‘Priority is to save Greece from total destruction’

Print edition : March 06, 2015

Marina Prentoulis: "Our country was totally destroyed." Photo: By Special Arrangement

Interview with Marina Prentoulis, a member of the five-member Coordinating Committee for Syriza in London.

MARINA PRENTOULIS teaches Media and Politics at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. She is in the five-member Coordinating Committee for Syriza in London.

A powerful public speaker, Marina addressed the victory meeting of the Greek Solidarity Campaign held at the Trade Union Conference headquarters in London on January 28.

This interview with Frontline was given less than a week after the Syriza’s victory.

The victory of Syriza has thrown up many expectations. How will it meet these?

When Syriza came to power, we had two main priorities, one internal and one external. The first priority is to get rid of the lending agreements, to renegotiate the Greek debt. The second one is internal, how we deal with corruption and so on. Syriza has already shown a different attitude to the E.U. It said that we are finished with the lending agreement. This is a big confrontation. The lending agreement has to do not only with the debt, but also with the measures Greece has to take because of the debt. This is now the first and biggest battle that Syriza has to fight. Putting aside the lending agreement means you have to give back the employment rights that were destroyed, you must refuse to slash pensions. Everything is happening amazingly fast despite the pressure on the party from within Greece and from outside.

Everybody is asking how Syriza will deliver. The media were in favour of the previous government and it is only now that they are starting to shift a little. The Conservative government has vowed that the moment Syriza comes to power they will hit us all the time. So the pressure is immense.

What about internal measures?

There are a series of measures we will undertake. Reinstating minimum wages and slashed pensions, and stopping privatisation. We stopped the privatisation of a port.

Can you talk about the scenarios before Syriza on renegotiating the debt? If the troika does not agree, how long will Syriza wait? Will it consider pulling out of the E.U.?

Well, there are many scenarios because it is a negotiation, and everybody wants to learn the outcome of the negotiations. My point is that negotiations don’t happen like that. You negotiate, that is the point. You have high expectations and then you agree to something in the middle. I think the E.U. and others know that this is not a viable debt. It is not something that we can pay off. They know that very well. When the crisis started, the debt was 120 per cent of the GDP. Now, it’s 175 per cent and growing. If Greece pulls out, Germany will be a big loser. It will lose more money; the bonds of the state are in German banks.

Another issue that has struck observers is your alliance with the Anel party. What do your parties share?

It is a right-wing party, not a fascist party. It is also anti-immigration. But because Syriza needed a majority to start negotiations, it needed a partner. We decided we are not going to collaborate with any party that has been in government or that supported the lending agreements. What Syriza wanted and has said publicly is an alliance with the Greek Communist Party, or the KKE, and every time, they have refused. They are our natural allies and of course we would like to have a left government. We have agreed to make compromises, and they have refused.

They want Greece to pull out of the E.U.

They have an anti-capitalist rhetoric which sounds as if it comes from a different century. This rhetoric gives them a comfortable position. They don’t have to get their hands dirty or get into any situation. What Syriza felt was that in this situation, it is more important for us to do something for our country. And we are working for that. We have not withdrawn ourselves taking a “pure” political position. This is the position of the KKE, and apart from its electorate, which is very loyal to the KKE, and which constitutes 5 per cent of the voters, the KKE has not convinced the Greek people. We believe in broader alliances to be able to make a difference, and this is how we moved from a small party with a 5 per cent vote share to forming the government.

You have appointed the leader of the Anel party as Defence Minister. Does that mean support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)?

These are issues we will address later. You cannot open every possible front. Our priority is to save Greece from total destruction. I don’t know how many people have committed suicide. We never had people living in the streets, we were a society with close family and community bonds. Suddenly in Greece you see people looking in the garbage for things to eat. And because we are in Europe, we say we are advanced and civilised. Where is the advance in that? Our country was totally destroyed.

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