[Marxism] Don’t bank on Tsipras dumping Syriza’s leftwing diehards
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 14 13:39:11 MDT 2015
Financial Times, April 14, 2015
Don’t bank on Tsipras dumping Syriza’s leftwing diehards
Tony Barber in Athens
The notion that the PM will execute a somersault, or ‘kolotoumba’ as
Greeks call it, seems debatable
Seen from the capital cities of Greece’s eurozone partners, there is one
obvious way for Alexis Tsipras, the leftwing prime minister, to prevent
the disaster of a debt default and exit from Europe’s 19-nation monetary
It boils down to the happy thought that, with Greece running out of cash
to pay salaries and pensions, he should bow to realities and govern as a
rightwinger or, at least, as much less of a leftist.
He should negotiate in good faith with Greece’s creditors, waste no more
time on bombastic anti-capitalist gestures, make credible promises of
economic reform and budgetary discipline and, last but not least,
implement these promises.
If necessary, so this argument continues, Mr Tsipras should break with
ultra-leftists in his ruling Syriza party who are opposed to such
concessions, and who account for a good 20 per cent of the party’s
parliamentary representation. Instead, he should govern in a sort of
pro-EU national unity front with the moderate parties he defeated in
A historical model is Britain’s 1931 National Government, a coalition
formed in a financial crisis under the tamed Labour leader Ramsay
MacDonald, with leftwingers banished to the sidelines.
Seen from Athens, the notion that Mr Tsipras will execute a
MacDonald-like somersault, or “kolotoumba” as Greeks call it, seems
debatable. Consider Syriza’s record since the party came to power
two-and-a-half months ago.
Two laws, passed in March, stand out. One addresses what Syriza calls
Greece’s “humanitarian crisis”, and aims to provide emergency help for
the poorest citizens, including free electricity and food stamps for
The second, dubbed the “restart of the economy” law, permits Greeks
behind on tax payments to settle debts in up to 100 instalments. If they
pay up more quickly, they will benefit from a partial write-off. This is
no small matter. Overdue taxes in Greece amounted by February to
€75.7bn, of which €56.4bn was owed by individual taxpayers.
Meanwhile, parliament — under its speaker, the smouldering Zoi
Konstantopoulou of Syriza — has set up three investigative committees
guaranteed to annoy Greece’s allies and creditors.
One is compiling Greek second world war reparations claims against
Germany. Another is looking into the circumstances in which previous
Greek governments received bailouts totalling €245bn in 2010 and 2012.
A third committee is assessing if some of Greece’s loans should be
classified as “illegitimate”, “illegal” or even “odious debt” — that is
to say, debt that Greece has no obligation to repay because it was not
amassed with the people’s consent, was not used for their benefit and
can only be honoured by violating their fundamental rights.
This third panel is known as the Debt Truth Committee. A video on the
legislature’s website explains everything, summarising the committee’s
mission with John Lennon’s song “Gimme Some Truth” playing in the
In other words, Syriza, though inexperienced in power, is fighting hard
to implement as much as possible of the leftwing platform on which it
Syriza, though inexperienced in power, is fighting hard to implement as
much as possible of the leftwing platform on which it was elected
Nonetheless, Mr Tsipras has displayed a certain pragmatism, even cold
political realism, as prime minister. He arranged that Greece’s new head
of state should be Prokopis Pavlopoulos from New Democracy, the
centre-right opposition party on which he had heaped scorn for years.
He has made overtures to a New Democracy faction led by Kostas
Karamanlis, the premier whose 2004-09 government was partly responsible
for the debt debacle Mr Tsipras inherited.
The Syriza leader, a devoutly unreligious soul, has made public
appearances with Archbishop Ieronymos II, Greece’s Orthodox Church
primate. He is careful, too, not to upset Greece’s military leadership.
Mr Tsipras seems, then, a flexible politician who, if he chose, could
perform a “kolotoumba” and dump the Syriza diehards. A different
interpretation is that he is preparing the ground, in the event of a
default, for an appeal to all patriotic forces to back him.
In only a matter of days, we will find out the truth.
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