Alexis Tsipras - Governing under Blackmail

Forced to surrender, Alexis Tsipras told the truth: he didn’t share the eurozone program, but, confronted to the European blackmail, he could not do otherwise . A majority of Greek voters has believed him.

If there is a reason prevailing over all possible others for the victory of Tsipras, it is that he told his voters the truth.

The July agreement betrayed the expectations of those who had voted for Syriza platform in January based on the promise to put an end to the austerity policy. A vote reaffirmed by the extraordinary result of the referendum against the eurozone austerity program.

But in the end, Tsipras, after a dramatic and impossible negotiation with the eurozone Masters had to sign the third memorandum, tougher than any other signed by  the previous Greek governments.

Why to undertake it, betraying the expectations of his double election and referendum win? Tsipras did not hide the reasons for the overturning. He said the truth: that he had no choice but to exit from the euro – the Wolfgang Schäuble’ stance, shared by Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the SPD.

Yet, Tsipras did not have this mandate. The majority of the Greek population was against the exit from the euro. And Tsipras, in spite of being accused of duplicity, had never considered this option. In essence, a blackmail against a democratic government, surrounded by a great popular support, but destabilized by five years of deflation imposed by the eurozone authorities with the complicity of the Greek governments.

Tsipras conceded defeat. Berlin and Brussels had not left escape to Greece, but exit from the euro (Schäuble), or a new harsh austerity and structural reforms program and (Merkel). The eurozone authorities had woven the blackmail as an exemplary punishment of a government that had dared rebelling. It was at the same time the humiliation of a young and ambitious leader who had taken the helm of the upheaval. Indeed, an actual warning to any other member state, which would defy the eurozone discipline.

Angela Merkel, willing to prevent Greece's exit from the euro, acquired the commitment of François Hollande, her major and compliant European partner, in order to press on Greece toward a new austerity and structural reform program, as the only alternative to  the Schäuble’ sponsored Grexit.

The Tsipras’ submission was a clear win  of the Merkel-Hollande partnership. But Tsipras’ unambiguous electoral success halved the victory. A program of blood and tears to be extended over the years, can be imposed by tightening the rope around the government that must sign it. But, in the end, the program to be performed requires the active collaboration (or complicity) of the government that has signed it.

It is a typical tenet for eurozone governments to explain to their electors that those programs aren't a foreign imposition and a subtraction of democratic sovereignty, but their own programs in the interests of their fellow citizens.

Forced to surrender, Alexis Tsipras told the truth: he didn’t share that program, but could not do otherwise. The country had been driven into the trap of Mario Draghi, the president of ECB, who had interrupted the flow of financial resources, fostering the threat of an imminent default on the debt owed to the ECB and the IMF. The majority of Greek voters believed him. And, for the first time in five years, a Greek government has been re-elected and can govern without having to resort to the alliance of the old parties (New Democracy and the fading Pasok) used to represent the policies decided in Berlin and Brussels.

Now a new game is going to be open, marked by uncertainties. The Syriza government, supported by the small group of nationalist and anti-euro "Independent Greeks", is not going to repudiate the program imposed by the eurozone, but rather to use the room left by its ambiguities and inconsistency to offset its more aggressive economic and social aspects – from the privatization of everything having a hint of state ownership, to the reduction of pensions and wages, to the substantial liquidation of collective bargaining and to freedom to dismiss.

In this struggle the government will not be left alone. Plausibly, it will get the support of "Popular Unity", born from the Syriza radical wing that lacks a parliamentarian representation, as well as of that part of the electorate, that chose to abstain in the name of a more intransigent policy towards the eurozone diktat.

However, the game is not just about the content of the program. Central in the agenda it is the huge debt management. For the IMF (but it is not difficult to guess behind the stance of the US government) the huge Greek debt is non-refundable. Basically, its nominal value has to be reduced; or it must be granted a number of adaptations, such as a moratorium on payments, a lengthening of the maturity, a cut in the interest burden.

The new government, supported in this occasion by the Fund, will make of the debt a central topic of the negotiation. Debt restructuring could, in fact, pave the way for a reduction in the primary surplus (the resources that exceed the budget balance excluding interest) that the bailout program forecasts up to an exorbitant 3.5 per cent of GDP. The containment of the primary surplus can create room for a badly needed investment policy to fuel the growth.

The reopening of the negotiations by the eurozone authorities on the debt and the social impact of structural reforms would be a reasonable option toward a government backed by a democratic popular consensus. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that the eurozone authorities are ready follow that course.

Greece is a small country with a national income that is only one-fiftieth of the eurozone GDP. A decent compromise in favor of a country that continues to proclaim his loyalty to the euro would be reasonable and cost-free - indeed, the only real way to avoid a unavoidable bankruptcy that would make impossible for the creditors to get the repayment of the loans.

Greece is the metaphor of the authoritarian as well as self-defeating policy in the eurozone. If the combination of austerity-structural reforms would become the subject of a fair negotiations with Greece, then the same treatment would be claimed by other countries. And it would be hard to refuse to France and Italy what would have been granted to Greece.

The Greek unfair confrontation was born, and keeps being, the evidence of the mistaken eurozone policy. The novelty lies in the fact that, while the issue seemed closed with the Greek surrender, the game has been once again re-opened with the unexpected win of Syriza on 20 September.

 "The victory - commented the Financial Times - assures Mr. Tsipras a prominent role among the figures of the radical left anti-austerity European, and can galvanize his supporters from Podemos in Spain and Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Left radical of the British Labour Party. " For once we can agree. The European future remains very uncertain. Yet, with the success of Jeremy Corbyn and Alexis Tsipras fall has begun with two positive signs, to which another might follow with the year-end Spanish election.