Greece: Syriza’s phoney referendum

by our European Affairs correspondent

TENS OF THOUSANDS of Greeks poured into central Athens on Monday to demonstrate their support for the Syriza government and its call for a “No” vote in Sunday’s referendum on Greece’s EU bail-out deal. But the snap poll, called by premier Alexis Tsipras to strengthen his hand in the negotiations with the Troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission, failed to stay the hand of the country’s creditors and Greece formally defaulted on Tuesday.

The International Monetary Fund has confirmed that it didn’t receive the €1.6 billion payment from Athens that was due by the end of June making Greece the first developed country to default in the IMF’s 70-year old history.

Tsipras’ Radical Left (Syriza) coalition government has imposed capital controls and closed all the banks apart from limited withdrawals from cash machines and special provisions for pensioners. These emergency measures could lead to a “Grexit” from the Eurozone and trigger another round of bank failures across the European Union.

Syriza won a snap election in January by promising defend workers’ rights, crack down on the Greek oligarchs, ditch austerity and renegotiate the country’s €240 billion bailout with the European Union and the IMF. The new government’s clear mandate from the Greek people was to end the policies of extreme austerity, to relieve the socially weaker strata and to resolve the intolerable public debt crisis through negotiations, thereby creating the conditions for economic recovery and growth.

But Syriza and their maverick right-wing Independent Greeks coalition partners simply carried on where the discredited old social-democratic and conservative coalition left off in maintaining the draconian austerity regime imposed by the European banks and the International Monetary Fund.

Syriza’s election pledge to fight the EU diktat and scrap the Eurodebt was used by the left social-democrats to stave off the challenge from the communists on the street and divert millions of Greek voters down the road of “renegotiation” that is simply another word for appeasement. The referendum is part of Tsipras’ bargaining ploys and the Greek communists (KKE) are calling on their supporters to reject both choices on the voting slip.

On Sunday Greek voters will be asked to say Yes or No to the Troika’s current bail-out offer that demands the scrapping of what remains of Greece’s social provision, to “bail-out” the European banks and keep Greece within the Eurozone.

The conservative New Democracy and social-democratic PASOK parties that governed in coalition until January 2015 are calling for a Yes vote. The centrist To Potami (River) party is also openly grovelling to the Eurocrats and arguing that Greece must stay in the EU at all costs. The fascist Golden Dawn, which wants to scrap the Euro and return to the drachma, has joined the parties of the coalition government in calling for a No vote.

In reality, both answers lead to a yes to the European Union.

The Syriza leader is calling for a No to the Troika’s terms while making it clear that this would be interpreted by the Syriza coalition as approval for its own proposals which are simply a watered-down version of what’s already on the table.

Far from paving the way for a break with the EU the Syriza coalition continues to extol the European Union, “our common European home” and the “European achievement”.

Syriza’s plan accepts most of the demands for more cuts to wages, jobs and social welfare to stimulate capitalist “growth” and it is committed to Greece keeping the Euro. The KKE say that this proposal is 90 per cent identical to the Troika’s terms and has very little relationship with what Syriza promised before the elections.

The Greek communists are therefore calling on voters to spoil their ballot by writing No over both boxes.