ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Alexis Tsipras : "Trouver une solution européenne pour que s’arrêtent les politiques d’austérité"
by Gaël De Santis
Translated Monday 4 June 2012, by Derek Hansonand reviewed by
An interview with the leader of Syriza, the Greek radical left coalition that obtained 16.8% of the vote in the May 6 legislative election, whereas an informal European summit is being held in Brussels on the evening of May 23, to address the themes of economic growth and Greece.
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza parliamentary group, was in Paris on May 21 as the guest of the European Party of the Left, whose president is Pierre Laurent. If the opinion polls are to be believed, Tsipras may be asked to form the next Greek government after the June 17 legislative elections. Following a rain-drenched Front de Gauche rally that drew 400 people, Tsipras gave this interview to l’Humanité.
Huma: There’s an extraordinary European Council meeting on May 23. In your opinion, what message should the Greek prime minister deliver?
Alexis Tsipras: He should ask the European leaders to respect the will of the Greek people as expressed in the elections. That desire is quite simple: the austerity policies must be halted.
Huma: What has to change in Europe to put a halt to those austerity policies?
Alexis Tsipras: You have to start from this basic fact: These policies lead to failure. You have to find the means for a common European policy that is based on democracy, social cohesion and economic growth.
Huma: What financial instruments are available to realize such a policy?
Alexis Tsipras: It’s a question of conducting Europe-wide multilateral negotiations on the restructuring of the sovereign debt, because this debt was not contracted by the peoples. This debt is the result of speculation and the actions taken by the financial markets against the peoples.
Huma: Syriza wishes to remain in the European Union and in the euro zone. Austerity policies are demanded in the name of keeping Greece in. Why should the European Union be necessary to a government that rejects austerity policies in Greece?
Alexis Tsipras: First of all, we don’t want competition and rivalry among the European peoples. We think that the war that’s being conducted today isn’t a war among the peoples, but between the forces of labor and the forces of capital.
Secondly, the problem that we’re trying to solve isn’t a Greek problem, it’s a European problem. So we’ve got to find a European solution to a European problem. We wouldn’t find ourselves with this problem of the ballooning of the sovereign debt today if in 1996 Greece hadn’t decided to join the euro zone and if Greece had not embarked on policies which led to a ballooning of the financial bubble and to over-consumption. You can’t keep a country in a biased monetary framework for 18 years and then ask its people to bear the weight of this crisis. There is no exclusively Greek solution. Greece’s exit from the euro zone would lead to the collapse of the Greek financial system and hence to the disintegration of the euro zone.
Huma: What would be the consequences for the Greeks if Greece abandoned the euro?
Alexis Tsipras: The consequences are known. There’d be a devaluation of Greek currency and massive flight of capital. The flight of capital’s already begun. Money has been placed in Swiss banks. It’s important to know that the effects will not be limited to Greece. The possible exit of Greece from the euro would lead the markets to attack, on the very next day, the next country that’s a candidate for exiting the euro. The next countries could be Italy or Spain, whose sovereign debt is five times that of Greece. You mustn’t have any illusions about such a situation remaining without consequences for the banking systems in the heartland countries of Europe.
Huma: What ingredients would be necessary for the success of a left government fighting the austerity policies in Greece?
Alexis Tsipras: The conscious support of the majority of the people. The path that’s going to be taken isn’t going to be easy. Opposite us, we’ve got a powerful oligarchy that has many means at its disposal to fight us: the banks, the markets, and the media. It’s only with the conscious and pugnacious support of the people that a left government will be able to attain its goals.