Η ελπίδα έρχεται (Hope is coming).

tsipras-propylaia-11422222789 02These are exciting times in Paradise!

As political animals, we have of course been keeping a close eye on the election which took place here last weekend and whilst it was fairly clear from the off that SYRIZA would be the largest party, very few commentators were predicting the size of their win.

Greek election

Lassithi, which is the area where we live in Crete, returned one of the highest votes for SYRIZA anywhere in Greece and PASOK, the sister party to Labour in the UK, for whom previously Crete had been a stronghold, were virtually wiped out. Are there lessons here for Labour perhaps?

One thing is for sure, the new Government under charismatic Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has ‘hit the ground running’. The first thing that the atheist Tsipras did was to tell the Archbishop in Athens that he would not be sworn in to his new Office using the Bible and, the Archbish to his credit agreed that, as an honourable man, it was a reasonable thing to do! Then after seeing the President, he visited a memorial to nearly 200 communist partizans, executed by the Nazis in 1944 – another hugely symbolic act.

_80557681_025600793-1

It was aimed particularly at the Germans of course but as things have panned out, also at the Russians with whom a number of the leading lights in SYRIZA (being ex-communists themselves) have close associations.

Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister and winner of the Greek parliamentary elections, Tsipras, walks with members of his cabinet in Athens

SYRIZA fell two seats short of a majority in the Greek Parliament and immediately entered a coalition with a small right of centre, anti austerity party with whom they agree on very little else other than the fact that austerity must end! Most commentators here are interpreting this to mean that re-negotiating the debt repayments is the single most important issue facing the country and whilst other bedfellows might have been more comfortable, a statement needed to be made to the Troika,

So, what with new Finance Minister making a cogent case for re-focusing the debt issue and Greece objecting strongly to further EU sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine,

EU sanctions on Russia

particularly as the new Government was not consulted, it would appear that perhaps the negotiating tactic being adopted here is to play off the Russia against the EU, who have made encouraging noises about supporting the Greek economy – after all they want a warm water Mediterranean port, it would appear!

We are hugely impressed at how the new Government have initially at least, seemingly managed to wrong foot Europe’s political elite, particularly on the economic issue.

Germany’s the problem, not Greece

There appears to be not a single respected economist who believes that the Troika’s plan to restructure Greek debt could ever have worked and yet Merkel et all seem to have adopted the Iron Lady’s mantra of T.I.N.A. (there is no alternative).

Greeks have suffered enough in the name of orthodox finance

Over the last four years, the percentage of debt to GDP in Greece has increased from about 125% to 175%. Virtually none of the bailout money has gone into the Greek economy. It appears that it has simply been recycled around the international banking system and re-named as Greek debt. Although there has been some improvement in the economy here recently, this is really hugely misleading. True, there is now a small surplus but this is on the back of an economy that has shrunk by 25%; unemployment above 20%, and youth unemployment still above 50%.

It is no wonder the Greeks revolted and voted for hope. Their children are emigrating in their thousands, there are few jobs and people are scraping by as best they can. SYRIZA’s campaign slogan ‘Η ελπίδα έρχεται’ (Hope is coming) resonates with the demand for change here.

A man walks past a banner with an image of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras at the party's pre-election kiosk in Athens.

It remains to be seen whether they will be able to reform the political and governmental structures to break the power of the political and economic elite which have ruled the country since the falls of the Colonels in 1974 and find a way to force those who evade paying tax – not just the rich – to fund the brave new world which they envisage but let us hope they can, both for the sake of the Greek people but also for Europe generally.

They have announced that ongoing privatisations forced on Greece by the Troika such as the largest energy company and the port of Piraeus, will stop immediately (the latter much to annoyance of the Chinese apparently, who were wanting to buy it – since when did they privatise their ports, I wonder) and have reversed the abolition of the minimum wage in the private sector – another Troika requirement.

The Germans in particular do have a colossal cheek. They need to remember their own history and what happened when they were forced to pay reparations after WW1 which the economy could not sustain. They should also recall that in 1953, after WW2, they successfully negotiated a substantial reduction in their debt which laid the foundation for the so-called German economic miracle and more especially they might choose to repay the ‘loan’ forced on Greece in 1943 by the Nazis – a ‘loan’ which has never been repaid.

Outstanding Greek loan to Germany

In any event, it seems that all may not be as we have been led to believe

Which has the higher level of debt – Greece or Germany?

SYRIZA should be given a chance but signs coming from the European political and economic elite are not good. Arrogant pontification might sum it up. The original plan has been shown for what it always was – not really anything to do with helping Greece but a prop to support the euro and the under-capitalised and over-stretched European banks. This has largely been achieved by effectively ‘lending’ the Greek bailout money to these undemocratic institutions who care nothing about the social hardships created here. Worse, the economic crisis affecting the Banks in 2012 has now been papered over, so Greece can be allowed to go broke and exit the euro. So, all the pain here would have been for nothing. Had Greece left the euro then, the debt would have effectively been wiped out or at least would have been no greater now than it was then.

Frankly, the whole saga is a disgrace and one which tacitly the political establishment in the UK seems to go along with. Well, the outcome could just be that Podemos in Spain and radical left-wing parties elsewhere will find that their message of hope rings bells with those who were not responsible for ‘The Crisis’ but who have been forced to pay the price.

As a recent ‘Guardian’ article pointed out, it may need a home-grown party in the UK to shake the current cosy political elite out of their slumber but all the signs are there that Labour could capitalise on the willingness of the electorate to accept alternative policies if it were bold enough to take the plunge.

Labour would do better

We shall see!

John

PS If you cannot open the above links directly, right click and open in a new window!

 

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6 thoughts on “Η ελπίδα έρχεται (Hope is coming).

  1. John Turner

    Whilst I was expecting some form of political comment following the Greek elections you appear to be a man on a mission to educate the unfortunate souls not blessed with your level of political understanding and interest………….

    I trust you were still able to fit in the daily visits to your local Taverns you usually tell us about whilst writing this exhaustive blog page?

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  2. pondbug

    Exciting times indeed. The BBC news bulletins reported the election results fairly negatively but for many people, esp Yes voters at the indyref, it is a positive challenge to the anti-democratic forces that have held sway during this time of austerity policies. Lets hope it builds momentum across Europe.

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  3. Vince Sudbery

    Most interesting John. I read the atricle probably the same one in the Guardian. I would agree that Labour here risks being anaemic. The prospect here of more illiberal and austerity govt alarms. I do think there is a danger that too much be pinned on the Germans. Clearly the Euro ewas always problematic and Gordon right to keep us out. Interestingly the EU quatitative easing which might have afforded relief is being ignored. Confrontation appears inevitable with of course uncertain consequences. Can the EU allow Greece to be a complete special case?
    Is SYRIA betting there is no alternative?

    Vince

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  4. Veronica Willins

    What a tremendous speal John, afraid I couldn’t keep up with all of that but hope that things will become better in Greece and they will be able to sort out all of the problems!! Does someone have a magic wand!!?It all looked very good on T.V. here and seems like a popular decision so lets hope they can pull off the necessary. Hope that you are bothwell and it doesn’t affect your hard-earned pensions anyway!! Tennis is underway again here ,Sheila and the courts are being smartened up for the new season. we have the new ball-machine to try out so lets hope it helps our game!! Weather has been more wintry here with a little snow but nothing too serious down our way. Doesn’t lie too long so it has not been too disruptive. Hope that all goes well for you and we may even see you sometime soon down here in K.B.T!! Take care, God bless,
    Veronica xxxooo

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  5. Marsali

    Labour as we know them here in Scotland are completely finished. As a life long Labour voter the referendum finished it for me and thousands of others. Your post has given me some hope and insight that from the ashes of sell-out might arise a new party, one which reclaims some of the lefties in Scotland who can’t abide Salmond and his spawn Sturgeon and what they stand for, and which is true to its roots. The Greens have made themselves as ridiculous as the Tories, in my eyes, particularly their health policy announcements south of the border. My god, did I ever think I’d say it…..there truly is no party worth voting for!

    So we need a something else and a someone else. Question is…who is the UK’s Alex Tsipras??!!

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