Solidarity spoke to Petros Markopoulos, member of the Syriza Youth secretariat.
S: People on the left in Greece tend to talk more about the conflict with European capitalists than with Greek capitalists. What do you think of that?
PM: We have to change that. If you need money, to restore the working class, the solution is not to insist on this fight of Greeks versus EU. You have to face your own local bourgeoisie. You need money to undo the last 5 years that were ruinous for the workers, you need to get the money back from the local bourgeoisie, to reverse the memorandum situation, to create a new memorandum for the rich. There is a technical matter of how to find this money when these companies are offshore or in Switzerland. But I am sure that if there is the political will, you can find the money.
Syriza was elected on a platform of negotiating a similar deal as the one struck to wipe out German debts in 1952. What is not said is that Germany also made the decision to have a 50% levy on the property of the richest people, to help restore their economy. It was a choice of the rich to get Germany into the war, and they had to pay for it. What we have to do in Greece is something similar. We have to not just face the outer front, but also the internal front.
The EU won’t give us the money. Maybe they will give a little ground, not because they want to help us but because they don’t want to destroy the Eurozone. But it is the internal front where we will find the money to support the working class. 500 companies who made profits during the crisis, we should take 10% of their bank account, right away. You also need to reorganise the state because the Greek state is not fit to fight tax evasion by the rich. For the rich, tax evasion is a game.
You have to attack the heart of the wealth. You have to restore the laws guaranteeing collective bargaining. These laws are fundamental to a socialist programme and for a redistribution of wealth and power and undoing the reforms of the memorandum years.
S: What do you think most members of the party and members of the public would thing of those proposals?
PM: I think party members would agree. But there is a fear of opening the internal front, because it is the hard part. I think the public would be positive. People understand what’s going on. You work ten hours a day, you get paid so little, and they see that their boss is having a great life, with his great Jeep, while you struggle.
If the government insists on the outer front, then Greeks will think that that is the real problem. If every day all that you hear is that Schäuble is bad, that Lagarde is bad, then that’s what people will be interested in. You have to change the situation, to show people that the problem is not just the ECB leaders. OK, they are part of the problem, because they represent the capitalists of the EU. But you have to show people the other enemy, who is near you. You see him every day.
S: Do you think that the Syriza leadership will open up the “internal front”?
PM: I think that this is what is at stake right now. I think that that is their intention, but the pressure of the state bureaucracy, of the media, is very great.
We have to say that, in the negotiations on the outer front, there are people in Greece, who are on the other side. That we are not all together as Greeks in this negotiation. That the rich now want the EU to succeed against a Left government; that there are people boycotting this procedure, that there are people who have profited all these years, and now they have to pay. Then you have to bring the bills, and then after creating the legal basis for that, you have to activate the party, the trade unions, and people, to demand what belongs to them.
S: What will happen if Syriza capitulates and implements a memorandum?
PM: I think there will be total demoralisation. It will be very bad. People on the left will keep fighting, but it will really only be to save the honour of the left, and those fights will not be able to really change things. The majority of people in Greece might have fought over recent years – but they didn’t become communists. Many of them, in their consciousness, are conservative, they fear losing their jobs, losing what they have and so on. They’ve given Syriza a chance, but if Syriza fails, then I’m worried that there will be a bad situation, with the far-right gaining power.
S: John Milios has said that “the class struggle also goes on inside the party”. Do you agree with that? Do you think that is happening now?
PM: I agree entirely with John Milios. There are people in the leading group right now, doing the negotiations, who still believe in the radical process. There are also people who are afraid of taking the fight so far, and who want a more conservative approach, to keep the power for now, get a more moderate agreement, and then see later. The issue is that the control that the party has over the government is limited. We were not ready for that. What we need to do is to reorganise the control of the government by the party, and to ensure that what the party decides is what the government does.
S: In the Sunday edition of To Vima, there was an article advocating the expulsion of the left wing of Syriza, specifically DEA. Do you think that this is possible?
PM: No. That would mean the end of Syriza. The plan of the ruling class now, in the EU and in Greece, is to have Syriza pass a new memorandum bill, without the Left Platform, but with Potami, and maybe PASOK. I believe that this plan has no relation to reality. This plan would mean the end of Syriza. It would not be Syriza any more. I am not in the Left Platform, but I could not be a part of a party that did such a thing. I think there is no such plan from Tsipras. Unfortunately, there are always people who would perhaps consider that. But it cannot be the view of the majority, including in the leadership.
You regard Left Platform and DEA as the radical wing of the party and the leadership as reformists. I think that Tsipras and a part of the leadership is radical, and intends to take things to the limit. Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see. Our MPs cannot vote for a third memorandum – they cannot go back home and say, “OK, you voted for us and we carried on doing what the last ones did”.
S: In the weekend’s CC meeting, the Left Platform reports that they had 44% of the vote. What do you think of the Left Platform?
PM: The CC said, if there is a dilemma between money owed to loans and money owed to pensions and wages, we will pay the pensions and wages. For me that is enough. The way I saw that text, it was not much different, but OK, there are also many people in the majority supporting a harder line. The thing that the Left Platform brought was not much different from that. With the Left Platform, what I find more problematic is their line on Grexit. I don’t know what DEA says about that, but the Left Current is totally for a Grexit. Lapavitsas’s theory, for example.
S: DEA’s line is for “no sacrifices for the Euro”.
PM: OK, but then why co-operate with the people who call for a “national way for development”? A national way to development means peace with the EU and peace with internal enemies. It is development which would happen on the ruins of the working class. I can’t reconcile myself with that. If we think of Grexit as forced by the EU, then I am ready for that. But I think that they would not take that step. Kicking Greece out would damage the Eurozone. It’s a matter of having a strong negotiation inside the Eurozone, even using default inside the Eurozone, applying pressure to the ECB. Or else we fail, and then we see. We may need to come back with a more radical programme.
We should say that regardless of what happens in the negotiations, we will implement our programme. But in fact we put our whole programme into the negotiations. That was a mistake.