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Thursday, 26 February 2015

On Syriza and the Retreat....Stathis Kouvelakis CC Member

By Mike Watson / 23 February 2015

Since Syriza was elected, Stathis Kouvelakis, who is a member of the party's Central Committee, has been providing vital insight and analysis of the rapidly developing situation in Greece. Below he addresses current understandings of the Greek government's agreement with the Eurogroup, including that of Étienne Balibar and Sandro Mezzadra, posted earlier today.

In the last few days there have been two sophisms circulating among those who refuse to look reality square in the face and recognise the retreat that Syriza has been forced to make, as well as its possible consequences. Or rather, two and a half. And I say ‘forced’ with good reason, because the new government has been trapped by its mistaken strategy: though I wouldn’t say it was a ‘betrayal’ or ‘capitulation’, since these are moralising terms that are of very little use for understanding political processes.

The first sophism: ‘Syriza has no mandate to quit the Eurozone’. If it had adopted such a position it wouldn’t have won the elections. Putting it that way, we see how absurd this reasoning is. Yes, of course, it had no ‘mandate to quit the Eurozone’. But it certainly didn’t have a ‘mandate’ to abandon the core of its programme in order to hang onto the Euro, either! And, without doubt, if it had presented itself to the electorate saying ‘here’s our programme, but if we find that its implementation is incompatible with keeping the Euro then we’ll forget about it’, then it wouldn’t have achieved much success at the polls. For good reason: keeping the Euro at any cost is exactly the same fundamental argument as the pro-Memorandum parties who’ve ruled Greece all these years put forward. And even if Syriza never fully clarified its position on the Euro, it did always reject the logic of ‘the euro at any price’. On that note, let’s remember that contrary to what most commentators think, Syriza’s programmatic texts do not rule out leaving the Eurozone if forced to by the Europeans’ intransigence, or defaulting on the debt payments. Though it is true that recently these texts seem to have been rather hidden away.
A second variant of this first sophism: Syriza had a dual mandate of breaking with austerity and staying in the Euro. This sounds more rational than the first version, but nonetheless it is still sophistry. It’s as if the two sides of this mandate were equally important and thus it would be politically legitimate, if we had to choose (and indeed we do have to choose – that’s precisely the problem), to sacrifice the break with austerity on the altar of keeping the Euro. Without having even abandoned its mandate! But then why not turn that reasoning the other way around, saying ‘since I realise the two objectives are incompatible, I choose to stick to the break with austerity, since essentially that is the reason why Greeks voted for a party of the radical Left’? That is, to opt for the rupture and not ‘stability’ within the existing framework. We might at least think that this choice is more befitting of a radical Left party that sets ‘socialism’ as its ‘strategic goal’ (even if that clearly wasn’t the agenda on which it won the elections).
The third sophism is the one promoted by Étienne Balibar and Sandro Mezzadra. Having sarcastically remarked on those on the ‘left wing of Syriza’ who are crying ‘capitulation’ (let’s ignore for now the fact that no one on the Syriza left has ever used these terms), from recent events Balibar and Mezzadra draw the conclusion that ‘we will not be able to build a politics of freedom and equality in Europe simply by asserting national sovereignty’. According to them, the main thing is that Syriza has bought time, admittedly at the cost of making some concessions (with the obligatory reference to Lenin to prove the radicalism of what they’re arguing); and that it has allowed for other future political victories (they mention Spain) and the development of social movement mobilisations of a ‘transnational’ bent (the likes of Blockupy).
Here again we are swimming in the waters of sophistry – of a pseudo-naivety that would be confusing, if it did not make total sense coming from ardent defenders of the ‘European project’ (a ‘nice version’ of it, of course) like these two authors. After all, the rhythms of the political forces to which they refer are not in synchrony. From now until summer the Greek government faces a series of more than pressing deadlines; and it’s hard to see how a successful demonstration in Frankfurt, or even the possibility of Podemos winning the Spanish elections at the end of the year, could change the situation in Syriza’s favour. The gaps among these different forces’ temporal rhythms are one of the reasons why the national context is of such strategic importance to the actors in the political struggle: it is the terrain where the power relations among classes are condensed in decisive fashion.
Balibar and Mezzadra also gravely underestimate the demobilising effect that will inevitably follow – both within Greece and at the European level – from the perception that Greece and the Syriza government have been forced to kowtow to the EU’s austerity diktats. And this what everyone is ultimately going to think, whatever the short-sighted defenders of the Greek government do to try and dress it up differently. Already in Greece, the climate of mobilisation and rediscovered confidence that we saw in the first weeks after the election now seems long in the past. Of course, the mobilisations may well resume, but this time they will be directed against the government’s decisions, and in any case they won’t appear ‘on demand’.
Making any political choice conditional on the emergence of social movements is more than risky. It is a way of saying that it is a decision that will have to be changed if the mobilisations do not take place or if they are insufficiently powerful. In reality, we have to take the opposite line of march. We have to assume that we have already made the decision to break with austerity: it’s this that stimulates mobilisation, which will then enjoy (or acquire) its own autonomy. Moreover, that is exactly what happened in Greece during the government’s ‘confrontation’ with the EU between 5 and 20 February, when tens of thousands of people took to the street in a largely spontaneous manner, outside of any party framework.
Besides, the argument that ‘we have won some time’ is in this case an illusion, since during these four months of supposed ‘respite’, Syriza will in fact be forced to operate within the existing framework. And this will strengthen this framework: Syriza will have to implement a good part of what the Troika (now restyled ‘the institutions’) demands, while ‘putting off’ the application of the key measures of its own programme – precisely the policies that would have allowed it to ‘make a difference’ and cement the social alliance that brought it to power. Indeed there is a very major risk that the time that Syriza has ‘won’ will prove to have been ‘wasted time’, undermining Syriza’s base while allowing its enemies (particularly those on the far Right) to regroup and present themselves as the only partisans of a ‘real systemic break’.
We should also note that, despite the disgust that Europeanism addicts like Balibar and Mezzadra feel upon any mention of ‘the national’, the very political successes to which they refer, from Syriza to Podemos, not only took place within a national context – changing the relations of force precisely insofar as they allow radical Left political movements to access the nation state’s levers of power – but were also, in part, only possible thanks to these parties’ insistence on national sovereignty: in a democratic, popular, non-nationalist sense, open to the outside world. ‘National-popular’ discourse and references to ‘patriotism’ abound – Tsipras and Iglesias are perfectly willing to use these terms – as do national flags (Greek and Spanish Republican ones, not to mention the flags of the nationalities within the Spanish State) among the crowds and the ‘autonomous’ movements (as Mezzadra and Balibar call them) filling these countries’ streets and town squares.
More than anything else, this shows that in the particular case of the dominated countries on the periphery of Europe like Spain and Greece, reference to ‘the national’ is a terrain of struggle that progressive forces have managed to hegemonise, thus making it one of the most powerful factors driving their success. And this is the basis on which we can build a real internationalism, not the empty talk – entirely disconnected from the concrete realities of political struggle – about a supposedly already-existing and unmediated ‘European’ or ‘transnational’ terrain.
One last point, to conclude: there is a degree of truth in the first two sophisms, when they talk about Syriza’s ‘mandate’ to leave the Eurozone. It is indeed true that there has been a contradiction in the party’s dominant approach to this question, a contradiction that has now burst into full view. The idea of breaking with austerity and Greece’s debt burden within the existing European framework could not have been more clearly refuted in reality. In such a situation, it is vital that we speak frankly and honestly. The first thing to do is to admit the failure, and thus the need for us to discuss once again the best strategy for Syriza to keep its promises and get Greece out of its current rut. At the same time, this will send a message of struggle to all those people – and there are a lot of them – who were counting on the ‘hope offered by Greece’ and rightly refuse to accept that they are beaten. 
London, 25 February 2015

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Merkels EU: Cyprus to Greece From a Financial to an Electoral Coup

A couple of years back the EU under its alleged attempt at rooting out corruption and financial mismanagement imposed a coup on the Cypriot banking system rendering the economy worthless. Now it has gone another step further rendering the recent Greek elections pointless.

Despite the massive swing to parties of the fake Left in Greece around 2.5m votes and despite the minimal reformist programme trying to arrest the downward spiral of austerity it was not meant to be.

Less than one month in power Syriza was forced to succumb to the 4th Reich. Its pre-electoral propaganda about Debt writedown, increasing the minimum wage to Euro 751, increasing state pensions by a month up to E700, bringing in a min tax threshold of Euro 12k and removing the hated ‘haratsi’ property tax appear to all have gone out of the window. The difficult task will be how to manage the expectations of the voters who have been crushed by the economic genocide programme adopted by the Troika (IMF, ECB, EU).

The unrelenting capitalist crisis which has become exarcebated by the creation of the Eurozone whereby economic giants like Germany are in the same bed as semi-industrialised Greece has led to the creation of the EUs first debt colony. Under guise of saving the Greeks from debt the Germans have reduced them to penury. In this they have form. In the 19th century their colonial invasions of Africa were made to end black slavery in order to inaugurate colonial slavery for their geopolitical interests primarily resources which Germany didn’t produce but required for their industrial giants.

Despite four large demonstrations (1) in many cities of Greece against the EU’s dictat’s the wishes of the Greek population have no place within the EU. They cannot have any alternative programme that attempts to resolve the glaring contradictions of collapsing capitalism. There is no humanitarian crisis, there aren’t millions of unemployed who are sent tax demands and the 4 million people who are in debt to Inland Revenue have as a threat if they own property to lose their homes via forced repossessions 8,000 Greeks haven’t committed suicide, children don’t go to school and faint from hunger. This in a nutshell is Schauble’s line. In the last five years Greek banks have received E233 billion in bailouts and these costs have been born by the massive reduction in wages and pensions (between 30-50%). Continuing along this path means that the widening budget deficit have to have inbuilt cuts according to the Memorandum of Understaning agreements signed with the Troika. It was these agreements Syriza was allegedly going to rip up and destroy once in power. (2)

According to the WallStreetJournal Greece (3) has Euro E29billion commitments this year and without new loans they can’t service these commitments. Greeks owe around Euro70b to the state and that represents around 3.8m people and 400k businesses. That does not include mortgage debt, bank loans. In total Greece’s foreign debts are around E325b and other debts around E300-350b so in total around E650b. The debt write off has gone through the stage whereby an opposition came to power expressing what is actually going on the ground but now has to collect the debts wearing a 'left' lapel. The issue though remains that changing a label from hard right (ND) to radical left (Syriza) does not debts collect. Blood cannot come out of a stone. With 2m unemployed and probably another 1m underemployed (out of an official 4.5m workers) and underpaid severely the economy for the majority of people has been destroyed, it no longer services the needs of the Greek nation. Tourism and agriculture still provide the main source of income with exports being reduced since last year (whilst tourism saw growth), but the nature of the globalised economy imply that any gains in those areas aren’t translated into jobs for the domestic market as a large slice of the labour force in both these industries are non-unionised immigrant labour who are paid in cash and even with a minimum export of Euro50 a month to their families in Asia can be paid anything, if at all.

Unable to truly negotiate, Syriza thought they could convince the Eurogroup on a wing and a prayer, (or was it the Greek electorate?)  talk about the Debt in general and then drop it in two days like Varoufakis did. Why would the EU write off Greek debts when the total EU debts are more than E13trillion? What makes Greek debts special or different? Any agreement on Greek debts would immediately open the floodgates for all else, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc. Even if the debts were zeroed the same debts would accrue again if the nature of the economic relationships don’t change. When you have an open market in services, trade, capital and labour, lilliputean Greece cannot compete with heavy industrial goods from Germany or cheap goods from China or agricultural goods from Africa. The economy becomes absolutely dependent on debt servicing when exports cannot be produced to be sold as each industry has been successfully shut down (cloth making, shoe making, ship repairs etc) In other words there can be no national economic policy  by extension  national elections. Brussels decides.

For Syriza to survive it has to go Left if it does not want to go the way of its previous four predecessors in the IMF period (LAOS, Dimar, PASOK, ND). Trade with Russia direct. Offer a naval base to them to guard the country from neighbours attacks. Agree to the Russian pipeline to be stationed on the Greek-Turkish border. Ensure strategic industries are still in the control of the state: ports, electricity, water, transport etc. Abolish the Dublin 2 agreements whereby illegal immigrants are dumped in Greece as it is a border country of the EU and it clearly does not have the capacity to cope with hundreds of thousands of new arrivals. Enforce a policy of ‘less work but work for all’ with no loss of pay. Seriously argue for Default of Debts which have been paid back at least three time over and if that does not occur exit the EZ and go for the Drachma with an exit from the EU. Without taking these measures there will be no economic policy that isn’t dictated directly by Brussels. Brussels agenda is to create a tax free export processing zone that can compete directly with Asia in the region formally known as Greece with E300 wages and non-existent pensions or (just private) healthcare. That agenda remains intact despite the provisional time out by the election of Syriza.

21st February 2015

1. Eyewitness Reports from the Demos against the Eurogroup:
2.  The Economics of Genocide by the IMF
3. WSJ-Greek Debt Commitments 2015,WSJ:_Ti_prepei_na_plhrwnei_ka8e_mhnah_E.html

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Manolis Glezos: Apologies to Greek people for Voting Syriza

Panagiotis Sotiris:
First major negative reaction against the Eurogroup agreement from inside SYRIZA comes from Manolis Glezos, Member or European Parliament of SYRIZA, and a living legend of the Resistance against fascism (in 1941 along with Lakis Santas they took down the German flag from the Acropolis)
Here is a rough translation of his statement
Statement by Manolis Glezos
Before it is too late
The fact that the Troika has been renamed ‘the institutions’, the Memorendum has been renamed the ‘Agreement’ and the Creditors have been renamed the ‘Partners’, in the same manner as baptizing meat as fish, does not change the previous situation.
And you can’t change the vote of the Greek People at the January 25 election.
The Greek people voted what SYRIZA promised: that we abolish the regime of austerity that is the strategy of not only the oligarchies of Germany and the other creditor countries but also of the Greek oligarchy; that we abrogate the Memoranda and the Troika and all the austerity legislation; That the next day with one law we abolish the Troika and its consequences.
A month has passed and this promise has yet to become action.
It is a pity indeed
From my part I APOLOGIZE to the Greeκ people for having assisted this illusion
Before the wrong direction continues
Before it is too late, let’s react
Above all the members, the friends and supporters of SYRIZA, in urgent meetings at all levels of the organization have to decide if they accept this situation
Some people say that in an agreement you must also make some concessions. By principle between the oppressor and the oppressed there can be no compromise, as there can be no compromise between the slave and the conqueror; Freedom is the only solution
But even if accept this absurdity, the concessions that have already been made by the previous pro-memoranda government with unemployment, poverty and suicide, are beyond any limit of concession...
Manolis Glezos, Brussels 22-2-2015

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Eyewitness Reports Sindagma Sq War of the Roses Separation without Divorce

Sindagma Sq-Eyewitness Report-War of the Roses 15th February
Whilst probably less than last time despite it being on Sunday and with much milder weather the tone was sombre.
No one understands anymore why they are there. There is no longer a reason for demonstrations as Syriza is no longer debating the issue of the Debt, it's folded over on the issue. Most of the banners on demo were saying Not One Step Back and such were the titles of papers within Syriza - DEA, Marxist Tendency etc.
It's as if last Thursday never happened. Varoufakis was clear on Saturday's interview in the Guardian, there is no Plan B. Separation has occurred but the divorce hasn't been finalized. Each side is ripping the other side up, like in the film with M Douglas and K Turner in the War of the Roses. Syriza doesn't want to jump and the EU doesn't want to push. This can't go on indefinitely as it implies Greece will have a  pay as you go relationship to its debts and everyone else would follow suit. But when you don't have a Plan B and the cash flow dries up you will go the way of the previous four parties under the Troika, into the dustbin of history. If Syriza doesn't cut any deals with Russia like its predecessors, and remains committed to Euroatlanticism it will fracture far quicker than New Democracy. People don't have time to wait for solutions to their problems in the afterlife. Like some leaflets said Better the Drachma than Subjugation, We Don't Owe, We Don't Sell We Don't Pay.

5th February
The first protest organised via social media occurred on 5th February at 6pm. Thousands arrived possibly around 30k by the time people heard about it. The tone of the mood was that this was the first time since the Squares Movement in June 2011 that people felt free to protest in front of Parliament without a protective barrier or riot police ready to storm and tear gas people. 

11th February
The 2nd gathering 11th February was possibly three times the size of Syrizas pre-election rally (around 80-190k) despite the extreme cold and the snow that started falling. People turned up on their own or within organisations. Whilst the mood was sombre many carried Greek flags and sang the national anthem the message was clear, don't back down don't come back with your tail between your legs. A third gathering is scheduled for the final Eurogroup meeting

If Syriza was to just fold and implement Samaras ND policy then there was no reason for the recent elections. The govt would start to fragment as there are already rumblings over Varoufakis statements regarding the % of support to the Troika programme which he placed at 70% in support. If Syriza has no Plan B and is ejected from the Eurogroup then the negotiations were futile.

Monday, 9 February 2015

They Destroyed Greece and Now Want the Bones

They Destroyed Us and Now Want the Bones
Whom did the ruling economic interests ask when they put us into the EEC? No one. The Left in that era screamed and warned: Greece out of the Lions Den! They understood then that the victors in WW2 has decided to implement the Nazi plan for the unification of Europe under the iron heel of big business, in alliance with the local collaborators in each country.

They abolished economic borders in Greece, services, and for people and goods without asking us. They dismissed us and demand sacrifices from us. Even our lives. They abolished our borders not to turn Asia into Europe but to turn Europe into Asia, with its people's and the working Greek into an unemployed beggar left on the sidelines! Who apart from Euro and American grovellers. The political families Karamanlides, Mitsotakides,Simitides, Samarades, Venizeloi and other parasites who enriched themselves with our impoverishment. On the other hand the Left which hasn't capitulated like the KKE which wavers towards the big construction bosses and the sold out trade unionists they who ally themselves directly with German and European interests.

From the moment where the great European powers transformed once again without asking the European Nations, the European Economic Community to the European Union with the Euro as a common currency and the Greek economy (not only the Greek) became a totally open shop without any element of monetary, trade or other form of protectionism, so it was inevitable to transform the country into a massive trade deficit which would constantly increase and the country would be condemned to a total bankruptcy and destruction. This is the date imposed on us by the big european powers have the gall to ask us for its bones instead of compensating us for the destruction and the deaths they provoked. The political powers in Greece threw the Greek people into the Lions Den, provoking a massive destruction to the country and its people to serve big foreign interests so as they benefit accordingly, must give explanations and they will for their crimes.

The Greek people never borrowed anything and owes nothing to nobody. Instead they are victims of exploitation by the big 'allied' powers. For the reconstruction of the country and development and in order to be able to have a despicable standard of living must become master of its own country, with borders for persons, for products, and with our national currency the Drachma. All the country and its wealth which has been created must be controlled by its people who shed blood sweat and tears creating it. There is no room for compromise and retreat. It's time for all sides to understand this.