‘European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated, “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”
In 2014/15 Year of Culture I described SYRIZA as a ‘cultural constituency’, as opposed to a traditional political movement whose raison d’etre is economic rationale. This means that SYRIZA and movements like it are not motivated by economic objectives in the traditional sense. This is a consequence of the fact that in the developed economies economics is no longer a central driving factor in the creation of policy by authority. Since policy is no longer oriented around economics the response to authority can no longer be oriented around economics. Cultural constituencies are evolving to fill this hole left where economics once was.
My analysis was made was before SYRIZA actually came to power. Since then they have been duly elected and have carried out the first in a series of negotiations with the EU and the Troika with regard to the Greek debt.
The outcome of these negotiations have caused massive confusion on all sides of the so called ‘left’ and ‘right’. Even the Germans, who appear to have scored a substantial victory, are somewhat baffled by the ease with which they achieved this outcome. The result of the negotiations just does not seem to make sense. What can account for SYRIZA’s apparent total capitulation?
If you try to understand what SYRIZA seeks to achieve in terms of economic rationale you will never be able to understand their approach and motivation. You have to compare SYRIZA to my definition of a cultural constituency to understand what this movement really is and what it will do:
- I said that SYRIZA as a cultural constituency would be:
Condemned by the post war establishment; Pundits and politicians of the post WWII order are not going to like these groups. And they are going to act against them.
From ‘Zero Hedge’
‘Let us begin with what should be indisputable: the Eurogroup agreement that the Greek government was dragged into on Friday amounts to a headlong retreat….
Such a thorough failure is not, and cannot be, a matter of chance, or the product of an ill-devised tactical manoeuvre. It represents the defeat of a specific political line that has underlain the government’s current approach.’1
From ‘The World Socialist Website’
‘It has taken less than one month for the Syriza government in Greece, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to repudiate its anti-austerity election program and betray, totally and utterly, the impoverished working people whose votes placed it in power.’2
It is fairly clear from these two examples that the insurgent ‘left’ is firmly against SYRIZA from the get go. And I don’t have to try very hard to find examples on the European right that are as at least as negative. The left more than anything, is a product of the post WWII political order. The left is the direct product of economic rationale- the belief that economic interests dominate all other considerations, to the extent that the class of people who have the same interests can consider themselves international socialist ‘brothers’! It is no wonder then, that this left would be in the forefront of the move to attack a new configuration like SYRIZA since it represents a direct and mortal threat to the ‘socialist’ project.
So who, if anyone, will have a good, (or at least not very bad), word to say about SYRIZA?
The answer to that would be the Monetarists in the Anglo Saxon bloc. Here The World Socialist Website finds evidence of collaboration:
‘A comment by Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Münchau, published on the eve of today’s meeting of the euro zone group of finance ministers, points to significant differences over German-led insistence that the demand of the Syriza-led Greek government for debt restructuring should not be met.’3
‘The publication of such a vigorous comment in one of the world’s major financial dailies points both to the considerable opposition in financial centres to the policies of the German government and to the fact that the Syriza program, far from representing some far-left agenda, is a thoroughly bourgeois program enjoying some measure of support in ruling political and financial circles’. 3
‘Münchau’s comment is significant from a number of standpoints. It underscores the opposition to the austerity agenda, at least in its present form, emanating from sections of the US, British economic establishments, with support in some parts of Europe’. 3
- I said that for SYRIZA as a cultural constituency that:
Economic demands (are) secondary or irrelevant.
As regards the debt, the text mentions that “the Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.” In other words forget any discussion of “haircuts,” “debt reduction,” let alone “writing off of the greater part of the debt,” as is Syriza’s programmatic commitment.1
Virtually everybody is at a loss to explain the totality of SYRIZAs economic climbdown. In order to try to explain what has happened, all parties have tried to portray SYRIZAs actions as the consequence of ‘losing’ the negotiations.
‘It is clear from the above that in the course of the “negotiations,” with the revolver of the ECB up against its head and resultant panic in the banks, the Greek positions underwent near-total collapse. This helps to explain the verbal innovations (“institutions” instead of “troika,” “current arrangements” instead of “current program,” “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement” instead of “Memorandum,” etc.). Symbolic consolation or further trickery, depending on how you look at it.’1
The trouble with this explanation is that the outcomes we have seen don’t come from an unsuccessful confrontation with the EU because there has not been any confrontation with the EU!
At no time has the EU and its interests been directly threatened nor will it be. Search as you might you will not find ANY evidence of a single concrete threat made by SYRIZA’s Tspiras or Varoufakis against the EU because there isn’t one. Not one. Is it seriously possible that SYRIZA could not think of a single thing to threaten the EU with? Because I could think of about ten serious threats they could make in less than a minute
So it is clear that SYRIZA has not climbed down because it never climbed up in the first place. Once you understand this it becomes obvious SYRIZA never intended to confront EU on economic matters. In fact, SYRIZA has used the negotiations with the EU to buy time to launch its attack on those it perceives to be its real enemies and the real reason it came into existence. Which leads us to:
3. I said that SYRIZA would be
Willing to compromise on periphery, completely unwilling to compromise on core; creating new spheres and forums for co-operation, even international organisations that encompass Cultural Constituencies. But less and less willing to negotiate with their own national governments.
What is the periphery and what is the core?
The periphery, by definition is the EU and from this it follows that compromise with the EU was always going to be inevitable for a cultural constituency. The CORE with which SYRIZA will not compromise is the deep Greek state, by which is meant the oligarchs and those who have been in power since the end of the post WWII emergency including PASOK and the parties of the right.
This brings us back to the post WWII order and brings SYRIZA and movements like it into sharper focus. The post WII order in its totality rests on left/ right and economic rationale. But these things have been increasingly undermined and it was always only a matter of time before this was reflected in politics. But the details were always going to be unclear up until the time that they weren’t- that time is now. SYRIZA is going to war with the post WWII order.
4. From this it follows
They make permanent rather than transitory demands; the removal of American military bases from Japan instead of a change in interest rates.
Permanent demands are ones which which will be difficult or impossible to overturn. To overturn austerity is by definition transitory since austerity is an emergency temporary measure. To disenfranchise the Greek oligarchs would be permanent.
- And finally and most importantly:
Profound realignment of politics within constituencies; Less and less will traditional areas of contention and politics operate within cultural constituencies. The members will tend to see what they have in common over what they have in difference.
This will prove to be the acid test of my analysis- specifically what will be the future of SYRIZA over the next couple of years or so.
The standard analysis will predict a breakup of the SYRIZA alignment under the pressure of dealing with the demands of the negotiations and failure to achieve economic concessions from the EU.
Under my analysis these traditional areas of contention based on economic rationale will become less and less important and will be replaced by a new network of agreements and understanding. What this means is that SYRIZA will not come under pressure to implode as is expected.
Instead we will see a period of bloody trench warfare between the post war establishment in Greece and SYRIZA. The establishment will do everything it can to cause strife between Europe and SYRIZA to distract SYRIZA from its core objective of attacking the oligarchy. SYRIZA in turn will do everything it can to promote peace with Europe so it can focus on the Greek elite.
1. Revolt In Athens: Syriza Central Committee Member Says “Leadership Strategy Has Failed Miserably” 02/24/2015 12:28 -0500
2. The capitulation of Syriza and the lessons for the working class 23 February 2015
- A revealing Financial Times comment on the Greek debt crisis
By Nick Beams 16 February 2015