It looks like the Greeks have decided to bugger the world by voting in Syriza. I don’t know enough about Greek politics to know if they can govern alone. According to news reports, they are just shy of a majority so they need partners to form a government. Presumably they can find a few small parties to give them the seats they need, but that’s just my guess. The AP says they won 149 of 300 seats in parliament. Looking at the WSJ chart, it appears the communists got 15 seats so they will probably join Syriza in a coalition of the crazy to run Greece.
I would assume that average Greeks will now pull the rest of their money from the banks and stop paying their taxes. The Greek banks are on the knife’s edge due to the quiet bank run leading up to the election. All of them have reportedly applied for emergency liquidity from the ECB. The noises coming from Yanis Varoufakis, the incoming Finance Minister, suggest Alexis Tsipras is spoiling for a fight that creates chaos. It is an axiom of radical politics that crisis creates opportunities.
The crisis they seek now is with Europe. Reading the international news tells me the first step is to break out of the spending restraints placed on Greece by the troika. That should force a confrontation with the rest of Europe, particularly Germany. If not, then the next step will be to demand a restructuring of current debt. Syriza seems to think the Germans would rather be bled dry than let the Greeks walk. That’s the way to bet, given the way European politicians have turned themselves into pretzels in order to keep the project afloat.
The fascinating thing to me is that Alexis Tsipras is basically the young version of every current European leader. The typical Eurocrat was saying all the same stuff, when they were young, as Tsipras is saying today. It’s like time has folded on itself and the Eurocrats are now fighting their juvenile selves over a project they would have opposed in their youth. That should work to the advantage of the geezers, but so far the advantage seems to be with the young radicals.
The other thing of interest to me is what happens elsewhere with their radical parties. In a healthy social democracy, the main parties represent the core of the nation. What we’re seeing all over the West is the main parties are losing support from the core as they defend the privileges of the elites over all else. The people will have their tribune, so eventually a fringe party finds a way to make its case to the disaffected core. That’s what has happened in Greece and is in process throughout Europe.
The future is not written so there is still time for the more stable countries of Europe to reform and maybe what’s happening in Greece will be the wake up call they need. I’m not terribly optimistic about that possibility. The main parties of Europe are now built on the idea of a single Europe with open immigration, a single economy and a single political class, independent of the people. I don’t think people realize just how radical the idea of Europe is in the history of man. There’s never been anything like it and the mainstream parties are all married to it.
That’s what brings me back to the irony of the young radicals facing off with the old radicals. Europe has been stuck in this endless loop for two centuries now. Each generation comes along with their plan to prove Rousseau right. When they inevitably fail, the next generation gets their shot to show the old fools how it is done. Alexis Tsipras talks like a college professor circa 1968 or 1848.
The endless loop of feudalism was eventually broken by the Black Plague. As an economic system it could not survive the massive disruptions brought by the plague so something else had to fill the void. But that was an economic arrangement, not an ideological one. It took the massive devastation of central Europe in The Thirty Years War to discredit the idea of a universal European church.
Rousseau-ism has proven to be much more resilient and adaptive. Christianity eventually broke on the wheel of science. Rousseau-ism keeps mutating. The European project is a radical adaptation of fascism – transnational fascism, but it is still the same old songs, just sung to different tunes. In one of life’s ironies, Syriza is reactionary, a demand to return to old school Rousseau-ism of a century ago.
My sense is we have entered a new phase. This will be marked by the slow bleeding of the core in order to buy off the fringe. The core is intellectually and spiritually exhausted. Success within the core is about managing decline. There’s no man on a horse riding in to reform and reinvigorate the core. Like a once rich family selling off the furniture to pays their debts, the core of Europe will keep printing and borrowing to pay off the fringe. Until they can’t do it anymore.