Greek parliament's president: 'Nο to ultimatums, Nο to the Memoranda of servitude'

President of the parliament of Greece, Zoe Konstantopoulou.

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

The following speech was delivered early in the morning of July 11, 2015, by Zoe Konstantopoulou, president of the Greek parliament, on the question of the government’s proposal to the creditor institutions. She voted "present", in effect an abstention. Translated by Nicholas Evangelos Levis for Analyze Greece. First published in Greek on, July 12, 2015. Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

At times like these we must act and speak with binding sincerity and political boldness. We must assume the responsibility that falls to each and every one of us.

We must defend, according to the dictates of our consciences, those things that are sacred, timeless and non-negotiable, the laws and rights of the people and of society. We must guard the legacy of those who gave their lives and their freedom so that we may live as free people today. We must preserve the inheritance of the young and of future generations, of human civilisation. [We must preserve], furthermore, the inalienable values that define and animate our personal and our collective existences.

How each person chooses and decides to act may differ, and no one has the right to trivialise decisions that arise from an existential process and trial, to berate them, or to exploit them for for political consumption.

Each and every one of us are are judged and shall be judged by our positions and our decisions, by our Yes and by our No, by our actions and omissions, by our commitments and our responses, by our dedication and selflessness.

For five months the government, with the left as its mainstream and with anti-memorandum forces at its core, has been waging an unequal battle within a regime of suffocation and blackmail: Inside a Europe that has betrayed its founding principles, the welfare of its peoples and societies. Inside a Europe that uses the common currency, the euro, not as a means of achieving social welfare, but as a lever and tool for the coercion and humiliation of unruly peoples and leaders. Inside a Europe that is transforming into a nightmarish prison for its peoples, although it was built to be their common and hospitable home.

The Greek people entrusted this government with the great cause of releasing them from the shackles of the Memorandum, from the vise of surveillance and supervision imposed on society under the pretext of debt.

This debt furthermore is illegal, unfair, odious and unsustainable, as demonstrated in the preliminary findings of the Truth Commission on Public Debt, and as the creditors already knew in 2010. This debt was not incurred as a cyclical phenomenon. It was created by the previous governments through corruption in procurement, bribes, misleading terms, corporate stipulations and astronomical interest rates, all to the benefit of foreign banks and companies.

The Troika, together with the previous Greek governments, converted this fraudulent debt from private to public, saving the French and German and also the Greek private banks, and in the process condemned the Greek people to conditions of humanitarian crisis and employed the commercial organs of media misinformation to terrorize and deceive the citizenry.

This debt was neither created nor increased by the people or by the current government. For five years it has been used as a tool to enslave the people, by forces operating within Europe under the rules of economic totalitarianism, in the absence of moral stature or historic right.

To this day Germany has not yet paid its debts to the small Greece of the wartime resistance, which history has identified for its heroism. These debts exceed the value of the present Greek public debt. According to the committee of the General Accounting Office set up by the previous government, these past debts would today reach a level of 340 billion euros, with conservative calculations. The alleged current debt of Greece is estimated at 325 billion euros.

After the Second World War, Germany enjoyed the greatest remission of debt [in history], so as to allow it to get back on track. This was done with the generous partnership of Greece. Yet now Germany has fomented the perpetrators of corporate corruption, those (including Siemens) who dealt with the previous Greek governments and their parties, and has given them protection from the Greek system of justice.

And yet Germany is behaving as if history and the Greek people owe a debt to her, as if she expects to receive a historic payback for her own atrocities. Germany is promoting and enforcing a policy that constitutes a crime, not only against the Greek people, but a crime against humanity. This is a criminal concept, a widespread and systematic attack on a population with the aim and calculation to bring about its total or partial extermination. And, unfortunately, governments and institutions that are required to live up to their history and their responsibility have aligned themselves behind this attack.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The artificial and deliberate creation of conditions of humanitarian disaster so as to keep the people and the government in conditions of suffocation and under the threat of a chaotic bankruptcy constitutes a direct violation of all international human rights protection treaties, including the Charter of the United Nations, the European treaties, and even the statutes of the International Criminal Court. Blackmail is not legal. And those who create conditions that eliminate freedom of the will may not speak of "options". The lenders are blackmailing the government. They are acting fraudulently, since they have known since 2010 that this debt is unsustainable. They are acting consciously, since their statements anticipate the need for humanitarian aid in Greece. Humanitarian assistance for what? For an unexpected and inadvertent natural disaster? Is it an unpredictable earthquake, flooding, a fire?


Humanitarian aid [would be required] because of their conscious and calculated choice to deprive the people of the means of survival, closing the tap of liquidity in retaliation for the democratic choice of the government and the parliament to call a referendum and to turn to the people to decide their own future. The Greek people honoured the government that entrusted them, and the parliament that allowed them the right to take their lives and fates in their own hands. With bravery and pride they announced

NO to blackmail!

NO to ultimatums!

NO to the Memoranda of servitude!

NO to the repayment of a debt they did not create and that is not attributable to them!

NO to new measures of impoverishment and exhaustion!

The lenders have stubbornly insisted on transforming this NO into a YES, and they have found allies who gleefully collaborate with them in the same Greek parties who are responsible for the Memoranda, in those who benefited from them, in those who created this debt and loaded it on the backs of the people.

This NO of the people transcends all of us and compels us to defend their right to fight for their lives. To wrestle. Not to live a half life or a life on our knees. To be proud of what we bequeath to the next generations and to humanity.

Today the government is being blackmailed to consent to conditions that do not represent it, that do not come from it, that it is struggling to reverse and prevent. The prime minister spoke with honesty, bravery, boldness and selflessness. He is the youngest of all Greek prime ministers and he has fought as much as any of his predecessors for the democratic and social rights of the people and of the younger generations. He represented and represents our generation, and he gives us hope. I honour him and will always honour him for this stand and this choice.

And at the same time, I consider it my binding responsibility, as president of the parliament, not to close my eyes or to pretend that I do not understand blackmail. I cannot make it easy. I could never vote for and legalise the content of this agreement.

I think the same is true and would apply to the prime minister, who is today blackmailed with a weapon threatening the survival of his people. I believe the same applies to the government and to the parliamentary groups who support it.

I shall undertake my binding responsibility to history by stating "present", as a "presence" in today's debate and vote. I believe that in this way I make myself more useful to the people, to the government and to the prime minister, to future generations and to the European societies, by recording the actual conditions under which the Greek parliament has been asked to make decisions. And by rejecting blackmail, by invoking Article 1-1-4 of Article 120 of the constitution.

The Greek people are the second to suffer this form of warfare in the Eurozone, preceded by Cyprus in March 2013. This attempt to impose measures rejected by the people in a referendum, using the blackmail of closed banks and the threat of bankruptcy, constitutes a violent overthrow of the Greek constitution and deprives the parliament of the authority granted to it by the constitution.

Everyone has the right and obligation to resist. No resistance in history was easy. But we undertook the popular vote, and we trust the people on the difficult matters. It is to the difficult matters that we must respond. And we must not fear.


Statement by 'Blockupy goes Athens', July 12

Understanding the Defeat Means Preparing a Victory


14 July 2015

The Greek Dilemma and Us. Nine provisional considerations after both the popular Oxi and Syriza’s Yes to the Memorandum. This is being written after the vote in the Greek parliament and before the final decision of the Eurogroup. At the moment, everything is open, and we are certain of only a couple of things. Almost everything can change, but some things will remain true.

1. From Blackmail to Coup

The alternative of Grexit or a third Memorandum is not the same as reform or revolution; it is only a matter of the lack of alternatives dictated by the creditors. It corresponds to the relation of forces within Europe, which can at the moment only produce defeats.

The blackmailing of Greece by the creditors leaves open two paths, both of which would be defeats. This is unavoidable. First, Grexit: It means: ‘We’ll take from you the possibility of carrying out Europe’s class conflict within European political space. If you want to keep fighting, then fight for your survival at home and let the world watch the hopelessness of your struggle. If you want to keep on fighting in the name of your population, then your population is going to suffer the consequences.’ A Grexit makes the problem of inner-European politics into one of developmental and humanitarian aid. It isolates the political conflict in Europe, limiting it to Greek territory. Second, a new Memorandum: This means staying with the EU structures as they are, although at the cost of complete subjugation and now, in addition, the political oversight that is being insisted on. The Eurogroup’s and IMF’s programme amounts not only to an administration of debt and insolvency but also the attempt at nation building from outside – trusteeship as a shadow government. Its goal is a new Greek body politic in the economic-technocratic sense: deregulation, privatization, capitalism with ‘Asiatic values’ (Žižek).

2. Political submission as strategy

Apparently, the SYRIZA government has decided, on strategic grounds, to end the policy of negotiations with a symbolic defeat in order to ‘pacify’ the fiscal and economic situation. It changes nothing in terms of social devastation.

The events of recent days catapulted SYRIZA into a new decision-making arena in a completely contradictory situation: The emphatic liberatory act of the popular ‘No’ (Oxi) occurred simultaneously with the intensified vulnerability to fiscal blackmail of the state (bank closures, state bankruptcy). Complete collapse would occur in a matter of days. Money was running out. In the last days, the preliminary outer limits of this institutional national uprising against the European ‘institutions’ were reached. The negotiations were at an end, and the economic war against the Greek government reached its preliminary high point. Tsipras hoped a new aid package would ease the dramatic situation. And there are not a few that are hoping now for time to prepare a Grexit for real.

It is questionable whether this strategy can work. SYRIZA hoped a Memorandum would give it breathing space and the possibility of preparing a new political offensive. The creditors, therefore, have set themselves the goal of moving from fiscal blackmail to direct political control – in the event it cannot manage, despite all, to bring down the SYRIZA government. They are formulating not only the contractual framework of Greek politics but now want to tie the next disbursements to the government’s political obedience and oversee it permanently. They will try to prevent Greece getting even an atom of manoeuvring space for a new offensive. From now on Brussels is no longer interested merely in economic subjugation under a third Memorandum; the creditors are forcing Tsipras to prove his ‘credibility’ by doing everything they ask of him: to stand up to the population, to the ‘dissenters’, to the party. This is blackmail whose conditions are now the public-image destruction of political unity. It leaves no room for strategic retreat, no possible future offensive. The submission achieved so far can and must be criticised. However, those who see this as a break with a political project and the death of reformism should hold their fire. Because what is now in the air – the Eurogroup’s ‘No’ to the current level of Greece’s submission – will not only decide SYRIZA’s future but also the future configuration of Europe. Whether there is Grexit or a Memorandum, on Monday we will all know that there is most probably no possibility of even the slightest improvement of Greece’s situation if this is done in concert with the creditors. And since the referendum a break has become an option for society. Starting Monday there will be a new political process in Greece, which will put the left and the party to the test.

3. Government and collective process

The government is taking on an identity distinct from the party and the movement. The negotiation process hampers the democratic process and concentrates power in the hands of a few, whom people have to trust. It is precisely the popular aspect of the referendum that has paradoxically reinforced this concentration: The masses of young and poor people, who are not activists and not organised, have tied themselves directly to the government and to Alexis Tsipras as a person.

Through its campaign in the urban peripheries and poor neighbourhoods, SYRIZA reached all those who yearned for ‘life with dignity’; but the population did not want this to occur in the form of a permanent general assembly of the people, which required them to make permanent decisions affecting precisely the one person whom they consciously empowered for this purpose through their ‘No’: Alexis Tsipras. They not only said ‘No’ but also placed their trust in Tsipras so that he could end their suffering. This reinforced his possibilities of acting unilaterally.

At the same time, this highlighted a vacuum in the movement of the streets. The democracy of the squares consciously rejected centralist politics and, in so doing, the figure of a charismatic leadership. How do movements speak to those who are not a movement and don’t want to be one? How do we deal with the possible difference between the plebiscite of the assemblies and the supposed common will of all? The societal factor of the non-represented and the ‘invisible’ does not necessarily seek happiness through grassroots movements and engaged self-organisation. How do movements act if real majorities are not only possible under conditions of contemporary post-representation but are also decisive? The SYRIZA experiment has freshly put the open question of societal and popular collectivism on the table. And that’s a good thing!

4. First get food, then go for the big challenge

The biggest problem with the major submission to the European status quo is not the betrayal of a decrepit concept of revolution espoused by the KKE or other radical ‘revolutionaries’. The biggest problem is that Greece and its poorest citizens find themselves in a situation of immediate urgency. The social catastrophe cannot be resolved with a five-year plan.

In this sense, in the coming months, what will show us whether SYRIZA has really capitulated is the policies of the government, not a piece of paper. In this process, the required measures can also take place in a legal grey area, or they can produce the next public arena of struggle. What’s important is that this arena is defined and opened up. ‘Absurd’, ‘capitulation’, ‘traders in hope’ – all those who are now basing their own radicalism on SYRIZA’s ‘failure’ should think hard about what they would have done if it were up them. Almost all ‘radical leftists’ within SYRIZA have approved this Memorandum, precisely because they are against it. For the moment it appears to be the only option for keeping the other options open. It was a strategic mistake to not have contemplated other options earlier on. But in order to be able to take the leap into the unknown – a controlled Grexit and the options of nationalising production and the banks – it is not only time and real majorities that are needed but also ‘breathing space’ right now. SYRIZA was not prepared for this step. Nobody was.

5. Grexit as the solution?

The discussion of Grexit in the German left is romantic. In great part it adheres to an old party-communist political conception: A process of rupture is not to occur socially, as social transformation and political movement; rather, it is to be enacted through a decree and according to a technical discussion of social models undertaken by the government. What is more, the demand is irresponsible because – and this is what is most important – it does not correspond to the actual political process.

With their ‘No’, people voted not for exit but to reject the ‘liberal’ politics of fear; in their readiness for battle they went a good distance in the direction of a real break, but they did not formulate the momentum of a revolutionary wish – whether or not we would have wanted them to. A Grexit at this moment would also be irresponsible because it has not been prepared – either by SYRIZA as a government or a party, or by municipal and local social councils, not to mention by assemblies and movements. And so questions of further strategy and the next steps are on the table. But for now we have to understand that a break with Europe’s fiscal regime would aggravate the social disaster, and the plebiscitary moment of the ‘Oxi’ vote would be transformed into a guided democracy and then into the authoritarianism of a left government, which would govern the social catastrophe in an increasingly authoritarian way and would have to reorganise the state and economy against the social majority. Those who argue for a revolutionary Grexit are doing so at a comfortable distance and are, in the last analysis, ignoring those who have fought, starved, suffered, and hoped in the last six years. All of these people deserve time to breathe. They, and not SYRIZA’s Central Committee or a distant revolutionary romanticism, need to decide on the right point in time.

6. Necessary failure?

Whatever the ideologies and false conceptions of the possibility of reforms might have been at work in SYRIZA, its line in the last months corresponded to the tendency of the will of the majority. The hope for a solution within the framework of the European treaties has been the point of departure of SYRIZA’s political strategy. In acting on this basis it has managed to radicalise society.

The government has the people behind it and has absorbed this wish and, together with the public throughout Europe, learned from experience that this wish is just as unrealistic as the neoliberal order is obdurate. If they had chosen to make this insight possessed by a revolutionary minority into the point of departure of their politics they would have failed spectacularly. The last months have made it possible for the whole world to experience the real concrete existence of this antagonism, to see it, to feel it. SYRIZA has not stoked reformist desires but destroyed them in a series of practical object-lessons – whether they wanted to or not. In so doing, the real possibility of a break, about which people throughout the whole of society are now talking seriously for the first time, has become an option. Nobody could have presupposed the experience that has by now been gained without alienating the population and the party. SYRIZA did not take its own truths as a point of departure; instead it looked to the level of consciousness of the population and radicalised it. In this sense, they initiated a revolutionary process – something that those who always knew better and what was coming are not in a position to do. The question now is whether the government will be in sync with this process.

7. Movement and government

After almost six months SYRIZA has come up against the limits of being a protest government. Now the party has to actually take ‘governmental responsibility’. It cannot fall back on programmatic positions but has to face the real dilemma for which there is no pragmatic solution. This also necessarily entails political alienation of the movements from the government.

But this is a good and far from being a bad thing. Movements, in the best sense of the concept, also act for themselves; they have to do so in their immediate struggles and radical demands, which do not always incorporate social majorities – for example, solidarity with refugees in Greece, the struggle against special prisons, police violence, the fascist danger, and against ruinous extractivism (gold mining). Left parties that do not enter government based solely on their own strength, but also because the political caste of an austerity regime has imploded, should try to develop left politics for majorities, and they need to concretely improve the daily conditions of life of many people. Especially under conditions of the nightmarish impoverishment and plunge into the void caused by the Troika’s two Memoranda.

In its feverish week of permanent mobilisation, the ‘Oxi’ campaign, too, lived not from a central leadership but from the free self-empowerment of innumerable activists who created, multiplied, and consequently also socialised their own Oxi via social media and in the streets.

Can this kind of mobilisation still be called upon? It probably can. The disillusion is palpable. Does it have to stay that way? Does the tremendously arid game of parliamentary reformism versus radical movements that want more have to start again? Maybe, but there is something else. The relationship between broad parts of the movement and the government still exists; it has been humiliated but not broken. What will be decisive is how SYRIZA not only explains its decision in this situation but makes it into a point of departure for further mobilisation. Only at this point could a possible capitulation be spelled out. However, what is also decisive is whether the movements continue to exert pressure on their government; whether they are actually in a position not only to think through the question of socialising the break with the existing fiscal regime, embodied in part by the euro, but also to organise around it as a social process involving many people. We have no specific advice on how to do this and are consciously refraining from giving any. However, two things seem equally clear to us: it is possible under present conditions to govern unpragmatically, and, at the same time, the movements must not subordinate themselves or be subordinate to the logic of governing.

8. A reorganising of the political

Whatever happens, the referendum has re-measured political space not only in Greece but also in Europe. In almost every conceivable way, it has politicised the crisis and European governance. The technocratic veils are falling away and the brute force of politics is becoming apparent. Their natural laws determine the laws of their policies, but their laws can be called into question. ‘There is no alternative’ is now being confronted by social democracy.

The parties of the old ‘left’, whether in France, Spain, Italy, England – or especially Germany (the SPD) – are by now nothing more than ‘managers of global capitalism’ (Badiou). Their ‘Yes’ against SYRIZA and the Greek population extinguished from their memory the last vestiges of Keynesianism and the last elements of social-democratic solidarity. They marshalled all means at their disposal to repel the first powerful counter-offensive to neoliberalism and its austerity. It was a declaration of war against the new and any attempt to burst the bounds of the current order. Many were able to understand this, and many found were outraged at openly democratic self-empowerment was subjected to intimidation and manipulation through ‘fiscal structural reform’. Europe is no longer what it was. It is now only a question of time before the demand for a European referendum on TTIP will come into focus and before other excluded groups demand their rights. For decades now, the crisis of representation has only seen a right-wing response: Hungary, Le Pen, Denmark, Pegida. Now it has a left response, which can no longer disappear in the medium term, whatever concrete form it takes. It positioned itself as a political force way before the 34 per cent of the January election. And even in the parliamentary systems there is – at least in the long run the possibility of rebellious actions. OXI remains the central political antagonism of the years to come and is at the same time ten years ahead of the rest of the movements in Europe.

9. The empire is being destroyed from inside, not from outside.

Those who say that the European empire cannot be reformed should not conclude that one should leave it. Of course, there is nothing to be expected from Merkel. She is a real warrior for her class. But it is just as self-evident that one has to be and stay precisely where the enemy is, where one’s own enmity can be brought to bear.

Ultimately, we fight in the factory and in the city neighbourhood and not in a place where the relations of domination are absent. In any case, there is and will be no such place, even in Greece after a Grexit. Whether inside or outside the euro and the EU, the European reality forms the objective boundaries of the Greek breakthrough. This is where the responsibility of the European movements begins, especially in Germany. Crossing borders is now in our hands. This involves all social movements and political struggles for a Europe of rights for all and true democracy. It involves anchors of transnational protest like Blockupy, as well as other cross-border connections of the radical left. And, of course, it involves the Party of the European Left around Die LINKE. Everyone has to change something; everyone has to reassess their policies and ask: How can we internationalise the Greek cause and Europeanise the OXI vote? Together, separately, united, in each place, in each form. We have to modernise our practice – within this constellation.

And one more thing: SYRIZA doesn’t need a fan club. We should appreciate the great value of a left government, without being ‘faithful to Moscow’. ‘Unfortunately, small steps forward still require big sacrifices’, is what a Diktio comrade texted us from deep inside the government during the Friday in which the momentous decision was made. Yes, it’s a lot of rubbish. Just carry on.  What else?

Blockupy goes Athens, 12 July2015 (12.00, Berlin)

PS: As a team we are now ending our report and going back into action. Whatever happens from now on we have already been changed by the recent events. In Athens we fought to the point of exhaustion along with others, but also spoke with far-sighted comrades and courageous common people who told us the reasons for their OXI. We saw how much we desired more Greek friendship against Germany’s order. It was exciting and historic, and we learned a lot.

PPS:  All our basic assessments still stand up, though many things could turn out differently in the next hours and days. ‘There is no alternative’ is supposed to win – shock and awe, nothing is to survive. If the enormous level of submission is insufficient then Greek society will have to risk the great leap into the unknown. Either they remain in a repeatedly produced void or they are to go under. Then for the moment something will again have occurred. But that will be decided not by the government alone; then all the stakes will really be in the streets.

This text first appeared in German in the blog ‘Blockupy goes Athens’.

Translation by Eric Canepa


Saturday, July 18, 2015
German left party Die Linke opposed the bailout deal enforced on Greece.

More than 60 lawmakers from Germany’s Die Linke (The Left) party voted against the proposal for further austerity for Greece on July 17. They accused the German government of “destroying Europe” by forcing Greece to accept hard-hitting austerity measures required by the eurozone for a third bailout deal.

Despite strong left opposition, the majority of the German Bundestag (parliament) voted to back Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal for a further US$93.5 billion bailout deal for Greece.

Die Linke’s parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi said the plan will continue the damage the previous austerity measures imposed on Greece: “You have to decrease wages, you have to decrease pensions ... this completely wrong programme has lead to the reduction of the economic output, to the reduction of tax revenue/income everywhere, and is now to be continued.”

Gysi accused Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of having blackmailed the Greek government.

The vote passed with a clear majority, by 439 to 119, and 40 abstentions in the 631-seat Bundestag. Before the vote, Merkel warned not backing her plan will cause “predictable chaos.”

Lawmakers from the conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), overwhelmingly supported Merkel's motion, although 50 conservative politicians voted against the measures on nationalist grounds.

Support for Greece has grown in Germany in recent days with protests across the country. Thousands have taken to the streets to reject the government's aggressive treatment of the Greek crisis, in solidarity with their European neighbors.

On July 15, the Greek parliament accepted the set of reforms demanded by its creditors in order to access EU emergency funding, despite 38 MPs from the ruling SYRIZA party voting against or abstaining. The measures were described as “irrational” by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, as they will continue the deep political and economic crisis in the country, although he urged MPs to back the deal as the least bad option.

Spain's left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos says Greece has been forced to swallow a bad deal by its creditors, adding it will continue to back the SYRIZA government, TeleSUR English said on July 16.

A leading Podemos figure Inigo Errejon slammed European leaders for their handling of negotiations with Greece, but said there are now few alternatives left for Athens.

“This agreement was not designed to solve [Greece's] economic problems,” Podemos economics spokesperson Nacho Alvarez told CNBC. Alvarez argued the deal represented a bid by international creditors to “break” Syriza with “enormous financial pressure”. He added that Greeks already in vulnerable economic positions could have the most to lose under another wave of austerity.

“[Austerity] entails enormous social costs but also economic costs and at the end of the day is unsustainable,” he said.

Meanwhile, president of Irish republican party Sinn Fein and member of the Irish Dail (parliament) Gerry Adams said: “The conduct of a number of EU governments over the past number of weeks has been alarming,”

“They have effectively closed down the Greek banking system and held the Greek Government and people to ransom.

“To its shame the Irish government took the side of the strong against those in need of support and solidarity. It is obscene for Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail to lecture the Greek people while generations of Irish people will be paying off debts that are not of their making ...

“Today could well be the day when all pretence of a Europe of equal states and people was lost and replaced by a Europe of the powerful and the wealthy.”

Sinn Fein member of the European Parliament Matt Carthy said that the shameful treatment of Greece has destroyed public confidence in the EU itself.

Carthy said: “The treatment of the Greek government over the past weeks has laid bare for all to see the complete abandonment of the fundamental principles on which the EU was supposedly founded.

“The disrespect shown to the mandate obtained by the Greek government and the wishes of the Greek people will be, for many people across Europe, the clear indication that the EU is no longer a champion of democracy or human rights but has steadily become a set of institutions which protect the powerful vested interests at the expense of ordinary citizens and even member states ...

“I firmly believe that this process will be remembered for generations to come as the day the illusion of a Europe of Equals was shattered once and for all.”

July 17, 2015

No. That’s what the Greeks said in their referendum two weeks ago. No to still more inhuman austerity from Brussels. No to European anti-social politics. And no to the denial of national democracy.

And what did the Greeks get? Still more inhuman austerity, still more antisocial European politics and even less influence.

The last few weeks have demonstrated just what the European Union stands for today. Countries stand entirely at odds with each other. The European Union was established to further peace and security, but thanks to the europhiles, who want to rapidly transform it into a political union, tensions between member states are on the increase.

The European leaders, with Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem to the fore, has opted to continue to impose injunctions, deep austerity and privatisations, despite the fact that previous spending cuts forced on the Greeks have backfired. The Greek economy has become worse than ever, numerous firms have gone bust, purchasing power has declined precipitously and increasing numbers of people are living in poverty. The wrong medicine is being extended. And now the Greeks are getting an even bigger dose.

On Thursday I heard Dijsselbloem give a fiery speech about the sale of ports and airports in Greece. This is a social democrat who cannot see the value and importance of major infrastructure being in public hands, but advocates the marketisation of essential parts of that infrastructure. Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte’s proud smile in response spoke volumes.

To arrive at a social solution for Greece, we must first of all recognise what the problem is. In the first place it is the fault of the policies of previous Greek governments, of corruption and the failure of many to pay taxes. But above and beyond those things stand the problems which the euro brought with it. A single currency for diverse countries with diverse economies is creating enormous inequality. This will always continue to cause problems. Instead of there being some understanding of this, the Greek population is now being sacrificed on the altar of Europe. This is the EU at its worst.

What the Greeks need now is space. Not a suffocating agreement, but space to get the economy back on its feet and crank up purchasing power. This can be achieved by making the richest Greeks pay their fair share of taxes and by intelligent investments. And when you consider that the banks were not amongst the least culpable when it came to causing the present crisis, then the bill for it ought to be sent to them, too.


Stand-off within SYRIZA to continue as Konstantopoulou stands firm


The much-anticipated showdown between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou failed to materialise on Thursday.

The pair held a lengthy meeting but Konstantopoulou emerged insisting that their relationship remained intact and fully functioning. Some had expected that the speaker would either offer her resignation during the meeting or that Tsipras would demand it after Konstantopoulou voted against the government’s proposals for a second time early on Thursday.

However, neither of these things happened and the speaker told journalists that she and the prime minister continue to be on the same page about the way forward for the government.

This positive spin on the meeting was not shared by Tsipras’s aides, whose briefing to the media suggested that the premier is troubled by Konstantopoulou’s behaviour, which includes her insistence on using her role in Parliament as a political tool.

The speaker’s portrayal of SYRIZA being robust enough to absorb the impact of internal differences matched the interpretation given by ex-Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis after the vote early on Thursday. The leader of SYRIZA’s Left Platform insisted that the party draws strength from its differences rather than being weakened by them.

However, given that Lafazanis and Konstantopoulou are strongly opposed to the bailout agreement Tsipras wants to secure and implement (the speaker referred to it as “blackmail” and a “coup”) this awkward stand-off cannot last for long.

It is likely that the SYRIZA rebels do not want to make the first public move that would lead to a permanent split in the party as they might be labelled traitors. It would be preferable for them for Tsipras to make the move and perhaps suffer the political cost as well.

The delay also buys the rebels more time to decide if they are going to launch their own party and to perhaps begin the groundwork on such a project. Also, it is worth noting that Konstantopoulou is not a member of the Left Platform and as an unaligned SYRIZA MP she has to decide where her future lies. By remaining part of the government, she also gives herself more time to decide.

Tsipras appears unwilling to rock the boat at the moment as he does not want to be fighting an internal party battle at the same time as negotiating with lenders over the details of the third bailout.

The time for this clearing of the air is likely to be after the bailout has been agreed and voted through Parliament but before Greece possibly goes to snap elections. The potential dates for the vote currently being mentioned are September 6, 13 or 20.

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