Photo: Reuters. The picture above appeared in this article.
10 July, 2015
This past Thursday, the Greek government represented by Alexis Tsipras handed over the final proposal to the Troika.
In return for a bailout of 50 billion euros for the next three years and a short-term financial bridge, Tsipras agreed to major cuts, raises in VAT which will affect negatively most Greeks, and slashing of pensions which were already cut by 50 percent since the first bailout.
Just 6 days ago, this past Sunday, 61 percent of the Greek public voted for its dignity and against capitulation to the Troika, despite the fact that they were placed under economic siege and financial blackmail.
The majority of the Greek people voted against a proposal which would cut 8 billion euros of public funds.
Now Tsipras offered the Eurogroup 13 billion euros in a new proposal.
It remains to be seen whether the German Bundestag will accept this capitulation.
As far as Tsipras is concerned, however, the decision has been made. Many people on the international Left are naturally sympathetic to Syriza and to Alexis Tsipras. They understand the immense pressure he was placed under, and respect the fact that he managed to take a tough negotiating position with the Troika entirely on his own.
Yet, what they fail to understand is that Tsipras is not Greece, and Tsipras is not Syriza.
The last proposal cannot be defined as anything else but capitulation. This is due to the simple fact that it would involve major cuts in pensions and a rise in VAT while Greece would cut 13 billion euros from its budget, which is far more than the original 8 billion that the Greek public voted against. This is not just a capitulation, but a trampling upon the results of the Greek referendum and the will of the people. Germany said it will consider some kind of debt relief, but recent months have made it increasingly clear that the neoliberal austerity intentions of Germany regarding the Southern countries of Europe have not only not gone away but have intensified. Tsipras’ new proposal has the potential to split the party in the near future.
Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who advocated for an Exit as soon a possible, may resign if the proposal proceeds unchanged. MPs Costas Lapavitsas and Thanasis Petrakos and other figures such as member of the Syriza Central Committee Sophie Papadogiannis, wrote a letter to Tsipras in which they state that “an exit from the eurozone under the current circumstances is a difficult but a realistic process that will allow the country to follow a different path, away from that of the unacceptable programs that will emulate the Juncker proposal.” They call for reforming the banks, ending austerity, exiting the Euro and defaulting on the debt. Rather than heeding their call and using the impressive momentum gained by the defiance of the Troika on Sunday’s referendum, Tsipras had a Blairite response. “Between a bad and a catastrophic choice, we are forced to choose the first,” he said. “It is not easy but we have to.” Tsipras said Syriza voters must approve the proposal. One may argue that it is unfair to expect Tsipras to exit the Euro. This is due to the immense pressure he faced and since he could not force the Greek public to leave the Euro against their wishes. Indeed, most Greeks oppose austerity while are supportive of remaining in the Euro perhaps due to sentimental reasons and the prestige they believe it offers. Here lies the error of those who justify Tsipras in this area, however. The goal of a genuine leader is to express new potential prospects and to educate the public about new horizons with the goal of inspiring them and gaining their support. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pursued this policy of being transparent and clear with the public as to what is at stake. The goal of a genuine leader is not to allow the public to lead from below while keeping them in the dark on what his or her plans would mean.
It is clear, however, that as long as Greece remains in the Euro, it will never manage to pay the debt and its economy will never recover. Leadership is not to accept such a tragic and declining trajectory at face value and offer no resistance in its path. Tsipras’ trajectory therefore sends a double message. First, that despite the popular ‘No’ vote in the referendum and the strong stance taken during negotiations, the bottom line is that there must be a capitulation. This sends the unmistakable message that resistance is futile. Precisely since Tsipras arguably tried and failed, his capitulation not only discourages other Greeks from pursuing a path out of austerity but also demoralizes parties across the continent such as Podemos who may have more courageous ambitions. Secondly, by not educating the public about the potential of an Exit, or at the very least by not being straightforward about the fact that the economy can never recover under austerity, Tsipras has betrayed the public trust placed in him. He was supposed to lead, not to be dragged by circumstances.
The recent turnaround by Tsipras did not catch me entirely by surprise. On April 1, 2015, I interviewed Dimitris Kazakis, an opposition leader and socialist economist. He predicted that Tsipras will sign a new memorandum by July, even if he needs to make a break with the Left platform of Syria. He did not rule out a coalition between Syriza and New Democracy and even Golden Dawn, arguing that they would claim that this is a “special situation.”
In his view, Tsipras and others “do not have the guts” to break from the Euro.
There are those who believe that we must wait and see what Tsipras has in mind. It is true that perhaps Tsipras has a complicated strategy in mind such as defaulting later on in surprise or radicalizing the public by forcing it to taste of the Troika’s bitter medicine. However, ever since Tsipras was elected, and also later when he agreed to 70 percent of the memorandum, accepted a capitulation on February 20, and finally trampled on the public referendum most recently, those voices that called for a “wait and see” approach remained unchanged, while the fruits of such an approach remain to be discovered. What they did succeed in, however, is to granting legitimacy to a left-wing party while it adopts de facto austerity and neoliberal reform. Understandably, people may view Tsipras with admiration, yet when he pursues policies which are likely to impoverish further the elderly and the youth, personality worship serves to distract from the real and pressing issues we face and from the suffering encountered by the Greek people.
The possibility of Tsipras splitting Syriza and forming a coalition with New Democracy, Pasok, To Potami or even Golden Dawn is very realistic. In such pressing times, one need not engage in a demonization of Tsipras due to the disappointment caused by misplaced hope, but one must also mature beyond childish expectations and realize that Tsipras faced immense pressures and that the goal now must be to help the Greek people, not defend Tsipras’ harmful mistakes, whether they are intentional or not. As things stand now, Greece will be subject to continued neoliberal austerity as its assets are privatized rapidly and it is pillaged of all that remains, while its citizens sink deeper and deeper into poverty. It has lost its sovereignty and its independence and is de facto occupied by the troika. In light of this gloomy yet sadly realistic state of circumstances, the most obvious action that should be taken by the Greek government would be to default on its debt, reintroduce the drachma, protect it from speculation by not placing it in the international exchange, and receive heavy investment from the BRICS in reviving the economy and investing in new infrastructure. Such a process will not be simple but it provides a significant glimmer of hope and is the way out from the current impasse according to Lapavitsas and others. Indeed, even Varoufakis opposes the last proposal made by Tsipras and may also be why he resigned unexpectedly.
The Greek people have suffered a tremendous amount over the past 5 years. This past week they reacted in courage and defiance by voting No to austerity. They deserve a leadership which will recognize their potential, will believe in them, and will be strong enough to take actions in defiance of the Troika, not only speak a tough language. They deserve an honest and transparent leadership. One day ago, I asked a friend who was a member of the Hellenic Debt Truth committee what he believe must be the response now. He told me he is busy lecturing in various locations to the public. Now is finally the time to create a truly anti-Capitalist Left alliance, he said.
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