Costas Lapavitsas is a candidate standing for election on Syriza’s list. He is a Professor of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a member of Research on Money and Finance (RMF). He was the lead author of the RMF reports published by Verso as Crisis in the Eurozone. His previous publications include Social Foundations of Markets, Money and Credit and Political Economy of Money and Finance and Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All.
Last week Jacobin published an interview with Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas, by Verso senior editor Sebastian Budgen. In this comprehensive discussion of the situation in Greece, Yanis Varoufakis's self-proclaimed "erratic Marxism", and the "Grexit", Lapavitsas reflected on the Greek social movements and the international Left's part to play.
Sebastian Budgen: A question then about forced exit and its consequences: the Plan B that you describe in some detail with Flassbeck seems quite statist. Would it be enough to withstand the shock of devaluation and autarchy?
If not, what are the Greek movements and Syriza doing to develop what we can call a Plan C — a plan of resilience, of commons, of solidarity, that would organize social reproduction where the state cannot satisfy people’s needs? What role would such strategies play in fending off the temptations of authoritarianism?
Costas Lapavitsas: That is part of Plan B. That is very much part of Plan B. Plan B — the way we’re talking about it, the way I’ve talked about it and Flassbeck and so on — is obviously a plan that happens and should happen at the level of high politics in the first instance, because that’s where the crisis is. And we need intervention at the level of high politics and the level of state.
Of course, any kind of strategy that is in the interests of working people — any kind of transitional strategy — must incorporate precisely what you called Plan C. And when we talk about the public and the state and so on, what I’ve got in mind is the collective and the public sector generally. The idea of the state taking everything over is an old-fashioned idea that died a death with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. That’s not really in the cards anymore.
What we’re talking about is public and collective solutions. Yes indeed we need the commons. Yes indeed we need activity from below. Yes indeed we need contributions and actions by the communities. But first we’ve got to sort the macro questions out, sort the state questions out. Unfortunately communities cannot do it at that level.
Yesterday the economist, Syriza MP and author of Crisis in the Eurozone, Profiting Without Producing and our blueprint for anti-capitalist change in Greece; Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone published a stark warning to his own party in light of the concessions made by the Greek government in the Eurozone talks.
The Eurogroup agreement has not been concluded, in part because we do not yet know what ‘reforms’ will be proposed by the Greek government today (Monday 23 February) and which ones of those will eventually be accepted. However, those of us that have been elected based on the program of Syriza, and see the announcements made at Thessaloniki [i.e. the ‘Thessaloniki Program’] as pledges that we have promised to the Greek people, we have deep concerns. It is our duty to write them down.
With the election won, what happens next? The author of our practical blueprint for change in the Eurozone, Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone considers Syriza's electoral promises in a recent Guardian article.
The Greek parliament has failed to elect a new president and the country’s constitution dictates that there should now be parliamentary elections. These will be critical for Greece and also important for Europe. A victory for Syriza, the main leftwing party, would offer hope that Europe might, at last, begin to move away from austerity policies. But there are also grave risks for Greece and the European left.