Many readers of the European and American press must be confused about what actually is happening in the negotiations between Greece (Alexis Tsipras and Yannis Varoufakis). The European Troika (the IMF, European Central Bank and European Council now object to the name and want to be called simply “the Institutions”) have stepped up their demands on Syriza. What is called “negotiation” is in reality a demand for total surrender. The Troika’s demand is to force Syriza to go back on the campaign promises that it made to voters who replaced the old right-wing Pasok (“socialist”) and Conservative New Democracy coalition, or else simply apply the austerity program to which that coalition had agreed:cutbacks in pensions, deeper austerity, more privatization selloffs, and a tax shift off business onto labor. In short, economic suicide.
Last weekend a group of us met in Delphi to discuss and draft the following Declaration of Support for Greece against the neoliberal Institutions. It is now clear that finance is the new mode of warfare. The creditors’ objective is the same as military conquest: they want the land, the natural resource rights and monopolies, and they want tribute (in this case, debt service). And they don’t want sovereign Greece to tax the economic rent from these assets. In short, the negotiation between The Institutions and Greece is a bold exercise in rent extraction.
To read the press, one might think that Tsipras and Varoufakis are simply trying to capitulate, only to be turned down. Even many left observers have criticized them for taking the positionthat “We want to pay.”
What is not recognized is howsuccessful the Syriza negotiating strategy has been. While most voters opposed austerity, they also initially (and still) have a fear from withdrawing from the eurozone. Tsiparas and Varoufakis have walked a fine line and accurately judged unyielding and totalitarian the Institutions’ “hard money” creditor approach would be.
The eurozone’s rejection of what obviously is an attempt at reason has greatly strengthened Syriza’s hand to say “NO” to deeper austerity. It would bring yet more unemployment, yet more emigration, yet more bankruptcy – and deeper distress prices for the public domain that the Institutions are insisting be sold off.
On the surface, Syriza’s non-payment of the debt that earlier coalitions ran up (largely by not taxing the oligarchs who supported them) need not cause a great disturbance in financial markets. After all, the debts to which Greece objects are those run up to the IMF and ECB, not private bondholders.