A Citizen’s Guide to Greece 2015


March 12, 2015

This not a pipe

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Written by: DW

On the TV news a few days ago Greek journalist Pavlos Tsimas suggested that the Greek government and several other EU member states, especially Germany, were engaged in a war of words. The next day Bloomberg said what Tsimas could not, or would not, alluding to a “Greek alternative reality,” a “twilight zone.” No less a lion of the left, Manolis Glezos, has already attacked Prime Minister Tsipras for playing with words and not really changing Greece’s stance toward its creditors. A rose by any other name…

In fact observers of Greek politics have had a front-row seat to the efforts of Alexis Tsipras and his associates to frame the outcomes of recent events in their favor. As I have suggested elsewhere, they have enjoyed considerable success in this endeavor, and are certainly winning the semantic struggle on the domestic front.

Thus the results of two general elections in the first half of 2012 were spun by Syriza as a clear victory for an anti-memorandum block, despite the fact that Syriza itself had only received a modest plurality of the vote. Syriza had nonetheless made significant upward progress in its vote tally, which Alexis Tsipras attributed to a seismic pan-European leftward shift. Finally, PM-elect Tsipras signaled the end of the regime of Troika-imposed austerity in his victory speech, as if merely saying it was so meant it was.

Syriza’s initial encounters with Greece’s European partners can be seen as an extension of this attempt to reframe the political game in terms favorable to Syriza-led Greece, forcefully, as needed. Where European media see clear Greek setbacks, Syriza claims victory. When European finance ministers say Greece is wasting time, Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis says important work is under way. And so on.

Syriza-speak is laced with double talk. Where representatives of the government say that Greece will not be blackmailed, do they not really mean that Greece will blackmail its European partners until they gets what they want. When Minister Varoufakis says Greece has not wasted time, is he not really saying to party faithful that the government will continue to drag its feet in order to compel the Europeans to see things their way?

The response of the Europeans has been considerably more energetic, if not preemptive, than that of Syriza’s domestic rivals. Perhaps this led Tsimas to suggest that Syriza’s communications strategy was becoming a distraction from the urgent tasks awaiting the government. It may yet be that government spokesmen have reckoned that they are saying what a majority of Greeks want to hear, to improve their position in the polls should early elections become necessary. Meanwhile, social media are exploding.

The question for outsiders is whether PM Tsipras and his colleagues actually believe what they are saying, so at odds with what is being said throughout the rest of Europe, or whether they are engaging in a most ruthless form of cynicism. Is there a master plan?





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