There is certainly exciting news from Greece today, with confirmation that the leftist coalition party Syriza has won a decisive victory, and, with the help of just one small party, the Independent Greeks Party, is assured of a parliamentary majority. That means Syriza’s dynamic marxist leader, the 40-year-old former student radical
Alexis Tsipras, will shortly become Greece’s prime minister, pledged to undo years of crippling austerity and to turn Greece back into a real democracy, instead of a scene of corporate pillage.
Leaders of Europe’s corrupt parties -- both conservative and socialist or, in Britain’s case, “New Labor,” -- are clearly anxious at the electoral success of a genuine leftist party in one of the countries of the European Union, particularly as there are growing leftist movements in larger countries, including Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and elsewhere. These new movements explicitly reject the tired and corrupted duopoly of conservative and socialist parties that have been taking turns running Europe as an adjunct to the US for generations.
It remains to be seen how the main governments in Europe, and particularly in Germany, try to deal with the new political reality in Greece. They and the bureaucrats and bankers in Brussels, Luxembourg, London, Paris and Bonn, are in a tricky spot: if they simply thumb their noses at Greece’s new leaders, refuse to reduce that country’s crushing debt, and force Greece to quit the Euro currency zone, they will encourage other countries -- notably Spain and Italy -- to consider quitting the Euro too, and the whole notion of Europe as a political/economic entity will founder. If they accommodate Syriza’s demands for a better arrangement, with debt forgiveness and aid to promote the Greek economy, they will be hit with similar demands from the much larger struggling economies of Italy and Spain, not to mention other troubled members of the EU like Portugal, Ireland Poland and other countries from the former Warsaw Pact.
The main point in all this is that Greek voters have tossed a flash-bang grenade into the prevailing neo-liberal consensus that the way to “reform” economies is to impose austerity, cutting back on social programs, hammering wages, boosting unemployment, and privatizing long-public functions like transit, education, roads and bridges and health care. Europe will probably never be the same, whichever way Greece ultimately goes.
The question is, will any of this matter in the US?
Alexis Tsipras and Greek voters celebrate Szyriza's stunning electoral victory Sunday