"We are here, standing, continuing what we started"
Allow me to begin with a conclusion no-one could disagree with:
Today and tomorrow, we are all meeting, discussing, deciding--but all of us know that we find ourselves on a political battlefield.
Over the last months we’ve ceaselessly fought battles, great and small. Many were won.
With persistence and resolve, we’ve been fighting to assert the rights of the Greek people.
We’ve bled so that we could assert the right of our people to feel hope; the right of the new generation to dream of a better future; the right of the working people and the unemployed to a productive life; the right of the elderly to dignity.
We have fought battles in adverse conditions.
We have not only fought against a political system that supports corruption and collusion, but also against powerful enemies, both here and abroad.
We never wavered when it came to taking risks, breaking new ground, fighting to the end.
Some say this fight has gone to waste.
Our reply: Imagine where the agreement, the people, the Left would now be without this fight, without this negotiation; just what kind of deal Samaras would have brought to the country.
We resolved to go to all lengths to defend Greece’s rights.
We are proud of this.
We chose to not accept the option of national suicide that the most extreme conservative powers in Europe were preparing for us; not to lead the majority of our people to devastation, particularly the most vulnerable and the working classes, who kept their life savings in the Greek banks.
In contrast to the plutocracy, who rushed to take their wealth out of the country and deposit it in offshore companies and foreign banks.
Our conscience is absolutely clear that we did what was right.
We don’t regret fighting with all our strength, or choosing to avoid catastrophe.
We are proud of our decisions.
We are proud of every inch we gained in the negotiations.
Today we are here with the wounds of the warrior who did not surrender but fought until the end.
But also with the resolve and the experience accumulated over the past months, to keep fighting.
We are once again facing a new electoral battle that will be decisive in shaping the future.
A battle that will determine the right of the Greek people and the social majority to keep fighting, to keep hoping.
We could have opted to avoid reality, perhaps.
To make up our own convenient truth.
To remain “unsullied” and “pure”.
To pretend that even outside of the Eurozone we could guarantee our citizens’ standard of living.
To surrender our people to the vindictive rage of a corrupt regime, of a political system that has led the country to this state.
Not to dirty our hands trying to pull the country out of the mud.
Not caring whether this generation and the ones to come would sink in this mud.
We refused to do this.
We are here, facing reality and our own weaknesses, as well.
To break new ground, to move forward, to find new avenues.
Because it is easy to walk down well-trodden paths. But we are well aware that if the path ahead was an easy one, we would not be here representing the expectations, the concerns and the hopes of the Greek people. Others would be in our place, as they were for many years.
The Left though – and this is no coincidence – has always taken the helm in hard times.
And when the Left moved forward, it did find a way.
Moving forward, you will make mistakes, compromise, and regroup.
You will fight the battle.
You will suffer losses – this much is certain – but all battles have losses.
The point is not to surrender your arms.
And we shall not surrender our arms.
We are here to keep fighting so that we can move forward – only forward.
From now on, if anyone wants to mourn, let them mourn; if anyone wants to abscond, let them abscond.
We are looking forward – only forward.
Because our best days are yet to come and our greatest battles lie ahead.
I know, comrades, that in our hearts we have mixed feelings.
Feelings of bitterness, anger, and distress.
And I also know that everything happened so quickly that there was no time for all these emotions to be expressed and addressed.
But I also know there is determination.
I will listen to all of you carefully.
I am not asking that you suppress your thoughts or your criticism.
I am only asking that you keep in mind that the battle is far from over, it lies ahead of us and will determine – as it should – our views, decisions, attitudes, behaviors, and initiatives.
We must not lose sight of what is most crucial: the choices we will make to protect the Greek people and give them hope.
No-one can ignore that during the past seven months of this administration, we have been under heavy fire.
It doesn’t require being a genius to see the other side’s plan.
Their plan from the start has been the so-called “Left parenthesis”.
This was obvious both in the January elections and during our administration.
It culminated with the systematic international and internal attacks of the Greek negotiating positions.
It was also proven by the threats of asymmetrical retaliation against our citizens and the government before the referendum.
By the extent of the fear-mongering, which is ongoing.
Therefore, there is no room for self-delusion.
Harsh reality leaves no room for self-delusion.
In this moment, we must decide whom to support, and whom to leave behind.
Our opponents, who possess means of economic pressure, intimidation, propaganda, bribery, and corruption, seek to eliminate us, to finish us off, to drag us through the mud.
Let us draw a conclusion from this ruthless war that is taking place:
What they have failed to do all these months despite all their means.
What they could not predict – since they considered us done for, even as early as February.
What they did not manage to do with the banks and the credit suffocation.
They hope to pull it off now, taking advantage of our own weaknesses.
Just remember how much time the mainstream media allotted to the presentation of our views when we defended voting “NO” in the referendum.
And the amount of time--and glee--they are now allotting to air any dissension that may exist among our members.
The amount of time--and glee—they have allotted to showcasing the “theatre of the absurd” of the Parliament’s committees, in live broadcasts.
The magnanimity they showed giving generous air-time to displaying the conflict within the Left.
Let us all then draw our conclusions.
If we are to stand firm, we can only do so by being united, determined, and disciplined, with a clear view on the balance of power, with a plan, radical initiatives, seriousness, and consistence.
Only by keeping and defending our radical, Left identity.
Only if we listen to the concerns of the social majority that we aim to represent.
And by advancing together, with all who understand that we cannot allow the Greece of corruption, tax evasion, cheating, and collusion to return – it rots and infects everything around it.
Therefore, no distortion, no defeatist propaganda, no sugarcoating, and no camouflage can hide the true nature of the forces that are clashing in this war.
In this imminent electoral battle, which will decide the country’s and the working classes’ future for years to come.
On one side are the forces of the old political system.
The forces of collusion, corruption, partisanship, kleptocracy, subordination of people to powerful interests.
Names such as Meimarakis, Samaras, Venizelos, Gennimata, Theodorakis do not really matter.
We are confronted with an old regime that led the country to a tragic state.
One that haunts us, and complicates our every step.
That drained the life out of working people.
That sold democracy short.
That decentralized corruption, built and exploited by regimes that eventually brought the country to its knees, and brought the memoranda.
On the other side, we stand firm:
the Left, SYRIZA, the social forces that will benefit from a monumental, radical, democratic, and progressive revolution.
We, who want to demolish this old regime with battles big and small, political and social, through elections and grassroots movements; who want to raze it to the ground.
And we will do so. We will succeed.
Since January, we have all felt as if years have passed in a matter of months.
We have fought, learned, gained experience; we fought difficult battles with all our strength - some successful, others less so.
In a difficult and complex war against enemies that possess unlimited means of credit asphyxiation, intimidation, propaganda, provocation.
There is no doubt we have made mistakes.
But through the difficulties, we have managed to leave our mark, which no one can underestimate, let alone erase.
Both internally and abroad, in the difficult conflict with our lenders that was called “negotiation.”
I will not dwell on this. You are all well aware of the circumstances, and undoubtedly have your own take on what occurred.
I will remind you, though, that all of our interventions and legislative initiatives – often in conflict with the lenders – were progressive in nature and beneficial to the people.
The opening of ERT [Greek public television].
The re-employment of school guards, public servants, cleaners, 2,500 teachers.
The abolition of the hospital fee.
Changes in the justice system and in the prison system.
The new citizenship law that enabled thousands of children to breathe a sigh of relief for the first time.
The closure of the mines at Skouries.
The blows to corruption and collusion.
These were not easy—and they certainly cannot be taken for granted.
These are the things that New Democracy wants to undo.
The extensive reforms ahead of us will not be easy—and they most certainly cannot be taken for granted.
The great political dilemmas that lie ahead of us.
What will happen with collective bargaining?
What will happen with the zero deficit clause?
What will happen with the negotiation regarding the debt?
We have a huge task ahead of us.
And we should not underestimate it, abandon it, or - even worse - allow the proponents of the old system to annul our first steps.
So allow me to ask each and every one of you personally to join toghether in this struggle.
Each and every one of us.
All of us must take part in this battle.
All those who understand that a strong mandate to SYRIZA in the coming elections will be a great chance, not for us but for Greece.
All those who understand that what has been set into motion isn’t about the future of the Left or about certain individuals, but rather is about the future of the working classes and of all who are suffering.
And here, I would like to elaborate not only on what we have achieved as a government, but also on the focus of democracy that we have established.
Because the apex of the conflict, the referendum, was a historic high point of elation.
And the great majority of “NO” in the referendum cannot be cast aside, nor left to those who seek to appropriate it.
It is, most of all, our own NO.
We, the SYRIZA government, made the decision to give voice to the people’s will through the referendum.
SYRIZA, all of us, supported NO—even when the forces of old system schemed and incited fear, hand in hand with the most ruthless of the lenders.
We shall not bequeath this NO to anyone.
It belongs to the Greek people and the government that gave them the opportunity to voice it; and fully supported it.
This NO did not lose its fervor or its role at the end of the negotiation.
It has been the greatest moment so far in our efforts since January 25.
Which will inspire and guide our actions going forward.
Because it will not be relegated to some museum, as an artefact to be admired by our descendants, as some are hoping will be the case.
NO was not a YES to the drachma, as some now claim, committing an unbelievable sleight of hand, since no-one ever dared to make such a claim at the time.
On the contrary, I asked for a NO to bolster our efforts to reach an agreement that would be better than the one being offered.
It was a NO to the old and divisive political system.
It was a NO to collusion, corruption, and clientelism.
It was a NO to dependency, guardianship, limitations to national sovereignty, devaluation of popular sovereignty.
It was a NO to all the “barons”--national contractors, parties and politicians, who treat Greece as if it were their estate and the workers like serfs.
It was a NO to a regime that is no longer wanted by the people, and that the elites will not be able to restore.
It was a NO to a bureaucratic state, inflexible, hostile to citizens while friendly to bribery, collusion, and partisanship.
This deeper meaning of NO is the most sincere expression of the Greek people’s resistance; the core of our program for the next four years.
It is with this NO that we will move forward, comrades.
This NO summarizes the will and persistence of the social majority to change the country.
We are an integral part of this majority.
We are inspired by it and we want to inspire it.
We are supported by it and we are here to support it.
And no efforts of lumping everyone together, saying that all of us are the same, no slanderous statements can change that.
And in the agreement with the lenders, which is being discussed at great length, it is not only the lenders’ will that was taken into account, as in the previous cases.
The NO was taken into account as well.
Our resistance was registered.
A NO and a resistance that mobilized millions of people all over the world to stand by our side.
That mobilized eminent experts and intellectuals in favor of Greece.
That mobilized governments.
They cancelled sinister plans for the expulsion and destruction of the “unruly” country. Because we vehemently and persistently raised the issues regarding Europe and the debt in the European Parliament.
And these eventually left their deep mark in the Agreement.
Which has 20 bln fewer measures, is not subject to English Law, and involves an investment plan that will help put the economy in motion once again.
Also ahead of us are the issues that we brought to the table and that will be addressed, due to our intense persistence.
The debt issue—negotiation on the reduction of the debt will begin in a few weeks.
The issue of pensions and the zero deficit clause.
The issue of taxation on farmers and compensatory measures necessary for the protection of the rural population and the Greek countryside.
The issue of labor rights, restoration of collective bargaining and the definitive abolition of mass redundancies.
Who do the Greek people really trust to negotiate these issues?
Those who considered the memoranda a great “privilege” and who believed that if they were not imposed by the lenders, we should impose them ourselves?
Those who decimated the country’s future, co-signed for the destruction of the domestic market and the shrinking of the economy, led the middle classes to a dead end, increased the debt claiming it was sustainable, and finally bequeathed to us a country on its knees faltering under the burden of the debt and the commitments they had taken on in the name of all Greeks?
Or those who intensely battled, took risks, negotiated to the limit, brought the people into the foreground with the referendum, and proved – to say the least – that they have the will and the courage to stand firm in challenging times?
Because this is the dilemma in the September 20 polls.
This is the target of New Democracy, Meimarakis and the old political establishment.
To do away with the Left parenthesis and then offer unlimited layoffs in the private sector, proceed with more layoffs in the public sector, bury the debt issue, allow primary residences to fall prey to speculators.
To implement whatever the lenders were not able to put in the agreement.
But the matters that depend on the agreement and the negotiations with the lenders are only a part of what lies ahead.
The lenders’ greater objectives are not the only problematic trends we must face.
Greece is plagued by serious chronic problems, which the old political system failed to solve, allowing them instead to flourish, using them for political and financial gain, aggravating them and ultimately, surrendering our entire society to their ills.
Does anyone really believe that this old political system can combat corruption?
Can those who have fostered collusion now fight collusion?
Can those who have protected tax evaders and black market barons make use of the Lagarde list, and others like it?
Can the system that gave sanctuary to swindlers and false investors allow Justice to make things right?
Of course not.
Only a government of the Left, with a strong mandate, can cut this Gordian Knot.
Only with a radical program of the Left and strong popular support can the country get rid of this scourge.
We are determined to not back down.
And we won’t back down.
This is what our principles, our ideas and our ethics dictate.
Not to start lamenting, “Didn’t I tell you? The worst is yet to come.”
Today, we are more experienced, more mature, more determined, better prepared.
Our program – a four-year program – is well grounded in reality and real needs.
Allow me to mention some of its points, some of our main goals that will be the focus of our government in the next four years.
First: To start the country’s productive reconstruction through initiatives and interventions that will support the working classes.
To create new, stable and secure jobs.
This will be a difficult battle.
A battle against forces, both here and abroad, that want to turn Greece and Europe into an unregulated free-for-all. We must work with all of our supportive forces against this.
To use all funding available from various European programs, as well as from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), to complete large infrastructure projects and start redirecting domestic production towards high added value products with emphasis on quality and innovation.
To promote forms of a social and cooperative economy and to start building a production model – competitive with the dominant one – that will be governed by a fresh approach between people, with the environment and what is produced.
Because just as neoliberalism conquered the world, day by day and person after person, we must construct the economy of needs in much the same way: slowly, battle after battle, starting from the bottom.
With patience and persistence, in favor of the working classes.
We must do the same regarding the reconstruction and defense of the social state.
To continue our struggle for the protection of the underprivileged, with our program to tackle the humanitarian crisis.
Which was a hard-won battle.
To continue our efforts for the reconstruction of the current, broken health system.
By saving resources from supplies, with deep administrative changes and respect for the medical and nursing personnel.
By supporting all of our hospitals and reconstructing primary health networks.
To implement democratic, radical reform in education, including the entire educational community in real dialogue to make the substantial changes necessary in secondary and higher education.
For schools and universities that will be democratic, for an educational system based on the principles of equality and freedom.
Equality in access; freedom of expression, thought and research.
To deeply and democratically reform the Greek state.
Combating bureaucracy, which enables the system of corruption and collusion to exercise its power.
Supporting the tax-collecting mechanism and resolving cases of big tax debtors that have been collecting dust, shielded by vested interests.
To protect and deepen the individual rights and democratic freedoms of our citizens, while putting an end to the old political system that was based on violence and repression.
To promote - in practice - an ambitious program of advancing equality with the motto: “All different – all equal”.
To eliminate discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and sexual orientation.
These are the great changes we must champion.
And at this point, let us ask ourselves:
If the spring of hope and struggle is now over, what will follow?
The summer of movements, perhaps?
Or maybe the harsh winter of the restoration of the establishment’s goals and the revenge of the bourgeois political system?
This is the real dilemma, comrades.
And it is not put forth by SYRIZA but by reality, itself!
It is not by accident that I saved the party’s difficulties and the role the party needs to play today, for the end of my comments.
Without a clearly defined role, we are all just spinning our wheels aimlessly.
Now is not the time to resolve our party’s internal issues.
This will take place democratically, responsibly, collectively, and seriously, after we victoriously overcome the present hardships we are facing, together.
Because these latest developments have highlighted our mistakes and weaknesses, and charged us all with the duty to contemplate and consider what kind of party we want, what kind of party is necessary given the current conditions.
But now is the time for battle.
Time for an overarching mobilization.
Time for offering our help, not for making demands.
Time for expressing the virtues of the Left, which have a rich historical precedent.
Virtues that will serve us well into the future.
Allow me to share with you a few matters that I strongly and deeply believe.
I am addressing this to my friends and comrades, as well as to old and new opponents.
We will not change our values and ideas—not even an iota.
We will not give up our fight for democracy, social justice, and national sovereignty.
Our loyalty to the interests and liberation of those suffering from being exploited will always remain our raison d'être and fuel our actions.
Life and politics often require maneuvers, retreats, and compromises; only a fool would not understand their significance.
But this – for me, for us – does not mean that we will ever abandon the goals that brought us to power, or that we will ever abandon those who have pinned their hopes on us.
We will not waste the hopes of the young, the working classes, the victims of today’s drama just to benefit politically.
Finally, comrades, I cannot help but mention the wound that opened in SYRIZA when the government majority turned into a minority; when the government was practically overthrown from the inside; when the party was split and the proponents of the old political system rushed to take advantage of this ugliness.
Now is not the time now to discuss this at length. This must and will be done in due time.
Now, in this difficult battle, we must--and will--rigorously confront those who abandoned us and turned on us, opting for slanderous accusations.
But we are not going to fuel contention within the Left; we must not do so, under any circumstances.
Because our opponent remains the corrupt political establishment, and the old system of power is now being galvanized.
Now is the time to take the streets, go to the public squares, coffee shops, in towns and villages to convey one and only message.
We are here, standing, continuing what we have started.
We ask for a strong mandate to continue what we have started.
And as party members, we ask that which is self-evident of each other:
To remain firm in our positions with the knowledge, determination and grit to stand up to anyone who wants to push us into defeat, into the mire.
To engage with society without fear or hesitation.
Because it is by this society—who may in turn be suffering, doubting, deliberating, expecting, and hoping--that all of us will be judged by our words, but most of all, by our deeds…
We shall win.
Not for our party’s survival. For the people.
Be sure of this.