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 told him that he strongly insisted that he does everything he can to help Tsipras in Greece. (This 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 at the “radical leftist” deputies of SYRIZA and their “patriot” colleagues from the right “sovereignist” party “Independent Greeks” (Kammenos) voting with military discipline and without any hint of guilt or trouble of consciousness on 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 fees). It was also providing for the transfer of all Greek public property to 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 of this was happening in a surreal atmosphere that could make even Ionesco zealous. For example, police officers in uniform occupied SYRIZA offices in Athens protesting their social downgrading. At the same time, 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, using tear gas in mass quantities in Constitution Square, they were able to disperse the crowds in some minutes. They even sent to the hospital Sofia Papadogianni, an old member of the Secretariat of SYRIZA, who disagreed with the betrayal of Tsipras. Then, SYRIZA issued a condemnation of the police violence they themselves used against the demonstrators!
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 other than make the collapse of the Greek state more probable, the implosion of the country, and a new crisis in the EU.
Chavez and Villepin were not fooled. They were the exact opposite of what Tsipras proved to be. Chavez was a very serious man, a real “radical”, with “empathy” towards his people and the consciousness of the historical moment, which makes great leaders. In the best Bolivarian tradition, he was deeply “national”, “patriotic”, and also deeply “internationalist”, fully understanding the regional and world dimension of the problems his country was facing. A military man, he tried to find ways to attain his aims (I remember him saying, back in 2008, to a group of foreign delegates in congress that a General has to attack his enemy at its strongest, not its the weakest point), but he was also a special kind of “intellectual”. Never posting as such, he always found time to study in order to find weapons for his struggle. He probably paid with his life for the 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 by pretending he is a Gaullist (Tsipras is only an extreme case, unfortunately the practice of saying one thing and doing another is the current rule in European politics).
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 closely analyzing the Greek leader and his environment could have anticipated this development, if not working actively for this U-turn to happen. We cite the example of Chavez and Villepin to show what kind of hopes and expectations have been born not only in Europe, but worldwide, from the rise of SYRIZA in Greece – from the peaceful revolt of the Greek people against European neoliberal order and the enslavement of this small, albeit historic European nation. 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 the 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 raison d’etre.
In the short run it inflicted a heavy psychological and moral blow to the Greek people, to its self-esteem and self-confidence. Who can you believe? What you can do if your own leaders who you have trusted betray you? You vote for something, ignoring all pressure and blackmail, and then your leadership does the opposite. It also split the social base supporting Tsipras last year (80% of the population during the negotiations, 60% in the referendum). Many people think the best thing they can do and maybe the only thing they can do is to try to survive.
SYRIZA has risen to power by promising to stop the neocolonial policy of looting and destroying Greece by its supposed European partners and the IMF (with the unspoken but very real green light of Washington, given the enormous influence of USA and its banks in both Europe and the IMF). Now it is applying the program it promised to stop, which represents a policy much worse than any kind of neoliberalism.
In Greece, Europe is transitioning from a 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) and 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 basic Arab countries!).
To have now a party of the “radical left” applying such a policy is a 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 that one can think of is the fantastic transformation of the Soviet leadership into … fans of the ideas of Reagan and Thatcher, a transformation that could not lead to anything other than the demise of the Soviet Union.
As we have already said, the consequences of the SYRIZA disaster are yet to be fully felt in Greece and Europe. They are already indirectly but deeply affecting the European Left (for example in Spain or Ireland), the entire European situation, and the struggle of European nations against the “Empire of Finance”, who wish to impose, in alliance with Berlin, a dictatorship of the Markets upon the continent.
This is because it is in Greece that the invisible but strong “Markets” try to create their paradigm for the solution of the debt question in Europe and internationally. The accumulated debt in the world economy is not only one of the most serious economic 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 national protest movements in Europe against the euro or EU, and social movements against austerity policies. But we still lack a real European alternative, and even satisfactory national ones.
The only idea “circulating” around is the return to nation-states. Maybe as things evolve and no other serious alternative is present, such dissolution of the Eurozone and/or the EU 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 “International Finance”, globalization, and the US. We should not also forget that, during the last century, the way Washington dominated over Europe was through antagonism and wars of its nations (Which is what London also did in order to dominate continental Europe during the preceding century). The same can be true of today’s “debt wars” among Europeans.