By Stathis Kouvelakis
The Syriza government’s decision to transfer all available public sector funds to the Bank of Greece marks a political turning point. This high-risk move exposes in the clearest possible way the nature of the situation as it has evolved in the two and a half months since the February 20 agreement. The argument that was put forward then in favour of that accord was that it “bought time,” at however painful a price, so as to prepare the ground for key summer negotiations.
The claim was that for a four-month period the European Central Bank would call a halt to the torture it had been imposing on the country’s economy since February 5, when it decided to terminate the most important mechanism for funding the Greek banks. As it is now generally recognised, the government was dragged into signing that unbalanced agreement through pressure from an accelerating outflow of bank deposits and the threat of bank collapse.
Now, with public coffers emptying to forestall a cut off of debt servicing and inescapable state obligations, it is evident that the only time that has been bought is time that works to the advantage of the Europe institutions and that the Greek side is exposed to an intensifying blackmail as its position deteriorates. […]
The Greek side did not take into account what was obvious from the outset, namely that the European Central Bank and EU were not going to sit twiddling their thumbs when faced by a government of the radical left. Τhe biggest gun in their arsenal is liquidity and it was entirely logical and predictable that they would resort to it immediately. And naturally the lenders have every reason to continue “tightening the noose” (as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras puts it) until they have forced the Greek side into total capitulation.
To put it differently, if with the February 20 agreement the lenders had agreed to “ensure liquidity,” if they had de-linked its provision from the specific austerity plans they seek to impose, they would simply have deprived themselves of the most significant means of exerting pressure they have at their disposal. That Tsakalotos believed they would do this smacks of extreme political naivety, if not willful blindness (…).
So the “mistake” results from a fundamentally wrong working hypothesis, on which the government’s whole strategy has been based from the outset: that “we will finally reach an agreement with the lenders” allowing Syriza to implement its program while staying the Euro-zone. This is the doomed logic of “left Europeanism.” […] The only escape route from the threatened confinement in the cage of the Memoranda, and derailment of the government’s project, lies in the activation of the popular mobilization, recapturing the combative and hopeful climate that prevailed prior to the February 20 agreement.
It is not too late. Now is precisely the time for straight talk, the only that can have an impact and activate the people, precisely because it treats them with due respect, as adults and the agents of their own destiny.
What is at stake in Greece is the possibility of a radical change and the opening of a route towards a political overturn and emancipation of its people, its working classes, but also the future of workers across Europe.
The fear of Grexit should cripple us no longer. The time has come to make it clear for a start that whatever funds are channelled under the new legislation into the public coffers are earmarked for coverage of public and social needs and not for payments to lenders.
The time has come to put an end to the soporific waffle about “negotiations going well” and “agreements on the way.”
The time has come to put an immediate end to the surrealistic references to “mutually beneficial solutions” and the “partners” with whom we are supposedly “joint proprietors of the EU.”
The time has come to reveal to Greek and international public opinion the data that would expose the relentless war being waged against this government.
And the time has come, above all, to prepare at long last, politically, technically and culturally, for the only honourable solution, the parting of the ways with this implacable neo-liberal cabal.
The time has come to make concrete the content, and explain the viability, of the alternative proposal, starting with the twofold initiative of a suspension of payments to the lenders and the nationalization of the banks and progressing, if necessary, to the choice of a national currency, approved by the public through a popular referendum.
The time has come for serious thought but also for decisiveness. This is the time when disaster and redemption stand next to each other. This is the time to fight back.
Stathis Kouvelakis teaches political theory at King’s College London and serves on the central committee of Syriza, where he is a member of the left wing faction. He has consistently argued for defaulting on the debt and leaving the Euro. The article is a shortened version of the contribution first published by the American Jacobin magazine 5th of June 2015: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/05/kouvelakis-syriza-ecb-grexit/