Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Greece- The shape of things to come

In the aftermath of the Greek general election, which put SYRIZA, an anti-austerity left wing party, into power in coalition with far-right Independent Greeks, Dimitris Papadimitriou Professor of European politics at The University of Manchester, explores the situation and assess the possible impact.So, there you have it! Greek bailout politics have come full circle. On Tuesday a new coalition government was sworn in in Athens. SYRIZA has won a landslide victory against their conservative rivals, New Democracy, but have failed to win an outright majority in parliament. The new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was in need of a coalition partner and it did not take him long to find one. The right wing populist party, Independent Greeks, will join the new government and will be rewarded with a number of senior ministerial appointments. Earlier hopes of a coalition between SYRIZA and the moderate centre left party, To Potami, were dashed the day after the election. Apparently, To Potami was not ‘anti-bailout enough’ for Mr Tsipras.
In Panos Kammenos, the leader of Independent Greeks, the new Prime Minister of Greece finds a partner with impeccable anti-bailout credentials. Mr Kammenos and his party are indeed a product of Greece’s polarised bailout politics. He broke away from New Democracy in 2012 and since then has been a fierce critic of what he regards as Greece’s “occupation” by its creditors. Last year a prominent member of his party accused the EU of being a “bunch of gays”, prompting a humorous rebuff by the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Earlier, Mr Kammenos himself had warned Greeks that they were being sprayed with secret chemicals in order to subdue their opposition to the bailout. He is a die-hard defender of displaying paraphernalia of the Orthodox Church in public buildings and believes that Greece’s future lies in a strategic partnership with his political idol, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, Mr Tsipras became the EU’s youngest leader and the first PM in Greek history who refused to take a religious oath when he assumed office. How can these two agendas co-exist in the same government? Why didn’t Mr Tsipras opt for a more moderate partner? Drawing a parallel to Britain, recent developments in Athens are the equivalent of having Michael Foot and Nigel Farage in charge of renegotiating the UK’s membership of the European Union.
In understanding this farce, one has to look at the effects of the bailout programme on Greek politics. The two-party system that emerged following Greece’s transition to democracy in 1974 has been shattered by the austerity of the past five years. In 2009 the collective strength of the Greek Socialists, PASOK, and New Democracy was in excess of 77% of the vote. On Sunday their share of the vote was just over 31%. The old guard has been swept away, discredited in the eyes of ‘indignant citizens’ as corrupt and subservient to the demands of the ‘Troika’. The implementation of externally-prescribed austerity has led to the electoral annihilation of the mainstream. Anti-bailout rhetoric sells. Even if it comes wrapped in homophobia and religious fervour.
The arrival of Mr Tsipras’ colourful coalition in Greece is the shape of things to come across Europe. Above all it reflects the bankruptcy of the German moralistic austerity dogma. Mr Tsipras and Mrs Merkel are the opposite sides of the same coin. If Mr Tsipras succeeds in changing the dominant economic paradigm in the Eurozone, he will expose the shortcomings of German economic thinking over the past five years. If he fails, Greece’s descent into the abyss will remind Berlin what any good history book will tell you: extreme economics breeds extreme politics. Those who set the foundations of the German economic miracle after the war knew this very well.

Originally published on policy@manchester,

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


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Monday, 5 January 2015

Britain's lost revolution?

With the upcoming publication of Britain's lost revolution? author, Daniel Szechi, has written a blog post regarding the subject and the book. 

Should Scotland be an independent nation?  The Scots people were directly asked this question last September, and a majority said ‘No’.  Had they been asked this question in the autumn of 1707, when the Scots Parliament was debating whether or not to enter a constitutional Union with England, there is little doubt that the answer would have been an overwhelming ‘Yes’.  Yet the Act of Union, solemnly debated and carefully amended in both the Scots and English Parliaments, finally passed into law in May 1707 despite the clear hostility of the ordinary people of Scotland.
            It was, of course, a very different world to our own, in which the wishes and aspirations of the common people counted for little.  But it was not just the humble folk who were dismayed and angered by being ‘bought and sold for English gold’ in the words of a famous song, many of their social superiors were equally outraged.  As far as a sizeable minority of the Scots elite were concerned Scotland had been betrayed, and it was their duty to rescue the nation and its birthright.
            But how?  In the early eighteenth century there was only one way to oppose a regime with a firm grip on power: armed rebellion.  Therein, however, lay a complex of problems.  The new British state was one of the most militarily powerful in Europe.  A gaggle of Scots nobility and heritors (gentry) and their tenants and servants, no matter how enthusiastic for the national cause, would find it very hard to fight the British army and win.  Scotland was also a poor nation and the Union offered the Scots people hope of a better life by commercial access to the English empire.  This would end if the Scots rebelled.  Then there was the question of what would happen next?  If the anti-Unionist Scots rebelled and succeeded in defeating the British state, what kind of Scotland did they want to restore?  In such an event the old regime in Scotland, subservient to Westminster and with an absentee monarch, was neither attractive nor feasible.
            Britain’s Lost Revolution is about the answer a coalition of anti-Unionists from within the Scots elite came up with in answer to these questions and a host of others.  We know them simply as the ‘Jacobites’, but there was a great deal more to their aims and ambitions than the simple restoration of the exiled Stuart dynasty.  Sure, they were willing to bring back James ‘VIII’, the son of James II and VII, as the king of Scotland, but only as part of a package.  This included full scale French military intervention to enable the rebels to fight the British army with some hope of success, privileged commercial access to the French colonial empire to replace the economic advantages of access to the English empire and James’s agreement to a raft of radical constitutional changes that would have turned Scotland into a noble republic that would never again be subservient to England.  Had the would-be rebels of 1708 succeeded the British Isles would have been transformed and the modern United Kingdom would not exist.  For a moment then, in March 1708, as the French invasion force set sail for Scotland the fate of everything we now assume is solid and certain about our constitution and its politics hung in the balance.  This was Britain’s lost revolution.

Britain's lost revolution? will be available from 31st January 2015