July 19, 2015

Betrayal of Hope in Greece

PRIME Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza-led government of Greece have abjectly capitulated to the diktats of the Eurozone-IMF bosses. This is a tragedy for the Greek people. The formation of the Syriza government had raised hopes that the hateful austerity measures imposed by Troika, consisting of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, would be ended and national sovereignty defended. These hopes have been cruelly dashed in the short space of six months. Tsipras had called for a referendum on whether to accept the onerous terms demanded by the Troika for getting a third bail-out for Greece's debt ridden drowning economy. On July 5, the people of Greece gave a resounding answer with 61.3 percent voting "No" to the austerity package. But even before the people voted, Tsipras signaled capitulation in a letter to the heads of the Eurozone countries. He offered to accept most of the terms set out in the Troika memorandum. Armed with a massive popular mandate, the Syriza government could have proceeded to battle for protecting the rights of the Greek people. There was no plan drawn up for an alternative path. No preparations for leaving the euro, or approaching Russia, China or BRICS for support. Instead, Tsipras presented to parliament a set of proposals which went far beyond what the pre-referendum package entailed. More cuts in healthcare benefits for pensioners, wage cuts for public sector employees, increasing retirement age to 67 years by 2019, increase in VAT in the Greek islands and privatisation of regional airports and ports. Tsipras proposed 4 billion euros more in cuts and increased taxes than the Troika demand before the referendum. The Eurozone finance ministers treated these proposals with disdain. Led by Germany they demanded more draconian measures. They showed their contempt for Greek democracy and the people by demanding that the Greek parliament adopt legislation by July 15 on pensions and wage cuts and VAT increases before the bailout could begin. They imposed another humiliating condition. The Greek government would have to pledge 50 billion euros worth of assets as collateral. They would be sold to part capitalise private Greek banks and the rest to go towards repayment of debt. Not a single euro would be spent on the welfare of the people. The Tsipras government and Syriza leaders are justifying this surrender by saying that they cannot countenance Greece leaving the Eurozone and the EU. In fact Tsipras claimed the mandate of the referendum was not for leaving the EU. The Syriza belongs to that stream of the Left in Europe which is totally committed to the European Union as the symbol of European unity. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) and other Communist forces in Europe have always maintained that acceptance of the EU is to accept subordination to European and international finance capital and the neo-liberal onslaught on the people. The Greek experience shows that the EU-finance capital nexus is inimical to democracy and national sovereignty. Accepting this framework of finance capital-neoliberal institutions can only lead to adopting a right wing social democratic approach. This is what has happened to the Syriza government. Within Syriza, the Left platform has been advocating regulation and control of banking and quitting the euro. 17 MPs of Syriza, including a minister refused to support Tsipras's bailout measures in parliament on July 10. More are expected to vote against the terms of the final agreement. But the government will get its way with the support of the right wing parties. Despite this betrayal, the Greek people will continue with their heroic resistance. Already a 24 hour general strike has been called for against the new attacks. It is to be hoped that there will be a realignment of Left forces in the coming days. In Europe, the extreme right is gaining by utilising the popular discontent caused by austerity and the EU onslaughts on national sovereignty, whether it be the National Front in France, the Golden Dawn in Greece or the UKIP in Britain. Unless the Left fights against the austerity imposed by the EU neo-liberal ruling circles and calls for liberation from the grip of the EU for the respective countries of Europe, the right wing cannot be countered and the tragedy of Greece will recur elsewhere too. (July 15, 2015)