“Can ‘people over profits’ become a reality in Greece?”

This is the full transcript of my podcast interview with John Milios; it appeared earlier this week in Jacobin. John is a prominent figure within Syriza; he was the party’s chief economic advisor until earlier this year and is also a member of the party’s central committee, one of the 109 who signed a letter last week opposing the new memorandum.

Here, he discusses Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s decision to hold the July 5 referendum, the anti-austerity course not taken by Syriza, and how the slogan “people over profits” can become a concrete reality in Greece.

Michal Rozworski: What is the situation one week after the memorandum was agreed to and two weeks after the referendum?

John Milios: When the referendum was proclaimed, we saw an election campaign that had class and social characteristics. There were two “Greeces” fighting each other. On one side, you had roughly the poor, wage-earners, the unemployed, and the small entrepreneurs, while on the other you had the capitalists, the managerial class, the higher ranks of the state, and so on agitating for Yes.

Ultimately, a broad coalition of the social majority saw the referendum as a chance to express their commitment not to continue with austerity and neoliberalism. All this happened in a situation of fear and terror arising due to the European Central Bank’s choice to not extend Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to the Greek banks. A lot of people saw this as a scare tactic and started withdrawing money. Ultimately, it led to a bank holiday. (more…)

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Syriza’s John Milios on continuing the fight against austerity

Greece continues to be in flux. Two weeks ago, the Greek people voted over 60% No in a referendum on further austerity. One week ago, the Greek government agreed to a new Memorandum in principle after an all-night negotiation, described at times as “mental water-boarding”. Finally, last Wednesday, the first pieces of enabling legislation were passed by the Greek Parliament with a large rebellion of Syriza MPs voting against the laws.

Since then debate has raged in and outside Greece about the future of the Eurozone, the political strategy chosen by the Syriza leadership and the future of this first government of the left in post-crisis Europe. This interview with John Milios is an important intervention into this debate.

John Milios is a long-time activist and prominent figure within Syriza. Until early this year, he was the party’s chief economic advisor. He is also a member of Syriza’s central committee and was one of the 109 out of 201 members of the central committee who signed a letter published last week opposing the new Memorandum. He is a professor of political economy and the history of economic thought at the National Technical University of Athens.

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Austerity insanity: on the Greek proposals

Alternate title: #Gruster#$%k. My most recent piece from Ricochet on Syriza’s proposed austerity package.

There is acrimony and division in Athens, after the Syriza government submitted a revised list of proposals to its creditors. Despite a resounding victory in last Sunday’s referendum for Oxi — the “no” vote rejecting creditor demands that Greece fall in line — the government has presented austerity measures that exceed those previously on the table.

Despite dissension within the ranks of Syriza, the Greek parliament approved the government’s proposals in a bitter debate and vote that stretched into early Saturday morning.

The proposal now includes €13 billion in measures over three years rather than €8 billion over two. In short, it is a terrible austerity package. It enforces consecutive primary surpluses (calculated as Greece’s budget balance minus debt servicing payments) on a depressed economy, cutting expenditures on transfers like pensions and raising taxes.

In contrast to previous proposals and memorandums, the current proposal somewhat moderates the intense class bias of austerity measures. More of them are directed towards the rich in the form of small corporate tax hikes, a more progressive income tax, and cuts to spending on military contracts. All this, however, is far too little to talk about in any serious way. After so many “last chances” at the level of official negotiations, punitive austerity appears to be the edge of possibility in Europe today.

To say this shows the bounds of a neoliberal, technocratic Europe sounds a little hollow by now. Yes, a split has finally appeared between the creditors — France helped Greece draft its proposals, which Germany sees as insufficient — but if the political choice in Europe is between François Hollande’s technocrats and Angela Merkel’s, then it is the slimmest of margins to be toying with. (more…)

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Oxi: a political opening amid economic suffocation

This week has been a taste of what the economy would look like with a real rupture with the Eurozone: uncertainty, elite blackmail, banks teetering on the brink and the start of rationing. That the mobilization of Syriza and the left outside it has overcome this and made Oxi a possibility is impressive. Greece and its economy can expect no miracles either way Sunday’s vote goes and for quite some time afterwards, but they deserve full international solidarity.

And so on the eve of the Greek referendum, with the streets of Athens still buzzing from Friday night’s enormous Oxi!/No! rally in Syntagma Square, I’ve collected and parsed some of my notes on Greece from afar. A text on where things stand is first, then some notes on how things came to be for those not keeping close track the past few months.

Where things stand

Five months of torturous, fruitless negotiations came to a head last week when the more-or-less polite dance around the table in Brussels abruptly broke down. Whether this was a costly demobilization or a calculated strategy to demonstrate the intransigence of the Institutions doesn’t quite matter at this point. When Alexis Tspiras called a referendum on a take-it-or-leave-it offer last Friday, he precipitated a political rupture, which soon started to foreshadow the economic rupture that Greece leaving or being pushed out of the Euro would bring.

(more…)

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