After radical left party syriza’s victory in this weeks Greek elections the right wing media has gone into overdrive with its scaremongering and slander. Proclaiming that Greece ‘must pay its debts’ and that the anti-austerity agenda of syriza threatens Europe with financial meltdown. But what do syriza actually want? And what does their victory actually mean for Europe?
The media have focused entirely on the promise to have part of Greece’s colossal national debt written off, this may have been 1 key policy but it is just a fraction of what the new government intends to do. Other key policies focus on reducing the poverty crisis they face at present. Amongst a wide ranging manifesto policies include; Action on jobs and wages, with unemployment at 25% and youth unemployment at 50% syriza have pledged to create 300,000 new jobs mainly aimed at the young unemployed. The new government will also significantly increase the minimum wage from £433 to £562 per month. Another key election promise was to give free electricity to 300,000 of the poorest households in Greece and a pledge to scrap tax on heating fuel altogether. Syriza have also outlined their intentions to give food subsidies to 300,000 families who have no income at all and to give free medical care to those who have no medical insurance. To any reasonable person these policies make sense, this is just an attempt to end the brutal cycle of poverty many Greeks are trapped in and restore social justice and dignity to working people.
The debt myth
Greece has a national debt of £239 billion, that is 175% of gdp. The promise to have half of that written off is what has grabbed all the headlines and has prompted almost every European leader to issue a statement saying that Greece must pay its debts and that nothing will be written off, but why? These leaders seem to have forgotten that this has happened before, when Iceland got into a solvency crisis in 2010 they managed to write off every penny of their national debt with the approval of all world leaders. And in fact Germany itself, the country most vocal in saying that Greece must honour its commitments, had more than half of its post ww2 debts written off at the London debt conference in 1953. The hypocrisy of Angela Merkel demanding the Greeks do what the Germans did not is abhorrent. Especially considering the Germans still owe Greece £11 billion from a loan that the Nazi’s forced the bank of Greece to pay them during the occupation, how can Merkel demand Greece pays its debts when she wont even pay her own?
The world will be watching eagerly to see how successful this new Greek government will be. If the Greeks manage to get even a haircut to their national debt it will give courage to left wing parties in other debt ridden EU countries such as Italy, Portugal and especially Spain where podemos, the radical left sister party of syriza currently leads the polls. If podemos win the general election in Spain and join forces with syriza to demand dignity for their people and an end to austerity they will be doubly hard to ignore. Leftist parties across Europe have seen a surge in support and despite all the media propaganda voters across the EU will be watching with interest. After all, if Greece can show beyond all doubt that austerity is unnecessary and if Spain can follow this up in the same vein then why should the rest of us be forced to suffer endless tax rises and spending cuts.
The establishment are working overtime to discredit the new Greek government as radicals with no answers, they’re only doing this because they are scared. Greece must now show us all that there is an alternative to austerity and indeed to capitalism in general, if they succeed it could trigger a tidal wave of hope for the working class across Europe. We can but hope, but this could be the start of a socialist revolution. To paraphrase George Orwell; If there is hope, it lies in the Greeks.