you're reading...

Syriza paid for its ambiguity

By Emiliano Brancaccio

Syriza, the main party of the Left, lost the elections in Greece. The first real opportunity to launch a clear political message about the unsustainability of the European monetary union has thus been lost. Consequently, save surprises, the agony of the single currency is destined to endure, and with it the suffering of the peripheral countries and social groups most affected by the economic crisis.

Syriza: Why did you lose? The prevailing view is that the party presented voters with a programme that was too ‘radical.’ This programme, as is known, was based on the intention to repudiate the ‘Memorandum’ imposed by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF and demanded the renegotiation of all agreements on debt financing in Greece.

On reflection, however, it is not  evident that Syriza paid for being too ‘radical’. It’s possible that Syriza was defeated for a quite different reason, namely that the request to renegotiate the conditions of foreign borrowing was accompanied by the declaration that it wanted Greece to remain in the euro. This position, as is known, was spelled out clearly by the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, in the letter entitled ‘I will keep Greece in the eurozone’, published in the Financial Times on June 12.

The problem is that Tsipras’ position was clearly contradictory. It highlighted the inability of the leadership of Syriza to explicitly address the possible consequences of failure in the request to reschedule the debt. What would Tsipras do if Germany and the European authorities had confined themselves to propose marginal revisions to agreements and had refused to initiate a thorough renegotiation of debt?

The leader of Syriza has evaded the issue. He has refused to admit that, at that point, Greece would have been forced to confront the crisis by abandoning the single European currency and questioning, if necessary, the single market for capital and goods. Many Greek voters may have noted this ambiguity, this inability to Syriza to process a sequence of successive actions that were logically sensible and politically credible. The few points Syriza trailed behind the rival party, New Democracy, may be explained in these terms rather than any excessively radical position that will surely prevail in comments in the coming days.

The ambiguity, however, is not limited to Syriza. The appeal in Syriza’s favour promoted by Etienne Balibar and Rossana Rossanda* contained similar elements of opacity and lack of clarity. In many ways similar, the appeals of debt campaign movements have also so far failed to clarify that any unilateral any decision to repudiate the debt would lead to the problem of debts to other countries and therefore would require the abandonment of the euro and / or the restriction of the free movement of capital and goods.

And that’s not to mention the European Left, which has appeared in too many cases ready to sacrifice their constituents on the altar of unconditional loyalty to the euro and the single market and therefore can do no better than launch generic appeals for European solidarity. In short, we are faced with a further variant of the politics of liberoscambismo di sinistra (left-wing free traders) that has raged for over three decades among the more or less direct heirs of the workers’ movement, and we have tried to critically examine the book Austerity is Right-Wing. It is destroying Europe

However, regardless of Greek voters’ decisions, the current structure of European monetary union remains technically unsustainable. The gap between interest rates and growth will come back to haunt many European countries, and will certainly not be solved by minor adjustments to loan agreements or through European banking guarantees. Therefore, in the absence of significant changes in European economic policy, the final speculative attack against the euro zone may be delayed but not averted.

The question remaining is, therefore: with the Left paralyzed, who is to handle a possible collapse of the single currency?

Emiliano Brancaccio: “Syriza paga per la sua ambiguità” (06.18.2012)

* Stand with the Greek Left for a Democratic Europe!” (Italian)  and English (scroll to page 3)

Translation by Revolting Europe

About the Author:

Emiliano Brancaccio (Naples, Italy, 1971) is a researcher in Political economy and lecturer on Foundations of Political Economy and Labour Economics at the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Business Studies of Sannio University in Benevento. His main research interests are in the fields of comparative theories of growth and distribution, monetary theory and policy, european economic policies. He has published several academic articles, including publications in the Review of Political EconomyInternational Journal of Political EconomyEuropean Journal of Economic and Social SystemsStudi EconomiciIl Pensiero economico italiano and Cambridge Journal of Economics (forthcoming). He is co-editor of The global economic crisis. New perspectives in the critique of economic theory and policy (Routledge, London 2011; with G. Fontana). He has also published in books edited by Palgrave MacmillanFeltrinelliIl Saggiatore, among others. In 2002 he wrote the bill proposed by ATTAC for a levy on currency transactions modelled on the Tobin tax. Between 2006 and 2009 was a member of the Board of Directors of Banca Toscana, MPS group. He is also the author of articles published in various magazines and newspapers, including the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Twitter Updates

  • A Week in Revolting Europe paper.li/tomgilltweets/… #austerity #politics #poverty #inequality #protest #banks #pensions #wages #unions 1 week ago
  • A Gathering Storm: Eurozone in 2014 | Jacques Sapir | Revolting Europe wp.me/p1bMfw-1XC 1 week ago
  • RT @labourstart: France: Two Total refineries in France to shut down over strikes ow.ly/rNovF 1 week ago
  • RT @USILive: Banking Union without Reform? - usilive.org/banking-union-… 1 week ago
  • EU credit downgrade 'pours cold water on narrative that things getting better in eurozone' -The Economist. economist.com/blogs/charlema… #austerity 1 week ago
  • RT @corporateeurope: 'Elected politicians excluded from #EU-US negotiations', writes @StaffaniDK #TTIP notat.dk/elected-politi… 1 week ago
  • Women plan mass #protests in #Spain today against law changes taking abortion rights back 30 years newsinfo.inquirer.net/549871/spain-s… 1 week ago
  • RT @euronews: Major austerity drive in Portugal deemed illegal eurone.ws/JOjqV8 1 week ago
  • RT @SocialEurope: Read on SEJ: Why Wage Depression Is Not The Way Out For Spain bit.ly/19xQlGP 1 week ago
  • Families of kids with special needs issue SOS as disability benefits cut & schools cost too much ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_artic… #austerity #greece 2 weeks ago
Follow @tomgilltweets

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Anti-social Europe in numbers


Key facts and figures on wages across the EU

Wealth Inequality in Europe

Get the key facts and figures


A different take on European issues

Italy’s Healthcare Crisis

Health services are ‘close to collapse’ in Rome, Turin and Naples after years of cuts and privatisation.


99% of the 167 000 Madrilenos who signed a petition rejected the sell off local water company

Filthy Rich

France's Bernard Arnault of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) empire is worth $41 billion. Check out Europe's rich list


Private banks receive half-trillion-euro gift from ECB


Workers and citizens stand up for themselves


Workers are on a go-slow over privatisation

Massive Spanish protest

Half a million take to the streets over labour market deregulation


Hundreds of workers occupied the factory of ArcelorMittal in Florange in the north of France

International Workers Day

International Workers Day 2012

RSS Watching Corporate Europe

  • Pesticides, tobacco and greedy lawyers: the most read stories from CEO in 2013
  • EFSA urged to clean up list of 'public interest' organisations
  • NGOs welcome Ombudsman’s damning report which heavily criticises Commission

RSS Hate Crimes in Europe

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Fight discrimination in Europe – Amnesty Int’l

  • Listen to Roma Rights
  • Russia: Total disregard for human rights on “Constitution Day”


in Italy the home is a very dangerous place to be


Workers down tools over PM Monti's attack on labour rights


Concentration camps and a massive migrant marine cemetery





Read the statement by Lafontaine and Melenchon

PM Rajoy One Year On

Spaniards are not impressed








The Dossier