Answering a Slovenian journalist's questions on the Athens Spring

When Syriza won the elections in Greece in January 2015, the Slovenian right wing leader, obviously afraid that Slovenia’s New Left could follow its steps, said: Luckily this experiment will fail in Greece and will not be put into practice in Slovenia. Any comment?

It was not just the Slovenian Right. It was all political forces throughout the EU that had for years adopted the self-defeating policies peddled by the Eurogroup, causing untold and unnecessary damage upon their own societies – in Slovenia, Portugal, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Ireland etc. All these forces were keen to see our government overthrown. Our success at negotiating an honourable agreement with the troika would have been their worst nightmare. For what would they have answered to their own people when asked: “Why did you not stand up too to fight for us?” So, from the first day we were in office, an Unholy Alliance was formed with the express intent to overthrow the Syriza government. They succeeded. For, in the end, what happened was that Alexis Tsipras overthrew his own government. The crushing of the Athens Spring was a major victory for the forces of deflation and disintegration of the EU.

Having said all this, it is crucial to stress that our 5 month Athens Spring did not go to waste. It planted the seed of hope inside the soul of Europeans far and wide. Hope that, together, we can turn the tables on the misanthropic institutions and their expression in our capital cities. This seed is what DiEM25 is working towards nurturing until it grows into a fully fledged program for democratising and, indeed, rationalising Europe.

Still – what did you and Tsipras achieve? Wasn’t Mr. Schauble’s position for the first time discredited in public, wouldn’t you agree that you “unmasked” Europe?

Exactly. Europeans today, even right wingers, can no longer pretend they do not know that European institutions are a democracy-free zone. This knowledge was won the hard way. It will prove the solvent of the ironclad irrationalism dominating our lives and causing the disintegration of Europe.

How do you remember Slovenia’s position during the Greek crisis? The Economist described an incident where our prime minister (during the final phase of negotiation) lost his temper, started shouting at Tsipras lecturing him to that extent that Italy had to intervene and calm him down…

I was not privy to that incident. But I can confirm that the Slovenian finance minister’s interventions in the Eurogroup where hostile to such a degree that they were almost helpful to me – in the sense that they were bordering on the comical. Indeed, he was the first finance minister to threaten me with Grexit, which was precious coming from a country that would suffer hugely from… Grexit. Seldom have I encountered such a combination of economic illiteracy and self-defeating hostility.

Officially Slovenia’s position at that time was that Greece did not show any “solidarity” with the Slovenian people. Slovenia, in relative sense, lent Greece the highest amount of money, however you and Tsipras visited and looked for support only from big powers.Our politicians said that you were demanding solidarity but you did not act like it. Also our politicians complained that you did not inform us about the negotiation process, problems, challenged, etc.… how do you comment that?

Slovenia was, indeed, exploited. It was made to pay for losses that it should not have paid for. Except that it was exploited by French and German banks, whose losses it helped cover – not Greece. More precisely, in 2010 the Greek state went bankrupt and this insolvency threatened France’s and Germany’s banks (who were owed billions by the Greek state). The German government had, only a year before, given Germany’s banks €500 billion. Mrs Merkel could simply not go back to the Bundestag and ask for more. So, she asked for a bailout for… Greece. This way, €110 billion were given to the Greek government to pass on to the French and German banks. But, because this was an EU bailout of Germany’s and France’s banks, poor countries like Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal etc. had to chip in. Effectively, the German government orchestrated a bailout of German and French banks whose cost would be shared by poor nations like Slovenia. So, it is true: Slovenians should be very, very angry with the Greek bailout. Only not with Greece, whose people never benefitted from any of this. Slovenians should be angry at their own government for having gone along with that shady plan to shift losses from the books of the German and French banks to their shoulders.

As for the claim that our government failed to forge an alliance with the Slovenian government, this is pure nonsense. Slovenia’s government was not interested in such an alliance and they were not interested in information regarding our proposals. Having endorsed every misanthropic policy against the people of Slovenia and the people of Greece, they were only interested in one thing: our government’s overthrow!

Syriza’s fate is influencing other New left parties, including the Slovenian new left. Some are now supporters of your, so to say more principled position, others are more towards the realpolitik position of Mr. Tsipras. How would you describe your and Tsipras’ different positions and what could you have done differently so that the two positions wouldn’t have needed to split?

There is no realpolitik in what the Greek government is doing today. It is pure surrender and acceptance of TINA – the toxic dictum that There Is No Alternative. Of course, there is an alternative: to oppose misanthropy till the end.

You said Greece is doomed – Tsipras has almost no degree of freedom under current agreements with the creditors. What about other countries, for example Slovenia? We have 80 % of debt to GDP now, how much freedom do we have in comparison? Is, so to say, Greece just a bad apple?

Greece was simply the first country to take the hit and the country that suffered the most. But it is only symptomatic of a pan-European crisis. The fact that Slovenia has a lower debt-to-GDP is largely irrelevant. It is not a matter of numbers. Slovenia, Greece, Portugal etc. are caught up in a trap from which the only escape must involve disobedience to the Eurogroup’s current policies. As long as our governments bow their head to dead end economic policies, our peoples will remain entrapped.

3 Comments

  • You have been pretty fair here. The issues of national sovereignty and democracy are not strictly matters of the Left and the Right in politics. Golden Dawn deputies were viciously and wrongly imprisoned in Greece for their political beliefs on trumped up charges and direct intervention of the PM Samaras in the justice system.

    Brussels and Eurogroup treat their member countries as colonies. The ECB was used by Eurogroup last summer to blackmail the Greek government to capitulate to EU Creditor terms. We have not seen that degree of heavy handed foreign involvement in Greece since 19th century gunboat diplomacy!!!

    It will be never be forgotten how the Greek government and parliament cowardly and treasonously accepted these terms at the expense of the Greek people. These people should eventually be tried and punished accordingly just as the NAZI collaborators and Germanotsoliades.

    • Bravo. Sovereignty and democracy are not ‘partisan property’ but the basic constitutional principles that structure our political life. Thus there was enormous symbolic value in the 2015 coalition of ANEL and SYRIZA, when the Greek voters believed these parties were fighting on our behalf.

      As for Golden Dawn: there is no need to like their politics to recognize that a serious violation of legal and democratic principle took place with their arrest. That SYRIZA supported it along with the traditional parties turned out to be prescient.

  • It is good to see you returning to educative assessments of the recent and current EU situation – I wish we could see more of this. Your analyses are much missed.