Greece: New radical left front to challenge SYRIZA in snap election

Panagiotis Lafazanis.

By Stathis Kouvelakis, Athens

August 21, 2015 -- First appeared on Kouvelakis' Facebook page, reposted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Early this morning, 25 SYRIZA MPs left the parliamentary group of the party to create a new group, under the name of “Popular Unity” (Laiki Enotita in Greek). Most of these MPs are affiliated to the Left Platform, but some others also joined like Vangelis Diamantopoulos or Rachel Makri, a close collaborator of Zoe Kostantopoulou.

[The new party will stand in the snap September 20 general election announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on August 20.]

This is a major development in Greek politics but also for the radical left, in Greece and at an international level.

Three elements need to be emphasised.

The first is that “Popular Unity” is the name of the new political front, which will regroup 13 organisations of the radical Left, those who signed the text issued on August 13 calling for the creation of the "Front of the No". This front is therefore the first tangible result of a recomposition within the Greek radical left. A recomposition that draws the lessons of the last five years, and of course of the experience of SYRIZA in office and of the resulting catastrophe.

But the goal of the front is even broader than this, it is to provide an expression to social forces that do not necessarily recognise themselves as part of the left but want to fight austerity, and "Troika rule reloaded" of the new memorandum.

The second is that the goal of the front is to constitute the political expression of the No vote as was expressed both in the January general election and in the referendum of July 5. The main programmatic lines are the rupture with austerity and the memoranda, the rejection of all privatisation and the nationalisation under social control of strategic sectors of the economy, starting with the banking system, the cancellation of the major part of the Greek debt (starting wit the immediate interruption of its repayment) and, more broadly, a set of radical measures that will shift the balance of forces in favour of labour and of the popular classes and open up a path for the progressive reconstruction of the country, of its economy and of its institutions.

These goals cannot be realised without exiting the Eurozone, as the recent disaster has abundantly demonstrated, and without breaking with the whole set of policies institutionalised by the European Union. The front will also campaign for a unitary internationalist struggle around common objectives at the European and international level and will support exiting NATO, breaking the existing agreements between Greece and Israel and radically oppose imperialist wars and interventions. This transitional program is situated in the perspective of a socialism of the 21st century.

The third is that this new parliamentary group is now the third largest in terms of its size in the Greek parliament, ahead of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party. This means that in the next few days its leader, Panagiotis Lafazanis, will get a mandate to constitute a government that will last for three days, as the Greek constitution stipulates. After the resignation of the Tsipras government this mandate is now in the hands of the second party in parliament, New Democracy, the main right-wing opposition party.

This span of time will be used by Popular Unity to trigger a broad debate and the mobilisation of all the social forces who wish to fight austerity and the memoranda, the previous as well as the new one.

The program of the party and the full range of its support among leading personalities of the Greek left, which is expected to be quite impressive, will be released at the start of next week.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sat, 08/22/2015 - 19:55


Varoufakis: I Will Not Be on the SYRIZA Ballot

By Philip Chrysopoulos - Aug 21, 2015

Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he will not be on the SYRIZA ballot in the upcoming elections because “we betrayed the majority of the Greek people.”

Varoufakis gave an interview to French magazine Nouvel Observateur saying that “he will not be a candidate of a party that would aim to implement the July 13 decision, even if this party has wide acceptance among Greek people.”

The former Finance Minister said he opposed the decision Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took to accept the proposals of Greece’s international creditors on July 13. According to Varoufakis, upon returning from the Euro Summit, Tsipras set a specific dilemma: Either we accept this agreement or the Wolfgang Schaeuble plan for the country’s exit from the euro is implemented.

“It is in this dilemma that my disagreement with Alexis Tsipras lies,” he said. “I personally believe that the acceptance of the third Memorandum is essentially the starting point for the country’s exit from the euro.”

Asked whether he will remain politically active, Varoufakis said that he will, whatever happens. He said that the questions of the Greek debt and austerity should be addressed on a European level. They should be addressed through the people and their representatives and not through the Eurogroup. He said there should be a European movement for more democracy in the Eurozone.

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“If I’m prosecuted and convicted of high treason, it would be interesting. For what? Saying no to an agreement that the troika itself considers to be unsustainable?” said Yanis Varoufakis.

Greece’s former finance minister gave an interview to The Guardian where he spoke about accusations against him, his relationship with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, his negotiating tactics, his future political plans and his ideas about the Eurozone and Greece’s bailouts.

Varoufakis’ alleged plan to hack taxpayers’ accounts and establish a secret payment system and his alleged secret strategy to bring Greece back to the drachma have made opposition parties attack him, to the point of accusing him of treason and ask for his prosecution.

“I think it’s going to fizzle out. However if I’m prosecuted and convicted of high treason, it would be interesting. For what? Saying no to an agreement that the troika itself considers to be unsustainable? Or indeed for having tried to come up with a defensive plan against threats they were making? In a sense, I would very much like it if it came to it because I would be able to expose them for what they are.”

According to the former minister, SYRIZA was not responsible for stalling the progress the Greek economy made before the January elections. For him, Greece has gone bankrupt since 2010, but the Eurozone refuses to admit it, continuing a game of “extend and pretend,” giving Greece loans they know the country cannot afford to pay back.

“They extend a loan that has turned bad and pretend that it is not bad and give good money after bad money. So the largest loan ever in history, in absolute not relative terms, was given to the most insolvent state in the Eurozone,” he told The Guardian.

As for his much criticized tactics, negotiating techniques and overall behavior and attitude towards his European peers, he said: “They were not prepared to acknowledge that the program they had imposed upon Greece was a failure.” His proposed economic program was thwarted by creditors because they wanted a “regime change.”

Varoufakis reiterated his position that the new bailout agreement would be catastrophic for Greece, criticizing Tsipras for accepting the deal and blaming him for going against his pledges and leftist ideology and betraying Greeks: “…this mutation I have already witnessed. Those in our party/government who underwent it, then turned against those who refused to mutate, the result being a split in the party that our people, the courageous voters who voted NO, did not deserve,” he said.

According to Varoufakis, Tsipras mistakenly followed his ego and the suggestions of his advisors. He wanted to become the “new De Gaulle, or Mitterrand more likely”, he said about him. His decision to go to snap elections is because if elections are held less than 12 months after the previous election, the candidates are produced by a leader-specified party list. In that case, the earlier the election the better for Tsipras,” he said, “as every week that passes . . . weakens his support with the electorate.”

So far it doesn’t seem that he would join the new party (Popular Unity) created by SYRIZA’s left platform, nor does he seem willing to line up alongside Tsipras. “I will not stand with his party, but I’m not going into the business of attacking him as a matter of course either,” he said told The Guardian.

Nevertheless, he will not abandon politics, he said. “I’m a member of parliament, and my commitment to my voters was that I’m not going to abandon them, come what may.”,Varoufakis-the-new-standard-bearer-for-Europes-radical-left-France24.html

August 23, 2015 -- As the anti-austerity dream spun by Greece’s Syriza party is squashed by a new massive international bailout and more belt-tightening measures, former minister Yanis Varoufakis may be emerging as the new standard-bearer for Europe’s radical left.

Amid the political upheaval that will likely lead Greece to a September ballot, attention is turning to one of Syriza’s most recognizable figures: the boisterous, motorcycle-riding former finance minister Varoufakis.

Varoufakis stepped down from his post in early July, just hours after Greek voters rejected austerity measures in a nationwide referendum. As Tsipras followed suit – although for different reasons – on Thursday, the outspoken Varoufakis was uncharacteristically silent.

Two of a kind

Varoufakis’s rebellious swag and open defiance of European finance ministers has earned him fans far beyond Greek shores.

He is the guest of honour at a prominent left-wing gathering in France on Sunday. Known as the Rose Festival (Fête de la rose in French), the event was first organised in the central town of Frangy-en-Bresse in 1973, but remained a local and quiet event for many years. It has nevertheless grown in importance under the stewardship of former Socialist MP Arnaud Montebourg, effectively kicking off each year’s political calendar for French Socialists.

Montebourg and Varoufakis share the distinction of having quit their ministry jobs in protest of their government’s policies. Montebourg, considered to be on the far-left of the Socialist Party, was named France’s economy minister in 2012. But after publicly criticizing the economic policies of President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls he was booted out of the government in 2014.

The Rose Festival will not be Montebourg and Varoufakis’s first meeting. The two renegade ministers met in the Greek island of Aegina in late July while on vacation, even posing for a picture together.

Another photo-op will almost certainly be on Sunday’s schedule as Montebourg seeks to cash-in on Varoufakis’s popularity among left-wing sympathisers in France. Those who see in Varoufakis a man of conviction who, unlike Tsipras, chose to abandon his position of power rather than abandon his principles, will also be eager to know where he stands in the political storm brewing back in his home country.

A house divided

Speaking to French weekly L’Obs before Tsipras’s resignation, Varoufakis clearly distanced himself from his former boss, saying the party had “betrayed a majority of Greeks”.

“When we took office, Alexis Tsipras and I promised each other two things. First, that our government would try to surprise people by actually doing what we set out to do. Second, that if we could not keep our word, we would resign rather than betray our campaign promises,” Tsipras claimed. “I thought that was our pact.”

However, he did not go as far as saying he would part ways with Syriza. In fact, he appeared to defend the unity of the left-wing party.

“If the party fails to remain united despite members’ different opinions about the [international bailout] deal, it has no future. If it succeeds it will play the most important role in Greece for many years to come,” Varoufakis added.

Collective humbling

Some experts said Varoufakis is at a critical crossroad, and that the path he decides to take will matter beyond the next Greek election.

“We are witnessing a very important change,” said Marc Lazar, a political scientist at France’s Sciences Po university and an expert of radical-left movements in Europe. “Will Varoufakis join those who already quit Syriza, will he start a new party with less radical positions, or will he remain alongside Tsipras? His decision will be very important for Greece, but also for Europe’s radical left."

Lazar said that Varoufakis had already supplanted Tsipras as the symbol of Greece’s rebellion against German-led austerity. From Podemos in Spain to the Left Front in France, radical left movements are now looking to Varoufakis for inspiration and guidance.

“Syriza’s failure to implement its original programme is painfully obvious, and an embarrassment for all of Europe’s radical left,” Lazar told FRANCE 24. “What happened in Greece shows Germany’s overall supremacy, France’s weakness, and above all that it is impossible to change the status quo in the eurozone. Hopes were dashed.”

Varoufakis acknowledged Greek voters had stood as an example for austerity-weary citizens across Europe, but had ultimately been let down by politicians, including himself. For now Tsipras has succeeded in keeping bankruptcy at bay, and keeping Greece in the eurozone. He is even likely to win a new mandate for Syriza next month, presiding over creditor-mandated spending cuts and taxes, just like his predecessors.

Syriza’s humbling was felt like personal injury by far-left activists and politicians in Europe. Some still hope that something other than endless austerity and debt await Greece and the rest of the continent. Those hopes now rest on the shoulders of Varoufakis, whether he likes it or not.

France 24

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sat, 08/22/2015 - 20:07


SYRIZA split: Left Platform to run for elections, it may even claim mandate to negotiate for a new Greek govenrment

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Twenty five SYRIZA lawmakers mainly from Left Platform of former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis split from the party Tsipras’ party on Friday morning and formed their own independent group with the name “Popular Unity”. The anti-Memorandum party will run for the elections called on Thursday after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras submitted his resignation to the President of the Republic.

Among the prominent MPs of the Popular Unity are ex social security minister Stratoulis, Drachma-supporters Lapavistas, Leoutskos, as well as ex deputy Finance Minister Nandia Valavani.

Ex Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis does not seem willing to join the “Popular Unity”, while it is unclear what are the intentions of Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou who have repeatedly voted against the bills of SYRIZA and the creditors.

Greek media reported this morning, that four more SYRIZA MPs were expected to join Lafazanis’ party.

With 25 MPs “Popular Unity” is now the third party in the Greek Parliament, with Golden Dawn and To Potami having only 17 MPs each.

Negotiations to form a new Greek government

While ex PM Tsipras was planning to resign and call for early elections, main opposition leader Evangelos Meimarakis from conservative New Democracy decided to spoil Tsipras’ plans and claimed the mandate from the President to seek and form a new coalition government.

If Meimarakis fail in his attempts to form a coalition, Lafazanis can theoretically claim also a mandate to form a new government. But practically, hardly any analyst believe that the so-called Drachma-Lobby would lead the next Greek government and avoid elections.

By submitting his resignation, PM Tsipras in fact returned his mandate after the January 25th elections. It is perfectly legal that the President will give now the mandate to the other two biggest parties in the Greek Parliament.

Procedure to form a government

Article 37 of the Greek constitution stipulates the procedure for attempts to form governments after a national legislative election. The Greek constitution stipulates that the largest party in relative terms of the voting result, shall be given a chance to negotiate the formation of a government within three days. Failing that, the second largest party will get a chance within the next three days and if this attempt also fails the third biggest party will get a further three days to try and form a government. If neither of the three largest parties can succeed in forming a government, the baton will be handed over to the president for a last neutral attempt to form a government, where he will meet with all party leaders. If this attempt fails as well, a temporary caretaker government will be formed with the purpose of setting up a date for a new legislative election.

If this attempt fails, then, according to article 37 paragraph 3 in the constitution of Greece, the president will try to form a temporary caretaker government with all parties for the purpose of preparing for an election. If this fails yet again the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the President of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court or the President of the Court of Audit, will be called to form a temporary caretaker government with the widest available support in order to prepare for a new election.  (source)

Anyway, the negotiations of New Democracy and possibly of Popular Unity to form a government may delay Tsipras’ plans to hold the snap elections on 13. or 20. September 2015.

If the Greece goes to elections despite the efforts to form a new government, the Popular Unity is expected to call for alliances of the Greek left, most possibly with far-left ANTARSYA and some SYRIZA components that are disappointed from the pro-austerity U-turn of Tsipras.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:25


SYRIZA on the verge of total disintegration

25 August 2015 / 13:08:05  GRReporter

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Days before the official announcement of early elections, the date of which also remains to be defined, the radical left SYRIZA is about to disintegrate.

It all started after 25 SYRIZA MPs disaffiliated from it and joined Popular Unity, the newly formed party of former minister and leader of the Left Platform in SYRIZA Panagiotis Lafazanis. Commentators argue that it already controls almost a third of SYRIZA.

Although she has not yet left SYRIZA, parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou openly opposes the party leadership, claiming that it has betrayed the programme with which the party won the elections in January and being hostile to those MPs who are still firmly behind it.

Due to disagreement with the decision of Alexis Tsipras to conclude an agreement with creditors to Greece, thus forcing the majority of lawmakers to vote for the adoption of the third and toughest memorandum of financial assistance, SYRIZA secretary Tasos Koronakis resigned yesterday. According to sources, he accused the group close to Tsipras of having totally ignored the party in taking important decisions.

Hours later, spouses Theodoros Dritsas and Tasia Christodoulopoulou, respectively ministers of shipping and migration policy in the office of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks, announced they would not run in the forthcoming elections.

Both Koronakis and they are members of the group of 53 in SYRIZA. It is an internal organization, "laboratory", of leading party officials, which also includes Minister of Finance Efklidis Tsakalotos, former government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis and other prominent party officials.

Yesterday, a text by composer and singer Stathis Drogosis appeared on social networks to inform that he would leave SYRIZA. "Tsipras did not trust his party. He preferred it to play a decorative role, thus creating a small group with which to govern.

But it would be good if at least he himself had a plan. Be it a right one though. We experimented on the shoulders of Greek people. We closed banks. We called a referendum (I supported it, but for other reasons), which was actually ridiculous. And while people were brave and closed their ears to the cries of parrots (the journalists from traditional media - author’s note), Tsipras deserted to the positive vote within few hours. Because of its inability, the economic team of SYRIZA worsened the situation in the country within six months. Yes, comrades, I believe we have brought the worst memorandum to the country and increased unemployment.

I could have swallowed all these things. I could have stayed in the party and fight. Unfortunately, there are many other dark spots.

Assuming that signing an agreement was the only way out, why had we separated the people all these years? Why should Samaras (former Prime Minister and leader of New Democracy) be a traitor and Dragasakis (Deputy Prime Minister and coordinator of economic policy in the office of Tsipras) not? Why didn’t we take the turn earlier? Why didn’t we resort to the rupture (with creditors - author’s note) earlier? Why didn’t we do anything about corruption in the course of seven months? Why do the systemic media support us?" reads the status, manifesto, of the musician.

At least three members have opposed the change in the politics of SYRIZA since past week and announced that their names will not appear in the party ballots. A mass withdrawal from SYRIZA is expected to take place in the coming days and the prevailing opinions are that the SYRIZA party known to date no longer exists, its leader Alexis Tsipras being criticized for that.

According to sources, the members of the group of 53 will meet in Thessaloniki tomorrow to decide to leave the party bodies of SYRIZA together and even to join Lafazanis’ party.

The position of SYRIZA’s youth organization is anticipated with interest too, as the majority of its members openly opposed the memorandum whereas some of them support Greece's exit from the European Union.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:08


53 member of Syriza's Central Committee resign

First entry: 26 August 2015 - 17:52 Athens, 14:52 GMT

Last update: 17:52 Athens, 14:52 GMTPolitics,53-member-of-Syrizas-Central-Committee-resign.html

53 member of Syriza's Central Committee resign

Fifty-three members of Syriza's central committee, including MEP Nikos Chountis, resigned on Wednesday slamming the leftist party's U-turn on its election promises.

The majority of the 53 have already joined Lafazanis' Popular Unity movement.

They also accused the government of ignoring Syriza's programme and collective processes, including the Central Committee's decision for an extraordinary conference, in order to sign a new harsh memorandum and then calling snap elections without consulting the Central Committee at all.

Among those resigning were Alekos Kalyvis, Sofi Papadogianni, Antonis Davanellos and Stathis Leoutsakos, who had all resigned from the party's Political Secretariat last week. 

Source: ANA-MPA

This time Party General Secretary Tassos Koronakis, who won't join the Popular Unity split but says Tsipras' decision to ignore party democracy made his position untenable. His resignation letter:

"Recently I expressed my disagreement with the leadership both for the line we are taking and the devaluation of party democracy. I fought in every way in my role for the unity of the party, believing not in any one section alone, but in the part that for many members of SYRIZA was the core of our political project, the changing of society.

Unfortunately, in recent days we have experienced the polarization of certainties at a time when new strategic questions called on us to respond - resulting in a serious split that brings frustration and demobilisation as well as the resurgence of strife. After an unprecedented battle, with all of its problems, but with the new experience of seven months of government, what we needed was a serious evaluation process - self-criticism and the elaboration of a strategic redefinition.

>From the first moment, I tried to convince the party that the only way to discuss the new situation after the unprecedented and absolutely real blackmail, and the defeat of our negotiating tactics and underlying assumptions of our project, was to appeal to the members of the party. We needed serious discussion in our interior and in society, as well as with all the forces in Europe that stood in solidarity with our struggle.

I believed and continue to believe that with serious debate, one that criticised the shortcomings of the previous period, borne by all of the leadership and me even moreso, we could have prepared a new serious and radical plan of disengagement from the memoranda and extortion, a new project for changing the associations at European level through a broad alliance against austerity and internal devaluation and in defence of democracy.

A democratic reconstruction plan and social organization that leverages knowledge and skills to involve society more in the battle, to claim a different form of governance and a new role of the party. This was the only way to overcome the crisis and reconstruct the party.

The decision to call elections without any substantial internal party process ignored the recent decision of the Central Committee. It showed the continuing devaluation of party democracy and denied the opportunity for elementary discussion in our organisations. The acceleration of the elections in conjunction with the content of the recent Prime Ministerial address give the impression of accepting the Memorandum and the removal of popular sovereignty not as a result of a brutal blackmail which may be overturned, but as a new direction which we are forced to go along.

Without a collective democratic process that would prioritise a radical disengagement plan and keep united the vast majority of the party, we risk the earlier defeat of our negotiating tactics transforming into a strategic defeat for the Left.

Beyond the responsibility of the leadership, a major responsibility for the negative developments is borne by the forces of the Left Platform that went into this as a conflict they had long prepared for, often with mistaken analysis of the players and ultimately finalising the split. The inexpensive rhetoric and the promotion of currency as a different political project neither persuaded nor inspired, and certainly will not be enough to answer the questions reality will put in the coming months.

Unfortunately, I have reached the painful point where I can not continue in my role as secretary of the CC, fully assuming my responsibilities for the course so far. With boundless love and companionship for honoring me I am forced to resign from the post of secretary of what remains of SYRIZA, the party that, with much trouble and anguish we built, to give voice to those who had been expecting collective procedures to be able democratically redefine our path.

My last political act as secretary, is to appeal to everyone to defend Left ethics of collectivity and companionship, and to reject cannibalism and foolishness. With solidarity we must continue to be active in the struggle for justice, democracy and dignity."