By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS)
July 18, 2015
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) joins the people of the world in condemning the monstrous EU creditors and the weak-spined Tsipras government for pushing the Greek people and economy into a deeper chasm of indebtedness and impoverishment. We express our solidarity and militant salute to the patriotic and toiling Greek people for their sustained resistance against the gang rape of Greece by the powers of European imperialism.
Syriza and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were swept into power on the promise that they would reject the previous bailout deal and secure a more favorable agreement from the Troika (IMF, EC, and Germany-dominated ECB). The Greek people even refreshed their mandate by registering a resounding NO vote (more than 61 per cent) against austerity measures in the July 5 referendum on the proposed agreement. However, the Syriza government betrayed the people and surrendered unconditionally by accepting another Memorandum on July 13—the third in five years—and by having it rubber-stamped by the Greek Parliament on July 15.
The capitulationist Tsipras government has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut more than 13 billion euros from the public purse–4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Greek electorate in the July 5 referendum. By allowing itself to be coerced by its creditors, the Greek government will cause the cost of pensioners’ health care to increase by 50 per cent despite the fact that almost 40 per cent of them live in abject poverty and the wages of public sector workers to be reduced drastically. Public facilities such as airports and ports will be put up for privatization.
The Greek people without exception will suffer further price increases as the value added tax is raised to 23 per cent. Within the framework being defined by the European troika, more intolerable impositions can be expected. The finances of Greece for the next three years or more will be directly controlled to ensure debt payments, in exchange for bailout money and debt restructuring. To the point of being punitive and vindictive, the deal is harsher and more humiliating than the proposed austerity plan that Syriza and the July 5 referendum had earlier rejected. Even Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, has declared that the EU-Tsipras bailout scheme is unsustainable and has indicated the need for debt write-offs and restructuring.
The Troika’s blackmail strategy has been clear enough since the talks began. It was to push Greece to make a black-and-white choice: either unconditionally accept EU’s paralyzing pill of austerity, or do a “Grexit” from the eurozone. The strategic mistake of the Tsipras crew was that it adopted the weak line, “No to austerity but Yes to eurozone,” thus perpetuating illusions that an “honest compromise” could be found while in fact setting itself up for the kill. Instead of threatening the Troika with Grexit, the Tsipras government perversely presumed that it was the one being threatened with Grexit by the Troika. This illogic was the result of opposing the austerity measures and yet being obsessed with staying in the eurozone at any cost.
While in position as finance minister, Varoufakis had his own share of play-acting at opposing austerity measures but pleading to stay in the eurozone at any cost. And he also exposes that the Eurogroup was merely posturing in good-cop, bad-cop fashion until the Syriza leaders, realizing they had miscalculated and faced a dead end within the eurozone frame of mind, were left with no choice but to meekly concede defeat and sign their own death sentence.
“Yes to EU” was the tragic flaw in this Greek drama, because it disarmed Syriza and the Greek people from considering a combination of other options both within and outside the EU framework if only to counter the Troika’s blackmail. It ruled out making serious preparations for an eventual Grexit, which would have its own difficult consequences but could provide Greece with a better set of options for coping with the crisis. Had Syriza shed its illusions much earlier, it could have made economic, political, and social preparations among the Greek people for an eventual Grexit.
A debt default and moratorium on payment of previous debts to the Troika would have been a tremendous relief to the Greek people, providing them with a clean slate with possibly the BRICS Development Bank. Serious preparations for a Grexit would have jolted the EU imperialists and even the US solely or its tool IMF to offer a compromise at debt restructuring less onerous to Greece, including debt write-offs, write downs and 20 to 30 year rescheduling of debt payments.
The Tsipras government did not use to its advantage the overwhelming vote of the Greek people against austerity and did not give due importance to the tremendous political goodwill accumulated internally and internationally to gather support from other countries and political parties. Instead it is attempting to manipulate the will of the Greek people to accept the self-destructive logic of keeping Greece in the stranglehold of the eurozone and the imperialists.
There was time for progressive Greek leaders, including Tsipras, to overcome adverse consequences of debt default and moratorium on debt payments. Instead, Tsipras in anticipation of Syriza electoral victory made trips to the US and other imperialist countries that made false promises and advised him to stay within the EU and NATO at any cost to the Greek people.
He obviously heeded their advice and did not take any serious steps to approach the key members of the BRICS and avail of the BRICS Development Bank or other similar non-EU development finance sources for facilitating trade, especially in getting much needed imports. Russia can provide energy as it has already done and some heavy industrial goods, and China and others in BRICS could provide food and consumer manufactures.
Within Syriza, there were concrete and viable suggestions for financial counter-measures short of a Grexit, in case the ECB closed Greece’s banks to force a deal. Such measures included, for example, taking control over the Bank of Greece from the ECB and issuing euro-denominated IOUs, in combination with approaching and seeking deals with the BRICS. The US would have become so concerned about NATO consensus and the financial stability of the EU that it would have advised the EU to become less harsh and give Greece some leeway through the current EU quantitative easing or the the US and the IMF would have extended some further loans.
Tsipras and his governing crew have proven themselves to be treasonous and inept. They have thus exposed themselves as mere showmen who are adept at whipping up political support but incapable of exercising leadership of a radicalized government and people’s movement so as to stay on a patriotic and progressive course with the masses, fight for principled options, and thus overcome the many obstacles one by one.
The earlier bailouts and austerity programs in 2010 and 2012 had succeeded in aggravating the debt crisis of Greece. They simply dammed up the same negative factors for the next crisis to explode. Suffering the worst depression in any developed country since the 1930s and a severe employment running at 25 percent, Greece under the new Troika austerity program will no longer just suffer “more of the same” but turn into a virtual debt-slave colony of EU bigwigs—as it was under the Roman and Ottoman empires and under the German Third Reich.
Under the weight of the EU-Greek austerity deal and the excruciating economic hardship, we expect a split within the Syriza ranks. The Tsipras camp has rapidly transformed itself and gone into a so-called Radical Left Coalition (with the conservative New Democracy, centrist Potami and “socialist” Pasok) that is pro-capitalist EU, neoliberal, and pro-austerity. The Syriza intra-party opposition camp includes organizations more grounded among the working class, toiling masses, youth, women, and other exploited sections of the Greek people. The Tsipras camp has isolated itself from the masses that previously supported it.
The Greek people, already in dire conditions, will face worse impoverishment, joblessness, shortages, higher prices of goods and services, and heavier tax burdens. With correct and astute leadership, the heroic Greek people can grasp the opportunity of intensifying their resistance and create the conditions for their social, economic and political liberation. They need to oppose the various ultra-rightist parties and movements waiting in the wings to exploit “Greece out of EU” public sentiments and to engineer a reactionary swing to the Right whether through elections or extra-parliamentary means.
We are confident that a resolute and unified progressive Left at the helm of a broad and militant people’s movement can stand upright to resist both the newest imperialist impositions as well as a possible Right-wing fascist backlash. The opportunity is there more than ever to provide the Greek people with a truly revolutionary socialist and anti-imperialist alternative.
We are aware that while it is Greece now on the chopping block, a poor and marginalized European country already on the verge of economic collapse, the neoliberal axe of austerity measures could fall next on the heads of other countries, in the peripheries of Europe and in other continents. The chain reaction is bound to be felt worldwide as a new convulsion of economic and financial crises worse than 2008 break out late this year or next year. The major economic and financial centers of global capitalism are all bogged down by unsustainable state, corporate and household debts and are now facing a crisis far worse than that in 2008.
International support from the people of the world for the working people and true progressive forces in Greece will be crucial during the upcoming period to counter the imperialist offensive. The ILPS calls on all its commissions, global region committees, national chapters and organizations to extend and intensify their moral, political, and other forms of support and solidarity to the people and the progressive movements of Greece in their resistance against the cruel impositions of the imperialist powers represented by the Troika. We also call on all progressive and anti-imperialist groups throughout the world to do likewise, and to unite in joint resistance against renewed neoliberal impositions.