Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will soon have to decide whether he prefers a rift with Greece’s creditors and a return to the drachma, or a new memorandum that will keep the country in the euro. Regardless of speculation, I believe that Tsipras wants Greece to remain in the common currency. I do not believe that Tsipras and his close aides have secretly hammered out a Grexit scenario and are simply playing the blame game. They are aware of the implications of the repercussions of such a decision.
However, Tsipras must decide. If he wants a rift, he should go ahead – but not before asking the opinion of the Greek public. If he choses to play the role of a postmodern Allende, then he has already made progress with the narrative. If he goes for a rift and happens to lose an election or a referendum, then he will blame his defeat on the vested interests and Europe’s strong powers. If he wins, he will have hell to face for a couple of years.
A rift, at least, is some kind of strategy. Instead, what we are seeing now is an unbelievable mess, a bipolar policy which is bound to self-destruct. A large number of SYRIZA officials like to govern as if the country has switched to the drachma. They oppose most reforms which are, for better or worse, mandated by the Europeans, and they keenly promote measures that are not in the EU rulebook. The idea is “we’d rather go back to the drachma than betray everything we stand for.”
Tsipras has his feet in two separate boats and they are moving further apart. The games of his economic policymakers have baffled the country’s remaining allies. They have no plan, they are pure amateurs, and they are coercing Tsipras into committing political suicide. They have convinced him that Berlin would never allow Greece to go bankrupt and that the Germans will, ultimately, give us the money. The approach is making things extremely hard for those who want to help Greece.
In any case, Tsipras has until April 20-25. He could form a group of wise professionals and quickly wrap up the talks. He would then have to lay out some unpleasant truths and say: “this is the best deal we could get. Let’s see this through and then we’ll try deliver on our other pledges.” The other way would be to go for a rift. One supposes that MP Costas Lapavitsas, an economist, and some others inside SYRIZA, will have drawn a plan for the day after.
But this is going nowhere. The real economy is collapsing. The state is coming apart. Those who are not getting what they were promised will start protesting. With every passing week, Greece will become harder to govern.
Tsipras was anxious to become premier in a country that faces burning outstanding issues on all fronts. Now he must take a decision knowing that judgment lies not with the next opinion poll but with history.