Up to Friday 26 June the Greek government of Syriza-ANEL was very close to reaching an agreement with the eurozone leaders. It looked set to abandon its last “red lines” and accept 90-95% of the conditions for a new bailout, including direct wage and pension reductions and explicitly maintaining the framework of the last five years of Memorandum.
The Greek government had accepted the logic that increased tax revenues would be based on VAT increases and the preservation of the regressive property tax; the principle of zero deficit for the financing of the pension system; the gradual withdrawal of the Pensioners’ Social Solidarity Benefit (EKAS), and the extension of the retirement age to 67.
In the end no deal was reached. On Saturday 27th, after a long cabinet meeting Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum. The eurozone leaders would not even cede enough to make a “honourable compromise’ for the Syriza parliamentary group and Syriza’s rank and file and electoral base.
The only talk of debt restructuring the eurozone leaders would accept was a vague reference to a debate on the Greek debt in the future based upon a framework sketched with Venizelos and Samaras back in 2012.
The drama of the negotiation for the last five months has been largely the refutation of the Syriza leaders’ central illusions, of a return to progressive development achieved through rational negotiations and by exploiting the “internal contradictions” within the creditors’ camp. The government’s negotiating team had the illusion that the eurozone leaders were sure eventually to back down, even at the eleventh hour, and concede a poor but nonetheless manageable political agreement, because they feared the economic cost of a rupture and because of their internal contradictions.
The eurozone ministers, accustomed to the servility of Papandreou, Samaras and Venizelos, thought that Alexis Tsipras was a puppy that barked but would not bite.
In the end, under the threat of a bank run, they were sure that Tsipras would sign an agreement that would dissolve his government and his party, and initiate the conversion of a mutilated Syriza into a neoliberal social democratic party with a new government coalition.
Alexis Tsipras and the Greek delegation were treated in Brussels as troublemakers who needed exemplary punishment. As journalist Stavros Lygeros put it: “they are not satisfied with chopping his head off. They would like to parade his head as an example to everyone else”.
On Monday night 29th, Alexis Tsipras invited the Greek people to vote “no” in the referendum on Sunday 5 July. Then on Tuesday 30th he made another U-turn. He wrote a new letter to the eurozone leaders asking for a €30 billion euro loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to pay the lenders up to 2017; virtually accepting the eurozone ministers’ proposal of 28 June; but also calling for debt restructuring.
The eurozone leaders rejected his new approach, but it adds confusion to the referendum. Doesn’t the leadership of Syriza understand that this is a contradictory line: “no” in the referendum and yet “yes” to a new memorandum with slight modifications?
The leaders of the government and of Syriza — in the first place, the right wing of Dragasakis, Papadimoulis, Stathakis and Co., but helped by tolerance from the Left Platform leaders, regardless of their intentions, have in practice contributed to undermining the “no” mobilisation and shaping conditions for a possible “yes” victory.
On Saturday morning 27 June the Greek people woke up to find that the call from Alexis Tsipras and his government for a no vote against the persistent blackmailing of the creditors, the “partners”, the “institutions”, or whatever else we call them, has finally got us (albeit in an unprepared way, somewhat sideways) out of the black hole and deadlock of the “compromise” made by the Syriza government with the eurozone finance ministers on 20 February.
Since then we have seen harsh class struggle and conflict, with the national and international ruling class exhibiting coordination and “solidarity” in order to protect their vested interests. The ruling classes and the oligarchies, both internationally and in Greece, are trying to impose the power of fear as the only permissible ideology.
Since 27 June, there has been a high level of political activity from both camps. The united front of New Democracy, Pasok, and Potami in Greece, work alongside the international financial oligarchy represented by the likes of Christine Lagarde, Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Mario Draghi and Wolfgang Schäuble. The mainstream media try to create a climate of panic, with continuous reporting and live interviews from the queues outside the ATMs. It reached a crescendo with a Sky journalist publicly announcing he had cancelled a holiday in Corfu because of the “unstable and chaotic situation”.
Some bosses have announce the suspension of work, or reduced production. Others have threatened lock outs and mandatory unpaid leave for their workers. Yet others say that their companies will not open if next Monday if the “no” vote prevails on 5 July, and some openly threaten their workers with redundancy if they do not vote “yes”. Many companies have announced that they will not be paying the wages of their workers until further notice.
The trouble is that for five months the government has left untouched the power of the industrialists, the contractors, the bankers, the media barons, the pharmaceutical manufacturers and the ship owners.
Intimidation and terror by the capitalist bosses will escalate as the referendum approaches. The revolutionary left in and outside Syriza, workers, trade unions and community and social organisations, should immediately expose and fight back against the capitalist bosses terrorism.
The trade union confederation GSEE (for private sector workers), with its leadership controlled by the trade union fractions of Pasok and New Democracy, has had the audacity to demand that the government withdraw the referendum and declared support for a “yes” vote.
There have sizeable demonstrations and rallies in support of the “no” camp in virtually every city of Greece, with support from all major trade unions, with the sad exception of GSEE, and community movements, anti-fascists committee and solidarity networks. The “yes” counter-demonstrations have mobilised the cream of the reactionary intelligentsia of the country, minor celebrities, and some lower middle class people.
The official Syriza guidelines for Syriza’s activity in the “no” campaign says it will emphasize the need for national unity whatever the outcome of the referendum.
It will campaign on three points.
1. The social character of “no” in the referendum, highlighting the impact of the memoranda and supported the need to overthrow austerity policies. The “no” vote, say the Syriza leaders, will be a negotiating tool in the hands of the government to continue negotiations from 6 July freshly empowered by a re-affirmed popular mandate.
2. To highlighted the right for the Greek people to be left undisturbed to vote without foreign interference. The slogan is “no, for dignity and democracy.”
3. Emphasis on Syriza being a European party that seeks equitable participation of the country in the EU and that it is trying to build a new Europe.
Syriza’s rank and file have been back on the streets again, and given the “no” vote a meaning beyond the government’s intentions — a bold “no” to all memoranda and a bold demand on the government to adhere, “unilaterally” and against the “institutions”, to the Thessaloniki declaration on which it was elected.
The eurozone leaders warn that they will take a “no” vote as a mandate to expel Greece from the eurozone.
Inside the eurozone, there at least appeared to be possibilities for piecemeal relief via a serious easing-off by the eurozone leaders and the European Central Bank. That was entirely possible in economic terms, and refused by them only because they want to warn workers everywhere else in Europe that resistance as in Greece cannot bring results.
If Greece is forced out of the eurozone, the tempo changes. Only thorough and radical measures by the government can limit disruption and chaos and enable reconstruction.
The revolutionary left must demand that the government implement these measures:
Immediate nationalisation of banks. Protect the deposits of small and medium savers with transparency and methods of social control. Running of the banks by elected and revocable administrations, involving representatives of government, of bank workers, and of the organisations of the working class.
As Lenin wrote (“The Impending Catastrophe”, September 1917): “To talk about ‘regulating economic life’ and yet evade the question of the nationalisation of the banks means either betraying the most profound ignorance or deceiving the ‘common people’ by florid words and grandiloquent promises with the deliberate intention of not fulfilling these promises. It is absurd to control and regulate deliveries of grain, or the production and distribution of goods generally, without controlling and regulating bank operations.
“It is like trying to snatch at odd kopeks and closing one’s eyes to millions of rubles. Banks nowadays are so closely and intimately bound up with trade (in grain and everything else) and with industry that without ‘laying hands’ on the banks nothing of any value, nothing ‘revolutionary-democratic’, can be accomplished”.
The current connection of banks with the (“illegal and onerous”) government debt demands the unilateral stopping of debt payments, as a necessary measure for the rehabilitation of nationalised banking system.
The dependency of the country’s larger companies on the indebted banks, and their interweaving with them, requires the immediate implementation of a plan of nationalisation of large enterprises in industry under workers’ control.
Large businesses whose owners blackmail and threaten the workers to vote “yes”; large business which have falsified information in order to avoid paying workers’ wages and are involved in fraud, and tax evasion should be expropriated immediately without compensation under workers’ control.
It is inevitable in the coming days that shortages will appear in hospitals and the state health system. For the government to find the resources needed to pay in full the pensions and to ensure money for health it should enforce an immediate special, heavy emergency levy on high incomes, the large estate owners and the Greek oligarchs who have supported the economic war of the Troika. It should expropriate all the assets of churches and monasteries: the religious have a right to use their places of worship, but not to have a government subsidy.
To ensure the sufficient supply of food and medicine requires the immediate nationalisation of the large industrial groups in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and the large supermarket chains under workers’ power and control.
To ensure the fuel supplies requires the immediate nationalisation of energy companies under workers’ power and control.
Television and radio frequencies should right now be released from their status as hostages to the capitalist oligarchy. They should be expropriated immediately and all private media and frequencies and equipment should be passed over in citizens’ associations for free and equitable use based on the principle of truly pluralistic media.
These radical measures in order to have a viable prospect, should be part of an overall programmatic plan socialist transformation of society.
The clique that runs the EU and the Eurozone are the brutal servants of the interests of big capital and European multinationals. That is capitalism, that’s imperialism .The capital of Europe and the multinationals will always be predatory and imperialist
The Europe of the workers and popular strata, the Europe of solidarity and joint struggle for our common problems, only this is our “own” Europe. The Syriza government needs to turn and seek allies and comrades there.
Along with the working classes of Europe we must fight the battle for the future. The peoples of Europe can aim to better days only under the prospect of a united socialist Europe! This is the fight that is ahead of us! It will take time and class confrontations! But there is no other way!
There will be no return path for the government, the people and the country after this Sunday if the “no vote” prevails. The people who will vote “no” to the agreement of the lenders will know very well the consequence and the gravity of their vote, regardless of the limited question of the referendum, and will be ready to accept the road of rupture and confrontation and class struggle if the revolutionary left fights for it boldly and clearly.
The events of this week, the polarisation and the conflicts at all levels, have dragged both camps into a vortex of radicalisation.
The revolutionary left in and outside Syriza has campaigned for a “no” in the referendum right from the start.
Whatever the intentions of the government, the referendum objectively creates conditions of rupture with the EU/ ECB/ IMF Troika and provides a historic opportunity for the working class and youth to enter the political stage.
But the Greek Communist Party (KKE) voted in parliament against the government’s proposal to proceed to the referendum and is asking its members and supporters to spoil their ballot papers. They call this “a working-class triple no” against the memorandum of the creditors against the memorandum of the government and against the EU and Eurozone.
So KKE has again abstained from the class struggle as it is expressed through the internal contradictions of the capitalist system, Of course the referendum is a restricted democratic process, far short of workers power and control and extensive workers’ daily democracy. However, is an arena that the workers’ vanguard and the revolutionary left must engage with, in the same way that trade unions engage with the arena of working-class exploitation and the reproduction of the capitalist system. KKE is disengaging from the current struggle of the working class and transferring all hopes to Saint Long Distance Socialism.
It indicates KKE’s fear of defeat and victory at the same time, its inverted tailism (opposition to the Syriza government’s tactics and political moves at all costs), and its lack of consistent and principled working class analysis of the concrete situation and concrete duties. The duty of the Revolutionary left is to form a United Front and align all its forces for the victory of a “thunderous” and revolutionary “no”.
If this battle is not won and the “no” vote does not prevail, then that will bring a very serious defeat for working people, with significant effects on morale and fighting spirit.
It will open the way for new harsh austerity Memoranda and be the nail in the coffin of the project of a government of the left.
“This is a class vote”
Thanassis Kourkoulas, DEA Central Committee
The attitude of the vast majority of workers is to say “no” to memorandum policies.
At the same time many people are confused in the face of the terror propaganda of the pro-system bloc. The outcome will be 50-50. Everybody in workers’ unions and the left is doing our best to get a clear vote for no.
DEA is in the front line of the “no” campaign. We are for a clear “no” to the memorandum policies, including a new memorandum agreement which is possible from Monday, whatever the result of the vote on Sunday.
The main issue now is to get the victory of the “no” vote, so that the government is not overthrown.
The government will definitely be overthrown from the right in the event of a “yes” vote. The system has gathered all its forces together with the memorandum parties, famous actors, neoliberal economists etc. etc. The campaign is bolstered by the union of Greek factory owners.
This is not the issue of national sovereignty being undermined. Only Golden Dawn says this. It is clear that the no campaign has a very clear class basis. For the majority of supporters of the no vote, this is a class issue, not a national issue.
This is about salaries, pensions in Greece and all around Europe. This is also clear for the Syriza majority.