Journalist, Writer and Member of the European Parliament from Syriza
Since it was elected in January, the Greek government has had to face a coup d’état being carried out in silence. The intent is to overthrow the new government and replace it with one which is docile to the creditors, and at the same time to demoralize the “dreamers” in Spain and other countries, who still believe it is possible to have governments that oppose the German dogma of austerity. If you kill a government, you kill hope.
The situation is reminiscent of Chile in the early 1970s when U.S. President Richard Nixon decided to overthrow Salvador Allende to prevent spillover effects elsewhere in America’s backyard. “Make the economy scream,”was the order the U.S. President gave the CIA and other intelligence services, before the tanks of general Augusto Pinochet entered into action.
In 1970, the U.S. banks had suspended all credit to Chilean banks. One week after the January, 2015 elections [in Greece], Mr. [Mario] Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), cut off without the slightest justification, the main source of financing for Greek banks, and replaced it with the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), a facility which is far more expensive and must be extended on a weekly basis. Like a sword of Damocles, suspended above the heads of the Greek leaders.
And after the sword of Damocles, there is also the drug.
Over 90% of the money paid by our creditors returns directly to them — sometimes on the very next day! — since it is used to reimburse the debt.
But, given the fact that the non-reimbursement of a debt is tantamount to a credit event, i.e., a kind of bankruptcy, the unblocking of the doses is a very powerful weapon in the hands of the creditors, an instrument of permanent political blackmail.
In this undeclared war, other economic weapons are also used, such as rating agencies. It is a modern coup d’état, as we say in English: “not with the tanks, but with the banks”.
The media have also been instrumental in attacking the government, to raise the scare of a GREXIT (Greece leaving the Eurozone) in order to provoke panic. Leading the offensive is the German tabloid Bild Zeitung, which began running sensational headlines back in 2010 to denounce the alleged “laziness” and “corruption” of the Greeks, who were advised to sell their islands in order to reduce the national debt. The same Bild published a pseudo-reportage on a bank run in Athens showing banal pictures of retired Greeks lining up in front of a bank to cash in their monthly pensions.
Added to this was the media theory about “rescuing” Greece, while in reality the loans extended to Greece in 2010 actually serve to save the French and German banks. These loans, with initial overly high interest rates, were presented to the German and international public opinion as a free assistance given to “lazy” and “corrupt” people.
Let’s see what really happened. According to the French daily Libération, since 2010, France may have made up to 2 billion euros of profits from interest alone. Even Austria, which only participated very modestly, has gained 100 million euros until now, according to its government.
However, German public opinion pretends it’s innocent. Except for a few TV comedy shows – which in where they dare to tell the truth.
New International Framework Needed
We are accused of not wanting to adopt reforms. But we are the ones, more than anybody else, who want reforms. Real reforms, not chaos.
What is demanded of Greece is application of the neo-liberal recipe. Each one with his obsession.
The ideologues of the IMF demand the deregulation of the labor market and the legalization of mass layoffs, a promise they made to the Greek oligarchs who own the banks.
The EU Commission, i.e., Berlin, calls for more privatizations which would interest German companies (at lower cost). Among the unending list of scandalous sales of State property, is the sale in 2013 by the Greek state of 28 buildings it continues to use. Over the coming 20 years, Athens will have to pay 600 million euros of rent, nearly three times as much as the money obtained from the sale (which was immediately returned to the creditors!).
The Greek government continues to remain highly popular despite some concessions: the non-suspension of the privatizations decided by the previous government (although promised); the postponement of an increase of the minimum wage, an increase in VAT.
At the end of the day, the big question is political. Do elections make any sense, if a country, while respecting its core commitments, has no right to change policy?
The ongoing Greek tragedy underlines the need for a new framework of international relations. A framework that respects the democracy, the national sovereignty and dignity of each country, and at the same time favors relations and economic agreements of a non-colonization nature. A framework advantageous to all players involved. Recently, the Greek government announced it would seek Greek participation in the new BRICS bank, a request received positively in Russia. In the loaded climate of threats and ultimatums, this came as a breath of relief and optimism for Greek public opinion.
The Athens government, in a position of inferiority, and abandoned by the forces which it hoped would lend support — such as the French government — cannot claim the solution of the major problem which the country has to overcome: an intolerable debt. The proposal [by Greece — ed.] to organize an international conference, such as the one organized in 1953 which relieved Germany of most of its war reparations, paving the way to the economic miracle, has been drowned in an ocean of threats and ultimatums.
Thinking to the Future
The creditors want to force the government of Mr. Tsipras to choose between only two options: financial strangulation if it continues to stick to its program, or betray its promises and be overthrown, for lack of support from the voters.
I can assure you that we will resist. We will not be subjugated.
I don’t know what is going to happen, but an excellent article by Serge Halimi recently published by Le Monde Diplomatique reminded us of the future and of the historic dimension of this fight. He wrote
“Thinking of the future reminds us what the philosopher Simone Weil wrote about the labor strikes of June 1936 in France: ‘Nobody knows how events will turn out…. But no fear annuls the joy of seeing those who, by definition, lower their head, raise it…. At last, they made it clear to their masters that they existed. Whatever happens from now on, we will have gained that. Finally, for the first time, and forever, memories other than silence, constraints and submission will float around these heavy machines.”
The fight of the Greeks is universal. It is no longer sufficient that our wishes are with them. The solidarity it deserves, must be expressed by deeds. Time is running out.