This wasn't a situation of Syriza's own making, but they've certainly made the best of it. Internationally and domestically, Tsipras and Varoufakis have played a nuanced, sophisticated political game aimed at raising the level of consciousness in Greece and abroad, but as we have seen this week with Tsipras's surprise announcement of a bail out referendum, that hegemony has only brought them very limited wiggle room. For all the talk of capitulation and sell out from ultra-left micro groups and the increasingly unhinged KKE, the referendum caught the troika on the hop, and has allowed Syriza to oppose both democracy and national pride to the EU's carpet bombing of Greece. But even then, Syriza cannot defy political realities. Despite everything that has happened, as Monday's huge Yes demonstration, um, demonstrated; there are millions of Greeks - not all of whom are untouched by austerity by any means - who will cling to the bail out in the hope that by staying in the Eurozone, anything and everything the troika throws at them is going to be a lesser evil than the alternative. That's why, though from the safety and comfort of sunny Stoke-on-Trent, I didn't think ringing up Berlin and asking for an 11th hour renegotiation was a good move, but having out-maneouevred our ECB friends with a referendum, and then looking like it might be lost, Tsipras at least had to do something to try and avoid a major loss of face and, perhaps, the government's resignation. The troika know this too, which is why after their initial shock, and the absurd rant at the Greeks by Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, they've knocked it back. When the Greek electorate can't take more artificially-induced depression, but want to stay in the Eurozone at all costs, Syriza are in a difficult position that no amount of radical posturing can extricate the party from.
Meanwhile, I've seen the argument floating about in some centre left circles that parallels the common sense of the ECB's bovver boys: that Greece ran up the debts, so it has to pay them. It's not as if faceless banks and the debt holders either, as this BBC graph helpfully demonstrates:
This has led some to suggest that Syriza's line is morally reprehensible because what is being lent is taxpayers' money. Spain and Italy, with not a few difficulties of their own, would quite like to see those debts repaid so their own economic houses can be put into order. Understandable, except for a few things. Firstly, Syriza has not repeated the Bolsheviks' actions a century ago and repudiated all foreign debts. What they are asking for is a combination of debt relief, because £170bn is simply not sustainable for an economy of Greece's size, and a restructure. Showing far greater awareness of how capitalism works than the high priests of European capitalism, they know every cut acts as a negative multiplier. Scrapping the "solidarity grant" each pensioner receives upon retirement, for instance, weakens spending power and the jobs reliant on that money, depressing economic activity and therefore the capacity of Greece to service its debts. Secondly, in cheerleading more austerity for Greece because they've been through it themselves, the Spanish and Italian governments are acting in such a reckless way that they're unlikely ever to see the sums returned. Likewise with Angela Merkel. As a canny and astute politician, she knows her tough talking curries favour with the German press and electorate, and she also knows that her policy agenda is imperilling the likelihood of repayments as well as the future stability of the Eurozone itself. Like the centre right here, Merkel is sacrificing the medium and long-term health of German capitalism and those it has subordinated to it in the EU framework for short-term posturing. So what if it keeps a lid on the populist movements in Spain and Italy and those stirring elsewhere if the whole project is in danger of fraying?
In short, on the side of the debtors the people least qualified to negotiate with Greece are recklessly imposing conditions that undermine their own position. As the crisis builds and creates uncertainty and jitters, you can be sure they're the ones insulated from having to pay for it.