Interview: Pablo Iglesias on Greece

Image from Pablo Iglesias's Twitter avatar, 17th July

Image from Pablo Iglesias’s Twitter avatar, 17th July

This is a partial translated transcript of an interview with Pablo Iglesias held this morning on radio show La Cafetera. It deals with the situation in Greece, the broader situation in the EU, and how it affects Spain and Podemos. You can listen to the full interview here.

The papers are saying you appear resigned. Is that true?

Pablo Iglesias: Well, as the Secretary General of Podemos I’m a political scientist, and I understand that politics is power relations. Power is a relation, and the correlation of forces in Greece presents a very difficult scenario. The government has found itself in an extreme situation, in which it has had to take a decision that no-one likes. The government doesn’t like it, we don’t like it. It is a solution that at any rate, apart from allowing there to be talks on debt restructuring, which is a good thing, wins time. The agreement is appalling. No-one is going to like it. But it was either that or exit the euro. And I think that in the game of chess that Alexis is playing, it has been a very painful move, but a tactical move, very tough but undoubtedly inevitable. And now it is a matter of accumulating forces to recover in the next round. Sometimes in politics, when you are weaker than your adversary, it is chess, they can lay traps for you and you need to show a great amount of shrewdness.

Would you have done the same thing as him? If the citizens had said No in a referendum?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to ever find myself in such a situation, where I have to choose between an awful agreement and my country leaving the euro where it means the savings of the citizens of my country devalue because you have to exit the currency, and what citizens of the country have in the banks ends up worth a fifth of what it had been. I think it is a choice between death and death. I hope in my life I don’t ever have to take a decision of that kind, and I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know if I would resign or if I would continue. At any rate I think Alexis’s decision has been brave. I had the opportunity to speak to him last night, and I admire him hugely. I think he is a brave person, a gladiator, and not only will he count on my support when he sweeps the board in a referendum but also in the difficult decisions that he doesn’t like, nor do I like either, but our friendship and our political collaboration will go on, through thick and thin.

So you’ve spoken to him?

Yes.

And how did he come across?

He is a great statesperson, and logically he is worried, but assuming his responsibility, with a huge commitment to his people, very conscious of the difficulties, he is conscious that we have to win time, that it is very important that more pro-Europe and pro-sovereignty forces win more weight in Europe. It is a battle that cannot be fought solely in one state. And I think he is showing bravery and keeping his sights high against adversaries that are, well, losing the plot. You only have to listen to the IMF and the US saying reasonable things whilst Germany has a very clear roadmap, which is to defeat the Syriza government, to defeat us (i.e. Podemos), and eject Greece from the Euro, which is hugely irresponsible. Tsipras has had to fall back, but the game of chess goes on. I still admire him. You admire someone when they confront difficult situations, not easy situations. It is hugely painful to see certain people attacking him so harshly when he has shown in the past months that he has defended his country and his people.

In the PSOE there are those who have seen parallels between what has happened in Greece and the conjuncture confronted by Zapatero, and the way in which he had to renounce elements of his electoral programme. Do you think such parallels exist?

Yes, and I have a great deal of respect for Jose Luis [Rodríguez Zapatero]. I have spoken to him about that, precisely that, that moment. I think the fundamental difference is that Tsipras has fought, and fought to the end, and he’s going to go on fighting. I think that the way José Luis saw things there was no point in fighting, and he surrendered right from the start. I think that, well, you must fight like a lion. You cannot give up without a fight.

(In light of) what has happened in Greece, should the hopes that Podemos promised be revised?

Not at all. We are a very different country. We are a much stronger…Spain is a much stronger country than Greece. In fact our main problem here was not going to be with German elites, we would have to confront elites right here who don’t want to pay taxes and who are not so strong. They are a totally different proposition. A Spanish government would be much stronger, it would count on far more resources, we are a country with much more weight in Europe, with a difficult economic situation, but luckily much better than that of Greece. It is totally different. I have a great amount of sympathy for Greece but their situation does not compare to ours.

So what has happened there has not changed your electoral programme? Because there was talk in recent days of certain climbdowns that Podemos was making, for example, the restructuring of the debt?

We have always advocated a restructuring of the debt. Now, more over, everyone is advocating it. Even Montoro [finance minister] is calling for it with regard to the regional governments. Krugman, the Nobel prizewinner has called for it, even the IMF itself, and so, it’s a reasonable thing that has been done many times. But it is not the cornerstone of what needs to be done in terms of Spain’s economic policy. I think the Partido Popular is going to cling to the argument that Greece is very similar to Spain, but it is not true. Here we would have sufficient resources to ensure that those who have been robbing the citizens will have to contend with the law, and with a government that makes sure that the nominal rates [of tax] in this country start reflecting the real rates.

Yes, and I have a great deal of respect for Jose Luis [Rodríguez Zapatero]. I have spoken to him about that, precisely that, that moment. I think the fundamental difference is that Tsipras has fought, and fought to the end, and he’s going to go on fighting. I think that the way José Luis saw things there was no point in fighting, and he surrendered right from the start. I think that, well, you must fight like a lion. You cannot give up without a fight.

But has what has happened affected you negatively?

Personally, it pains me a great deal. The contempt for democracy shown by the Germans and certain financial elites pains me. For someone to be brave enough to call a referendum, and with such a wide majority, and for the Greeks to say “enough”, and for there then to be such contempt for democracy, such that it seems that cynical reason has triumphed – “it doesn’t matter what people vote for, we are going to go on calling the shots. It doesn’t matter how you vote. It doesn’t matter what people think.” Well, this is bad news for democracy, and it prefigures bleak future scenarios. If it goes on like this, perhaps the next elections in France will be won by Marine Le Pen. And France has nuclear weapons, Le Pen would have no trouble forming an alliance with Russia, and I don’t want that. But I think we are governed by anti-democrats that are moreover showing a lack of common sense. They are bringing us along a very dangerous slope. What has happened in Greece these days is the worst of news for democracy. The European financial elites have responded to a referendum like dictators. That is bad. That is dangerous.

And does this affect you in Podemos negatively, in terms of elections?

I don’t think so. And the proof lies in the fact that people can see things going on as normal. There were those who said that the Metro in Madrid would stop working in Madrid and Barcelona if Ada and Manuela were to win. And suddenly it looks like we have City Councils that are far better, mayors who say that wages [in the City Councils] need to be cut, and things need to be done better. those who said that Podemos would bring chaos are seeing that it is quite the contrary. Even newspapers that are not favourable [to us] recognise that even in those regional governments where we have voted for the PSOE’s investiture, there are now evictions stopped and there is now a social agenda that involves citizen rescue plans. I think Spain is showing that not only does Podemos know how to govern but that it knows how to govern better.

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2 responses to “Interview: Pablo Iglesias on Greece

  1. Pingback: Is Tsipras a Traitor for Refusing the Drachma of Grexit? | People's War

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