Friday, 17 July 2015

Bits and Pieces (viii): Syriza Fiasco Edition.

It should not come as a surprise, after the Syriza fiasco, but talking-heads of all kinds came up with their dicta on what happened, why, and what conclusions one should draw from that.

Take, for instance, this guy (a Post Keynesian social democrat, I guess). He starts by acknowledging that "the [i.e. Syriza/Troika] deal, obviously it looks bad. No sense in spinning". Sounds promising, yes? An unflinching look at reality, to learn from it.

This is the first lesson one is supposed to learn:
"The euro system today is an instrument in the hands of European capital to roll back the gains of social democracy."

The author calls the welfare state and social security "the gains of social democracy".

So? What's wrong with that?

Let's answer in two ways:

  1. The author confuses apples with oranges. Welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens" (here). Social democracy is a "political ideology that advocates a peaceful, evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism" (here): different things. European capital has little interest in rolling back ideologies, they care about money. What they are rolling back is social security, labour laws, public ownership of enterprises: you can and often have that without and even in spite of social democratic parties.
  2. Many people, with many different political ideologies, contributed to the formation of the welfare state: the so-called Iron Chancellor, Bismarck, is considered the father of the German welfare state and he was far from being a social democrat (just as today's "social democrats" are far from being 19th century social democrats).

His "unflinching" look at reality turns out to contain plenty spin. Oh, well.


Writing in the second decade of the 21st century, Prof. Barkley Rosser compares the "parallel lives" of Alexis Tsipras and George Papandreou (here).

Rosser's focus is on great individuals' struggles. Unlike the previous author, Rosser's narrative does not include -- explicitly, at least -- any consideration about class conflicts. If that's the case -- and I hope to be mistaken -- Rosser is following an old tradition: history is the result of great men (usually, men) and their travails and whims. History is still the product of conflict, but personal conflict, only: no classes, thank you very much. More like Moses vs the Pharaoh, Charlton Heston vs Yul Brynner, in the old movie. Or think of Thomas Carlyle's 1841 "On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History".

That was a characteristic of 19th century Romanticism, which people like Nietzsche and Keynes cultivated, long after Romanticism had already lost its edge.

Apparently, the old philosophy of history is the new black.


I may be excessively suspicious, but are people trying to re-brand Yanis Varoufakis, after resignation, into a Hero, maybe even into a second coming of our Lord?

Well, if I am mistaken on that, at least I'm not alone.


All this talk about heroes and the new "Mad Max: Fury Road" reminded me of this 1985 song, sung by Tina Turner, from the "Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome" soundtrack:


Sadly, conservative columnists' efforts are probably among the most accurate and fairest comments on Syriza. Take Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's recent one, for instance:
"The Left let itself become the enforcer of reactionary policies and mass unemployment because of the euro."
It may be a lot less (self-) flattering for social democrats, Fabians and the fashionable, Austro-Keynesian, non-leftist leftists (or their equally pseudo-intellectual puppeteers), but there's plenty I find myself in agreement with. But I'll leave further comments for a future opportunity.

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