Reprinted from Consortium News
Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's Syriza party.
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Filmmaker and columnist John Pilger sees the capitulation of Greece's Syriza leadership to German-led demands for more austerity on the Greek people -- in exchange for a new bank bailout -- as a "betrayal."
Pilger, who spoke late last week with Pacifica's Flashpoints host Dennis J Bernstein, also called the Greek situation a moment of bracing clarity for activists confronting the powerful political forces arrayed against popular movements...
JP: Greece is important, obviously, for the Greek people, because they have suffered so much. But it's also important for all of us because here was a government that promoted itself and was accepted, to a large degree, as different -- dare I say radical -- but different. It was going to take on these autocratic forces in Europe that have built this fortress of extreme capitalism. I repeat -- extreme capitalism.
The neo-liberalism in the heart of the European Union is an extreme version. They were challenging that. They were saying, yes, we have debts, but the super wealthy in Greece incurred the debts. All of them were good neoliberals. The ordinary Greek taxpayer didn't incur these debts and the debts of the Greek parliament are odious, illegitimate and illegal. This is not the Victorian times, or debtor prison times. The country is not going to be put in prison.
This is the platform that the Syriza government campaigned on. They not only campaigned on it, but then they held a referendum less than two weeks ago where a majority of the Greek people clearly voted against doing any kind of austerity deal. They've been betrayed. Lessons must be learned from this.
DB: What does this betrayal look like? It looked like a dramatic, profound and troubling flip-flop and the highest levels of Greece.
JP: I don't like the word betrayal much, but there are some English words that are exactly right, and this word is exactly right for this because there is no doubt that twice -- on January 25 [the Syriza election victory] and [in the July 5 referendum rejecting EU austerity demands] -- the Greek people voted to not have this kind of draconian imposition on them. And their government, with this mandate, went in the opposite direction. They did it knowingly and willfully. That is betrayal.
Watching the news ... you can see a sense of disappointment and obvious betrayal. What many people expected the Greek government to do was repudiate this illegal and illegitimate and odious debt as Argentina did successfully -- to get rid of it. The Greek people say, "We are not paying this debt, we didn't incur these debts." People made a lot of money from these debts.
In any case, the Greek debt is less than 30 percent of even what the German debt is, and they are the biggest creditors. We are having a coup d'etat from the German money chieftains, which is basically what this is, a coup d'etat against the people of Greece, not the government of Greece, because the government of Greece has complied.
People who care about this, progressive people, must learn from this. There was a lot of hope for the Greek government, but we had enough of hope. Barack Obama had hope coming out of his ears and it was fake. We've got to stop accepting these kinds of postmodern political organizations, which are basically affluent middle-class without any sense of real politics.
We must stop regarding them as in some way radical. Or we've got to make them radical. There are many lessons from this that must be learned. There are many lessons from the election of Barack Obama and the complete collapse of any real liberalism within the Democratic Party. But on this one, this is a striking lesson that must be learned.
DB: This looks like it was almost choreographed all the way through. I don't want to get paranoid or conspiratorial but it happened in the open.
JP: Yes, it happened in the open. People tell leaders they elect to go off and be their champion in a dire situation like this. They give them not only the benefit of the doubt but also a lot of good faith, which is different than hope. That can be justified. It's very complex. It is hard to get your head around what was really going on in these endless shuttle trips to Berlin and Brussels and all the rest of it.
To use plain language, the Greeks were being screwed. A lot of pirouetting was going on by Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister but they were being done over. At some point, Prime Minister Tsipras Sypris should have gone to the Greek people and said this is what's happening to us. There's a sense of this when he called the referendum. That's the most shocking part of this, and it's why I use the term betrayal. People thought he was saying, this is what is happening to us, what do you want us to do to go forward. They voted overwhelmingly for him to reject these so-called austerity measures, and he did the opposite.
I think it's a growing-up time as the political situation of our countries in the West is dire because there is no opposition and very little significant dissent. We need to look to Latin America to find imaginative politics, to find forms of radicalism, forms of change. But in the West -- the U.S., Europe and elsewhere -- that is not the case. We have single ideology systems with two factions, which has long been the case in the U.S., which has led the way.
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