I’ve been following the latest happenings between Greece and EU with some amount of fascination. While I’m not a believer in parliamentarism, I can’t help but be glad the current government is sticking to their guns and promises to their voters and is willing to go head to head with a very hostile and condescending Europe.
I do not think they have a chance in hell to succeed. Even if it’s merely a bluff. But I suspect they didn’t intent to. I believe this is part of their strategy.
My feeling is that Syriza knows that it’s been given a unique opportunity to break the bi-party lockdown of greek politics which has led to unprecedented corruption and nepotism. Something which EU/US government and businesses have been more than happy to take advantage. But this support is yet very fragile. The Greek people do not trust politicians anymore and most expected just another PASOK. However without the historical opportunities the original PASOK had to win people (i.e. effectively money away for votes) it would be impossible for Syriza do retain power in a similar fashion, so the only way to do this is to retain the popular vote.
And this is where their main antagonist comes in. EU, and particularly Germany looms especially large in the minds of Greeks, with a lot of dislike for what they’ve done to their country in the past 5 years. And while German media loves to coddle German citizens with tales of lazy Greeks who live beyond their means for decades, the reality for the Greek citizen has been completely different. Greeks saw the “support” of EU go to save EU, German and Greek banks with the capitulating Greek governments as an intermediary, with very little benefit to their own lives. In other words, the Greek Bailout was just another EU Plutocracy Bailout with the Greek populace as the ones socializing the damage.
At the same time, the actual life quality of the average Greek family has been declining rapidly as public services and social nets have been slaughtered on the altar of austerity and increasing competitiveness. Something which conveniently started raising the specter of Greek Nazism to the forefront of politics. One thing which EU is very happy to see when it serves their interest (see: Ukraine)
But it seems the Greeks are a bit less tolerant than our Slavic counterparts. I never expected Greeks to tolerate living with 100 Eur per month and I was surprised at how little social upheaval was happening as wages were being slashes lower and lower. But it finally seems they grasped their first chance to break the cycle and demand some radical change, by voting for a seemingly radical party to try something different from abject capitulation to economic demands.
Which takes us back to Syriza. Their current moves are unlikely to convince Germany and EU to change their course. But I suspect they already know that, given how Varoufakis had even precisely predicted the ECB’s retaliatory move a few years ago. Rather I suspect their “stick to their guns” strategy is meant to show Greeks that there is another path than the way of the “Ragias”1. And Greeks are responding VERY positively to it. Not only is Syriza giving Greeks something to be proud of, but they are promising and taking actual steps to attack the local Greek Plutocracy and crony politics at its root! If you live outside Greece, you have no idea how many Greeks were waiting for something like this to happen for decades and instead saw corrupt politicians continue business as usual.
This is unprecedented in modern Greek history!
At the same time, the unwavering negativity from our EU partners and Germany in particular is playing exactly into the strategy of Syriza, who do not even need to propagandize to show how Europe is hostile to any valid fix in the Greek situation, and would rather prefer to keep the above stated “business as usual” strategy going until they squeeze blood from stone (or “fat from a fly” as the Greek prefer to call it).
This economic hardline is akin bombing a military dictatorship. Your tactics might defeat the dictator but they are not going to turn the people to your side. In fact, the indiscriminate damage is going to have the exact opposite effect, it’s going to make people rally around their existing government and try to repel the invading forces any way they can. We have seen this again and again such as in US interventionism is Serbia and Iraq.
This is likewise rallying people around Syriza. And this includes Anarchists, right-wing “anti-communists” (Syriza’s leadership is Ex-Communists or Communists on paper), and a lot of apolitical people who never cared to support a party which would continue “business as usual”. If elections happened right now, merely a few week after the previous ones, Syriza would win in a landslide!
I do not believe however that Syriza leadership is being merely cynically opportunistic about it. I think they believe in what they do, but they MUST know that either of two things will happen. Either EU will blink, or Greece will completely collapse. I think they’re OK with both outcomes. The former, one I am not sure will happen, but if it does is because EU knows that a defaulting Greece will start a domino effect in Portugal, Spain and Italy and they cannot afford it, and not only that, but if a Greece outside of the Euro manages to recover faster than the doomsayers propagandize, then it will provide fuel to parties similar to Syriza in those other countries. Already Podemos of Spain is making huge gains just from being in the same timeline as Syriza’s rise to power!
The latter is what I think is more likely. The political cost of being lenient to Greece is far too large for the German government to stomach, especially since their mass media has been busy brainwashing their populace to dislike Greeks for the past half of a decade. So diplomacy will fail and Greece and Germany will start getting increasingly hostile to each other (more than they are already), with Greece poking at Germany more and more to illicit a response. This is, in fact, already happening with Syriza once again bringing German reparations owed to Greece into the spotlight.
Syriza knows a Grexit might be unavoidable at this point if they want to keep to their campaign promises, but they seem to want the decision to be made by their EU partners, rather than deciding it themselves. And if EU does kick Greece out, then it’s another chance to radicalize and rally people around them and manage to grab complete control of the government to follow their own strategy once out of the Eurozone.
And if THAT happens, I believe Germany and EU will have only one option remaining to them, a road richly paved by US realpolitik before them. Interventionism. I believe EU cannot allow Greece to succeed in any way after a Grexit. Not just because plutocrats are vindictive bastards, but because it will inspire others inside and outside the Euro to do similar. It’s one thing to have an Argentina or a Venezuela do that at the other part of the world, but this is in their own back-garden. You can’t let Portugal and Spain start getting ideas!
IF a Grexit happens, I foresee very bad times in the future of Greeks. Not necessarily because of Syriza’s flawed strategies, but due to supreme capital flight, as well as very likely funding of Nazi parties and even a potential attempt at a military coup. There is no doubt in my mind that a Greece of Syriza cannot be allowed to succeed.
I can only hope that the intervening times will radicalize Greeks more and more to be able to counteract these classic Capitalist reactions. Neo Nazis have been dealt some serious blows and I hope the recent courage Syriza provided will be enough to keep people on the left, rather than start blaming immigrants once more. Although I want to hope that if it’s EU that forces Greece out, it’ll be far more difficult to do so. In the same vein, the Greek standing army has been demotivated for long that I hope they won’t be able to use it for a military coup, even if they have support of a police force they’ve been busy making into happy little fascists for the past decade.
If all else fails, a proxy war via Turkey might be their last chance. And I truly hope it’ll never come to that.
- meaning, Greek Slave [↩]