24 October, 2012 — The Real News Network
Costas Lapavitsas Pt.2: Left party Syriza leads polls but conditions for fascism also developing as crisis deepens
Watch full multipart Most Greeks Look to Left for Solutions, but Far Right Gaining Strength
Costas Lapavitsas is a professor in economics at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He teaches the political economy of finance, and he’s a regular columnist for The Guardian.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Now joining us again from London is Costas Lapavitsas. He’s a professor of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His most recent book is Crisis in the Eurozone. Thanks for joining us again, Costas.
COSTAS LAPAVITSAS, PROF. ECONOMICS, UNIV. OF LONDON: Thank you.
JAY: So we’re picking up our discussion. If you haven’t seen part one, you should really go watch part one to give you the context. And then we’re going to continue where we focus on what’s happening in the politics in Greece, and particularly what’s happening with the response of the left. So, Costas, where do things stand with SYRIZA? Is there likely to be new elections? And how are people responding to the crisis?
LAPAVITSAS: SYRIZA is becoming stronger and stronger in terms of popular support. All polls that we’re aware of—there are plenty of polls that take place and we’d never hear about them, but all polls that we’re aware of indicate a strengthening of support for SYRIZA. And this is something that people can confirm by simply talking to people [incompr.] Athens and elsewhere. There is little doubt that for working people in Greece, for the majority of Greeks who survive on very little at the moment, SYRIZA is the only hope of delivering a solution that will be in favor of working people. So, clearly, SYRIZA is getting stronger in terms of electoral support.
The position of SYRIZA, however, on what needs doing is still not as clear as it might have been. SYRIZA still thinks that it can rid Greece of the bailout agreement and it can impose a different dispensation on the debt, on the national debt, which is out of control, while keeping Greece in the Eurozone. This is still the official position of SYRIZA. This is how SYRIZA is going to approach elections, should there be elections, and this is how it organizes its political activity. My own personal view and the view of many others is that this is unlikely to work immediately and pretty soon after SYRIZA takes over. But we shall see that in practice SYRIZA is getting ready and readier for the burdens of government.
Now, will there be elections? Elections are not planned at the moment, but the coalition of three parties that has been running the country is very, very unstable, very unstable. The new austerity measures will increase the pressure on each one of these parties enormously, and we don’t know if the coalition will hold—probably will, but it’s far from certain.
But even if the measures are passed, applying them and continuing down the path of austerity and social disorganization and destruction will create enormous political pressures, and that’s going to be the reality in the coming months. No matter what those who make policy in Greece think, the truth is society will be under increasing pressure. Society will continue to rebel. And that will be the context in which SYRIZA will have to operate. So there might not be elections in the coming two or three months, but there could well be elections in the early part of 2013 if the social and political pressures continue to accumulate in the way in which it looks at the moment.
JAY: And what’s happening on the streets? I know there was a general strike not too long ago, and in some of the protests, some of the policemen of Athens actually joined the protesters.
LAPAVITSAS: There has been a general strike. There have been stirrings of activity. But you mustn’t exaggerate that. It’s easy to exaggerate it, because at the same time, there is a fair amount of despondency. People have been beaten very badly in Greece the last three years. They have tried many things and they haven’t seen anything work. There’s still a lot of fight, there’s still a lot of fight and a lot of readiness to oppose what’s been happening to them. But at the same time, there is also a sense of, you know, this is relentless, this is relentless; we’re trying to stop it and it keeps coming back and it’s always the same, always the same. So there is an element of that, and that’s an element that the government has been cultivating.
And truth be told, SYRIZA hasn’t been very good the last couple of months in opposing it. It could have been harder. The opposition could have been more clearer, it could have been more determined in giving people confidence and hope that actually, no, this isn’t the only way, other things can happen. SYRIZA [incompr.] performed terribly well the last two months, in my book, in opposing this kind of stuff. But that’s the spirit in Athens and that’s the spirit that I perceive.
But when you look at it more closely, when you actually talk to ordinary people in the street, struggle aside, what you see is also a very unpleasant side, a very unpleasant aspect of social interaction emerging, where it’s the direct result of the recession, of unemployment, of lack of prospects, of lack of future, lack of hope. What you see is a certain courseness and aggression and a tendency to violence which was not there in Greek society. You know, it’s never been there since I was born, basically, right, a long time ago. So that’s a new thing. Society has become less tolerant, more aggressive.
And that’s the environment within which fascism moves, you see? Fascism profits from that. It attempts to direct it against immigrants and against anybody who is different from the standard perception of Greeks. It attempts to direct it against those. And it attempts to make violence into an acceptable standard way of dealing with social problems. This is how [incompr.] classic thing about fascism. And that’s what’s been happening in Greece. It’s been profiting from this coarsening of society, and it’s been multiplying it itself, it’s been [incompr.] it by glorifying violence and arguing that what needs Greece—what Greece needs doing is to use a bit of force to beat the foreigners, to beat the financiers, to beat anybody who’s corrupt, and then through violence we can sort the country out. That’s a very dangerous thing, and it’s time the left and SYRIZA began seriously to oppose it and to prevent it from growing.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Costas.
LAPAVITSAS: It’s a pleausure.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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