could argue that a key, but not the only, reason that the many demonstrations and general strikes in Greece have proven to be insufficient for transforming power relations is precisely because they have not disturbed the everyday practices through which state power is generated. 24 hour strikes and demonstrations of various scales and intensities may have been quite effective as expressions of how much people disagreed with austerity but they where of no consequence in either disrupting or transforming the everyday routines and rhythms of life in Greece. There is no doubt that the vast majority of Greeks were and are opposed to the many austerity measures adopted in the last five years. So what? To the degree that their daily routines and activities stayed constant, the production of political power continued unabated and the Greek state was able to implement austerity with little difficulty. The minds and will of the Greeks may have been opposed to austerity but their bodies were fully in support.

Thus a fundamental lesson we have learned or relearned from the Greek crisis is that public opinion in itself is of little consequence and that any attempt to derail and undo existing modalities and articulations of political power need to disrupt the routines and activities that are constitutive of such power. Such was the effect of May ’68 in bringing the French state to its knees and such is the explicit threat by the European Union that by closing the Greek banks the Greek state could and has also been brought to its knees just as quickly.

It is here that I would like to turn to Nicos Poulantzas and Henri Lefebvre. If the generation of political power can be derailed by suspending the routines and repetitions of daily life, an even more important and difficult question is how one can produce a new power that supersedes the old. Once we destroy the existing political order how can we replace it with the new? With Poulantzas and Lefebvre we find two guiding principles for such a project of change.

Firstly with Lefebvre we find the raising of the everyday to the most fundamental and concrete level of social existence. For him everyday life is the social level that is lived and where all change is manifest. Put simply everyday life is everything and there is no political transformation if it is not a transformation of the everyday. As such, any and all lofty intentions of what it is we desire (a furthering of democracy or human emancipation for example) can only be realized as a transformation of everyday life. Questions of architecture and urban design, the school and working day, and food and sexuality, to give just a few obvious examples, are not secondary or tertiary issues but primacy ones that are at the heart of our social existence and from which the more abstract and presumably grander institutions of society emerge. There is not enough time here to go into much detail about what such changes could be but the point is that at the heart of our struggle and efforts we need to be we need to be working on these questions and actively engaged in remaking our own world. Rather than give the answer of Samuel Gompers, that ‘more’ is what we want, we need to think about and act on remaking our daily lives rather than blindly engage in repetition.

Poulantzas’s understanding of the state dovetails very nicely with this position when he defines state as a social relation and its institutions as condensations of class struggle. This not only means that the state is created by and through daily practices and struggles as already noted, it also underlies the fact that political institutions are one of the ways that past struggles live on and exert their influence on the present. If capital, following Marx in the Gundrisse, is dead labor then the state is dead struggle. As such, any efforts to transform our societies must deal with this weight of the past on the present and have as a strategic goal to transform the institutions and apparatuses of the state. The struggle inside and outside the state needs to always include reconstituting state institutions so as to be more favorable to the substantive outcomes that we desire. For example, if the ever increasing bureaucratization and centralization of the state is a key limit in the political agency of the popular classes, a key goal for Syriza needs to be to focus the struggle on transforming these state institutions. Instituting popular assemblies to replace municipal authorities, as one possibility, or, at a minimum, establishing a new constitutional assembly to begin thinking about how to replace the existing one. Unfortunately, instead of intense discussions on the foregoing what we find in Greece today, in the best-cases scenario, is dedication to combat corruption and eliminate clientelism rather than dedication to remaking the Greek state. In other words, rather than being critical of the state-form as such and thinking of ways that we could try to reconstitute Greece, we are stuck in the liberal fantasy that an objective and impersonal organization of state authority would, finally, provide the conditions for prosperity and justice. Any party that has named its think-tank after Nicos Poulantzas should know better than that.

To conclude, at this very moment of flux and uncertainty when so much is possible, when a radical left party is able to win elections in Greece, when everyone’s focus is on VAT rates and bond spreads, when the bulk of Greeks have been momentarily roused from their petit-bourgeois slumber, we have the opportunity to make fundamental changes in the rhythms of daily life as well as the constituent institutions of the Greek state. If it is indeed the case what we have reached a point in where we cannot continue as we were, we need to be agents in this process of transformation and not spectators and victims. It is not too late to extend our efforts, to progress from the attempt to rein in austerity and bring some measure of economic security and hope to the attempt to reconstitute Greek society. Such moments of historical possibility are few are far between, rather than squander it out of fear and economistic tendencies, a Syriza with a clear politico-ethical project is needed that places political life above biological life, that understands the deepening of democracy in our daily lives as the only measure of success and efficacy.

Peter Bratsis teaches at the Borough of Manhattan Community College of the City University of New York. He is the author of “Everyday Life and the State”.

Translated by:Original in english
The original text was first published on:goo.gl/US6T8x
Link to greek version:www.academia.edu


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What about “Popular Unity” ? by: Stathis Kouvelakis

After Syriza

 Stathis Kouvelakis3

Syriza failed to stop austerity in Greece. What can Popular Unity do differently?
by Stathis Kouvelakis

Published by “Jacobin”


A Greek election official prepares a polling station before the July 5 referendum. Ekathimerini
A Greek election official prepares a polling station before the July 5 referendum. Ekathimerini
When Alexis Tspiras resigned his premiership earlier this month and called for a snap election, it signaled a new round in the ongoing battle between Greece and its creditors.

For Tsipras, next month’s election represents an attempt to secure a mandate for the deal Syriza has signed off on. Yet the former prime minister’s approval rating has dropped from 61 percent to 29 percent in the last month. Almost 80 percent of voters say they’re disappointed with Tsipras’s performance during Syriza’s time in office. And 70 percent think the bailout package the leadership approved will deliver more economic pain than the previous two austerity agreements.

It is to this discontent which Popular Unity, a new formation of dissident Syriza members and other anti-austerity forces, hopes to give institutional expression.

In this recent interview — conducted by Thomas Lemahieu for the French paper L’Humanité — Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Popular Unity’s leadership, discusses the formation’s anti-memorandum program, how to find allies outside of Europe, and what Popular Unity wishes to accomplish in the upcoming election.

When did Syriza reach the point of no return that led you to create a new party, Popular Unity?

When the agreement was signed on July 13. The fracture had already appeared earlier, when, in the space of a few days, the “no” from the referendum was transformed into a “yes,” and when the Greek government went to negotiate in Brussels with a mandate that effectively meant accepting the austerity framework.

But it was Alexis Tsipras signing the agreement that started the process leading to Syriza splitting — indeed, we would more accurately speak of Syriza disintegrating. Then there were two votes in parliament on the agreement’s two packages of preliminary measures, and then the one on the memorandum itself, which confirmed the split. The Tsipras government signed the memorandum without ever obtaining the approval of any of Syriza’s internal structures, at any moment.

Alexis Tsipras cannot cite a single text, a single decision authorizing him to do what he did; on the contrary, on the few occasions that the central committee did meet during Syriza’s time in power, its decisions all had one same orientation: namely, that in no event would we sign a memorandum. “Anything but that!”

What happened was exactly the thing that had been totally ruled out on principle. While the coexistence of different currents and sensibilities in one same party was possible so long as it maintained the central objective of overturning the memorandums — even if there were disagreements, including on the euro question — it was not possible for supporters and opponents of signing the memorandum to coexist in the same party.

When Alexis Tsipras decided to accept a memorandum, he was himself deciding to dissolve his party!

Have you rallied all the Syriza MPs who spoke out against the new memorandum? Surely Popular Unity’s twenty-five initial MPs aren’t all of them?

In the vote there were thirty-two “against,” and seventeen who voted “present” — which in the Greek parliamentary system does not exactly amount to abstaining, but is very close to a “no.”

The ones we don’t have yet are Zoe Konstantopoulou — the president of the parliament, who still has her institutional functions, but who will soon join us — and three MPs of Syriza’s Maoist KOE current, who we are in discussions with. Then there is Yanis Varoufakis, who won’t come with us, since our positions are too far apart.

It’s important to remember that Popular Unity is not a party, but a front jointly mobilizing a dozen component parts. Some of them came out of Syriza, others were part of Syriza in the past, and still others come from the far left, like currents from the Antarsya coalition.

Fundamentally, Popular Unity is quite close to what Syriza was until 2013, before its currents merged into a single party. This is a formula that we are sticking to: we are a political front based on pluralism, respecting each other’s differences, and placing a stress on self-organization.

Our goal is to ensure that the “no” vote expressed in the July 5 referendum, which was in the crushing majority among youth as well as among working-class and popular layers, is given political structure. We want to construct broad, open committees from below.

Of course, we are also expecting militants, individuals, and political figures to join us, too. You do not have to agree with all the points of our program, but the heart of the matter is the recognition that it is indispensable to break with the memorandums, and that this implies a confrontation with the European Union — even if there may be points of divergence as to the means that ought to be used in such a confrontation.

But clearly, we have all drawn lessons from Syriza’s strategic failure, and we have an alternative approach to avoid ending up in the same capitulation.

Since Popular Unity is the third largest group in the Greek Parliament, the constitution gives it an “exploratory mandate” to try to form a government (i.e. before the next elections are formally called). How are you going to make use of this mandate, which lasts up until August 27?

We have been given these three days, and we will try and use them to demonstrate what our conception of politics is. We are guided by the principle that social forces should have their say, and our proposals work in this same direction: namely, the democratization of Greece’s institutions.

So firstly, Panagiotis Lafazanis will have discussions with representatives of the social forces most affected by the memorandum’s various different aspects, and who are in the front rank of the fight against the memorandum and its consequences. That is to say, representatives of the unions of employees and retired people particularly affected by the coming pensions cuts and the liquidation of our remaining social rights; citizen campaigns against privatizations; farmers, fishermen, etc.

The idea is to show that for us politics is not simply about conclaves with the representatives of political parties. Politics is something we do with social forces and mobilizations.

Secondly, we will make institutional proposals: as a democratic measure, we want to do away with the fifty-seat bonus that is given to the party who comes first in the vote, as Syriza itself had promised before the elections — one of its key policies, abandoned just like the rest. And we also propose to support the discussion that Zoe Konstantopoulou has tried to initiate in parliament with respect to German war reparations, such that the parliament can continue its work to its proper completion.

You have been sharply critical of Alexis Tsipras’s decision to go to the polls again. Why is that?

What we criticize is the fact that the elections are being rushed! It is a classic way of trying to catch your opponents unaware, but Tsipras has done something that none of the system parties ever dared to do, namely to call elections in the middle of August: and in a country like Greece, that means a time when people are on holiday. And that’s when he chose to call the election. Which reduces the electoral campaign even further.

The purpose of this maneuver is more than obvious: he is going to the polls as soon as possible, before the concrete effects of the memorandum make themselves felt among the population.

What are the key elements of Popular Unity’s program?

The decisive point is rupture with the memorandum and austerity policies. We want to cancel the memorandums, just as Syriza had promised to do. We want to break with the budget surplus targets.

Our policy is based on immediately stopping the debt repayments: we will negotiate for the cancellation of the greater part of the debt, but on that basis! Greece cannot get back into shape so long as it is being bled dry to pay back this debt.

One of the Syriza government’s major errors was to continue paying back the debt: and with €7 billion taken out of the public coffers between January and June, they were left totally empty.

Moreover, we have no illusions as to the compatibility of this rupture program with the euro framework. So if the institutions are intransigent, with the ECB deciding to restrict access to liquidity, we will return to a national currency. The transition phase would present difficulties, certainly, but also important opportunities for relaunching the economy, and for an economic policy working for social and environmental justice.

You referred to the institutions’ “intransigence.” Are all of you in Popular Unity agreed on exit from the euro?

Yes, we think that we have to prepare for euro exit. That is absolutely clear!

Popular Unity’s program has now been finalized and it will be published shortly. Preparation for euro exit is a fundamental point. This question has several aspects. The first is clearly the recuperation of political sovereignty, in a context where a government is confronted by a Holy Alliance of all the neoliberal powers.

As we have seen, deprived of monetary levers, we were taken hostage by the ECB. Syriza suffered that ever since February 4. Secondly, it is a means of making it possible to restart the economy, guaranteeing the supply of liquidity. Furthermore, it is an extremely important lever with regard to the debt question: if we instead go for a national currency, the debt will become almost unpayable, since no one would accept the repayment of a debt redenominated in a national currency. That places us in a position of strength.

Finally, devaluation would make it possible to kickstart growth, indeed vigorously so: all countries that have found themselves in a situation of deep recession have only been able to restart the economy by making use of currency devaluation.

The choice is a simple one, really. Either we have currency devaluation, or else internal devaluation, meaning the structural adjustment plans imposed in order to reduce wages and pensions and drive down the cost of labor.

Certainly, currency devaluation does create certain problems, but also opportunities: it boosts domestic production, it allows for exports to be substituted for imports, and makes exports more competitive. Without doubt it creates problems for some things that have to be paid for in hard currency: petrol, energy, some medications that have to be imported — although not all that much, since domestic production can provide a good part of that.

All that does open up temporary difficulties, in the transition phase. But as all the economists hostile to neoliberalism have shown — from Krugman to Stiglitz, and from Aglietta to Lordon — the debate is over. As they tell us, Greece’s best possible choice, and in reality the only viable one, is for it to return to a national currency; naturally, within the framework of a progressive policy to relaunch the economy, and which can also handle the problems that result from this. There will be inflationary pressures, but even in that context a left-wing government can protect wages.

Your program would have Greece leave the eurozone — but would it quit the European Union?

No, not necessarily. The question may well be posed, but not automatically so. After all, there are ten EU countries that are not in the euro. For us, that’s not a done and dusted question. What our program prescribes for, in the case that the confrontation does go further, is to go to a referendum.

The British government is preparing such a vote: its political orientation is entirely at odds with our own, but we don’t see why we couldn’t pose the question, too. But leaving the EU is not one of Popular Unity’s objectives.

Over recent months, neoliberal circles reacted to the Greek government’s efforts with phenomenal determination, and it seemed that they were prepared to totally destroy the country’s economy. If there were, for example, a devaluation, with the expected effects that would have on the debt, how would you protect yourselves from their attacks?

The conclusion we have drawn from the Syriza government’s experience — immediately being confronted with the blockade and the war unleashed by the European institutions — is that you have to show at least the same level of determination as they do.

That is precisely where the Syriza government let itself down: it did not take any self-defense measures. That is the context for our proposed return to a national currency.

This would also help us on the question of repaying the debt, because it puts us in a position of strength for making the creditors accept the cancellation of the greater part of the debt.

We want that kind of compromise: like what happened with all the other over-indebted countries. I’m thinking of Argentina, Ecuador, etc. We think that it is indispensible to take back monetary sovereignty — within the framework of a democratic reestablishment of popular sovereignty, and absolutely not in terms of turning in on ourselves in a nationalist sense. Our approach is profoundly internationalist.

We are not telling tall tales, like Syriza did: we are not saying that we will convince the other Europeans, and we have no illusions that Hollande or Renzi or whoever else in the EU is going to help us.

Rather, we are counting on the mobilization of the Greek people, European public awareness, and solidarity from social movements internationally. They are our true allies!

You don’t think you have any institutional allies in Europe?

No, not in Europe! We might find some elsewhere. That’s a whole different question.

In that regard, you seem to want to establish strong relations with other states, elsewhere around the planet, in order to cover Greece’s financing needs. But still today the Tsipras government say they did make attempts to do this, but that these initiatives didn’t lead anywhere. Is that not the case?

Firstly, I should say that not everything the Syriza government did was bad. It was the Syriza government’s mistaken strategy that made it possible for large sections of the Greek population to see the European Union for what it really is.

The referendum battle allowed for a powerful popular mobilization, a decisive advance in the terms of the debate, and that also owes to the Syriza government. All this did result in defeat; but we also need to have a clear view of the road that was taken.

So in the initiatives that the government did take, there were indeed openings toward certain other countries, but we got stuck halfway. It took a hesitant attitude toward Russia, in particular: some approaches were made, but at the crucial moment the Syriza government did not follow through.

At what moment?

During the critical turning point, the referendum. The agreement that Panagiotis Lafanazis had secured on the gas pipeline — he was energy minister at the time — was a highly favorable one. He had the political space to make this important move.

But truth be told, fundamentally the Russians did not know what the Greeks wanted. They were extremely distrustful, since they had the impression that Greece’s moves toward an opening were being used as a card in its negotiations with the European institutions, as a PR tool.

The photos with Putin served as a means of exerting pressure, but it all remained very superficial, and they could tell that it was not going to be followed up with concrete commitments. And they did not appreciate being toyed with.

So if Greece left the euro, would you find sufficient financing from outside the EU?

We don’t take a eurocentric view. In any case, Europe is not just the EU; Russia and Turkey are part of Europe, for example. Europe itself has to break out of its imperialist and neo-colonialist attitude toward the world’s other countries.

And of course we want to develop relations with the progressive governments of the South, and in particular the South American ones — that is a strategic choice of Popular Unity’s — as well as powers like the BRIC countries.

Of course, we would do so on terms favorable to the interests of the Greek people. Developing relations with Russia or with China is not exactly the same thing.

The Chinese interest is in trade and business. We don’t want the privatizations that so attract the Chinese; but at the same time, they have made openings with regard to establishing a BRIC bank.

With Russia, it’s a different matter, since it takes an essentially geopolitical view: for Russia, economic interests are subordinate to this geopolitical outlook.

It is also clear that having relations with Russia in no sense means thinking that Putin is politically or ideologically close to us. This is a question of international relations.

Another question on your program: how do you think you can stop the privatizations?

One of our key points is the nationalization of the four systemic banks. That’s something very simple, and it was a strong element of Syriza’s program.

In three of the four banks there is already a majority public stake, but its rights over the bank are muted and passive, under the recapitalization conditions imposed by the European Stability Mechanism.

We are for insubordination against these rules, and therefore we want to take immediate control over these banks. In principle, this is simple — it would suffice to activate the existing public holding.

One of the most scandalous aspects of the third memorandum is the fact that €25 billion will be devoted to recapitalizing the banks, and these €25 billion are the first funds resulting from the sell-off of Greek state assets!

This was criminal, and the Syriza government agreed to push it through. These €25 billion will exclusively be devoted to repaying the loans for the future recapitalization of the banks. We have to put an end to this scandal now, and nationalize the banks.

We are also in favor of the country’s essential infrastructure coming back into public ownership, such as the electric grid, ports and telecommunications.

For us, economic recovery will come through public investment: no country in world history — and here I am not talking about countries in transition toward socialism — has been able to resume growth unless it had a public sector and public investment serving as locomotives.

We don’t believe the claptrap about encouraging private investment in an asset-stripped country paying poverty wages. That’s not how we’ll get the Greek economy going again! And particularly not through this European finance, with its very tight conditions: that clearly hasn’t allowed for any kind of economic recovery, during five years of crisis.

Everyone knows that the objective set for the privatizations — that is, raising the €50 billion that the lenders are demanding — is entirely unachievable, and that the country will not be able to live up to such commitments. So what is the point of such demands?

They serve the purpose of systematically bleeding the country dry. This is a true neo-colonization effort, liquidating the Greek state as a democratic and sovereign state.

The €50 billion privatization fund is directly controlled by the troika. The budgetary policy council is composed of seven members, four of them directly appointed by the four institutions: the IMF, the European Commission, the ECB, and the European Stability Mechanism.

In the event of budget overspend, they have the power to impose automatic, horizontal cuts. The national statistics institute is also under the institutions’ control. The general secretariat of tax receipts is to become a completely independent authority, though in reality it is obviously under the heel of the institutions, and it can make decisions with the status of ministerial degrees.

Whatever the composition of the government, today it no longer has any levers under its control. Which means that this third memorandum takes us an awful lot further than what went before.

How would you explain this dogged hostility to the first radical left government in Europe?

There was a very clear punitive dimension to all this. In breaking Syriza, they wanted to kill off any attempt at a break with austerity. At the same time, we ought to be clear that the current capitalist crisis is far from over, and that the ruling classes seem prepared to do everything necessary to deepen austerity policies.

Once again, Greece is serving as a laboratory: it was the guinea pig for the first stage of austerity, but now it is being forced to serve as the guinea pig for the second stage, the even more violent onslaught of austerity policies.

Syriza was the counter-attack against phase one of the austerity experiment, and Popular Unity is the political response to phase two.

You are now breaking into the Greek political landscape, but where would you set your ambitions for the coming elections?

If there is one aspect of Syriza that we are intent on preserving, it is that of speaking in a language that the population can understand; of aiming to build a majority around a simple but radical program that truly responds to the people’s needs and urgent problems, and of being able to offer an applicable alternative.

That was a fundamental point of Syriza’s — to do mass politics, not the politics of little groups, not sectarian politics or politics limited to protest.

It is very much possible that Alexis Tsipras and Syriza will win the current elections. But without going into alternative histories, we can say that it is possible that they won’t get an absolute majority. If Popular Unity does succeed in making an electoral breakthrough, would you be able to govern together with Syriza?

The memorandums are like the god Moloch, they demand ever greater sacrifices. They already destroyed two governments, even before Syriza. They annihilated Pasok — a party much more solid and better implanted in Greek society than Syriza, transforming it into a groupuscule. They also destroyed New Democracy, in good measure.

The third memorandum will destroy Syriza, and indeed that is very much already underway: in any case, the resignation of its general secretary in recent days was a striking symptom.

So anyone would be very much mistaken to think that the political instability in Greece is over. A new cycle is opening up with Popular Unity, allowing popular layers and social movements hostile to the memorandums to find political expression. From that point of view, our strategy is not all so different from Podemos’s.

We want to make a breakthrough, overturn the political landscape, and do fundamentally what Syriza had done between 2012 and 2015. I don’t see why we will be any worse placed to do so than they were — we were also part of that “they,” after all!

Translated by David Broder.


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Το τριτο Μνημονιο, η κοινωνικη πλειοψηφια και ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ / Του Γιαννη Μηλιου

«Το τριτο Μνημονιο, η κοινωνικη πλειοψηφια και ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ»

Γιάννης Μηλιός

Στην Huffington Post



  1. Το πολιτικό κενό

Η συμφωνία της 12ης-13ης Ιουλίου 2015 αφήνει πολιτικά μετέωρο ένα μεγάλο τμήμα από το 61,3% του ελληνικού λαού που ψήφισε «Όχι» στο δημοψήφισμα της 5ης Ιουλίου και το οποίο είχε εναποθέσει στον ΣΥΡΙΖΑ τις ελπίδες του για μια διαφορετική κοινωνική, οικονομική και πολιτική πραγματικότητα. Μια πραγματικότητα, που με κέντρο την κυβερνητική πολιτική θα διασφάλιζε ζωτικά συμφέροντα και ανάγκες της κοινωνικής πλειοψηφίας (των εργαζομένων, συνταξιούχων, επαγγελματιών, μικροεπιχειρηματιών, νέων), βάζοντας τέλος στη λιτότητα.

Είναι σαφές ότι τα συμφέροντα των εργαζομένων και της κοινωνικής πλειοψηφίας δεν μπορούν πλέον να εκπροσωπούνται από την κυβέρνηση, εφόσον αυτή θα υλοποιεί το 3ο Μνημόνιο, δηλαδή ένα πρόγραμμα οικονομικών και κοινωνικών μετασχηματισμών ενταγμένο απόλυτα στο ασφυκτικό πλαίσιο «συνέχειας» της νεοφιλελεύθερης-μνημονιακής πολιτικής του ελληνικού κράτους. Μιας πολιτικής και ενός κράτους που επί πέντε χρόνια θεσμοθετεί περικόπτοντας τα εισοδήματα της κοινωνικής πλειοψηφίας, διαλύοντας τους θεσμούς κοινωνικής προστασίας, ιδιωτικοποιώντας τα δημόσια αγαθά. Με δυο λόγια αφαιρώντας πλούτο, εισόδημα και ισχύ από την πλειοψηφία της κοινωνίας και μεταφέροντάς τα στα χέρια της ολιγαρχίας.

Η εξέλιξη αυτή είναι αναπόφευκτο να δημιουργήσει μια βαθιά κρίση στον ίδιο τον ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, που από την ίδρυσή του παλεύει για αυξήσεις μισθών και συντάξεων, για διεύρυνση της κοινωνικής προστασίας και του κοινωνικού κράτους, για υπεράσπιση των δημόσιων αγαθών. Που επομένως «ταυτοτικά» αντιστρατεύεται τη λιτότητα, τον εργοδοτικό δεσποτισμό, τη συρρίκνωση δικαιωμάτων, την ανάπτυξη για τους λίγους, τη θεοποίηση του κέρδους και του «ιδιωτικού». Που «ταυτοτικά» αντιστρατεύεται όλα αυτά που συνιστούν (και) το Μνημόνιο 3.

Μπορεί λοιπόν ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, μετά τη συμφωνία της 12ης Ιουλίου, να μείνει ενωμένος; Όσο κι αν αυτό παραμένει το ζητούμενο, είναι εντούτοις δύσκολο να προβλεφθεί. Διότι αυτή τη στιγμή ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ διασχίζεται από μια δισεπίλυτη αντίφαση: α) Αφενός να μείνει προσηλωμένος στο Πρόγραμμά του και να μην αποδεχθεί το 3ο Μνημόνιο, ώστε να μη μεταλλαχθεί σε νεοφιλελεύθερο κόμμα της Κεντροαριστεράς, β) Αφετέρου να μην έρθει σε ρήξη με την κυβέρνηση (που θα υλοποιεί το Μνημόνιο).

Ο διχασμός της Κοινοβουλευτικής Ομάδας του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ στις πρόσφατες ψηφοφορίες για την αποδοχή της Συμφωνίας αποτελεί έκφραση αυτής ακριβώς της δισεπίλυτης αντίφασης. Αυτή η αντίφαση θα καθορίσει και τις εσωκομματικές διαδικασίες που ανοίγουν στον ΣΥΡΙΖΑ από την Πέμπτη 30 Ιουλίου, που συνέρχεται στην Αθήνα η Κεντρική Επιτροπή.

  1. «Δεν υπήρχε άλλος δρόμος»;

Το επιχείρημα ότι «δεν υπήρχε άλλος δρόμος» πέραν του 3ου Μνημονίου είναι έωλο, για πολλούς λόγους.

Στη γενικότητά του, το επιχείρημα νομιμοποιεί το νεοφιλελεύθερο δόγμα «δεν υπάρχει εναλλακτική» (το θατσερικό «There is no Alternative, ΤΙΝΑ«), απέναντι στο οποίο μάχεται η Αριστερά παντού στην υφήλιο.

Το ίδιο επιχείρημα, διατυπωμένο ως ρητορικό ερώτημα περί της συγκεκριμένης στιγμής, «μπορούσε να υπάρξει εναλλακτική λύση τα χαράματα της 13ης Ιουλίου, όταν η κυβέρνηση εκβιαζόταν υπό την απειλή της άτακτης χρεοκοπίας;» αποτελεί απλώς παραπλανητικό ερώτημα-επιχείρημα. Όταν πέφτεις στον γκρεμό, πράγματι δεν μπορεί να γίνει τίποτα, το ζήτημα είναι όμως να μην φτάσεις στον γκρεμό και στην πτώση. Ο τρόπος που διαπραγματεύτηκε η κυβέρνηση από την αρχή και ιδίως μετά τη Συμφωνία της 20ής Φεβρουαρίου οδηγούσε όμως με μαθηματική ακρίβεια στον γκρεμό της 13ης Ιουλίου.

Η διαπραγμάτευση με τους δανειστές καθορίστηκε απόλυτα από τον τρόπο που ασκήθηκε η πολιτική στο εσωτερικό, δηλαδή από τον «ιστορικό συμβιβασμό» του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ με την ολιγαρχία και το κεφάλαιο, και την πολιτεία μιας κυβέρνησης που λειτουργούσε ως οιονεί κυβέρνηση «εθνικής ενότητας»: Εξομάλυνση και άμβλυνση των κοινωνικών αντιθέσεων, με «κοινό για όλους» «εθνικό στόχο» την ανάπτυξη της ελληνικής καπιταλιστικής οικονομίας (καπιταλιστική ανάπτυξη που κατ” ευφημισμό ονομάζεται «παραγωγική ανασυγκρότηση») και την προστασία των θυμάτων εκείνων των μνημονιακών πολιτικών, που βρέθηκαν σε συνθήκες ακραίας φτώχειας («αντιμετώπιση ανθρωπιστικής κρίσης»). Το «Πρόγραμμα της Θεσσαλονίκης» αποτύπωνε αυτό το συμβιβασμό, καθώς απ” αυτό απουσίαζαν αφενός όλες οι πολιτικές για την προώθηση εναλλακτικών μορφών παραγωγής απέναντι στην καπιταλιστική επιχειρηματικότητα και τις αγορές, και αφετέρου όλες οι προτάσεις φορολόγησης του κεφαλαίου και του μεγάλου πλούτου. Η συμφωνία της 20ής Φεβρουαρίου επιβεβαίωσε αυτή τη συμμόρφωση της κυβέρνησης στις επιταγές του κεφαλαίου και των δανειστών.

Έτσι και η διαπραγμάτευση σύρθηκε σε ένα «καθησυχαστικό» κλίμα, που προδίκαζε την επερχόμενη κατάληξη: Τον τελικό εκβιασμό, μετά την αποδυνάμωση των τραπεζών και την εξάντληση των ταμειακών διαθεσίμων του Δημοσίου.

Αντίθετα με αυτή την πορεία, από το Πρόγραμμα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ απέρρεε μια εντελώς διαφορετική πολιτική στρατηγική: Καθυστέρηση πληρωμών προς τους δανειστές του ελληνικού δημοσίου ήδη από τον Φεβρουάριο, μέχρι την επίτευξη συμφωνίας αντίστοιχης με τη λαϊκή εντολή, διασφάλιση των αναγκαίων για το κοινωνικό κράτος δημόσιων εσόδων μέσα από τη φορολογία του πλούτου και του μεγάλου κεφαλαίου, προώθηση μέτρων και ενός νομοθετικού πλαισίου για τον περιορισμό του χώρου εξουσίας της αγοράς, μέσα από συνεταιριστικά-συνεργατικά σχήματα που θα «ενώνουν» το άνεργο εργατικό δυναμικό με το αργούν παραγωγικό δυναμικό των κλειστών επιχειρήσεων, ενεργητική άσκηση των δικαιωμάτων του Δημοσίου επί των τραπεζών κλπ.

Αυτό το πρόγραμμα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ δεν υλοποιήθηκε ποτέ. Και επειδή ποτέ δεν δοκιμάστηκε, η «διαπίστωση» πως «δεν υπήρχε εναλλακτική λύση» πέρα από τη συνθηκολόγηση, είναι άτοπη. Το πρόγραμμα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ προϋπέθετε μία άλλη διακυβέρνηση και μία άλλη διαπραγμάτευση με πυξίδα τη μεροληψία υπέρ των λαϊκών τάξεων! Αυτό θα αποτελούσε την εναλλακτική στρατηγική.

Οι δυνάμεις του κεφαλαίου στην Ελλάδα δεν έχουν αντιμαχόμενα συμφέροντα με τους δανειστές. Είναι όλοι αυτοί που μαζί με τους συμμάχους τους και τους κάθε λογής εκπροσώπους τους πάλεψαν με φανατισμό για να υπερισχύσει το «Ναι» στο πρόσφατο δημοψήφισμα! Διότι μετά την κρίση του 2008-9 η κρίση του καπιταλιστικού συστήματος εμφανίζεται ως «έλλειψη υπεραξίας», όχι έλλειψη ζήτησης. Γι” αυτό και το κεφάλαιο, η άρχουσα τάξη στην Ελλάδα όπως και παντού επιμένει σε μια μόνο στρατηγική για έξοδο από την κρίση, σε αντιστοιχία με τα ταξικά της συμφέροντα: Τη λιτότητα, την απαξίωση και πολιτική-συνδικαλιστική υποβάθμιση της εργασίας, την ιδιοποίηση του δημόσιου από το ιδιωτικό, τη συρρίκνωση του κράτους πρόνοιας.

Αυτό σημαίνει ότι η αριστερή πολιτική μπορεί να καταστεί αποτελεσματική μόνο αν είναι εξαρχής συγκρουσιακή, πολιτική ρήξεων με το κεφάλαιο, πολιτική αναδιανομής υπέρ της εργασίας: Αναδιανομής πλούτου, εισοδήματος και ισχύος (συνδικαλιστικά δικαιώματα, δημοκρατικοί θεσμοί, πλαίσιο συνεργατικής-αλληλέγγυας αναδιοργάνωσης τομέων της οικονομίας, κλπ.). Αυτό ήταν άλλωστε το περιεχόμενο του Προγράμματος του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, όπως εγκρίθηκε και από το ιδρυτικό 1ο Συνέδριό του, Πρόγραμμα που τέθηκε στο περιθώριο μετά την 25η Ιανουαρίου.

  1. «Ο εναλλακτικός δρόμος είναι η έξοδος από τη Ζώνη του Ευρώ»;

Μια μερίδα όσων τείνουν να αποδεχθούν το επιχείρημα ότι «δεν μπορούσε να υπάρξει εναλλακτική λύση τα χαράματα της 13ης Ιουλίου, όταν η κυβέρνηση εκβιαζόταν υπό την απειλή της άτακτης χρεοκοπίας», καταλήγουν στο συμπέρασμα ότι η εναλλακτική λύση έγκειται στην επιστροφή στο εθνικό νόμισμα, διότι «δεν υπάρχει εναλλακτικός δρόμος εντός της Ζώνης του Ευρώ (ΖτΕ)».

Επισημάναμε ήδη ότι το επιχείρημα «δεν μπορούσε να υπάρξει εναλλακτική λύση τα χαράματα της 13ης Ιουλίου» είναι παραπλανητικό. Ας θέσουμε λοιπόν το ουσιαστικό ερώτημα: Ποια είναι η εναλλακτική πολιτική που αναγκαστικά απορρέει από την υιοθέτηση εθνικού νομίσματος;

Αν επιχειρήσουμε να απαντήσουμε στο ερώτημα αυτό θα βρεθούμε αντιμέτωποι με νέα ερωτήματα και διλήμματα.

Οι επιδιώξεις και οι ανάγκες των εργαζομένων και των ανέργων σχετικά με τον μισθό τους, τις θέσεις εργασίας τους, το κοινωνικό κράτος, τη συνοχή της κοινωνίας θα αντιμετωπιστούν με την αλλαγή νομίσματος;

Η πρόταση για έξοδο από το ευρώ, αυτή καθ” αυτή, σημαίνει ότι προσδοκάται η αναβάθμιση της ανταγωνιστικής θέσης του ελληνικού κεφαλαίου μέσω της υποτίμησης του νομίσματος (χαμηλότερες διεθνείς τιμές των εγχωρίως παραγόμενων προϊόντων). Η υποτίμηση του νομίσματος, όμως, είναι ταυτόχρονα υποτίμηση της τιμής της εργασιακής δύναμης. Το καλάθι των προϊόντων που χρειάζεται ο εργαζόμενος για να ζήσει, ο μισθός του, θα μειωθεί μέσω της νομισματικής υποτίμησης. Θα ακριβύνουν γι” αυτόν και τα εισαγόμενα προϊόντα (θα γίνουν απλησίαστα) και τα εγχώρια, λόγω του ότι τα κεφαλαιουχικά αγαθά (πρώτες ύλες, μηχανήματα) που απαιτούνται για την παραγωγή των εγχώριων προϊόντων είναι επίσης εισαγόμενα. Αυτή η υποτίμηση μισθού που συνεπάγεται η νομισματική υποτίμηση θα έρθει να προστεθεί στην ήδη υπάρχουσα υποτίμηση λόγω των Μνημονίων.

Ταυτόχρονα τα ιδιωτικά χρέη θα εκτοξευθούν με αποτέλεσμα μεγάλο αριθμό χρεοκοπιών μικρομεσαίων επιχειρήσεων. Από τη νομισματική υποτίμηση θα κερδίσουν άμεσα μόνο ορισμένες μερίδες του κεφαλαίου. Από τους εργαζόμενους ζητούνται και πάλι θυσίες, και άλλες θυσίες στο όνομα της «εθνικής ενότητας», με καρότο μια «ανάπτυξη» που μπορεί να έρθει, αλλά μπορεί και να καθυστερήσει αρκετά χρόνια.

Επιπλέον, για να παραμείνει η συναλλαγματική υποτίμηση του νέου εθνικού νομίσματος «ελεγχόμενη», απαιτούνται ικανοποιητικού ύψους συναλλαγματικά διαθέσιμα σε διεθνές νόμισμα, επομένως ένα νέο δημόσιο δάνειο. Στις παρούσες συνθήκες, πώς θα συναφθεί το νέο αυτό δημόσιο δάνειο; Με τι προαπαιτούμενα, αν όχι με τους γνωστούς μνημονιακούς όρους;

Τα παραπάνω δεν σημαίνουν ότι η εναλλακτική λύση βρίσκεται, κατ” αντιπαράθεση προς την πρόταση «αναγκαστικά έξοδος από τη Ζώνη του Ευρώ», στην πρόταση «αναγκαστικά εντός της Ζώνης του Ευρώ». Σημαίνουν ότι η λύση δεν θα είναι «νομισματική», το ερώτημα περί του νομίσματος δεν τίθεται κατά προτεραιότητα σήμερα, θα τεθεί και θα απαντηθεί ως αποτέλεσμα μια πορείας αγώνων και ρήξεων, στην προοπτική μιας κοινωνίας πέραν του νεοφιλελευθερισμού και του καπιταλισμού.

  1. «Οι άνθρωποι πάνω από τα κέρδη».

Να διασωθεί αυτό που υπήρξε το «πολιτικό σχέδιο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ»!

Αυτό που προέχει, που είναι επείγον σήμερα, είναι ότι η εναλλακτική στρατηγική βρίσκεται εκτός οποιασδήποτε «ρεαλπολιτίκ», στη σύγκρουση με την ολιγαρχία και το κεφάλαιο, στην κινητοποίηση του κόσμου της εργασίας και της κοινωνικής πλειοψηφίας, στη έμπρακτη επιβεβαίωση του συνθήματος «οι άνθρωποι πάνω από τα κέρδη», στην αμφισβήτηση του νεοφιλελευθερισμού και του καπιταλισμού, στη διάσωση του ενωτικού πολιτικού σχεδίου που εγκαινίασαν πριν από δεκαπέντε χρόνια όσοι ξεκίνησαν το «εγχείρημα ΣΥΡΙΖΑ».

Στην ιστορία του καπιταλισμού εδώ και αιώνες, η κυρίαρχη στρατηγική για έξοδο από τις οικονομικές κρίσεις του συστήματος, για την αντιμετώπιση της πτώσης της κεφαλαιακής κερδοφορίας (της «κρίσης του κεφαλαίου»), υπήρξε η λιτότητα και η περικοπή των λαϊκών εισοδημάτων. Διότι η λιτότητα αποτελεί στρατηγική για μείωση του κόστους ανά μονάδα παραγόμενου προϊόντος, ενώ ταυτόχρονα «αναπλάθει» την κοινωνία σύμφωνα με τα κεφαλαιοκρατικά συμφέροντα, ενδυναμώνει την εξουσία της καπιταλιστικής τάξης σε όλα τα κοινωνικά επίπεδα.

Η λιτότητα εγκαταλείφθηκε μόνο στις ιστορικές εκείνες περιπτώσεις που δημιουργήθηκε «πολιτικός κίνδυνος» για τις κυρίαρχες καπιταλιστικές ελίτ και το ίδιο το καπιταλιστικό σύστημα. Το πρόγραμμα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ συνιστά πολιτικό κίνδυνο για τις εγχώριες (και διεθνείς) καπιταλιστικές ελίτ. Αν η κυβέρνηση επιμείνει στο να υλοποιεί το Μνημόνιο 3, δεν μας μένει άλλος δρόμος παρά αυτός των μαζικών δημοκρατικών κοινωνικών και πολιτικών αγώνων, ο δρόμος της δημοκρατικής εξέγερσης.

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What options for the Left in Greece after Tsipras’ climb-down? By: Themos Demetriou


“A fierce discussion is taking place among the left internationally ever since Alexis Tsipras decided to capitulate to the demands of the Europeans and agreed to sign and implement a third Memorandum for Greece. The discussion centres mostly on whether the Syriza Government should have had a Plan B prepared for dealing with the results of a ‘Grexit’ should the negotiations fail. It is my contention that such a discussion misses the point and falls into the trap of presenting the issue as an opposition between remaining in the Eurozone and adopting a national currency. It is this opposition that was used as the weapon of choice both by the Greek and the European political elites to crush the Syriza Government. Instead of searching for a Plan B it is urgent to understand the objective nature of Plan A and assess its dynamic and potency.”



“. Whether the next clash will be between the Greek Government and its creditors or between Greek protesters and the police, Tsipras will again and again be called to make a decision on where to stand: on the side of Revolution or on the side of Reaction? This is why the Left, both inside and outside Syriza, should consider first the possibility of making the second option more difficult for him rather than pushing him there.”



Revisiting Plan A

What options for the Left in Greece after Tsipras’ climb-down?

By: Themos Demetriou, Nicosia 2015

A fierce discussion is taking place among the left internationally ever since Alexis Tsipras decided to capitulate to the demands of the Europeans and agreed to sign and implement a third Memorandum for Greece. The discussion centres mostly on whether the Syriza Government should have had a Plan B prepared for dealing with the results of a ‘Grexit’ should the negotiations fail. It is my contention that such a discussion misses the point and falls into the trap of presenting the issue as an opposition between remaining in the Eurozone and adopting a national currency. It is this opposition that was used as the weapon of choice both by the Greek and the European political elites to crush the Syriza Government. Instead of searching for a Plan B it is urgent to understand the objective nature of Plan A and assess its dynamic and potency.

The Syriza Government’s defeat in the hands of far superior forces masks the real strength of its negotiation tactics and misleadingly points to a lack of strategy that was bound to lead to a defeat. However, if we look beyond the harsh terms of the agreement we realise that the tactics of the negotiations are compatible with a revolutionary strategy for radically changing not only Greece but also Europe, and probably beyond. The first basic principle of this strategy is that Greece cannot make it alone. In order to succeed in getting rid of the Memorandum, European policies must radically change. The second principle is to make sure that the people, both in Greece and in Europe, stay informed and be kept on board and made aware that the efforts of the Greek Government were reasonable while the Europeans were unreasonable and vindictive. The third principle was to attempt to split the opposing forces. Whether these principles were consciously applied by Tsipras and Varoufakis or not, they were followed with reasonable precision and met with fair success. The insistence in the European scope of their goals was absolute, the transparency of the negotiations was unprecedented, leading to widespread support for the Greek position not only among the intelligentsia but also, more importantly, winning over public opinion both in Greece and in Europe. Driving a wedge between the ‘Institutions’ came close to success with the Americans forcing the IMF to publish its report just before the Greek Referendum and the European Commission and France clearly perturbed by Schäuble’s Grexit plans.

Tsipras’ acceptance of the European ultimatum marks the end of this phase of the drama. Whatever our opinion about the wisdom of his decision, the real issue now is the correct assessment of the possibilities for left politics in Greece now. Gindin and Panitch are quite correct in opposing a hasty exit from the Eurozone demanded on the basis of Syriza’s failure to win in their negotiations with the European elites. They base their view on the fact that it is exactly Syriza’s intent to negotiate a deal within the Eurozone that won the election for them:

As for counselling Syriza to risk losing its governing status, it needs to be noted that Syriza already faced this question in the run up to the 2012 elections, and concluded that the responsible decision was to enter the state and do everything it could to restrain the neoliberal assault from within the state. Its electoral breakthrough that year was based on Tsipras’s declaration that Syriza was not just campaigning to register a higher percentage of the vote but determined to form a government with any others who would join with it in stopping the economic torture while remaining within Europe. It was only when it came close to winning on this basis that Syriza vaulted to the forefront of the international left’s attention and, by the following summer, Tsipras was chosen by the European Left Parties to lead their campaign in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Syriza’s subsequent clear victory in Greece in this election foretold its victory in the Greek national election of January 2015, when it became the first and only one of all the European left parties to challenge neoliberalism and win national office. [1]

Gindin and Panitch go on to argue for the necessity of Syriza staying in the Government despite the harsh measures they will have to take in accordance with the Memorandum requirements. They see no possibility of a successful exit from the Eurozone and no credible left alternative to the Tsipras leadership. Their advice to the Greek Government is to take a longer term view of the situation and try to expand on the theme of the social solidarity movement in order to create new forms of structures to counter-balance the terrible effects of the Memorandum.

The point we are getting at is that framing the issue in terms of an exhausted Plan A (negotiating with Europe) and a rejection of the euro (Plan B) is too limited a way to frame the dilemmas confronting Syriza. What the deeper preparation for leaving the Eurozone, and possibly also the EU, actually entails is to build on the solidarity networks that have developed in society to cope with the crisis as the basis for starting to transform social relations within Greece. That is the real Plan B, the terrain on which both Syriza and the social movements might re-invigorate now.[2]

This is of course interesting but obviously only part of a strategy. Gindin and Panitch see this as a preparation for a Grexit, a break with the oppressive powers that EU represents. Then what? Build half-socialism in Greece within the context of a hostile Europe? More to the point, is it feasible to keep and amplify the dynamic of the solidarity movement in a climate of general disappointment? And how are we to avoid the looming danger of a right wing backlash that could see Golden Dawn or the army taking power?

Modest Radicalism[3]

To understand today’s social dynamics it is necessary to assess what happened during the five months of Syriza’s rule until the fateful decision by Tsipras. Syriza was never a unitary party and it would be futile to attempt to lay responsibility for the actions of the Syriza Government on the Party. Policies were not formed through normal party discussions and conferences but were mostly decisions that went through a kind of democratic discussion but in the end responsibility for them was fuzzy and unclear. As opinions within Syriza varied widely, decisions were taken within a regime of intense arguments and contradictions with which not everybody was happy. Nevertheless, the ‘components’ of Syriza stuck together in their joint attempt to stem the misery of the Greek people imposed by the Memoranda and the Troika.

Notwithstanding the lack of effective formal democratic decision making procedures, Syriza did not degenerate into an autocratic structure. On the contrary, decisions at every step seemed to command the support of the majority of the Party members and certainly of the Party supporters. There was some grumbling on the left of the Party, but that was never a serious concern. In fact, the motley crowd that formed Syriza had forged a new kind of Party, one that could be far to the left of anything remotely mainstream and at the same time command the support of the masses. Integral to that Party was the complete freedom of expression, open discussion and the total lack of the need for a whip.

In retrospect it is easy to see why this was possible. The ‘radical’ policies that formed the essence of Syriza were very modest indeed. If we look at the Thessaloniki Programme we shall be amazed at the modesty of its proposals. Only a few decades ago such a programme would be the governmental programme of mainstream European Social Democracy. Pasok’s founding programme, The 3rd of September Programme, was far more radical and far reaching than anything discussed in Syriza since its formation. That programme included such ‘extreme’ demands as the ‘socialist transformation of society’ ‘worker’s control of the units of production’, ‘socialisation of the financial system in its totality, the important units of production and the big import and export trade’. It advocated ‘Free and compulsory education’, abolition of private education and participation of students in the planning of education and the running of teaching institutions. Some of these demands were even implemented during the Andreas Papandreou Government.

The Syriza demands were tame by comparison. In fact the immediate policies proposed by its various factions did not differ much. There were serious strategic differences, but these could wait. In practice, Marxists and Keynesians, reformists and revolutionaries could work together in what they probably perceived, consciously or unconsciously, as a medium-term alliance in opposing neoliberalism, austerity and the Memoranda. Sooner or later, this alliance was bound to face difficulties as the realities of the capitalist system started to force not simply painful compromises but the complete back-tracking of the Syriza Government with a punitive agreement everybody considers unrealistic in its implementation prospects.

What is going on? What is the qualitative change that makes a mainstream Social Democratic programme of the sixties and seventies a dangerous revolutionary manifesto in the twenty-first century? The most obvious answer is 2008. After nearly three decades of neo-liberalism and almost two decades after the fall of Stalinism the ‘New World Order’ hit the rocks and the ‘End of History’ was itself at an end. The collapse of neoliberal economics ushered in an epoch of instability for world capitalism, an epoch in which capitalism can no longer justify its existence except by the fact that it possesses the power to crush any opposition. As Paul Tyson, Honorary Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Nottingham, put it

…for big financial players and big governments, power is its own justification. This is called financial realism. All the Eurozone troika are doing in relation to Greece is following the American example of financial realism. Here, that which is legal, necessary and right is, in the final analysis, whatever the financial institutions with the most power tell you is legal, necessary and right. That their rules work in their interest is taken for granted. It is also understood that anyone who doesn’t play the game that they control, by their rules, will be punished severely.[4]

In this situation reformism cannot be tolerated by the ruling classes. Reformists of all persuasions, traditionally considered ‘traitors’ of the working class by Marxists, are pushed towards radicalism and find themselves forced to make a choice: either join the Revolution or become active oppressors of the working class. Even Keynesianism, the economic policy framework that worked wonders for post-war capitalist development, is today seen as highly toxic for today’s world order. The Spectator goes as far as blaming British universities for all the failures of peripheral capitalist countries to prosper.

Varoufakis was a product of British universities. He read economics at Essex and mathematical statistics at Birmingham, returning to Essex to do a PhD in economics. With the benefit of his British university education he returned to Greece and, during his short time in office, obliterated the nascent recovery. The economy is now expected to contract by 4 per cent this year — an amazing transformation. Greece’s debt burden has increased by tens of billions and many people have emigrated.

But Varoufakis is not alone. Plenty of other visitors to our universities have been influenced by the teaching here and returned to their countries to wreak havoc.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of an independent India, is understandably regarded by many as a hero. But unfortunately for that country he attended Trinity College, Cambridge. There he was influenced by British intellectuals such as George Bernard Shaw, a socialist, Bertrand Russell, who once remarked ‘communism is necessary to the world’, and John Maynard Keynes. He returned to India and started to put the ideology into practice with state planning, controls and regulations. This was a calamity. Following his rule, India’s share of world trade fell and a generation failed to emerge from abject poverty. Only when the ideology was abandoned with the free market reforms of the 1980s did India’s growth and amazing poverty-reduction begin.[5]

The article goes on to list Julius Nyerere (‘encountered Fabian thinking’ when he studied at Edinburgh ‘as did Gordon Brown’, probably another dangerous ‘socialist’), Robert Mugabe, Jomo Kenyata, Kwame Nkrumah, Pierre Trudeau (yes, the Canadian) and Zulfikar Ali Butto as examples of dangerous ‘socialists’ that ruined the economies of their countries. Their ‘failures’ had nothing to do with backwardness, imperialist aggression, military coups or foreign subversion – no, it was their ‘socialism’ or ‘Fabianism’ or ‘Keynesianism’ imbued in them by leftist British academics and their ‘ideological dogmatism’.

Notwithstanding the ostensibly tongue-in-cheek style of the article there is more than a grain of seriousness in what the Spectator says. It seems clear that the ruling classes are losing the ideological battle in the class war. They can no longer hold their ground on the premise of reason, or morality or even functional real‑politik. So, they ditch reason. Their only reasoning, by now unashamedly and openly argued out, is that they have the power (for the moment the economic power but with military power looming not far behind[6]) to suppress anybody who dares to challenge them. Democracy, freedom of speech, human rights are all expendable in the face of the all-powerful ‘markets’ and the need to protect the wealth and power of an ever decreasing miniscule minority.

We are reaching a point that any rational logic becomes a danger for the system. If we want a better life for the majority of the population, whatever we do we reach a point that it is not possible to do it without violently clashing with the ruling classes. Even modest reforms become revolutionary manifestoes. Slavoj Žižek expressed this accurately in the New Statesman:

What is so enervating about Varoufakis is not his radicalism but his rational pragmatic modesty – if one looks closely at the proposals offered by Syriza, one cannot help noticing that they were once part of the standard moderate social-democratic agenda (in Sweden of the 1960s, the programme of the government was much more radical). It is a sad sign of our times that today you have to belong to a “radical” left to advocate these same measures – a sign of dark times, but also a chance for the left to occupy the space which, decades ago, was that of the moderate centre left.

But, perhaps, the endlessly repeated point about how modest Syriza’s politics are, just good old social democracy, somehow misses its target – as if, if we repeat it often enough, the Eurocrats will finally realise we’re not really dangerous and will help us. Syriza effectively is dangerous; it does pose a threat to the present orientation of the EU – today’s global capitalism cannot afford a return to the old welfare state.

So there is something hypocritical in the reassurances about the modesty of what Syriza wants: in effect, it wants something that is not possible within the co-ordinates of the existing global system. A serious strategic choice will have to be made: what if the moment has come to drop the mask of modesty and openly advocate the much more radical change that is needed to secure even a modest gain?[7]

This is the background which allowed Syriza not only to gain power but also to remain united and avoid splits that plagued leftist parties and groups in previous decades. Syriza’s modest radicalism was based in the need to join forces in the face of a demanding objective situation requiring urgent action to combat the social and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the austerity policies imposed on Greece. It is this background that made possible the coexistence of such a varied bunch people in the struggle to implement a programme in which everyone believed. A programme that expressed the hopes of all the ‘constituents’ and at the same time expressed the hopes of the Greek people too. The Thessaloniki Programme is what Trotsky would call a Transitional Programme in its most pure and effective form, without the stale dogmatic trappings we have been subjected to by Trotsky’s epigones. It is a programme that grew naturally out of the specific Greek realities of the time, not a vote winning ploy.

Syriza’s European Expedition[8]

When Syriza astounded everybody by coming a close second in the first elections of 2012 there was no coherent party programme for government. As a leading Syriza cadre put it at the time ‘we are not ready to govern but we must govern’. Had Syriza won the second election of 2012 the potential for a huge revolutionary upsurge would probably be unleashed. However, the lack of any preparation for such an eventuality would in all probability lead to chaotic developments. A race between putting together a viable policy and disaster would have been the reality for the following few months.

The Party was spared such a position of responsibility and at the same time it was shocked into the realisation that if they were to be serious they should put their act together. They very swiftly moved to improve their internal procedures in order to become a functional party, proceeded to put together a governmental programme, culminating in the Thessaloniki Programme, and paid more attention to their grassroots organisation nationwide. Internationally, they used their enhanced standing to forge relations with formations like Podemos in Spain and leftist organisations and parties in Europe and elsewhere. Not least, they attracted the sympathy of a wide range of intellectuals and academics who published prolifically on the work of Syriza, thus greatly increasing the world-wide attention to the Greek experiment. The choice of Tsipras as the candidate of the Left for the position of the President of the European Commission is indicative of the changes the rise of Syriza brought about.

By the time Syriza won the elections in January 25, 2015, a clear policy framework was in place, something that allowed them to quickly form a government and storm both Greece and Europe with an energy and effectiveness that surprised everybody. It is easy today for their detractors, both Right and Left, to present these actions as arrogant and futile, to ridicule them as the result of inexperience and the failure of theory but that would miss the achievements of the first five months of this Government and a failure to see how close it came to success. To see these five months as a period of ‘tactics but no strategy’ is only superficially correct but disregards the realities of the decision making process in Syriza and misses the essential correctness of the Greek stance from the point of view of a revolutionary strategy. The reality is that it is only from the perspective of a very radical strategic objective that the actions of Tsipras and Varoufakis in these five months can be understood and appreciated. Such a strategy was probably never formulated, or even formally discussed in Syriza but it was firmly in place during the negotiations. Its main aim was to win the Greek and European masses to the Syriza cause. Tsipras and Varoufakis seem to have been clearer than the rest of the Party on what they were after but the lack of a collective understanding on that led in the end to the collapse of their project. Tsipras could not in the end withstand the pressure and Varoufakis could not pull the Party to his point of view. Once the two fell apart, there was no way they could have continued their ambitious campaign. The Syriza decision making process had broken down.

It would be wrong to see Syriza’s strategy as a well-defined and detailed plan fully understood and supported by the Party. As most party decisions, the strategy was the result of intense discussion and contradictions and it was full of ambiguities. We can get a glimpse of the thinking behind the Greek Government’s actions if we follow the writings of Varoufakis himself. In a lecture originally delivered at the 6th Subversive Festival in Zagreb in 2013 he outlined his approach to radical politics:

In 2008, capitalism had its second global spasm. The financial crisis set off a chain reaction that pushed Europe into a downward spiral that continues to this day. Europe’s present situation is not merely a threat for workers, for the dispossessed, for the bankers, for social classes or, indeed, nations. No, Europe’s current posture poses a threat to civilisation as we know it.

If my prognosis is correct, and we are not facing just another cyclical slump soon to be overcome, the question that arises for radicals is this: should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising European capitalism?

To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian bloodbath, while extinguishing the hope for any progressive moves for generations to come.[9]

Here Varoufakis is distancing himself from the objective of socialist change as an immediate task of the left. Or is he? In that same lecture he goes on to explain why he is using non-marxist economic analysis to destabilise current economic thinking:

A radical social theorist can challenge the economic mainstream in two different ways, I always thought. One way is by means of immanent criticism. To accept the mainstream’s axioms and then expose its internal contradictions. To say: “I shall not contest your assumptions but here is why your own conclusions do not logically flow on from them.” This was, indeed, Marx’s method of undermining British political economics. He accepted every axiom by Adam Smith and David Ricardo in order to demonstrate that, in the context of their assumptions, capitalism was a contradictory system. The second avenue that a radical theorist can pursue is, of course, the construction of alternative theories to those of the establishment, hoping that they will be taken seriously.

My view on this dilemma has always been that the powers that be are never perturbed by theories that embark from assumptions different to their own. The only thing that can destabilise and genuinely challenge mainstream, neoclassical economists is the demonstration of the internal inconsistency of their own models. It was for this reason that, from the very beginning, I chose to delve into the guts of neoclassical theory and to spend next to no energy trying to develop alternative, Marxist models of capitalism. My reasons, I submit, were quite Marxist.[10]

It is important to note that Varoufakis did not confine himself in peripheral academic discussions on the subject but forcefully promoted his ideas far beyond the intellectual conference circle. His seminal work, The Global Minotaur, is one of the most easily understood analyses of the world economic crisis ever to be published. On a more nuts-and-bolts work, together with economists Stuart Holland and James K. Galbraith, they propose a very detailed economic programme for overcoming the European economic crisis with measures strictly within the legal and political framework of the European Union and the Eurozone. Is it a programme Varoufakis expected the Europeans to adopt and ‘save’ European capitalism from itself? I don’t think so. It is far more likely that the proposals are made in the spirit of exposing and destabilising the policies of madness perpetrated by the European institutions. A pointer to that effect is probably given by the very title of the proposals: A Modest Proposal. While it reflects accurately the contend of the proposals, one cannot miss the allusion to another, very political text, A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift, written almost three centuries ago. That text leaves no doubt about its objectives. It is a caustic satire of the hypocrisy of Irish society that allowed poverty and suffering among the people while allowing the rich to live in luxury and ignore the agony of the poor.

The Thessaloniki Programme was a perfect tool for exposing the callousness of the European authorities. Having won the elections on its basis, the Syriza Government was ready to embark on the most ambitious attempt to change Europe since the inception of the European Union. An attempt to put an end to austerity and sweep away the total sway of neoliberalism and the rule of the super-rich. One cannot be sure whether they were fully aware of the implications of their attempt but they certainly knew that they were taking on a mighty opponent in an almost impossible task.

The first sign that the Syriza leadership meant business was the speed with which they proceeded to form a government. Instead of wasting time in tortuous discussions with the pro-memorandum Potami party or, worse, with Pasok they went ahead to form a coalition with Anel, a right-wing nationalist anti-memorandum party, too small to set the agenda in government policy but enough to set the tone of their anti-austerity emphasis. This avoided the pitfalls of new elections and allowed them to start contacts with the Europeans to feel the ground and plan the negotiations on the scrapping of the memorandum, as they promised the Greek people.

For almost a month, Tsipras and Varoufakis stormed Europe in an unprecedented tour de force around European capitals promoting their seemingly innocuous plans for renegotiating the loan agreement. Their realistic and modest suggestions provoked derision, something no one could reasonably understand. All they wanted was to reach an agreement that would promote necessary reforms to fight corruption and tax evasion and try to correct the ills of Greek society, put in place measures to tackle the unprecedented humanitarian crisis that the economic crisis inflicted on the Greek people and finally ensure that Greece’s creditors get at least some of their money back through decisions that would make the Greek debt viable. This last issue was a red line for Schäuble but in reality everybody knew that the Greek debt servicing was unsustainable – as the IMF report subsequently showed.

The Greek campaign attracted unprecedented world media attention, becoming headline news for the whole of the three weeks leading to the 20th February agreement and beyond. Between the endless reports on Tsipras’ ties and Varoufakis’ leather jackets, the serious staff was no less interesting. Not only to the politicians and the experts, but to the man in the street too. The Greek leaders made sure that they presented clearly to the public what was going on behind closed doors. And they presented it in a language understandable to everybody, both in Greece and in Europe and the rest of the World. Varoufakis seemed more interested in talking to the public than to his interlocutors in Brussels or Berlin. Tsipras was very frank in his televised briefings of the Syriza parliamentary group. Their behaviour was designed as if it was aimed at reaching public opinion, both in Greece and Europe, rather than convincing the finance ministers of the European countries who were not prepared even to listen to what the Greek Government was proposing.

The content of the agreement should not be the only factor determining the success of the Syriza negotiators. Their goals were going much further than that. They knew that their only allies would be the Greek and European masses; that they had to make an impact on public opinion and change the agenda of discussion. Their negotiation strategy was not simply to argue out their case in order to convince their European counterparts but to argue it out in full view of the public, to make it the subject of the everyday discussion of common folk.

By 20th February, less than a month after winning the elections, the Syriza negotiators reached an agreement with the ‘Institutions’ on the framework of the negotiations to follow. This agreement was a controversial document, full of ‘constructive ambiguities’ that allowed each side to claim success. Of course, in any conflict ambiguities will favour the stronger party and this was no exception. The ‘Institutions’ proved too strong for the Greek Government and in the end dictated policy to the last detail. Perhaps, the most pernicious clause in the agreement was the obligation of the Greek Government to avoid taking any measures with fiscal consequences, with the ‘Institutions’ deciding what had and what had not such consequences. This clause, probably more than anything else, was instrumental in virtually paralysing the Greek Government in the following months.

A war of attrition followed the agreement of the 20th of February. The Europeans blocked each and every legislation or action the Greek Government wanted to take. They were demanding more and more concessions and whenever Syriza retreated they were shifting the goal posts demanding even more. They were not prepared to concede even miniscule reforms, let alone anything that alluded to the Thessaloniki Programme. Their stance was increasingly political and soon it became clear that they were not after an agreement but after a change of government. They were themselves clear that a Syriza Government was a danger for everything they represented, a danger to European capitalism as we know it. In order to bring down Syriza they were prepared to shed one after another the very values they were supposed to profess. Democracy, human rights, social cohesion, elections, discussion, reason – all went down the drain. What remained was just ‘rules’ that had to be applied by order of the German Finance Ministry even when they made no sense at all.

By the end of June the retreat of the Greek Government was almost complete. Nothing but a few vestiges of the Thessaloniki Programme remained. At that stage, the European bureaucrats decided that it was time to present the Greek Government with an ultimatum: either they would accept everything the ‘Institutions’ were demanding or face dire consequences. By then Greek banks ran dry of money because of a huge deposit flight and Greece was faced with forced closure of the Banks and total financial suffocation by the cutting off of ELA by the European Central Bank. To everybody’s surprise, the Greeks did not succumb. They called a referendum for the 5th of July to let the people decide whether to accept the ultimatum, the Government advising a NO vote. The banks were promptly shut down and European officials started openly to threaten Greeks that if they voted NO Grexit would be the outcome with untold suffering of the Greek people.

In the face of this open blackmail, in the face of a scare campaign by the Greek opposition parties and the subservient Greek press and other media, with the banks closed and capital controls slammed in place, the referendum returned a 61.3% NO vote. The Greek people had the fighting spirit to resist the whole of the European and Greek neo-liberal political and economic establishment and reassure the Greek Government that they were prepared to support it in its clash with superior forces despite the difficulties. The result of the referendum is proof, if one was needed, that business was not as usual for Greek capitalism; that revolutionary processes were fermenting underneath the political posturing in the Greek Parliament and the European institutions.


The elation of the left worldwide from the 5th of July triumph did not last long. It was clear that something was badly amiss when on the following morning Varoufakis offered his resignation considering it his ‘…duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum’. One would expect that the logical thing for Tsipras to do was to send Varoufakis back to the Eurogroup with the last parcel of Greek proposals that they rejected and ask them to negotiate on it. After all, they themselves had originally judged it to be a good basis for negotiation. Incredibly, Tsipras decided that there was no life outside the Euro and stated his willingness to start negotiations on a variant of the EU ultimatum, as Junker had rendered it before the referendum. Varoufakis’ departure was just another gesture of appeasement to Greece’s creditors.

The German Finance Minister did not miss the significance of Tsipras’ turnaround. It was a clear signal that the Greek Government had lost the will to resist. It was also betraying the main reason for their capitulation: fear of leaving the Euro. Wolfgang Schäuble in the first meeting of the Eurogroup after the referendum pounced on his prey at its most vulnerable. He suggested a temporary exit from the Euro for Greece, a ‘time-out’. For the first time in the negotiations Grexit was official policy, openly suggested by the most powerful country in the European Union. From there it was all downhill for the Greek Government. They had to, and did, accept what they had rejected only a few weeks ago, and more, in order to bring back any agreement, in order to continue to exist. Having forgone any means of resistance, they had to accept whatever they were told in full knowledge that it was unworkable, that it was disastrous for the Greek people, that it was the beginning of the end of Syriza’s Government and Syriza itself. The Party that came to power with the promise to end the memorandum had signed to become the vehicle for implementing its third, more vicious reincarnation.

Back in Greece confusion reigned. Had the turnaround occurred at any time before the referendum it would be understandable, either in terms of the KKE’s view that Syriza was just another cog in the EU imperialist machine or New Democracy’s and Pasok’s narrative that there is no alternative. Calling the referendum had shattered both these versions. Now, they were coming back with a vengeance. But then, why the referendum? As the bitter joke goes, the Greek people were asked if they wanted the ultimatum’s measures to be accepted and they answered ‘no, we want more’.

Varoufakis’ explanation of the climb-down points to the lack of a solid collective understanding within Syriza of the strategic implications of their actions. What up to the point of the referendum was the glue that held Syriza’s components together, suddenly became its greatest weakness. As long as the discussions in Europe could be seen as a battlefield, as long as resistance to the ‘Institutions’ continued, Syriza held together admirably. When the moment of truth arrived, the common ground simply evaporated.

On the night of the referendum I entered the prime ministerial office elated. I was travelling on a beautiful cloud pushed by the beautiful winds of the public’s enthusiasm for the victory of Greek democracy during that referendum. The moment I entered the prime ministerial office I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation, a negatively charged atmosphere and I was confronted with an air of defeat which was completely at odds with what was happening outside and at that point I had to put it to the prime minister ‘if you want to use the buzz of democracy outside the gates of this splendid building, you can count on me. If on the other hand you feel you cannot manage, you cannot handle this majestic no to a rather irrational preposition from our European partners, then I am going to simply steal into the night’. And I could see that he didn’t have what it took sentimentally, emotionally at that moment to carry that no vote into Europe to use it as a weapon. So I, in the best of all possible spirits, the two of us get along remarkably well and will continue to get on, I hope, I decided to give him the leeway that he needs in order to go back to Brussels and strike what he knows to be an impossible deal, a deal that is simply not viable.[11]

Varoufakis even claims that the Referendum was his own, personal idea:

Was it your idea personally to hold a referendum to ask the Greek people to vote on the conditions of this latest bailout?

Absolutely. And I’m exceptionally proud to have been part of a government that did what a democratic government has no alternative but to do. Let me put it very simply to you: on 25th June in a Eurogroup meeting, when I was still Finance Minister, I was presented with a comprehensive loan package as well as reform package for the Greek economy. We studied it very carefully and I asked myself and my colleagues asked themselves a very simple technical question: is this manageable? Is this viable? And I asked my partners in Europe: do you think this is viable? If we agree to this, are we going to turn the corner? Are we going to be able to repay the new debt that we are piling up on existing debt? And the answer we all gave, including the Institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, in all truth and honesty, was “No”. So we didn’t have a mandate to agree to effectively an ultimatum that wouldn’t render the Greek economy sustainable. And at the same time we didn’t have the mandate to cause a rupture with Europe. So what did we do? We put it to the Greek people and we said, “Well, this is the best deal we could bring back from Brussels and we are putting it to you. We are giving you all the facts and the figures and we’re asking you to exercise your responsible democratic right and tell us whether you want this deal or not.” And yet, Europe, or official Europe, in its infinite wisdom, decided that this was an unacceptable act on our part; that it was highly irresponsible to put to the Greek people a proposal that was put to us. That is a sad statement on the state of European democracy, I believe. [12]

These statements by the ex-Finance Minister of Greece give a rare glimpse into the workings of inner life in Syriza. The Coalition of Radical Left was just that: a coalition. As such it did not have a fully worked out long term programme, it was forging its policies through intense discussion among its various strands. A consensus could be reached on short term programmes, policies and tactics despite underlying differences. The force however that kept these differences at bay was the necessity to serve what they all believed in: their promise to secure a better life for the less fortunate vast majority of the Greek population. They could not break that promise, given the trust this majority placed in their Party catapulting it from a party of just over 4% to Government. Even now, after the capitulation of Tsipras and the harsh criticism of the agreement by the Left Platform, no one is eager to split the Party and destroy the dreams of the whole country and the European and international left.

Reform, Revolution and Socialist transformation

Syriza deployed quite a large spectrum of leftist tendencies ranging from the revolutionary far left to the outright reformist. Far left groups have tried repeatedly in the post-second world war period to create ‘mass revolutionary parties’ and prepare for the Revolution. They failed miserably in their attempt to attract workers to their cause and remained mostly small groupings working out programme after programme on the road to Socialism. Their failure usually led to extreme sectarianism and infighting that prevented any cooperation between them. The lack of any serious social basis denied them the possibility of grassroot accountability, something that often resulted in splits and perpetuated the fragmentation of the ‘revolutionary’ left.

Syriza provided a useful incubator for left wing politics. It operated a virtually open door policy of entry and exit of revolutionary tendencies, leftist intellectuals and other individuals. When Pasok betrayed the hopes of the Greek people that gave it an electoral win of almost 44% and entered into coalition with New Democracy under Papademos, Syriza was the obvious alternative on the left. By 2012 the party was a serious contender for the Government with Pasok voters turning to Syriza by the thousands. Inevitably, the new make-up of Syriza’s voters was partly reflected in the leadership. Reformists of all sorts flocked into the ranks of Syriza and claimed a share in the decision making process.

Syriza’s tendencies were roughly grouped in three categories. The Left, mainly consisting of revolutionary groups and Marxist intellectuals, the Right, probably a majority, following a more conventional agenda and a centrist leadership under Tsipras. The latter usually balanced between the other two groups calling the shots in the decision making process. One should not see this as an opportunistic stance but as a genuine way of finding common ground in a fast-developing and demanding situation. The differences were not stemming from personal rivalries but were real, political differences that needed resolution in order to move forward.

This classification however is far too rough to give an accurate idea of what Syriza was. Real life politics is too complex to be just assigned a left-right label. Varoufakis himself is a good example of such complexities. He was a late addition to the Syriza personnel and was considered by the Left as probably one of the most right-wing reformists in the party. His passionate opposition to exit from the Euro placed him, confusingly, alongside the ‘Eurolovers’ of New Democracy, Pasok and Demar. Yet, he turned out to be the most consistent, passionate and effective fighter for the ending of the memoranda and quit his post as a Minister rather than sign what he considered an unacceptable deal.

In fact Varoufakis seems to have provided the backbone to the Greek negotiation strategy and carried Syriza along with him. True to his beliefs he did not consider possible at that time a change into a better, socialist, system. So he set out in a course of changing European policies, a course that looked as if he was trying to convince or to threaten European leaders into such a change. Most analysts thought that his real threat was Grexit and the problems that would cause to the financial stability of the Eurozone. As mentioned above, this is a very superficial view. His most important threat was the realization by the Greek and European peoples of what the realities of the European project are and their mobilization into changing these realities. In this last attempt he was triumphantly successful. The whole discourse about European integration has changed radically. Europe will never be the same again.

The Syriza Government experience is essentially a new exercise in strategic planning for radical politics. History never waits for revolutionaries to work out the perfect plan with all the possible contingencies before it moves. Neither does it move when the plan has been worked out and printed in neat booklets. Political actors have to forge policies as events unfold, as needs arise. To paraphrase Marx, people write their own history, but not in conditions of their own making. It is futile to have a detailed plan of what must be done unless we know the details of the specific situation. This cannot be done in advance. Every situation is so complex that we cannot predict the exact conditions except in very general terms. Historical experience shows that revolutions wreak havoc with the plans of revolutionaries. Any plans made before the revolution breaks out are virtually useless unless radically adjusted to fit the realities of the moment. Strange as it may seem, probably the best example of this is Lenin himself. In January 1917, barely more than a month before the Russian February Revolution, he spoke to a meeting of young workers in the Zurich People’s House and said:

We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution. But I can, I believe, express the confident hope that the youth which is working so splendidly in the socialist movement of Switzerland, and of the whole world, will be fortunate enough not only to fight, but also to win, in the coming proletarian revolution.[13]

Just three months later he was in Russia proposing his famous April Theses which constituted a complete overhaul of the programme of the Bolshevik Party. In July 1917 the Bolsheviks, despite refusing to support the Provisional Government, opposed the call for its overthrow realising that the working class was not yet ready to take power. Nonetheless, they took part in the uprising side by side with the masses while at the same time explaining that such an uprising was wrong at that time. After the defeat of the uprising Lenin went into hiding in Finland and Trotsky faced prosecution in the courts. While in hiding Lenin wrote State and Revolution, arguably the most libertarian of his texts. In late August the chief of the Russian army, Kornilov, attempted a coup against the Kerensky Government. The Bolsheviks, despite their persecution, supported the Government in suppressing the coup. They went on to secure a majority in the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers and on October 25 took power.

This is hardly a story of a well thought out plan applied with precision. If we add to that the fact that all the crucial decisions were taken amidst strong controversies, we realise that it is only the successful tuning of Bolshevik policies with the changing mood of the masses that led to the successful taking of power. Even the critical decision to proceed with taking power on the 25th of October was publicly opposed by Kamenev and Zinoviev, two of the highest ranking cadres in Bolshevik party. In contrast to later Stalinist practice and despite the harsh criticism of their action by Lenin, the two were given ministerial positions in the first Bolshevik government.

Relating the story of the Russian revolution is relevant here because of its parallels with the development of events in Greece after Syriza’s victory in January. Parallels not in a superficial sense of specific actions but in the deeper sense of decision making within the process of a revolutionary rising of the people. It is only possible to understand the events during the Syriza Government if we consider them within the framework of a revolutionary process. Syriza’s win was not the result of normal parliamentary processes, it was the result of a people rising against the established order, Greek and European alike. A rising that has its roots back in 2008 with the Alexis Gregoropoulos protests and continued with huge rallies, general strikes, the Syntagma aganaktismenoi, violent demonstrations, pupil and student unrest – a mass movement that started as a spontaneous, Occupy style protest and morphed in 2012 into a very potent political-parliamentary mass drive to take power with Syriza at its forefront.

The real task of a revolutionary is not to draw up a programme for running society in a socialist way. The real task is to make the masses part of this planning, to raise the consciousness of the masses so that they understand the realities of the present state of affairs and chart their course to a better society. This is what Lenin and the Bolsheviks did between February and October 1917, this is what Syriza was very successful in doing up until the morning of the 6th of July when Tsipras threw in the towel and changed the course of history.

Could he have done otherwise? As always with counter-factual histories the answer must be cautious and full of conditionals. Any specific action triggers responses that cannot be predicted with any certainty. Soon, the alternative futures determined by this action fork into a multitude of possibilities leaving us with chaotic predictions of what would have happened if a different decision had been made. Nevertheless, at least one alternative course must be considered, if anything because it was the natural thing to do and was also very close to be the one chosen. What would happen if Tsipras had followed Varoufakis’ advice and ‘…used the buzz of democracy outside the gates… [and] …carried that NO vote into Europe to use it as a weapon’?

We should remember that by that time the rift between the Europeans and the Americans was becoming serious with the latter forcing the publication of the IMF report on the viability of the Greek debt before the Greek referendum. We should also remember that serious cracks were beginning to surface within the European front, with Berlin and Paris drifting apart. The European bureaucrats were already seriously worried by Schäuble’s intentions to force Grexit, worries that were primarily political and not only financial. In these conditions, a firm stand by Greece would certainly further destabilise the austerity discourse in Europe with a real possibility of a serious clash within the European establishment.

We can safely assume that Tsipras dismissed such possibility as unlikely, he feared that the result of following a defiant course would lead to financial suffocation of Greece ordered by Merkel and Schäuble and carried out by the ECB and the Eurogroup and that would lead to Greece leaving the Eurozone. He considered the future of Greece outside the Euro as catastrophic, with good reason. The Left Platform’s hope that with a national currency it would be possible to follow a different fiscal policy and succeed in competing in the world market is just that – hope. If Greece were to leave the Euro with the consent of the other Eurozone countries, it would be under strict conditions that would be as harsh, if not more so, as the present ones. If it were to leave defaulting on its debts the Europeans would be even harsher.

What then should we expect the Syriza Government to do? Having secured the support of the Greek people the case can be made that it could press immediately and demand to continue the negotiations starting with its latest proposals that were rejected by the Eurogroup. In all probability the Europeans would not respond positively and would turn off any financial or other assistance. Greece would then default on its loans and some stop-gap measure of the type Varoufakis described for overcoming liquidity issues could be put in operation and try to survive a bit longer. Meanwhile a wide ranging programme of legislation could be pursued in order to take control of the economy and redress the suffering caused by the crisis for the less well off. Nationalisation of the Banks, reform of the tax system, increase in minimum wages, halt of the privatisation process etc. would be welcome by the people and increase their support to the Government.

This of course is the short or, at best, middle term optimistic scenario. Such a government could only survive for a short time amid a hostile Europe, a hostile world. In this time the hope is that it would attract the support of the European masses and form an example for them to follow. A domino effect of the kind we witnessed a few years ago during the Arab Spring is not beyond the bounds of reality. Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and probably others face problems very similar to Greece that could be overcome by such drastic measures. France, Britain and even Germany should not be considered immune to change either. In the context of such a European conflagration the future begins at last to look brighter.

If however Greece remained isolated the future would be bleak indeed. It would soon degenerate into a backward society, poverty and famine would be the order of the day. If the Syriza Government was not overthrown, either through some sort of unrest or outright military coup or even foreign intervention, it would itself probably be forced into increasingly autocratic measures and police repression that would make today’s ills seem benign by comparison. After all that was the fate of the Russian revolution after the failure to spread the Revolution to the rest of Europe and the rise of Stalin. While not condoning Tsipras’ capitulation, we should understand the sort of thinking that may have prompted him to follow such a course.

Is there Second Life for Syriza?

Political leaders sometimes make decisions that decide the course of history. Tsipras decision to capitulate may prove to be one such decision. The decision could have been different and the implications of this have been discussed briefly above. Varoufakis too thinks a different path was possible. When confronted with his previous belief that a collapse of Europe would ‘unleash dangerously regressive forces’ he answered:

I don’t believe in deterministic versions of history. Syriza now is a very dominant force. If we manage to get out of this mess united, and handle properly a Grexit …it would be possible to have an alternative.[14]

Here Varoufakis is displaying a rare understanding of the significance of the specific objective situation in decision making. What in 2013 was a bleak realization that the only possible result of the collapse of Europe would be a relapse to barbarism, was no longer as certain in 2015. Something had changed: Syriza became a ‘dominant force’.

Within Syriza the Left Platform is already attempting to put together a programme that would be incompatible with the Syriza Government’s continued existence. With elections on the cards for this Fall they are contemplating a split to contest them on a radical programme of opposition to the agreement with Greece’s creditors. While this would probably attract a sizable portion of Syriza cadres, it is questionable that it would represent a significant proportion of today’s Syriza supporters. We should not forget that the jump from four to forty percent did happen overnight. The new supporters were won to the Thessaloniki Programme, not some outlandish socialist transformation project. The leaders they came to trust and love were Tsipras and Varoufakis rather than Lafazanis. The first could conceivably win the crowds to a socialist programme, something very doubtful in the case of the latter. This is even truer of European societies following the Greek drama with unabated interest.

The Left Platform is not a coherent crowd either. Within Syriza they can be a formidable force, they can display a fairly strong collective will. It is however doubtful if this can continue once they lose their binding agent, their opposition to the Party leadership. Once outside, divisions will start to surface. They will be of course able to concoct a common platform for the elections and their experience within Syriza would help them to run a collection of tendencies as a Party. If however they fail to make an impact, if they regress to a 4% grouping, their most probable future is fragmentation and disintegration. In such a scenario, and if no other serious left forces remain in the Party, the Syriza leadership will most likely move more to the centre, slowly but surely becoming integrated into the neoliberal capitalist project.

Things need not however go down that road. Tsipras and his government are in all probability not yet comfortable with the policies forced on them by the European and Greek ruling classes. They are still strongly bound to their Party and the masses who voted for them. Implementing the new memorandum will not follow a smooth path. If there is something almost everybody agrees is that the agreement is unworkable. New crises lurk at every turn of events. Whether the next clash will be between the Greek Government and its creditors or between Greek protesters and the police, Tsipras will again and again be called to make a decision on where to stand: on the side of Revolution or on the side of Reaction? This is why the Left, both inside and outside Syriza, should consider first the possibility of making the second option more difficult for him rather than pushing him there.

Of course a split in Syriza is not something intrinsically evil. If there is a social basis for such a split, if there is a real possibility that a new formation with a better programme and the ability to rally the masses can replace it, it would be the duty of the left to split. In the present conditions this seems more of a fantasy rather than a reasonable perspective.

Themos Demetriou
14 August 2015



No sooner this text had been finalised and Tsipras submitted his resignation to the President of the Greek Republic and asked him to dissolve Parliament and call early elections. The members of the Left Platform promptly left the Syriza parliamentary group and announces the formation of a new Party under the name Popular Unity in order to contest the elections on an anti-memorandum platform.

These events seem to move in the direction of the most pessimistic scenario for the future of Syriza as a Party of the left. Tsipras seems determined to purge the Party from the irritating voices reminding him of last year’s march of hope and the MPs of the Popular Unity are taking a high risk gamble pushing him in that direction in the hope of replacing Syriza as a real force in the Greek left.

One can only hope that the magnificent force that was Syriza in the last period does not disintegrate completely under the burden of defeat and a new left emerges that will take at heart the lessons of the defeat and pick up the battle against austerity, neoliberalism and capitalism.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Europe there are encouraging signs for a resurgence of the left to replace the rise of right wing extremism as a result of the madness of austerity and neoliberalism. Syriza’s battle may still prove to be the harbinger of change in this new era of capitalist instability.

21 August 2015

[1] Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch ‘The Real Plan B: The New Greek Marathon’, Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 1145, July 17, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The term was coined by Olga Demetriou. See her ‘Modest Radicalism in the light of events in Greece’ a presentation at a Cypriots’ Voice Symposium on 5.3.2015. For an early treatment of the subject see my Reform and Revolution in the 21st Century: Understanding the Present Situation in Greece, March 2015

[4] In favour of Varoufakis’ Plan B, by Paul Tyson, http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/08/01/in-favour-of-varoufakis-plan-b-by-paul-tyson

[5] How British universities spread misery around the world, James Bartholomew, The Spectator, 25 July 2015

[6] Of course, this is the benign, European version, of the story. The view is quite different from the vantage point of Iraq, Libya, Syria etc.

[7] Slavoj Žižek on Greece: This is a chance for Europe to awaken, New Statesman, 6 July 2015

[8] In my March analysis of the Greek situation, titled Reform and Revolution in the 21st Century, I drew the parallel between Varoufakis role in the negotiations with the Europeans and Alkibiades’ inception of the 415 BC Sicilian Expedition by Athens. Subsequent events strongly reinforce this parallel.

[9] Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist, The Guardian Wednesday 18 February 2015

[10] Ibid.

[11] Varoufakis interview with Phillip Adams, http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/07/14/on-the-euro-summit-agreement-with-greece-my-resignation-and-what-it-all-means-for-greece-and-europe-in-conversation-with-phillip-adams/

[12] Varoufakis interview to Emma Alberici, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-23/interview-yanis-varoufakis/6644330

[13] V. I.   Lenin, Lecture on the 1905 Revolution, delivered in German on January 9 (22), 1917 at a meeting of young workers in the Zurich People’s House.

[14] Yanis Varoufakis full transcript: our battle to save Greece, New Statesman, 13 July, 2015


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“For the sovereignty and dignity of our people”. Alexis Tsipras, June 27

The historic speech of Alexis Tsipras




Fellow Greeks,
For six months now the Greek government has been waging a battle in conditions of unprecedented economic suffocation to implement the mandate you gave us on January 25.

The mandate we were negotiating with our partners was to end the austerity and to allow prosperity and social justice to return to our country.

It was a mandate for a sustainable agreement that would respects both democracy and common European rules and lead to the final exit from the crisis.

Throughout this period of negotiations, we were asked to implement the agreements concluded by the previous governments with the Memoranda, although they categorically condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.

However, not for a moment did we think of surrendering, that is to betray your trust.

After five months of hard bargaining, our partners, unfortunately, issued at the Eurogroup the day before yesterday an ultimatum to Greek democracy and to the Greek people.

An ultimatum that is contrary to the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European project.

They asked the Greek government to accept a proposal that accumulates a new unsustainable burden on the Greek people and undermines the recovery of the Greek economy and society, a proposal that not only perpetuates the state of uncertainty but accentuates even more the social inequalities.

The proposal of institutions includes: measures leading to further deregulation of the labor market, pension cuts, further reductions in public sector wages and an increase in VAT on food, dining and tourism, while eliminating tax breaks for the Greek islands.

These proposals directly violate the European social and fundamental rights: they show that concerning work, equality and dignity, the aim of some of the partners and institutions is not a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties but the humiliation the entire Greek people.

These proposals mainly highlight the insistence of the IMF in the harsh and punitive austerity and make more timely than ever the need for the leading European powers to seize the opportunity and take initiatives which will finally bring to a definitive end the Greek sovereign debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries and threatening the very future of European integration.

Fellow Greeks,

Right now weighs on our shoulders the historic responsibility towards the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people for the consolidation of democracy and national sovereignty. Our responsibility for the future of our country.

And this responsibility requires us to answer the ultimatum on the basis of the sovereign will of the Greek people.

A short while ago at the Cabinet meeting I suggested the organization of a referendum, so that the Greek people are able to decide in a sovereign way.

The suggestion was unanimously accepted.

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will be urgently convened to ratify the proposal of the Cabinet for a referendum next Sunday, July 5th on the question of the acceptance or the rejection of the proposal of institutions.

I have already informed about my decision the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany, the President of the ECB, and tomorrow my letter will formally ask the EU leaders and institutions to extend for a few days the current program in order for the Greek people to decide, free from any pressure and blackmail, as required by the Constitution of our country and the democratic tradition of Europe.

Fellow Greeks,

To the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

I am personally committed to respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever that is.

And I’m absolutely confident that your choice will honor the history of our country and send a message of dignity to the world.

In these critical moments, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of peoples. That in Europe there are no owners and guests.

Greece is and will remain an integral part of Europe and Europe is an integral part of Greece. But without democracy, Europe will be a Europe without identity and without a compass.

I invite you all to display national unity and calm in order to take the right decisions.

For us, for future generations, for the history of the Greeks.

For the sovereignty and dignity of our people.

Athens, June 27, 1 am.

Translated by Stathis Kouvelakis


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To Stay Or To Leave? The Dilemma Of Grexit

“It is exactly the absence of possible solutions under capitalism that is causing the despair of the strategists of capital, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. They continue to insist on economic formulas which had the potential to provide solutions, in some cases and under certain conditions, in the period before the 2008 crisis, as in the period prior to 1929. Such formulas were unfair to the working class through slashing their living standards, but they could help to reduce unemployment. After 2008 though, just as after 1929, such policies are unable to provide results, since the capitalist economic system has once more exhausted itself – another legacy of the post-1929 period, and of Marxist analysis.”…

This article was published on June 18, on “The Socialist Network” website


 The Dilemma Of Grexit

In these years of austerity Europe found itself in the worst economic position since the end of the 2nd World War. In Greece this policy has caused an economic catastrophe similar to the one that the crash of 1929 inflicted on the United States.

Exit from the Euro, however, cannot in any way be an answer to the crisis. Instead, it will deprive all possibilities for treatment of the disease.

Increased independence in constructing one’s own economic policy is one of the basic arguments of those supporting Exit from the Euro. But such an argument does not stand on anything that could be called solid ground.

“The two most striking trends characterising the contemporary world economic landscape are globalisation and financialisation.” 1

The real meaning of these trends though, which all admit in words, should be clear: There can be no insulation or protection of any national economy from the daily developments, whims and storms of the world economy. The neoliberal period especially, can be seen as the extreme manifestation of this reality.

With the collapse of Lehmann Brothers in 2008, the collapse of a single bank in the US, the financial system of all countries in the world almost completely froze, and without exception. The situation was saved at the last moment, not through the independent policy reactions of the different countries, but through the largest financial subsidy package in US history.
The crisis in South East Asia in the summer of 1997, the deepest in modern times before 2008, “marked a structural break in the thinking behind the euro project… – when one Asian currency after another, from the Thai Baht to the South Korean Won, were subjected to massive speculative attacks and forced off their dollar pegs and into free-fall devaluation with catastrophic domestic economic effects – they realized the importance of currency mass in the new global financial reality.” 2
With the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the African National Congress’ss march to power, the leadership of the ANC was confronted with realities that paralyzed every attempt to implement their program, in the center of which was the nationalization of the banks, of the mining industry and of the monopolistic corporations of the country. “When the government tried to implement the visions of “The freedom Charter”, it discovered that real power was in the hands of others … every time a top official of the party implied that “The freedom Charter” might be applied, the markets reacted with a shock, causing free fall of the rand (the country’s currency)” 3
All national economies are subject to the will of a dozen Euro-American banks and to the effects of any negative developments on the international level.

The size of an economy is important affecting its ability to resist to external pressures of any sort. This is especially so at a time when economies are so interconnected and financial institutions have so much power. It was exactly to create such a large-sized economy that the Eurozone was set up, “when the French and certain other European governments saw what happened across South East Asia that summer (1997)” 4

Greece, Cyprus and any of the other Eurozone countries, are a huge step forward in regard to their ability to cope with the global economic crisis; a huge step that is determined by the size of the Eurozone. On this scale there is the potential for radical economic changes that could reverse the present economic picture throughout Europe.

The Eurozone’s fragmentation on the other hand would represent a similarly huge step backwards. A step at the head of which the most conservative, right-wing and fascist political formations would place themselves, exactly the forces that are already the most vocal in supporting the independent road for national salvation.

Absolute inadequacy of the capitalist recipes

A return to the national currency, its supporters maintain, would provide, together with policy independence, the ability to compete with other countries by offering cheaper products and services. According to this argument, the exit of Greece from the Euro and its return to its old currency, the Drachma, would enable Greece to devalue its new currency and thereby better compete with other countries such as Portugal – generally the products and services of the weakest European countries, since Greece could never compete with the Germans. An Exit from the Euro would take place in order to improve the Greek economy, reduce unemployment and so on, at the expense of the Portuguese economy, at the expense of Portuguese employment and the already dramatically reduced standard of living there. The only result of such a policy would be a reaction of Portugal along the same lines, something that would exacerbate the economic downfall, the nationalist sentiments and put the possibility of war on to the agenda.

The Troika’s policy of the Memorandum policies and austerity aims at “increasing competitiveness”. But “increasing competitiveness” is also the aim of Exiting the Euro. In the first case, by reducing labour costs through wage and benefit cuts. In the second by reducing labour costs through depreciation of the currency’s value, i.e. depreciation of the real value of salaries and allowances. Thus the Memorandum and Exiting the Euro are both capitalist methods designed to achieve similar ends through different routes. And to solve the crisis at a time when there is no such a possibility.

It is exactly the absence of possible solutions under capitalism that is causing the despair of the strategists of capital, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. They continue to insist on economic formulas which had the potential to provide solutions, in some cases and under certain conditions, in the period before the 2008 crisis, as in the period prior to 1929. Such formulas were unfair to the working class through slashing their living standards, but they could help to reduce unemployment. After 2008 though, just as after 1929, such policies are unable to provide results, since the capitalist economic system has once more exhausted itself – another legacy of the post-1929 period, and of Marxist analysis.

If the Exit from the Euro could provide a solution to the crisis, then someone needs to explain why the crisis is global and concerns all countries, the US and Japan included. Countries that possess their own currencies still, cannot find a way out of the economic mire, despite the fact that they are pursuing all possible expansionary policies. And despite the fact that their debt, especially that of Japan, has risen to extravagant levels, levels higher than those of 2008, which were put forward as the reason for the crisis.

International cooperation

“If countries such as Greece or Portugal or Spain give up the euro and return to their separate national currencies, any hope of a radical change in the economic direction of Europe will be crushed because that change requires international solidarity and that solidarity in turn requires the euro.” 5

It’s exactly such solidarity that is needed today. International solidarity is not a romantic idea for socialist dreamers, but a necessity spelled out by the most concrete fact of our times: that its opposite – national competition, this same competition that originally gave capitalism an enormous advantage over all social systems that preceded it, albeit with enormous social suffering – such national competition can now only lead to disaster.

To save the economy of Greece is to save the economy of Europe. There is no future for the Greek economy in the middle of a capitalist Europe, even less in the middle of a capitalist Europe after the 2008 crisis. Whatever measures Greece takes, even if it were to nationalise the banking system and all key industries of the economy, Greece would be doomed if it were to move alone.

It is extremely important that the SYRIZA government moves along these lines, at least for the time being. The Syriza leadership has repeatedly made it clear that there is no solution to the crisis outside of the Eurozone. They have repeatedly made it clear that there is no solution for Europe either as long as there is no solution to the Greek crisis. And with these basic acknowledgements at the fore, they keep going on with the negotiations, negotiations that they have handled pretty well from the point of view of winning the sympathy of the European masses. The Greek government has shown that they are not the intransigent ones, that it is the European institutions which are insisting on continuing a program that has failed miserably, a program that has devastated Greek society.

The Break up of Negotiations Was Unavoidable

We did not believe that there was a possibility for an agreement between the institutions of Capitalist Europe and SYRIZA. Capitalist Europe’s plan is to humiliate SYRIZA as an example to all the others. From the perspective of the capitalist elite, they do not have many other options. Even a small reversal of their policies would put into question everything which they argued for so arrogantly in the previous period, insisting that ‘there was no alternative’. Even a small reversal in their policies would be a signal to the European masses that ‘there is an alternative’, a signal that could call forth an explosion of struggle against the austerity programme.

We are fast approaching the moment of truth. Greece may soon find itself out of the Eurozone as a result of a conscious decision of the capitalist institutions of Europe. But it is one thing to be expelled from Europe after you have defended the basic demands of the people of Greece, demands that many other European working people equally consider important and unquestionable. It is a totally different matter to cultivate the illusion that there is a solution to the crisis outside of the Eurozone. That there is even a remote chance of success on an independent national path.

If Greece is thrown out of the Eurozone, then it will have to intensify its appeal to the European masses to the highest possible degree, with the hope that it won’t be long before the European people come to its rescue, not just for Greece’s sake but for their own too.

This article is part of ongoing debate we have been organising on this website – see ‘Debate: What Way Forward for Greece?‘ for earlier material.
You can contact Soteris directly about this contribution at: vlachos.soteris@cytanet.com.cy


1. Three Myths Behind the Case for Grexit: A Destructive Analysis, by Photis Lysandrou Associate Professor of Economics, SOAS and Research Professor, City University, London
2. The same
3. “The Shock Doctrine”, Naomi Klein, Greek edition, p. 266 p. 282.
4. Three Myths Behind the Case for Grexit…
5. The same


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Soteris Vlachos lives in Cyprus, he is a political economist, a member of The Socialist Expression and a founding member of the Bi-Communal Peace Initiative.

Many of his articles are published in “Haravgi” and “Gnomi” newspapers.

He is a co-author of the book “Προδoμενη Εξεγερση” and the author of five booklets on Global Economy.











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Nicholas Levis reports from Greece – JUNE 21, 2015

Nicholas Levis

Nicholas Levis

I attended the pro-Syriza rally last Thursday, and ended up having drinks with Paul Mason! Yes, with ND taking the streets for the first time, the pro-austerity rally on Friday was bigger, based on the pictures. (If you saw their signs in English, the joke making the rounds is that the rally was sponsored by Google Translate. For Greeks: Τόρα τους λέμε Μενουμευρωπαίους.)

Anti austerity Protest

Anti austerity Protest

But there was not much difference. Both rallies were well under 10,000. Both looked like unusually middle-aged crowds for demos. Youth may seem largely indifferent, but it’s unimaginable that with 50% unemployment among them for years they feel any stake in favoring austerity. The danger is that the government has not been inspiring people and the general sense is some rotten deal is coming.

It has impressed me that people are not generally acting or talking as if the banks might be closed tomorrow. Yakkety-yak on trains and buses, small talk I overhear among Greeks at the university, is almost all stink-normal stuff. Nothing about the crisis except as a kind of weather. Perhaps there is a popular overload after all these years of the same shit. People have told me (and I’ve also heard it on the TV talk rounds) that Tsipras/Varoufakis have already signed Memorandum III with the Troika and everything happening on the news is just theater. Others, meanwhile, think Tsipras made a secret deal with Russia/BRICS.

In any case, about a billion a day are being withdrawn from Greek banks, says the news. The Greek central bank (under leadership appointed by ND the week before the election) joined the ECB in stoking panic about a bank run. Naked threats. Today the monthly Avgi poll shows increased support for the government’s course and has prompted complaints from ND. There’s a lot of talk, but it’s all talk so far, about the IMF being cut out of tomorrow’s Eurogroup talks in preparation for a separate deal with the EU. The IMF in particular is being blamed as the architects of the memoranda and austerity policy.

All last week I’ve been watching the Vouli (Parliament) channel, which I’ve taken to calling Zoe TV, because she really is a star. If I might be allowed a bit of hero worship! The Debt Truth commission and a separate one on the events of 2010 have been covered round the clock. There is an oft-played commercial from Spain, of people in various city squares reading a message of solidarity in Greek and repeating that the debt is odious and should be written off. The truth commission, as you all know, has pretty much called it all odious, and you can find their report online. The 2010 commission has had testimony from economists who were employed by ELSTAT (the Greek statistics bureau) at the time, who are presenting a new story about what happened. According to this, the sudden spike in debt and deficit after the election of Little Georgie Papandreou was not simply a discovery of crooked deals that had been kept off the books by the prior governments, as was claimed, and as we’ve believed. On the contrary, the commission is finding that under the direction of EUROSTAT and the ministry, the ELSTAT economists were forced to violate EU accounting rules in force since 1995 to make the deficit look much bigger than it was, through a variety of tricks. They were let go soon after. So what proportion of the spike was because of prior camouflage to meet Maastricht criteria and what was fabricated by crooked accounting on the spot is not clear. Either way, big lies were employed to make the crisis much worse.

The message appears to have finally sunk in here and internationally, as we have known all along, that there was never a bailout – that 90% of the new debt went into the rescue of European banks, and never reached the Greek economy. German taxpayers were tapped to bail out German banks, and Greeks were made responsible for paying it back even as the austerity program (intentionally) shrank the economy made it impossible for them to sustain payments.

The 2010 committee’s testimony prompted conniptions later on the floor from Loverdos, the PASOK politician whom you may remember as one of the ministers behind the disgusting election maneuver in 2012 detailed in the great film by Zoe Mavroudi, Ruins. (The police rounded up hundreds of women at random on the street, gave them forced HIV tests, and charged those who tested positive on assault, on the basis of this crazy story about prostitutes luring good Greek family fathers – hundreds of them, none of whom ever appeared – so as to intentionally give them AIDS.)

Samaras is trying to get Potami and PASOK to hold a leadership summit, and it’s reported that he’s met behind the scenes with the former prime minister and originator of neo-liberal economics in Greece, Simitis (who got out early enough that his shit supposedly doesn’t stink), who has a Greek-German background and is seen as a backchannel. Oh, and more bullshit is flying about how Merkel and Schäuble are split. No problem in finding either narrative: EU about to fold in terror of euro breakup, EU absolutely iron in its determination to cause the Syriza government to fall as the only priority.

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Zoe Konstantopoulou to Speak at The GCAS Conference in Athens / AKNY is sponsoring GCAS conference


Zoe Konstantopoulou, President of the Greek Parliament.

Zoe Konstantopoulou,
President of the Greek Parliament.

The Global Center for Advanced Studies’ conference, Democracy Rising   announced that the President of the Greek Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou will address the conference

https://globalcenterforadvancedstudies.org/president-of-the-greek-parliament-zoe-konstantopoulou-to-speak-at-democracy-rising/ Continue reading

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