Skip to main content

The path not taken

Alexis Tsipras claimed there was no realistic alternative to austerity for Greece. He was wrong.

by Costas Lapavitsas

The “Programme of Social and National Rescue for Greece” was written in Athens in the early spring. That was a time of great concern for those who truly wanted social and economic change in Greece, as opposed to those who merely talked about it.

The Syriza government had already signed the notorious agreement of February 20, which led to its eventual defeat. The agreement aimed at securing a fresh loan for Greece, while promising to keep a balanced budget and make “reforms.” It secured absolutely no benefits for the country and, worst of all, left the government without a ready pool of liquidity to draw on. Greece would henceforth rely exclusively on the largesse of Mario Draghi’s European Central Bank (ECB).

This constituted a clear and present threat to any prospect of radical social change. Many in the parliamentary group of Syriza were alert to it, and therefore refused to sanction the agreement.

Draghi was not slow to act. Gradually both the banks and the public sector of Greece went dry, thus reducing dramatically the state’s room for maneuver. The Syriza government was for months engaged in a breathless race to secure liquidity to pay for public sector salaries, pensions and other obligations, while the ECB tightened the screws steadily and ruthlessly. Eventually, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, was forced to confront the reality of the promises he had made to the Greek people before the historic January 25 election that brought Syriza to power.

Tsipras had vowed that he would negotiate “hard” to get rid of the bailout agreements, but without taking the country out of the European Monetary Union (EMU). Simple logic dictated that for Greece to sustain itself during the negotiations and perhaps to succeed in casting aside the bailouts, it would have to have regular access to liquidity.

Unfortunately, Draghi and the ECB were not going to oblige. The choice for the country after the February 20 agreement was stark: either generate liquidity independently, which of course implied abandoning the EMU and reverting to the national currency, or surrender abjectly to its lenders. Tsipras could try all he liked, but he simply could not fulfill his electoral promises.

The tragedy was that this awful dilemma was neither clear to most Syriza voters, nor to its members of parliament and ministers. It was possibly not clear even to Tsipras himself. The bulk of Syriza continued to labor under the illusion that “Europe” would somehow see sense, a compromise would be reached, and some agreement would be implemented that would not be as disastrous as the two previous Greek bailouts. Needless to say, during the period that followed the February 20 agreement, all thoughts of implementing social radicalism and reasserting national dignity dissipated in the breathless search for a compromise, any compromise.

This was the context in which the “Programme of Social and National Rescue” was written. The aim was to provide a coherent and clear argument — a series of steps — explaining how Greece could adopt an anti-bailout strategy, rather than submit to the dictates of the lenders.

The foundation was provided by my earlier joint work with Heiner Flassbeck; Verso had published that work as a book (Against the Troika) a mere day before Syriza’s January 25 victory. In that book we argued that there is an “impossible triad” in the EMU: a member state cannot have debt write off, lifting of austerity, and continued membership in the EMU. A radical government, such as that of Syriza, should opt for the first two, if it had the interests of both society and country uppermost in its mind.

The program thus put forth an integrated set of measures that constituted an alternative policy: writing off debt, rejecting balanced budgets, nationalizing banks, redistributing income and wealth through tax reform, raising the minimum wage, restoring labor regulation, boosting public investment, and redesigning the relationship between the private and the public sector. These measures would be impossible to take within the rigid confines of the eurozone. A radical government would have to consider reintroducing a national currency if it wished to implement them.

What had not been done in earlier work was show how the transition to a national currency could take place. It is, of course, far from easy to work out the actions needed to both reintroduce a new currency and also deal with the ensuing turbulence and beginning to implement the broader economic and social transformation of the country.

With this is mind, the program outlines twenty-nine steps that chart a coherent way out of the disastrous monetary union for Greece. It is no more than a roadmap, though one that is based on ample empirical and theoretical research.

No one is more aware than I am of the deficiencies and limitations of the analysis in the program. For one thing, a great deal has changed in Greece and Europe since it was written. For another, there is a need for more detailed empirical elaboration of several of its components.

Equally, however, no one is more aware of the pressure-cooker conditions under which the analysis was undertaken in Athens and of the lack of resources. Above all, no one is more aware of the desperate effort to spur a badly needed public debate in Greece.

Alas, the attempt proved futile and in the end it was impossible even to make the plan public. There are many reasons for that, but the political class of Greece — extending from left to right — must take much of the blame.

Given the complete absence of debate, Tsipras was able to claim that no alternative program existed that could offer a realistic way out of his terrible dilemma. This was always disingenuous on his part, but it served his political purposes brilliantly.

And so, in a few tumultuous weeks in July, Tsipras took the proud “no” of the Greek people in the referendum on whether to accept a new bailout, and turned it into a “yes.” The man who was going to change the face of Europe proceeded to sign a new bailout that included harsh terms and neocolonial restrictions on national sovereignty. The firebrand had turned into a kitten.

Even worse, though, was that in last month’s general election, Syriza emerged victorious. Popular Unity, the new political front that included the group from Syriza that had refused to accept the new bailout, failed even to get into parliament.

The defeat of Popular Unity was again due to many factors, but there is little doubt that it paid the price for not presenting boldly an alternative program that included exit from the EMU. Voters, confronted with the lack of a concrete alternative and plied with bromides by those who should have been offering concrete arguments, abstained in huge numbers, keeping Popular Unity out of parliament. The Left carried the burden of yet another crass political mistake.

The “Programme of Social and National Rescue” was eventually made public after the September 20 election. It was, first and foremost, an act of setting the historical record straight. But there was also a real political purpose to putting it in the public eye, even belatedly.

After many years in effective hypnosis, the European left has begun to wake up to the disaster of the EMU, and to the impossibility of radical policy within the confines of the euro. Recently there has even been an initiative to have a European “Plan B” involving some left-wing political figures from France, Italy, Germany, and Greece. It should be noted that these Greek politicians never supported Greek exit from the EMU when it mattered.

The awakening of the European left is certainly welcome, provided that the lessons of Syriza’s failure, as well as of the conservative hardening of both the EMU and the EU, are put to good use. What is required in Europe at present is more national work on exiting the EMU — French, Spanish, Italian, and, dare I say it, German.

Only after producing a body of left-wing approaches that reflect each country’s traditions and specificities will there be a proper foundation for the European left to develop a transnational approach that would free Europe from the shackles of a failed monetary union and set it on a path favoring labor against capital.

The national is the real basis for the international, as has always been the case in the history of capitalism. Without plans developed at the national level, all attempts at developing an international plan lack foundations and are little more than political spin.

There is no doubt in my mind that when the components of the European left come to do the required work at the national level, they will find in the program an indispensable aid, despite its many deficiencies. That is its real value and its contribution to the unfolding debate on the future of Europe and the role of the Left.

Source:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Confirmed: Alex Jones' popularity rises after Infowars banning from social media

globinfo freexchange
We wouldn't expect to be confirmed so fast on this.
A few days ago in the article IT and social media supergiants have just made Alex Jones a hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience, we wrote that Alex Jones' wet dream has just become reality thanks to the combined move by Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify to ban Infowars. These private IT and social media companies couldn't give a better gift to him right now. At a time where Infowars was going through a saturated period according to the best scenario, the corporate giants actually saved it with that stupid(?) strategy.
Suddenly, a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Only a couple of days later, Kyle Kulinski of the…

Corporate media begin typical operations to make progressives comply with the establishment

The operations will multiply and become more aggressive towards 2020
globinfo freexchange
Corporate media of the ultra-conservative side made already a ridiculous attempt to present Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as totally unreliable. In the video, TYT hosts analyze very well the specific strategy followed by Conservative Review TV.
The strategy is quite simple: you create a fake video, you upload it on social media and after being watched by thousands you admit that it was created for satire purposes. Yet, the propaganda will be definitely effective because only a small portion will notice that this was satire. Most of the viewers (especially from the conservative audience that has been heavily brainwashed for decades to love corporate America and believe whatever comes from the Fox apparatus) will believe whatever transmitted from the ultra-conservative propaganda machine.
But the corporate media of the liberal side have a very big problem right now. It is almost impossible to start an open …

While you've been occupied with that Infowars-banning story, the establishment machine already started a covert censorship operation against leftist independent media

globinfo freexchange
Developments are coming like storm. Just when the prediction that Infowars banning will actually strengthen Alex Jones' popularity became true, it seems that our second 'prophecy' (and prediction by many progressives), also becomes true. According to this, Infowars banning will be used as a blueprint by the establishment machine to shutdown progressive independent media and voices, based on that 'fake news' narrative.
We wrote that a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Max Blumenthal speaks with Aaron Mate and gives details about Alex Jones' dark role in the whole story:
Alex Jones has always served establishment priorities. First, by taking the 9/11 truth movement, whi…

‘I knew and approved the assassination of Maduro’ claims TV show host

globinfo freexchange
Peruvian journalist Jaime Bayly claimed in his TV show Bayly, that he was aware and had personally approved the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"My reliable sources have called me and told me 'on Saturday we will assassinate Maduro' and I told them 'do it'," he said in his show and added: "When they asked me if I would condemn their move I replied that if they want I can buy them another drone."
Referring to Maduro, the journalist called him to be on alert. "My friends," he said, "are very capable, they have already scared you and there are more to come".
In a press conference, Maduro wondered how it is possible a host of a show in the US stating openly that he was aware of the attempted assassination.
Info from:
https://info-war.gr/gnoriza-kai-enekrina-ti-dolofonia-madoyro-ischyrizetai-paroysiastis-sto-maiami/

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, announced Wedn…

How normal human behavior became a false mental disorder epidemic

globinfo freexchange
In the early nineties, an epidemic of mental disorder was sweeping America and Britain. It had been uncovered by a new system for identifying disorders. Psychiatry had been attacked for relying on the personal and fallible judgement of psychiatrists.
But instead, a new objective method based on checklists had been invented. These listed only the objective symptoms, and deliberately did not enquire into why the individuals felt an anxiety. In the late 80s, nationwide surveys had revealed an incredible picture: more than 50% of Americans suffered from mental disorders.
But at the very same, the drug companies had announced that they had created a new type of drug, called an SSRI, which they claimed, targeted the circuits inside the brain that were causing these malfunctions. The SSRIs were marketed under names like "Prozac". What they did was alter the amounts of serotonin that flowed across the circuit connections within the brain, and they readjusted the …

The US empire was always conducting trade wars that even included deliberately created cartels

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump is using his trade wars to support the part of the US capital that has heavily lost from free trade globalization, which is more powerful than ever in our days. This is also part of the Trump agenda to persuade Americans for his "patriotic devotion" based on his "America First" slogan.
The reality is that the US empire was always conducting trade wars that included not only tariffs on specific products, but even deliberately created cartels.
In the early 90s the Clinton administration uncritically adopted the neoliberal doctrine from Ronald Reagan and continued the big fraud against the majority of the Americans.
On the one hand, the Clinton administration was selling the big fairy tale of neoliberalism to the American public: free market capitalism would bring prosperity for all through that trickle-down fiasco. And it was translated, as always, in further cuts in public spending - more tax-cuts for the super-rich. On the other hand, …

Why the rapidly escalating and most disgusting propaganda against Jeremy Corbyn is actually a good sign

failed evolution
In the UK front, the liberal establishment machine is escalating its propaganda campaign against Jeremy Corbyn through that 'anti-Semitic' smearing. In reality, his only 'crime', of course, is that he is too lefty for the totally-occupied-by-neoliberalism Britain.
After the collapse of that ridiculous Skripal case - that ended to an embarrassing fiasco for the Western clowns - the establishment machine in the UK gave up its campaign to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian stooge.
The new 'brilliant strategy' of the establishment tools is simply to paint Jeremy Corbyn as 'anti-Semite'. Which is actually the permanent smearing by the mainstream media and the liberal political center - many have been bought by the Israeli lobby- against anyone who has the ‘audacity’ to condemn the Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The logical leap in this case is literally ridiculous: if you condemn the Israeli crimes against Palestinians, immediately means tha…

Retired US army colonel implies that a war with Iran could start with a Vietnam-type false flag operation

globinfo freexchange
After Tucker Carlson brought additional embarrassment to the pseudo-Left warmongering liberals with his anti-war positions, he tried to make Trump appear, more or less, as a kind of peace defender. He was joined by Douglas Macgregor, a retired US Army Colonel.
Both Carlson and Macgregor attempted to blame Trump's warmongering officials and the war lobby for the fact that another devastating war, this time with Iran, becomes more and more possible. The truth is slightly different because Trump has enormous responsibilities for this development too. He was from the start very hostile against Iran, he did everything in his power to kill the Iran nuclear deal and put the most bloodthirsty, anti-Iran neocons in key positions.
Yet, it would be worth to focus on a peculiar statement by Macgregor at the end of this short interview. As he said:
           You and I know that there are lot of people who would welcome conflict with Iran, that's obvious. I think the presi…

WikiLeaks paper shows France & UK pioneers behind Libya breakup

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30 thousand emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. More PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016, and a set of additional 995 emails was imported up to February 2, 2018.
globinfo freexchange
A letter from Clintons' top advisor Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton in early March, 2012, reveals that two of the Western neocolonial powers, France and UK, were trying to breakup Libya in order to secure a privileged place upon the Libyan corpse for their big companies. It appears that both Sarkozy and Cameron, as well as their intelligence services, were working closely…

The financial system of chaos: no one can tell the 'when', 'where' and ‘how’ of the next financial meltdown

globinfo freexchange
In previous article we wrote that, the last mutation of capitalism, which has started about four decades ago, appears to contain the tools of its final demolition. Financial capitalism, accompanied with the corresponding neoliberal ideology, created a deeply unequal and unstable system.
Another study by The Democracy Collaborative comes to confirm that we live in the most unstable times, where financial crises become more frequent and more devastating. According to the study:
It appears that, contrary to the great moderation theory, the occurrence of financial crises has been accelerating in the neoliberal era.
An important 2001 paper by a number of economists from Rutgers, Berkeley, and the World Bank found that "since 1973 crisis frequency has been double that of the Bretton Woods and classical gold standard periods and is rivaled only by the crisis-ridden 1920s and 1930s. History thus confirms that there is something different and disturbing about our age.&qu…