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The Reality of Retreat | Jacobin

The first sophism: "Syriza has no mandate to quit the eurozone." If it had adopted such a position, it wouldn't have won the elections. Putting it that way, we see how absurd this reasoning is. Yes, of course it had no mandate to quit the eurozone. But it certainly didn't have a mandate to abandon the core of its program in order to hang onto the euro, either!

And, without doubt, if it had presented itself to the electorate saying, "here's our program, but if we find that its implementation is incompatible with keeping the euro, then we'll forget about it," then it wouldn't have achieved much success at the polls. For good reason: keeping the euro at any cost is exactly the same fundamental argument as the pro-memorandum parties who've ruled Greece all these years put forward.

And even if Syriza never fully clarified its position on the euro, it did always reject the logic of "the euro at any price." On that note, let's remember that contrary to what most commentators think, Syriza's programmatic texts do not rule out leaving the eurozone if forced to by the Europeans' intransigence, or defaulting on the debt payments. Though it is true that recently these texts seem to have been rather hidden away.

A second variant of this first sophism: Syriza had a dual mandate of breaking with austerity and staying in the euro. This sounds more rational than the first version, but nonetheless it is still sophistry. It's as if the two sides of this mandate were equally important and thus it would be politically legitimate, if we had to choose (and indeed we do have to choose -- that's precisely the problem), to sacrifice the break with austerity on the altar of keeping the euro. Without having even abandoned its mandate!

But then why not turn that reasoning around and say, "since I realize the two objectives are incompatible, I choose to stick to the break with austerity, since essentially that is the reason why Greeks voted for a party of the radical left?" That is, to opt for the rupture and not stability within the existing framework. We might at least think that this choice is more befitting of a radical left party that sets socialism as its strategic goal (even if that clearly wasn't the agenda on which it won the elections).

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Feb 26th, 2015 at 09:20:33 PM EST

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