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Michalis Spourdalakis, Dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of Athens, speaks to Sharmini Peries about the divisions emerging in SYRIZA

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Athens. The government of Alexis Tsipras is under a great deal of stress. It’s under attack from Europe. It was under attack from those who voted no in the referendum, at 61 percent in the country, for defying the referendum and moving forward with the memorandum of agreement, with Europe, on the debt. And it is under attack within the party as the divisions that had been emerging since parliament passed the resolution to accept the memorandum. Now speaking to me about all of this is Michael Spourdalakis. Michael is the dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of Athens. And this past week there’s been a conference here at the school, and where this particular topic of the divisions within the party has been heavily debated. He is under stress himself as a result of it. Michael, thank you so much for joining me. MICHALIS SPOURDALAKIS, DEAN OF SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIV. OF ATHENS: You’re very welcome. Good to have you again. PERIES: Michael, tell us about the very difficult situation that the Syriza government and the party is in at the moment. SPOURDALAKIS: Well, it’s a very difficult situation indeed. Syriza won’t have been in any difficulty if he had quit. And implement Schauble’s plan. Because we all know now a bit late, or a bit late, that Schauble wanted Greece out of the eurozone, and out of European Union. And prove that he can humiliate not just Syriza or Syriza government, the will of the Greek people for having chosen this. But it is difficult situation because Syriza came into power, as you know, on the basis of anti-austerity platform. And it was the main political organization that rallied behind, not in front, but behind the people in the huge resistance movement from the squares, 2011, 2012 and onwards. And then came to the fore promising hope for another, for another society. So it appears that Syriza is in contradiction with itself. And that creates a lot of, a lot of problems. And also creates some problems, friction, discussions. Sometimes discussions within the party. The result of this, it was that last week–and probably we see the same phenomenon the day after tomorrow on that some Syriza MPs didn’t vote the proposal or the legislation tabled by the government. But let me tell you this. The yes vote of Syriza, and the no vote. If you know the people and if you know the discussions in the party, outside the party, next to the party, smaller groups and larger groups are not very different. I do not think that the people who voted no, if they knew that their no would bring down the government, would not vote no. PERIES: They voted no because they were asked to vote no by the government. SPOURDALAKIS: In the–what it, no. I mean the people–I don’t mean the people, that don’t mean the people. I mean, sorry. I meant the MPs. Not the people. And of course was the referendum, this is what you just said. A very recent referendum that overwhelmingly the Greek people with closed banks and all the terrorism from the media, they managed to vote 61-plus percent no. It was a no against austerity, only to accept an agreement for austerity–a similar agreement, a [hardship] agreement, a few hours after that. So it is, it is, it is difficult. It sounds very contradictory. But I’m optimistic. PERIES: Is it dividing the party? SPOURDALAKIS: It is dividing the party. But this party was established and flourished, developed and flourished out of divisions, and quite often intense divisions. And at the time that it was growing, since this party started the processes of development, this party it’s now maybe ten years old. But you know, intense frictions happened even when they started to gain support in 2011 around European parliament, et cetera. It’s a party which has in the DNA of its culture to reach consensus. All the time. It’s a party that has learned to capitalize on its differences. It’s a party that in which have found room and space to breathe and act. Two huge traditions that usually in other countries don’t even meet on–one huge, one tradition of the traditional left. From social democracy to Mao, as the Trotskyist to Orthodox, Marxist-Leninist, what have you. And on the other hand, the movements. The social movements. The globalization movement, the environmental movement, the movement of [squares]. The feminist movement, and so on and so–the ecological movement, so on and so forth. And these currents of the entire left coexist in this wonderful, and they coexist in wonderful structure. Very inventful and unique in some ways. But this coexistence is not always, it hasn’t been always very peaceful. So now they have to capitalize on that experience and find a way to coexist, given that no one–that’s the information and sense I get–wants to bring the government down. PERIES: Now, capitalizing on, or reconciling the differences between exiting the euro and defaulting, and delivering the memorandum and implementing it, is great. And so the tensions we are feeling is that, essentially, is that. What is your prognosis for the party at this moment, knowing those tensions? SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I think the tensions will remain. A breach of these tensions can be achieved through everyday implementation of the, an actual plan B, or exercising in guerrilla warfare against the hardship of that agreement. That’s–this is how it can be done. Without nullifying that all of the party. That’s another thing which is very important. By having the leadership to be generous to its, in part the party’s opposition. And that leadership has done that over and over again. PERIES: You mentioned that there may be elections. Some people speculate that elections is to consolidate or re-consolidate the government. Others argue, well, this is going to create further divisions because it will force at least a Left Platform of Syriza to separate itself and form another political alliance. What do you think of that? SPOURDALAKIS: I don’t think the Left Platform is in that project of left the party and all that kind of stuff. You have to realize that the left platform is not necessarily as it appears in the national press. The radical wing of Syriza claiming for four or five years, exit European Union without giving any concrete proposal, and basically claiming and base their argument on mainstream recipes that is provided for–in situations like that, in acute debt crisis, do not make them left-wing. They don’t–they are involved in the movement dimensions, activity of the party. But they’re not comfortable with that. They’re more traditionalist. They go with trade unions, the traditional trade unions. They quite often confuse philanthropy with solidarity, and solidarity movements. So it’s wrong to say that the people of Left Platform are the left wing, and that Tsipras–and other groups. It is not the people who support the leadership in the party. There’s a huge group who have voiced a lot of concerns about party democracy, internal party democracy. And it’s on the left, and it’s next to the social movements and so on and so forth, to say that all this, the rest are recapitulators and all the, you know. Syriza is a whole. They need each other to continue to flourish. And we have to do the–and they have to do that on, based on a critical–on a critical way as they’ve done, as they’ve done so far. The elections will depend how the least are going, the least are going to be organized [it said]. There I think the whole of Syriza should be present. We should see on the list the diversity and the pluralism that Syriza expesses, and we should not see some very latecomers, either from the left, or the right, or the center. That they either want, have a different project, or they wanted to tame Syriza’s radicalism. Or they would like to push Syriza into nationalist kind of discourse and practice. So that’s very important, and the election will be a unifying thing under these conditions. We need the Syriza government and we need Syriza’s party, and we need to keep alive with a vision and a dynamic of change Syriza’s relations to the society. That’s the only way we can expect. Some kind–to regain the lost ground that we lost in the last, last week. PERIES: Michael, thank you so much for joining us again. SPOURDALAKIS: Thank you very much. Good to have you again. PERIES: And thank you for joining us at the Real News Network. We’re reporting from Athens.


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Michael Spourdalakis is a professor of political sociology and the Director at the Laboratory of Political Communication and Media Information at the University of Athens. He is currently co-director of the Canadian Studies Center at the University of Athens, and is the editor of The Socialist Register in Greece.