Greece: what happens

I post some responses to the Greek political crisis. July 15th Solidarity rally with Greece Melbourne 5.30pm Parliament House and in other cities around the world.

capitalist crisis severe

capitalist crisis severe


1.Yanis Varoufakis on ABC Radio with Philip Adams
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/yanis-varoufakis-on-greek-crisis/
In his first interview since resigning as Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis took aim at Greece’s creditors, revealed the extent of the country’s preparations to leave the euro and warned of the rise of the far right. Late Night Live reports.

In his first interview since resigning earlier this month, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has described the 86 billion euro bailout deal agreed to by prime minister Alexis Tsipras as ‘a new Versailles Treaty’.

In the coup d’état the choice of weapon used in order to bring down democracy then was the tanks. Well, this time it was the banks.
YANIS VAROUFAKISVaroufakis
‘This is the politics of humiliation,’ he told Late Night Live. ‘The troika have made sure that they will make him eat every single word that he uttered in criticism of the troika over the last five years. Not just these six months we’ve been in government, but in the years prior to that.

‘This has nothing to do with economics. It has nothing to do with putting Greece on the way to recovery. This is a new Versailles Treaty that is haunting Europe again, and the prime minister knows it. He knows that he’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t.’

The deal, agreed to on Monday after 17 hours of talks with eurozone leaders, contains tough conditions including pension cuts, tax increases and the movement of public assets into a trust fund to pay for the recapitalisation of Greek banks.

Mr Varoufakis rejected the deal in the strongest possible terms, comparing it to the 1967 coup d’état that installed a military dictatorship in the Mediterranean nation.

‘In the coup d’état the choice of weapon used in order to bring down democracy then was the tanks. Well, this time it was the banks. The banks were used by foreign powers to take over the government. The difference is that this time they’re taking over all public property.’

Mr Varoufakis suggested that Mr Tsipras may call a snap election rather than bring the deal before the Greek parliament, saying he would be ‘very surprised’ if Mr Tsipras wanted to stay on as prime minister.

He insisted, however, that he and Mr Tsipras remain on good terms, and that he has kept a low profile over the last week in order to support Mr Tsipras and his successor in the finance ministry, Euclid Tsakolotos.

‘I jumped more than I was pushed,’ said Mr Varoufakis, describing his resignation in the immediate aftermath of the ‘no’ vote in the July 6 referendum on bailout terms similar to those accepted on Monday.

‘I entered the prime minister’s office elated. I was travelling on a beautiful cloud pushed by beautiful winds of the public’s enthusiasm for the victory of Greek democracy in the referendum. The moment I entered the prime ministerial office, I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation—a negatively charged atmosphere. I was confronted with an air of defeat, which was completely at odds with what was happening outside.

‘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 building, you can count on me. But if on the other hand you feel like you cannot manage this majestic ‘no’ to an irrational proposition from our European partners, I am going to simply steal into the night.”’

The former finance minister also described the Greek government’s secret preparations to print drachmas in the event of the country being forced to leave the euro.

‘As a responsible government, knowing full well that there was a very significant alliance within the eurogroup whose purpose was to throw us out of the euro, we had to make contingencies,’ he said. ‘We had to have a small team of people in secret who would create the plan in case we were forced to exit the monetary union known as the eurozone.’

‘Of course, there is a conundrum here. Once this plan begins to be implemented, once you go from five people working on it to 500—which is the minimum you need to implement it—it becomes public knowledge. The moment it becomes public knowledge, the power of prophecy creates a dynamic of its own … We never made that transition from five to 500. We never felt we had a mandate to do it. We never planned to do it. We had the design on paper but it was never activated.’

Mr Varoufakis said that he will remain as a backbencher in the Greek parliament, where he has ‘a lot more room to manoeuvre and speak the truth’. He warned however, that austerity will further embolden the country’s far right.

‘In parliament I have to sit looking at the right hand side of the auditorium, where 10 Nazis sit, representing Golden Dawn. If our party, Syriza, that has cultivated so much hope in Greece … if we betray this hope and bow our heads to this new form of postmodern occupation, then I cannot see any other possible outcome than the further strengthening of Golden Dawn. They will inherit the mantle of the anti-austerity drive, tragically.

‘The project of a European democracy, of a united European democratic union, has just suffered a major catastrophe.’

Drop Greece's Debt

Drop Greece’s Debt

Update: http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/07/15/the-euro-summit-agreement-on-greece-annotated-by-yanis-varoufakis/

ECONOMIE DOCUMENT
‘We underestimated their power’: Greek government insider lifts the lid on five months of ‘humiliation’ and ‘blackmail’

08 JUILLET 2015 | PAR CHRISTIAN SALMON
http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/080715/we-underestimated-their-power-greek-government-insider-lifts-lid-five-months-humiliation-and-black

In this interview with Mediapart, a senior advisor to the Greek government, who has been at the heart of the past five months of negotiations between Athens and its international creditors, reveals the details of what resembles a game of liar’s dice over the fate of a nation that has been brought to its economic and social knees. His account gives a rare and disturbing insight into the process which has led up to this week’s make-or-break deadline for reaching a bailout deal between Greece and international lenders, without which the country faces crashing out of the euro and complete bankruptcy. He describes the extraordinary bullying of Greece’s radical-left government by the creditors, including Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s direct threat to cause the collapse of the Hellenic banks if it failed to sign-up to a drastic austerity programme. “We went into a war thinking we had the same weapons as them”, he says. “We underestimated their power”.

Update: The latest agreement between the Syriza government and the creditors shocked many on the Left who have been following events in Greece. It seems to signal the end of a whole political cycle. In this interview with Jacobin contributing editor Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis, a leading member of the Left Platform in the party covers the latest sequence, to what extent expectations have been confirmed or disproved, and the next steps for the radical wing of the party.

Kouvelakis uses this opportunity to reflect more broadly on the balance sheet of the Left Platform’s strategy, whether things could have been done differently, and what the prospects are for a more general left recomposition.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/07/tsipras-varoufakis-kouvelakis-syriza-euro-debt/

Slavoj Žižek on Greece: This is a chance for Europe to awaken
The Greeks are correct: Brussels’ denial that this is an ideological question is ideology at its purest – and symptomatic of our whole political process.
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/Slavoj-Zizek-greece-chance-europe-awaken

The Problem of Greece is Not Only a Tragedy: It is a Lie by JOHN PILGER
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/13/the-problem-of-greece-is-not-only-a-tragedy-it-is-a-lie/

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come….
For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency. see the whole article.

Colleen Bolger 1. 8th July A historic vote in Greece, but challenges ahead
https://redflag.org.au/article/historic-vote-greece-challenges-ahead
2. 12th July In the early hours of Friday morning, the prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, won the consent of the Hellenic Parliament to pay off the blackmailers.

He gave up the pensioners. He gave up the public servants still with jobs. He gave up the people who will not be able to afford food and coffee when the VAT is increased to 23 percent. He has given in and when he did, he gave up 61 percent of the population who resoundingly voted no to austerity in the 5 July referendum to an agreement that arguably is better than what he has proposed this weekend.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were livid after the no vote. They moved to tighten the strangulation of the Greek banking system and threaten Grexit – to punish the Greek people and to increase the pressure on Tsipras to buckle. It has worked. Read article here
https://redflag.org.au/article/ruptures-syriza-greece-and-europe
IMF haircut
JULY 13, 2015 Text of the Euro Summit Statement on Greece
The text of the final conclusions from the summit of 19 eurozone leaders that began on Sunday afternoon and ended on Monday morning with a deal on Greece’s debt crisis.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/07/13/world/europe/document-text-of-the-euro-summit-statement-on-greece.html


12th July Requiem at an Empty Grave? Syriza’s Momentous Day by Leo Panitch

Did those who are already raising Lenin from his tomb to render quick judgement on Syriza’s abject “world-historic defeat” (without saying much about what victory would look like or require) actually bother to read the rather similar plans that Syriza put forward before the referendum and that were consistently rejected by the EU and IMF “Institutions”? This rejection is what the referendum was about.

The resounding OXI was then used by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to secure the resignation of the leading political representative of the domestic ruling class (and former Prime Minister), Antonis Samaras, and to get all the party leaders with any such claim or ambitions to speak for that class to adopt Syriza’s position on the need for debt restructuring and investment funds. One might even say that if there was a class crossover involved here it was the other way around, one that looks more like what Gramsci meant by a hegemonic strategy rather than the way it is presented from the perspective of those standing on Lenin’s Tomb.

The virtually same formulations in Syriza’s plans that were just yesterday called intransigence by mainstream media in Greece and aped by the media abroad are now presented as capitulation in order to disguise the significance of this.

This is not surprising but what is surprising is the immediate acceptance of this capitulation interpretation by so much of the Western radical left from whom one might have expected a rather more sophisticated reading and less quick rush to negative judgement.

Of course, the latter view is shared by many on the radical left here in Greece, including those Syriza MPs who opposed or abstained on the vote in the Greek parliament. But in doing this, they only raise the question of whether the Antarsya strategy of Grexit (which obtained less than 1 per cent of the vote in January) is any more viable today than it was then.

Deal or No Deal?

The real situation is this, as we await the outcome of what will in fact be a momentous day. If there is in fact some significant debt restructuring and investment funds in a deal today and this is not effectively tied to further conditionality, this would offset many times over the four year $12-billion plan for fiscal surpluses in the plan just passed by the Greek parliament. Of course, even if this is the effective outcome of this weekend’s final maneouvres, this will require some political sophistication to discern, since it will be concealed somewhat so that other European leaders can disguise this from their electorates, whose attitudes the Northern and Central European labour movements have done little or nothing to change. Tsipras would need to explain this well to get people to understand the significance of the victory he – and they with their support in the referendum – would have pulled off.

It will not be a “world historic” victory, for those who like such language, since it will still involve tying the revival of the Greek economy to the fate of what remains a very much capitalist Europe, but this would not mean that the Syriza government would exclude itself from the continuing struggle to challenge and change that. On the other hand, if Tsipras walks away today accepting the same conditionalities as before to debt restructuring, and without any guaranteed investment funds on top of this, then it will indeed be interesting to see where Lenin will take us once he is let out of his tomb, and sees that he faces yet again the sad fact that a break in the weakest link could not break the stronger links of the labour movements in Central and Northern Europe to both domestic and global capitalism. •

Read article here http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/1139.php

Socialist project logo

Socialist project logo


http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/greece-debt-crisis-pm-alexis-tsipras-faces-syriza-mutiny-after-capitulating-to-demands-20150713-gibi8r

From the Absurd to the Tragic Those who lead Greece and its Left to surrender should be opposed.
by Stathis Kouvelakis Stathis Kouvelakis teaches political theory at King’s College London and serves on the central committee of Syriza.

So the framework is given: it is that of the restrictive measures which secure fiscal surpluses and aim at the repayment of debt. It is incontestably the framework of the memoranda. The disagreement is over the “distribution of the burden.” It involves a (supposedly) “socially more just” variant of austerity, which will be presented as “redistribution” at the same time as it perpetuates the recession (every reference to commitment to non-recessionary measures has been effaced) and impoverishment of the majority.

In the meantime, and while these soothing reassurances are being put forward that demolish what has remained of Syriza’s programmatic commitments, there is a ramping up of the state of siege that the country is enduring, with the European Central Bank holding closed the spigot of liquidity and trimming even further the value of bank bonds, leading unavoidably to collapse.

And yet, despite the gravity of the situation and despite the fact that through the imposition of capital controls part of the road has already been covered, nobody, apart from Costas Lapavitsas and some cadres of the Left Platform, is speaking of the self-evident and basic measures of self-protection that are necessitated by circumstances of this kind, starting from public control and nationalization of the banking system.

The explanation for this is of course very simple: anything of this kind would place Greece with one foot outside the euro, which the government is completely unwilling to do, despite the fact that even mainstream economists like Paul Krugman assert that “the greater part of the cost has already been paid” and that it is time for Greece “to reap the benefits.”

A simple conclusion emerges from all this: with the moves it has made in the last week, the government has achieved nothing other than a full return to previous entrapment, from a much more unfavorable position, under the pressure of even more relentless economic asphyxiation. It has managed to squander the powerful injection of political capital from the referendum in record time, following at all points the line of those who had opposed it and who have every reason to feel vindicated, despite being trounced at the ballot box.

But the referendum happened. It wasn’t a hallucination from which everyone has now recovered. On the contrary, the hallucination is the attempt to downgrade it to a temporary “letting off of steam,” prior to resuming the downhill course towards a third memorandum.

And it seems that the government is precisely going down that suicidal road. Yesterday, late in the evening, it sent to all members of parliament (MPs) a hastily written, twelve-page text, written in English by experts sent by the French government and based on Tsakalotos’ request for a €50 billion loan to the ESM.
melb rally
This is nothing but a new austerity package — actually, a “copy and paste” of the Juncker plan rejected by the electorate a few days ago. Its core is all too familiar: primary surpluses, cuts in pensions, increase in the VAT and other taxes, and a handful of measures to give it a slight flavor of “social justice” (e.g., an increase in the corporate tax rate by two points). The document was approved by all the major ministers except Panos Kammenos, head of the Independent Greeks party (ANEL), and Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the Left Platform.

The parliament has been called to vote on this text today, under the same emergency procedures that were previously forcefully denounced by Syriza. In many aspects this process can be considered a “parliamentary coup” since the parliament is asked to vote on a text that is neither a bill, nor an international agreement, giving a kind of carte blanche to the government to sign off any loan agreement. But this parliamentary approval has been explicitly set as a condition for any further negotiation by the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble.

As was predictable, and probably even planned, this proposed agreement has triggered an uproar inside Syriza. For the moment, most of the strong reactions are come from the Left Platform and other currents of Syriza’s left wing such as KOE, the Maoist organization that has four MPs.

In today’s dramatic meeting of Syriza’s parliamentary group, Lafazanis, minister of energy and leader of the Left Platform, said the agreement is “incompatible with Syriza’s program” and “doesn’t offer a positive perspective to the country.” The Left Platform ministers are expected to resign today.

Thanassis Petrakos, one of the three speakers of Syriza’s parliamentary group and a prominent member of the Left Platform, declared:

The “no” of the referendum was a radical and a class “no.” Some high-ranked comrades insist on the “there is no other way” logic. We should prepare exiting the eurozone and say that clearly to the people. The Left has a future when it opens its wings to the unknown, not to nothingness. Those who insist on the choice of staying in the euro whatever the cost might know that it is a disaster. We need a prepared exit to open up a new path. The first steps are the public control of the banks and of the Greek central bank and a crackdown on oligarchy.

Varoufakis is also said to have opposed the agreement, as well as some MPs from the group of the “fifty-three” (the left wing of the majority), although in an internal meeting held yesterday a significant gap appeared between the rank-and-file and middle-range cadres, strongly opposed to the agreement, and the MPs, much more inclined to support it. The vote that will take place late in the evening will certainly be of crucial importance for the future developments, but also for the future of Syriza.

Whatever happens in the next few hours and days, one thing should be clear: any attempt to cancel the popular will for the overturn of austerity and the memoranda amounts to hubris in the ancient Greek sense of the term. Whoever dares to lead the country, and the Left, to surrender and to dishonor should be ready to face the corresponding Nemesis.
Greece-SWP

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/07/tsipras-syriza-greece-euro-debt/

July 14, 2015 Greece debt crisis: PM Alexis Tsipras faces Syriza mutiny after capitulating to demands
by Eleni Chrepa, Ian Wishart and Rebecca Christie

http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/greece-debt-crisis-pm-alexis-tsipras-faces-syriza-mutiny-after-capitulating-to-demands-20150713-gibi8r

13 July 2015ALEXIS TSIPRAS: HERO, TRAITOR, HERO, TRAITOR, HERO by Alex Andreou

We apologise to Marxists worldwide for Greece refusing to commit ritual suicide to further the cause. You have suffered from your sofas.
Tsiprasjpg

It is revealing of the political landscape in Europe – indeed, the world – that everyone’s dreams of socialism seemed to rest on the shoulders of the young Prime Minister of a small country. There seemed to be a fervent, irrational, almost evangelical belief that a tiny country, drowning in debt, gasping for liquidity, would somehow (and that somehow is never specified) defeat global capitalism, armed only with sticks and rocks.
When it looked like it wouldn’t happen, they turned. “Tsipras capitulated.” “He is a traitor.” The complexity of international politics was reduced to a hashtag, that quickly changed from variants of #prayfortsipras to variants of #tsiprasresign. The world demanded its climax, its X-factor final, its Hollywood dénouement. Anything other than a fight to the death was unacceptable cowardice.

How easy it is to be ideologically pure when you are risking nothing. When you are not facing shortages, the collapse of social cohesion, civil conflict, life and death. How easy it is to demand a deal that would plainly never be accepted by any of the other Eurozone member states. How easy brave decisions are when you have no skin in the game, when you are not counting down, as I am, the last twenty-four doses of the medication which prevents your mother from having seizures.

Twenty doses. Fourteen.
It is a peculiar feature of pathological negativity to focus only on what is lost instead of what is gained. It is the very same attitude that means sections of every country’s population – long for their perfect Socialist Utopia while simultaneously avoiding tax every way they can.

The idea of Tsipras as a “traitor” relies heavily on a cynical misinterpretation of the referendum last week.
“OXI”, the critics would have you believe, was “no” to any sort of deal; an authorisation to disorderly Grexit. It was nothing of the sort. In speech after speech Tsipras said again and again that he needed a strong “OXI” to use as a negotiating weapon in order to achieve a better deal. Did you all miss that? Now, you may think he didn’t achieve a better deal – that may be fair – but to suggest it authorised Grexit is deeply disingenuous. And what about the 38% that voted “NAI”? Was Tsipras not there representing those people, too?

Fear not. The deal may prove unworkable anyway. It may not be passed by Greek Parliament. Syriza might tear itself apart from within. Grexit may be forced by those who have been trying to make it happen for years now. Then we get to assess what your better outcome looks like.

Twelve doses. Ten.
The agreement that Tsipras achieved (caveat: as we know it) after negotiating for 17 hours, is a lot worse than anyone could have imagined. It is also a lot better than anyone could hope. It simply depends on whether you focus on what has been lost or what has been gained. The loss is a package of horrific austerity. It is a package which, anyone with any political understanding knows, was coming anyway. The only difference is that, through a compliant government like the previous ones, it would be accompanied by no compensations.

What has been gained in return is much more money than previously imagined to properly fund the medium term and allow the government to implement its programme, a significant stimulus package, the release of EFSF money which had until now been denied (to the “good” government of Samaras), and an agreement to restructure debt, by transferring bonds from IMF and ECB to the ESM. That is nothing, hecklers heckle. ERT analyst Michael Gelantalis estimates this last part alone to be worth between eight and ten billion less in interest repayments a year. That is a lot of souvlaki.

In the last few hours I have been told that Greece “should just #Grexit NOW”; that we have “a wonderful climate and could easily be self-sufficient”; that we “should adopt bitcoin and crowdfunding to circumvent monetarism”; that “the US would send us medicine”. None of these people are suggesting that this should happen in their own country, you understand. Just Greece, so they can see what happens. Most of them live in states with centrist governments, which espouse austerity, but guarantee a steady supply of the latest iPad to the shops. All of them, without exception, could have negotiated a much better deal with a knife to their throat; could have been braver.

My question to those critics is: What battles are you fighting in your country, city, town, right now? And at what risk? Are you not, in fact, just as bad as the hardcore austerity ideologues that want to experiment with a “toy country”, with people’s lives, and see how it pans out?

Eight doses. Five.

Seen as a sort of Helm’s Deep, this defeat for the Greeks is monumental, irredeemable. It is the “all is lost” moment. Seen as one opening battle in much larger war, it is hugely valuable. It has drawn the enemy out into the fore, exposed its strengths and weaknesses. It has provided intelligence to others, in Spain and Portugal and Italy, which will ensure they’re better prepared. It has been bravely fought. And smartly, because Greece gets to live to fight another day.
We elected a good, honest and brave man, who fought like a lion against unfathomably large interests. The result may not be the martyrdom for which you had hoped. But it will do for now.

https://www.byline.com/column/11/article/164

Throughout history, debt and war have been constant partners
Giles Fraser

As Greece’s spending on weapons shows, it’s not pensions or benefits that cripple economies, it’s the military-industrial complex
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2015/jul/03/throughout-history-debt-and-war-have-been-constant-partners

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