Syriza is Greek for hope
The left should stop sniping at the victorious Greek left party and start emulating its success, writes Nick Matthews
I was excited by the radical independence movement in Scotland, which frightened the living daylights out of the British Establishment in a way we haven’t managed in years. I was delighted on a visit to Spain by the momentum behind Podemos and I was chuffed to bits when the Greeks elected Syriza.
I am fed up of people telling me that these groups are populists — that they are not fighting the class struggle in the right way or they lack the correct Marxist analysis.
Since when has being popular in a democracy been a crime? Syriza having had the temerity to win an election without our advice has nonetheless won the most important election victory in Europe’s neoliberal era.
The emergence of these movements represents the total failure of European social democracy. If a product of the crisis is zombie firms in zombie economies, they are more than matched by zombie social democratic parties who offer no alternative to the march of neoliberalism.
The mighty SPD in Germany are supporting Angela Merkel. Democrat ic Prime Minister Mario Renzi is described as the Tony Blair of Italy.
The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party has fallen from grace due to economic mismanagement and corruption. Greece’s Pasok has been reduced to a rump and as for Francois Hollande and the French Socialists — what a disappointment.
One would have assumed that these parties would take a strong stance in defence of their working-class supporters while the rich get away with daylight robbery. Instead they mutter incoherent pathetic policies, desperately trying to sound “responsible” in fear of upsetting the ruling elite.
The elite that they seek to ingratiate themselves with gets richer by cutting our wages, slashing our benefits, crushing our unions, avoiding tax and diverting a huge proportion of our national wealth to financial speculation.
This elite also uses its wealth to reshape public policy. We hear their words from the likes of Mandelson, Blair and Milburn on how we should further dilute and moderate demands that are already so feeble as to be meaningless.
In Britain the future with George Osborne or Ed Balls seems like a choice in the method of execution. Osborne offers garrotting while Balls offers us the slower method of hanging.
Labour’s austerity-lite policy platform, from the energy price freeze to the mansion tax, its support for TTIP and Trident, is a mixture of the banal and the base.
This would not be so bad if the traditional far left was in recovery, but
even in states with large communist and workers’ parties they have little traction with the electorate.
Whether it is Germany’s Die Linke who slipped back after earlier gains, the United Left in Spain, France’s PCF/Front de Gauche or Greece’s KKE, they have made little headway either alone or in coalitions at a time when the economic conditions should be ripe.
People are crying out for change and yet there is no voice for the foodbank user or the bus passenger, for the zero-hours contract worker, or any of the victims of the cruel hoax that is austerity.
This pain has been expressed by the rise of the English nationalist Ukip, but whose fault is this?
I fear that the Labour Party has been insensitive to the pain of those disorientated by globalisation or hurt by austerity. Labour’s tragic reaction to the Scottish referendum shows that it is incapable of renewal.
Thank goodness then for Syriza. Whatever happens now, they have already changed the game. Alexis Tsipras is breath of fresh air.
What Syriza has achieved is amazing. This is a study in effective leadership, in understanding the situation and building an effective response. The press has patronised and underestimated the movement at every turn.
The new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis received his economics doctorate from Essex University and was a fellow at Cambridge, returning to Greece as professor of economic theory at the University of Athens, yet describes himself as an “accidental economist.” I wonder what this makes history graduate George Osborne?
The solidarity model of party organisation is also one we can learn from. Some complain that they do not use the “left-wing” politics playbook, as if our methods have got us anywhere.
As US economist Paul Krugman points out, if anything is wrong with Syriza’s plans it is that they are not radical enough: “In calling for major change, Mr Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beating to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.”
Debt relief and an easing of austerity may not be enough to create the growth they need, but the Greeks are not yet ready to leave the euro.
My fear is that a Labour election victory on a small share of the vote and with its present policies would lead to disaster. We have failed to change their policies from within. Pressure now needs to come from without.
The way we can help both Labour and Syriza is to stop our bickering on the left and build our own anti-austerity party. I know we are not Greece, but if they can pull together 13 parties surely a British Syriza is the best way forward.