Thoughts on Greek Referendum

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On Sunday 5th July, Greeks will vote in a referendum. They will have to vote Yes or No, as it is the case for any referendum.
The subject is the whole set of proposals made by “institutions” (i.e. EU, ECB and IMF, the lenders) to Greek government.
Here are some thoughts on the overall picture:

– The proposals-terms set by the institutions are the “product” of five month-long negotiations with Greek officials. During these negotiations the Greek government has changed several times their own proposals and counter-proposals. Nevertheless, they have insisted, at least, in refusing measures on cuts and reductions of pensions and on further deregulation of labor rights.
– Amendments on Greek proposals have led to an indirect acceptance of several measures of austerity which initially had been rejected.
– After each retract and reviewed proposals of Greek government, the lenders have either rejected them or have answered with tougher demands.
– Sy.Riz.A (Coalition of Radical Left), the main governmental party, is pro-European and advocates reforms inside EU for the benefit of the people, while it claims that EU has substantially deviated from its founding principles.
– Although named radical and consisting of moderate lefts (even social-democrats) as well as communists, Syriza stands for parliamentary (bourgeois) democracy with left principles.
– Greek government has been obliged by circumstances (pressure from lenders) to leave apart its elections program such as: Raise of minimum wage, more fair distribution of wealth as well as burdens, abolish of charges imposed on poor and middle class, tackle of humanitarian crisis, fight against corruption and tax avoidance, respect of labor rights etc.
– Internal opposition has repeatedly blamed government for not applying their program and for having lied to the people. Opposition implies that it is not possible to materialize such principles and promises because they oppose to lenders’ demands which promote development (as perceived with neo-liberal terms).
– Expanding requirements of lenders are in fact consistent and representative of neo-liberal EU and IMF’s principles.
– Lenders also press for privatizations of state property, which previous governments have partly executed in most cases under pressure and therefore without sufficient programming and with little or no profit.
– Lenders’ more recent demands (among others) include reduction of defense spending, at the same time when both EU and NATO manufacture additional “threat” from North (FYROM – article TWTP) apart from the “traditional” Eastern and in the middle of  several west induced turbulence in the area of eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
– Although reluctantly and in contradiction with party’s principles, Mr. Tsipras’ government has showed its willingness to reach an agreement and has accepted to continue privatizations, to keep contributions through taxes (even on law incomes) and to increase VAT rates.
– Greek citizens appear to support country’s staying inside EU and euro zone and a strong propaganda is exercised by the Media and by conservative circles to this direction.
– Greeks are also tired after five years of austerity, so-called negotiations which have always led to dead ends and more cruel measures in return of receiving loan installments.
– Greek people have suffered a lot (to the limits of exhaustion) and the vast majority of middle and poor class experiences a severe degradation of life quality.
– Any production process and consuming (apart from basic necessities) has stopped and the one remaining productive sector of tourism will be mutilated if increased VAT would be imposed. Even banks’ only service provided to consumers is accepting deposits and sending funds abroad when at the same time they receive expensive capital from ELA.
– Even faint attempts of the government to cooperate with other countries such as Russia (well, especially Russia), has met hostility from EU and West in general.
– At the same time, lack of real negotiations of previous governments together with punitive austerity policies and declarations from the part of the lenders has created a sense of humiliation.
– The main request of elections on 25th January which elected Syriza has been the discharge from the terms-measures of memoranda.
– Since then, all negotiations proved fruitless initially because Greece requested change of policies, suggested less recession and claimed sovereignty.
– In the meantime, almost any attempt of government to rule inside the country and the parliament has been rejected by the lenders. In fact, lenders blackmailed and argued that laws against their will would be considered as “unilateral actions” and would lead to failing of negotiations and funding refusal.
– They have also rejected or discouraged any negotiation concerning reduction of the non viable debt.

– From their part, lenders have exercised stronger pressure which a progressive government could not accept (as previous governments of liberal ideology did).
– After five months, after strong contradictions inside Syriza and from Greek people, after extended propaganda and cause of fear by the Media and following a repetitive undermining of negotiations by the lenders, Greek Prime Minister and the Greek government decided a referendum. Referendum will call Greeks to say Yes or No to certain proposals of lenders which concern reforms, debt viability and financing needs of the country.
– During parliamentary voting on referendum, Communist Party of Greece has submitted a proposal which suggests that the Greek citizens should vote Yes or No both to lenders’ and to government’s proposals and to releasing from EU. They say that government’s proposals are in fact a new memorandum and imply recession and measures against the people.
– Right wing, on the other side, claim that the question at stake consists decision on staying or exiting from EU and euro-zone, although government has made clear that the meaning is anything but that.
– If presidium of Parliament had accept the proposal of Communist Party, any ambiguity (manufactured by the Media and the conservative opposition) would be clarified and people would also decide on government’s measures.

– Mr. Tsipras’ government and party envision reforms inside EU and targets to empower movements and parties born by the wave of massive discontent in south-European countries due to inequalities and measures of austerity.
– While parliamentary and political processes are taking place inside Greece, while people face a major decision and while they are going to exercise an important democratic right, “institutions” continue to blackmail with indirect threats, with ambiguous statements and with deprivation of banks’ liquidity, causing reasonable fears to Greek people.
– It is useful to remind here that Greeks, unlike other nations, have never decided themselves about Greece’s participation in EU or euro-zone.

As a conclusion, if lenders had made half of Greek government’s retreats and compromises, a decent and mutually beneficial agreement could have been achieved.
Now, it’s up to the people to consider and decide on their future, with the expectation and the belief that by empowering their government new opportunities will emerge for their country.

Also published in Reader Supported News

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What lies behind Greek debt and negotiations

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A few days earlier, on May 27, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Jack Lew, US Treasury Secretary and asked him to mediate in favor of an agreement between Greece and the so-called institutions (EU, IMF, ECB) during G7 talks in Germany.
Mr Lew, according to Embassy of US in Athens: “Emphasized that the Treasury remains engaged with all parties involved – including Greece, its European partners, and the IMF – and continues to urge all parties to find common ground and reach an agreement quickly.  Secretary Lew reiterated that failure to agree on a path forward would create immediate hardship for Greece and broad uncertainties for Europe and the global economy.  Secretary Lew offered to remain in contact with the Prime Minister and other parties in Europe and the international financial institutions”.
According to Reuters, although Greece was not in the agenda its crisis has overshadowed G7 talks.

Here, it is necessary to quote: The Group of 7 (G7) is a group consisting of the finance ministers and central bank governors of seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States meeting to discuss primarily economic issues. The European Union is also represented within the G7. The G7 are the seven wealthiest major developed nations by national net wealth, representing more than 64% of the net global wealth ($263 trillion) according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report October 2014. The IMF’s Managing Director usually participates. (Wikipedia)
G7 used to be G8 but Russia, the 8th member, has been excluded since 2014 and the whole gathering has become a gathering under the wing of US. G7 is in fact a group of capitalist countries with similar economic and political systems.
Furthermore, the epitome of capitalism, IMF, also participates.

In 2001, 200,000 demonstrators from several countries, protested during G8 summit in Genoa, Italy and “accused the police of brutality and denying them their right to non-violent protest. They believe that G8 summits are non-legitimate attempts by eight of the world’s most powerful governments to set the rules for the planet at large”.

Leading or following?

It is therefore worth wondering:
Why a politician of leftish ideology and probably politics, as soon as he will be allowed to govern his country, Mr Alexis Tsipras, thinks that a gathering of eminently neo-liberal officials would act in favour of Greece and not to the benefit of a bunch of conservative “institutions”?
Even more when their ultimate objective is austerity, wage reductions and dominance of the markets? 

Even if Prime Minister represents Greek public opinion according to polls, there is an inconsistency between on one side his election program, the communist ideas of his party and probably his own views and on the other side the negotiating moves he makes.
EU itself is a nest of neo-liberalism and all regulations, guidelines, directives and legislation do not leave space for any progressive government and administration.
Apart from the pressure of repayment of an unsustainable debt, the left Greek government will have to overcome the imposed by USA et al. conservative and restrictive guidelines (inside and outside the country) in order to apply progressive and left politics. Under present circumstances, it is understood that “conspiracy theories” about a deliberate destruction of Greece, seem to be confirmed.

Greece is not free anymore to import from, to export to, to connect and collaborate with, and to develop trade or other cooperation with any country without, at least EU’s, prior permission -with or without debt.
If a first visit in Moscow caused such a wave of reactions (TWTP article) it can be easily understood what would a broader collaboration with Russia or with Venezuela (for example) would ignite.
It is yet to see the impact of the Iranian foreign minister’s Javad Zarif visit in Athens on May 29th.
However, debt protects the “system” from “bold” exercise of sovereignty, something which is thought more possible by a left government.

Anything “left” causes abhorrence and fear to conservatives all around the world.
Europe has been the cradle of both dark ages but also of enlightenment.
EU, by following the imperialism dogma of USA and NATO has declined to a “follower” to say the least. If war is induced under the pretext of “union” (namely in Ukraine) it becomes obvious that it has deviated seriously.

It is ironic that Greek media present as “positive” any comment or statement of officials against Grexit or whatever similar.
It is common knowledge that no-one would like Greece to exit the euro zone – let alone EU and any capitalist group like G7.
Unless EU changes radically and be released from the chariot of USA, it will reproduce a modern yet conservative model which is incompatible with once progressive European traditions, ideas and cultures. Consequently, EU will become even more “toxic” for its member-states. 
Failing to distance itself, will also lead to its full inferiority which, among others, dictates agreements like TTIP or “demonization” of any sovereign country which is not subordinated to USA.

Then and now

Greece is presented as the weakest link but in fact it has escaped the “adjustment and compliance stage” of uniformity inside neo-liberalism.
Corruption is common among many countries more or less but in Greece it was formed by the “triangle” of Government officials-Big businesses plus media-Banks.
On the other hand, this same triangle led Greek people skillfully and systematically to a consuming delirium -top feature of capitalism- only to find themselves trapped a few years after the country entered the euro zone, in fact without the prerequisites.
An answer to why corruption as well as uncontrolled debt has been allowed within the bosom of EU, is the present situation.
Debt and loans is only a means to further restrain a country and terms about privatizations of crucial assets and state property is not investing but just a sample of extended dependency of the country. “They want to buy Greece cheap”, as is mentioned in the article of Steve Weissman What Europe and the IMF Are Doing to Greece: A First-Hand Look.

Greece possesses the undoubted advantage of its geopolitical position and historically, so far, this card has not been played to its own benefit by the majority of Greek politicians.
Even the…urge to join euro zone (and European Community earlier) brought benefit only to certain circles and not to the people.
After all, the whole idea of united European countries is based upon the profit of the few and not of the many who are sentenced to lack of reaction due to either exhaustion or to consent which is, as well known, manufactured by media and by propaganda.

Mr. Tsipras’ government has the chance not only to restore some breakdowns of the past but also to start a new age of politics and of an authentic union.
If he fails, many of European people’s dreams, aspirations, fights and movements will undergo a severe setback.
This is the ultimate purpose of conservatism and capitalism but it is not in favour of people’s interests -nowhere in the world.

Alexis Tsipras’ visit in Moscow The aftermath

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On 8th April, a few days before Orthodox Christian Easter, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Moscow, the capital of Russia, and met with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

While this was “one of the many visits” that the new Head of the Government of any country is expected to carry out (a few days earlier Mr. Tsipras had visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel), it proved that this specific travel to Russia has triggered disproportionately many reactions, especially among the officials of the EU.
For example, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, felt obliged to warn Greek Prime Minister not to “endanger” the common European policies against Russia.
Although we shall not analyze in this article the issue, the background, the expediency, the appropriateness, the ultimate purposes and the side effects of these policies, it is worth noticing that neither the president of the E.P. nor any official of a country or an institution has the right to “warn” the leader of a state about anything.
After all, in which way Mr. Tsipras could endanger the supposedly solid and righteous policies of EU? Could Greece unilaterally lift sanctions? It is proved they cannot.
If any unilateral action could be taken, Russia would have possibly agreed to lift sanctions against Greek agricultural products, a disastrous side-effect of sanctions of EU against Russia.
Even the use of the word “controversial” by Media seems having the intention to creating negative impressions. These reactions combined with a few other aspects of the conversations between the two leaders, worth some further analysis.

One of the dominant subjects discussed, according to the two leaders’ statements, has been the construction of a pipeline which will transfer gas within Greek territory and will be the extension of the pipeline which passes through Turkey.
While the profits deriving from this pipe are connected and are relative to energy sufficiency and autonomy for Greece, as Alexis Tsipras stated, there is a question about this project and this question has to do with the promoted Energy Union project which was launched in March 2015 by the EU.
Apart from any other (many) controversies of this Union which has been questioned by scientists, its so-called environmental profits are also questioned.
Additionally, the target of 20/20/20 includes measures for climate.
To this controversy, we have to add the controversial or even catastrophic results of earlier “unions”- such as Agricultural, Monetary etc- for the weaker, less populated and with “obedient” neo-liberal governments, member-states.
Energy Union, not accidentally at all, followed sanctions against Russia and coincides chronologically to the discussions of infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between EU and USA which until now has not been signed mostly because of German objections, no matter how calamitous the agreement has proved to be.
EU is also an “open” market for the Canadian tar sands oil, furthermore in front of the uncertainty about Keystone XL, at least during Obama administration.
If and when the terms of the agreement become profitable for Germany et al., it is certain to be imposed to other member-states.

Could Greece sign an agreement with Russia, if it contradicts the terms of the Energy Union?
In the same way by which Athens is in fact not allowed to ask money from lenders other than IMF or EU (which is the explanation of the attempt to create climate of fear with “leaks” and publications about Grexit soon after the travel to Moscow), in the same way by which Bulgaria, after the impose of sanctions to Putin and Russia, was ordered to stop the construction of the profitable for the country South Stream pipeline (which bypasses Ukraine and probably because of this reason was undesirable for EU and USA) and was threatened to be deprived of economic support if they denied, in this same way Greece will not likely be allowed to build the pipeline.

If all earlier Greek governments had not realized how important the country is or they had chosen not to shield the country’s interests and not to take advantage of their geostrategic place, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the new Greek government, have to play smartly and to use their strong cards for the benefit of the Greek people.
Many, inside and outside Greece, could argue that any action not approved by the European partners, could lead Greece outside EU.
An ousting of a “disobedient” member would certainly be one more demonstration of punitive policies conducted by Germany et al.
On the other hand, the upheaval caused by the visit of Greek Prime Minister in Moscow is a fine example of the fear which is caused to the dominant EU powers when a member-state exercises its right to independent national policy.
Mr. Tsipras says (and we believe him) that “wants” EU although, with all due respect, he most likely wants the European ideals of the once preached Europe of the People.
The EU of the present much less the EU of the future, is not “of the People”.
Even if it is called “EU of the citizens”, in fact it is the EU of the rich and powerful who act according to a political, cultural and ideological conservative conception.

Relationships within the EU resemble to these of  troubled marriages of older times:
The obliged by social conventions not to work member is financially dependent and therefore weaker.
This member, the wife in most cases, thinks that she cannot afford to abandon the bad husband. Therefore she suffers psychological blackmail by the owner of the wealth.

Instead of an epilogue: If indeed (as it is published) a leader of a European country has warned Alexis Tsipras not to become “useful idiot” for Russia (a phrase falsely attributed to Vladimir Lenin), someone has to tell him or her that potential useful idiots are certainly more decent than useless and volunteer idiots.