Written by Ricardo Ayala and Felipe Alegria
Thursday, 05 March 2015 17:07
After the ultimatum from the European Union (EU) Tsipras’ cabinet had two options: either keeping their compromise with the Greek people and cancel the memorandum or capitulating to the European imperialism, that demanded a complete surrender. Unfortunately, Tsipras capitulated.
Before the meetings started, Varoufakis declared that there would be no more negotiation with the Troika and that they “wouldn’t sign the memorandum even if they held a gun to his head”. Tsipras, on the other hand, said that Greece was not a colony, and that his cabinet refused to accept ultimatums or blackmail. Nevertheless, his bet was for “negotiation among partners”. Totally illusory.
When the negotiation started, the whole of Greece was following the news on TV, as if watching a FIFA World Cup final. But there was much more at stake than a few goals in that match: jobs, public health, schools, housing, at last, a decent living standard for the Greeks. Winning this match was the reason why so many people trusted Syriza with their votes, because they promised to break with the memorandum and to end austerity. Thousands of people rallied to show they were backing the government and the polls showed a 85% support.
But there was, at the same time, a second match, being played in the same field, EU on one side and all the workers of Europe on the other. For the European imperialism, the deepest meaning of the “negotiation” lies beyond the extension of the second Greek bailout. The “negotiation” affected squarely the Portuguese workers, and those from Spain, Ireland, Baltic countries, France and Italy, the workers and people of all Europe. If the Greek won, we all would win. That is why the Greek government had to be surrendered and humiliated, and that is the way it should become clear to everyone.
In the discussion inside the Eurogroup (the organism that gathers the finance ministers of the Eurozone) the “negotiation” was purely political: having the Greek people declared sovereign and master of their fate was a thorn in EU’s side and they wanted to get rid of it out as soon as possible. A bad example was settled that had to be eradicated without delay.
Nevertheless, no matter the hopes created by Syriza, starting the “negotiation” without demanding the cancellation of the debt and the end of the memorandum as a pre-condition for the discussion was like conceding defeat before starting the game: once the crux of the Greek people’s problem was out of the table, it was only a matter of discussing the payment conditions, some semantic arrangements and trying to avoid a complete humiliation.
From that point on, the goal of the European financial capital was to turn Greece into a maimed example, not only for the indebted countries, but also for the Italian and Belgian workers that went to strike actions at the end of last year against adjustment policies.
The chiefs of EU meant to reinforce the point that adjustment policies don’t have “a backtrack”. They wanted to make it clear that concerning this, they all close ranks under the lead of German capitalism. They are united in this, including third rank imperialism as Spain, the bourgeoisie of dominated countries as Portugal or the East. They all share a higher goal: change the pattern of exploitation of the working class, especially in the periphery.
Because of this, they had to impose on Tsipras, and through him extend it over all the Greeks, a humiliating defeat. Along with Greece is the continuation of the structural adjustment, the counter-reforms that hit Europe.
One cannot have two masters
In all modesty, when the German ultimatum to Greece happened, we wrote: “Syriza is trapped in an insurmountable contradiction: they want to oppose the bailout terms and, no matter the cost, at the same time remain inside the Euro and respect the EU agreements, as well as the agreements with the Greek bourgeoisie… But it is not possible to stop the Greek catastrophe if the cost is staying in the eurozone. If there was any room for doubt, Berlin and Paris have spoken clearly: Syriza must choose between one thing and the other.” 
The enactment of the “negotiations” has become a play of farce and tragedy, because the Greek government accepted the cornerstone over which austerity builds: first thing is to save the banks and to remain in the Eurozone whatever the cost.
The problem is that this is not compatible with the measures required to stop social ruin. It is not possible to save the banks and, at the same time, void the memorandum. Tsipras chose the former.
The leadership of Syriza, who call the imperialist governments of Europe “partners”, thought that through an aggressive speech they would be able to get some left overs. According to Tsipras, the “partners” wouldn’t be able to remain indifferent to the humanitarian crisis that torments the Greek people.
But Tsipras failed to understand that he was not negotiating an arrangement just for the emergency measures he passed after taking office. Measures that cannot be sustained after the agreement he just signed. He failed to understand that what the Eurogroup was actually discussing was whether Greece (extensible to all bailout-aided and subdued countries) was sovereign, and whether the workers of Europe could stand up and revoke the dictates of the governments.
“Renaming the Troika into Institutions, the Memorandum of Understanding into Agreement and the lenders into partners, you do not change the previous situations as in the case renaming meat into fish.” said Manolis Glezos, Syriza MEP, and hero of the WWII resistance. You do not change, either, the meaning of the Greek people’s vote on the 25th January. Tsipras was elected to void the Memorandum of the second bailout, force a waiver of the debt and to end the regime of austerity. But he has signed for the opposite. As in a play of classical Greek drama, the actors have taken off their masks. The difference being that this time that has not happened at the end of the play, but right after the beginning.
Tsipras cabinet chose bailing out the banks
Meanwhile the “agreement” was finished, the British economist Michael Roberts wrote on his blog: “One of the cruel ironies of the last minute deal between the Eurogroup and the Greek government for a four month extension to the existing ‘aid’ programme monitored by the Troika is that in any sane meaning it is not aid at all.” He’s right: the bailout that is being extended currently was, back in time, the bailout of the German, French, North American banks. Through the bailout the banks were able to transfer all their Greek bonds to the states in EU, the ECB and the IMF.
The agreement signed by the government of Syriza-Anel holds the same spirit as the previous bailouts. The difference being that this time the priority is to keep Greek banks afloat. The agreement extends for four months the second bailout, which would finish on February 28th. Extending it means accepting the draconian measures imposed by the moneylenders. And on top of this foundations, start negotiating a third bailout, with the same terms and conditions. This is what Tsipras meant when he said “the difficulties, the real difficulties… are ahead of us.”
In exchange for the last stretch of the loan from Troika, Tsipras cabinet give up sovereignty, decline to apply the “Thessaloniki Programme”, and abolishes the emergency measures approved after winning the election.
But, where will that ‘aid’ from Troika go?
The worst part of this deal is that the Greek government will not get a trace of Troika’s ‘aid’ to Greece. Tsipras will not get any extra Euros to spend. Is a come and go fund that returns to the creditors, to keep moving the evil engine of debt. A debt that every day becomes bigger, every day becomes more unlikely to ever be repaid. One of the points for the blackmail done by the Troika is the threat of taking liquidity away from greek banking, which has to refinance 11,000 million that the ECB lent in exchange of some short-term debt that Tsipras cabinet cannot afford to buy back.
The economist and Syriza MP Costas Lavapistas reports: “The existing funds of the Financial Stability Fund will be used exclusively for the needs of banks and will be out of Greek control.” And adds “Greece is committed to ensuring ‘appropriate’ primary surpluses to guarantee the sustainability of the debt on the basis of the Eurogroup decision of November 2012.” Primary surplus is the difference between income and expenditure of the government before paying interest rates. Troika will maintain a close control over all the important decisions of the government.
The agony does not end with the bailout extension
In June, the Greek government has to pay back 6,700 millions to ECB and 5,300 millions to IMF. And by the end of April, Troika must “check” the agreement to ensure that the reforms and the measures that Tsipras committed to do are really in place. If that fails, they will not keep on refinancing the Greek government or banks.
To release this fund, which will never reach the Greek treasury, Tsipras has committed to continue implementing the measures of the Memorandum. This is according to the demands of Berlin and Brussels, backed up by the Greek bourgeoisie.
The programme of Syriza passed in the conference of Thessaloniki was voted on the basis of a likely early victory in the ballots, as Samaras government was falling apart. The “Thessaloniki Programme” was clearly a step back from the programme voted in the previous congress, in which a unilateral void of the memorandum through a vote in the parliament was voted. Instead, the new programme suggests that the Greeks face a dilemma of “negotiating with EU having Syriza in the government, or the acceptance of the creditors terms having Samaras in the government.” In this context, the government of Syriza would be defined by the following points:
- Write-off the greater part of public debt’s nominal value so that it becomes sustainable. Include a “growth clause” in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed.
- Include a significant grace period (“moratorium”) in debt servicing to save funds for growth.
- Exclude public investment from the restrictions of the Stability and Growth Pact.
- The issue of the Nazi Occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece […] It will become the country’s official position from our first days in power.
- We assume responsibility and are accordingly committed to the Greek people for a National Reconstruction Plan that will replace the Memorandum as early as our first days in power, before and regardless of the negotiation outcome.
The Greek workers voted specifically this points, but not even one of them was part of the negotiation. When the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble said: “Writing off the debt is not in the agenda,” Tsipras declined to go on with the commitments he made and ended up signing the agreement. The agreement maintains the payment of the whole of the debt, and binds him not to take any measure that increases public expenditure without Troika’s seal of approval. It also goes against all the emergency measures already in place, and accepts the targets of ‘primary surplus’ to face the debt installments. In short, using the same words in Syriza’s programme, the outcome of the negotiation has been “the acceptance of the creditors terms”, the same way as Samaras’ cabinet would have done.
EU, keep your talons out of Greece! Immediate cancellation of the debt!
From Corriente Roja, IWL-FI’s Spanish State section, we have no doubt to assert that, although we thought that the emergency measures announced by Tsipras government were insufficient, we have to fight tooth and nail against the attacks of EU and the imperialist European powers.
In the face of German ultimatum, Syriza must apply its programme of writing off the debt and ask for a moratorium. And although Syriza has never discussed the possibility of leaving the Eurozone, it should embrace that option as the only way to apply their emergency programme against the social catastrophe.
If the European imperialism replied blockading the financing of the greek banks, the natural response is the nationalisation, and the control of capital transfers, to prevent money flight.
But the option made by Tsipras is to preserve the property of these bankrupted banks, that survive as the parasites of the big sharks that pillage the country. In order to break with the dictates of the European imperialism embodied in the EU and the ECB, the government has to break the commitments to the Greek bourgeoisie, the coalition with the Independent Greeks party (ANEL) and with New Democracy, Tsipras’ guest in the presidency as a symbol of his compromise with the status quo.
Agree with Manolis Glezos: the Greek left must mobilise to revoke the agreements
We make ours Manolis Glezos’ claim “Before it is too late”. The left, starting by Syriza’s leftwing, must mobilise themselves and mobilise the workers and the people to take on to the streets and demand Tsipras’ government to suspend immediately the payment of the debt, and to apply without delay all the emergency measures that his government passed.
Either that or “behaving as if Greece was a colony and the greeks the pariahs of Europe”, as Tsipras said in the election campaign.