Mar 27 2015

Greek political culture has changed beyond recognition since the crisis began

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gerasimoskaroulasSupport for individual political parties has changed substantially since the start of the crisis in Greece, with Syriza emerging as the largest party in the 2015 elections, while other parties, such as Pasok, have lost most of their support. But beyond the electoral success of parties, what effect has the crisis had on wider political culture within Greece? Gerasimos Karoulas writes that the crisis has also had a profound effect on the types of individuals holding political power. Time will tell, however, whether this change in the composition of the parliament and government will also lead to long-term policy changes. Continue reading

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Mar 27 2015

Both Greece and its creditors must compromise to prevent the risk of a Grexit

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codognolorenzoPaul-de-Grauwe-80x1081Greece and its creditors have been engaged in a two-month standoff over the release of further financial assistance to the country. Lorenzo Codogno and Paul De Grauwe write that with no agreement yet reached, the possibility of Greece leaving the euro has now become real. They argue that the only solution to the crisis is for both sides to compromise, with the Greek government accepting deep supply-side reforms, and Eurozone policymakers offering Greece a fair deal on the demand-side. Continue reading

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Mar 27 2015

Policing the Crisis: the Other Side of the Story

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Rosa Vasilaki3By Rosa Vasilaki

The paper looked at the views and experiences of police officers during the years of the recent economic and political crisis. The story of the protesters and those who have been resisting the austerity measures in Greece is well documented, however, the story of those who have been tasked to reinforce – via repression – the austerity reforms, remains to be told. Continue reading

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Mar 3 2015

How to study the crisis anthropologically? Theoretical and methodological puzzles

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d-theodossopoulosDr Dimitrios Theodossopoulos is Reader in Social Anthropology, University of Kent. On February 17th 2015, Dr Theodossopoulos gave a seminar at the Hellenic Observatory, titled ‘Everyday Strategies against Austerity in Greece: the View from Anthropology‘ (find more details here). Read below a summary of the presentation.

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Feb 26 2015

How can the radical left and far-right work together in Greece?

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Eleni Xiarchogiannopoulou_profile pictureBy Eleni Xiarchogiannopoulou

The victory of the radically left Syriza in the Greek election is a historical moment for the country. It is the first time since the modern Greek state was founded in 1832 that a left-wing party will govern. It’s also the first time that traditional political families will not participate in the government.

But Syriza secured only 149 out of the 151 seats it needed to win an absolute majority in parliament and has decided to form a government with Independent Greeks. This is a right-wing party that believes in nationalism and strict immigration controls. It came in sixth place in the election with 4.75% of the vote and 13 parliamentary seats.

While the partnership might seem an unlikely one, the potential for a coalition bringing together Syriza and Independent Greeks has been cultivated ever since the latter was established in 2012 in reaction to the terms set for the Greek bailout. Continue reading

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Feb 20 2015

Greek elections 2015: the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

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By Sotirios Zartaloudis

SYRIZA’s recent electoral victory attracted global attention. This commentary will try to explain SYRIZA’s surprise move to form a coalition government with the far-right party ANEL arguing that both parties share a worldview that explains their co-operation.  Continue reading

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Feb 19 2015

Syriza’s choice: the coalition government in Greece from a different perspective

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By Rosa Vasilaki

Rosa-Vasilaki3

Three weeks in office the coalition government in Greece appears to be dominating the headlines across Europe. No other government was asked to prove itself so early – practically from day one – and no other government enjoyed such impressive levels of public support and trust, as the recent polls demonstrate. This does not mean that Greeks have turned Marxists over night, but if anything, it reveals the immense level of discontent with the austerity policies followed by the previous government along with a certain willingness to try what a Left governance may look like. Naturally, economic matters have been the centre of attention pre and post elections, however, there are political as well as symbolic developments stemming from the nature of the coalition government, which have so far been overlooked. Continue reading

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Feb 19 2015

Greece’s U-turn in negotiations signifies a new era in Syriza’s internal politics

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Eleni Xiarchogiannopoulou_profile pictureBy Eleni Xiarchogiannopoulou

Ever since Syriza came in power the interplay between the intergovernmentalist and supranationalist dimensions of EU politics is present. For the European Commission the rise of Syriza represented an opportunity to regain the political influence it had lost since the beginning of the crisis. On the day of the elections and in line with the spirit of Syriza’s pro-growth/anti-austerity discourse, the Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici stated that the Commission wants Greece to be able to pay its debt and ‘to stay on its feet, creating jobs and growth, reducing inequality’. Continue reading

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Feb 18 2015

The winds are changing: a new left populism for Europe

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By Marina Prentoulis and Lasse Thomassen

The unprecedented presence of international media, solidarity delegations and representatives of socialist and leftish parties in Athens signalled that Syriza’s triumph was something more than just another electoral victory.


Alexis Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias. Demotix/Czuko Williams. Some rights reserved.

A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of populism. This time it is not the far right populism of Haider, Le Pen and Farage, but a new left populism challenging not just the parties of the right but also the social-democratic parties and the traditional parties on the left.

While the victory of Syriza has turned everybody’s attention to Greece these days, the new radical populist left is on the rise elsewhere as well, above all in Spain with local and national elections coming up in 2015. Even beyond the radical left, social-democrats have started to be more outspoken against European austerity and neoliberal policies.

It seems that the policies they had supported so far have brought them at odds with their own people and this realization starts slowly to sink in. Are we then witnessing the birth of a new populist discourse in Europe? Are the winds changing for the peoples of Europe?

The unprecedented presence of international media, solidarity delegations and representatives of socialist and leftish parties in Athens before and during the election signalled that Syriza’s triumph was something more than just another electoral victory. While trying to explain Syriza’s victory as a peculiarly Greekphenomenon, European elites fear that their peoples too could be contaminated by the Greek disease. For radical left parties and groups across Europe, the victory was a signal of hope.

Three days before the election, on 22 January, a big Syriza rally in Athens was addressed not only by the leader, Alexis Tsipras, but also by the leader of the Spanish Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias. Both represent a new discourse putting democracy, participation and the rights of the people at the centre of their rhetoric.

They speak neither in the name of invisible market forces nor in the name of particular classes. They do not claim to represent only particular groups – the unemployed, students, workers, women, and so on – instead they speak in the name of the people. This is what makes them populist, and this is what infuriates other parties, both right and left.

Time and again, Syriza and Podemos are accused of being populist. Here ‘populist’ is used in the pejorative sense: as irresponsible pandering to the irrational masses. For the parties of the right as well as the social-democrats, the left-wing populists promise the people the impossible: that the people, and not the market, could be in charge.

For the old parties on the traditional left, the populist talk of the people obscures what really matters: class struggle. For them the claim is pure nonsense: class enemies cannot, and should not, be united under the banner of a united people. For the mainstream parties, the claim to speak for the people is preposterous. And yet, the right wing, the social-democrats and the traditional left, all lose voters to these new players.

And populist they are, these new players. They are the political forces that in Greece and Spain draw a dividing line between the people and the system. Thereby they create an antagonistic frontier: you are either with us (part of the people) or you are against us (part of ‘the caste’ in Spain, those serving the ‘Troika’ in Greece).

The antagonistic frontier is constantly repeated in every political confrontation in both Greece and Spain, and it cuts across the borders of the two countries. It is no coincidence that the conservative Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras rallied his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy in support of his electoral campaign. And Pablo Iglesias has not been slow to announce that Rajoy is next.

What we have in the national contexts of Greece and Spain, then, is the construction of an antagonistic frontier dividing the people from the system. It is what the right wing populist parties have been doing for decades, but it is now done from the left. Syriza and Podemos have managed to put together a chain of equivalence of a wide variety of interests and identities: from old Trotskyists to disaffected voters in the middle, from old workers to students, and so on.

Two things unite these different groups. First of all, they are united by their common opposition to the system. They may be so for different reasons, but they are all opposed to the system or some aspect of it – political corruption, neoliberal austerity policies, and so forth. They are also united by some hope that ‘things could be different’, a hope that is often crystallised in the identification with a young and charismatic leader (think of Tsipras or Iglesias). These are the key ingredients in a (left) populist movement: the antagonistic frontier between the system and the people, the articulation of a chain of equivalence (a broad front), and the role of the leader in galvanising the hope that things could be different.

What the Greek elections showed is that what is happening is not restricted to Greece or Spain or any other individual European nation-state. The Syriza win has ignited a spark of inspiration across Europe, and this is absolutely important if this sort of left populism is to be effective. On one level, any ‘people’s government’ in one country will need external popular support in order to withstand the attack of the old forces, either on a national or a transnational level. On another level, any real change at the level of European institutions will only be possible through a cross-national movement. It is one thing to make decisions about national debt in one country, but another to influence the structures within which those decisions are made.

European media and politicians descended on Greece during the elections. After the election result, the established European right has been quick to dismiss Syriza as hopeless dreamers. The European left, on the other hand, seems suddenly reinvigorated. And not just the usual suspects such as Podemos and Izquierda Unida in Spain, but also social-democrats – from Martin Schulz through Ken Livingstone to Peter Hain. They all want a share in Syriza’s success. That may be with their own national electoral interests in mind, but it is interesting how they all invoke Syriza’s anti-austerity stance.

The social-democratic parties occupy perhaps the most uncomfortable position in this process of articulating something new: some want to cross the line and regain something of their socialist principles and role as champions of the people’s cause. But it may already be too late. The new left populist discourse already has its own momentum and its own particular identity. The challenge is to move beyond particular national peoples and uniting all of them in a pan-European left populist movement.

This piece originally appeared on the Open Democracy.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of Greece@LSE  nor of the London School of Economics.


Marina Prentoulis is a Lecturer in Media and Politics at the University of East Anglia, UK. She is currently working on social movements in Europe.

Lasse Thomassen is Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics & International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the co-editor of Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack(2005) and the author of articles on, among other things, representation, radical democracy and post-structuralism.

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Feb 16 2015

How the Eurozone crisis changed Syriza and how the party can change the Eurozone crisis

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DSC_01063-223x300By George Kyris

For years, conventional wisdom has said that the role of the EU in national elections is rather insignificant. Even European Parliament elections are often regarded as ‘second order’, where voters use the ballot box in order to express their grievances towards governing parties and the way they manage national issues. This lack of a proper debate on EU issues is not too surprising if we take into account how detached European citizens often feel from what goes on in ‘Brussels’. It is for that reason that last Sunday’s elections in Greece, marked by the major role of the EU and the remarkable victory of Syriza, become rather historic. Continue reading

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