World Politics

Oxi to Capitulation: What Road Ahead for Greece?

Oxi to Capitulation: What Road Ahead for Greece?
Sushovan Dhar

If the Greeks want to get out of this imprisonment, they have to adopt radically different measures -- fiscal, financial, economic and of course, political. They must also be prepared to leave the Eurozone voluntarily

  •  Anti-austerity protesters may face a tough road ahead  
    Photo- REUTERS

The Nobel laureate Jose Saramago, speaking about the Venezuelan opposition once said: “It is difficult to understand these people who democratically take part in elections and a referendum, but are then incapable of democratically accepting the will of the people.” Meanwhile, a little more than a decade later, the Greeks could not believe that not only the opposition, but their prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, who called for a referendum to challenge the Troika’s absolutism -- found it difficult to accept this “will of the people.”

True, there was no lack of apprehension that Tsipras and his close collaborators intended to utilise the Greek refusal of the reprehensible austerity to get the crumbs earlier refused to them. As morally “good negotiators,” they wanted to return to the tables and the green rooms on the shoulders of a resounding NO vote. However, very few -- both in Greece and outside -- could believe that Tsipras could capitulate with such ruthless “efficiency.” The euphoria and the hope surrounding the referendum turned into shockwaves, and that too, barely within a week.

Tsipras accepted a deal that 61% of the Greek voters rejected. Not only the new “accord” is worse than what creditors offered earlier, the new memorandum exacted much more from this Hellenic government than its pro-austerity predecessors. The creditors are resolute on demanding more than “one pound of flesh.”

It is indeed hard to believe that this historic victory for the Greeks and its democratic accountability was sold so cheaply, and that even, sans resistance or confrontation. None were prepared to see their government imploring, beseeching, begging on its knees for a “deal.” The Greek people were once again defeated, let down, sold out, betrayed, double-crossed, stabbed in the back, and cheated, by a government they considered their own.

Syriza came to power in January, riding on the crests of mass movements calling for a NO to the Troika’s failed policies and an end to austerity. Once in power, the leadership decided to solve matters through “better negotiations,” and disband the masses.

There were already signs of despair and frustrations. Hopes were rekindled the moment Tsipras announced the referendum. The mass movement was genuinely revived, but all that Tsipras and his trusted aides were prepared to do was to fight for the best possible terms of their continuing enslavement. They badly coiled up with even harsher terms than that were originally offered.

The erstwhile finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned (under the creditors’ pressure) to be replaced by the Oxford educated Euclid Tsakalotos, who, from the first minute started acting as the creditors’ finance manager. His German counterpart, Herr Wolfgang Schäuble’s praise for him as a more conventional and acceptable figure is barely a surprise.

The EU, earlier terrified by Tsipras’ call for referendum could see Greece’s resistance miserably crushed, enabling them to play the Grexit card and impose stronger austerity measures. Disregarding the total rejection of their devastating policies imposed on Greece for the last five years, they could impose an “accord” to extend the damage of the Greek state and immiserise the population. A black deal was signed on Monday, July 13 at the Eurozone heads of state meeting, sums up this sordid tale.

Of course, there are still resistances and protests against this wholesale tragedy inside Greece. There were huge mobilisations in the streets of Athens, Thessaloniki and other places. A general strike against the third memorandum was called by the public sector trade union federation. The “notorious” riot police, which Syriza had earlier pledged to disband, was sent out to disperse protesters as the leadership was afraid that unlike the previous “no” rallies, the new ones would never be in their favour. 

While the president of the Hellenic Parliament, Zoé Konstantopoulou, in a speech, declared her staunch refusal to accept this humiliating “accord,” 109 members out of 201 of the Syriza Central Committee, signed a statement condemning the capitulation. Nevertheless, caving in to the creditors’ threats and blackmails, Tsipras decided to oblige them ignoring his comrades. With this surrender he accepts terms even harsher than what he had turned down before.

The contents of the “new” accords precisely lack any newness. The same old measures, viz budgetary surpluses through pension cuts, increase in the VAT and other taxes, further privatisations and rapidly, additional “market reforms,” restraint on collective bargaining (read: Wages to be kept as low as possible), etc. As Stathis Kouvelakis, a central committee member of Syriza who teaches political theory at King’s College London points out that the deal included “(...) a handful of measures to give it a slight flavour of ‘social justice’ (eg an increase in the corporate tax rate by two points).”

Sensing rebellion in his own ranks including senior ministers like Panos Kammenos, head of the Independent Greeks party (ANEL), and Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the Left Platform Tsipras, colluded with three right-wing parties -- PASOK, Potami, New Democracy -- to get the deal passed in Greek parliament on July 16. 32 Syriza MPs voted against and seven abstained.

Is there a way out?

The EU hawks successfully spread the canard that suspending debt payment was synonymous with exiting the Euro. Their spin doctors were successful in blackmailing Tsipras into conceding to their demands and more, but the reality lies elsewhere. A series of sovereign measures of self-defense, viz control on banks, currency, and taxation could work strongly for a Greek economic recovery and make the threat of Grexit irrelevant. However, the current measures mean that the crisis would recur from time to time and Troika would successfully use the threat to subordinate the Greeks incrementally.

Greece is also used as a precedent to warn current and potential rebellion in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and of course, the whole of Europe.

While it was perfectly possible to reject the European Central Bank, the Eurogroup and the European Commission’s nefarious designs expressed through unbearable and illegitimate injunctions, Tsipras squandered his chances and converted a prospective advantage to a deficit. His tragic subordination to EU’s arm-twisting would result not only in more austerity -- misery, pauperisation, and impoverishment -- but a sell-out of the country’s national heritage.

However, one thing is for sure, if the Greeks want to get out of this imprisonment, they have to adopt radically different measures -- fiscal, financial, economic, and of course, political. They must also be prepared to leave the Eurozone voluntarily. Reports suggest that there might not be any overwhelming endorsement for the latter idea at this point of time -- a vulnerability well-exploited by the creditors as well as the pro-deal political actors.

Nevertheless, the terms and conditions of the agreement would sooner or later convince a majority of Greeks, that a future that includes justice and emancipation, or in other words, a prospect where they cease to be guinea pigs but survive as decent human being doesn’t lie in the Eurozone. 

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