7 Days Remaining

Tuesday 22nd
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IT IS sadly unlikely that the re-election of Greece’s Syriza government will end the pain for the country.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claims a “clear mandate to carry on fighting inside and outside our country to uphold the pride of our people.”

A 46 per cent abstention rate shows that many are wearying of this game, however.

The slow suffocation of the Greek economy by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund “troika” continued after his first election victory and will continue after this one.

The Syriza leader has resolved his immediate problem in commanding a parliamentary majority. The tearaway Popular Unity outfit, composed of those members of his party who baulked at his surrender to EU chiefs in July, barely registered with the electorate and won no seats in the new parliament.

Tsipras still lacks a majority, but can maintain his coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks in order to carry out — what exactly?

He promises a “gentler” austerity, but is vague on the details. And if he thinks the EU is going to redefine its demands in deference to his democratic mandate, he hasn’t learned much from his nine months in office.

An overwhelming No vote in his country’s referendum on whether to accept punitive “bailout” terms — conditions attached by the troika to loans which merely add to Greece’s debts and benefit predatory foreign banks — did not move Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brussels bruisers one inch.

Within days of the moral victory of the referendum, Tsipras signed up to the polar opposite of the people’s demands — agreeing to billions more in cuts and the most extreme neoliberal privatisation bonanza yet tried in Europe.

More than a dozen airports, the key ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus, stakes in the water supply, the electricity grid, the postal service, motorways, telecoms — even whole islands have been or are being sold.

The only possible consequence of this reckless firesale is the further immiseration of Greece and the continued decline of an economy that has lost a quarter of its value since the economic crash.

The “gentler” austerity now on offer includes cutting wages and increasing pensions contributions (again), deregulating a number of professions including the taxi sector, and reinstating charges to see a doctor that Syriza was originally elected on pledges to remove.

The European Union will be keeping a close eye on Athens to make sure it carries out this extremist wish-list. Ministers’ hearts must have sunk when they saw their victory was immediately met by a tweet from the Eurogroup of finance ministers leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem promising to “continue accompanying Greece in its ambitious reform efforts.”

Some defend the Greek prime minister on the grounds that he has had to surrender in the face of overwhelming pressure from the troika in a deal memorably described by one of his own ministers back in July as “the political murder of our economy.”

Maybe, maybe not.

The Morning Star agreed then and agrees now with the Communist Party of Greece’s assessment that ending austerity is not possible within the straitjacket of EU and single currency membership, but it is true Greece has not voted for such a course.

But whether Tsipras is personally to blame or not, the role of the European Union in the Greek tragedy is clear.

It has ridden roughshod over the democratic wishes of a member state and forced a party elected on a left-wing, socialist platform to implement right-wing, neoliberal policies.

This is a disaster for Greece. And it has implications too for socialists in every other EU member state who wish to challenge austerity, including us here in Britain.