At the weekend, Europe’s neo-liberals stepped up their attempts to blackmail the Greek people into accepting the painful terms of austerity by creating a false debate on Euro membership being the decisive issue in the election. David Cameron, speaking in Chicago, said to them, “you can either vote to stay in the euro, with all the commitments you’ve made, or if you vote another way, you’re effectively voting to leave.”
Cameron’s statement goes hand in glove with a huge right-wing offensive in Greece to depress support for Syriza, where its opponents assert that a vote for Syriza is a vote to leave the single currency.
Syriza, who came second in the 6 May elections but have led many opinion polls since, are now the leading opponents of the harsh austerity terms of the bailout, known as the Memorandum, which has seen wages slashed by 40-50% in many areas and aid agencies distributing food parcels in major cities. Yet despite this co-ordinated campaign by the right, Syriza has been at pains to make clear its determination both to change the terms of the bailout and maintain Euro membership.
To do so, the party’s leader, Alexis Tsipras has been leading his own offensive in the international media.
The New York Times reported, “He insisted that he wants Greece to stay in the euro, just not under the terms of its current bailout.” Allying himself with the pro-investment message of Obama and Hollande, he also said, “The message we’re giving to the G8 is that we have to press Mrs Merkel to follow the example of America, where the debt crisis wasn’t tackled with austerity measures but with an expansionist approach.”
And speaking to the Guardian, Tsipras said:
We are not against a unified Europe or monetary union. The way that has been chosen to confront Greece is totally counter-productive. European tax payers should know that if they are giving money to Greece, it should have an effect … it should go towards investments and underwriting growth so that the Greek debt problem can be confronted because with this recipe we are not confronting the debt problem, the real issue.”
His position could not be clearer. It was interesting then to hear Ed Balls discussing Greece on the Today programme, stating:
the Greek people are now facing an economic plan which has been agreed and imposed from Northern Europe, with Britain’s support, which is neither economically sustainable or politically sustainable, and the only way through is to sit down and say what can actually be delivered in Greece? What tough decisions can be delivered realistically without depression or high unemployment?”
The logical conclusion to Balls message is that the Greek people should be allowed to vote without blackmailing from Merkel or Cameron and that Labour should publicly welcome Tsipras’s willingness to engage in dialogue on the bailout.
The key issue in the Greek election is not Euro membership, but whether voters want a government that will impose austerity that is forcing millions towards poverty and reportedly driving up suicide rates, or a government that opposes the impoverishment of its people and wants to negotiate a better way forward, through investment rather than austerity.
This post first appeared at Next Generation Labour.