domingo, 20 de dezembro de 2015
What I learned about Greece’s year from hell VIDEO: #ThisIsACoup - Episode 1- / "ANGELA, SUCK OUR BALLS"
What I learned about Greece’s year from hell
POLITICO gets an exclusive look at a new documentary that charts Syriza’s journey from election euphoria to grim austerity.
By JAMES BLOODWORTH 12/16/15, 5:30 AM CET
Greece’s radical left party Syriza swept to power in January on a fiercely anti-austerity ticket. Hordes of left-wing activists from across Europe booked cheap flights and descended on Greece in order to show solidarity with the new government.
Less than nine months later, the foreign leftists had returned home and the anti-austerity euphoria had dissipated. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspras, leader of Syriza, had gone from being the face of hope to yet another harbinger of grim austerity.
So what happened in the interim? Quite a lot, actually.
POLITICO got an early look at all four parts of a new documentary titled #ThisIsACoup by British Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason and Greek filmmaker Theopi Skarlatos. The series explores the period between the initial euphoria of Syriza’s election victory and the subsequent return of Greek politics to more familiar — and austere — terrain.
1. Tsipras never intended to leave the eurozone
The Greek prime minister tells Mason that his “heart and soul said go” but his “mind said that I had to find a solution.”
Tsipras acknowledges that walking away from negotiations with the so-called Troika — the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — as advocated by Syriza’s left wing, would have involved “the collapse, first of all, of the banks and then the collapse of the economy.”
And this was ultimately a step he was unwilling to take.
“If I walked away this night, probably I would be a hero for one night, maybe for two, three, but it would be a disaster for the next days and nights — not only for me but for the majority of the Greek people,” he says.
As to what he would have done differently were he to have the time over again, Tsipras tells Mason he would have “made more brave decisions at the beginning.”
“I think we lost time, and at the end we were out of force and out of money. If we knew that [from the start] we would have made more brave decisions at the beginning.”
2. Varoufakis was sidelined because he was prepared to quit Europe
Tsipras shocked European leaders in late June when he called a referendum asking Greek voters, in convoluted fashion, whether they believed the Troika’s plans should be implemented. The aim of the question — in which the Oxi (No) vote ultimately won with 60 percent of the vote — wasn’t technically about leaving the euro, even though the debate was framed that way. Rather, Tsipras hoped it would strengthen Syriza’s negotiating hand (in the event of an Oxi vote) with the Troika.
“We will not use this mandate to clash with Europe but to strengthen our negotiating powers so we can achieve a better deal,” he told the media at the time.
The plan backfired. The Troika ignored the vote. And as a result, so did Tsipras.
One week after telling the Greek people to “Turn your back on those who would terrorize you” and voting Oxi, Tsipras signed off the austerity measures he had just won yet another mandate to oppose.
Tsipras’s political maneuvering stood in stark contrast to Varoufakis, who was forced to resign. He later said he quit because he was “not going to be party to” what he called a “humanitarian crisis” by signing Greece up for more austerity.
In episode four of the documentary, Varoufakis said that at the time, he felt “as if the earth had imploded from under my feet.”
“I felt incredible sadness and a sense of having betrayed the 62 percent of Greeks who with astonishing courage went out against the powers that be, against the media that were terrorizing them in their living rooms through their television and radio channels every day, against the closed banks against the ECB, against the Troika,” Varoufakis said. “I felt we betrayed them and I don’t think we had the historical right to do that.”
Varoufakis was replaced as finance minister by Euclid Tsakalotos, who tells Mason he has “proper red lines” in negotiations with the Troika.
“We won’t do something that reduces wages and pensions,” he added.
Just two weeks later, new finance minister Tsakalotos signed up to the Troika’s harsh austerity measures, which include pension cuts, tax rises and privatizations.
3. Tsipras believes the eurozone feared a domino effect if it cut Greece any slack
What eurozone leaders really feared was Greece setting an example for other indebted eurozone countries to follow, Tsipras said.
“I think that they did what they did to us, not only [did they do it] because they didn’t like us, but because they didn’t want to have a domino effect in other countries,” he said.
Yet Tsipras doesn’t believe it was a mistake to raise the hopes of the Greek people by holding a referendum which he declared at one point would “cancel the bailout…and…put an end to the Troika.”
“[The eventual outcome] was not a good development,” Tsipras told Mason. “But the fact that these people had the right, had the chance to express their feelings and to feel dignity was something very important. This was historical times for Greece and for Greek people.”
4. Syriza did what radical parties do: fail to meet sky-high expectations
If the documentary tells us anything, it’s that the sheer level of the hope invested in Syriza — by ordinary Greeks as well as by left-wing idealists — was misplaced from the start.
Greece’s leftists won the January elections by promising to do something they ultimately found impossible: rolling back austerity. For all Tsipras’ initial bluster, the Troika was unwilling to compromise.
The Greek people believed they could beat austerity by voting against it — Paul Mason
“The Greek people believed they could beat austerity by voting against it,” Mason said in the film. “Europe gave them a choice: surrender control or we destroy your economy.”
However, the mistake on the part of Syriza was a mistake common to the far-left. It assumed that previous governments did bad things — in this case, implementing austerity — because they were bad people, rather than because they were dealt an impossible hand by the eurozone. As the Syriza journalist Anastasia Giamali revealingly tells Mason in the film, “I’m not sure we were completely aware of the severity of the position that the creditors are following.”
When Syriza eventually capitulated to its debtors — just as its predecessors in PASOK had done — the height from which it crashed back down to earth was made all the more precipitous by its previously uncompromising anti-austerity rhetoric.
You might call what Tsipras ultimately did a betrayal. You might also say that he looked over the precipice and, much like Greece’s “establishment” parties before him, took a giant step back.
5. #Hashtag activism has its limits
As soon as it became clear that Tsipras had caved in to the demands of Greece’s eurozone creditors, Twitter was aflame with angry denunciations of the Troika and accusations that Tsipras had “betrayed” the Greek people. According to the film, around one billion people — almost one seventh of the entire population of the world — saw the hash tag #ThisIsACoup.
They saw it and yet nothing happened — they just saw it. The final lesson from #ThisIsACoup, then? Understand the limits of hashtag activism, or Slacktivism, as it is sometimes known.
#ThisIsACoup will be released free as four daily online episodes from December 15 to 18.
James Bloodworth is a columnist for the International Business Times.