The victory of Syriza is a victory for those of us, like myself, who believe that the EU needs more not less democracy.
Europe, to an extent American’s really don’t appreciate, is run by self serving elites who invent national projects that European countries are dragged along on. My favorite example is the Euro. Every country that voted NO, had to keep having votes until they said Yes!
After the Euro, the undemocratic nature of the EU project became even more problematic. With no strong democratically elected super-national entity, the EU was essentially run by the Germans for the Germans with modest French input.
As long as German interests and EU interests were aligned, things went along swimmingly, when there was divergence pain emerged.
Over the last 5 years the pain caused by the divergence between broader EU interests and narrow parochial German interests have been front and center. The EU needs Germany to experience greater inflation to rebalance EU wide prices. Paul Krugman explains this far better than I do. Germany as a net creditor doesn’t want to have inflation and so it exports deflation on the periphery.
In a democratically elected nation state the interests of one group, Germany, would have been balanced against the interests of other groups and some intermediate compromise would have been reached. However, the Germans, because of their dominant power within the EU were able to push a set of policy decisions that benefit Germans at the expense of everyone else.
The German plan has been to intimidate, cajole and terrorize EU partners with fears of economic ruin if they don’t listen. The EU partners plan have been to not call the German bluff.
Just to be clear, the Germans are pissed the Greeks spent German money on crap. The Germans want to punish the Greeks, to teach them a lesson. Punishing your children is permissible. Punishing a nation state is a dangerous game to play. The Germans found a willing partner within Greece to implement some of the punishment and that was Samaras and the New Democracy Party.
The problem is that eventually morale doesn’t improve, the flogging continues and even Samaras was fed up. The Germans had pushed the Greek nation to the point where they were looking for alternatives.
What is not surprising is how the Mass Media controlled by the rich and the powerful, has basically ignored the devastating effects on Greece of the German policy prescriptions. Instead we are told how this is necessary. There is something bizarrely evil in suggesting a generation of a people should be made miserable because it’s good for them.
And here comes Syriza.
The original Syriza party was categorically anti-EU. That party was unelectable. The party used to represent the unrepentant Greek communists who are still bitter that Joseph Stalin handed Greece over to Churchill. That party got into the opposition and was doomed, but for the very talented Mr. Tsipras who figured out how to hang out with Priests even though he is an unrepentant atheist.
The newer, sleeker, and elected party has had to balance out it’s anti-EU policies with the Greek nation’s desire to stay within Greece.
The new Syriza is – to the best of my limited knowledge – a collection of unrepentant PASOK hangers on, communists, and folks who are desperate for a different deal with the Germans. The plan Syriza has is to call the Germans bluff. The Germans have said that it is impossible to renegotiate the terms. The Greeks must suffer while the Germans must not be impacted. Syriza is basically saying – OXI.
In effect, up until now the German policy prescriptions have not been negotiated, what has been negotiated is the pace of their implementation. Syriza will try and push a different plan.
The core of the difference, again this is speculation, is that the neo-liberal German consensus that inside Germany the state should offer lots of services and outside Germany, non German states should be offer very few is unacceptable. In plain English, the point-of-view that the state should have a limited role outside of Germany so that Germany get’s its money back is what is going to be negotiated.
To make it simpler, should my mother who has not gotten her pension for 4 years get her pension or should the Greek government pay back German loans?
This is what is being negotiated. Whether people who need their pensions should get their pensions or not.
Why then do I say this is about democracy? To date the EU consensus is that if the choice is starving the southern pensioner or paying back loans, the answer was always pay back loans, there was no dissenting viewpoint … With Syriza we have at least one dissenting view point. And democracy exists when there are many people who disagree not a bunch of people who agree. And the fact that Syriza can come to power is exciting.