Two main points of convergence were agreed upon at the second Syriza congress, which ended Sunday in Athens. On one hand, the need to continue to govern the country, and on the other, they need to prove their ability to carry out a clear left-wing policy.
Alexis Tsipras was re-elected party chairman with 93.5 percent of the vote (he had obtained 74 percent at the first congress in 2013), while in the new Central Committee composed of 151 members, the candidates who got the most votes were the Minister of Finance Efklidis Tsakalòtos and the Minister of Education Nikos Filis. The clear message is, then, that “the people of Syriza” want a party deployed on the left, without getting to the nostalgic positions of orthodox communism of KKE.
What is feared — and must be avoided — is the possibility of a position similar to Andreas Papandreou’s PASOK, which was a party with strong social demands but that over the years, especially after their rise to power, has gradually shifted toward the center. It has been found that the dialogue with European social democracy must remain open (if nothing else, for the spirit of realism), but each one must be able to preserve their own identities.
In his speech, Alexis Tsipras stressed that the government in Athens has managed to create strong alliances in Europe and that, by maintaining its commitments “is expected that the creditor institutions and partners of Greece will do the same, without delay and without pushback.” This is a direct reference to the issue of debt relief, which Moscovici would like to resolve by the end of the year, while the hawk Schauble stated he wanted to postpone it until the end of 2018.
Tsipras added: “we keep all the fronts open, both internal and external. And this does not happen by accident or carelessness, but it is a political choice.” He wanted to get the message across that Syriza is the ruling party, but it hasn’t given up the fight. In addition to debt, the other fronts are: the impending negotiations on labor rights (with the possibility to re-introduce collective agreements) and, on the domestic front, the arm wrestling for private TV stations with nationwide broadcast, which according to the new law will have to be reduced to not more than four.
In his speech, Tsakalòtos clarified that “although the end of the crisis has not been reached yet, it is certain that we will not return to neo-liberalism.” The head of the Ministry of Finance added: “we have to use every window of opportunity. We need to open dialogue on social democracy without forgetting that we are a party of the European left.”
He also emphatically defended his predecessor, Jannis Varoufakis: “If instead of Varoufàkis there had been St. Francis of Assisi during the first months of the Syriza government, the same things would have been said, because they wanted the left to fail.”
The head of the Department of Education Filis echoed the feeling: “It is fair to link the implementation of the agreements with the partners to the satisfaction of the demands on the debt, but also the obvious democratic principle that society cannot obey a highest authority called competitiveness.”
The Minister of the Presidency Nikos Pappas, a very close ally of Tsipras, recalled that “with this government, 2.5 million citizens without social security contributions had access to public health. The payment of debt to the state was extended over 100 installments, and the school year started without the usual shortcomings of teachers and professors.”
After the conference, the government will return to everyday urgent and difficult challenges. At the top of the agenda, there is the possibility of concluding the implementation of what was agreed by Athens with creditors by Nov. 30. This time, the deal focuses on bank management and the management of non-performing loans of the banks themselves. The next step should immediately cover the debt, with concessions in favor of Athens.