The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Do Tsipras and Syriza want to resist Austerity?

By Mark From Ireland (Elevated from the comments)

(In response to my article on whether Syriza got owned, Mark writes):

Did Syriza get owned?

Yes and No. Syriza is a coalition between a variety of factions ranging from PASOK lookalikes to people with genuinely socialist principles. I’ll be interested to see how Alekos Flambouraris for example will react, will he help “sell” this within the Syriza coalition?

If the currently dominant faction (who have always wanted to work within the Euro framework and are very pro-EU) are to succeed in getting Syriza to accept this capitulation they’re going to have to override internal resistance. From whom? My guess would be that the resistance will centre around Panagiotis Lafazanis and the “Left Current/Left platform” grouping. The “Left Current/Left platform” are, I believe, fairly well organised and they do have a consistent critique not only the current state of affairs but also of capitalism per se. Lafazanis and his comrades can truthfully say that in attacking the capitulation to the troika that they are merely defending the platform upon which Syriza stood and that anybody who wants to vary or overturn that platform has to provide cogent and compelling reasons as to why. But the problem that Lafazanis and his comrades face is both one of policy and of internal organisational strenght. Principles are all very well but if you don’t control the party structure you’re going to lose every time. I said above that they’re “fairly well organised” but are they as well organised as Tsipras and his supporters?

Tsipras’ opponents to the left face a very real problem and one which reminds me in a way of the problem faced by the British Labour left when confronted with Tony Blair. Like Blair Tsipras has a substantial personal mandate and like Blair he’s got a record of going over the heads of his critics to party congress (he’s already successfully done this over candidate lists) and also like Blair he’s got a record of successfully campaigning alone – of very pointedly not campaigning alongside the left-wingers. Just like Blair he can say that Syriza’s victory is a personal victory brought about by him. (He’s also tried Blair’s strategy of giving difficult posts to left-wingers* how that will work out is something that will tell us a lot. Blair successfully marginalised his internal opposition using it whether Tsipras can do the same I just don’t know as the Blair/Tsipras analogy can only go so far).

So the question in a way isn’t so much one of whether or not Syriza got owned as one of whether Syriza is a coherent and viable movement without Tsipras and his followers. I have my doubts.

I hope that Greece manages to resist but I doubt they’ll resist if Tsipras remains at the helm as he never wanted to resist in the first place.

*What for purposes of shorthand I’ll call the Bennite and Militant tendencies


Did Syriza get owned?


The Problem with Basic Income


  1. rote

    It’s worth noting that the Left Platform (or maybe just the Left Current, one of the two main wings within it) refused any cabinet positions, specifically to avoid getting put in a position of having to go against their principles.

    I’m not clear on how the party works, but we can expect Left Platform come out strongly against the deal, which will probably draw many towards them. If Syriza’s democratically controlled (which it seems like it isn’t as well as it should), it could very well end up with revolutionary socialists in power. That would be interesting.

  2. Greg T


    I wanted to post a comment earlier, but I never got around to it. Since Ian elevated this to a post, I’ll comment.

    Your analysis gave me the chills. Literally. It’s my greatest fear in this whole situation. The Left Platform is apopleptic over this deal. Only if they can exert sufficient pressure and convince straddlers that the current Euro system incompatible with Greek prosperity will Syriza exit the Euro. If this pressure is released, Tsipras will manage to convince most of his party this was the best deal that could be gotten. In other words, he will administer anaesthesia to the population rather than cure the disease.

    In that case, Russ will have been spot on accurate in his assessment.

  3. David

    Robert Peston has also made a comparison of Tsipras with

  4. markfromireland

    @ David February 26, 2015

    David good find many thanks for that link I’ve bolded the part of the aricle that made me say “uh oh” –

    In the reforms proposed by the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to secure a four-month extension of its life-or-death bailout, vanished are the party’s seeming implacable hostility to privatisation, determination to re-hire sacked public-sector workers, and desire for rapid rises in minimum wages.

    Or to put it another way, the platform on which Syriza won the recent general election has been significantly reconstructed.

    In its place are what we might see as “New Syriza” measures: commitments to improve the efficiency of the public sector and eliminate waste, to promote competition with a strengthened competition commission, to reform labour markets, to streamline pension schemes, not to reverse privatisations and take a pragmatic approach to future sales of government assets.


    But in appeasing the European economic establishment, seen only days ago as the enemy, Mr Varoufakis risks alienating his friends, the members and supporters of his very young party.

    The danger for him is that he buys economic and financial stability at the price of political instability.

    Or to put it another way Tsipras is doing exactly what Blair did and continuing the Thatcherite policies of his predecessors. Hence the “New Syriza”/New Labour reference. The problem with the analogy is of course that Thatcher, Major, and Blair had a lot of money to play with, specifically they had the (once off) North Sea oil revenue stream which they squandered on funding unemployment and even then there was, particularly under Thatcher, a fair bit of social unrest.

    I rather suspect that Tsipras and Varoufakis are doing rather more and rather worse than merely “alienating friends and supporters” and that they are not buying economic and financial stability I suspect that what they’ve bought is financial, economic, political, and social unstability with all the futile human suffering that that entails and that they’ve bought it on a massive scale.


  5. markfromireland

    @ rote February 25, 2015

    I’m completely open to correction on this as I’m very far from having detailed knowledge of Syriza’s internal structures and balances but my understanding is that Left Platform members have taken up ministerial posts.


  6. markfromireland

    @ Greg T February 25, 2015

    Greg, I’m not so sure that Left Platform as opposed to Left Current are apopleptic. In which case I find it hard to see how Left Current can raise enough Cain to even soften the blows about to fall let alone deflect them.


  7. markfromireland

    By way of update and confirmation I’ve unabashedly copied and pasted from The Guardian’s rolling update. I find the report quoting the Greek Central Bank’s Governor about “next phases” and “growth potential” particularly ominous:

    20m ago 13:08

    Back in Greece, the Syriza party is putting on a brave face after yesterday’s marathon 12-hour session to discuss the bailout situation, writes Helena Smith in Athens.

    A phalanx of Syriza cadres appearing on TV chat shows this morning said the deal was essentially “not an agreement” but the key that would unlock the door to new negotiations.

    Syriza MEP Kostas Chrysogonos declared:

    “The next four months are what is critical….There is no agreement as such.”

    Christos Mantas, who is secretary of Syriza’s parliamentary group, said “every MP had the chance to speak” at yesterday’s marathon session.

    He told Star TV that:

    “We have taken a small step that is only the beginning. Things will be judged on how we govern….Next week you will see that parliament will begin operating and a lot of legislation will be pushed through,”

    Mantas added that the bills would include protective measures for austerity-hit Greeks, concluding.

    “Why is (German finance minister Wolfgang) Schauble so angry, if we are such good guys?


    2h ago 11:33

    The governor of Greece’s central bank has predicted that the country’s economy will grow this year, unless the fragile recovery is derailed by bailout deadlock.

    Yannis Stournaras (the former finance minister) told an audience in Athens that it was vital that Greece reaches a final agreement with its creditors to cover future funding needs.

    Delivering his annual report, Stournaras urged the government to pursue talks with its creditors in a spirit of co-operation.

    There is no room for complacency, he added, given the strain that Greek banks have come under and the fragility of the recovery.

    But the worst could be over, Stournaras said:

    “In the past few years, we have covered some very rough ground at high cost to the whole of Greek society.

    “If we can address the relatively few issues still pending and complete the first phase of the effort launched in 2010, we will then be able to move on to the next phase, in which the growth potential of the economy will be considerably enhanced.”

    And if you don’t know about it already the NewsNow service is worth bookmarking:

    NewsNow >Link to NewsNow Home


    World News → Europe → Western → Greece


  8. markfromireland

    And Finally from the Financial Times:

    A closer look at Greece’s proposed reforms

    Kerin Hope in Athens

    Greece’s new leftwing Syriza government has talked of killing the country’s current bailout deal. Yet many of the reform pledges it spelt out in a letter to the eurogroup on Tuesday bear a striking resemblance to those made but not implemented by previous Greek finance ministers.

    Others seem calibrated to give space for Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s new finance minister, to claim he has kept faith with Syriza’s so-called “Thessaloniki programme”. This is a collection of anti-austerity policies endorsed by multiple factions in the hardline “Left Platform”, which is said to represent about one-third of party activists.

    Greece has submitted the reforms to persuade its 18 eurozone partners to extend its bailout by four months, putting it on a path to collect about €7.2bn in loan payments by June.

    Its gaps and omissions will presumably be filled in during negotiations with the group of institutions that have overseen the bailout and were until recently known as the “troika” — the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

    Here are a few, decoded, points to ponder on key issues:

    Privatisation: Syriza’s opposition to privatisation seems to have evaporated. The government commits not to reverse sales that have been completed, while “respecting the legal process” in the case of tenders already launched.

    This is good news for Cosco, the Chinese state shipping company, and Maersk of Denmark, the frontrunners among bidders shortlisted for a two-thirds stake in Piraeus Port Authority. It implies, too, that a consortium led by Frankfurt airport that was named preferred bidder for a 40-year concession to run Greece’s regional airports will be able to wrap up the deal as planned.

    But the question remains: will Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister and Left Platform leader who declared last month that privatisation was “over”, try to obstruct the sales of the electricity grid and part of the state power utility, which are both at an earlier stage?

    Tax policy: Despite Syriza’s promise not to increase taxes, Mr Varoufakis appears willing to comply with the IMF’s longstanding demand that concessionary VAT rates charged on Aegean Islands should be raised to the standard level. Such a measure would raise revenues significantly but was headed off by previous governments because of pressure from local politicians.

    Revenue administration: The Syriza government will bolster the independence of the general secretary for public revenues “from all sorts of interference (political or otherwise) while guaranteeing full accountability and transparency of their operations”. This amounts to a commitment to ensure that the country’s top tax collector will not be forced out, as happened in June to Haris Theoharis after he asked several prominent Greek company owners with political connections to pay up.

    Banking: A partial win for the Syriza government, which is committed to banning foreclosures for homeowners unable to pay their mortgages. Mr Varoufakis says the government will “collaborate with bank managements and the institutions to avoid, in the forthcoming period, auctions of the main residence of households below a certain threshold, while pursuing strategic defaulters”.

    Labour market: A defeat for the government, which has pledged to revive collective wage bargaining and increase the minimum wage to the pre-crisis level by 2016.

    Mr Varoufakis has signed up to the “phasing in of a new ‘smart’ approach to collective wage bargaining . . . would include the ambition to streamline and over time raise minimum wages in a manner that safeguards competitiveness and employment prospects”.

    A confrontation is on the cards, as boosting wage competitiveness and labour market flexibility were key achievements in the eyes of the troika. But the Left Platform will press Mr Varoufakis for a firm timetable on rolling back both reforms.

    Source: A closer look at Greece’s proposed reforms –

  9. I question this need to match Tsipras to an existing “Figure of Betrayal” like Blair or Obama. Most of what MFI has been citing on this thread has been, yes, the one-sided agreement forced on Greece by its creditors. Syriza could call a new election, I suppose, and let some other formation come to power to implement it, or perhaps Greeks will decide to vote for a Grexit-supporting party. (The former I consider more likely than the latter, by a big margin.) It would make no sense, because so far most Greeks expected this kind of compromise and are supporting the outcome.

    Of course, it is mostly bad policy. If it causes more human suffering to the point where a majority of Greeks are not willing to bear it, then we will see the public finally support leaving the Eurozone.

    But if y’all are going to try and fit Tsipras into the Obamist or Blairite mold, I suspect the analogies are weak. Greece is not the UK or the USA. Its previous leaders signed away monetary sovereignty under false pretenses, and it does not have the industrial output of either of those countries, in addition being much smaller. The politics are as different as they could be for Western representative democracies.

    So if you must have a Figure of Betrayal, why not make Tsipras himself one? The next time we see a Greek Situation emerge, we can readily have a way to label the leader of the next Syriza (maybe Podemos?), as the new Tsipras.

  10. Sorry, more German, and that too, from the right-wing German press (Die Welt is considered considerably to the right of the center of the spectrum in German media):

    The author is convinced that the reforms Syriza promised to the Eurogroup will never actually show up except cosmetically (and therefore the Greeks are going to continue to steal Oma’s money), and the Syriza is simply the reincarnation of PASOK in giving “Wahlgeschenke” (electoral gifts) to Greek voters who don’t realize that they are actually lazy bums who deserve everything they’re getting under austerity.

  11. Xco

    I question this need

    on Mandos’s part to elaborately psychoanalyze his opponents’ use of simple inductive reasoning.

  12. on Mandos’s part to elaborately psychoanalyze his opponents’ use of simple inductive reasoning.

    Psychoanalyze? Possibly apropos:

  13. Like I thought. Conditioned to see failure in absolutely everything.

  14. Xco

    Hi Lucy.

  15. Lisa

    Hmmm. ‘Maybe’ to most comments.

    If I put myself in the Greek Govt’s position some things are clear. When they were elected they had only a few weeks money available and the EU and Germany seemed quite happy for the country to basically shut down totally.

    So how I would play it is:
    (1) Get a short term/interim agreement to get some cash, lying through my teeth to achieve that.
    (2) Use that time to (quietly) set up the necessary things to leave the Euro.
    (3) If they are really smart then make sure their security is beefed up and, if necessary, do a purge from the military (etc) to head off a likely coup.
    I gave it (and still do) a 75% chance of one happening, the EU would love a nice military right wing Govt in power and has shown zero reluctance to kill/dismember/neutralise democracy.
    Everyone forgets that the EU was just as much into overthrowing the Ukrainian Govt as the US was, just they wanted different people in charge and their actions in Greece and Italy by over ruling the elected Govt’s are telling.

    Now whether or not that is Greek Govt’s strategy I really don’t know, but it seems a logical play for me. They need time to put in place the necessary elements for any alternative future approach, which basically is leave the Euro (and head off a near certain coup attempt).

    This is all being driven by the EU bureaucrats who are neo-liberal/neo-con to the core now, plus Germany* which is pretty much the same with a good dose of racism as well (and using it to try to head off internal dissent about the collapse in living standards there).

    *Is there anyone actually naive enough to believe that Merkal and Hollande would have gone to all the trouble of getting a ceasefire if Kiev had been winning? Nope, of course not. Their motivation was to save Kiev and as much of its forces as they could (and in that were a tiny bit smarter than the US, which displaying its usual incompetence at anything military, wants Kiev to keep fighting on until they are conscripting 5 year olds).
    If Kiev had won and their troops and the nazi militias were running loose and ethnically cleansing all over the place, Merkal would have cheered them on and Speigal would have headlines about how successful at ‘anti-terrorism’ and ‘freedom and democracy building’ Kiev was (and having secret wet dreams about Ukraine then driving onto Moscow).

  16. Synoia

    ” if Tsipras remains at the helm as he never wanted to resist in the first place.”

    Got link?

    Tsipras may be the Greek Blair – its too early to judge.

    It is a mistake was negotiating a closed deal with Northern Europeans. It might work in cultures which barter and negotiate, sometime endlessly. That’s not how Northern Europeans behave.

    A deal is a deal – Beendet und Claosed.

  17. Lisa

    And just to show there is some good news in the world..occasionaly, just got my legal change of name and sex document through….

  18. V. Arnold

    @ Lisa

    Congrats on your “official” new life.

  19. Jessica

    Congratulations. Enjoy.

  20. markfromireland

    @ Lisa February 27, 2015

    Allow me to add my congratulations to those already expressed.


  21. OK, here’s another Kouvelakis article which I think is much better because it most clearly states the issue under dispute (without calling people traitors or objectively pro-austerity or something like that, although it does call them “sophists” but whatever):

    Making any political choice conditional on the emergence of social movements is more than risky. It is a way of saying that it is a decision that will have to be changed if the mobilisations do not take place or if they are insufficiently powerful. In reality, we have to take the opposite line of march. We have to assume that we have already made the decision to break with austerity: it’s this that stimulates mobilisation, which will then enjoy (or acquire) its own autonomy. Moreover, that is exactly what happened in Greece during the government’s ‘confrontation’ with the EU between 5 and 20 February, when tens of thousands of people took to the street in a largely spontaneous manner, outside of any party framework.

    Besides, the argument that ‘we have won some time’ is in this case an illusion, since during these four months of supposed ‘respite’, Syriza will in fact be forced to operate within the existing framework. And this will strengthen this framework: Syriza will have to implement a good part of what the Troika (now restyled ‘the institutions’) demands, while ‘putting off’ the application of the key measures of its own programme – precisely the policies that would have allowed it to ‘make a difference’ and cement the social alliance that brought it to power. Indeed there is a very major risk that the time that Syriza has ‘won’ will prove to have been ‘wasted time’, undermining Syriza’s base while allowing its enemies (particularly those on the far Right) to regroup and present themselves as the only partisans of a ‘real systemic break’.

    I disagree with the underlying thinking and way of evaluating the world that is in Kouvelakis’ argument and his interpretation of the things he calls sophistry, but this is an empirical prediction that we have now the ability to test in this environment. I personally think, as I said before, that regardless of whether Syriza “succeeds” or “fails”, it has pushed history forward a little bit and forced Europe to stare some of its own contradictions in the face, if only for a moment.

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