Exclusive Interview: Meet Alexis Tsipras, the Most Dangerous Man in Europe
Greece has become the hellish microcosm of Europe's failed austerity policies. Politicans bargain with unscrupulous financiers as formerly middle-class people sort through garbage for food and shiver beside smoke-belching wood fires. Burdened by widespread corruption, sky-high unemployment, and plans to pay off the banks at any cost to the people, the country is headed to the breaking point.
The New Democracy party, currently in power, is struggling for dominance over left-wing Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, a bold young politician who many believe is Greece's brightest hope. His revolutionary idea? Economic policies linked to the needs of ordinary people. For those who benefit from the current disaster, this makes him a very dangerous man.
Recently, Tsipras visited the U.S. on a campaign to counter his opponents' image of him as a wild-eyed radical and to share his vision of a more equitable, human-centered economy. I caught up with Tsipras during his trip, and far from his opponents' portrait, I found him a pragmatic, thoughtful leader well-versed in economics and eager to discuss the details of a transformation that will benefit not only Greece, but the rest of us, too. The following interview was conducted via email following our meeting.
Lynn Parramore: You have been called the most dangerous man in Europe. Who is afraid of you and why?
Alexis Tsipras: It is quite evident that those who fear us try their hardest to portray us as dangerous. The parasitic, unproductive, corrupt oligarchy has every right to fear us. This is so because a Syriza government will spell the end of their merriment. It will end the subterfuge and their sinful excuses. People of good faith outside of Greece must take note that, hiding behind the façade of the fiscal derailment, which this oligarchy has caused, its representatives in government chose to tie Greece up to a series of severe austerity packages. Under the guise of "fiscal consolidation," they legislated the permanent unaccountability of big business interests and have erected a legalistic protective shield around Greece’s oligarchs.
Tragically, this template of Austerity-via-Memoranda has been used throughout the European periphery. The result is that if Greece steers a different course, this European austerity "paradigm" will collapse, in domino-like fashion, overturning the neoliberal project throughout Europe. This is the reason which we are feared not only by the Greek oligarchy, and our domestic Merkelites, but by all Merkelites around Europe, Mrs. Merkel included. Especially now that Germany is entering its pre-election period.
LP: On your trip to the U.S., what has been the most common misconception about the situation in Greece?
AT: We discovered a deep gap in the understanding of Syriza’s position regarding Greece’s and Europe’s escape from the current crisis. The Orwellian propaganda machinery set up by our domestic oligarchs has successfully demonized Syriza and projected into the United States the view of themselves as paragons of common sense and of us as the purveyors of disaster. Our task, during our visit in the United States, was to make clear that our position regarding the appropriateness of an immediate renegotiation of the terms of Greece’s loan agreement, and a cessation of the accompanying Memorandum’s austerity-driven policies, together with a multi-dimensional and activist foreign policy toward promoting Greece’s national interest, does not constitute any threat to the United States or any attempt to destabilize the region’s geopolitics.
On the contrary, our policies are complementary to international initiatives, including those of the Obama administration in the context of a broader, global macroeconomic stabilization. But moving in the direction of such a common goal requires an urgent, universal and permanent management of Europe’s debt crisis. In this vein, we have proposed a European Debt Conference, reflecting the historical precedent of the 1953 conference that led to the write-down of Germany’s debts. I am convinced that these views are increasingly well received internationally.