Syriza's victory in Greece might not be the radical revolution you were hoping for

The party has got its head nestled in the lap of the Kremlin, but apparently that’s fine

James Bloodworth@J_Bloodworth
Friday 30 January 2015 18:14
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras

Syriza’s victory in the Greek elections last weekend wasn’t just a triumph for the radical left but a victory for common sense. In accepting the establishment narrative of an "extreme" or "hard left" party coming to power, most commentators have been getting things entirely the wrong way round: in austerity-ravaged Europe the real extremists sit at desks in Brussels and Berlin and peddle economic homeopathy.

Put another way, it would be a mistake to assume that the people of Greece shifted decisively to the left in electing Syriza. In reality economic orthodoxy has moved so far to the right that an unwillingness to let a generation of young Greeks wither on the vine is now considered utopian.

The Troika (the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) offered Greece a brutal Hobson’s Choice: reduce your country to penury or be booted out of Europe. Successive Greek governments supinely accepted this twisted logic and as a consequence Greece has lost around a quarter of its economic output and 26 per cent of the country’s labour force are unemployed.

When the cure ruins the patient like this it shouldn’t surprise anyone when the medicine is puked up and those who administered it thrown from the seat of power. Another world is possible, as the left-wing slogan has it.

But alarm bells should be ringing, not least because the leftists of Syriza thought a suitable coalition partner would be the UKIP of the Mediterranean, Independent Greeks. This rag-tag party of ultra-reactionaries are suspicious of Jews and homosexuals and, much like Marine Le Pen and the Jobbik movement in Hungary, look to the bare-chested thug in the Kremlin as one of their own.

“But hang on a second comrade,” I’ve been told repeatedly this week. “This is purely down to electoral expediency and the compromises of power. Syriza really had no other option”.

It’s quite a convincing argument, too – another Hobson’s Choice, if you like. But remove the ideological blinders and there is enough here to worry even the most blinkered socialist.

Syriza are certainly light years away from Independent Greeks domestically, but on foreign affairs there is a genuine affinity between the radical left and far-right.

In fact there has been for some time and not only in Greece — as anyone versed in the symbiotic relationship between Islamism and the British far-left will attest. As long as you reject American capitalism everything else is mere detail.

And so on Tuesday, in one of its first forays into foreign policy, the Syriza-led government distanced itself from an EU statement calling for additional sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The next day the newly appointed Greek Foreign Minister clarified the point: “We do not agree with the spirit of the sanctions against Russia.”

Since people have started to realise that this sort of thing now matters, it’s also been pointed out that Syriza MEPs have consistently voted against motions that are even slightly critical of Russia in the European Parliament. They also opposed the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine - a deal intended to forge economic ties between Brussels and Kiev. Leaked emails have also emerged which appear to show a long-standing relationship between senior Syriza politicians and racist pro-Kremlin ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin.

Syriza's leader Alexis Tsipras (R) shakes hands with Greece's President Karolos Papoulias (L) as he is sworn in as Greek Prime Minister at the Presidential Palace in Athens

Enough to quicken the pulse of any far-right ideologue, you would think. Only this isn’t the far-right but the radical left, the living embodiment of the "hope" that is supposed to inspire Europe’s genuinely beleaguered poor.

For all the talk about Greek self-determination in the face of an intransigent Brussels, the left’s new idols in Athens seem remarkably relaxed about the self-determination of others, most notably Ukrainians, a people who recently had a chunk of their territory annexed by Russian-backed mercenaries.

In Britain we’ve rightly spent a week condemning politicians for their sycophantic crawling to the Saudi Royal Family; yet the left’s great hope has got its head firmly nestled in the lap of the Kremlin, and apparently that’s fine.

According to popular wisdom the left fails because it doesn’t understand how to run a modern economy. But the real cancer at the heart of radicalism on the left is the willingness to drop every principle in the quest for social justice.

This is why you will see left-wingers board charter flights to Caracas and laud the Venezuelan regime while journalists are locked up and student protesters watercannoned. It’s why the reactionary Vatican is praised as a vessel of progressive thought for mouthing platitudes about "the poor".

And it’s why the spectre of 20th century Communism still casts a long shadow over Syriza and their admirers in Britain. So long as you nationalise a few things and spout some anti-colonialist rhetoric, you’re a made man on the left. If you’re in the omelette making business there is after all no time to coddle the eggs.

No to Washington. No to International Socialism. Yes to Moscow. That unfortunately is still the slogan of Europe’s anti-capitalists. And it’s why the rise of Syriza might not be the radical revolution you have been hoping for.

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