Professor Spyros Maketos teaches at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is a member of the Truth Committee on Public Debt and a member of Antarsya.
Joshua Tartakovsky (JT): Professor Spyros Marketos, how are most people in Greece reacting to the memorandum? Obviously people to the left of Syriza or even within Syriza are not happy but, the how does the vast majority, those who voted No in the referendum, view the agreement? and what is the media saying about the agreement?
Sypros Marketos (SM): I can only give my impressions. Here we don’t have solid data on this but the first sentiment seems to be a numbing of the public. People were really joyous after the last plebiscite. After all this joy, this victory, the complete turn around of the government left them with no joy and there was agony until last morning and now people don’t really believe what had just happened. There is a large percentage of the people who are incredulous about what is happening but there are others that are very angry because this is not the first time something like this happens in Greece.
Papandreou was elected promising to give money, and he imposed the first memorandum. Samaras has been elected as anti-memorandum and he imposed the second memorandum, and now Tsipras has been elected with the promise to tear the memoranda and now he brings the third memoranda.
So people are now much less credulous and gullible than they were towards the previous governments before.
Secondly, people know that the road to the memorandum leads only to disaster. They don’t have the hope that many of them had at the time of the Papandreou or Samaras.
Thirdly, people are tired of the pro-Euro propaganda. The actions of the Troika, especially in the last five months, alienated a huge number of people, mainly along class lines and age lines. The poorer you are and the younger you are, the less you believe that the solution is what Mr. Schäuble proposes.
JT: What would you say to those argue that Prime Minister Tsipras had no choice but to accept the agreement and that a Grexit would have been too dangerous and that therefore he had to make a compromise. How would you respond to that?
SM: This is a very spurious argument. Actually, the sad thing is that Tsipras had betrayed the people even before the referendum. He did not betray them only by signing the third memorandum, this was a forgone conclusion. In the five months that he governed, Tsipras did nothing to prepare for even a chance of a Grexit. He should have made a plan. He did not do anything along these lines. There is the Varoufakis interview in the New Statesman yesterday, where he openly accuses Tsipras and says that Tsipras did not allow him to develop a Grexit plan. He says that clearly.
Also, what was very remarkable was that when Tsipras called the referendum, he did not work towards the victory of the No vote, which he claimed that he supported. No. He did the absolute minimum. And his ministers also were absent. They spent all day in the TV stations but in the week before the referendum they were silent. Very few of them went to the site. Only Lapavistas, George Katrougalos, and a few others.
JT: But Tsipras did go and speak in Syntagma, right before the referendum, and he told the people to vote.
SM: Yes, that’s what he did. He could not do otherwise. But he did the absolute minimum. So it makes very credible the claim that actually he wanted to have a Yes vote, that would give him a way out.
Actually what I found even more impressive, and not enough has been commented on it, was that after the victory of the No camp, Tsipras disappeared. He did not go to the people, he did not do the normal things which one would be expected after every victory. You go to the people, you pass the message that you want to pass, you express your congratulations, you celebrate together. Tsipras disappeared. And also, most of the other ministers of the government disappeared. Their behavior was the behavior of someone who lost the referendum, not who won the referendum.
So it was a forgone conclusion that they would succumb to the Schäuble-Merkel pressure.
When the Tsipras team went to the Eurogroup meetings, also they were unprepared and they did not put a serious fight.
And after all this, Tsipras comes back and asks the people to support this sell-out without any argument. He has nothing to show. No argument. He thinks that we forgot that five months ago he claimed that he would just tear up the memorandum. He just says that “ok, I did what was best”. But if it was like that, he should and could have just left the government.
JT: How would you respond to the argument that Tsipras did what he did because most Greeks want to stay in the Euro and therefore he did not have a mandate to leave the Euro?
SM: It was very clear that 61.3 percent that voted in the referendum did this in full cognizance of the fact that almost everybody told them that the consequences would be to get out of the Euro, if they vote No. They voted No anyway.
This was a referendum, it was not a Gallup poll. Everyone, behaves, in the government and media, as if it was just a Gallup poll, a survey. Something that disappeared that they don’t talk about. They try to make the people forget about it, but the people did not forget about the referendum. They knew that probably, a consequence of a No, would be a Grexit and yet they voted. And even Tsipras stated this at some point.
JT: If you can please tell me the latest news of what is going on, and more importantly, how are most people, not people to the left of Syriza, but most people, view the last agreement that just agreed on but was not approved yet.
SM: The latest news brings great hope. There was supposed to be a meeting of the Central Committee of Syriza today, but it has been postponed. It seems that the leading group, the traitors, as the rest of the Left already calls them, don’t have the majority in the Central Committee of Syriza, but we will see what happens when the time comes.
Also the right-wing coalition member, the Independent Greeks, threatened that they will not vote for the measures. This is doubly significant if they finally do so. That is because on that one hand this weakens even more the New Memoranda alliance and also because if the Independent Greeks stand as an opposition to the new measures, the popular opposition to austerity in reaction to the agreement will not shift towards Golden Dawn which otherwise would be the main beneficiary of the Tsipras policy. They may shift to the Independent Greeks instead. So it seems that it will not so easy for them to pass the measures in the Hellenic Parliament. The resistance that they meet in their own parties is much greater than Tsipras expected.
Exactly as what happened with the plebiscite. They did not expect the No vote to win.
JT: Does Tsipras have to bring the agreement to the Central Committee of Syriza?
SM: No, he does not have to. But it is different what they will do in the Central Committee and what they will do in parliament. In the parliament they cannot pass the measures without the support of the right-wing deputies of New Democracy, Potami, and Pasok, but in this case, it will be very difficult to keep Syriza together. It seems that a big part of the Syriza deputies, much bigger than expected, it seems that even around 75 deputies will desert them. And this changes entirely the political data because quite probably when they convene the party organs it is is very conceivable that instead of expelling the Left opposition, they (the Tsipras pro-Memorandum camp) might be expelled from Syriza. And it would prove that the ones who support the new memorandum are just a group of 40 or 50 people around Tsipras who sold out.
What is very impressive in the social media and from the things that we hear around is that many people who would be expected to support this memorandum actually speak very openly against it. It surprised me, and I suppose it surprised them as well.
JT: What is expected in the next few days? There is a strike planned for Wednesday, the vote in the parliament is also on Wednesday, the banks are still closed but actually the transportation will not be free from Wednesday, because it expires. So what do you think will happen in the next few days and what do you see developing as it is going now.
SM: I think it is obvious that the banks will not open before we have a resolution of the conflict, one way or another. So they will not open before either the government passes the Troika plan, which I find less and less probable.
JT: But couldn’t they pass it with a majority from the opposition? If they get Pasok, New Democracy, couldn’t they get it passed?
SM: Of course, they would get it, certainly. They would pass the agreement. But it is one thing to vote for certain laws, it is another thing to implement them. It is quite probable that if they would try to do it, the Syriza government would end up fleeing…. I find it very difficult for them to impose the laws, to turn them into reality. The social reaction will be huge. You just have to look at the provisions of the agreement. They will create a social explosion.
Probably this was one of the objectives of Mr. Schäuble and Chancellor Merkel. They want to discredit the Left in Greece forever. That’s why we must call a spade a spade and a treason a treason. And not give them the benefit of the doubt. They betrayed everything they stood for until yesterday, they betrayed everything the Left stands for, and we must not hide this. If we hide this, we allow all Left to be tainted by their betrayal. In fact, with every day that passes it seems that not only the voters and the supporters of the Left but also the cadres of Syriza stand against this choice.
JT: Assuming the government will try to implement the agreement, you said they will run into difficulties very quickly. Can you please give me an example or two of what kind of difficulties they can run into? And what would Germany do in that kind of a situaiton? It could just take more and more assets of the country instead.
SM: Nobody knows what will happen. One example is that they wanted to transfer to this fund, which was originally to be based in Luxembourg, and was controlled by Mr. Schäuble and Sigmar Gabriel themselves, but now it will be controlled by corporate capitalists, and will be based in Athens, they wanted to transfer to this fund 50 billion Euro of assets, which would not be only state assets but also the homes of people who cannot pay for their loans. So, we are going to see tomorrow in Greece, the banks begin to throw out of their homes people who until now have been protected. This will create an explosion. In Greece, the home is sacred.
Another thing is that there is a whole middle strata that cannot survive the new provisions. The agricultural workers, the independent professionals, the small jobs. They simple cannot survived. They stayed alive up to now. They hoped that the Syriza government will change some things. They voted for Syriza. And now they are being viciously attacked with the new provisions. All the people who have seen some benefits in the last five months, they were not many, but there were a few thousand, whose homes were given back to them by the state, now they have to be thrown again out of their homes. Just imagine that at the time of contraction of incomes and of huge unemployment, they are going to add 10 percent to the price of basic food stamps.
Now we’re entering the stage of the IMF riots, as they are called. But these IMF riots will be against Syriza, it is quite probable that it will send the government to the helicopters, they will flee.
JT: But is it not possible that the government will actually turn the police against the people. So the fact that the agreement is not implementable does not mean it will not happen at a very painful price.
SM: Of course, but the government cannot make people pay. It can decree whatever it wants but the truth is that this memorandum, the third memorandum, will create a financial blackhole and I cannot see how the state will go on functioning in this condition. People don’t pay their taxes. I will not any taxes. And already we have calls for mass civil disobedience in the area which I think will receive a big following. Quite apart from the political movement.
We hope to form to the Left of Syriza a political front, that will say that we are the real Left. That Syriza is not Left and that the Tsipras group will be expelled from Syriza.
JT: But do you think that a new Oxi bloc can attract many people who are frustrated by that the referendum was not honored?
SM: Among the people there is an incredulity which is turning to anger. And we have new elections..
JT: You think there will be new elections?
SM: They will try to avoid them at any cost but it does not mean that they will manage. Now for the first time you have masses that have been truly part of an habitual political representation.
JT: I would also assume that such an Oxi camp would call openly for an Exit. It wouldn’t be in the dark on that issue.
SM: In the coming two days we will have to decide between democracy and drachma. The fact is that in the next two days we will either have a grexit which is still quite probable or destruction of democracy. The regime that will result in the later will not be stable. It will not be constitutional and it will not be stable. Everything will be opened by them. And there is a mass feeling that the recent events, the betrayal by Syriza of the trust placed by the vote of 25th of January and of the referendum last week, it shows that people mus organize in different ways. This is a very widespread feeling. And it would be difficult to contain it. It opens the field for political contestation now from a radical Left that will demand abolition of the debt and a Grexit.
JT: I understand. My only concern is that violence of the state apparatus will increase the repression. At some point that may be the only thing which can stop a change.
SM: You cannot pass this agreement without repression. This is why from the beginning Tsipras put fascists in the Ministry of Public Order and it was not by chance that two days ago that Antarsya demonstration in Athens had been again repressed by tear gas and extraordinary violence on part of the police. You cannot pass these measures, you cannot pass a social catastrophe. You cannot have democracy and a memorandum.
This memorandum has horrible consequences for the people in Greece, for the Left and for the Left internationally. It is a betrayal, pure and simple. And we must search its causes. There are many causes for this.
JT: Maybe you can touch this issue a little bit and explain what do you think may be some of its causes…
SM: I think there are many causes. Let’s start from the less significant ones. First of all, one could see that the Syriza leaders, the people who have the responsibility of financial policy, actually they had taken the part of the creditors long ago. Actually Tsakalotos and Stathakis, have invested a half a million each into JP Morgan and Black Rock. So they invested into two huge firms, two corporations that deal in Greek debt. If somebody from the leadership…
JT: Their personal finance was invested there?
SM: Their personal finances. I have no problem with someone being rich. You can be rich or poor and be on the Left or on the Right. But you cannot be somebody in the leadership of a Left wing party that fights against creditors, has the responsibility of this fight, and invests half a million in these creditors. It simply cannot be done. There is a huge hypocrisy here. And the worse thing is that when this thing broke out, it was in the beginning of 2014, because they were elected as deputies so according to the law they had to declare their investments, so they had partly covered them. So this was huge. But very few people were willing to pay attention.
Another much more important reason was the ideology. Because these people have made from very early on an ideological commitment that we are with the European Union, we are for Europe. They were instrumental in the last five years in drowning the voices of the people who were anti-European Union and anti-Euro. Of course they had a whole pseudo-ideology, Europanist, that was based on a complete disassociation from the facts. And this led them to go to negotiations with the Troika without being prepared at all. They were adamant that they would have some kind of compromise. There were other people on the Left who were telling them that there would be no compromise. “They cannot compromise with you.” They just dismissed us. And this happened from the beginning, since the time they were in government.
My impression is that only in the last month they understood that the other side was serious, that there would be no compromise. And that it would be even more serious since it showed that they didn’t prepare at all for a Grexit which was the most serious weapon. So they were prepared, not for a compromise but for a surrender. And for them it is not a real problem. Because really I believe, it is hard for me to say this but even after what has conspired in the last five months, they still believe in the Euro. I believe this.
JT: Many people are following Greece, what kind of message you would have for them?
SM: I think the one basic thing would be for our European friends, that now the European Union showed its true face. The Euro is not just nominal money but is a social relationship, it is a dictatorship of the bankers and you cannot stay in the Eurozone and have a left-wing government. This has been proven. We have the European Central Bank. You cannot be on the Left and not fight these institutions. The widest possible definition of the Left is that it fights for liberation and equality. You cannot conceivably promote in any way equality and liberation under a regime of financial dictatorship.
JT: Thank you Professor Marketos, for your time.