By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
According to a reliable source in Caracas, as Hugo Chávez was dying he called his chosen successor Maduro. Among other things he has told him, he strongly insisted that he does everything he can to help Tsipras in Greece. (It was much before Tsipras won the Greek elections).
A very different politician, the distinguished ex-Prime Minister of France, Dominique de Villepin, compared Tsipras to De Gaulle when the Greek leader called the 2015 referendum.
I was thinking of those stories while I was looking last Sunday the “radical leftist” deputies of SYRIZA and their “patriot” colleagues from the right “sovereignist” party of An.Ell. (Kammenos) voting with military discipline and without any hint of guilt or trouble of consciousness, the new law proposed by the government. As always, it was terrible. Among many other things it instituted the 12th consecutive reduction of Greek pensions in six years and the cutting of social spending for very poor people. It was instituting new exorbitant taxation (a free professional, engineer or lawyer, has to pay more than 75% of its income as taxes and insurance fee). It was also providing for the transfer of all Greek public property to the Creditors. The Third Memorandum, the one signed by Tsipras in 2015, is par excellence the Memorandum of Transfer (looting) of Greek public, but also private property (through taxation).
All this was happening in a surreal atmosphere which could make even Ionesko zealous. For example, police officers in uniform occupied SYRIZA offices in Athens protesting their social downgrading. In the same time the special Police units proved much more effective against demonstrators than they were under previous governments. Now “leftist”, those special units were able to use the old provocation tactics and, making massive use of tear gas in the Constitution Square, they were able to disperse the crowds in some minutes. They even send to the hospital Sofia Papadogianni, an old member of the Secretariat of SYRIZA itself, who had disagreed with the betrayal of Tsipras. Then, SYRIZA issued a condemnation of the police violence they themselves used against the demonstrators!
They commit betrayal and suicide, but in vain!
Of course this new barbarism will not satisfy Germany and the other European governments, the Commission and the IMF. They are like sharks. The more blood they consume, the more they want. And they don’t take prisoners. In real life all these measures applied in Greece will not do anything else than make more probable the collapse of the Greek state, the implosion of the country and a new crisis in the EU.
Chavez and Villepin were not fool. They were,morally and intellectually the exact opposite of what Tsipras proved to be. Chavez was a very serious man, a real “radical”, with the “empathy” towards his people and the consciousness of the historical moment which make great leaders. In the best Bolivarian tradition, he was deeply “national”, “patriot” and, in the same time, deeply “internationalist”, fully grasping the regional and world dimension of the problems his country was facing. As a military man, he tried to find ways to attain his aims (I remember him telling, back in 2008, to a group of foreign delegates in a congress, that a General has to attack his enemy on its strongest, not on its the weakest point), but he was also a special kind of “intellectual”. Never posting as such, he found always time to study in order to find weapons for his struggle. He probably paid with his life his dedication to his nation and his ideas.
As for Villepin he became the mouthpiece of every man of dignity around the globe with his historic speech, in 2003, when he strongly condemned the planned invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain, in front of the Security Council of the UN. He, along with President Chirac, were the last Gaullists in France – Sarkozy came after to demolish the Gaullist tradition, pretending he is a gaullist (Tsipras is only an extreme case, unfortunately the practice of saying one thing and doing another is nowdays the rule in European “decadence politics”).
The betrayal and the defeat
People like Villepin or Chavez could not imagine that a leader can behave as Tsipras behaved after the July 2015 referendum. Only the secret services analysing closely the Greek leader and his environment could have anticipated that development, if they did not work actively for this U-turn to happen. If we cite now the example of Chavez and Villepin is to show what kind of hopes and expectations have been born not only in Europe, but worldwide, from the rise of SYRIZA in Greece, that is from the peaceful revolt of the Greek people against European neoliberal order and the enslavement. Some leftists in Italy had even the idea of presenting a “Tsipras list” in the 2014 European elections!
This Greek revolt was badly betrayed by its own leaders. A betrayal that represents, before anything else, one of the gravest moral defeats in the history of international left. Its consequences for the Left, for Greece and for Europe are still far from being felt and understood. For the Greek Left itself, this moral defeat is more important and definite than even its crushing military defeat during the Greek civil war (1943-49). Because, in the long run, it is destroying its very raison d’ etre.
In the short and medium run it has inflicted a heavy psychological and moral blow to the Greek people, to its self-esteem and self-confidence. To whom you can believe, what you can do, if your own leaders, whom you have trusted are betraying you? You vote something, ignoring all pressure and blackmail, and then your leadership does the opposite. The SYRIZA betrayal has also split the social base supporting Tsipras last year (80% of the population during the negotiations, 60% in the referendum). Many people think the better they can do and maybe the only one they can do is try to survive.
SYRIZA has risen to power promising to stop the neocolonial policy of looting and destroying Greece by its supposed partners in Europe and the IMF (with the unspoken but very real green light of Washington, given the enormous influence of the USA and of its banks in both Europe and the IMF). Now, the “Left” is applying the program it promised to stop and which represents a policy much worse than any kind of neoliberalism.
In Greece, Europe is transiting from neoliberal to a sort of “disaster capitalism”. The program imposed on Athens is not only transforming the economic structure and the social relations inside the Greek nation-state, it is destroying the nation, the state (or at least its social, national and democratic functions, to be more precise). It destroys also the fundamental conditions for the reproduction of the Greek social formation. It is not an accident – it is an “experiment” in totalitarianism. (And for those who like analogies, it is the financial, European equivalent of the “imperialism of destruction” in the Middle East, where western powers intervened, during the last 15 years, not to control and/or conquer, but to destroy the main Arab countries!).
To have now a party of the “radical left” applying such a policy in Europe is a tremendous triumph for the most extremist form of late capitalism that very few people could have predicted. The only comparable example, from this point of view, one can think, is the fantastic transformation of the Soviet leadership into … fans of the ideas of Reagan and Thatcher, a transformation which could not lead to anything else than the demise of the Soviet Union itself.
The Greek “paradigm”
As we already said, the consequences of the SYRIZA disaster have yet to be fully felt in Greece and Europe. They are already indirectly but deeply affecting European Left (for example in Spain or Ireland), all European situation and the struggle of European nations against the “Empire of Finance” wishing to impose, in alliance with Berlin, a dictatorship of the Markets upon the continent. All the inhabitants of the planet received the message emitted from the Athens 2015 crisis (“Do not trust leftists, they are unwilling or unable, do not trust Europe, do not trust Germany”).
The importance of what it is happening in Greece has not to do with the size or economic importance of the country. But because is the new paradigm for the “first world”. It is in Greece that the invisible but so strong “Markets” try to create their paradigm for the solution of the Debt question in Europe and internationally. The accumulated debt in world economy is not only one of the most serious economic and social problems, it has also become the weapon par excellence the “empire of globalisation” (of financial capital) is using to destroy democracy, social welfare and the nations of Europe.
The Greek resistance could serve as a focal point to construct a serious alternative to euroliberalism. Of course there are now in Europe national protest movements against euro or EU and social movements against austerity policies. But we still lack a real European alternative or satisfactory national ones.
The only idea “circulating” around is the return to the nation-states. Maybe as things evolve and no other serious alternative is present, such a dissolution of Eurozone and/or the EU itself could become unavoidable at some stage.
Still, one wonders if all these small and medium nation-states will have any degree of independence and capacity of resistance to the “International of the Finance”, globalisation and theUSA. We should not also forget that, during last century, the way Washington dominated over Europe was through the antagonism and the wars of its nations (What London also did, in order to dominate continental Europe during the preceding century). The same can be true of nowadays “debt wars” among Europeans.
PS. All critique to SYRIZA withstanding, we should not forget that the fundamental responsibility with what is happening to Greece lies with German, European and (indirectly but clearly) the US government, the EU institutions and the IMF, all of them applying the disastrous program probably drafted by obscure financial circles. We should also remember that the collapse had not to do only with the Greek “Left” but also with the Greek. “national” and “sovereignist” right of the An.Ell. party. The moral, intellectual and political decadence of European political personnel is not confined by left or right divisions, or by divisions among “mainstream” and supposedly “anti systemic”, “radical” forces”. It is, in fact, reflecting a deep crisis of civilisation.
Athens May 10, 2016