A Greek Tragedy?
It looks likely that Greece is heading back to the polls in about a months time. Parties in the Greek Parliament have had at least 3 sets of ‘last ditch’ talks since the election result, you do wonder how much ‘last-last-last ditch’ talking Greece’s politicians can actually endure. Syriza, which is the real fulcrum of these talks, has however made its position perfectly and admirably clear, that it will not accept the European Union’s bailout money, coming with bolted-on swinging austerity as it does. It is in the relatively rare position in politics of being able to take a principled stand which is also highly expeditious for its own political fortunes. If Greece does enter a round of fresh elections then current polling suggests it is in-line to reap a huge electoral dividend from its intransigence.
This tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the Greek people actually feel about austerity; sick to the back teeth doesn’t quite seem to do the sentiment justice. Syriza’s great strength is that as a heterogeneous organisation it is has managed to not just unite itself but also draw significant support from a cross-section of Greek society. A Syriza victory would have significant ramifications not just for Greece but obviously also for the rest of Europe which would extend well beyond its possible exit from the Euro. Greece would find itself in being in the somewhat paradoxical position of both being the darling of Eurosceptic right and left globalist advocates of a European social model. For the latter it would be a martyr to their cause while right-wingers would argue it proves their argument that a looser federation of nation states is a better way forward for Europe to be correct.
However, serious questions exist in my mind though as to whether both the financial markets and the European bureaucracy would ‘allow’ Syriza to govern. If Greece was able to make rejecting austerity a success and slowly turn itself round under Alexis Tsipra then it would be a powerful totem for rejectionist sentiment everywhere to rally too and hold-up; ‘there is no alternative’ would suddenly become a notion whose credibility would be potentially fatally wounded. Ironically, given the fact that Greece has been used as a bugaboo by proponents of austerity, Greece could easily become a beacon of hope for opponents of austerity on a continent-wide basis. This would, however, mean that the vested interests which currently bleed Europe dry and deny the realisation of the European dream would not be in a position to simply stand by and watch as Greece taunted them with its success, Syriza would have to be actively quashed.
From the moment Syriza enters office, if indeed it does, it is likely to find itself in a very similar position to the one that the fictional Harry Perkins-led Labour Party portrayed in A Very British Coupfound itself in, except in a potentially worse position because it will govern only as the largest component of a wider governing coalition. Syriza will have to go further than simply rejecting austerity and push through a radical programme of economic and political democracy to empower the Greek people. Ultimately, as well, it will have to be prepared to defend itself, and Greek democracy, through the use of armed force if the actions of its opponents force that position on it because lurking in the background of the Greek crisis are the specters of potential coups and ultimately even open civil war in Greece. Left-wingers across the continent will naturally wish Syriza well, but equally, they should be fearful that a Greek triumph could still become a Greek tragedy all too quickly….