Turning No into Yes: Syriza's Memorandum

Turning No into Yes: Syriza's Memorandum

Some thoughts on current developments in Greece. While events are still moving and uncertain at the moment the along awaited third memorandum between the Greek state and the Troika seems to be on its way. For all the hopes and promises of Syriza, austerity remains.

The rather tumultuous negotiations between the Greek state and the Troika and the events of the last weeks can be said to be a tale of two Sundays. Sunday 5th July saw thousands celebrate as a large number of people voted to reject the austerity demanded by the Troika as a condition of remaining in the Eurozone. One week later, Sunday 12th, and that position was reversed as PM Tsipras agreed to a set of demands even worse than those rejected in the referendum.

We should of course be careful not to read too much into the referendum result. It was primarily a negotiation tactic, a misguided one at that, from a government attempting to make an austerity deal. The fact that around 1 in 3 people abstained from a supposedly critical vote shows that many understood this. Syriza believed calling a referendum would strengthen its hand and perhaps scare the Troika into easing its demands. In the end the Troika first sensed an opportunity to force the Greek government out, when that failed they simply realised that the referendum vote meant nothing to them after all.

This should not detract though from the potential significance of the No vote. The referendum on whether to accept the latest Troika demands was held against a background of capital controls and closed banks. The mainstream media stepped up its campaign of fear to tell people that rejecting Troika demands would lead directly to catastrophe. This was backed up by the majority of politicians, with a number of past leaders and 'elder statesmen' crawling out of the woodwork to campaign for Yes. One of the useful aspects of the brief referendum campaign was the moment of clarity it offered. The whole of the Greek political and economic establishment of the old regime which has ruled the country since 1974 was behind the Yes campaign. So too was the hierarchy of the EU and the markets. When the Yes campaign held public protests it was clear to see it was largely backed by a wealthier demographic with several business leaders even joining in. This was further shown by the referendum results. For example in Athens, the only districts to vote Yes were the wealthy northern and southern suburbs while in some poorer areas the No vote reached 70%. After the referendum the dividing lines seem a little clearer.

We can say that had a similar vote been held on previous austerity memorandums the results would likely have been different. Over time more and more people, many with less and less to lose, are shifting against accepting such measures. The positive we can take from the referendum result is that a large number of people were not scared by the media and even before it is enacted it is clear the next memorandum lacks any legitimacy. We will have to wait and see whether this can be used as part of the campaign against the third memorandum.

However, it is also necessary to note one significant danger the July 5th referendum presented. No doubt for many who voted No it was a case of standing up for national pride rather than rejecting neo-liberal policies. The number of Greek flags seen at the victory celebrations point to this and it should be remembered that aside from Syriza the only parties to approve the referendum were the right-wing Independent Greeks and fascist Golden Dawn. The latter will certainly be happy to see national pride inflated and then wounded, even if by a left government.

A week on from the referendum and it is clear to all that the Troika simply doesn't care about the opinions of people living in Greece. It's not that they ignored the result, instead they reacted by complaining of a lack of trust and countering this by demanding more control and inflicting harsher measures than those rejected. For its part Syriza, having played by the diplomatic and political rules throughout the last months, had nowhere to go. They had not prepared an alternative plan and, determined to stay in the Eurozone, simply submitted.

And so despite a somewhat more dramatic road then many expected, we are at the point many people have predicted. Syriza is about to bring the long awaited third memorandum. With the first and second bailouts dating from 2010 and 2012 having failed and led to an economic depression, a third bailout has been seen as inevitable for sometime. The measures included, which must be rushed through in the next days, will only add more suffering to an already battered populace. Some of the key measures are:

  • €50bn privatisation fund to be overseen by Troika officials. This represents a huge increase in privatisations from the previous memorandums and it is unclear yet what will be up for sell.
  • Tax increases. VAT is to be raised on a number of products.
  • Pension cuts. Retirement age is likely to rise and pensions which have already been cut may suffer further loses. It must be noted that due to huge levels of youth unemployment, pensions are frequently the only income from many families.
  • Labour market reforms such as changes to collective bargaining.
  • 'Ambitious' primary surplus targets must be met and tied to automatic budget cuts.

Previous measures taken by Syriza, perhaps including the rehiring of fired workers, must be reversed.

Added to the harsh measures was a large dose of blame, threats and humiliation. The Greek state must show an 'unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and in a timely manner'. The statement stresses that 'the risks of not concluding swiftly the negotiations remain fully with Greece' and claims that the unsustainability of the Greek state's debts is 'due to the easing of policies during the last twelve months'. Commentators aren't wrong in pointing out the similarities between this loan request and punitive treaties imposed after wars.

In return the only concessions Tsipras can point to are a reference to start a discussion about Greek debt in the future, though an actual write off is strictly prohibited. The other 'win' is that the privatisation fund will be based in Greece(though overseen by the Troika) rather than being transferred to Luxembourg. The terms of the third memorandum represent a major defeat for the Greek state but this is not what should concern us here.

It is still possible that the deal could collapse, at the least it is likely there will be some changes in the government of Greece soon. Whichever way things go hardship for an already suffering population looks likely to increase. Now more than ever we can see that no one in the Greek parliament offers people a real way forward. Syriza swept to power on a wave of hope from a tired population. In the end they proved to be the 'foolishly misguided idealists' they were predicted to be. One lesson from this hardly needs stating. A social democratic left wing party believed that by persuasion and reason they could mitigate the effects of capitalism. They have been proven wrong and another political project has failed. Now more than ever real hope for people has to be built from below.

Posted By

Thrasybulus
Jul 13 2015 15:32

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Morrissey Smiff
Jul 14 2015 06:09

Please. The guy is a simple traitor. The world is full of them. They're called 'politicians'. That very much includes our very own creepy SNP.

Foristaruso
Jul 14 2015 07:08

kirilov
Jul 16 2015 15:18

I have found the voting record of the Syriza MPs on last night's memorandum:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EAZVy4bC0YDOceksy7BpdypRgMf-sPTu...

I was wondering if anyone has found the voting record broken down by each party?

As the author of the post mentioned, GD was the only other party to support the referendum besides Syriza, and I worry that they may have been the only party to consistently vote no last night. While I certainly do not respect Varafakis's opinion, I think he is right to observe that Syriza's foolishness seems to have played right into the hand of the fascists.

Anyway...

Death to the fascists!
Death to the EU!
Death to the troika!
Death to capitalism and the state!

bastarx
Jul 17 2015 00:06
Morrissey Smiff wrote:
Please. The guy is a simple traitor. The world is full of them. They're called 'politicians'. That very much includes our very own creepy SNP.

Politicians can only be considered traitors if one has illusions that they were ever on our side.

Politicians manage capitalist states, only moronic leftists are surprised by this.

Auld-bod
Jul 17 2015 08:59

bastarx, agreed with your post until, ‘only moronic leftists are surprised by this.’
This is simply not the case, Winston Churchill was hated by his own party as he opposed fascism; Enoch Powell was considered a ‘traitor’ for suggesting people should vote Labour; when the ‘gang of four’ left the Labour Party they were condemned as traitors and saboteurs, etc.

Capitalism as I understand it, is dog eat dog, all against one and one against all, and politicians are useful then expendable, depending on the consensus view of the market imperative. In this view, a politician is a tool and like Churchill can be rehabilitated if necessary.

bastarx
Jul 17 2015 13:45

I presume Auld-bod that you don't consider the Tory or Labour Party as our side, so I'm not sure what Churchill's or Powell's reputed treason has to do with this discussion. By our side I mean proletarians opposed to capitalism. Few if any politicians have ever been on that side.

Politicians certainly can and do betray particular capitalist interests but only moronic leftists think anyone was ever elected to state office fully intending to abolish capitalism only to betray that intention.

noclass
Jul 17 2015 13:50

bastarx, I agree with you all the way.

Auld-bod
Jul 17 2015 16:02

bastarx, in that sense, I agree with you too all the way.

EDIT: Think I got my knickers in a twist!

Tyrion
Jul 17 2015 18:12

I know that about 90% of the 2010 bailout went into the coffers of banks that had made loans to the Greek government. Was it the same story with the 2012 bailout?

bastarx
Jul 17 2015 22:19
Auld-bod wrote:
bastarx, in that sense, I agree with you too all the way.

EDIT: Think I got my knickers in a twist!

No worries.

Anti War
Jul 19 2015 15:15

Of all the governments that the Greek ruling class could use to impose austerity, a parliamentary majority led by Alexis Tsipras is probably the most effective. So, yet again, Social Democracy and (Euro)Stalinism is fulfilling its historical role of trying to save capitalism.

Yanis Yaroufakis, Syriza’s self-described ‘libertarian communist’ ex-Finance Minister, never hid his desire 'to save European capitalism from itself'. But this wasn’t why so many radicals supported Syriza.

They did so because they imagined that, despite all its faults, Syriza still ‘opened a space for heightened struggle’ or, in John Holloway's words, it would: 'change the current kaleidoscope of social struggles' or, in Toni Negri's even more deluded words:

Stathis Kouvelakis, a Syriza Central Committee member friendly to the UK’s SWP, also used similar arguments, saying after the election victory that 'there is a spreading mood of mobilization, of regained dignity.'

However, now that these delusions have collapsed, Kouvelakis acknowledges that Syriza's ‘whole negotiation process by itself triggered passivity and anxiety among the people and the most combative sectors of society, leading them to exhaustion.’

Kouvelakis also acknowledges that Syriza’s strategy really was to treat the negotiations like 'an academic conference'. As Yaroufakis said:

Social Democrats and other reformists have always been naive about capitalism - just look at Jeremy Corbyn's campaign policies. But, perhaps, only a pseudo-Marxist academic could imagine that he just needed to lecture the EU about Keynesian economics for them to change their minds!

300x Yaroufakis also seems to agree with George Osborne on parliamentary democracy. He says their dealings were 'very good, very pleasant, excellent ... [Osborne] was very sympathetic … it’s not just Euroscepticism; it’s a Burkean view of the sovereignty of parliament.'

350x Jeremy Corbyn - the UK's Alexis Tsipras?

In his new book, Postcapitalism, Paul Mason at least gets this prediction correct:

Quote:
The 2008 crash ... produced, in the west, a depression phase longer than in 1929-33, and even now, amid a pallid recovery, has left mainstream economists terrified about the prospect of long-term stagnation. The aftershocks in Europe are tearing the continent apart.
.
The solutions have been austerity plus monetary excess. But they are not working. In the worst-hit countries, the pension system has been destroyed, the retirement age is being hiked to 70, and education is being privatised so that graduates now face a lifetime of high debt. Services are being dismantled and infrastructure projects put on hold.
.
Even now many people fail to grasp the true meaning of the word “austerity”. Austerity is not eight years of spending cuts, as in the UK, or even the social catastrophe inflicted on Greece. It means driving the wages, social wages and living standards in the west down for decades until they meet those of the middle class in China and India on the way up.
.
Meanwhile in the absence of any alternative model, the conditions for another crisis are being assembled.'

If Mason is right, this surely makes an uncompromisingly revolutionary movement the only adequate and non-utopian way to deal with 21st Century capitalism. Nevertheless, many radical intellectuals are still reluctant to acknowledge the impossibility of any real progress via reformist parties. For example, see:

Michael Albert, 'Why Rush to Judgement on Syriza?

Costas Lapavitsas and Leo Panitch debate Syriza’s ‘betrayal’.
(In which the apparently ex-SWPer - now Syriza MP - Lapavitsas, says his ‘Left Platform is Syriza, is the original force that created Syriza … no one wants to split Syriza.’)

Of course, delusions in Social Democracy are often mirrored by delusions in Stalinism. For more on such delusions, see:

An Anarchist in Love with Mao’s China - Herbert Read’s Letters from China … Plus a List of Other Dubious Accounts of ‘Successful’ Revolutions, from Russia to Rojava.’

Negri, Harvey, Graeber, Wallerstein, Holloway, the Cult of Abdullah Ocalan and the Rojava Revolution.’

noclass
Jul 20 2015 00:33
Quote:
many radical intellectuals are still reluctant to acknowledge the impossibility of any real progress via reformist parties

True, even revolutionary parties won't do. "Now more than ever real hope for people has to be built from below."