A book that reads almost like a thriller

Review of Eric Toussaint’s latest book, Sellouts in the Room.

11 May 2020 by Philippe Poutou

Originally published in French and in Greek in March 2020 under the title Capitulation entre Adultes https://www.cadtm.org/Capitulation-entre-adultes-Grece-2015-une-alternative-etait-possible, the book will be available in English before the end of 2020, under the title Sellouts in the Room. The book looks back at Syriza coming to power in Greece in January 2015 and the ensuing six months, marked as they were by stark confrontation between the new Greek government and the European Union. As scientific coordinator of the debt audit, alongside the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Éric Toussaint had a grandstand view of events. He criticises the government’s policies and explains that there was plenty of scope for different strategies.

Threats, blackmail, blockades

The story reads almost like a thriller. Events are recounted in detail, day by day, following the thread of the book Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis, Minister of Finance at the time, who tells of the tussles in the wings. It is rather like having two perspectives on the same events.

First of all, the European leaders are clearly depicted in all their brutality and cynicism. The Troika Troika Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty.

IMF : https://www.ecb.europa.eu/home/html/index.en.html
(the ECB ECB
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is a European institution based in Frankfurt, founded in 1998, to which the countries of the Eurozone have transferred their monetary powers. Its official role is to ensure price stability by combating inflation within that Zone. Its three decision-making organs (the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council) are composed of governors of the central banks of the member states and/or recognized specialists. According to its statutes, it is politically ‘independent’ but it is directly influenced by the world of finance.

, European Commission and the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

) literally destroys a government elected to fight austerity.

Threats, blackmail, blockades: the German, French, Dutch and other leaders would stop at nothing to prevent the slightest attempt to introduce social measures. (See also the Costa-Gavras film, Adults in the Room).

However the European Union’s anti-democratic violence cannot entirely explain the failure of the Greek government. Éric Toussaint talks of “capitulation” because other choices could have been made. Even in Varoufakis’ account, it is clear that the confrontation with the Troika was not really battled out to the end.

In Éric Toussaint’s view, it is important to understand this terrible experiment and to look back at what happened, so that the policies that an anti-capitalist or radical left-wing government should implement may be formulated.

A power relationship has to be built. In the first place, there needs to be social mobilisation to encourage direct intervention from the population to reverse the balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. of power and impose a radical anti-liberal programme. There is no other way. Varoufakis’ book clearly shows that by allowing themselves to be drawn into secret negotiations, Tsipras and Varoufakis isolated themselves from the rest of the government and their party, and gave the public no inkling of what was going on, at a time when the population was engaged in the struggle. This gave the Troika plenty of room for manœuvre.

Then there was the possibility of alerting the populations and activists in other European countries, thus embracing an internationalist strategy, which is another unavoidable move if there is to be radical change.

Finally there was the programme, the fundamental measures not simply to be demanded but to be actually implemented. To Éric Toussaint (an expert in the field) the central issue is to gain control of the banks by expropriating and socialising them, so that they can be overseen by the population. Then, hand in hand with that, comes the cancellation of public debt.

Not to mention the inevitable break from the institutions of this Europe for capitalists.

There is no need to list the measures as the book does it in detail, throughout the narrative, explaining why they are necessary and how they are possible.

This is an excellent book for preparing the struggles of tomorrow, after the end of the lockdown. Struggles that are bound to come. Not a moment too soon.

Source: the French journal L’Anticapitaliste, n°521

Philippe Poutou

is a worker, a trade-unionist, and a member of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) (New Anticapitalist Party - France).



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