Listening to Alexis Tsipras presenting SYRIZA’s platform last Friday — as he announced each of his party’s governing priorities with the monotonous phrase ?We undertake the responsibility and we guarantee that…? — I asked myself why he did not lean on the thunderous ?Tha…? (?We will…?) that swept Andreas Papandreou to power in 1981. It is clear that Tsipras is trying to invoke the semiological references to PASOK’s swift ascent, to underline that today he and SYRIZA are galloping to power just as surely, and are sweeping along many supporters of the ?old PASOK? as well as many other sections of Greek society. At the same time, Tsipras does not want to look like an imitation of Andreas, so his ?Tha? has to carry his stamp.
The phrase ?We undertake the responsibility and we guarantee that…? is at the heart of the SYRIZA phenomenon and all it proposes. It includes all that is good and bad in what this formerly small party has to offer our politics: It combines the old with the new, the logical with the absurd, the dream with arrogance. It suggests that for SYRIZA these elections are a ?private? issue — in other words, more important for the party than for the nation. It does not see that its failure will be a national failure. As Tsipras underlined in his presentation on Friday, ?It is now clear as day that the only choice on June 17 comes down to ‘the memorandum or SYRIZA.’? The issue of the elections, he implies, is not a choice between the euro and the drachma, nor between reform and collapse, but whether SYRIZA will manage to impose its will on the other members of the Greece-troika-SYRIZA triad — with the purpose of SYRIZA pushing out the troika.
So, SYRIZA and its cadres declare that they ?undertake the responsibility? and ?guarantee? a positive outcome of their policies. SYRIZA believes that it represents all that is new and fresh in a rotten system and therefore can condemn everyone else without fear of the consequences. It has done so for years, without having to present serious proposals. Now that it is called upon to play a major role in political life, either in government or as the main opposition party, its platform becomes very important. The question is, how will it manage to combine the need for a breath of fresh air in politics with the stability that our society and economy need so badly? The signs are not encouraging.
The most dramatic element of the party’s platform is the rift with Europe and our other creditors and partners, starting with the loan agreement and the reforms that it demands. ?I want to make clear that the first act of the government of the Left, as soon as the new Parliament is formed, will be the scrapping of the memorandum and the laws implementing it,? Tsipras declared. ?The new government will abolish the onerous conditions and will ask for a renegotiation of the loan agreement. Specifically, it will seek a European solution for the viable resolution of the public debt crisis.? This shows indifference to our partners’ demand that we stick to the agreement, and to the fact that most of our debt is to European taxpayers. Whatever Greece does with its debt will be at the expense of other Europeans. Their reaction to our experimentations may not be exactly what SYRIZA had in mind when it declares that we will not be forced out of the euro.
The other great issue that concerns our partners is that of illegal immigration, where SYRIZA has some valuable proposals and some dangerous ones. ?The gradual granting of travel documents to the great mass of migrants who want to leave Greek territory,? as Tsipras put it, suggests that they will be allowed to leave for other European countries. If this is so, then Greece’s days as a member of the Schengen pact are numbered. For Tsipras, though, there seems to be no risk of Greece’s isolation. On the contrary, he claims that others will follow Greece, as SYRIZA’s program is ?a compass for the European left.? He believes that ?Greece can and must become a driving force for change in Europe.?
The rest of the program is full of contradictions, reversals of fact and unanswered riddles, as are most of our parties’ programs. ?We do not claim that there is money for this. We would never be so disgraceful,? Tsipras said, in a barb aimed at former PASOK Prime Minister George Papandreou. Earlier, however, he promised economic stability, security and hope, the nationalization of banks and the writing off of debt, the reversal of spending cuts and special taxes, the radical revision of the tax system and public administration, and many other things that we have heard from just about every party for many years. (And yet this is a country that still does not have a valid land register.) Aside from a new tax system and the eternal promise of clamping down on tax evasion, SYRIZA does not say where it will find the money to undo all the previous cuts and provide even more funds for citizens. It doesn’t have to explain anything: It is sure that all its wishes will come true, because it has undertaken the responsibility and guaranteed it…