In just over three years, Tsipras and his close colleagues have constructed the left-wing Syriza party from a collection of miniscule fringe groups and turned it into the overwhelming winner of the Greek general elections. This astonishing achievement is a triumph for the charismatic leadership of Tsipras and might just come to be seen as the point in European history when someone, at last, said “stop” to the suicidal economic policies of recent years.
The path to success for Tsipras was opened up by the corrupt governance of Greece by its established elites and the catastrophe that has been inflicted upon its people by the austerity programme of the EU, IMF and major powers. Rather than solve Greece’s problems, these policies have led to its economy shrinking by 25%, its debt ratio ballooning, 25% unemployment (60% amongst young people), drastic pension and wage cuts and decent working people scavenging in dustbins for food.
Not surprisingly, these circumstances left many voters looking for an alternative that will do the job of a democratic political party by promoting their interests, rather than kow-towing to the dictatorship of global financiers. Mercifully, of the several new options that have emerged during the crisis, most of them plumped for Syriza, rather than the ridiculous but vicious neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” shower, which still polled a scary 6% and seeks to rebuild the Greek economy by beating up Pakistani shopkeepers.
The media and political puppets of global finance have portrayed Tsipras as a dangerous radical who will bring down the Euro, creating a domino effect that will plunge the world into economic chaos. In fact, despite his adherence to left-wing ideals, Tsipras has shown himself to be open to dialogue with his international and European counterparts. His proposals for dealing with the crisis place him in the mainstream of respected global figures advocating economic growth as the solution, as opposed to the destructive madness of austerity. Tsipras’s claim that the austerity medicine is killing the patient is echoed by political leaders such as US President Obama and distinctly non-leftist, heavyweight economic commentators such as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini and Niall Ferguson. Indeed, the split between believers in pro-growth policies and the pro-austerity faction is now the real political divide in a world grappling with the economic crisis, rather than the old categories of left and right.
Tsipras’s real crime in the eyes of bankers has been to re-direct blame for the crisis back onto them, where it belongs. Thus far, the financiers have been incredibly successful in diverting attention onto government debt and the Euro, as a way to avert crisis resolution measures that they would find unpalatable. The government policies that led to excessive sovereign debt and the shaky construction of the Euro may have been unwise and left many countries in a weak position to deal with the recession. But their ongoing struggles are merely effects of the crisis. The unequivocal cause of it was the greed-fuelled malpractice of banks and financiers. Hardly any of the so-called “Greek bailout” involves transferring European taxpayers’ money to the Greek government or people. It is, in fact, yet another bailout of international banks, rewarding them for their stupidity and avarice.
Tsipras is the leader of a small political party in a small country. But Greece is at the epicentre of the economic crisis and the election result there this weekend matters out of all normal proportion. By standing up for the average citizen against the malign influence of international finance, his election could be the tipping point in reversing the Kamikaze policy of austerity that has turned the global economic crisis into a catastrophe for many ordinary people.
Tsipras’ win is important for that symbolic reason alone. Achieving more will be intensely difficult because the Syriza government now faces a daunting array of problems in saving Greece, playing its part in salvaging the Euro and, by extension, the European economy. As the new Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis says “Don’t congratulate us (on winning the election). We face the task from Hell”.
No doubt there will be disappointments along the way but people everywhere should hope they succeed.
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