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Beware of Greeks Bearing Debts
Syriza’s Shocking Coup Revelation

Details of a plot by left-wing members of parliament in Greece to seize the national mint and appeal to Russia for help at the peak of the euro crisis have just leaked. The Financial Times reports the details:

Arresting the central bank’s governor. Emptying its vaults. Appealing to Moscow for help. These were the elements of a covert plan to return Greece to the drachma hatched by members of the Left Platform faction of Greece’s governing Syriza party.

They were discussed at a July 14 meeting at the Oscar Hotel in a shabby downtown district of Athens following an EU summit that saw Greece cave to its creditors, leaving many in the party feeling despondent and desperate. […]

Chief among them is Panayotis Lafazanis, the former energy and environment minister and leader of Syriza’s Left Platform, which unites a diverse group of far left activists — from supporters of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to old-fashioned communists. He was eventually sacked in a cabinet reshuffle after voting against reforms tied to the bailout.

It’s unclear as of yet whether the first step of this plan was to persuade the Prime Minister, stage a parliamentary coup, or stage an actual coup—but the FT reports the atmosphere in the room was “revolutionary.” And Lafanzis certainly had firm plans in mind:

[E]ven hardline communists were taken aback when Mr Lafazanis proposed that the Syriza government should seize control of the Nomismatokopeion, the Greek mint, where the bulk of the country’s cash reserves are kept.[..]

Mr Lafazanis said the reserves, which he claimed amounted to €22bn, would pay for pensions and public sector wages and also keep Greece supplied with food and fuel while preparations were made for launching a new drachma.

Meanwhile, the central bank would immediately lose its independence and be placed under government control. Its governor, Yannis Stournaras, would be arrested if, as expected, he opposed the move.

In this, the plotters went far beyond what even leftist figures such as recently-sacked Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis acknowledged would have been possible. As Varoufakis wrote in the Guardian earlier this month:

To exit, we would have to create a new currency from scratch. In occupied Iraq, the introduction of new paper money took almost a year, 20 or so Boeing 747s, the mobilisation of the US military’s might, three printing firms and hundreds of trucks. In the absence of such support, Grexit would be the equivalent of announcing a large devaluation more than 18 months in advance: a recipe for liquidating all Greek capital stock and transferring it abroad by any means available.

In fact, it would have placed Greece in total financial chaos—what one MP described as “a trip to hell.”

And their plan to escape that hell? Simple:

Even before the Oscar Hotel meeting, Mr Lafazanis, a former Greek Communist Party official, was pursuing desperate schemes to address the government’s financial woes.

Given the communist past of Mr Tsipras and other leading government figures, Athens believed it would be a simple matter to win $5bn to $10bn in financial backing from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Mr Lafazanis visited Moscow three times as Mr Tsipras’s envoy after Syriza came to power in January. In return for signing up to a new gas pipeline project, he hoped for at least €5bn in prepayments of gas transit fees, according to people briefed on the initiative. But the Russians rejected the deal the week before the EU summit.

Two notes: one, it’s something of a shock to see such a blunt statement of Tsirpas’ communist connections—but a beneficial one, given how they color the worldview. And secondly, Mr. Lafazanis badly misunderstands Mr. Putin, whose schtick is taking money, not doling it out on that scale.

The fallout from these revelations remains to be seen. Reports abound that a split in Syriza is deepening, and an open breach with Tsipras is more and more likely in the coming weeks. And meanwhile, negotiations having resumed, Greece is up to its old tricks…

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  • Pete

    What clowns!

  • John Tyler

    Syriza should have offered Putin a naval base in Greece, and Putin would have given Syriza what it wanted.
    Everybody knows Greece is bankrupt and Putin realizes he has nothing to gain helping the Greeks. But a Russian Naval

    Base in Greece would have done the trick.

    Greece is in NATO only because they fear the Turks; they have always had an affinity for communist Russia.

    And NATO want Greece to remain within that paper tiger of an alliance-joke only to prevent Russia from expanding its navy into the Mediterranean / Aegean / Ionian Sea.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I think not.
      This isn’t the Cold War, and while Putin may find rattling his rusty, dented sabre in the near-abroad (where even the Russian military can win, given the huge strategic advantages accruing to Russia there), anything further away is not really an option. Maintaining even a symbolic presence in Greece would be hugely expensive for the Russians, and would give them no meaningful strategic benefit, while it would incur the massive and immediate wrath of everyone in the area. Putin may not be my favorite guy, but he does seem to understand the difference between form and substance, and is not willing to spend precious hard currency on the former.

  • ljgude

    Indeed this had the feel of the old communist left playing a major role. A bunch of moustache Petes seizing the mint! How 1910.

  • jeburke

    Of course, they are Communists. The collapse of the Soviet Union hardly did away with these people. They simply changed party names, formed new parties or merged into various fronts. Calling them “left-leaning” is just a way for the generally liberal media to avoid coming to grips with the fact that various manifestations of Marxism always wind up being authoritarian and repressive.

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