A Greek Spring?

No, not the Fountain of Youth, Syriza’s victory in the recent Greek elections.

Now people from the rightwing media to excitable far-left magical thinkers like Left Unity and the Morning Star have proclaimed Syriza’s result as a victory for a radical left.

However as Mehdi Hasan points out here, the reality is something quite different.

This bit of his article is particularly important

Don’t take my word for it. On 23 January, two days before the Greek elections, 18 eminent economists, including the Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Christopher Pissarides, the Oxford University professor Simon Wren-Lewis and the former Bank of England interest-rate setter Charles Goodhart, published a joint letter to the Financial Times endorsing Syriza’s call for debt forgiveness. Economic stability in Greece, they argued, could be “achieved through growth and increased efficiency in tax collection rather than through public expenditure cuts, which have reduced the revenue base and led to an increase in the debt ratio”.

Stiglitz and the others also called for a “further conditional increase in the grace period, so that Greece does not have to service any debt, for example for the next five years and then only if Greece is growing at 3 per cent or more”. They cited the precedent of the “bisque” clause of the 1946 Anglo-American financial agreement, under which the UK was allowed a waiver of 2 per cent interest payment until its economy “met agreed conditions”. As the 18 economists concluded, “the whole of Europe will benefit from Greece being given the chance of a fresh start”.

Remember, the Greeks have not suddenly embraced Marxism. But they have revolted against the insanity of neoliberal economics – and against the extremists in Brussels and Berlin bent on imposing austerity on them. The only real “shock” is that it took so long for this Hellenic backlash against fiscal sadism to commence. On a visit to Athens in 2012, I met Nikitas Kanakis, the director of the Greek branch of the charity Doctors of the World. He described to me in graphic detail how his country was in the midst of a “humanitarian crisis”. “If the people cannot survive with dignity,” he said quietly, “we cannot have a future.”

What is quite obvious even to a casual observer of Greek politics and the Eurozone crisis is that Syriza whatever their origins are a party of the social democratic centre left, a party committed to improving the lot of the majority of Greeks by finding a compromise between workers and capital.

So in the coming months it will be important to judge them on that criteria, not on whether or not they live up to the lofty ideals of tiny oddball Trotskyist sects in the UK.

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