Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The SYRIZA Moment:
A Skeptical Argument

Mehran Khalili/http://www.redpepper.org.uk

The victory of Syriza in Greece is an important moment.1 Indeed, I think it is going to be a historic turning point for Europe and the world, for better or for worse. Syriza defines itself explicitly as “as a party of the democratic and radical Left,” and radical it is. It’s comprised of “many different ideological currents and left cultures,” “has its roots in popular struggles for Greek independence, democracy and labour and anti-fascist movements,” and includes serious and influential socialist, marxist, and generally anti-capitalist currents.2 As Catarina Príncipe remarks: “The success of Syriza is the success of the Left that refused compromises with liberalism.”3 Thus the rise of Syriza corresponds to the collapse of Pasok [acronym for Panhellenic Socialist Movement], the Greek “Socialist”--i.e., liberal capitalist—party, which went from the largest party in Greece to 13% of the vote (2.6% among 18-24 year olds). It’s a sudden and dramatic shift of working-class voters to the left. To put this in American terms, imagine the Green Party winning the next election, with the Democrats reduced to 20% of the vote.

Everyone understands, then, that Syriza’s victory represents the Greek people’s rejection of the devastating austerity program that has been imposed on Greece and Europe by all the major capitalist-to-the-core political parties, no matter what name they go by.

In a wide-ranging interview with Jacobin (which I recommend to everyone), Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Syriza’s Central Committee and its Left Platform, emphasizes Syriza’s radicalism thusly:
[W]hat Syriza is putting forward has very little to do with any agenda of any European social democratic party today. It is an agenda of really breaking with neoliberalism and austerity. Syriza appears as bringing a type of political culture that is linked to a social, political, and even ideological radicalism still very much inscribed in the DNA of the party….
Syriza is an anticapitalist coalition that addresses the question of power by emphasizing the dialectic of electoral alliances and success at the ballot box with struggle and mobilizations from below. That is, Syriza and [its component] Synaspismos see themselves as class-struggle parties, as formations that represent specific class interests.4
So there we have Kouvelakis’s portrait of the radical Syriza as a new type of political movement that will use a synergistic dialectic of electoral victories and popular mobilizations to break with neoliberalism and austerity.

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