Syriza and the British Left.
Syriza’s victory was inspiring.
Their electoral triumph has sent a message about the extension of what is politically possible on the left.
The anti-austerity campaign of the People’s Assembly should, rightly, get a powerful boost.
It is no longer possible to say that a political force rejecting austerity can never win.
Is there such a movement in Britain?
The People’s Assembly has brought together the left and trade unions on a programme against government cuts and privatisations which in many respects resembles Syriza’s.
Paul MacNay, from Athens, writes on the People’s Assembly Facebook Page that,
We need a radical programme for a new Europe which will benefit the whole world – (in which currently where 85 families hold half of the wealth).
If the Greek election result is a catalyst, Syriza (with its a formative alliance of more than a dozen groups) provides a model for the non-social democratic left. We need to give ourselves a good talking to. It’s time to sink the differences based on minor shibboleths of distinction. We need to abandon redundant organisational models, Bolshevik pretensions based on distorted perceptions of how people organised in a very different world one hundred years ago. We may even grow to like each other if we renounce those traditions … even if, initially it merely involves the suppression of mutual-loathing in pursuit of a better world!
If we take the painful and awkward steps necessary to shake off the bad habits of the past; if we can outgrow the trivia of quibbling over who has precisely the correct line; if we embrace the experience of the Greek people; we should be able to build a People’s Coalition that shakes the financial citadels and brings back joy and purpose to the people of Britain too.
Bad habits do, however, persist.
Despite having backed Syriza’s miniscule left opponents in the ANTARSYA bloc (a gaggle of groupuscules who arguably helped to deprive them of an outright majority) Socialist Worker states,
THE VICTORY of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, in parliamentary elections is a long-awaited breakthrough against the ruling class agenda of austerity and repression that has inflicted suffering across Europe and plunged Greece into an economic and social crisis unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
We can expect that having tried to snaffle as much of Syriza’s reflected glory as they can the SWP will soon be hurling accusations against Syriza as it enters in a coalition with the hard-right Independent Greeks, ANEL, (a choice dictated by Greek Parliamentary structures, not by politics). There is a need for some real – balanced – analysis. In this respect there is an excellent article by comrade Harry Blackwell on the Socialist Resistance site, from which we publish extracts.
New period for the left in Europe.
The central focus facing the government will be the economic crisis and the negotiations on debt with the Troika. However it is to be hoped that the new government will also raise the centrality of the ecological crisis and give official backing to the protests around the climate summit in Paris in December 2015 by for example providing state trains and paid time off for public employees to travel there. But for Europe’s only left government at present, it should also be able to put forward governmental level solutions to the climate crisis and stimulate the need for global action on the crisis facing ours and all the other species of the world.
And so we enter a new period in Europe. We must redouble our efforts to build anti-austerity action and new left parties across Europe. Social Democracy must be confronted for its complicity in the impoverishment of working people. There will be some who will sit on the sidelines and watch for any ‘backtracking’ by the Tsipras government and rush to say ‘I told you so …’. But the real task is to build the movement of solidarity, anti austerity and new left parties. In Britain that means redoubling efforts to build Left Unity and making 2015 the year that we can begin to turn the corner.
The vast majority of the left and working class in Greece endorsed Syriza, whose central message put forward a programme for government rather than mere vocal opposition to austerity. The highly sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE) is still an important part of the anti-austerity movement and its vote increased slightly on its vote in 2012 as it gained one percent to win 5.5% of the vote and increase its seats from 12 to 15. However this is still a long way from its electoral high point in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s when it regularly won around 10% of the vote.
The KKE embraces what used to be called ‘Third Period Stalinism’ (after the period in the late 1920 when communist parties described social democratic parties as worse than fascists) and refuses to countenance deals with Syriza. It puts forward a programme of nationalism, calling for immediate exit from the Euro and EU and reinstatement of the Drachma as Greece’s currency. So sectarian is the KKE that their MEPs refuse to sit in the United European Left group in the European Parliament, alongside Syriza (and their ‘sister’ Communist Parties of France, Portugal and Cyprus), and instead sit with the far right French National Front in the so-called ‘Non-Attached’ group.
The left wing grouping within Syriza, the ‘Left Platform’, have repeatedly called upon the KKE to support Syriza in Government to no avail. The KKE has a short memory of course, as it has previously served in a Greek government led by New Democracy with four ministers. This is creating turbulence within CPs across the world, not least within Britain’s Morning Star daily newspaper where old-time Stalinists continually invoke support for the KKE alongside the more obvious enthusiasm of its readership for Syriza.
Sadly Harry is right about the Morning Star.
They stated yesterday (Editorial),
The Greek Communist Party (KKE) had already made clear its position not to enter into any coalition which does not seek to put the country on the path to socialism from the outset, based on a programme of transformational policies that would entail withdrawal from the EU and Nato.
Syriza once claimed to share a similar perspective, but the prospect of electoral success has seen it jettisoned over the past three months.
The article concludes with sectarian sourness,
But even before negotiations with the troika begin, Syriza economists are making it clear they intend to govern within the constraints of a balanced budget, membership of the eurozone and the commitments implied by continuing Nato membership.
Insofar as they can still propose measures which benefit Greek workers and their families while doing so, they should receive support from the left across Europe.
In the unlikely event of Syriza ending up on a collision course with the troika, they will need all the solidarity that socialists, communists, democrats and the trade unions everywhere can muster.
However, should a Syriza-led government dash the hopes raised by its own rhetoric, the main beneficiaries in Greece could well be the New Democracy conservatives and the Golden Dawn fascists.
The Tendance agrees with the most important point in comrade Harry Blackwell’s argument: we will not sit “on the sidelines”.
If there is not a political organisation in Britain that can play the same role, there are forces in the labour movement, inside the Labour Party and outside of it, that can push for politics that reject austerity and stand for hope and a better Europe.
SYRIZA and the bleedin’ obvious
“If SYRIZA has come to power on a programme of public beheadings, banning women from driving and torturing its critics, it may have received a slightly warmer welcome from the governments of Europe writes Liam Mac Uaid. Instead, its proposals to roll back austerity and drag the people of Greece from poverty and misery have been explained away as harbingers of potential economic catastrophe across Europe. Ed Miliband was no more enthusiastic about the result than Cameron or Merkel, restricting himself to a begrudging “just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so who the Greek people elect is a decision for them.”
And this is important (first hand reportage) by Matthew: Greece shakes Europe. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.
“Syriza is not an establishment social-democratic party but a party with roots in Greece’s left tradition, with no previous ties to the deeply corrupt state and its political elite. Its presence in the corridors of power will shake the centres of capital across Europe and beyond.”