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Greece: 'To authoritarianism and austerity, we respond with democracy' -- SYRIZA calls referendum on EU austerity

Posted by George Sophie Flourentzou on Monday, June 29, 2015

Massive protest against austerity, Athens, June 29, 2015.

For more analysis and discussion on SYRIZA's struggle against austerity, click HERE

Speech by Alexis Tsipras, prime minister of Greece; translation by Stathis Kouvelakis

June 26, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, first posted at Kouvelakis' Facebook page

* * *

Fellow Greeks,

For six months now, the Greek government has been waging a battle in conditions of unprecedented economic suffocation to implement the mandate you gave us on January 25, 2015.

The mandate we were negotiating with our partners was to end the austerity and to allow prosperity and social justice to return to our country. It was a mandate for a sustainable agreement that would respects both democracy and common European rules and lead to the final exit from the crisis.

Throughout this period of negotiations, we were asked to implement the agreements concluded by the previous governments with the Memoranda, although they were categorically condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections. However, not for a moment did we think of surrendering, that is to betray your trust.

After five months of hard bargaining, our partners, unfortunately, issued at the Eurogroup the day before yesterday an ultimatum to Greek democracy and to the Greek people. An ultimatum that is contrary to the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European project.

Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras.

They asked the Greek government to accept a proposal that accumulates a new unsustainable burden on the Greek people and undermines the recovery of the Greek economy and society, a proposal that not only perpetuates the state of uncertainty but accentuates even more the social inequalities. The proposal of institutions includes: measures leading to further deregulation of the labour market, pension cuts, further reductions in public sector wages and an increase in VAT [an indirest tax, like the GST] on food, dining and tourism, while eliminating tax breaks for the Greek islands.

These proposals directly violate European social and fundamental rights: they show that concerning work, equality and dignity, the aim of some of the partners and institutions is not a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties but the humiliation the entire Greek people.

These proposals mainly highlight the insistence of the International Monetary Fund in the harsh and punitive austerity and make more timely than ever the need for the leading European powers to seize the opportunity and take initiatives which will finally bring to a definitive end the Greek sovereign debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries and threatening the very future of European integration.

Fellow Greeks,

Right now, weighs on our shoulders the historic responsibility towards the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people for the consolidation of democracy and national sovereignty. Our responsibility for the future of our country. And this responsibility requires us to answer the ultimatum on the basis of the sovereign will of the Greek people.

A short while ago at the cabinet meeting, I suggested the organisation of a referendum, so that the Greek people are able to decide in a sovereign way. The suggestion was unanimously accepted.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will be urgently convened to ratify the proposal of the cabinet for a referendum next Sunday, July 5, on the question of the acceptance or the rejection of the proposal of institutions.

I have already informed about my decision the president of France and the chancellor of Germany, the president of the European Central Bank, and tomorrow my letter will formally ask the European Union leaders and institutions to extend for a few days the current program in order for the Greek people to decide, free from any pressure and blackmail, as required by the Constitution of our country and the democratic tradition of Europe.

Fellow Greeks,

To the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively. Greece, the birthplace of democracy will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

I am personally committed to respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever that is. And I’m absolutely confident that your choice will honor the history of our country and send a message of dignity to the world.

In these critical moments, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of peoples. That in Europe there are no owners and guests. Greece is and will remain an integral part of Europe and Europe is an integral part of Greece. But without democracy, Europe will be a Europe without identity and without a compass.

I invite you all to display national unity and calm in order to take the right decisions. For us, for future generations, for the history of the Greeks. For the sovereignty and dignity of our people.

[Thanks to A Socialist in Canada.]

Comments

Scabs attack Tsipras

Opposition parties attack Tsipras on referendum
I Kathimerini, Athens, June 27 (Reuters)
<http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_27/06/2015_551570>

Greek political opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras's decision to call a referendum on creditors' demands for a
cash-for-reforms deal, saying the move risked pushing the country out
of the European Union.

Socialist party PASOK, the junior partner in the previous coalition
government, called for Tsipras's resignation.

"Since Mr. Tsipras is unable to take responsible decisions, he ought
to resign and let citizens vote for their future via elections,"
PASOK's leader Fofi Genimmata said in a statement.

Centrist To Potami party blasted the leftist prime minister for his
decision to call a referendum, saying it would fight to keep the
country in the heart of Europe.

"Alexis Tsipras and (Independent Greeks leader) Panos Kammenos decided
to lead the lobby of the drachma, to take the country out of the
European Union and push it over the cliff," the party's leader Stavros
Theodorakis said in a statement.

"We will fight together for a strong Greece in the heart of Europe."

Conservative New Democracy said the government brought the country to
an impasse, isolating it from Europe, accusing Tsipras for throwing
the responsibility he himself could not bear to the shoulders of the
people.

"Mr. Tsipras today leads the country to a referendum with a the
ultimate question being a yes or no to Europe and he proposes a rift
with all our partners and an exit from the euro," former prime
minister Antonis Samaras said.

Syriza would win snap elections

According to opinion polls, hypothetical elections on June 15th would grant Syriza a very comfortable absolute majority, as it enjoys a voter intention close to 48%, more than 11 points above what they got on January. In contrast, the main opposition party, ND, has lost 8 points and less than 20% would now vote for them. Other parties are stuck without gains nor losses of relevance.

Greece's Tsipras Wants a 'No' in Referendum

27 June 2015

The Greek prime minister says he wants the people of Greece to vote against accepting the creditors’ bailout proposal. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tweeted Sunday (local time) that he wants a “No” result in the referendum that his government called for July 5. He also made similar statements in a speech to parliament. The parliament also approved the motion to hold the referendum on the proposed bailout accord with foreign creditors on Sunday morning after his speech.

“We will ask for a short extension of the program so the referendum can be held without pressure,” Tsipras said at the press conference Friday, adding that the government would respond to authoritarianism and austerity with “democracy, calmness and decisiveness.” On Sunday, Tsipras tweeted the referendum was a way to “honor" Greece’s sovereignty and “for the people to express their will.”

“Referendums have been used in Europe as a way for people to express their will. Were the French people told a #referendum wasn't allowed when they were voting on the EU constitution?” he wrote. He argued that some people saw the Greek situation as a “game,” but “the dignity of our people is not a game, 1.5 million unemployed people is not a game. Three million living in poverty is not a game.” “We have negotiated with our partners in earnest — with determination, decisiveness and dignity. We've been faced with the insistence, namely by the IMF, that we water down our proposals for taxing the wealthy … We were asked to once again place the burden on the shoulders of pensioners and workers,” Tsipras continued.

“With a clear "NO", we send a message that Greece is not going to surrender,” Tsipras concluded. Earlier this week, European leaders welcomed a new Greek budget, which included a handful of concessions from the government in Athens in exchange for new bailout funds. However, by Friday, it seemed unlikely Greece would agree to a bailout extension. Greece would have to agree to tax increases and cuts to pensions. Greece owes the International Monetary Fund US$1.7 billion by June 30, after the financial body twice bailed out Tsipras’ conservative predecessors.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Greeces-Tsipras-Wants-a-No-in-Referendum-20150627-0020.html.

Solidarity from Latin America

The following is a statement from an important part of the Latin American left, including the PTS (Socialist Workers Party), one of the three major components of the Workers and Left Front in Argentina.

In solidarity with the Greek workers and people, against the imperialist blackmail

The troika under the instruction of the German government and the imperialist banks have put Greece between a rock and a hard place. In spite of all the concessions made by the Syriza-led government, which had presented a plan accepting 90% of the austerity measures demanded by the creditors, European capital and the IMF are not satisfied and want further cuts. The European institutions want a total surrender by the Greek people. They want the Greek people to accept the payment of the debt and the EU austerity measures that have plunged the country into unprecedented misery. This has been accomplished with the complicity of the Greek capitalist class and its parties. Drop Greece’s debt! No to austerity! We are publishing here a statement by the Trotskyist Fraction - Fourth International.

NO to the imperialist blackmail!
Drop Greece’s debt!
No to austerity!

The troika – the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank(ECB) under the instruction of the German government and the imperialist banks have put Greece between a rock and a hard place. In spite of all the concessions made by the Syriza-led government, which had presented a plan accepting 90% of the austerity measures demanded by the creditors, European capital and the IMF are not satisfied and want further cuts.

The European institutions want a total surrender by the Greek people. They want the Greek people to accept the payment of the debt and the EU austerity measures that have plunged the country into unprecedented misery. This has been accomplished with the complicity of the Greek capitalist class and its parties.

Since the January elections in Greece, the troika deployed an array of threats and blackmail in order to impose new austerity measures and social cuts on the Greek working class and people. While the troika was increasing its pressure in the negotiations the ECB announced that it would stop financing the debt. Meanwhile capital continued to flood out of the country contributing to the possibility of a bankruptcy for the Greek State..

The Syriza-led government sought to negotiate an impossible accord with its imperialist creditors while Greece remained within the EU and the euro zone.

The Greek prime minister helped spread the illusion that it would be possible to achieve a ‘negotiated adjustment plan’ with the troika; one which would let the Greek economy recover and allow Greece to improve its ability to pay back the debt. These illusions have now evaporated before the reality of Capital´s demands.

After five months in government, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and its government abandoned Syriza’s election promises to end austerity, crossing every ‘red line’ and accepting all the demands imposed by the troika. On Monday June 22 the Greek government signed a pledge to maintain the EU austerity memorandum and capitulated to most of the creditors’ demands, including deep pension cuts, the cutting of vital social services and the increase of the VAT. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus and that it advance the privatisation process.

This has opened up a deep internal crisis within Syriza and between Syriza and its right wing nationalist allies. Leaders of Syriza´s Left Platform described the proposal as “unacceptable” and “worse than the initial rescue programme”. They also declared that they would not vote in favour of the agreement (in Parliament). Tsipras has found himself in a difficult position, seeking an agreement with Potami and other mainstream pro-austerity opposition parties.

However, despite all the concessions made by the Syriza-led government, the troika has demanded deeper cuts. The troika rejected the proposal presented by the Greek government and demanded steep increases in pension contributions while rejecting new taxes on corporate profits and luxury goods. It aims to force the Greek working class to pay for the crisis through the imposition of an austerity program. Its intention is for the Greek people to kneel down before the international institutions and for Syriza to surrender completely. Undoubtedly, the international institutions are not prepared to give an inch, even though they are negotiating with a government that has hardly challenged any of the adjustment measures proposed by the troika.

Faced with this situation Tsipras responded on Friday 26 June by calling a referendum on Sunday 5 July on whether to approve a package of austerity measures demanded by the troika, while defending his latest proposal. His aim is to strengthen his negotiating position in the talks with the euro zone finance ministers on June 30 when the €1.6bn (£1.1bn) payment to the IMF falls due. Tsipras political future is at risk. The troika has said that will not be extending Greece’s financial rescue package after its midnight deadline.

For the mobilisation of the workers against both the imperialist offensive and the austerity package proposed by the Tsipras government.

The EU president, conservative Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel and IMF officials alongside New Democracy and PASOK, have led a reactionary international campaign calling to vote ‘YES’ on Sunday’s referendum. They have declared a “war of fear” on Greece and are trying to influence the outcome by “terrorising” the Greek people, warning of the consequences of a Grexit and of the subsequent devaluation and inflation. A ‘Yes’ vote will mean a new defeat, it will represent the acceptance of the troika’s demands, a ‘humiliation’ of the country and even deeper austerity.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for the Greek people to vote ‘no’ in Sunday’s referendum while seeking to continue negotiations. He has been clear that he would accept a “moderate austerity plan”. For that reason, many think that the referendum is a trap to legitimise the government’s plan and strengthen its hand in negotiations with the EU.

While Tsipras will try to use the referendum to negotiate with the European leaders in order to implement austerity measures in return for debt relief, the workers, youth and poor masses will use the referendum to repudiate the troika austerity measures and to express their anger at being forced to pay for the rescue of the capitalists and the bankers.

The rejection of the troika’s terms will be expressed in different ways, either by voting ‘No’ or by viewing the referendum as a fraud. The key action to defeat the troika is to organise the wide popular feeling against the imperialist demands and to transform it into a mobilisation of the Greek workers and masses.

The Greek government speculates that the troika will eventually make some concessions, as the Greek exit from the euro would trigger a crisis in the Eurozone and risk European unity. However if this plan does not work there is a sector that pushes for a "Plan B" — the reinstatement of the drachma. Another possibility is a default without a “Grexit”, one which imposes capital controls and establishes a currency in parity with the euro.

Deeper austerity measures in order to pay a suffocating debt and save the eurozone are untenable for the Greek workers and masses. Equally dangerous is leaving the Eurozone without taking the basic defense measures against future attacks — the resulting devaluation of the Greek currency and inflation following exit would likely have catastrophic consequences for the Greek workers and masses.

Argentina imposed the “corralito” in 2001-2002, freezing bank accounts and ending the parity of the peso with the dollar. The move caused a harsh devaluation at the expense of salaried workers. In Greece the consequences could be even worse because there is no other currency in circulation. Furthermore the economic conditions which made the Argentinian recovery possible are not the same and will not provide the bases for a recovery.

It is necessary to break with the troika and to undertake emergency measures. Such a plan should start by cancelling the Greek debt, reversing all the privatisations and abolishing indirect taxes on the population. A steeper progressive tax system should be levied on the rich and big businesses while sacked workers should be reinstated to their previous jobs. Greece needs a real end to austerity.

In the face of massive capital flight which has intensified over the last few weeks and the bank holiday imposed by Tsipras — which affects mostly small savings (and not big capital and the Greek bourgeoisie) — a defensive policy is needed to protect workers and the Greek masses. These policies should include nationalisation under workers´ control of the banking system and all foreign trade. They must include the expropriation of all corporate assets (from foreign and Greek companies) like the powerful shipping companies. Workers’ control must be imposed on all major companies and industries. This should be the program to force the capitalists to pay for the crisis and to fight for a workers’ government. Against capitalist Europe, and against far-right demagogy and its reactionary nationalist program, we stand for the unity of the working class throughout the continent; for the United Socialist States of Europe.

International solidarity

The Greek people can’t win this fight alone, widespread international solidarity is needed. European trade unions in many countries need to stop their collaboration with imperialist parties and governments and call instead for mobilisations to support the Greek people. European left parties like Podemos, which take part in government coalitions in cities like Madrid and Barcelona, should call for massive demonstrations on the streets to show support to the Greek people; they should demand the cancellation of the debt to their own imperialist countries.

We don’t support Syriza’s government and we warn that its campaign for the "No" vote is aimed towards improving its position in the negotiations with a plan of keeping the concessions already made during these last five months.

Our solidarity goes to the Greek workers and the Greek people, who are again on the streets against this latest blackmail and who have shown a great willingness to fight. They have led more than 30 general strikes and work stoppages against the Troika’s austerity plans and the capitalist governments like Pasok-New Democracy.

Translation Alejandra Rios

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