Whose Grexit? by Kevin Ovenden in Athens

Kevin Ovenden
Whose Grexit?

The word Grexit has fast become an obscuring journalistic cliché.

The hardline “north European” position cohered around Berlin, which has issued the ultimatum to the Greek government, is accompanied with that bloc mooting its “Plan B” – a Greek exit from the eurozone to be discussed at the summit on Sunday.

This is not “our Grexit”. It is not a policy of benefit to working people and popular Greece. It is a punitive measure. It is an exit from the eurozone timed by them and with class-based steps taken by them. It is an attempt at imposing a new memorandum on Greece, with it outside the eurozone but still suffering strangulation.

One line of thinking on the radical left in Greece, which is compelling, is that the German position arises from Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Shaeuble’s great fear at the scale of the No vote in circumstances where they do not have in Greece a powerful political instrument aligned with them and with capitalist interests. Political parties matter.

New Democracy is leaderless, strategy-less, and has had traction only insofar as the government adopted the tactic of creating an all-party front (minus the fascists) in the statement supporting Alexis Tsipras’s negotiating position yesterday.

The German-led centre-right does not trust the left government in Greece, in the conditions of the Oxi revolt, to implement austerity.

Any austerity. The issue of the gap between the two sides on the scale of it and the kinds of measures is secondary – shadow boxing even.

The “southern European” centre-left, centred on Paris, is petrified of what will happen. It is offering its python embrace of the government in Athens to try to convince the rest that under the tutelage of the likes of Hollande and Renzi, the errant Greek child can be made to behave.

The scale of the impending explosion has just hit the White House. Obama is in an emergency meeting with the Secretary of State and head of the US Treasury.

They have issued calls for debt relief for Greece – the Washington-based IMF’s position.

There is indignation and defiance in Greece. There is also great concern and some fear. This should not be misread. Fear about the coming crisis does not equate to refusal to fight. You would be a fool not to be scared.

But people have shown that they will follow the lead of the left when it offers a clear direction. The No vote has radicalised people. And therefore Syriza and elements of the government.

Panagiotis Lafazanis, energy minister and leader of the Left Platform of Syriza, has called on the government to radicalise its programme.

This would mean taking the measures which would lead towards a Grexit on terms favourable to the working class.

An anti-capitalist rupture, as the most radical of the left inside and outside of Syriza have been calling for. Bank nationalisation, repudiating the debt, breaking from the euro, making capital pay for the inevitable economic dislocation and reorganisation.

Things are moving quickly now. The movement was manifest and visible on Friday night. Its potential power glimpsed on Sunday. It is now percolating through popular Greece. New expressions will depend on the course of events in the next three days.

There is the deep concern of working people. If you have ever been on strike, think of that feeling you had and among workmates. No one relished the prospect. Everyone knew it would be hard.

But there would have been a determination to fight in any case – unevenly distributed among your colleagues. Think of that writ large.

There is another fear in Athens tonight. From a different source. There are some new queues.

They are in the chichi northern suburbs at the offices which issue passports. The bourgeoisie has had to queue this afternoon as some realised they did not have passports for their children.

A contingency step, to be sure. But they are thinking ahead and taking no chances. They have learnt from the nightmare of their Iranian counterparts who had to scramble from the northern suburbs of Tehran to the airport in fleets of then abandoned Mercedes in 1979.

These are not predictions. They are signs of the scale of the impending confrontations.

No bombast. But adelante – oloi mazi, the international movement counts more than ever.

Kevin Ovenden