Hungarian radical left supports Greece’s Tsipras government

As Greece teeters on the brink of both default and a disorderly exit from the euro zone, the only political party in Hungary that has lent its support behind the anti-austerity government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is the Balpárt (Left Party). The Balpárt translated Mr. Tsipras’s televised speech into Hungarian, in which he called a snap referendum for July 5th on a bail-out package that he sees as being punitive and which he is calling on voters to reject. They’ve also published images on their website and on Facebook, expressing solidarity with the Syriza government and its decision to reject the relatively firm stance on bail-out taken by the so-called Troika. (There was a seemingly unbridgeable disagreement between Athens, Brussels and the IMF over when a higher pension age should come into effect, as well as the elimination of a solidarity fund for those living on small pensions, and increases to VAT.)

From Balpárt's Facebook page.

From Balpárt’s Facebook page.

I spoke with Balpárt’s chair, Szilárd Kalmár, about his views on Mr. Tsipras’s strategy in what is undoubtedly a turning point not only for Greece, but also for the euro and the European Central Bank. The latter must now decide whether or not to extend emergency liquidity to Greek banks, without which ATMs will run out of euro notes to dispense by Monday.

“The Troika is trying to conceal its failure by pushing an aggressive propaganda of success. Based on what I see, there really isn’t a Plan B. But Greece doesn’t want to become Europe’s Cuba,” noted Mr. Kalmár in our exchange, alluding to both the Caribbean island state’s colonial history, and also its isolation later in the twentieth century.

Balpárt’s leader described the approach taken by the IMF and the ECB during the negotiations with Greece as “psychological warfare.”

“I really appreciate how Mr. Tsipras is holding up,” he added.

I noted in our discussion that Mr. Tsipras is, however, facing a possible insurgency from the ever harder left, namely from a group called Antarsia, formerly known as the Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow. This coalition, formed in 2009, makes Syriza’s pretty deep red pale quite a bit in comparison. In government, Syriza has had to moderate its image somewhat, but the risk is a split on the left, especially as financial turmoil seem increasingly likely.

“I don’t think that Syriza will be able to keep some segments of the radical left, but it is important that these people continue to support the left-wing in general. They need to avoid the Golden Dawn,” said Mr. Kalmár, referring to the fact that in Hungary, the far right Jobbik has managed to scoop up disenchanted former supporters of the Socialist Party  (MSZP) with some of its populist economic messages.

“It’s interesting that the Troika doesn’t seem to even consider this risk. It seems that if it were up to them, a Nazi party might as well replace Mr. Tsipras. So far, the radical left has been able to push Golden Dawn to the margins, ” Mr. Kalmár added.

Interestingly, MSZP has been largely silent on the turmoil in Greece and the apparent failure of debt negotiations. Hungary isn’t a member of the euro zone, so it is not a direct participant in these negotiations. But it would appear that Hungary’s radical left, which is still small, but will be contesting elections in 2018, is busy building partnerships with other hard left groups in Europe.

2 Comments

  1. Mr. Tsipras’ bravado likely isn’t effective with the IMF. 2 billion Euro due by Tuesday, which fact seems an unwelcome surprise to him. Long neglected issues e.g., tremendously high youth unemployment, single source economy, etc., are not novel and exclusive to Greece. When a clueless government realizes it’s been cornered by its own incompetence, it calls for a referendum so as to assign blame for whatever the outcome. A Hong Kong financial guru commented on CNBC on this mess from the perspective of global and more specifically Chinese investors. He said Chinese investors do not know “what” Greece is, let alone worry about its misery.

  2. Pierre Divenyi says:

    I am faulting Angela Merkel’s disingenuous memory loss. Didn’t West Germany pour hundreds of billions of Euros into East Germany after 1989, in order to have that part of their country be able to join the Western world’s economy? East Germany shared with today’s Greece important historical points: neither of them were allowed to become democratic after WW II — East Germany’s DDR because of the Soviet takeover and Greece because of a continued dictatorship by the shipping magnates allied with the colonels, with the Orthodox church’s support. The economic effects of those decades of dictatorship could not (and would not) be overturned after the military retreated from running the country, for the main reason that three important segments of the population have continued, to this day, have managed to evade taxation: (1) the super-rich who has managed to stash away most of their mega-fortune in financial institutions abroad, (2) the military that is still purchasing arms “to defend the country” (from whom, pray tell?), and (3) the Church that owns roughly 50% of the land, including very valuable real estate, without paying a penny (or lepta) in taxes. If Europe, Germany in the first place, is serious wanting Greece to stay in the Euro zone (and the EU?), it should give that country some emergency funds now to survive and then actively help restructuring the Greek tax base. Again, exactly what West Germany did to East Germany after 1989, stifling non-negligible opposing views by West-Germans who wanted to leave those dirty, idle, no-work-ethic East Germans in their own crap.

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