Oxi still means oxi!

Submitted by Matthew on 15 July, 2015 - 10:42 Author: Theodora Polenta

Around the vote on the Memorandum due in the Greek parliament on 15 July we will see great pressure on Syriza MPs and ministers to take a “responsible” stance and endorse the third memorandum.

There is talk of a government reshuffle and of demands for the president of the parliament and the Left Platform ministers (who abstained on the 10 July to endorse the continuation of negotiations based on the government’s proposed deal) to resign, even of expulsions of MPs and the formation of a new special purpose coalition government.

The working class will not stand by with folded arms. They will use their organ of struggles, their unions, their communities, their assemblies and they will go back to the streets to demand the Syriza government take back its signature from any Memorandum.

The answer is: Back onto the streets of struggle. It is the duty of the revolutionary left in and outside Syriza to defend the “oxi” mandate in the streets as well as in the organs of Syriza. There should be a united front of the Left Platform, the Communist Tendency, and other left components in Syriza’s rank and file to defend and reclaim Syriza as a political tool for the interests of the workers and youth.

Syriza politically represented the world of working-popular resistance, the world of the social movements, the big fights against the memoranda, and faces an attempt to convert it into something like Brazil’s Workers’ Party.

All attempts to convert the Syriza rank and file into propagandists of pension cuts, home repossessions, sell-offs of public property and increasing taxation cannot be tolerated. Instead, it is the duty of the revolutionary left in and outside Syriza to be at the forefront of social resistance.

The current agreement has only temporarily prevented the Grexit. The new memorandum will soon be proven unrealistic and non-implementable. Factoring in the deep recession, new measures will be demanded; but the Greek debt will not be repaid.

It is wrong, from the standpoint of working class interests, for the leaders of the Left Platform to be the champions of “Grexit” on the rotten basis of capitalism, even if they accompany it with some timid Keynesian pro-working class measures. It’s like the left defending the new stage of capitalist crisis over the previous stage.

The main programmatic issue, now more than ever for the left, should be workers’ power and anti-capitalist measures, not restricted (as in the current ideas of the leadership of the Left Platform) to the nationalization of banks and debt default, but going on to socialisation of the banks and all the basic levers of the economy under workers’ power and control with democratic central planning.

From referendum to Memorandum

As Solidarity went to press, the vote on the deal had not yet happened in the Greek parliament.

Flashback: 1991

The first school students’ occupations in Greece. A 15 year old boy speaks with fervour on national TV against the New Democracy’s counter-reforms in education and against marketisation. He commands respect from the journalists and becomes one of the voices of the occupation movement. His name is Alexis Tsipras.

I held to that image as I watched ERT [Greek TV] and saw a deflated Alexis Tsipras repeating one more time that reason will prevail and some sort of smoke will come out of the negotiating chambers.

Sunday 5 July

61% victory for the thunderous working class “Oxi” to Juncker’s proposed memorandum and any old and new memoranda; under conditions of conditions of capital controls... of lockouts... of an economic, psychological and political war... of threats and blackmailing from the national and international establishment.

It was a working class victory, with big “Oxi” majorities in the the working-class and poorer areas. For example: in the working-class areas of Nikaia and Peristeri, 72% and 70% no (“oxi”); in the leafy suburbs of Ekalh and Voula, 85% and 65% yes.

With their “Oxi”, working class people voted to leave behind five years of Memorandum humiliation and anti-worker class war which had condemned them to poverty, unemployment, and misery.

Antonis Samaras, leader of New Democracy and former prime minister of the ND-Pasok coalition government. Evangelos Venizelos had resigned as leader of PASOK only a few earlier.

The Syriza government appeared to have regained the initiative. Even within its own limited political logic it could have utilized the political capital of a 60% mandate as a strong negotiating card in order to achieve a compromise agreement milder than the 25 June Juncker’s proposals and the government’s 47-page proposal.

But soon the top echelons of Syriza were almost openly admitting that if they did anything that risked Greece being thrown out of the eurozone — that is, if they negotiated with any options other than accepting the best that vindictive eurozone leaders could be persuaded to offer — no systematic preparation had been done for a Plan B, and so the “Grexit” would have been utterly chaotic and disastrous.

According to the central Syriza leadership narrative, even the Left Platform was not prepared for a Plan B under disorderly conditions of confrontation. At best they had thought of an orderly exit by Greece from the eurozone, with a four-month bridging program. Even the Greek Communist Party (KKE), they said, which is positively in favour of Greek exit from both the EU and eurozone, did not advocated an disorderly bankruptcy in the current context.

If the strategy is only to get the best deal that can be got by rational persuasion of the eurozone leaders, and trying to exploit differences among them, then the result is bound to be a bad deal. Regardless of the economic arguments, the eurozone leaders did not want the working classes of the eurozone to see Greece as an example of how resistance can win gains. Only an extension of resistance across Europe could change the balance. And since 25 January 2015 the Syriza leaders had done nothing to develop that.

Alexis Tsipras’s first steps to annihilating his political capital from the referendum were already visble his speech on the night of 5 July. Instead of unilaterally cancelling all Memorandum measures and implementing the well-overdue Thessaloniki declaration, Syriza’s platform for the January 2015 election, his first political move was to call for the convention of all party leaders. It was almost as if the “yes” had got a 60% majority.

“We are already prepared to continue negotiating. With a credible financing plan. With a credible reform plan, which will have the acceptance of the Greek society. In terms of all the social justice and the transfer of burdens from the weak to the financially strong. And with a credible plan for growth of investments, in cooperation with the European Commission.”

“I am confident”, he said, “that the ECB fully understands not only the general economic situation but as well the humanitarian dimension as a result of the crisis in our country”

“From now on we are all one,” he added. “The current referendum results has neither winners nor losers. It is a great victory for everyone... preserving national unity, restoring social cohesion and economic stability”.

Monday 6 July

Convention of all party political leaders. On the table the overcooked idea of a “national unity” negotiation team to meet the eurozone leaders. Forced resignation of finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

A common platform was endorsed by all political parties except KKE — Syriza, Anel, ND, Potami and Pasok with the exception of KKE — and a sketch of the government’s new memorandum proposal to the creditors, almost identical to Juncker’s 25 June proposal and more severe than the government’s previous 47-page proposal).

Regardless what one thinks of Varoufakis’s mission to save capitalism from itself; regardless of his attempts to outsmart the market; regardless of whether he is an erratic Marxist or a classic reformist who believes in solutions within the capitalist system; regardless of whether we agree with statements such as: “it is the Left’s historical duty at this particular juncture to stabilise capitalism to save European capitalism from itself and from the inane handlers of the Eurozone’s inevitable crisis”; regardless of the almost naive optimism aboutthe power of his arguments with which he entered the negotiation table — regardless of all that, Varoufakis was made to resign from the critical post of Financial Minister in the name of appeasing the partners in name, blackmailers in practice. It was setback.

Tuesday 7 July

Euro-MP and veteran left partisan Manolis Glezos addresses the European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Ancient Greek and Latin.

He recites an verse from Euripides’ tragedy The Suppliants. A herald sent from Thebes asks in Athens: “Who is the despot of this land?” Theseus replies: “Sir stranger, thou hast made a false beginning to thy speech, in seeking here a despot. For this city is not ruled by one man, but is free. The people rule in succession year by year, allowing no preference to wealth, but the poor man shares equally with the rich.”

Glezos adds: “Timeo hominem unius libri”. Thomas Aquinas: “I fear the man of a single book.” I fear the opinions of the illiterate man who has only read a single book.

The facts about the “bail-outs” are summarised.

The European banks were bailed out, not the people of Greece. It is not the people of Greece who have benefitted from bailout loans from the IMF, EU and European Central Bank, but the European and Greek banks which recklessly lent money to the Greek State in the first place.

When the IMF, European and ECB bailouts began in 2010, €310 billion had been lent to the Greek government by reckless banks and the wider European financial sector. Since then, the ‘Troika’ of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank have lent €252 billion to the Greek government. €34.5 billion of the bailout money was used to pay for various ‘sweeteners’ to get the private sector to accept the 2012 debt restructuring. €48.2 billion was used to bail out Greek banks following the restructuring. €149.2 billion has been spent on paying the original debts and interest from reckless lenders. This means less than 10% of the money has reached the people of Greece.

Today the Greek government debt is still €317 billion. However, now €247.8 billion – 78% of the total – is owed to public institutions, primarily in the EU but also across the world. The bailouts have been for the European financial sector.

Wednesday 8 July

Alexis Tsipras addresses the European parliament, defending the Referendum and the “oxi” vote, talking about a Europe of democracy, solidarity and cooperation, a Europe of open borders, extended and guaranteed workers’ and human rights, progressive redistribution of wealth, and equal partnership of all countries — a negation of the EU of Merkelism and neoliberal fundamentalism. On the left, Euro-MPs waving “OXI” cards on the one side, on the right, the Tories and right-wingers jeering, plus fragments of the social democrats jeering.

The government returns to the negotiating table. We wait for the smoke to rise from the talks. This omens are that it will be pitch black.

Bit by bit, we hear of extra Memorandum measures: shops to open on Sundays, collective redundancies, attacks on workers’ rights, collective bargaining, pensions, wages. The discussion ceases to be technocratic and the eurozone leaders talks about “reliability”. Nobody can trust a nominally left-wing government that dares to call a referendum. The Syriza-ANEL government has lost its credibility because it asked for a popular mandate. Primary budget surpluses are compulsory, but surpluses of democracy are not to be forgiven in the neoliberal eurozone.

Schäuble is provocatively “leaking” to journalists a a plan for a five-year Grexit with humanitarian aid, and demands that the government set up an “independent” fund in Luxemburg, to collect the proceeds from privatisations of Greece’s public wealth, to be used solely for Greece’s future financial obligations to the creditors.

Friday 10 July

The Greek parliament votes its approval for the government’s new memorandum proposals and mandates the Prime Minister to achieve an agreement at all costs. A new national consensus is being formed with 251 parliamentary votes of support — all the ND, Potami and Pasok MPs, and the majority of Syriza.

Seventeen Syriza MPs either abstain, or voted no. Yanis Varoufakis is absent, Zoe Kostantopoulou abstained, and so did seven MPs of the Left Platform abstain, including its two most prominent ministers, Panagiotis Lafazanis and Dimitris Stratoulis, and Marxist economist Costas Lapavitsas. Fifteen other MPs of the Left Platform, including two ministers, issue a statement: they are voting yes in order not to deprive the government of its majority at this stage, but they will not for vote any agreement that includes austerity when it comes to parliament.

Two MPs, Ioanna Gaitani and Elena Psarea, members of the Red Network, the Trotskyist component of the Left Platform, vote no

Monday 13 July

Memorandum 3! All these measures are just preconditions for Greece to be able to negotiate the possibility of further loans.

1. Greece promises to seek “support” from the IMF from March 2016 both in terms of stewardship and at the level of funding

2. Increases in VAT.

3. A gradual increase in the retirement age, to 67 by 2022. The EKAS supplement to pensions to be abolished for all by the end of 2019. Increase in pensioners’ contributions for health care.

4. Deviation from the primary surplus targets will automatically mean cuts in wages, pensions, and welfare.

5. Opening-up of professions.

6. Sunday will no longer be a holiday for shop workers.

7. Electricity distribution to be privatised.

8. Destruction of collective bargaining agreements. “The labour policy must not mean a return to the settings of the past that are not compatible with the objective of promoting sustainable and overall development. “

9. Massive layoffs and abolition of workers’ protection

10. Governmental involvement on the management of the banks explicitly forbidden.

11. €50 billion worth of Greek public property to be sold off, and proceeds transferred to a fund for debt repayments. At current prices €50 billion is worth half of the Peloponnese.

12. “The government must consult and agree with the institutions [the Troika] on all bills to the relevant issues in good time before these bills put to public consultation or Parliament,”

13. Measures being taken by the government in the past five months should be revised unless fiscal “equivalents” are found). So the recruitment of cleaners, of the ERT workers, of the school guards, of the municipal employees can be reversed.

14. The problem of the unsustainable Greek debt is “dealt with” only with accumulation of further debt. The ratio of debt to GDP will skyrocket

15. Privatisation of the Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports, of the 14 regional airports, and more.

16. Uniform, homogeneous salary scheme for all public sector workers by January 2016, with adjustments in salaries according to their qualifications and job roles: in other words, further reduction of the wages of public sector workers.

17. There is no extra €35 billion to be “injected” into the Greek economy to kick-start development, as it has been misleadingly stated. The €35 billion is pretty much money that Greece would have received anyway as part of the EU scheme ESPA.

18. Expressly excluded is any “haircut” of the nominal value of the Greek debt. Only extended grace and repayment periods may be on offer. Future generations will be enslaved in a debt colony.

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