BAILOUT SELLOUT Written by Rob Griffiths in The Morning Star 14 July 2015
Jul 2015, Tuesday 14th
posted by Morning Star
By capitulating to the EU’s obscenely aggressive
debt ‘relief’ package, Tsipras has made an even worse deal than he was
offered before, explains ROB GRIFFITHS
THE Grand Old Duke of York
may have marched his 10,000 men up the hill pointlessly, but at least he
then marched them down again in reasonable order.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has marched his
movement and people up the hill and then abandoned them to the vengeance
of the Eurogroup of EU finance ministers, the EU Commission and the
European Central Bank (ECB).
After all the bluff and bluster, his Syriza government has
surrendered its country’s sovereignty to the EU and, behind that, to
the banks and multinational corporations.
Now, as the Eurosummit Brussels agreement makes clear, the
EU bankers and bureaucrats have every intention of punishing Tsipras,
his supporters and Greek electors for voting with a 61 per cent majority
against austerity. They are being made the “whipping boy” to discourage
any further displays of disobedience.
As well as a battery of measures to raise VAT and pension
and other social insurance contributions, “modernise” labour relations
law and slash pension entitlements and other social programmes, the EU
has been demanding a wide raft of privatisations.
At the Eurogroup talks in Brussels this week, it was
agreed that up to €50 billion (£36bn) will be raised from the sale of
Greek state assets over three years, which could then be used to fund
government spending — including bank recapitalisation and loan
Greek government negotiators had argued that no more than €17bn (£12bn) could or should be raised in this way.
But the supposedly “hard” or “far” left Syriza government
in Athens had already conceded the principle of sweeping privatisation,
even before the July 5 referendum.
On June 22, almost a week before the original negotiations
with the EU-ECB-IMF troika broke down, Tsipras had written to EU
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker responding formally to the
troika’s final demands.
There, Tsipras proposed a milder austerity programme than
that tabled by the troika — and now agreed in Brussels — but capitulated
almost completely on the privatisation front.
According to the official English-language text of his
letter, “the Greek authorities are committed to approving and proceeding
with an ambitious privatisation program.”
This would entail “immediate and irreversible steps” to
sell off the regional airports, the Ellinikon international airport, the
ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, the TrainOSE railway operating
company and other state property and land, bringing in €6.3bn (£4.5bn)
over the next three years.
Pledges to reform and liberalise the gas and electricity
markets, however, fell short of the wholesale privatisation of
electricity transmission demanded by the troika and now being imposed by
the new agreement. Nor was any explicit mention made ferry services,
another item on the troika “summer sale” list and which will now undergo
As a result of the Brussels surrender, all of these
industries and facilities are likely to end up in the hands of German,
French, Belgian, Dutch and other European multinational corporations,
with little — if any — of the public stake envisaged in the Tsipras
Whether the state-owned Russian Railways (RZD) will be
allowed to proceed with its purchase of TrainOSE and associated
operations remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, one way or another one of the chief
objectives of austerity in every country will have been achieved in
Greece: namely, the transfer of all remaining and potentially profitable
industries and services from the public sector to the private sector.
For the Greek people, that will mean higher prices, fresh mass redundancies and the further delay of economic recovery.
That is why opposition to austerity should also explicitly
include opposition to privatisation in the same breath — the one is
intended to open the way to the other, however concealed that intention
In the case of Greece, not only will state assets be sold
off to mostly foreign big business and some of the sales revenue handed
to EU member states, the ECB and IMF in loan repayments; the future
income stream from Greek ports, railways, airports and electricity will
pour into the coffers of multinational corporations.
Even more humiliating, all Greek government fiscal and
legslative measures to implement the new Brussels agreement must be
approved at the drafting stage by the EU Commission, the ECB or other
relevant EU bodies.
Likewise, the country’s public administration will be
reformed “under the auspices” of the unelected commission, while the
process and proceeds of privatisation will be administered by a Greek
fund independent of the government but supervised by EU institutions.
Some Tsipras supporters are claiming that the Eurosummit
settlement has successfully averted an attempted EU coup against the
Syriza government. One may have been threatened, but has since proved
unnecessary as far as the aims of German imperialism and its allies are
Internally, an already divided Syriza must now seek
support for its surrender from New Democracy and Pasok MPs in the Athens
As these are the very corrupt, pro-austerity and
pro-privatisation forces which precipitated the country’s bankruptcy in
the first place, they will save Syriza’s skin — and then dump Tsipras
and his comrades at the earliest opportunity.
Many Greek people will wonder, rightly, why they were
marched up the referendum hill. Perhaps it was merely to strengthen the
government’s bargaining hand to boost the bailout bounty to €86bn
(£61bn) or, in vain, to achieve a restructuring of the debt or — even
more naively — to secure debt relief and an end to austerity.
Yet it should have been clear that no Greek government
could hope to escape further austerity and privatisation without
rejecting the eurozone and, in all likelihood, EU membership altogether.
It would have to have the option — and the threat — of
debt default, currency devaluation, controls on the export of capital
and nationalisation of the banking system. Any such strategy would
unavoidably have led directly to a struggle for state power against the
Greek ruling class and its external Nato allies, requiring the
continuous mass mobilisation of the working class and the people
But instead of preparing any of this ground, Syriza
engaged in bombastic talk and grand gestures, which turned into wishful
thinking and a whining whimper.
Its uncritical cheerleaders in Britain have helped
perpetuate the widespread confusion on the left and in the labour
movement here about the class character of the EU.
Some cling to the delusion that the EU can be reformed to
create a “social Europe,” or transformed through an international
revolutionary process into a United Socialist States of Europe. They see
Syriza, Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal and similar
formations as advance contingents in such a movement, which can be
replicated in Britain.
But their ambivalent and even positive attitude to the EU,
together with their lack of any coherent political programme for
socialist revolution, renders them incapable of representing
working-class interests and popular sovereignty.
As Greece demonstrates, they are no substitute for a
strong Communist Party: one that’s based on the working class and with a
Marxist understanding of the monopoly capitalist character of national
state power and the EU.
Rob Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party.