Last days I attended in Berlin the great conference of the „Berliner Republik“, a magazine affiliated to the german social-democratic SPD. The conference was hosted by Berliner Republic, the german think-tank „Progressive Center“ and the british (blairite) „Policy Network“. At the celebration dinner I was asked to do some short intervention on the issue „What does Syrizas Triumph mean to European Progressives and Social Democrats?“. These were my remarkes, which reflect for sure nothing more then my personal opinion which is not necessarily shared by my hosts.
1. We should applaude, because Syriza was – and is – Greece’s last best Chance. Like it our not, traditional Social Democracy – PASOK – in Greece ist fucking dead. That’s reality. The old elitist corrupt political Establishment deserved beiing kicked out ouf political life. Considering these circumstances, Syriza at the same time was a force of renewal AND filling the political space usually beeing the space of center-left progressive parties (just like the heirs of the PCI did after the collaps of the former Social-Democracy in Italy). Given that, Syriza now is the partner für the center left in Greece. But let me come back to my first sentence: Syriza was Greece’s last best Chance, because no Democracy ever faced a econonomic downward spiral like Greece in the last seven Years and was a Democracy still afterwards.
2. Syrizas rise – under very special circumstances – shows, that socialist parties can at both time represent anti-elitist popular aspirations AND reasonable voices for pragmatist change. – Its for sure difficult for established progressive forces to take that as a blueprint, but it should at least be a lesson.
3. In the political Framework and relationship of forces in Europe, where we face the potential rise of new parties as leading forces of the centre-left, we have to recognice, that this challenges and strenghtens Socialdemocracy at he same time. It challanges it, because they are not directly part of the progressive Party family and are on some places – like Spain – direct rivals. But it also strenghtens Social Democracy: It makes the anti-austerity camp which favors a more reasonable economic strategie for the Eurozone much more lively and more powerful.
4. We should reach out to Syriza, they have to come in touch with Social Democracy and the Progressive family and there is no doubt they know.
Closing, I want you to be aware of a very brave decision Tsipras made by appointing Yanis Varoufakis as Minister for the Finance – a personal friend of mine and a friend of us at the Kreisky-Forum. Varoufakis is actually the new strongman for economic affairs. He is a big shot in the international economic field, Professor in Athens and Austin Texas, working very closely at the Lyndon B. Johnson-School with our friend James K. Galbraith. He is radical as a matter of habitus, but far away from beeing a diehard Leftist – actually he is a contemporary Post-Keynsian, who knows, kickstarting a economy like the greek needs both
– a progressive macroeconomic strategie, call it a New Deal
– and a business-friendly innovation strategy to modernize Greece, to rebuild a – modern – greek state.
So my final remarks and conclusions are very simple: These are no rivals for continental Social Democracy, but friends, who deserve every support we can give to make their government a success!