When Greece resoundingly rejected economic austerity last week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government were given a wealth of political capital.
For the second time, including the election of Tsipras’ Syriza party six months ago, the Greek people spoke out democratically – unequivocally and irrefutably – no more austerity and debt slavery.
What do the European Union leadership and the Troika of creditors not understand about the word “No”? The Greek people have spoken — twice en masse — that they no longer want to endure imposed poverty in order to bailout the financial oligarchy, both within their own country and in Europe generally. Enough is enough of the prevailing kleptocracy of the creditors under the cynical guise of “financial probity”.
The Greek people have every moral and legal right to repudiate the gargantuan racket of piling up astronomical debt in their name, the proceeds of which go to the financial aristocracy, leaving the people to pick up the bill in the form of generations of enforced immiseration.
This week, Greek premier Alexis Tsipras gave a defiant-sounding speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg. He was greeted with cheers from many parliamentarians, and also jeers from opponents. It was the first occasion for Tsipras to speak publicly in Europe since the historic Greek referendum on July 5. He called for an end to the “austerity laboratory” that his country has been subjected to over the past five years. He hit out at the financial oligarchy in Europe which has plunged all of the EU countries into ruin.
Tsipras also denounced previous corrupt Greek governments, which in cahoots with the European creditors, have saddled the ordinary citizens with some $320 billion debt. He called for social justice and noted that the richest 10 per cent of Greece’s population owns over 50 per cent of the country’s total wealth yet they don’t pay any tax to support society. Tsipras said, with sound reason, that what is known as the “Greek crisis” is actually a “European crisis” requiring a “European solution”.
So far, so good. Then came that sinking feeling. While Tsipras was giving his bravura speech in Strasbourg news emerged that his newly appointed finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, had submitted Greek government plans for a new three-year financial bailout from the EU creditors. The new plans include commitments to implement economic reforms on pensions and taxes. That sounds ominously like the Syriza government is preparing to meet the creditors’ demands for more austerity, or what we might call “austerity-lite”.
In the coming days, Athens is to reveal the full details of its “reforms” which will be assessed by the leaders of the EU 28 member states at a summit on Sunday. If the reforms do not go far enough to satisfy demands led by Germany and the Brussels bureaucratic elite, then the latter has allegedly drawn up plans for Greece to be expelled from the euro monetary system — the so-called Grexit.
In other words, it appears that Tsipras and his Syriza government are readying to cave in to ultimatums for more austerity to be imposed on the already devastated Greek population.
Such a capitulation runs in the face of Tsipras’ own logic which he eloquently spelled out to the Strasbourg parliament. Austerity is a demonstratively failed policy, he said. It has crippled the Greek economy and has only resulted in ever-more increasing, un-payable debt.
To engage in any further austerity is also reneging on the democratic mandate that the Greek people have bestowed on its government. The people have trenchantly expressed their position — no more austerity and dictate from the EU’s creditors. This position was also supposed to be a “red line” for Tsipras and his government. So how can he contemplate crossing it — and especially after the landslide referendum result last week?
The Syriza government — and not for the first time — appears to be placing its faith in hatching a deal with the banker-dominated EU leadership. It seems willing to repeat the fatal mistakes of past Greek governments by “extending and pretending” a dubious financial bailout for the country in return for “reforms” — which is just a euphemism for more punitive measures on workers’ wages, social security for the unemployed and entitlements for the elderly. We may be sure that the proffered “tax reforms” do not include long-overdue demands on Greece’s wealthy to pay their fair share. Such measures have already been rejected by the EU creditors and the IMF.
Even before the referendum, Syriza was signalling that it was ready to accept, at least in part, the creditors’ dictates. And within hours of the historic vote, Tsipras asked his then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to resign because Germany and other hardline creditors did not want Varoufakis back at the negotiating table.
That in itself was an extraordinary capitulation to anti-democratic dictate from Berlin and its banker lackeys.
What the Syriza government should be doing is obeying their democratic mandate by placing its faith in the Greek people, not the Brussels bureaucrats and governments who are serving the financial oligarchy.
The Athens government should also rely on the immense solidarity and political strength afforded by the mass of European citizens who support the anti-austerity cause. Syriza could form a formidable anti-austerity, anti-debt bloc with Spain’s Podemos, Germany’s Left Party, Ireland’s Sinn Fein and other leftwing parties across Europe.
Tsipras and his party leadership do not seem to realise that they are the ones who hold the winning cards, not the discredited Brussels elite. By threatening to leave the euro system on the principled stand of repudiating austerity and defaulting on unethical debts, the Tsipras government wields enormous power against the banker oligarchs and their politician-puppets.
Greece has the power to bring to its knees the corrupt anti-democratic cabal and their bankrupt neoliberal capitalism that has hijacked the entire EU bloc. And to then build a more democratic EU from the people, from the bottom up; to build a Europe where democracy, citizens and workers are at last able to exert the proper control over economic and financial resources.
Why do you think US President Barack Obama has this week urged Germany’s Angela Merkel to try to keep Greece within the eurozone orthodoxy? Washington is worried that the rotten EU status quo and its NATO alliance could collapse if genuine European democracy were to resurrect from debt slavery, led by Greece.
The haughty, arrogant EU financial tyrants and their political puppets, like Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schauble and the unelected arch-bureaucrats Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, are prone to lecture Greece about how it has squandered capital down through the years. The feckless, lazy Greeks now have to pay up, so they imply. Yes, Greece did squander capital, it is true, but on the Greek oligarchs who stashed their money in offshore havens and in European banks. The argument that Greek people indulged in reckless spending is an odious myth to justify debt slavery.
However, what appears now to be bitterly ironic is that Alexis Tsipras and his government are about to squander a much more precious capital — the political capital that the Greek people and other ordinary citizens across Europe have invested in them — to stand up for democratic rights and to strike a decisive blow against debt slavery.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.