Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Losing everything

During my lifetime, I have owned a railway, trains, airports, airlines flying to foreign and domestic destinations, a telecommunications company, a mobile phone operator, a power company, coal, gas, steelworks, car manufacturers, the mail, hospitals, schools, blood stocks, oil, the defence engineering industry, electricity, banks, buses, air traffic control, probation services, prisons, roads and the police. 

I've only been alive thirty-one years, and all of that has been taken from me - and the compensation for it? Because I live in Glasgow, where I can be reasonably expected to be halfway through my life, I will even have my retirement taken away from me. 

It's not just me, of course. Those industries and services once belonged to every single one of us. They were founded for the good of the country and its people, and because they operated as public services, there was no constant rise in the price to use them to squeeze even more money out of the working people and into the pockets of fat cats and slush funds. 

The vast majority of these things were taken away from us by Margaret Thatcher and John Major, although Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron couldn't quite resist taking their shares either. 

So when I see Scottish Labour claiming to be a socialist and redistributive party, I wonder why in the thirteen years they governed this land, they didn't find the time in parliament to renationalise a single industry other than those which were suddenly abandoned by the private sector when they failed to continue yielding profits, and just as swiftly sold back off again.

Austerity is hurting  people. Those governing us know that: they just don't care. They don't care that the rise in the price of a stamp - not to improve services, but to drip more of our money into the pockets of thieves and spivs - or a rail fare, or phone bills has a disproportionate effect on the poor - the poor that they then hammer - Labour and Tory alike - with vile actions like the Bedroom Tax (Tory, although invented by Labour) and abolishing the 10p tax rate (Labour, with relish) - a policy by a Labour government which had the specific intention of taking money from the poor. 

They both like to brag about how they are going to hurt the weakest and most vulnerable in society in pursuit of their disgusting austerity policies. They take pleasure in detailing how they will reduce benefits given to the disabled and ill. They relish competing with each other to speak in nastier terms about those who need the most help. They crow in delight that they'll outdo each other in closing libraries; that they'll take the most money from the poorest people. 

It took Labour a year to decide they were against the Bedroom Tax. That's not socialism. Decent people looked at that policy and instinctively knew it was an evil and cowardly assault by a gang of bullies on people who have nothing to fight back with. And when they gleefully tell us they'll be "tougher than the Tories", they mean it. 

Of the two major London parties, they differ not a jot in terms of policy and principle: only in extent. They are both pro-austerity, although they'll differ slightly in the amount of cuts. They're both pro-Trident. This very month, Labour and the Tories worked and voted together in Parliament to cut spending on public services, while voting for Trident the next week, and acting to prevent the abolition of fracking the week after that. 

If you want austerity, vote for Scottish Labour, or one of the coalition parties. 

If you want change, send them a message. Scotland can't change whether the British elect a Tory government or not whether we send 59 Labour MPs or 0. But we can send a clear message to Scottish Labour - you can either support the Scottish people, or support the Tories on austerity. And if you back the latter, you forfeit the support of the former.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Moving swiftly on

They did it!

Last night, the Coalition of the Radical Left threw a political hand grenade into European politics with an extraordinary election victory which has shaken the foundations of capitalism and bankocracy itself. It's hard to overestimate the sheer scale of their victory. Five and a half years on from a very creditable performance resulting in fourteen seats and 4,6% of the national vote, the SYRIZA has swept across Greece, destroying the pro-austerity parties in its path. They secured 149 seats in parliament, with 36,3% of the vote, being only two seats away from an absolute majority, and propelling its leader, Alexis Tsipras, into the office of prime minister: the youngest Greek leader in a century and a half. 

It was wonderful to see so much solidarity expressed with the SYRIZA from across Europe. Watching the live coverage on NERIT from the SYRIZA gazebo in central Athens, it was notable that there were an array of flags and banners from France, Scotland, Italy, Germany and Ireland. This is our moment for the radical Left in Europe. We have been battered for a generation. We have raised a generation of political activists on failure. We have had no victories, nothing to celebrate, nothing to inspire us. It has been hard going. 

Last night gave us hope - and the Hellenic Republic is now a source of immense pride to us all. We are inspired by the tremendous victory of the SYRIZA, destroying the established order in a single swoop across every prefecture of Greece. Colin Fox, in Athens, said last night "I've learned a lot. I'm bringing it all back to Scotland with me". When I go to Greece later on this year, it will be with a heart filled with respect and love for the Greek people, who refused to be bullied or intimidated. 

Winning the election was probably the easy part, and the SYRIZA - despite the Scottish Labour Party last night reacting to the victory by referring to the new prime minister as "contemptible, a fantasist, an outright liar, reminds you of Mussolini" - has the best wishes of the real Left in Europe as they carry out a painful repulsion of austerity in an uncomfortable coalition with a Greek version of Ukip which which they have very little in common. 

With the SYRIZA a beacon of hope for Europe's radical Left, where do we go from here?

Well, there are six sets of legislative elections coming up in Europe in the remainder of the year, including the UK's general election in which current opinion polls show the Scottish Labour Party having more in common with the PA.SO.K than merely a propensity for campaigning and governing alongside conservatives; namely, a near-purging of the party from Parliament. 

The next election is on St David's Day, when Estonians go to the polls to elect a new Riigikogu. I was in Tallinn for the last general election, and frankly, there's no hope for the radical Left there at all. The place was festooned with posters for the liberal Reform Party (Reformierakond) and the conservative Union of Pro Patria and Respublica (IRL). The Centre Party (Keskerakond) is the opposition. A Blairite party, the Social Democrats (SDE) is the smallest party in the Riigikogu and props up the Reform Party government in coalition.

There are 101 members of the Riigikogu, elected by modified d'Hondt proportional representation of all parties which pass a national 5% threshold from twelve constituencies

The Vasakpartei is the radical Left movement in Estonia (Estonian United Left). It is a pro-Russian eurocommunist party and has no seats in Parliament. Polling data is not terribly optimistic, and I suspect that if you pin all your hopes and dreams in live on the Vasakpartei winning a SYRIZA-style victory, you may be subject to some disappointment. Reformierakond is leading in the polls, but one recent poll had Keskerakond in the lead. 

Never one to overshadow its neighbour with which it has close relations, Finland is holding its general election the very next month, on 19th April. The current government is a coalition of Kokoomus (conservative), SDP (Finnish version of New Labour, but nice), the Svenska Folkpartiet (Swedish People's Party (No, it's not a copy and paste error. Liberals) and Kristiliisdemokraatit (Christian Democrats). It's supported by the solitary MP sent from the autonomous province of Aaland. 

The good guys here are in the parliament, the Vasemmistoliitto (Left Alliance). They quit the National Government over Alexander Stubb's government cutting the social welfare problems. They have twelve seats in the Eduskunta (they did have fourteen MPs elected at the last election where the party scored 8,1% of the national vote, but two of the MPs had to be purged for being wee scamps). Finland isn't as badly affected by the austerity as other Eurozone countries as a result of years of quasi-socialism, but the Vasemmistoliitto is still polling astonishingly high at between 8-9%. A slight increase in support could result in them having up to 10% of the 200 seats in Eduskunta and being kingmakers in any potential coalition government. 

Finns select their MPs by d'Hondt proportional representation. There will be 13 constituencies for this election, while there were previously fifteen. This is owing to a merger between Northern Savonia and Northern Karelia, and between Southern Savonia and Kymi. Someone obviously really doesn't like Savonia.

The next month is the UK election, about which many words will be spilled, and then psephological geekery goes into abeyance until the Danish general election, which has to be held by 14th September. Like Finland - which is not in Scandinavia - Denmark has a tradition of moderately left-wing policies. It is not a member of the Eurozone, although it is a member of the European Union. It is a wealthy nation which has not tangibly suffered from the ongoing Depression. The government is run by Socialdemokraterna (social-democrats) and the Radikale (a liberal-ish party). Socialistisk Folkspartei, a party analogous in policies roughly to the Greens here, were in the government, but walked out of the coalition after a dispute over the sales of shares in State utilities. The coalition is supported on an issue-by-issue basis by both Enhedslisten (the Red-Green Alliance) and the conservative Venstre, which is the largest party.

The closest to a radical Left party in Denmark is the Enhedslisten, which won 6,7% of the vote in 2011, translating to 12 seats in the 179-member Folketing

Denmark has suffered relatively little from austerity, and certainly not to the catastrophic extent of Greece, Ireland and Spain. The government has satisfied itself with public sector pay freezes. Even unemployment is low. The radical Left, therefore, isn't polling at particularly exciting levels. Even so, opinion polling shows they will return a higher share of the vote from last time, perhaps not being terribly far off of doubling their seats. Their worst-case scenario is Voxmeter's 8,3%; the best-case being 11,0% with Greens. Most polls show them between 8,5%-9,5%. my prediction would be that they will get half as many seats again as in 2011. There's every chance they could be the kingmakers in the new Folketing. Danes elect their MPs by the d'Hondt system of party-list proportionality. There are 179 members of the Folketing, 175 of which are returned from Denmark, and two each from Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Denmark itself has ten constituencies, each sending a varying number of MPs to Folketing to a total of 135. The remaining forty seats are allocated to parties which achieve a threshold of 2% nationally by proportion.

Poland will be next to go to the polls before Hallowe'en, on a date selected by president Komorowski. The 460 members of the Sejm are elected on a d'Hondt party-list proportional basis, and the previous election returned a coalition government of Platforma Obywatelska and Stronnictwo Ludowe. The former, Civic Platform, is a conservative party which provides both the president of the republic and the president of the council of ministers (the prime minister), Ewa Kopacz. Parties need to pass a 5% threshold to get allocated seats in the Sejm. Their coalition partners, the Polish People's Party, are also socially conservative, with a farmer-peasant tradition. 

There are two centre-left parties in the Sejm; Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left, borne out of the PZPR- Polish United Workers' Party - which governed the old People's Republic of Poland, but now firmly centrist). They are in decline. Twój Ruch, or 'Your Movement', is tiny, and is unlikely to pass the threshold. 

There is no radical Left party in Poland with any conceivable chance of making it into the Sejm, never mind wielding influence.

The last, best, hope, therefore, for the European radical Left is in the Spanish general election, which may take place before Poland's, but more likely in November. The 350 members of the Congress of Deputies are elected by popular vote in constituencies mirroring the Spanish provinces by the d'Hondt method of proportional representation. Unusually, this does not generally result in coalition governments, with Spanish political parties preferring to govern as minority governments, seeking ad-hoc agreement on issue-by-issue basis. There is a threshold of 3% to enter the Cortes, and this includes blank or spoiled ballots. 

The incumbent Partido Popular is sadly misnamed. The government of Mariano Rajoy is extremely unpopular as a result of its austerity measures. The main opposition PSOE, the Socialist Workers' Party, is a Blairite-style centre-left group, which is plummeting in the polls over a perceived collaboration with the PP over austerity and bank bailouts. Other parties currently represented in parliament are the liberal Union for Progress and Democracy (UPyD); the Catalan nationalist CiU;  Amaiur, a Basque nationalist party; and the Izquierda Unida, the communist-oriented 'United Left' which confidently expected to the beneficiary of the collapse in the PSOE vote. 

Until Podemos

The radical Left party has come, literally, from nowhere to be a comfortable second in opinion polls, sneaking closer and closer to the PP with every passing poll and leading in several. 

The Spanish campaign is extremely similar to the election campaign in Scotland. The ruling conservatives are despised for their harsh austerity policies of spending cuts on public services, labour 'reform', bank bailouts and VAT rises, but despite this, the centre-left opposition is unable to capitalise on this lost support, being reviled for its catastrophically inept administration previous to the conservatives taking power. Major corruption scandals have tainted both parties, which are now seen by a majority of voters as two wings of the same rotten establishment, and a constitutional crisis provoked by an independence campaign in a resource-rich province, has led to a political vacuum into which a third force has stepped. 

I'm describing Spain, incidentally, not Scotland. 

Podemos - it's Spanish for 'we can', and a play on words on 'for social democracy', which in Spain is POr DEMOcracia Social - was only founded last year, but still came fourth in the European elections a few months later. It is already Spain's second-largest party in terms of membership, with 100.000 signing up in the first twenty days. Its origin is extra-political - it comes from the indignado anti-austerity street protests which rocked Spain during the financial collapse and subsequent imposition of austerity. Taking inspiration from the Scottish Socialist Party, Podemos MEPs do not take their full salary, taking less than a quarter of the salary to expose the gulf in incomes between the elite and the people.

They are anti-Nato and are a feminist movement, but with the fundamental goal of opposing austerity, and extending this to nationalisation of Spain's wealth and resources - something long-since abandoned by the PSOE. They also support national self-determination - important with a constitutional crisis over the Catalan independence campaign brewing. They are environmentalists, opposing the use of fossil fuels and replacing it with renewable energy; and place strong emphasis on redistribution of wealth through policies such as a citizens' income and the abolition of tax avoidance by big business.

A massive rise in unemployment in Spain has sent young people hurtling away from establishment politics and into the open arms of Podemos. And further displaying their anti-politics credentials, the party decided not to stand in the local elections scheduled for May - instead supporting grassroots candidates on a local level. 

Opinion polling shows that the radical Left is not just going to enter the Cortes, but may dominate it. From 0% in January 2014, it is on a solid 25% a year later, with the PP on 26% and falling. It is a meteoric rise for the young radical Left movement in Spain, and Enrique Iglesias, with his open-necked shirt and rock-star looks, is set to be a major player in Spanish politics. Two opinion polls in 2015 so far have even shown Podemos in the lead, with a poll in December 2014 showing the party on 30%. 

2015 opened with a morale-boosting, earth-shaking victory for the European radical Left. We may yet finish the year with another one. Greed may well be a mortal sin, but having got the taste for electoral success for the radical Left in Greece, I'm afraid I want more and more. We've taken Athens. In November we can take Madrid. 

And in 2016? Legislative elections in Ireland and Scotland. If Greece and Spain can show us the way to take control from the political establishment, let's learn that lesson. Sending pro-independence/anti-austerity MPs to Westminster in May, and socialist MSPs to Holyrood next year would be an unmistakable message from the Scottish people that we have learned from our brothers and sisters in Spain and Greece, and are no longer prepared to suffer so the rich can get richer. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

What's going to happen on Sunday


1. Voting finishes at 5pm our time
2. Exit poll published immediately. Don't get too excited by it.
3. Half 8 our time, we will know who has won. 
4. If the SYRIZA finishes first and gets 40,4% of the vote, it has a majority.
5. By midnight, the full result will be known.

Sunday's Greek election - procedure

I've had quite a few posts asking precisely what's going to happen on Sunday, so I thought it might be useful to give a quick run-down. 

There are 56 multi-member constituencies from Achaea to Zakynthos. Mostly, these constituencies correspond to prefectures (provinces), old or new. For instance, Lesbos has been abolished as a prefecture, but is retained as a constituency, electing three deputies to the Voulí (the sitting deputies are one each for ND, PA.SO.K and the SYRIZA). More urban areas have more deputies - so Athens A returns seventeen: 8 ND, 4 SYRIZA, and one each for PA.SO.K, Chrisí Avgí, Dim.Ar, KKE and Anexartitoi Ellines. 

Fun fact: Athens A's MPs include both the radical Left SYRIZA president Alexis Tsipras and the neo-Nazi Chrisí Avgí founder, the currently-imprisoned Nikolaos Michaloliakos. The hustings must have been fun.

The highest number of seats in a constituency is Athens B, which returns 44. The lowest number of seats is Zakynthos, which returns a solitary islander to Syntagma Square, equalled by Grevena, Evrytania, Kefallinia, Lefkada, Samos and Fokida.

All Greeks over the age of 18 are eligible to vote, provided they are registered in a Greek municipality. Some 100.000 young, first-time voters have been disenfranchised, however, with the Greek Youth Parliament questioning the apparent inability of the Ministry of the Interior to register the new voters, given the three-week notice period. With unemployment amongst young Greeks running at 50%, it's little surprise that support for the SYRIZA is at its highest there (40% of under-25s, whilst the incumbent ND is running at only 15%). 

Given there is a fifty-seat bonus for coming first - even by one vote in the whole country - every vote counts. And in the country which invented cynicism and democracy, there is a bitter irony that the one seems to be trumping the other. 

(c) Precarious Europe

The polls will open at 05:00 Scottish time on Sunday morning and close at 17:00 Scottish time on Sunday evening. Individual polling stations may extend voting hours at the discretion of the presiding officer.

It is compulsory to vote in Greece. There is, however, no punishment for not voting. To prove compliance with electoral law, voters are given a certificate of voting.

Greeks vote in a slightly different way from Scots: rather than having a single ballot paper with all the options, they are given an array of ballot papers, one from each party. They select the party they wish to vote for and the candidates they wish to be elected from that party. This means that, say PA.SO.K wins five seats in Thessaloniki-A constituency. The five most popular PA.SO.K candidates in that seat as ranked by the voters, not the party, are elected to the Voulí.

This is (and I'm sorry to go off on a tangent here) a much better system than we use, where closed party lists fundamentally mean that as long as an MSP is popular enough amongst party members in his or her region - for a Liberal MSP, that could mean being top-ranked by as little as a dozen people - it is basically impossible for the electorate to kick them out of Holyrood. And it's my belief that the closed party list is the reason UKIP have an MEP today: the SNP was guaranteed two seats, with a chance of a third. The Greens had a chance of one, as did UKIP. The SNP selected a Tory as their third-placed candidate, which made it impossible for people on the progressive Left to lend them their vote and keep UKIP out. Instead, they drifted to the Greens, which fell just short of the numbers to stop the anti-foreigner party from sneaking in. Had it been an open party-proportional list, I, and anecdotal evidence of non-Green Green voters seems to show many more, would have voted SNP.

But I digress. The actual candidates selected are irrelevant to me, and I suspect to 99,9% of those reading this. It is the proportion of seats gained by parties which is of interest to us.

The party tallying is done first so that the results can be announced as quickly as possible. Thus, we will know which party has won the election, but not which deputies will be going to Athens, with the exception of party leaders and anyone who has served as prime minister. These men are automatically returned at the top of the party list. So we can say with some confidence that with 4 seats in Athens-A last time, we will definitely be seeing Alexis Tsipras back in parliament.

At 17:01, an exit poll will be published. In June 2013, the exit poll slightly overstated the SYRIZA vote (not by much, it was basically only by a rounding error). In 2000, the exit poll gave ND a 0,5% lead. PA.SO.K won by 1%. These are tiny margins but remember that fifty seat bonus. Each newspaper and TV station will then release their own exit polls as time goes on.

20:30 our time on Sunday should mark the point where 10% of the votes have been counted in each prefecture. It should, at that stage, be possible to extrapolate the results with reasonable certainty. There may well be an official projection from the Interior Ministry's Central Election Service.

What we are looking for is a) the SYRIZA to come in first place; b) a vote for the SYRIZA of at least 40,4%. This means that it has won a majority of at least one seat because of the 50-seat bonus for the winner. 

The remaining 250 seats are allocated in proportion according to the votes cast. However, this is in proportion only to the votes cast for the parties which reach a threshold of 3% nationally. Votes cast for parties which do not reach the 3%, or spoilt ballots, or blank votes, are disregarded. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

What Greece shows Scotland

Tomorrow represents the last working day before Greeks go to the polls on Sunday for the third general election in thirty months. The scene is set in the central Omonia Square in Athens for a massive rally tonight of the Coalition of the Radical Left - the SYRIZA - which is hot favourite to emerge as the clear winner on Monday morning. Current polling suggests that it may even pull off an SNP-style win against the entire political establishment, winning more seats than every other party combined. 

Regardless, it is inconceivable that whether at the head of a majority government or in coalition, Alexis Tsipras, a forty-year-old civil engineer who was born in Athens only hours after the collapse of the Greek fascist regime, will not be appointed Prime Minister. 

The latest poll, for Action 24, shows the SYRIZA on 32,4% against the incumbent liberal/conservative Nea Dimokratia on 28,9%. This is anticipated to translate to the SYRIZA winning around 142 seats in the Voulí ton Ellínon, slightly short of the 150 seats needed for a majority of 0. 

To Potami, a centrist party is third on 5,1% with the neo-Nazi Chrysí Avgí on 5%. The KKE communists are on 4%, the PA.SO.K on 3,6%, Anexartitoi Ellines on 2,6% and To Kinima bringing up the rear on 2,4%. 

Parties which receive less than 3% of the vote are ineligible to enter the Voulí. 

It is hard to underestimate the genuine joy and hope that this is giving to us on the radical European Left. It may not be an exaggeration to say that for many of us, our entire hope for the future rests with the SYRIZA. If they can beat their political system, defeat the political establishment, then why can't we?

The striking thing about the numbers above, incidentally, isn't that the radical Left has made the breakthrough. It's the lads looking up at the communists. The PA.SO.K isn't just some bam party like the Liberal Democrats or something - it is the near-hegemonic social democratic party of Greece. 

In the fifteen general elections since the fall of fascism, the PA.SO.K has emerged as the government in nine of them. For more than half of the entire years of democracy, the PA.SO.K has governed the Hellenic Republic. It is the Greek political establishment, with families being steeped in the tradition. The surnames of the current PA.SO.K great and good are resonant with memories of those of the past.

And now it is within a margin of half a percent of being swept from the Voulí. 


Firstly, the PA.SO.K - the acronym stands for the All-Greek Socialist Movement - decided in the mid-1990s that it needed to 'modernise' itself. In this 'modernisation', it alienated itself from the working and lower-middle classes of Greek society which had previously been its bedrock of support. 

Secondly, the PA.SO.K began to be viewed by the public as lazy, corrupt, oligarchic, closer to the millionaires than the millions, and with a sense of entitlement to govern Greece. They became identified with the United States military objectives.

Thirdly, they reacted to falling popularity by a series of leadership challenges and changes. They were so convinced of their entitlement to govern that losing support must clearly mean that the electorate just didn't like the leader. If the party is always right, then it must only need a change of leader to regain popularity. From having had two leaders in three decades, they moved to having three leaders in eight years.

Fourthly, the austerity measures brought to Greece by the global economic crisis have been astonishingly harmful to normal Greeks, destroying jobs and hammering the poorest with public service cuts, while insulating rich Greeks from the worst effects. The PA.SO.K is identified with austerity, having voted with the conservatives to implement it. 

Fifthly, in order to preserve the Greek Establishment, and to protect what they saw as the natural order of events, the PA.SO.K entered into a wildly unpopular coalition arrangement with the conservative ND. This conglomeration of the two rival parties in a two-party system was overwhelmingly viewed by Greeks as ND and the PA.SO.K trying to 'game' the system and cheat the electorate.

If I was Scottish Labour, I'd be looking at those five issues. I'd be realising we've already made the first four mistakes and are well along the way to making the fifth. And I'd be explicitly promising in my manifesto that under no circumstances would I go into coalition with the Tories after the general election. Because when you're irredeemably tainted in the eyes of almost half the electorate - 41% of Scots polled say they'd never consider voting Labour again - because of your collaboration with the Tories, you really don't want to give the other half the last straw they need to ditch you. 

The PA.SO.K is just about to neatly demonstrate that there is no right to exist for a party which betrays its support base, and the SYRIZA is going to be there to ensure that they benefit from its collapse. 

Anyone who read Chris Mullin's excellent novel A Very British Coup will be quite aware of what is going to be done to Greece over the next months and years. Make no mistake: it is very much in the best interests of the European political establishment, who have stolen our European Union and transformed it into a protectorate of big businesses, that the SYRIZA government fails, falls, and falls hard. 

Any attempt by Dr Tsipras to renegotiate the terms of a bailout contract so onerous that even Mike Ashley might think twice about it will result in the combined weight of the Bundesbank-dominated ECB landing squarely on the stomach of the Hellenic Republic. There is even the chance that, far from a Grexit, we may end up with a Grexpulsion, pour encourager les autres. This may be the best thing to happen to Greece. The ability to revalue and devalue the Drachma might be the thing which pulls the Greek economy out of this moribund state from which there appears little exit as long as it remains under the control of the Bundesbank and the ECB, with bailout conditions closer to war reparations than a loan. 

And should the SYRIZA fall slightly short of a majority, the pressure put on the other Greek parties for a Grand Coalition - to put a cordon sanitaire around the radical Left - will be irresistible. There will be promises made to them and there will be threats. In the darker recesses of my mind, I sometimes entertain the thought that the SYRIZA might fall short by x seats, and that the PA.SO.K may have x + 1 seats. I genuinely would not like to bet on which side they would fall. And it's perhaps worth noting that former PA.SO.K leader and prime minister Giorgios Papandreou is now the leader of To Kinima.

The ultimate irony, of course, would be if the KKE had enough seats to put a radical Left party into government in Europe for the first time in three generations, and chose not to because the SYRIZA isn't ideologically 'pure' enough. 

The pressures which will be placed on Greece's structures in the event of a SYRIZA victory are going to be extraordinary. I do not rule out, for instance, that Greece will be expelled from Nato. Frankly, I don't expect that the Greek people - as opposed to the establishment - will be at all sorry to leave. There was strong opposition within Greece to Nato's bombing campaign against fellow Orthodox in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. And with Greece no longer under the same military command as the Turkish Republic, the Greeks may very well find that they may no longer have the same European Union and Nato support as they once did over Cyprus, part of which remains occupied by Turkish forces.

Look at the panic of the establishment when, only last year, an insignificant region on Europe's extremity threatened the established order. The bullying started with the American president and ended with all of the major banks and big business. Don't think it won't happen again. 

That isn't, however, a reason not to hope for a SYRIZA victory this weekend. Quite the opposite, in fact: if the SYRIZA wins despite the bullying, and if it succeeds - and in Greek terms, success will be not doing worse than the current government, which would not be difficult - then it makes it that little bit easier for the radical Left to spread. When we look to our comrades abroad, we are going to look to successful ones. 

Enrique Iglesias, the president of Podemos, the Spanish equivalent of the SYRIZA said tonight that if we can take Athens we can take Madrid. 

I go further. There are scheduled elections soon in Spain, in Ireland and in Scotland. All countries which have been absolutely shattered by the depression, and all of them with a massive working class which has been utterly betrayed by the main social-democrat party - the PSOE in Spain, and Labour in Ireland and Scotland- choosing to back austerity instead of the workers.

If we can take Athens, we can take Madrid. If we can take two countries which were fascist regimes well within living memory and transform them into successful socialist states, then perhaps we can take Ireland too, where Sinn Féin is polling at numbers almost certain to propel them into government in Dublin, and if we can take Athens, Madrid and Dublin, we can certainly take Glasgow. 

The European establishment is right to live in terror of us. Because for the first time in my lifetime, the radical Left is setting the agenda. We are on the front foot. We are asking ''why'', questioning every structure in modern Europe. ''Why'', we ask, ''must the railways be run for a profit for private companies?''. ''Why'', we ask, ''does there have to be a presumption that the State should not own and built houses?''. 

On Monday morning, the Red Flag may fly over Athens. This is a great day for the radical European Left. I wish Dr Tsipras and his new government all the very best, and I look very much forward to visiting a socialist Greece later in the year.