SYRIZA opens a window

SYRIZA's logo (source: WikiMedia)
SYRIZA’s logo (source: WikiMedia)

Referring to Greece, the Canadian left-wing activist John Riddell has theorized about different forms of workers? governments. There are possibilities, he claims, to actually be in government and at the same time challenge capitalist state institutions ?from within?. This can be done by dissolving those parts of the state that are hindering the growth of the workers? movement, and at the same time, outside of parliament, assisting the same movement.

In that way, workers councils and other working class organisations can co-exist during a time while a parliamentary governing party is trying to transfer as much power as possible to working people. This road offers a complement to Marxists who have traditionally not wanted to have anything to do with the state. These Marxists have at stretch been prepared to ?critically support? some party in elections, but never thought that they themselves would do anything but overthrowing the state immediately.

Of course, there also difficulties with this complementary strategy for workers power. If capitalism is actually challenged with the support of parliamentarians, there are dangers from within the state apparatus. Such a danger is that the powers of decision are taken away from parliament and transferred to other parts of the state, such as those that are run by the secret services, officers, judicial institutions etc. Such a development as we unfortunately saw in, amongst other examples, Chile in 1972. Something like that was also close to happening in Venezuela some time ago. Hence the absolute necessity of, from within the four walls of the law-making assembly, giving real power to workers- and popular movements outside of parliament.

With this theoretical description as a background, I want to comment on the situation today. The latest opinion polls show that the left-wing party Syriza is the biggest party in Greece. Meanwhile, around 65 percent of Greeks are opposed to the austerity policies that the EU commission, the ECB and IMF want to impose on the population. Party representatives have claimed that Syriza?s successes have been due to the participation of people at grassroots level. This is not a particularly exhaustive analysis, which should encourage progressives internationally to explore why the party has grown so much. Anyway, it is evident that the success in the polls is not due to having put LGBTQ issues, feminism or anti-racism on the backburner in favour of ?more economic issues?. On the contrary, the party continues to raise such issues, which for instance has won supporters among young voters in the cities. And in very working-class areas the support for Syriza is big, almost everywhere it is bigger than the support for the stalinist Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

So what is the explanation? More objective factors probably play a role: many citizens simply do not see a way out of the crisis and the daily hardships without questioning cuts and neo-liberalism. Syriza offers exactly such a questioning, without digging themselves down in sympathies for China or archaic support for dictators ? la KKE. The only major party on the left that Syriza can be compared with is the Green Left Party of Iceland. It is a party that contrary to the trend has invested in social spending, improved unemployment benefits, created better terms for pensioners, and taxed high-income earners.

Because Syriza differs from other important left parties in Europe. Unlike the Socialist Party in Holland, they have not had a major setback in the polls. Unlike Akel in Cyprus, they do not defend austerity that leads to strikes and workers protests. Unlike the Unity List in Denmark, they are not a supporting party for a government that implements budgets that are actually worse than those of the bourgeois parties.

A vital difference is also the lively left-wing within the party, which does not think that the the party leaders flirt with Brazilian capitalism is worth applauding. The internal opposition has put socialism on the agenda, and considering that the party now is the biggest in Greece, this inspires hope. For the first time in a long time there is an ?open window of opportunity? for politics that could do more than just distribute a share of profits. That could perhaps contribute to a realistic, well-functioning, democratic and dignified alternative to capitalism.

Jon Bonnevier

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