Comrades, allow me to start my introductory speech at our conference with a conclusion no-one could disagree with. Today and tomorrow, we are all meeting, discussing, deciding but all of us know that we are acting and fighting in a political battlefield.
Over the last months we have never ceased to fight battles, great and small. Many of them were won.
With persistence and resolve, we have been fighting to assert the Greek people’s rights.
We have bled with the sole aim and goal to assert the right of an entire people to hope; the right of the new generation to dream a better future; the right of the working people and the unemployed to life and creation; the right of the elderly to dignity.
We have fought battles in adverse conditions.
We have fought not only against the political system of corruption and collusion but also against powerful enemies here and abroad.
Not one moment did we waver or fear to take risks, to break new grounds, to go all the way to the end.
This fight, some say, has gone to waste.
We reply: Imagine where the deal, the people, the Left would be now without this fight, without this negotiation; what kind of deal Samaras would have brought to the country.
We resolved to go to any length to defend Greece’s rights.
We are proud of this.
In the end we chose not to accept the option of national suicide that had been prepared for us by the most extreme conservative powers in Europe; not to drag to destruction the majority of our people, 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 to offshore companies and foreign banks.
Our conscience is absolutely clear that we did what was right.
We regret neither fighting with all our strength nor choosing to avoid catastrophe.
We are proud of our decisions.
We are proud of every inch we gained in the negotiations.
Today we are still here with the wounds of the warrior who did not surrender but fought to the end.
But also with the resolve and the accumulated experience to keep fighting.
We are here, once more, at the beginning of a new electoral battle that will decide the future.
A battle that will determine the right of the Greek people and the social majority to keep on fighting, to keep on hoping.
We could have opted to escape from reality, perhaps.
To make up our own virtual truth.
To remain unsullied and pure.
To pretend that outside the Eurozone we could guarantee the citizens’ standard of living.
To surrender our people to the vindictive rage of a corrupt regime, of a political system that has brought the country to this state.
Not to stain our hands trying to pull the country out of the mud.
Not caring though whether this generation and the ones to come would drown in this mud.
We refused to do this.
We are here, faced with reality and our own weaknesses as well.
To break new grounds, moving forward, opening new roads.
Because it is easy to walk on paved roads. But we are well aware that if the road was paved, 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 over the helm in hard times.
And when the Left moved forward, it did find the way.
Moving forward, you will make mistakes, compromise, and regroup.
You will give the battle.
You will suffer losses – that is for 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 up the fight in order to move forward – only forward.
From now on, if anyone wants to mourn, let them mourn; if anyone wants to escape, let them escape.
We are looking forward – only forward.
Because our best days are yet to come and our greatest battles lie ahead of us.
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 fast that there was no time for all these emotions to be expressed and blow over.
But I also know there is determination.
I will listen to all of you carefully.
I do not ask you to suppress your thoughts or your criticism.
I only ask you to keep in mind that the battle is continuing, it lies ahead of us and will determine – as it should today – our views, decisions, attitudes, behaviors, and initiatives.
Not to forget what the crucial question is: what choice we will make in order to protect the Greek people and give them hope.
No-one can ignore that not only during the seven months of this administration but even today we are under heavy fire.
You do not need to be a genius to see the other side’s plan.
Their plan from the very first moment has been the so-called “Left parenthesis”.
It was obvious both in the January elections and during our six-month administration.
It culminated with the systematic international and internal bombardment against the Greek positions in the negotiations.
It has also been proven by the asymmetrical retaliations the citizens and the government were threatened with before the referendum.
By the war of fear, which is still going on today.
Therefore, there is no room for self-delusion.
It is the harsh reality that leaves no room for self-delusion.
We are living one of those moments when everyone has to decide who they will go with and who they will leave behind.
Our opponents, who possess means of economic pressure, intimidation, propaganda, bribery, and corruption, aim to eliminate us, to finish us off, to drag us through the mire.
Let us draw a conclusion from this ruthless war that is taking place with all means possible:
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 want to pull it off taking advantage of our own weaknesses.
Just remember how much time and space the mainstream media gave to the presentation of our views when we defended the “NO” in the referendum.
How much space and joy they are putting in now to promote any dissension our members may have.
How much space they gave and with how much joy they promoted that “theatre of the absurd” that was played in the Parliament’s committees and was broadcast live.
What magnanimity they showed all of a sudden in giving their TV screens generously to display the civil conflict within the Left.
Let us all then draw our conclusions.
If we are to stand firm, we can only do it 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 those who understand that we cannot allow the Greece of corruption, tax evasion, cheat, and collusion to come back – it rots and infects everything around it.
Therefore, no distortion, no defeat propaganda, no glamorization, and no camouflage can hide the true nature of the forces that clash in this war.
In this imminent electoral battle, which will decide the country and the working classes’ tomorrow for years to come.
On the one hand 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 the old regime that pushed the country into a tragedy.
That haunts us and trips us up on our every step.
That drained the life out of working people.
That sold democracy short.
That decentralized corruption, built and exploited the regime which eventually led to the memoranda and found a roof under them.
On the other hand it is us, the Left, SYRIZA, the social forces that will benefit from a great, radical, democratic, and progressive revolution.
Us, 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 make it. We are doomed to succeed.
All this time since January, it has been for all of us as if years have passed in just a few months.
We have fought, learned, gained experience, we gave hard battles with all our strength - some successful, other ones less so.
In a hard 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 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 all know about it and already have your own views.
I will just remind you that all our interventions and legislative initiatives – often in conflict with the lenders – were of progressive 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 ticket.
Changes in Justice and the decongestion of prisons.
The new citizenship law that enabled thousands of children to breathe free for the first time.
The closure of the mines at Skouries.
The blows on corruption and collusion.
These were neither easy nor could they be taken for granted.
And these are the things New Democracy wants to undo.
As also the great reforms ahead of us will not be easy nor can they 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 about the debt?
Because we have a huge task ahead of us.
And we should not underrate it, abandon it, or - even worse - allow the adherents of reactionary restoration to annul even our first steps.
So allow me to ask each and every one of you personally to join 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 just started has not to do with the future of the Left or of some individuals, but with the future of the working classes and of all the suffering social classes.
And at this point I would like to elaborate not only on what we have achieved as a government, but also on the moral elation and democracy we have established.
Because the highest point of the conflict, the referendum against the coalesced against us forces of the political system, was a historic high point of elation.
And the great majority of NO in the referendum cannot be left to its gravediggers, or to its self-appointed representatives.
It is, most of all, our own NO.
We, the SYRIZA government, opened wide and at huge risk the door for the people’s will to come through with the referendum.
SYRIZA, all of us, supported NO and struggled for it, when all the forces of reactionary restoration schemed and terrorized, hand in hand with the most ruthless of the lenders.
We shall not give away this NO to anyone.
It belongs to the Greek people and the government that gave them the opportunity to voice it; and supported it all the way.
And allow me to say that this NO did not finish with the end of the negotiation.
It has been so far the greatest moment in the great effort we started on January 25.
Which will inspire and guide our action for a long time.
Because it has not been put in the window of some museum to be admired by our descendants, as it is believed, hoped, and claimed by some.
NO was not a YES to drachma, as some now claim, committing an unbelievable sleight of hand, since no-one ever dared to claim it at the time.
On the contrary, I asked for a NO to bring back an agreement better than the one they were offering us.
It was a NO to the old and hateful political system.
It was a NO to collusion, corruption, and favoritism.
It was a NO to dependency, guardianship, limitations to national sovereignty, devaluation of popular sovereignty.
It was a NO to all barons, national contractors, parties and politicians, who treat Greece as if it were their estate and workers like serfs.
It was a NO to a regime that is not wanted by the people any more; and the elites will not be able to restore it.
It was a NO to a bureaucratic state, inflexible, hostile to citizens and 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 on, 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 advocacy of servitude,
no deliberate leveling down, saying that all of us are the same,
no slander, can change that.
And in the agreement with the lenders, which is being justifiably discussed at great length, it is not only their wills that were registered, as in the previous cases.
The NO was registered as well.
Our resistance was registered.
A NO and a resistance that mobilized millions of people all over the world to stand on our side.
That mobilized eminent experts and scientists 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 of Europe and debt in the European Parliament.
And these eventually left their deep mark in the Agreement.
Which has 20 bn fewer measures than the ones agreed, is not subject to the English Law, and involves an investment plan that should be used in a timely and targeted manner so as to set the economy back in motion.
Ahead of us are also the issues that were opened and kept open through hard struggle.
The debt issue, whose reduction will start being negotiated in a few weeks.
The issue of pensions and the zero deficit clause.
The issue of farmers’ taxation and compensatory measures necessary for the protection of the rural population and the Greek countryside.
The issue of the labor regime, the 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 their own possession and privilege and sustained that if they were not imposed by the lenders, we should impose them ourselves?
Those who tied up the country hand and foot, co-signed the desolation of the domestic market and the shrinking of the economy, led the middle classes to a dead end, multiplied the debt claiming it was sustainable, and finally bequeathed us a country on its knees under the burden of the debt and the commitments they had taken on in the name of all Greeks?
Or the ones who gave a hard battle, took the risk, pushed the negotiation 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 hard times?
Because this is the dilemma in the September 20 polls.
This is the target of ND, Meimarakis and the old political personnel.
To do away with the Left parenthesis and then offer unlimited redundancies in the private sector, proceed to more redundancies in the public sector, bury the debt issue, allow prime residences to fall prey to speculative capitals.
To implement whatever the lenders were not able to put in the agreement.
But the things that depend on the agreement and the negotiations with the lenders are only a part of what lies ahead.
The lenders’ tentacles, which we need to cut off one by one, are not the only ones that have grabbed at Greece.
Greece is plagued by serious chronic problems, which the old regime failed to solve, settled with them, speculated on them politically and financially, aggravated them and surrendered the entire society to them.
Does anyone really believe that this muddle of the old political system can combat corruption?
Can the national team of collusion fight collusion?
Can the protectors of tax evaders and black money barons make use of lists like the Lagarde one?
Can the system that gave sanctuary to swindlers and false investors allow Justice to put 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, step by step, get rid of this scourge.
We are determined not to back down.
And we won’t back down.
This is what our principles, our ideas and our ethics dictate.
Not to start lamenting and repeating, ‘Didn’t I tell you? The worst is coming.’
Today, we are more experienced; more mature; more determined; better versed.
Our program – a four-year program – is well grounded in the reality and its needs.
Allow me to mention some of its points, some of our main goals and aims, which 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.
So as to create new, stable and secure jobs.
This will be a difficult battle.
A battle in and out of the country against forces that want to turn Greece and Europe into a labor jungle. We must raise a wall of protection with all our forces.
To use all the funding available from European programs as well as from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to complete large infrastructure projects and start a great effort to redirect domestic production towards high added value products with emphasis on quality and innovation.
To promote forms of social and cooperative economy and start building a production model – competitive to the dominant one – which will be governed by different relations between people, different relations with the environment and with their product of labor.
Because, as neoliberalism conquered the world day by day and human being after human being, the same way we must construct the economy of needs slowly, battle after battle, starting from the bottom.
With patience and persistence in favor of the working classes.
We ought to do the same about the reconstruction and defence of the social state.
To continue our struggle for the protection of the underprivileged with the program to tackle the humanitarian crisis.
Which was a hard-won battle.
To continue our efforts for the reconstruction of the broken health system.
By saving resources from supplies, with deep administrative changes and respect to the medical and nursing personnel.
By supporting peripheral hospitals and reconstructing primary health networks.
To implement a great democratic, radical reform in education involving the entire educational community in a real dialogue so as to make the great changes necessary in secondary and higher education.
For a school and a university that will be democratic, for an educational system based on the principles of equality and freedom.
Equality in the access; freedom of expression, thought and research.
To make a deep democratic reform to the Greek state.
Combating bureaucracy, that is the technology through which the system of corruption and collusion exercises its power.
Supporting the tax-collecting mechanism and clearing cases of big tax debtors that have been in drawers for years because some protect themselves and the interests that support them.
To protect and deepen the individual rights and democratic freedoms of the citizens and beat the old political system that was based on violence and repression.
To promote - in practice - an ambitious program of advancing equality with the slogan: “All different – all equal”.
To eliminate discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and sexual orientation.
These are the great changes we must serve.
And at this point, let us ask ourselves this question:
If the spring of hope and struggle is over now, what will follow?
The summer of the movements, perhaps?
Or maybe the harsh winter of restoration and the revenge of the bourgeois political system?
This is the real dilemma, comrades.
And it is not put by SYRIZA but by reality itself!
It is not accidental that I saved for the end the party’s difficulties and the role it needs to play today.
A role without which we are all just spinning around aimlessly.
It is not the time now, of course, to solve our party’s problem.
This will take place democratically, responsibly, collectively, and seriously, after we all victoriously overcome the present hardships together.
Because these latest developments highlighted our mistakes and weaknesses and charged us all with the duty to think and discuss what kind of party we want, what kind of party is necessary in these conditions today.
But now it is time for battle.
Time for general mobilization.
Time for offer, not for demand.
Time for expressing all the virtues of the Left, which come from far back in the past.
Which is the only thing that can take us far in the future.
I now feel the need to say a few things I strongly and unrepentantly believe.
And I am addressing these things to my friends and comrades, but also to old and new opponents.
We will not change even an iota in our values and ideas.
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 human exploitation will always remain the reason for our being and action.
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 away the hopes of the young, the working classes, the victims of today’s drama just to gain benefit for party purposes.
Finally, comrades, I cannot but refer to the wound that opened in SYRIZA’s body when the government majority turned into minority; when the government was practically overthrown from the inside; when the party was split and the adherents of the reactionary restoration rushed to take advantage of this ugliness.
It is not the time now to discuss this in depth. This must and will be done in due time.
Now, in this hard battle, we must and will rigorously confront those who abandoned our lines and turned on us throwing heavy and slandering – I should say – accusations.
But we are not going to start a civil war in the Left; we must not do so, under any circumstances.
Because our opponent was and is the old regime and the old system of power that are raising their heads again.
I will repeat then that now is the time to take the streets, go to squares, coffee shops, towns and villages to convey one and only message.
We are here, standing, continuing what we have just started.
We ask for a strong mandate to continue what we have just started.
And as party members we ask each other what is self-evident:
To remain in our positions with knowledge, firmness, determination and grit against anyone who wants to push us into defeat, or into the mire.
To open up without fear or hesitation to the society that awaits us.
Because it is in this suffering, doubting, wondering, awaiting, hoping society 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.