Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alexis Tsipras' European campaign

Manel García Biel writes about the candidacy of Alexis Tsipras, head of the Greek SYRIZA party, for the Presidency of the European Commission on the ticket of the European Group of the United Left in Elecciones europeas: El efecto Tsipras Economía Digital 19/03/2014. He uses "alternative left" to refer to the left-of-the-social-democrats left, the parties that are seated to the left of the conservative in European parliaments. (The Greens, in Germany and Austria at least, are seated to the right of the social democrats.)

Alexis Tsipras

Tsipras no reniega en ningún caso de la unidad europea ni del euro, sino que plantea una alternativa de izquierdas a la construcción de Europa. Significa que por fin que la izquierda alternativa opta por una política en positivo, alejada de la típica actitud negativa que le había caracterizado durante muchas décadas.

[Tsipras in no way rejects a unified Europe or the euro, but rather proposes a left alternative for the construction of Europe. The signifies that finally the alternative left is opting for a positive politics, far from the typical negative attitude that had characterized it for many decades.]
Unless the social-democratic parties make a definitive turn against neoliberal economic policies, what Biel calls the alternative left may not an alternative left but the only left alternative. Angela Merkel's Grand Coalition government in which the SPD serves as a more than willing junior partner and fully backs her Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning austerity policies for the eurozone is a living current example of how that process is happening in real time. The Greek social-democratic Party PASOK has been effectively replaced for the moment as the mainstream left party by SYRIZA. As Biel notes, PASOK has "casi desaparecido" ("almost disppeared") as a party.

Something similar seems to be happening with the Five Star Movement replacing the Democratic Party (Partido Democrático) as the credible left alternative. The next Prime Minister in Italy is only accelerating that process by pursuing neoliberal policies even more aggressively than his predecessor; both of them are from the social-democratic Partido Democrático.

The state of things are such that Jean-Claude Juncker, the conservative candidate for the EU Commission Presidency, was Angela Merkel's favorite for the position. The Social Democratic candidate is Martin Schulz, a loyal Angie-bot. In other words, if the center-right candidate wins, Angie wins; if the center-left candidate wins, Angie still wins. (Christoph Pauly and Christoph Schult, The Spitzenkandidats: EU Parliament Elections Become Explosive Spiegel International 03/07/2014; Leading Candidates Square Off: The Race for Europe's Top Job Spiegel International 03/19/2014)

Jürgen Habermas was writing back in 2006 ("Ein avantgardistischer Spürsinn für Relevanzen" Blätter für deutsche und Internationale Politik 5/2006):

Wenn es nicht gelingt, bis zur nächsten Europawahl im Jahre 2009 die polarisierende Frage nach der finalité, dem Worumwillen der europäischen Einigung zum Gegenstand eines europaweiten Referendums zu machen, ist die Zukunft der Europäischen Union im Sinne der neoliberalen Orthodoxie entschieden.

[If it doesn't work out by the next European election in the year 2009 to make the polarizing question on the finality, the what-do-we-want of the European unification the subject of a Europe-wide referendum, the future of the European Union in the sense of neoliberal orthodoxy will be decided.]
He didn't foresee the depression that developed. But we've seen the neoliberal orthodoxy dominate in the EU with devastating results for the southern eurozone countries.

Saving the EU as a progressive and democratic institution will be much harder now than it would have been in 2006 if at least the social-democratic parties had embraced that cause at the time. But they didn't. And now the political landscape is being transformed in ways that currently do not look favorable for the current center-left policies.

Biel writes, "Para Tsipras, y la izquierda alternativa europea, la actual austeridad no garantiza la salida de la crisis, es la crisis." ("For Tsipras, and for the alternative European left, the present austerity doesn't guarantee the emergence from the crisis, it is the crisis.")

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