[Marxism] getting to know Syriza; Syriza & Sinn Fein; Raul & Fidel congratulate Tsipras

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Wed Jul 8 05:13:46 MDT 2015

My Greece. The Journey Inside Syriza
by Robert Misik
Social Europe, July 7

Days of Decision. While the Greek drama moved towards a decision, I
travelled into the interior of the new Greece. Meetings with Alexis
Tsipras, his closest aids, local activists, young businessmen,
working-class militants and people, who just manage to survive.
   [long, lots of experiences w/ & observations about SYRIZA]

What is Syriza? The answer's more complicated than you think
Beyond the famous few, who are they? Michael Chessum meets the Syriza
by Michael Chessum
New Statesman, Britain, July 6
 . . .
Behind the lazy tropes about Greek laziness and the treasure trove of
clichés taken out of posh journalists’ high school classics lessons –
the birthplace of democracy, the authentic home of tragedy – most
coverage has portrayed the crisis merely in terms of a series of
high-level jousting matches between Syriza’s celebrities, Angela
Merkel and some EU and IMF bureaucrats from central casting.

The reality of the situation in Greece is very different – because
Syriza is not like any establishment political party in Europe. It is
a relatively new organisation, which in 2007 got just 5 per cent of
the vote – but much more importantly, it has real internal democracy
and is deeply rooted in the social movements of the past few years.
Before they were elected, a large proportion of its politicians were
ordinary citizens, who came to politics out of a sense of duty rather
than ambition. Despite laboured attempts to portray the leadership of
Syriza as lone actors – including by the Greek press – they are
perhaps some of the most accountable politicians in Europe.

The level of internal democracy in Syriza adds a whole new dimension
of tactical intrigue to negotiations with Greece’s creditors. Earlier
this week, when Tsipras wrote a series of letters to Greece’s
creditors apparently surrendering to the bulk of its conditions, he
could be sure not only that the Eurozone would reject the proposal
prior to the referendum, but also relatively sure that there was a
double-lock against such a substantial retreat – the fact that the
party’s base would not allow him to do it. As it was, the letters did
not consummate a retreat (at least for the moment), and served to
illustrate the intransigence of Schauble and Merkel.

These are calculations and dynamics with which Syriza’s activist base
is constantly grappling. When I interviewed Petros Markopoulos and
George Diakos on Thursday, both activists in Syriza Youth, any
questions about internal discord or discussion were secondary to the
almighty ground war for the No campaign. But the recent letters, and
the negotiation concessions made by the Syriza leadership, have
clearly been a subject of discussion.

“You have to show the people, not the ones who are already convinced
to vote No, but the ones who are afraid and in the middle, that you’re
not getting out of the negotiations – that the referendum is a matter
of strengthening your position in the negotiations,” says Markopoulos.
When I push him on whether the letter was acceptable to activists, he
replies that “as a tactical move, it is – but we expect something
better than it.” Diakos adds the crucial point: “After the referendum,
the atmosphere will be completely different.”

The ability of Syriza’s grassroots to influence the more day-to-day
business of government is a work in progress, but there are certainly
ways in which it has leverage. When Yanis Varoufakis, the now-departed
finance minister who is not technically a member of the Party,
appointed an adviser who was part of a neo-liberal banking policy in
Peru, there was an outcry and the adviser stepped down. A Syriza
student activist reminds me that when Yiannis Panousis, a Syriza
minister, authorised the police to invade the University of Athens (in
Greece, universities are legal asylums and police are usually banned
from entering) in order to evict an occupation staged by an anarchist
group earlier this year, Syriza Youth called on the minister to
resign, although for the moment he remains in post.

It is not lost on many activists that the question of how and how much
Syriza’s party membership can order its ministers around is really
just the latest chapter in a long history of insurgent movements that
have found themselves in government. As Markopoulos puts it: “Because
we’re new to government, the boundaries between party, government and
state are not clear.” As well as spending its first five months in
office fighting Greece’s creditors, Syriza is also pioneering a “new
methodology of working”, re-casting the relationship between the
government, the state and social movements. “You want to have control
over the government, but you also need to be distinct from the
government, you don’t want to be incorporated into the state.”

For the bulk of the European media covering Greece’s current crisis,
the power and dynamism of Syriza’s grassroots – incomplete and
developing though its everyday leverage may be – is not only
incomprehensible, but subversive and threatening. What it represents
is a new kind of politics – one which has swept to power not only in
Greece but also across Spain and beyond.

As well as an outright rejection of neo-liberalism and a radical
policy platform, all of these new movements are really about the
future of democracy. Where the old politics could be understood in
terms of high-level briefings from machine politicians and robotic
advisers, the people who have called the shots and done the groundwork
in Syriza are teachers, unemployed people, waiters and electricians –
and it is from this fact that it derives its strength. As the crisis
of European democracy rolls on, everyone – the media, the political
establishment, the wider European left, and Tsipras himself – would do
well to remember that.

Sinn Féin’s alliance with Syriza shows shift in leftwing politics
Vincent Boland in Dublin
Financial Times, July 7

Euclid Tsakalotos, the new Greek finance minister, knows when to play
to the gallery. Addressing the annual conference in April of the Sinn
Féin party in Londonderry, the spiritual home of Irish nationalism,
his first move was to apologise for his posh English accent.

“In mitigating circumstances, I am married to a Celt,” the English
public school and Oxford-educated economist told his largely
working-class, austerity-fatigued audience. Then, seeking to co-opt
his Irish audience as well as flatter it, he went on: “For most
Greeks, it is no exaggeration to say that the Irish are honorary

It was a moment of bonding between Syriza, the radical leftwing
governing party in Greece, and its erstwhile Irish ally. The mutual
love has only grown. As Greeks went to the polls at the weekend to
vote in the referendum on their bailout conditions, there were no more
eager students of this exercise in populist democracy wandering the
streets of Athens than a sizeable delegation from Sinn Féin.

Mary Lou McDonald, deputy leader of Sinn Féin, says: “Alexis Tsipras
has managed to call out the powers that be in Europe on austerity, and
I admire him greatly for that.”

Aidan Regan, a political scientist at University College Dublin, says
the overwhelming endorsement of Syriza’s position on the referendum
could strengthen the left-nationalist ideology that both parties
share, to a greater or lesser extent.

On the face of it, there is something implausible about Syriza, a
relatively new political movement, having much to teach Sinn Féin,
which was founded in 1905 and is one of Europe’s oldest political
parties. One is steeped in Marxism and Greece’s radical leftwing
political tradition. The other has for decades had one overriding
cause — a 32-county, all-island republic of Ireland.

Their alliance attests to a structural shift in Europe’s leftwing
politics brought on by the euro crisis. Syriza now dominates the Greek
political landscape. In Spain, Podemos has emerged to outflank the
Socialists as the anti-austerity party. Sinn Féin is now the only
effective leftwing party in Irish politics after the emasculation of
the country’s Labour party in a pro-austerity coalition government.

As Mr Tsakalotos told the audience in Londonderry: “Syriza, Sinn Féin,
Podemos and others are part of a great realignment in European
politics that has become apparent over the last couple of years.”

This realignment, if it is real, poses big questions for Sinn Féin,
say analysts. The most immediate is whether its embrace of Syriza is a
smart ploy before a general election which is due by next spring.

Sinn Féin is doing well in opinion polls, ranking second or third
behind independents and Fine Gael, the centre-right party of Prime
Minister Enda Kenny. Yet its anti-austerity platform may be running
out of steam. The Irish experience of austerity has been different to
that of Greece. For all the pain of tax rises, pension cuts and
mortgage arrears, it never involved an extended bank holiday, limits
to cash withdrawals, or other extreme measures being employed in

Moreover, Ireland’s crisis is officially over: the country was the
fastest-growing economy in the eurozone last year and is praised as a
poster child for the benefits of German-inspired austerity. Throughout
Greece’s negotiations with its creditors, in fact, Mr Kenny has been
one of Berlin’s staunchest supporters.

“It’s too late for any kind of Syriza-style revolution in Ireland,”
says Constantin Gurdgiev, an economist and commentator.

Another risk for Sinn Féin is that its flirtation with Syriza could
expose its own ideological and generational faultlines. Syriza has
cast Greece’s relations with the EU in an increasingly nationalist
tone. Yet Sinn Féin’s own nationalism has muted in the past two
decades as the party grappled with the realities of day to day
government in Northern Ireland following the signing of the Good
Friday Agreement in 1998.

Others point to an increasingly visible Sinn Féin generation gap —
between an ageing leadership steeped in the republican struggle and a
cadre of younger members at the Dublin parliament. Led by articulate
and effective MPs, such as Pearse Doherty, they are more comfortable
with Mr Tsakalotos and his boss, Alexis Tsipras, than Gerry Adams or
Martin McGuinness, the veteran Sinn Féin leaders identified with the
IRA’s “armed struggle”.

Notably, it was Mr Doherty who led the delegation to Athens. As Mr
Regan says: “I couldn’t imagine Adams or McGuinness wandering around
the squares of Athens hanging out with the Syriza leadership.”

Cuban Leaders Congratulate Greek PM Tsipras on Referendum Outcome
by Anastassios Adamopoulos
Greek Reporter, July 6

With international reaction to Sunday’s “No” vote in the Greek
referendum varying, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras received unambiguous
congratulatory messages from Cuba’s authority siblings, Fidel and Raul

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s leader from 1959 and 2008, congratulated Tsipras
and Greece for their “brave” victory in Sunday’s referendum and
identified Greece and its history as a source of inspiration for the
Cuban, Latin American and Caribbean people.

“In the current political situation in the world, where peace and
survival of our species are hanging by a thread, every decision, more
than ever, must be carefully developed and implemented, in a way no
one can question the honesty and seriousness of many of the most
responsible and serious leaderships’ struggle today to face the
catastrophes that threaten the world,” he wrote.

Raul Castro’s letter can be read in full below:

Dear Prime Minister:

I convey to you my sincere congratulations for the victory of the NO
in the Referendum held in Greece on July 5th, 2015.

Such result shows the ample support of the Greek people upon the
daring policy by the government you preside over.

I reiterate my highest consideration and sincere respect to you.

Raul Castro Ruz
President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba

Fidel Castro Writes Letter To Greek PM Tsipras Praising His 'Brilliant
Political Victory'
by Charlotte Alfred
The Huffington Post, July 7  [thanks to GS]

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote a gushing letter of praise to
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after Greece roundly rejected
international creditors' reform proposals in a Sunday referendum.

"I warmly congratulate you for your brilliant political victory," the
88-year-old former president wrote to Tsipras, a fellow leftist less
than half his age. A translated copy of the letter was published by
official Cuban press on Tuesday.

"Your country, especially your courage in the current situation,
arouses admiration among the Latin American and Caribbean peoples of
this hemisphere on witnessing how Greece, against external aggression,
defends its identity and culture," Castro wrote.

Tspiras called the referendum late last month after reaching an
impasse in talks with the so-called troika of creditors -- the
International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central
Bank -- on the terms of a new bailout deal. He urged the country to
vote against the proposal, saying it would cause more economic
hardship after years of stringent austerity policies required by
international creditors. On Sunday, 61 percent of Greeks agreed and
voted "no" in the referendum.

Now Tspiras...carries with him the blessing of the iconic Cuban
revolutionary: "We wish you, esteemed compañero Alexis Tsipras, the
greatest of success," Castro writes.

The full letter in English published by the newspaper of the Cuban
Communist Party's Central Committee, Granma:

Hon. Mr. Alexis Tsipras

Prime Minister of Greece:

I warmly congratulate you for your brilliant political victory,
details of which I followed closely through the channel TeleSur.

Greece is very familiar among Cubans. She taught us Philosophy, Art
and Sciences of antiquity when we studied at school and, with them,
the most complex of all human activities: the art and science of

Your country, especially your courage in the current situation,
arouses admiration among the Latin American and Caribbean peoples of
this hemisphere on witnessing how Greece, against external aggression,
defends its identity and culture. Nor do they forget that a year after
Hitler's attack on Poland, Mussolini ordered his troops to invade
Greece, and that brave country repelled the attack and drove back the
invaders, forcing the deployment of German armored units towards
Greece, diverting them from the initial target.

Cuba knows of the bravery and the fighting capacity of the Russian
troops, which, together with the forces of their powerful ally the
People's Republic of China, and other nations of the Middle East and
Asia, always try to avoid war, but would never allow for any military
aggression without an overwhelming and devastating response.

In the current political situation of the world, where peace and the
survival of our species hangs by a thread, every decision, more than
ever, must be carefully thought-out and applied, so that no one may
doubt the honesty and seriousness with which many of the most
responsible and serious leaders struggle today to confront the
calamities that threaten the world.

We wish you, esteemed compañero Alexis Tsipras, the greatest of success.
Fidel Castro Ruz
5 July, 2015

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