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Vasilis Kostakis

Syriza’s new plan for economic development

By Vasilis Kostakis

Syriza is the left-wing party who won the recent Greek elections and managed to form a government with the support of the right-wing party of Independent Greeks. Tons of articles have appeared about the newly elected government’s strategy regarding the debt and the subsequent policies of austerity. Will the EU finally yield to the pressure for quitting the austerity measurements? If yes, up to what degree? In addition, is Grexit a possibility? And if so, what happens after?

This article does not deal with the aforementioned questions. Rather, I would like to bring to the fore an issue that has not been adequately discussed by the mainstream media, although explicitly addressed by Syriza (even before the elections): what is their alternative plan for economic development?

What is the alternative?

In a thought-provoking post published in the, my colleague, and currently advisor to the party, John Restakis uses as a point of departure the palpable feeling of cynicism and fatalism within the Greek society during the austerity times, to refer to the fact that the social economy is an important aspect of Syriza’s plans for re-making the economy. Of particular interest is also a comment by a reader named Matheï who wonders: ‘in the context of austerity, notably in Southern Europe, new forms of social enterprises have emerged. But are they ad-hoc and temporary solutions to shortages, or really the first signs of a new ways of producing, consuming and exchanging?’ I argue (and hope) that the latter is valid. To put the matter bluntly, Syriza has a thorough and well-documented set of policies towards a Commons-oriented society.

Before the elections, Andreas Karitzis, member of Syriza’s think tank on digital policies and an unsuccessful candidate MP, wrote an article in the Greek version of the Huffington Post highlighting the commitment of his party to free/open source technologies, transparency and participatory democracy. Mr. Karitzis claimed that Syriza would support the adoption of free/open source software in the public sector and the distribution of public data under Commons-based licenses. Moreover, he recognized not only the value of the free/open source technologies per se, but also the collaborative productive processes that create such technologies.

This becomes evident if one reads Mr. Karitzis’ answers to the questions posed by EEL/LAK, an Athens-based NGO focused on the promotion of openness, concerning Syriza’s agenda in relation to Open Governance and the Commons. He explicitly stated the intention to further develop copyfair licenses for open hardware. Moreover, the creation of networks of distributed micro-factories (fablabs/makerspaces) was considered as another key point of a Commons-oriented political agenda.

Is there a plan?

Last week, during the discussions in the Greek parliament about the Prime Minister’s policy statements, Mr. Dragasakis, who is the vice-president of the government, explicitly referred to new bottom-up, Commons-based productive models, which will have a global orientation and will fuel Greece’s post-crisis sustainable development.

Syriza seems to be adopting policies and reforming certain laws in a fashion that resembles the Partner State Approach practices, with regard to education, governance and R&D. To mention a few:

  • opening up the public data;
  • making openly available the knowledge produced with tax-payers’ money;
  • creating a collaborative environment for small-scale entrepreneurs and co-operatives while favoring initiatives based on open source technologies and practices;
  • developing certain participatory processes (and strengthening the existing ones)  for citizen-engagement in policy-making;
  • adopting open standards and patterns for public administration and education.

These plans/initiatives could be seen both as seeds of a new model for economic development and as solutions to exiting politico-economic, or ‘structural’ problems: revealing and controlling corruption, improving lax tax enforcement etc. It is true that from program to implementation, several steps are required, however the first step seems to have been made: Syriza appears to not only be aware of the advantages of free/open source technologies but also to realize the potential and the new political economy of this emerging proto-mode of production.

Thus, the question is, will Syriza create (and will be allowed to create) the conditions for a transition towards a full-mode of Commons-based peer production

Dr. Vasilis Kostakis is a Research Fellow at the Chair of Governance at the Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance. This article was originally published in the Nurkse School Ideas Bank.

Originally published at the Tallinn University of Technology’s website

Lead image by Bluto Blutarski

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