Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Further reflections on the Greek situation.

From Pat Byrne *

With regards to the situation in Greece, It is important to avoid making the currency issue (staying in the Euro or a return to the drachma) the central question. To my mind a thousand times more important in Greece was the need for Syriza to develop a democratic socialist plan before the election on which to stand and win. I have written in previous posts how I think such a plan could have been developed and why it would have made Syriza even more popular both in Greece and abroad.

In that case a Syriza's win in January's election would have had to be immediately followed by the democratic public ownership of the banks and the rest of the Greek financial sector. This would have stopped the outflow of funds from Greece which slowly but surely crippled its cash flow and allowed the ECB to gain a much greater stranglehold on the economy and economic life of the people.

Also important would have been to begin the immediate implementation of a plan to democratize the Greek media so that the mass of the population was able to receive the whole truth and not the lies of the super-rich who dominate the Greek press and TV. Sure, it would have been sensible for a Syriza government to visit the EU institutions and present a set of demands including for a moratorium on the debt. Not with any illusions but purely to demonstrate to the Greek people the nature of these institutions and the inhuman, anti-working class policies that they were insisting on.

And to use the democratized and international media platform created to explain to the working people of Europe how the neo-liberal policies were not designed to provide good housekeeping but to cover up their past frauds and to deliver a massive increase in wealth for the rich (at the expense of the rest of us).

If we recall the huge increase in Syriza's popularity in the immediate weeks following the election and their first rounds of visits to Brussels, Paris and so on. In my view the same thing would have happened with a Syriza government pursuing a democratic socialist policy (possibly more so). This would have provided the political opportunity to announce a moratorium on repayment of all the debts and the speedy implementation of its plans to reorganise the economy on democratic socialist lines. Something that an even bigger majority of Greeks would have been able to understand and support.

It is within that overall context that the decision would have had to be taken over the currency. We don't have the technical knowledge to know what the position would have been then. How much Euro currency would have been available and so on. Certainly, from a tactical position, if it had become obvious that an exit from the Euro was necessary it would have been much better for a Syriza government to show that Greece was thrown out than for it to leave.

But as I have stated in the past, in my opinion, euro or drachma was never the key question. It was how a Syriza government in partnership with the working people of Greece was going to reorganise the economy, and the nature of the international campaign to win support for their cause. Sadly, the Syriza leadership went into this fight with no plan beyond appealing for mercy from its enemies. It was like a boxer entering the ring with both hands tied behind his back and expecting to win by appealing to the good nature of his opponent.

Ironically, the more radical Syriza would have been, the more concessions it would have been offered by the IMF and the EU, especially if its propaganda had been more effective at unmasking the corruption behind the whole debt question and the pro- rich direction of their policies.

As it was, setting up a Debt Truth Commission two months into the government (calls for this were already several years old) meant that it never had the time or the ammunition with which to expose the debt from the outset. This allowed plenty of space for the bourgeois media to sell their lies and to pose the issue as the Greeks against the rest of Europe, when of course it was the working people of all the European countries who are being hammered into the ground for the same reasons. The Debt Truth Commission had to be have been done in opposition to become effective. Sadly, just one more failure to prepare for the battle.

* Pat Byrne is affiliated with the Socialist Network

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