Greece: populist bloc with xenophobes
We were very enthused that Alexis Tsipras, the new prime minister from Greece's leftist Syriza party, in his first act after being sworn in today laid flowers at the National Resistance Memorial in the Athens suburb of Kaisariani, where the Nazis executed 200 Greek communist partisan fighters on May 1, 1944. (Sky News) An unsubtle message, both to Greece's own resurgent neo-Nazi right, and to contemporary German financial imperialism. We applaud. Especially since the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (its leadership in prison awaiting trial for running a criminal organization) came in a highly disoncerting third in the election. This is a sign of polarization, with the pro-austerity "center" collapsing, and far right and radical left in a contest to seize the populist space. What's not so good is that Tsipras and Syriza, just short of the outright majority needed to govern alone, have quickly formed a bloc with lawmakers from a right-wing anti-immigrant populist party, the Independent Greeks. (AP)
The Independent Greeks (who go by the acronym ANEL) are not neo-Nazis of the Golden Dawn variety. They emerged from Greece's political establishment, breaking two years ago from the center-right New Democracy party. But still too close for comfort, thank you. The Independent tells us they "vocally oppose immigration and multiculturalism." The Telegraph notes they also "have close links to the Greek Orthodox Church, further putting them at odds with Mr Tsipras, who is an atheist" (and, to his credit, the first prime minister to take a secular oath rather than the religious one customarily administered by a Greek Orthodox official). The Anarchist Writers website, which has been closely watching the Greek struggle, notes the coalition with the headline "Syriza: So Much for Solidarity." They inform us that ANEL leader Panos Kammenos peddles the notion that the EU-imposed austerity is part of an "International Conspiracy" against Greece, and has falsely claimed that "Jews pay no taxes." OK, the actual context for the quote was a discussion of religious bodies rather than individuals, but was still incorrect. ANEL would impose a 2% quota on "non-Greeks" (presumably meaning non-ethnic Greeks) living in Greece.
The picture is too clear. Syriza may need anti-austerity partners to push through its economic program. But unless there is crystal clarity that this is just an alliance of convenience and that the ANEL's politics are otherwise toxic, the seeming victory for the Greek left could end up a frighteningly Pyrrhic one—legitimizing xenophobes and scapegoaters rather than principled socialists, and wacky conspiracy theories rather than clear anti-capitalist analysis.