Thursday, December 05, 2013

Greece's SYRIZA Party and a (distant) hope for saving the eurozone

Yanis Varoufakis has a very informative article on the left Greek SYRIZA Party and how it could potentially reform the European Union and save the eurozone if it gets to lead the government after the next elections. (Can Greece's SYRIZA Change Europe's Economy? Boston Review 12/03/2013). He gives a sketch of the historical background of SYRIZA, what not so long ago people were calling a "post-communist" kind of party.

Varoufakis does not favor an Argentina-style solution, which would mean Greece pulling out of the euro and restoring its own currency. I don't know his full reasoning on that perspective. It's partially because he thinks that, even now, an explicit anti-euro program would make SYRIZA "unelectable" because "a majority of Greeks understand that a Greek exit would bring unbearable costs for most."

But he does spell out a pro-European SYRIZA strategy that would be a long shot - any hope for saving the eurozone now is a long shot - but sounds far more plausible than endless austerity:

Europe has been in denial for five years now. During this period, debts, banking losses, unemployment, and gross imbalances have been accumulating while Europe’s leaders whistle in the wind. If London could use its veto power at the European Council level to shield the City’s bankers from regulation, surely Athens can, and ought to, do likewise in defense of its citizens. Invoking national interest clauses, a SYRIZA government would have the right to veto all decisions until Europe’s approach to the Greek program is re-examined. Such a move may loosen tongues and kickstart a debate that will, hopefully, lead to much-needed, rational, modest policy changes throughout Europe (e.g. those that Stuart Holland, James Galbraith and I have been advocating). These measures can, indeed, allow parties like SYRIZA to combine a pro-European line with domestic policies that defeat the old and new kleptocracies, grant working people a chance to breathe, and, last but not least, restore faith in democracy.

The leaders of Italy, France, and Spain perhaps do not yet feel desperate enough to break the wall of silence at the level of the European Council. But Greece is now so wretched and distraught that its government has a moral imperative to speak, even to act, out. In the current political scene, only a SYRIZA-led government could do that. This would give Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and, more importantly, French officials the opportunity to change the discourse surrounding Europe’s economic climate. But even if no one follows SYRIZA’s lead in Europe, a SYRIZA government would still have sufficient bargaining power, courtesy of its veto, not only to bring about life-saving changes to the “Greek Program” but also to force the European Union to re-think its systemic crisis and thereby bring about a radically different, systematic treatment.

SYRIZA may have the opportunity to transform Greece and change the course of European history, but this is a task that makes Odysseus’s journey look like a walk in the park. It will not be easy to take power while remaining faithful to its radical agenda and maintaining its cohesion on the ground. It remains to be seen whether SYRIZA’s leaders can pull off this miracle. I think they can, as long as they do not issue silly promises before the next election, and maintain a truly radical agenda aimed at changing Europe by steadfastly standing their ground, proposing to German, Spanish, Dutch citizens a European agenda that restores the dream of a shared European prosperity. [my emphasis]
We really are looking at 1914 levels of bad judgment and irresponsibility by Europe's main leaders: Germany, France and Britain most of all.

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