The Barriers Come Down



photoAnna Christofides (above) and barrier-free Greek Parliament last night


How’s that going?

Athens-based, Galway-born political scientist Anna Christofides writes:

Despite threats and scaremongering from the EU, Greek voters have spoken; “no more austerity” and “no more EU imposed governments”. The message is loud and clear, the task is less so.

It is early days for Syriza and the new Greek government and Greeks are nervous. Many believe that change will not come fast enough or be radical enough. However, the streets of Athens are already showing signs of change. The gradual militarisation which had taken hold of Athens’ city centre has been rolled back since the new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, took office on Monday.

The barriers in front of the parliament have been removed and the buses of riot polices have disappeared from the streets. Just as a palpable feeling of depression and desperation descended on the city following the Troika bailout deals in 2010, now there is a tangible feeling of hope and cautious optimism.

Nonetheless, Syriza must tread carefully. Though they have been elected with a political mandate for change and to put an end to austerity, the reality is, their first battle may lie closer to home than with their European aggravators. The fact remains that the country is deeply divided. Though Syriza won the elections by a clear majority, 6% of the population continue to support the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and 34% continue to support the parties that signed the memorandums and implemented devastating austerity measures which have left more than half of the country’s youth unemployed. Representing and satisfying such a conflicted and confused society is no mean feat.

Moreover, the country’s state institutions have traditionally supported and implemented the policies of Right and far Right governments. In turn, they themselves are supported by the country’s oligarchy, who, up until now, have proved untouchable. Syriza is well aware of this. It is no coincidence that they contacted the leaders of the Army and Police within one hour of the release of the first exit polls on Sunday evening, to confirm their trust for both of these institutions. Despite this, election statistics indicate that, once again, police were amongst the staunchest supporters of Golden Dawn.

In addition to the immediate domestic challenges there is extreme pressure from the European Left. The political investment in Syriza is collossal, the future of the entire European radical Left relies on their ability to demonstrate that a valid, political, alternative to the current neo-liberal status quo exists. With so much pressure there is no margin of error for Syrzia.

For those of us that long for a radical redistribution of power and wealth and fairer society for all, let us hope that they get it right.

Thanks Bewildered Student


KrugNobel cat-loving Economist Paul Krugman

…So now that [Alex] Tsipras [leader of Syriza] has won, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their programme. The fact is they have no credibility; the programme they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. But it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.

Still, in calling for a major change, Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.

Paul Krugman: Syriza should ignore calls to be responsible (Irish Times)

30 thoughts on “The Barriers Come Down

      1. Nikkeboentje

        Have you seen the state of the Greek financial markets in the last 2-3 days? The stock exchange is down double digits. The banks have had $11 billion of value wiped out (the Greek state i.e. tax payers are the majority owner of most of the banks, so basically they are shooting themselves in the foot). Government bonds are through the roof and no one will probably touch them following the State’s default over three years ago.
        The new government has stopped the sale of Pireaus Port (Chinese Investor) and will probably also halt or seriously change the conditions on the Hellinikon site (Greek/Middle Eastern/Chinese JV).
        Real estate transfer tax was lowered at the beginning of last year and there were signs of foreign investors returning to the market. With the new Government’s pledge to increase wealth taxes, this will deter investment.
        So, basically all the things that could have brought money into the State are now in disarray. Whilst the man on the street might think the new government have great ideas, they simply do not have the money to put them in place.

        1. martco

          but what about good ol plain blunt political negotiation?? as in they put the eu under pressure by threatening (suggesting) the strengthening of their ties with say Russia? they mightn’t have much economic leverage but they might have strategic leverage?

          1. Nikkeboentje

            Honestly, my personally opinion is the the EU will just say fine, off you go, turn off the light and close the door on your way out.

  1. fluffybiscuits

    Power to the people. They have alienated some of their left support collaborationg with the Independent Greeks but lets give Tsipras time to work things out. Euro is going to bomb on the back of this…might be a good thing at the end of the day. The Germans dont want a weak Euro…

    1. Rep

      The EU has already ring fenced the greek debt as they knew this would happen hence the greek election didn’t really effect the price of the euro. The EU did that themselves in their attempt to stop stagnation. The EU will let Greece go purely because if they give any more concessions to them, Spain & Italy will want the same and the EU cannot afford that.

      1. Nikkeboentje

        Completely agree with you. The EU may give them more time to Greece to repay their debts but no way will they just forgive the debt.

  2. donnchup

    Political scientist? Nothing scientific about filling every paragraph with your personal political sympathies, however right-on they might be.

    1. Bobby

      So you don’t understand what political science is. That’s fine. But there’s no need to let everyone else know.

  3. Gavin

    Cant see how anyone thinks they know what will happen considering the last 10 years and the failure of supposed experts to see the current mess coming

    1. Nikkeboentje

      The yield on three-year notes jumped 270 basis points to 16.73 percent and five-year bond yields hit 13.5 percent to reach their highest level since the 2012 debt restructuring. The 10-year benchmark yield soared to 10.2 percent.

      1. Wayne.F

        Nick I knew the answer as does BS but the extreme left are on charge and everything will be fine!! Or not

    2. Nikkeboentje

      Opps, sorry the first email are the prices from yesterday. Here are today’s prices…
      Greece’s government bonds dropped for a fourth day, pushing the 10-year yield to a 16-month high, amid mounting concern the nation will struggle to renegotiate the terms of its bailout. Greek 10-year yields rose 65 basis points, or 0.65 percentage point, to 10.99 percent at 10:20 a.m. London time. They touched 11.04 percent, the highest since Sept. 23, 2013. The 2 percent bond due in February 2025 fell 2.72, or 27.20 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,130) face amount, to 55.19.
      Greek three-year yields rose 203 basis points to 18.76 percent and touched 18.88 percent, the highest since the nation underwent the biggest-ever restructuring in 2012. It peaked above 100 percent before the debt was reorganised.
      The three-year yield is up from 10.08 percent on Jan. 23, before the nation held general elections that put a coalition led by the anti-austerity Syriza party.

  4. GOS

    Simplistic blather frankly.

    Greece has been badly treated, but it has also behaved badly. The primary reason it has debts is nothing to do with the rest of Europe and everything to do with their policies and their governments. “this lot are evil and this lot our good” is not analysis its street advocacy.

    “Give us your money but we’ll set the terms and decide if you can have it back” is the core of the Syriza policy.

    And really, in the 21st century why does the far left still bow down before Russian governments? Why has Syriza demanded that the world do nothing as Russia devours its neighbour?

    And if it’s ‘the end of austerity’ why no detail on how much austerity is to be repealed. Surely they should just cancel the last 6 years’ worth of cuts?

      1. GOS

        The comment was relating to the lady in Athens presentation of Syriza as some form of pure Messiahs.

        What Russia has to do with it is that Syriza’s pro-Putin policy, in all the papers today, directly cahllenges the idea of a party of the people facing down the powerful. If you can admire such a regime why would you not try to emulate it?

        Gushing hyperbole instead of quiet hope will always, always be followed by either disillusioned alienation or wilfull blindness.

        Bit of perspective and a recognition that Syriza is compromised and likely to compromise is what we need not childish gushing and lumping whoever disagrees with you as being like the Golden Dawn fascists.

  5. GOS

    And BTW when the people outside the barriers go inside they tend to come down. The real achievement is if they stay down. Is Syriza capable of delivering what it says and tolerating dissent. Erdogan in Turkey took down the barriers, and now they’re not only back up he’s closing down newspapers and Twitter as well. Very few ‘revolutionaries’ end up being tolerant of those who oppose them. They label them ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and go after them using the state. Maybe Tsiparis is different. But having a private meeting with Putin after he invaded Crimea suggests he is well capable of slipping into the ‘strong man’ role.

  6. Odis

    What a wonderful post. This takes me back to those heady days of 2011 when despite threats and scaremongering from the EU and others the, <del Greek Irish voters had spoken; “no more austerity”. The message was loud and clear, the task was less so.
    Fine Gael and Labour had won the elections by a clear majority, though 6% of the population continued to support the corrupt and degenerate old party of the oligarchy Fianna Fail.

      1. Odis

        I couldn’t honestly say.
        Though I should imagine, that the packages deal, would be more suitable for the true revolutionary, it avoids a lot of embarrassment. As it does here.
        I learned from the Sado, this Saturday, I think, that some TD’s are on their second free I-pad. And don’t they need it, to help them do all their hard work in a modern “organized” way?

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