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.

 

 

Mike-Frank Epitropoulos on SYRIZA Victory

See also Mike-Frank Epitropoulos’s pre-election piece, A Second Demonstration Project for Greece. Patti Smith’s song People Have the Power has been adopted as SYRIZA’s anthem.  SYRIZA’s twitter feed posted another YouTube version of the song (as reported by the New York Times), but that version can’t be viewed in the United States.

Anti-Austerity SYRIZA Wins Big—Now the Clash with the Crisis

The left, anti-austerity SYRIZA party scored a decisive victory in the Greek elections on Sunday, with margins exceeding those of most polls.  This is the first time that a left party has won Greece’s national elections, and Europe’s and the world’s attention is focused on how SYRIZA will combat the economic and humanitarian crises that the country faces in the wake of Troika-imposed austerity programs.

SYRIZA is projected to have won 149 of the 150 seats needed to secure a parliamentary majority (with 36-37% of the vote).  Party officials have indicated a willingness to work with any democratic, left, or anti-austerity forces, and have joined with the center-right anti-austerity party the Independent Greeks (ANEL) to form a government, since SYRIZA did not secure an outright majority.

The out-going New Democracy (ND)-led coalition government of Antonis Samaras garnered 27-28%, while their partners in PASOK brought up the rear in seventh place with about 4.5%.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party left its mark as well, finishing third overall with just over 6%.

There is much discussion about how SYRIZA’s margin of victory exceeded expectations, including the notions of “hope” and “desperation” of large percentages of Greeks, especially the youth.  A subplot might well be that the unprecedented outside pressure and interference from some world leaders and financial sector institutions led to a backlash by the Greek citizens.

SYRIZA’s results represent a clear mandate, and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, made clear that the hard work for Greece starts tomorrow.  He made sure to put Greece’s elite and oligarchs on notice about changes that are likely to follow, including crackdowns on tax-evaders, increases in taxes on the higher strata, and a more active social state.

Tsipras also emphasized what any spectator of the celebrations of SYRIZA could see—a conspicuous presence of other left, anti-austerity parties from across Europe, including Spain’s, Podemos, and groups from Italy, Portugal, and other countries.  This is precisely the symbolic threat that the SYRIZA victory represents: the beginnings of networks of other anti-austerity, left groups connecting on an EU-level to fight the neo-liberal forces in the EU and the Troika.

Immediate reactions to SYRIZA’s victory, ranged from euphoric optimism and relief to cynicism and vicious attacks from other parliamentary parties.  Government hardliners of ND and PASOK warned that SYRIZA’s project would fail quickly because—they claim—“there is no alternative” to market discipline imposed by the financial sector.

But it’s clear that the Greek people did choose an alternative: democracy over the dictates of the markets. 

The Troika’s prescription of austerity and privatization was tragic for Greece, and the debt is insurmountable as it stands.  Now comes the hard work for SYRIZA and Greece.  It will require them to stick to their guns, to not succumb to mainstream pressure, and to keep the needs of the people at the fore.

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.