Greece and TINA: Syriza Igniting Debates

Margaret Thatcher coined the radical neo-liberal slogan/mantra, “There Is No Alternative”—what most of us know as, “TINA.” Naomi Klein brilliantly developed the history and use of TINA in both theory and practice in her bestseller, The Shock Doctrine. TINA has been the driving force of the Troika, the EU and the US (to varying degrees) in dictating, justifying and implementing austerity, privatization drives, and most importantly—the deconstruction of anything “democratic.”   In the US, we have witnessed the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision and, in Greece and the other debt-plagued EU nations (the “PIIGS”), anti-people memoranda and teams of Troika “administrators” have stripped autonomy from citizens.

Over the past five years, since the New Democracy (ND)-PASOK coalition ruled as the Troika’s go-between in Greece, that government and the media elite in Greece constantly claimed that the main reason their austerity programs hadn’t worked was that parties and groups—like newly-elected Syriza—disagreed and “wouldn’t go along.”   The “nay-sayers” were the problem, and the country needed to maneuver “with one voice”—their voice.

This same theme reared its ugly head yesterday in the Hellenic Parliament as Syriza wound up its three-day presentation of its political program, as the ND and PASOK opposition warned that, “Greece must go to into negotiations with one voice.” The problem is that this is symptomatic of the larger problems that Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, is pointing out (among other things): in democracies, people disagree.   And to even passive observers, that was on display when Varoufakis met with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, when they parted, and Varoufakis stressed that they, “…didn’t even agree to disagree.”

Syriza, and Greece, disagree. They disagree with the continuation of the inhuman pain and suffering being inflicted on the Greek people who didn’t make the decision to enter into those deals, and who didn’t pay Goldman Sachs to cook the books to allow Greece’s fraudulent entry into the Eurozone.

As my good friend, and long-time Syriza international relations point man, Panos Trigazis, pointed out in his 2010 book, TINA Is Dead, there are alternatives, and they are being placed squarely and plainly on the Troika’s and the world’s table.   Whether or not they will succeed is another matter completely. The spark has been struck—in Greece, in Spain, across Europe—and the world has taken notice.

As part of their negotiating strategy and their domestic political strategy, Syriza is clearly not putting all of their cards on the table. Who would?

Critics are crying that Syriza’s stance on ending austerity is threatening the annihilation of the EU. Good! We have been witnessing a regime that nakedly puts banks and creditors ahead of people—and they want to call it, “democracy!” That won’t wash anymore, because TINA is Dead!

In Germany some are mocking and warning that the “Greek Dream” could turn into an EU nightmare. Good! Let the technocrats tremble or up the ante. This is not a card game, however. This is a fight for self-determination, self-respect and dignity for the Greek people.

Mike-Frank Epitropoulos teaches Sociology and is the Director of the Pitt in Greece and Pitt in Cyprus programs at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent three years teaching in both private and public-sector higher education in Greece before returning to the United States in 2007.