Speech of Alexis Tsipras at the kick-off event of the election campaign, Athens 3 Jan 2015
We live in a crucial moment in history, a true juncture. A juncture which will define the future of this country. A historical juncture. In such moments, as our own Manolis Anagnostakis once put it:
‘Words must be squeezed in like so many nails, so that no wind can threaten to carry them away’
With decisiveness and a steady hand we assume the responsibility. We will not be carried away by the wind of the polls. Nor by the unholy and immoral attacks by our opponents. Or by their provocations against us. Or by the threats of the vicious friends of Greece in the European laboratories of austerity. We will discuss and we will decide collectively with the knowledge that we have only one choice: To win. To secure the big victory of our people in the upcoming elections. A real victory--as real as you and I. Insofar as we fight together, united, with decisiveness and broadmindedness, with our hearts and our minds, in every house, in every city, in every village.
This is what we have to discuss today. This is what we will decide today. For our victory has to be unquestionable. It has to be a decisive one. Today we decide to commit again to our program, which is not negotiable. We decide to put an end to the social tragedy, to the nightmare of austerity and authoritarianism. To put an end to barbarity. But also to use a sharp knife to cut off the cancer of corruption, entanglement, and rampant injustice.
This is why I’m not exaggerating if I say that in this conference not just the members of SYRIZA are present. The whole of Greece is present too. Certainly not the Greece of memoranda and their mouthpieces. But Greece's struggle for a better tomorrow. The Greece of poverty and dignity that is not surrendered to her fate, but is struggling for change. The Greece that demands justice at this conference. The Greece of democracy, which goes beyond partisan barriers and concocted phobias, to claim her rights. This Greece calls upon us all with persistence. And demands that we serve with responsibility, with determination, with courage, with effectiveness, in unity, in the great cause of liberation from the autocracy of the memoranda.
We say and hear often, that no one can stop a people determined to assert their rights. That's correct. But I can add something: This can happen when those dedicated to leading this people have not only the courage but also the necessary determination to confront a ruthless adversary. And we know how ruthless our opponent is. Not only the spent government of Samaras. Also the aged, sinful and incorrigible power system that has turned Greece into a place of irresponsibility. And information into a propaganda of fear. Democracy into an industry of executive amendments and legislative acts. And national sovereignty into an empty tunic.
The election campaign was launched a few days ago, just the way that of 2012 ended. Mr. Samaras is hidden from the light of day and draws zombies. He resuscitates fear. He resuscitates Grexit. Bankruptcy. The Prime Minister himself, without any respect for his position, leads this dance of the zombies. Using the word truth in a lie campaign. But when was he telling the truth, and when did he lie? Was he engaged in truth telling when he was condemning the Memorandum? Or when he advertised it and implemented it? Was he telling the truth when he made the 18 pre-election commitments? Or when as prime minister he implemented exactly the opposite? Was he telling the truth when he propagandized that Greece had entered the path of stability and development? Or is he telling the truth now that he laments that Greece is at a risky precipice.
The answer is that Mr. Samaras always tells the truth. Because the only truth for him is power. Power in the service of interests that want Greece to be a colony. A power that destroys society and makes the well-known rich richer.
The other day, indeed, he discovered the… hidden program of SYRIZA. To retrieve the zombies of bankruptcy. Let him at least read our program. To see the roadmap to democracy and social justice we are proposing. And the path we will follow to change Greece after the elections. Let Mr. Samaras deal with the zombies. We do not just turn the page. We change the whole book!
Now the workers, the unemployed and the pensioners. The professionals and the small and medium entrepreneurs. The farmers and the peasants. They have all made the decision, on January 25, to write history with their own hands. And we, here in this hall, we are saying to them once again: SYRIZA is you!
SYRIZA is all of you. SYRIZA is reaching out to all who want to free the country from its current nightmare. Regardless of the party they voted until now. Regardless of the questions and doubts they may have. And they have the right to have them. We do not want anyone to just follow us. The people do not want to follow us, we want them active and on our side. As to the side of us we want all those who agree with the social salvation program. To share in the battle. To share in the responsibility. To turn our victory into a triumph.
Comrades, What is pervasive in this chamber is not only the expectations of Greece. It is also the hope of democratic Europe for change. Because on January 25 the vote in Greece is also cast by democratic Europe. A tacit social majority casts a vote that opposes austerity. That understands that Europe is not under threat by the Left but by the politics of Mrs. Merkel. By neo-liberalism and its consequences: stagnation, the economic North-South divide, unemployment and deterioration for broader social strata and for the middle class. By the advance of the populist far right and fascism. That is why on January 25 the change in Europe begins in Greece. Our anticipated strong and robust parliamentary majority in the crucial electoral battle ahead will also become, towards the end of this year, a victory of the Spanish people. With Podemos and Izquierda Unida. And a year later, also of the Irish people. With Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein. Becoming gradually and increasingly the cause of the many. Turning Greece – at last – into a positive example of progressive developments and a driving force of a gradual but great democratic change in Europe. And that is something said even the European press says these days, not just by us. Even the Financial Times - interprets political developments in Greece as a message for the necessary political change in Europe and the necessary end of austerity. The German magazine Der Spiegel recognizes that SYRIZA is a realistic political with a just demand for the deletion of Greek debt. And these are just two illustrative reports that indicate a climate change. But not only the media. It is a series of statements by European officials who practically pull the plug from the scaremongering about the day after.
Only Mr. Samaras and the local entanglement and its political mouthpieces pretend that supposedly SYRIZA is a threat to Europe. The neutrality policy statements from a number of elements of European leadership, shows that everyone realizes that a change in Greece arrives to spread in Europe. SYRIZA is changing Europe. Instead, Mr. Samaras is the rearguard of Mr. Schaeuble in a Europe austerity now under retreat. But on January 25 it is not Mr. Schäuble who is voting. It is the Greek people. Unfortunately for Mr. Samaras.
Comrades, On January 25, two alternatives compete for the present and the future of Greece in Europe. Two antagonistic worlds face each other. On one side, the old world of politics on the way out. The protagonists of rot and crisis, i.e. New Democracy and PASOK, who, having sunk the ship, are letting off the country, but not before having pandered to corruption, to entanglement and to kleptocracy.
· They leave, having delivered the keys to the country's creditors and the troika. Because they never really negotiated.
· They leave, leaving behind more than half the country's population, i.e. 6.3 million of our fellow human beings in a state of poverty, or at risk of poverty
· They leave, having left almost ⅓ of the workforce unemployed and 71% of unemployed people into long-term unemployment.
· They leave, having committed themselves before the troika, with the famous e-mail by Mr. Samaras to the troika, for new cuts in wages and pensions, for increases in the rates of VAT for medicines, food, to water and electricity bills, for EKAS subsidy elimination in 2015 at the expense of approximately 320,000 low income pensioners.
This is the common governmental program of New Democracy and PASOK. The new Memorandum. An even tougher austerity on the ground of accumulated income cuts and over-taxation for six long years. This is the truth hidden by the New Democracy from the Greek people. But today, in contrast to 2012, there can be no hidden agenda. They cannot hide that they have agreed to new harsh austerity measures. And, even worse, that they have agreed and accepted to start immediately after the election if re-elected, a pogrom of auctions of primary residences. Already large mortgage -packages have been resold by systemic banks to so-called distress funds. To so-called vulture funds, who are prepared to rampage the first residence of the day laborer, the landlord, the breadwinner who has salvaged his house until now.
For it is no exaggeration to say: in the past, the propaganda threatened that the communists would take our homes. Today family homes are at risk, but not by the communists, nor by leftists. The banks put family homes at risk by, under a new arrangement Mr. Samaras has already accepted and signed. That is why our people now know their interest and won’t be fooled. On January 25 they will give a definitive end to the national humiliation and the humanitarian crisis. They will end all memorandum absurdity. With the vote for SYRIZA. With a parliamentary majority government of the people. With an outright majority government of SYRIZA.
Paving the way for the development, productive reconstruction and cultural rebirth of our country. With the "Program of Thessaloniki" we guarantee the economic security and a decent living for each and every Greek. With strong negotiation we guarantee the truly equal participation of our country in the euro zone without the austerity that, as it is important to remember, is not dictated by the European treaties themselves, and which has brought so much suffering to this realm.
Therefore, on January 25 the dilemma is clear: Memorandum or SYRIZA. Submission or negotiation. Austerity or growth. And the answer of our people will be: a SYRIZA government and social salvation for dignity, justice, and democracy.
Our opponents charge us that we are planning to break with our partners in the Euro-zone.
What we want and we are planning is the break with barbarism. A break with the absurd and the wrong. This policy cannot continue. And it is not just us on the left who say so. Everyone knows. Even the partners themselves.
The debt is not sustainable.
The present policies are not sustainable. For this policy will change. We will put an end to the economic and social absurdity of memoranda and austerity.
This is the responsibility of the Greek people and no one else. We will give the battle to rid Greece from the yoke of debt. Claiming through a sincere but resolute negotiation using as a red line the interests of our people, the write-off of most of the debt. Because the debt is simply unsustainable. It is objectively impossible to repay it. Greece cannot take loans to repay loans. It is objectively necessary to put an end to this destructive spiral. The only one who does not recognize this is Mr. Samaras. The only one who persists across Europe that the debt is sustainable. And in this objectively undermines the position of the country.
In order not to admit that his program has failed. That austerity must end, socially and economically, and it is necessary to finish it. We insist that: Austerity is irrational and destructive. The debt needs a generous restructuring in order to be repaid. And to this every serious analyst across Europe cannot but agree. And this nobody can deny! Based on these simple and realistic positions:
1. We reject the logic of unrealistic primary surpluses which are a synonym for austerity, identical with austerity. We remain resolute in our commitment to a balanced budget and to exemption of public investments from the calculation of fiscal deficit.
2. We will negotiate an agreement offering development tools to be placed in the service of economic growth for all.
3. We protect the banking sector within the ECB framework and we guarantee the deposits of all Greek citizens.
4. We will negotiate the debt problem inside the EU and in the framework of European institutions. We will pursue a new realistic and mutually advantageous agreement for the repayment of the debt and for the development of the real economy. Our goals are the following:
· A haircut of the larger part of the nominal value of the debt to make it viable. This is what happened to German debt in 1953. It should be repeated in Greece in 2015.
· A period of grace, ie a moratorium, in the servicing of debt should be agreed to allow the immediate use of the economies for growth.
· The public investment program should be exempted from the constraints of the Stability and Growth Pact. These measures amount to a “European New Deal” which aims at public investment for development and growth.
· Finally, the European Central Bank should use the quantitative easing policy to buy directly government bonds. We hope that this policy will be adopted at the ECB Board meeting on January 22.
In the last few weeks it has been argued that a future SYRIZA Government will be bound by Mr. Samaras’s agreements with the Troika – as a result of State continuity. We are told that our hands are tied. But state continuity differs from the government’s obsession with its hopeless and socially catastrophic policies.
Let us be clear:
On January 25, the period of subjugation, illegality and authoritarianism comes to an end.
This should be obvious to all.
Negotiations will take place!
An Agreement will be reached!
The Troika and its memoranda will become a thing of the past!
The German Government has itself violated the 6% limit in trade surpluses in pursuit of its national interest. It is inconceivable that the same government will ask SYRIZA to agree and implement policies that we have rejected since 2010, policies we will be elected in order to abolish.
Comrades, The government program of SYRIZA has been completed and is ready for implementation. Our "Program of Thessaloniki", the National Reconstruction Plan will be implemented regardless of the negotiations outcome. It has been carefully prepared and is fully costed. It will address the major disasters created by the Memorandum. It will restart the economy while pursuing a balanced budget. It will create new fiscal deficits. It will lead the country to social reconstruction and a sustainable economic recovery. Our program includes a number of practical and progressive reforms society needs –but rejects those neoliberal pseudo-reforms that lead to economic and social dislocation. The "Program of Thessaloniki has four pillars. It aims to reverse the social and economic dislocation, to lead to economic recovery and exit from the crisis:
FIRST PILLAR: reversal of the humanitarian crisis. SECOND PILLAR: Immediate steps to restart the economy. THIRD PILLAR: The national plan for the creation of employment. FOURTH PILLAR: The institutional and democratic transformation of our politics and institutions.
1. Free electricity and food vouchers for at least three hundred thousand households 2. Guaranteed accommodation for our homeless citizens 3.13th monthly pension for our old age citizens with a pension of under 700E per month 4. Free healthcare 5. Free bus passes
6. Repeal of heating oil tax
B. The second pillar includes measures to restart the economy. They aim to support small and medium-size enterprises while achieving an increase in government revenue through an arrangement of private debt to the State.
The Samaras government's arrangements on private debt have failed miserably. 1.7 million people have their social security contributions in arrears but in insurance only 3,000 have applied to be included to the arrangement. This is because the government plan is hedged in by so many conditions and qualifications that it ends up canceling itself. Outstanding citizen debt to the State is well above € 70 billion. In November 2014 alone, this debts was increased by € 1,6 billion the largest increase ever.
It is therefore not only timely, but urgent that SYRIZA establishes dedicated regional friendly settlement committees to recover debts to the state and pension funds. Strict conditions should attach to these arrangements.
· Repayments will not exceed 30% of debtor’s the annual income.
· Increases and fines will not exceed 30% of the nominal sum of outstanding debt.
· Immediate cessation of home repossession and prosecutions for those included in this settlement, and banning of repossessions and prosecutions for those without income.
· Citizens admitted to this settlement will be given certificates of tax and social security contribution compliance allowing them to carry out economic activities.
· Repeal of the unconstitutional flagrant process for public debts.
· Immediate abolition of the universal real estate tax or ENFIA. it will be replaced by a socially fair tax on large property.
· A tax allowance of € 12.000 pa for all.
· Establishment of a Development Bank and of special purpose banks.
· A new regime of debt forgiveness – Regulation of so-called ‘red loans’.
The settlement of ‘red loans’ is a key to the restarting of economic activity. Private debt to banks both destroys borrowers economically and, reduces liquidity in the real economy. In Thessaloniki we listed the basic principles of our approach to this problem.
We will establish a public private debt management agency not in the sense of a "toxic bank", but as the manager of all type of debt arrears. This agency will supervise banks as regards their compliance with agreed arrangements. This will ensure the equal and fair treatment for all debtors.
The outgoing government’s legislation handed indebted companies over to banks unilaterally which then put them under compulsory administration, , that is a regime of bankruptcy and liquidation. SYRIZA on the contrary will seek a rapid solution to company debt that will avoid lengthy procedures and red tape. Such a solution will save jobs and will allow the survival of businesses thus preventing the creation of an oligopoly. This arrangement will not be publicly funded except when specific development aims require a different approach.
We will ban the sale of “red loans” to international vulture funds wishing to speculate at the expense of Greek citizens and the Greek economy.
On the thorny of the family home repossessions auctions, SYRIZA is committed to the following: Under a SYRIZA government every men and women can sleep safe in their homes. We suspend the auctions of all home residences. We will not allow banks to touch the home of the middle class and working class families. That’s it, end of story!
C. The third pillar includes measures to create employment.
A central political pillar of SYRIZA is to support working people and strengthen their negotiating position.
We will end to employer irresponsibility. We will introduce labor legislation in collaboration with the World Labour Organization repealing anti-labour memoranda legislation.
We are fully committed to:
· Raising the minimum wage to € 751 per month.
· Reintroducing collective labor agreements, restoring three year salary increments as well as salary scales and arbitration.
· Repealing the laws allowing mass layoffs.
· Implementing plan for the immediate creation of 300,000 jobs in the public, private and social sector.
D. The fourth pillar provides for the institutional and democratic reconstruction of the state. SYRIZA is not responsible for the crony and clientelistic state created by the parties that ruled and ruined the country till now. We acknowledge that public administration needs reforms. We insist, however, that memorandum governments did nothing in this direction. On the contrary, Greek public administration has been brought to the verge of collapse.
Our program has a comprehensive plan for the democratic reform and rationalization of public administration.
· We will reform central Government. Ministries with be merged, unnecessary agencies abolished and a leaner structure created to coordinate reconstruction. A SYRIZA government will have ten ministries only.
· We will eliminate numerous government bodies that breed corruption and dilute political responsibility.
· We will free the public sector from the armies of political advisors and party apparatchiks. The offices of Ministers, General Secretaries and Utility Governors will be manned by ordinary civil servants.
· We will repeal of the memorandum legislation introducing an unfair disciplinary code for civil servants.
· We will provide for staff mobility between departments and ministries in order to rationalize staff allocation without using the discredited policy of placing staff in.
· We will rehabilitate those unconstitutionally dismissed.
· Civil servants will not be evaluated individually but as part of their departments’ and divisions’ evaluation which will use objective indicators.
We know that e citizens face major difficulties because of state bureaucracy, delays and red tape, techniques used for the maintenance of power and corruption. syriza reforms will aim to formalize procedures, render decision making transparent, reduce delays and reduce citizens’ discomfort and bad feeling. This requires:
· Restriction of physical contact between administration and citizens to reduce small scale corruption. The provision of citizen services online, the expansion of services provided by CSC (multi- Service centers and enterprises) and the creation of citizen service bureaus (front desk) in all public services move in this direction.
· The introduction of citizen electronic cards which will carry all necessary data for transactions with the public administration
· The removal of the mountain of documents required for planning permissions and the licensing of shops. We will replace pre-activity controls with post activity checks of compliance.
· We will establish a dedicated agency for the codification of legislation under the responsibility of the Greek Parliament.
We break up the triangular entanglement of political parties, economic oligarchy, and banks.
SYRIZA is committed:
· To re organize bank lending to political parties by establishing maximum borrowing limits, a lending and debt repayment ceilings which will allow loans equivalent to a small part of public party funding.
· To promote full auditing and transparency of party finances.
Mass media: --We put into immediate effect the provisions of the law, which: (a) enable the Bank of Greece or the public prosecutor to carry out audits of the funding of media enterprises, (b) apply to all public limited companies and provide that a loss-making company cannot continue operating without recapitalization.
The government of SYRIZA will review the institutional framework for procurement, respecting the relevant European legislation. Key elements of the new institutional framework will be:
· Strengthening of institutions of social auditing, transparency and publicity at all stages,
· Tightening of planning and execution of public procurement terms
· Development of an objective and transparent institutional framework for conducting public tenders.
· We will put an end to pre-arranged tenders.
Finally, SYRIZA will investigate and pursue: • Problematic public tenders which are still ongoing or were conducted in the last five years. To this effect, it will systematize the collection of data and information about such tenders.
• it will ensure the immediate compensation for property or financial loss to the State, in cases of illegal or corrupt contracts.
• It will abolish the unconstitutional and offensive provisions which grant immunities from criminal prosecution and civil suits to the Board of FSF and HRADF. These immunities constitute an admission of guilt by the memorandum establishment and its officers who knowingly harmed the Greek public interest. We do not forget. We will not forget! SYRIZA will put an end to civil service unreliability, illegality, maladministration, corruption and decadence! This calls for reorganization and strengthening of control mechanisms. Our message is, simple and please listen well: Due process everywhere.
Rule of law everywhere. The party is over! To this end, we will consolidate all audit agencies into a single body reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
In this direction, the first steps of SYRIZA are: --the Strengthening and support of the Financial Crime Squad and the Labor Inspectorate. This will guarantee respect for legality in the private sector and public administration, but will also free the labor market from wild exploitation and uninsured labor practices.
--Support for the successful procedures for combating money laundering, and all salient criminal activity --The reactivation of the Committee that checks the origins and legality of private assets.
Under a SYRIZA government, every citizen will have to account for the legality of his assets.
SYRIZA does not seek power in order to follow a corrupt and bankrupt system of power. It seeks to overturn it. SYRIZA does not wish to adjust and fine-tune the structures and privileges of power. It seeks to radically change the structures and to eliminate privileges. A SYRIZA government brings justice, equity, meritocracy. But we are fully aware of the difficulties we face.
SYRIZA will not receive just the scorched earth left behind by the memoranda governments. We will be handed a country divided and in disarray-- political, social and financial.
Our responsibility is to reunite, to bring all together again and to lead the country back to safety and prosperity creating the conditions for its reconstruction, development and dignity.
On January 25 we do not simply ask for the vote of the Greek people. We ask them to assign the responsibility of renewal. We ask a mandate for radical change. We ask for a negotiating mandate. We ask for a battle mandate. We ask for the power to create a robust Greece. We call for out-right majority in the House to give independence to our people. To succeed in Europe. To bring back to Greece Dignity, Justice, and Democracy.
With a mind and a vision. With realism and boldness. We will win and we will succeed. It is our duty to history. It is our responsibility to the future. Good bye and to victory!