« No democracy without disobedience to treaties » (Greek adage)

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 » We will be original, respecting after the elections what we said before  » (1), predicted Alexis Tsípras. A few months later, it is clear that the originality lies elsewhere: a new austerity package is endorsed by the « radical left » elected to end it. To justify this change, all criticism is referred to this question:  » What would you have done in his place?  » To which we can answer without hesitation: something else, differently.

« Beneath the high hopes lie deep disappointments  » (2): this is what the debacle of the  » anti-austerity government  » has reminded us. Certainly, the struggle of the Greek people has the positive effect of forcing us to rethink our mobilizations, to consider the importance of reappropriating the question of currency in a Europe locked by neoliberal treaties and in a eurozone dominated by the interests of Germany. But Syriza’s traumatic « memorandum spin »(3) brings with it its share of impotence, pessimism and paralysis. It is therefore useful to draw lessons from it, without taboos or fetishes, so as not to succumb to the Thatcherite dogma according to which « there is no alternative « . For, although spectacular, this defeat can be explained more by the illusions of « The « movement radicalism » maintained towards a party that has largely converted to Realpolitik (and now to the cult of the leader), and the absence of alternatives — too often presented as a caricatured choice between a common or national currency, between stability and chaos… 

no forceful raPort without Plan b 

Syriza came to power on January 25 on the back of the outgoing government’s soiled board: the financing agreement with the EU ended just after the elections. Tsípras and his finance minister thought that the obvious failure of the memoranda would be enough to  » convince  » the creditors (aware that the debt would not be returned to them in this way) to let « the real left » pursue other policies. This hope was soon dashed. On January 28, the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, declared: « There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties » (4). Two days later, the president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, confirmed: « Either you sign the memorandum or your economy will collapse. How do you do it? We will bring down your banks.  » (5) Faced with the alliance of European conservative and social democratic parties wanting to break Syriza, and in an unfavorable international context, « Varoufakis alone, with his arguments, undertook to overturn public opinion in Europe and even in Germany »(6), hoping that sooner or later « reason would prevail in the negotiations »(7).

In Greece, apart from a few measures that restore the social character of the state, the people did not see any of Syriza’s economic commitments fulfilled. And for good reason: instead of breaking with the logic of the memoranda and the Troika, as it had promised, the government asked the « institutions » to negotiate a « rescue plan » (which, except for the semantic nuance, amounts to the same thing). On February 20, he obtained an extension of the interim agreement until June 30, justifying this retreat as a way to gain time to negotiate. In exchange, it had committed to maintain the application of the second memorandum and not to take any decision without the approval of the creditors, thus depriving itself of any room for manoeuvre. And while the  » negotiations  » dragged on and on, and the Greek concessions piled up, the economy plunged. A member of the Greek delegation acknowledges: « It is only during the last week [avant l’échéance du 30 juin] that Greek officials have taken the measure of what was happening »(8), allowing « a situation to develop that, from escalation to escalation, is turning into a chain reaction, a kind of slow banking panic and collapse […], of infarction » that will turn into a « heart attack ». heart attack  » when the European Central Bank cuts off liquidity to the Greek banking system, the day after the referendum was announced.  » Our main mistake? To have misjudged their will to destroy us ».(9)admits a minister. A Syriza insider, more severe, believes that Tsípras « ignored common sense, the warnings of all of us, even the warnings of Lafontaine and the leaders of Die Linke, who were in a better position than anyone to foresee exactly what Merkel and Schäuble would do.  » (10)

The most inexplicable thing is that the Greek staff allowed itself to be cornered, « a gun to his head », to sign the devastating agreement that we know, without having tried to reverse the balance of power, nor having taken advantage of the 5 months of negotiations to elaborate plans B, C or D. Tsípras’ answer is disconcerting: « As far asI know, (…) alternatives that we would have supposedly ignored, do not exist! »(11). However, the situation demanded that we be prepared for different options, and answers existed in black and white in the Syriza program. The Tsípras cabinet had a range of options to strengthen its bargaining power and loosen the  » noose  » of the creditors. Not to use any of them is a choice or an inconsistency, and would deserve some explanation. But to pretend that they don’t exist is a lie. The combination of such measures could well have led to a recovery of the economy and concessions from creditors. 

Between January and June,the « other left » faithfully repaid nearly 8 billion euros to its creditors. Unable to borrow from banks, it emptied the coffers of a state on the verge of bankruptcy, preventing public finances from playing their role, especially against the humanitarian crisis. The alternative was to default or apply a moratorium on debt, in order to get out of the vicious circle of borrowing to pay off previous loans and their interest. The work of the Truth Commission on the Public Debt, which was welcomed by the competent UN bodies, concluded that this debt is « illegal, odious and unsustainable ». But « the government acts as if all this did not exist »(12), preferring to try to rally its  » partners  » to the idea of a European conference on the debt in vain. 

The threat of financial asphyxiation, which was evident at the end of January, was accompanied on 4 February by a reduction in the financing possibilities of Greek banks and by doubts among savers and investors as to whether Greece would remain in the euro. The Greek government did not fight back: honouring its commitment not to take any unilateral decisions, it prevented itself from keeping the promise made to the Greeks to revitalize the economy (capital controls, increase in the minimum wage, end of privatizations, re-nationalization of the country’s essential infrastructure, etc.) The requisition of the Greek Central Bank and the socialization of systemic banks (where the state has a majority) was a key point in this battle, included in Syriza’s program, which would have made it possible, among other things, to issue  » Greek euros  » that are neither really euros nor completely drachmas. But it would have been an act of rupture, requiring disobedience to the ECB and the European Monetary Stability Mechanism, and standing up to the banks and their major shareholders. Difficult, since Tsípras’ main advisors, Dragasákis and Stathakis(13), « are strongly linked to the private banking lobby and [qu’ils] have promised Greek bankers that the banks will not be touched  » (14).

the leftist eXit, or the ChoiX of Politics 

Syriza (« Coalition of the Radical Left ») is a gathering of different movements and currents which, until this summer, probably did not have a clear position on the euro. The discussion of the Central Committee(15) following the signing of the third memorandum is a reminder of this. When the Left Platform points out that one of the party’s slogans was  » No sacrifice for the euro « , a member of the social democratic wing reminds it of the second part of the sentence:  » No illusion towards the drachma « . A similar ambivalence can be found in Varoufakis: formerly hostile to the entry into the euro, and very critical of its model, he advocates not leaving it (because he believes that it will take a year to logistically create a new currency)… while supporting the establishment of a parallel currency. In reality, the debate on the currency never took place in Greece. However, what we hear repeatedly is that « the Greeks are very attached to their country’s membership of the euro zone.« A commitment « proven » by surveys and based in part on the good times following entry into the euro, when the country lived beyond its means … until the crisis broke. However, public opinion seems less timid than the political class: 61.3% of Greeks voted « no » in the referendum (including 85% of young people between 18 and 24 years old), despite European leaders threatening them with a Grexit, media hype, misleading opinion polls and the closure of banks. If a referendum were to clearly establish the link between the euro and austerity policies, there is nothing to say that the Greeks would choose the euro at any cost. Tsípras, on the other hand, agreed with the view that leaving the euro would be « an unspeakable catastrophe », proclaiming that « the drachma is not a left-wing option »(16) and that he would give up « earth and water to remain in the euro »(17). In fact, his party has never prepared people for the possibility of a Grexit. His firm only studied it on the surface, panicked by the idea of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. And he himself refrained from using the threat strategically, allowing Germany to seize it as a last-minute negotiating weapon, with the result that we know. Did Tsípras really have  » no other choice  » in the face of this  » coup d’état  » aimed at « sowing terror among the people […] tempted to choose an alternative economic policy « (18)? Could he not oppose the respect of the popular mandate, take European opinion as a witness, use the legal means at his disposal(19), rely on the European treaties which do not provide for the expulsion of a member of the Eurozone or of the EU…? Without forgetting the  » emergency solutions  » (20) studied, admittedly late, by Varoufakis « to create liquidity « : on the one hand, a parallel payment system (fiscal and non-banking) that allows « the creation of liquiditysurvive for a few weeks within the euro zone despite the closed banks, until an agreement is reached » ; on the other hand, a complementary electronic currency that could coexist with the euro in the longer term. « Unfortunately, the government did not want to implement this program: we just waited for the referendum to take place to capitulate. »(21). And, not having prepared any scenario for a negotiated left-wing Grexit, Tsípras has allowed the blackmail of a precipitous right-wing Grexit to take place. This episode, which was widely prophesied before it happened, should now encourage any government wishing to free itself from the European neoliberal tutelage, to seriously study ways of leaving the euro… if only because it can be imposed on those who do not want it. 

No one can predict exactly what this unprecedented scenario would bring about, even if we know some of the risks (sudden drop in purchasing power for imported products, attack on the markets, transfer of capital abroad…) and advantages (devaluation causing the melting of the debt and massive investments allowing to boost employment and growth…). A Grexit cannot be an objective in itself: the choice of a currency, even a national one, is based on relationships of domination. But we now know that getting out of the euro is a necessary step for those who want to carry out social transformations without waiting for a hypothetical  » social Europe « . Here Greece is faced with a real choice: one path keeps it in the vicious circle of deflation, recession, trusteeship, and debt bondage for the next 40 years; another takes it into the realm of the unknown — but why be afraid of that, when you see what the known looks like? Certainly, rebuilding a monetary system by leaving a single currency is an adventure, involving a transition of several months or years that is very difficult. Should we not consider the positive consequences? For it would give back to the Greeks something precious that the memoranda have permanently taken away from them: perspectives. Taking their destiny into their own hands. The possibility of rebuilding the economy and agriculture on new bases, of keeping control of common goods, of regaining dignity, of putting an end to the exile of young people, etc. In short, new possibilities, synonymous with the release of energy and social dynamics in a population worn down by 5 years of restrictions. This is what a currency should be used for today in Greece. But the tortuous path that leads to it is as much political as economic. Can a party stuck in a state and legislative logic of change envisage such a hypothesis? 

Among the social movements, some see in Syriza « the party of the defeat of the movement and the inability to pose viable alternatives in its midst during the cycle of struggles in the crisis », recalling that the closer it got « of the possibility of obtaining the first place of the parliamentary representation, the more it distanced itself from the practices of movement »(22). Before the electoral victory, Syriza had already amply begun its « normalization », softening its programmatic « radicality » several times, holding an increasingly patriotic discourse that erases class relations, welcoming into its ranks defectors from the Socialist Party (PASOK), supporting a conservative for the post of President of the Republic… In the absence of an absolute majority and of a possible agreement with the very sectarian Communist Party (KKE), Syriza formed an alliance with the nationalist and sovereignist formation of the Independent Greeks (ANEL). The expansion to the right began « on the very day the government was formed, with the appointment as ministers of individuals who had no social base whatsoever and who not only had no connection whatsoever with Syriza but even insulted it publicly a few days before the elections!  » (23). Once in power, the  » radical left » immediately cut itself off from its social and militant base. During the negotiations, it did everything to avoid social conflicts, on the grounds of a necessary social peace during this moment of  » national struggle  » (until July 15, there were no strikes and, on the contrary, demonstrations in support of the government). It favoured an institutional approach, without linking it to the wave of solidarity that was spontaneously emerging throughout Europe and that could have complicated the creditors’ victory; without mobilizing the Greek population, which was left without any grip or explanation of the scenario that was being played out and its consequences. 

referendum and memorandum, do they rhyme? 

The announcement of the referendum was a belated admission of Tsípras’ strategic impasse. Despite displaying the goodwill of a first-class man, considering Europe from beginning to end as the solution and never as the problem, he did not succeed in leaving the framework of « technical » discussions: « There has never been a negotiation between the EU and Greece as a member state.  » (24) The precipitous consultation will take place one week after the fateful June 30 deadline, leaving the Greeks only a few days to debate, against a backdrop of « blackmail to the sudden death of the economy  » (25)The question was written half in English, in technocratic terms, and referred to a text negotiated with the EU, which they had not read, everyone understanding that it was a question of pronouncing themselves for or against austerity, the exit from the euro or the Tsípras government… 

One event among others has cast doubt on the government’s belief in the outcome of the referendum: on June 30, while campaigning to say ‘no’to« thecontinuation of these memoranda », Tsípras wrote to the creditors to say ‘yes’ to the new memorandum. In his entourage, some (led by Deputy Prime Minister Dragasákis) consider the pressure unbearable and the referendum gamble too risky. Rumors of cancellation are rife. But the creditors declined any discussion before the vote and Tsípras ended up maintaining it. We know what happened next: the resounding verdict caused a political earthquake, a feeling of newfound pride for the Greeks, depriving the government of the pretext to capitulate in the name of refusing to divide the country. But the vague formulation of the question allows Tsípras to interpret the answer: « I am fully aware that the mandate you have given me is not to break with Europe »(26). It is then enough for him to call for national unity with the pro-memorandum parties and to touch up his letter of surrender with a little  » French « pragmatism  » so that it would be considered acceptable… except for the Germans, who are raising the stakes in the final stretch, arguing that they have « lost confidence in the anti-austerity government » and getting it to cross all its « thresholds. red lines « . So what’s the point of this referendum? According to the French President, Tsípras resorted to it « to be stronger, not towards his creditors, but towards his own majority »(27). « He needed to get rid of the left wing of his party and he gave himself the political means to do so, » says a European Commissioner (28).  » For Greece, it will have been useless » (29), says Varoufakis,  » resigned  » on the evening of the result:  » It did not help the government. Nor did it help the people who voted ‘no’. The people have been abandoned and betrayed »..

« we are not what we say, but what we do (30)

« When we came to power, » continues Varoufakis, Alexis Tsípras and I said two things to each other: first, that our government would try to create a surprise by actually doing what we had promised to do. Second, that […] we would resign rather than betray our electoral promises. […] I thought that was our common line »(31). But the ink is barely dry on the  » rescue plan  » when Tsípras imposes its implementation at the expense of democracy and respect for the electoral mandate. To regain the  » confidence  » of his  » partners  » and prove his  » seriousness « , he has committed himself to a series of  » prerequisites « : to immediately apply reforms (pensions, VAT, civil code, etc.) that require years of debate in other countries. A hallucinating sequence then began: using procedures that he knows from having reproached his predecessors, Tsípras passed packages of laws of hundreds of pages, without giving the deputies time to read them, nor the right to amend them; during three parliamentary sessions(32)a third of Syriza’s elected representatives voted against these laws, which were adopted with the votes of the pro-austerity parties; a government reshuffle sidelined ministers loyal to their principles and brought ANEL to heel in exchange for an additional portfolio; Tsípras called for « the unity of the party » while accusing those who resist « of treason and collaboration with the enemy ».(33) and jeopardize  » the first left-wing government since the Second World War « . (34) In the process, he flouts his commitments as party president and works to avoid convening the authorities (Political Secretariat, Central Committee, Congress) (35) who wish to discuss this change of line, which is radical to say the least. 

Tsípras does not hesitate to quote Lenin to explain that his  » painful compromise  » is a  » element of revolutionary tactics  » which « is a allows us to continue the fight. »(36) What a member of Antarsya (Anticapitalist, Revolutionary, Communist and Ecological Front) summarizes as follows:  » When governing becomes a goal in itself, lying becomes a holy thing and fraud becomes a virtue.(37). For the resignation of the Prime Minister on August 20 and the calling of early elections are not intended to create a new opportunity to fight against the brutal blackmail of the creditors — for that, it would have been necessary to resign before signing the agreement — but rather to create a new opportunity for the government to take action. but to erase the result of the referendum by legitimizing the transfiguration of his regime, now built on the rhetoric of the man who fought against  » the old system » and who, unfit for « the old system tearing up the memoranda « , is the only one capable of « tearing up thememoranda « . relieve  » the hardness. By playing for time, in the middle of summer, Tsípras wants to be re-elected before the Greeks realize the impact of the new memorandum on their lives. In doing so, he let a provisional government apply unpopular measures in his place, and short-circuited the Syriza Congress, scheduled for September, forcing its left wing to split (its representatives were promised to be removed from the electoral lists) and to organize itself in a few weeks. The movement is massive: in addition to the 25 parliamentarians who left to create the Popular Unity, at least a third of the 35,000 members of Syriza have left, as well as its secretary general(38), the majority of its central committee, its youth organization, etc. The president of the parliament, who was still defending Tsípras after the capitulation, has since deplored his decision to « govern without society, without the people, creating an alliance with the most anti-people forces in Europe . » (39)

This express recomposition of the Greek political landscape is the ultimate outcome of the strategy of the creditors: to close the  » The « left parenthesis  » is a pantalonnade, not by ousting Syriza from power, but by causing its metamorphosis by assimilating to austerity policies. « It was worth it to [le] to support », the French President boasts (40) :  » Tsípras demonstrates that the language of Podemos or Mélenchon are vain languages.  » (41) Influential European advisors are pleased:  » Early elections in Greece can be a way to broaden support for the [de réformes] program  » (42), « There is a good chance that they will bring to power a more competent and pro-European government  » (43). Tsípras, who was already a  » man of state » (44) by the miracles of a summer night in Brussels, has even earned his stripes as a  » good politician  » (45) from editorialists to whom he inspired only invective during the referendum. But when one recalls the effects of the campaign led by these same leaders and media in favor of the ‘yes’ to the referendum, nothing says that these marks of enthusiasm will not turn out to be kisses that kill… « Memoranda are like the god Moloch, they demand greater and greater sacrifices. Before Syriza, [ils] had already destroyed two governments « , recalls a resigning party member(46).

 » We know that winning the elections does not mean that we have the levers of power overnight, » says Tsípras(47). « Leading the fight at the government level is not enough. It must be carried out, also, in the field of social struggles.« This analysis leaves one circumspect about its possible application to the Greek situation: apart from a frontal confrontation, what relationship can the social movements still have with this party which, missing a historic opportunity, has signed three more years of hell for the Greeks? With this leader who instrumentalized the referendum, played with the trust and feelings of the people, took the risk of leaving the neo-Nazis of Aube Dorée the role of last bulwark against the European diktats? And which, on all fronts, shows signs of its reversal: return of police repression, condemnation of anti-austerity demonstrators, military agreement with Israel, dropping of opponents to the exploitation of the gold mine of the Halkidiki peninsula, etc. 

For social movements, the accession to power of a  » radical left  » had already constituted an unprecedented situation. Here it is pushed to its paroxysm: the anti-austerity party has become the preferred ally of the creditors, for whom « the application of neo-liberal policies to a resistant population  » can only come  » from the left  » (48). He is a new kind of opponent, who has just struck a blow to the morale of all those who had seen in him an answer to their aspirations for dignity and social justice. This is the challenge of social struggles today: to transform despair into anger, resignation into commitment, plan B into plan A. 

Gwenaël Breës

This article follows two travelogues in Greece published on July 5 and 25 on www.revueballas

Notes et références
  1. « Grèce : La nuit des dupes, une nuit qui dure depuis cinq ans et demi », Christine Cooreman, okeaNews, 17/8/2015.
  2. « Syriza était le parti de la défaite du mouvement », interview du mouvement Antiautoritaire (AK), organisation communiste libertaire, 10/8/2015.
  3. « Vangelis Goulas : Le Non n’est pas vaincu… on continue », 21/8/2015.
  4. Interview de Jean-Claude Juncker dans Le Figaro, 28/1/2015.
  5. « Un insider raconte : comment l’Europe a étranglé la Grèce », mediaPart, 7/7/2015.
  6. « Un insider raconte : comment l’Europe a étranglé la Grèce », mediaPart, 7/7/2015.
  7. Yanis Varoufakis à la télévision publique grecque ErT, début juillet 
  8. « Un insider raconte : comment l’Europe a étranglé la Grèce », mediaPart, 7/7/2015.
  9. Yanis Varoufakis à la télévision publique grecque ErT, début juillet. 
  10. Un ministre grec sous couvert d’anonymat, dans L’Humanité, 15/7/2015.
  11. « Élections contre Démocratie », Dimitris Konstantakopoulos, okeaNews, 1/9/2015.
  12. Alexis Tsípras au parlement grec, 14/8/2015. Discours de Zoe Konstantopoulou au parlement grec, 14/8/2015.
  13. Ioánnis Dragasákis, Vice-Premier ministre du gouvernement Tsípras, et Geórgios Stathakis, ministre de l’Économie.
  14. « Pourquoi la capitulation de Tsípras », témoignage d’Éric Toussaint du Comité pour l’annulation de la dette du Tiers-monde (CADTm), 14/8/2015 à Lasalle. 
  15. Débat au Comité central de Syriza, 30/7/2015.
  16. Interview d’Alexis Tsípras à la chaîne Alpha, 26/8/2015.
  17. « Athènes est devenu un théâtre de l’absurde », maria Negreponti-Delivanis, Le monde, 28/8/2015.
  18. Cour européenne de justice, Conseil de l’Europe, oNU.
  19. « Yanis Varoufakis : Nous avons trahi la grande majorité du peuple grec ! », L’obs, 20/8/2015.
  20. « Yanis Varoufakis : Nous avons trahi la grande majorité du peuple grec ! », L’obs, 20/8/2015.
  21. « Syriza était le parti de la défaite du mouvement », interview du mouvement Antiautoritaire (AK), organisation communiste libertaire, 10/8/2015.
  22. « Les conséquences internationales catastrophiques de la capitulation annoncée de Syriza et les responsabilités criminelles de m. Tsípras », Yorgos mitralias du Comité grec contre la dette, 27/8/2015.
  23. « rencontre avec Yanis Varoufakis : Il est temps d’ouvrir les boîtes noires », mediaPart, 30/8/2015.
  24. Alexis Tsípras, discours du 5/7/2015.
  25. François Hollande dans Le Canard enchaîné, 26/8/2015.
  26. Pierre moscovici dans « Tsípras : vu de Bruxelles, un stratège à la légère », Libération 21/8/2015.
  27. « Yanis Varoufakis : Nous avons trahi la grande majorité du peuple grec ! », L’obs, 20/8/2015.
  28. Discours de Zoe Konstantopoulou au parlement grec, 14/8/2015.
  29. « Yanis Varoufakis : Nous avons trahi la grande majorité du peuple grec ! », L’obs, 20/8/2015.
  30. Sessions parlementaires des 15 et 22 juillet, et le 14 août.
  31. Discours de Zoe Konstantopoulou au parlement grec, 14/8/2015.
  32. Débat au Comité central de Syriza, 30/7/2015.
  33. «Déclaration de sortie de membres de la section locale de Syriza à Paris », 23/8/2015.
  34. Interview d’Alexis Tsípras à la radio Sto Kokkino, 29/7/2015.
  35. « Les 13 mensonges de Tsípras et la réalité du troisième mémorandum », Panagiotis mavroeidis, Tlaxcala, 22/8/2015.
  36. « Le secrétaire général de Syriza claque la porte », Le Courrier, 25/8/2015.
  37. Déclaration de Zoe Konstantopoulou, 31/8/2015.
  38. François Hollande, que Tsípras moquait autrefois sous le nom de « Hollandréou ».
  39. François Hollande dans Le Canard enchaîné, 26/8/2015.
  40. martin Selmayr, directeur de cabinet du Président de la Commission européenne Jean- Claude Juncker, sur Twitter, 20/8/2015.
  41. marcel Fratzscher, conseiller du ministre allemand de l’Économie Sigmar Gabriel, cité par l’AFP, 21/8/2015.
  42. Selon la formule de Jean-Claude Juncker, dans Le Soir, 22/7/2015.
  43. « Alexis Tsípras, bon politique grec, mauvais négociateur européen », Libération, 24/8/2015.
  44. « Stathis Kouvelakis : Aucune illusion sur le carcan de l’euro », L’Humanité, 27/8/2015.
  45. Interview d’Alexis Tsípras à la radio Sto Kokkino, 29/7/2015.
  46. Selon la correspondante à Athènes du Guardian, Helena Smith.

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