Anyone who imagined that Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ capitulation to the European Union (EU) in July would end the Greek crisis was kidding themselves.
Unfortunately this is more because of what Europe’s rulers are doing than resistance from Syriza. That’s despite the fact that nearly 62 percent of voters rejected austerity in Greece’s recent referendum.
Syriza’s biggest strategic move was to imagine that they could implement their programme through agreement with the EU’s dominant forces.
But the interviews that Yanis Varoufakis has been giving since he resigned as Greek finance minister, just after the referendum, show they also committed a tactical mistake.
Naively Tsipras and Varoufakis imagined that if they made a political agreement with the EU, it would be fairly easy to sort out its implementation. But this isn’t how the EU works.
The eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers give priority to so-called “technical” discussions among “experts”.
These discussions are then used to pin the victims of bailouts down to much greater concessions than they thought they had agreed to.
The old Troika has now expanded to four—the European Central Bank, European Commission, European Stability Fund, and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
They are currently discussing a further £60bn bailout of Greece—lending the Greek government the money to repay its creditors. Representatives of this “Quartet” are in Athens busily shifting the goalposts.
It’s true that this gang is internally divided. The IMF now says that it won’t participate in another Greek bailout until its creditors have “agreed on debt relief”. This confirms what has been obvious since the eurozone crisis began in 2010— Greece can’t repay its debt.
But the majority of the eurogroup, led by Germany, bitterly oppose “debt restructuring”. Back in 2010 Merkel personally insisted the IMF had to be involved in the bailouts of indebted eurozone member states.
Meanwhile, her finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, is trying to sabotage the bailout. He hasn’t given up on his plan to push Greece out of the euro, supposedly temporarily.
He explained to Varoufakis that he wants to use Grexit to force France and Italy to accept far tighter EU surveillance of their spending and borrowing.
Despite these differences, the “Quartet” can all agree on demanding more neoliberal “reforms”—privatisations, pension cuts, VAT rises, reversal of the reforms introduced by Syriza. The martyrdom of ordinary Greeks must continue to show there is no alternative to austerity.
Meanwhile, Tsipras has succeeded for the time being in seeing off the left opposition within his own party. Of the 200 members of the Syriza central committee, 109 had signed a statement rejecting the Brussels agreement.
The central committee—which has hardly met since Syriza’s election victory in January—was finally convened on Thursday last week.
Tsipras softened the meeting up in advance with various redbaiting remarks—for example, attacking foreign demonstrators arrested for protesting against the deal outside parliament.
Threatening the meeting with another referendum, this time of party members, he made the issue a matter of confidence.
He said, “Anyone who wants a different government or a different premier should say so.” The central committee agreed on a show of hands to hold a special party congress to discuss the bailout once it had been agreed.
Syriza left wingers—Panagiotis Lafazanis of the Left Platform and parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou—have been eloquent in their criticisms. But Lafazanis and other ministers against the deal meekly waited to be sacked.
The Greek Socialist Workers Party (SEK) has criticised the “self-caging of the Left Platform in the internal party processes and its concern to be a force of ‘balance’ since its target is ‘unity inside the party through its pluralism’.”
There is a struggle between Tsipras and the left over who represents the referendum’s No voters. It can only be won if the Left Platform unites with SEK and other organisations in the anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya to campaign against the deal—on the streets and in the workplaces.