Syriza’s capitulation will empower Europe’s right

Syriza’s surrender to neoliberal forces will create a mood of defeatism among progressive forces across Europe.

People walk in the Plaka neighbourhood of Athens [AFP]

The victory of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in 1981 was a turning point in Greek politics and the modern history of the Greek left.

Having been founded only seven years earlier as a radical, Marxist-inspired party, PASOK’s rise to power in a country where for much of the postwar period, the authoritarian right ruled and the political left was persecuted, was nothing short of a profound political transformation inside a western nation. 

Guided by its charismatic and Harvard-trained economist Andreas Papandreou, PASOK was able, in seven short years, to inspire millions of Greeks to a vision of socialist politics that would expand democracy into all areas of life and shatter the shackles of western imperialism.

Inside Story – Greece bailout deal: Backtracking on promises?

PASOK’s economic and sociopolitical agenda called for the expansion of the social state and full employment, socialisation of the means of production, democratic decision-making and horizontal participation. On the foreign policy front, PASOK called for Greece’s exit from the European Economic Community and NATO and vowed to shut down all US military bases in Greece.

‘Bailout barbarity’

Indeed, PASOK’s  sociopolitical and economic agenda and foreign policy orientation were far more radical than any set of policies conceived by today’s Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which came to power early this year on pledges to end austerity and “five years of bailout barbarity” and to “secure a socially viable solution to Greece’s debt problem”.

It took PASOK’s leadership about two years to capitulate fully to western capitalism’s hegemony before it converted the party into a kleptocratic political organisation. It has taken the Syriza government less than a month to surrender to neoliberal Europe and Greece’s international lenders.

Three weeks or so after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced boldly to the nation the end of austerity and his flamboyant Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced the end of the “troika” in the course of a theatrical performance during a meeting in Athens with the Dutch Finance Minister and eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Syriza-led government accepted an extension of the bailout programme and capitulated in turn to Germany’s demands for austerity and neoliberal reforms.

The seven page document submitted to the eurogroup last week by Varoufakis in exchange for the confirmation of an extension of credit until June not only extends but deepens Greece’s submission to German rule.  

Regarding “public expenditures”, the Varoufakis document promises to “control spending” in education, transport, local government, and social benefits, even though “five years of bailout barbarity” have stripped public services to their bare bones, with many public schools going through tough winters without heating oil.

Syriza's strategy, with Varoufakis and other pro-eurozone zealots as their main architects, could have had no other outcome than Greece's complete capitulation to the commands of Europe's neoliberal rulers and to the vision of empire builders.


Regarding the “privatisation and management of public assets”, the so-called radical left Greek government pledges now “not to roll back privatisations that have been completed”. But that’s not all. The document states that “where the tender process has been launched, the government will respect the process, according to the law”.

Market reforms

Regarding labour market reforms, the Syriza-led government pledges to neoliberal Europe to work for a “better business environment”, clearly implying that the policies that run roughshod on the working people will continue unabated while the promise to increase the monthly minimum wage will be done, if and when, in consultation with the “troika” (sorry, the European and international institutions). 

One would be hard pressed to find in the annals of political history another case where a governing party has broken its word so quickly on its pre-election promises and accepted an ultimate defeat in the face of systemic opposition. 

Since 2010, Greek political leaders have been sacrificing the interests of their own people in order to rescue Europe’s banks and keep the euro game going. Syriza’s strategy, with Varoufakis and other pro-eurozone zealots as their main architects, could have had no other outcome than Greece’s complete capitulation to the commands of Europe’s neoliberal rulers and to the vision of empire builders.    

Syriza’s capitulation will have profound effects across Europe. For starters, the defeat of its strategy will take the steam out of Spain’s Podemos, another anti-austerity, anti-neoliberal social movement that was sweeping across southern Europe, thereby ensuring the continuation of austerity as Europe’s official economic and social policy.   

Second, Syriza’s capitulation will create a mood of defeatism among progressive forces across Europe, turning an ever increasingly apathetic and ignorant European public into actual political cynics. 

Third, Syriza’s capitulation will end up strengthening the forces of the extreme right as greater numbers of the unemployed and the marginalised elements in society will become cognisant of the fact that today’s left lacks the political nerve to stand up and effectively challenge the neoliberal onslaught on labour rights, social benefits and the standard of living.    

In sum, Syriza’s capitulation is bad news not only for Greece but for the rest of Europe. 

C J Polychroniou is a research associate and policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and a contributor to

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.