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Syriza’s chief economist plots a radical Greek evolution within the eurozone


For John Milios, seen as the most hardline of Alexis Tsipras’s advisers, the country’s humanitarian crisis is the top priority

John Milios’s phone rings a lot these days. There are hedge funds and financial institutions and investors, all curious to know what the German-trained professor thinks.


As chief economist of Syriza, the far-left party that has sent markets into a tailspin as it edges ever closer to power in Greece, the academic has had a prominent role in devising the group’s financial manifesto.


He is the first to concede the programme is radical. “I am a Marxist,” he says. “The majority [in Syriza] are.”


Sipping green tea in his favourite Athens cafe, he explains: “Alternative approaches to the economy and society have been excluded by the dominant narrative of neoliberalism.”


Milios, who attended Athens College, the country’s most prestigious private school – graduating in the same class as the former prime minister George Papandreou –is part of an eclectic group of experts advising Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, on the economy.


Others include the Oxford-educated Euclid Tsakalotos, the political economist and shipping family heir Giorgos Stathakis, the leftwing veteran Giannis Dragasakis and the Texas-based academic Yanis Varoufakis.


If the Athenian parliament fails to elect a new head of state by 29 December, the Greek constitution demands that snap polls are called. The ruling coalition’s narrow majority has made it unlikely that the government’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, will get the presidency. With the radicals in the ascent, Milios and his fellow Marxists are likely to take the reins of the EU’s weakest economy.


There are few who do not believe that the insurgents will win even if their time has not yet come. After five years of catastrophic austerity Greeks are baying for change. “The people created us,” says Milios. The alliance has seen its electoral ratings surge from 5% before the country’s economic meltdown to 27% in mid-2012. “We have no other option. Every day the situation gets worse. We have to stay calm and deal with it.”


The son of a lawyer and a dentist with distinctly non-leftist views, Milios is typical of a generation who embraced Marxist ideology during the 1967-74 colonels’ regime. He ascribes his own radicalism to the Vietnam war and the visiting American professors who taught him. But while the 62-year-old insists his leanings are in the French Marxist tradition - “I never had any affiliation with Soviet Marxism” – he is regarded as the most hardline of Tsipras’s tight-knit circle and, as such, the man most in touch with Syriza’s radical spirit.


Although the rebels have ridden the wave of anti-bailout fury, a sense of realpolitik has ensured they have softened their rhetoric. Last week, the telegenic Tsipras was forced to acknowledge times ahead are likely to be hard. Debt-strickenGreece is still stuck in gruelling negotiations with creditors who have extended the lifeline they have thrown the country but are far from deciding what comes next. The controversial adjustment programme ends in February. Athens faces debt repayments of €17bn (£13.4bn) in 2015 alone.

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