Seven Lessons from Greece
Since taking power, Syriza hasn’t accepted what’s been imposed, but instead fought to create a new political landscape.
Update: The anti-austerity far left party Syriza has won the Greek election by a decisive margin, but just short of an outright majority.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said his party’s victory marked an end to the “viscious cycle of austerity”.
Dick Nichols looks at the Syriza win,
Alexis Tsipras leader of SYRIZA
Tsipras has pledged to end the austerity programme imposed by the troika – and at the same time negotiate the write-off of 50 per cent of Greek debt. So the obvious question is: what does he do if they say no?
The future has already begun.
“I’ve answered that thousands of times since 2012,” he says. “Syriza is the alarm clock that will wake the EU leaders out of their slumber. What we demand is a European conference, to tackle this European problem together, and there cannot be a solution without writing off a large part of the debt, a moratorium on repayments and a growth clause.”
That amounts to saying no repayments until there’s growth enough to revive the Greek economy, which from the look of the streets surrounding the Syriza party HQ, is obviously depressed.
Though the polls put Tsipras in the lead – on 33 per cent in an opinion poll tonight – the newspapers still treat him as a political outsider: “Tsipras dons the veil,” says one headline – referring to his liberal immigration policy.
But the biggest fear of the centrist parties who oppose him is that, if Tsipras confronts Europe, Greece will be forced out of the eurozone – especially if he cancels the austerity programme but still needs access to IMF, EU and private market loans.
He answers: “In reality we are not asking to borrow any new money. We have no intention of asking for new lending to repay old loans. Of course we’re going to negotiate with all of our partners so that we can confront together the common European problem of unsustainable Greek debt.
“And this is not the first time something like a debt write-off this has been implemented. It happened in 1953 in Germany. And I am wondering on what ethical grounds does Germany refuse a solution to the European problem, which it benefited from many years ago, when coming out of world war two, and when Germany itself had many open wounds?
“I am saying to the people of Europe, especially the people of northern Europe: we don’t want any more of your money. The money you have been giving all these years wasn’t spent to keep the Greek people on their feet. Instead it was used to recapitalise bankrupt banks, so that the banks and the financial system not only in Greece but the whole of Europe would not collapse. You gave Greece toxic money. Now it’s time to find a solution for the common good.”
See here Time to deal with debt in Europe
40 point programme:
1. Audit of the public debt and renegotiation of interest due and suspension of payments until the economy has revived and growth and employment return.
2. Demand the European Union to change the role of the European Central Bank so that it finances states and programs of public investment.
3. Raise income tax to 75% for all incomes over 500,000 euros.
4. Change the election laws to a proportional system.
5. Increase taxes on big companies to that of the European average.
6. Adoption of a tax on financial transactions and a special tax on luxury goods.
7. Prohibition of speculative financial derivatives.
8. Abolition of financial privileges for the Church and shipbuilding industry.
9. Combat the banks’ secret [measures] and the flight of capital abroad.
10. Cut drastically military expenditures.
11. Raise minimum salary to the pre-cut level, 750 euros per month.
12. Use buildings of the government, banks and the Church for the homeless.
13. Open dining rooms in public schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to children.
14. Free health benefits to the unemployed, homeless and those with low salaries.
15. Subvention up to 30% of mortgage payments for poor families who cannot meet payments.
16. Increase of subsidies for the unemployed. Increase social protection for one-parent families, the aged, disabled, and families with no income.
17. Fiscal reductions for goods of primary necessity.
18. Nationalisation of banks.
19. Nationalisation of ex-public (service & utilities) companies in strategic sectors for the growth of the country (railroads, airports, mail, water).
20. Preference for renewable energy and defence of the environment.
21. Equal salaries for men and women.
22. Limitation of precarious hiring and support for contracts for indeterminate time.
23. Extension of the protection of labour and salaries of part-time workers.
24. Recovery of collective (labour) contracts.
25. Increase inspections of labour and requirements for companies making bids for public contracts.
26. Constitutional reforms to guarantee separation of church and state and protection of the right to education, health care and the environment.
27. Referendums on treaties and other accords with Europe.
28. Abolition of privileges for parliamentary deputies. Removal of special juridical protection for ministers and permission for the courts to proceed against members of the government.
29. Demilitarisation of the Coast Guard and anti-insurrectional special troops. Prohibition for police to wear masks or use fire arms during demonstrations. Change training courses for police so as to underline social themes such as immigration, drugs and social factors.
30. Guarantee human rights in immigrant detention centres.
31. Facilitate the reunion of immigrant families.
32. Depenalisation of consumption of drugs in favor of battle against drug traffic. Increase funding for drug rehab centres.
33. Regulate the right of conscientious objection in draft laws.
34. Increase funding for public health up to the average European level.(The European average is 6% of GDP; in Greece 3%.)
35. Elimination of payments by citizens for national health services.
36. Nationalisation of private hospitals. Elimination of private participation in the national health system.
37. Withdrawal of Greek troops from Afghanistan and the Balkans. No Greek soldiers beyond our own borders.
38. Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
39. Negotiation of a stable accord with Turkey.
40. Closure of all foreign bases in Greece and withdrawal from NATO.
February 2015 update:Syriza: reverse shock doctrine
Update from Leo Panich: ‘Syriza represents the first and the strongest democratic response to the bizarre deepening of neoliberalism after the 2008 crisis. Were such a democratic government to be stymied or brought down by the hostility of its domestic capitalist class working in cahoots with international capitalists and their political representatives, this would be a tragedy for democracy. It would reinforce the notion, growing ever stronger in Europe today, that the only way to protect people from the neoliberal austerity is through supporting right-wing ethno-nationalist parties.
What Syriza stands for in this context is what Spain’s newly elected Republican government stood for in the early 1930s at a time when the Nazis on the march to winning elections in Germany.
For the moment – at least until Podemos reclaims the mantle at the end of this year – a democratic Greece under Syriza would represent what democratic Spain represented for the international left in the 1930s. The prospects for a different outcome are much better, provided there is strong international support for giving a Syriza government the breathing room it would need.’
From Links http://links.org.au/node/4225
Let Greece Breathe: Support Australian economists arguments https://australiagreecesolidarity.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/letgreecebreathe-statement-of-economists/
SYRIZA’s Inspirational Practical Solidarity January 24, 2015 Don Sutherland
‘This story in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/23/greece-solidarity-movement-cooperatives-syriza describes the community solidarity side of SYRIZA’s politics as it reaches the final days pof the elction campaign.
The story describes the re-definition of politics as an interdependence between macro economic reform – that is, real reform – and practical solidarity organising that challenges the dictates of charity as a solution to poverty.
Just one of several aspects of the story I liked is the explanation of how neoliberal capitalism shows no respect for individuals, especially the individuals who make up the majority.
On the other hand, practical solidarity shows full commitment to each individual it touches and, encourages the fuller flowering of each individual’s personality and personal commitment to solidarity.’
Troika and Greece – colonial treatment and debt servitude.
See as well this first of reports posted in Left Flank
The New Programme of SYRIZA
Author: Ilias Milonas
On Monday the Greek Parliament will vote for the next President. If the Government’s nominee fails to gain the minimum 180 votes there will be a general election which will be held in the following six weeks. In such a situation, the opinion polls put Syriza, Greece’s new left-wing party, as the likely winner of the elections which could put the first anti-austerity party in power in the Eurozone. In the light of this, it is important for us to analyse Syriza’s new policy platform that was announced recently. Here, an active member of the left-wing of Syriza outlines the new policy and explains why it is not enough.
A Limited Programme
This programme was announced by the president of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, during the International Exibition of Thessaloniki in September. It was not a result of a discussion through the bodies of the Party but the work of a group of people around him. It is a limited programme which the leadership wants to present to the people as the final programme of SYRIZA.
It is a programme of course for a positive direction in order to relieve the poorest social layers. It promises:
• A serious negotiation on the National Debt and a “haircut” of the biggest part of this
Higher taxation of the rich
• Higher salaries for some low paid employees
• The abolition of ENFIA (the latest property tax)
• More money for the municipalities and the local authorities
• 300,000 new jobs
• Restoration of public radio and television closed down by the current government
The establishment of a new National Development Bank
• The restoration of the minimum wage at 751 Euros
The leadership of SYRIZA is in reality trying to reassure the ruling class with this programme which is obviously not a genuine socialist programme. The intentions probably are good, but the capitalists in today’s conditions of deep crisis and hard competition will refuse to lose even one cent.
Even this minimum programme presupposes a hard conflict with the bourgeois and so we will need to have by our side the big organised layers of labour in society. It is not obvious that the leadership of SYRIZA is prepared to organise these social layers in a proper way for such a conflict.
Indeed, it is possible that even the simplest demand, for example of the minimum wage of 751 euros, will not be acceptable to the economic powers in Greece. Even more so the whole programme of 12 billion Euros!!
Greece and the Eurozone
On the issue of the national debt, there is a permanent conception by the leadership of SYRIZA that the European Union cannot expel Greece from the Eurozone. This is really an illusion and the opposite was proved in the case of Cyprus – they threatened the Cypriot government that if it would not accept their terms Cyprus would be kicked out of the Eurozone, even if the Cypriot Parliament backed their government’s position.
Actually, it is now more difficult for Greece to be thrown out of the Eurozone as its debt is higher (despite a three year period of hard austerity) and thus there is a bigger danger for the lenders to lose their money. Nevertheless, the Troika are not willing to continue the bailout without insisting on their rules being followed. Already they have sent a message to the Greek government which created a mini crash on the local stock exchange which lost 300 points.
As the Left Platform and the main internal opposition in SYRIZA, we have put a lot of time into the issue of a Plan B, in case that Greece will be pushed out of the Eurozone.
Public Ownership of the Banks
In the Syriza leadership’s programme also absent is the most crucial matter of the nationalisation of the banks, a policy that was decided on at the last congress of SYRIZA – almost all the banks in Greece have been privatised in recent years.
We believe that there is not one programme that can be implemented without the nationalisation of the banking system along with and the rest of the economic system. In contrast, the leadership’s proposal for the establishment of a New Development Bank with a budget of one billion Euros is like planting a tree in the Sahara in the hope of greening the desert. Indeed, all they propose for the banks is a vague form of “social control”.
The Potential of an Election Victory for SYRIZA
We believe that a victory for SYRIZA at the coming elections will unleash a mobilisation of the workers in Greece who will demand from the new government, which they will see as their government, policies to take back what they have lost in recent years under the hard monetaristic measures of austerity. Such a situation has the potential to change the atmosphere in the whole of Europe, triggering off a domino movement towards the Left.
SYRIZA must not be allowed to fail as a defeat for SYRIZA will be a defeat for the whole Left and of course for the whole of the working class.
By Ilias Milonas (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ilias is a member of the Left Platform of SYRIZA and a member of the Central Committee of the Internationalist Revolutionary Left (DEA). Please note that the group that Ilias formerly belonged to, Kokkino, has very recently joined the DEA.
From Red Flag “We will raise the need to go into the elections with people in the streets protesting, not with an electoral campaign that seeks to appease the middle classes and win over the middle ground. We are calling for mass political discussions organised by local branches of SYRIZA, for rallies and demonstrations and so on.”
If SYRIZA wins the election and is able to form a government, that approach will be even more necessary because it will face relentless ongoing attack from every establishment force. Workers can’t just rely on MPs in parliament to turn the tide against austerity.
They need to take the inspiration of a SYRIZA electoral victory as a spur to raise the level of struggle to new heights to repel every right wing attempt to sabotage the progressive policies of a SYRIZA government and to prevent any backsliding from the SYRIZA leadership.
The outcome of the struggle in Greece will have enormous ramifications for the working class movement and the left across the whole of Europe.