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
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
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
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.]