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Chris Ford: The Greek debt crisis: why Syriza must exit the euro and not give into the Troika's 'economy scream' strategy

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

In 1970, after the election in Chile of Salvador Allende, the first Marxist to be democratically elected to the leadership of any Western nation, then US president Richard Nixon wrote an infamous note which outlined the US's plans to eliminate what it saw as a new Cuba virtually on its doorstep. It included the ominous words 'make the economy scream!'

The Nixon Administration followed through on these threats to the very letter which led, inexorably, to the bloody overthrow of Allende and his government on September 11, 1973. I can now see this very same strategy being deployed by the Troika (or as they have re-braned themselves 'The Institutions') consisting of the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) with respect to Greece's left-wing Syriza Government.

In many respects, media commentators are wrong to brand Syriza a government of the 'far left'. It is merely a sign of how far right the political spectrum has swung since the early 1980s that a government, which would have been viewed as mainstream social democratic at that time, can now be labelled as 'far left'. But the application of this ideological label illustrates, nonetheless, the fear of Europe's and the world's elites about this renewed challenge to neo-liberal hegemony emerging from the home of classical democracy.

Therefore, even the slightest hint that Syriza could deviate away from a programme of un-remitting austerity and neo-liberal economics has been enough for the Troika to take up the Nixonian mantle of seeking regime change through economic strangulation once again.

Over the past week, we have seen the Troika play the ultimate trump card of virtually turning off the liquidity lifeline that has been extended to Greek banks in order to pressure ordinary Greeks to vote no in last Sunday's referendum. Clearly, that ploy didn't work as we now know. That's why I was relieved on Monday morning (as were others on the Left) by the strong vote that was accorded to the 'No' campaign headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas, and former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

Evidently, Monday's result showed that ordinary Greeks have woken up over the last year to the dirty psychological warfare that has been deployed against Greece by its creditors. All the Troika and their allies within the banking world want is a continuation of austerity so that the game of Greece simply being given money which is then paid straight back to creditors (mainly French and German banks) can continue unabated. This can only be likened to an ordinary householder who goes out and borrows money to repay the mortgage or the credit card - which is a bit self-defeating and stupid as we know. In this analogy, however, Greece is the householder who is being forced by its creditors into taking out another set of loans to repay the mortgage or the credit card.

In just the last few days, the Troika have turned up the temperature even more by saying that if Greece doesn't come up with more austerity measures and reforms by Thursday that are acceptable to them, then out the Euro door they go.

Like other commentators on the Left (such as the British Left-wing writer Owen Jones), I agree that this is an action which is designed to make Syriza capitulate and, therefore, destroy not just that party but other anti-austerity parties, such as Podemos, in Spain. This would be the case as Syriza would effectively split between its far left and social democratic factions with the latter (reluctantly) supporting a further bail out with all the austerity that comes with it while the former would form a rejectionist splinter party.

That's why the best course of action for Tsirpas and his colleagues is to jump off the Euro ship before they get pushed. Yes, there will be some further temporary pain involved in this move but a return to the Drachma will eventually give Greece the sovereign ability to devalue its currency, thus, ensuring the eventual slow return of economic growth. This is the Syriza Government's least worst option given what the Troika are currently offering. This is the case as the Troika have not even offered Greece their preferred option of an international conference on debt relief, something which the global community generously afforded the then West Germany in 1953. Ironically, it is Germany, today the biggest prosecutor of the 2010s equivalent of the 'make the (Greek) economy scream' strategy, which economically benefitted from that move.

Longer term, in the absence of any other viable plan, Grexit might turn out to be a blessing for Greece (even though the immediate consequences might be dire in the short term). If Grexit means that a best-case scenario for the birthplace of democracy eventuates, then Syriza and a new post-austerity politics could survive and even thrive. And that would mean that the brutal politics of 'making economies scream' could never be used again by the political and financial elites to enforce their will. Tsirpas and Syriza have the chance to begin down that hopeful road in the days ahead.






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