Greece: Syriza Wins

Few in Greece, even five years ago, would have imagined their recession- and austerity-ravaged country as it is now: 1.3 million people—26% of the workforce—without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages down by 38% on 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country's population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line.

And just under 3.1 million people, 33% of the population, without national health insurance. Greek elections : Young, broke and voting for change.

A historic verdict has been announced in Greece. The people in Greece have achieved a historic victory. The just concluded election in Greece announces the victory. The cheering people's smiling bright faces reflect the verdict: Death to Austerity, Assert People's Sovereign Power. Europe is now waiting for an impact of the victory.

It's a victory against the bankers engaged with virtual criminal acts: stealing of people's property with a constitutional coverage and instituting a regime change with a peaceful appearance.

SYRIZA, the Radical Coalition of the Left, in Greece has shown the way people reject bankers' crude cruelty. The coalition's election result is the show of the people's opinion. The coalition said: Hope has won. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras told: SYRIZA's win meant an end to austerity and humiliation. The country's debt inspections were a thing of the past. "The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain."

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece's May 2010 "standby arrangement" with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika—the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission—extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It's a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

The economic projections that accompanied the standby arrangement assumed that Greece could impose harsh austerity with little effect on growth and employment. Greece was already in recession when the deal was reached, but the projections assumed that this downturn would end soon—that there would be only a small contraction in 2011, and that by 2012 Greece would be recovering. Unemployment, the projections conceded, would rise substantially, from 9.4 percent in 2009 to almost 15 percent in 2012, but would then begin coming down fairly quickly.

What actually transpired was an economic and human nightmare. Far from ending in 2011, the Greek recession gathered momentum. Greece didn't hit the bottom until 2014, and by that point it had experienced a full-fledged depression, with overall unemployment rising to 28 percent and youth unemployment rising to almost 60 percent. And the recovery now underway, such as it is, is barely visible, offering no prospect of returning to pre-crisis living standards for the foreseeable future.
No doubt popular expectations are going to be high after Syriza’s victory. But if Syriza’s past experiment is any guide, there are of course limits to what a Syriza government will be able to do. It is upto people, politically conscious people to change things. [contributed]

Vol. 47, No. 31, Feb 8 -14, 2015