Another Brest-Litovsk?

Submitted by Matthew on 25 February, 2015 - 11:43 Author: Colin Foster

No small country, and in fact no country at all, can simply defy and ignore the pressures of the capitalist world market, not unless it wants to reduce itself to a pauperised, shut-off condition.

It would be wrong and demagogic to denounce the Greek government just for trying to do a deal with the eurozone leaders, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. It is even more demagogic to say that it could have an easy way out of the difficulties just by quitting the European Union.

A Greece having quit the EU would still have to find ways of dealing with the capitalist world market. It would still have to seek credits and trading agreements. It would do so with added difficulties, since its new currency would lose relative value quickly (at least in the short term). It would be hard for the government even to get its new currency accepted within the country; and the government would still face demands that it repay its debts in euros, or be cut off from credit.

Equally, a Greek government which aims only at getting a better deal with the eurozone leaders, without any “plan B” which it can use to apply pressure on those leaders, is unlikely to get that better deal. Only defiance, threat, and wide international solidarity could win a passable deal.

The problem about the Greek government’s deal with the eurozone finance ministers is not just that it is less than the Greek government hoped for.

The problem is three things. One, that the deal not only obliges the Greek government to make payments to European high finance, but gives that high finance (through the EU/ ECB/ IMF “Troika”, renamed “the institutions”) a veto over how the government conducts itself in the class struggle within Greece.

Two: that the government did the deal only by bypassing the democracy of Syriza, and presenting Syriza’s members and voters with a fait accompli. It did the deal without trying any of the gambits which even mainstream economists have proposed as ways of putting pressure on the euro-leaders: creating new domestic credit by printing government IOUs; nationalising the banks; imposing capital controls; cutting military spending; introducing new taxes on the rich; pausing payments on the debt.

Three: that the government has called the deal a success.

After the Russian workers’ revolution of 1917, the workers’ government had to do a deal which conceded large territories to imperialist Germany, the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

But it signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty only after long and vigorous debate in the soviets and the Bolshevik party.

It gave imperialist Germany no veto over the government’s alignment with the working class in the class struggle within Russia.

Trotsky, who negotiated at Brest-Litovsk on behalf of the workers’ government, did not claim success, but declared to the German government: “the peace you have forced upon us is a peace of force and robbery”.

Syriza central committee member Stathis Kouvelakis has written: “Presenting a defeat as ‘success’ is perhaps much worse than the defeat... If the treaty of Brest-Litovsk... had been declared a ‘victory’, there is no doubt that would have led to the defeat of the October Revolution”.