[Marxism] reports/comments on new Syriza Greek government

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Wed Jan 28 15:43:18 MST 2015

Greece will not default - PM Tsipras
BBC, January 28

New Greek PM Alexis Tsipras says his country will not default on its debts.

Addressing his first cabinet meeting since Sunday's victory, Mr
Tsipras said he would negotiate with creditors over the €240bn
(£179bn; $270bn) bailout.

"We won't get into a mutually destructive clash but we will not
continue a policy of subjection," said the left-wing Syriza party

Greek bank stocks lost more than a quarter of their value on Wednesday
as prices fell for a third day.

Piraeus Bank lost nearly 29%, Alpha Bank 26%, and National Bank and
Eurobank around 25%, AFP reported.

Germany's vice-chancellor said it was unfair of Greece to expect other
states to pick up its bills.
. . .

New Greek PM Alexis Tsipras forms cabinet
BBC, Jan 27
. . . Key Dates...
12 February: EU leaders' summit in Brussels, which newly-elected Greek
prime minister Alexis Tsipras is due to attend
16 February: Another Eurogroup meeting due to discuss "state of play" in Greece
28 February: Current programme of loans to Greece under the European
Financial Stability Facility ends. There is still €1.8bn of loans that
could be disbursed to Greece if it meets the conditions imposed by the
First quarter of 2015: Economists estimate that Greece needs to raise
about €4.3bn to help pay its way, with Athens possibly having to ask
the IMF and eurozone countries
19 March: Another EU leaders' summit

Greek cabinet set for first meeting since poll upset

Guy Jackson and John Hadoulis, AFP
Business Insider
January 28, 2015

Athens (AFP) - Greece's new radical left-led government prepared to
meet Wednesday for the first time to hammer out a strategy for
renegotiating the country's giant bailout, after storming to power on
a promise to reject years of harsh austerity policies.

The coalition cabinet, made up of poll winners Syriza and the
nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL), was set to convene at 10:30 am
(0830 GMT), three days after Sunday's electoral upset that saw the
architects of Greece's sweeping budget cutbacks thrown out of office.

In a sign that the new government will take a hard line in haggling
over the 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) EU-IMF package with
international creditors, 40-year-old Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on
Tuesday named leftwing economist Yanis Varoufakis as finance minister.

A polyglot academic, 53-year-old Varoufakis, is a vocal critic of the
conditions imposed by creditors in return for the 2010 bailout and he
argues the country's shattered economy will never recover until they
are relaxed.

Analysts have described Syriza's coalition with ANEL as "unnatural"
and potentially short-lived, saying that the smaller party is
unpredictable and that the two parties differ starkly on immigration

However, the allies -- who together have 162 seats in the 300-member
parliament -- share a common opposition to the EU-IMF bailout.

Among their first tasks will be addressing an end-of-February deadline
set by the EU for Greece to carry out more reforms in return for a
seven-billion-euro tranche of financial aid from the 28-member bloc
and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras, who has vowed to reverse many of the severe spending cuts and
other measures that Greece's creditors insist on, must decide whether
to prolong the deadline.

- EU 'flexible' -

Greece's European partners have been quick to pour cold water on the
issue of debt forgiveness since Syriza's election win, with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman saying Monday that Greek
membership of the eurozone "means... sticking to its previous

However the European Union's governing body indicated Wednesday that
it was willing to show flexibility in working with the new Greek
leaders to keep the debt-stricken nation in the eurozone.

The European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, France's
Pierre Moscovici, said he ruled out any "break" between the European
Commission and the new Greek administration, the French daily Le
Parisien/Aujourd'hui en France reported Wednesday.

The Commission and the European Union are willing to seek "less
intrusive, more flexible forms of cooperation" with Athens, the paper
quoted him as saying.

"What we all want is that Greece recovers, creating growth and jobs,
that it reduces inequality, that it can deal with the problem of its
debt and remains in the euro area," he said.
. . .
- Humanitarian catastrophe -

Syriza claims the stringent conditions attached to the bailout --
including wage and pension cuts and widespread privatisations --have
caused a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Greece.

It wants to release an immediate 1.2 billion euro package to increase
the minimum wage and pensions for the poorest.

The first foreign dignitary to visit Greece since Syriza took power
will be the social democrat head of the European Parliament, Martin
Schulz, on Thursday.

The IMF extended an olive branch to the new Greek government, saying
it was prepared to continue its financial support to the country.

"We stand ready to continue supporting Greece, and look forward to
discussions with the new government," IMF managing director Christine
Lagarde said in a statement.

Greece's economy is set to emerge from recession after shrinking by a
quarter in five years, leaving one in four out of work.

Many Greeks say that even if Tsipras can deliver on a fraction of what
he has promised, their lives will improve.

Sunday's poll was Greece's fourth in five turbulent years, including
back-to-back votes in 2012.

Tsipras stands alone as Europe's first anti-austerity leader for the
moment, but Syriza's victory could inspire other anti-austerity
parties, including Spain's Podemos, which has topped several opinion
polls and is aiming for an absolute majority in the Spanish election
in November.

Marxist Economists, Academics and Philosophers Sworn In to the Greek Cabinet
The Real News interviews Leo Panitch, January 28

Cabinet of Alexis Tsipras
complete list by Wikipedia

Who's in the new Greek cabinet?
How the cabinet manages to stay unified remains to be seen

by Alex Johnson
Athens, January 27

All eyes are on Greece after the radical left-wing Syriza shocked the
European establishment by taking power from the previous centre-right
austerity-supporting government.

Two seats short of an absolute majority, Syriza rapidly formed a
coalition with the right-wing, populist, and anti-austerity party, the
Independent Greeks.

This will give the new government a broad mandate to counter the
austerity programme of the troika of international lenders (the
European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International
Monetary Fund).

However, the new cabinet contains very wide-ranging ideologies and
traditions, which will affect how the government is able to negotiate
with Brussels and Berlin.

Below is a breakdown of some of its most important members.

Prime minister - Alexis Tsipras

The 40 year-old charismatic leader of Syriza is credited with bringing
opposing factions within the party together and making it a credible
force in Greek politics.

His origins are in Synaspismou, the largest party of the Syriza
coalition, and he has spent recent years touring Europe and the US in
an attempt to warm foreign leaders to the prospect of his premiership.

Vice president - Giannis Dragasakis

Dragasakis takes the number two post in the cabinet with his main
competency being the economy. He is an economist and one of the
founding members of Syriza. His origins are in the Greek communist
party (KKE).

Minister of finance - Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis received his doctorate at the University of Essex and
has worked as a lecturer in the UK, US, Australia and Greece.

Well-respected as an economist - he describes himself a "libertarian
Marxist" - he has written several books on economic recovery and
regularly appears as a pundit on international news channels.

The dual Greek-Australian citizen is seen as a pragmatic choice for
the role of finance minister, aimed at calming financial concerns in
Brussels and Berlin. He is known for being outspoken, referring to the
austerity Greece has had to endure as “fiscal waterboarding".

Minister of foreign affairs - Nikos Kotzias

A pro-European and German-friendly choice, Kotzias has a doctorate
from Germany on "European Completion".

He has lectured at Harvard, Oxford, and Marburg. Until 2008 he was
working as an ambassador to the ministry of foreign affairs with Pasok
(the centre-left social-democratic party). He was imprisoned twice
during the military dictatorship (1967-1974).

The choice of a very pro-European for this post is a highly symbolic
message to Brussels.

Deputy minister of foreign affairs - Nadia Valavani

Valavani was prominent in the resistance against the military
dictatorship and was imprisoned and tortured at the time making her a
hero of the resistance among the left. She is a translator and is more
eurosceptic than Kotzias.

Deputy minister of European affairs Nikoloas Chountis

A former Syriza member of the European Parliament who was vocally
anti-euro and eurosceptic. His position has become slightly more
pro-European during his stint in Strasbourg.

Deputy minister of financial foreign affairs - Euclidis Tsakalotos

Born in Rotterdam and raised in London, he is one of the main economic
thinkers within Syriza.

Seen as slightly radical but from a middle class background, he was
tipped to head the ministry of economy. Instead will be in charge of
renegotiating the terms of the Memorandum and Greek debt.

Minister of health and social solidarity - Panagiotis Kourouplis

Blind from the age of of ten, very popular with non Syriza members and
a former member of the left wing of Pasok. A lawyer who was
politically active since 1974 and served as minister of health between
1993 and 1996.

He voted in favour of the first memorandum in 2009 but abstained on
extending the memorandum in 2011 and became independent and then
joined Syriza shortly after in 2012. He is seen as both a moderate and

Minister of productive reconstruction, environment and energy -
Panagiotis Lafazanis

A leader of the Left Platform, the communist opposition within Syriza.
He is an important appointment for the far-left and anti-EU wing of
the party. He is against the common currency.

Deputy minister of environment and climate change - Giannis Tsironis

A chemistry professor and founding member of the Green party back in
1983. His party has since joined the Syriza coalition, making up the
environmentalist side of the party.

Minister of defence - Panos Kammenos

A former member of the right wing of New Democracy, who left to form
the Independent Greeks.

The Independent Greeks were very keen on this post, having featured
defence strongly in their manifesto. In the past Syriza have been keen
on a Greek withdrawal from Nato, this aim will certainly be mitigated
with the appointment of Kammenos.

The ministry of defence is seen as one of the more corrupt arms of the
government, one former Pasok defence minister is in jail on corruption

Minister of justice - Nikos Paraskevopoulos

A famous academic and Dean of the faculty of Law, Economic and
Political Science at Athens University. He was a mediator during the
prisoner riots of the 1990s and a vocal supporter of criminal law

Deputy minister for justice, transparency, and human rights -
Panagiotis Nikoloudis

A lawyer who studied corruption, money laundering and organised crime in the US.

In 2011 he was appointed president of the independent Anti-Corruption
and Anti-Money Laundering Commission. A clear signal to both the Greek
public and Brussels that the new government intends to address the
systemic corruption in Greece.

Deputy minister for tourism – Elena Koudoura

A former model, long jump athlete and publicist of Vogue magazine from
the Independent Greeks. She was a former New Democracy MP. Her
portfolio will cover one of the most vital areas to the Greek economy.

The government only contains one minister from the Independant Greeks
and only four substitute or deputy ministers, softening the
anti-European stance of the smaller party.

There are four eurosceptic Syriza members within the cabinet, but
Tsipras has placed well respected and pragmatic voices within all
economic and foreign relations posts emphasising the Greek's desire to
work within the existing European and financial systems.

How the cabinet manages to stay unified with such a divergence of
opinion and which ideas will triumph remains to be seen. For Greece
and for Europe, this is uncharted territory.

Greece’s new cabinet: FinMin Varoufakis, FM Kotzias, DefMin Kammenos
Jan 27

Greece’s new cabinet of SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition government
has been announced on Tuesday. Left-wing SYRIZA decided to merge
several ministries and establish so-called “super ministries” staffed
with several alternate and deputy ministers...

The new cabinet has 40 members but the number of ministries has been
decreased with several merges and the creation of some “super”

There are 7 women in the cabinet, however in the office of alternate
or deputy ministers.

SYRIZA’s junior partner Independent Greeks has: One Ministry (Defense)
with party chairman Kammenos as minister, and three in alternate and
deputy minister positions.
. . .

Greece’s New Left-Wing Cabinet Signals Willingness to Confront E.U.
Over Policies

by Jim Yardley
New York Times
January 27, 2014

ATHENS — From the makeup of his cabinet to an early warning sent to
the European Union over Russia policy, Greece’s new prime minister,
Alexis Tsipras, on Tuesday signaled a sharp shift in direction for
Greece as he unveiled the first government led from the far left in
the country’s modern history.

Two days after he ousted Greek’s conservative government in an
emphatic election victory, Mr. Tsipras, 40, assembled a new,
streamlined cabinet dominated by members of his radical-left Syriza
party, among them academics, labor activists and human rights

His most closely watched selection was his new finance minister, Yanis
Varoufakis, an economist and avid blogger who has described Europe’s
austerity policies as “fiscal waterboarding.”

European leaders began to send their congratulations on Tuesday after
a mostly chilly initial response to the victory by Syriza, which is
demanding a renegotiation of the tough terms of Europe’s 240 billion
euro bailout of Greece.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany wished Mr. Tsipras “much strength
and success,” if also noting that “you are taking office in a
difficult time in which you face great responsibility.”

Mr. Tsipras quickly demonstrated that Europe must not treat Greece as
a weak junior partner. His government on Tuesday denounced a European
Council statement in which European leaders blamed Russia for the
escalating violence in Ukraine and raised the prospect of new economic

In its own statement, Mr. Tsipras’s office said the European statement
had been issued “without the consent of Greece.” The prime minister
also complained by telephone to Federica Mogherini, the European
Union’s foreign policy chief.

Mr. Tsipras has been a sharp critic of European sanctions against
Moscow and has displayed past good will toward Russia, a sentiment
common among many Greeks.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent Mr. Tsipras a
congratulatory telegram on Monday, the day he was sworn into office,
while that same day, Mr. Tsipras met with the Russian ambassador in

Having a Greek prime minister with a strongly dissenting view on
Russian sanctions could greatly complicate European Union foreign
policy, which has benefited from a German-led unanimity among heads of
state on confronting Mr. Putin.

Further sanctions cannot be approved without a unanimous vote from the
leaders of European Union member nations, and Mr. Tsipras might find
sympathetic partners in countries like Hungary or Slovakia, which
dislike sanctions but generally go along.

Political analysts in Athens interpreted Mr. Tsipras’s early warning
shots as clever political positioning, given that his government will
soon open negotiations with the country’s European creditors over the
punishing bailout provisions. Showing that he could complicate
European goals in Ukraine may give him leverage in his economic
negotiations, analysts said.

“He’s maneuvering all the time,” said Stelios Kouloglou, a political
commentator who last year ran an unsuccessful campaign with Syriza for
the European Parliament. “But he has a main direction.”

That direction is forcing Europe to ease the bailout’s tough,
belt-tightening conditions, which have crippled the Greek economy and
contributed to rampant joblessness, foreclosures and shuttered
. . .
Mr. Kouloglou, the political analyst, predicted that the new
government would steadily target the oligarchical businesses that have
dominated the Greek economy and enjoyed close political ties to past
governments — and which actively opposed Mr. Tsipras’s campaign.

“He has no reason to pay them back or to make a compromise,” Mr.
Kouloglou said. “He was not given a gift, and he is not obliged to
give a gift back.”

In assembling the new cabinet, Mr. Tsipras streamlined the number of
ministries, but he did create a new one to fight corruption, led by
the former head of Greece’s anti-money-laundering authority.

He also gave the job of defense minister to Panos Kammenos, the leader
of the small, center-right party Independent Greeks, with which Syriza
formed a coalition to achieve a parliamentary majority.

Even as many Greek leftists winced at Mr. Kammenos’s holding such a
prominent position, some analysts saw the move as further evidence
that Mr. Tsipras was more a dealmaker than a leftist ideologue, and
that his party’s primary focus would be the formidable tasks of
confronting Europe over the bailout and reviving the Greek economy.

“Today, Syriza is not a left-wing party,” said Mr. Kouroumplis, the
health minister. “It is, first of all, a patriotic party, which
believes in peace, democracy and social justice. We demand the right
to live in dignity.”

Of Greece’s creditors, he added, “They should know that they are
dealing with proud people.”

Greek PM Tsipras names anti-austerity cabinet, port sale halted
by Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos
Reuters, Jan 27

(Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras named a cabinet of
anti-austerity veterans and halted privatization of Greece's biggest
port on Tuesday, signaling he aims to stick to election pledges
despite warning shots from the euro zone and financial markets.

Greek markets endured a second day of turmoil, with bank shares diving
and investors fearing the anti-bailout government might be set on a
collision course with the country's European Union and IMF creditors.

Promising to reverse budget cuts and renegotiate Greece's huge debts,
Tsipras's leftist Syriza party stormed to power in Sunday's snap
election on a wave of anger against the German-backed austerity
policies that have driven up poverty and left one in four Greek
workers out of a job.

Among a team spanning the radical and more pragmatic wings of Syriza,
Tsipras named academic economist Yanis Varoufakis as his finance
minister. The defense portfolio went to Panos Kammenos, leader of the
right-wing Independent Greeks party which is the junior partner in the
Tsipras coalition.

One of the first decisions announced by the new government was
stopping the planned sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port
Authority (OLPr.AT), agreed under its international bailout deal for
which China's Cosco Group COSCO.UL and four other suitors had been

"The Cosco deal will be reviewed to the benefit of the Greek people,"
Thodoris Dritsas, the deputy minister in charge of the shipping
portfolio, told Reuters.

Syriza had announced before the election it would halt the sale of
state assets, a plank of the 240 billion-euro bailout agreement.
Stakes in the port of Thessaloniki (OLTr.AT), the country's second
biggest, along with railway operator Trainose and rolling stock
operator ROSCO are also slated to be sold.

Varoufakis has railed against the bailouts of struggling euro zone
states as "fiscal waterboarding". But after being sworn in, he said
the government would be constructive.

"We are about to begin negotiating with our partners," he told
reporters. "It is a great challenge, but the challenge is how to
minimize social costs that were unnecessary throughout Europe," he
. . .
The new cabinet includes a number of lawyers, professors and some
former journalists. Former Communist politician Yannis Dragasakis -
who in the run-up to the vote demanded an investigation into Greece's
bailout - took the deputy prime minister's role that is expected to
oversee economic issues.

The government, installed within 48 hours of Sunday's win, is expected
to pursue social welfare policies such as handing out free electricity
and food stamps to the poor and cutting heating oil prices, alongside
a crackdown on tax evasion.

On the labor front, Tsipras is expected to reverse a cut to the
minimum wage and restore collective bargaining agreements abolished
under the bailout out deal, as well as instituting a 5-billion-euro
plan of incentives for firms to hire workers.

As well as reviewing privatization plans, Syriza officials have also
promised to take on business tycoons, though in the run-up to the vote
they said little about whether they will implement earlier pledges to
slap new taxes on big Greek shipowners.

Tsipras has also promised that he will scrap unpopular crisis-era
taxes, prompting critics to question how he will be able to afford his
lavish social spending while battling depleting cash coffers and
exasperated foreign lenders.

Syriza is also expected to freeze public sector layoffs as demanded
under the bailout, and stop an unpopular evaluation process for civil

Tsipras picks anti-austerity professor as Greek finance minister
by Kerin Hope in Athens
Financial Times
January 28. 2015

. . .
Observers said Mr Tsipras’s decision to shrink the cabinet from 20 to
10 ministries suggests the administration will be tightly controlled
by the prime minister himself and his chief of staff Nikos Pappas, who
became a minister of state.

However, the creation of a significant new portfolio, with the
appointment of Panayotis Nicoloudis as minister for transparency,
sends a message that the government is preparing a broad-based
crackdown against tax evasion and corruption, seen by creditors as a
major obstacle to a sustained economic recovery. Mr Nicoloudis will be
charged with co-ordinating different anti-corruption agencies, from
the financial police to the economic prosecutor’s office.

Giannis Dragasakis, Syriza’s frontman for discussing the economy with
foreign creditors, was named deputy prime minister with responsibility
for overseeing negotiations with the “troika” of bailout monitors from
the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and European
Central Bank.

The 67-year-old former member of the Greek communist party’s central
committee is the only cabinet member with experience of government,
having served as deputy finance minister in a shortlived all-party
government in 1989. Fluent in English, he is seen as an accessible

Yanis Varoufakis, an Athens university economics professor, prolific
blogger and former economist-in-residence for a US online gaming
company, was appointed finance minister. He will oversee public
spending and revenue collection and represent the government at
meetings of eurozone finance ministers.

Mr Dragasakis and Mr Varoufakis will face their first test later this
week when Jeroen Djisselbloem, chair of the Eurogroup of eurozone
finance ministers, will visit Athens to discuss whether the new
government is ready to resume talks on a much-delayed progress review
that could unlock €7bn of bailout aid.

Martin Schulz, the European parliament president, is also due to visit
Athens this week for talks with Mr Tsipras.

However, the problems of keeping together an ideologically awkward
coalition between Syriza and the rightwing nationalist Independent
Greeks led by Panos Kammenos while accommodating the demands of
Syriza’s far-left faction, emerged even before the cabinet was sworn

The cabinet announcement was delayed for several hours amid frantic
negotiations over a handful of deputy ministers’ jobs for Independent
Greeks, while internal disagreement meant Syriza’s appointees had to
be reshuffled several times, according to people briefed on the

However, all but one of Mr Tsipras’s team of economic advisers joined
the cabinet. John Milios, a German-trained Marxist academic, did not
run for parliament in Sunday’s election but was expected to stay on
board despite being left out.

Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford-educated economist who teaches at Athens
university, became deputy minister for international economic
relations. His tasks include trying to reassure foreign investors
despite Syriza’s proclaimed intention to freeze privatisations and
reverse the largest sale to date, a €950m concession to develop the
site of the former Athens international airport.

The development portfolio went to George Stathakis, a professor of
political economy at the university of Crete, who will oversee a new
“super-ministry” that also includes tourism, transport and shipping.

Only one ministerial post went to the Independent Greeks, with Mr
Kammenos named as minister of defence. He is strongly pro-Nato, in
contrast to most of the Syriza parliamentarians.

Panayotis Lafazanis, leader of Syriza’s far-left faction, was the only
leftist hardliner to be given a major job. He will take on another
“super-ministry” portfolio covering energy, industry and environmental
. . .
[sorry, no link]

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