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A Major Shift in the Situation in Greece

by George Shriver, co-managing editor, Labor Standard

[AUTHOR’S NOTE:  On June 29, an important statement by the Bureau of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International was issued, calling for a massive “NO” vote by the Greek people on July 5. It rightly points out that anti-austerity struggles all over Europe (and I would add, worldwide) would be encouraged by a mass mobilization of the Greek people to vote “NO” against the rapacious demands of the creditor “institutions” of international capitalism. Other commentators have pointed to recent massive anti-austerity demonstrations in Ireland and Britain and electoral victories by the anti-austerity party, Podemos, in Spain. Readers can find the FI statement on line by clicking here.

[Also, for an earlier statement by the FI section in Greece, the OKDE-Spartakos, click here.]

Today’s Greek government, elected on January 25, 2015, is headed by a coalition of left parties whose acronym in Greek is “Syriza” (“Coalition of the Radical Left”). The Syriza government has been negotiating for five months seeking debt relief from international creditors who have imposed unbearable austerity on the workers and the poor in Greece. For example, the amount paid in pensions has been reduced to below the poverty level for most retired workers.

Who are the creditors? The so-called Troika (threesome) made up of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the leaders of the European Union (EU), mainly the president of France and the chancellor of Germany.

On June 27, at 1 a.m. in the morning, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the current Greek premier, made an announcement to the Greek people over television. He called on them to vote on July 5 in a referendum on whether they agree to say “No” (in Greek, όχι [okhi]) to the unbearable demands being made by the Troika creditors in the ongoing negotiations.

For the information of our readers, we reproduce below the text of Tsipras’s TV speech followed by a comment by Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of the Syriza central committee and a leader of a group within Syriza called the Left Platform.

After we have posted these two texts, we will also post a statement made by the Fourth International affiliate in Greece, OKDE-Spartakos, earlier in the week, around  June 23.

[The text of Tsipras’s speech follows]

An End to the Blackmail

[In a landmark speech, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announces that a referendum will be held on the Troika bailout deal.]

by Alexis Tsipras

For six months now the Greek government has been waging a battle in conditions of unprecedented economic suffocation to implement the mandate you gave us on January 25.

The mandate we were negotiating with our partners was to end the austerity and to allow prosperity and social justice to return to our country.

It was a mandate for a sustainable agreement that would respect both democracy and common European rules and lead to the final exit from the crisis.

Throughout this period of negotiations, we were asked to implement the agreements concluded by the previous governments with the Memoranda, although they were categorically condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.

However, not for a moment did we think of surrendering, that is to betray your trust.

After five months of hard bargaining, our partners, unfortunately, issued at the Eurogroup the day before yesterday an ultimatum to Greek democracy and to the Greek people. An ultimatum that is contrary to the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European project.

They asked the Greek government to accept a proposal that accumulates a new unsustainable burden on the Greek people and undermines the recovery of the Greek economy and society, a proposal that not only perpetuates the state of uncertainty but accentuates social inequalities even more.

The proposal of the institutions [IMF, European Central Banks, and the European Union leadership--who constitute the so-called Troika] includes: measures leading to further deregulation of the labor market, pension cuts, further reductions in public sector wages, and an increase in VAT [value-added tax--i.e., sales tax] on food, dining, and tourism, while eliminating tax breaks for the Greek islands.

These proposals directly violate European social and fundamental rights: they show that concerning work, equality, and dignity, the aim of some of the partners and institutions is not a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties but the humiliation of the entire Greek people.

These proposals mainly highlight the insistence of the IMF on harsh and punitive austerity and make more timely than ever the need for the leading European powers to seize the opportunity and take initiatives which will finally bring to a definitive end the Greek sovereign debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries and threatening the very future of European integration.

Fellow Greeks, right now there weighs on our shoulders a historic responsibility toward the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people for the consolidation of democracy and national sovereignty. Our responsibility for the future of our country.

And this responsibility requires us to answer the ultimatum on the basis of the sovereign will of the Greek people.

A short while ago at the cabinet meeting I suggested the organization of a referendum, so that the Greek people are able to decide in a sovereign way. The suggestion was unanimously accepted.

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will be urgently convened to ratify the proposal of the cabinet for a referendum next Sunday, July 5, on the question of the acceptance or rejection of the proposal by the institutions.

I have already informed the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, and the president of the ECB about my decision, and tomorrow my letter will formally ask the EU leaders and the institutions to extend for a few days the current program in order for the Greek people to make their decision [by referendum], free from any pressure and blackmail, as required by the constitution of our country and the democratic tradition of Europe.

Fellow Greeks, to the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy, will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

I am personally committed to respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever that is. And I am absolutely confident that your choice will honor the history of our country and send a message of dignity to the world.

In these critical moments, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of peoples. That in Europe there are no owners and guests. Greece is and will remain an integral part of Europe and Europe is an integral part of Greece. But without democracy, Europe will be a Europe without identity and without a compass.

I invite you all to display national unity and calm in order to make the right decisions. For us, for future generations, for the history of the Greeks. For the sovereignty and dignity of our people.

— Athens, June 27, 2015, 1 AM local time.

[The text of the comment by Stathis Kouvelakis follows. We have taken it from the Fourth International website, but have edited it slightly for consistency with Labor Standard editorial style.]

Greece and the Troika
Popular unity for No! and a complete break

by Stathis Kouvelakis

The turning point that we hoped for, and which we had started to doubt would come, has arrived. The disastrous parody of “negotiations,” the spiral of retreats and concessions has been stopped.

This turn has taken shape around a simple and obvious word, which has the clearness of a chopper: “No” (όχι) to the ultimatum of the Troika. The decision lies with the people.

It is now possible to leave the deadly trap that the European rulers had patiently built to kill in the bud the hope which was born on 25 January, with the victory of Syriza.

This evening [26 June], Alexis Tsipras spoke the language of truth: he finally explained why these “negotiations” were only a joke, a constant exercise of blackmail, aimed at humiliating the Greek people and its government and at trampling underfoot the popular mandate resulting from the elections of 25 January.

It is not the moment to settle accounts. But it is impossible not to mention that the decision of this evening agrees with all those who for months have said that there was no space for a so-called “compromise” but only the choice between capitulation or rupture. [1]

The battle of the referendum is now in front of us. It has to be a mass battle, a deeply unitive [i.e., unifying] mobilization, which will restore confidence to the popular forces and impel a new wave of radicalization in Greek society.

This battle can make it possible in the heat of the action to create the conditions to correct the course after five months of stagnation and to redefine the relationship between the government, Syriza and the social movements.

Lastly, it is obvious that this battle will not only take place in Greece. The reaction of the Troika and European rulers will be frightening. The Greek people will be able to come together and fight. But they have a vital need of international support. It is their only weapon against the strength and the violence of the ruling classes, which, we know, are capable of anything to get their way.

Long live the fight of the Greek people!
Long live international solidarity!
We will overcome!

Saturday 27 June 2015


[1] For a concise summary of what happened and what is at stake, see the comments by Paul Mason, Economics Editor of Channel 4 news, “Tsipras goes for referendum on 5 July”—International Viewpoint.]

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