Alexis Tsipras: the crisis and the threat of Golden Dawn

22 03 2013

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.

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10 responses

22 03 2013

I was reading yesterday the commentary on this same issue at IDOM (a Troskyist site) and they also found Tsipras naive and weak in ideas and program, tending to socialdemocratic failure (much more critical in times of deep crisis and fascist threat as are these).

I have the impression that since last year’s election many genuine communist forces (KOE for example) are moving away from SYRIZA or remain inside in growing tension. You tell me more because I only know of Greece so much these days.

The fact that the Greek electoral law strongly favors “parties” over “coalitions” (not as badly as in Italy maybe but still), makes it quite difficult, I understand, for the wild diversity of small radical communist parties not just to form a united front but to get chances of actual electoral victory even if they manage to coalesce together and mobilize the voters around them. Also SYRIZA is probably offering what a majority of Greeks want: a decaffeinated “socialist” program within EU parameters, at least initially.

Relatedly, another interesting article at IDOM today, discusses the Cypriot crisis with some emphasis in the failed management of AKEL (in power via presidency and coalition with the liberal party DYKOS for the last two years). They criticize the failure to nationalize the banks and of persisting into Capitalist parameters, what was naturally punished in the last elections by growing abstention (in spite of voting being compulsory).

[Disclaimer: I have no relation whatsoever with IDOM nor the International Marxist Tendency, I'm not even Troskyist but Autonomist, just that those articles are relevant and I do tend to agree with what they say].

24 03 2013
Roy Ratcliffe

An interesting and revealing analysis. Thanks.
I have also looked at the policies of Syriza by considering in detail the speech made by Alexis Tsipras in London on March 15th. The article; ‘Syriza: Crucible or Cul-de-Sac.’ at questions whether in the current crisis, these suggestions are rational proposals or just distractions resulting from bouts of nostalgia and idealistic longings. Regards, Roy

25 03 2013

Yes Roy, Tsipras has no alternative to Capitalism,worse the nostalgia for the Social Democratic good times and an ideological cap in hand to the political representatives of Capital. I liked the way you brought in Marx and his critique of the Gotha Programme.

27 03 2013

“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 and in the event of any revolutionary threat the state will be openly in alliance with fascism or other authoritarian forces.”

Not necessarily! The Tsipras government will simply order people, whose job it is to enforce the laws, to carry out the policies of the government. There may be resistance but the majority may follow the orders.

27 03 2013

What Tsipras government? First he has to win elections what is not clear at all, leading in the last opinion poll I’ve read by less than one percentile point.

But regardless: at least 50% of police forces are members or sympathizers (at the very least voters) of Golden Dawn. The rest are meaningless considering what is happening every other day in the streets of Greece: people beaten by the Nazis in front of passive police forces, joint anti-immigrant raids of police and Nazis, police that open the trial room ONLY for the Nazi thugs, resulting in scared judges and an acquittal for the Nazi MP who attacked a Communist one in front of TV cameras, etc.

The Nazis are also making gains in terms of voting intention, up to 11-14%, as they play both sides demagogically, pretending to be against “austerity” and using the immigrants (~10% of the population) as scapegoat.

The situation of Greece seriously risks to become similar to that of Germany in the between-wars period.

Alternatively, it might become a Bela Kun moment of sorts, in which the bourgeoisie allows or is forced to accept a communist leadership in such a desperate situation that months later they come back to power as “national saviors”.

I want the best for Greece but the situation is far from being even close to what you describe, Steve. The fascist forces are very strong in the police and the army and they are going to sabotage any efforts by a socialist government, which would need to use iron hand against the fascists from minute one if they want to even to have a slim chance of survival.

Even from the Left, a SYR government may find tough resistance, as many activists want much more than mere socialdemocracy and ill-defined promises… and they are strong in the streets.

How may it pan out, even if SYR manages to get a sufficiently strong majority, I really don’t know.

31 03 2013

The hollow rhetoric of Tsipras was on display when fielding questions at his meeting with the London Branch of Syriza on March15th.

Question: will you seek to abolish Capitalism?
Answer : we will have a popular energy for change in Greece and Europe.

Question: Will you topple the Oligarchs?
Answer : we will convince the people we have nothing to fear.

Question : Does Syriza have an alternative path to austerity?
Answer : Popular support from the Greek people will put pressure on the IMF and the EU.

Question: Euro or Drachma?

Answer :We have a bargaining chip. They don’t want us to leave the Euro.

Question: There have been Authoritarian solutions in Greece in the past,how will you deal with Golden Dawn?

Answer : The Greek people have never been convinced by Fascism or Racism.

31 03 2013

I thought the following was an interesting response from Tsipras at a meeting:

“On the one hand, yes, we can come forward and present our socialist vision but let’s also remember the experience of Chávez. When he came to power he did not say to people ‘vote for socialism’, he said ‘vote for a real change in your life’. Day-by-day he gained the people’s trust and day-by-day people believed that socialism was a good idea. They understood that socialism does not mean the Soviet Union and the other régimes but a system under which their lives will be better. So this is our aim and intention – to make changes in the lives of the people. This is the way we will fight.”

Isnt that what the right-wing Tories and Liberals say they want for the working class – to make their lives better? And given the context this amounts to what many patronising figures among the Labour Party elite want. The vision of socialism alluded to would seem from this to be a mixed-economy, welfare capitalism and therefore serves to confuse workers rather than clarify their understanding.


31 03 2013

Well, he at least mentions Chávez, and not Thatcher, as example to follow. I don’t think even by a moment that a hypothetical SYR government will be at all close to Blairite “Labour”; another thing is whether we consider “Bolivarianism” (~Lenin’s NEP) to be enough or we demand something more radical and profound.

Then a key question is: is Greece, a relatively poor and not-so-developed small country with an ample coast and thousands of tiny islands exposed to NATO fleets, ready or even able to be more radical than anyone else in its region? Or is Tsipras right in taking it easy and waiting for the real revolution to happen at the heart of Capitalist Europe, as Marx imagined, i.e. in Germany, Britain, France and the Low Countries first?

I’m being a bit of “devil’s advocate” here but I think the debate is needed: do we really dare to demand Greece to go farther and faster than it can while in our homelands not even that seems to be achievable at all? Shouldn’t we instead respect and support even from a critical viewpoint the rhythms and pace that Greeks are able to take according to their own capacities and class consciousness level?

31 03 2013
Roy Ratcliffe

Wow! Who on the left has advocated following Thatcher? And who has said a Syriza government would look like a Blairite one? I think in this response you perhaps confuse what tactical considerations may influence ones practice and what one fundamentally advocates. I certainly am not – at this point – commenting upon or criticising what Greece or anywhere else might do, nor am I daring them to do anything. I do however, think it justified to be critical of just what they fail to say as well as what they do say, when it is addressed to activists and workers. As I did in my own contribution to the discussion of ‘ Syiza; Crucible or Cul-de-Sac. at That doesn’t mean I (or we) don’t respect or support their struggles in general. To my mind support and respect doesn’t negate the need for critical dialogue, indeed given the collective nature of struggle it requires it. Regards, Roy

31 03 2013

I was replying to the commentary by sttuteringsteps: “Isnt that what the right-wing Tories and Liberals say they want for the working class – to make their lives better?”, etc.


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