What should the SYRIZA Left do next?
“We have come to the same budgetary result but in a more just way”. In this way, the Greek government minister, George Stathakis, speaking to the national broadcaster, ERT, on Monday 22 June, defended the proposals made by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the so-called ‘Institutions’ [Troika of the IMF, ECB and EU], which most probably will provide the basis for a new agreement. In the same way, Minister Nikos Pappas, the ‘right hand’ of Alexis Tsipras, defended the Greek government’s proposals on the Kokkino radio programme on Tuesday 23 June.
The “deal” proposed by Alexis Tsipras corresponds to budgetary cuts measures worth €7.9 billion from now until the end of 2016. From 2017 onwards, the primary budget surpluses will not essentially differ (will only differ by about 0.5%) from those that had been agreed by the previous New Democracy-PASOK government and the Troika.
Both Stathakis and Pappas claim that they reached “the same budgetary result” (as demanded by the Troika) but in a more ‘just way’, i.e. they did not attack wages and pensions, but transferred a greater part of the burden onto the richer people in society (and thus maintained, they claimed, the SYRIZA’s self-declared “red lines”).
The reality, however, is the following:
- The proposals by Alexis Tsipras amount to “additional measures” that will remove from the economy an extra €7.9 bn, to be handed over to the big capitalist institution lenders. This amount of money represents an immense 4.5% of the GDP and will inevitably tend to push the economy into a new recession. Thus the leadership of SYRIZA is abandoning the pre-election pledge to the Greek people that it would abolish the ‘Memoranda’ [Troika-imposed draconian cuts], and take the Greek economy out of deep recession and put it back on the road to growth.
- It is true that the Greek government made an attempt to impose more “burdens” on the richer layers in society and on corporations, instead of additional attacks on workers and the poor. This, however, does not change the fundamental characteristic of the proposed deal, i.e. that by cutting an additional €7.9 bn, within a period of 18 months, it is pushing the economy back into recession. The greater bulk of these €7.9 bn cuts will be paid for by the working class through the rise of VAT on goods of mass consumption and through increased fees to social security funds.
- Alexis Tsipras abandoned the commitment “to write off the greatest part of the sovereign debt”. The attempts of Zoe Konstantopoulou (chairperson of the Greek parliament) and the excellent ‘Findings of the Special Commission of the Greek Parliament on the issue of the Sovereign Debt’ [which described Greece’s debt as “odious, illegitimate and illegal”] will most probably, in the end, be only of academic and historical interest.
- Alexis Tsipras, from the beginning of the negotiations with the Troika, abandoned Syriza’s position of putting an end to privatisations, with the halting of the sale of the electricity company, DEI, being the only exception. This means that the Greek economy will continue to function under the control of big capital –Greek and multinational– and under the “laws” of the market. From the moment that a “deal” is established along the lines of that which is mooted, the ruling class will return to impose new anti-working class terms on the government. This will lead to deeper recession and misery. Without investment, there can be no growth and the conditions under which investment takes place will be decided by those who control money supply and capital.
- On the basis of the proposals made by Tsipras, the control of the banking system is left in the hands of Stournaras (Chair of the Greek Central Bank) and his likes. The Greek banking system was “saved” by the Greek state with huge amounts of money, which by far surpass the country’s GDP. But the running of the banking system still remains in the hands of the same individuals who ran it before SYRIZA came into government. These individuals are not answerable to the Greek government (let alone Greek society) but are only answerable to the European Central Bank. Unfortunately SYRIZA accepted the continuation of this rotten, scandalous system.
Is it possible to expect, on the basis of the above, that the Greek economy will really enter the path of growth and that SYRIZA will carry out pro-working class policies?
Xekinima (CWI Greece) explained, on the day after the proclamation of the Salonica Programme (SYRIZA’s pre-election manifesto, agreed in September 2014) that this programme is inapplicable despite all the good intentions of Alexis Tsipras and the leadership of SYRIZA. This is for one main reason: the Salonica programme was based on big private capital being the driving force behind the growth and development of the Greek economy. The Salonica Programme did not see the public sector, ran on democratic socialist lines, as the engine for economic growth.
As we have repeatedly explained in past months, Greek and multinational capital, in close collaboration with the various Institutions, would never support and invest in an economy that was under the control and management of a left government which helped restore and raise the living standard and rights of the working class and the mass of the population (particularly when in our region, in countries like Bulgaria, the average wage is €300 and the average pension is just €125).
The leadership of SYRIZA, in the course of the last years, failed to understand the real depth of the crisis of the capitalist system, not just in Greece but globally. The leadership of SYRIZA was unable to appreciate that the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and the crisis of the Euro, are a reflection of the crisis of the capitalist system, as a whole. And SYRIZA leaders could not countenance the class nature of the European Union and the Eurozone. Instead they held illusions that the “enlightened” proposals of the SYRIZA leadership, and in particular of Finance Minister Varoufakis, would “assist” Europe to enter a “virtuous road”.
As a result, the old slogan of SYRIZA – “no sacrifices for the euro” – in effect transformed into the new demand, “Even more sacrifices for the euro”! Greek society – the workers, the unemployed, the poor – are called upon, once again, only this time by the SYRIZA government, to pay for the cost of the capitalist crisis and of staying inside the Eurozone!
What is the solution to undoing the Euro Gordian Knot? To stand up for the interests and rights of Greek workers inevitably requires an open clash with the capitalist system and the EU of the bosses and the multinationals. It means pursing a programme of making the public sector the power-house of economic growth through the nationalisation of the strategic sectors of the economy and democratic planning. A common struggle with workers across the continent is essential in the struggle for a Socialist Europe.
The prerequisite for this is a mass Left that is prepared for a head-on collision with the Troika and capitalist system, a Left which is loyal to and consistent with the ideas of revolutionary socialism. The building of this Left remains the most important task of Marxists in Greece in the crises we are living through.
The present leadership of SYRIZA will not respond to this task. Inside SYRIZA, the ball is with the left wing. Will it take the major step of voting down the proposals of Alexis Tsipras when (or if) they come to the Greek parliament? Will it take the risk of finding itself outside SYRIZA, under the mass offensive from the ruling class and right wing media that will be directed against it? Will it aim to build a common front with the forces outside SYRIZA, which are loyal to the ideas of socialism and are non-sectarian, with the aim of building a mass revolutionary Left?