Plan B for Greece

Submitted by Matthew on 14 November, 2012 - 8:38 Author: Martin Thomas

John Grahl (Solidarity 263) establishes, I think, two things. Firstly, that Greece switching back to the drachma would be costly to Greek workers and has no advantages over a Greek government from within the eurozone cancelling the Memorandum and refusing to service its debt.

Second, that the argument from some on the left for a switch back to the drachma rests on a sleight-of-hand.

The book which Grahl reviews, Crisis in the Eurozone, admits that a “conservative” Greek exit from the drachma is equally possible. But it persistently slides into assuming that a stance where the left’s headline demand is “quit the euro” will ensure that Greek euro-exit semi-automatically slides Greece to the left, rather than making the left a galley-slave for the ship of the nationalist right. Why?

Grahl leaves a question unanswered. What if the eurozone leaders respond by expelling Greece from the eurozone?

It would be counterproductive for the left to hail that expulsion as a liberation, or to advocate that the Greek government do the European Central Bank’s [ECB’s] dirty work for it by voluntarily quitting the euro. And it’s true that expelling Greece from the eurozone would be costly and risky for the eurozone leaders.

But, as Grahl acknowledges, “some of the most hard-line reactionary forces in the EU take the view that it is necessary to kick a country out of the eurozone to encourage the others” [to stick to cuts].

Those hard-liners might prevail. The most likely variant is that the ECB would cut Greek banks out of the Europe-wide payments system (workersliberty.org/expel). Then euro deposits in Greek banks would no longer be valid as “euros” outside Greece (though euro notes and coins in Greece would be).

The Greek left has to have a plan B for that event. If the Greek left has a plan B, then its chances of stopping expulsion by the ECB are increased. If it has no plan B, then the ECB knows it has only to threaten expulsion, credibly, and it can blackmail a left government in Greece into backing down on everything.

Under Plan B, I think the Greek left government should use “geuros” (the new sort of euro that will then exist, valid within the Greek banking system but not outside) to finance itself while demanding that the ECB lift the expulsion (i.e. reconvert geuros into euros).

Plan B would involve elements of “war communism” or a “committee of public safety” regime: sweeping expropriations, and state controls over euro holdings in Greece.

Since geuros would not be able to buy imports, plan B would probably have to include rationing of basic goods.

Basing itself on widespread workers’ control, Plan B would be not North Korea (the caricature “reactionary-bureaucratic” version of public controls) but a revolutionary-democratic programme.

It would bring troubles but not catastrophe. The mildly bourgeois-democratic version of rationing and controls in wartime Britain improved, rather than worsened, nutritional standards, because it reduced inequality.

This Plan B could only be temporary. But it would inspire workers across Europe — especially southern Europe — to fight for workers’ control in their own countries. It would be a bridgehead for a socialist united states of Europe.

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