Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/matthewstoller
What happens with a society’s social contract collapses? That question is being posed in Greece right now. Often what happens is that so-called “swamp things”, like the Greek neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, emerge. Often, the left begins articulating a genuine alternative vision. And the corrupt rotted center calls in every chip it can, hoping to preserve patronage and corruption. Right now, much of the Euro-elite, when not panicking about Spanish borrowing costs, is watching the anti-bailout Greek left (Syriza) and the pro-bailout center right (New Democracy) running neck and neck in the polls. If Greece goes anti-bailout, it’s going to create tremendous political uncertainty. With much of the left in Europe looking to Greece, a win by Syriza in mid-June could spark similar anti-bailout left-wing alternatives, much as the Arab Spring ignited the Occupy movement.
So what does Syriza actually want? Their political platform is fairly interesting. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras admires FDR’s nationalization of the American banking system in the 1930s and the stimulus pursued by Obama in 2009. But it seems like he may go much further.
SYRIZA will present on Friday its economic manifesto with nine major sectors, including privatization and nationalization issues, salaries and pensions increases and the introduction of a new tax system.
Proto Thema newspaper published an article last Sunday saying that members of SYRIZA announced different measures each time. As a result, the party decided to give a complete answer to such allegations.
One of the party’s main issues will be the nationalization of several former public institutions, including telecommunications and energy companies, as well as airports and ports. SYRIZA members state that, despite yet unknown, their party will find the appropriate way of re-nationalizing these companies, when the time is good for such an action.
Furthermore, the economic team of SYRIZA appears to have found some ways of increasing the country’s income, so that they can make a new tax system based on social justice, development and productive reconstruction. The minimum wage change is a crucial subject, which SYRIZA promises to improve.
And as the Memorandum is of great importance for Greeks, SYRIZA does not clarify whether they will abolish it or just renegotiate it. “It depends on the Europeans’ reactions,” they state, but also stress the fact that the funding provided by Troika serves only their interests and not its budget.
If this platform is for real, and it’s hard to know if it is, it looks like a very aggressive plan to remove the power structure currently running Greece. Shipping, banking, energy, telecom AND cracking down on tax fraud is, well, a lot. It’s not Communism, but it is something we haven’t seen much of except in Iceland. It is an attempt to actually have the state take power from private financial and corporate interests. While we often look at the financial system as a set of interlinked banking institutions and markets, the reality is that it’s just a place where a small group decides how our resources will be allocated. And the austerity debate is a technocratic argument dressing up what is really going on – a giant class war.
You can see why the Eurocrats are terrified of Syriza. It’s not just about financial contagion. As goes Greece, so might go Spain. And so forth. Of course, should the Eurocrats prevent Syriza from being governing, waiting in the wings is the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, and they want to place mines on the border to prevent immigrants from getting into Greece and are talking about committing violence against “traitors” against Greece. Personally, I’d take Syriza, even if I owned a lot of European bank debt or had a stake in Greek shipping interests.