A no vote against blackmail

July 1, 2015

All eyes are on Greece in the days before a July 5 referendum on whether to accept even more drastic austerity measures or to defy the blackmail demands of Europe's rulers.

Banks are closed, and the Greece's left-wing government has imposed some controls on capital for at least the week leading up to the vote--a necessary response to the financial strangulation of the country by the European lenders and their political representatives. This has produced a tense atmosphere as Greeks scrape together whatever cash they can and line up to buy groceries and other necessities. But there are also signs of anger and resistance against the extortion tactics of the lenders--like the large "vote no" demonstration in Syntagma Square in Athens on June 29.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the surprise referendum after European political leaders and representatives of the "institutions"--the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)--issued their latest ultimatum for even deeper cuts, sped-up privatizations and higher taxes on working people in return for extending the bailout of the Greek financial system. Since SYRIZA won national elections on January 25 and formed a new government, Tsipras has offered Europe substantial concessions from the radical left party's commitment to reverse austerity, but the lenders want capitulation.

The other pressure on Tsipras and the government has come from the influential left wing of SYRIZA, which is demanding a rejection of further retreats and a change of course, starting with a commitment to use all available resources to carry out measures that will aid workers and the poor. The following statement was issued by the Red Network, an alliance of revolutionary organizations within SYRIZA that participate in the party's Left Platform.

THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to reject the ultimatum of the lenders, to refuse to sign a new Memorandum imposing hyper-austerity, and to ask for an expression of the will of the people by referendum on July 5 is a decision that transforms Greek politics.

This decision proves that the challenge begun by the social struggles to resist austerity and continued with the elections on January 25 is deeper and more durable than the supporters of neoliberalism, both local and international, anticipated. It also frees SYRIZA and the popular hopes for change from the dead end of continuing negotiations with the lenders and the impasse resulting from the February 20 agreement with the lenders.

This proves what we, among the most critical voices inside SYRIZA, insisted in the months that have passed since the election: SYRIZA cannot be easily transformed into a party of austerity.

FROM THE moment that Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum, a battle of extreme importance was underway.

The "institutions" and the leaders of European governments are directing their threats of economic strangulation not only against the left-wing government, but against the workers and popular masses of Greece.

Protesters gathered in front of parliament for a huge "no" vote demonstration
Protesters gathered in front of parliament for a huge "no" vote demonstration

Their local partners, including the "internal troika" of New Democracy, PASOK and Potami, are watching with fear as the international guardians of the Memorandums--the regime of hyper-austerity imposed throughout all these years on behalf of the bankers, industrialists and shipowners--are losing their hold.

Everything indicates that the coming days will see a furious battle in which both sides will go all-out. The working class and popular masses have every reason to fight this battle with all their strength, aiming for a clear victory. For a NO: No to Memorandums, no to austerity, no to debt, no to the blackmail of the lenders.

Winning this battle will renew the left-wing dynamic expressed in the working class and popular vote for SYRIZA in the January elections. It will show again that the political and social balance of forces has shifted in Greece.

A victory on July 5 will not return the situation to where things stood when the negotiations collapsed, with the despicable ultimatum of the lenders. A victory will underline, with even more urgency, the need to follow, quickly and unilaterally, the minimum anti-austerity measures that SYRIZA promised in the Thessaloniki program before the elections. That includes stopping debt repayments to the lenders, with the goal of cancelling a majority of the debt; carrying out measures to improve the life of workers and poor; and financing all of this with heavy taxes on corporations and the rich, renationalizing large public enterprises and putting the banks under social control.

Every necessary measure, whether political, diplomatic or financial, must be taken to ensure that this policy is carried out. Our response to the blackmail of the lenders is that the struggle against austerity will not be governed by concerns about the euro system or by the consent of the rulers of Europe.

In the days ahead, two distinct worlds will collide. On the one hand, there is the world of those who have benefited from the brutality of the Memorandums--the local elite and their international patrons and partners. They will rely on blackmail involving the banks, on draining capital out of the country, on causing a chaotic crisis.

On the other hand, there is the world of workers and the poor, which has no advantages to rely on other than the fact that it is vast majority of people in society.

The victory of one of these worlds will mean the defeat of the other. Therefore, no individual or organization on the left can hesitate for a moment. It is our duty to immediately build an alliance that will organize for a no vote--an alliance that can win a victory for the working class and the popular masses.

Regardless of the mistakes that have been made since January, and without underestimating the unprecedented difficulties we face in this moment, now is not the time for academic debates. It is time for struggle. It is a time to claim a great victory for the working people of Greece that will significantly change the existing state of affairs.

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