• Syriza MPs challenge Tsipras with Anti-Bail-Out-Programme: "We want Syriza to return to its principles"

Syriza MPs challenge Tsipras with Anti-Bail-Out-Programme : "We want Syriza to return to its principles"

In Greece Tsipras is fighting a battle against members of his own party who oppose a deal with the lenders. Costas Lapavitsas, economist and Syriza MP, explains how the "No"-voters shape an Anti-Bail-Out-Programme in favour of bank nationalisation, public investment - and "grexit", by Elisa Simantke.

Leftist ruling Syriza party lawmaker Costas Lapavitsas is opposed to a deal with the lenders. He and others who voted "No" shape an Anti-Bail-Out-Programme they want to present to the public soon.
Leftist ruling Syriza party lawmaker Costas Lapavitsas is opposed to a deal with the lenders. He and others who voted "No" shape...Foto: REUTERS


Mr Lapavitsas, in the previous vote in the Greek parliament, you and 31 other Syriza MPs said „No“ to the agreement with the lenders. Has this front within the party become weaker or stronger since then?


We have become stronger, I think. A good proportion of Syriza MPs is determined at all costs not to sign up to another bail-out. These are not simply members of the Left Platform, but come from across the party.


And do you represent the majority of the party? Or a minority? Or is it half and half?


This is really hard to tell. It is certainly not 50:50 among the Members of Parliament, a majority went with the leadership. But the rest of the party? The members? The voters? Hard to say. I just know that it is a good proportion, and the anti-bail-out front is growing. Among the young people, who are the future of the country and of the party, the anti-bail out majority is overwhelming. Even so, those who said "No" had a tough decision to make because they faced a dilemma.


…they are afraid to split the party…


Yes. It sounds absurd, but the only real opposition in Greece against this ludicrous bail-out is coming from within Syriza. We want the party to return to its principles and to its programme. We certainly don’t want a split. The decision to accept the bail-out was forced upon the party by the leadership, it was not arrived at through any democratic process. Currently there is a plan to organise a party congress – but it will probably be in September, after key decisions will have been already taken. This is a very peculiar way to operate for a democratic party of the Left.

 But to be honest, the question of a possible split of Syriza, important as it is, will not be decisive for the country. The real issue is whether it will be possible to maintain the huge dynamic that was unleashed by the powerful No at the referendum on 5 July. The country urgently needs a broad front that will give political voice to that “No” now that the leadership of sSriza has turned the No into a Yes in practice. For that to happen we need a new and alternative programme for the country, a route that offers hope to people. And we are working on that programme.


Can you get a bit more concrete?


Those who voted No in the last parliamentary vote are currently trying to shape a political programme that will allow the No at the referendum to become a decisive political voice in the coming period. Needless to say, we need an alternative economic programme for the country, a path that will be the opposite of the bail-out, and we hope soon to be publishing a number of documents. The programme will include writing off the debt, lifting austerity, nationalising the banks, a strategy of public investment instead of more privatisation and a thorough restructuring of the state.


…and exit from the Eurozone?


There is little doubt that Greece has no future in the Eurozone. Any sensible economist will tell you that it is extremely difficult for Greece to recover within the EMU. So yes, the alternative programme cannot be implemented while Greece remained a part of the monetary union.


Talking of a „Grexit“ or a "mutually agreed exit " as you already did in previous interviews, you seem to be much more on one page with the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäubble than with Alexis Tsipras.


I don’t think Schäuble would be in favour of the nationalisation of banks or of stopping privatisation, or of a programme of public investment. However, one thing is for sure: Schäuble has understood that the Eurozone in its current design has failed. And I also think that the Greek government should have informed us in full detail about exactly what Schäuble had offered when he spoke of a Greek “time out” from the Eurozone. We never had a chance to find out what he meant as the government pretended to be fighting hard against Schäuble’s offer of “time out” only to accept Schäuble’s other offer of a harsh bail-out!


For Tsipras such a programme of an „anti-bail-out-front" will be like a declaration of war by his own people. Are you planning a big clash? And does this not bring even more uncertainty and instability for the Greek people?


There is no declaration of war, or intention to have a split. Actually, a huge blow was delivered to Syriza when a third bail-out was imposed in complete opposition to everything that the party has stood for. The agreement represents a complete reversal of all the promises that Syriza has made to the people. After nearly seven months in government, Syriza has not managed to implement a single important element of its original programme. To me this is already a very bad situation, but if another bail-out is finally agreed, our country would have no future at all. The planned bail-out offers no chance to the economy to recover, no sustained investment programme, no debt relief, no major injection of liquidity. Instead it imposes more taxes on an already weak economy. This is ridiculous economics, there is no other way to describe it.

Tsipras may go for snap elections in autumn. And there is a big chance that those who oppose the course of the leadership now will not return to parliament. Is this a threat to you?


Personally, I feel zero pressure. I – and many others, of course – joined Syriza because I believed in the principles of the party, in what it promised to do, not to have a career as a Member of Parliament. I have already made a statement to the Greek media that, if Syriza turns into a pro-bail-out party, which has not happened yet and I hope that it never does, I would not want to be included in its electoral lists. But don’t assume that it will be easy for the leadership to call elections. The country does not want new elections, and it will be very hard for those who have agreed to a bail-out to find a political programme to fight a new election. They could perhaps say that they have agreed to the bail-out because there was no other way to save the country, but this is no programme to win an election. Indeed, for those of us who have said No, it is easier in a way. We have stayed true to our principles and to what we have said from the beginning.


Do you see any realistic chance to stop the bail-out programme? It will be passed with the votes of the opposition, even if more Syriza MPs should go for no…


I don’t think that this battle will be over after the mere passing of legislation through parliament. The bail-out programme is impossible to implement - practically unenforceable. If, for example, the government pushed through the planned higher taxation for farmers, there would be virulent protest as small and medium farmers would be simply destroyed. I have some experience of this as I am elected in a strongly agricultural area. The leadership knows it very well too. Enforcing the bail-out could prove a suicide path for the party as well as for the country. So, there will be a lot more struggle and that makes me optimistic. Perhaps Syriza will be able to return to its principles. I and many others will fight all way for that.