[Marxism] Fwd: Greek Prime Minister Asked Putin For $10 Billion To "Print Drachmas", Greek Media Reports | Zero Hedge

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jul 25 07:31:07 MDT 2015


On 7/25/15 12:37 AM, Shalva Eliava wrote:
> Here's the FT's version:
>
> http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2a0a1d94-3201-11e5-8873-775ba7c2ea3d.html
>

Preempting any paywall issues.


July 24, 2015 7:50 pm
Syriza’s covert plot during crisis talks to return to drachma
Kerin Hope and Tony Barber in Athens

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras looks up during a swearing-in 
ceremony of the newly appointed members of the Government at the 
Presidential Palace in Athens on July 18, 2015. Tsipras on July 17 
reshuffled his government, a day after a major lawmaker mutiny in his 
radical left Syriza party over a draconian bailout deal. In a bid to 
show international creditors he is in control of his cabinet, Tsipras 
ditched 10 members of his team, including ministers and deputy 
ministers, who voted against the measures demanded by the country's 
creditors.

These were the elements of a covert plan to return Greece to the drachma 
hatched by members of the Left Platform faction of Greece’s governing 
Syriza party.

They were discussed at a July 14 meeting at the Oscar Hotel in a shabby 
downtown district of Athens following an EU summit that saw Greece cave 
to its creditors, leaving many in the party feeling despondent and 
desperate.

The plans have come to light through interviews with participants in the 
meeting as well as senior Greek officials and sympathetic journalists 
who were waiting outside the gathering and briefed on the talks.

They offer a sense of the chaos and behind-the-scenes manoeuvring as 
Greece nearly crashed out of the single currency before prime minister 
Alexis Tsipras agreed to the outlines of an €86bn bailout at the EU 
summit. With that deal still to be finalised, they are also a reminder 
of the determination of a sizeable swath of Mr Tsipras’ leftwing party 
to return the country to the drachma and increase state control of the 
economy.

Chief among them is Panayotis Lafazanis, the former energy and 
environment minister and leader of Syriza’s Left Platform, which unites 
a diverse group of far left activists — from supporters of the late 
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to old-fashioned communists. He was 
eventually sacked in a cabinet reshuffle after voting against reforms 
tied to the bailout.

“Obviously it was a moment of high tension,” a Syriza activist said, 
describing the atmosphere as the meeting opened. “But you were also 
aware of a real revolutionary spirit in the room.”

Yet even hardline communists were taken aback when Mr Lafazanis proposed 
that the Syriza government should seize control of the Nomismatokopeion, 
the Greek mint, where the bulk of the country’s cash reserves are kept.

“Our plan is that we go for a national currency. This is what we should 
have done already. But we can do it now,” he said, according to people 
present at the meeting.

Mr Lafazanis said the reserves, which he claimed amounted to €22bn, 
would pay for pensions and public sector wages and also keep Greece 
supplied with food and fuel while preparations were made for launching a 
new drachma.

Meanwhile, the central bank would immediately lose its independence and 
be placed under government control. Its governor, Yannis Stournaras, 
would be arrested if, as expected, he opposed the move.

“For people planning a conspiracy to undermine the Greek state, they 
were pretty open about it,” said one reporter who staked out the event.
The plan demonstrates the apparently ruthless determination of Syriza’s 
far leftists to pursue their political aims — but also their lack of 
awareness of the workings of the eurozone financial system.

For one thing, the vaults at the Nomismatokopeion currently hold only 
about €10bn of cash — enough to keep the country afloat for only a few 
weeks but not the estimated six to eight months required to prepare, 
test and launch a new currency.

The Syriza government would have quickly found the country’s stash of 
banknotes unusable. Nor would they be able to print more €10 and €20 
banknotes: From the moment the government took over the mint, the 
European Central Bank would declare Greek euros as counterfeit, “putting 
anyone who tried to buy something with them at risk of being arrested 
for forgery,” said a senior central bank official.

“The consequences would be disastrous. Greece would be isolated from the 
international financial system with its banks unable to function and its 
euros worthless,” the official added.

As the details of the Left Platform meeting have leaked out, some 
political opponents are demanding an accounting.

“Members of this government planned a trip to hell for Greeks,” said 
Stavros Theodorakis, leader of the pro-EU To Potami party. “They planned 
to raid the vaults of the people and invade the mint as if it were a 
Playmobil game. Alexis Tsipras must tell us the truth about what happened.”

Mr Lafazanis did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A 
spokesman did not deny the plans but called Mr Theodorakis’ reaction 
“garbage” and dismissed it as typical of the country’s political class.
Mr Lafazanis was not alone in suggesting unorthodox ways in which Greece 
might adopt a new drachma: Just before Mr Tsipras signed up to the 
bailout, his former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, publicly 
proposed issuing IOUs to cover all payments until a new currency could 
be formally issued. He also called for the government to take over 
control of the central bank.

Even before the Oscar Hotel meeting, Mr Lafazanis, a former Greek 
Communist Party official, was pursuing desperate schemes to address the 
government’s financial woes.

Given the communist past of Mr Tsipras and other leading government 
figures, Athens believed it would be a simple matter to win $5bn to 
$10bn in financial backing from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Mr Lafazanis visited Moscow three times as Mr Tsipras’s envoy after 
Syriza came to power in January. In return for signing up to a new gas 
pipeline project, he hoped for at least €5bn in prepayments of gas 
transit fees, according to people briefed on the initiative. But the 
Russians rejected the deal the week before the EU summit.
“It was all a fantasy,” said a senior Greek banker. “The Left Platform’s 
dreams of free gas and a Russian-backed drachma have crumbled away.”



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