Begging its creditors for more money won’t liberate Greece.
At the weekend, one of the iconic figures of the Greek resistance in the Second World War, Syriza MEP Manolis Glezos, made international headlines when he criticised his party’s leaders for their u-turn in their negotiations with Greece’s creditors.
At the end of the negotiations, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis left aside Syriza’s ambitious pre-election agenda, which called for a slashing of Greek debt and the ‘tearing apart’ of the existing memorandum of austerity measures. Instead, the deal that the Syriza-led government secured from the so-called Troika (the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund) was a four-month debt extension, with the condition that Greece implements structural reforms. This agreement sets the ground for a new bailout agreement and a new memorandum in June. As the joke goes in Greece, the government was supposed to get the money and get rid of the memorandum – what it got is a new memorandum without the money.
As Glezos noted, the agreement seemed merely to repackage the existing economic situation Greece finds itself in: ‘The fact that the Troika has been renamed “the institutions”, the memorandum has been renamed “the agreement” and the creditors have been renamed “the partners” – in the same manner as renaming meat as fish – does not change the previous situation.’ Indeed, the Troika seemed to accept Greece’s demand for a change in terminology in the same way a parent compromises at the caprice of a child. Syriza, on the other hand, had to go along with prolonging the deal, as an anaemic economy and a banking system drained of liquidity left little ground for negotiations. The situation was so bleak that Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras had to swallow his pride and call German chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday, offering a compromise.
But while Glezos is right to criticise Syriza, he does so for the wrong reasons. He painted Syriza’s compromise as a revolution betrayed, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Syriza’s plan was hardly revolutionary to start with. It wasn’t realistic, either. It effectively called for an end to the austerity imposed by the Troika, but this move would be funded by the Troika itself. And, while Syriza and its sympathisers abroad called on the Troika to respect the democratic outcome of the Greek elections and end austerity, the fact is that democracy has little to do with the EU – which imposes its demands and conditions on countries, despite the democratic will. Angela Merkel, the usual scapegoat in the anti-austerity mythology, is not accountable to the Greek voters – she is only accountable to her electorate.
In the past few weeks, Greek demonstrations in support of Syriza’s negotiations with the Troika called, above all else, for ‘dignity’. However, begging your creditors for more money is far from dignified. This infantilising moralism is what Glezos should be apologising for. Syriza’s turn to realism is to be welcomed. Now, the government needs to turn its gaze to the future and set the ground for an economic boom in Greece that will end stagnation and lift its citizens out of this crisis. This is the only way for Greece to turn its back on the Troika and regain its economic independence and political sovereignty.
Nikos Sotirakopoulos is an assistant lecturer of sociology at the University of Kent.
For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.