Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trying to understand SYRIZA

As a foreigner, I have found this analysis very helpful in trying to understand the recent success of Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA movement. Since my own article on Alexis Tsipras provoked some fairly violent reactions, I want to expand by using two examples.

How to avoid having to make a loan
Suppose you are a banker and you have a loan request from a very, very VIP who, if you turn him down, could make your life quite miserable. On the other hand, you can't approve the loan because there are 10 obvious reasons why you can't. So what do you do?

You certainly make an offer to the VIP. You start by pointing out all the positive things about his loan request. That will make him feel good. You then tell him that you will be very happy to make the loan and that there are only 10 things which he needs to do until he gets the money. And that means for him to change exactly those 10 reasons why you couldn't make the loan in the first place. He probably won't change those 10 things and so he won't get the money. But it is not you who have turned him down; he has turned himself down. He can't raise hell against you for having turned him down, he can only raise hell against himself.

Austria’s experience with Joerg Haider
Joerg Haider was on the right what Alexis Tsipras now seems to be on the left: a populist politician with an unbelievable feeling for the pulse of voters and the ability to put their feelings into powerful words.

The establishment reacted to Haider by essentially excluding him from the civilized world, which helped him increase his support from originally 4% to a peak of 33% in an opinion poll years later. Haider made it on the cover of many, many papers and magazines (including TIME or Newsweek; I don't remember which). In actual fact, he was just a provincial governor in a very small country. All of this could have been avoided if he had been "included" in the process instead of being excluded.

Those who think Tsipras would be dangerous for Greece should stop excluding him from the process. That will only make him stronger. Instead of scaring voters of him, the alternative approach on the part of the "serious" electorate could be: "We think Mr. Tsipras is a very bright and talented man. He has very many good ideas which we also support. This is why we want to work with him and accept his good ideas and he will undoubtedly want to work with us and accept some of our ideas".

If they keep excluding Tsipras, he will very likely become Prime Minister at the next election.


  1. My reading of ==>>

    is that by Mr Tsipras' own admission the other parties have tried to INCLUDE him, it is Mr. Tsipras who rejected such overtures - and he appears to be boasting about it.

    Can't say I blame him, if the pundits are right then SYRIZA will get the largest number of votes at the next election. But its hard to imagine them getting an outright majority. Unless there's a very low turnout, which I guess is a distinct possibility.

    More than a few of the people (outside Austria) who railed and ranted at Haider, had been quite happy to have tea and biscuits, whatever, with the likes of Tudjman and Seselj just a few years earlier. AFAIK Haider never murdered or raped anyone, nor did he sanction such. That useless gesture was another of Europe's "finest hours - not"


    1. I have to admit that it is hard to argue that Tsipras is being excluded when ND/PASOK/DL are essentially begging him to join them. Still, my gut tells me that he is treated like an outsider. They don’t seem to mean well with him but primarily with themselves (and with Greece, or so they say).

      Haider thrived on the role of being an outsider. When he finally caved in and joined a government, his party lost voters and almost disappeared. Tsipras makes the same point which Haider always made: that he would never allow the others to corrupt his convictions (and he was a genius of changing his convictions all the time without his voters’ caring much about it…).

      I we wanted to get into a discussion about Haider and how the EU treated Austria back in 1999, we would have to start a new blog…

      Tsipras seems on a roll. I if can avoid major blunders, he ought to become the clear No. 1 the next time. That should propel him well over 100 seats. That is likely to change how other parties view him. I mean, it’s one thing to refuse overtures from someone who has 52 seats and another thing if that someone has over one-third of all seats in Parliament.

  2. This appears to be useful - Paul Mason (BBC journalist) on trying to understand Syriza.

    Mason posits a scenario where Syriza won't need the 'support' of the PASOK/ND political establishment, in fact the KKE (hardline Marxists) could be their main stumbling block.


  3. Mr Tsipras is simply smart. He believes that Greece will default in any case. So he rallies against Merkel and the Euro just to get a shot at the prime minister seat, promising that Greece will we much bettere with the Drachma.
    Berlusconi did the same in Italy promising 1 million new jobs and wealth for everyone. He got elected and of course no one saw the jobs.
    He knows very well that once you get your bum in the parliament, you can do whatever you want - he has seen Pasok and ND doing exactly this for 20 years !

    1. I would only suggest that someone translates this paper to Mr. Tsipras before he decides to give foreigners the shaft.