Eric Toussaint: “The president of the Greek parliament has rescued Syriza’s honor”

1 August 2015 by Eric Toussaint , Fátima Martín


Eric Toussaint, seated between Alexis Tsipras (L) and Zoe Konstantopoulou (R) . Photo Greek Parliament

“Now the Tsipras government has made itself an accomplice to the creditors, violating human rights,” says Eric Toussaint, the scientific coordinator for the Truth Commission on the Greek Debt, formed under the auspices of the Greek parliament in April, 2015. The Truth Commission itself also faces a possible withdrawal of support. “We’ll keep working while [Konstantopoulou] remains president, and even if she doesn’t, we will continue to convene on our own,” he says. The Belgian political scientist has proposed alternatives to “capitulation.” Diagonal asked him which Greek politicians might carry them out. “There’s a majority of the Syriza Central Committee that is opposed to the agreement and in favor of implementing radical measures,” he said. Toussaint believes that “an exit from the Euro has now become a necessary prospect.”

What is your evaluation of the capitulation signed by Tsipras?

It’s a true capitulation with devastating effects, because now the Tsipras government has become an accomplice to the creditors in human rights violations. Between February of 2015 and now, this was not the case, because the laws adopted by the Greek parliament were laws that sought to partially re-establish those rights. Granted, in an insufficient way, but these were laws meant to re-establish rights affected by five years of 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
-dictated policies.

“The consequences of the capitulation will surely be felt among the Greek people starting in the fall. But immediately, and this can be seen extremely clearly with the laws adopted on the nights of July 15, 16, 22 and 23 of July, the laws adopted by Parliament were proposed by the government but dictated by the creditors, and they seriously affect the economic, social, civil and political rights of Greek citizens, which is why I mention human rights violations. One of the laws passed on the nights of July 22 and 23 was a law that allows for the banks to organize evictions of families with mortgage Mortgage A loan made against property collateral. There are two sorts of mortgages:
1) the most common form where the property that the loan is used to purchase is used as the collateral;
2) a broader use of property to guarantee any loan: it is sufficient that the borrower possesses and engages the property as collateral.
payments in arrears. In Spain, you know what that means. The law is not as nefarious as the current Spanish law, but it is heading the same direction.

Also worth mentioning is the 23% increase in VAT on a significant portion of food products, and cuts to retirement pensions, even those who are under the absolute poverty threshold. These are pensions that will be cut still further after already being reduced by 40% between 2010 and 2014.

I’m also talking about human rights violations. Failing to respect the popular vote in the July 5 referendum is a violation of the Greek citizens’ civil and political rights. Forcing the passage of laws without the possibility of amendment, and introducing a bill with only 24 hours notice is a violation of legislative power and therefore of the rights of Greek citizens.

Why do you think they’ve done this?

They’ve done it because they’re not inclined to disobey the creditors, when the only way to build correlated forces favorable to the Greek people and their government would have been to suspend debt payments and take control of the banks, in opposition to the minority private shareholders who continue to dictate policy. The Greek state has preferential actions, but they do not include the right to vote, so the Tsipras government would legally have been obliged to change the statute for its actions. It didn’t do so, in order to avoid confronting not only the creditors from the EU and 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.

http://imf.org
, but also the private Greek bankers, despite the fact that they are the ones responsible for the banking crisis and even the arrival of the Troika starting in 2010. They would also have had to launch a complementary electronic currency, and they didn’t do it, in order to avoid confronting the Central European Bank.

What consequences will arise?

When it comes to consequences, this will probably provoke a great deal of disillusionment, a sense of deception that doesn’t yet exist among the Greek people, who continue to show in polls that they support the management of the Tsipras government. The consequences of the capitulation will surely be felt among the Greek people starting in the fall, and there may be a rapid change in public opinion. We’ll see. But what is absolutely clear is that there will be a very great sense of deception that may even lead within a year or more to an increased popular vote in favor of Golden Dawn.

And what consequences could the Truth Commission on the Greek Debt suffer?

It’s very important to emphasize that Zoe Konstantopoulou, the president of the Greek parliament who created the Commission has rescued Syriza’s honor, with the 31 legislators who voted against the agreement on July 15. She has decided not to step down. While she continues, we will keep the Commission going under the current statute. And if there is a coup to force her to resign, that is, a vote from the right and a portion of Syriza, or if she decides to change her position in regard to resignation, in that case the Commission would continue to convene on its own accord, with her participation. In any case, she will continue to work with the Commission. In other words, whether or not she continues as president of parliament, we will continue to function.

Of all the things uncovered by the Truth Commission on the Greek Debt, what seems to you to be the most serious?

The most serious thing discovered by the Truth Commission is clear: all the debt claimed by the Troika creditors is illegitimate, odious, illegal and unsustainable. It’s not just a portion of it; it’s the whole thing.

We’re in a situation in which the three rightwing parties who lost the referendum are those who along with the creditors are dictating the laws that the Parliament must adopt.

What scenarios are possible now in Greece?

The Tsipras government is now prisoner of the rightwing, that is, it has a majority vote thanks to votes from To Potami, PASOK, New Democracy, and the Independents, Syriza’s allies in the Government (ANEL). Nevertheless we are in a situation in which the three rightwing parties who lost the referendum are those who, along with the creditors, are dictating the laws that the Parliament must adopt. On the nights of July 22 and 23, a rewrite of the Civil Code was passed; drafted during the Samaras government and now approved by the new majority of legislators from Syriza, the Independents, PASOK, To Potami and New Democracy. The political situation is totally contrary to the direction decided by a public majority on July 5.

But that’s unsustainable. When will elections be convened?

I’ve never cared to make predictions. What is certain is that the current agreement is not going to produce the budgetary results being demanded by the creditors. They will continue to insist on even more rollbacks and austerity laws. How long is Tsipras going to last, implementing policies that are contrary to the Syriza platform? Who knows? Another unknown is whether the Greek citizens and workers will begin massive protests. Until now, these kinds of protests have not been seen and surely not this summer either, because the people are simply exhausted. A portion still remain hopeful that Tsipras will manage to jump-start the economy. Also, action is inhibited by the expectation that somehow Tsipras will succeed.
The wearing-down of the Greeks is a fundamental element. The people participated massively in the strikes and street protests of 2010 and 2013 and are either not in a condition to repeat those, or are unconvinced of the possibility of achieving political change through protest.

Recently you’ve written about some possible alternatives in the face of Tsipras’ capitulation. Which Greek party, tendency or politicians would be able to carry out the alternatives you propose?

We don’t know when Syriza will hold its national congress, but until now, there has been a majority in the Syriza Central Committee who are opposed to the accord and who favor taking more radical measures. But as long as there is no meeting of the Central Committee or an Extraordinary Congress, we don’t know what will happen. There will be plenty of pressure from Tsipras partisans.

In your alternative to capitulation you also mention the possibility of exclusion from the Eurozone. Are the Greek people changing their position about remaining in the Eurozone?

The majority of Greeks want to remain with the Euro, but I’m not sure to what point these polls are truly credible, because before the referendum they showed a split practically down the middle between yes and no. Personally, I imagine that a slight majority still favors the Euro.

Leaving the Euro is an option. The discussion over this option in Greece’s case needs to be extended. I think that an exit from the Euro has now become a necessary prospect. I’ve spoken about strong measures of disobedience against the creditors in terms of socializing the bank, controlling the movement of capital and a complementary currency. All of this is feasible without leaving the Euro, but it could also lead later to an exit from the Euro. Now then, it seems to me that as for those who say the only choice is to accept the creditors’ conditions or leave the Euro, this is a false dilemma when you look at the situation in which Greece has found itself between January and June of 2015.

What do you think about Podemos’ position in respect to Greece and the debt?

I hope that Podemos distances itself from Syriza’s capitulation and draws the lesson that if one wants to form a government capable of changing the situation in favor of the people in Spain and Europe, the alternative must be a radical program. The danger is that Podemos could become just another organization within the political system it is denouncing, and integrate itself within that system. I hope not.



Eric Toussaint is a professor at the University of Liege, a spokesman for the International Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM), and a member of the Scientific Council at ATTAC France. He has been a member of Ecuador’s Comprehensive Public Credit Audit Commission and is currently the scientific coordinator for the Truth Commission on Greek Debt.

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc.
See his bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.

Fátima Martín

est journaliste, membre du CADTM et de la PACD, la Plateforme d’Audit Citoyen de la Dette en Espagne (http://auditoriaciudadana.net/). Elle est l’auteure, avec Jérôme Duval, du livre Construcción europea al servicio de los mercados financieros, Icaria editorial 2016. Elle développe le journal en ligne FemeninoRural.com.

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