Monday, 2 February 2015


Here is a letter I sent to the Herald Letters page last Tuesday following an article by Iain Macwhirter wrote claiming Syriza the 'Radical Coalition of the Left' were merely populists like the SNP. The Herald chose not to publish it. Having just returned from Athens I feel I must correct several errors in Iain Macwhirter’s article ‘A New Deal could be the real deal for Greece’ [Herald 26/1/15] because, if left uncorrected, they would seriously mislead your readers. First on a point of information. Syriza forged a coalition yesterday with one of the smaller parties the ‘Independent Greeks’ [ANEL] for one reason only, to secure an arithmetic Parliamentary majority. As readers will know Syriza won 149 MP’s on Sunday out of 300. In order to prevent an opposition ‘vote of no confidence’ they moved to secure the support of another 10 MP’s. This ‘coalition’ should be seen as little more than housekeeping. ANEL, for all they are a right-wing party of small businessmen, fully support Syriza’s anti-austerity and reflationary economic programme and have done so throughout the past two years. All the other suitors were either unsuitable partners [like PASOK the Labour Party's neo-liberal equivalent in Greece] or are like the Greek Communist Party [KKE] with 17 seats bitterly hostile to Syriza. Since very few Greek Governments serve their full 4 year terms the approach to ANEL on Day 1 was a wise move. But it is Iain’s central contention that Syriza is ‘a populist coalition much closer to the SNP' that runs the risk of misleading readers most. For Syriza is not like the SNP. They are not ‘populists’, they are, as their name suggests a highly politicised ‘coalition of the radical left’. They are anti-austerity and anti-neo-liberal. The SNP are not. The two parties are represented in the European Parliament but whereas Syriza are in the unmistakably socialist ‘European Left’ group the SNP belong to the populist ‘Nordic/Green’ caucus. Iain also ignores Syriza’s socialist principles entirely when he suggests ‘..rhetoric aside their [Syriza] programme isn’t that different from Ed Miliband’s Labour’. You think? Syriza aims to confront the most powerful capitalist institutions in the world and recover 160bn of debt relief. They intend to double the national minimum wage and state pensions. They will introduce collective bargaining rights for Greek workers. They have called for a European wide debt relief conference to write off monies owed by Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and others. They believe in practical solidarity assistance from the left across Europe. Ed Miliband doesn't support any of that nor is he ever likely too! If Iain really thinks Labour and the SNP can be compared to Syriza I suggest he has been drinking too much Ouzo at his Burns supper.

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