Europe Should Let Greece Democracy Work

Francesco SaracenoIt is most likely that from the elections of January 25 will emerge a Syriza-led government, the main uncertainty being how large a coalition Alexis Tsipras will have to gather to obtain a comfortable parliamentary majority. This is seen with a fair deal of preoccupation in Europe. A preoccupation that does not seem warranted. Syriza is no longer the radical party of the beginning, which called for the exit from the euro and for a default on Greek public debt. Today it is party whose program can hardly be defined revolutionary, and whose label of “radical” left is justified mostly by the drifting of other social democratic party in Europe (for example in Italy and in France) towards the center of the political spectrum, and towards a de facto acceptance of the European macroeconomic orthodoxy. Syriza’s leader, Tsipras, as the prospects of victory become more concrete, has further softened his tones and is already actively negotiating with the Commission and with the major countries, in view of a compromise on the key points of his program. However, some of the media and some political leaders around Europe continue to present the Greek elections as an incoming Armageddon, and the possibility of a Syriza victory as the beginning of the end for the monetary union…

On closer inspection, it seems far more radical the position of those who, despite having grossly underestimated the negative effects of austerity, ask for more of the same; of those who insist on advocating supply-side reforms to cope with a chronic lack of demand; and of those who boast having achieved a balanced budget one year ahead of forecasts, when Europe would benefit from a recovery of domestic demand in Germany…

Europeans should stop worrying and let democracy play its role. A Syriza-led government (possibly forming an alliance with George Papandreou’s To Kinima) would not cause an earthquake. Rather the contrary, it could help stirring things up, and bring within the European debate discussion about measures the need for which is now obvious to all except to those who will not see.

—Francesco Saraceno
Who are the Radicals in Europe?

2 thoughts on “Europe Should Let Greece Democracy Work

  1. One of the reasons why conservatives win so many political victories is because moderate conservative voters have no problem with voting for a candidate that is extremely conservative. Meanwhile, centrists and moderate liberals are terrified of voting for anyone who is to the left of them politically.

    I know Republicans and most of them are not as crazy as the tea party candidates but they vote for the tea party candidate if the tea party candidate gets the GOP nomination. Some of these reasonable Republican voters may be unaware that their far right candidate is extreme and unhinged but I think that other moderate Republicans understand that our government works through negotiations and in negotiations, it is wise to ask for more than what you actually want.

    Too many liberals do not understand this dynamic and too many of us want a candidate made in our own image. When the Democratic nominee is center left, many of the activists just don’t vote and if the candidate is genuinely progressive, too many self-described centrists want to feel “balanced” and “reasonable” and vote Republican.

    I think that Greek voters have figured out that far left politicians do not lead to far left policies. I think that Greek voters from far left, to center left to centrists have figured out that the Germans, Wall Street and other elite interests already own half of the seats at the negotiating table and that it behooves a country to elect far left political figures to occupy the other side of that table.

    Most Greeks do not want communism, they want an end to this nightmare of austerity. The “respectable” centrists that Greeks elected these last five years cannot negotiate so the Greeks have chosen Mr. Tsipras. I hope that American voters can take a lesson from this Greek election.

    • That’s a fascinating take. I will have to give it more thought. It is certainly the case that the reason that people like Todd Akin lose is not because they are extremist but because they are portrayed in the media as extremists. It always bugged me that anyone would be surprised by what Akin said. He had been more than clear leading up to that. And you might be right that there are a lot of basically liberal voters who get a secret thrill out of occasionally voting Republican because it shows just how “open minded” they are. To make a turn on Goldwater: open mindedness in the defense of tyranny is no virtue!

      My thinking on Greece is pretty much the same as my hope for America: that voters are finally revolting against the continued empty promises of the conservatives and neoliberals, and demanding economic policy for the good of the 99%. But even still, Syriza isn’t really far left. They are quite reasonable and even if they are successful at doing what they want, I’m not sure it will be enough. But it will be a start. At this point, all the Greek people are asking is for the troika to stop actively hurting them. Given half a chance, I’m sure Greece will bloom.

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