Thursday, April 30, 2015

Joschka Fischer - An Elderly Leftist Reflects on SYRIZA

When Joschka Fischer was Alexis Tsipras' age, he was arguably at least as radical and leftist as Tsipras is now. In his younger years, he was even a militant revolutionary, being a member of a militant group and having been photographed clubbing a policman during a riot. And Fischer knows his Karl Marx at least as well as the Greek Finance Minister. In 1998, as the then head of the Green Party, he became Germany's Foreign Minister in the coalition government of Gerhard Schröder.
Today, Fischer thinks that one is unlikely to succeed if one destroy's one's own credibility and rants and raves about those whose money one needs. That, at least, is the lesson he learned from balancing a life between theory and practice. Fischer calls that lesson 'life'.

Fischer just published a remarkable article on ProjectSyndicate titled: "Tsipras in Dreamland". I cite below some paragraphs even though one really has to read the entire article.

"The Tsipras government could have presented itself as Europe’s best partner for implementing a far-reaching program of reform and modernization in Greece. Measures to compensate the poorest met with considerable sympathy in EU capitals, and favorable sentiment would have strengthened had Greece started to cut its bloated defense budget (as a leftist government might have been expected to do). But Tsipras squandered Greece’s opportunity, because he and other Syriza leaders were unable to see beyond the horizon of their party’s origins in radical opposition activism. They did not understand – and did not want to understand – the difference between campaigning and governing. Realpolitik, in their view, was a sellout.

Syriza’s inability to escape its radical bubble does not explain why it formed a coalition with the far-right Independent Greeks, when it could have governed with one of the centrist pro-European parties. I hope that they do not share policy priorities, particularly a change of strategic alliances, which would be equally bad for Greece and for Europe. But two steps by Tsipras soon after he took office have heightened my skepticism: his flirtation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his attempt to isolate Germany within the eurozone, which never could have worked.

Even if there were no troika and no monetary union, Greece would urgently need far-reaching reforms to get back on its feet. What it also needs is time and money, which the EU should provide if, and when, the Greek authorities face up to reality.

The current crisis and the negotiations to resolve it are about only one thing: Greece’s future within Europe and the future of the joint European project. To help Greece get back on its feet and keep it in the eurozone is in Europe’s interest, both politically and economically. But any agreement on how that is to be achieved now requires Greece to prove that it shares the same goal".

This truly is a spot-on assessment!


  1. I uphold my theory that in reality Tsipras and Varoufakis only bluffed, first their voters and second the Eurogroup, by pretending that they intend to avoid Grexit.

    Under this assumption their behavior makes sense, otherwise one must come to the devastating conclusion like J. Fischer and many others.


  2. The problem with all those "realist" analysts is that they're missing the point (this critique is completely theoretical, to the point of delusion). Let's see: what's J. Fischer proposing Syriza should do? Sign off a further slash of pensions (particularly for poorer pensioners)? Sign off further VAT increases? Sign off further corrupt privatizations (with one bidder, usually member of the families ruling Greece for the past 50 years)? Or sign off throwing people in street because they took a mortage 10 years ago and did not "rationally foresee" that the State would go bankrupt a few years later and unemployment would soar? Etc. Hiding behind theoretical arguments is not exactly a smart critique - as it doesn't state what the critics of Syriza would do in their place. But then, would J. Fisher argue that's what he would do if he was in Tsipras' place?