Greece: Yiannis Bournous' thoughts on the new situation and SYRIZA's responsibilities

Learn to swim, comrade
Because the tide is rising
Because freedom will be happening around here

-- Sergio Godinho, Mare Alta)

By Yiannis Bournous

March 7, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The SYRIZA-led government’s February 24 agreement with the Eurogroup [of European Union finance ministers] is not the end of negotiations. It doesn’t even postpone conflict. On the contrary, it opens up a long new period full of sharp clashes inside and outside our country.

These clashes have never occurred before, because the previous pro-austerity governments not only simply agreed about everything with the Troika [European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund] and the leadership of the European Union (EU), but also in many cases outdid them in the severity of the austerity measures they worked out and put in place.

The basic aim of the European neoliberal elite and its political representatives was—and still is—to lock SYRIZA into a framework that stops it from constituting a real alternative to neoliberal hegemony. They tried—and will continue to try—to imprison the Greek government and SYRIZA in a clearly defensive position, where we would be forced into mere damage control, without any ability to undertake our own alternative initiatives.

The whole framework of negotiations was worked out by our opponents with the aim of leading the government into either collapse or ridicule. Nonetheless, the stance of the Greek government ruined their plans and unmasked the false blackmail put into circulation by Greek and foreign circles with the goal, in the case of disagreement from the Greek side, of forcing our country into economic collapse and forced exit from the Eurozone.

The fact that we managed to overcome the above dangers and gain crucial time is very important. Furthermore, it is also very important that we managed to cancel all the painful austerity measures that the previous government had committed to apply, even during the election campaign.

The Greek government has signed an agreement that in substance reflects the reality that from now on every further step will be a part of the underlying conflict. The agreement is far from what any of us would consider as ideal. It includes roadblocks and restrictions that force us to postpone or re-formulate parts of our governmental program for the people.

Nonetheless, the return of politics to the front stage of the European process, the first political schisms produced at a European level after the election victory of SYRIZA and the overall stance of the Greek government of social salvation are encouraging signs for the next period. This specific stance changed the framework of discussion throughout Europe, creating, in parallel, an unprecedentedly large solidarity movement. From the perspective of reinforcing pan-European social struggles and changing the balance of power in Europe this strengthening of solidarity among the peoples of Europe is a duty of the utmost importance.

The transparency with which the new government acted in the negotiation process constitutes another qualitative difference with the previous governments of New Democracy and PASOK. We have nothing to be afraid of, as long as we continue to address the Greek people with sincerity, both as regards possibilities and actual problems.

The basic factor that will determine the fate of the next stages of the confrontation with our opponents is whether the government can manage to hold open the crack created within the total dominance of neoliberalism. In the case that we achieve larger or smaller victories in the next period, political developments in Europe will be accelerated, since the dogma of TINA [“there is no alternative”] will have collapsed. If we also take into account the key factor of Spain’s November national election, we can easily understand why the neoliberal forces of the EU will escalate their offensive against us.

In assuming its historical responsibility, the Greek government must immediately work very hard in order to avoid any possibility of new austerity measures and, at the same time, to improve public finances by making the rich pay. A first positive sign in this direction is that the treasury prosecutors investigating lists of Greek account-holders who have illegally transferred money to Swiss and other foreign banks have already blocked €404 million found in the bank accounts of 17 depositors.

At the same time, we will be judged on our moves to democratise the political system and the public sphere, in the war against corruption and in tackling the humanitarian crisis. The government has already presented its first bill, which includes free electricity for households that live in conditions of extreme poverty (300 Kwh per month), housing rent allowance for 30,000 households (€70 per person or €220 per family per month), as well as a nutrition allowance for citizens that also live in conditions of extreme poverty.

In these four months, we should make decisive steps to improve our position vis-a-vis tomorrow’s confrontations; these steps can be made so long as a large part of the society is determined to support the government of social salvation and not simply wait. The existence of this unprecedented popular goodwill, as expressed in the first post-election opinion polls but principally in the unprecedented mobilisations in support of the demands of the government, is of fundamental importance to our party.

Today, when the dogma that “everyone is the same” is collapsing and politics is returning as the way to change our lives, our party should maximise its internal unity, without this meaning the suppression of diversity but its inclusion in our collective reflection and common goal. Criticism and debate among viewpoints in the decision-making processes of the bodies of a multi-tendency left party are fair and just, so long as they don’t jeopardise our internal solidarity or distort our official decisions.

SYRIZA must now open its doors to embrace all the people who wish to fight collectively and unselfishly so as to win back dignity. Our planning, our procedures and actions should mirror our determination to create the “collective intellectual” who will build a new collective consciousness in the Greek society. A new idea of common sense, based on collectivity, solidarity, and the fulfillment of social needs.

As the president of SYRIZA recently said, at this new beginning our shared slogan must be: less words, more work.

[Yiannis Bournous is a member of the SYRIZA Political Secretariat and of the executive board of the Party of the European Left.]


What is being done to Greece is absolutely shameful. It is nothing more or less than predatory Capitalism. There is much coverage in the main stream media about how the Greeks retire early, do not work long hours and avoid paying taxes. Nonsense. Way to go to demonise an entire country.
The real issue is to whom do the Greeks "owe" this money. Answer - the greatest exposure to Greek debt is faced by French and German banks. Globally the banking system is insolvent as indeed are these banks. Let's flesh this out a little, of the 140 billion that was last loaned to Greece 121 billion went to these banks in the form of loan repayments. Only 19 billion went to Greece.
Greece is currently in a spiral of endless debt and is in the situation of taking out new loans to repay old ones. This is unsustainable as the mounting interest payments will crush what is left of economic life in Greece.
What Syriza is doing is all very worthy; renegotiating new repayment terms but IMHO all that is going to accomplish is to - at best - lower interest payments and slow down the rate of increase of Greeek debt. It is kicking the can down the road.
From what I understand the Greeks love having the Euro, and from what I can see it is this which is stopping them from leaving the Eurozone.
I would be delighted for Greece if they left the Eurozone (even better the EU too)
Default and bring back the Drachma. The Greek economy was not geared for Eurozone membership when it joined and with the debt increase is less so now. Of course it would be tough (but Iceland defaulted and got through it OK) and at least the Greeks would be running their own economy their way other than at the behest of the Troika.