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Alexis Tsipras, Leading Contender for Greek Prime Minister, Launches Anti-Austerity, Anti-Bailout Bid for Presidency of EU Commission in May 22-25 Europarliament Vote

Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
PressTVPressTV
February 17, 2014

Tarpley PressTV Article

Can an effective European-wide political front be quickly improvised in opposition to the brutal austerity policies dictated since 2008 by the infamous Troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund?

This is the question which will be answered between now and May 22-25 in response to an effort led by Alexis Tsipras, who is also the candidate for prime minister of Greece put forward by the Syriza left party. Late last year, Tsipras was officially nominated as a candidate for the presidency of the Brussels European Commission by the European Left Party in the context of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. During February, Tsipras has taken his campaign to the Netherlands, France, and Italy, with further appearances planned in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.

Thanks to this campaign by Tsipras, there is now new hope, after years of fragmentation and impotence, of assembling a coherent European-wide programmatic alternative to the three headed Cerberus of European austerity, deflation, and anti-worker measures.

As he steps onto the European stage, Tsipras’ authority is bolstered by the unique success of Syriza under his leadership in recent years. As of now, he is well on his way to becoming prime minister of Greece. In late November 2013, Syriza passed several percentage points ahead of the ruling New Democracy party of the current Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who had was installed in Athens by the Troika as its austerity enforcer. So far, this lead has held up.

Tsipras has pointed out that the success of Syriza in the 2012 Greek parliamentary elections led to the partial collapse of the discredited social democratic PASOK party of the Papandreou family, and he is predicting that the New Democracy, which has presided over an increase of Greek unemployment to the record depression-level high of 28%, will collapse in the next election — which could come at any time between now and 2016. If New Democracy is in trouble, this parallels the recent split of the Berlusconi party in Italy, and factional warfare among US Republicans.

Tsipras starts with an uncompromising rejection of neoliberal austerity measures of the type which have so obviously made the Greek crisis much worse. He takes a strong stand against the Troika and its so-called Memorandum, referring to the letters of intent submitted by the Greek government to the International Monetary Fund, detailing the various budget cuts, mass firings of public workers, and reductions of public services which Greece is supposed to carry out in order to secure the position of the zombie bankers. Needless to say, the political parties which have most reliably tried to enforce the IMF dictates are those of the so-called Socialist International (or Second International).

An International Conference to Reduce Debt, Launch a New Deal

Across all of Europe, but especially in the southern tier and among nations who have undergone bailouts by the troika — including Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus — national debt represents a crushing and unmanageable burden. The bailouts have not helped the national economies, but have been designed solely to save the zombie bankers from insolvency.

Tsipras’ answer is the convening of an international debt conference along the lines of the London debt conference of 1953, which dealt with the residual debt of Germany left over from World War I reparations under the Young Plan, and other payments. Germany’s creditors agreed to cancel about 50% of the country’s outstanding international financial debts, while rescheduling payments for the remainder over 30 years. Some payments were postponed until such time as the country might be reunified, which did not happen for almost 40 years. This result helped foster the successful of the West German economy in the years after 1953.

An international debt conference of this type held today could have highly beneficial effects on the world economy. Even some financiers are prepared to concede that haircuts and debt write-downs of debt are inevitable. In addition to reducing the debt burden on many European countries, the conference could be used to promote international bans on the most toxic derivatives, such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. It could also become a vehicle for at least the partial de-privatization of the European Central Bank, by forcing this institution to open a credit stimulus window offering trillions of euros in financing for job creation in infrastructure, education, and science. African countries, Eastern European countries, and indeed a wide range of states from around the world might be interested in attending.

Tsipras also calls for a post-writedown New Deal of development investments to revive the stricken economies and allow them to stay viable into the future. (We note that if private bankers should refuse to make these investments, then institutions like the European Central Bank will have to be pressed into service.) Tsipras makes clear that if European bankers and the politicians they control, such as Merkel, refuse to cooperate in common-sense reforms, Greece and other countries would reluctantly have to resort to unilateral debt cancellations.

Unilateral Debt Moratorium Only If Creditors Get “Violent”

In a recent interview with the Greek leader we read: “Tsipras said German Chancellor Angela Merkel would come to realize that an organized debt write-off was a more sustainable solution for Germany than continuing to pour loans into countries that could never repay them because austerity policies were causing endless recession. Asked whether a Syriza-led government would unilaterally default if other powers refused to negotiate a debt write-off, Tsipras said he would prefer to avoid unilateral action, but Athens might have to declare a moratorium on interest payments. ‘One weapon we could use if our partners are very, very violent (tough) is to stop repaying interest in order to finance the Greek economy. But this is not our intention,’ he said, speaking in English.” Paul Taylor, “Greek leftist seeks negotiated debt write-off,” Reuters, February 4, 2014)

In an op-ed published in Le Monde of Paris, Tsipras mocked German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the “Sleepwalker of Europe,” urging her to realize that her characteristic methods of deflation and ultra austerity are failing everywhere, and actually represent a threat to Germany’s economic future as well. Tsipras is thus not a priori against the euro, and this sets him apart from the right-wing populists. In Rome he stressed that Europe is the battlefield where the class struggle of our time is being fought out, whether individual leftists like it or not. The European nations are interdependent, and the need for solidarity among them is greater now than at any time since World War II. The Tsipras list, he indicated, will defend Europe against conservatives, neoliberals, and pro-austerity social Democrats. It will not be the Europe of austerity, but a humanist and humanitarian Europe, concerned about the lives of immigrants.

In France, Tsipras will receive the backing of the Parti de gauche, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who took about 11% of the votes in the first round of the last French presidential election. In Germany, Tsipras should be supported by Die Linke, which got almost 9% in last year’s general election. In Italy, there are no left wing parties in the 8 to 10% range, so Tsipras will have to rely on an ad hoc list including such figures as Guido Viale, a former leader of the anarcho-Maoist Lotta Continua, and Barbara Spinelli, the daughter of a leading Eurogarch and European federalist. Dubious figures like the anarchosyndicalist Toni Negri, formerly of Potere Operaio, are also circling in hope of increasing their own gate receipts through the prestige of Tsipras.

In introducing Tsipras in Rome, Viale stressed green and ecological themes, which Tsipras would be well advised to soft-pedal. Tsipras has shown great dexterity in purging Syriza of discredited leaders responsible for past defeats. Over time, he may be able to apply the same talents to the mixed bag of figures who are now joining his effort. In any case, European voters need to look beyond individual personalities or even individual national parties to recognize the urgent historical necessity of what Tsipras is doing, and support him wholeheartedly.

It is notable that Tsipras does not waste much time reciting the usual impotent litany of radical environmentalists and ecologists, whose concerns are often viewed as diversions for the affluent by desperate working families fighting for survival in this depression. Environmental concerns are quickly mentioned, but they get short shrift. That rhetoric will be largely relegated to the right wing European Greens. In this way, Tsipras can avoid the Malthusian blind alley of “green jobs” based on primitive windmill and solar cell technology which has done so much to cripple the left wing of the US Democratic Party. Tsipras must also take care to steer clear of the anti-infrastructure demagogy pedaled by the Italian Beppe Grillo and various anti-development or atrophy economists.

The Tsipras candidacy represents an important contribution to the potential success of the mass strike wave of 2014-2015 in Western Europe and North America which is now getting underway. It is a key step towards the creation of a European-wide anti-banker movement to seize control of the European Central Bank and to mobilize the credit-creating power of that institution for a vast infrastructure and science program capable of creating the 40 million new productive jobs Europe needs to exit from the current economic depression.

The Competition: Eurogarchs and Eurocrats on Parade

The outgoing president of the European Commission whom Tsipras wants to replace is the Portuguese José Manuel Barroso, a Bilderberg stalwart who traces his political lineage back to the fascist Salazar dictatorship which ruled in Lisbon for half a century up until 1975. Tsipras will be running for EU Commission chief against an array of the Eurogarchs and Eurocrats who have fought any vestiges of European social and economic justice left over from the Treaty of Rome, in line with their toxic neoliberal and pro-financier ideology favoring a Europe of the banks and cartels.

A leading adversary for Tsipras will be the current European Parliament president Martin Shultz of the social democratic block, a current which is in the midst of a hard pro-austerity and anti-worker right turn. The flagship German SPD has just entered a grand coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of the austerity Valkyries. In France, the socialist President François Hollande has totally repudiated his anti-austerity promises, and is launching new attacks on the standard of living of French working people, even as he promises to cut taxes on banks and corporations, to say nothing of planning a new Middle East war with Obama. In Italy, the vaguely socialist Democratic Party (which contains the remnants of the old PCI) has just the propelled the pro-austerity Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, into power – a politician notorious for his opposition to unions and his plan to make Italy a hire and fire labor market on the worst American model.

Also in the running for the post of EU commission president for the Malthusian European Green Party of Germany will be Ska Keller, a former punk-rock devotee and opponent of coal mines in Brandenburg, and José Bove, the veteran anti-globalization activist who now likes to present himself in typical Rousseauvian fashion as a peasant. Only about 22,000 voters took part in the European Green internet primary, suggesting dwindling support for this right-tending formation. Working families looking for help will not find it here.

The explicitly pro-banker Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has nominated former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of the Bilderberg group, who narrowly edged out current EU Commission Vice President and economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn of Finland, also of Bilderberg, who has aggressively represented the interests of European zombie bankers in Brussels. Rehn will likely now be a candidate to become the EU’s foreign affairs boss the post currently held by the unfortunate Lady Ashton.

The biggest caucus in the European Parliament is currently the European Popular Party, which is dominated by austerity ghoul Merkel, whose favored candidate is Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, a tiny nation dominated by its offshore banking center. The candidate will be chosen on March 6-7 in Dublin. Austerity enforcers like Greece’s Samaras, Mariano Rajoy of Spain, Victor Orban of Hungary, and Donald Tusk of Poland are members of this grouping.

US-UK Media Tout Right-Wing Racist and Anti-Euro Parties

So far, the Anglo-American news media have focused their attention on the supposed momentum being built up by racist, xenophobic, and anti-European parties. There is indeed a European tradition of using the European Parliament elections for protest votes. In the hopes of wrecking the euro as a rival to the dollar and the pound, the Anglo-Americans have been touting the potential of a xenophobic block (or “brownshirt international”) around Marine Le Pen of the French National Front and the Dutch Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders, who have come together on a platform of wrecking the European Union from within. Le Pen is indeed likely to benefit from voters horrified by the failure of French President Hollande, but forming a parliamentary group at the European level requires 25 members from at least seven countries.

According to University of Georgia professor Cas Mudde, “eleven far right parties will (re-)gain entry into the next European Parliament: the Austrian FPÖ (long led by the late Jörg Haider), the Belgian VB, the Bulgarian Attack, the Danish People’s Party (DFP), the Dutch PVV (Wilders), the French FN, Greek Golden Dawn (CA), the Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), the Italian Northern League (LN), the Latvian National Alliance (NA), and the Sweden Democrats (SD)” plus perhaps the Slovak People’s Party-New Slovakia (LSNS), for a total of between 40 and 50 seats. (Washington Post, February 11, 2014) Attack, Jobbik and Golden Dawn are more or less explicitly fascist. The UK Independence Party (UKIP), while thoroughly xenophobic and reactionary, is likely to remain in splendid isolation.

Also standing alone so far is the anti-immigrant Five Star movement of Italian demagogue Beppe Grillo, who is attempting to resurrect his sagging fortunes with a breakthrough in the European elections. According to Marine Le Pen, Grillo sought contact with her with a view toward some kind of an alliance, but these talks broke down. These are the groupings which Tsipras has in mind when he condemns right-wing populist leaders who, like the Ron Paul libertarians in the United States, claim to be opposed to the banker-dominated system, but who in reality function as the “reserve army” of the financiers’ system. In Italy, Tsipras is likely to take votes from Grillo.

Unlike these politicians, who are eager to serve London and Washington by developing a strident anti-euro demagogy, Tsipras recommends a struggle against the bankers on the existing European battlefield, rather than first retreating into the national isolation of small states where post-euro resistance against J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs would be even more difficult.

The European Left won about 4.5% of the votes in the last European Parliament election in 2009. This was approximately the strength of the Synaspismós party (the forerunner of Syriza) when Tsipras became its leader. Within a few years, Tsipras’ 4.5% had become 27% on the way to becoming the largest Greek party. We will soon see whether this exploit can be repeated at the European level.

 
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