[Marxism] Callinicos: Syriza’s compromise won’t beat austerity
daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Wed Apr 29 15:18:11 MDT 2015
Syriza’s compromise won’t beat austerity
by Alex Callinicos
Socialist Worker, UK April 28
The rulers of the European Union (EU) are getting seriously annoyed
with those pesky Greeks.
According to the Financial Times newspaper, the eurogroup of finance
ministers meeting last Friday saw them “angrily accusing their Greek
counterpart of backtracking on commitments and failing to grasp their
This is the latest in a flood of articles from this normally more
balanced newspaper to target the government led by the radical left
Syriza party that swept to office three months ago. There have been
hostile profiles of left ministers and even suggestions Syriza is soft
The lowest point was reached by Chris Giles’s article “How to deal
with a problem child like Greece”.
Giles seems to be the leader of the pro-austerity faction at the
Financial Times. He was the author of a clumsy attempt to discredit
the figures economist Thomas Piketty used to demonstrate that economic
inequality is growing in the advanced capitalist world.
Giles summed up the attitude of participants at the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting in Washington, “No one understands
Greece’s behaviour in shunning the talks since an outline deal was
agreed in February.
“They call it childish. Many say privately that the Greek authorities
are behaving like a toddler having a tantrum.”
This kind of patronising arrogance helps to explain why people are in
revolt against the EU and the elites that have forced through
The anti-democratic logic of these attitudes was brought out in an
earlier piece. It reported, “Many EU officials—up to and including
some eurozone finance ministers—have suggested privately that only a
decision by Alexis Tsipras, Greek prime minister, to jettison the far
left of his governing Syriza party can make a bailout agreement
“The idea would be for Mr Tsipras to forge a new coalition with
Greece’s traditional centre-left party, the beleaguered Pasok, and To
Potami (The River), a new centre-left party that fought its first
general election in January.”
The crass stupidity of these suggestions is mind-boggling. Tsipras,
having seen Syriza climb from 3 to 36 percent, should throw all this
away at the behest of Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt to ally with a
bunch of losers. Pasok, the old Greek Labour Party, was virtually
obliterated in January.
The tactics pursued by the Syriza government are perfectly rational.
The deal Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis signed up to in
February committed it to continuing with the agreements made by
They included implementing neoliberal “reforms” and meeting debt
repayments in the hope of keeping money flowing in, particularly from
the European Central Bank (ECB) into the Greek banking system.
The trouble is that this deal implies continuing austerity and
abandoning the genuine reforms Syriza promised in opposition.
Of course Tsipras and Varoufakis aren’t going to admit this. The
endless lectures on the stupidity of austerity the latter gives at
every opportunity may irritate the eurogroup, but they throw dust in
Meanwhile, gradually and painfully, the government is scraping
together the money to repay the IMF, the ECB and the other vultures.
This is draining resources from a public sector already starved of funds.
The privatisation of Piraeus port is going ahead, even though on
coming to office Syriza said it would halt it. Even worse, it emerged
last week that right wing defence minister Panos Kammenos has been
allowed to sign a £360 million deal to upgrade five P-3B Orion
maritime patrol planes. Greece’s biggest military procurement since
2006 will allow the navy to hunt more efficiently for “illegal
Tsipras is determined to demonstrate to the “institutions” —as the
IMF, ECB, and European Commission now call themselves—that Syriza can
deliver what they are demanding. There are rumours he may be willing
to sacrifice Varoufakis.
No doubt he is hoping to be rewarded by being allowed to relax
austerity. But this strategy means that ordinary people in Greece will
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