The big deception
(…) By June, it was obvious that Syriza’s tactics of “chasing two rabbits (and catching none)” described in 60 Days Older and Deeper in Debt and the postponement of the implementation of the austerity measures agreed both by the former government and Syriza’s with the Troika last February could no longer work. When the Troika (ECB, IMF, European Commission) decided to end the spectacle of “negotiations” by putting forward a “take it or leave it” proposal on June 25th, Tsipras announced a referendum for July 5th on whether Greek citizens should approve or reject it.
Here we should note some things on the proposals that were made both by the Greek government and the Troika before the announcement of the referendum. During the June “negotiations” for a new ESM loan agreement, the Greek government had made a forty-seven page proposal to the Troika that included a number of harsh austerity measures and reforms. After some rounds of negotiations, on 22nd of June a more concrete proposal had been sent to the Troika by the Greek government which would amount to 8bn cuts. The proposal was not accepted by the Troika, which in turn made a new proposal to the Greek government (the so-called “Juncker’s proposal”). This proposal was presented as an ultimatum: if it was not accepted by the Greek government then grexit would be inevitable. The truth is that the proposal of the Greek government did not differ greatly from that of the Troika, their main difference being debt restructuring. There were also some minor differences on particular issues, e.g. concerning the time for the implementation of certain measures (the Greek government wanted to delay the implementation of certain measures concerning pension cuts), the liberalization of collective redundancies, a measure that the Greek government rejected, or the privatization of the Independent Power Transmission Operator which the Greek government also rejected. However, both proposals took the same political direction: the continuation of austerity, the reduction of the direct wage due to VAT increases, the reduction of pensions and a rise in the retirement age, wage cuts in the public sector, further restructuring of labor relations, privatizations etc.
Four days after the announcement of the referendum on June 27th, Tsipras made a new proposal to the Troika asking for a new loan by the ESM in which he accepted almost entirely “Juncker’s proposal”! The Troika did not accept the new proposal. So, the referendum that took place five days later on was actually on whether or not to accept a proposal that the Greek government had already accepted!
However, for intraparty reasons this high political risk was absolutely crucial for Syriza’s leadership. They knew that they had no hope of convincing the party’s MPs to vote this ultimatum deal or even the government’s own proposal in unless an extreme “state of emergency” was created. And this is what happened after the announcement of the referendum. Banks were closed and capital controls were enacted. The middle class YES [to all memoranda] movement, a movement created in June by the right-wing parties of New Democracy, PASOK and Potami and encouraged by Syriza’s timid, eurocentrist neoliberalism-with-a-human-face, jumped on the bandwagon. Having most of the mass media under their control, they started a hysterical propaganda war in favour of YES, consciously misinterpreting the referendum as one on whether Greece will remain in the European Union or not. This propaganda had the opposite result: even KKE voters rejected their party’s proposal to cast spoiled ballots and abstain from the “false dilemma” of the referendum, and voted NO.
A final word about the political situation in Greece before and after the referendum: most of the vote for Syriza last January was a passive “revenge vote against a right-wing government whose harsh austerity programs had disastrous effects on [people’s] lives”, as we said in our first text on Syriza. But another quite large part of its voters were activists involved in the anti-austerity citizens’ movements of the previous years (as we also explained in the first part of the same text). The same people, through exactly the same recuperable forms of organization (popular assemblies, municipal political parties, local solidarity structures etc) have recently set up new “NO to the end” [sic] committees, consisting mainly of dissident Syriza and other pro-drachma leftist parties members. This means 1) that proletarian social needs are still mediated by inter-classist, populist forms of organization and 2) that the mass base of a new Syriza-like populist party of political crooks is under formation. Whether it will manage to attract Syriza’s disillusioned electorate is a question which is too difficult to answer for the moment.