Tsipras, or the art of lying well to save time, by Bruno Adrie

After voluntarily scuttling the historical opportunity to leave the Eurozone and escape from the banking noose that has been choking the Greek people for five years, the social democrat Alexis Tsipras asked for Yanis Varufakis’s resignation. The minister of economy was presented by propaganda as a diehard maverick that ignores all the social codes and tries to overturn a Greek oligarchy that has been eating in the imposing bird table of its unbendable privileges for too long. Tsipras immediately replaced him by Euclid Tsakalotos, a billionaire who owes his fortune to successful placements in the biggest bank in Wall Street (J. P. Morgan) and the biggest investment fund in the world (BlackRock). Then, after unbelievably apologizing to the “Marxists all over the world”, he dismissed five ministers who were opposed to the package of laws dictated by the Banking Industry and voted by his parliament, thus carrying on the “yes” policy only two weeks after the Greeks said “no” to austerity. Yet, Tsipras’s accession “to power”, last January, had given great hope to the Greeks who claimed, if not for the exit of the Eurozone, at least for more justice.

Today, for the Greeks, Tsipras does not represent anymore the possibility to get out of the doldrums in which French and German banks buried them to save themselves from a default that would have led to their collapses. Then, who is exactly this politician, yesterday considered to be a lunatic by the ignorant and dishonest commentators from the French TV sets and who appears today as the enforcer of the dirty works of a banking mafia whose insatiable desires have no limits?

Two different versions are worth considering.

The first is the story of a young idealistic politician in front of whom the doors open and who comes to like power very quickly. The second is that of a false friend of the people, a young wolf who disguises himself as a sheep to take power and extend the reign of financial markets that he has never wanted to subdue, while pretending to defy them.

For a lot of people, the first version will be easier to accept. For one will understand, without excusing him, that a man forget to besiege Rome and fall asleep in the delights of Capua; one will understand, without forgiving him, that he get used to luxury, high-ranking acquaintances, and remunerations. One will understand, while condemning him, that he let himself vanquish or convince by a system that is too powerful, well-organized, master of politics, economy and medias. He can be described as a beginner, an idealistic combative forty-year-old young man who fought his first joust without experience and fell into the trap of an old courtesan (Eurozone) with a cajoling face and a mouth that whispers tempting promises. One features him yielding, choked in the arms of this old mistress with claw-like fingers. One would say: “Why not? This is possible, after all”; it’s nothing but a romantic and dark scenario, very “Barbey d’Aurevilly”, a Bildungsroman that leads to damnation.

The second version will seem at first less plausible. Yet, the theme may be appealing. As a teenager, Tsipras was already a political animal. He joined the Greek communist party and, during his studies, took an active part in a left-wing student union. He joined Synapsismos, a left-wing environmentalist coalition and ended up being its candidate to the municipal elections in Athens in 2006. In 2008, when Greece entered the debt spiral, the party was renamed Syriza and Tsipras became its leader. This was a godsend, since, two years later, when Papandreou’s PASOK got Europe to help them in exchange for the first austerity measures, Syriza picked up their discontented electors. During the campaign that would lead him into power, he promised his electors that he would not hesitate to start an arm wrestling against Angela Merkel. At the same time, he assured that Greece would stay in the Eurozone (source: Philip Chrysopoulos, “Alexis Tsipras: Who Is Greece’s New Prime Minister?”, Greece Greek Reporter, January 26th 2015).

But how will he reconcile both? Does he feel stronger than Papandreou? After his election, he did not actually exit the euro and remained prisoner of a negotiation in which, as we saw it, he has no lever against the trio Merkel-Schaüble-Hollande. Does he really believe that he will be able to set conditions to those who demand him an unconditional surrender? It is hard to believe. For, if it was the case, why didn’t he take advantage of the results of the referendum of July 5th? For Greece, he will not get anything, but he has earned something. He may very well appear with no tie and see in this – how childish! – the sign of his rebellion against the banking establishment, he did get into line. By betraying the cause he was pretending to serve, he has become respectable. He has reached a place that he will not leave, provided that he goes on betraying the poor and middle-classes and accepts to collaborate until the end of the destruction of the Greek State. We have seen men pass from humanitarian work to politics or blame a “faceless” finance* to serve it better once their goals are reached. Treason does not only depend on opportunities. It is inscribed in the genes of those who want to reach power by playing the outsiders and promising that, thanks to them, politics will be at last more just and more sincere.

Many will prefer the first scenario because it is less scary. No matter being weak as long as one has been idealistic and generous. Human weakness does not kill hope. Failure does not annul the purity of the first intentions. The ideal is saved and we are reassured.

However, I do prefer the second one, even though, understand me well, I don’t assure anything. For it features, not a weak guy, but a strong guy, with an obsession that leads him to power by climbing the scale of the opportunities. This guy gets what he wants by lying. He enters the very private sphere of power, rubs shoulders with the greats, and earns the friendship of the bankers he pretends to denounce in the TV mikes. It is essential to put up a smokescreen.

Why would this story be impossible? The story of an innocent-looking cynic profiteer, liar to his fingertips, and able to ask for forgiveness with a sincere grimace to those who unwillingly served his rise to power. A Bel-Ami, a Maupassant guy, fortified by his vices but with no grandeur.

If one day, let’s say in a few years, there is a Tsipras (Alexis) in the boards of directors of J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank, Union Bank of Switzerland, Société Générale, and if it is discovered that he made his (Greek) euros grow, those he would have earned thanks to BlackRock, then it will be possible to conclude that politics are the art of lying well to save time and protect the Gods from the wrath of men in order to reach a place next to them, in Olympus.

Bruno Adrie (translated by Clara Piraud)

*Reference to François Hollande’s famous campaign speech in 2012 (T. N.)