Here’s why I’m voting SYRIZA

I’m in Greece, partly so I can vote in the upcoming Greek elections where the leftist euro-reform party SYRIZA is expected to win. SYRIZA would probably win without me, but I felt it was important to come and vote for this important event. From the tone of the media inside or outside Greece you get the impression that a SYRIZA victory represents some kind of Euro disaster. On the contrary, I feel a SYRIZA government in Greece (or another one like it in Spain or Italy, this is about policy not people) is a bold step towards the solution. I regard it with optimism, even jubilation. Let me tell you why.

Disclaimer: I’m close to some SYRIZA candidates, policy thinkers, or MPs so I may be biased.

First why am I voting in Greece? I don’t live there. It would make more sense for me to vote in the UK where I live and pay taxes, but I don’t get the privilege. I guess native Britons are afraid I might vote for someone worse than David Cameron. Our concept of EU citizenship is still half-baked compared to America so we vote for national elections in our country of origin. We’ll fix it, but until then we have EasyJet democracy. In any case, I don’t feel strongly about voting on Greek affairs. I feel it’s important to vote, via Greece since that’s where I have a vote, for changes in Europe.

At a basic level I feel a duty to avert a bad outcome and push for a good one. If you recall, two elections ago the extreme right scored well in parliamentary elections in Greece. A surprising result that showed rising intolerance, fear, and naive insularity in Greek society. I find it abhorrent. At the same time you saw the Front National in France and Britain’s UKIP, which I see as equally negative but better at hiding behind a veil of respectability, gaining ground. SYRIZA is the polar opposite of these parties. In a climate of extreme right-wing euroskepticism, I feel it’s imperative to vote for leftist euro reform in Greece, Spain, or elsewhere. So that’s a defensive reason to turn up and vote.

The other reason, and the main one, is I don’t want an EU president and finance minister elected only by Germans, running the EU in a way that only suits Germany. Ms Merkel is our de-facto EU president. It’s clearly not Mr Hollande or Mr Juncker. Mr Schäuble is Europe’s finance minister. Whether German citizens like it or not, these officers set policy for the Eurozone, not just for Germany. They run the Eurozone in a way that serves the interests of narrow or short-sighted mostly German capital while driving real economies especially in the south into depression. This is wrong, and we need to use the democratic process to change it. Because of institutional inertia we non-Germans can’t vote for the Eurozone’s de-facto president and finance minister. Eventually these will be elected EU-wide but now, urgently, we must force our German-elected EU leaders to change their policies.

The way to do this is for the governments of peripheral countries to confront Ms Merkel and Mr Schäuble with the failure of their policies. This is what SYRIZA intends to do. It’s not an anti-Europe or anti-Euro party but it has to say, realistically, that current EU policy towards the periphery is not working. Greece’s economy is in depression and it’s debt is unsustainable, as it has been since 2010. Debt restructuring and expansionary monetary policy are needed to end the crisis. A growing consensus of economists agree, so we witness establishment papers like the FT urging the same policies that SYRIZA favors, for pragmatic economic reasons.

What will happen if SYRIZA is elected and starts renegotiating debt and austerity measures with Berlin? I think mainly compromise. EU institutions will have to accept balance sheet losses, which can easily be covered by monetary expansion. Greece will have to live within its means day to day, which given the big drop in incomes since 2010 is now possible. SYRIZA is new so it can enact better tax policy, touching previously untouchable classes, and in return can reasonably ask the EU for welfare assistance towards the poorest citizens. On election night the markets will jitter and possibly overreact, but forcing a Grexit is in nobody’s interest. In the long run markets agree with SYRIZA’s program and EU-wide policies such as quantitative easing that it aligns with.

A win for SYRIZA will be an important event for Europe, not because Greece is important but because some peripheral country needs to stand up for a change in EU policy. It could be Spain or Ireland, but looks like it’ll be Greece. Far from that being a disaster or some new chapter in the Euro crisis, I think it’ll be a triumph of the democratic process and post-crisis Europe’s finest hour.

Greeks should vote against Merkel tomorrow

I’ll vote against Angela Merkel in the upcoming Greek elections, and I think it’s very important that all with the right to vote in Greece do so. The choice is as follows:

If Antonis Samaras, the conservative New Democracy party gets elected his government will implement the austerity, deflation, and asset-stripping recipe/punishment prescribed by big European Capital through the German government. The economy will continue to deteriorate, a lot, until whatever is left of Greek capital (mostly small and medium business) is destroyed and Greece becomes a cheap labour and no social safety net state. There will be riots, fascism, and widespread hardship in Greece especially amongst old people and the self/family employed. The successful enforcement of austerity and de-capitalisation will be roundly seen as a triumph by EU and international capital, and Spain and Italy will be next in line for the same treatment. That is why the Greek press and even the German edition of the FT are practically intimidating Greeks to accept it. Vote this way or unspecified bad things will happen.

If Alexis Tsipras of the left SYRIZA (means “from the root”) party wins, his government will reject the terms of the austerity and impoverishment package and force a re-negotiation. He is not especially anti-Euro and neither is Greek public opinion. A hard rejection of the austerity terms by Greece will force the Eurozone, meaning the ECB and Ms. Merkel, to shelve the “austerity for the losers” doctrine and come up with something else. There will be a period of frantic deliberation, whose possible outcomes include: very optimistically reforming the Euro to a model that works and is under political control like the US Fed; realistically some form of flawed compromise with the Euro and ECB in the hands of private capital but with a human face; and pessimistically and unlikely a breakup of the Euro. In the latter case, Greek savers will lose another chunk of their savings (unless they move them to other EU banks, in which case they may lose them outright due to unpaid Target 2 balances). Germany will be stuck with a strong currency and exposed banks, which will require inflation. More to the point, the Merkel government will be seen to have presided over a colossal failure and will likely lose power, perhaps prematurely.