The leaders and leading component of Syriza, Synaspismos, have proposed a constitutional and parliamentary way out of the political and economic crisis, which continues to inflict deep hardship and suffering on the working people of Greece. Barry Biddulph looks at the politics of Syriza.
Yiannis Dragasakis, the economics spokesman for Syriza, proposes a common European solution, of renegotiating Greek debt with other European countries, through the institutions of the EU. (1) The goal? Reform of the EU; to stabilise the economy in Greece and promote Keynesian style economic growth throughout Europe. Yiannis Bournous, a member of the central committee of Synaspismos emphasises the constitutional aspect of Syriza’s politics, by stating the aim is to negotiate a change in EU treaties, to avoid exit from the Eurozone (2)
The party leader, Alex Tsipras, has underlined the respectable nature of these politics by repeating his resolve to keep Greece in the Euro and has argued for a Roosevelt style New Deal in Europe. (3) Tsipras has been keen to show he is fit to govern, by insisting Syriza would be a responsible government.
The constitutional focus does leave Syriza and its supporters vulnerable to the violence of the fascist Golden Dawn. Appealing to the police to round-up fascists is unlikely to be effective, when many members of the police vote for Golden Dawn or are in collusion with its fighting squads. Relying on the state is a dangerous mistake, particularly in Greece, given the history of authoritarian methods.
There is also a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity in Syriza’s understanding of Golden Dawn. Yiannis Bournous is reluctant to describe Golden Dawn as fascist. Instead he prefers to talk about complexity.(4) He dismisses setting up rival squads to defend workers networks and organisation as too simple. The priority for Syriza is building social networks of support ,providing food and other help, to indirectly undermine support for Golden Dawn.
But fascism is a life and death question of victory or defeat for the working class. A reformist Syriza government of the left, based on the capitalist state, is likely to open the door to the far right, rather than act as a step to socialism. What would the leaders of Syriza do if the capitalist response is the organisation of economic sabotage and state repression as happened in Chile in 1973?
It is extremely doubtful that the Keynesian economic programme of Syriza will attract the support of Greek capitalists or European banks. How would the crisis of profitability be addressed? The idea that leading capitalist states will somehow or other accept the staggered payment of the Greek debt, linked to the optimistic perspective of economic growth, as suggested by Syriza, is unconvincing.
The glaring contradiction is that Syriza claims it wants to break with austerity, but on the other hand, wants to retain the framework of the Eurozone and the institutions which have inflicted austerity. This is a credibility gap. There is an urgent need to break with capitalism and austerity. People are desperate. There are hundreds of attempted suicides each week as people cannot face scavenging through waste bins for food or dropping into abject poverty.
The battle to survive in the context of 1930’s levels of unemployment, particularly among the young and the collapse of thousands of shops and businesses has led to the development of social networks in mutual aid or even barter. So if you want a baby sitter, I want a kilo of Potatoes.(5) Farmers unable to produce or distribute at a profit are selling food at cost price or less outside the capitalist market.
If the effects of austerity in Europe are worst in Greece, the fight back is among the best in Europe. There have been over 17 one day strikes with militant demonstrations. The scale of the opposition has at times threatened to go beyond trade union protest channels, organised by trade union leaders and the leaders of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) The popular protest movement of the squares has drawn in the unemployed and those not unionised and others impoverished by the economic crisis.
But the popular movements and spontaneous mobilisations have not resulted in an alternative grass roots political organisation to rival the state. This is where communists are looking for a solution, not in the concept of a party of the parliamentary left, which will almost certainly facilitate defeat rather than victory over capitalism.
1 Alex Callinicos, Crunch time for the Euro?, International Socialism 135,p 17
2 Links International,Dec 14, 2012
3 Observer, May 5, 2012
4 Links International,Dec 14, 2012
5 Toni Katerina, Red Pepper,Dec,2012