Greece: A Country for Sale

Source: Jacobin

Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza government have overseen privatizations at a scale unseen since German reunification.

The most persistent myth concerning Syriza’s capitulation to the troika is that it was a “forced choice.” To put it differently, “there was no alternative” to signing a third memorandum, given an extremely unfavorable balance of forces at a European and international level. This is the only seemingly rational argument Tsipras and his followers have been able to produce defending their actions.

The story, however, doesn’t end here. Alexis Tsipras didn’t just dismiss the alternatives proposed by nearly half his own party and lead his government to the most spectacular surrender ever perpetrated by a left-wing political force. He also agreed to stay in power to fully and faithfully implement the policies of his former adversaries.

As a consequence, to give credibility to this left version of the “there is no alternative” argument, more self-serving arguments are necessary. The main one is that “implementing all these new austerity measures goes against our will, and we do everything we can to attenuate their negative consequences.”

Those on the Left who still defend Syriza share this line of defense. Among them is the French philosopher Etienne Balibar who, in one of his recent articles, writes that although Tsipras was “forced to concede to the diktats of the Europeans,” he nevertheless “strives to ensure that this policy of austerity and expropriation of national wealth is the least unjust to those who have already suffered the most.”

But the reality of Syriza’s governance one year after signing the third memorandum is enough to refute this argument. The following article concentrates on one of the most important aspects of the ongoing experiment in the country: the imposition of a model of “accumulation by dispossession,” not to a country of the Global South or Eastern Europe but to a member of the eurozone since its creation and of the European Economic Community since the early 1980s. It demonstrates that far from alleviating what its predecessors had agreed to do, Tsipras and his government are actually implementing a selling-out of public assets at a scale unseen since German reunification.

The author of this text, Eleni Portaliou, is a widely respected figure of the Greek radical left. An architect and professor emeritus at the National Technical University of Athens, she has been a longstanding member of the Communist Party of Greece (Interior), a municipal councilor in Athens for several terms, and then a member a Syriza’s central committee, which she left in the summer of 2015. She has been a pioneer in urban movements and a leading campaigner against the privatization of Greek state assets.

— Stathis Kouvelakis

Continue reading