What's been happening in Greece since the election of a "radical leftist" SYRIZA coalition last January has truly been one of the most dramatic episodes in European history. Even more dramatic is what's been happening in the rest of Europe.
The old ways are being shattered, but their replacements aren't entirely clear from this distance. What is crystal clear is that the way things have operated in Europe and Greece for a generation or more -- at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall -- cannot and will not be sustained any longer. The damage done by the nearly universal adoption of neo-liberal economic models and their mindless imposition by governments and quasi-governments throughout Europe and beyond must, without exception, end.
Greece had been the laboratory for the cruelest impositions of the mindless Euro-crats -- cruelties which have not ended by any means, cruelties which may in fact get worse before there is any substantive change in Europe -- but with the strong rejection of the European demands on Greece in the recent referendum, the Greek people were able to reverse the roles and begin to take the reins of Fate from the hands of their tormenters.
All this has met with a barrage of criticism, from the left, right and center, in large measure because the critics don't understand what's going on from either the perspective of "Europe" or from the Greek point of view. The critics see things through their own lenses -- which may have nothing at all to do with how the players in this drama are seeing and experiencing things, and likely has nothing to do with the goals and objectives of those players.
Tsipras and SYRIZA have taken the worst beating from the critics. After all, they're the new kids on the block, they're inexperienced at governing, and they're the weakest players with hardly any leverage against the Titans who rule. Critics have claimed they have neither Plan A nor Plan B for getting through the turmoil and that the situation in Greece has deteriorated markedly since the installation of Tsipras and the SYRIZA government. A "responsible" and "adult" government would have surrendered abjectly and without reservation to the demands of the Troika from Day One, and by doing so, it would have (somehow) "saved" Greece from the dire straits it is now in.
Barring that, a truly "radical" and "revolutionary" Greek government, which SYRIZA claimed to be, runs the other side of the critical game, would have got into office and taken a measured, step-by-step approach to leaving the eurozone, repudiating its debts altogether, and marching to the rhythm of its own drummer -- from Day One. Doing so might have put Greece in dire straits, but those straits would be brief, and like Argentina or Iceland, Greece would emerge from the worst of it shortly and better off than before.
Tsipras and SYRIZA have done neither, and so critics have become almost hysterical in their denunciations and condemnations. They are doing it wrong!!! The claim further is that Tsipras and SYRIZA are just bungling their way from one level of crisis to another, literally throwing away opportunity after opportunity to change the dynamic and "save people's lives." Etc.
They don't know what they're doing, they don't have a plan, and what they are doing is making matters categorically worse, every day in every way.
Except that every day the repercussions in Europe for the actions of the Euro-Titans have been profound and growing in intensity. As the inabilities of the Euro-Titans to come to a resolution of the crisis drag on, the cruelties of the impositions on Greece by a German-led cohort of Europe are manifest and are ever-less acceptable. Germany and its friends are more and more isolated, more and more under pressure, more and more irrational. Making this case clearly -- that Germany was the problem in Europe, not Greece -- was one of SYRIZA'S prime objectives, and it was made explicitly clear in a gathering of "subversives" in Croatia (or was it Slovenia) in May of 2013, video of which was posted online at the time.
It's rather remarkable to listen to this presentation by Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in 2013 and compare it to what the Greek government has been doing since taking office in January of 2015. Clearly Tsipras and SYRIZA had a plan in 2013, and to the extent it has been possible to do so, they have been implementing it step-by-step since coming into office.
Their goal, from the beginning, was to "change Europe" -- because they believe sincerely that the model of Europe as it has been implemented is simply wrong and destructive and must be changed for the well-being not only of Greece but of the people of Europe as a whole. Greece has been a neo-liberal laboratory which has failed to produce the results promised. People are therefore suffering for no rational reason. Germany is the problem, for most of the worst and cruelest of the impositions on the Periphery -- including Greece -- have been demanded and designed in Berlin. This situation simply must change, and it cannot change by continuing to take orders from Berlin, orders that are impossible to fulfill.
Nowadays, all this seems self-evident to everyone, but in those days it wasn't. There was tremendous faith in the neo-liberalization of Europe, and while Greece and the rest of the Periphery might be experiencing temporary "pain," it was for a good cause. In the end, whenever that end came, Greeks and the rest of the Peripherals would be better off and would be thankful for the reforms that had been instituted.
Even now, there are those who claim that what is being done to Greece and the Periphery is Necessary and Good.
But those voices are fewer and fewer. The obvious truth -- a truth which until the rise of SYRIZA must never be uttered -- is that the cruel impositions on Greece and the rest of the Periphery are Unnecessary and Bad. Downright evil in fact. Yes, the right word is Evil.
While there have always been critics of the neo-liberalization of Europe, there has not been, until now, a European government so intent on exposing the lies and the cruelties and the unnecessary evil of the neo-liberal deceivers in Berlin and Brussels, certainly nothing like Alexis Tsipras and the SYRIZA coalition going head to head with the Troika in any and every venue they can manage.
They are heroes in the classic sense, doing daily battle with much more powerful forces and exposing the fraud of the neo-liberal project in Europe in every single contest. The Titans are trembling.
And in Brussels both yesterday and so far today, they are paralyzed.
Their programmatic cruelties toward Greece are almost fully exposed as selfish and irrational and destructive. The "rules" of Europe simply make no sense. The entire Euro-Project lacks reason and humanity. None of it can be sustained.
Greece is going through a period of intensifying suffering it is true, but with the referendum last weekend, the Greeks took the initiative away from the Troika, took possession of their own fate, owning whatever would come their way, and bewilderingly to the critics, they put their faith and trust in the ability of Tsipras and SYRIZA to find a way to a better future. The standard narrative is that by making essentially the same proposal to Europe that the Greek people had overwhelmingly rejected in the referendum, SYRIZA and Tsipras had betrayed the People -- and they should resign forthwith.
Except that's not how the Greeks see it.
There have been protests, it's true, but there are no riots in the streets (unlike the situation during previous governments and their capitulations to the Troika when there were intense and sustained street battles). The Greek people seem to understand how this is playing out -- and what SYRIZA is doing -- something the critics can't fathom to save their lives. The Greeks have presented a strategic surrender, the fourth or fifth "capitulation" since SYRIZA's rise to power. None of the previous capitulations have been accepted by the Euro-Titans, and it looks like this one will not be accepted either -- but we'll see about that.
The Euro-Titans are paralyzed. They cannot act, not for good and not for ill, as the stalemate in Brussels can't be broken. At least not yet.
A strategic surrender puts Europe on the spot. So far, Europe lacks the wisdom to accept -- something no doubt Tsipras and SYRIZA knew would happen. Germany is still the problem, and Germany has never demonstrated wisdom or compassion or basic human understanding in the situation. German bullying and bull-headedness has worsened the situation in Greece, and continuation on the German path will quite likely lead to the destruction of the Euro-Project. That outcome may be necessary to cause the kind of transformation of Europe that the Greeks are aiming for.
This is the video of a two hour conversation between Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in Zagreb, Croatia, May 15, 2013 at the 6th Annual Subversive Festival. Compare what they say with what Tsipras and SYRIZA have been doing since January of 2015.
An unintentional hero is one who does what's right, come what may.