Greek Communist Leader Supports Staying in Euro Zone

The surprise winner in the Greek elections is a communist party called the Coalition of the Radical Left, led by a young, charismatic leader named Alexis Tsipras.

At the age of 37, he now commands the second largest party in the new government — provided a coalition government can be formed — winning nearly 17 percent of the vote.

The Parthenon, illuminated at night, sits at the top of Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece, on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.
The Parthenon, illuminated at night, sits at the top of Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece, on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.

He spoke exclusively with CNBC back in September 2011 to make clear that he did not support the program that the then-Greek government agreed to in order to secure more than $200 billion in loans to keep the country financially afloat.

He called it a “disaster" and said that the country needs to “change policy.”

“I think that they have to do it before it’s too late, not only for Greece. You have to understand that the problem is not a Greek problem — it’s a European problem, it’s an international problem, it’s a systemic crisis of the capital system, the growth model, the economy model. So we have to stop to pay the banks and try to find a solution for the society and the people. You have to understand that if Greece will default, euro zone will default. European Union will default," he said.

However, Tsipras supports Greece's staying within the euro zone and continuing to use the euro as its currency, as opposed to the other large, Pro-Soviet Union, communist party in Greece which is anti-European in its outlook.

In the interview, he made clear that he views solving Europe’s economic crisis as a battle between the haves and the have-nots by saying, “This is the main problem: Who will pay the crisis? Who will pay the banks? The poor or rich people?”

Tsipras invoked the name of famed U.S. investor Warren Buffettto make the case that the rich should pay for the crisis.

“Do you know what Buffett said? … He said, 'Come on, let me pay.' Why did he say that? He said that because he could understand the danger, the danger for his class if everything is burned,” Tsipras said.

As a communist, he believes the banks should be controlled by the government. He wants the European Central Bank to provide direct loans to the country, and he wants the creation of euro bonds, which would place part of the burden and risk on wealthier European countries.

—Reported by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera