In a number of interviews, and speeches, in the USA and Britain, Alexis Tsipras has put forward his views of how Greece can exit the crisis. Barry Biddulph provides a critical appraisal.
Recently, Newsnight’s economic editor Paul Mason (13/02/13) and left-wing author,Seumas Milne(19/03/13) ,asked Tsipras what he thought about the threat of an authoritarian solution to the crisis in Greece.
In response to Paul Mason’s question about what he would do about the racist actions of Golden Dawn, Tsipras answered: we will implement the law! He would use the State against not only the counter-revolutionary violence of the fascists, but all groups which use violence. In other words, he stands for a bourgeois constitutionalism against any violence from the revolutionary left, including the anarchists, who are defending working class communities from fascist attacks.
Tsipras said he would use the state to root out fascist cells in the police. This is a naive view of the Capitalist state – to say the least. Faced with the threat of workers resistance, the state will facilitate fascist attacks covertly, or in the event of any significant revolutionary threat the state will be openly in alliance with fascism. In the Great Depression of the 1930’s ,in Germany,parliamentary democracy was unable to take the strain. Fascism filled the void. The rise of Golden Dawn is a clear warning for those leaders of Syriza who want to cling to parliamentary democracy.
In response to Seumas Milne’s concern about an authoritarian solution, Tsipras fell back on the general point that fascism thrives on austerity. Therefore, fascism could be halted by the end of austerity. Besides, in his view, the Greek people are anti-fascist. It is true that the Greek working class are anti-fascist, so were the German working class in the 1930’s. But in the event of the failure of working class parties to resolve the capitalist crisis by pushing forward to a post capitalist society, fascism will receive support from some sections of the population. Currently Golden Dawn has a 14% share of the popular vote.
In general, Tsipras has expressed faith in European institutions. He is confident he can persuade European and international economic and political leaders that he is fit to govern. During an international tour of the USA, he said in a speech to the Brookings Institute that ‘I hope I have convinced you that I am not as dangerous as some people think’. He seems to have succeeded. Following a meeting with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, the official view in Washington was that he was an old-fashioned Social Democrat. This is an accurate assessment. His message to the IMF was that Syriza would save Greece by staying in the Eurozone and deserved support.
Specifically, Tsipras has called for a new Marshall Plan for Europe. But the Marshall Plan was put in place following the massive destruction of capital during the Great Depression and the Second World War. These were the preconditions for a protracted boom. The plan was part of a strategy of the USA for economic and political hegemony in Europe. It was a successful attempt to save capitalism in Europe and contain and roll back ‘ Communism’ or the influence of Russia and its left allies in Europe. The historical and political circumstances and the balance of class forces are fundamentally different in Europe today. He is looking for a capitalist solution or is nostalgic for the post war boom.
Tsipras believes that Syriza will inspire and strengthen the calls for social justice to solve the humanitarian crisis in Greece. There is certainly a capitalist crisis: suicides and soup kitchens; unemployment running at 30%, and huge drops in household income of between 20% and 40%; and there are 25,000 homeless in Athens alone. The Marshall Plan was not about social justice, but aimed at marginalizing the most revolutionary impulses of the European left at the time. Tsipras sales angle to decision makers and those that help to form opinion in London and Washington, is that a renewal of social democracy is a safe option, given the failure of Neo Liberalism.
However, there is currently no economic space for a rebirth of a new form of Social Democracy in Europe. The depth and fragility of European financial institutions has been once again exposed by the banking crisis in Cyprus. Where is the shareholder, bond holder, financial sector, confidence to accept a massive programme of state intervention? The deeper the crisis, the greater the political polarisation. Tsipras is already bending his knee. A Syriza government would discredit alternatives to capitalism, leaving Golden Dawn ready to provide an authoritarian solution. Only a non parliamentary revolutionary grass-roots movement to combat Fascism from below can pose a viable working class alternative to Capitalism in crisis.