Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, listens to France's President Francois Hollande (next to Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel) during a summit of euro zone leaders in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2015. Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The capitulation of the Syriza government is complete. The only way a disaster can be averted is for the left and the movements to take mass action quickly and decisively argues James Meadway

The Syriza government has made a total surrender on every single point it was elected on, back in January. The deal, agreed in principle late last night by the Eurozone finance ministers, commits Greece to deepening austerity over the next three years, breaking every “red line” it maintained in negotiations. Pension “reforms” and VAT increases must be passed next week by the Greek Parliament. Greece is to be forced to hand over €50bn of assets to a separate fund, as a guarantee of its good behaviour.

There is as yet no deal on debt restructuring, merely promises of further talks. There are as yet no further funds ready to meet the very heavy payments due to Greece’s creditors over the next few months. At the time of writing, the ECB has not lifted its cap on emergency funding for Greek banks, which remain closed. The only way a disaster can be averted is for the left and the movements to take mass action quickly and decisively.

The capitulation of the Syriza government is complete. The humiliation of Greece is near total. Greece is, under this plan, to be turned into a debt colony of the IMF and the Eurogroup. It cannot be allowed to set its own policies and it cannot be allowed to ever again attempt to defy the powerful nations of the Eurozone.

This occurs barely a week since the Greek population gave a resounding No to a deal offered by the creditors – a somewhat better deal, with less austerity, than has now been agreed to. Far from taking that No as the mandate to prepare the whole country to confront the creditors, the Syriza government immediately capitulated.

Yanis Varoufakis, who in a lengthy interview makes clear that his attempts to prepare for bank closures and possible Grexit were ruled out by the Cabinet, was forced from his position as finance minister the morning after the result. Euclid Tsakalotos, an economist from the strongly pro-European wing of the party, was drafted in to prepare the terms of surrender.

There are several failures that lead to Syriza’s collapse. At the heart, however, was the poison of Europeanism. Far from a family of equal nations, the EU is today revealed as an appalling debtors’ prison. But with the majority of Syriza unreservedly committed to maintaining Greece’s membership of the family, as part of a strategy for change that placed the necessity of transnational institutions at its centre, they have been unable to break. When taken to the crunch, forced to choose between the two promises it made in its January election – to end austerity and to keep Greece in the euro – Syriza’s leadership chose the euro.

The failure to prepare properly here – either technically, or politically – meant the (unelected) European Central Bank could continually apply pressure on Greek banks, threatening to withdraw support and so bringing about their collapse. It did this ahead of the first, temporary deal in February. And it enforced the banks’ closure once the Greek government moved to a referendum. This supposedly technocratic institution, utterly (and deliberately) without any meaningful democratic oversight, has behaved in a nakedly political manner throughout.

The situation is still fluid, with approval of the deal subject to national parliaments, and with major details yet to be clarified. But it is possible, on the basis of the last five years, to predict three things. First, without debt relief and with continued austerity, Greece will continue its spiral of decline. Second, the deal will not hold: the resistance Greeks have shown to successive austerity measures, and which was seen on a grand scale in the No vote, will reappear – even if it is now resistance to the Syriza government. Third, faced with steady collapse and no prospect of recovery, Greece will leave the euro. The question is when, not if.

For those in the UK, two things are necessary. First is to support all those resisting new austerity measures, whatever the presumed character of the government. Second, to reject Britain’s continued membership of the EU. It is simply not possible for anyone in good conscience to offer their support to an institution so manifestly and comprehensively opposed to democracy and committed to enforcing neoliberalism – whatever the price paid by its victims. Internationalism demands that we do whatever we can to undermine the European institutions. In our own referendum, on British membership of the EU, the left must vote No.

James Meadway

Radical economist James Meadway has been an important critic of austerity economics and at the forefront of efforts to promulgate an alternative. James is co-author of Crisis in the Eurozone (2012) and Marx for Today (2014).

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