The global Left is abuzz at the moment with anticipation for the election campaign heating up in Greece between the incumbent Antonis Samaras and his New Democracy Party and the Radical Left Coalition – Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras [pictured below at a recent campaign rally].
Greece has been one of the great sacrificial lambs in the long Neoliberal experiment of brutal austerity cuts to essential public services (everything from healthcare, education, pensions, to unemployment and homeless benefits have been gutted, and the victims; society’s most vulnerable, lumped with the blame). Unemployment currently hovers at around 25% while wages are 30% below their 2010 levels when austerity began in earnest at the behest of the German-driven European Central Bank. The future stability of the Eurozone should Greece default on its debts or attempt to renegotiate terms with other EU member states has been called into question by those agitating for the status quo to continue. “There Is No Alternative” to the current order, bark the contemporary Thatcherite-demagogues. Anything else amounts to communism and the collapse of the Soviet state proved the failure of any alternatives, right?
Not exactly. Leaving aside the quagmire of defining socialism or communism (the Soviet empire was simply an overtly fascist system that called itself socialist to appear kinder to its own people, meanwhile a tiny cadre of elites centrally controlled all the power and resources, while the masses were treated as de-facto slaves. In other words just capitalism without the pretense of freedom through consumerist distraction.
Syriza is quite a different beast. It is the first Coalition of the radical left with a chance at implementing a reformist anti-austerity, democratising policy agenda since the collapse of the dictatorship in 1978. Jacobin describes the party’s electoral platform thusly:
“There are four “pillars” in the proposal Syriza has put forward (in addition to renegotiating the debt) as its immediate plan of action should it win the elections.
The first addresses the basic needs of those hit by austerity and includes free electricity to households under the poverty line, food and rent subsidies, and much more (total estimated cost €1.9 billion for the first year). The second addresses taxation and revenue issues, and includes undoing a slew of recent taxes and restoring the minimum wage to €751 per month (total estimated cost €6.5 billion).
The third is a plan to create three hundred thousand new jobs in the private and public sectors (estimated cost €3 billion). The forth pillar includes measures designed to increase popular participation within the state (no cost).”
So this will not be a revolutionary movement, but it does mark a significant departure from the tradition of social-democratic parties such as the ALP and the American Democratic party offering hollow, vague sloganism and failing completely to advance the class interests of their traditional bases. So it is perhaps understandable that the likes of Naomi Klein are so excited at the turning tides for the Left. This marks the first of numerous European national elections in 2015, with politicians standing in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey likely to be watching the campaign very closely.