The Holy Alliance against Syriza

Submitted by AWL on 10 February, 2015 - 5:31 Author: Theodora Polenta

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Syriza (not yet of communism). All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Draghi and Schäuble, Dijsselbloem and Renzi, French “Socialists”and Christian-Democrats...

Two things result from this fact:

1. Syriza is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.

2. It is high time that Syriza should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the spectre of Syriza with a manifesto of the party itself (and an iron determination to implement this manifesto).

Nice and inventive was the wording of Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis in his joint press conference in Berlin with German finance minister Schäuble in Berlin: “We must respect existing EU regulations, but we should not dissolve democracy with a sledgehammer that says that elections do not count!”

But the German and eurozone leaders broadly insist on respect for the agreements that they had imposed on the wretched government of Samaras and Venizelos, although those agreements are in fact a “sledgehammer”which seek to cancel the Greek parliamentary elections.

The decision to call an emergency Eurogroup (meeting of eurozone finance ministers) on 11 February was taken at the Euroworking Group (EWG) on Thursday 5 February in Brussels, where Greece was represented by the new head of the Finance Ministry's Council of Economic Advisers, Professor George Chouliarakis. According to all information he encountered a very tough stance from all the EU partners.

The 18 member states of the eurozone asked the Greek side to formally request an extension of the financing arm of the current memorandum programme until the completion of discussions on the next programme. On this basis they requested, the Greek Government to present a “cost”program, with detailed mapping of the structural changes which should be submitted formally to the Eurogroup.

On 3 February, the European Central Bank decided not to recognize the Greek bonds as collateral to provide liquidity (i.e. notes) on Greek banks. Ending one of the main arteries of financing in our country, leaving open only the emergency funding through ELA.

The EU leaders say they “respect” the decision of the Greek people, but... the agreements must be observed strictly! In other words their message is as follows: “you can vote for whatever you want, but the memoranda should continue smoothly, your debt will not be written-off or haircut and you should carry on paying it properly; otherwise your country will be bankrupted.”This is the raw, brutal blackmail of the European imperialists.

The European Central Bank stopped accepting Greek bonds as collateral (from 11 February), and rejected Syriza's government request for the issue of additional treasury bills amounting to €4.5 billion to finance the country. The European Central Bank activated the ELA mechanism for providing liquidity to the Greek banks, but decided that their liquidity needs will be reviewed fortnightly.

As of now, the liquidity [ready cash] of the Greek government runs out within February.

According to a leaked document, the German government's demands are as follows:

•Continue the agreed “reform” agenda on revenue management, taxation, management of public finances, privatization, public administration, health, pensions, social security, education and the fight against corruption

•Maintain the EU/ ECB/ IMF “Troika”

•Honour the commitments to repay the debts to the ECB, IMF, EFSF, EU countries

•The Greek government to accept the independence of the Bank of Greece and the setting-aside of €11.5 billion of unallocated balances of the “package”to strengthen the banks

•A primary budget surplus of 3% this year and 4.5% from 2016

•Continuation of privatisation, including airports, electricity and ports, with an aimed revenue of €2.2 billion euros for 2015

•50,000 departures from the public sector, changes to the pension system, flexible labour contracts, no increase of the minimum wage to the pre-Memorandum levels.

The explosive social needs in Greece can only be met with a practical application of the logic: “Make The Rich Pay”. Measures could include:

•The effective taxation of net profits of firms in the corporate sector of the economy with a rate certainly around the 50% level

•A lump-sum tax on profitable businesses for the additional profits gained due to the memoranda policies in the last five years of capitalist crisis

•Expropriation without compensation of utilities, and putting them into service under public ownership and workers' control in order to safeguard jobs and the preservation of social production.

The Syriza-led government should immediately launch a coordinated media campaign for the people of Europe in order to enlighten them, with a documented Black Book, about the extent of social destruction to our country and to convince them that the aim of the bailout agreements was never intended “to pay the Greek people with the money of the German, French, and Austrian people“, but to transfer the wealth of the people of Europe to the bankers and oligarchs.

92% of the money coming through the Troika since 2010 has gone to the commercial banks and other financiers who owned Greek government debt. In other words, the German working class has been forced by its government to bail out the German banks, the French working class has been forced by its government to bail out the French banks, with Greece only as an intermediary.

The Syriza government could also organise an international conference on the Greek and European debt, with the participation of economists sympathetic to Greece, the result of which would be a “Declaration of Athens“, to form the basis of international economic diplomacy.

The government should proceed without delay to put directly under public control the Financial Stability Fund, and the management and control of the banks including the Central Bank of Greece. The €11.5 billion of unallocated balances of the “package”reserved to strengthen the banks should be committed to meet the needs of the public.

We need a general mobilisation of the movement and the Left. We need a united front of the Left. The Syriza party organisation cannot be put into suspense because “now we have the government”. A radical wave of radicalisation and re re-invirogation of Syriza's rank and file is required.

Now especially it would be wrong to elect a President of the Republic from the right or centre-right. A President of the Republic from the opposite camp may prove at a critical moment to be a powerful weapon against the Syriza-led government of Syriza.

Ministers' statements like those from Varoufakis that privatisation will not stop, or from Skourletis that increasing the minimum wage to €751 will not be legislated directly but instead later and after consultation with the “social partners” (i.e. the bosses) create confusion and disappointment for Syriza's rank and file and enhance the intransigence of the EU leaders.

The government should make clear that only the debt is negotiable with the eurozone leaders, not the Thessaloniki programme.

The EU leaders' weapon is codified as “Grexit”: the threat of kicking Greece out of the eurozone through stopping conversion between euros in Greece and euros outside Greece, and the provision of liquidity [cash] to the Greek banking system.

This does not mean that the EU leaders positively want Greece’s (orderly or disorderly) exit from the eurozone. They know very well that that would have costs and risks for the stability of the eurozone and the state of the European economies.

But the cost for them is greater if a small nation like Greece is successful in implementing the total reversal of the austerity policies imposed throughout the EU. They want to save the euro and they want Greece to stay in the eurozone, in order to avoid dangerous shocks, but under the condition that Greece will bow down to their demands and will continue the austerity policies.

This is a crucial trial of strength. The Syriza government must be ready to respond to the blackmail by declaring its preparedness and its Plan B if the event of a Grexit.

Only if the EU leaders understand that the Syriza government is willing to do whatever it takes to defend the survival of the Greek people will they retreat and conclude that concessions to Greece are a price worth paying for the survival of the eurozone and the euro.

On 5 February thousands rallied in Syntagma Square, Athens, with the slogan: “We are not going to be blackmailed, we are not going to succumb, we are not afraid, we are not going to step back, we are going to win”.

The turnout indicates a boost of confidence since the 25 January elections. After two years of a relative lull in working-class struggles, after years of austerity, the workers, the young people, and the unemployed people are taking to the streets to claim what they have lost. They are on the streets to defend what they consider as their own government against the national and foreign predators and oligarchs.

The following rallies planned for 11 and 15 February will be even more massive and militant, provided that the Syriza leaders exhibit determination to implement the Thessaloniki declarations.

A poll conducted by the University of Macedonia found 72% of the Greek people supporting the government in its conflict with the lenders. 43.5% even of ND voters approved of the Syriza’s government first days. 75% overall approved of the Syriza-led government and firmly believe that the government will fulfil its election pledges.

The programmatic statements by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have committed the government to restoring the minimum wage to €751 (although gradually); the abolition of anti-labour legislation; for the abolition of the ENFIA (regressive property tax); raising the tax-free threshold to €12,000 euros; restoration of collective bargaining agreements and metenergeia [the law that made it obligatory for a business to respect a collective contract up to six months after it had expired]; restoring the “13th month”for low-income pensioners; stopping the auctioning of first homes; writing off poor household's debts; preventing the banks from selling off people’s debts to capitalist vultures; re-opening the Greek public broadcasting corporation ERT and re-instating ERT workers; stopping privatisations; re-employing the public sector workers, cleaners, and school guards; the abolition of public sector “reserve employment”; the abolition of the €5 fees in hospitals; re-introduction of Sunday as a holiday.

The Greek government states that the EU constitution has no clauses for implementing austerity but it has clauses for solidarity. The EU constitution has no clauses about allegiance to external demands, but it has clauses about the freedom to exercise policy at a national level.

Whatever about that, for the bourgeoisie it is important to crush the untamed Greek people and send a message to all the peoples of Europe.

The Syriza-led government does not seem to have a Plan B. Sooner or later you the government will need to set up such a plan, because the conflict is inevitable and the room for manoeuvre is small.

The Syriza-led government must also reckon with conflict with “domestic”capital. Greek capitalists can be expected to engage in a series of practical actions of hostility to the government, including capital flight, bank run and economic sabotage.

Our manifesto is as follows: we do not pay their debt, we move over the banking system in the hands of society and workers, we nationalise the strategic sectors of the economy, we apply social and workers' control and management throughout the economy, we end the “games”of the speculators through control of capital movements and foreign trade, we design the economy to meet the needs of the working class majority, we build democratic structures in society, the workplaces and communities to control and make the decisions that define our lives.

We need revitalisation and reinvigoration of the neighbourhood communities and the building of workers and popular committees’ councils to form workers defence squads and workers militias is urgent to fight capitalist sabotage the fascist gangs of Golden Dawn and a threat of a military coup by the State.

No confidence in the state apparatus! Changes in ministries and persons are not enough. Restructuring of the police and the army on a democratic basis, cleansing and removal of all fascist elements and paramilitary organisations.

Syriza should open the doors of the party to the youth and the workers, and invite the workers to organise in their unions and to enforce the application of labor law. It should invite the European workers who look with hope at Syriza’s government to fight against their reactionary governments for a Europe of workers, for the United Socialist States of Europe.

Finally, as in any conflict, Sun Tzu's motto applies: “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”Our strategic direction should be: overthrow of austerity to make way for major social and political upheavals in Greece and Europe as part of a transition plan for socialism. This is not maximalism, but necessity.

The eurozone leaders were accustomed to dealing with politicians in Athens of the type of Papandreou, Samaras, and Venizelos, ready to make U-turns at the first pressure.

The energetic start by the Syriza government threw Berlin and its allies off balance. Essentially the Greek government told them: we will negotiate the debt and the bailout agreement with you, but changes within our country are our problem and will not fall within the remit of the negotiations.

That is precisely what both Europe and Greek capital won't accept. The Greek debt itself is “peanuts”for the eurozone. A certain reduction of the Greek debt could be swallowed. What cannot be swallowed is a Syriza government showing that another way, out of austerity, is indeed possible, and giving wings to the feet of leftist radicals throughout Europe, as demonstrated by the huge rally for Podemos in Madrid.

Tsipras, Varoufakis, Dragasakis and other Greek government figures have made numerous conciliatory moves. Varoufakis praised Schäuble as the “creator”of the eurozone and declared himself (though he later backtracked) in agreement with “67%”of the memorandum program. Dragasakis said that he did not intend to change any of the management and directors of the banks.

The Syriza government put aside the issues of reduction of debt, and of a “pan-European conference on the debt”based on the historical precedent with German debt after the Second World War. It put aside the issue of renationalisation of privatized public enterprises. Yanis Varoufakis went so far as to argue that privatisations like Cosco's in the port of Piraeus are welcome because they “modernise the economy”and “increase competitiveness.”The government has accepted the territory of balanced budgets and primary surpluses.

The government now asks only for an extension of debt repayments and lower interest rates, and an annual primary surplus of 1 to 1.5% of GDP, instead from the 4.3% to 4.5% demanded by the eurozone for 2016 and after.

None of that pacified the eurozone leaders or increased the negotiating power of Syriza. There is only one way out for the Syriza-led government of Syriza: the application and extension of the radical programme approved by the Greek people, the mobilisation and organisation of new major social struggles, the militant solidarity of working-class people and the worse-off across Europe, and support and encouragement for the most direct forms of democracy and workers' control.

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