Alexis Tsipras, Athens, January 25th (Photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica)
It was expected and I’m pleased. Syriza (acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) is the most left-wing party to ever win a legislative election in a Western democracy. And by far, as the socialists (PASOK), who are to Syriza’s right—and were all but wiped out yesterday—will in no way be associated with the new government. We now have a democratically elected government in a Western country composed of communists (small c), Trotskyists, and other motley gauchistes, who will now have to put their money where their mouths are and deliver the goods. Très bien. I will be watching with great interest.
It looks like Syriza will bring in the conservative, Eurosceptic ANEL as a coalition partner. In France this would be akin to a Front de Gauche/EELV/NPA-led government with support from Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s Debout la France. Quelle hypothèse saugrenue. Now such a government in Paris would end in certain fiasco—it would crash and burn within months—but in Greece it could possibly work, as Alexis Tsipras’s hands will be sort of tied when he goes to Brussels and Berlin—he won’t have much margin of maneuver—but just about everyone outside Germany is fed up with the EU’s austerity politics of the past six years, the specter of deflation is looming, the ECB is engaging in unprecedented quantitative easing, and it’s simply clear to everyone—again, outside Germany—that something has to change in Europe and fast. So Syriza is coming to power at the right moment, when there will be more openness in the EU to accommodating it if it commits itself to serious reforms (on taxation, corruption, etc). We’ll soon see if the “loud-mouthed radical” Tsipras—as the FT called him back in ’12—will become un homme d’État.
As it happens, my Greek political science friends haven’t been too optimistic over the prospects of a Syriza government or Tsipras transforming himself into that homme d’État. My go-to man on anything having to do with Greece, Stathis Kalyvas, the Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science at Yale University—and who is not a Tsipras fan—has an instant analysis of yesterday’s election in Foreign Affairs (registration required), “So Long, Austerity? Syriza’s Victory and the Future of the Eurozone.” If you read just one article on the Greek election, let it be this.
Yesterday Stathis posted on social media “An improvised crash course in recent Greek political history,” which is both useful and cleverly put together.
Michalis Moutselos, a sharp political science doctoral candidate at Princeton, has also not been too impressed with Syriza. Back in November, in a social media response to a starry-eyed tribune in The Guardian, “Europe’s new left parties can make the dreams of 1968 come true,” authored by the starry-eyed Croatian gauchiste philosopher Srećko Horvat, Michalis thus let loose
I have had enough with the normalisation of SYRIZA and ensuing love affair with European leftist-progressives. Friends, those of you who think that these guys are the European avant-garde, you really should know what you are getting in bed with. These are people who talk about creating a Ministry or some kind of state sub-committee for about anything that you can imagine, from tourism to dancing to IT. They repeatedly call the German government occupiers and neo-colonialists in public and make speeches in the European parliament about World War II reparations. They are against any kind of reform of the Greek public sector (anything, from simple evaluation to firing people who have not showed up to their posts in months). They make sure to justify Russian foreign policy and shake hands with Putin’s ministers. Their MPs repeatedly justify acts of vandalism in Greek universities – and I mean not sit-ins and occupations of auditoriums to prevent votes -, but locking up professors who disagree in their offices. In terms of nationalism, populism, and sheer staleness of opinions and policies, they are a Leftist version of the Tea Party. Greeks are voting for them out of spite for the old parties and that is understandable. But at least foreigners who follow Greek politics and are not affected by the polarised atmosphere of the country should know better before getting too excited. You might have to do a big volte-face once SYRIZA are in power.
Aïe. As we say here, Michalis n’y va pas par quatre chemins. And on social media today, he slammed the budding Syriza coalition with the right-wing souverainistes
For those abroad following Greek election results: it might come as a surprise that Tsipras chooses to form a coalition with populist/nationalist/right-wing Independent Greeks rather than more centrist parties, like POTAMI or PASOK. However, it should not be… What you see as a progressive, leftist electoral uprising is really a negative coalition around anti-austerity and the desire to restructure the national debt without any conditions attached. For SYRIZA it is thus preferable to sacrifice progressive, left-liberal policies (cutting down on defense spending, recognizing gay rights, regularizing second-generation immigrants) or leftist tax-and-spend policies mending the pitiful welfare state in Greece, in order to retain a united “national” front on debt negotiations. There is also no deeper sociological, working-class/historical experience to unite SYRIZA voters – sorry, but unemployment and “humanitarian crisis” do not cut it. Thus the precariousness of the anti-austerity vote. Which will try to find new radical “harbors” when it is realized that SYRIZA+ANEL cannot achieve a new haircut without isolating the country and causing bank runs. The vicious circle of pseudo-radicalization will only stop when there is a realization that debt maturities have been (and will further be) extended so far in the future that debt repayment is not the foremost issue behind Greek exceptionalism, and that the inability to produce our way out of the stalemate is really the issue.
It would be a real shame if the coalition with ANEL causes Syriza to scrap its progressive policy proposals on migrants and nationality acquisition. A question to Michalis: You mean “leftist AND RIGHTIST NO-tax-and-spend policies,” n’est-ce pas? Hasn’t the problem in Greece been lots of spending—by both PASOK and ND—but with no tax revenue to pay for it?
When I asked Michalis the other day for a good link or two on the Greek election, he offered this WSJ piece, dated January 23rd, “Greece: Austerity, Relief, or Exit.”
He also recommended “Who Is Afraid Of Alexis Tsipras,” originally published on January 18th in El Mundo.
I found informative a lengthy interview with King’s College London political theory prof—and Syriza central committee member—Stathis Kouvelakis, published January 22nd in Jacobin, “Greece: Phase One.” The lede: Syriza is the Left’s best chance at success in a generation. But for socialists, the hard part starts after election day.
Writing in OpenDemocracy as last night’s election returns came in, University of Georgia prof—and specialist of European populist movements—Cas Mudde offered “five predictions of a much similar future” after Syriza’s landslide.
André Sapir, economics prof at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and adviser to former European Commission president Romano Prodi—which means he’s mainstream—was interviewed by Libération’s Jean Quatremer, where he said that “La volonté de réformes de Syriza peut être la solution.” Inshallah.
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