July 3 was Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s greatest moment. In front of a huge crowd in Syntagma Square, he gave an electrifying speech in favor of a “no” vote, evoking the words of the great poet Andreas Kalvos: “freedom requires virtue and courage.” Unfortunately, in the long night of the negotiations with the European Union, he showed neither virtue nor courage.
July 13 is the end of the road for both Syriza and Tsipras. In spite of the massive popular vote in favor of “no,” in spite of the evident acceptance by large segments of the people that a rupture with the eurozone is a possible solution, in spite of the alignment of a broad spectrum of left and progressive social and political forces in favor of an exit from the iron cage of eurozone austerity, Tsipras and the leading group of Syriza chose to quickly and fully capitulate to the demands of Greece’s creditors.
In a state of panic regarding any thought of an exit from the eurozone, unable to realize that Greek society was more than ready for such a development, totally unprepared both for the blackmail of the EU but also for an eventual Grexit, Tsipras and the negotiating team could offer no actual resistance to the proposals of Greece’s lenders.
They never learned the lesson of the Cypriot tragedy of 2013: if you do not accept the first set of measures proposed by the EU and you are not ready to exit the eurozone, then you will be forced to accept the second set of measures, which will be worse and harsher than the first one.
The result is a devastating set of commitments to an aggressive neoliberal program that entails privatization and fire sale of the state assets, additional austerity and budget cuts, pension reform, further curtailing of the right to collective bargaining, repeal of whatever legislation Syriza had already introduced, a humiliating condition of limited (or even non-existent) sovereignty, and to a disciplinary supervision from the EU.
Instead of the “honest compromise” Tsipras had promised, we have a humiliating defeat and yet another “memorandum,” equally authoritarian and neoliberal as the two previous ones that sparked the immense protest movement of 2010–12. Today, the danger is that the very notion of “the Left” will become associated with betrayal and full endorsement of austerity. And this a cost that the entire Left will pay.
This is also the end of the road for the pro-euro left. It is more than evident that any insistence on the utopia of a “good euro” can only lead to the dystopia of authoritarian neoliberalism and limited sovereignty, to the death of democracy. Exit from the eurozone, suspension of debt payments, and disobedience to EU treaties are the necessary and inescapable conditions for any progressive exit from the current crisis.
It is the moral obligation of all Syriza members of parliament to vote against the new measures if they want to somehow salvage the honor and dignity of the Left. Otherwise, they will be no different than the systemic parties’ parliamentarians, who approved the austerity packages without even reading them. They will be equally hostile to the people and the forces of labor. There is no point in hesitating in the name of keeping a left government in place; it is not a left government anymore, and Tsipras will find a way to negotiate with the dominant forces and rule in cooperation with them.
Above all, now it is the time for all forces of the Left that insist on the road of rupture, the road of Oxi, inside and outside of Syriza, to take the initiative. With courage and audacity we need a Left Front around the dividing lines of Oxi and the question of rupture with the eurozone. And we need it now, leaving aside the pathology of sectarianism and the micro-intrigues of the radical left.
We need exactly the convergence of political forces and movement dynamics that could, in a certain way, dialectically incorporate and at the same time go beyond, the legacy of Syriza as broad front, the experience of Antarsya as anticapitalist unity, the experience of all the forms of organization in the movement. The Greek crisis opened a historical rift that traversed Greek society and created the conditions for a new bloc. Syriza failed to translate this potentiality into political praxis. We have a historic responsibility to construct this translation.
We need it in order to maintain the spirit of Oxi and the spirit of resistance and collective effort, as well as to avoid leaving the popular classes in a state of shock, humiliation, and disillusionment. Because if we allow that to happen, we will see not only a return to individualized struggle for survival, but also a resurgence of the fascists that are already trying to present themselves as the only force committed to Oxi.
Today is a sad day. But we must not forget the spirit of joy, courage, and determination that we all felt after the referendum. That is where the real potential is. That is where we can find hope.
The struggle continues. The future is still before us.