A deal that traps SYRIZA in neoliberalism

Leaders of the new Greek government of the Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, retreated from their commitment to reverse years of austerity inflicted on the country with an agreement with the Eurogroup to extend Greece's financial bailout.

The Memorandums requiring a program of drastic austerity measures that previous governments signed have plunged Greece deeper into an economic depression and social crisis. SYRIZA emerged on the Greek political scene three years ago with its close second-place finish in national elections, based on its promise to oppose the Memorandums and reverse austerity. But the deal with the lenders agreed to by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis maintains the Memorandums in all important respects.

The following is a statement of the Red Network, an alliance of socialist organizations that is part of the Left Platform within SYRIZA, challenging the concessions made in the government's deal with the Eurogroup, and calling for SYRIZA to return to its commitments to oppose the Memorandums and reverse the austerity agenda.

Protesting austerity in Syntagma Square outside the Greek parliament building (Adolfo Lujan)

THE LETTER that Yanis Varoufakis delivered to the Eurogroup ministers, outlining the specific "reforms" that the SYRIZA-led government would carry out reveals the truth about the agreement between the government and the lenders: It traps SYRIZA within the limits of a neoliberal policy.

The agreement thereby cancels the possibility of implementing all the commitments of the Thessaloniki program and reverses the conference declarations of SYRIZA to stand for the cancellation of the Memorandum and its accompanying laws as a first step towards the overturning the brutal austerity policies.

More specifically:

1. On the issue of the privatizations that form the core of neoliberal strategy: The government promises that it "will not reverse privatizations that have been completed," that it "will respect the process in accordance with the law" for those that are underway, and, even worse, that it will commit itself to considering "new cases" of privatization, resorting to the idea that they will be "long-term leases and private and public partnerships."

This is a generalized acceptance of privatization that reverses the longstanding policy of SYRIZA.

2. On issues relating to labor: SYRIZA's clear election commitment to restore the minimum wage to pre-Memorandum levels, regardless of negotiations with the lenders, has been canceled outright. In its place, there is a vague language about how "the extent and timing" of any change in the minimum wage will "will be in consultation with social partners (!!!) and European and international institutions (!!!)...in light of developments in production and competitiveness (!!!)."

This means the restoration of the minimum wage will be postponed indefinitely. And even worse, the agreement adopts an unacceptable negotiating process for determining any changes, based on economic criteria that reflect the view point of social democracy.

The critical issue of restoring collective labor agreement is undermined by associating any changes with the "best practices of the EU" (??) and seeking to "benefit from the expertise of the OECD" on the issue of labor laws.

What has been the "expertise" of these international organizations? They have remained idle in the last 20 years against the neoliberal violations committed by capital, while remaining extremely active eroding labor rights through a succession of "new ideas."

Thus, the agreement with the Eurogroup includes the commitment "to a progressive new approach in collective bargaining agreements, with a balance (!) between flexibility (!!!) and justice." In the last 20 years, many have looked for this "balance," but found nothing other than the spread of "flexibility," not justice.

3. On the tax policy of the Thessaloniki commitments to repeal the unfair ENFIA property tax and heating oil tax, and to restore the exemption of the first 12,000 euros a year from income taxes, there is a reversal on every point. The absolutely correct stress on combatting tax evasion, if it is not clearly directed against capital in conjunction with tax relief measures for workers, seniors and the mass of the population, is simply a continuation of austerity policies.

4. On the issue of SYRIZA's conference commitments to establish public oversight of the banks, even the most moderate measures are undermined. The agreement will require the government to deal with bad loans "in a way that takes full account of the capitalization (!) of the banks." Even the promise to freeze bank foreclosures on main residences is threatened by the provision that this must be done in "cooperation with bank management and institutions (!)."

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WHERE THIS program of "reforms" leads is shown most clearly with its shift toward an attitude that repayment of all of the foreign debt is a non-negotiable requirement on the government--and toward the claim that the government will look for ways to resist austerity, but necessarily within the framework of the European Union.

Against this agreement with the Eurogroup and the accompanying program of "reforms" put forward by Varoufakis, the organizations and members of SYRIZA, the left, the labor movement and the social movements must find the strength to answer: NO! We must build the determination needed for a working-class and popular struggle that seeks to overthrow this policy that binds the government to austerity.

Especially for the members and chapters of SYRIZA, there are specific tasks ahead. We seek an immediate return to policies defined by three main points: 1) Elimination of the Memorandums and accompanying austerity measures; 2) No sacrifice for the euro; and 3) Radical left politics based on the decisions of the SYRIZA conference and the commitments made at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.

This will require a struggle not against the political project of a government of the left, but for its salvation.

The agreement made with the Eurogroup and the commitments undertaken by the government will lead at the end of four months to a weakening of support for SYRIZA with the base of working class supporters that pushed it to victory. This will only whet the appetite of the party's domestic and international rivals for maneuvers aimed at defeating the government. The time is short.

Translated by Antonis Martalis